A Few Good Reads

May 27, 2015 — Leave a comment
photo credit: solidether via photopin cc

photo credit: solidether via photopin cc

Page: Obama’s comments on poverty disappointing
Many accuse evangelicals of only being concerned about abortion and gay marriage, particularly to the detriment of caring for the poor. President Obama recently echoed this criticism at a panel discussion hosted by Georgetown University. David Roach’s story on a recent interview with SBC Executive Committee President Frank Page shows where this criticism falls short. “Southern Baptists ‘have the third largest disaster relief ministry in the world,’ Page said. ‘Who do you think is involved right now in Nepal? Well, we are. We were there before the government was. When the government leaves, we’ll be there. We were involved in Hurricane Sandy.'”

Contentment is a Work of Grace
Christians struggle mightily with contentment. We find it hard to be thankful for where we are in life and what we have. Erik Raymond helps us understand what it takes to grow in contentment and how the Gospel fuels our contentment. “We are a people who struggle with contentment, but thanks be to God that he does not leave us there! Christ comes to save people from their sin—including discontentment. What’s more, Christ not only paid the penalty for our discontentment but he provides the power to make us truly content!”

You are not special
I have pointed to several articles over the last several months about our growing cultural narcissism and how it fuels many of our cultural issues. The Economist reviews David Brooks’ new book The Road to Character and unpacks how thinking less of ourselves is a service to those around us. “The ultimate sin, for the Oprah generation, is to be repressed. Nonsense, says Mr Brooks. Dwight Eisenhower spent his life repressing his inner self, and it helped the Allies win the second world war. He “spent the nights staring at the ceiling, racked by insomnia and anxiety, drinking and smoking”. Yet “he put on a false front of confident ease and farm-boy garrulousness” to raise the troops’ morale. He was splendidly inauthentic. Later on, as president, he was willing to appear tongue-tied if it would help conceal his designs. Indeed, he was happy to let people think him stupid, which ‘is how we know he was not a New Yorker’.”

1397712689920.cachedBy now many reading this have heard about the scandal revolving around the Duggar family and Josh’s actions when he was 14. Since the news broke, Josh resigned his job with the Family Research Council and TLC has pulled the family’s show from the air. The opinions around this scandal have been heated. Some were shocked by the revelations about Josh’s behavior and others seemed to be thrilled the family had a secret they were hiding. In light of this scandal and some of the discussions taking place, I want to offer a few pastoral reflections.

Hold out the Hope of the Gospel

The Apostle Paul writes in Romans 8:1, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” The Lord Jesus Christ came to earth, lived a perfect life, died on the cross as a substitute for the sins of his people, was buried in the ground, raised on the third day, ascended into heaven where he makes intercession for his people, and will come again one day. Because he died for sins once for all, God forgives the sins of those who call upon the name of Jesus. In addition he clothes us with the perfect life of Christ. The one who trusts in Jesus has experienced a great exchange, they traded their sins for the righteousness of Christ.

In the next point we will emphasize sin’s heinous nature, but in doing so we cannot forget to proclaim the reality of the Gospel. The death of Jesus covers the worst of our sins and the person who has lived in the most scandalous sin can come to Christ and be accepted by the Father. This must control the way we look at people who have taken part in scandalous sin, especially if it is in their past and shape the way we look at people involved in a lifestyle of sin now. There is great hope for any person if they will repent and believe in Christ who gave himself for them. They stand before God completely righteous and freely forgiven with no asterisks or caveats.

Avoid Minimizing the Seriousness of Sin

Unfortunately Christians often speak of forgiveness as if it provides an end run around temporal consequences for our actions. Nothing could be further from the truth. Christians who commit crimes and indecent acts experience God’s forgiveness, but still must face penalties from civil authorities and rebuilding trust with people who know about their actions. Forgiveness also does not mean a person gets restored to their place of ministry or continue to have the same platform to speak to issues.

