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Re-Thinking Your Criticism

Pastor Gary Buchman
Emmitsburg Community Bible Church

(4/28) At a COMDEX computer expo about 15 years ago, Microsoft's Bill Gates compared the computer industry with the auto industry and stated, "If GM had kept up with technology like the computer industry has, we would all be driving $25 cars that got 1,000 miles per gallon."

Not liking this comparison, General Motors responded to Gates by releasing this statement, "Yes, but would you want your car to crash twice a day?" We have to be careful, when we begin to criticize others, donít we. That is what our text is about today.

I. Review ĖRepent Ė (4:17; 5:1-12) This is our 18th Life Lesson from our Lordís Sermon on the Mount. We will have about 6 more. Letís take a moment and review. The basis for this sermon begins in 4:17 as our Lord begins preaching about the Kingdom of God and telling people to Repent. To repent is to change the mind with a view to changing oneís actions. The people who will be part of His kingdom must begin to think differently about being in a right relationship with the God of creation. They must think differently about their character and their concern for others. They must stop being like everybody else in the world and realize that they are nothing apart from Godís grace. That is the basis of the Beatitudes. Only the ones who are poor in spirit and mourn over sin, and place themselves under Godís authority and hunger for His righteousness and demonstrate mercy, and seek peace, and have pure motives, and are hounded as a result are approved by God and are the beneficiaries of His grace.

II. Remember your Purpose Ė (5:13-16) Our Lord may have been reminding these Israelites, of why they were Godís chosen, but the application is the same for the Church of Jesus Christ. Godís grace is given to us for two purposes. What He wants to bless us with and what He wants us to Bless others with. You who follow Jesus are the only light and the only salt that the world has. Without us the world is dark, and decaying. But if we are contaminated with the world or if we hide our light, we make no difference in this world. Every day, we need to remember that I am to be light and salt today. I am to touch lives for my Savior in some way.

III. Reflect on your Righteousness. (5:17-6:24) Having a part in Godís Kingdom, and experiencing His grace, is not based on being religious, and external religious actions. Repentance leads us want to honor God in every area of our lives. Repentant people donít try to see what they can get away with, and still be legal, they try to see how they can honor God. They donít just want to obey the law, they want to honor the spirit of the law. Their faith is not for show and the applause of others, but for the honor of God. Religious people donít go to heaven or honor God, only repentant people do. Let us never forget that none of us are saved because of the stuff we do, we are saved by Grace. Our rescue is a gift of God. The old song says, "I was sinking deep in sin far from the peaceful shore, very deeply stained within, sinking to rise no more, but the master of the sea heard my despairing cry, from the waters lifted me, now safe am I. Love lifted me, love lifted me, when nothing else could help, love lifted me." There is no obstacle course to complete to get our heaven badge, it is a gift of grace given when we believe.

IV. Re-Think your Anxieties Ė (6:25-34) People who have received Godís grace are to trust God as their Father to take care of them, because He values them so much. He only asks that they seek to do His business and He will provide for their needs.

V. Resist Criticizing (7:1-5), and that brings us to the passage for today, and what is one of the toughest passages in the Bible. It is one that many people know about and can quote, even many who donít know what John 3:16 says, will know what Matthew 7:1-2 says, "Judge not, that you be not judged. 2 For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you."

A. The Command Ė "Donít Judge" Letís begin by considering what this word, ĎJudge,í means. The word is, Ďkrino,í and it has several shades of meaning. It could mean,

1. To distinguish and prefer. That is, we may prefer Saturday over Monday or mustard over ketchup, etc.

2. To decide or make a decision

3. To judge and condemn like in a court

4. To judge or express an opinion about-to criticize-find fault with, and condemn. It is to be judgmental, having a critical spirit. It is this meaning that our Lord Jesus seems to be referring to here in our text. It is something that the religious leaders did regularly with just about everyone. And it is something that the church is often very guilty of. It is essentially, criticizing others, that is, putting others down, in order to build ourselves up. It is often, forming an opinion about others based on appearances, or assumptions and we are told not to do this repeatedly in our New Testament. Like the March 15th story in the Daily Bread. I have had experiences like that. Have you? Ever make an evaluation based on appearance and then realized how wrong you were? Weíll come back to this in a moment. But first letís make a clarification.

