Friday, November 30, 2007

Joel Osteen and The Broad Road to Destruction

Ok, so I am way behind in my podcasting (mid November for Way of the Master, mid October for Grace to You, and don’t even ask me about Desiring God), but I just heard something on Way of the Master Radio from the November 13th show. The show opened with an audio clip featuring someone interviewing Joel Osteen where the interviewer brought up the fact that Joel’s newest book would be able to be received by all people regardless of their religion.

Joel and the interviewer went back and forth a bit, talking about the universality of the principles of God’s blessing people who do (or give) certain things. But it was the following Joel Osteen quote that made my hair stand up on the back of my neck when he was talking about his target market for his product:

“…Our goal is to just help anybody from any faith to improve their life. And so, I think you’re exactly right and that there are universal truths [in the Bible]. To me, if you give, God’s gonna bless you; it’s going to be given back to you. It doesn’t say, “if you’re a Christian and you give….” So that’s my whole thing, is just to present this to people, I like it to be [as] broad as possible because I feel like we’re not supposed to just reach our one group.”
Jesus’ words from the Sermon on the Mount came screaming into my head at this point,

13 "Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. 14 "For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.

15 "Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 "You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? 17 "So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 "A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. 19 "Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 "So then, you will know them by their fruits.

21 "Not everyone who says to Me, `Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 22 "Many will say to Me on that day, `Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?' 23 "And then I will declare to them, `I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.' (Matthew 7:13-23)
Joel, I am sure that you want to make your message as palatable for as many people as is humanly possible. And on a human level I can understand that desire. But if you promote an unbiblical concept that God wants all people to be healthy, wealthy, successful, pretty, satisfied, happy, comfortable, and whatever other trait that the masses desire for themselves, you must know that you are not a preacher of the gospel. You have appropriately categorized your message as being very broad. But, that is the opposite message of what Christ preached.

I hope and pray that you will come to Christ, because if I examine your fruits and the message that you preach, then I must say this: Mr. Osteen, you are no Christian, but a wolf in sheep’s clothing. You may not even know that you are because you are deceived yourself. May God grant you grace to repent and believe in Christ.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Lessons From a Video Game:
A Test of Integrity, a Temptation to Sin, God’s Grace, and the Depravity of Man

One of the liberties that I enjoy in this world is playing video games. Now, I don’t play all of the time nor do I play when I have other responsibilities at hand (family, work, etc) and I try to maintain a “no Bible – no gaming” policy in my life. That being stated, I recently ordered a new game from As far as video games go, I am not the kind of person who will purchase and play a handful of games at a time, and then get tired of them and trade them in for new ones. I’ll usually purchase a new game every once in a while and play it until a different one that I’m really interested in comes out. And over the past few years, I think I’ve purchased about six games in the past (almost) two years.

I was eagerly anticipating the arrival of my shipment but my wife was at home when it was delivered while I was at work. During our conversation on the phone, I heard my eldest son remark that he and his brother could both pick up the smaller of the two (I ordered a new computer monitor too) packages. I laughed because the package should weigh much less than a pound, but then my wife corrected me and said that it was rather heavy. In fact, she wondered if I had accidentally ordered some books instead of my video game.

Curiously, I asked her if she would open the box to verify that I had received the video game. She opened it up and read, “Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare” to verity that it was what I wanted. Happily I confirmed with her, but I was still curious as to why the container was so heavy. She opened up an outer shell of the box and said, “Well, it is the right game for the Xbox 360. But there are one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven,…twelve copies of it here.”

So I knew that I had only been charged for one game, and it seemed that the warehouse had sent me one package of the game instead of one game, so here was my dilemma. I kid you not, but before my wife was even done telling me that I had received 12 copies, my brain had computed that the extra “free” games that I’d received had a retail value of about $660! Here’s the test of my integrity. I didn’t pay for them, the invoice didn’t say that I had received more than one copy, so what do I do?

Before I tell you what I did, let me tell you that I did pose this question to a number of my co-workers and friends and I was somewhat shocked by what reaction I got. When I setup the scenario, it was a basic “What would you do?” question. I made it clear that I didn’t want to hear what they thought people should do, but rather what these same people would do.

