witnessing

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A Stone’s Throw Away from Judging My Neighbor

Published July 22, 2017 by Dawn

“Judge not, lest ye be judged” (Matt. 7:1)

It’s the newest hot-button issue. The world loves this verse. Heck, so does the church. We’re throwing it around as a means to fend off anyone who wants to talk about morality because as a society, we’ve decided morality is so last century. I’ve been praying about this one for a while, because there are some scriptures in the Bible that seemingly contradict this one, and we’re all a little confused.

Because this is such a delicate issue, the authority of scripture is the basis of all commentary presented, and I hope this blog reads more like an expose. I also hope you understand that I have spent hours researching scripture and praying over this. I don’t claim to know it all, just want to present the scriptures and I pray the Holy Spirit leads you to the truth of God’s Will.

Let’s just begin here, with Matthew 7:1-5. I’m going to use the NIV text for ease of reading. “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck out of your brother’s eye.”

Ok, we have the topic of judging, alongside the topic of hypocrisy. This is a great place to start! Most of the time, this text is quoted in part. In effect, “Don’t judge me. The Bible says that.” But look further and you will notice that in differentiating between your plank and your brother’s speck, Jesus is referring to one thing: seeing your own sin. Christians should be introspective about sin before they discuss it out loud. They should know their own sin and then deal with it. To paraphrase, “take care of your sin first.” Christians should not speak of sin if they don’t have a healthy prayer life involving repentance. If we don’t know our own spiritual depravity, we shouldn’t try to help anyone else. When you come to know the depravity of humanity and what you are capable of, you can approach the topic of sin from a place of humility. Humility is so important, especially when discussing sin with unbelievers. When we have a nonexistent or weak relationship with Christ, we cannot help others understand topics such as repentance, forgiveness, and grace. There is no salvation from sin without these.

But Jesus doesn’t stop there. He says “deal with your sin first, then help your brother.” This is where things can get a little uncomfortable. Because we are called to talk about sin … no one likes that truth. For a more in-depth understanding of what Jesus meant, let’s follow Him to the scene of another group of church members discussing someone’s sin.

It’s important to understand, however, that the same Jesus who said, “Judge not, lest ye be judged” also said, “Go and sin no more.” Let’s take a look at John 8:2-11:

“At dawn he appeared in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in the act of adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, ‘Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now, what do you say?’ They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.

“But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, ‘Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.’

”Again, he stooped down and wrote on the ground. At this, those who heard began to go away, one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’

“’No one, sir,’ she said

“’Then neither do I condemn you,’ Jesus declared. ‘Go now and leave your life of sin.’”

Ok, that’s a lot to digest so let’s take it in a little slower. It starts with the representatives of the church, those specifically entrusted to carry the Word of God to the world … the Pharisees.

Ouch, church.

They caught her in the act and decided something had to be done. According to the law, they would have been justified in stoning her. They were zealous for God, and loved righteousness. In this, they weren’t wrong. But when they picked up the stones, the true motives of their hearts were revealed. They didn’t want to redeem her from her sin. They wanted to punish her for it.

We still do this. I shake my head at Christians every day on social media who, zealous for God, only quote the law and lambast the transgressions of everyone who is not in line with it. Jesus dealt with the Pharisees by again pointing out their hypocrisy. He encourages them to take a hard look at their own lives. It’s a humbling thing, to be sure! The bottom line is this: we cannot talk to the world about sin if we do not have an understanding of our own sinful nature apart from the saving grace of Jesus. Because one thing the world is not wrong about is that we Christians also sin! What separates us from the world is not our purity, it’s our repentance. If we aren’t repentant, we are not pure!

The Pharisees also made a public spectacle of this lady. They pointed out her sin in front of a crowd of onlookers and demanded Jesus do something. What they failed to understand is that this approach did not make the woman repentant. It made her ashamed. People who are publicly shamed are more apt to be bitter and hardened to any effect the Holy Spirit might otherwise have.

Therefore, I believe the church, if we must speak of sin, should do so in a way that brings that person to Jesus in private. It is hard to be naked in public, people!

Finally, her redemption happened when everyone else left.

Everyone.

We don’t have to hang over people to see how things pan out after we bring them to Jesus. They will be much better off alone with him than with us anyway. Ultimately, redemption is the work of the Holy Spirit. We can and should present the Word of God without error, and we should pray with and for people. But we are not responsible for anyone’s salvation once we have presented the truth. Their blood be on their own heads. However, if we refuse to share truth because we’re scared of the world’s reaction, their blood will be on us. “When I say to a wicked person, ‘You will surely  die,’ and you do not warn them or speak out to dissuade them from their evil ways in order to save their life, that wicked person will die for their sin, and I will hold you accountable for their blood” (Ezek. 3:18).