B. The Clarification Ė Believers and non-believers alike seem to know this verse and will quote it when we tell them that a certain practice is wrong. Often, there is a quick response of, "Donít judge me," Now listen carefully, Our Lord is not telling us not to judge altogether. He absolutely wants us to be discerning about right and wrong. For example listen to what He says in John 7:24, "Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment." Every time we select men to be leaders in our church we have to make our selection based on their character; that, in essence, is judging them. We are also told to watch out for people who are being divisive and to warn them. If they donít stop we are to avoid them. Listen, to Paulís teaching to Titus (3:9-11), "But avoid foolish disputes, genealogies, contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and useless. Reject a divisive man after the first and second admonition, knowing that such a person is warped and sinning, being self-condemned. Confronting a Christian brother or sister with their sin is judging that what they ate doing is clearly wrong by what the Bible teaches, but we are told to confront them in Matthew 18:18 and in Gal. 6:1 just as Paul with Peter in Gal. 2 for his hypocrisy that spilled over on the lives of Barnabas and others. Paul talks about handing certain people over to Satan for their sins to be disciplined. We are told to be discerning about the teaching that we are hearing and make sure that it isnít false teaching intended to manipulate for power or greed, or lead us away from grace. (1 John 4:1; Gal. 1:7-9). Discernment is actually a gift of the Holy Spirit and my wife has it. But even if it is not a main gift of the Holy Spirit, it is still something we are to practice.

But what we are to avoid is condemning people based on assumptions of perceived motives or appearances. We are to avoid criticizing others because they are different than us and have preferences that we donít have. We are to avoid establishing a set of rules to judge others by elevating ourselves. Look at 1 Cor. 4:1-7. One of the problems of the church at Corinth was that they were boasting of their spiritual abilities and trying to outdo each other. They were judging their own spirituality by those abilities; even criticizing Paul. Perhaps Paul was just a power hungry guy. The intent was to put Paul down by puffing themselves up. Look as well at Romans 14:1-18.

I believe that we as the American church have become so guilty of this. We make things like clothes, and I agree clothing should be clean and modest, but the style of cloths, the version of the Bible we use, the kind of music we listen to, our view of secondary or non-essential doctrine, our political ideology, the style of our hair, and more, our standard for measuring our own spirituality and for criticizing others who donít measure up to our standards. Chuck Swindoll once said, that we have a gross intolerance of anyone who doesnít fit our mold. I have heard many preachers who use the pulpit regularly to condemn other pastors, who donít fit their mold. And there are many church attenders who eat roast preacher every Sunday for lunch. Leslie Flynn, in his book called, Great Church Fights recorded these words." (Original source unknown), "Believe as I believe, no more, no less. That I am right, and no one else confess, Feel as I feel, think only as I think, eat what I eat and drink what I drink, look as I look and do always as I do and then and only then, will I fellowship with you." Such standards are Pharisaical, legalistic, and just plain wrong. Letís consider why.

C. The Conclusions Ė Judging otherís by their appearance, by assumption, or by otherís preferences is wrong because;

1. It Forgets Grace. Were any of you rescued by God based on your appearance or performance? No! You were saved by grace. You merited nothing. You were a sinner condemned, and unclean and Jesus rescued you. Your changed life, your secure eternal future is not based on your performance but on His Covenant promise. You are righteous not because you are good, but because He has given you His righteousness. Paul has written several letters including Romans and Galatians, and Colossians to show that we who have been saved by grace are not perfected by law. We measure ourselves by Christ and not by the measure of the law. And it is grace that we are to extend to others. Listen, even when a brother or sister is sinning, our confrontation should always be to help and reconcile and not to condemn. Separation and discipline are only if they will not repent and be restored to Christ or His body. O Thank God for Grace.

2. It Assumes the Role of God. Who can read the mind? Only God. Who knows motives? Only God. Who will judge us before His Bema seat for all the secret things? God. But when you say, "Look at him or her, how can they be a Christian," or, "Everyone who does that isÖ," or, "The only reason you did that is so you couldÖ.." You are assuming Godís role. James 4:11-12 says, "Do not speak evil of one another, brethren. He who speaks evil of a brother and judges his brother, speaks evil of the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy. Who are you to judge another?"

3. It Assumes Superiority, that we have arrived and are above Criticism. Listen to Rom. 2:1-3, "Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. 2 But we know that the judgment of God is according to truth against those who practice such things. 3 And do you think this, O man, you who judge those practicing such things, and doing the same, that you will escape the judgment of God?" When a woman was caught committing adultery and brought before Jesus, the people wanted to stone her to death. But do you remember the words of Jesus? "Let him who is without sin cast the first stone." (John 8:7) He did not condemn her!

