Judgement or Conviction?

I used to think that most oft quoted verse from the Bible was John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son that whomever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” (This is probably fairly naive on my part considering I was once in a discussion group in college where a young man gave credit to a Bob Dylan song for the idea that the last shall be first and the first shall be last. I really couldn’t help myself when I blurted out, “Stolen from Jesus!”)

Lately, though, I am starting to think that not very many people actually know this verse. There is one that almost anyone can quote to you: Matthew 7:1, “Judge not, that you be not judged.”

I have thought quite often about judgement in two ways.

The first being the times that I have felt that I am being judged. Most of the time I have felt this way is because of personal conviction. That’s right. I said it. It’s not judgement, it is conviction. What I am doing or how I am acting is not lining up with God’s standard of righteousness. Unfortunately, my sinful nature doesn’t always respond rightly to conviction. Instead, it stiffens its resolve and proceeds to rationalize all the reasons that my actions and attitudes were justified. I cling to my pride and self-righteousness so as not to address the tougher, more emotionally draining, issue of repentance.

Scripture encourages us to respond rightly to the fellow believers who would help us to see our own sin. We all have a spiritual blindness when it comes to our own failings. Sin first deceives us! We rationalize our sin into it fits our self-righteousness perfectly. No being uncomfortable or humble before a righteous God. I think this stems from the original rebellion and pride that came when Lucifer shook his fist at God and declared, “I know what is best for me!”

Hebrews 3:12-15 says:
12 Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. 13 But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. 14 For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. 15 As it is said,

“Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.”

If we profess Christ it is our job to encourage other believers in their growth. This includes allowing them to do the same for us with a right and responsive attitude. Hardening our hearts, ignoring the conviction in us because it is “hard” to deal with and admit to will only lead to a numbing of our spirit. We will no longer be able to see that sin in ourselves and our self-righteous selves will be bolstered.

The second way in which I have contemplated judgement is when I have been accused of being judgemental. We are in a time when standing up for the things that are good and right and true are seen as an archaic and hateful way of thinking. But God’s standard never changes. It is the world that changes, wanting more and more to be left to its own desires and pushing out any indication that they might be wrong. It’s shouldn’t be so shocking, really, as Jesus himself told us to expect this. It is the way of the world, so to speak.

When we as believers are accused of judgement and condemnation the first thing that we should do is check our hearts and motives to be sure that we are not, in fact, doing what they say. However, there is a difference between standing up for righteousness and loving the things that God loves and sitting in judgement on the world. God sets the standard for holiness. He has laid out for us in black and white what he expects and through His son Jesus only are we able to even come close to growing in righteousness. We can never be good apart from Christ.

Speaking boldly of Christ will elicit reactions from those who do not know the truth of God. The cross is offensive. Our words do not bring condemnation, though. We are already condemned by sin. “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” (John 3:18).

Speak the truth in love but do not water it down so it won’t offend those who do not have ears to hear. Bring the gospel to those who need it most and love them as Christ has loved us. And when you are accused by the world as being a judge remember that there IS a judge and someday we will stand before Him so we should hold fast to what He requires of us while we are but sojourners here in the flesh. Ours is not of this world but of the Kingdom of God!

As Romans 2:29 says, “No, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a person’s praise is not from other people, but from God.”

That is the the only praise and, alternately, judgement that should matter.

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