Responding to the Sins of Others - Part 1

Matthew 7:1-6

Tom Pennington  •  September 8, 2013
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Well, today we come to another chapter, both literally and figuratively, in our study of the Sermon on the Mount. A new section awaits us as we continue our journey through this great sermon, the greatest sermon of our Lord, the longest sermon of His recorded in the New Testament; and we come to Matthew chapter 7.

You know, the people of our world love to routinely misquote, misapply, and misuse the Scripture that we love. Perhaps no passage has suffered more at the hands of unbelievers and, sadly, even at the hands of believers, than the one that we come to this morning. Matthew 7 begins with those famous words, "Do not judge so that you will not be judged." I think it is very possible that is the most frequently-quoted verse from the Bible. Ninety-nine times out of 100 when it is quoted, it is misinterpreted, misapplied. It is quoted as an excuse for sin, either one's own sin or the sin of others. You hear the people around you say things like this: "Don't you judge me;" "You have no right to judge me;" "Who made you judge?" And sometimes they even say it in sort of a paraphrased form of the old King James: "Judge not, lest you be judged." Often, then, they will tack on Jesus' words from John 8 where He said, "Let him who is without sin cast the first stone." Now, what is the clear implication of those expressions when they are used in those contexts? It's that no human being has the right—ever—to say that anything someone else does is wrong, is evil, is sinful; even if Scripture clearly condemns it, even if Scripture calls it sin. But that, as we will see, is not at all what our Lord is saying in this text. On the other hand, however abused this text might be—and it is—it still has an absolutely crucial message for all of us because we are all, by nature, harshly critical of others. It's part of our fallen nature. It's true of every unbeliever. You remember how Paul in Titus chapter 3 describes what we used to be (and what all unbelievers still are). He says, Titus 3:3: "For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our lives in malice, hateful, and hating one another." That is what fallen people do. It manifested itself when there were only four people on the planet. One of them, Cain, who was not a believer, hated his brother and killed him. Hateful and hating is a description of the fallen human heart. And that hatred often comes out as a critical and judgmental spirit toward others.

Now, I grew up in an age when there were gatekeepers on information. There was the newspaper editor who decided what was said in the paper and how. There was the man who controlled the television news who decided what would be broadcast and how it would be said, and so forth. But the day of the gatekeeper is gone. Now, the voice of the people can be heard, ad nauseam, on the internet. And perhaps the best illustration of how critical and judgmental people really are in their heart of hearts is to read the comments that they make in what they think is the relative anonymity of the internet. Read the biting comments after a news article about some public figure who has stumbled, and sinned, and failed. Read the harsh comments about businesses and doctors and restaurants. Read the comments about Christians. Read the comments about anything. Don't read them too long or your eyebrows will be singed, but read them. And what you will discover is that there are countless human beings displaying a harsh, condemning spirit toward others. Though that kind of a critical, hateful spirit may be pervasive on this planet, it is not supposed to be, it must not be, found among us who are disciples of Jesus Christ. And that's the message of our Lord in the next paragraph that we come to in the Sermon on the Mount today.

Now before we look at this paragraph, let me just remind you of where we are in the overall structure of the Sermon on the Mount. There are three parts of this sermon–there is an introduction, there is the body of the sermon, and then there is the conclusion.

The introduction is about the citizens of the kingdom. It begins in chapter 5, verse 3. It runs down through verse 16. Jesus begins by saying, Let Me describe for you what the citizens of My kingdom are like. These are the people who are already in My kingdom. We get in how? By being beggars. Blessed are the beggars in spirit. Those who realize they have nothing God wants have no way to satisfy God's justice; no way to please God. All they can do is beg. That's how you get in. Pleading for forgiveness because of Christ. He goes on to describe the rest of their character in the Beatitudes. Then, once He describes what we are like, what our character is like, He says, Let Me tell you what their influence is like. And He describes it as salt and light in the culture around us.

