Judging, Part 4
Let’s continue our examination of how to judge correctly in the Lord—simply put—by not judging. Those who do not judge will make judgments. Those who do not proclaim their own judgments will proclaim the judgments of God. Those dead to self will speak the mind and heart of Jesus Christ. Just as Jesus was totally dependent upon the Father, so too we are to be totally dependent upon Jesus Christ. Jesus says:
John 12:49 – For I did not speak of my own accord, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it.
Those truly in Jesus Christ who are dying to themselves and their opinions about who is right and who is wrong will speak not only what God tells them to speak, but also in the manner they should speak it. They will know when to overturn tables and when to sit gently by a well and just share the gospel. If you haven’t read Parts 1-3 in this series, I encourage you to back up and start with #1 because all of this needs to be read in succession to really be clear. We left off with:
Proverbs 1:23 – If you had responded to my rebuke, I would have poured out my heart to you and made my thoughts known to you.
If you want to be empty enough to self in order to speak the judgments of God, then you will have to prepare yourself to be rebuked and crucified with Christ in some very painful, real, and honest ways.
I want to speak for a moment to those of you who are babes in Jesus—that have just come to Jesus Christ. Very often somebody will come to Jesus and others tell them, “God has great plans for you.” What they mean by that is you will receive an abundant life in a worldly way rather than a life of humility and brokenness. If what they mean by “God has great plans for you” is the humility and brokenness, then I agree with that. God does have great plans for us—great plans of being crucified with Christ. If you are young in the Lord, then learn to live out Lamentations 3:25. If you have been in the Lord for years and this is all new to you, then you need to live it as well.
Lamentations 3:25 – The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him;
What a grand promise! Every church and ministry proclaims that. Our books in our Christian bookstores proclaim it.
Lamentations 3:26-32 – It is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD. It is good for a man to bear the yoke while he is young. Let him sit alone in silence, for the LORD has laid it on him. Let him bury his face in the dust—there may yet be hope. Let him offer his cheek to one who would strike him, and let him be filled with disgrace. For men are not cast off by the Lord forever. Though he brings grief, he will show compassion. So great is his unfailing love.
Is that what you mean by “great plans” in the Lord? Oh, it is great to be humbled of pride, and emptied of our own judgments, self-righteousness, wisdom, and energy. In other words, if you pray by your strength it means nothing. If you study the Scriptures in the power of your flesh it means nothing. It means nothing! Those of you who are young in the Lord, sit down in the dust, and bury your face in it. “There may yet be hope” as Lamentations 3:29-30 says: “Let him offer his cheek to one who would strike him, and let him be filled with disgrace.” This happened in the lives of the disciples. Look at how the disciples followed Jesus Christ. Jesus came to Peter, for example, and said, “Come follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” After Peter saw the great catch of fish, he fell down and said, “Go away from me. I am a sinful man.” But Jesus called him anyway. No doubt Peter, in the back of his mind, felt that was easy enough. A lot of you did. You came to Jesus Christ—you accepted him as Lord and Savior—you were broken, shed some tears, and BOOM. Now, the church and everybody else tells you to be filled with joy, claim the blood of Jesus, and if anybody brings any judgments or corrections in your life that comes from the devil. You just need to ignore those people. They don’t have true faith in Jesus. But, as you look at the life of the disciples, as they followed Jesus for three and a half years, they couldn’t do anything right. Jesus rebuked them at every turn. Everything they did was totally wrong and Jesus constantly corrected and rebuked them. Even at the Lord’s Supper they said they would never betray or deny him, yet Peter did. It wasn’t until he saw Jesus clearly portrayed as crucified on the cross that he really was broken and ready for the Holy Spirit to speak with this kind of judgment. So, if you want God to work this spirit of judgment in you, then get ready for some major crucifixion. You will be rebuked about everything you do, especially if you are just beginning this whole process. You might have been baptized thirty years ago, but are just now really beginning the narrow road walk. Those of you who have just come to Jesus Christ, instead of settling in with the doctrine your church tells you or your own thoughts about reading the Scriptures, sit down and be rebuked. Offer your cheek to those who would correct you, to those who understand what we are talking about. You don’t have anybody in your church like that? Weep and wail before the Lord, and cry out to God. He will work it even though it is more difficult. If you find someone who understands this, then offer yourself. Go to them and say, “Strike me! Rebuke me! Correct me! Dig deep! Show me! How do you hear the Holy Spirit on this? How do you get emptied like this? How do you become crucified with Jesus Christ? How do you clearly see him portrayed as crucified? How is all of this worked?” The disciples went out and preached the gospel, healed the sick, and they came back rejoicing and Jesus said, “Don’t rejoice at those things.” They could not do anything right. How often did Jesus say, “How long do I have to put up with you? How long do I have to stay with you?” Are you willing to be corrected and to be broken like this?