My completely unofficial survey of about one dozen people ended with most of them asking me to give them a copy of the game for free and most of them saying that they would have sold the extra games on E-Bay for some quick cash (a thought that had crossed my mind). I was shocked by one answer in particular though. Two people, who I asked at different times, actually told me “take the moral high road” and call Amazon to tell them that I had received six copies and needed to return five. Other than my initial disgust over the compromise, I was very shocked to see that two people had the exact same numerical compromise. But furthermore, they thought that it was a “good” thing to do because they would be returning some of the merchandise that the company would otherwise not have had.

So I ask you. If this situation presented itself, what would you do?

Well, thankfully after only a brief internal struggle over what to do I contacted Amazon, told them of the error, and was setup to return the merchandise. Even when I was struggling, it was not with whether it would be right or wrong to just keep the games and sell them or give them away, but I hoped that I couldn’t get a hold of someone or that they would not make me send them back. It was foolishness, really. In all of this, I believe that I saw a truth of Scripture come to be fulfilled in my life.

“No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13)

I was tempted, but God did provide a way of escape so that I could come through this trial and not fall, at least not totally. Praise God that I passed that test. But with this victory over temptation, I know that every fiber of my natural being desperately wanted to capitalize on the situation, make some quick cash, and spend it on other things that I wanted. Praise God that He has delivered me in the face of this small temptation but has, at the same time, kept my pride in check to know that without Him and His provision, I would not have passed the test. May You keep me strong and vigilant in my war with sin.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Deliverance for the Glory of God

I recently preached again from Philippians, specifically verses 19-26 in the first chapter, and I was struck by the passion and conviction that Paul expressed regarding his desire to be delivered by God. I suppose that someone’s desire for deliverance is not shocking, but it was the fact that Paul was really torn between his desire to die in order to be with Christ and his desire to stay alive to serve the church. And I think what really made it very encouraging wasn’t the conflicted desires to do both, but it was his conclusion that he’d stick around for the benefit of others and the glory of God. Well, anyway, that conclusion and my thoughts stemming from that will be in my next entry, but I couldn’t write about that without dealing with the first few verses of this text in an attempt to give some context.

19 for I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayers and the provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, 20 according to my earnest expectation and hope, that I will not be put to shame in anything, but that with all boldness, Christ will even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. (Phil 1:19-20)

Paul is absolutely confident that his circumstances, whatever they may be, will turn out for his ultimate deliverance from his present situation. He is so confident in the plan and purpose of Christ that he goes on to say that his hope does not rest in physical deliverance only, but he will consider that the result would be the same if he is either set free from his bonds or he is executed and fully and finally released from “the body of this death” (cf. Romans 7:24) that he is so loathsome of as it relates to his perpetual sinfulness.

The word “this” in verse 19 refers back to the reason for Paul’s rejoicing in verse 18 which is the preaching of the gospel and the lifting up of Jesus’ name. His hope does not rest on the motivations of those preachers, nor does it rest on their specific attitudes and inclinations towards himself, but it is based on his trust in the same sovereign Lord Jesus Christ who holds all things together by the power of His might, who knows the number of hairs on my head, and who, from before the beginning of time itself, had ordained the circumstances, the means, and the ends of all things so that He would be glorified. And Praise be to God that the same God who began the good work in anyone’s life will perfectly complete it in the day of the Lord Jesus Christ!

If the merit or conviction of Paul’s own words of exhortation and comfort to the church in Rome were questioned or ever perceived to be hollow or unbelieved by the apostle when he wrote them, he is displaying his unyielding faith in the God who inspired his own words,

28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. 29 For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; 30 and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.

31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? 32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? 33 Who will bring a charge against God's elect? God is the one who justifies; 34 who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. 35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 Just as it is written,


37 But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:28-39)
Paul is absolutely confident that he will be delivered. He is not in any doubt that there will be a deliverance, and there will be a few factors that will play vital roles in this deliverance. First of all, the preaching of the gospel of Christ, the gospel preachers, and the persecution of the saints results in fervent prayer from the believers. These prayers, especially in times of crisis, deep concern, or fasting, are raised to God pleading for Him to move among His people. And I think that if persecution were as real to us in America today as it was for the 1st century church and for much of the rest of the church in our modern world, we would pray fervently and daily for our brothers and sisters who are being “killed all day long” (Rom 8:36 NKJV) that they would hold fast to the Word of Truth, cling to the Savior, long for their God, and proclaim the gospel with their freedom or with their blood.
”The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” (James 5:16b NKJV)
Our prayer is nothing if God does not hear our prayers or if we are praying in a selfish and self serving manner. We must pray in this way, “Father, let Your kingdom come! Father, may Your will be done and not my own!” And even when we do not even know exactly what to pray for or exactly how to pray for it…but we know that we need to petition the Almighty,

26 In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; 27 and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” (Rom 8:26-27)
And in this way, it is only through the provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ that Paul will be delivered from his current situation. The word “provision” or “supply” carries the meaning of “furnishing whatever is necessary”1 and carries with it an understanding of the “ampleness”2 of what is provided. In other words, when God provides what is necessary in this time, it will be enough to take care of everything.

