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What does it mean when the Bible says, “Judge not, lest you be judged”? Todd Wagner answers this question while teaching through Matthew 7:1-6—easily one of the most misinterpreted passages in the Bible—as we continue our series, Summer on the Mount.
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The Murderer and Adulterer Within Me
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A Summary of Matthew 5-7
What does it mean when the Bible says, “Judge not, lest you be judged”? Todd Wagner answers this question while teaching through Matthew 7:1-6—easily one of the most misinterpreted passages in the Bible—as we continue our series, Summer on the Mount.
How are we doing, Watermark? We are making our way through something called the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5-7, and we are at a crucial passage. There's a little bit of a pivot in the emphasis Jesus is making as he makes his way through this little section. He's going to address some people who have been listening and give them a little bit of application at this particular moment. I will tell you, it is application we all desperately need.
It is probably the most quoted passage of Scripture by people who know no Bible. The section we're going to look at is the favorite passage of anybody who just wants to be left alone. They love it. They think it's in the Bible, and they're right, but what they don't know is the way they're using it is wrong. Have you ever had anybody say something like this to you? "Hey, you ain't the judge of me" or "What are you doing judging me? Don't you know 'Judge not or you'll be judged'?" Well, that's quoting Scripture, but it's not done correctly most often.
I taught a series a number of years ago called The Most, and I did the entire series because I didn't have time to teach through the book of Matthew verse by verse or even the Sermon on the Mount, so I just did a series called The Most. What I did is I took what I thought was the most difficult verse in the Bible and taught a week on it, and I took what I thought was the most comforting verse in the Bible and taught a week on it, the most awful verse in the Bible, the most quoted, the most important, the most misquoted, the most essential, the most neglected, the most read…all of those verses.
I'd grab one out, and I would say, "This, I think, is the most difficult passage in the Bible to interpret" or "the most misunderstood passage." When I did the most misunderstood, I went to Matthew 7:1. So, we're going to teach you how to respond when people say to you, "Hey, man, don't you know the Bible says you're not supposed to judge or you'll be judged?" That's not exactly what it says, but let's learn.
Father, would you teach us this morning how to rightly divide the Word of truth so we can be workmen who don't need to be ashamed, people who accurately handle these words that are true, that are life-giving? We know it's a fact there's nothing quite so dangerous as a truth that is misunderstood, so teach us what you will today. Open the eyes of our hearts that we might know more and serve you better and be the salt and light you intend us to be. Teach us now. In Jesus' name, amen.
Let's read Matthew 7:1-6. That's the text we're going to look at together. Let me read it to you. Then we'll come back and have some fun picking it apart. Here's what it says:
*"Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at 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,' and behold, the log is 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. Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces."
I'm going to teach you four things today, and here they come. First, we're going to talk about what "Do not judge" means; secondly, I'm going to teach you how you can judge rightly; thirdly, I'm going to teach you when it's time to move on; and fourthly, I'll tell you what you should never move on from. So, here we go.
What does "Do not judge" mean? Well, I always tell people you should never memorize a Bible verse. That kind of shocks them. What I'm saying there is be careful when you take one verse and don't understand the context in which it is said. When you do that to anybody, and even Jesus, it usually turns into problems.
Now, some verses do fine on their own. Proverbs pretty much do fine on their own, although you have to understand proverbs aren't statements that are always true; they're just true principles and statements of wisdom that if you order your life by or generally hold to these ideas, it's going to serve you well.
Sometimes, though, you might take Psalm 53:1, which says, "There is no God," and if you don't read that in context where it says, "The fool says in his heart, 'There is no God,'" it will get you in trouble. If you read, "All things are lawful…" but you don't read "…but not all things edify," it's going to get you in trouble. If you just grab this one little verse here, "Do not judge so you will not be judged," then you're going to get in trouble. Let me explain to you what's happening.
The Sermon on the Mount is Jesus' effort to tell you not how to become a disciple but, specifically, what the characteristics of a disciple are. Jesus is describing the character of a disciple, not the requirements, if you will, to become one. Nowhere in the Sermon on the Mount is the gospel. The gospel is the good news that God loves you, he's not angry at you, that the wages of sin is death but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus.
The Sermon on the Mount doesn't teach that. The closest it comes to telling you the requirement to get into the kingdom of heaven is in Matthew 5:3. At the very beginning, the first words out of God's mouth when he shows up on earth in public ministry are, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."
He's going to start to address why you need to have what God has always wanted to see in sinful humanity. A broken and contrite spirit he has yet to deny. Do you know what God doesn't like? God doesn't like pride. God doesn't like when somebody goes, "My 'good enough' is good enough." Every time you see somebody make a mistake, they're always doing one of two things, and usually both. They have too high a view of themselves and too low a view of God.
Blasphemy is when you attribute to God something that's not true or you take away from God something that is true. Jesus is telling a watching and listening world, "Hey, God is holier than you think, and the reason God gave you the law was not so you could keep it but to show you you're not doing what I want you to do."
