James Merritt - You Be The Judge
So let me begin by telling you today about a man named David that is in heaven but Teresa and I met him back when we were young in fact we would have been married a couple of years. I was in seminary full-time and I was pastoring full-time. I'd just gone actually to my second church which was quite a step up in terms of responsibility. So frankly I had my hands full and meanwhile we had just had our first child, James Jr. He was just a month old. And so I had gone to this church in preached in this church and in view of a call and they had elected us. They'd called us to the church on a Sunday morning that afternoon, we had kind of a meet and greet with anybody who wanted to come and meet the new pastor. Now we didn't know anybody at the church and we made a commitment, when we first got married not matter what sacrifice we had to make the Teresa would be a stay at home mum.
So I'm in seminary, I'm pastoring full-time, I'm you know loaded up she's got a you know, a little month old baby and we needed help, but we didn't know where to find it. So we're in the church on Sunday afternoon and people were sitting there with, I don't know there was, I don't know how many people, probably 100, 125 people and they'd ask questions and so forth. And then we had prayer, then people wanted to come up and meet me. Well, I noticed out of the corner of my eye coming down the aisle, there was this heavyset barrel chested man. And I mean, the moment I looked eyes, a moment I looked at him, I'm telling you sirens and alarm just went off in my head. I said, "Okay, this guy is trouble". He had a Marine crew cut and a big gap right in the middle, his teeth, probably that far apart he had a big gap in his teeth. Belly was hanging over his belt buckle not not making any of this up.
His shirt was unbuttoned at the bottom, I could literally see his belly button sticking out. He was wearing some old wrinkle trousers that barely came to the top of his ankles. And to top it all off, he was wearing white socks. That's a big deal because my dad always told me growing up "Son be aware of men that wear white socks. because it always meant number one, they were cheap and number two, they were against everything". So here comes this guy down the isle I'm thinking, "Okay I said something he didn't like, this did not go well". And I braced myself and I was expecting the worst. And he came up to me and here's all he said. He said, pastor, "My name is David Roark, I have wife and four daughters". He said, "We don't have a lot of money". He said, "But Carol and I and our daughters would love to help you watch and take care of your little baby boy anytime you want us to".
Well I'll be honest, I blew him off. I remember we got in the car to go back to the seminary. We were gonna move down to the field the next week we got back, we were driving to the seminary and I got out of the car and I told Teresa. I said, well I said, "I met, my number one troublemaker". She said, "Who"? I said that, "That David Guy". She said, "David"? I said, "You know the crew cut guy with the gap". and she said, "That guy was kind of dressed funny". I said, "Yeah, as I'm telling you right now. I'm going to keep my eyes on him". Well I did, David and Caroline became another set of parents for us. They became a third set of grandparents to my baby boy and later to Jonathan. They became just like family and they're still that way today. I almost missed out on one of the greatest friendships I've ever had. I almost missed out on one of the sweetest, most precious, most treasured relationships I've ever known. You know why? Because I violated perhaps our cultures favorite Bible verse.
You know what it is? You know what, you know the Bible verse that most Americans love more than any Bible verse at all. It's this one, "Judge not that you'd be not judged, judge not that you be not judged". Now it's not surprising that Christians like me have at least one favorite Bible verse. But what is surprising is, there are a lot of non-Christians that have a favorite Bible verse. And for the majority of Christians in America it is this verse because this card is played everywhere. Somewhere every day in our country, you hear it all the time. Who are you to judge me? You can't judge me, you can't say what I'm doing is wrong. Who are you to point your finger? Who are you to even try to bring judgment to me? Honey, even people that don't believe the Bible, even the people that don't even like the Bible. They love to quote this verse with relish. "Judge not, that you be not judged".
