Greg Laurie — The Nonbeliever's Favorite Verse
I am often asked what my favorite verse of the Bible is. That is hard to answer. I have a lot of favorite verses in the Bible. A lot of it depends on what I am going through in the moment. What is your favorite verse of the Bible? We all may have some that we default to. I was reading the other day that according to Amazon the most commonly highlighted verse in the Bible according to the Bibles they sell. Somehow they are able to track this information, which is actually a little scary. The Most highlighted verse in the Bible is Philippians 4:6. "Don't worry about anything. Pray about everything: and the peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, will keep your heart and mind in Christ Jesus". That is definitely in my top ten. Isn't it in yours too?
I don't know what your favorite Bible verse is. But I do know what the nonbeliever's favorite Bible verse is. Let me tell you what it isn't. It should be John 3:16. "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son and whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life". That is not their favorite verse. In fact, most nonbelievers don't even know that verse. Nor is it romans 8:28, "We know that all things work together for good, to those that love God and are the called according to his purpose". Nor is it 1 John 1:8 that says, "If we confess our sin, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness". No. You know what it is. It is Matthew 7:1. "Judge not that you be not judged".
Why do they choose this as their favorite verse? It is basically to get you the Christian off their back. Here is how it usually works. You are talking to them about their faith in Christ. Maybe the subject of their lifestyle or things that they are doing comes up. You say, "According to the Bible that is sinful and wrong". Then they come back with, "Hey don't judge me man". Right. They have to have that in there. First of all is Jesus saying to us that we are not to make judgments? Is Jesus saying to us that we are not to have opinions? Is Jesus saying that we are not to evaluate the behavior and choices that other people make? What does Jesus mean when he says, "Judge not lest you be judged". First of all let's acknowledge that there are people out there who are very judgmental, very critical, and are always jumping down the throats of others. We don't want to be that person.
It reminds me of the story of a guy who wanted to get married. He went out and found a girl and brought her home. His mother didn't like her one bit. He went out and found another girl and brought her home. His mother found fault with that girl as well. Then he went out and found a girl that looked like his mother and dressed like his mother and even talked like his mother. Then his father didn't like her. So that was a problem. You just can't please some people. Let's see what Jesus says about this. Matthew 7 starting in verse 1. "'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. And why do you look at the speck in your brother's eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, "Let me remove the speck from your eye": and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye. Do not give what is holy to the dogs: nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces.'"
What does this mean? 1. As Christians we should be discerning but not condemning. Judge not that you be not judged. Before we talk about what it does mean let's talk about what it doesn't mean. This verse is not saying that a Christian should never make an evaluation. It is not saying that we cannot have opinions. I think sometimes people will misunderstand this verse and assume we are just to love and accept everyone. In a broad sense that is true. We are to love people. When we say accept that means I accept you for who you are. But at the same time my goal, my calling, as a Christian is to try to win the people to Jesus Christ.
So yes I am going to make evaluations. I am going to have opinions. That includes showing my love by speaking the truth. The Bible says, "Speak the truth in love". Ephesians 4. The problem with some is they speak the truth but without love. What they are saying is technically true, but they use the truth of God like a sledgehammer. Kaboom it comes down. That is wrong. That is a sin. That other thing is a sin. Technically that is true. But it is not spoken in love. Others however will love but not speak the truth. "I love you man. I accept you. You can do whatever you want and I will always love you". That is not loving. My goal is to help that person.
What about if there is sin in their lives? Proverbs 27:5 says, "Open rebuke is better than secret love. Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful"? Did you hear that? Open rebuke is better than secret love. A true friend is going to tell you the truth. I heard it put this way. A true friend stabs you in the front instead of your back. There are people that say, "I am your friend" and then they cut you down. They tear you down. They will even work you for information like they are your friend and then spread it around. Then they will backbite. Then there are folks that will come right up to you and say, "I love you enough to tell you this thing". Judas is a classic example of the man who masqueraded as the friend. We read that they come to Jesus and say, "Where did you receive these wounds"? His answer is, "I received them in the house of my friends". Doesn't that make sense?