Paul is absolutely confident that he will not be put to shame, that he will be vindicated in the face of his accusers. He knows that he only proclaims the Truth relating to God. And whether it is the false accusations of the Jewish authorities who pursued him and wanted to kill him, the untrue and selfishly motivated attacks on him while he is in prison by some amongst the brethren, or if it is the civil legal proceedings that he is in the midst of now, he has no fear of truly being found as a fraud, a liar, or an insurrectionist. He hopes and anticipates the exaltation of Christ and the proclamation of the gospel in this time.

Paul is absolutely confident that whether he lives or dies, Christ’s name will be lifted up in his body. If he lives, he will have more time to be made a public spectacle, a man condemned to death for the glory of God. Paul is no stranger to being made a spectacle, and we can see that in his chilling description found in 2nd Corinthians of what he has undergone for the furtherance of the gospel,

“beaten times without number, often in danger of death. 24 Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. 26 I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; 27 I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.” (2 Cor 11:23-27)
Any death that the Christ, the apostles, or any other Christian for that matter, suffer is not ultimately due to the completion of the design of men. All of these things, persecution, death, torture, and cruel mistreatment of God’s people come about because they are God’s design. One of the reasons this is done, other than that God has set this up because this is the way that He receives the most glory, is so that the truth of the individual’s preaching would be sealed with his greatest endorsement of assurance and of personal commitment, that is their very life blood (cf. 1 Cor 4:9). And whether Paul’s death comes later or at that time, he is ready to testify to the end of his body that Jesus Christ is everything.

1 (from Adam Clarke's Commentary, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1996 by Biblesoft)

2 (from Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1997 by Biblesoft)/span>

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

First a Bigot, Now an Anti-Semite

Earlier this year I commented on the ominous overtones of Mitt Romney’s characterization of Al Sharpton’s insinuation that Mormons do not believe in the true God. In case you forgot, or never heard, Romney, a Mormon running for President, described Sharpton’s remarks as a “comment which could be described as a bigoted comment.”1 In other words, Romney’s own statement, as a presidential candidate and not as a common citizen, sets a precedent to refer to anyone as a bigoted for making any theological statements regarding God.

I was, and still am, very concerned over the societal impact of this thought that our post-modern society seams ready to accept with open arms. As a Christian, I am convinced, based on the Scriptures, that if you don’t believe in Jesus as He is revealed in the bible, you don’t believe in the true God. And therefore anytime I might refer to someone who doesn’t esteem the biblical Christ, the eternal Son of God and the second Person of the Triune Godhead, as believing in a false god or false Christ, as being wrong, I will be considered guilty of being a bigot.

I had never before seen the qualification of bigotry being assigned to someone’s religious and theological convictions before. Furthermore, it is absolutely illogical and ludicrous to do so because anyone calling me a bigot would be condemning themselves as one to. They would be telling me that my views of God and salvation are wrong while claiming that my doing the exact same thing to someone else’s belief is bigoted.

Just when I thought that it couldn’t get more surreal than to defend something Al Sharpton said about God, I now find myself defending Ann Coulter too. Now, for the record, from what I understand from hearing both of these political figures talk about their faith, I don’t know if either of them are saved but I do know that Sharpton seems caught up in the trends of the social gospel (and I really don’t have any clue as to his working theology) and Coulter is, well, “Mel Gibson-ish” in her soteriology.

When “The Passion of the Christ” came out, Director Mel Gibson was interviewed by Diane Sawyer, and one of the questions she asked revolved around Gibson’s theology of who will be saved by God and brought to heaven.

DIANE SAWYER (ABC NEWS) -- "... when we talked with Gibson and his actors, we wondered, does his traditionalist view bar the door to Heaven for Jews, Protestants, Muslims?

MEL GIBSON -- "That's not the case at all. Absolutely not. It is possible for people who are not even Christian to get into the Kingdom of Heaven. It's just easier for -and I have to say that because that's what I believe."