Christians must further remember the price of our forgiveness. To make our salvation a reality the perfect Son of God had to come to earth and give his life for us. Because of this truth we cannot speak of sin as something to simply be glossed over. We can both hold out the promise of forgiveness and remember the serious nature of sin. The New Testament, particularly the book of Hebrews, sternly warns Christians against continuing in sin after coming to Christ and trampling under foot his blood.

Do Everything Possible to Protect Children and Care for Victims

Too often we hear about these types of scandals and automatically think about how it affects our standing in the culture wars. We forget about the victims of these atrocities because we get too focused on defending people on our team. During these times we must focus our efforts on providing genuine help to victims of sexual abuse and assault. God offers hope to the victimized, healing them of their shame and pain. They need a safe place to work through their pain and discover this hope in their own timing without other people imposing an artificial timeline on them.

The coverup of sexual crimes cannot be tolerated. Churches and church leaders must realize the necessity of calling the proper authorities without trying to do our own investigation first. This is not our place. We can learn what happened later and decide what disciplinary and discipleship measures may be needed in a person’s life later, but the authorities must be notified first. Paul’s words in Romans 13 mean we do not get to negotiate on this point. In addition, coverup and delay usually lead to more victims, so protection of the vulnerable necessitates our immediate action.

Look to Yourselves Lest You Fall into Sin as Well

We should be scandalized by the sexual exploitation of young girls. If hearing what happened to these young girls turned your stomach, it means you still have a conscience and this is a good thing. The temptation we face when we hear about scandalous sin is to assume we are not capable of heinous and deplorable sin as well. Every person has the capacity for horrid evil within us and the only thing restraining us is God’s grace, the resolve not to walk in a pattern of sin, lack of opportunity, and/or the fear of consequences.

The temptations you face most likely are not the same as the ones Josh Duggar faced, yet they are just as real and the moment you proclaim what you would never do becomes the moment you are most likely to fall. Remember how you too must war against sin in your own life. Remember the Gospel, spend time in God’s word, pray often for God’s help, and walk in close community with other Christians. The New Testament writers remind us we are at war with the world, the flesh, and the devil. The wise Christian remembers these enemies and wars against them everyday.

End the Cycle of Christian Celebrity

In an effort to have family entertainment options and spokespeople who reflect our values, Christians quickly thrust people into a spotlight they might not be ready for. We watch their shows, buy their books, share their status updates, and point to them as a great example, often forgetting they have feet of clay. Then they fall or say something embarrassing and we wonder why people view Christianity with increasing skepticism.

The advancement of the Gospel does not need baptized celebrities. Jesus did not say “the world will know you are my disciples if you have spokespeople with a cable show and a fat book deal.” He said, “the world will know you are my disciples if you love one another.” The Gospel advances through ordinary Christians living their ordinary lives for the glory of God as they love and serve the people around them. Your unbelieving neighbor is more likely to impacted through the witness of the Christians he encounters everyday than he is by the Christians on television. Instead of inviting our neighbors to watch a family on television, we should invite them into our daily lives where they can hear and see the Gospel in real life.

In closing we need to remember Josh Duggar is a real person and so are the people he abused. He has real sin, they have real pain, and all involved need real redemption only Jesus can give.

Related Posts:
Your Worst and Best Days Don’t Define You
What Does ‘Judge Not’ Mean

For Further Reading:
Rid of My Disgrace by Justin and Lindsey Holcomb
Is it My Fault? by Justin and Lindsey Holcomb

A Few Good Reads

May 14, 2015 — Leave a comment
photo credit: solidether via photopin cc

photo credit: solidether via photopin cc

Stephen Curry and the Culture of Mistrust
Bethany Jenkins writes about the evident humility of Stephen Curry compared to the “The gospel transforms our notion of self-worth and identity because it invites us to embrace a sense of meaning and purpose that’s bigger than ourselves. In Christ, we we’re not demoralized by failure or overly impressed by narrow ideas of success, like football tackles or MVP awards or prestigious scholarships and degrees.”

