We are down to the last two topics from the Sermon on the Mount. At this point, Jesus concludes by emphasizing the importance of seeing ourselves, others, and God from the proper perspective and challenges them to choose the path of the righteous. As disciples of Christ, He declares these are true to them because they are members of God’s kingdom. Jesus grants the kingdom and establishes those whom he rules.
From our previous sermon, we heard how Jesus identifies hypocrisy and anxiety at its root come from idolatry. They are the result of having a false view of God. Above anything else, idolatry is bad theology. Failure to properly relate ourselves and others to God is means to make ourselves gods. Jesus warns us against this and encourages to see clearly.
God is both our Judge and Father. It is important to understand here that when we say he is both of these personal characters, we mean to say he is them perfectly and completely. God in relation to us is eternally our righteous Judge and tender Father. To neglect the former leads to licentiousness and to forget the latter leads to gracelessness.
Our preaching this morning is divided in two parts. They are seeing clearly: 1) Oneself and Others; 2) God. It comes from Matthew 7:1-12. Let us look at these text in detail but before we begin, let us pray.
Oneself and Others
verses 1-6: “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.” “
Verse 1 has been abused and misapplied by many and those who do them rarely reads the verse in its immediate context or even with Scripture as a whole. The command “Judge not, that you be not judged” is not a blanket prohibition against all forms of judgment. Rather, Jesus simply warns his disciples against misguided ones.
Jesus distinguishes between improper and proper judgments. Immediately after he pronounces his warming against unrighteous judgement to others, he encourages his disciples identify people who are dogs and pigs. In verse 6, Jesus says, “Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.” Therefore, Jesus demands discernment from God’s people. In John 7, the Jews were misjudging who Jesus is. They were accusing Jesus of promoting the work of the devil. In rebuke, Jesus spoke against them by saying: “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.” In Paul’s letter to Timothy, he trains his apprentice Timothy to “rightly divide the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15).” In Paul’s letter to the Philippians, he encourages all believers to discern properly, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things (Philippians 4:8).” So again, we are called to properly judge everything.
What then Jesus warns us about here in these verse? He discourages unrighteousness judgments. Jesus wants us to properly judge ourselves and others in relation to God as both our Judge and Father.
God’s judgement comes from his laws and they are good and perfect converting the soul (Psalm 19:7 and 1 Timothy 1:8). And when making lawful judgments, we need to rid ourselves of the notion that we are gods, and the judgement and laws exempt us. This is what Jesus emphases when he says, “For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you (verse 2).” We need to equally apply judgement to ourselves first then to others.
Jesus teaches us his disciples to practice self-examination. This is what happened to King David in 2 Samuel 12:1-7. He was blinded by his own sin and failed to recognize his own. This Old Testament story teaches us about corruptions of our own hearts and points us to Christ and the Spirit for deliverance. Jesus understands our need for repentance and warns us against false judgement. He illustrates it by saying: “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” A hypocrite applies judgement to others without first applying it to himself/herself. Yet, as members of God’s kingdom, we need to our Father as a righteous Judge and he lovingly discipline his children and once we understand how he cares for you as his children, we can lovingly apply them to others.
How can we apply this kind of self-examined judgement to others? We need to stand firm for the truth of the gospel and we do so lovingly and patiently. This calls for discernment and maturity. Knowing fully well our message will always be met with hostility because our battle is spiritual, we need to make sure we deal with other gentleness and compassion. Remember we once lived in darkness and now live in God’s light. Others who need the saving message of Christ must hear God’s reconciling work in Jesus and receive the illuminating work of the Spirit. As Christians, we are called to this ministry of reconciliation but need to willingly suffer the hostility of the world including those we share it with. Uncompromising yet tender, we need to demonstrate kindness to them despite of their initial antagonism.
But at the same time, we need to properly discern against those who are actively opposing the gospel message. Applied personally, we have to act appropriately at times when we know when others are knowingly disregarding and actively dismissing the grace of God. There is wisdom in this. We need to sometimes temporarily suspend judgement to patiently allow them to understand the gospel but at the same time, we need to lovingly withhold if we discern if the message is being taken for granted. Jesus commands us to properly apply judgement on the matter so let us trust that he will supply the ability to do so.
Again, let us properly apply judgement to ourselves and others in relation to God as our Judge and Father.
verses 7-12: “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.
At this point, Jesus brings our focus to God our Father. In relation to our needs and provisions, we will always be dependent on him. “We are beggars. This is true” say Martin Luther. Until we finally understand this reality, we will need find true freedom in God. We are always in need. Specifically, when we need to make proper judgement, we need God’s illuminating and empowering work in us. After Jesus reminds us of how God himself is our Judge, he puts us back in the proper perspective that this same God is also our Father who knows to give good things to his children. Jesus reasons “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! (verse 11)”. He again uses the how much more logic. In relation to God, we have him not only as our righteous Judge but more so as our loving Father. We need to understand both characters in order to live under its reality. And when we finally relate to God as such, we can relate lovingly to our neighbors.
This leads us to the final exhortation. Jesus says, “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets (verse 12).” We are back from God to ourselves and others. We come to full circle. Our knowledge of God affects our knowledge of ourselves and others.
Jesus wants us to love neighbor as ourselves. According to Jesus, this sums up for us the Scriptures both the Law and the Prophets. It positively sets for us godly behavior. It comes from knowing God both as our Judge and Father and living in this light. To love God means to live in accordance to what is pleasing to him. After understanding how God as our Father supplies our every need, we can confidently and lovingly extend service to others. Jesus reminds us, “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” He positively exhorts us to active service. Knowingly full well that God provides for our needs, we serve the needs of others.
ZCRC(Imus), God is both our Judge and Father. In relation to him, we apply judgment to ourselves and others. we serve others because it pleases our Father. May God continue to transform us in the likeness of his Son by the power of Spirit. Amen.