Why Standing Stones?

Why Standing Stones?

In ancient Israel, people stood stones on their end to commemorate a powerful move of God in their lives. It was a memorial to something God spoke or revealed or did. Often these standing stones became reference points in their lives. Today, we can find reference points in the written Word of God. Any scripture or sermon can speak something powerful into our lives, or reveal something of the nature of God. In this blog I offer, what can become a reference point for Christians, taken from God's ancient word and applied to today's world.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Judgment and Mercy

Anyone who has spent any time witnessing to people has been told, “You’re judging me, who are you to judge me?” But I think the problem is that we call them on their sin and then tell them God is going to send you to hell for that. What we leave out is the good news. If you repent, you’ll be accepted. So today I want to bring a balance to judging. We are called to judgment tempered with mercy.

Recently, I read in the news of a young woman who was on trial for the murder of her two-year old daughter. This woman, Casey Anthony, and her family, repeatedly lied to the police, sent them on wild goose chases, kept them from finding the body. Finally, three years after the murder and her arrest, the trial concludes with the woman being found not guilty of murder, manslaughter, child abuse and other charges. She is only convicted lying to the police. A jury of twelve people heard the evidence and the arguments and judged her to be not guilty of the crime.

The press, on the other hand doggedly, throughout the trial and before, made the judgment that she was guilty. They made this judgment without the presentation of evidence and arguments and witnesses. They made their judgment on hearsay and their own opinions.

The jury made a judgment in a correct way, the media didn’t. Is the woman guilty? I have no way to know that. The evidence was pretty sketchy, no cause of death, no witnesses, no DNA: All of the evidence was circumstantial.

I’m not judging the rightness or wrongness of the jury’s decision. I’m not making any statements about her guilt or innocence. I’m only making a statement about human nature. We have a tendency to make a judgment based on our own assumptions about what happened. Jesus tells us we need to be careful about how we judge.

Luke 6:37-42 (NKJV)
6:37 "Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. 38 Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you." 39 And He spoke a parable to them: "Can the blind lead the blind? Will they not both fall into the ditch? 40 A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher. 41 And why do you look at the speck in your brother's eye, but do not perceive the plank in your own eye? 42 Or how can you say to your brother, 'Brother, let me remove the speck that is in your eye,' when you yourself do not see the plank that is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck that is in your brother's eye.
Making Judgments

In our text Jesus is talking about Christians making judgments of other people. Making judgments is what people do, isn’t it. Most of our lives are spent making decisions and judgments. Those are the things that get us through life. They can be simple decisions about what to wear to a meeting or school, or they can be more complex decisions about finances or direction for our family or our lives. But Jesus warns us about judgments we make involving other people.

People have an interesting capacity to look at other people’s sin while at the same time overlooking their own. We have a “perfectly good reason” for the sin we’re committing. “I know I drink too much, but the pressure at my job is awful.” “Well yeah, I ripped off the company, but they’re not paying me what I’m worth.” “I know I shot up my university, but I had a bad childhood.” These are the justifications we use that are intended to make it okay for us to act improperly. But the problem is that while justifying our own misbehavior we have a “no excuses policy” for everyone else. We can harshly judge someone else with no thought of mercy, and this is Jesus’ point.

Look at the context of this statement, “Judge not and you shall not be judged!” You can find the context in the verses preceding the text. Look at the statements found in those verses:

1. Love your enemies
2. Bless those that curse you
3. Pray for those that use you
4. Turn the other cheek
5. Give to those that ask
6. Treat others, as you want to be treated

Look at verse 36 the last verse before the text:

Luke 6:36 (NKJV)
6:36 Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.
So, mercy is the context of Jesus’ words about judgment. Mercy is found in all of God’s judgments. Let’s go back to the Garden of Eden for a moment. God created the Garden and He gave Adam and Eve only one command. He told them they could eat of any tree in the Garden but one. What did Adam and Eve do? They ate the fruit of the tree God told them not to eat and God judged their actions.

When God did that He laid down some pretty heavy curses on them, didn’t He? He told Adam that all of the provision God had made in his life to this point was over. Adam would have to sweat to receive what God had freely given before. Eve was created to be the mother of all, and a partner with Adam. But now God told her she would have pain in childbirth. So this is a judgment of God.