Sometimes we are hurt the most by the people that we thought were our closest friends. If we are a real friend, if we really love a person, we will (a) make judgments and (b) we will tell them the truth in love but in a very direct way. Just to show that we have to make judgments and evaluations Jesus illustrates in verse 6 and says, "Don't give that which is holy to dogs". Jesus is saying there is a certain group of people that are like dogs. Then he goes on and says, "Don't cast your pearls before swine". Or pigs. In other words don't take the truths of God and waste them on someone that has no interest in them whatsoever.
Here is my point. To determine if a person is a dog or not or a swine or not or doesn't care about what I am saying requires an evaluation. Dare I say it? It requires a judgment. In one sense it is wrong to say Christians should not judge. In fact, Christians should judge. In fact, Christians must judge. But we need to understand what Jesus is actually saying. The word judge means to offer an evaluation. We are even told in 1 Corinthians 6:2, "Don't you know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world will be judged by you, are you not worthy to judge even the smallest matters"? We are told in 1 Peter 4, "Judgment begins at the house of God". Yes we do need to make judgments.
Why do we need to do that? Because one of the signs of the last days is there will be false teachings. One of the signs of the last days is there will be apostasy. It is true that one of the signs is Israel will be re-gathered in their land and surrounded by enemies. It is true that there is going to be a shifting of the superpowers and ultimately a figure known as the antichrist will emerge. It is also true that one of the signs of the last days is people will fall away from the faith. We are told in 1 Timothy 4, "The Spirit tells us that in the last days some will turn away from what we believe and they will follow lying spirits and teachings that come from demons. These teachers are hypocrites and liars. They pretend to be religious but their consciences are dead". A believer must be discerning.
I have heard Christians say, "I don't care about doctrine. I just love Jesus". Do you know that is one of the stupidest statements you can make? If you don't care about doctrine, listen to this friend, you might end up loving the wrong Jesus. You might end up loving a counterfeit Jesus. That would be like someone saying, "I don't care about medicine. I just love to take pills". Are you crazy? "I don't care about aviation and being certified as a pilot, I just love to fly". You know what? I hope you don't care about life either because you are not going to live very long. Doctrine matters. 1 Timothy 4:16 says, "Watch your life and your doctrine closely. Persevere in them because if you do you will save yourself and your hearers".
Here is the problem. Some believers are just gullible. They are not paying attention. That is not how a believer should live. A believer should be discerning. A believer should be thoughtful. A believer should think biblically and run everything through the grid of scripture. A believer should make judgments. A believer must judge. We are told over in the epistle of John, "Stop believing every spirit, but test the spirits to see if they are from God". In other words he is saying stop being so gullible. That is what it doesn't mean. Let's establish what we have discovered. Christians are to make evaluations. Christians are to make judgments. But you say, "Greg Jesus said, 'judge not lest you judged.'" That is true. What does it mean? A better translation would explain it all. Condemn not lest you be condemned.
There is a big difference between making a judgment and condemning. Evaluating and condemning. Don't try to judge a person's motives in the sense of passing final judgment on them. Yes we should evaluate. No we should not condemn. We are to judge for identification. Not for condemnation. There are those that are just hypercritical. They are looking for faults. They are looking for something wrong in another person's life. I heard about an old codger who was always looking for things wrong in the church and in the preacher. One day he went over to the preacher's house to watch him fix his roof. The pastor said, "Are you trying to pick up some tips on building"? The old guy said, "No. I just want to see what you say when you hit your thumb with a hammer".
There are people like that. I am just waiting for you to slip up. In fact, I will take it a step further. I am just hoping you will slip up. When you do, then I can say you are a hypocrite. We are so quick to play the hypocrite card. When someone falls short we say, "You are a hypocrite". I suggest to you they may not be a hypocrite at all. They may just be human. Sometimes we confuse hypocrisy with humanity. News flash. We are all going to sin. We are all going to make mistakes. We are all going to fall short. I am not excusing it. I am just explaining it. It is our nature. There is a big difference between a Christian stumbling and acknowledging it and being sorry for it and repenting of it and if necessary apologizing for it.
