Judging, Part 6
Was Paul the biggest hypocrite or what? Look at what he wrote:
1 Corinthians 4:3 – I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself.
But then he wrote:
1 Corinthians 11:31 – But if we judged ourselves, we would not come under judgment.
On the surface it looked like Paul was a hypocrite—that somehow he was above judging himself. He said in 1 Corinthians 4:3, “I do not even judge myself.” But then he told the rest of us peons in Jesus Christ that we need to judge ourselves so that we don’t come under judgment. Obviously, we know Paul was not a hypocrite, and something is wrong with our understanding if we think he was a hypocrite by writing these two statements. He simply meant that he judged himself by the truth in the light of the Holy Spirit. He didn’t judge himself by his own or human standards. He judged himself by the power of the Holy Spirit. He listened for the voice of the Holy Spirit to tell him who he really is or isn’t in Christ Jesus. He let the living word of God divide bone from marrow and soul from spirit in judging his thoughts and attitudes. He let the word of God do it. He didn’t do it.
All of you who are shaking your heads in agreement need to stop because you don’t do this. You don’t listen to the Holy Spirit when it comes to judging things in your life. You listen to your own conviction and call your own voice the Holy Spirit. If you lived this, a strong spirit of judgment would exist in your church. In short, Paul said he didn’t convict himself and he didn’t apply the word of God to his life. He didn’t work purification in his own life. He only listened to the Holy Spirit. 1 Corinthians 11:31 says: But if we judged ourselves, we would not come under judgment. He meant for us to go back, get before the cross of Jesus Christ and to let God deal with us—let his Holy Spirit speak to us. Therefore when Paul said, in 1 Corinthians 4:3, I care very little if I am judged by you or any human court. He didn’t mean we are to do away with all judging within the church. He didn’t say that if somebody came to him about a sin, he wouldn’t repent. Paul’s issue was whether or not the person was speaking by the Holy Spirit. Paul had a soft enough heart to know the difference. He didn’t rebel or become angry when the individual came to him. Even if the person was wrong, Paul could still search his heart and learn patience. He could be humbled more by being falsely accused. But, if an individual full of the Holy Spirit comes to you and the judgment is from God, then accept it. This is what Paul meant by saying that he cared less if they judged him. He did not care about human judgments. He wanted to know what the Holy Spirit said. Otherwise, Galatians 2:11 just could not be written. It couldn’t be in Scripture, or Paul would be the biggest hypocrite around.
Galatians 2:11 – When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong.
Paul judged Peter. He said, “You are in sin. You need to repent.” Fortunately, Peter had a soft enough heart and a hunger and thirst for righteousness, so recognized the Holy Spirit working in Paul’s life. Peter could have said, “I could care less, Paul, whether I am judged by you or not. Your opinion doesn’t matter. I want to know what God says.” Peter recognized and saw clearly that Paul spoke the truth by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Galatians 2:11-14 – When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong. Before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray. When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter in front of them all, “You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?
Notice that Paul didn’t take Peter aside into his private little chamber, and say, “Peter, I know that you’ve served God with all your heart. I know that you saw Jesus Christ and walked with him. I know that you really have a hunger and a thirst for righteousness, and are doing the best you can, but I really think you ought to examine this whole issue of who to eat with.” Paul didn’t use foolish challenging and flattery that goes on in the church. I detest it when people come to me and they say, “I think you’re such a godly man and you really preach powerful sermons,” and then rebuke me. What they really want to do is rebuke me. That is just flattery to make themselves look good or to soften the blow. Look, if I have a problem or a sin, then come tell me and we’ll deal with it. If you’re wrong, you are wrong. If I need to repent, then I’ll repent. Paul came to Peter straightforward and said it in front of everybody. But what would happen if this situation occurred in the church today? You’d pull Paul aside and say, “Paul, Scripture says you need to go to Peter one-on-one first. Then, if Peter doesn’t see this sin, get two or three other people to confront him too. If he still doesn’t see the sin, tell the whole church. If you tell the whole church and he still doesn’t repent, then don’t associate with him. Paul, you’re in sin! You rebuked Peter in front of everybody.” Remember what the scripture said? When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong.
