faith

Christians ARE Perfect, aren't they?

Christians are perfect, aren’t they?

Aren’t they?

Well?

OK – by now you’ve either stopped reading, cleaned up the coffee you spilt when you started laughing, or agreed 100%. If it was the first option, you aren’t reading so I don’t need to worry. If it was the last option, you aren’t going to like me very soon. If it was the middle option, I’m sorry – especially if it came out of your nose.

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No one is perfect. We all make mistakes on a regular basis. From forgetting someone’s name to getting lost, it’s a normal part of life. Of course, we also sin. We all fall short of the glory of God. On this side of Heaven’s Gates, it’s not a question of if but when.

And so, I don’t think anyone should be surprised when another stumbles. Even if the person is a very vocal Christian (including well-known ministers, business leaders, and sports figures), we all stumble.

Now, let me be clear. That does NOT mean we should accept sin. In fact, our calling as believers is to take steps to grow and mature so that we sin less. Each and every disciple should be striving to be renewed by the transforming of his or her mind (Romans 12:1-2).

But here’s my point. Not every “Christian” is, in fact, a Christian.

There are a multitude of things we can discuss in this train of thought, but I’m going to take us back to Matthew’s Gospel and look at Jesus’ words during the Sermon on the Mount.

Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. Matthew 7: 15-23

Before we walk this road, let’s define a prophet according to Scripture. A prophet is one who speaks for God. A prophet is one who shares a message from God–usually one that has a call to action. To give an example, look at Jonah. He was called to go to Nineveh. This was a sinful and pagan nation. He was supposed to warn them of God’s coming judgment and instruct them to turn from their evil. In simple terms – stop being evil and follow God. The “prophetic” aspect was clear. If you don’t repent, bad things will happen to all y’all. (Yes, I know he was from the Northern Kingdom.)

So, what kind of false prophets were there in Jesus’ day? We don’t have time to go through them all, but if you read history around that time, you can see all sorts of people who claimed to speak for God. In fact, as soon as Paul and Barnabas set out on the first mission trip, they ran into a guy on Cyprus that claimed to be a prophet of God. Paul called him out and the guy became blind.

Jesus gives His listeners the key to identifying them – their fruit. In Galatians 5, we can read the things that exemplify fruit – love, joy, peace, patience, etc… If you see these things, instead of things like hostility, jealousy, quarreling, then you might be seeing a true prophet from God.

The Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Galatians 5: 22-23a

I did say “you might be” though. Why?

Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ Matthew 7: 21-23

There are very few verses in Scripture that scare me. This one does. Why? Because I want everyone to know the true gift of grace. I want everyone to know the blessing of knowing Jesus Christ, of knowing the forgiveness of their sins, of knowing that they have been set free.

I know that not everyone knows this Truth. To be clear, I would not be so bold as to judge anyone’s salvation. God is omniscient – all-knowing – I am not. I know that He is sovereign. I am not. He is all-loving, all-gracious, all-compassionate. I am none of those things. He knows. I don’t.

How do YOU know if you are saved? How do you know if you are truly redeemed and saved by grace?

There are very simple questions to consider. We might call these the standards:

·      Do you believe that you are a sinner?

·      Do you truly believe that Jesus Christ died for YOUR sins?

·      Do you believe that He paid the price that you couldn’t pay?

·      Do you believe that you have received Him as your Savior and that you have been washed clean by the blood of the Lamb?

Now I need to be honest. The answers to those questions, while challenging, are also easy. In many ways, we can check the “yes to all” button and move on.

Please don’t do that. I’d like to encourage you to think about something else.

Intimacy.

That may sound strange. Intimacy. What do I mean?

When we want to understand a particular word, it can help to see other places that it is used. Jesus says, “I never knew you.” Where else can we see this word? At the end of chapter 2, we read Joseph did not “know” Mary until after Jesus was born.

He was not intimate with her.

Let’s be clear about something. If you are or have been married, you know that marital intimacy is one thing – sex. But it’s also a lot more than that one thing.

Intimacy in a marriage is kneeling at the bedside of your spouse when they are ill. Intimacy is scrubbing the toilets. Intimacy is mowing the lawn. Intimacy is doing the laundry and getting groceries. Intimacy is loving and serving your spouse in real and tangible ways.

Let’s put it another way. Intimacy is becoming ONE with your spouse.

Now, consider this question to know if you are ‘saved’:

Do you know Jesus intimately?

For example:

·      Do you ever read Scriptures and weep as the magnitude of grace washes over you?

·      Do you ever spend time in pray and weep as you realize the depths of God’s love?

·      Do you ever laugh with Jesus as joy fills your heart and mind?

·      Do you ever spend deep, passionate, and intimate time with Him? Do you ever just sit with Him, in quiet, peaceful contentment?

That is TRULY knowing Jesus.

I’d like you to consider those questions as you move throughout your day. If you answer no to them, that does NOT mean you have not received saving grace. However, it may mean that you can go deeper in your relationship. It may mean that there are layers of faith that are open to you.