But at the same moment of this judgment God tells Satan that the offspring of Eve, whom Satan had deceived, would eventually destroy him. In other words, He would send someone who would make it possible for human beings to return to God’s favor. That’s mercy. Adam and Eve did nothing to deserve for God to make it possible for them to return to a relationship with God, but God made a way for them anyway. That is the dictionary definition of mercy, by the way: Undeserved compassion shown to an offender.

How do we make judgments of things people do wrong? We condemn without mercy. “I’ll never speak to him again.” We assassinate people’s character through Gossip and innuendo. We destroy opportunities.

I just read in the news the other day about a hacker who is going to prison for 18 years. He got angry with his neighbor because the neighbor was dismayed that this guy kissed his neighbor’s son on the lips. So look what he did. He bought a program that allowed him to steal his neighbor’s IP address, and then he hacked his email and sent threats to the Vice President of the United States. He sent child pornography to the guy’s colleagues; all of this was done to destroy the neighbor. They called it Internet terrorism. People do things like this all the time. Maybe not on a lesser scale, but we act without compassion or mercy all the time.

But God tempered His judgment with mercy. That same mercy is seen in these context statements that I’ve presented:

1. Love your enemies: Jesus died for the very people who were crucifying Him.
2. Bless them that curse you, pray for those that use you: Pray for their salvation, Jesus did that on the cross, “Father forgive them…”
3. Give to those that ask, treat others as you would want to be treated.

Sometimes people are in need because of their own bad decisions or bad habits. Sometimes they realize that they have caused themselves to be in that situation. Other times they are defiant about it. But when it comes to real need, regardless of the situation, Jesus is telling us we need to give. It doesn’t have to be money…it can be clothing or blankets or food. Treat them, as you want to be treated.

There is an interesting moment in scripture when a rich, young ruler comes to Jesus and asks Him, “What thing must I do to inherit Eternal Life?” Look at Jesus’ answer:

Mark 10:19 (NKJV)
You know the commandments: 'Do not commit adultery,' 'Do not murder,' 'Do not steal,' 'Do not bear false witness,' 'Do not defraud,' 'Honor your father and your mother.' "
Don’t you think it’s interesting that all of these have to do with how people treat each other? Not one of them mentions our relationship with God; they are all about our relationships with other people. You want Eternal Life? If so, relationships with people are important. Our text speaks of an important component of relationships; mercy and forgiveness.

Does This Mean We Shouldn’t Judge Sin?

Unfortunately, we all sin; sin is a part of our nature. Let me ask you a couple of questions: Is there anyone reading this who has never told a lie? How about stealing, can you say you’ve never stolen anything, this can even mean work time from your boss?

Romans 3:23 (NKJV)
3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

Romans 3:10 (NKJV)
3:10 As it is written: "There is none righteous, no, not one;
So we can’t do it. Our works can’t justify us. We can’t earn heaven by living out the law, because we can’t live the law completely. But does that mean we can’t judge sin? Look at what the Apostle Paul says:

1 Corinthians 5:11-12 (NKJV)
5:11 But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner--not even to eat with such a person. 12 For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside?
We must be able to judge sin. We have to be able to recognize sin in order to judge it in our own lives. Sometimes that means judging it in the church. We have to judge it in the church, and what Paul is saying here might seem harsh, “Do not keep company with…not even to eat with such a person.” That seems like a pretty harsh judgment, doesn’t it? But Paul tempers it with mercy. Look at this statement:

1 Corinthians 5:4-5 (NKJV)
5:4 In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when you are gathered together, along with my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, 5 deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.
The goal of judging is to bring the person back to the will of God; to see that person saved, once again. It isn’t about punishing the person it’s about bringing that person back to the place of salvation. Why should the people of God judge? Paul answers that question, as well.

1 Corinthians 5:6-8 (NKJV)
5:6 Your glorying is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? 7 Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. 8 Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
The people of Corinth were not only not judging, they were kind of proud of it. Paul is warning them that a little leaven leavens the whole lump. In other words one person’s sin can spread to the rest of the congregation.

I’ve seen this happen a number of times. If sin in a congregation isn’t judged, that sin will spread. Fornication, rebellion and adultery especially will spread quickly through a congregation. I know a church where these things took place a number of years ago and they haven’t recovered still. The church is still struggling with some of these same issues today.

So judgment must be made for the sake of the person involved in the sin and the well being of the congregation. It must be made in order to give the offender opportunity to repent and so that the church will remain pure; to keep sin from spreading throughout the congregation.

There is one other thing; judgment must be made so that the blessing of God will remain on the church. There is an illustration of this in the Old Testament. It’s found in the story of Achan.

