Text: Rev 1:9-20
Summary: There is only one Judge — Jesus Christ. Therefore, repent for judging others and judge yourself instead.
Heavenly Father, we just thank you for sending Jesus to come and die for us. Thank you, Lord Jesus. We deserve wrath when instead you showed us so much mercy. And Lord, may we show mercy to one another. Thank you, Lord, for allowing us to be together like this at a time like this. We pray that perfect love of God would come into our hearts and cast out all fear. Thank you, Lord. Be with us. Anoint the preaching of your word. In Jesus Name, Amen
I had a message earlier this week and it was from Revelation. So let’s turn to Revelation.
I’ll start in Revelation 1:9.
9 I, John, your brother and partner in the tribulation and the kingdom and the patient endurance that are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. 10 I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet 11 saying, “Write what you see in a book and send it to the seven churches, to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamum and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea.” 12 Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, 13 and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. 14 The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, 15 his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. 16 In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength. 17 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, 18 and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades. 19 Write therefore the things that you have seen, those that are and those that are to take place after this. 20 As for the mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand, and the seven golden lampstands, the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.
I was going to preach today from Revelation 2 about the church in Ephesus and I had everything all ready. And the church at Ephesus was an amazing church. They toiled, they had patient endurance. They had discernment. But the one thing they lacked was first love. And Jesus who stands among the lampstands, and the lampstands are the churches, He says that if you do not repent of this, He will remove the lampstand.
And so clearly Jesus does not judge by appearances because if we were to see a church that is working hard and toiling and enduring and discerning, well, we would say that church is a strong church. But Jesus says this one thing they lack is they lack love for Jesus.
And it’s as if the first things that they are commended for are just worth a few points. But the one thing they lack is worth 50 points. And so if you lack that one thing, you’re failing the test and so I thought I would preach a word about first love. And I had it all ready, that we are to remember, to repent, to repeat. I had these mnemonics ready.
But as I was praying this week, I just kept going back to Revelation 1 that we just read. And at the time I didn’t even realize it was Palm Sunday. And if you read the texts that are connected to Palm Sunday, there’s a lot of judgment.
Last week, there was a lot of good news that we’ve been washed by the baptism of repentance. We’ve been washed through the word and Jesus saying in John 13 that you are clean. You’ve been bathed fully and just your feet need to be washed. And of course, the final washing through His blood and the gifting of a good conscience, that we don’t retreat with an evil conscience, but we actually keep moving toward God.
And I was so encouraged last week that there is a boldness in which I can approach the throne of grace with all of my sins. So I thought this message would be in line with that, and just abiding in His love and returning to first love.
And as I did that God gave me a different word. And the one point that I want to talk about today is, there is only one judge and His name is Jesus Christ. Therefore, do not judge one another but judge yourself properly.
There’s a lot of judgment in the Palm Sunday texts. Jesus says in John 12 that He came not to judge but to save the world. So His first coming was one of grace. Jesus is full of grace. But a second coming is full of truth. It is a coming of judgment. And the texts that follow after the triumphal entry, Jesus judges the temple. He cleanses it.
Jesus curses a fig tree which is a symbol of Israel and their religious system. He gives parables about Israel, the parable of the two sons, the parable of the tenants, the parable of the wedding feast and then He ends with seven woes to the scribes and the Pharisees.
Going back to our main text in Revelation 1, we like to think of Jesus as a Lamb of God, and He is. So humble, so gentle, so full of grace. But do you know Jesus as the Lion of Judah? Ferocious against sin. A punisher of sinners. A judge. And the description of the unveiled Christ here in Revelation 1 is so fearful that when John even as a beloved disciple in John 1:17, he falls at His feet as though dead.
Do you know Jesus as this kind of figure that if you see Him for as He is, you will fall on your face and you will wish that you had died? This Jesus brings a message to all the churches that bear His name.
20 As for the mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand, and the seven golden lampstands, the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.