All you need to do is be open to knowing Christ more.

If you’d like to talk about some of those ways, please reach out. I’d love to go deeper with you.

Yours in Christ,

Marty (mguise@layrenewal.com)

HOW DARE YOU JUDGE ME!?!? Or wait... Maybe you should

It’s been over five decades since the Manson family brutally murdered several people. It was not only a shocking crime but it rocked countless lives as both the brutality as well as the horrific nature of the acts came to light.

Did that sound “judgey” to you?

If it didn’t, then please read it again. What right do I have to state an opinion on things that happened at a different time, in a different state, involving people I’ve never met?

But then, why would I NOT be able to cast a judgement? Why would I not be able to offer my opinion based on what I have read, heard, and seen? Why should YOU not be able to do the same?

Well…

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Some people might cite Matthew 7:1-2: Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

Those two verses have been used countless times to justify behavior – either our own or that of someone else. And yet, I think we would easily state that when it comes to ‘judging’ someone like Charles Mason, Adolph Hitler, or Genghis Khan, we are quick to convict. After all, we ‘know’ they are guilty. It’s not judging as much as it is simply stating a fact, right?

Well…

For those who follow the Way (Christians), we must remember the challenge of God’s living and active Word. In order to understand His Gift to us, we need to read it in context and culture. We must also never forget that God’s Word begins with “in the beginning…” It finishes with “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen.” Between those opening words in Genesis and concluding with the final blessing in Revelation, we have a total of 66 books written through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit using 40 people from shepherds to a doctor to everyone’s favorite IRS agent, Matthew.

The amazing thing – and one of the things that helps us to understand how the Holy Spirit was at work – is to see the connectivity of God’s Word. From a man named Moses who went from Pharaoh’s palace to become a shepherd in the wilderness to a man named David who went from being a shepherd in the wilderness to becoming king, we have threads. These threads connect together to form a picture of a Messiah Whom we know as Jesus.

We meet Him in the Gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John – and we then read of the beginning of the Church – not a building, but God’s people in Jerusalem, Ephesus, Galatia, and many other places. Then we read of a revelation, given to John, of Jesus’ return and the restoration of all things.

My point is simple. To understand God’s Truth – especially about something like judging another, we have to read all of it.

These verses come in what scholars have placed as the final third of the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus is telling His hearers of the difference between Law and Grace. As He attempts to drink more deeply from the living water, Jesus mentions judging.

For context, let’s remember that the Pharisees had added over 600 bonus laws to Scripture (the Old Testament). Even their prayers – often made in a loud voice so that others could hear – contained judgments of others (See Matthew 6:5; Luke 18:9-14). In other words, Jesus’ hearers knew what it was like to be judged.

And so, in light of that, Jesus speaks:

Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Matthew 7:1-2

It’s pretty clear, isn’t it? If you choose to judge someone else, then expect others to judge you with the same filter and lens. If you criticize someone’s clothing, expect someone to judge yours. If you just someone’s appearance, expect the same. Whatever measure you use when looking at another person will be the same measure that points back at you.

We then have two different illustrations. The second one might be a bit odd to our ears, but still clear.

Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces. Matthew 7: 6

Dogs were considered scavengers. You would see them wandering about, sniffing, and generally eating whatever they could find. It may sound a bit strange, but there is a bit of “disrespect” that we associate with our canine friends. They are beggars. We joke that our dog, Coco the Wonder Dorkie, doesn’t even taste food. She sucks it down – whatever it is.

So, when we are dealing with sacred things, we should give them to people who will not respect them. If I take two hours to talk with someone about faith, I don’t want them to disrespect that time by then going and laughing about it with their friends. Even if we disagree, there should be that level of “this is special to that person”.

Pigs were unclean animals. Jewish people did not eat them and, to remind us of how bad the prodigal son became, part of the giant scandal was the shock of him not only working with pigs but also wanting to eat their food. Pigs could also become quickly violent. If you threw them pearls, they would realize it was not food and turn on you.

It’s the first illustration, though, that I’d like to spend a few more minutes considering as well as some related texts.

Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. Matthew 7: 3-5

The illustration is clear. If you have a plank – a sin – in your own life, stop worrying about the sin in your brother’s life. Take care of your own sin first. Jesus uses the label “hypocrite” for this type of person. The word literally means “an actor”. If you dig around on the word origins, it points you to the two words that were put together: “interpreter” and “underneath”. That may not make much sense until you remember that Greek actors wore HUGE masks. They would speak or act behind those masks. The hypocrite holds up the mask and says, “I’m fine but you are not.”

Again, in the context of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus calls out a lot of people. He calls out those who give, who pray and who fast to get noticed. He calls out those who are living for money. He calls out those who worry and stress. He tells them – grace is better. Living in relationship with God is better.

And, if you are one of those people who has the spiritual gift of criticism and judging and ripping others down, SURPRISE! Those are actually not gifts. Worry about your own sins, your own struggles, your own issues. Deal with those first.

Now, what about when we CAN judge?

