Friday, January 20, 2017

Congregational Meeting - Diaconate

2016 was a full year.  Below are several notable items the Deacon's dealt with during the year.

1.    The year was marked by financial blessing.

2.    We were able to reach settlement agreements regarding the property next door.

3.    We assisted various members/regular attendees both financially and in other ways.

4.    We defined how and in what circumstances we will assist members financially.

5.    Ray Nearhood was a very active presence in serving the church and his departure hasn't gone unnoticed.

6.    We organized a few work parties around the church.

7.    We continued our leadership training program, but have been breaking from that for the last couple quarters to focus on other issues.

8.    We missed a couple of our 2016 goals:

a.    Annual member interaction

b.    Defining our meeting schedules/methods and better record keeping

c.    Solidifying our church planting goals/timeline

9.    We began seriously considering the best option to accommodate increased attendance.

2017 brings a lot of challenges but the biggest we have identified is to figure out a way to accommodate the current number of people attending.

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Seeing Ourselves Clearly - Matthew 7:1-6

John Calvin's most important work, The Institues of the Christian Religion, begin by saying, "Our wisdom, in so far as it ought to be deemed true and solid Wisdom, consists almost entirely of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves."  Wisdom comes from knowing God and from knowing ourselves.  The passage before us this morning tells us at least two things:

·      to see ourselves more clearly by removing the fence post from our eye, so that we can see our own sin before focusing on the sin of our brothers and sisters.

·      to see our heavenly Father more clearly.

Today we will focus on wisdom that comes from seeing ourselves rightly.

Have you ever looked down on a brother or a sister in Christ because they didn't measure up to your standard?  Have you ever been judged by somebody who is even guiltier of the same sin than you are?  All of us have at one time or another been in one of these situations.  Christ speaks concerning them in our passage today.  Matthew 7:1 is perhaps the best known verse in the NT among unbelievers.  It is the first that comes out of their mouthes when we express an opinion concerning their lives that is contrary to what they want to hear.  I think Christian also fall in the same pit of thinking that any contrary opinion is forbidding by this verse.

I.             This passage does not teach that we are not to judge at all, 6.

A.  This very passage calls to make a judgment as who are dogs and pigs and who are not.

B.  Later Jesus tells us that we are to watch out for false prophets, 15-20.

C.  Jesus calls us to make righteous judgments

Jn. 7:24 – Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.

D.  Several other NT writers tell us we are to judge.

Gal. 1:8 – But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed.  As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.

Phil. 3:2 – Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the mutilation!

1 Jn. 4:1 – Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.

1 Cor. 5:12 – For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside?

E.   Church discipline is the pronouncement of judgments.

F.   All these passages not only tell us that righteous judging is legitimate, but that it is mandated – we are commanded to judge.

G.  If this passage is not a blanket prohibition to judge, what is it, then?  It is a warning about passing censure on others that only God can pass, and it is a warning against pointing out other people's fault hypocritically.

"This passage is sometimes interpreted as a warning against talking with others about their faults.  If you read it carefully, however, you will see that is does not forbid loving correction.  Rather, it forbids premature and improper correction."  Ken Sande, 79

"These words of Christ do not contain an absolute prohibition from judging, but are intended to cure a disease, which appears to be natural to all of us.  We see how all flatter themselves, and every man passes a severe censure on others."  John Calvin

Eph. 4:25, 29 – Therefore, putting away lying, "Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor," for we are members of one another….  Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.

II.          A call to proper, loving, selfless, and gracious Judgment, 1-5.

A.  The principle, 1a.

1.   So, what is it that Christ doesn't want us to do when he says "Judge not?"

2.   Our Savior is warning us against self-righteous attitude in condemning others.

"[The self-righteous] is looking for sins in other people, and he pounces whenever he sees one.  So absorbed is he in his campaign that he is blind to the fact that he has sin in his own life that is far greater than anything he see in the lives of others.  In fact, his pursuit of others' sins (which he regards as proof of his good standing with God) is like a plank of wood compared to a speck of sawdust.  He is guilty of the sin of censoriousness.  So deeply has his sin conquered him that he has become blind to it.  Sensitive to sin in others, he has been desensitised to the sin in his own heart."  Sinclair Ferguson