Now that brings us to the body of the message. It begins in chapter 5 verse 17 and runs all the way through chapter 7 verse 12. And here Jesus says, Now let Me explain to you how the citizens of My kingdom live and must live. This is what their lives must be like; the righteousness of the kingdom. He describes how those who are part of His kingdom respond to the Scripture. He says, I believe—the Scripture of His time was the Old Testament, the Law and the Prophets—He says, I believe every single letter and every single stroke of the letter will be fulfilled. Not one will pass away until it's all accomplished. And He said, If you are going to be My follower and My disciple, you have to believe that about the Scripture as well. He says, The one who claims to be a part of My kingdom and minimizes one of these things that is in the Scripture, he will be least in My kingdom. The one who teaches others and obeys them will be great in My kingdom. He goes on to illustrate, as compared to the Pharisees, that our relationship to the Scripture must be internal obedience from the heart; not merely external conformity. It's not good enough that you don't murder anyone; you can't be angry with someone in your heart. It's not good enough that you don't commit adultery; you have to be free of lust, as well.

He goes on in chapter 6 to describe how the citizens of His kingdom live in their relationship to God. In their spiritual activities, whether it's praying or giving or fasting or whatever it is, they don't do that to be seen. They do it to be seen by God. And then He goes on in the second half of chapter 6 to say you're going to have a heart that's loyal to God. You're not going to be redirected to worship something else, including wealth. You are going to be singly devoted to God.

Now that brings us to chapter 7. And as He finishes up describing what the righteous behavior of those in His kingdom is like, He comes to the issue of our relationship to others–chapter 7 verses 1-12. And then He finishes the sermon in chapter 7 verse 13 through the end of the chapter, with the dangers of the kingdom. There is the danger that you will get the wrong entrance. There is only one narrow gate, and every other gate leads you somewhere else. There is the danger of being directed to that wrong gate by false teachers, who claim to be representing Christ, but who in fact are speaking error, and they send you to the wrong gate. And then there is the danger of a false profession. You know about the true Jesus. You claim, profess to be His follower; but you are not really His follower because you don't do what He says. So, chapter 5 verse 17 through chapter 7 verse 12 is the body of Jesus' sermon. He begins that section in verse 17 of chapter 5 and He ends that section in chapter 7 verse 12 by referring to the Law and the Prophets. That's shorthand for the Old Testament. Understand that Jesus' sermon here is an explanation of the heart of the Old Testament and of true faith in the one true God.

Now today we come to chapter 7. Let me read for you the first paragraph there. Matthew 7, beginning in verse 1. Listen to what our Lord says to us.

Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' and behold the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye. Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.

Now as I noted a moment ago, Matthew 7:1-12 deals with our relationships with others. In the verses I just read, verses 1-6, we're taught how to respond to the sin of others. In verses 7-11, those verses talk about asking and receiving. Those verses, in context, are about how to get the wisdom we need for dealing with our relationships. We can only get it from God. And then in verse 12, He comes back to the issue of relationships, and He summarizes it in what we call The Golden Rule. Here's how to treat all the people in our lives. So, go back to verses 1-6. Verses 1-6 deal specifically with how to respond to the sins of others. Verses 1-5: How to respond to the sin of fellow believers. Verse 6: How to respond to the sin of antagonistic unbelievers. Verses 1-5: How to respond to the sin of our fellow disciples; and verse 6: How to respond to the sin of antagonistic unbelievers.

So let's begin, then, to look at the first part of this. Today, we want to begin to see how to respond to the sins of other believers. This is revealed to us in verses 1-5. Now as I mentioned, this text has been more abused and misused than any other text in Scripture. It has become a favorite hiding place for all kinds of sin and sinners. People can do whatever they want; they can sin in whatever way they choose. And if anyone questions them, the response is, "You remember what Jesus said: 'Don't judge. Don't judge.' You have no right to judge me." That's not the idea behind this text. As Leon Morris, the great commentator, puts it, "'Don't judge' doesn't mean 'Don't think.'" Or as John Stott points out, "This command is not a requirement to be blind, but rather a plea to be generous." So, before we look at what it means (since it has been so badly misinterpreted; so badly misused), I think it is very important for us, as we often do, to first consider what Jesus does not mean when He says, "Judge not."