Lamentations 3:25-30 – The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD. It is good for a man to bear the yoke while he is young. Let him sit alone in silence, for the LORD has laid it on him. Let him bury his face in the dust—there may yet be hope. Let him offer his cheek to one who would strike him, and let him be filled with disgrace.
Do you want to speak like Jesus spoke? Do you want his Holy Spirit? Do you want the blessings of the cross? Then, be filled with disgrace.
You may be thinking at this point: Who is perfect enough to judge? Only Jesus is perfect enough to do that, and who are we to think that we can ever get to that place? Well, that is the whole point. If you wait until you are perfect to let God to work within you—this spirit of judgment, righteousness, and holiness—then you will never speak. You will never share the gospel. In Philippians 3:12 we find Paul saying:
Philippians 3:12 – Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.
Paul said he was not perfect and had not attained perfection. That is the whole mystery of the cross. As you hang on the cross and see your sin more clearly, as you are drained of physical energy and power, then you become dependent upon God. The more you become nothing, sensing your nothingness, the more you see your sin, the bolder you will speak. Now, that may seem totally backwards, but you will understand it as you begin to live it. Again, Paul said in Philippians 3:12: “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” In fact, this sense of humility and brokenness within Paul is overwhelming at times.
2 Corinthians 4:1 – Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart.
As we looked at in our last section, the only way to achieve this kind of emptiness, to have the Holy Spirit really dwell in us so that we can say all of the things God wants us to say in the manner in which he wants it said, is by being rebuked. When we are rebuked, it makes us feel weak and shameful. It makes us feel empty and broken like we can’t do anything, and it is very easy to lose heart. That is why Hebrews says: “For the joy set before him he endured the cross.” Through all of this pain, misery, and brokenness that God will work in your life, there will be many times you will want to give up—but that is just the place God wants you to be. He wants you to reach a place where you want to give up so that it is his Spirit giving you the power to go on. “Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart.” (2 Corinthians 4:1) When Paul rebuked and corrected powerfully and boldly, he sensed his own weakness. He felt his own pain deeply—in fact, even deeper than the people he rebuked because they don’t see their sin and are not really letting the blood of Jesus Christ covering their life. Paul would often look at his life, efforts, and all that he did and lose heart. He wanted to give up. When God begins to work the cross in your life, you will want to give up. You will say, “I can’t do anything right. I’m constantly rebuked and judged by God. I don’t feel worthy of this.” You will sense this in your heart. In 2 Corinthians 1:8, Paul said, “We despaired even of life. But this happened so that we might be dependent upon God.” Being crucified in Christ means that you lose your strength and abilities, you slowly die, and then God raises you from the dead. It is by his power that you come out of the grave. Paul had this brokenness and sense of weakness, shame, and guilt. He also had the resurrected life.
1 Corinthians 4:18-19 – Some of you have become arrogant, as if I were not coming to you. But I will come to you very soon, if the Lord is willing…
See his dependence upon the Father? Just as Jesus was totally dependent upon God, so was Paul. These were not merely words like you hear in your church today. He meant and felt them. Indeed, he was ready to lose heart because he was so dependent upon God. He said:
1 Corinthians 4:19-21 – . . . and then I will find out not only how these arrogant people are talking, but what power they have. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power. What do you prefer? Shall I come to you with a whip, or in love and with a gentle spirit?