DIANE SAWYER -- "You have the nonstop ticket?"

MEL GIBSON -- "Well, yeah, I'm saying it's an easier ride where I am because it's like -I have to believe that."

Now even for a Roman Catholic to say this is sort of a thing is shocking. The Roman Catholic Church, as I understand it, has always held the stance of “Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus.” “Outside the [Roman] Church there is no salvation.” So for Mel Gibson to say that he simply has an “easier ride” to heaven or a “non-stop ticket” but practitioners of other religions can and will get there is simply shocking. And like Mr. Gibson, Ms. Coulter holds to a similar idea too, namely that at least Jews can get to heaven by following the laws of the Old Testament. Both incarnations of this inclusive theology of salvation are heretically wrong, and the New Testament is clear that only by believing on the Lord Jesus Christ with a trust in Him alone and a turning from is one saved.

My defense of Ms. Coulter is not for her faulty and heretical theology, but it is over the accusation that holding such a belief is anti-Semitic. When interviewed by Alan Colmes on the Fox News Channel, Alan accused her of using classic anti-Semitic language for stating her flawed theology. She then fired back a provocative question asking if Mr. Colmes was indicating that if one is “to be a Christian is anti-Semitic?” Mr. Colmes responded by saying no, but then went on to give his understanding, as a Jewish man, of what anti-Semitism is.
“To say that your religion is somehow superior and that you have to be perfected in order to be of the right religion. That somehow those who do not believe what you believe are somehow lesser than you. That is the implication, and that is classic anti-Semitism.”2

In other words, no-one can say to anyone, especially a Jew, that Christ is the only way of salvation before God without being an anti-Semite. Also, no one can say that any man needs to be perfected to be in the presence of God. He grossly misunderstands Christian doctrine (which is not surprising since his opponent in this debate doesn’t understand Christian doctrine either) by characterizing those who preach the gospel message as believing that others are “lesser” than them. Perhaps he is thinking of the way that Jews were treated in the Nazi regime as being “less than” human and worthy only of extermination. That kind of an understanding about any race, ethnicity, or religion that leads to torture and death is as contrary to Christian doctrine as it would be to posit that Jesus isn’t the eternal Son of God and the only way of salvation!

Leaving aside Ms. Coulter’s theology, isn’t it shockingly illuminating to understand that preaching the gospel to a Jew and saying that only those who have been “perfected” in Christ (i.e. imputed with the righteousness of Christ on the basis of faith) will be saved is considered anti-Semitic. Being called anti-Semitic is on the level of being called a bigot or possibly even a pedophile in our culture insofar as much as all of these “classes” of individuals are seen as the scumiest of the scum, and they are deeply despised by the populous. Once Christians are universally hailed as being anti-Semitic because we preach Christ crucified, and we are universally hailed as being bigoted because we hold to the conviction that there is only one God, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ as He is revealed in the pages of the Bible, and once we are universally hailed as spouting hate speech because we preach what the Bible says about sin, from pride to homosexuality, the doors of persecution will have been flung wide open and the desire to carry out persecution will have been engrained in the minds of the self-styled “righteous” oppressors of an intolerant and hateful Christianity.

We must not be deaf and dumb to what is happening in our free society. The secular toleration of the gospel is waning, and their hatred for God is waxing. This gurgling up of derision for the doctrines of Christ by the fallen world is nothing new; it was the reason that Christ Himself was killed by sinful men. The grace of God has suspended forceful cultural opposition to the gospel for quite some time in our land, but perhaps this is an indication that He is removing some of His protection from us because we have compromised and adulterated His gospel in our society.

May God grant us grace and strength to preach the gospel in truth with conviction whether we face name calling, imprisonment, or torture and death. May we glorify God with our faithfulness. And may we follow and serve God with the single minded purpose of glorifying God. “May the Lamb that was slain receive the reward of His suffering!”3

1 (emphasis mine)

2 Alan Colmes, “Hannity & Colmes” 10/30/07

3 Paris Reidhead, “Ten Shekels and a Shirt”

Friday, November 02, 2007

To Treat or not to Treat, That is the Question

The beginning of November marks the transition over into a season of holidays. I am anticipating the fun, fellowship, family, and food of Christmas and Thanksgiving, but before we can ever get to those days, we must pass Halloween. The Halloween tradition that my wife and I have developed for this holiday is that we’ll stay at home, turn out the lights in the house, go to our basement and watch a movie. This tradition was built upon the vast majority of my memories of Halloween from when I was living in my parent’s house. I forget if it was just last year or if it was the year before that marked the first time that we watched the movie Luther (2003), but that is something that I look forward to on every Halloween.1