And I'll be honest, there's a tendency to go one to two extremes. Look, I know I get it there are some people the moment they get out of their bed they exchanged their pajamas for judicial robes. I mean, they get up and they're the kind of people they're gonna judge anything and everybody that moves for just about any reason. There are people like that, I pastored them I know they're there. But I don't think that's our biggest problem today. The other extreme, which I think is more prevalent is more and more people now won't judge anything or anybody for any reason. They just want to go along to get along. They get up every day and their attitude is "I here no evil, I see no evil. I speak no evil. I don't wanna be accused of being judgemental at all".
There's a reason why I want to deal with that today is because we're in a series we've been calling From There To Here. We've identified five number one reasons, five big reasons why people who are not believers look at Christianity and say, "You know what? I just can't get there from here. I can't make that trek, I can't cross that bridge". We've given five reasons, today we deal with the last one and you can guess what it is. It's judgmentalism, it's one of the five biggest barriers that keep people from coming to church and it keeps people from coming to Christianity. Because people, they equate the church today with this holier than now attitude that screams what they are against and whispers what they're for. And unfortunately too many people here are criticism but they don't see our compassion. They hear the condemnation, but they don't feel the care.
And I wanna humbly admit for a good part of this we're pretty much guilty as charged. We are and we just need to admit it. But we're gonna look today at what I believe in my opinion is maybe the most misunderstood, misused, misapplied verse in the entire Bible. By the way it's not just unbelievers who misapply this verse it's also believers who make the same mistake. David Glahn you probably never heard of him. He is a professor at Yale University. He actually survived an attack by the Unabomber, he's one of the few guys that lived. He explained something, I didn't know this. The word judgmental is a surprisingly recent usage. Listen to this, if you go back and find a dictionary, 1970 you won't even find the word judgmental there. We didn't even use the word back then but it was only recently that the noun judgment was begin to be used in a negative way. Up until that time, it was a good thing to be a judge. It was good thing to judge things that were right and judge things that were wrong. It was used in a very positive honorable way. But today judgemental is something that's harsh is something that's negative, is something that's pejorative.
So what we're gonna do today is we're gonna dive into exactly what Jesus meant and exactly what Jesus didn't mean. We're gonna look you're exactly what Jesus said exactly what He did not say, but let me just say this. I wanna humbly say this in a really mean this, if you're one of those people who either have left the church or you won't go to church because of judgmental Christians because we scream what we're against, we whisper what we are for and you've been hurt because of Chris's overbearing judgmentalism. I just wanna say two things. Number one, I apologize, I asked on their behalf, your forgiveness. We don't wanna be that way, I can tell you as pastor of this church, we do not want to be known as a church where people find judgment. We wanna be church where people find grace. So if you're one of those people and you you've been hurt, your family has been hurt, your parents were hurt, whatever. And that's why you kinda cut us out of the picture. Would you just give us one more chance? You've come to the right place that you're gonna hear the right word.
So let's just look clearly at what Jesus meant by what Jesus said. He actually said three things. Number one he said, "We are to judge honestly," by the way I'm in Matthew chapter seven if you wanna get your Bibles out. I'm in Matthew chapter seven. Jesus said, "Judge, not that you be not judged". Matthew 7:1, okay let's look at what he said. The word for judge literally means to discriminate or to make a difference. Now here's what you need to understand. That word is not always used in a negative fashion. Nowhere in the Bible is it always used that way as it is here. Here's what it means here. When Jesus said, "Judge not that you be not judged". What He meant was, to offer a criticism that's either unfair or unjustified. When you do that, you're being judgmental. When you condemn something, you criticize something but it's not just, it's not justified, it's not fair that is being judgmental.
And keep in mind Jesus is doing this in the Sermon on the Mount, He's talking to disciples. He's talking to the church, he's talking to believers. And here's what He was saying. He was teaching that true discipleship was and is saying in effect, he was what he was saying. "You wanna be a disciple of mine. Then you need to understand this. If you're going to follow me use should be the least judgmental of anybody". And yet he said, "You may battle being more judgmental than anybody". That's why He didn't say this to the unbelievers, He said this to the believers. He didn't say to people that didn't attend church. He said it, the people who did attend church, he said, "Look you, if you're go ahead and follow me, you shouldn't be the least judgemental, but you've gotta be on your guard". You may tend to be the most judgmental.
