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?]

The Gospel vs The Flesh

Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers… 1 Pet. 1:18

The story goes that an Englishman, a Frenchman and a Ghanaian were flying on a plane and they were required to jump out when they arrived in their respective countries. When the Englishman saw the Wembley Stadium, he jumped out. When the Frenchman saw the Eiffel Tower or the Seine River (can’t remember which), he also strapped himself and jumped out.

The plane crossed the Mediterranean Sea and, upon sighting land, the Ghanaian put out his hand. A short while later, he announced to the pilot that he had reached his country. The pilot asked him what he had seen.

The Ghanaian replied that he had seen nothing; but his wristwatch had just disappeared from his hand.

Sadly, it is true that you can have your watch popped off your hand or your pocket picked at any minute in darkest Africa; and you should be thoroughly shocked.

In a related issue – to put the icing on that story –  the U.S. president, President Donald Trump, has directed that only 15% of aid will go to African countries because they don’t know how to manage resources.

Is he rrrrrrrrright on that one? Of course he is right. The African’s ingenuity in some arenas of life excels even himself.

These are not just stereotypes about the African; these are facts. Broad generalizations, given; but facts nonetheless. I know there are people who will burst a vein when they hear such things. But everything we are hearing from Trump & co. about the African is hardly news.

Notice that in our story there is nothing unbecoming written about the two white men. If you are thinking they are angels, you couldn’t be more wrong! I have never been outside Africa, but I do not need to travel beyond my house to know that the white man is as rotten as the African is. Indeed, in God’s eyes, every race under the sun is equally rotten. The Bible tells me so.

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

The only difference between the white man, the black man, the Chinese, the Indian, the Arab and any other race that might be on this earth is the diversity, or variety of rot. But it is all rot nonetheless. Whether they are white, black, brown or yellow, we all know what man is capable of. Since this is not a competition, I am not going to write down a list of the evils these other races excel in.  But, given the genetic factors that they possess, it is a given that, in their particular realms, some of these races are infinitely much more dangerous than the African.

These racial and tribal tendencies in men the Bible calls “vain conversation”. This “vain conversation” is who we are. And when the Bible says that we have received it by tradition from our fathers, it means that we have inherited them from our fathers’ gene pools.

Scripture makes it clear that each race/tribe has its own peculiar brand of rot. When the Apostle Paul left Titus in Crete, he warned him,

“12 One of themselves, even a prophet of their own, said, The Cretians are alway liars, evil beasts, slow bellies. 13 This witness is true. Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith” (Tit. 1:12-13).

The spiritual language for culture is flesh. Man is a product of the flesh. I see “vain conversation” all around me – in my own life, in the lives of my wife and children and in the lives of those who surround me.

Man in his intelligence has tried various methods to try and suppress his cultural tendencies and in most cases it appears as if he has won the battle. But “vain conversation” runs deep. Deep in our subterranean consciousnesses, the flesh reigns supreme.

But I love what the Bible says in Colossians 3:9-11:

“9 … seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; 10 And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him: 11 Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all.” (Col. 3:9-11)

That ought to suffice. There is only one weapon that can defeat the flesh: it is the cross. We cannot undo the flesh in us; only Jesus can, through the cross.

Through “Christ crucified” (1 Cor. 1:23), the Bible says we have put off our old man and put on Christ. That means we have put on Christ’s character. That’s why it is not enough to say “I am saved”. We need to go ahead and realize the mystery of “Christ crucified” in our lives.

Putting on the character of Jesus is the greatest miracle that can happen to a man. May we (the church) humble ourselves under the cross of Christ and allow it to break us and to form Christ in us. That way, we will not exhibit the works of the flesh. Instead we will bear and show off in our lives the fruit of the Spirit.

“22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23 meekness, temperance…” (Gal. 5:22-23)

[We reveal the character of Christ in us when we crucify the flesh]

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“A Child of God”

38 Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth:

39 But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.

40 And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also.

41 And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.

42 Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.

43 Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.

44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;

45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.

46 For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?

47 And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?

48 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. Mat. 5:38-48

One of my childhood friend’s father used to say, “The white man is a child of God”. In observing all that the white man was capable of doing – and possibly even his comportment – this uneducated village man saw the pre-eminence that God had granted the white man over the rest of mankind. And he acknowledged it. To this day I respect this man for his words. Those were bold words to say in those days, when everyone else probably considered the white man an imperialist exploiter. No doubt today, in the current atmosphere of worsening racial hostilities, it probably would start a small world war to re-state those words. But I am sure my friend’s father would not hesitate to say them again: he was the kind of person who would stick to his convictions even if you put a loaded gun to his head.

Personally, I too consider that in the world there is the white man first, and everyone else following. That I regard to be the natural order of things. In my perception, I see that, in many ways that we cannot deny, God has placed the white man above his fellow man. That is my personal opinion.

But, of course, that is not the entire truth. It probably is not even the truth at all. This is because the truth under the New Covenant that we have with God is that the true “child of God” can only be one who has been begotten, and is walking, in the Spirit. And being spiritual has to do with character. The child of God, therefore, is one who can show forth the character of God through his or her life, attitude and everything. The white man, the black man, and any man of any color, can only be a child of God if they can bring forth the character of God in their lives. That is the truth.