Every Halloween, my coworkers, yes adults, dress up and come to work in various costumes to celebrate this very secular holiday. There are great cubicle-decorating contests and prizes that people get most excited about. For whatever reason, this year I decided to pull an old cloak out that my mom made for me in college, and be a Jedi. In the cause of full-disclosure, my mom made this cloak for me for the opening of Star Wars. So I freely admit to being a complete nerd while still attempting to maintain a significant historical separation from the celebration of Halloween. I didn’t really think a lot about it before hand, other than the fact that it would be fun to pull out my robe and be a geek for a day. When I got to work, I stopped by a Christian co-workers desk (for no reason other than to say hi), and he did a double take and remarked that he was surprised that I was participating.

It was at that moment that I stepped back and thought about the situation again. I can’t think of one solid redeeming thing about Halloween, and here I am participating, albeit in a fairly benign way, in it. It was at that moment that I decided to no longer pose as a Jedi, but I would simply pose as Martin Luther, the (soon to be ex) Roman Catholic Priest. And since this was my character now, I printed off the 95 Theses and taped them to the pillar near my desk. Also, during the day I was able to talk a little bit about the reformation with various co-workers. All in all, I went from a complete disaster and forgetting my Halloween traditions to salvaging a little bit of my day.

There were a couple of factors that have only intensified my resolve not to participate in any Halloween activities. The first is that my friend commented that he wasn’t into Wicken, and also wondered if there would be a similar emphasis on the Christmas holiday with decorating contests and such. I bet there will be, but I also imagine that too much mention of Christ on Christmas in any decorations would be frowned upon. This was the factor that jolted me into the present and prompted my change from Jedi to reformer.

The second thing that assisted in the reaffirming of why I don’t participate in Halloween came from a conversation with another co-worker on the day after. He was walking by and in the passing quick conversation he assumed that I had taken my children out trick-or-treating, “You took your kids out for a bit, right?” My response and the defense that followed shocked him.

Halloween, at least as it is celebrated in modern times in America, is primarily a celebration of death. Ghosts, witches, blood, axe-murderers, haunted houses, horror films and many other things serve both to numb our senses to the evil that these things are as well as to pacify our tolerance of such horrid imagery. I do not love death. I do not want to celebrate death. Death is common to man, but it is one of the most unnatural thing that happens to anyone. I don’t know how much of a direct contributing factor much of these culturally accepted things play a role into further sin and vile activities, but I bet there is not that much that separates them. I am a Christian, and I love life because God has given it to us.

My stunned co-worker couldn’t believe that we don’t trick-or-treat in my family and he was even more shocked when I told him that I might have gone trick-or-treating once as a child. My mom took my brothers and I to a handful of houses (relatives and friends) during the early evening, but that was the extent of my trick-or-treating. Do I feel deprived? Not at all. Perhaps it was easier for me because I have never had too much of a love for candy. Sure I’ll have something sweet every once in a while, but I don’t have to have it on a regular basis.

My family and I choose not to trick-or-treat because I have absolutely no desire to participate in a celebration that is so completely focused on evil, death, and the devil. Most people think that I’m being extreme and that a simple costume party and begging for candy is relatively harmless. It is less harmful than many things, but that does not make it a good idea to participate in. I am sure that I will allow and even condone things for my children to do that will cause them difficulties and struggles in their lives. That is not my goal, but I realize that because I am so fallen that my best decisions will result in contradictions and issues that my children will have to wrestle with later on. But I will not knowingly set them up to have their consciences dulled and defenses lowered by participating in such an openly pagan celebration.

1 It was on October 31st, 1517 that Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses on the door of the Wittenberg church which acted as the final catalyst for the great reformation of the Christian faith.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

The Parable of the Speed Limit

If you were to take a completely unscientific poll of people in modern western Christian-influenced culture to find out what the greatest sin is, you might hear the loudest condemnation proclaimed against intolerance and judgmentalism. And when you boil these two down, they come to the same common denominator that is best expressed by the commandment that is most beloved, at least by my contemporaries; the eleventh commandment. Of course, there is no “eleventh commandment” but the misunderstanding, misinterpretation, and cultural acceptance of Jesus’ statement to “judge not lest ye be judged” in Matthew 7 has been elevated to the status of the one thing that no one should ever dare to do, especially if you are a Christian in America.

