Tag Archives: The Gospel

Judgment and Discernment

But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, “You fool!” will be liable to the hell of fire. [Matthew 5:22 ESV]

We are responsible for judging the intent of the thinking of our hearts. Outside of us only God can know what is in a person’s heart. He knows better than the person. Few are honest enough with themselves to know when their thinking and their hearts are bent toward evil or wickedness. Fewer allow guilt to drive them toward God. Without the forgiveness which comes through grace none could survive the conviction of sin. We must admit we sin before we will admit what our sins are. Those who refuse to admit what their sins are face God’s wrath.

Francis Schaeffer has suggested when someone is confronted with their sin and the enormous consequences of their sin they must do one of two things. Either they will go insane in trying to absolve themselves of the consequence through ignoring sin or they will commit suicide. We cannot live with guilt. Either we declare ourselves not guilty or we sentence ourselves to death.  Schaeffer knows the third option is to acknowledge God and His ultimate authority and compassion for us through the sacrifice of His Son.

We are responsible for accepting or rejecting the grace offered by God. He commands all to receive His grace, to accept their guilt and admit the truth their death sentence has been fulfilled by the sacrifice of Christ.

From the beginning of man’s history, from Adam in the garden created in the image of God and given a realm in which to serve God, all are commanded to follow and obey Him. It does not matter that sin entered the world when it comes to obeying the commands of God. Sin is not an excuse for disobedience. Adam was commanded to not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. He was also given permission to eat from any other tree in the garden including the tree of life. Only after he willfully disobeyed God was he driven from the garden so he could not eat from the tree of life. Now all are commanded to eat from the tree of life, which is Christ, and live, but do not. Again, most in the world are in willful rebellion against God refusing to obey His explicit command.

Jeremiah, prophesying against the nation of Judah, compares those who are under God’s grace and know it and those who only think they are God’s yet rebel against Him.

Thus says the LORD:
Cursed is the man who trusts in man
and makes flesh his strength,
whose heart turns away from the LORD.
He is like a shrub in the desert,
and shall not see any good come.
He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness,
in an uninhabited salt land.
Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD,
whose trust is the LORD.
He is like a tree planted by water,
that sends out its roots by the stream,
and does not fear when heat comes,
for its leaves remain green,
and is not anxious in the year of drought,
for it does not cease to bear fruit.
The heart is deceitful above all things,
and desperately sick;
who can understand it? I the LORD search the heart and test the mind,
to give every man according to his ways,
according to the fruit of his deeds. [Jeremiah 17:5-10 ESV]

God sees the evidence of the thinking of the heart in each person because He intimately knows each person. At the same time it is the responsibility of the individual to recognize the thinking of their own heart and accept responsibility for their thinking and actions. While the thinking of their hearts may be hidden from others their actions and the body language which accompanies their actions are never hidden. Others will see and form judgments based upon what they see. It is easy to judge others. Are we honest and discerning with ourselves concerning our own sin and guilt?

Obedience to God and right relationship with Him brings clarity. All judgment, in order for the judgment to be righteous, must be viewed through a Godly filter which recognizes sin and realizes the consequences of sin and followed by relinquishing control to God. Without doing these three steps, judgment, whether of self or of others, is arbitrary and sinful.

We are responsible for the intent of the thinking of our hearts. It is not our responsibility to judge the intent of the thinking of the hearts of others. It is our responsibility to be discerning, open to the counsel and instruction of the Spirit and confront sin where ever we find sin, whether in ourselves or in others. God commands we love Him and live according to truth. There are no other options.

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The Gospel

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. [Matthew 5:6 ESV]

In the first few verses of Matthew 5, in the passage we have come to know as the  Sermon on the Mount, Jesus presents a description of the citizen of the kingdom of heaven. There are in this description elements of the personality of the citizen and the evidences of reality of this Godly person living in a world which is not godly. His first four statements lay the foundation for the way a citizen thinks and feels and acts. It is no secret God’s desire to bring into His kingdom those who are His and that He uses His citizens as witnesses of His eternal working. Each Christian is a living, breathing example of the Gospel of grace.

We need not make the Gospel complicated. What is incomprehensible are the reactions of those confronted by God with the Gospel, which is everyone, and the danger and hatred toward God which comes with the Gospel’s plain teaching. It is the whole person God wants and it is the whole person who either concedes the truth in the Gospel or rebels against the One stating the truth.