Paul said in Philippians 3:12 that he had not already been made perfect. Paul also said in 2 Corinthians 4:1 that he didn’t lose heart as he looked at his own life because he knew his ministry was by grace. He was so overwhelmed by his sinfulness and weakness that he thought he should just give up and quit, that he was not worthy of the calling. Yet, he also said, “If you won’t repent I will come with a whip. I will come with judgment.” This mystery of speaking with boldness and yet being broken and humble is something that can only be experienced and is not easily explained. People who have this sense of brokenness do not walk in and say, “Gee whiz, I know we’re all sinners.” They don’t grovel on the floor, or whine and complain. They just say, “You are in sin. You need to change and repent. It is that simple.” God works his boldness in those who are broken. Everything else is false humility. Paul said:
2 Corinthians 10:1-5 – By the meekness and gentleness of Christ, I appeal to you—I, Paul, who am “timid” when face to face with you, but “bold” when away! I beg you that when I come I may not have to be as bold as I expect to be toward some people who think that we live by the standards of this world. For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
Now, see what this weak and timid Paul said. What was the attitude of a man who would have lost heart except by the grace of God, who did not consider himself perfect yet?
2 Corinthians 10:6 – And we will be ready to punish every act of disobedience, once your obedience is complete.
Do you really want leaders like that in your church? Do you really want leaders who say, “I will punish every act of disobedience once your obedience is complete”? Many leaders I know quote that passage. Of course, I wouldn’t want them to be leaders because they haven’t learned the humility and brokenness that is in Jesus Christ. They have never been crucified with Christ. They do not understand this passage, so they use it in a sinful and wicked way. If they did have a Paul who really was broken and dependent upon God, who realized he wasn’t perfect and yet preached with this kind of authority and power, they would hate him. They would run him out! They wouldn’t want anything to do with him.
Don’t wait until you are perfect to begin to speak. Paul wasn’t perfect and he spoke. Paul sensed, indeed, his tremendous sinfulness daily and hourly. He was given a thorn in the flesh so that he would be dependent upon God’s mercy and grace to keep him from pride. He was rebuked day and night just by his illness. The cross was doing its work in his life. He sensed how wicked and gross he really was because he was willing for wisdom to rebuke him and hang him on a cross in all of the different ways that means. Jesus was able to speak and live through him with boldness and power, because it wasn’t Paul speaking. Paul didn’t say, “We will be ready to punish every act of disobedience once your obedience is complete.” It was Jesus in him. Paul no longer lived, but Jesus Christ lived in him.
You want to wait until you are perfect? What an excuse. You are nothing more than a wicked and lazy servant who doesn’t love or care about other individuals. Don’t wait until you are perfect. Rebuke and speak as God works it in you with fear and with trembling.
Many individuals will get the idea that you have somehow set yourself above them. As we saw before, those that are broken and humble in God, those that are being crucified of their pride and self-righteousness, often speak the most boldly. After all, Jesus was perfectly humble with not an ounce of pride, not any self-righteousness, totally dependent upon God and not on himself, and look how he spoke—so boldly that they crucified him. In the same way, if God will work this boldness in you, then it will be accompanied with great humility and brokenness. Yet, many individuals falsely accuse us of thinking we are above them, that somehow we have set ourselves up as God. Indeed, I have had people say I think I am God. Of course, naturally, I don’t even think I’m God or even close for that matter. But they say this because of the boldness, clarity, and judgment that come forth. Really, the problem is that they have set themselves up as God. They are the ones who decide what are good and evil, and judge by human standards. But, you see, we don’t invite people up to our level. Rather, we invite people to come down to our level. We invite them to come closer to the cross of Jesus Christ to achieve brokenness, humility, and to see their sin. It is the other way around! The fact that they will not confess their sin is the problem. They will not renounce it. They won’t weep, struggle, hurt, and be in pain every hour of every day to wrestle with sin. So we don’t invite you to come up to our level. Forget that! We invite you to come down where we are. We are down at the foot of the cross, where brokenness and humility are, where we sense our sin, weakness, ugliness, and grossness before God. We wrestle with sin to the point that it hurts every single day. Now, this is good news! It really is for those who love God. This is all in line with scripture.