Listen, I know it’s uncomfortable. I’ve been dodging this bullet for years. The world is so well-versed on the “Don’t Judge” scriptures. But having read scriptures, we can see that talking about sin is not judgment. Jesus says to help a brother out with their speck after you have dealt with your own. He also addresses the woman’s sin after dismissing the mob. Discussing sin is not the issue! The issue is how we do it! That is where judgment creeps in. When we confront sin with an attitude of superiority, we stand in judgment over our fellow man. When we confront sin with an aim of seeing punishment afflicted, we stand in judgment. When we relish hatred in our hearts toward unbelievers, we are so guilty of judging them. Condemnation is a satanic tool; it resides in the heart of “Christians” who love justice without mercy. We also have to be aware that people are comfortable with their sin, and often love their sin. We cannot destroy them in the process of trying to “help” them. When Jesus said, “with the measure you use it will be measured to you,” he was talking about the measure of grace you extend to others. The measure of mercy. That’s a dangerous thing, church, to mete out judgment! If we aren’t extending love and mercy in our hearts, we are measuring out our own condemnation. That’s scary!

The crux of the matter, then, is this: “Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sin” (James 5:20). This verse right here should be the driving force of any conversations we may have about sin. It is true: you can catch more flies with honey. We have to be aware that quoting scriptures will never be enough. “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up” (1 Cor. 8:1). When we speak it in the authority of of God, with the love of God in our hearts toward people and the attitude of Christ about sin, that’s not judging. Speaking truth in love is a possibility. No, more than that, it’s a mandate according to Ephesians 4:15. For that, we should never apologize. But we should tread lightly and for God’s sake, put down our stones!

 

 

 

Undercover Christians

Published March 10, 2014 by Dawn

I heard some pretty horrific terminology the other day, and it wasn’t because I have an English degree. I heard the term “undercover Christians” used to describe coworkers on my local radio station, and I nearly died of heart failure. Undercover Christians?! We should be the most easily recognizable people on the face of the earth. After all, we are called to be “peculiar.” Truthfully, it hurt my heart. Why are there so many people hiding their identity in Christ? Why can’t the world tell us apart? What happened to being “in the world but not of it”? The answer, I found, is scattered throughout the scriptures. The first of which is in 2 Kings 2:19-25:

“The people of the city said to Elisha, ‘Look, our lord, this town is well-situated, as you can see, but the water is bad and the land is unproductive.’

‘Bring me a new bowl,’ he said, ‘and put salt in it.’ So they brought it to him.

Then he went out to the spring and threw the salt into it saying, ‘This is what the Lord says, “I have healed this water. Never again will it cause death or make the land unproductive.” And the land has remained pure to this day, according to the word of the Lord.”

The land is unproductive and the culprit is some very impure water. Rarely do we ever realize how important good water is until we no longer have it. But the effects of bad water will make you look up and take notice, huh? Nothing fruitful grows if the water isn’t pure because tainted water, or water with chemical contaminations, will kill vegetation instead of helping it to thrive.

The water signifies the Word of God, the purifying quality of the Word that washes through us and cleanses us, according to Ephesians 5:26. We wonder why America is in a state of moral decline and we are facing all out war against the Christian faith … Take a look at the story. The land was unproductive because the water was bad.

The truth is, there is a false word being deliberately fed into the church, which is producing wishy-washy Christians. Christians who seem “undercover” because they aren’t serious about rejecting the world and becoming a part of the body of Christ. The world can’t tell most Christians from a hole in the wall because instead of resisting the devil, Christians have begun to compromise in the name of “grace” which has become a false teaching that asserts that Jesus died so we don’t have to worry about our sin. There is no more working out our salvation with fear and trembling anymore. People are no longer worried about their sin, no longer repentant before the Lord because they’ve been told there’s nothing to be sorry for. After all, God expects us to screw up everyday, right? So why let Him down? This kind of twisted logic has effectively rendered the church ineffective in America. And the result is, the land is unproductive. Why do we no longer teach  that “… if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment. (Hebrews 10:26)” We’ve polarized the topic of grace to the detriment of our eternal salvation.

Let’s move on, now, to Elisha’s response. He asked for a new bowl full of salt. A new bowl. A new, pure vessel. And full of salt. Jesus tells us we are the salt of the earth (Matthew 5:13). When we accept Christ, we become a new vessel, full of salt. Elisha took that new bowl and flung it out over the water, and it revived the land. This is what the Lord intends to do with us when we are first saved. He intends to take this new vessel that we become, full of salt, with the knowledge of a pure Word, to revive the land. How, then, can we ever be okay with being “undercover Christians”? Jesus went on in his narrative to talk about the worth of salt that’s lost it’s flavor. That is, to say it’s worth nothing but must be thrown out. That’s a terrifying prospect, now, isn’t it?