First of all, Jesus does not mean human courts should never seek to determine guilt or innocence. You say, "Are there people who teach that?" Yes, unfortunately there are. Leo Tolstoy, the Russian author, and many others, have interpreted this text in exactly that way–as though it is a prohibition against any human being sitting in judgment (even in a court setting) on others. Clearly, however, Scripture teaches that God has established human government and human judges and courts. As imperfect as they are, human courts are a reflection of the divine courtroom; and human concern for justice, a reflection of the divine pursuit of justice. Jesus affirmed the place of earthly courts when He allowed Himself to be placed under oath before Israel's Sanhedrin, during His Jewish trial. Also, by his example, Paul sanctioned and confirmed the place of human courts in human life when in Acts 25:10 he said, "I am standing before Caesar's tribunal, where I ought to stand." So Jesus doesn't mean there should be no human courts trying to determine guilt or innocence over a crime for which a person has been accused.

Secondly, Jesus does not mean that the elders of the church should never settle disagreements between believers. In fact, exactly the opposite is taught. Turn to 1 Corinthians 6. You remember that in Corinth, there were believers in the church taking other believers in the church before secular courts to sort out their disagreements, and Paul says it shouldn't be like this. First Corinthians 6:1: "Does any one of you, when he has a case against his neighbor, dare…" That's an interesting word. How dare you "go to law before the unrighteous and not before the saints?" And he says, Look, you're ultimately going to be in a position of authority, judging and making decisions in the millennium. "If the world is judged by you, are you not competent to constitute the smallest law courts?" Can't you work out these little disagreements and sort them out? "Do you not know that you are going to judge angels?" You're going to be in a position of authority over angels.

How much more matters of this life? So if you have law courts dealing with the matters of this life, do you appoint them as judges who are of no account in the church? I say this to your shame. Is it so, that there is not among you one wise man who will be able to decide between his brethren, but brother goes to law with brother, and that before unbelievers?

He's dumbfounded. How could this be? And so Jesus is not saying that there isn't a place for the leaders of the church; the "wise man," as it is pointed out here. And the elders of the city in Old Testament times, the elders of the church in New Testament times, helped sort out the disagreements between the people of God. So Jesus isn't saying that.

Thirdly, Jesus does not mean that we should never identify and confront false teaching and false teachers. You know, we live in the day of a very weak Church. Pusillanimous would be a very good word to describe the evangelical Church. There's no backbone. There's no courage. And it all comes under this guise: If some heretic stands up and says something wrong about Christ, wrong about the gospel, we are just supposed to sit back and not judge him. He means well. He has a good heart. Listen. That cannot find cover under this text. That's not what Jesus is saying. In fact, notice in Matthew 7:15 (just a few verses later), He calls us to exactly the opposite: "Beware of the false prophets." They're going to come to you in disguise. They're actually "ravenous wolves." I want you to judge them by their fruits. I want you to look at how they live; their lifestyle. I want you to look at what their teaching is. I want you to look at what their teaching produces in the lives of their followers. And I want you to evaluate: Are they true teachers sent from Me, true shepherds; or are they false teachers not sent from Me?

Jesus Himself did this. In fact, shockingly so. Turn over to Matthew 23. I wish I had time to really work us through this text. Let me just remind you that this happens on Tuesday of the Passion Week. It happens on the Temple Mount. Now those of you who haven't been to Jerusalem, maybe you've seen pictures. Where the temple sat, there was this massive platform that Herod built—35 acres. It holds, even to this day, 400,000 people. During the time of Passover, Josephus tells us that there were at least 200,000 extra people in Jerusalem for the feast. They gathered at the Temple Mount. That's what it was there for, and teachers would teach. That Tuesday, Jesus was teaching. His disciples were around Him. The gospel records tell us there were large crowds around Him; thousands of people around Him. This is a public message; it couldn't be more public in that day. There was no way to have more people listening to you. And I want you to notice Jesus, in verse 13, in that context, speaks directly to the spiritual leaders of the nation. "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees…" Jesus points across the Temple Mount. They're there in the crowd listening to Him; undoubtedly, as they later did, listening for something that they could accuse Him of. He points at them, speaks to these thousands of people, and notice what He says: You are hypocrites. You shut off the kingdom of heaven from people. You're not entering, and you won't let other people enter it. Verse 15: "…you travel around on sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves." Jesus says, Listen. You guys are going to hell, and the people who are following you are going, as well. Verse 16: "You are blind guides." Verse 17: "You are fools and blind men!" Verse 24: "…blind guides…" Verse 25: "You are clean outside, but inside you are full of robbery and self-indulgence." Verse 27: "You are like whitewashed graves. You are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness. You appear outwardly righteous to men but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness." Verse 33: "You are snakes—a brood of vipers. How will you escape the sentence of hell?" Now this is not the typical sort of sweet, syrupy picture of Jesus. You know, this isn't that Jesus with the sort of nicely-coiffured hair and the little glow about Him. This isn't that Jesus. He's confronting false teachers to their face publicly.