1 Peter 4:1 – Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin.
The lie that is told in the church today is to accept the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior, and you are in! You just cruise right into heaven. Jesus Christ wants to work in you his purification, holiness, and brokenness. You will have to prepare to suffer in your body with sin. When Jesus had the nails put in his hands, did he hurt? When the nails were put in his feet, did they hurt? When he was flogged, stripped, and beaten in front of everyone, did that hurt? Was it painful? Did it hurt his pride? When the crown of thorns was placed on his head, did he physically hurt? With all of that taking place was he in pain up there on the cross? Of course! So, prepare yourself with the same attitude. That is how you wrestle with sin. If you are crucified with Christ on a daily basis, if you pick up your cross daily and follow Jesus Christ, this is what you will experience. We don’t ask you to come up to our level. We ask you to come down to our level. “Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin.” (2 Corinthians 4:1) If you haven’t suffered in your body with sin, you are not done with it. It still has control of you. Jesus Christ said that anyone who wants to follow him must pick up his cross, deny himself, and follow Jesus daily. In this whole business of judging, of coming to God and speaking boldly and powerfully, it must be done in humility, brokenness, weakness, and pain, for only “he who has suffered in his body is done with sin.” You may not be perfect, but God will have you speak boldly anyway because you are dying on the cross. You haven’t set yourself up above them. You ask them to come down to your level—to be lowly, empty, and broken. They may not pick up on it, but that is what you are supposed to ask.
Let’s continue now with this matter of judging. Let’s talk about losing your head over doctrinal issues. In today’s church, ministries, and Bible study groups, doctrine doesn’t mean a whole lot. What is lifted up and exalted are people’s opinions. Most Sunday school classes are made up of nothing more than individuals in a room, discussing a particular scripture and giving their opinion as to what they think that scripture means. We have taken the Holy Spirit, judgment, and the cross out of the Bible. Therefore it becomes just a matter of opinion.
John the Baptist lost his head—that is, it was chopped off—over a doctrinal issue. Mark 6:16 tell us that John rebuked Herod over a doctrinal issue.
Mark 6:16-18 – But when Herod heard this, he said, “John, the man I beheaded, has been raised from the dead!” For Herod himself had given orders to have John arrested, and he had him bound and put in prison. He did this because of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, whom he had married. For John had been saying to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.”
John the Baptist discussed a doctrinal issue, didn’t he? Can you see John the Baptist in your Sunday school class? Everybody is discussing, let’s say, the issue of divorce and remarriage. They go around the room and come to John the Baptist. John the Baptist says, “Hey, look, it is wrong for you to be married to somebody else’s wife. It is wrong to divorce and then remarry.” We’d say, “Well, thank you, John. We really appreciate you sharing that with us.” Then we look to the next person and ask his opinion. That is our level of discussion of doctrinal issues. No doubt, that has been your level of discussion with other individuals concerning doctrinal matters. It really doesn’t matter to you. Who cares if someone believes in “once saved, always saved”? That is their choice. It doesn’t affect their life. Who cares if everybody believes that individuals should speak in tongues or that others are good stewards with their money? What difference does it make as long as a man believes some basic tenet about Jesus Christ? For us, that is fine, but not for John the Baptist. He not only rebuked Herod, he kept on rebuking Herod to the point that he and his wife began to nurse a grudge against John. John the Baptist had the Spirit of Jesus Christ. He judged and spoke boldly and powerfully, and didn’t stop. He was persistent.
Mark 6:19 – So Herodias nursed a grudge against John and wanted to kill him.
