About Worrying… And Judging

3 But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man’s judgment: yea, I judge not mine self. 4 For I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified: but he that judgeth me is the Lord. 5 Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God. 1 Cor. 4:5

Oh, how we worry! How we worry about what people think about us. Some of us worry until we develop stomach ulcers.

(I guess that’s why I love President Donald Trump. He never seems to worry about anything!)

I love what the Apostle Paul says here:

“… it is A VERY SMALL THING that I should be judged by you.”

Can you imagine that? And yet here we are, believers, fretting about every little thing that is said about us and frying our hair on account of people’s attitudes towards us. But Paul says he does not worry in the least about what people think or say about him. In other words, Paul is saying that that was the least of his concerns. What a relief!

Of course, there are legitimate worries for the believer; and I am not talking about the stock market. Worrying about the stock market translates to worrying about your stomach, which is something that God is totally against. Actually, there is only one legitimate worry for the believer in the entire world, and that worry is sin in his/her life. That’s why the Apostle Paul talks of

“the hidden things of darkness…”

and

“the counsels of the hearts”.

Yep! That should really worry us. It should worry us if we have dark corners in our hearts. And it should worry us if the counsels of our hearts are not aligned with God’s will. That should really, really, really have us worried!! And we should not stop worrying until we have cleared every trace of darkness from our hearts. Let us strive to live a sinless life through living the crucified life; and we shall experience true freedom!

But there is another side to the coin. There is another side to this grace that we have been called to inherit. Right here the Apostle Paul tells us what that grace is. He talks about not judging things before that time.

“Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God.”

Have you ever realized how quick we are at judging people? By judging, I believe the Apostle Paul meant both good and bad judgments. On the one hand we heap praises on people; and on the other we judge others harshly, largely based on… well, what we don’t know! We think we know people; but we can never really know a person’s heart perfectly. Probably the most difficult thing in this world is knowing absolutely what is in a man’s heart. In fact, it is impossible for mortal man to know what is in another man’s heart. Only God knows our hearts perfectly. We know only in part. So what does scripture tell us here?

Quit praising men; and quit judging men. We should take people at face value and leave the judging and praising to God. If someone lies to you, for example, that is your business only to the extent that, once you learn of his lie, you can have compassion on him and pray for him to repent. Beyond there, leave it to God.

The same goes for the praises. Actually, the only Person you can praise with a perfect heart is our Lord Jesus Christ. Go easy with the rest.

One of the things that I am absolutely sure of on judgment day is that there will be many surprises; and not small ones. Some will be very disturbing. Others, hopefully, beautiful ones. For this reason, the Apostle Paul is beseeching us to keep these things (praises and judgments) to the barest manageable minimum down here. According to the Bible, we don’t know anything yet; and for this reason there is no reason why we should even praise or judge men at all! Let’s leave that to God alone.

Ultimately, I love the fact that there is grace is Christ to live the kind of life that the Apostle Paul lived. That is what we should be truly grateful to God for. Paul lived that kind of life; why can’t we? I pray God therefore that He may enable me – and you – to keep the two important things in our lives in mind: firstly, to mind our own business, as it were; i.e. the business of keeping our hearts clear and sinless; and secondly, to take people at face value and leave the judging and praising to God.

[It is impossible for mortal man to know what is in another man’s heart]

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Judging Righteously

Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment. Jn. 7:24

Ye judge after the flesh; I judge no man. Jn. 8:15

These are the words of our Lord Jesus Christ to the Jews of His day.

The Bible tells us that Moses had an Ethiopian woman.

“And Miriam and Aaron spake against Moses because of the Ethiopian woman whom he had married: for he had married an Ethiopian woman.” (Num. 12:1)

She must have been a black woman because Ethiopians are black. But, of course, scholars might have found evidence to the contrary. Scholars are wonderful people, they discover great things. I have not had the time to find out whether they have something to say about the skin color of this woman. For the sake of the possibility of someone out there having discovered something different, I will not press the point that she was black. Suffice it to say that she was not a Jew. She was different; and this fact came to the notice of Miriam and Aaron.

Do you know who Miriam and Aaron were? The Bible states that  Miriam was a prophetess (Ex. 15:20). Miriam also is she whose song is written in the Bible (Ex. 15:21). Do you know what it means for one’s words (let alone an entire song) to be written in the Bible?

As for Aaron, he was the greatest of God’s high priests who ever lived. The Bible is simply smitten with him and his ministry.

Miriam and Aaron are among the greatest people that ever graced the Bible. They were great people with God.

And yet… these two rose up against the servant of God, Moses, on account of his wife. I wonder how these two arrived at having a problem with this woman (you will find the answer below).

But, pray, how often do you think such things happen today? At my age I have met many people of different races, and I can attest to the fact that many light-skinned people (Caucasians, Chinese, Arabs, Indians) have a problem with black people. Some simply cannot accept black people. They consider a black man to be beneath them.

I had always wondered at the stories that I had heard about racism… until I visited a certain country which is not black. One day, as I was walking across a school courtyard in that country, I saw students pointing and exclaiming loudly, “Africain, Africain!” I could feel their gaze on me.

It was not that I was the only African in that country. But I was different. I had just arrived in from darkest Africa, and this fact was clearly noticeable.