Paul did the same thing in Galatians chapter 1. You remember, he says, Let me tell you there are some in your churches there in Galatia who are teaching a perverted form of the gospel. And he says, Let me just tell you, that here's what I want you to do with them. If anybody comes to you and teaches a gospel other than the one that you have already heard; if either I come, an angel comes, or any of those guys I'm talking about come to you, you let them be accursed. You let them be damned.

He also publicly and permanently called out false teachers by name. You know, people get a little nervous when I sometimes start talking about false teachers by name. Listen. Paul did that. Turn to 1 Timothy 1. He didn't just do it publicly; he did it permanently. We're sitting here in the 21st century reading these names. Now remember, he wrote this letter to his young son in the faith, Timothy, and he expected this letter to be read in the church Timothy pastored in Ephesus. Can you imagine the shock? You are sitting there in church and Timothy is reading the letter, and in verse 19 of chapter 1, he says there are those who have "suffered shipwreck in regard to the faith." Among them are two guys you know, "Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan so they will be taught not to blaspheme."

Turn over to 2 Timothy 2. Hymenaeus has a new partner in crime. Verse 17: "These false teachers' talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus. They have gone astray from the truth." And in their case, specifically, they were saying that the resurrection has already taken place and upset the faith of some. They bought into Greek dualism and said, Look. You don't want a resurrected body. Matter is evil. You just want a perfected spirit. And Paul says, Uh-uh, that's wrong. That's heterodox. That's false doctrine. And he calls them out by name.

John, the apostle of love, gets into it, as well. 1 John 4:1: "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world." John says, Listen, I want you to think about this false-teaching thing on two levels. On the human level, there are false teachers. You know, those are the guys you get when you turn on your television. But he says there's another layer behind that, and that is spirits. And it's not, as he ends verse 24 of chapter 3, the Holy Spirit. They are different spirits. These are demonic spirits that are energizing these false teachers. And he says, You'd better be careful. Not everybody who says he's a Christian, not everybody showing up on Christian television, not everybody who's got a crowd in front of them and claims to be a follower of Jesus Christ, really is. Turn over to 2 John verse 7: "There are many deceivers that have gone out into the world." Those who have a wrong doctrine of Christ, they are deceivers and antichrists. Verse 10: "If anyone comes to you and doesn't bring the right teaching about Christ, don't grant him hospitality." Don't give him a place to stay. Don't act like he is one of you. Verse 11: "…for the one who gives him a greeting" (that is, the one who treats him like he's a Christian brother), "participates in his evil deeds."

So, don't misunderstand our Lord. Jesus did not mean that we should never identify and confront false teachers and false teaching. In fact, that's exactly what we must do. If you're going to love Jesus, you have to hate everything that is anti-Jesus. If you're going to love the Scripture, you have to hate error. If you're going to love the true gospel, you have to hate the false gospel. It's not enough to be for something. If you're really for something, you have to be against something, as well. But in today's Christianity, that seems harsh and critical. And for saying that, in some circles, I would be run immediately to Matthew 7: Who are you to judge? That's not what Jesus is saying. As the rest of the texts I've showed you–and there are others, by the way that I have in my notes (in the interest of time I'm not going to take you there)—that's not what the Scripture says.

Fourthly, Jesus did not mean that we should never confront the sins of others. Tragically, most American evangelicals think that Jesus' command not to judge means that they should never conclude that something someone else is doing is sinful; they should never call their attitudes, words, or actions sinful; and they should, by all means, never confront it. That's being judgmental. But, that is absolutely contrary to the clear teaching of Scripture. Right here in Matthew 7:5, Jesus says, After you deal with your own sin, after you get the log out of your own eye, I want you to help get the speck out of your brother's eye.