If we are trying to understand passages, as I said, we need to go to the immediate context. For this passage, it is within the Sermon on the Mount. We can also go to a larger context and, in this case, it would be within Matthew’s Gospel. We’d want to look for other passages that talk about the same or similar things. For example, we can look in Matthew 18.

In this chapter, we have the fourth block of Jesus’ teaching shared by Matthew. In the immediate context, someone comes to Jesus and asks who is the greatest. Jesus pulls a child to the front and says, if you want to be great, be like this child. Be humble. Be innocent. Be receptive to God’s teaching.

Then Jesus says, and don’t mess with the innocent. It would be better to be drown than to hurt one. He then illustrates going out to find the lost. If you have 100 sheep and one is missing, leave the 99 and go find the one. Restore it back.

Restoration.

What a wonderful word! We can think of a family home, a bit ‘broken and battered’ after the passage of time. And yet, after it is restored, it can be a gift to the next generation. HGTV has made program after program of people buying a dilapidated home, restoring it, and then flipping it to another person.

Jesus gives us beautiful images of restoration but we might miss the beauty in the next one because it follows…

Wait for it…

Yes, it follows “judging”.

 If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector. Matthew 18: 15-17

We believe there is a sin by our brother. We judge it. We go to him to try to correct the sin and restore the relationship. If it doesn’t work, we try with someone else. If that doesn’t work, we try the Body of Christ. If that doesn’t work, then – and I LOVE when Matthew says this, “treat him as a pagan or a tax collector”. Matthew knows!

But we are to judge if we believe there is sin by a brother in the church. We judge NOT with the goal of condemning but with the goal of restoration.

There is a lot more that could be said, but for the sake of time, let’s focus now on this aspect of judging in the church. The Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Corinth. His first letter addressed many things that were getting out of hand. He was clear:

What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. 1st Corinthians 5:12-13

A long time ago, I heard a pastor say, “Why are we surprised when sinners sin?” That’s a pretty great question. Yes, we are all sinners. We all mess up. But the question was really directed to those outside the church.

If someone is not a believer, then don’t be surprised when they don’t act like one. They are going to shock and surprise us.

That said, go ahead and BE SURPRISED when someone who claims to be a Christian does NOT act like one. If you see them getting drunk, wonder what’s going on. If you hear them cursing worse than a sailor, wonder what’s going on. If you see them living a bad lifestyle, wonder what is going on.

And don’t be afraid to judge them.

But when you do, be sure to heed Jesus’ words in Matthew 7. Check out your own life first. Are you doing the same thing – OR WORSE?

If I criticize and judge someone for driving too fast, I’d better be driving slower. If I criticize someone for getting drunk, I’d better not be. If I criticize someone for gossiping, then I had better be controlling my own tongue. And, when you do judge, make sure your goal is restoration.

How do you know when to judge and when not to judge? What is the bottom-line? It’s tough, but let me give you some simple guidelines.

First, is it a sin? Does God’s Word clearly state that whatever it is that the person is doing is wrong? And when I say that, I don’t mean that we take things out of context. A ‘popular’ odd, “am I sinning” question follows an Old Testament prohibition against wearing clothing with mixed fibers. That’s a sin. Well, in culture and context, that was referencing a problem with the pagans. They did stuff with clothing that was wrong. Without going into details, let’s just say that God gave His children a prohibition against it. If you, as a parent, have ever wondered about something your son or daughter was wearing, it’s kind of the same thing. (But it is not a sin today to wear clothing of mixed fibers!)

If it is a sin, then is it your business? Here’s what I mean. If Bert goes to Ernie and tells him something that Big Bird did, it’s not yet Ernie’s problem. Bert needs to go to Big Bird first. Then, following Matthew 18, if it is a sin, then Bert and Ernie can go to Big Bird. What do we call it if someone just runs around blabbing? GOSSIP!

So, if it is a sin and it is your business, then go to the person in Christian love. Don’t be cruel. Be kind and loving. Don’t challenge them but ask them about it. See what’s going on. Love your neighbor.

From there, seek restoration. Seek to help the person move forward. Don’t seek to keep beating them over the head. Seek to heal and restore them.

Why does that matter? Because that is what Jesus did for you.

He didn’t sin. I did. I broke God’s Law and my relationship with Him.

Jesus is the one who, in love and mercy, came and did what was required to restore it. That’s what Law and Grace are all about.

Yours in Christ,

Marty

Radio Interview: Chad Robichaux #AnUnfairAdvantage

Husband. Father. Marine. MMA fighter. MBA. Special Agent with US Federal Marshall Air Service Program. This impressive list meant little as he also battled PTSD, became suicidal, and was on the verge of divorce...

A man convicted by the Power of God went from holding a gun and contemplating suicide to turning his life around and mentoring others facing the same battle. Join us for an honest conversation with Chad Robichaux as he shares his testimony. Eventually, we did get to discussing his new book, An Unfair Advantage, but that was secondary to the amazing gift of grace! [www.MightyOaksBooks.org]

This interview originally aired on Bott Radio Network KSIV 1320 on July 7, 2017.