I’ve been talking about Christians and unrepented sin…
In Corinth I ended last week talking about the prejudice in the body that Paul addressed in chapter 11 of his first letter. Some in Corinth were eating and drinking before they came to the meeting, which was in someone’s home, rather than eat with those brothers and sisters they didn’t like at the (house) church meeting. Because they were not discerning the Lord’s body – both His sacrifice and the body of Christ before them - Paul said many among them were weak and sickly and many had even died before their time.
What does judgment look like?
What should have happened is that the rich people dealt with their prejudice and renewed their minds to all being equal in Christ – their love walk – and eaten with those they didn’t like. That act of dealing with their hearts is what Paul said is ‘judging ourselves’.
When you got saved it was actually an act of judging yourself. You thought you were merely praying the sinners prayer, or were calling out to God for help, which may have been the case. But spiritually, you were judging yourself. You judged yourself a sinner and took God’s remedy for your sin, or you judged the circumstances of life were beyond you and called out to Him – either way, you were making a judgment call that said you had come to the end of self and needed Him to step into your life.
Because you judged yourself, you will not be judged by Him. You will stand before Christ to give account of your life since being saved yes, but not judged in terms of heaven/hell. You have already passed from death to life because you judged yourself. Today when we sin and feel that grievance in our heart and admit it to the Lord - we are again judging ourselves. When we judge ourselves that sin is removed from our account.
The process of refusal and judgment
Paul outlined the process the Word – both written and the Living Word Jesus – uses to correct His body. In II Timothy 3:16 he said this:
“All scripture is God-breathed (living) and profitable for teaching, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness.”
‘Teaching‘ means exactly that – which tells us that first the Lord will try to teach us the error of our ways as well as teaching us the right way to go. ‘Reproof‘ is used to express the conviction felt when we sin. The Word both written and Living, convicts us in our spirit when we sin or start to get off His path for us.
‘Correction‘ means ‘put straight’ and is used to describe placing someone back on a walking path, as if they had temporarily swerved off the path, but now He is trying to direct us back on that path. ‘Instruction‘ means ‘to train children’ and carries with it learning how to control our impulses – leaving childhood for maturity.
Hebrews 12:9 asks: We were subject to the fathers of our flesh who corrected us according to what they thought was right, shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? This shows us the Father’s efforts to correct us or to get us to judge ourselves if heeded, will yield life. The fathers of our flesh corrected us in our flesh. The Father of our spirit corrects us spiritually, at least initially.
But what if a person refuses to be taught, refuses to address the conviction in their spirit to deal with it, refuses His efforts to put us back on the right path, refuses to reign in their impulses and immaturity and grow up in Him?
To be judged by the Lord means a person knows what to do but refuses. The Lord’s dealing with us in these matters starts quite gently and then increases in intensity the more we resist. Go back to the person of Matthew 18:15-20 who first had 1 person go to him, then 2 friends, then the leadership of the church, in ever increasing intensity of effort to get him to repent. So it is with the Lord with us.
First He keeps things private, in our hearts between Him and us. This may go on for days or weeks or months or years. If we don’t give in to Him – remember He is on our side and wants us to come before Him on that last day with nothing to burn away - He increases His efforts, by maybe letting us hear a sermon where 1 line we know by the impact in our heart is directed at us from Him.
Maybe it is a dream that we know is a warning to judge ourselves and get our heart right. Elihu told Job that God had been trying to reach him: “In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falls upon man, then God opens his ears to instruction that He may withdraw man from his (sinful) purpose.” Job 33:14-17
If we don’t judge ourselves often we’ll see the impact of that sin in our health, as Paul said of the Corinthians. Recent medical studies show the link between emotional and physical health – Paul could have told them that! According to Paul in I Corinthians 11, harboring and protecting sin in our heart can make us ‘weak and sickly’ and even he said, many had died early. But still that is private between that person and the Lord.
People may see the external things - your health problems - but have no idea the Lord has been dealing with you for years about prejudice, or maybe your eating habits. Then something will happen and they will ask ‘Why did this happen O Lord?’, and only you and the Lord know why it happened.