And let's be honest for people who attend church and attend church a long time, who tried to live the Christian life, who believe it is important to obey God's Commandments. Can we, let's just be honest. It is easy to fall into this holier than thou attitude. It's really easy to look down our noses at people who don't live up to our standards, who don't reach our standards because it's so easy for us to elevate our preferences over God's principles. It's so easy for us to judge people on what we think they ought to be and what we think they ought to do. Now, before we go any further, you need to understand this. We've got to differentiate between condemning a sinner and condemning a sin. Because as you're gonna see in a moment, judgment is right. If it's done the right way, in the right time with the right people, with the right spirit, otherwise it's wrong.
You say, "Well, I got a question how do you know, when you've crossed the line? How do you know when you're doing the right thing? How do you know when you're doing it the wrong way? How do you know"? All right, here's the principle when your standard of calling anything wrong is based on anything other than the clear teaching of a moral command in the word of God you're being judgmental. And we'll say that again when your standard of calling anything wrong is based on anything other than the clear teaching of a moral command in the word of God, you are being judgemental. When I was a boy growing up, there were people who said, "It is wrong to go to movies". There were people who said, "It is wrong to play cards". There were people who said, "It is wrong to dance". They're being judgmental. It was their preference, it was their opinion but it was not based on any clear teaching in the Word of God.
And when you judge someone's motives rather than their methods, you're being judgemental. When you judge, why people do something rather than what people do, you're being judgemental. When you judge other people based on your opinions, your feelings, your self-based standards and you do it in a condemning way that's either unfair or unjustified you're being judgmental. Having said that, listen carefully. It is not wrong, it is never wrong to judge an action or to judge conduct when God's word plainly says it's wrong. So let me just make you, if you don't hear anything else, hear this next statement. It is never wrong to call a wrong, wrong. When God calls it wrong. That's not being judgmental, it is never wrong to call wrong, wrong when God calls it wrong.
I'll give you some very simple examples. I am not judging anyone when I say adultery is wrong. Not too long ago I confronted a man who's attended this church who moved in with a female. I confronted him, I said, "What you're doing is wrong". The Bible calls it fornication. As matter of fact, all sex outside of marriage between a man and a woman is wrong, that's not being judgemental, lying is wrong. Stealing is wrong, pride is wrong, hatred is wrong, envy is wrong, racism is wrong that's not my judgment. That's what God's word plainly teaches. So those are the things I don't have to judge. You know why, God's already judged them. I'm just saying what God has said. By the way let me just say this. You can even use the right standard and still be judgmental if you judge someone with the wrong spirit or you condemned them without having all the information?
Here's a great example. I read the other day about a girlfriend that wanted to call her boyfriend. His name was Mike, but when she dialed the number she hit the wrong digit. What so happens she got the number of a man who had the same name as her boyfriend. So the woman, this woman answers the phone and this girl says is Mike there? And the woman said, "Well, he's in the shower". And the girlfriend said, "Would you please tell him his girlfriend called". And hung up? Well after an hour, he hadn't called back. Well, she just hit redial and call the same number this time a man answered. He said, "This is Mike". Well immediately she recognized that that was not her boyfriend's voice. And she said, "You're not my boyfriend". He said, "I know it's what I've been trying to tell my wife for the last hour".
See you can't judge until you have all the facts. You may think you're doing the right thing but if you do it in the wrong way, for the wrong reason, you're being judgemental. And the reason why we have to be so careful and make sure that we're judging things honestly is because of the original principle that Jesus laid out. Keep, listen to what he said, this is so sobering for me. Jesus said, "In the same way, you judge others you will be judged. And with the measure that you use it will be measured to you". Here's what Jesus said. Just as there are certain physical laws that govern the universe, there are certain spiritual walls that do the same thing.