There is currently a race war going on in the U.S., and it is bringing out the worst out of everyone involved. I will not delve into the murky details but, clearly, when you read the news, you can feel the bitterness, the anger, and the outright hatred gushing out of people’s hearts. That means these things/attitudes were always there, but there was nothing to bring them out. Now a situation has arisen that is stirring the waters, and the water flowing out of people’s hearts is not clean at all; it is muddy.

But this state of war is not peculiar to the U.S. alone. The entire world is seething under an unseen force, and “warfare” is written all across the face of the earth.

Nations are at war with other nations.

Citizens of one nation fight each other.

Even worse is the warfare going on inside our homes as husband fights wife, parents fight children, and relative engages relative.

Most unfortunately comes the admission that in church, too, there is warfare. And the worst part is that it is the leaders who are at the fore-front of this “church warfare”. They fight for the positions of power as well as the money. I believe this is the most inexcusable warfare of all, for it is to these very people that God has chosen to reveal Himself as a God of grace. But God’s people today are so hell-bent on getting their rights, they will fight their way right into the furnace.

All this warfare points to a fall in the character of mankind. Slowly but surely, mankind today is sinking into into the depths of the most spiritually malicious enemy of all – self. But in His words, Jesus pointed to the singular thing that can lift man again and turn him into a true “child of God”: the cross. The touch of the Master, through the revelation of the cross, brings true peace and calm in a man’s heart, because it transforms that man and makes him a loser. A true child of God is a loser. He willingly surrenders his earthly rights, just as Christ surrendered them.

That is why the church today needs a revelation of the cross. We cannot preach to the world what we ourselves are not living. We cannot teach the world character they are not seeing in us.

The New Covenant of the cross is the greatest miracle ever, and we are living right in the center of it. This, therefore, is the day when the church needs to rise forth and shine; to show forth the great riches of God’s grace. To turn the other cheek for your enemy to slap, to go two miles when one is required of us – that is true grace! This is the one single thing that is guaranteed to triumph in the face of all the hatred and violence in the world. Any other weapon will simply backfire, even a gun.

The simplicity in Jesus’ words above is awe-inspiring; and yet, to arrive at this excruciatingly simple state of affairs will require we, the church, to crucify our lives and die to self.

[Below: It is indeed well with our souls, if crucified with Christ]

A Warned Church – Pt.2

According to all that I shew thee, after the pattern of the tabernacle, and the pattern of all the instruments thereof, even so shall ye make it.Exo. 25:9

Many Christians do not understand that God has a pattern in the way He goes about accomplishing His eternal purpose. Many more are unaware of the serious nature of God. They assume that God is a permissive, freewheeling sort of guy and that He does his stuff accordingly.

A serious student of the Bible should know well the life of the Apostle Paul and the part he played in spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul went to places where no other Jew would dare set foot. He also suffered much for the gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus Himself appeared to Paul many times to encourage him. Paul was even taken to Heaven Itself where he “heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter” (2 Cor. 12:4). Yes, the Apostle Paul underwent many experiences, some difficult, some beautiful; but all of them deeply spiritual. It is clear from the scriptures that Paul had a close working relationship with God during his life and ministry here on earth.

None of us could contemplate that such a man as this Paul could find himself denied entry into Heaven. And yet… Paul himself says it is possible he could preach to others and still find himself barred from entering the celestial gates. He says so in 1 Cor. 9:27: “But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.” Paul makes it clear that even he could be cast away!

It is incredible the way modern Christians think they can simply waltz into heaven. They believe they have preferential treatment with God. Yes, I also believe we have preferential treatment, but on one condition – that we crucify the flesh.

During this year’s IAAF athletics games held in Moscow, an incident happened that underlined the importance of doing things according to the laid-down rules. The British 4-by-4 men’s relay team was stripped of a medal position due to a technical fault. During the handover, the British runner overstepped his lane and put his foot ever so slightly on another team’s lane! The team finished third at the finishing line, but due to that slip-up the judges ruled there and then that the team should not collect the bronze medal. Instead, that medal was given to the Canadians, who had finished fourth. In other words, the British team was disqualified. How sad, after all they had accomplished!

It is not simply a matter of feeling pleased because we have been saved. God is gracious by nature and He does many good things for us here on earth, which makes many of us think Christian life is meant to be easy. But God warns us in His Word that we must run just as Jesus Himself ran. We must deny self, take up our Cross and follow Christ. The Apostle Paul says in Colossians 1:24 that he rejoices in his sufferings in the flesh!

The God-is-good gospels being preached today are slanted. They are not telling us the whole truth. The gospel they are preaching is not the gospel we find in the Bible. Here is what we find in the Bible:

“The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: and if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together” (Rom 8:16-17). Note the ‘if’.

“For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake” (Php 1:29).” Note the ‘but’.

This is the gospel we find in the Word of God. Let us so run this race, that we may obtain, as Paul encourages us.