Friday, January 04, 2019

Devotional: Judging Ourselves and Others, Matthew 7:1-14

Outline of Matthew 7.1-14

Chapter 7 concludes the "Sermon on the Mount" by gathering more of Jesus' regular teachings. The distinctive of this chapter is the authority of Jesus. He equates his word with that of Torah and makes God’s final judgment dependent on our obedience to his words. On judging, Jesus urges thorough self-examination before we try to deal with issues in the lives of others. On prayer, Jesus talks about the Father's great willingness to answer the prayers of kingdom focused people and the great power their prayers have. In this opening section of the chapter Jesus teaches that true worshippers do not judge and condemn others. Instead they realize that God is the judge and they leave final judgment to him. They understand that what their main concern should be is God’s judgment of them and so they judge themselves first so that God will not have to condemn them. Then, when they have experienced God’s forgiveness and peace, only then are they able to help others to gain the same life and forgiveness.

First, Jesus teaches that we must honestly examine ourselves before we can recognize other’s problems and help them. (7:1-6) He calls us to exercise discernment rather than criticism and condemnation. Don’t be in the habit of being a sin-sniffer, guilt-layer, complainer, burden-dropper or rule-maker. You have no right to condemn another because God alone is the judge who knows all deeds, thoughts, and intents so that he can judge absolutely perfectly and justly. Instead of being critical, God calls us to be discerning, first of our own faults by taking a long prayerful look at Jesus, and then at ourselves to honestly evaluate where we fall short. Then, when you see wrong, confess, repent, and receive God’s forgiveness and ask for God’s power to grow. Then you will be ready to help others follow the same path because you can provide, not just criticism, but solutions and gently lead people to forgiveness and restoration. The world has enough critics and condemners. We need to quit condemning and beating up on ourselves and others and, instead, like Jesus, provide the way of salvation, not condemnation. We can be honest and real because Jesus has removed the condemnation and has provided the way to life.

We need to be discerning so that we are better able to help and pray for others. (7:6-11) We need to exercise discernment so that we can be more effective helping people. Discernment is essential to recognize which people God is calling us to help. Some people are not ready to hear and we need to recognize that and not waste our time. We need to get to know people that are ready to hear and assess their needs so that we apply the gospel where the Spirit is already drawing them. This is why Jesus brings prayer into the conversation. Prayer is our main resource for discernment.  We must constantly be asking God for wisdom and direction and watching and listening for his answer. As we earnestly seek God’s righteousness and guidance he will generously give us exactly what we need for each situation.

In 7:12-14 Jesus gives us the foundational principle for the discernment process. Evaluate others in the way you want to be evaluated. In Matthew “The Golden Rule” is commanded in a context of judging other people. This means that you should use standards and means to judge others that you would want to be used on you. In other words, you should give ministry in the way you’d like to receive it. How would you like to be corrected? How would you like to be treated when caught in a sin? How would you like others to share in your successful moments? Mostly we just want to be loved, receive grace and know people care about us and we should approach those around us in the same way.

This is the “narrow way” that leads to the blessings of the kingdom. Most choose the “wide, easy way” because honesty about ourselves and others is scary. We don’t like to admit that we need grace. We need to take the “narrow road” by giving up hiding our faults, trusting ourselves and our own actions, and place our trust completely in Jesus and accept the complete forgiveness he offers and pass that on to others. Then we can get to know ourselves as we are before God and live open and honest lives that glorify God and bless others. 

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