And so the lampstands, it’s clear when Jesus is walking among the lampstands, He’s walking among His seven churches.But there is some debate as to who are the stars. It says seven stars are the angels. And the word for angel is messenger. And so it can be a heavenly messenger, an angelic being.
It can also be a pastor, elder or a leader and I think it depends on the context. In Revelation 1:1, it’s talking about a heavenly messenger, an angel. And then in Revelation 2, when the angels of the various churches write down the judgment against the churches, I think again it’s a heavenly messenger. But in Revelation 1 when it’s talking about the stars that are in His right hand, I think He’s talking about pastors and elders and spiritual leaders of each church.
And I was so encouraged that I am in His right hand. At the same time, whatever message He has for me that is of judgment, I think also it is for sure for me, but it’s also for the church. And so I was asking, if there’s any judgment against me or against Hill Community, what would He say?
The thing that God gave me homework to do this week was to read all the verses about judgment and about how Jesus is the judge. He is the judge of the living and the dead. All the warnings against our judgments against one another. At the end of history, at the end of the age, in Revelation 20, there’s a series of books that are open. And one is a set of books, plural. And there is a book, singular.
11 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. 13 And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. 14 Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15 And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
So there was a series of books, a set of books plural, and it contains all the things in which we have done. And then there’s a singular book, a Book of Life, the Lamb’s Book of Life, and if your name is written on it, you are saved.
And I bet whoever is saved, you look at the other books that say what you’ve done and they will validate that you indeed have been born again. Conversely, if your name is not written in the Book of Life, you will look at the set of books, all that you have done, it will confirm why your name is not written in the Book of Life.
Jesus as He is the judge and the only judge of the church, He walks among the seven lampstands and He says five times to these seven churches, I know your works. I see what you’re doing. I see how you’re living. Not what you say with your lips. I see your life. And then He gives judgment.
And out of these seven churches, five are in serious trouble. I wonder what the percentage is today among all the churches who bear His name, if Jesus were to give a message of judgment through His angel and if the pastor of that church could perceive it, what would be preached to the churches? What kind of condition are the churches of God spread out across the world?
The first text is Matthew 7 about judgment.
1 Judge not, that you be not judged. 2 For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. 3 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. 6 Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.
Jesus is making such a visual metaphor for what happens so often in His church. That especially for people in leadership, we look at other people and we see all the problems that they have.
Spouses do this to the spouses, parents do this to kids, church members do this to other church members. Churches do this to other churches. Denominations do this to other denominations. It is a huge problem.
And things that we’re observing may be accurate, the speck might be there. But is Jesus happy when we are assuming the position of judge and judging everybody else and failing to judge ourselves?
Because that’s the metaphor He’s giving. He’s saying, the speck that you see in your brother is like a little splinter and do you know you have a telephone pole coming out of your face? And if you think that Jesus is judging leaders of Israel, the scribes, the Pharisees, the chief priests, they are going around judging everybody including Jesus. And they are so blind to their own sins.
And I wonder, is this a sin that Jesus is bringing to our attention today? Our judgmental attitude toward one another? The next passage that I read was John 8 about the woman caught in adultery. And she is surrounded by Pharisees. They are ready to stone her.
And Jesus says in v7:
7 Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.
And are we so quick to pick up a stone and to throw it at somebody else? To say that your sin is so evil, and I am so righteous. Are we so quick to throw stones? There are times in the church when we do need to judge one another. Paul says we don’t judge the world, but we do judge the church.
Places like 1 Corinthians 5 when there is sexual immorality and an incestual relationship between a mother and a son. But the Corinthians were just so excited about their gifting and they were talking about their gifts and exercising their gift, while this type of sin is in their midst, and they’ve just been ignoring it.
And in 1 Corinthians 6, there are two brothers who are going to a secular court to try to sue one another for money, and because they’re so greedy, and these types of sins we are to judge in the church. If there is black and white sin, we do judge.
But often, the judgments that we make are not about sin. Places like Romans 14
10 Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; 11 for it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.” 12 So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.