And, of course, the classic text is over in Matthew 18. Turn over there. The classic text on church discipline. For some of you, the very first time you ever saw church discipline practiced was when you came to this church. For Sheila and me, the first time we ever saw it was when we went to Grace Church in California. But this is what churches have always done. In fact, during the Reformation, what identified a biblical church was that the Word was taught, the ordinances were practiced, and church discipline was practiced. Those were the three definitions of a church. Matthew 18:15 (this is Jesus, now): "If your brother is sinning" is the idea here. In other words, if there's somebody in your life who claims to be a Christian and who is in a pattern of unrepentant sin–this is not talking about a one-time personal offense that you can overlook. You ought to do that. Love covers. We're talking about an ongoing, unrepentant pattern of sin. "Go and show him his fault in private." This is your responsibility. Jesus is making this command of you. "If he listens to you, you have won your brother." It's over. "But if he does not listen to you, go again. Take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses, every fact may be confirmed." It has to meet the Old Testament standard. These are not witnesses of the original sin; these are witnesses of the confrontation. If he refuses to listen to the second group, tell it to the church. This is when the elders get involved. You come. You tell the elders, "You know, I have followed step one and step two. My brother is still refusing to repent. He says he doesn't care what the Bible says. He's going to do what he wants." You come and you tell the elders. The elders look into it, make sure the facts are right, and then, if everything is as it seems, we tell it to the church. Why? To embarrass the person? No. So that you now, and everybody in the church who knows that person, can go to them and urge them to repent. Verse 17: "If he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector." Put him out of the church. Don't let him continue to live under some illusion that he is definitely a Christian, because he very well may not be, because he's living in a pattern of rebellion against God; against Christ. That's what the Scriptures teach. And that's what we must do. So, when Jesus says Don't judge, He doesn't mean that you see somebody self-destructing in something the Bible clearly calls sin, and you say to yourself, "Ah, who am I to judge?" That's sin on your part. Jesus says if your brother sins, go to him. So, that's not what Jesus is saying. By the way, there are other texts. You have to do it in the right spirit. We're going to look at one of these next week. Galatians 6:1 says you have to do it in a "spirit of humility, considering yourself, lest you also be tempted." You don't go thinking, "Pff. How could anybody ever do that? I would never…" No. You go, realizing that there but for the grace of God go you. But you go.

So Jesus didn't mean any of those things. What did He mean? Let's go back to Matthew chapter 7. In verses 1 and 2, Jesus meant, Respond to the sin of other believers with grace. Verse 1: "Do not judge." The Greek word translated "judge" has a wide range of senses, but in this context, it means "to pass judgment," "to pass an unfavorable judgment," "to criticize," "to find fault," "to condemn." Now Jesus is not telling us to suspend all discernment. In fact, in this very context, that's clear. As I mentioned, in verse 5, He tells us that once we deal with our own sin, we're to help others with their sin. Verse 6: It's a hard verse to understand, but He's basically telling us that for us to obey verse 6, we've got to discern; we've got to make a judgment of who the dogs are and who the swine are. We'll talk about that when we get there. In verses 15 and 16 of chapter 7, we have to use our discernment to identify those who claim to be speaking for Christ, whether they are or not. Jesus even illustrates what He means by "Do not judge" in verses 3-5 with the illustration of the log and the speck. He's saying, Don't harshly judge the sins of others while excusing your own. I like the way John Broadus defines judging here. John Broadus was a professor at Southern Seminary back in the days of the Civil War. He wrote an excellent commentary on Matthew. Listen to how he describes it. He says, "The reference here is to the sadly-common practice of viciously and presumptuously undertaking to pass judgment upon others: a judgment often unfounded" (In other words, there's no real evidence for it. We're just sort of jumping to conclusions), "unjust, or unkind." That's what He's talking about. Jesus is referring to having a harsh, critical, judgmental spirit; delighting in criticizing and finding fault with others, even as we minimize and downplay our own sinfulness. And what happens when we do this–and this is the way it always works–we judge the peccadillos of others (the little sins of others), even as we excuse our massive rebellion against God. This is the person who manages to believe the absolute worst about the other person (their intentions, their motives, their actions, their attitudes), and believes the absolute best about himself. By the way, this judging can be spoken; but most often, this judging happens between our ears. Right here. We sit and we make judgments, and we can be very harsh; very critical. Sometimes, we can put it in a comment section on the internet, but often it stays right here. But God knows. This person who struggles the most with this sin is always the hero in all of his thoughts about himself. Of course, the worst examples of this harsh, critical spirit are in unbelievers, especially religious, self-righteous unbelievers. We'll look at it next week, but you remember the story Jesus tells in Luke 18 about the Pharisee and the tax gatherer who went up to the temple to pray. What does the Pharisee do? He says, God, I am so grateful I'm not like that guy. Let me tell you how good I am. Let me tell you what I do. And yet, Jesus, we saw what He had to say about them in Matthew 23.

