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Reach OutOne of the most devastating failures of church leadership in my lifetime has been our refusal to judge God’s way. Our lack of understanding, obedience, and diligence has led to a compromised message and produced a hypocritical body of believers. We condemn the world – something we are commanded not to do (Matthew 7:1-2) – while neglecting our responsibility to lovingly help our sister and brother identify and remove the sin in their life.

We will have to answer for our failure at the judgment seat of Christ. I wish I could say with some certainty that we will not be shown the consequences our disobedience has had on God’s kingdom and His children.

These are hard words to write and read. I am just the pen, and just as convicted by the truth. We cannot go back to correct our mistakes. We must trust God’s grace and mercy for those we have betrayed, and commit ourselves to God’s way for judging the brethren.

Even now, I suspect someone reading this will find issue with this matter of judging. Please read our article on Jesus’ “Judge Not” saying, as well as the first part of this one. I believe you will discover that:

  1. Jesus’ “judge not” refers to condemnation: the pronouncement of guilt, sentence and punishment for the sin in our sister or brother. Such condemnation is reserved for God.
  2. Identifying and addressing the sin in a sister or brother is not condemnation. It is an act of love, that they might not face the judgment of God (1Corinthians 5:1-5; James 5:19-20). Conversely, to ignore or accept sin in a sister or brother is failure to love them.
  3. To hold our tongue when God has made us aware of sin makes us guilty of that sin and subject to God’s judgment (Ezekiel 3:16-21).
  4. God’s children are to be His instruments of sanctification for the church.
  5. There is a process for helping our sister and brother – and ourselves – find the grace of God to live a life without sin.

The Part 1 to this article introduced God’s process (aka, way) for restoration from sin. For your convenience, here is a summary of the first five steps:

  1. Ask God to search our hearts, to see if there is any wicked way in us (Psalm 139:23-24).
  2. Repentance: to think differently about ourselves and our sin (Luke 5:32).
  3. Confession: to agree with or concede (1John 1:9).
  4. Allow the Holy Spirit to remove anything from us that would inhibit His gentleness (Galatians 6:1).
  5. Focused our minds against the real enemy (Ephesians 6:12).

Now (and only now) are we prepared to meet with our sister or brother. If their sin is against God or someone else, our responsibility is to encourage, to find restoration, and to walk with them as they desire. We must never abandon them in their time of vulnerability to the enemies’ attacks.

For sins directed towards us personally, the following represents the continuance of God’s way for restoration with them. Read the rest of this entry »

Reach OutIn our last article on the sayings of Jesus, we discovered that His “judge not” is the pronouncement of guilt, sentence and punishment for the sin in our sister or brother. Such condemnation is reserved for God.

We also learned this “judge not” does not excuse us from our responsibility to lovingly help our sister and brother identify and remove the sin in their life. We know this in part because Jesus followed His “judge not” with the first step in the process of our restoration from sin.

Here we will learn the process for helping our sister and brother – and ourselves – find the grace of God to live a life without sin, for their and our benefit, and for that of the church. As we begin, it is important to recognize a few things:

  1. Identifying and addressing the sin in a sister or brother is not condemnation. It is an act of love, that they might not face the judgment of God (1Corinthians 5:1-5; James 5:19-20). Conversely, to ignore or accept sin in a sister or brother is failure to love them.
  2. To hold our tongue when God has made us aware of sin makes us guilty of that sin and subject to God’s judgment (Ezekiel 3:16-21).
  3. The primary meaning of krinō is “to separate, put asunder”. This is very similar to the meaning of sanctify: to cleanse, purify and separate from profane things; and dedicate to God. God’s children are to be His instruments of sanctification for the church.

This may come as a surprise to you. You may be experiencing a resistance to it – even a strong one. Be encouraged to prayerfully consider your responsibility to your sisters and brothers, your church fellowship, and to God (most of all). One of the primary reasons for the spiritual weakness of the church in America is our failure in this area. Read the rest of this entry »

Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. Matthew 7:1-2

This passage has been a challenge to many in the church – including myself. Jesus seems to begin with an emphatic statement, only to follow it with a process for doing the very thing He said not to do (vv. 3-5, and our subject for next time). Many have harmed themselves (and the church) by misinterpreting Matthew 7:1 to mean that we are prohibited from identifying the sin in our sister or brother and helping them remove it.

Serious students of the Bible learn that singular verses must be interpreted in the full counsel of Scripture. A more careful reading of this and related passages reveals that Christians are responsible – and obligated by love – to actively weed out sin in our sisters and brothers, and in the church (Ezekiel 3:16-21, Matthew 18:15-17, 1Corinthians 5:1-5, Galatians 6:1, James 5:19-20).