And the debate here in chapter 14, is about food. That there are weaker brothers who say, I can only eat vegetables, that pork, I feel condemned and dirty when I eat it. And they’re the weaker brothers. and then they’re stronger brothers say, No, you’re free in Christ to eat anything. And the stronger brother is actually right.
But Jesus says that we are not to judge the weaker brother because they’re not convinced in their own mind and by their own conscience that it’s okay to eat meat. And don’t we judge one another in the church? When it comes to matters of food, and matters of what days are more significant than others, and all kinds of regulations. For example, at our church this is how we do it.
I was part of a legalistic church some time ago and after Jackie and I got married, we went and we had some time alone, as you would expect a newlywed couple. But I got a call from my pastor, and he rebuked me for being selfish. He says, did you know that you’re supposed to come to my house where all the staff are gathered, and you’re supposed to thank everybody for doing all this work for your wedding?
And I was so confused. I was like, I didn’t read that verse in the Bible. It doesn’t say that after your wedding, you’re supposed to go to your pastor’s house and bring food and thank everybody. I mean, that would be nice. I mean, now looking back, yeah, I was immature and in my own world. It would have been nice if I thought about it, but I wasn’t sinning. But I was condemned as a sinner.
And many churches have all these rules. This is how we do things, didn’t you know it? You’re such a sinner, you’re so selfish. If you were more mature and your heart was right with God, you would have understood this unspoken rule and you would have followed it and you would have obeyed.
And think about the Pharisees. They’re going around adding rule after rule after rule. They added 613 rules for every scenario, and they’re nitpicking everybody. And James talks about this in James 3.
Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. 2 For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body.
So the Lord this week clearly told me as a teacher, you need to be so much more careful with your tongue. You need to be so much more careful with your tongue and with what you say because you’re representing me as a teacher. You need to be so much more careful with your speech.
And then he expounds on it more in James 4:10. He says,
10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. 11 Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. 12 There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?
I never noticed v11. That every time I’m speaking a word of judgment against somebody else, and we’re not talking about black and white sin, we’re talking about preferences. We’re talking about immaturity, we’re talking about maybe ignorance, and they just don’t know any better, but they’re not sinning. We’re talking about these types of secondary issues, not sin. When we judge one another based on those types of things, it says you are acting like a judge.
It’s like, we’re looking at that person in that scenario, and we’re saying they’re sinning. And we’re adding a verse to the Bible. RIV, Ray’s International Version. I would add this law because God skipped it. And based on my assessment, I am judging that person.
And when you do that, you’re saying, Jesus, you’re not the judge. I am the judge. I know best. I can assess this person in this situation and they’ve sinned. When it actually was not a sin. It was just our blindness and us assuming in our pride the role and a position as a judge.
And Jesus says, you’re speaking evil against one another every time we do this.
9 Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door.
Every time we grumble against somebody, every time we critically assess somebody else, every time a spouse speaks a word of judgment against a spouse, or a parent does this against a child, or a church member that does this against another church member. Or a church does it against another church, or denomination against another denomination, what we’re doing is saying, Jesus, you are not the judge. You’re not standing at the door. I got this. I am the judge.
And I don’t know about you, but I felt in my spirit early in 2020 that this is going to be a difficult year. I felt in my spirit it was going to be a difficult decade. And sure enough, we are in a very strange 2020.
And this word from James 5 that Jesus is standing at the door never resonated and resounded more true in my spirit. Jesus is standing at the door.
I want to end with Matthew 9. If you get a chance, please watch The Chosen TV series that Jimmy and Jeralyn recommended. It is excellent. And one of the main characters there is Matthew. And this is Matthew’s salvation account in Matthew 9:9-13.
