A Gentle Answer

Colossians 4:5-6

Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.

I think this passage is familiar to most of us … and its message is one of humility in our attitude and conduct.  Too often, I have seen Christians view themselves or project themselves to others as “superior” because they have come to a knowledge of the truth and believe that Jesus is the Son of God … sent to be our Savior, to redeem us, and to reconcile us to God the Father.  Sometimes they allow themselves to become filled with pride over their salvation … forgetting they did nothing to earn or deserve the unmerited kindness and mercy shown by God.  Salvation, at its core, is the most humbling experience a human being can undergo because we are utterly dependent on what God has done for us and there is nothing that we can add to it….  Salvation does not make us superior; rather, it makes us indebted to the One who gave us freedom from the penalty and power of sin.

That said … when we encounter other people, and especially those who are non-believers, Paul instructs us to be wise in how we act and speak toward them.  We are to approach others with the same attitude and grace as Christ Jesus:

Philippians 2:1-8 (NIV)

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from His love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to His own advantage;rather, He made Himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!

Why is this important?  Why does Paul instruct us to be careful in how we approach seekers and non-believers?  Because we ourselves received Jesus Christ through faith … and this was not of our ourselves … it was the gift of God. (Cf. Ephesians 2:8).  It was the kindness of God that led us to repentance in the first place. (Cf. Romans 2:4) So we are to be kind to one another … compassionate … forgiving … just as in Christ Jesus God forgave us. (Cf. Ephesians 4:32) As Paul related to Timothy, the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, and not resentful. (Cf. 2 Timothy 2:24) So let our conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that we may know how to answer everyone.  This will equip us to make the most of every opportunity we are given to lead others to salvation through faith in Jesus Christ….

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Rock of Ages – Stumbling Stone

Acts 4:10-12

then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. Jesus is “‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone. Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”

Our Verse of the Day captures a portion of Acts 4; however, I think it best to go ahead and include a little more of the context so that you get a better sense of the declaration that Peter made to the people.  I encourage you to read the entire chapter today, though.  It’s good stuff!

Acts 4:5-12 (NIV)

The next day the rulers, the elders and the teachers of the law met in Jerusalem. Annas the high priest was there, and so were Caiaphas, John, Alexander and others of the high priest’s family. They had Peter and John brought before them and began to question them: “By what power or what name did you do this?” Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: “Rulers and elders of the people! If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a man who was lame and are being asked how he was healed, 10 then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. 11 Jesus is “‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone.’ SEE NOTE  12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”

NOTE: Here, the Apostle Peter (filled with the Holy Spirit) is boldly quoting Old Testament Scriptures which the Jewish rulers and elders would have been familiar.  We can find the references to this spiritual metaphor in Psalm 118:22-23 and Isaiah 28:16. And it is prophesied in Zechariah 10:4 that the “cornerstone” would be a descendant of Judah.  Even Jesus quoted this passage; and this is recorded in the three Synoptic Gospels at Matthew 21:42-43; Mark 12:10-11; and Luke 20:16-18.  And Peter later quotes and discusses in his first epistle as shared below:

1 Peter 2:4-10 (NIV)

As you come to Him (Jesus), the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to Him— you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For in Scripture it says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion,  a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in Him will never be put to shame.” (Cf. Isaiah 28:16) Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe, “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” (Cf. Psalm 118:22) and, “A stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.” (Cf. Isaiah 8:14) They stumble because they disobey the message—which is also what they were destined for. But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

The theological significance of Psalm 118:22-23 and what Peter is sharing cannot be underestimated.  References to God as a “Rock” or a “Stone” abound in the Old Testament.  The metaphor speaks to the power of God; His steadfastness; His unchangeable character; the secure, unmovable nature of His love; a place of spiritual refuge; and His salvation.  This metaphor is first used of God in Genesis 49:24 as Jacob blesses Joseph before his death. Moses uses this imagery of God in Deuteronomy 32:4 affirming,God is the Rock, His works are perfect, and all His ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is He.” This theological construct is developed further in the remainder of Chapter 32, and I advise you to read it beyond the excerpt I share below. 1 Samuel 2:2 states: “There is no one holy like the Lord; there is no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God. 2 Samuel 22 captures a Song of Praise written by King David that begins, “The Lord is my Rock, my fortress, and my Deliverer; my God is my Rock, in whom I take refuge….”  And many of the Psalms make similar references to the Lord as “my Rock” and is it paired with the Lord my Savior or Redeemer.