Now what's interesting is there was a group of guys called Pharisees who were the teachers of the law, and they were telling people, "Look. This is how we should keep the law, and not just the law, but here's the traditional understanding of it," and they would add all kinds of burdens to those individuals. Guess what. The more they thought they were keeping the law and the more they added things that were derivatives of what that law said and they kept those, they thought they were really, really holy. They were not poor in spirit; they were prideful in heart.
That's why Jesus says things like this: "Hey, you have heard it said, but I say to you…" "These guys say you shouldn't commit murder. That's good. Moses said that, but I'm telling you that if you have hatred in your heart for your brother, you're a murderer. You've heard it said (Moses said it) you should not commit adultery, but I say to you if you look at a woman with lust in your heart you're an adulterer."
Jesus keeps teaching them the real standard of the law. He's teaching them that the law wasn't there to make you righteous; the law was there to show you that you're not righteous enough and even the way we understood it wasn't even full enough. Jesus is saying, "Hey, your Father who's in heaven whose name is holy? He's more holy than you think."
So he drops this bomb on everybody in Matthew 5:20: "Unless you're more righteous than the scribes and the Pharisees, you won't enter into the kingdom of heaven," which should make you go, "Well, then who's going to get into heaven?" See Matthew 5:48: "Be perfect like your heavenly Father is perfect."
Don't practice your righteousness before men. Be righteous in your heart. Seek first the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God can be found when you're poor in spirit, you mourn over your sin, and you say, "God, lead my life. I'm going to hunger and thirst after more of you, but I can never be as righteous as you want me to be."
There was a group of people listening to Jesus give this message who said, "Hey, my 'good enough' is good enough. You're not that holy, and we're not that bad. In fact, do you want to know who's bad? It's the people who don't keep the law like we do and don't keep the traditional understanding of the righteousness of the law the way we do."
Let me share with you a couple of things about what Jesus thought about these people. He actually told a story in Luke 18:9-14. It says he told a story to some people, many who were listening to the Sermon on the Mount, "who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and viewed others with contempt."
He's about to tell a story to those kinds of people, but if he had to give two verses to tell what he thought about those people who think they're righteous and view others with contempt, the two verses he would give are Matthew 7:1-2. He would say to them, "Don't judge, because you're going to be judged if you do. The way you judge will be the way you're judged, and by your standard of measure I'm going to measure you.
So, if you're telling me you think people won't get to heaven because they're not righteous, then I'm going to judge you based on real righteousness, and it's not going to work out for you. If I had to give you a little application, it would be this: don't judge based on works, because it won't work out well for you in the end, because your works are never good enough."
What Jesus is doing is he's disarming us from being prideful. I want you to listen, because it's so easy to pick on the Pharisees, but I'm going to tell the same story and add a little color to it. Are you ready? Luke 18. "Two men went up into the temple to pray…" Two men hung out in Dallas on a Sunday. "…one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector." One goes to Watermark; the other doesn't.
The Watermark person stood up and prayed to himself, "God, I thank you I'm not like these other people, these homosexuals, these guys who slept with their girlfriends last night, these divorcees who have walked away." The Pharisee said, "These other people, these swindlers, these unjust, these adulterers. I'm so glad I'm not like a tax collector."
"I go to Watermark. Not only do I go to Watermark; I'm not a regular attender. I know regular attenders are really irregular believers. I'm a member. I'm in community. I give to the mission of Watermark. I serve. I'm so glad I'm not like those other people who go to dead churches or those atheists or those Muslims or those Buddhists or those LGBTQ people, those pro-choice people. Man, I'm so glad I'm not like them."
In some ways you should be, but if what you're doing is building a résumé you think is going to make you righteous and not need a Savior, tune in. The Pharisee said, "I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get." See all the comments I just made about Watermark folks. Verse 13: "But the tax collector [the homosexual, the immoral person] , standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me, the sinner!'"
If you identify your sin but don't really do anything about it… You just know, "My life is miserable, and I'm doing things God doesn't want to do, and I acknowledge it's things God doesn't want to do," and you never come to God and see his kindness and goodness and grace and have that be a transforming effect in your life, it doesn't matter if you acknowledge you're a sinner.
But if you come to Christ, seeking mercy with a broken and contrite spirit, and you acknowledge that you need judgment and death and that God in his kindness provided for you grace through Jesus Christ on the cross and you throw yourself at him and, in response to seeing the goodness and love of God, turn from your wicked ways and do the best you can to seek him with all of your heart, then that's good news.
He says in verse 14, "I tell you, this man went to his house…" Meaning, the one who acknowledged he was a sinner and appealed to the mercy of God and hungered and thirsted after righteousness. "…this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself [who builds a résumé and turns it in] will be humbled, but he who humbles himself [acknowledges his sin and believes that God made Jesus who knew no sin to become sin on your behalf, that you might become the righteousness of God] will be exalted."
What Christ is saying both in this story and in Matthew 7 specifically is, "Guys, you have to quit telling folks who aren't like you that they're not good enough to get into heaven like you think you're going to heaven. You're not getting into heaven because you do good things. You're getting into heaven if you acknowledge that there's no good you can do, if you acknowledge that you are saved by grace through faith."
