I don’t believe in accidents in God’s kingdom. You could call it a coincidence, but I think it was a divine appointment that I happened to click on a facebook link posted by another church planter, Pastor PJ of Crossview in LA. And halfway through watching this video, it dawned on me, hey, I know this person. He’s my youth pastor. No way, this is so cool. What’s the chances that I heard that facebook video and what’s the chance that I would recognize Pastor James. Luckily, Pastor James are aged well and he was recognizable because the last time I saw him was 1992 when I graduated from high school. And what’s the chances that God would call him to plant a church here literally right down the street from where I live in Alhambra. We met and I felt instantly comfortable. I am thankful to God for providing me another friendship in the Lord.
I was spiritually lost high school while I was attending a Presbyterian church in Philadelphia where Pastor James was serving as youth pastor. Pastor James took a few of us on a mission trip to Merida, Mexico. I thought I was saved because I grew up in the church, but looking back, even in high school, I wasn’t born again. And so I didn’t go to that mission trip for God or for the people. I went for a girl. The whole time I was supposedly on mission for God, I had my own secret mission. Instead of filling my mind with the Word of God, I was filling my mind with 80s love songs. Back then everyone had walkmans. Anyone know what a walkman is? I am dating myself. I remember listening to Phil Colins’ album Invisible Touch over and over. And I think I even asked out this girl that I had a crush on during the mission trip or right afterward. Luckily, she rejected me because she already had a boyfriend. I never confessed this to anyone. Not even to my wife. I just got here and I’m already bearing my soul. Help me, Jesus.
Thankfully, God had mercy on me when I went to college and he saved me in 1993 when I was a sophomore in college. I served as a bi-vocational college minister for many years. In 2000, Jackie and I got married and we left that year to help plant a church in Tokyo. We returned in 2004, I went to Fuller seminary, got out of seminary in 2006. 3 kids later, I moved here to Alhambra in 2007. Got ordained in 2011 about 3 years ago. I was part of a team that planted a church just down the road in Old Town Pasadena, Hill Community Church. Our inaugural service was Nov 2012 and, by His mercy, I’m still standing and trying my best to love Jesus and His people.
I love the name My Father’s House. We struggled for a while trying to come up with a name for our church, Hill Community. The name Hill refers to the hill of Calvary, or a city on a hill. Now that I think about the name, the Hill reminds me of the hymn, on a hill far, far away stood an old rugged cross. It can conjure images of a lonely, cross-bearing life. But My Father’s House, I love it. I want to run to My Father’s House. How great that right now, Jesus is preparing a room for us with our name on it in our Father’s House and soon we will get to dwell with him forever. Great name.
Read Matthew 7:1-6.
Have you ever said something and what you said or what you wrote in an email was taken completely out of context? When that happens, it’s frustrating. Hey, the other day, I heard you say, fill in the blank… Come on, that’s not what I meant. And you have to explain yourself. It’s frustrating when someone takes a statement you made out of context and uses it in a way that it was never intended.
This type of thing happens all the time in politics. A journalist will take one line, one phrase even, from an hour and a half speech and write an entire article and distort what one of the candidates actually meant. And the writer will either rally support or opposition depending on where the writer stands. It happens all the time.
If you’re the victim, there is nothing more frustrating. So, we shouldn’t be surprised that this happens with the very words of Jesus. Where what he said is distorted and twisted and taken out of context. This passage is perhaps one of the most misquoted, most misunderstood passages in all of Scripture.
1 Do not judge, or you too will be judged.
How is this principle taken out of context? Look at what Jesus says, don’t judge. Society has taken this verse out of context to promote an attitude of tolerance. Esp. in America, we’re supposed to tolerate anything and everything. So if you are tempted to speak out, or question, or criticize, or evaluate, the response you’ll probably get is–hey, wait a minute, remember what Jesus said. Don’t judge. You are not supposed to judge anyone, right?
Is that what Jesus meant, that we are never to judge at all, ever? First of all, it doesn’t make sense practically. Why? Because we use judgment every day of our lives.
When your faucet is leaky and you need to call a plumber, what do you do? You call several plumbers, you get estimates, you read reviews. You interview the companies. Do they have integrity? Are they going to do good, honest work? You compare, you evaluate. What are you doing? You’re judging them.
We use judgment in our families. I have 3 boys. Timothy is 10, Jeremiah is 8 and Elijah is 4 and I have to make a judgment call when it comes to what movies our families can watch. I would be a bad father if I let them watch Friday the 13th or The Exorcist. It’s not easy finding a movie that is suitable for a fifth grader all the way down to preschool. I think we exposed Elijah to Iron Man and the Avengers a bit too early because we started to get notes home that Elijah during playtime got 2 kids by the head and slammed their heads together. I think he must have been copying the Incredible Hulk or something. So we had to make a judgment call. For Elijah’s sake, no more Super Hero movies so lately my kids have been watching Little House on the Prarie together.
To say that Jesus is saying never to judge, it doesn’t make sense practically. In addition, it doesn’t make sense biblically. There are two basic steps when you take the Bible and try to apply it to your life. The first step is to always interpret Scripture in its immediate context. Every verse of Scripture is located within a paragraph, every paragraph is found in a chapter, a chapter is part of a section, and the section is a subset of a book, and the book is situated within the totality of the Bible. That’s why it’s important to study the entire Bible and learn from the whole counsel of God.
For example, here in Matthew 7, in order to understand chapter 7, I need to know chapter 6 and chapter 8, where we came from, where we’re going, not to mention the historical context. Jesus is not saying do not judge under any circumstance. How do I know this? It’s because in the very same paragraph – Jesus urges us to first deal with the plank in our own eye. Then, you can deal with the speck in your brother’s eye. How can I do this without judgment?
Also, in the same chapter – verse 6, you have to decide who’s the dog and who’s the pig? The pearl is the gospel. When preaching the gospel or sharing the gospel, we can’t just indiscriminately shove it down people’s throats. You have to discern the Spirit’s activity. Is God moving in that person’s heart? You have to pay attention to your audience. Are they receptive to the gospel? Are they ready to hear it? By speaking persistently to a person who is unwilling to listen will often do more harm than good. When to share and when not to share, that takes judgment.
Jesus gives counsel from the other side of the table a few verses later. Instead of judging the audience, Jesus tells us that we must judge the preacher.
Matt 7:15-20 [READ]
Beware of false prophets. They may appear sheepish on the outside, but on the inside, they are ferocious wolves. How can you tell a true prophet from a false one? You will know them by their fruit. What is Jesus asking us to do? He is asking us to exercise judgment. Examine those who claim to be sent from God. Examine the fruit of their lives and their message. If you find the fruit to be bad, stay clear of them.
Jesus says, don’t judge, yet 3 times in the very same chapter, Jesus teaches us how to use right judgment. When helping our brother with the speck in their eye, when discerning dogs and pigs from genuine truth seekers, and when evaluating prophets to see whether they are legit or phonies.
Furthermore, we have to consider the fact that this verse–do not judge–is found within the Sermon on the Mount. And the whole point of the Sermon on the Mount is judgment. It has been argued by some commentators that the Sermon on the Mount is the most judgmental sermon that’s ever been preached. Jesus is pronouncing judgment against the self-righteousness of the Pharisees. 3 times in chapter 6, Jesus calls them “hypocrites.” For 3 chapters, Jesus is training us to be able to tell the real deal from pretenders, how to evaluate authentic faith from dead religion so that we don’t end up like the Pharisees and settling for a religion that will not save us in the end.