Confessing Jesus is more than saying His Name…

SCRIPTURE

Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue;  for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God. John 12: 42 – 43

OBSERVATION

It’s hard to stand up for Jesus.  He said it wouldn’t be easy. He said that people sought the praise of men rather than the praise of God, and it’s true, they still do today.  Back in the day, people could not confess Jesus in the synagogue, but they could confess Him outside.  Today, it’s the opposite, Jesus is freely confessed in the church, but you cannot mention His name outside.  But confessing Jesus doesn’t always mean calling on His name or saying He is the Son of God.  Sometimes confessing Jesus calls you to act in a way that makes you different and unpopular, especially with people in the church.

There are many people who confess the name of Jesus in the church, but at the same time are back-biting and divisive. In my humble opinion, those that stand by and watch such actions without standing firmly against it because they are ‘afraid’ of that brother or sister, are just as responsible as the ones perpetrating the behavior.

For example, if I am aware that someone appears to be gossiping or acting in a way which appears discriminatory, should I not question them in a non-accusatory way and ask them about the purpose of their conversation or actions?  Based on their response, should I not challenge them as to whether that is the behavior Jesus requires of us?

APPLICATION

I want to be brave enough to stand up for Jesus and for what is right.  There are times when it is difficult for us to accurately judge a situation, but there are other instances where we can protect the integrity of the church and what Jesus stood for.  I want to have the courage to challenge people on these issues in a way that is loving, but also letting them know that – “we just don’t do ‘that’ at this church”.  I will confess the name of Jesus in word and action, even if it means I lose the praise and approval of people within the church or outside.

PRAYER

Dear Father

We Bless Your Holy Name and thank You for another day of life.  I pray and ask you to help each and every one of us to stand up for You and for what is right, even though it may make us unpopular. Help us to seek Your approval, and not the approval of men.  It’s not easy, and it is often uncomfortable, but unless we experience difficulties, we will not grow in character and wisdom.  Teach us Your ways and help us to remember that we are not alone, because You promised You would be with us until the very end of the age.

In Jesus’ Name

Amen.

Judge Yourself Before You Judge Others…

SCRIPTURE

Did not Moses give you the law, yet none of you keeps the law? Why do you seek to kill Me?”  John 7: 19

“Moses therefore gave you circumcision (not that it is from Moses, but from the fathers), and you circumcise a man on the Sabbath. If a man receives circumcision on the Sabbath, so that the law of Moses should not be broken, are you angry with Me because I made a man completely well on the Sabbath? Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.”  John 7: 22 – 23

Nicodemus (he who came to Jesus by night, being one of them) said to them, “Does our law judge a man before it hears him and knows what he is doing?”  John 7: 51

OBSERVATION

I could not help but notice that Jesus had to defend Himself against unfair judgments.  He was accused time and time again of breaking the law.  Yet, the same people who judged Him, were the ones who were breaking the law and failed to notice it.  Jesus asks them why are you trying to kill me when you are the ones breaking the law?  He asks them again why are you so mad at me for apparently breaking the Sabbath by healing a man, when you also perform circumcisions on the Sabbath to keep the law of Moses?  If I am breaking the Sabbath, then you are too. Jesus challenges their hypocritical legalistic attitudes towards the law.

Clearly the people have little insight into their own actions and can only see what they perceive Jesus is doing wrong.  On that basis, as Nicodemus points out they have judged Him without even asking Him what He is doing.  It is classic speck versus plank eye syndrome. (Matthew 7: 3-5). They do not realize that they have failed to judge Jesus’ actions in the context of His testimony and their own failings and if they had, they may have judged a little less harshly. “Judge not, that you be not judged.  For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.” (Matthew 7:2)

APPLICATION

It’s easy for me to stand back, judge someone and then feel better about myself because I did not break God’s law.  It’s satisfying that I can go away and exalt myself for not doing what they did.  I cannot count how many times I have judged someone from a distance without getting to know or ask them what they were doing or why and trying to put myself in their shoes. Furthermore, how many times have I criticized someone, only to find myself committing the same act a few days later?  It all happens far too often.

It’s important to challenge ourselves daily about the snap judgments we make.  It is equally important to be careful about the accusatory remarks or thoughts we have, without having enquired directly or tried to understand another person.  We should try to listen to people with an understanding of our own failings as humans.   When Jesus pointed out the people’s hypocrisy He said “do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment” (John 7:24). He was referring to the fact that they had failed to look at the full picture, which included their ‘law breaking actions’ too.  Legalistic hypocritical judgments have no place in God’s law. Just as Jesus said that “the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2;27), “the Law was made for man, not man for the Law”.

I am realizing that I am continually seeing planks in my own eyes.  The more planks I see and remove from my own eyes, the more spiritual insight I have.  The more spiritual insight I have into my own failings, the more grace and love I can extend towards others.

PRAYER

Almighty God

You are worthy to be praised and we thank You for Your Grace, Love and Mercy.  My prayer today is that we all look deeply into ourselves before we even begin to look at others.  The process of removing planks from our eyes is endless but necessary.   Help us not to judge others by appearance.  We do not know what others are going through and even if we do, help us to be supportive.  Even if we try to step into their shoes, we can never fully experience their pain or understand their decisions, so help us not to judge hypocritically or legalistically.  Help us to judge righteously by seeing others through our own failings and in doing so, to extend love, grace and care towards them.

In Jesus’ Name

Amen