As you know, indeed she was able to arrange things and manipulate her husband, all over a doctrinal issue, to get John’s head chopped off. When was the last time you pushed a doctrinal issue to the point that they wanted to cut your head off? Don’t talk to me about boldness and sharing the gospel. Don’t talk to me about your courage in Jesus Christ, of all your prayers and work. When was the last time you took a doctrinal issue that the Holy Spirit had shown you by crucifying your life and speaking to you about what the truth was, and you bought it to an individual’s life—not in a generic way? Have you done this to the point where they became angry and nursed a grudge against you, and—if they get the opportunity—they would do away with you? That is real boldness that comes from the Holy Spirit. This is what the Holy Spirit wants to work concerning doctrinal issues within the church. Again, remember, all of this is love and you can only speak this as the Holy Spirit leads you, but it needs to be done and God wants to work it. The problem is that you are not willing for God to deal with enough of the sin in your life to speak boldly to anybody else. It is awfully comfortable to sit in a church knowing that other people deal with these sins and have their doctrinal opinions, yet nothing really seems to happen to them. You feel pretty comfortable. That is why we like our pastors to be sinful and the congregation to be wicked. Then we can look to somebody else and say, “Well, they are more wicked than I am and they will go to heaven.” It gives us a false sense of security. But, this is not so with John the Baptist. He gave his whole life to God. He spoke boldly and clearly as the Holy Spirit led him to speak to the point that it cost him his head. Are you willing to lose your head over the doctrinal issue of divorce and remarriage? Have you even heard from the Holy Spirit concerning this issue, or have you just merely read the books, done the studies, or examined it and came to your own personal conclusions? This is about being crucified to your own opinion so you can hear from the Holy Spirit. Before you say that this is a matter of the old law, realize that is what John spoke about. The old law said you couldn’t divorce and remarry. The new law (the New Testament) says the same thing. 1 Corinthians is very clear. A woman is bound to her husband until he dies. Period! It doesn’t matter whether you are divorced, separated, or whatever. You are bound to that individual. You are committed to that marriage and relationship until the other person dies. Now that you see it very clearly, will you go back into your church and begin to rebuke those who have divorced and remarried? Again, anyone who is divorced and remarried is in deep spiritual trouble. They will need to repent of many things. This is a deep repentance—not shallow or superficial. Granted, that may apply to some pastors and your congregation as well, but that is the way it is. The church is powerless to speak like this any more, because doctrinal issues have become a matter of opinion and discussion. The spirit of judgment and the cross is not in the church. There is too much sin in the camp. We are powerless to speak the truth because all we are concerned with (especially among those churches that do “speak boldly”) is saving their nice little American lifestyle, their self-righteousness, or whatever it is they hang on to. Let’s take the abortion movement for a moment. Doctrinal issues don’t mean anything. The only thing that matters is if somebody is against abortion. Then they can join the group whether they are Catholic, Baptist, or some other denomination; no matter what kind of lifestyle they lead. Joshua tried to take the little town of Ai, but found they couldn’t do it because sin was in the camp. These abortion groups will never win the abortion battle because they allow anybody, anyone, to belong to their ranks as long as they agree with their stance against abortion.
It has been pointed out to you over and over again, that all this is love. Love speaks boldly and clearly. There is no ambiguity about what is being said. Jesus says this about himself:
John 7:7 – The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify that what it does is evil.
God wants to send out men by the power of the Holy Spirit to speak inside and outside the church, and go into the world to declare that what it does is evil. You must be determined to make men guilty of sin. You must be willing to have your head chopped off when individuals nurse a grudge against you. Say to someone, “You claim to be a Christian, but you are a liar so I can’t eat lunch with you anymore. In fact, if you see me in church you have to sit on a different pew because I can’t associate with you. When I see you in Sunday school class, don’t sit down next to me and begin to fellowship because I cannot fellowship with you because you live a lie. You are not really a Christian.” If you say to that person, “Look, I can’t chitchat with you. Don’t say we have anything in common and don’t let me hear you tell others you are a Christian, because you are not.” Do you think those individuals will nurse a grudge against you? You had better believe it! You have to determine to make men guilty of sin. In Acts 5:27 we see a group of Pharisees picking up on this same attitude in the apostles.
Acts 5:27-28 – Having brought the apostles, they made them appear before the Sanhedrin to be questioned by the high priest. “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name,” he said. “Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood.”
The Pharisees sensed from Peter and the other apostles that they were determined to make them feel guilty and see their sin. You will have to become determined, because men will try to silence you. They will tell you to quit talking like that, being so judgmental, and become more loving. All of the words will be there. They will even quote scripture to you, but you have to tell the pastor, leaders, teachers, and members of the church the same thing that Peter told the high priest.
Acts 5:29 – Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than men!”
