18 May 2011

Gospel-Judgment & Discerning False Teachers - Psalm 119 Partial Recap, Part 5

Let's face it: we judge others. All of us do it, for better or for worse. Yet, as Christians are we supposed to judge other people? A favorite verse used to respond to this is "Judge not, lest ye be judged," but what does that really mean? Doesn't the Bible call us to be "fruit inspectors" and to call others to repentance if they are in sin? How can we do that without judging? Is the Bible contradicting itself?

So many questions, and that's why I loved the first session with Pastor R.W. Glenn at the Psalm 119 conference. Pastor Glenn is the senior pastor at Redeemer Bible Church in Minnetonka, MN and also is behind the ministry Solid Food Media. In his first presentation, Pastor Glenn preached on Matthew 7:1-5 and offered a Biblical interpretation of these verses.
“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? 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)
These five verses are not merely declarative statements delivered by Jesus. Rather, here we see Him teaching His followers how discerning people ought to judge. You see, there are two kinds of judgment addressed here: hypocritical judgment and Gospel-judgment. These and the following verses also offer us three clues that Jesus is not condemning the exercise of sincere Gospel-judgment:
  • Matthew 7:1 says that He will judge judgment.
  • Matthew 7:6 finds Jesus referring to certain people as "pigs"and "dogs" which is a fairly judgmental statement in and of itself.
  • Matthew 7:15ff finds Jesus teaching how to distinguish false teachers from true teachers, which is again a method of judgment.
So it is clear that, practiced rightly in a gospel-centered context, Jesus is not condemning judgment. What He is condemning, however, is hypocritical judgment.

Verses 3-4 of this passage indicate that hypocritical judgment is both ignorant and arrogant. First, let's address the ignorance. Those who exercise this erroneous type of judgment do not see themselves as they really are. "Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?" Can you hear the sarcasm here? Jesus is trying to get a point across! Hypocritical judgment is self-righteous and is a result of spiritual blindness. Yet, in Hebrews 5 we can see the importance of having an acute awareness of our own sin. This chapter describes how the earthly high priest had to first offer sacrifices for his own sin before he could offer sacrifices for the sins of the people. Improper, unbiblical judgment then is partially rooted in ignorance and we ought to deal gently with an individual if this is the source of their behavior.

Matthew 7:4 alerts us to the arrogant aspect of hypocritical judgment. After all, in many situations, does not ignorance lead to arrogance? Do you find that there is an element of enjoyment when you are pointing out the errors of others? If so, then it may be time for a little prayer and self-examination! And trust me, I am not completely innocent of this same charge.

So, Jesus condemns ignorant, arrogant, hypocritical judgment. But we know that, in other places, Christians are called to exercise a form of judgment or discernment, so how do these reconcile? Matthew 7:5 addresses this:
[F]irst take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye.
Whether the other person's error is doctrinal or practical, true Gospel-judgment will find us first addressing our own "log" and then addressing the "speck" in our brother's eye. This is crucial and necessary because a log in our own eye will obscure our vision! I'm not an overly visual person, but when I read these verses, I find that I grasp them best when I see myself walking around, or trying to drive to work, with a big ol' wooden log hanging out of my eye. Let me tell you, it is really difficult to see oncoming traffic that way! The point is, I must see myself as being an even greater sinner than the person I am correcting. If I do not have an accurate understanding of the depth and gravity of my own sin, than I cannot presume to properly address or correct the sins of others. Our exercise of Gospel-judgment will only be effective inasmuch as we recognize this truth. Without acknowledging the depth of our own sin, we will, in our correction of others, become impatient, be too easily surprised or incredulous, or we may ultimately write that person off, which is precisely the place where Jesus does not want us to go!

To exercise Gospel-centered judgment is a serious and high calling for Christians. Hypocritical judgment, however, is evidence of the absence of grace. Yet we are each guilty of passing ignorant and arrogant judgment. This self-righteousness always flows from an insecurity about the Gospel. So how can we best replace this wrong judgment with Gospel-judgment? The cure for this ailment is the same cure for all of our sin: Get your eyes on Christ! Preach the Gospel to yourself DAILY. Remember that Jesus was unjustly judged so that you never have to be!

