Righteous Judgment

In the business world, there is a saying, “Perception is Truth.” The concept basically is this: you should react to people the way they perceive you, regardless of whether those perceptions are correct or not. The result of this type of thinking is a one-way relationship. These relationships are commonly practiced in business and “understanding” is not part of the equation if you are on the wrong side of that relationship. Customers do not want to understand a vendor’s problems; they just want them fixed. A boss does not want to understand an employee’s problems; he just wants results. There are exceptions to these circumstances, but they are few and far between. This is probably one of the more difficult things that I have had to deal with in the business world being a Christian. When it comes to relationships, Christianity is about understanding your brother and not being quick to judge wrongfully.

The idea of “Perception is Truth” often invades the church. A brother will get slightly offended at another brother for some small thing. Instead of asking about the offense, he just dismisses it. Over time, small offences build up and a perception is built regarding that brother. That perception may or may not be warranted, but to the brother who is offended, it is “truth.” These perceptions often generate gossip and tale bearing. In the end, they cause strife and division within the church, all because someone judged another based upon a perception.

Many today have been infected with this notion. Is this concept correct? The Bible clearly teaches that it is not. We read in John 7:24: “Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.” Jesus rejects and repudiates this popular notion that one may judge based upon perception. In the context of John 7:24, Jesus was teaching in the temple during the Feast of Tabernacles (v.2). Many were speaking about Jesus at the feast, but quietly (v.11-13). Part of this gossip included the rumor that he had a demon (v.20). Jesus reads their hearts and repudiates this by showing that the same critics formed hypocritical judgments regarding healing on the Sabbath (22, 23). They had quickly come to wrong judgment regarding Jesus based upon gossip that they heard. The “evidence” upon which they had drawn their conclusions regarding him was all perception. So Jesus rebukes them, “Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.”

Christians also get bogged down in the same nonsense and become objects of this rebuke as well. It is so easy for us to listen to gossip regarding other Christians. Unlike Jesus, we cannot read the hearts of individuals who act this way, so the Bible gives us several principles upon which to ensure that our Christian relationships remain in tact. These principles are love, patience, longsuffering, and brotherly kindness. Applying these principles in our life will go a long way toward not judging according to appearance.

How do we use love to not judge according to appearance?
How do we use patience to not judge according to appearance?
How do we use longsuffering to not judge according to appearance?
How do we use brotherly kindness to not judge according to appearance?
Are there any additional items that must be respected after all of these have been applied? Jesus has set down a few items for us to follow in regard to our personal Christian relationships. Our problem is that we fail to follow these rules and thereby cause great hurt and pain among our brethren unnecessarily. (Please note that the situation under consideration is a personal relationship between two Christians; these rules do not apply to publicly taught false doctrine or immoral public behavior.) What are these rules? Jesus states them in Matthew 18:15-17 “Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.”

The first step is to speak to the brother privately about his offence. This is probably the most uncomfortable step that we have to take. It is much easier to go to others and start talking about someone else; it is much harder to talk to the person who has committed the trespass directly. However, this is for the good of everyone, and is consistent with the Biblical teaching of love. Peter writes in 1 Peter 4:8, “And above all things have fervent love among yourselves: for love shall cover the multitude of sins.” When we go to a brother privately and discuss things and resolve them, we have helped to not spread things beyond what they should be known. The Holy Spirit calls this love. This first private consultation may reveal a number of things regarding the brother who trespassed against you; it may in fact reveal that you misjudged something that he did. These things can be cleared up privately without the need for additional parties to intervene and especially without having to go before the “unjust” (1 Corinthians 6:1-8).

After one has spoken to a brother privately and this brother refuses to repent, the second step is to bring two or three witnesses for the purpose of establishing every word. It is not enough with God for one person to go and start telling every one about this situation. God demands that we take two or three with us to establish every word. At this meeting, an accounting of all that has taken place will be recorded; the additional witnesses will judge the trespass. If the judgment of these additional witnesses is not heard and obeyed, then the matter will be brought before the church.