The righteous have always lived by faith. "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast." The Pharisees were boasting in their ability to keep the law. The Pharisees were saying, "My 'good enough' is good enough." Nobody who is a member of this church ought to ever say, "My 'good enough' is good enough."
The only requirement, in fact, for membership at Watermark, and in any biblical church, is that you go, "I could never be good enough for God, but God in his kindness demonstrated his love for me in that while I was still a sinner he died for me. 'Therefore, having been justified by faith through grace, we have peace with God through Jesus Christ.'"
Then, as somebody who understands the kindness of that God, you go, "Look. If God is that good that he loved me when I was offensive and a tax gatherer and immoral and self-righteous, why wouldn't I want to know more of him?" So you commit yourself to learning his ways, but you never, ever turn to him and say, "I think I'm good enough long enough that you can celebrate that you have me on your team." No, man.
If you start to look at somebody and say, "There's no way you could be saved when that's your sin issue," Jesus says, "That's not going to work out well for you." What does it mean to not judge? It means you should never look at somebody else and say, "Because of their sin history, because of their sin pattern, they're beyond saving."
You can't be Westboro Baptist, "God hates fags." God doesn't hate fags; God loves people. He hates sin, because sin destroys people. When you start to say there's something someone does that will make them impossible to be saved by God or think you're saved because of something you possibly have done other than throw yourself at the mercy of God, you'd better read Matthew 7:1-2.
I'll just take you a little farther. You need to know this. Jesus and the Pharisees continued to butt heads, because religious people will not like this message today. Self-righteous, prideful people will not like what I'm about to say. What I'm here to tell you is there is nobody who is good enough long enough to look God in the eye and say, "Aren't you glad I'm yours?" The Pharisees rejected Christ's message.
They said, "You're not going to kill our traditional understanding of righteousness. We're going to kill you." You see that show up. In fact, as this battle continues between God bringing the truth through his Son and the people who are representing or, actually, misrepresenting God, you're going to see that the Pharisees in Matthew 12:14 watch Jesus keep taking them on. He healed on the Sabbath. They go, "We don't do work on the Sabbath. Healing work is work on the Sabbath."
Jesus says, "It's never wrong to do the work of God on the Sabbath. By the way, the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. The Sabbath is not something you should burden people with. Sabbath is a gift from God where you can rest and meditate on him and gather together and be with your family and celebrate and stop your work and just know that God is going to work for you and remind yourself that way continually so that when you go to work the rest of the week you do it with a heart that's full in a response to the love of God."
That's the intention of the Sabbath: so you can focus on the God who is worthy of all praise so you live for that God who is worthy of all praise all week long. But the Pharisees didn't like what he did, so they (verse 14) "conspired against him as to how they might destroy him." "You're not going to kill our tradition. You're not going to kill our religion. We're going to kill you."
Then Jesus does some amazing things. He deals with a person who's demon-possessed, this person who is filled with an unholy spirit, which, by the way, is everybody who's not in relationship with God. Necessarily, if you're not filled with the Holy Spirit you're filled with a spirit that's less than holy, an unholy spirit. The way you deal with unholy spirits when you run up against them is not to cast them out but to bring truth in.
Jesus brought the truth of who he was and the grace of God into this demon-possessed person's life, and this person understood the kindness of God at work. I'm not going to go into a whole theology of how you deal with darkness and even brokenness, but suffice it to say, when Jesus did miracles, what he was showing was that he was God, that God can reverse the effects of the fall.
Who can drive out darkness except the God of light? Who can drive out the effects of sin, which are disease and death, except the God who is sovereign over disease and death? So he does that. The Pharisees rejected that Jesus did it by being the power of God, and they said, "No, he does it because he himself is lord of the demons."
When he's confronted that way, because these guys were committed no matter what to suppressing the truth in unrighteousness… Jesus does something very wise after he gets in this little conflict with the Pharisees in Matthew 12. He quotes Abraham Lincoln, because everybody loves Abraham Lincoln. So Jesus is going to quote Lincoln in Matthew 12:25. He says, "Any kingdom divided against itself is laid waste; and any city or house divided against itself will not stand."
It's so brilliant, because everybody loves him. He's our favorite president, the sixteenth president of the United States. He kept the union together. So Jesus quotes him right here, and everybody goes, "Wow. That's a good point." Then he goes on and gives a couple more reasons. At the end of the day, he just tells people, "You have to beware of these guys, because they're not going to take any kind of revelation."
He actually gets into this thing where he says they've blasphemed against the Spirit. He pronounces judgment on the nation, because the spiritual leadership of the nation said, "It doesn't matter what the Father says about the Son, no matter how well pleased the Father is in the Son, no matter how much the Son says he is the means that God is going to reconcile the world to him, and no matter how much the Spirit of God does through Jesus."