9 As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him. 10 And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples. 11 And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 12 But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 13 Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”
And Matthew as a tax collector. And I thought that the TVs series did such a good job of depicting Matthew. He understands what it means to be judged. He is judged by the Romans because they’re just using him. He’s judged by his own people who think he’s a traitor because he’s collecting exorbitant taxes against his own people. His own family turned on him. He’s even judged by the religious leaders who look down on him as dirty. And so he is utterly alone.
He is depicting what it feels like to be judged by every single person. And the amazing thing is Jesus doesn’t judge him. Jesus came to save people like him, and like you and me. And the homework that he gives to the Pharisees that are so quick to judge Jesus for dining with these riffraff, these low lives, these sinners, tax collectors, prostitutes.
He says, I am a great physician, I came to heal the sick. If you think you don’t need a doctor, if you think you’re righteous, because you’re smug in your self righteousness, I didn’t come for you. But if you understand that you are a sinner, who is sick and you need a doctor, I came for you.
And Jesus gives homework. He says, I don’t care about your sacrifices. I don’t care about all the things you do in church. I don’t care about all the missions that you’ve gone on. I care about this one thing. Do you know mercy? Do you know that you need mercy? Do you know that I desire mercy? I desire that you learn mercy, I desire that you show mercy. Do you understand why I came? I came to show mercy.
And yet, the thing I have been repenting of this week, and if it’s my repentance, it is a repentance for Hill Community. We need to repent of our judgmental attitude toward one another. For our pride and forgetting that there’s only one judge and it is not me and it is not you.
The best thing that you can do during this Passion Week is bring yourself before the Lord Jesus, who is the only judge and ask Him to judge you correctly. And for yourself to judge yourself correctly. The problem is that we’re judging other people while still having a log in our eye. The problem is the blindness. Bring yourself before the Lord Jesus this week, and ask Him to judge you.
Not out of condemnation, not out of anger, but out of a desire to set you free so that you can show mercy to other people. Yes, we will call out sin when there is actual sin. But many things that we think are sinful are just immaturity, ignorance, preferences, they don’t know any better. And in those cases, which is the vast majority of cases, we should just show mercy to these people.
Okay, let’s pray.
On this Palm Sunday, something switched in you Lord. You’re so gentle, you’re so humble, and you died as a Lamb that was taken to slaughter. But the Lion was starting to come out as we read about the cleansing of the temple, as we read about the cursing of the fig tree, as we read about all the parables which were directed at the scribes and the chief priests and the Pharisees.
The Lion of Judah was beginning to roar. And we know at the end of the age, Jesus when you return, many of us will just fall flat on our face when we see you, you as unveiled in full glory, we will just fall flat on our face. We will be so ashamed that we acted as if we are the judge.
Thank you this week that you were so merciful to me that you wanted me to learn mercy. You showed me my judgmental heart, how quick I have to assess and to pronounce judgment. And I can look at other people and I can list out many things wrong. But when it comes to myself the list is so short.
Lord, shouldn’t it be the other way around. Shouldn’t I have many things that I am repenting of, and that we are repenting of and then we occasionally help one another with the specks in our eyes. Occasionally, we call out sin, and we ask various people in the church to repent.
But for the most part, Lord, you want us to deal with ourselves and to judge ourselves rightly. Lord we ask in this passion week, that you as the righteous judge, would walk among the seven churches, all the churches of God, that you would walk amongst every believer. And as we come before you, you would shine the light on every corner of our heart, every sin that has been unconfessed, things that we were just blind to. I pray this week, you will begin to unveil them before us. I pray that this week we would weep over our sins that put you on a cross.
Lord, it is such good news that you’re giving us advance warning that the judgment begins today. We are not the judge. The judgment of ourselves begins today. And you’re giving us advance warning so that when the end comes, we’re not caught off guard. We’ve already repented. And on that judgment day, our name has been written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. And the other books that show what we have done, it will validate that indeed, we’ve been born again.
We pray that you would be merciful to us, patient with us. We’re so hard of hearing. We’re so blind. I pray that you’d walk with us gently and patiently during this passion week. Thank you Lord. In Jesus Name we pray, Amen