We are warned in the Bible about the broad and the narrow way. To paraphrase Matthew 7:13, broad is the path that leads to destruction and many find it. I feel like, if as a Christian, you are indistinguishable from the world around you, you might very well be on the wrong road. Narrow is the way that leads to life, and few there be that find it. Therefore, if you tend to be  one of those people on a road that leads to loneliness and isolation because people deem you too “churchy” for their circle, you could be on the right track.

We are still here because the Lord desires to use us to reach others. His plan does not involve us getting our kicks because honestly, if we are in Christ, we should be repulsed by the things that tempt our flesh. We shouldn’t be trampling grace, we should be living it as an example for others. And Paul specifically addresses sinning so that grace may abound by basically saying, “God doesn’t need that kind of help.”

How do we help, then? By being peculiar. By making decisions that illuminate Christ. Are we a city on a hill or aren’t we? We can’t be undercover and be the light of the world. Our lives should make the world breathless in awe and wonder. Like Jesus, at the hands of the murderous crowd, who kept his peace and made the people marvel. Like Jesus, who supped with sinners and walked away having changed them. That’s what salt does. Salt preserves and revives. Salt doesn’t change to the environment around it. It changes the environment. We should be like that, for the sake of the call of Christ. I didn’t become a Christian so I could get my grace card punched and keep living like the world around me. I became a Christian because something about the love of God penetrated me so deeply I couldn’t stand myself any other way but dead to sin and alive in Him. I pray there are others who will say the same thing, and we can begin to live in such a way that America takes notice of Christ again.

Father, I want to be a vessel you can use. Purify me and add the salt so I may speak a Word that is undefiled. Then pour me out in your time. I love you.

Tenacious

Published November 5, 2013 by Dawn

Yesterday was the first day. Today is day two. My son decided that he was going to convince a girl at school that God is real. He and a few of his friends are using the best of their knowledge, coupled with their understanding of the Bible (Bible in hand), to win her for the Lord. Obviously, this needs close adult supervision and guidance, but I am proud of him for standing up for his faith. The Holy Spirit can help him in his venture because he is willing to attempt it. I admire him.

Today he came home and was telling me about the discussion and he said, “I’m not giving up. I don’t care if it takes all year. I want her to know.” His greatest source of motivation: a torn-up Bible in her desk. It hurt him, this obvious hatred and scorn for his Father. No kid with great respect and love for their parent would take such an offense lightly. I thought to myself, “How tenacious! I love it!”

For the benefit of writing, I looked up the word “tenacious.” According to the Dictionary included with Microsoft*, tenacious means, “1. determined or stubborn: tending to stick firmly to any decision, plan, or opinion without changing or doubting it; 2.  tightly held: difficult to loosen, shake off, or pull away from his tenacious grip; 3.  persistent: persisting for a long time and difficult to change, destroy, or get rid of a tenacious head cold; 6.  … not easily disconnected: holding together tightly or fused solidly.”

I wonder, are we as tenacious about the things of the Lord, about doing His will and being His hands and feet? Are we determined in our beliefs, knowing the Word because we are driven by a hunger to know Him more intimately, to be led by His Spirit and to remain steadfast in this ever-changing world? When God speaks something, are we able and willing to hold firmly to it without second-guessing or doubting Him? When life gets rough, or things stop making sense to us, are we holding so tightly to Him and His word that we can’t be shaken? Do we loosen our grip at the first tug from the world, or the enemy? Are we persistent in pursuing Him, and being obedient to Him? Are we willing to remain faithful even when we don’t understand? When the Lord speaks a word to us, do we persistently listen and obey, no matter how difficult or scary things become?  Are we so connected to Him, so intimate with His Spirit that we do not operate apart from Him? This, after all, is what it means to be tenacious.

Are you tenacious?

Father,

Help us to cling more tightly to you. To follow more willingly and closely behind you. Help us to never give in to the enemy, to war on every front that Satan attacks us, refusing to back down because we are sure, solidly certain, of the victory. Help us to be faithful, to hold on to your promises when they are long in coming and to be obedient when you speak. We want to make you proud, Lord. Steady us, keep us near your heart, deliver us from doubt and whininess. Help us to be persistent in all that you call us to, sure of your favor and blessings, your guidance, protection and provision. Help us to hold firmly to you, to all that we know of you, to all that Your Spirit has spoken to us, and may we continually seek your face above all things. We love you.

*Encarta ® World English Dictionary © & (P) 1998-2005 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.