Imagine yourself facing something, anything, you know in your deepest being is corrupt and vile yet morbidly attractive and provocative. You are moving toward this thing, drawn by it irresistibly and the closer you come the less vile it is and the more attractive it becomes. It is sin. Behind you is God calling you to turn away from sin and toward Him. Turning away from sin is repentance. Turning toward God is faith. Walking toward God is obedience. Every citizen of the kingdom has gone through this transition. Hungering and thirsting for righteousness is the culmination of God changing those who are His and the beginning of His citizen being His.

Before we continue discussing hungering and thirsting for righteousness we must remember the process God has done in bringing us to this place.

These steps, if we can call them steps, are absolute and begin with poverty of spirit which is the recognition of sin. Those who are poor in spirit come to hate sin and love the truth. Thus, when God calls they turn because His call is the realization of the consequences of sin, which is separation from God. This realization is shown by deep mourning and repentance. Where there is repentance there is faith, for one cannot occur without the other. Faith is the flip-side of repentance. True faith is characterized by the relinquishing of control of self to the object of faith who is none other than God. This relinquishing of control of our weakness is in exchange for God’s strength.  Meekness is God’s strength in me under His control. Once control is given to God there is freedom from the slavery of sin to pursue the very opposite of what our corrupted nature and the world wants. God demands righteousness. The world demands rebellion against God, which is unrighteousness.  Once the citizen reaches this point they want righteousness and pursue righteousness out of love for God, not simple duty to Him. Righteousness is not a goal but the natural result of knowing God, and being known by Him.

Jesus has, in these few characterizations, defined and presented the Gospel. Return to imagining yourself walking toward sin, running toward sin, not knowing how devastating sin is. Then, God called and suddenly you recognize sin for what it is and that you are corrupted by sin. You recognize in the same way an addict must recognize the power his substance of choice has over him. He must grow to hate that substance. If there is no hatred for sin there is no turning from it.

God’s call stopped you in your tracks. But the power of sin, in the world, in your own flesh, in the enticement of Satan, fought against the voice of God. He demands obedience. It is why you were created. There is no merit in obedience, no earning your way into the Kingdom. You obey, not because you will get something but because it is what you want. Obedience is not an option but an expectation. Continued rebellion after hearing the call of God drives home the consequences, the reality of separation from God. When God calls only an out-and-out act of persistent rebellion drives some to stop their ears and close their eyes.

Once God’s call has stopped your continued journey toward sin He turns you away from sin toward Himself. No one turns them self. God has to turn. Turning away from sin requires trusting God. This is an emotional response to God’s moral character. It is repentance. Repentance is accompanied by grieving over what sin has done to you and to the world. Mostly though, deep grief comes from realizing what sin has done to God. For in turning away from sin you must turn toward God and begin to see who He is truly. And who you truly are.

Turning way from sin is repentance. Turning toward God is faith. Here, faith is relinquishing control of self. How can you or anyone fight for control against God while facing Him? You cannot, unless you take your eyes off Him.  Faith is the conduit through which we receive all God has to offer. All He gives is free. Faith is believing what He has said, trusting Him and obeying His commands.

While obedience is a necessary part of faith it is also integral to salvation. God does not ask us to believe, He commands it. He does not ask us to turn away from sin and repent, He demands it. He does not ask us to acquire faith and all He wants us to have. He supplies faith as the only way to receive what He has to give. He does not ask for obedience, He requires it. His commands are not grievous and overbearing. His commands are essential to our very being. Yet, in our present corrupted state there is nothing we can do but reject. If we obey, it is in His strength. If we reject God, it is in our own strength.

When we hunger and thirst for His righteousness our desire is obedience, to grow every closer to the source of life. Yet, we are conflicted. God does not lift us out of this world or change us so we are never tempted or prevent us from actively rebelling against Him. Christians are tempted and do fall into sin. We are at war and this war continues as long as He wants us in this world. Our struggle between the flesh which wants only itself, and the Spirit, which wants only God, rages. This is why so many of the admonitions in the Epistles are to stand firm with eyes firmly fixed on Him who is our salvation. Those who truly hunger and thirst for righteousness know their place in the kingdom and before God is fixed and sure.