Wednesday, April 30, 2014

To judge or not to judge?

"Don't judge me." I am sure you have heard those words uttered on more than one occasion. Maybe you even said those words yourself. Today I want to examine this concept because it is a fascinating teaching. The bible has a lot to say about judgment. It talks about not judging people, when judgment will come, and the standards that people will be judged by. So, let's examine a few of these passages of scripture that talks about judgment. 

“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? 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? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. (Matthew 7:1-5 NKJV) 
But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner— not even to eat with such a person. For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside? But those who are outside God judges. Therefore “put away from yourselves the evil person.” (I Corinthians 5:11-13 NKJV)

Let's go ahead and examine these two passages. The first person talking here was Jesus. He was saying that we basically need to be minding our own sin.  We have no right to judge another persons sin. We need to first examine ourselves and our own life. He ends the text with "and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye". Now, that kind of throws a wrench in this whole thing doesn't it? He is implying that we can help another person remove sin from their life. Notice though that he said "brother". When you see this in scripture, it is talking about another believer. In summary, we are to first examine our own lives and remain repentant of our own sin. If we do that, we can gently and lovingly lead our brothers and sisters in removing sin from their life as well. Notice though that he says nothing about non-believers.

This brings us to our next scripture where the apostle Paul is speaking. He is teaching to not associate with people who are part of the church and who call themselves brothers or sisters that are continuing in unrepentant sin proudly as if they never knew Christ. He says in that respect, we can judge (but still love and pray for) those in the church. He also confirms what Jesus was talking about in that we are not to judge those who are not in Christ. That is God's job. 

And if anyone hears My words and does not believe, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him— the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day. (John 12:47, 48 NKJV)

Once again, Jesus is speaking here. He is talking about the time that is for judging and the standard by which people will be judged. Those who have accepted Christ won't have to worry about judgement because we have out on the righteousness of God through the blood of Christ. But those who have not accepted Him as He said Himself have their judge. They will be judged by His righteous Word in the last day. His righteousness makes even the best person on earth look filthy. That's the standard you will have to measure up against if you chose to take present your own works before God. 

Judgment isn't for today. Today is not the last day. The bible says that today is the day of salvation. For Christians, your only job today is to love people and pray for them. Serve them and show them mercy just as your Father has shown you mercy.  I didn't repent because I was afraid of judgement. I repented and followed Jesus because He loved me when I didn't deserve love. He offered me something I could never earn. Show that unconditional love to someone else today. It doesn't matter how they have sinned. You have too. Today isn't the day of judgement and you aren't burdened with the responsibility to judge. For those of you who don't know this merciful God who came down and became a humble man and took your punishment upon Himself, I pray that you find Him. He is merciful and longs to be with you now and forever. Yes. There is judgement coming someday. No. We can't judge other people and shouldn't try. Yes. God loves you and He would love to have one less person to judge according to His Word and one more to judge according to the perfect blood of Jesus.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Love Revolution

John 8:1-11: Jesus returned to the Mount of Olives, but early the next morning he was back again at the Temple. A crowd soon gathered, and he sat down and taught them. As he was speaking, the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. They put her in front of the crowd. "Teacher", they said to Jesus, "this woman was caught in the act of adultery. The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?" They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger. They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, "All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!" Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust. When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman. Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, "where are your accusers? Didn't even one of them condemn you?" "No, Lord," she said. And Jesus said, "Neither do I. Go and sin no more." 

This is one of my favorite passages of scripture and it was one I was meditating on this morning. I've been wanting a deeper revelation of the love of God. There are a few things about this story that stand out to me. The first thing that I noticed is that the religious leaders not only wanted the woman punished on the spot, but they also made a public spectacle of her. By dragging her out in front of the crowd, they made sure that what she did was known to everyone. Not only did they want to break her body by stoning her, but they wanted to break her spirit as well. Their desire was to call out her sin for the world to see. I can't even begin to tell you the number of people who have not entered the doors of a church for years because they recognize the Pharisee spirit within the church. Someone at some point in their life has brought condemnation to them for a sin in their life. I know that sin is sin and it deserves punishment. However, what Jesus was doing here was basically putting a woman caught in adultery on the same level as the religious elite of the day. He in effect was making it clear that their secret sin that nobody knows about is equal with the sin this woman committed. If anyone breaks only one commandment, they have been made guilty of breaking the whole law. In the eyes of God, you and I are really no better than the murderer or the drug dealer. We've all sinned. The only difference is grace. Jesus offered the woman grace and mercy. It is interesting to note that Jesus was the only one qualified there to stone her because he was without sin. Let that sink in for a minute. The only one in the world who actually had the right to judge or condemn her didn't do it. That's because  Jesus understood that it the goodness of God that draws people to repentance. It isn't the scary lightning bolts and hell fire judgement that makes people turn away from sin and choose Jesus. It's his love. So, why do people put up billboards in communities condemning homosexuality? Why do people campaign against certain sins? Will it really cause anyone to make a life change? I'm going to say that the answer is a resounding NO! Condemnation doesn't bring about change. In fact, it prevents it. Only the loving conviction of the Holy Spirit brings about change in a persons life. Think about this: What if the teachers of the law and the Pharisees had stoned her anyway? If they had done that, then she would not have had the chance to hear the words. "Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more." Jesus with that one statement gave her mercy in not giving her what she deserved and have her the grace to walk away a changed woman on the inside. 