For example, Isaac Newton's third law of motion maybe the most famous one of all, you've heard what it is, right? For every action, there is an opposite and equal what? Right, reaction. For every action there is an opposite and equal reaction. Jesus gave what I call the law of measures. Jesus said, "The way you judge others is the way you will be judged". How you judge other people is exactly how other people will judge you. So when Jesus said, "Judge not that you be not judged". The first thing He was really saying was judge honestly. Here's the second thing Jesus said, "We are to judge humbly," We're to judge honestly right way, right place, right standard, right reason. But He says, "We are to judge humbly".
Now we're gonna get into the meat of what Jesus was really saying because he explains what he meant now in verse one and he asked two questions. He asked a why question and a how question? Matthew 7:3, "Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, let me take the speck out of your eye when all the time there's a plank in your own eye". Now Jesus had a great sense of humor. I can assure you if you'd been back in that day there had been laughter going on, because Jesus paints this picture that's just hilarious. He said, "Here's a man focusing like a laser beam on a speck sawdust in one man's eye. While he's got a two by four sticking out of his own". As a matter of fact, the word for speck literally means splitter.
Now, do you know what a spec is, right? You know what a speck is, and you know what a splitter is. A splitter is just a piece of a plank, that's all it is. So here's a man that's got a splitter in his eye, but you've got a plank in yours. A splinter is just a piece of a plank, what was Jesus saying? He's saying something that we all know is true. This is a great psychological truth, I'm not even a psychologist. You know what we tend to criticize in other people so much of the time. We criticize faults and other people that we have in our own lives. We just project it on to them, let me give you a great example. Have you ever noticed that people who gossip, gossip about people who gossip. You'll notice that, people who gossip gossip about people who gossip Finding someone else's fault is just a chip off your block.
See, there's just, and by the way this is just a basic principle of human nature. Look, I'll do the same thing. We tend to look, we tend to see a splitter in someone else's eye as a log, we tend to see a log in our eye is just a splitter. I'm gonna confess. I tend to look at other people's faults with a microscope and I look at my own faults with a telescope. I tend to really take notice of somebody else's faults but I give myself a lot of grace to my faults. You know why? Because we all have blind spots, did you know that? By the way, I didn't know this to listen tell you this message. Did you know that everyone literally has a blind spot? I didn't know this, you're an entomologist you know this. The place where the optic nerve passes through the optic disc in your eye is a literal blind spot that we all have. Everybody has it, it's about 7.5 degrees high and about five degrees wide.
You say, "Well, why don't we notice them"? Because our brains have been wired to kind of just blank them out. It's the reason why no matter how great a person you are, or you think are we're all guilty and I'm one of them. We are all guilty of misjudging, misinforming, misunderstanding, now I wanna be honest. I pastor five churches. I have never pastored a church yet, I've pastored five of them that I didn't have what I call speck inspectors, every church I've ever pastured has had speck inspectors. Every church ever pastored has what I've called splinter specialist. I mean, they are experts at finding fault. Their spiritual gift is often criticism, they love to pass judgment and we all have to battle the same problem. Say we've got 2020 vision. When it comes to his fault. We've got 2020 vision when it comes to her fault. We've got 2020 vision when it comes to their fault. But when it comes to our faults, we're blind as a bat.
The point that Jesus is making is very simple. He says, "Look before, you're so quick to judge other people. Why don't you start with yourself"? I got convicted just working on this message and this thought came to me. You know James maybe if you started judging other people more maybe you judge other people less. So here's a thought, if you wanna see what you look like, what do you do? You look in the mirror. If you wanna see what other people look like what do you do, you look out a window. What Jesus is saying is before you look out the window, look in the mirror, that's what He's saying. He's not saying don't look out the window that's not what He said. He said, "Before you look out the window, look in the mirror. So the next time you spot a splitter in someone else's life make sure you don't have a log in your own".