4. It is Self-Righteous. That is, we use ourselves as the standard of righteousness instead of Jesus and His teachings. Look at Luke 18:9-14, " Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: "Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 1The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ĎGod, I thank You that I am not like other men - extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess. And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ĎGod, be merciful to me a sinner!í I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted." In the Phariseeís mind he had arrived and should be the standard for everyone else to achieve. Perhaps there is no better illustration of this than 2 Samuel 12:1-7 and the story of David being confronted by the Prophet Nathan after his sin with Bathsheba and her husband Uriah. David wanted to make the sheep thief pay big while his own sin was covered up.

D. The Condemnation Ė (v. 2), "For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you."

1. I believe that this means by both God and by others. Look at Luke 6:37-38, "Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. 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." The implication is that this will come back to you from people. We often call this Poetic justice, or the chickens have come home to roost, or what goes around comes around.

2. God will use our standard on us. Listen to James 2:12-13, "So speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment." I believe that this is this side of heaven, in the discipline that will surely come our way. But, I would hate to lose my rewards when I stand before Him because I was critical of those who are different than me, wouldnít you? Honestly? But, Paul reminds us in 1 Cor. 11 that if we will judge ourselves, we wonít be judged.

E. The Consideration Ė (vv. 3-5), "And why do you look at the speck in your brotherís eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ĎLet me remove the speck from your eyeí; and look, a plank is in your own eye? 5 Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brotherís eye." Our desire as followers of Jesus Christ should be to help people to be rescued by Christ and then to help them to grow in His likeness even as we grow in His likeness. We all should know that Godís goal is for us to be like Jesus. Therefore, Jesus is our standard, our measure, and our goal. I tend to think that our Lord may have made people smile with this illustration as it should us. Letís say that we see something in a brother or sister, and by the way, that is what we are talking about. We cannot expect unsaved people, who are not born again, to live Holy. Do you understand that? We could make moral laws for our nation, (which we arenít) but we cannot legislate holiness. But letís say, you see something that you believe may not be right and you want to help that person. That is seeing the speck which isnít a piece of dust or an eye lash, but means a piece of straw, or a twig, a tooth pick. There it is, sticking out of the eye, and we want to help remove it. But before we can offer constructive criticism we must first make sure we donít have anything obstructing our vision. Could there be a log, a 2x4, a fence post in our own eye? Now, I really think that the plank, or log here, is referring to self-righteousness, displaying superiority, an air of having arrived, as the religious leaders had been doing. Helping others requires that we first Humble ourselves before God and

1. Do Some Introspection Ė Am I displaying an arrogance because of what I do or donít do? It would be good to ask yourself that. It would be better to ask God and then to ask someone who will be honest with you. Am I growing to become more like Jesus? Do I display qualities or characteristics of a life not changed by Jesus? Then allow them to be honest. Sometimes those you love can see things that you canít. Again, remember that Paul said if we will judge ourselves we wonít be judged.

2. Accept their Criticism with Grace and Humility.

3. Consciously, repent with God and ask God to help you bring that area into conformity with His word. That may be why Jesus said verse 7-11.

4. On a daily basis pray through the Lordís prayer, and when you get to the Forgive us our debts, ask God to search your heart and bring to mind any words, thoughts, deeds, or negligence to your mind so you can confess it, repent of it and be forgiven for it.

5. Seek forgiveness from those that you may have displayed self-righteousness to or sinned against.

6. Remember Grace. See verse 12, in the context, this may be referring to discerning and helping others. Always confront others and love them the way you would want to be treated if that were you. I believe that would be with grace. Look at Galatians 6:1, "Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted."

7. Remember God wants Mercy, not religion, so says Hosea 6:6; Micah 6:8; Matthew 9:13. Let me close with Romans 14:15-19"Yet if your brother is grieved because of your food, you are no longer walking in love. Do not destroy with your food the one for whom Christ died. 16 Therefore do not let your good be spoken of as evil; 17 for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. 18 For he who serves Christ in these things is acceptable to God and approved by men. Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another.

Our goals should be to Love God with all our hearts, to love each other (all Christ-followers) as Jesus loved us, and to love the world that Jesus died to redeem. We are to be wise and discerning, but not critical and condemning. Thatís not our job or purpose, thatís Godís. We are ineffective as salt and light when we are critical and condemning. God doesnít judge by outward appearance, but by the condition of the heart and so should we.

Do we need to repent of being judgmental?

Do you need to receive Jesus as your Savior and Lord?

Read other thoughtful writings by Pastor Gary Buchman