Galatians 2:14 – When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter in front of them all…
Let me give you a quick note here. If the sin affects the whole church, that individual should be rebuked in front of everybody. That is why Jesus rebuked the Pharisees openly and publicly. Timothy said an elder that sins should be rebuked publicly because it affects the whole church. If a brother sins just against you, then go to him one-on-one, and if he doesn’t see it, then you do all the other steps. The important thing to see is the clarity with which Paul rebuked Peter, and how Peter recognized that God was working through Paul, so he repented. Romans 12:3 reminds us again not to do away with all judgment, but it is how we judge that is so crucial. Most of you judge your lives by your own wisdom, intellect, and understanding, or what your preacher offers from the pulpit—not by the power of the Holy Spirit and the revealing of the cross of Jesus Christ.
Romans 12:3 – For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.
How much of the sober judgment in your life really comes from having the grace of God and the measure of faith that God has given you? For that matter, how many of you even have sober judgment in your life? How many of you walk around on a daily basis, as Paul said he did, always carrying around in his body the death of Jesus Christ? Do you have the sorrow of Jesus, the humility, the brokenness, the sense of sin, the sense of shame, and also the resurrection and the joy? Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. When Paul wrote, “I do not judge myself,” he meant he judged himself by the power of the Holy Spirit—so the Holy Spirit does the judging. He just listened to what the Holy Spirit had to say. So, Paul wasn’t doing away with judging—not by any means. Remember 1 Corinthians 14:24?
1 Corinthians 14:24 – But if an unbeliever or someone who does not understand comes in while everybody is prophesying, he will be convinced by all that he is a sinner and will be judged by all…
Paul definitely wasn’t doing away with judging! In short, the spiritual man makes judgments about all things, even the things he cannot or is not allowed to judge. So, the spiritual man will judge what he is not supposed to judge. The spiritual man understands what not to judge. That is what 1 Corinthians 4:5 means.
1 Corinthians 4:5 – Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men’s hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God.
There needs to be a lot more silence within the House of God with a lot less talk and stating, “This person is spiritual and that person is holy.” If God hasn’t shown you the motives of their heart, then shut up! Judge nothing before the appointed time. Now, if the appointed time is to judge Ananias and Sapphira, then you do that. But very often the Lord has us being quiet in fear and trembling, and think of ourselves with sober judgment in accordance with the measure of faith God has given us. But, how much flattery is in the House of God! There is much talking about how holy this man or ministry is, or how right it is before the Lord. How do you know how God will view that ministry when you stand before Him? Jesus warned us when he said, Many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first. Many ministries that individuals looked up to and thought of as godly will be last. Then, there will be many that nobody looked to and thought well of that will be first in the kingdom of heaven. Why? Because we run around with our own judgments, thoughts, and ideas about who is holy, who is righteous and who is godly. Shut your mouth! If God tells you something about a ministry or an individual, then believe it—accept it—live it! But, ask God who they are—and whether they are right with the Lord or not. Finally, never ever take a judgment into your own hands. Only repeat what God tells you to repeat and to say it the way that he wants you to say it. Crucify every opinion you have because an opinion is simply your own judgment.
Proverbs 18:2 – A fool finds no pleasure in understanding but delights in airing his own opinions.
That is what goes on within the house of God. Individuals run around saying, “I think” or “I believe that.” I can’t tell you the number of letters that I receive where individuals say, “I think this about what you said,” or “I think that about what your ministry is doing.” I could care less what they think. Who are they? I want to know what the Lord says. Is God telling them to write that? That would be a whole different issue. I could care less whether you tell me our ministry is strong and powerful or if it is headed to hell. It doesn’t matter to me one way or another. I only want to know what God says through you, if indeed he is talking through you. We find this attitude in Luke 9:51. The disciples’ attitude had to be crucified in them, and it has to be put to death in our churches as well.