I love the unity that is there. It is hard to find two or three brothers that are even willing to live this kind of gospel. Even if you could get together a group of ten who could do it, they would debate and argue about the best way to present revival or conviction to the church. Just imagine, if you had a group of ten brothers and you said, “We see this sin in the church.” One guy would say, “I’ll just go in and rebuke the pastor. I’ll stand up in church and speak boldly.” Then five or six other people would say, “No, we think it ought to be done this way, and you need to tone it down a little bit. They way you do it is wrong. We need to be encouraging and soft. Let’s have a committee meeting and write up a letter.” You would have all sorts of committee ideas on how to soft-pedal the message of repentance. I’ve seen it time and time again. Very often people will tell me, “I don’t disagree with anything you say. It is just the way you say it,” as if changing my way of saying it would make them repent. They won’t repent. What I usually say is, “Fine. Go repent. Come back then and talk to me about the way that I said it. But, go repent.” Of course, they don’t go repent because that is not really what they are arguing about. The problem is not the way I say it, but what is really being said. Basically, you will have to get an attitude from the Holy Spirit. I’m putting this in worldly terms so that maybe you’ll understand it. You will have to be dead enough to your pride, self-righteousness, and the word games that you play with yourself. You know all of the things that you tell yourself: “I’m spiritual. I’m holy. I’m with God. I claim this promise.” You will have to get rid of the word games you play in order to deceive yourself. Then the Holy Spirit can finally speak through you. The Holy Spirit will work an attitude that is found in 1 Corinthians 16:20. I know you will agree with 1 Corinthians 16:20. Everybody agrees with it.
1 Corinthians 16:20 – All the brothers here send you greetings. Greet one another with a holy kiss.
A lot of you are thinking, “Great! I’ve been waiting for him to talk about love and mercy.” Fine! I’m talking about it right now. Start greeting everyone in your church with a holy kiss. You know, you don’t even do that in your church.
1 Corinthians 16:21 – I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand.
Now why is that so significant? Why did God write this down in the Holy Scripture for us to see? What is so significant about the fact that Paul said he wrote this in his own hand? It is for some theological school to be able to determine who wrote the letter of 1 Corinthians? I doubt it! Here is why.
1 Corinthians 16:22 – If anyone does not love the Lord—a curse be on him. Come, O Lord!
“If anyone does not love the Lord—a curse be on him.” Look at Paul’s attitude. Again: “I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand. And, what I write is this. If anyone does not love the Lord—a curse be on him. Come, O Lord!“ Mixed in with this whole discussion of love, mercy, and grace, and greeting one another with a holy kiss, is a statement—an attitude—a spirit of judgment that says: If anyone does not love the Lord—I don’t care who it is; Peter, Paul, anybody in your church, your pastor or teacher—anyone who does not love the Lord, live up to the standards of the gospel, or does not agree with this teaching—a curse be on him. Paul went on to say:
1 Corinthians 6:23-24 – The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you. My love to all of you in Christ Jesus. Amen.
Isn’t it beautiful how this love and fire are mixed together; how the blood, water, and the Spirit come together at the cross; how God comes with a fire that not only cleanses and purifies, but is warm, healing, powerful, and full of love? Read it again, and see how right in the middle of all of this is an attitude of judgment mixed with love: “All the brothers here send you greetings. Greet one another with a holy kiss. I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand. If anyone does not love the Lord—a curse be on him. Come, O Lord! The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you. My love to all of you in Christ Jesus. Amen.” Write that in your letter to someone and see how he or she responds. Don’t tell them it is Scripture. Write a letter to your favorite brother or sister, teacher or elder, and say, “How are you doing?” Talk about all of the good things you are learning in the Lord and how happy you are, and then at the end of it put: “P.S. By the way, as far as I’m concerned, and I’m writing this with my own hand, that if anyone doesn’t love the Lord I pray that a curse would be on him. Come, O Lord!” See what kind of reaction you get. See if they don’t challenge you as being unbiblical and unloving. You know they will. Try it! If you do that, let me know what your response is. I think you already know, even before you send the letter. Most of you aren’t in a place where you could have this kind of attitude; so don’t even begin to try in your own effort. This is something the Holy Spirit has to work. You have to be in a position where you want to lose your head over doctrinal issues and say the things that God wants you to say. If you desire to testify that what the world does is evil, then be determined to make men guilty and say everything you need to say, whether they put you in prison, chop off your head, or nurse a grudge against you. Do you remember the passage in Acts 8:18? We see this attitude of “if anyone doesn’t love the Lord the curse be on him.” It was in Part 1, but let’s look at it again.