Is Christianity Dying?
A new Pew Center study on religious affiliation received lots of attention this week. The talking points seem to center around the increasing number of unaffiliated and the decreasing number of Christians. Russell Moore analyzes the report and offers some important reflections about what they mean. “Bible Belt near-Christianity is teetering. I say let it fall. For much of the twentieth century, especially in the South and parts of the Midwest, one had to at least claim to be a Christian to be “normal.” During the Cold War, that meant distinguishing oneself from atheistic Communism. At other times, it has meant seeing churchgoing as a way to be seen as a good parent, a good neighbor, and a regular person. It took courage to be an atheist, because explicit unbelief meant social marginalization. Rising rates of secularization, along with individualism, means that those days are over—and good riddance to them.”

Why Plant a New Church in the Bible Belt?
I often hear people say we don’t need more churches in the South. In this post Jeff Lawrence answers this objection by showing the great need for new churches in the Bible Belt. “A recent article in The Oklahoman claims that Oklahoma City area, where I pastor, is growing by 1729 people per month. Yes, per month. How will the church keep up with population growth? Numerically, we need to add nearly a new megachurch per month just to keep up with all the new people moving into the area. Add into the equation the hundreds of thousands already here who do not know Jesus, and you start to get a sense of the burden we should feel for planting new churches.”

Persevere in Parenting

Photo by Rachel Morris Photography

My wife and I have four children ranging in age from nine to three months. We spent most of the last decade learning how to be parents. I realize you are a parent whether you know what you are doing or not, but our desire has been to learn how to parent our children well.

One of the things I noticed in our time parenting is the tendency for things to go well for a season and then for things to go completely haywire for a season. For a while, we spend quality time with our kids and then we get into a busy season where it feels like our kids get the short end of the stick. We see have family devotions consistently and then all of a sudden I can’t remember when our last devotion was. We discipline our kids consistently for a while, taking the time to talk to them about their behavior and not letting offenses slide by. Then we go through a period where we overlook things and speak to our kids in a frustrated way rather than taking the time to teach them.

Did you catch the key word in the last sentence? Consistently. Knowing how to teach and pray for your kids is not as hard as we think it is. Our instincts about the best way to discipline our children are usually correct and most parents want to spend quality time with their children. The hardest aspect of parenting is rarely our lack of understanding, but our failure to persevere. As parents what we need the most is the perseverance to continue doing the right thing after we know the right thing to do. There are three particular areas where parents need to persevere.

Persevere in Quality Time

This may not always be the case, but it seems our children want us more than they want stuff from us. In fact I cannot help but wonder how often our giving children “stuff” is our attempt to help them find to occupy themselves so we can have time alone. Now, I completely agree parents need time alone to recharge and also to connect with there spouse and I also agree we need to teach our children to occupy themselves. At the same time we also need to realize our children’s need for time with their parents. Fishing, hiking, taking a walk, throwing a ball, playing a game, and sitting around a fire roasting marshmallows provide great opportunities to connect with our kids.

Our children will be more receptive to our discipline and teaching when we spend regular time with them because it flows from our relationship with them. When children are young, you parent mostly out of authority. If you find them playing with something they shouldn’t be playing with, you can simply take it away from them or pick them up and move them. As they grow older, you still parent from authority but your relationship with your children becomes a much bigger component in parenting. They tend to listen better and be more receptive to our parenting when we spend consistent time with them.

This will also be a joy to you. God gives us children as a gift. Quality time together creates lasting memories and leads to fun, laughter, and joy. Each of your children have unique personalities and are fun and funny in their own way. Time together brings this out. Stop thinking you will magically “find time” to spend with them. Make the time.

Persevere in Discipline and Teaching

The Bible calls parents to consistently teach and discipline our children. Moses’ words from Deuteronomy 6:7 provide important insight for how this should be done. “You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” Much of our parenting takes place in the context of ordinary life. We teach, correct, instruct, and discipline our children while we are doing all of the basic things we usually do. This includes answering our children’s honest questions. Are there times we should tell them “you get one more question?” Yes, but within reason we should answer their questions because it builds trust with our children and they will come to us with their progressively harder questions as they get older.