The church has final authority in regard to the trespass. By the time the issue is presented to the church, it should be clear what the offending party has done and what he needs to do to correct the situation. If the church’s decision is not obeyed in this regard, then the one who committed the offence is to be as a heathen or publican.

What should we do so that we do not practice this in our lives? We must practice the instruction that Jesus gave in regard to personal relationships regardless of our own personal comforts.

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The Quiet Revolutions of Christianity

By Kevin Cauley

How does a person change the world? Some people are naturally charismatic and can energize multitudes toward action and change. There are others who boldly dare to personally governments by laying down their life. And yet others through armed conflict enact change in their area of the world. But how does the Christian change the world? Do we take up arms? Do we sacrifice our lives for change? Do we move great mobs of people to demand change? Paul wrote some very sound words in 1 Thessalonians 4:11. He wrote in part, “and that ye study to be quiet. . . .” The New King James Version says, “that you also aspire to lead a quiet life. . . .” It is not through great personal leadership that Christianity advances; it is not through high-profile martyrdom or through waging war that Christianity moves forward, but through the quiet revolutions of the individual mind and conscience.

Christianity is a religion focused upon individual faith. Faith does not occur within a mob mentality. Faith does not occur within a democratic society. Faith does not occur within the masses of those in a dictatorial regime. Faith occurs in the individual heart and mind. It is a process that is solitary and singular within the individual’s thoughts and desires. It comes through hearing the word of God (Romans 10:17)-notice, hearing the word of God. Hearing is an individual activity. No one else can hear for us. We must hear for ourselves. When the hearing is mixed with simple trust and obedience, the individual has faith. The revolution occurs within the mind on the spiritual level and the heart is forever changed to reflect that new belief.

Christianity is a religion focused upon individual commitment. Commitment is not a loud and noisy event. It occurs within the recesses of the heart and soul. While its results are seen through action, commitment itself is silent and individual. Jesus said to those who were contemplating following him, “For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish. . . . So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:28-30, 33). The point Jesus is making is that it is folly to commit to something which you cannot complete. Jesus wants everyone to know that if they make the decision to follow Him, they must stick to that decision. But that decision is individual and singular. It must be a commitment on the part of the individual to take up the cross of Christ-no one else can make that decision for you.

Christianity is a religion focused upon the individual’s response to Christ. No one can force another person to be a Christian. There must be a revolution of the heart in order for one to become a Christian. Can others encourage, plead, exhort? Yes! And this helps the individual make the decision that he needs to make, but the decision, nonetheless, still belongs to the individual. So don’t look for a noisy display of outward show in true Christianity. That is not how it is done. True Christianity involves working steadfastly (1 Corinthians 15:58), patiently, lovingly, tenderly, quietly. How does a person change the world? It changes one heart at a time.

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For Purity of Purpose

It is clear from the scriptures that in order for one to be saved, one must be baptized (Mark 16:16). Since the word “baptize” is a transliteration from the Greek word “baptizo” the significance of the word is lost to us in the English language. So it is within the context of how the word “baptize” is used that we come to the conclusion that baptism must be immersion. Specifically in Romans 6:1-11 where we are taught that baptism is in the likeness of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. To be buried, one must be completely immersed in the burial material, in this case, water. For one to be baptized in a way that is not burial (such as pouring or sprinkling) would not be a fulfillment of the need to be buried. To this, most members of the Lord’s body would agree. However, when it comes to the stated purpose for which one is baptized, many accept the idea that as long as the candidate is submersed, then they are saved, regardless of their state of mind. So with this idea, many say that although one may not believe that baptism is necessary for remission of sins, if one is immersed God will forgive those sins regardless of the individual’s belief regarding baptism itself. Is this a correct understanding of the scriptures? Let’s examine the question in light of the plan of salvation. The Bible teaches that for a person to come into a state of salvation, one must: (1) hear the gospel message (Romans 10:17), (2) believe it (John 3:16), (3) repent of ones sins (Acts 17:30), (4) confess the name of Christ (Matthew 10:32) and (5) be baptized (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38). Each of these steps involves purity of purpose. Let’s look at some scriptures that indicate this.