Acts 8:18-19 – When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money and said, “Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.”
Look at the fire that was in Peter’s life—this spirit of judgment in saying, “If you don’t love the Lord, a curse be on you.”
Acts 8:20 – Peter answered: “May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money!”
Peter pronounced judgment on Simon, didn’t he? It was not a generic statement of, “Gee, you are in sin and are liable to fall under judgment,” or “Somehow you are in danger.” He said, “May your money perish with you.” He put judgment on Simon. He said, “I hope this happens with you!” Think about it! A brother comes to you and he is in sin. He blurts out this sinful thing, and you turn to him and say, “May you perish with that statement. Burn and rot in hell!” When was the last time you were led by the Holy Spirit to say that? Jesus called Peter “Satan.” When was the last time you called anybody Satan or said to anyone, “May you perish with that sin and burn in hell”? You wouldn’t dare! You don’t want to be known as unloving and unkind. You don’t want to be misunderstood. This is called “fear of man”—a love of man rather than of God. Peter spoke clearly and boldly. In fact, he went on to say:
Acts 8:21-23 – You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God. Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord. Perhaps he will forgive you for having such a thought in your heart. For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin.
Isn’t that 1 Corinthians 6:22 in a nutshell? “If anyone does not love the Lord—a curse be on him!” How does God work this in your church or your nice little home fellowship where you get together, eat your snacks, and have Bible study? How does God work this? When was the last time you saw leadership or you yourself turned to someone and said, “You have no part or share in this ministry because your heart is not right before God”? When was the last time you said, “May a curse be on you because of this sin.” or “May you perish with this sin”? When was the last time you interrupted a Bible discussion and said, “I pray—I hope you perish with that sin. I can see that you are captive to sin, and you need to repent now. Maybe God will forgive you. I don’t know whether he will or not, but you need to repent”? Do you see how far we have fallen from the spirit of purity, holiness, and righteousness in the church? How much we like to talk about righteousness and purity, but not live it? How is it that your church is better than the first church? What I mean by that is, you haven’t rebuked anybody like that in your church. Your leaders haven’t spoken boldly to someone’s sin. You’ve never done it and you wouldn’t accept it if they did speak that way. If Peter were in our churches today, he would be run out! He would be called unloving, judgmental, and impatient. Do you see how far we have fallen from the gospel? And yet it is on our lips day and night that we love the Lord. Again, where is your attitude in Jesus Christ? I put this in worldly terms, but maybe as Hebrews says you’ll understand that.
Let’s go back to John the Baptist for a moment. Let’s get some judgment. Let’s get his attitude back in our altar calls. You know, the altar calls where the pastor or a special speaker finishes preaching and says: “Hey, anybody that wants to come forward and accept Jesus Christ come on down! We want you! We love you! This is the place to be. This is a church you can call home. Bow your head. Raise your hand. Close your eyes. Oh, I see four hands going up—two more hands. Oh, there is another person. Praise God! Come here to our church. We’re friendly, loving, kind, and gentle.” Where is the attitude of judgment that comes in the Holy Spirit? Luke 3:6 talks about the grace and mercy of God that forgives men of sin. That is something that we will talk about, and live, treasure, and hope.
Luke 3:6 – And all mankind will see God’s salvation.
It is a noble passage. There wouldn’t be a Christian church in this land that wouldn’t accept that. But, look at how John the Baptist introduced this salvation of God. Compare this to your altar calls where individuals are asked to come forward. Really, you beg and bribe them to come forward. This is how John the Baptist introduced the grace of God:
Luke 3:7-9 – John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.”