There is a second important thing not being said in this passage (but assumed by many). This passage is not saying – it cannot be saying – that we will not be judged. In the end, many will be surprised to find themselves judged before the White Throne (Revelation 20:11-12), and every Christian will stand before the judgment set of Jesus Christ (Romans 14:10; 2Corinthians 5:10).

Indeed, we discover in Hebrews 6:1-2 that God’s judgment is eternal (meaning, it has no beginning or end). Read the rest of this entry »

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 he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Matthew 7:7-8

Two things are inevitable: Pursue God, and you will find Him; find Him, and you will be exposed and challenged in one area of your life or another. And sometimes three!

I have been pursuing God for some time now (credit to Him, not me – for too many reasons to list here). The closer I get, the more exposed and challenged I feel. I understand this is normal, and it may be, but it is still uncomfortable.

For this edition of the Newsletter, I have been encouraged to confess three areas of my life in which I am particularly challenged and troubled. I trust the Holy Spirit will use my confession to encourage, edify, and equip you in some way. Praise God, we are in this together.

First, there is the matter of agape. Agape is what most of us know of as “God’s love”. It is the love God has for us and we are commanded to have for Him, the brethren, and our neighbors. For too many years, I understood and lived from the understanding that “God’s love is unconditional”. Several years ago, I discovered that God’s love is better described as sacrificial. John 3:16 is a great proof text for this.

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. John 3:16

For several years now, I have chosen to keep this understanding at arm’s length. It is much easier to love unconditionally than sacrificially. Putting up with someone’s faults and foibles is simply not the same as dying for them. The Father has called me on this, and so I am confessing it to you now. Read the rest of this entry »

In many respects, this saying of Jesus is the core message of His Sermon on the Mount. After all, He came to proclaim the gospel of the kingdom of God (Mark 1:14-15) and to establish its beginnings (Luke 4:18-21). What we know to be “at hand” spiritually will be our physical reality when this age ends (Revelation 21).

Lest we forget, seeking the kingdom of God is very simply what devoted Christians do. The normal Christian life is fundamentally characterized by steadfast and diligent seeking. The kingdom we seek will not be found haphazardly, for it is on the other side of the narrow gate and down the difficult way (Matthew 7:14).

Indeed, Jesus instructs His followers that many who seek God’s kingdom will not enter for lack of striving (Luke 13:23-25). This may be new and sobering news to some; and worth more than a moment’s consideration. Go ahead, take your time. Really.

In Part 1 we discovered that seeking the kingdom of God requires the exchange of our life for the life of Jesus Christ, and the exchange of worry for trust in our heavenly Father. Here we consider two additional exchanges that accompany our seeking after God’s kingdom.

Exchanging Our Kingdom for His

But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. Matthew 6:33-34

Here we come to the crux of the matter: Are we in the kingdom of God, or not? Are we seeking His reign over everything, or have we determined to reign and fend for ourselves? Are we first seeking His righteousness, or settling for some less? Read the rest of this entry »

Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not [the] life more than food and the body more than clothing? Matthew 6:25

As you can see, the first verse of our next saying begins with the word “therefore”, meaning “for that reason or cause”. The Holy Spirit uses “therefore” often and strategically throughout the Bible to connect dependent thoughts and assertions into a pathway of truth and faith. Therefore, let’s quickly review the saying of Matthew 6:22-24 (Get Focused and Stay Focused):

  1. Your heart will be drawn to the place where you have laid up your treasure.
  2. Singular focus on God allows light to flood our entire being. Allowing distraction invites darkness and deception.
  3. If you serve mammon (i.e., riches and its supporting systems), you will despise God.

This last point should be quite sobering (if not frightening) for all Christians – particularly for the 21st Century Western church, where riches are abundant and abundantly deceitful (Mark 4:18-19).

Our omniscient God, foreseeing the dilemma, has provided the way for our deliverance and the key to our finding the truly abundant life of His kingdom. Spoilers: They are not the same.

Ho! Everyone who thirsts,
Come to the waters;
And you who have no money,
Come, buy and eat.
Yes, come, buy wine and milk
Without money and without price. Isaiah 55:1

The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. John 10:10

At this point, a bit of confusion is understandable; along with a bit of resistance. How do you buy stuff without money? Isn’t wealth a measure of abundance? And why would someone exchange the abundance of this life for a life they cannot see?