This was my first – and only – experience of direct racism; and it was strangely surreal.

Indirectly, though, racism is as prevalent as the sun. You can feel it in many subtle – and not-so-subtle – forms.

But to be racist does not mean only looking down on people. Even looking up to people is racism. It means we are differentiating.  To the extent that we are capable of making differences among us, therefore, each one of us is racist.

Scientists, however, have proven that we cannot blame Miriam, Aaron, nor ourselves for this undesirable situation. They have discovered that deep within us there are certain genetic factors at play that we simply cannot control. In fact, these factors control us. The genetic pull within us is just too strong. This is what causes us to judge people as we do.

It is God who created these genes. But then sin came and distorted everything. But thank God He is greater than sin! Through His death on the cross, Jesus vanquished sin and all its works, including distorted genes. And now, God demands that, once we accept Jesus into our lives, we are to cast off these kinds of genetic attitudes, for we are no longer under genetic control, but we are under the rulership of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is the ruler of all creation.

For this reason, therefore, we are not to judge

“according to the appearance”.

Nor

“after the flesh”.

But, by the power of the Holy Spirit in us, we can judge differently. We can judge

“righteous judgment”.

What does it mean to judge righteous judgment?

It means you do not judge by what you see on the outside. On the contrary, you judge according to someone’s heart. You judge people by their hearts.

And what, moreover, does it mean to judge people by their hearts?

The heart of man is where sin lives. Here, therefore, Jesus was saying simply, “Judge a man by whether he has sinned or not.” Simple and clear. That ought to be the way we, as the Church, judge people. We are not to judge people in any other way.

When we were young children, I used to overhear the father of one of my friends say, “The white man is the child of God.”

That stuck with me. But I have come to discover that, in spite of all his conquests in the natural, when it comes to matters of the heart the white man is as culpable to sin as the next man.

“For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God…” (Rom. 3:23)

We judge people by so many things. But God judges us in only one regard: whether we have sinned or not. God’s enemy is sin, not a man’s skin color. Or his level of education.

The Apostle Paul asks,

“For who maketh thee to differ from another?” (1 Cor. 4:7)

As the Church of Jesus Christ, would we be willing to judge people according to the Word of God? Or are we going to look at people’s skin color, their education levels, their cars and houses and money…

But we are to live according to God’s Word. We are to tell people who sin, “Hey, God doesn’t like that.”

And we are to encourage those who are running the race well, regardless of how different they may be from us in the natural.

[Whom shall I fear?]

Living For Others

1 We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves.

2 Let every one of us please his neighbour for his good to edification.

3 For even Christ pleased not himself; but, as it is written, The reproaches of them that reproached thee fell on me.

4 For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope. Rom. 15:1-4

Recently my wife and I were in a special time of prayer. We did not set out to pray for anything specific; we simply felt a desire to spend some time in the Lord’s presence.

As we prepared to begin, the scripture that naturally came to mind was Romans 14:17: “For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.”

We thought we knew what this scripture meant – had read and heard it taught hundreds of times. That is, until we decided to study it a little bit more; and then we were surprised to find the context in which it was written. As we read through Romans 14 through 15 we found out that this scripture was written in the context of not only not becoming a stumbling block to a brother (14:13); but, more importantly, to bear with the weaknesses of others. To not despise, and to not judge others. And, finally, to welcome everyone into our hearts, regardless of their weaknesses.

It slowly dawned on us that this required a lot more grace than we had. The admonition to judge not, and to “receive ye one another” (15:7) were quite a tall order for us. (It is the most natural thing to “receive” people selectively. And there are some things that man is a professional at, right from birth: things like judging or despising those who do not attain to his particular ‘standards’.)

But in these scriptures we also see the heart of God. The heart of God is the heart of a father. God’s heart is wide enough to accommodate everyone. No wonder God “… maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust” – Mat. 5:45.

More importantly, though, we see that the Apostle Paul also carried this heart, the heart of a father. That is why he could write these things. It was a life that he lived.

No one man knows what the future holds for them. But one thing I desire of God is that He may give me the grace to carry the men and women that He brings into my life with His heart, a heart of grace.

Is it any coincidence that it is to the very people that he wrote these words – the Roman brethren – that Paul sent his most personal greetings? He proved how much of a father he was: he not only knew each one of them by name but even more surprising, he knew their lives almost inside out!

Among the many salutations that touch my heart greatly is this one: “Salute Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen, and my fellowprisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me.”

Paul felt it important to acknowledge that these brethren had met Christ before him! He even says these men are “of note” among the apostles. He found something POSITIVE to say about each person!

We could write much here, but let us not stray from true need of our hearts: to carry God’s grace in our lives for others.

There are so many people out there that need ENCOURAGEMENT instead of discouragement. There are so many people who need to feel a heart of SUPPORT instead of a judgmental stare.

A fatherly heart of COMPASSION is the keyword here.

Needless to say, we can arrive at this level of spiritual maturity and grace in dealing with people only when we are daily walking in the revelation of the cross – denying self, taking up our cross and following Christ. Our boasting in this regard – and it is the only boasting we have in the gospel – is when we are dying daily.

[Below: The Apostle Paul knew intimately the lives of the men and women that he worked with. Scripture challenges us to do the same]

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