So I believe it is safe to say that when Jesus quoted Psalm 118; the Jewish rulers and leaders understood its theological implications. (Cf. Luke 20:19) Likewise, when Peter quoted the same Scripture to the Jewish rulers and leaders, the focus was on their “rejection” of the Stone or Rock … their crucifixion of the Messiah … Jesus the Son of God. As the Apostle John wrote: “He was in the world, and though the world was made through Him, the world did not recognize Him. He came to that which was His own, but His own did not receive Him.” (Cf. John 1:10-11) Yet, rebellion against the revealed will of God is nothing new for man in general … or Israel in particular.  And what is amazing is how much indifference we find in people – even ourselves – after we have experienced first-hand the supernatural power of God in our lives.  You will find the same historical “hardness of heart” recorded centuries before in Deuteronomy 32:

Deuteronomy 32:15-20 (NIV)

They abandoned the God who made them and rejected the Rock their Savior. 16 They made Him jealous with their foreign gods and angered Him with their detestable idols. 17 They sacrificed to false gods, which are not God— gods they had not known, gods that recently appeared, gods your ancestors did not fear. 18 You deserted the Rock, who fathered you; you forgot the God who gave you birth. 19 The Lord saw this and rejected them because He was angered by His sons and daughters. 20 “I will hide my face from them,” He said, “and see what their end will be; for they are a perverse generation, children who are unfaithful.

Surely the Pharisees knew the references … and the application should be a forewarning to us!  As Peter declared: “Jesus IS ‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone.’ Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”  What is Peter saying here? When you reject the Rock, you reject God! The Jews and unbelievers today have not only rejected the “Living Stone”, the “Rock of Salvation”, and the “Rock of Refuge” … they have refused to accept that Jesus is the “chief cornerstone”!  Everything is built upon Him! There can be no other plausible conclusion.  When Jesus asked, “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter professed, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” And how did Jesus respond? 

Matthew 16:13-18 (NIV)

13 When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” 14 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 “But what about you?” He asked. “Who do you say I am?” 16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” 17 Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. 18 And I tell you that you are Peter, (the Greek word for Peter means rock) and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.

You see, “rock” represents something solid … something you can depend on to not fall or fail when weight or pressure is exerted upon it.  In this context it represents a trustworthy, pillar of truth upon which to build our lives.  Christ Jesus has been building His Church on this foundation of all Truth: He is the Messiah – the Son of the Living God!  He is the cornerstone on which the rest of the building … His Body – the Church is set … square and plumb … true and level.  Jesus is the head of the Church, His Body, of which He is the Savior. (Cf. Ephesians 1:22; 5:23; Colossians 1:18; 2:19) So we need to understand this is the ultimate question every human ever born or to ever be born MUST answer regarding Jesus.  Jesus testified, “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) So now, each of us has to answer Jesus when He asks us: “Who do YOU say I am?”  And the answer people give determines if Father God embraces them as His own … or if God hides His face from them as unfaithful children.  And it is this question to which we have been called to urge everyone to embrace Jesus as Lord and Savior.  For Jesus IS the stone that causes people to stumble and fall if they do not obey the message and come to Him to receive salvation and eternal life….