Luke 9:51-53 – As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him; but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem.
They realized Jesus was going to the cross to die. Most people today will not accept those who talk about the cross of Jesus Christ.
Luke 9:54-56 – When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?” But Jesus turned and rebuked them, and they went to another village.
James and John were fools airing their own opinions, delighting in their feelings and approach about how God ought to deal with a particular town or village. You do the same thing when you call someone good or evil, or say they are strong or not strong in the Lord. You are a foolish judge and have evil thoughts. You want to call down fire because you think someone is your enemy. You don’t bother to stop and ask the Lord if an individual is of God. Ask the Lord, “Are these people from you? What should I see? What should I believe? Who are they? Are they telling me what is true?” We don’t ask God what his judgments are, therefore we are taking in by other men and rebuke those who are holy. We totally get things backwards. Very often God won’t tell you. You will just have to trust. But, when God does tell you to speak boldly and powerfully to judge, then that is what you need to do. Don’t quench the Holy Spirit, but be ready to speak clearly and powerfully. Sinful judging is just you judging in your arrogance by human standards, and getting involved in disputable matters that don’t mean anything. Yet, churches and Christians spend time discussing disputable matters because it makes them feel spiritual. That is sinful judging.
Are you ready to begin to live all the teachings on judging? If not, then there really wasn’t any point in reading these sermons and you might as well declare today that you really don’t want to be a follower of Jesus Christ. Judgment begins first in the church. 1 Peter 4:17 makes this extremely clear. It shouldn’t surprise us that God wants to work—longs to work—a spirit of cleansing, purity, and judgment within the church. Indeed, the world needs to know that the church is one of the most judgmental places that it can come to. It is a place where it comes in contact with the living God, where things are exposed and out in the light where everybody can see them.
1 Peter 4:17-18 – For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And, “If it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?”
It is no easy thing for you to be saved. I know you have been taught that you accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior on a certain day and time, and that meant that you were going to heaven. You are assured of getting in and to doubt or test that is of the devil. Yet, all through Scripture it is clear that we have to test ourselves to see whether we are in the faith. We are to examine ourselves. We are to work out our salvation with fear and with trembling. God has to work judgment in the church because everybody gets this false sense that they are getting in and they are saved. Everybody that dies automatically makes it in if they hung around church, signed a little commitment card, or did certain good deeds. God tries to warn us that someday we will stand before him totally exposed with everything out in the light, and nothing hidden. Those motives that we thought were good motives will be revealed for what they really were. Jesus will say to some men, “I never knew you.” Again, 1 Peter 4:17: For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God. It is time for judgment to begin in your life and in your church, otherwise don’t call yourself a Christian.
Very often the question will be asked, “Well, what exactly should be judged?” Everything should be judged. Everything is exposed in the light. Nothing is hidden before God. Your heart will be exposed to the congregation and before other people. Your thoughts and actions will be judged by the Holy Spirit through other individuals, the word of God and the Spirit speaking to your life. Even the car you drive should be judged. There is no excuse for any Christian to drive a fancy sports car or an expensive luxury car. After all, you should be able to demonstrate by the cross of Christ why Jesus wanted you to have that car, and we know it wouldn’t be for your pleasure, comfort, or rest. Your money! Your hair! Did you know it is sin for men to have long hair? Long hair has to be judged. It’s also sin for women to have short hair. The church must judge it. Even what a woman wears to church. If she wears expensive clothes and is decked out with jewelry, she is to be judged. Your conversations should be judged. The kind of music you listen to should be judged by the power of the Holy Spirit, through individuals, by the leadership in the church, and through your brothers and sisters. The books you read, the lifestyle you have, your prayers—in short, everything—will be judged because everything is in the light. All of these judgments should be happening in your fellowship without striving, effort, forcing it to be done, or a checklist. The Holy Spirit should be able to work this. 1 John 1:5 talks about this kind of light that brings cleansing, healing, power, and joy, but comes with judgment.