John introduced the salvation of God. Just imagine this for a moment. The pastor invites people to come down—that large crusade that came to town and filled the auditorium. The people flow down to the front. The pastor turns and says, “Who warned you—you brood of vipers? Who warned you to flee the coming wrath? Don’t you come down here. How dare you walk down those aisles and come down to the front here and say you want Jesus Christ” Then he demolishes all of their arguments and justifications for their sins. Oh, they came forward, you see. They came out to John. They wanted to hear the salvation of God, but they still had their excuses. They still had their reasons for keeping their sin, didn’t they? Luke 3:8 said: “And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’” Individuals come forward with excuses and reasons. They had some tears or repentance. Some conviction. But, it is not enough. They don’t understand the judgment of God. They haven’t gone deep enough. They have what Scripture calls “worldly sorrow.” John knew that everything had to be cut down. John knew they had to grow in the fear of the Lord. He had to demolish their excuses. He presented the grace of God in such a way that they saw the judgment of God in their lives. It wouldn’t happen in your church because it would drive people away. You wouldn’t be known as “The Friendly Church,” or “The Loving Church.” You would lose members, money, and your prestige. It is too bad because you’ve already lost Jesus Christ. It is better to lose the men, the prestige, the numbers, and the money than to remain where you are, having lost Jesus Christ. Only when the grace of God is presented this way—with an attitude, a spiritual judgment—will you hear what Luke 3:10 said:
Luke 3:10 – “What should we do then?” the crowd asked.
Read it sometime and you will find that John got specific. He demanded obedience. And, he did this with wisdom. Where else do the people say, “What should we do?” In Acts when Peter preached, they were cut to the heart. They were convicted, and cried out. He didn’t have to announce an altar call. They were broken and asked, “What should we do then?” Yet how easy our altar calls are today. “Come on down.” We put the words in their mouths. We even have statements in the back of our Bibles for people to read and sign saying they accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. On TV or radio you will hear them go through the words, “Say, ‘I’m a sinner.’” Where is the conviction? Do you see the attitude? Do you see the spirit of judgment? The reason God can’t move this way in our churches (or in our Christianity) is because we have worship that is convenient. Your Christianity is a Christianity full of bribes—fleshly bribes. The narrow road with the judgment that comes from God is just gone.
Acts 24:24-26 – Several days later Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was a Jewess. He sent for Paul and listened to him as he spoke about faith in Christ Jesus. As Paul discoursed on righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and said, “That’s enough for now! You may leave. When I find it convenient, I will send for you.” At the same time he was hoping that Paul would offer him a bribe, so he sent for him frequently and talked with him.
Do you see what happened? You have a convenient kind of Christianity. When it is convenient for you to talk about judgment, you will—especially when you are talking about another group or individual. But, when Paul preached the gospel, he had an attitude. He knew the spirit of judgment that came from God. It wasn’t just words with Paul. He had experienced it. He knew the pain of the cross in his life. Felix, of course, became afraid and said, “That’s enough for now! You may leave. When I find it convenient, I will send for you.” Felix was hoping for a bribe. He wanted his flesh fed. You do the same thing in your church. You feed people’s flesh. Don’t you tell them about the cross when they come to Jesus Christ. The way you try to get them to come to Christ is by saying, “God has special plans for you.” Or, you put them in positions of teaching or working. You don’t judge their heart or their life. You don’t have them grow in the fear of the Lord. Instead, you bribe them; “Come to our ice cream social.” “Come to our football game or softball game.” “Come to our activity.” “Let’s go on this ski trip.” We call this “winning souls for Jesus Christ.” Oh, it is true that God has a special plan for your life. It is called the cross of Jesus Christ in your life with all its pain and suffering. It is the joy that comes from suffering for Jesus Christ. You see, it is not comfortable to judge. That is why we want a convenient Christianity. It is not easy to let God judge you every day. It is a difficult thing to have this judgment in your life and yet, at the same time, to have the joy that comes from heaven. It is so much easier to talk about righteousness, holiness, and love than to really love people and really present them perfect in Jesus Christ. It is hard sometimes to have an attitude that speaks with great clarity and great boldness. What will it be for you? A convenient Christianity where doctrinal issues are set to the side and your heart is not dealt with and you don’t talk about the judgment to come? What kind of Christianity will it be for you? A false one or a true one? Acts 24:25 again: “As Paul discoursed on righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and said, ‘That’s enough for now! You may leave. When I find it convenient, I will send for you.’ At the same time, he was hoping that Paul would offer him a bribe, so he sent for him frequently and talked with him.” Stop offering bribes to people to come to Jesus Christ.
This transcription has been edited to a reader friendly format. Every effort has been made to be true to the speaker’s original message. Any mistranslations are unintentional.