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37 “Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. [v37]
It would be ridiculous and completly un-biblical if the Christian was not to exercise any discerning judgment as to people and situations. If you are going to employ someone who you do not know to baby-sit your kids, manage your business or if you are going to work for a company which is renowned for illegal activity or immoral behaviour and use this passage as a proof text then it gives more evidence of your own stupidity than any real or perceived piety. The passage, when taken in its wider context, does not require you to abandon your critical faculties when becoming a Christian but teaches how one might judge without being judgmental. In particular it allows us to see how one might be able to identify a true disciple.
1. Judging the Teacher
39 And He spoke a parable to them: “Can the blind lead the blind? Will they not both fall into the ditch? 40 A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher. [v39-40]
Blind disciples follow and will become like their blind teachers. This will lead to calamity, both temporal and eternal, for both of them. So how might we identify a false teacher?
1. Doctrine: False teachers hold false doctrine and whilst they may use the bible they cannot be considered biblical as they are often more interested in placing their own opinions upon the text of Scripture than drawing out its actual meaning (2 Peter 1:20). What is more distressing however, is that whilst they may be sincere and even move powerfully in the miraculous (Matthew 7:21-23), they have little understanding or regard for the Gospel (Galatians 1:6-9), for Apostolic doctrine (Acts 2:42) or the person and the work of Jesus.
2. Lifestyle: Both legalistic asceticism (Colossians 2:20-23) and flagrant inquity (1 John 2:4) are condemned within scripture. Nonetheless, these in themselves are useful ways of identifying a false teacher. Please remember, like Jesus, that the Christian must hold together in tension self-denying separation from sin and the world (Matthew 16:24) and full participation in life (Luke 7:34).
3. Motive: If the sole motivation for a person is money, popularity, pride, peace or position then it is merely a matter of time before they are blinded by these things and will take them selves and their followers unto ruin. Therefore, be on your guard.
Application: Write down a list of those who exercise significant influence within your life; this might include preachers, musicians, friends, family members and colleagues. In light of the above you must prayerfully discern which ones you should allow to exercise such significant influence, which ones you should limit and which ones you should remove from your life entirely (1 Corinthians 5:9-13). Allowing people with a bad theology and a bad lifestyle who have ulterior motives to influence your life substantially is foolish and exactly what Jesus rails against.
2. Judging the Fruit
“45 A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. [v45]
So that we may place no confidence in the flesh and remain wholly dependent upon God we are required to wrestle with our old nature continually (Romans 7:14-25) and therefore if we are positionally righteous in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21) we will become more and more practically righteous in Christ also. Not that we have arrived or, in this life, ever will. The false disciple, however, knows nothing of positional righteousness nor practical righteousness. This is often made manifest in the way they live and particularly in the way they speak.
Application: Are you someone who is always demeaning others by your angry tone, using terms like “kid” and “flower” when speaking to adults and/or are you someone who is always criticising, correcting, interrupting others and speaking before others have finished (Proverbs 10:19)? And what do you speak about? Do you speak life, wisdom and encouragement or foolishness, worldliness, triviality or gossip?
This week make a conscious effort, by God’s Spirit, to tame your tongue (James 3:6-8). Watch how you speak and what you speak about for it reveals what lies in the subterranean regions of your heart.
Judging the Foundation
47 Whoever comes to Me, and hears My sayings and does them, I will show you whom he is like: 48 He is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently against that house, and could not shake it, for it was founded on the rock. 49 But he who heard and did nothing is like a man who built a house on the earth without a foundation, against which the stream beat vehemently; and immediately it fell. And the ruin of that house was great.” [v47-49]
The final way in which someone’s profession of faith can be judged is to see if it is able to weather the storm, for that which is unable to weather it may have been built close to Christ but has not been built on Christ or by Christ. Therefore, those who are truly saved may falter and fail at times but they will endure until the end (Psalms 37:23-24, John 17:11-12, Philippians 1:6 and Hebrews 12:2).
Application: Either do a little bit of research on the lives of Corrie Ten Boom, Eric Liddel or Dietrich Bonhoeffer or look at examples within your own family or Church for those whose faith has remained strong in spite of the storms. What practical principles can you apply from their life to yours?
Whilst only God is able to distinguish those who are truly His, this text provides for us three tests as to the sincerity of one’s profession. Please remember that while salvation is purely a work of grace, transformation is the usual evidence of saving grace. If you have failed on each of these points then you must humbly ask God for the gifts of on-going repentance, faith and service.
My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly trust in Jesus’ Name.
From “My Hope is Built” by Edward Mote
*Our infinite God has chosen to limit Himself by using finite men therefore the sermon and the study notes should be received in a spirit of humility for that was the spirit in which they have been given. It is therefore our prayer that by the power of the Spirit’s illumination they might be used for the glorification of God and the transformation of your life*
 Whilst this particularly deals with religious teachers, it can also apply to all who exercise influence within one’s life (i.e. parents, peers, authors etc.).
 Due to God’s grace there will be rare exceptions but we must not try to build our belief and practice upon these exceptions (1 Corinthians 3:12-15).