Father God, I pray even now, that each of us would let this bold sermon from Peter penetrate our hearts and minds.  Convict our hearts, Father God, and any who are not fully persuaded that You are the Rock … the chief cornerstone … the foundation of ALL light and truth! Bring us into submission and the obedience of faith – for you have appointed Jesus as the head over every power and authority in heaven and on earth.  Keep us within you … and abide in us … that we might be faithful children to declare your praises because you have called us out of darkness into the wonderful light of your Son.  Thank you, Father God, for your everlasting mercies … and may the mercies of your love and salvation be the rock upon which we continue to build our lives! May we always be living stones … laid upon the sure foundation of your Son.  For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ! (1 Corinthians 3:11) Amen.

Well, I think that I will stop here….  I feel a bit carried away at the moment because I believe so strongly that we need to hear and share this message!  Jesus is the stone the builders rejected … but to those who believe – who have come to faith in His Name … Jesus is the only name under heaven by which we must be saved!  No one comes to the Father except through Jesus.  We need to reach out to those who “stumble and fall” through unbelief in the message.  Remember, faith comes by hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ. (Romans 10:17) This is the rock-solid truth upon which the Kingdom of God has been forged! Jesus IS the Messiah – the Son of the Living God!  Upon this rock the Church – a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession – is built and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it!

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

This Is My Story….

1 Peter 3:15 (NIV)

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect….

This verse is connected with the themes we have been reading about the past week on sharing the Gospel.  Interestingly, I believe this passage is the most succinct instruction we can find in the Bible regarding evangelism in its “simplest” form.  We do not have to pass out “religious tracts” in the mall or door-to-door in order to be evangelists; although there might be occasion to do that sort of activity.  We do not have to stand on street corners with banners and megaphones heralding Scriptures; although if the Spirit directs you to do so … you should obey.  But if you think about it, when most of us were “touched” by the Gospel message, the context was probably somewhat different.  Your exposure to the message about Jesus Christ probably came through someone with whom you had a relationship.  It could have been a parent, a sibling, a family member, a friend, a co-worker, or simply an acquaintance.  Maybe someone did hand you a gospel tract, or a religious billboard caught your eye and planted a spiritual seed. But most likely it was seeing “something different” in the life of another believer or hearing the personal, spiritual experience of someone you trusted that inspired or encouraged you to have a “real” relationship with God….

As I read this verse, I connected with its instruction of “how” to be an effective witness of the Gospel.  First of all, Peter indicates that we must have a “strong” relationship with Jesus ourselves.  In our hearts we are to “revere Christ as Lord”.  This means we have humbled ourselves and surrendered our lives to His authority.  This means He is worthy of our praise and worship.  This means we have experienced His life-changing grace in our hearts and desire our lives to reflect the holiness for which He saved us.  As the writer of Hebrews admonishes us: “Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.” (Hebrews 12:14) If we revere Christ as Lord in our hearts, we will pursue a life that reflects that faith and hope and love.  As Peter wrote in his second pastoral epistle:

2 Peter 1:3-11 (NIV)

His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness. Through these He has given us His very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins. 10 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, 11 and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

If we are living a life that is reflective of a genuine relationship with our Lord Jesus, then others will see it. And sometimes … your life in Christ will produce curiosity in someone who is seeking to have “more” of that “something” you appear to have in your life. It will be attractive to them because you reflect the light of God found only in Jesus. And so Peter instructs us: “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” Note the extreme language: ALWAYS. To be prepared means we have “practiced” in order to be ready. We have “fine-tuned” our thoughts about our own personal encounter with Jesus. We have “reflected” on our own experience of His faithfulness in our lives. And then sharing the Gospel … well it simply becomes sharing our own story!

But do this with gentleness and respect,” Peter writes. This all sounds very similar to what Paul advised, “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” (Cf. Colossians 4:5-7) And this is why I think we need to reflect on how to best communicate and share the good news of Christ Jesus. The manner and the circumstances in which we shared the Truth with someone can determine your effectiveness and mine in reaching that person for God. If we appear pious or superior in our tone, we do not reflect the One who said, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.” (Cf. Mark 9:35) So the question to ask is are you and I “prepared” to answer anyone about our faith and our hope in Christ? But a more crucial question to ask might be: “Is our love for others evident in our walk … enough so that it would be a conversation starter for a stranger or an unbeliever?”