When you reject the testimony of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit, there's no more testimony to be brought to bear, so Jesus says this passage in historical context that really can't be repeated except what happened right here: "That's the unforgivable sin." As a nation, when you take the works of God and call them the works of the Devil, if you're going to follow this kind of spiritual leadership, you're under judgment, and the nation of Israel moved under judgment.
God, then, didn't stop reaching out to Jews and didn't stop reaching out to the world, but the nation itself was not going to usher in the kingdom of heaven, because they rejected the King. That's why Jesus in Matthew 13 is going to start to talk in parables, because parables are a way of teaching truth to people who wanted to understand the truth but also shielding those who were scoffers from hearing more truth. It was a gracious thing, because Jesus is saying, "The more revelation, the more judgment."
So Jesus starts to talk in stories. You're going to find out that individual Jews still trust in who Jesus is, but the nation, God says, is about to go underneath some significant judgment. The nation of Israel is under this judgment to this day. If you want to understand more about that, read your Bible, Romans 9-11. God says he's not done with Israel. There are still, as I said, individual Jewish people who are trusting Christ, but by and large, it's the nations that are responding to the Messiah who was given to the Jews.
He even tells the nations, "You walk with me so faithfully that the blessing of my way and my Spirit in your life makes the Jews finally look up and go, 'They're dancing with our date, and we want to go back and figure out who this Messiah is.'" That's the call on the church. That's the call on the nation of believers today, that we are to live lives that are so at peace with God nonbelievers look and go, "What are you all doing, and who are you people?" and we answer, "We're people who follow the Messiah, the one prophesied in the Law and the Prophets."
What's interesting is that Jesus tells another story. This is really helpful, and it goes to the context of what we're teaching. It comes at the very end of this little section of this conflict between these Pharisees Jesus pronounces judgment on. I just want to say this. What's the unforgivable sin today? The unforgivable sin today is not blaspheming the Holy Spirit in one particular moment, but it's in grieving God by standing before the Lord on the day of judgment and saying, "I don't want what you had to offer for me."
It says in the Bible, "It's appointed for man to die once, and after this comes judgment." That's the moment where you can be certain you have committed the unforgivable sin. You have died and you've rejected God's provision for you in the person of Christ on the cross, his perfect life for your sinful life, and you never acknowledged that you were a sinner and needed mercy.
All of us, by the way, have heard the gospel and said, "Eh, I don't need a gospel." We've heard talk about God. "I don't think that's true about God." In doing so, we have, in a sense, blasphemed God in that moment. This is speaking to the nation in a very unique context, where the Messiah came to the nation to usher in his kingdom and they said, "You will not be our King." If you go back and read the section of Matthew 12 I'm talking about, you'll see that God's plan all along was that the gospel would go to the Gentiles.
It was primarily through the Jews that they would see the goodness of God at work, but when the Jews were not going to let the goodness of God go to work and rejected the goodness of God made known in human flesh, God said, "All right. Well, I'll just make myself known to the rest of the world, and then you'll come back to me when you see my work through them." Watch this story he tells in Matthew 12:43-45. It's another very confusing passage.
"Now when the unclean spirit goes out of a man, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and does not find it. Then it says, 'I will return to my house from which I came'; and when it comes, it finds it unoccupied, swept, and put in order. Then it goes and takes along with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first. That is the way it will also be with this evil generation."
You're like, "Todd, what is the purpose of that story, and why are you telling us that in the context of us not judging?" Here's why: Jesus is saying to this group of people who thought they were righteous in and of themselves and better than other people who they thought couldn't be saved because they were not as righteous as them, "Here's your problem, religious leaders. Here's your problem, nation of Israel. When I put you in the land of Israel and taught you my way and my kindness, you didn't walk in my way and kindness.
You adopted the worship of the pagan nations. You got into idolatry and child sacrifice. You built the high places, and you wandered away from me. You went into a form of extreme judgment where eventually you were exiled into Babylon. Your nation was turned upside down. When I brought you back and we rebuilt the temple, now you've adopted something even worse than your idolatry and paganism and child sacrifice. Now you've adopted this self-righteousness and this system of pharisaical performance, and your house now looks great. You don't look like you're worshiping idols. You don't look like the Canaanites anymore."
What he tells them in this story is, "We've driven out the demon, if you will, of Baal worship, but because you didn't fill your heart up with submission to me and love for God, you now have your house in order and look all good and right, but inside you're still corrupt, and it's even a worse condition than before." Why?
When we see people who are on the street and are beaten up and drunk and broken and suffering from years of rebellion, we look at them and know these people need help, but when you go into religion and churchianity and see people who smile and hold hands and tell Bible stories, you don't think they need God all the time, but if they've never gotten on their knees and said, "No amount of churchgoing, no amount of philanthropy, no amount of singing hymns, no amount of calling others' sin 'sin' will ever save me…"
The only thing that saves you is when you get on your face and go, "I am a sinner. I'm no better than anybody else. If it weren't for Jesus, I have no chance." The only requirement to be rightly related to God is to come to terms with your own brokenness, and there's no amount of works or self-righteousness or performance that could ever make you righteous in God's eyes. If you want to judge other people by the way they live, then God says, "I'll judge you by the way you live," and that isn't going to work out for you. It's called the gospel.
