MESSAGE DELIVERED: JULY 2, 2017
This will begin the last major section of “The Sermon On The Mount”, and this theme of judgement and discernment will resonate all through it. In verse 1, the term “judge not” carries the connotation of “condemnation”. The use of our mental faculties, always tempered by our “love for one another”, is frequently required as we encounter various individuals or situations.
But at the outset the passage is dealing with the condemning, faultfinding attitude that is often coupled with a blindness concerning one’s own failings. The person who so coldly judges others, can probably expect to BE judged BY others, in the same way.
But the larger focus of verse 1 is: that it is God Who will do the Judging. Just as we saw in chapter 6 verses 14 and 15, He will forgive those who forgive others, and He will refuse to forgive those who ALSO refuse to forgive others.
Nothing here will mean that a Christian can never render judgement of any kind, or at any time. New Testament Scripture is filled with the exhortations to “mark them that cause divisions among you”, from Romans 16:17, or “receive not” the one who brings a faulty doctrine, from 2nd John 10.
In John 7:24 we’re told “do not judge according to appearances, but judge with righteous judgement”. So what He is doing here is forbidding harsh judgements, and demanding the exercise of both moral and theological DISCERNMENT. God has made us to be thinking, feeling creatures, but we are never to allow our FEELINGS to overrule SOUND thinking.
In 1st Corinthians chapter 5, we’re told that we have a DUTY to judge those who have FAILED in their spiritual responsibility, and whose failures then impact the church. We are never to attempt to judge another’s inner motives, as only God knows that…and we are never to judge based on some prejudiced information…nor are we to use our OWN personal prejudices in dealing with the failings of another.
The common understanding within the church is that we are NOT supposed to JUDGE others, but we ARE to be ‘fruit inspectors’.
When we deal with the perceived failings of another, we should always keep in mind that, as verse 2 states “with whatever ‘measure’ you use, whatever STANDARD you might cite in condemning another…(remember, that is the FOCUS of this verse…CONDEMNING another)…but whatever standard YOU use in condemning someone else, is the SAME standard by which you will BE judged. And that very statement should make us understand that LOVE has to be a part of our Judgement.
It’s probably true that, if we were judged in ETERNITY, based solely on the way WE have judged others in life, we would likely have condemned ourselves. That term in verse 2 that says “that you be not judged” probably refers to ULTIMATE judgement, when we stand before God at the end of the age. That truth should always guide our discernment, as we deal with others.
Then verse 3 says “why do you look at the SPECK in your brother’s eye, and do not regard the PLANK in your own”? The King James Version uses ‘MOTE’ and ‘BEAM’. Those are CARPENTRY terms…the SPECK, or MOTE, refers to a tiny flake of sawdust, while the ‘PLANK’ or ‘BEAM’ refers to a TIMBER, or specifically a RAFTER one would use in building a roof.
The incongruity between the two terms refer to a SMALL fault, and a HUGE fault. And the use of the term, ‘brother’, tells us that this means another disciple, and NOT necessarily someone from the WORLD. It IS important that we need to maintain the spiritual integrity of the Church. And to do that, the obvious sins of a member, MUST be dealt with. And the 18th chapter of Matthew tells us how we are to go about that.
But first and foremost, we must judge OURSELVES, before we even consider judging someone else. That is the reference in verse 5, “you hypocrite!” meaning the INCONSISTENCY of IGNORING one’s OWN faults, while POINTING out the much SMALLER faults of someone else.
So the hypocrite’s ERROR is NOT his understanding of another’s fault, it is his FAILURE to use the SAME standard on HIMSELF. And if he were to deal WITH his ‘large fault’, (the PLANK in his own eye) then he would be able to see CLEARLY, to deal with the ‘SMALL FAULT’ of the brother.
But then verse 6 specifically REQUIRES us to Judge others. He said “Don’t give that which is Holy to the DOGS, and don’t cast your pearls before SWINE. And obviously, Jesus didn’t mean LITERAL dogs and pigs. So He is referring to other PEOPLE that we will come in contact with, and here is where that ‘DISCERNMENT’ comes in. HOW do you KNOW if the person you are dealing with IS a ‘dog or ‘pig’?
This is talking about those people to whom you have presented the Good News of the Gospel, and who then responds with anger or hostility. To THOSE people, you are NOT to KEEP trying to get them to hear you. “Holy” things are valuable, and should only be given to those who are able to receive them and appreciate them.
In Matthew 15 there is the story of the Canaanite woman who came to Jesus begging Him to help her demon-possessed daughter. But Jesus refuses, saying it is not GOOD to take the CHILDREN’S bread, and give it to DOGS. But the WORD for ‘dog’ that He used there, is different to the word used in chapter 7, verse 6. The word used in chapter 15 is actually “little dogs” meaning one that was kept as a PET. And that Canaanite woman used the same term back at Him, when she said “But even the LITTLE DOGS get to eat the CRUMBS that fall from the master’s table”. Then Jesus acknowledged her FAITH, and granted her request.