Okay, I’m going to stir some conviction…. What is a definitive application for us to consider here? Well, for unbelievers to respond to the Gospel … they need to see a “real” Gospel. They need to see a genuine outcome of the power of God to believe it exists and that it is authentic. We live in a generation and a culture that increasingly dismisses or rejects the existence of God, and more specifically, the message of Jesus. I believe some of this intellectual skepticism can stem from inadequate “evidence” of the work and power of God in the lives of those who profess faith in Him. We cannot see the wind, yet we can observe its movement and impact. Likewise, we cannot see the Spirit of God, yet a person should be able to discern His manifestation in the life of a believer. I believe when the presence of God is seen because His impact is observable, faith is formed. So if our lives do not authentically reflect the transforming power of Christ, then how is there evidence for an unbeliever to move from skepticism to the reality they are searching to find? I pray that each of us will be introspective and consider if the “wind” of our lives is sufficient to “stir the leaves” in the hearts of unbelievers. If it is, I would venture to say that someone is going to ask about the faith they “see” you have in Christ Jesus. So be prepared to tell them your story. It is a great one to share!

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Teach Your Children Well….

Deuteronomy 6: 6-7 (NIV)

These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.

This is a reminder to us of the importance of staying focused on the Word of God.  We are urged to meditate on the commandments of God … to ponder them in our hearts … to apply their precepts and instructions to our walk with God.  Of equal importance, we need to remember that each of us has come to the knowledge of God through His Word. And His Word was impressed on us through other people – especially parents and grandparents for many of us.  My point being – how will other people (especially our own children) and future generations come to know the God who created us and loves us unless we talk about Him and share the knowledge of Him given to us through His Word?  That is why we are encouraged to talk about the Word of God at home … in the course of daily life … yes morning and night. I believe we should be talking about God all the time! His Being as declared through the Word of God is as necessary for life as our next breath.  In other words, you and I cannot escape its inherent power for life.  Jesus quoted these inspired words imparted to Moses in this regard:

Matthew 4:4 (NIV)

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” (Cf. Deuteronomy 8:3)

That is my hope with these daily verses – to impress the Word of God on each of you.  It is the source of understanding life itself … who God is … why He created us … what is His will for us … and so forth. And that is why each of us should keep the Word of God in our hearts and impart it to the next generations.  I am grateful that it was shared with me … because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes. (Cf. Romans 1:16)

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Verse of the Day – 02/08/19

Matthew 5:43-48

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?  And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.

The passage presents another lesson on the command of Christ Jesus to love another as He has loved us.  In this passage, I observe that Jesus raises the bar.  The expression of love to others is not limited only to those we love or those that love us.  No, the expectation is higher – that we would love even our enemies and those who hate us or persecute us. Why? Because that is how God treated us! God loves the whole world … even those who express hatred toward Him or Jesus, His Son.  He is not willing that anyone should perish but that everyone would come to repentance. (Cf. 2 Peter 8-10) To be sure, judgment and condemnation will come to those who do not believe in Christ Jesus. But in His patience and long-suffering, God is benevolent to all … displaying the riches of His grace and kindness in order to lead people to repentance. (Cf. Romans 2:4) So in this passage, Jesus shares a couple of simple examples of this kindness: He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

Think about what Jesus is saying here.  God is good and gracious to all people regardless of the intent of their hearts or their manner of life.  Everyone on the earth experiences the sun rise each day.  Everyone receives the rain when it falls. The goodness of God is evident in His creation regardless of whether a person recognizes it. So Jesus implies that we are to be like-minded in our attitudes and conduct toward others.  While it may be hard to fathom … much less perform … we are called to be indiscriminately gracious and kind to all.  We are not to love others based on whether they deserve it; rather, we are to be merciful to the ungrateful and the evil like our Father in Heaven.  When we reflect the nature of God … when we imitate His benevolence to others …  we show that we are His children.  As Jesus said, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (Cf. John 13:35) I want us to look at this same passage in the Gospel of Luke because (true to form) it has a little more detail in the narrative:

Luke 6:27-38 (NIV)

27 “But I say to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. 29 To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your shirt (tunic) either. 30 Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. 31 And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them. 32 “If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. 35 But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for He is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.36 Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful. 37 “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; 38 give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”

In reading this passage in its comparative context, I think there is a lesson that we might miss with just a casual reading.  Yes, we know that we are to be nice people as Christians.  We are to be merciful, kind, forgiving, and generous toward others; but just as I said earlier, Jesus raised the bar!  He said to lend, expecting nothing in return.  He said to judge not and condemn not because you and I will be held to the same standard of judgment or condemnation we “assess” on others.  Yet, notice that Jesus indicated there would be reward for those who follow His instruction.  As we find recorded in Verse 35, when we love our enemies and do good and lend without expectation for reciprocation, we will receive “great reward” as children of the Most-High God.  If we do not judge others, we will not be judged.  If we do not condemn others, we will not be condemned. If we give, it will be returned by God in ways that will overflow in abundance to us!  And please observe that Jesus does not qualify whether the person we encounter is worthy of such mercy or kindness … on any level.  These are imperatives with high expectation for fulfillment … and with promise of great reward in doing so. (Cross reference with Psalm 19).

I cannot emphasize this point enough. If we intend to be followers of Christ, our actions … our words … our conduct with others should not be based on their worthiness.  It is based on mercy … the same mercy that we have received from God through Christ Jesus our Lord! Paul addressed this point for us:

Romans 5:8-11 (NIV)

8 But God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by His blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through Him! 10 For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to Him through the death of His Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through His life! 11 Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

Sinners are justified by the blood of Christ!  There is no other justification acceptable to our Holy Father.  So no amount of focus and hostility toward others with a self-righteous attitude is going to lead them to the reconciliation they want and need.  It is by grace we have been saved, through faith – and this is not of ourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9) None of us is worthy … I repeat … none of us is worthy of the price that was paid for our sin. It was the kindness of God our Savior who gave Himself for all who would come to faith.  And those who are ungodly (like we were) need our Savior …  not our judgment or condemnation! In fact, neither of these indictments were the intent of our Lord Jesus when He was sent by the Father into world:

John 3:16-17 (ESV)

16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.

John 5:21-23 (ESV)

21 For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom He will. 22 For the Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, 23 that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him.

John 8:15-16 (ESV)

15 You judge according to human standards; I judge no one16 Yet even if I do judge, my judgment is true, for it is not I alone who judge, but I and the Father who sent me.

John 12:46-48 (ESV)

46 I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness. 47 If anyone hears my words and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. 48 The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day.

So we need to understand the heart of this message.  When God took the judgment for our sin and removed the condemnation for our own darkness and unbelief (Cf. John 3:18; Romans 8:1), He did so out of mercy and love.  His pardon of our sin was unmerited and undeserved!  So who are we to pass judgment or condemnation on anyone? Jesus called us to be merciful, even as our Father is merciful.  We need to have this attitude (mindset) in our relationships with others. As Paul wrote in Romans 14:1, we are to accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters. The verse implies there are matters of faith which are indisputable, but that is not a focus of this particular lesson.  Still, it is in this context that Paul continued:

Romans 14:10-13 (NIV)

10 You, then, why do you judge another believer? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat11 It is written: “‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bow before me; every tongue will acknowledge God.’” (Cf. Isaiah 45:23) 12 So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God. 13 Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister. (See Also 2 Corinthians 5:9-11)

Jesus Himself modeled an excellent example for us on how we are to express His mercy to others who are living a sin-filled life:

John 8:2-11 (NIV)

At dawn Jesus appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around Him, and He sat down to teach them.  The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing Him. But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with His finger. When they kept on questioning Him, He straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again He stooped down and wrote on the ground.  At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”  “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.