Now, when you understand the kindness and goodness of God, you don't just keep saying you're a sinner; you start to pursue the Savior. That's how you know that you know he is a good God: your life begins to be transformed. You're no longer conformed to sin and the flesh and the way of the world, but you're being transformed by the renewing of your mind. You now know that God is good. You seek his Word. You are conformed to his image, but you never say, "Look at how much I was conformed. I should be saved." No. You're saved because you have faith in God's provision.
That's how you become justified. Then you prove or justify that you have a genuine faith by the way you walk with this God who you say you've come to know is good, and when you don't do it perfectly, you go, "Guess what. I'm a Christian. I just didn't live Christianly. Will you forgive me? I repent of that. I want to make amends when I can, and I'm going to keep seeking God again." The righteous fall seven times and get back up again. The self-righteous go, "I've never fallen in a way that was that big of a deal." There you go.
What does it mean to not judge? It means you'd better not judge others based on their works, because it won't work out for you when you get judged by your works. Let me take a moment, though, and tell you what it doesn't mean. This is so important. Jesus is making a judgment about the way the Pharisees are acting. Jesus will never violate his own law.
He goes on to these guys he tells that story about in Matthew, chapter 12… When you get to Matthew 23, this is what he says about the Pharisees: "You guys are unclean." He says "Woe" to them eight times. He calls them hypocrites seven times. He says, "You're lawless serpents, whitewashed tombs full of dead men's bones. You're a brood of vipers. You're sons of hell."
Does that sound judgmental to you? It sounds to me like whatever it means to not make judgments, Jesus is judging that these men are not what God is looking for. What he's telling them is "You need to be somebody who knows they're sick so you can have a physician." Church, can I convince you of this? We ought to be the most humble people on the face of the earth.
We are not here because we're not like them; we're here because the God who is nothing like us died for us. I'm going to tell you how to love them in a second. We should have no self-righteousness. We ought to come in here and sing songs about the greatness of God's love, how he is faithful, not we are faithful. Amen? Then we ought to aspire to honor the God who has died for us. That's what we're doing.
So, what does it not mean? Here's the statement: we are called to make judgments but not be judgmental about who can be saved. I'll show you this. Just a few verses down, Jesus says this in Matthew 7:15. We'll teach this in a few weeks, but watch. He says, "Beware of the false prophets…" That means you have to make a judgment about what's a true prophet and what's a false prophet. "…who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they?"
You have to be able to make a judgment. "That's a grape; that's a thorn. That's a fig; that's a thistle. That's a boy; that's a girl." It's okay. You're allowed to make judgments. In fact, you should, and when you stop making judgments, we're going to have problems. He tells us to judge when a brother sins. Matthew 18:15: "If your brother sins…" If you are saying, "Hey, I'm making a judgment. God's Word says this. You're not doing this. I'm going to love you enough to say that's a problem…"
You go to them. The Bible talks about how you should go to them. I'm going to explain how you can judge rightly in just a moment, but I want to make it clear. Whatever "Judge not, lest you be judged" means, it doesn't mean you stop making judgments. This is one of the great problems we have in our country today. We have stopped thinking it's appropriate to make judgments. We talk a lot about tolerance.
Too much tolerance paves the way for trouble. Well, what's too much tolerance? I'd say it this way. Old tolerance used to be we ought to civilly discuss different views. That's what tolerance used to mean. New tolerance is that we have to embrace every idea as equally true. I will tell you, you cannot tolerate new tolerance and be a Christian. Tolerance presumes disagreement, disagreement presumes judgment, and judgment presumes truth. There are things that are true.
Do you guys know who George Orwell is? He wrote Animal Farm. George Orwell, who lived just until he was 47 years old, wrote a lot about this. He was not a believer by any stretch of the imagination, but he said, "The further a society drifts from the truth, the more it will hate those that speak it."
He says that in a time of universal deceit, which is what we're moving into, telling the truth is a revolutionary act, and he says that, further, the first duty of intelligent men is to speak the truth. We live in a world that has misinterpreted Matthew 7, bullies people with "Judge not lest you be judged," and has extrapolated from Jesus saying, "There is no man who is righteous" to "No man can make a judgment about what is right and true." That's crazy.
We have to keep speaking the truth. It's our job, and when we stop doing that because we're intimidated by somebody saying, "Judge not lest you be judged…" It never says we shouldn't make a judgment. When you can't tell a grape from a thorn, your fruit bowl is going to be a mess, and when you can't tell a boy from a girl and a marriage that's a blessing to society from a marriage that's going to destroy society, you are in trouble.
If I tell you I'm a woman and I'm Asian or I'm 9 years old, what am I? I'm mentally ill. It's not loving to go, "Oh, I don't want to make judgments about whether or not Todd is a man or Todd is an Asian or Todd is 9." I don't need your encouragement. I need your counsel, and I need your compassion.