1 John 1:5 – This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.
Ask yourself a question. Does God know everything about you? Does he know your heart? Does he know your thoughts? Indeed, Scripture declares that he knows what will come out of your mouth before you even know what you will say. Is God concerned about the way you dress and the way you appear? Is God concerned about every aspect of your life? Is everything exposed before the Lord? Of course, the answer is yes—your checkbook, your music, what you listen to, your conversation—everything is exposed before the Lord. Again: This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. God sees everything clearly and will reveal everything before men and angels.
1 John 1:6 – If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth.
That is what most of you do. You claim to have fellowship with Jesus Christ, yet walk in the darkness, lie and do not live by the truth. 99.9% of those who claim to be Christians and are involved in the church walk in darkness, though they claim to walk in the light. How do we know whether they are walking in the light? Everything about their lives is exposed and open for judgment. No one claims things for themselves. No part or certain area is protected. Everything is laid out before God. What is heaven, but walking in glorious light where everything is pure, clean, and is revealed in truth? This light should begin now in the church. If you don’t like light of judgment, if it seems to take away your personal space, if this causes you all kinds of turmoil, then you’ll hate heaven, because in heaven everything is exposed and in the light. God has given glory in every circumstance and every situation. If you hate the kind of light that would expose your checkbook, your car, your dress, the way you behave, your thoughts, your heart—if you don’t want this kind of judgment and penetrating light, then you will not like heaven and hell will be your home. 1 John 1:7 states very clearly that unless you have this kind of fellowship the blood of Jesus Christ cannot forgive you. Let me repeat that in case you thought you misunderstood it. Unless you have this kind of fellowship and hunger for more, the blood of Jesus Christ cannot forgive you and cleanse you from sin.
1 John 1:7 – But if we walk in the light…
There is a condition—But if—that is a big “if” with most of you.
1 John 1:7 – But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.
The blood of Jesus Christ made active, powerful, and alive in a fellowship where people know how to walk in the light. Just look at Ananias and Sapphira if you don’t believe me. They died because this light penetrated and revealed their actions and motives, which were false, lies, and of darkness. You claim to walk and have fellowship with the light, but you walk in darkness. This is what it means to be crucified with Christ—or at least part of what it means. Jesus was crucified naked. Everything about him was exposed before God and man. Nothing was hidden. In the same way, this makes us feel uncomfortable. Being crucified is not a comfortable feeling. Having our lives exposed and every aspect of our lives brought into the light by the power of God and the Holy Spirit is not a comfortable feeling. Putting nails in our hands and our feet, experiencing humiliation, and sharing is not comfortable, but it is glorious. In this place the blood of Jesus Christ does its cleansing. That is where you find true love from a few brothers and sisters willing to lay down their lives for you and honestly love you. No more flattery or favoritism—only individuals willing to love, speak the truth, fight, and die with you in this arena called Christianity. Oh, there are people with all kinds of causes, fighting all kinds of things in the name of Christianity, but it doesn’t come from walking in the light. Again, 1 John 1:7: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light—not just any light will do. It has to be the light that comes from God. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another. Most of you have this backwards. You try to get fellowship and then make that fellowship fit the light, but it doesn’t work that way. Go into the light and begin to walk in the light before God. Begin to let the Holy Spirit work judgment in your life. Let him expose everything for what it is. Walking in the light and fellowship automatically follows. I know churches right now that seek to control every aspect of what an individual does. They claim it is of God and they’ll give you scripture references—maybe even 1 John 1:5-7—but they do it by their own human wisdom and effort. Their deeds are done by their own light and power, even though they tack on the name of the Lord. But, know this clearly: Unless you discover this fellowship in the light that makes everything visible, the blood of Jesus Christ does not purify you from sin. One more time:
1 John 1:7 – But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.
The thing that you call light in your church is merely “socializing,” It can’t be called fellowship because it comes of your effort and design. It comes from the current Christian book telling us how we love one another and how to fellowship. We get the words all down correctly, but the light comes from our own effort and design. Otherwise, you would see a spirit of judgment taking place within the church. If you don’t see this spirit of judgment, the light doesn’t come from God. Without judgments you’re effectively stating that your church is totally clean. Now, I know you give lip service and say, “Well, I know our church isn’t perfect, but no church is perfect.” The judgments we’ve discussed in this series should be occurring in your church. Isaiah 50:11 talks about your church fellowship.
Isaiah 50:11 – But now, all you who light fires and provide yourselves with flaming torches, go, walk in the light of your fires and of the torches you have set ablaze. This is what you shall receive from my hand: You will lie down in torment.
The worshipers of God in this passage had their own light. They had their own torches. They had their own ideas and ways of doing things. But, it wasn’t the light that comes from God. Remember 1 John 1:7? But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light… It has to be the light of God, not the light of your congregation, your pastor’s preaching, or your Bible study. Only the Holy Spirit can work this by a crucified life, and we know that’s not happening. Let’s back up and read Isaiah 50:10, and then look at verse 11 again.
Isaiah 50:10-11 – Who among you fears the LORD and obeys the word of his servant? Let him who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the LORD and rely on his God. But now, all you who light fires and provide yourselves with flaming torches, go, walk in the light of your fires and of the torches you have set ablaze. This is what you shall receive from my hand: You will lie down in torment.
That’s right! Unless your church, unless you individually, discover how to walk in the light by the power of God, letting the cross crucify and expose every aspect of your life, you will lie down in torment. You will go to hell. I don’t care how much you have claimed Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, because the question really isn’t whether you claim him as your Lord and Savior, but whether he claims you as his child. This light comes only from God, and it is a much different kind of light than what you see happening in churches today.
Psalms 36:9 – For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light.
Do you even understand the meaning of walking in the light? You have to receive from God the light to understand it. What a beautiful passage. For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light. If judgment doesn’t take place in your church, you don’t have the light. Ananias and Sapphira look good. You look good. You’ve learned to flatter yourself, justify yourself, and justify others. You’ve put up with pastors who don’t want the light—they hate the light. After all, the light would expose their deeds. If you came into the light right now, all of your good things deeds—the praying, fasting, giving, and serving on the committees—would be exposed and you would see clearly that they weren’t done by the power of God. You would see clearly that your church fellowship has been a waste of time. Indeed, it has been an antichrist kind of fellowship. It feeds the flesh and opposes the true fellowship of God. It just confuses people who might honestly be seeking after God. No, this light is not in our churches because sin would be exposed, and we really don’t want sin exposed. We just want it covered up. We want to go to heaven and still keep our sin. John 3:16 says this about the light:
John 3:16 – For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
Sunday School class memorizes this verse. Every good little Christian can quote that to you, but they hate the light. They are liars. They claim to have fellowship, yet walk in darkness.
John 3:17-18 – For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.
Now the problem is, you are saying to yourself, “But I believe in Jesus. I believe in God’s salvation.” No you don’t! To believe in Jesus is to walk in the light and let judgment enter your life and your church. The following Scripture shows what it means to ask Jesus Christ in your heart as Lord and Savior.
John 3:19-21 – This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.
Whoever lives by the truth… Meaning what? Only those who ask Jesus in their heart in truth, only those who believe on Jesus in truth will come into the light and begin to live these truths. Otherwise, you hate the light.
John 3:21 – But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.