God has given Joshua a plan for the defeat of Jericho. This was the first city that Israel had to defeat in battle, as they began to take possession of the land of Canaan. He tells Joshua to walk around the city for seven days and then blow their trumpets and the walls will collapse. Bus as he gave him those instructions He warned him that all of the spoil will belong to God. The people are not to take any of the spoil of the battle. That spoil is a tithe to God; it is the first fruits of the Promised Land.

But Achan sees some wonderful things; gold, silver, garments, treasure and he takes it. He violates the command of God. When we violate God’s commands that’s called sin. So Achan sins and what happens? In the very next battle the people of Ai rout Israel.

Joshua 7:4-5 (NKJV)
7:4 So about three thousand men went up there from the people, but they fled before the men of Ai. 5 And the men of Ai struck down about thirty-six men, for they chased them from before the gate as far as Shebarim, and struck them down on the descent; therefore the hearts of the people melted and became like water.
Joshua is upset, he demands from God to know what happened. Look at God’s response:

Joshua 7:10-12 (NKJV)
7:10 So the Lord said to Joshua: "Get up! Why do you lie thus on your face? 11 Israel has sinned, and they have also transgressed My covenant which I commanded them. For they have even taken some of the accursed things, and have both stolen and deceived; and they have also put it among their own stuff. 12 Therefore the children of Israel could not stand before their enemies, but turned their backs before their enemies, because they have become doomed to destruction. Neither will I be with you anymore, unless you destroy the accursed from among you.
Israel sinned? I thought it was only Achan who sinned, but all of Israel is held accountable. What does that mean for a congregation? We as a church will be held accountable for the sin of individuals if that sin isn’t judged. A congregation will be unable to stand against its enemies. Who are our enemies: The forces of hell and Satan himself? We won’t be able to stand against him. We won’t be able to stand against sin. We will always be defeated by the devil if we don’t judge sin in our midst. I don’t know about you, but I need victory.

Judgment is Tempered with Love

So what does all this mean? Do we need to kick everyone who sins out of the church? I think most churches would have a pretty small congregation if we did that. Judgment doesn’t always include banning people, but it does mean that we have to confront sin in each other’s lives. Prayerfully, Biblically, lovingly confront the sin. Tell them what the sin is. Show them in the Bible that it is sin. Then show the mercy of God to forgive when we repent.

In revelations Chapter Two, Jesus is speaking to the church in Thyatira. There is a woman there named Jezebel. She’s teaching false doctrine, seducing the saints to fornication and sin. But she isn’t immediately judged; God doesn’t immediately strike her dead with a lightning bolt. Instead, God looks patiently for repentance.

Revelation 2:20-22 (NKJV)
2:20 Nevertheless I have a few things against you, because you allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce My servants to commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols. 21 And I gave her time to repent of her sexual immorality, and she did not repent. 22 Indeed I will cast her into a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of their deeds.
God gives her time to repent but she doesn’t repent, so He will judge her. This is mercy, because the Word of God says this:

1 John 1:8-9 (NKJV)
1:8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
This is our example. We need to allow opportunity to repent. We’re not allowed to judge and condemn those who are outside the church. God is their judge and that scripture tells me He will give them time and opportunity to repent. God will send a watchman to them to bring a warning, that’s our role. People involved in sin will tell you that you’re judging when you bring the warning, but actually you are acting as the instrument of God to give them opportunity to repent. As I close this, I want to show you the difference:

On one side, there is a website called http://www.raptureready.com/index.php On this website they preach about the coming of Jesus and his calling of the saints in the rapture. They preach on sin and salvation. But they also have an extensive collection of documents that tells what to do if the rapture happens and you are left behind. Their focus is the salvation of mankind. They are trying to help people to prepare for judgment and give them time to repent.

On the other side, there is a church that protests at the funerals of killed American Soldiers and hold up banners and signs that say, “God hates fags.” This is untrue. God loves people and hates sin. In God’s eyes there is no difference between the sin of lying and the sin of homosexuality. There is no real call to repentance, only a call to judgment.

If the things you’re saying while witnessing only demonstrate the wrath and judgment of God then you’re not only bringing condemnation, you’re not judging Biblically. Biblical judgment is confrontation of sin and opportunity for repentance and a demonstration of the mercy and love of God. It is God’s place to judge and condemn it is our place to confront and show mercy. Be an instrument of repentance rather than an executioner of judgment.

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