3.   An illustration of this attitude is found in Luke 18:9-14

Lk. 18:9-14 – Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.  The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, "God, I thank You that I am not like other men -- extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector.  I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess."  And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, "God, be merciful to me a sinner!"  I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.

a.    The Pharisee thought he was a righteous man because of all the things he did.

b.   His standard was himself and based on his standard he was pretty good.

c.    Now the tax collector didn't meet the Pharisee's standard of righteousness, so he took upon himself to judge the tax collector based on his standard.

"Self is always at the back of it [judging], and it is always a manifestation of self-righteousness, a feeling of superiority, and a feeling that we are all right while others are not.  That then leads to censoriousness, and a spirit that is always ready to express itself in a derogatory manner.  And then, accompanying that, there is a tendency to despise others, to regard them with contempt."  Martin Lloyd Jones

4.   This self-righteous and judgmental spirit appears every time we measure other people against standards other than God's.

5.   This self-righteous judging appears when we issue verdicts on other people because we are so much better than they are.

6.   This self-righteous judging appears when the motive to pointing out other people's fault is anything other than a desire to see a brother/sister in Christ become more like Christ.

7.   This self-righteous judging appears any time self is an issue in pointing out something wrong in another person.

8.   To all of this, our Lord says, "DON'T JUDGE."

B.  The theological justification, 1b-2

1.   The reason our Lord gives us for not being a self-righteous judge is that we will be judged as well.

2.   A popular understanding of this idea of being judged is that the people that you judge will judge you back.

a.    If you are mean to somebody they will be mean to you.

b.   If you merciless to somebody, they will be merciless back.

c.    According to this understanding, these verses are a restatement of the Golden Rule found in 7:12.

3.   Although this action and reaction correlation is generally true, this verse does not teach that.

4.   The one judging the person who judges self-righteously is God himself.

5.   Why?  Because the one judging self-righteously took upon himself to do what only God can do, thus usurping God's throne and declaring that he is god instead.

6.   This is even more evident when we try self-righteously to judge somebody's heart or motives.

"We must not judge the hearts of others, nor their intentions, for it is God's prerogative to try the heart, and we must not step into his throne."  Matthew Henry

7.   God is the only one who can judge the hearts of man.

8.   In a very practical note, can you imagine how much easier it would be to forgive somebody that wronged you if you took their repentance at face-value and not tried to figure out their hearts?

9.   It is in this context that Paul says in Romans:

Rom. 14:10 – But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.

10.    In judging the self-righteous judge, God will use the same method of judgment, 2.

a.    The standard or measure used by the self-righteous judge was his own righteousness.

b.   The standard or measure used by God is his own righteousness.

"What would become of us, if God should be as exact and severe in judging us, as we are in judging our brethren…?"  Matthew Henry

c.    There isn't anyone who will be able to measure up to God's righteousness.

"The judgmental person by not being forgiving and loving testifies to his own arrogance and impenitence, by which he shuts himself out from God's forgiveness."  D.A. Carson

C.  The teaching illustrated, 3-5.

1.   First thing for us to notice in these verses is that it is directed to professing Christians (brother).

a.    This means that the one being called a hypocrite is not a Pharisee or an unbeliever.

b.   But you and I when we act as self-righteous judges.

2.   Second, notice that these verses give us an object illustration of self-righteous judging.

a.    The words "speck" and "plank" are used for different sizes of the same material.

b.   In this case, "speck" would carry the idea of a particle of sawdust and "plank" would carry the idea of a fence post.

c.    So, the hypocrisy comes from judging a brother about sin or perceived sin that you struggle with much more – "… to have strong feelings about the sins of others that are not matched by a ruthless dealing with our own sins is hypocrisy."  Sinclair Ferguson

1)   It would be akin to the drunkard judging the brother who had a glass of wine for dinner.

2)   It would be akin to the prostitute judging an unmarried person for kissing passionately.

3)   It would be akin to a congregant judging a pastor for not having studied enough for a sermon when he himself didn't even open the Bible all week.