But, you live verse 20. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. Granted, tough talk exists in the House of God. People talk about righteousness, purity, holiness, and the need for America to return to God. You can go to your local Christian bookstore and pick up all kinds of videotapes and other materials. Even from the pulpit at your church you hear about the need for holiness and righteousness. We sing about it, the church discusses it, and everybody says that they want it, but nobody wants to come into the light. Their lives would be exposed and their specific sins would be out in the open. Instead, we have fluffy little seminars where everybody gets together and tries to keep their promises before God. Men get together and say, “We’re going to be holy for God.” Where is the confession of sin and real brokenness? It is all a bunch of a talk and sin. They light their own torches! John 3:20 says, Everyone who does evil hates the light and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. That’s your church and your life. John 12:36 says: Put your trust in the light while you have it, so that you may become sons of light. As a Christian, not only does light shine in your life, but it begins to shine everywhere else—upon everyone who claims to be a Christian, upon everybody in your church, upon people in the world. The light begins to make everything visible. We have become sons of the light like Jesus Christ who testified that what the world did was evil. The light penetrates our heart. It reveals our motives. We are humbled and broken on a daily basis by the wickedness, self, and sin that dwells within us, but we also go out and bring the light to other individuals. Ephesians 5:10 lays out very clearly that Christians are the smell of death to those who are perishing. To those with good hearts, they are the smell of life. However, most individuals—especially those who claim to be Christians—don’t have good hearts. They don’t like this light shining so they think we have a judgmental message. To them, we are unloving and unkind because the light exposes what they do as wickedness and sin. We expose their watered-down gospel calls and self-pleasing messages.
Ephesians 5:11 – Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.
Ephesians 5:10 says, And, find out what pleases the Lord. Verse 11 tells us what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, (whether it be in the name of Christianity or not) but rather expose them. Now this doesn’t mean talking against the Mormons or the Jehovah Witnesses. Everybody does that, and every church argues against every other church. We don’t gain the victory over those particular groups because we’re not dealing with hearts. We are dealing with logic and doctrine. Goodness! The Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Mormons get most of their recruits from Christians because they preach with logic. The Mormons and others teach with their own wisdom, and since the average Christian’s faith is based on logic and wisdom, they can’t refute the argument and so they convert. If judgment existed within the House of God, hearts would be revealed, not logic. Remember when Ananias tried to give part of the money? Peter said, “Did you give all of this money?” Ananias said, “Yes, I gave it all.” Logic would dictate that you had to believe Ananias because you can’t know his heart. You have to trust and hope. You don’t want to be judgmental. So, your logic would justify Ananias and condemn Peter, who revealed the true heart of Ananias. People fall for cults or different groups because there is something wrong with their heart. The logic of the message is not the problem. Reading books, studying the literature, and listening to tapes about other groups will do you absolutely no good because you need to deal with the sin in their heart. When you talk to a Mormon, Jehovah’s Witness, or somebody who claims to be a Christian, and can’t get them to see a certain doctrine, that’s because you are dealing the doctrine. You’re not dealing with the heart and the sin in their life. No wonder that they can out-maneuver you! You are walking with the light of your own torches.
Ephesians 5:11-13 – Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible.
You can’t judge other individuals because you’re not walking in the light yourself. If you were a son of the light, then you expose everything around you. You know what to judge and what not to judge. You would expose who has a good heart and who has a bad heart. Everything would be out in the light for you see what to do. One moment you might turn to a Peter and say, “Blessed are you, Peter. That was revealed to you from heaven,” and in the very next breath you may have to say, “Get behind me, Satan!” Why? Because light makes everything visible. The problem is, you walk in the light of your own Christianity, your own religion, and so nothing is exposed. The only people rebuked in churches today are people that get caught and are so obviously in sin that they can’t hide it. Then they are an embarrassment to keep around. It is time for you to wake up and begin to live this. It is time for you to begin to demand—and I do mean demand—that your church begin to live this.