They may hear of a fender bender you had, but have no idea He had been dealing with you for months about driving while texting – but He allowed a minor fender bender to let you know you are pushing the limits. And you will blame it on the other person, while hiding the truth about God’s dealings with you.
He may not give you favor with the bank on the overdrafts anymore, shutting down favor because he has been dealing with you for years about spending discipline – but all you will do is complain that the bank is being mean to you, and that’s what others will hear, not knowing the truth.
That doesn’t mean people who die or get sick or have car accidents or overcharge their back account were all judged of the Lord – no! Sometimes things happen we just don’t understand or are out of our control. My point is to show the ways of the Spirit and the human heart in some situations.
Wood, hay, stubble again
The above examples when not dealt with, make up the wood, hay, and stubble that we carry to heaven and will be burned away – the truth about how He was dealing with us on our prejudice or eating habits that we hid from ourselves and others, the half truths which are also half lies we told about driving distracted being the cause of our fender bender, the out of control spending that we lie about to others, blaming the bank – all these are examples of things carried into heaven as wood, hay and stubble.
Being mature in Christ means admitting to ourselves and the Lord that He is dealing with us on an issue. It means when tempted to tell someone of that mean old bank mistake, you admit it was your fault and God has been dealing with you about discipline.
These are the things that either mature us to be more Christ-like, or they stay in our hearts not dealt with until we meet Him face to face and have to have that stuff burned away and truth admitted.
He really hasn’t changed
The Lord follows the same pattern He outlines in the Word. He will deal with us 1 on 1, just us and Him. If we don’t repent, as in Matthew 18:15-16, He will allow someone close to us in on our secret. Maybe a spouse, maybe a pastor or trusted friend. His purpose of expanding the ‘need to know’ circle is to bring us out of that sin and into wholeness – life.
I’ve been a ‘Covenant Eyes’ partner with a few men as it relates to pornography, situations where I was the only one to know of their struggles, and in some cases brought into that situation by the person and the spouse.
At times a person reaches out to another, which is all part of the Lord expanding that circle to the 1 or 2 witnesses. Maybe it’s anger, maybe marital issues, maybe an addiction – but people often seek the help of others when they get to a point that just God and them isn’t enough. All this is the process of God’s judgement, and is healthy, as He does all He can to get us to judge ourselves so He won’t have to step in directly.
The next step of Matthew 18:15-20 you will recall, is to ‘tell it to the church’. That does not mean publish someone’s adultery in the church bulletin. Again the Bible interprets the Bible, and we see just such a situation in the life of Paul in Acts 15, when he comes before the apostles and elders to explain himself, having been accused of preaching to Gentiles and then not making them obey the law of Moses. (guilty)
So Matthew 18′s example of ‘tell it to the church’, was understood by the apostles as seen in Acts 15, to mean privately to leadership, for that is what they did in the case of Paul. (v6)
Jesus then said in Matthew 18:17 if he won’t listen to leadership, treat him as a publican and tax collector. Unfortunately some pastors teach that means to shun them, but once again the Bible interprets the Bible. Jesus had earlier said in Matthew 5:43-48 we are to love those hard to love, and do good to them, walking in love as our Father does.
In other words, just love that brother who would not judge himself/repent when 1 went to him, nor when the 2 others did, nor to the leadership – then all you can do is love him. That is why Jesus immediately said in Matthew 18:18-20 that where those original 2 or 3 that went to him at the first, are gathered in prayer for the man, He is there in their midst as the Great Shepherd of the sheep. And their prayers are agreement to ask the Shepherd to go into the highways and byways to retrieve their friend.
I’ve run out of room again, but will conclude this topic next week. There are many scriptural examples of the Lord judging a person, including a man being turned over to Satan to die early though he would be saved, a man not able to receive the Baptism with the Holy Spirit because his heart wasn’t right, grace running out for Jezebel, and so much more. Until then, blessings,