Let me just say this to you. When Bruce Jenner won the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage, I said (and I'll repeat it) I think he should have won the award for courage. When you're one of the most renowned male athletes of the twenty-first century, loved by all, but there is something going on in you where you think you were trapped in a man's body even though you want to be a woman, it takes a tremendous amount of courage to share that with people.
I don't know what you're sharing to your small group, but probably some of you guys, if you think you're trapped in the wrong gender, are not just going, "Well, this week I was thinking I should be a girl," because you're like, "Wow. That's hard to share." It takes tremendous courage. Bruce Jenner was courageous.
Bruce Jenner's problem was not his sin struggle; Bruce Jenner's problem was his church, when his church goes, "We're not going to judge you. It's okay. We're going to encourage you to keep going that way." Friends don't let friends drive drunk, and friends don't let people go through hormonal therapy to destroy their physical makeup or maybe even surgery itself to destroy their physical person because they're confused about who they are.
By the way, this wasn't even a radical idea until just a few years ago. The American Psychological Association, which is a group of men who study things, used to say that homosexuality is a psychological disorder. Now they go, "You know what? There are a lot of us who are homosexuals, so it can't be a psychological disorder. It must be people who think homosexuality is wrong. They're the psychopaths."
Do you know that has just happened in the last few years and it didn't happen because of science? It happened because a group of guys got in a room and voted. You need to not be afraid to stand up and go, "Listen. I'm not better than you. Maybe I don't have the same struggle you do, Bruce Jenner, but I need Jesus just like you need him.
Bruce, can I tell you where I'm screwed up? I think that if I have sex with as many women as I can my life is going to be better, and I need help. That is a part of my brokenness. I need you not to encourage me. I need you to pray for me and remind me of the grace of God and that his way is the right way, and I need to lean not on my own understanding, because all his ways are peace." Political correctness creates profound confusion.
I'm going to warn you that speaking the truth in love will produce a tax. It's going to be a revolutionary act, but it's also going to prevent societal decay. Jesus already got through telling us in this message that we're to be salt and light. Salt prevents decay. Light brings truth into darkness. We are not supposed to be people who don't make judgments. We just shouldn't be judgmental that "Because that's your sin struggle, there's no way you could be saved." That's crazy. That's offensive to God.
Despising people because they are not good and not perfect is not good, but saying everything is good and perfect is not good for people. Are y'all with me? This isn't even radical. We have to remind ourselves that boys aren't girls, grapes aren't thorns, figs aren't thistles, and you're not violating the Scripture when you make judgments. You're not to be judgmental about different people's struggles and what God can do with them.
By the way, I'm just going to add this in here right now. Even when you become a Christian, it doesn't mean you stop struggling with your flesh. Even though I've been a believer for 30-some-odd years, I am still prone to be non-monogamous. I'm still prone to be controlling. I'm still prone to be self-serving, and I need your encouragement and your prayer. I need to conform myself more to the image of Christ. I need to not lean on my own understanding. I don't need people to encourage me.
Also, I shouldn't be surprised that my flesh is not changed yet, because the Bible doesn't tell you it has any program to change your flesh. Here's the Bible's program for your flesh: Deny it. Consider it dead. Crucify it. It's a continual dying to self. If you're wondering, "I love God, but I still want to do evil things," don't be surprised. Jesus says the temptation you're experiencing is not uncommon to other individuals, and God with that temptation will provide the way of escape also.
What's the way of escape? You remind yourself of what you've come to know is true, that God is good, God is kind, and all of his ways are peace. The heart is desperately sick and deceitful above all else. So, I'm not going to listen to my flesh. I'm going to walk by faith, because it doesn't feel like what I want to do, but by faith the God who loved me and delivered himself up for me, how will he not also want every other good thing for me? I'm not going to think I'm better than you because your struggles are different than mine, but I will say to you, because I love you, "That's sin."
So, second question. How can I judge rightly? This is really important. You judge rightly this way. I'll just read it to you again. "Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?" I think there's a reason Jesus talks about eyes here. Eyes are really tender things.
Is there anything more delicate to operate on than the eye? I think what he's trying to teach us here is when you're dealing with a soul, you're dealing with something as tender as an eye, so don't just go rushing in. "Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' and behold, the log is in your own eye?"
In context, the log that was in the eye of his listeners was that they thought they were righteous and other people the ones who needed to get as righteous as they were. Jesus was saying, "No. You need to be as righteous as Jesus is." Well, none of us can be that righteous. In fact, that's his point. You ought to mourn over your sin, but if you start to go, "I don't mourn over my condition. I'm better than a tax collector. I'm better than these other people," he goes, "That's a problem."
So, how do you judge rightly? With humility.There are some verses I always read when I go into conversations with other people I'm going to have to admonish. I'm going to give them to you. One of them is in Hebrews, chapter 5, verses 1-2. That's a passage that talks about how every high priest among men who offers sacrifices knows that he himself is ignorant and misguided, it says in verse 2. He himself is also beset with weakness, so he can be gentle, in effect, with those he's leading.