4)   It would be akin to an idolater judging a person for bearing false witness.

5)   It would be akin to any situation where we judge a sister for a sin when we have not judged ourselves for that sin or any other sin.

6)   2 Samuel 12:1-7a is a dramatic example of somebody with a plank in his eye wanting to remove a speck from somebody else's eye.

2 Sam. 12:1-7a – Then the LORD sent Nathan to David. And he came to him, and said to him: "There were two men in one city, one rich and the other poor.  The rich man had exceedingly many flocks and herds.  But the poor man had nothing, except one little ewe lamb which he had bought and nourished; and it grew up together with him and with his children. It ate of his own food and drank from his own cup and lay in his bosom; and it was like a daughter to him.  And a traveler came to the rich man, who refused to take from his own flock and from his own herd to prepare one for the wayfaring man who had come to him; but he took the poor man's lamb and prepared it for the man who had come to him."  So David's anger was greatly aroused against the man, and he said to Nathan, "As the LORD lives, the man who has done this shall surely die!  And he shall restore fourfold for the lamb, because he did this thing and because he had no pity."  Then Nathan said to David, "You are the man!"

3.   Third, notice that these verses also provide the solution for self-righteous judgment: self-examination and repentance.

a.    Without self-examination and repentance we are not fit to help others see how they can become more like Christ.

1)   It would be like the blind leading the blind.

2)   Actually, it would be worse – it would be like the blind optometrist helping the near-sighted to see well.

b.   Judgment must first start in our own hearts.

1 Cor. 11:31 – For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged.

"Our sins ought to appear greater to us than the same sins in others…." Matthew Henry

c.    Self-judgment must use the righteous standard of the Word of God.

d.   As we examine our own hearts with the help of the Spirit of God, we will invariably find sin that needs to be repented of.

e.    Following our self-examination, we need to fall on our knees, repent of those sins, and ask our faithful and forgiving God to forgive us.

f.     Now, a word is necessary about our motives for removing the plank out of our own eye.

1)   This is not done mechanically as a process to make us fit to judge others.

2)   The motive cannot be, "I really want to judge others."

3)   This has to come from a desire to be conformed more and more to the image of Christ.

4.   Fourth, and last, notice that following the removal of the plank, you are to go to the brother with the speck and help him remove it from his eye.

a.    The brother with a speck in his eye still needs help.

b.   He is part of the body of Christ and he is hurting.

c.    If he is hurting the whole body is hurting.

d.   Although the plank is much more bothersome and impairs vision much more than a speck, the speck still keeps the brother from seeing things as God wants him to see it – Matthew 18:15-20.

Gal. 6:1 – Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.

e.    We cannot hide behind the plank as an excuse never to help a brother to see a sin in his life that is keeping him from becoming conformed to the image of Christ.

III.       Applying This Passage to Conflict Resolution

A.  Often when we are involved in a conflict, we tend to concentrate on what part the other person or people played in it.

B.  However, in any conflict there is enough blame to go around everybody involved.

C.  That is where this passage comes into play.

D.  In any conflict we need to ask ourselves the following question: How can I show Jesus' work in me by taking responsibility for my contribution to this conflict?

E.   By doing that we are trying to take the plank out of our own eye before trying to deal with somebody else's contribution to the conflict.

F.   From a very practical perspective, generally when you go to somebody with whom you have been fighting and ask them to forgive you for your part in it, you will be several steps closer to resolution.

"Attacking others only invites counterattacks.  This is why Jesus teaches us to face up to our won contributions to a conflict before we focus on what others have done.  When we overlook others' minor offenses and honestly admit our own faults, our opponents will often respond in kind.  As tensions decrease, the way may be opened for sincere discussion, negotiation, and reconciliation."  Ken Sande


God calls us to be righteous judges in order to help the brethren be more and more conformed to the image of Christ.  In order to be able to be righteous judges we first have to judge ourselves according to God's standards.  We need to repent of our sins and then we need to lovingly go to our brother and help them see where they have sinned against God.  May God gives us grace to do so.

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