In addition to teaching as we walk through life, we need to set aside time for teaching through family devotions. Family devotion is not and should be dad preaching a twenty minute sermon to the kids. (If you have small kids, it can’t and won’t be this.) Don Whitney offers a simple method for family devotion anyone can do whether they know the Bible well or not- read, pray, sing. Read a portion of the Bible. If your kids are small this can be from a children’s Bible like The Big Picture Story Bible or The Jesus Storybook Bible and as they get older progress into reading a section from your favorite translation. Depending on where your children are, you can work on memory verses or a catechism together. Then spend some time in prayer together and sing a song. These can be simple children’s songs like “Jesus Loves Me” or simple hymns like “Come Thou Fount” or “Be Thou My Vision.”

We must also discipline our children. Truthfully I find it difficult to separate discipline from teaching because they go together hand in hand. We do not discipline our children to punish them for what they have done, but to instruct their hearts so they will be different in the future. Discipline should not look the same all the time, but should be tailored to the situation and the bent of our children. Whether or not we discipline though is not up for debate. God commands children to obey their parents and we should expect them to obey what we tell them the first time we tell them to do it. Anything other than this must result in discipline for the sake of your children’s souls and your future sanity.

Persevere in Prayer

Finally parents need to persevere in praying for and with our children. Pretend for a second you could do a perfect job parenting your children. You always kept your cool when they disobeyed and told them exactly what they needed to hear in every situation. You read the Bible to them every day and spent the perfect amount of quality time with them. You led them to friendships with the right kids and gave them every opportunity they needed. Even if you did all of these things, it would not guarantee anything about your child’s heart or their future. Only the grace of God can take your parenting and make it effective, so you must pray.

Pray for your children and for your parenting consistently. Pray God would cover your efforts with grace, forgive you where you fail, and empower you to persevere in your parenting. Pray God would change your child’s heart by the power of his Spirit and raise them up to follow him and bring him glory. You need God and your children need God, so daily bring them before the throne of grace.

We should also pray with our children. By doing this they learn how to pray and about what they should pray. They get to see your family pray for things and how God answers those prayers. Also our parents should hear us pray for their salvation. Our prayers teach them what we value the most and they will consistently hear about their need for Christ.

For the parents who read this, write Galatians 6:9 over all your parenting. “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” May God show his grace to us as we raise our children for his glory.

Related Posts:
Recovering the Family Dinner Table
How to Have Family Worship

For Further Reading:
Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp
A Neglected Grace by Jason Helopoulos
Family Worship by Donald Whitney

Blind Spots

May 10, 2015 — Leave a comment

Blind SpotsIf you were to ask me what the most important characteristic is in a church, I would tell you it is what the church believes. My bias leans toward churches leading with theology. They need to know what they believe, why they believe it, and be upfront about it. This makes perfect sense to me because I believe God has spoken clearly in his word and we need to be serious about what he has said. Then when I look at church history I see how a lack of seriousness about doctrinal truth leads the church into compromise and decline. Then church history shows other times when God’s people took his truth seriously, proclaimed it boldly, and saw large numbers of people come to faith in Jesus. The primary place of good theology seems obvious to me and have a difficult time understanding why anyone would say anything else is the most important element in a church.

In his new book Blind Spots, Collin Hansen addresses Christians like me who don’t understand why other Christians don’t emphasize the things I emphasize. He explains how Christians have often vilified each other because we have failed to see our different emphases and appreciate each other instead of biting and devouring one another. “We all have blind spots. It’s so easy to see the faults in someone else or in another group but so difficult to see the limitations in ourselves. Unless you learn to see the faults in yourself and your heroes, though, you can’t appreciate how God has gifted other Christians.”

Hansen explains three different types of Christians and the aspects of Christian faithfulness they emphasize. Courageous Christians cling to sound doctrine and godly living, not backing down in the face of societal pressure. Commissioned Christians understand the need to share the Gospel with every person in a way that connects with them. Compassionate Christians know the needs of people in our culture and are ready to meet those needs.