I always read 2 Timothy 2:24-26, which says, "The Lord's bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach [about the goodness of God and the beauty of his way] ,patient when[people don't like what he's saying because it's a revolutionary act to share that truth], with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance[in the same way I got repentance, which would lead them]to the knowledge of the truth, and they may[like I did]come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil[who blinds the mind of the unbelieving], having been held captive by him to do his will."
I realize the problem with them is not that they're ignorant; the problem is that they're a slave to sin and death and deception of the Devil. So I come in with truth and kindness and grace, telling them, as one beggar to another beggar, where I found bread. I read Titus 3:3-5 whenever I go in. "For we ourselves were once disobedient, deceived…"
Do you want Todd Wagner's résumé? Here's my résumé. I was once disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures. I spent my life in malice and envy. I was hateful, hating one another, but the kindness of God appeared to me. Then verse 5: he saved me, not according to deeds which I have done in righteousness, but according to his mercy, by the washing of his regenerating power and by the renewing of his Holy Spirit.
This is God's work from beginning to end. So, when I come up alongside somebody who's struggling, even as a believer, maybe to walk with God, I come to them gently. This is what it says in Galatians 6:1-2. This is holy work when you're dealing with people's souls, so be wholly prepared to acknowledge your propensity to think they're stupid or that you're better than they are, and don't do that.
That's why Galatians 6:1-2 says, "Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore [others, restore that person who's struggling] in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself…" What does that mean? To make sure you don't come pridefully or arrogantly or forgetting that you yourself needed mercy. "…so that you too will not be tempted. Bear one another's burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ." This is holy work.
Gang, you don't have to be perfect before you admonish the unruly. You just have to be perfectly in touch with your own need to be constantly sharpened and your own need for a Savior. So, how do you judge rightly? With humility. When is it time, though, to move on? When do I say, "Okay. I'm no longer going to shepherd this person"? The answer is you don't shepherd pigs. Pigs don't have shepherds. They have pig farmers, and we're not pig farmers.
Wild dogs don't have shepherds. Jesus is going to say, "You just have to understand there are certain people who are fools and who are sons of hell, so they're not going to want to hear truths from God." What Jesus is saying is you have to have discernment. He says, "Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine…"
So, when do you not admonish, and when do you not correct sinners? The answer is when they're sinners. I'm never surprised when a sinner sins. They're just fulfilling the job description. I don't go up to a pig and go, "Why do you not want green pastures and still waters? How come you don't love the shepherd?" "Because I'm a pig. That's why."
I ask myself two questions. When am I supposed to stop speaking the truth in love to somebody or when is it time to stop admonishing? That's really the answer Matthew 7:6 is answering. When do you stop admonishing? Here's the answer: it's time to stop admonishing when you realize it's time to move in with transforming hope.
I'm just going to give it to you right now. It really is the answer to my fourth question…What is it never time to do? It's never time to stop loving the lost and having compassion for the lost, but you don't ask pigs to act like sheep. Let me say it this way. We're not into moral therapeutic deism here. We don't talk about God and say, "Quit sleeping with each other, and we're going to become moralists here."
What we do is we say, "Let's talk about the kindness of God and the goodness and beauty of his way, the love of God expressed through the cross," and when you embrace the love and the kindness of God, then we say, "As an overflow of your fundamental repentance from the brokenness of sinful humanity, now let's learn his ways."
We're not trying to get people who don't understand they're broken to behave. We are not making better sinners. That's Jesus' point in Matthew 7:6. What you do is go, "I was defined by my sin, but now I'm defined by the cross." So saints you shepherd. Saints aren't people who are better than others, but they do start to live in a better way, because now they don't resist God. They don't fight God.
They learn his ways, acknowledge that their own ways and own understanding doesn't lead to life, and they begin to in all their ways acknowledge him who is slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness, full of grace and truth, who did not deny his own Son so you might be saved. Those people who know the goodness of God and run to him we shepherd. The others we love.
Silence is never the role of a shepherd, but shepherds don't herd pigs; they shepherd sheep. This is what you do, though, with pigs. You sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts. This is 1 Peter 3:15. In other words, you become more like Jesus. You're not going to impose your values on them. You're going to propose a better way.
You can say, "Hey, pigs, I don't think it's going to work out for you eating slop or living sloppy lives. If you guys want to marry, if you want to give yourself hormone therapy and change your gender, if you want to abandon your family, if you want to live illicit lives, it's a free world, but you're not free to choose the consequences. You're free to choose but not choose your consequences. I used to make the same choices."
What you do is you give your testimony. You share, "I used to be enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, in bondage to malice and envy, hateful and hating one another, but the kindness of God appeared to me. Do you know who God is? Do you know that this is not a rule book? Do you know this is a love letter and God's rescue? Do you know he came to me and saved me? I'm not worth saving.
I'm a sinner. I'm a rebel, but the kindness of God pulled me out of darkness and called me into his marvelous light. He loves you. He's not mad at you. He hates sin, and sin leads to death, and death largely defines your society and your decisions. If you're not sick and tired yet of what you're doing, then keep doing it, but I will tell you it's not going to be long before you're sick and tired. When you are and you come to your senses, run to me, and I will tell you the grace of God."