So the point is, it's not that we're not to judge wrongdoing, we are. It's not that we're to call out whatever is wrong if God calls it wrong, but he says "We are to do it with all humility". So here's a good rule to follow, confession of our false must always come before criticism of other's faults. Before you criticize anybody to judgment, "Lord, am I guilty of this? Is there something in me I need to correct"? There was a little girl that was watching her mother do dishes one evening. And she suddenly noticed the way the light shined on her mother's hair, that there was some white hair mixed in with her mother's red hair. She said, "Mother," she said "Why are some of your hairs turning white"? Well, the mother thought, that, "this is a great teachable moment". She said, "Well honey, that's because every time you do something wrong and every time you make mother cry every time you break mother's heart one of her hairs turns white". She was feeling so smug and so good in what she had said. And then the little girl said, "Well mama, how come all of grandma's hairs are so white".
Now here's the point we're to judge honestly but we're also to judge humbling. Before you go looking for the spec, look for the plank. Before you look out the window, look in the mirror. Then Jesus kind of draws it all up with a bow with the third point that a lot of people don't want to miss or don't want to know are they purposely missed. Jesus said, "We are to judge helpfully, honestly, humbly but helpfully". Now we're gonna see why it's so important to take a text and put it in context. There's an old saying, I learned in seminary that any text without a context is just a pretext and that's true. And there's no more, there's no more verse objected to this and this verse in Matthew chapter seven, "Judge, not that you be not judged". And if you just leave it there, you said, "Well I guess I can't say anything about anybody. If they doing wrong, I just got to keep my mouth shut". No, you gotta put it in context and this is a great example.
See if Jesus had just stopped at verse one and gone onto another topic, I'd been done 30 minutes ago, 20 minutes ago. I mean I kinda settled the matter, right? It would be an absolute statement, don't judge or you'll be judged. Okay, I won't. But then you go down to verse five and you say, "Oh, now I understand what you meant". Listen to what Jesus said. He said, "You hypocrite". What's a hypocrite? A hypocrite is someone that spots the speck but doesn't look at the plank, that's a hypocrite. He said, "You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brothers eye". Now put a circle around that word, hypocrite. That's who He's talking about, hypocrite. You remember we talked about this earlier. Hypocrisy is one of the five barriers to believe, here's what a hypocrite is, you're ready. Here's what a hypocrite is. A hypocrite is someone who always looks out the window, but never looks in the mirror, that's a hypocrite. A hypocrite is someone who always focuses on the splinter, not the plank that's a hypocrite.
So notice what Jesus said. He did not say, "Don't you ever look out the window and judge anything that's wrong, you be quiet. Hear no evil, see no evil". No, he didn't say that. What he said was, "First look in the mirror and see where you may be wrong". And the reason why most people misunderstand what Jesus said is because to be honest, they try to make Jesus say something He never said and they try to make Jesus means something that He never meant. Because there are two key words in this verse the word first and the word then. See, everybody wants to remember the first clause, first take the plank out of your own eye but they wanna forget the then clause. Then you take the speck out of the other side. So what Jesus was saying was real simple. Yes, there is a right time and there is a right way and there is a right place. And there are right people who can exercise, right judgment.
However Jesus said, "Judgment should begin at home". It should start with you, it doesn't begin with the other person you see out the window it begins with a you that you see in the mirror. So here's the point, contrary to what our culture believes. Jesus is not forbidding judgment that's done at the right time at the right place and the right way, with the right spirit. As matter of fact, listen to this. Did you know that one of the marks that you are a spiritually mature Christian did you know that one of the marks you are a really fully devoted follower of Jesus Christ is that you judge others accurately. Don't take my word for it. A man by the name of Paul, the apostle Paul wrote these words. He said, "The spiritual person". You consider yourself spiritually.