Ephesians 5:14 – …for it is light that makes everything visible. This is why it is said: “Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”
Remember, judgment begins in the House of God. Judgment begins with you. As you begin to wake up in the Lord he will search your heart and your life. Indeed, if you hunger and thirst for righteousness you will cry out with David, Search me, O God, and know my heart. Not with flowery words that look good to other people, but honestly letting the Holy Spirit search your heart. You will become a son of the light exposing everyone and everything for what it is. You’ll have the fellowship you said you wanted—deep and loving fellowship where individuals lay down their lives for one another. You will have deep joy and powerful judgment. You can’t separate the two. The minute you remove judgment, in all of its aspects, you fall back in darkness and start walking in your own light. Remember Isaiah 50:11: But now, all you who light fires and provide yourselves with flaming torches, go, walk in the light of your fires and of the torches you have set ablaze. This is what you shall receive from my hand: You will lie down in torment. Is this the kind of light that you really want? Is this really the power and grace of God you desire in your life? If it is, then live it! If not, don’t even claim to be a Christian.
I want to remind you that all of this is a matter of love that comes from heaven, not the compromising love and fellowship that you have experienced and walked in.
James 2:12-13 – Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment!
You might still be complaining and whining about the fact that this doesn’t seem like a very merciful message. Yet, all of this fits together perfectly. As you read Acts chapter 7, notice the love, mercy, and judgment all mixed together. You can’t have true love and true mercy without judgment. How else can God have mercy unless he pronounces judgment? How else can a man take on the grace of God unless he is aware of how sinful and deserving of hell he is? In the same way, you will speak boldly, clearly, and powerfully. Indeed, if you don’t, you’re in sin, but all of that motivation must come from love and an attitude of showing mercy. But don’t confuse mercy with the mushiness you’re used to, “Oh, well, gee, you might have this sin in your life but I don’t want to seem harsh.” People are usually so apologetic that they never get around to speaking to the sin directly. Again, that is not mercy. That is mushiness! Mercy is this:
Acts 7:1 – Then the high priest asked him, “Are these charges true?”
Here Stephen has been brought before the high priest, and they were all upset. Are these charges true?
Acts 7:2-8 – To this he replied: “Brothers and fathers, listen to me! The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham while he was still in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran. ‘Leave your country and your people,’ God said, ‘and go to the land I will show you.’ So he left the land of the Chaldeans and settled in Haran. After the death of his father, God sent him to this land where you are now living. He gave him no inheritance here, not even a foot of ground. But God promised him that he and his descendants after him would possess the land, even though at that time Abraham had no child. God spoke to him in this way: ‘Your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated four hundred years. But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves,’ God said, ‘and afterward they will come out of that country and worship me in this place.’ Then he gave Abraham the covenant of circumcision. And Abraham became the father of Isaac and circumcised him eight days after his birth. Later Isaac became the father of Jacob, and Jacob became the father of the twelve patriarchs.”
You may be wondering why I’m reading all of this in detail. It is very important so just hang on. This will become clear.
Acts 7:9-18 – Because the patriarchs were jealous of Joseph, they sold him as a slave into Egypt. But God was with him and rescued him from all his troubles. He gave Joseph wisdom and enabled him to gain the goodwill of Pharaoh king of Egypt; so he made him ruler over Egypt and all his palace. Then a famine struck all Egypt and Canaan, bringing great suffering, and our fathers could not find food. When Jacob heard that there was grain in Egypt, he sent our fathers on their first visit. On their second visit, Joseph told his brothers who he was, and Pharaoh learned about Joseph’s family. After this, Joseph sent for his father Jacob and his whole family, seventy-five in all. Then Jacob went down to Egypt, where he and our fathers died. Their bodies were brought back to Shechem and placed in the tomb that Abraham had bought from the sons of Hamor at Shechem for a certain sum of money. As the time drew near for God to fulfill his promise to Abraham, the number of our people in Egypt greatly increased. Then another king, who knew nothing about Joseph, became ruler of Egypt.