The bulk of Blind Spots deals with these three different types of Christians. Hansen explains the unique contribution each of these emphases makes within the Christian church, but also unpacks the blind spots the people in these groups will wrestle with. For example, in the chapter on courageous Christians, he helps the reader understand why courage is needed in as the church wrestles with our current cultural climate. Then he leads courageous Christians to understand the particular temptations they will face because of their particular bent. Courageous Christians face the temptation to idolize eras in the past and not see their heroes as flawed and fallen men like the heroes of Scripture. So courageous Christians must understand these temptations, praying and seeking that God would temper our courage with humility and grace.

The call to embrace these three varieties of Christian emphases should not be mistaken as a call to abandon doctrinal distinctive in the name of going along and getting alone. In the first chapter Hansen states, “when you lose the distinctive doctrines of Christianity- starting with the resurrection of Jesus- you lose everything.” He fights the assumption that we have to choose between biblical faithfulness, evangelism, or social justice. Instead he shows how we must have a biblically faithful, evangelistically zealous, and need meeting Christianity. No one is asked to leave doctrinal commitments at the door, but they are called to hold those commitments with charity recognizing which ones are essential to cooperation with other Christians and which ones are not.

Blind Spots by Collin Hansen reminds all Christians of an important truth- we need each other. Courageous Christians need to be reminded not to sit in the corner defending the truth, but to proclaim this truth in word and deed so people will be impacted by the Gospel. Compassionate Christians must remember in their acts of charity to keep the Gospel at the forefront of what they do. Commissioned Christians should hear the call to focus on the care of the whole person and not just the soul, remembering at the same time not to water down the message of the Gospel so more people will appear to accept it. The only way Christians will remember these things is by listening to the emphases of other followers of Jesus. The church is a body with many members, and we need all of those members playing their part for the sake of the Gospel. Not every person has the same calling or is passionate about the same issue or cause; but we have one great passion, the glory of God in Christ, to which we subordinate all of our other passions.

Christians who are tempted to snark, suspicion, and sarcasm toward other Christians will benefit from the message of Blind Spots. We need to be reminded we wrestle with temptations from our emphases, and our brothers and sisters can help us see them so our lives bear greater fruit for the glory of God.

You can read my other book reviews and notes here.

(I received a copy of Blind Spots in exchange for an honest review of the work.)

 

photo credit: solidether via photopin cc

photo credit: solidether via photopin cc

What the Media Isn’t Telling You Regarding the Arguments Over Same-Sex Marriage
As the debate over same-sex marriage heated up, conservatives warned a move in this direction would lead to a loss of religious liberty and open the door to the legalization of other types of sexual relationships. Michael Kruger helps us see both of these issues as he analyzes the transcripts of last week’s oral arguments before the Supreme Court. “The logic being used to promote same-sex marriage could be used to support a variety of other sexually questionable forms of marriage.” (Emphasis Original)

“What is Your Purpose?”
I have always enjoyed the thoughtful writing of David Brooks. His writing lately raised the question of our moral vocabulary and noted how our moral debates have been politicized. In this piece he ponders the meaning of life, noting our need to make space for discussing life’s most important issues. “The shift has meant there is less moral conversation in the public square. I doubt people behave worse than before, but we are less articulate about the inner life. There are fewer places in public where people are talking about the things that matter most.”

“Split Images
Madison Holleran appeared to have everything a college freshman could want. She had been a successful high school student athlete and now ran track at an Ivy League school. Her Instagram account detailed the life of a girl who looked to be happy and enjoying life. Kate Fagan at ESPN tells a different story though; one only a few people knew. Madison battled severe depression and ultimately took her own life. This piece details what everyone saw from a distance versus what was really happening inside. (Warning: This is a beautiful and moving piece of writing, but it also details what happened when Madison took her own life.) “Madison was beautiful, talented, successful — very nearly the epitome of what every young girl is supposed to hope she becomes. But she was also a perfectionist who struggled when she performed poorly. She was a deep thinker, someone who was aware of the image she presented to the world, and someone who often struggled with what that image conveyed about her, with how people superficially read who she was, what her life was like.”