But this sin of a harsh, critical spirit is not just characteristic of unbelievers. Sadly, all too often, it's present in our hearts, as well. Remember, the Sermon on the Mount is addressed to whom? Primarily to Jesus' disciples: to us. He's warning us of the tendency. In fact, look at verse 1 again. The Greek construction of the command there in verse 1 we could translate as "stop judging." This is already going on, and Jesus is aware that this is happening in the heart of His disciples. By the way, you see that even in verses 3-5. It's clear that this is still going on. That's why He is correcting it. So Jesus' words, then, are as timeless as ever. He says, Stop your judging. Stop evaluating others with a harsh, condemning, critical spirit while you tolerate your own sin. Stop assuming the worst motives behind the actions of others. In other words–here's the key–respond to the sins of other believers with grace. Why? Well, look at verse 1: "Do not judge," in order that, "so that, you will not be judged" by God. It's not talking about being judged by other people. This is what theologians call the divine passive. Almost every commentator without exception–in fact I didn't find one out of the 15 or so commentaries I read this week on this passage–took another view: This is God. Do not judge so that God won't judge you. For in the way you judge others, God's going to judge you. And then Jesus uses a common first-century proverb: "By your standard of measure, it will be measured to you, understood by God." You see, the point is God will deal with us as we deal with others. If you respond to the sins of others, whether they are actual sins or imagined sins, with a harsh, condemning spirit, then you can expect only harsh judgment from God. If you are gracious and merciful toward others, then you can expect God to respond to you with mercy. As one author puts it, "If we pose as judges, we cannot plead ignorance of the law that we claim to be able to administer. If we enjoy occupying the bench, we must not be surprised to find ourselves in the dock." This is what our Lord says in this sermon. Go back to chapter 5, verse 7. "Blessed are the merciful," (those who show mercy to others) "for they shall receive mercy from God." Chapter 6, verse 15: "If you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions." It's what James says in James 2:13: "God's judgment will be merciless to the one who has shown no mercy to others." That is a terrifying thought. God's judgment will be merciless to the one who has failed to show mercy to others.

Now, Jesus is not saying that God is vindictive or capricious. Instead, He's saying that God will respond to us with perfect justice. He will judge us using the very same standard that we have used in evaluating and judging others. I mean, think about it. When we judge others, we're saying we know what's right, and we're saying people deserve to be judged by this standard. And then when we break that very standard that we have set and judged others by, we're saying we deserve to be judged that way, as well. Let me ask you a question. Have you ever prayed this prayer? Have you ever said, "God, when I get to the judgment, I want you to treat me exactly like I treat the people around me." I doubt it. But God says that's exactly what He plans to do. Psalm 18:25: "With the kind, You show Yourself kind; but with the crooked, You show Yourself astute." Obadiah 1:15: "The Day of the Lord draws near. As you have done, it will be done to you. Your dealings will return on your own head." Listen. God's future judgment will be perfectly just. God's future punishment of sinners will be perfectly fair, appropriate, and well-deserved, because they will have determined the very standard by which they are judged.