So we all try to be, then you judge all things. That's not a contradiction, that's a clarification you judge all things. It is not wrong to confront a person if there's sin in that person's life, as a matter of fact let me just go further. Not only is it not wrong to confront a person with sin if there's sin in their life, it's wrong if you don't. It's wrong if you say nothing, parents need to be doing that with their kids from the time that they're young. When you see some walking down a deadly dark destructive path, you owe it to them to judge what they're doing and to tell them they're going the wrong way. Now you do it honestly, you do it humbly, but you do it healthfully. You do it because you want what's best for them.
So what Jesus is actually doing is, he is commanding us to take the speck out of our brother's eye that involves making a judgment. All Jesus is saying is, but before you do that you get your own house in order. Before you go for the speck, you go for the plank. Before you look out the window you look in the mirror and He says, "When you do that then you will judge helpfully and not hypocritically". So let me just make this real plain. So you say, "So what are you telling me"? Here's my sermon in a sentence. Jesus is not telling us in this passage not to judge, He's telling us how to judge. He's not telling us not to judge, He's telling us how to judge. Listen, people that say, "Judge, not that you be not judged".
Let me just tell you how ignorant that is. You couldn't even live your life on a daily basis, if you didn't make judgments every single day. We make tons of judgements every day between good and evil, right and wrong, danger and safety. When to say something and when to say nothing we do it all the time. Of course we're to judge, everybody judges, but we need to do it helpfully, humbly and honestly.
Now let me just stop right here and say this. We do series of messages here all the time and I realize I get it, I'm not dripping when I say this, but we kind of tend to leave series on the floor, right? We go through a series of whatever we might, maybe it's on marriage, its own family, it's on this it's on that. And we'll go, "Boy, that was a good series. You know, what's next"? I do not want you to do that with this series. I don't want you to leave this series behind. Let me tell you why Our number one job as a church is what Jesus called The Great Commission. We're to make disciples and baptize them and teach them to follow Jesus. Where to go after people who don't know Jesus and do everything we can to lead them to Jesus and inspire them to live the cross shape life.
That's our role, that's our job. What kind of society would we have if nobody judged anything for any reason? If we didn't have judges who pass sentences, who incarcerated criminals, we have anarchy. What would happen to the rule of law, if everybody who sat on a jury decided when it came to a rapist or a child molester or a murderer or a terrorist, what if they said, "Well, who am I to judge, who am I to condemn you"? I mean after all, judge not that you be not judged. No, it's just the opposite. Because of judgment listen, because of judgment that's right and good we've got child labor laws, we've got civil rights. Because of good judgment we've got the Bill of Rights.
And the truth of the matter is we cannot shirk our responsibility when it comes to judgment. Yes we must always be looking for the plank in our own eye. Yes we must always look in the mirror first but once we confess it own up to it, deal with it and remove it, once we've done that, then we need to help other people pull the splinter out of their own eye. So Jesus said it perfectly when he said this, "Stop judging by mere appearances that's hypocrisy, but instead judge correctly".
So we wrap it up. No, you never judge a tree by its leaves but you do judge tree by its fruit. You don't judge a book by its cover like I did with David Roark but you do judge a book by its content. No, you don't judge a person by the color of their skin but you do judge a person by the content of their character. And here's what I wanna close with. All of this makes the Cross of Jesus shine and sparkle like a diamond in the Noonday sun because you know what Jesus did on the cross.
Listen to this. Jesus didn't need to have a speck in His eye, not even a speck but you know what He did. He took the plank, He took the log, He took the two by four that's been in every eye that has ever been formed and he put it into His and He accepted the judgment that should have been ours so that we should never have to be judged. He is the Supreme judge of the universe. His judgment of all judgments is the most humble, the most honest, the most helpful and the most Holy of all. And if you allow him to judge your sins before you die He will never judge your sins after you die. So let's all follow in His footsteps. Would you pray with me right now, with heads bowed with eyes closed? I wanna say a word to those of you who for whatever the reason. Any or all the reasons we've been given in this series, you quit church, you gave up on church, You know, you've given up on Christianity it's not for you.