Perhaps one of my favorite quotes during this message by R.W. Glenn was, "The Gospel shows me that I am both precious and a piece of work!" The reminder that we are precious to God should give us boldness, yet the reality that we are sinful "pieces of work" ought to steep us in humility. I am sinful and flaw-filled and yet Christ died for me. Wow.

For his second session, Pastor Glenn stayed in Matthew 7, focusing this time on Jesus' teaching about false teachers:
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits." (Matthew 7:15-20)
False teachers are sometimes difficult to identify, but it is not impossible. Why are they hard to spot? Because the cleverest among them truly are disguised as wolves in sheep's clothing. Think about it--bad fruit is not always obviously bad; sometimes you really have to inspect the apple before you find the worm hole. Remember the parable of the weeds in Matthew 13:24-30 where Jesus taught that the weeds will grow alongside and look just like the wheat, remaining undetected until the very end. So we must acknowledge that false teachers are not all prancing around with two horns and a pitchfork. They are dressed to look just like the sheep, they truly are often disguised as "angels of light."

It is not, however, impossible to discern a false teacher. The very fact that Jesus offers this warning in Matthew 7 suggests that there is a way to tell the difference between a true and false teacher. What, then, should we be looking for? Pastor Glenn offered 3 tests:
  • Character & Conduct of the teacher
  • Complexion of his (or her) followers
  • Content of his/her teaching
Bottom line: all three of these must be in line with the Gospel, but let's break these down briefly:

Character & Conduct: The Beatitudes of Matthew 5 offer a fairly comprehensive view of the character of a true Christian. Yes, I know we can get into a discussion here about the purpose and audience of the Sermon on the Mount and whether or not it is reserved for Jews, etc, etc. But if you do not feel that the teaching of this sermon, and especially the beatitudes, are something that the Church can learn from, then we have a whole separate discussion that needs to be had! So for the purposes of this post, just humor me. Let's look at some of these characteristics:
    • Poor in spirit - this is to be one who admits his weakness and his own need of grace
    • Those who mourn - this refers to those who mourn in Gospel grief over sin.
    • Those who hunger & thirst for righteousness - this desire is for a righteousness that is not one's own, but is the righteousness of Christ. 
    • The merciful - to forgive quickly and to take action for the weak or needy while not thinking of oneself as better than those he is helping
    • Pure in heart - to be personally loyal to God and relationally honest with others
    • Persecuted - those who have been or are being persecuted because of Jesus Christ.
The interesting thing about the Sermon on the Mount is, out of the 66 imperatives offered, the majority reflect attitude over behavior. Why is this? Behavior can easily be counterfeited, but what is inside of a person will eventually infiltrate one's outward behavior.

Complexion of Followers: It doesn't take much to realize that a dedicated follower more often than not resembles his teacher. I have certainly witnessed this myself in both good and bad circumstances. I can tell when a preacher is attempting to model his style after John MacArthur, for example. I have also witnessed (and been a casualty of) when a false teacher passes along her discrepant conduct to her followers. I have seen this demonstrated by staunch followers of Beth Moore and other false teachers and let me say, that if that is the fruit of a true Christian teacher, then we have a huge problem! But I digress...The point is that a teacher's defects will often show up even more pronounced in the students because imitation tends to become more exaggerated. If diehard followers of a teacher, then, are behaving in a consistently unbiblical manner, then you can many times trace this back to the "leader of the pack."

Content of their Teaching: Matthew 12:33 and following teaches us that what comes out of someone's mouth betrays what is really in their heart. Sure, lies can be professed for awhile, but it is only a matter of time before the true heart is exposed. Look at Rob Bell as an example. Now, I would certainly argue that his teaching has been unorthodox and unbiblical from the early days of his success, but didn't he hide it much better? But now, with the release of this latest book, sleeping Christians finally woke up because his teaching is so blatantly false and erroneous that it simply can no longer be ignored. When confronted with a false (or suspected false) teacher, then, we must inspect to see if what they are teaching is in line with the Gospel. Do we find their version of the truth on the narrow or on the broad road?