Most of us are not risk takers, at least not with the abundance we have been taught to hold so dear. Better safe than sorry, right? “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush” comes to mind (but that’s probably my carnal mind speaking). Read the rest of this entry »

If you have been following along with this series, you have by now realized that the Sermon on the Mount is about more than following a list of do’s and don’ts. Oh, it could be understood and taught that way, but Jesus is after more than checklist obedience. He came to save that which was lost, to build His church, and to commission disciples. He intends to lead us, make us, and use us to make others.

Such a life requires more than passive or casual compliance. Disciples are disciplined, focused on the mission, and focused on one Master.

The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness! No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. Matthew 6:22-24

Every once in a while, the translators get it wrong. Here in the NKJV, they have translated the Greek word haplous as “good”. Haplous is not translated as “good” anywhere else in the New Testament. It seems they chose “good” as the opposite of “bad”. This is understandable, but it does not do justice to the meaning of this saying.

The primary meaning of haplous is “simple” or “single”. The KJV uses “single”. On the surface, it does not make sense that the opposite of bad is single. However, it makes perfect sense in the context of the verse that follows (i.e., no one can serve two masters).

Jesus chose His words carefully. An eye that is not singularly focused is bad. Therefore, we can understand this passage to be saying, “If your eye is not singularly focused, your whole body will be full of darkness.” Read the rest of this entry »

This saying of Jesus, now in its third part, has gotten more attention than most of the previous ones for a couple of reasons. Personally, this saying has been especially challenging in my life. I was raised to save for my retirement, and the world has only encouraged that approach for my future security. I am not suggesting that saving is wrong (we covered that in Part 2), but God is using this bit of writing to test my heart.

Secondly, I have a responsibility as a disciple of Jesus Christ to make disciples through my writing. I am hopeful that He is using this to test and prove your heart; for Satan, the world and our carnal mind have deceived us in regards to this matter of laying up treasures for ourselves.

If you have not explored the “do not” of part 1 and part 2, you should do that before proceeding here. The process and its order are important. Once we have dealt with the deception of earthly treasures, we can turn our attention to the second part of this saying – the part we are to do.

Again, for our reference:

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:19-21

An Eternal Perspective

One of the greatest inhibitors to our hearing and doing this saying is our lack of faith and perspective for eternity. Let’s face it: Most of us spend the greater part of our lives laying up wealth so we can enjoy the last feeble portion of our seventy or eighty years here on earth. We are so focused on investing for retirement that we fail to lay up for that portion of our life that is immeasurable in its duration. Read the rest of this entry »

One way to avoid doing what Jesus is saying is to avoid hearing it in the first place. However, this avoidance strategy does not make us less liable; nor our houses less susceptible to the storms of life. God will not have us live this way. He cares too much for our salvation and well-being (Luke 6:24).

That seems to be God’s purpose in these articles: to encourage our hearing, that we might grow in faith, trusting Him to provide the grace for our obedience. So, let’s press in to hear, that we might do (and not do) according to Jesus’ saying about our treasures.

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:19-21

What are Your Earthly Treasures?

Part 1 encouraged a pause for reflection and prayer, particularly around this question: What are the treasures you have laid up or treasured on earth? If you have not done so, please read Part 1 and invest the time necessary to hear from our Father in heaven.

As we press in to hear what the Father and Jesus are saying, it will be helpful to clear away the clutter. For example, you may say, “I treasure my wife and kids.” While that is a good thing to say, it is not the treasure Jesus is talking about. Wives and kids are not something that moths and rust can destroy, nor thieves break in and steal. Someone else may say, “I treasure the time I have with my wife and kids.” This too is off the mark; for time cannot be laid up for later use.

I bring this up to make a point: The meaning of “treasure” in our culture is not quite the same as the treasure Jesus is speaking of here. As much as we might prefer to talk about something else, the treasure Jesus is talking about is our wealth. Read the rest of this entry »

Some sayings of Jesus are not very difficult to hear or do. For example, Do Not Swear at All. Others are easy to hear, but difficult to do (Be Extraordinary; Be Perfect). Then there are those that are difficult to do, simply because we have a hard time hearing them. All that Jesus said about treasure is a good case in point.

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:19-21

This saying is particularly hard to hear for those in the church that are tempted – and even presently deceived – by the American Dream. Consequently, I am concerned that I may lose a few of you on this one. To be honest, I may lose myself. It is a hard saying; probably one that Jesus used to drive away those that were less than serious about following Him.

So, before you turn away, let me encourage you: We are all in process; and our heavenly Father is sensitive to our place in the race. Consequently, this passage may not mean to you what it means to me – but it must mean something. Rather than run away from its meaning, trust God to reveal what you are to hear, and to give you the grace to do what Jesus says. Read the rest of this entry »

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