“Best, Brightest, and Saddest”
Frank Bruni of The New York Times explores the reasons behind a string of teenage suicides in Palo Alto, California. He zeroes in on the pressure teenagers in this city face to excel in school and get accepted into Stanford. (Warning: This piece is informative, but discusses teenage suicide.) “And while mental health professionals are rightly careful not to oversimplify or trivialize the psychic distress behind them by focusing on any one possible factor, the contagion has prompted an emotional debate about the kinds of pressures felt by high school students in epicenters of overachievement.”

Good Deals on Kevin DeYoung’s Books
I’ve benefited from Kevin DeYoung’s writing the last few years and his books Crazy Busy, Don’t Call it a Comeback, Taking God at His Word, and The Hole in Our Holiness are discounted for Kindle this week. You should pick them up and give them a careful read.

Bible

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If we believe what we tell everyone, we are all busy people. Most of us lead off with it when we ask how we are doing. When approached about things we need to add into our lives, we remark that we will try to “find the time.” We never find time though do we? In order to do important things, we have to make time. One of the things we need to work hard to make time for is consistent Bible reading.

Here are four reasons you need to make time to read your Bible.

Read the Bible to know God

You can look at creation and know that God exists and is powerful. Romans 1 tells us this and we experience it when we look at a beautiful sunset or feel a cool breeze. Creation cannot tell us specifics about how God is though. We need the Bible for that and the Bible delivers in a powerful way. From the first verse to the last verse, we learn about who God is and what He is like. We learn about his character and his ways with people. You were made by God and you were made for God, so read the Bible to get to know him.

Read the Bible to Know Truth from Error

The world we live in is filled with constant and consistent messages about life. In any given day we hear a stream of voices telling us what we should think about money, power, ethics, peace, and joy. How is a person going to figure out which of these voices they should give an ear to? Only in the Bible do we hear a clear, consistent voice pointing us to the difference between truth and error. The Bible defines clearly what the truth is and speaks frankly about what the truth is not. With many voices screaming for our attention, we need to hear the words of Scripture every day.

Read the Bible to Grow in Christlike Character

We often bemoan the failures and sins in our lives. We struggle to know how to change and often lack the proper motivation for changing. Reading the Bible shapes our character. The Bible’s words aren’t just words on a page, they are the words of the living God. He speaks through the words of the Bible and changes us. As we meditate on God’s word and act on them, we are convicted of sin, repent, and begin to see real change in our lives.

Read the Bible to Help Others Who Struggle

How often do we have moments when we are speaking to other people who struggle and don’t know what to say? We deliver our standard platitudes, but the truth is that we don’t even know if we believe them. The pages of the Bible are filled with words of comfort and encouragement to hurting people. Solomon wrote the entire book of Proverbs to help us know how to make wise decisions. Reading the Bible gives you words to share with struggling friends and neighbors. You get to go from empty phrases to words that point them back to the God who loves them.

You have seen why you should read your Bible, now will you get started on this fantastic journey? Start now and over the next few weeks I’ll give you some tips to help you along the way.

Related Posts:
Why I Switched Back to a Physical Copy of the Bible
One Bible Verse Changed My Life

For Further Reading:
How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth by Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart
Knowing Scripture by R.C. Sproul

photo credit: solidether via photopin cc

photo credit: solidether via photopin cc

5 suggestions for raising non-narcissistic children
Our children are naturally self centered (as we all are.) If we are not thoughtful about the way we raise our children, we will only increase this propensity rather than combating it. Writing for the ERLC, David Prince offers five suggests for combating narcissism in our children. “Above all else, a Christian parent’s job is to create categories in their children’s daily lives that help make the gospel intelligible as they prepare them for adulthood. Foundational to a Christian worldview is the truth: “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6, 1 Pet. 5:5). Parents must exert authority over their children, not for their own sake, but for their child’s sake. Teaching your children to live under appropriate authority is a gift that leads to contentment. A gospel-centered approach to parenting that cultivates a biblical worldview will not abandon honest conversation about the child’s strengths (appropriate praise is vital) and weaknesses.”