You sanctify Christ as Lord in your life. You're always ready to make a defense when anyone asks you to give an account for the hope that is within you, and you do it with gentleness and reverence. There we go. So, what do we never move on from? We never move on from the gospel. Kindness converts, not judgmentalism. Kindness. We speak the truth in love. We don't ever stop loving. We realize it's a spiritual problem.
Do you ever do this when you go to a foreign country? It's like they speak a different language. I go there, and what do I do? I talk to them in English. They look at me like this, so I talk in English louder, and then I talk in English with an accent. They look at me like, "You have a problem. You don't understand. We're not speaking the same language."
It's the same way with nonbelievers. You can't keep talking louder to nonbelievers, because they don't get it. They're not spiritually appraised, just like you weren't before you saw the kindness and the love of God. So what do you do? What's the recipe? The recipe is you live holy lives, you let God's kindness mark you, you let God's goodness be your song, and you pray. You propose a better way.
You become more of what Jesus wants you to become in your life, and then you invite them in. You give testimony to what your life used to be like, and you love them. You warn them, and you make judgments, but don't you ever act like they can't be saved. The moment you act like someone can't be saved, you are fundamentally an unbeliever in the power of God. Don't raise your voice; raise your love for lost people. Let me sum up today's message.
1._ Correct those who are self-righteous_. Jesus spoke to people most of the time through tears except sometimes he tore into people. The people he tore into were wolves in shepherd's clothing. I'm not going to speak poorly about folks who don't know God and live that way. I'm going to tell you there's going to be a consequence to following them and doing what they do, but at the end of the day, the people I'm going to tear into are the same kinds of people Jesus tore into.
It's going to be false prophets and false teachers and pastors who don't call people to biblical Christianity or people who teach dead religion and works-based salvation. Those clouds without rain, those springs without water, those hidden reefs, those men who talk about freedom but themselves are slaves of corruption I will speak strongly to. There is nothing I hate more than a false shepherd and a compromised church. So, people who are self-righteous, who have a wrong view of righteousness, I'm going to speak strongly to those shepherds. Correct the self-righteous.
2._ Be a courageous shepherd. It's a revolutionary act to teach truth today. People go, "Man! That's not really a popular thing to say." I don't have an option. I'm a servant of Christ and a steward of the mystery of God. He left me here to speak the truth in love. Some of you might say, "Well, gosh. If I do that, Todd, they're not going to like me. It's going to be dismaying." This is what Jesus says to you. It's what he has _always said to his prophets.
Jeremiah 1:17: "You gird up your loins." In other words, "You get ready to run. You be a man, and you speak to them all that I have commanded you. Do not be dismayed by them or I will dismay you." When you are God's source of grace, when you're his ambassador and you don't want to represent what he asks you, as his representative, to represent, brace yourself for severe correction. Be a courageous shepherd.
3._ Challenge the wayward sheep_. We need to challenge one another. We need to become more sanctified here. We need to spur each other on to love and good deeds here. We need to admonish the unruly amongst the flock, encourage the fainthearted amongst the flock, encourage those who need help amongst the flock, and be patient with the flock, but we need to challenge one another. You don't have to be perfect before you can sharpen somebody else in your Community Group. Just be perfectly aware that you yourself need to be sharpened. Got it?
4._ Compassionately care for the lost_. Don't raise your voice; raise your love for them. Live holy lives, let God's kindness mark you, let God's goodness be your song, and pray.
Father, I thank you for my friends and a chance to be with them today and to be reminded what this really challenges us toward. Help us to not be people who stop making judgments, but, Lord, may we never be judgmental that we think somehow we're better. We're not. We just have the best God who met us in our great need and saved us from the destruction we deserved. Lord, we don't deserve mercy. That's why it's called grace.
We thank you that you are slow to anger, so slow that your judgment and the closing of your work in the context of human history delayed until we could come to understand who you are, like maybe somebody here today can come to understand who you are, because you don't want any, Father, to perish but all to come to repentance. So, if there's somebody here who needs to run to the graciousness that is offered through your Son Jesus Christ, I pray today would be their day, that they would see your goodness.
Father, would you increase your goodness in us? May your goodness be our song. May we be people who live holy lives that propose a better way…our families, our dating, our deployment of resources. Help us to go to war in prayer. We know that pigs aren't pigs for any other reason than that's just the state they were born into. I pray that you would save them, that the god of this world would no longer blind their eyes the way he blinded ours.
The kindness of God, Lord, we ask would appear in their lives, and we know you have said it should appear through us, through the way we live and the way we love, the way we speak, the way we serve, the way we sing. Make us compassionate people who speak the truth and seek and save the lost and shepherd the flock. May we be a glory to our Savior. We love you. In Jesus' name, amen.
Some good stuff. Is that relevant? That's relevant. If you're here and you don't know that kindness, would you come? And if you know that kindness, make him your song. Have a great week of worship. We'll see you.