Now you may be wondering, “Why in the world did Stephen go through their whole history?” The high priest knew this story. He taught it hundreds of times. At this point they were all listening to Stephen. As long as you talk about godly principles and never talk about their hearts, they’ll listen to you.
Acts 7:18-50 – Then another king, who knew nothing about Joseph, became ruler of Egypt. He dealt treacherously with our people and oppressed our forefathers by forcing them to throw out their newborn babies so that they would die. At that time Moses was born, and he was no ordinary child. For three months he was cared for in his father’s house. When he was placed outside, Pharaoh’s daughter took him and brought him up as her own son. Moses was educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and was powerful in speech and action. When Moses was forty years old, he decided to visit his fellow Israelites. He saw one of them being mistreated by an Egyptian, so he went to his defense and avenged him by killing the Egyptian. Moses thought that his own people would realize that God was using him to rescue them, but they did not. The next day Moses came upon two Israelites who were fighting. He tried to reconcile them by saying, “Men, you are brothers; why do you want to hurt each other?” But the man who was mistreating the other pushed Moses aside and said, “Who made you ruler and judge over us? Do you want to kill me as you killed the Egyptian yesterday?” When Moses heard this, he fled to Midian, where he settled as a foreigner and had two sons. After forty years had passed, an angel appeared to Moses in the flames of a burning bush in the desert near Mount Sinai. When he saw this, he was amazed at the sight. As he went over to look more closely, he heard the Lord’s voice: “I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” Moses trembled with fear and did not dare to look. Then the Lord said to him, “Take off your sandals; the place where you are standing is holy ground. I have indeed seen the oppression of my people in Egypt. I have heard their groaning and have come down to set them free. Now come, I will send you back to Egypt.” This is the same Moses whom they had rejected with the words, “Who made you ruler and judge?” He was sent to be their ruler and deliverer by God himself, through the angel who appeared to him in the bush. He led them out of Egypt and did wonders and miraculous signs in Egypt, at the Red Sea and for forty years in the desert. This is that Moses who told the Israelites, “God will send you a prophet like me from your own people.” He was in the assembly in the desert, with the angel who spoke to him on Mount Sinai, and with our fathers; and he received living words to pass on to us. But our fathers refused to obey him. Instead, they rejected him and in their hearts turned back to Egypt. They told Aaron, “Make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who led us out of Egypt—we don’t know what has happened to him!” That was the time they made an idol in the form of a calf. They brought sacrifices to it and held a celebration in honor of what their hands had made. But God turned away and gave them over to the worship of the heavenly bodies. This agrees with what is written in the book of the prophets: “Did you bring me sacrifices and offerings forty years in the desert, O house of Israel? You have lifted up the shrine of Molech and the star of your god Rephan, the idols you made to worship. Therefore I will send you into exile” beyond Babylon. Our forefathers had the tabernacle of the Testimony with them in the desert. It had been made as God directed Moses, according to the pattern he had seen. Having received the tabernacle, our fathers under Joshua brought it with them when they took the land from the nations God drove out before them. It remained in the land until the time of David, who enjoyed God’s favor and asked that he might provide a dwelling place for the God of Jacob. But it was Solomon who built the house for him. However, the Most High does not live in houses made by men. As the prophet says: “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. What kind of house will you build for me? says the Lord. Or where will my resting place be? Has not my hand made all these things?”
They listened quietly and attentively to everything Stephen had to say up until this point. This is what kind of church you worship in. As long as your pastor talks about biblical and historical things, a holiness and judgment in terms of abstract ideas and concepts, people will listen. But, when Stephen said this next line, they couldn’t take it any more. As long as he talked about all the holy things God did, fine—no problem! They listened. But, the minute he said this, look what happened:
Acts 7:51-60- “You stiff-necked people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are just like your fathers: You always resist the Holy Spirit! Was there ever a prophet your fathers did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him—you who have received the law that was put into effect through angels but have not obeyed it.” When they heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul. While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep.
Judgment and mercy!
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.