My thought is that we need to focus less on the sin of others and more on leading them to Jesus – the One who was sent by the Father not to judge or condemn the world but to save the world.  The woman in this passage had transgressed the law and committed adultery, and yet, Jesus did not condemn her; rather, He showed mercy and in doing so led her to repentance and faith in Him.  That is all God has asked of any of us: Repentance and Faith! Yet, please do not misunderstand what is being said here.  Jesus has made it clear that there WILL be a Day of Judgment.  And we will all give an account of our lives. The distinction between those who receive eternal life and those who receive the second death (Cf. Revelation 20:14-15) is based on how a person responds to the truth and love of God.  A person who dismisses the love of God … who rejects His Son … who does not believe the testimony of His Word … will be thrown into the lake of fire (His words not mine).  Those who believe God and receive the gift of His Son as Lord and Savior through repentance and faith will receive eternal life.  It is God who will judge and condemn … or rather … the Word of God that will judge and condemn a person. (Cf. John 3:18; John 12:48)

1 John 5:6-13 (NIV)

This is the One who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ. He did not come by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three that testify: the Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement. We accept human testimony, but God’s testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which He has given about His Son. 10 Whoever believes in the Son of God accepts this testimony. Whoever does not believe God has made Him out to be a liar, because they have not believed the testimony God has given about His Son. 11 And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. 12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. 13 I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.

This is the Gospel!  This is the good news we have through Jesus Christ!  This is the truth!  Therefore, let us speak the truth in love to everyone we encounter. (Cf. Ephesians 4:15) And let us be wise in the way we act toward outsiders; making the most of every opportunity. Let our conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that we may know how to answer everyone. (Cf. Colossians 4:6) Like you … like me … like the woman caught in adultery … every person is intuitively aware of and will be convicted of the sin and ungodliness within their heart through the role of the Holy Spirit. (Cf. John 16:8) Yet, there is another truth to proclaim: “There is, therefore, now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Cf. Romans 8:1) So instead of engaging people specifically about their particular sin(s) … I believe we should be engaging them to encounter the only One who can save them from their sin. What they have done or continue to do is far less important than who Jesus is! The works of the flesh (Cf. Galatians 5:19-21) are just symptomatic of the greater problem in a person’s heart … rejection of the Truth!  Faith comes by hearing the message (testimony), and the message is heard through the word about Christ. (Cf. Romans 10:17)

Think about it, did you or I come to faith in Jesus because someone kept badgering us, judging us, or condemning us for our sinful and unrighteous living?  I doubt that was the reason. Your conscience … my conscience … already instinctively knew right from wrong.  This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.  Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed.  But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God. (Cf. John 3:19-21) No, you and I and every believer surrendered to Christ Jesus because we heard the truth and received the testimony God had given about Him. We understood that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Cf. Romans 3:23) And the truth convinced us that we needed Jesus … a Savior who is willing and able to forgive us of all our sins. (Cf. Hebrews 2:17-18; 4:14-16)

So like our former experience, those who still live in darkness are probably aware of their sin but are slaves to its deception and darkness. What they need to see is the Light of the world!  They need to see Jesus first and foremost! Like the woman at the well … like the one caught in adultery … like Zacchaeus the dishonest tax collector … those who encountered Jesus were changed forever. The grace and truth of Jesus … His passionate, persistent love … will inspire unbelievers and draw them toward the assurance of things hoped for, and the conviction of things not seen (Cf. Hebrews 11:1).  Like other believers, they too will respond in repentance and come to faith in Jesus.  And the Holy Spirit will guide them into all truth and sanctify them by the truth.  As the writer of Hebrews asserts: “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (Cf. Hebrews 4:12) Yes, the Word of God … the Gospel … conveys the love of God in its purest and deepest form. For God our Savior desires all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and people, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. (Cf. 1 Timothy 2:4-6) Yes, I believe this is the message all people need to hear … much more so than our judgment and condemnation. Amen!

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!