Anarchy, God, and Sade
Writing in The American Conservative, Rod Dreher addresses the riots in Baltimore by reminding us that there is anarchy in all our souls. Reading this piece will take some time, but the effort bears great fruit. When we arrive at the end of 2015, I think we will judge this to be one of the most important pieces written this year. “The anarchy I worry about is not the anarchy of poor black people in West Baltimore, or anywhere else. The anarchy I worry about is the anarchy within the hearts and communities of people like me — people who outwardly live lives of prosperity and normality, but who, in their hearts, believe that they and their appetites are the only authority they should follow. This is why I am so perpetually alarmed about our culture: it is fundamentally anarchic, because there is buried within our culture no source of order outside the Self.”

Beware the Too Compelling Narrative
I’m a big fan of the writing at The Art of Manliness and this post reminds us that we should not jump on bandwagons just because they seem to have a great story attached to them. Brett McKay shares several narratives fallacies that we fall for including some that will sound familiar in light of current debates. “The reason this narrative is so compelling is that it make us feel optimistic, good, and special. It’s ego boosting to believe you are the most advanced model in a long line of rejected prototypes. It’s satisfying to favorably compare oneself, and one’s generation, to those that have come before.”

Mother’s Day
Mother’s Day is a week from Sunday and Westminster Book Store has some deals on books for moms this week. You can check out their specials on several great books here.

 

 

Judge Not

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“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”

Talk to a random person on any street in America and ask them to quote a Bible verse to you. Many of them will quote to you the first words of this passage, “judge not, that you not be judged.” This seems to be the go to phrase for many in our culture when talking to a Christian about moral issues. They quote this verse as the ultimate trump card to end a conversation because they usually understand this verse to mean that you should never question anything a person does or believes. For example, I read someone this week say he was looking for a church that would be okay with his liberal beliefs on some serious social issues and that would not have a problem with the fact that he smokes pot. The comments were filled with people recommending churches that are “not judgmental.” In other words, the other commenters meant “these are the churches who will leave you where you are without saying anything to you and where what you hear from the pulpit will not call your life into question.” This seems to be what most people in our culture mean when they quote Matthew 7:1.

When you read the broader context of this passage, you realize this is not what Jesus means when he says “judge not.” He tells us not to be obsessed with the speck in our brother’s eye when we have a plank sticking out of our own eye. In other words, you cannot try to take a speck of sawdust from another person’s eye when you have a two by four sticking out of yours. So does Jesus say here that we should ignore the speck of sawdust because who are we to judge? Absolutely not, instead he reminds us to pull the log out of our own eye and then help your brother get the speck out of his eye. Even in the passage itself we see the passage does not teach that we suspend our faculties of discernment and never tell people that their actions or beliefs are wrong, sinful, or out of step with what it means to be a Christian. If  you expanded further out in the three chapter sermon where this verse is found, you would hear Jesus telling people that lust is adultery and anger is murder. He condemns praying, fasting, or giving only to be seen by men and warns us to look out for false prophets. In fact, he says we will know false prophets by their fruits, meaning we should inspect the fruit on the tree of their lives.

Can’t we acknowledge that Jesus is not calling on us to suspend our moral faculties or powers of discernment? Nor is he calling us here to say “well I’m not God so I can’t say what’s right and what’s wrong.” Yes, you can say what is right and what is wrong. Yes, you can look at something someone espouses and say it’s not true; and yes, can tell a person their life is not in line what the Bible prescribes. The Bible commands and encourages us to do these things.

What then does Jesus mean when he tells us not to judge? John Stott, in his The Message of the Sermon on the Mount, summarizes the teaching of this passage well when he says, “In a word, ‘censoriousness’. The follower of Jesus is still a ‘critic’ in the sense of using his powers of discernment, but not a ‘judge’ in the sense of being censorious. Censoriousness is a compound sin consisting of several unpleasant ingredients. It does not mean to assess people critically, but to judge them harshly. The censorious critic is a fault-finder who is negative and destructive towards other people and enjoys actively seeking out their failings. He puts the worst possible construction on their motives, pours cold water on their schemes and is ungenerous towards their mistakes.”

Stott points out three particular temptations we should avoid from Matthew 7:1.