All around me over the past couple of years, I have seen a love revolution taking place. I know people in the Body of Christ whom I call friends who have gone in amongst drug addicted Juggalos at a music festival and gave food away and prayed with them. They loved people who had never seen real unconditional love in their life and I had the honor a couple of times to go in and help this group minister to them. I have known people who have gone overseas and taken care of the orphans and widows who have no voice or power to change their situation. I've seen a couple go to the girls in the "exotic dancing" business and just love them and serve them and treat them like they are peers and not inferior "sinners". I have both seen and heard of change in the lives of people because the love of God being shown through His children melted their hearts. I have seen these individuals and ministries begin to change the world around them. What if the church as a whole began to go to those places and bring people to the feet of Jesus? What would our world look like? I think it would look a lot like the Kingdom of God.

Monday, April 21, 2014

A dream of where the church is at and where it is going.

Having a finger on the pulse of the church has always been something that I have done. I still believe that the Spirit filled, Jesus loving Bride of Christ is the most powerful force on the earth today. The Lord often deals with me in large scale ways in regards to what is going on in the world and in the church. A couple months ago, I had a dream about the church that I immediately knew was from God. I will do my best to relate to you what was contained in that dream, what it can mean for you personally, and what it means for the universal body of Christ. 

It began with me being in a church service somewhere and we were beginning praise and worship. I immediately noticed that the atmosphere in the room was thick with God's presence. The music began to lift us to a place in God that I myself have only experienced a handful of times in my life. It was like Jesus was standing in the room with us. They began to sing and it was unlike anything I have ever heard. It was not conventional praise and worship at all. It was free, without any restraint. The words just seemed to flow out and the origin was not from Jesus Culture or Hillsong or any classic hymn book. I could tell this was being downloaded from heaven. It is really hard to describe. It was like prophetic singing that Kim Clement does turned up about ten notches and it felt like heaven was singing with us. It was so different in fact that I looked around and noticed that many people were becoming upset with what was happening. It was anything but conventional so I understand. Many people actually walked out until there was only a remnant left in the once full sanctuary. The song ended and there was a time of silence and a little bit of disappointment. A few in the remnant walked out and what seemed like only a moment later came back in with people that they invited off of the street that were in the community. I noticed by the appearance of many of them that they were not part of the "church crowd". They were dirty and not dressed in their Sunday best yet they were captivated when the worship began again. Their entire demeanor and appearance changed before my eyes as they were transformed in the perfect love and presence of God. This time, something was different. This time, there would be no interruptions. It felt like we could bask in His glory forever. 

To date, I have only shared this dream with a few people very close to me. I feel like it's time to share it with everyone who has an ear to hear what the Spirit is saying to the church in this hour. There are changes coming. If you think that going from using a red back hymnal to singing more contemporary songs is a change, that is nothing. God is not going to be impressed with the style of our praise and worship, the style of our preaching, or any preference that we have. The Spirit is saying to the bride that there is a higher place in Him. Go deeper, push in further, and lose yourself more in Him. There will be three groups of people in the church in the coming years. The first group who will not accept change and who want to hold on to the victories of yesterday because that's what is familiar and comfortable. I know that God parted the sea yesterday and brought you out of Egypt and we would not be here today if God didn't do what He did then, but also realize that we have not been commanded to camp out there. We have a land to inherit and we are a Warrior Bride that goes out behind her groom to do war and displace the enemy wherever he is. The second group is the remnant that are left after many choose to die in the wilderness. They will press on for more of Jesus. They are the burning ones. The hungry ones who cannot be satisfied with yesterday's bread. The last group is a smaller group who knows what needs to be done. They have received the revelation of Gods love to the point that they know whom He wants to be in His church. He wants the imperfect ones. He wants the spotted and speckled. He wants those whom many in the church have left outside because they are mean, hateful, sinful, and dirty. There will be a few that go after those people. They will love the unloveable and because of the love of God in them, the church will shift and change to be an awesome thing to behold. A bride that knows what she is without the white garments that were paid for by the One who has called her to His chambers. A bride that knows who she is because of a love that would not stop and not give up. You probably know which group you fall in. All of them will be necessary for the church to move into the last phase before He appears.