There is a difference between that and the person that lives behind a mask and puts on a show and pretends to be something they are not. A hypocrite literally defined is a person playing a part. Originally it was simply the word actor. It wasn't a negative word. It was a neutral word. I am actor or actress. I play a role. That is not me. There are people in the church today that are very good actors. They are playing the part of a committed Christian but that is not who they really are. That is what a hypocrite is. Someone who slips up and makes mistakes and falls short that is a growing Christian. Sometimes we will say things like, "I am just a saved sinner". That is true. But you are also a saint because the Bible says that we are saints when we put our faith in Jesus Christ. A saint is a true believer. Nothing more and nothing less.
Now we come to what this means. Judge not. It means I am not going to make the final condemnation. I am going to leave that in the hands of God. You cannot evaluate a person's heart or motives. Sometimes we do. "I tell you what. Their heart is in the wrong place". How do you know that? "I just know. I have the gift of being critical". Someone actually said that to me the other day. They actually said, "I have the gift of being critical". I said, "I don't think that is a gift of the Spirit". You don't know what their motives are. You don't know what their heart is. God will determine that. You need to worry about what your motives are and what your heart is. We should not judge according to outward appearances John 7:24 tells us but judge righteous judgment.
An unknown poet of times past wrote these words, "Judge not: the workings of his brain and of his heart you cannot see: what looks to your dim eyes a stain? In God's pure light may only be a scar brought from some well-word field where thou wouldest only faint and yield". You don't know the backstory. You don't really know what is going on. So just shut up. Don't condemn and try to judge their heart. You can judge actions. You should make evaluations.
2. Our desire should always be to restore not condemn a person who is living in sin. Paul tells us in Galatians 6, if there is someone who is caught in sin, you who are spiritual should kick them when they are down and tell as many people as possible and condemn them. Right? Isn't that what the Bible says? Someone is thinking, "Does the Bible actually say that"? It doesn't say that. But you would think the Bible said that by the actions of some Christians. That is what they do when someone is down. Here is what the Bible actually says. "Brothers, if someone is caught in sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently, but watch yourself for you may also be tempted. Carry each other's burdens. In this way you will fulfill the law of Christ".
By the way that phrase Paul uses caught in a sin implies it was not premeditated. This is not a person who went out to deliberately sin. It is a person that made some wrong choices and found themselves in a place of vulnerability and fell into a certain sin. They sort of got caught in a trap. You have got to go to that person and help them. Here is an interesting little twist on this story that Jesus is telling us bringing us to point 3. I can't see a speck in my brother's eye if I have a telephone pole in mine. Look at verse 3 of Matthew 7. "Why do you look at the speck in your brother's eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, 'let me remove the speck from your eye': and look, a plank is in your own eye"?
By the way I think Jesus said this with a smile on his face. I believe he was using humor. I think the people reacted just like you did. It is kind of funny. It is interesting the word that he uses because the plank speaks of a very large piece of wood like a big tree stump or something like that. The word speck is actually speaking of sawdust. If we were to loosely paraphrase it, why are you worrying about the sawdust in your brother's eye when you have got the 2x4 in yours. You see the absurdity of the situation. Here is another twist. The words that Jesus used for the speck or the splinter and or the log speak of the same material but in a smaller dimension. The reason sometimes I can spot certain sins in other people's lives is because those are my sins. It is actually more about me than it is about them.
That brings us to point 4. Some people just don't want our help. You are going to go some people and try to restore them and help them and they are going to blow you off. Jesus illustrates this in verse 6. "Don't give what is holy to the dogs: nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces". Pearls before swine is communicating the idea of giving something valuable to someone who does not care. Here is the point. There are some nonbelievers you will go to and they will laugh in your face. You tell them Jesus Christ is the Lord. They will laugh at you. They will blow you off. What do you do with such people? You need to pray for the leading of the Holy Spirit pray you know the difference between someone who is really open and someone who is not.
The next time someone says to you, "Judge not lest you be judged" say, "Hey man that means condemn not, lest you be condemned, and I am not condemning you. That is for God to do or not to do". However I love you enough to tell you the truth. I am not judging you. Just think of me as a fruit inspector. I am not seeing real good fruit here. Let's help you get right with God. That is the answer to that. The most important thing for any of you who may not yet know the Lord is believe in him now because he is only a prayer away.