Turn to Romans chapter 2. In Romans 1, Paul deals with the pagan world; and in chapter 2 of Romans, he indicts the moralist: The religious person. Romans 2:1:

Therefore you have no excuse, every one of you who passes judgment, for in that which you judge another, you condemn yourself, for you who judge practice the same things, and you know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. Do you suppose this, O man, when you pass judgment on those who practice such things and do the same yourself that you will escape the judgment of God?

The clear answer is absolutely not. You see, the point is, those who have experienced God's mercy and grace will consistently show God's mercy and grace. That's evidence that we're really in Christ. If you find yourself constantly dispensing in your mind harsh, critical judgment on all the people around you—none of them can live up to your standard; none of them can come close to the holy, righteous person you are—then it's very likely you've never experienced the grace that God commands you to extend to others.

You see, the Sermon on the Mount crushes us in the dust. We can't do this. This pushes us back to the cross, doesn't it? There isn't a single person in this room who hasn't sat in critical judgment on other people. And if we got what we deserved at the judgment instead of grace, we would get exactly the standard we've set. And so it just drives us right back to the cross, right back to Christ. If you're a genuine follower of Jesus Christ, how do you apply what Jesus is teaching here in Matthew 7:1-2? Let me give you a couple of quick ideas; applicational ideas:

•    Recognize that a graceless, harsh, condemning spirit toward the sin of others is sin.  I'm not saying you should excuse the sin of others.  I'm saying, like God, you should show mercy and grace.  You should not be harsh and condemning.  That is sin in and of itself.  How can you, who have received mercy, not extend mercy to others?  How can you, who are guilty of some of the same kinds of things, sit in judgment on someone else?

•   Believe the best about others until there is evidence to the contrary.  1 Corinthians 13 says that true love believes all things.  That doesn't mean mindlessly.  It means you believe the best until there is evidence to the contrary.  And yet we are all tempted, and some people live in a world of assuming the absolute worst about the other person:  "I know why he did that.  I know why she did that."  Believe the best.

•   Always have a forgiving spirit toward those who sin against you.  Whether they come to you or not, have a forgiving spirit.  And if they come to you in repentance, then forgive them.  Don't hold grudges.  Don't nurse wrongs.

•   Develop a gracious and gentle spirit toward others.  You say, "Well, I know I need that, but how?"  Well, let me give you the key.  Here's the key to developing a gentle and gracious spirit toward others:  Cultivate an awareness of the sinfulness of your own sin.  You see, invariably, the people who are the harshest with others, the people who are the most critical of others, are the most proud and the most self-righteous.  They have no real understanding of the magnitude of their own sin.  There's an interesting verse in Hebrews chapter 5.  Just jot it in your notes, and you can look at it later.  Hebrews 5:2:  Talking about the high priest.  It says, the high priest "can deal gently with the ignorant and misguided since he himself also is beset with weakness."  As you and I understand our own sinfulness, as we understand our own hearts, the power of our own flesh, what we are capable of apart from grace; we are far more compassionate and gentle and gracious.  Not excusing or overlooking sin that's detrimental to others, but merciful and gracious because we understand.  But it ultimately drives us back to the cross, doesn't it?  Because, you see, there is a righteous Judge before whom we would stand.  But that righteous Judge judged our sins on Christ on the cross so that He could be merciful and gracious toward us.  Therefore, we ought to extend that same mercy and grace to those who sin against us.  Jesus says, Don't you dare live in a harsh, critical, condemning spirit; instead, you respond to others and even to their sins with grace:  The same grace you have experienced.

Let's pray together.

Father, this truth does crush us to the dust because we are all painfully aware that we have done just exactly what our Lord forbids here. And we've done it often. Father, forgive us. Help us to see that we're not to be like the people around us. We're to be like You: Not only in Your holiness, but in Your mercy and grace, as well. Father, I pray that You would help us to develop such a spirit. And I pray, Lord, for the person here this morning who lives in their mind with a courtroom; judging everyone around them harshly, critically, self-righteously, proudly. Father, help them to see that whatever they might claim, it's very unlikely that they have ever experienced Your mercy and grace. And may this be the day when they enter Your kingdom the only way any of us enter: By becoming a beggar. A beggar of Your mercy. I pray in Jesus' name. Amen.