Friday 8 August
Malcolm Duncan spoke at the final celebration of New Horizon 2014. Here’s a summary of his message:
Sometimes we can make quick judgements. In the blink of an eye, we come to conclusions without knowing the full facts. There are those who think Christians should not judge anybody. Others seem to enjoy pointing out everybody else’s faults.
How do we make good, honest and right judgements ? One verse sits in the centre of this chapter – “In everything, do to others as you would have them do to you, this is the law and the prophets.” In this passage, Jesus starts to talk about our judgements about others. It explores humility and honesty.
A quick overview of Matthew 7
- Verses 1 – 5: Our relationships with one another should be marked by a willingness to be humble and honest with ourselves and with each other.
- Verse 6: Our relationships with those who are aggressively rejecting the gospel demand great wisdom.
- Verse 7 – 11 Talks about our need of God to empower and enable us.
- Then the golden verse (v 12): our attitude demands a pro-active choice of humility and honesty.
- (v 13 – 19) The final verses contain three tests for spirituality.
What Jesus does not say jwe should never use our critical faculties. At times, we are required to make judgements but it is the way we make judgements that is important. Kindness in judgement was a spiritual requirement in Jewish tradition. Jesus rejects nit-picking, small-minded, harsh judgements.
When we pass judgements, we must remember that we are NOT God. Here is the challenging reality in this passage, “With the judgement you judge, you yourself will be judged.” If I make a harsh judgement of someone else, I’m effectively saying to God, “Please judge me this way.”
That should stop us dead in our tracks. If you jump to conclusions and believe the worst, are you willing to be judged in that way? How many times have we made a judgement that has been far too quick?
If you are going to point out the bit of dust in someone’s eye, then take the four by two out of your own eye!! Get your own house in order, first. Make sure you apply the same standards to yourself!
We can be so quick to defend our own lives and then point the figure at other people. We can do it with our denominations and churches. We can be quick to compare our best with other people’s worst.
Mercy floods scripture. In Shakespeare’s “Measure for Measure” there is a line, which can be paraphrased, “Remember that the one that could have judged you, died for you. You need to remember that before you make a judgement on someone else.”
Remember how much you’ve been forgiven before you jump to a quick judgement of others. We are not called to compare ourselves to one another but to Jesus!
The necessity of right judgements
However, if you don’t have discipline in your church community, then you are not a New Testament church. We do have to make judgements. It can be painful.
The scary thing about this section of Jesus’ teaching is that He says there are people before whom you must not cast the pearl of the Gospel. There are those who are persistently, consistently and aggressively rejecting and humiliating the Gospel . We need discernment and wisdom.
Three tests of our spirituality
- Are you taking the narrow road or the broad road? Are you choosing what is hard or what is popular?
- We are all called to be fruit-inspectors – not to find nit-picky holes but to assess the validity of people’s faith by the fruit of their lives.
- What happens in the storm? The stuff that is still standing after the trial is the stuff that is real.
Ask and it will be given to you
The teaching in the Sermon on the Mount is challenging, transfixing, demanding and impossible. In all of this, we get to the point where we say, “How are we supposed to do this?”
And at that point, Jesus says, “Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find…”
The Sermon on the Mount is impossible without the indwelling, abiding, continual power of the Holy Spirit. This is not about trying harder. It is allowing the power of the Spirit to flow through you. . Without Him, we can do nothing. But when His grace, power and mercy flows through us we can do all things.
God calls us to constant and continual dependency. How many of us would last if we only breathed once in a while? We need to breathe every minute. Just as often as you breathe in life, you need the Holy Spirit’s infilling. Within Him, you can do nothing. The Sermon on the Mount ends with a call for an absolute dependency on God’s Spirit.
We come to conferences like this asking God to change our circumstances and the community we’re going back to. What if God wants to change you?
There is nothing that the power of Christ cannot achieve. The power of the Holy Spirit gives us authority to live according to His ways.