The dogs and pigs cited in verse 6 are both UNCLEAN animals, and since the context of this teaching deals with DISCERNMENT, the believer must be sufficiently aware of the people he or she deals with, to tell the difference between those who simply don’t want to hear the Good News, and those who are VISCIOUSLY OPPOSED to it.
When you encounter that type of person, you don’t keep TRYING to FORCE the Gospel on them, since doing that may place yourself at risk of harm.
In verses 7 and 8, the words, ‘ask’, ‘seek’ and ‘knock’, ALL refer to attitudes of PRAYER. And it’s interesting that if you take the first letters from those three words, they still spell “a.s.k.”.
It has been said that THIS passage is OUT OF PLACE, given the REST of the teaching, which concerns judging. But actually, what Jesus does here is give the believer an ALTERNATIVE to Judging. IF you will ACTIVELY seek the Lord, concerning the ‘perceived faults’ of this other person, you may find that the other person isn’t really at fault to begin with, or you may be given an orderly way of dealing WITH that other person.
Each of those three words, “ask, seek, knock”, are in PRESENT tense, suggesting perseverance in prayer will be helpful in dealing with others. God has promised to answer all genuine prayer (verse 8). So everything we need for spiritual success when dealing with others, is promised here. Anyone willing to go to God in fervent, sincere prayer, WILL receive an answer. All the blessings and provisions of God, are available to those who will with persistence, go to God in prayer.
Verses 9 and 10…Jesus gives us the reasons WHY we should have confidence that God will answer our prayers, and He uses EARTHLY fathers as examples. What earthly father, who when his child comes to him saying they are hungry, will, instead of food, give them something that is useless, or even worse, something that is harmful?
The use of the word, “evil”…”if you being EVIL…” is the same word used in chapter 6: verse 13…“deliver us from evil…”. Here it refers to the fact that all humans have a SIN NATURE, and are DRAWN to evil. But even such sinful people are kind to their children. So how much MORE will GOD, our Father, give good things to those who ask Him? The understanding is, God DELIGHTS in giving His Children what they need as well as what they want.
Verse 12 is retelling of what is usually called “The Golden Rule”. The use of the word, “therefore”, is intended to look BACK over what has just been said, and then draws a conclusion FROM that. In this case, the conclusion calls for introspection.
When dealing with others, those you may not be really familiar with, you should ask yourself what things do I appreciate when dealing with others? What things bother or upset me, when dealing with others? And then understand if these things affect YOU, they will likely also affect those you deal with in the same way.
So it just makes sense to treat other people the way you yourself prefer to be treated, with the understanding that those ‘others’ will do the same in their dealings with you. Jesus closed that simple statement by saying “for this is the Law and the Prophets”. Jesus has endorsed this same line of teaching many times, most notably when He said “Love your neighbor as yourself”. If we could simply ACCEPT this truth, and live by it, all the rest of the teachings of the Law and the teachings of the Prophets, would be unnecessary. Just treat others the way you want to be treated. No better course of human action has ever been invented.
Verses 13 and 14 is the image of two gates, two roads, and two destinations. The ‘wide gate’ leads to the road that will be traveled by all those who believe in ‘false religions’, or NO religions at all. EVERYbody is welcome, and everybody MUST travel this road, from the day they are born. It is WIDE and SMOOTH, LEVEL and EASY to travel on. This ‘way’ will make no other demands of you. Just enjoy an easy journey that will eventually lead you to The Lake of Fire! The JOURNEY is EASY, but the DESTINATION is HORRIBLE!
But He also tells about ANOTHER ‘gate’…a NARROW gate. This means the entrance to this gate MUST be by a PREDETERMINED plan. If you insist on your OWN RULES…your own WANTS…your own DESIRES…you will never FIND this Narrow Gate.
But, if you are willing to accept GOD’S teachings, GOD’S demands, then you can step OFF that Broad, Easy path, and enter the NARROW Gate. You MUST be willing to accept that GOD is RIGHT, and everything ELSE is WRONG! And then, having ENTERED the Narrow Gate, you begin traveling the NARROW path. Unlike the BROAD path, THIS one is NOT easy to travel. There are BUMPS and POTHOLES. The path itself is STEEP, leading constantly UP-ward, and because of this, not MANY will choose to travel it.
Christ Himself IS that Narrow Gate…and He has told us many times that following Him will NOT be “easy”. In Matthew 10:38, He said “He who does not take up his cross and follow Me, is not worthy of Me”. In John 15:18 He said “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you”. In Acts 14:22, PAUL taught “…we must through many tribulations enter the Kingdom of God”.
If you think you can follow Christ, and still remain friends with the world, or if you think that another religion appeals to you more, or is a better ‘fit’ for the way YOU think…if you think you can make it to Heaven by doing Good Works, or by making LARGE donations…whether you realize it or not, you are NOT on the NARROW path, and at the end of your life, instead of the HEAVEN you were looking for, you will find only eternal suffering.
In Matthew 22:14, Jesus made the statement, concerning these TWO CHOICES…”Many are called, but few are chosen”. The Gospel Message, the CALL to repentance and Salvation, has gone out over the whole world. On Calvary’s Cross, Jesus suffered to pay for EVERY sin ever committed. But only those who will ACCEPT that Sacrifice as payment for THEIR OWN sin-debt to God the Father, will choose that Narrow way to Heaven.
