Thursday, July 21, 2011

Matthew: Chapter 7

Can you imagine what it must have been like to listen to the teachings of Christ in person? This is our third day of examining one ‘sermon.’ Perhaps the chapter breaks and sub-headings in our Bibles misdirect our focus at times; I am positive it influences my thinking. It has been a blessing to plod slowly through the chapters--and now to bring them together.

The opening of this passage (back in Chapter 5) instructed us on right attitudes for Jesus' disciples. Clearly, Christ alone can fulfill the depths of the Law. The next portion charged us to be rightly motivated. We saw that God alone is worthy of our trust and His glory should be our motivation. Today we look at the actions that will be produced in lives that honor His design!

Today as I read verse 12, a light bulb flashed on that this directly ties to the opening verses, which focused on judging others. Judge not, less you be judged is taught as a ‘live and let live’ philosophy but I see much more! Christ instructs us to judge not because we humans do not respond well to being judged. Furthermore, we are not capable of judging rightly: God alone is worthy of passing judgment. Praise God, Jesus came to save me from getting a just judgment!

The entire passage clearly teaches purity of motive and action; ‘judge not’ is not intended to teach us to ignore wrong. In fact, I believe it is saying see this and learn! When we see error, we are not to convict and condemn. We are to take what we see to heart--as a pearl of wisdom--and ask God how we err in the same ways. Our discernment is a gift to increase our holiness that we might be a more effective witness to the majesty of God! What we discern in others is present in us as well; when we recognize it in ourselves and repent, we are given forgiveness and cleansing. Only then are we ready to witness to His glory!

Reacting to sin with judgment and criticism simply raises hackles. The previous chapters have emphasized that one’s relationship with God is to be simple and sincere. We cannot relate to God for another--or judge their relationship with Him. Sin originates in the heart; the Spirit alone can penetrate the depths of a man’s heart. If our reaction to sin is harsh condemnation, we will waste the pearl of discernment God has entrusted to us.

Our right response to sin is to thankfulness and praise for the gift of mercy and forgiveness God has extended to us. Then we can beseech Him to give the same gift to others. He may use us to speak to the one who opened our eyes…but if He is to use us, we must be living so our fruit is ready for inspection. Our lives must reveal a foundation of heeding His ways…in our hearts and in our actions. Jesus taught that we can learn and live His teachings. What joy! What privilege! What responsibility!

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