"1 Do not judge so that you will not be judged. 2 For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. 3 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? 4 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? 5 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.” (Matthew 7:1-5)

Now I must note a few things about what our Lord says in Matthew 7. First of all, He is winding down the Sermon on the Mount and He is not saying that His followers are never to make a discerning judgment about anything or anyone. If He really meant that we are never to challenge what people say, then why did He tell believers to beware of false teachers who can be known by their fruits (c.f. Matthew 7:15)? But most people don’t want to understand the meaning of Jesus’ words or the teaching of the New Testament on sin and the role that sin plays in the message of the Gospel; they just don’t want to be judged. Tragically, many of the proponents of this type of false tolerance toward sin, false religion, and an inability to alert sinners of their own sin are firmly inside the perimeter of modern popular-Christendom.

When the objection to any kind of Christian witness or evangelism is based upon this eleventh commandment, it is usually brought up when someone is told that what they believe or do is wrong and sinful. On one hand I sympathize with those who simply don’t want to hear that they’re sinners; I wouldn’t want to hear that if I were an unsaved sinner either, but it is the truth. The biggest issue at this point, on some level anyway, is to make it clear that all sin and all sinners deserve hell and they are headed that way. One of the many different listing descriptions of the people’s character who will be condemned is penned by Paul in his letter to the Corinthians,
9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, 10 nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.” (1 Corinthians 6:9,10)

This is one of the texts in the New Testament that makes it absolutely clear that God’s hatred for sexual immorality, whether hetero or homo in nature, has not changed. However, my point is not to bang the drum only on the basis of sexual sin here. This Scripture says that thieves, drunkards, swindlers and the covetous will be condemned. I have never met one person who has been able to completely avoid coveting; it is impossible. Therefore, all people, no matter how moral their lives may appear and how nice they are to you or me, are in the cross-hairs of God’s wrath if they are not found in Christ. But before we can truly explain the gospel and truly explain the way of salvation, the man or woman must understand that they need to be saved. And in order to do that, the person must see that they are a sinner in truth and in deed.

This understanding is not something that can be accomplished by a casual agreement between the evangelist and the sinner with the generic “we’re all sinners,” I believe that it must go deeper and be more personal than that. It is true that we are all sinners, but the individual sinner still has the idea that “I’m not that bad,” and that needs to be dealt with head on. It is when we get down to the nitty-gritty level of coveting, lying, lusting, and idolatry (among others) as we attempt to illuminate the sinner’s understanding of their own personal guilt before the entire panorama of God’s holy standards, if not before this point, that we are accused of breaking the sacred eleventh commandment.

If you have ever felt that you were committing the one unforgivable sin of being judgmental when you call a spade a spade, or call someone who admits to lying as being a liar, don’t be dissuaded when you’re told to deal with “the log in your own eye” first. Now, if you are witnessing to someone you know well and the testimony of your life is such that you are known as a hypocrite, then you may have forfeited your credibility with that person. And the reason that you need to work on your own testimony and lifestyle is not only so that you will be able to witness to that person, you may not be saved if your life is that of a reprobate sinner.

But, if your life is characterized by striving to live and serve God in submission to His will and conformity to His Son, you will still sin. And when you do, it is important to own up to it, repent, and move forward. So if this is the case and you find yourself witnessing to someone, anyone, who throws the same objection to you, don’t stop. Don’t fear that by showing someone God’s standards and their personal guilt before them that you are judging in a way that Christ forbids in Matthew 7, you’re not.

Suppose you are driving down the Interstate at 75 miles an hour. It’s not a big deal because there is not a lot of traffic and the cars that are on the road are going as fast, if not faster, than you are. As you are going, you pass a sign that reminds you that the maximum speed allowed by the law is 65 miles per hour. When you look down at your speedometer, you notice that you are, in fact, going much faster than that. Does the driver get angry at the speed limit sign for judging him? Now the driver may well attempt to justify his actions in light of the fact that he is breaking the speed limit so that he can continue in his course of action. “I’m not hurting anyone by speeding,” “it’s a dumb rule to have this slow of a speed limit,” and “I’m in a hurry.” But most famous, and pathetically cliché, is the objection, “Everyone else is doing it.”