It should break the heart of EVERY Christian, to think of all the people out there, who are being deceived into following FALSE teachings…following a FALSE gospel…thinking their sins can be forgiven by a MAN…or that they can be saved by having WATER poured on them.
There are SO MANY…even in so-called CHRISTIAN churches, that are being deceived, and lost…and that, largely because those of us who HAVE the TRUE GOSPEL will not SHARE it with ANYBODY!
You know all the excuses…”I don’t know enough”…”I’m not brave enough”…”It’s the PREACHER’S job to do that”. So many excuses, but NONE of them VALID! Jesus told us He would send The Holy Spirit, Who will be with us forever, and will EMPOWER us, for witnessing. So any EXCUSE you may come up with for NOT witnessing, means you’re calling JESUS a LIAR. And how do you think THAT is going to go over, on Judgement Day?
In verse 15 He said “Beware of false prophets…”. This is an appropriate warning, following the “Two Paths” teaching. Since many people ARE on the WRONG path, it should be OBVIOUS that they are being MISLEAD! Those FALSE prophets have ALWAYS been WITH us. They are purposefully misleading people, to ENRICH themselves…or to STROKE their own EGOS. There are many reasons WHY false prophets do what they do, but all of them are WRONG, and they keep a LOT of people deceived, so they can’t SEE the Narrow Gate, or even understand that they need to TAKE that Narrow gate.
“SHEEP’S CLOTHING” is a perfect description of preachers who have DISTORTED or DENIED the TRUTH of the Gospel. They LOOK like a harmless LAMB, but in reality, they are just seeking to DECEIVE and DESTROY all who are gullible enough to believe them, like WOLVES among the flock.
Let’s say that a person is walking along the Broad Path, and approaches the NARROW Gate…and standing there beside that Narrow Gate is a guy who tells them “You are a SINNER! You MUST repent and follow Jesus. LEARN of Him, and SHARE His Love with others”!
And the OTHER guy standing there by that Narrow Gate says “Naw, don’t listen to that nonsense. You’re a GOOD person! God LOVES you! He wants you to have this EASY road to travel on. Just bring your money to me and you’ll never have ANY problems”!
WHICH do you suppose that lost traveler is going to LISTEN to? The one who says “You will have problems on this difficult path, but eventually it leads to Heaven”…or the one who says “C’mon, God wants you to take it EASY…this WIDE path is GREAT…let’s stay here”!?
The notion of “Sheep’s Clothing”, I believe, and I’m giving my own opinion here…I think the idea of ‘false prophets’ wearing ‘sheep’s clothing’ is especially relevant today, since so many so-called “Shepherds” have taken to DRESSING just like the people sitting in the congregation. They actually don’t even dress as well as a lot of the ‘sheep’ they are supposed to lead.
IF a man can proclaim to have received a CALL upon his life, to be a PASTOR…and that word means ‘shepherd’…and he’s gonna lead a flock, but he is NOT going to DRESS like a pastor…he’s gonna dress like the SHEEP…if a man can stand at a pulpit, wearing blue jeans and tee shirts, and still proclaim the Coming Kingdom of God, then God bless him. But I believe the pulpit is SACRED…that it is the place where God’s Word is expounded…that it is meant to be HOLY!
I go back to the Book of Exodus, and read how God demanded His priests be dressed, and He dressed them from the SKIN out, in clothing that was meant to SET them APART from the people, for the TASK that He has for them. They were to wear these special clothes as they ministered. And when they were through, they were to take them OFF, and dress in their OWN clothes.
The church today, at least for a while, has replaced Israel. The PULPIT has replaced the ALTAR, and the PASTOR has replaced the PRIEST. But HOLINESS has NEVER been replaced. I know this is an OLD soap box, and you might be tired of hearing it. But I feel the need to express HOLINESS when I stand to minister to you. And I have pledged before God that I will attempt to DRESS the part.
But for now, there just might BE someone here who is right now standing beside that Narrow gate. And if so, I have to ask you…IN order to GAIN an eternity in God’s Heaven, where a special place is being prepared just for you…where you will dwell in peace and safety forever…are you willing to look at the Cross were Jesus died, and confess that YOU are a sinner, just like all the rest of us, and YOU need a savior? Are YOU willing to accept Jesus’ Sacrifice as payment for your sins, and take that first step onto that Narrow Path that leads to Glory? The path is difficult, but you will have ALL these other people beside you, to HELP you, and the LORD to help you, and you WILL reach the Kingdom. Are you willing to come today, and make that profession?
Or ARE you already saved, but you know you haven’t been doing what you should? Or maybe are you willing to finally say “Thank You, Lord, for Saving me.”? “Now how can I serve You?”
God has a plan for every life. But only when you are completely surrendered TO Him, will He make that path known to you. I can guarantee that following God’s Plan will be the BEST life you can HAVE! IF you’re willing to follow Him. So, are you?