All false teaching ultimately falls into one of two camps: Antinomianism or Legalism. Antinomianism avoids Jesus Christ as Lord. It rails against the law and relaxes God's standards so that it is "easier." It lowers the bar so that it is easier for one to get over it. False teaching such as this allows people to blatantly disobey God and to do so in the name of "freedom." It presumes on the grace of God (hey, let's sin more so that grace may abound!) and will always result in rationalization of sin, shifting blame, and making excuses for sin. Antinomianism over-emphasizes the comfort of the Gospel. It takes advantage of the grace of God and results in a false salvation.

Legalism, on the other hand, avoids Jesus Christ as Savior. It is filled with moralism and religiosity, and teaches people to close the gap of salvation with their own efforts. Roman Catholicism is a perfect example of legalism. Yeah, yeah, we know Jesus died for our sins, but it wasn't quite enough, so you still need to pray all the required prayers, pay all the required cash, and attend all the required masses. Legalism is often driven by lists (both "to do" and "not to do"), and results in an angry sense of entitlement with God. "Hey, God....you owe me! I donated lots of money to charity last month, so you owe me!" People trapped in legalism often feel the need to make up for their sins, once again looking to themselves to close the gap instead of looking to the righteousness of Christ. "Good" legalists will demonstrate behavior and feelings of superiority over others who are "doing" less, while "bad" legalists will experience feelings of inferiority because they haven't "done" enough. Legalism over-emphasizes the demands of the Gospel and results in a false salvation.

So ask yourself (remember always to bring these messages back to yourself first, before you say, "Hey, so-and-so needs to hear this!"), do you live your life in step with the Gospel? Do a self-examination (and get ready for conviction). Is your walk overall marked by change and growth? Sure, we all sin and we all have setbacks, but overall has God sanctified you so that you can look back and know that you are a different, more Gospel-centered Christian today than you were a year ago? Look at your followers (yes, you have them). What is their complexion? Do they love to repent of their own sin, or do they love to revel in pointing out the sins of others? What is your message? Is it a balance of both the comfort and the demands of the Gospel? Is it pointing to Jesus Christ, or to someone or something else? Who is being glorified? Lastly, are you an expert in the Gospel? Do you preach it to yourself, to your family, and to others daily? Is it constantly in the forefront of your mind or is it an afterthought?

As with all of the other speakers, these two messages by R.W. Glenn were incredibly informative and, more importantly, convicting. Who among us doesn't find himself occasionally exercising hypocritical judgment? And who among us isn't guilty of not keeping the Gospel at the front and center of our ministry, whether that ministry is formal or simply is within our very own home? His insight into how best to discern false teachers was so helpful and organized, and really helped me to better express why I do label certain people as false teachers. Having listened to and learned from Pastor Glenn with Drive by Theology and Drive by Church History, it was truly an honor to hear him speak in person. And just a warning if you plan on attending a future Psalm 119 conference...this guy is active and animated, but in a great way! He will keep your attention from his opening sentence to his closing prayer. God has truly gifted him and you will not be disappointed if you hear him preach.

As this is my final recap of the April Psalm 119 conference, I just want to once again extend my thanks to each of the speakers, as well as to all of those who worked behind the scenes to execute a successful weekend. I know that each one of you was working only for God's glory and it showed. God was lifted up and, while I cannot speak for every attendee, I can say without a doubt that I walked away from that weekend loving Jesus more. Honestly, it doesn't get any better than that.


1 comment:

  1. Here is a detailed article on False Teachers including an expose on Dr. James B Richards of Impact Ministries who teaches that Jesus became a sinner. See the full video/audio proof in this article http://www.squidoo.com/jim-richards
    I'm looking forward to reading about your Alpha Exposed!


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