We Judge When We Enjoy the Failings of Others

Many who quote Matthew 7:1 without understanding what it actually means are also fans of appealing to karma when a person wrongs them. These popular appeals to karma often mean someone wants to see bad things happen to another person because of something they have done wrong, yet this is the very attitude Matthew 7:1 forbids. If we want bad things to happen to people who do bad things, don’t we have to be honest and admit that we are actually pulling for bad things to happen to us? When we enjoy the failings of others we unconsciously look forward to our own ultimate judgement.

We Judge When We Misconstrue the Motives of Others

One of our great mistakes is thinking we can read another person’s motives for an action. How often have we seen a person doing a good thing and assumed they are doing it for less than laudable reasons? Matthew 7:1 reminds us that we should assign the best possible motives to a person’s actions unless we have explicit reason not to do so. We want this for ourselves, and if we love our neighbor as ourselves we will do the same thing.

We Judge When We Deny Grace for the Sins of Others

The words “judge not that you not be judged” remind us that we are people who live under the reign of grace. If every person received what they deserved, we would all face judgement. Jesus lived a sinless life, died for our sins, and was raised victoriously from the dead. The person who trusts in Christ soon discovers that Jesus bore the judgement he deserved. In the place of judgement, the Christian is forgiven by God, reconciled to God, adopted as a child of God, and given an imperishable hope by God. If we have experienced this, how could we want to deny it to others? The person who has experienced grace cannot hold another person’s sins over their head and make them grovel for forgiveness.

The words of Matthew 7:1 have important application for the way Christians respond to other people since they live on this side of the cross. They remind us of the grace we have received and should show. Their broader context also remind us that calling others to repentance after we have repented is a loving thing to do. We are not obeying Jesus when we act as if all categories of good and evil should be abandoned. Instead we do our friends and neighbors the greatest good when we are honest about the existence of sins our lives and point to Jesus who took our judgement upon himself so we could be free.

Related Posts:
Why Should We Forgive?
When the Bible Rebukes Democrats and Republicans

For Further Reading:
The Message of the Sermon on the Mount by John Stott
The Church and the Surprising Offense of God’s Love by Jonathan Leeman

A Few Good Reads

April 28, 2015 — Leave a comment
photo credit: solidether via photopin cc

photo credit: solidether via photopin cc

It’s Time to Love Baltimore
Much of our national discussion the last few days has focused on the rioting in Baltimore. Joey Rainey shares how churches in Baltimore have been ministering in the midst of the chaos and how Christians from other parts of the country can help. “This morning, Pastor Tally Wilgis and the wonderful people of Captivate Church are feeding kids.  In an area of the city where 84% of the children are on a free or reduced lunch program, when school is cancelled, they don’t eat.  So the body of Christ is feeding more than 100 of them.”

Southern Baptists canceled an event with Ben Carson. Here’s why that matters.
Dr. Ben Carson has become a darling of conservative Republicans and was slated to speak at the Southern Baptist Pastors’ Conference in Columbus in June. Some Southern Baptists began voicing concerns about some of Dr. Carson’s theological commitments and the danger of being seen as endorsing a political candidate. Last week SBC leaders and Carson decided that he would not speak. In this post Thomas Kidd gives us details on the discussion and explains the importance of this move. “Carson has also made statements about Muslims, Jews and Christians all being ‘God’s children,’ perhaps implying that there are multiple paths to God. Hosting Carson and other Republican candidates, the critics said, continues to convey the impression that the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) is ‘in bed with the Republican Party,’ as Baptist21 put it. Leaders of the Pastors’ Conference ‘mutually agreed’ with Carson that he would withdraw.”

Jesus, The Antidote to Blame Transference Syndrome
The first thing Adam did when confronted with his sin was to blame his wife and we have been following suit ever since. Jared Wilson teaches us how Jesus moves us away from our insistence on transferring blame. “Jesus endures the temptation we cannot, he accepts the blame we deserve, and he transfers the blessings of his righteousness that we could never earn.”

The Mingling of Souls
Amazon has a deal on the Kindle edition of Matt Chandler’s book on “God’s design for love, sex, marriage, and redemption.”