When an officer of the law pulls that driver over, it doesn’t matter if the entire city was speeding along with him; the law clocked this particular driver at speeds in excess of the allowed limit. There is no excuse or reason valid enough that will be convince the officer that the driver is innocent of breaking the law, and so the just punishment will be given.

Now, in Christian terms, we are not the legislative body that makes the laws. We are not the police officers who hand out the citations. We are not the judge who hears the case, sustains the citation, and enforces the punishment. Christians who witness are much like the speed limit sign that the driver sped past. The sign did not create rules or pronounce any kind of judgment on its own accord or power, but it only represents what the legislative body, the police, and the judge who make and enforce the laws have already put in motion. Any guilt that the sinner feels at this point is usually not from the questions and loving opening of the Truth of Scripture, but it is the echoing of their own guilt coming from their own conscience. Simply calling the sinner’s own attention to the fact that God’s standards have been given to us, and that by their very testimony (usually) they are breaking those laws is not judgmental. It is an act of grace to bring it to their attention.

Soon after I moved to my current home, I went out to get some food for my wife and I. On the way back from the fast food place, I turned on a little access road between the main highway and my residential street. I was cruising along at 40 miles per hour when for a block or two when I saw the flashing lights behind me. I pulled over and was informed that the speed limit was only 30, not 40. When I apologized to the officer and informed him that I thought the limit was 40, he was not moved. I even informed him that there was not a speed limit sign from the point where I turned onto this street until where he pulled me over. That is true; the only sign for quite a ways was posted before my intersection, so I could not have seen it. However, that didn’t matter. As much as I hated it, I was still in violation of the law.

The point is just this; the law is the law whether or not you see the sign. Now, on human terms we may be able to get out of a ticket on a technicality, but God’s moral law and standard is written on the hearts of men, and so we will have no case before God even if no one acts as a sign to warn us of our sin. We must not be halted in our proclamation of the problem of sin or the solution of the Savior because we’re called judgmental. Know the truth, that what we do when we alert sinners of their sin and the punishment that will follow is not judging, but it is a merciful alerting to the truth that they already know in their hearts, even if they deny that they know it.

The other thing that we need to know is that this same concept is just as important for those who claim to be Christians as it is for others who make no attempt at a Christian identity. The speed limit sign can, and should, be used on those who profess no faith in Christ as well as those who speak Christianese fluently but do not have the fruit of the new birth in their lives. The apostle John, in his epistle called First John, penned that this letter was written “so that our joy may be made complete” (1 John 1:4), but specifically so that our joy may be complete with the knowledge that we “have eternal life.” (1 John 5:13) In light of this, those of us who claim to be believers can make our way through First John using the various contrasting statements to evaluate our lives and the truth of our claim to faith in Christ.

Many people in western Christendom today, I believe, have been lulled into the false belief that if they prayed the sinner’s prayer as a child (or at one point in their lives) that they are saved without a doubt. I am convinced that not only is this untrue, but it is one of Satan’s biggest lies that so many have believed today. It is as foolish as the Roman false teaching that the act of baptism and the taking of the Eucharist saves the soul. They are both forms of works righteousness – if I do “X”, then I’m on my way to heaven. If someone lives as if they have not been saved as evidenced by reveling in unrepentant sin, there is good cause to doubt the validity of someone’s claim to have been born again.

“5 This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; 7 but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.

8 If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.” (1 John 1:5-10)

I am convinced that turning a blind eye and a false hope of salvation toward a professing brother who is living in unrepentant sin is not the loving thing for a Christian to do. In the same way that we would approach a self confessed non-Christian, we also must do the same by using the Law as a speed limit sign in an attempt to alert the conscience of the professing believer. A true believer will come to understand the error of his ways, repent of them, and grow in Christ. A false brother may truly get saved, or he may oppose your loving concern for his soul by resisting and debating various things without dealing with the sin.

Whether dealing with a confessed non-Christian or a confessing Christian whose lives give testimony that they are liars, covetous, or idolaters, we are called to glorify God by proclaiming the Truth of Scripture regarding man’s sin, our just deserts in the righteous punishment of a holy God, God’s compassion and love in sending Christ as our propitiation, and the response that is evidence of a truly saved person; repentance from sin and true and lasting faith in Christ alone.

Copyright © 2005-2010 Eric Johnson