When we look at the step of hearing the gospel, we recognize that not any hearing will do. It takes more than just letting the word go in one ear and out the other in order for a person to respond. Jesus said in Matthew 7:24-27 that the person who hears and acts upon what he hears is like a wise man, but that the person who hears and does not act upon what he hears is like a foolish man. In other words, not only must we hear the gospel message, but also we must hear it in a certain way, with a specific purpose. We must hear the gospel with the view that we are going to act upon it or with the view that we are going to obey it. So when one hears the gospel, one must hear it with the purpose in mind of obeying what one hears.

When we look at the step of believing the gospel, we recognize that purity of purpose must be involved here as well. It is not sufficient to believe just anything, but we must believe the message of the Gospel. Moreover, we must not have ulterior motives for believing the gospel. One cannot believe something with the purpose in mind of simply making another person happy. One must believe with a view of salvation in mind. There are certain things that a person must believe in order to be saved and there is the proper motive for believing those things. Romans 10:10 states that with the heart man believes unto righteousness. The heart must be pure in order to believe the gospel. The purpose must be understood.

When we look at the step of repentance, the Bible is clear that it is more than merely being sorry. In 2 Corinthians 7:10 we read, “For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death.” It is not sufficient to merely be sorry for one’s sins. The purpose of repentance is more than mere sorrow. The purpose of repentance is to stop doing the sinful things that one once did and to reform the pattern of one’s life after righteousness. So repentance must be with the proper attitude and correct purpose or else it is no repentance at all. Again, the purpose must be understood for one to be saved.

One’s confession as well must be pure. Does saying the words, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God” regardless of one’s attitude fulfill the requirement of confession? No. An atheist can say the words, but that does not make him a Christian. The words in and of themselves contain no “magic” formula that works salvation upon an individual. These words must come from the heart; they must be meant. Again, Romans 10:10 says that with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. That presupposes that one has already believed. Confession must be done with purity of purpose and that purpose must be understood for one to be saved.

Now we get to the step of baptism. Should we conclude anything different regarding this particular step of salvation? Should we conclude that in all the other steps one’s motive and purpose must be pure, but that when it comes to baptism that we do not have to have a pure motive and purpose? There is nothing magic in the waters of baptism. The water is just water. So dunking a person under the water just for the sake of dunking someone under the water is not going to cut it. If the proper motive and purpose is not present, it is meaningless just like all the other steps of salvation. If a person is not baptized for the proper motives and purposes, he is just getting wet. The Bible clearly teaches that the purpose of baptism is for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38; Acts 22:16).

At this point many will ask, “What if a person is being baptized to obey God, but does not understand that baptism is for the remission of sins.” In response, I ask, “Can a person merely hear the word of God ‘to obey God’ but not act upon the words that he hears?” “Can a person merely believe something ‘to obey God’ but not believe the gospel of Jesus Christ?” “Can a person merely repent ‘to obey God’ but not actually change one’s life?” “Can a person merely confess ‘to obey God’ but not actually mean what he says?” If one cannot do these things “to obey God” without actually involving the purity of purpose with which these things are done, what makes a person think that they can be baptized ‘to obey God’ without actually involving the purity of purpose with which baptism is to be done?

The truth of the matter is that baptism is an act of faith. When a person is baptized, they must believe that baptism is for the remission of their sins–that is the act of faith. Colossians 2:12 says, “Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.” Without that act of faith involved in baptism, one is merely getting wet. If a person is just baptized “to obey God” what is the act of faith? Wherein are you putting your trust when you are baptized “to obey God?” Someone says, “I am putting my trust in God.” Great! So what are you putting your trust in God to do? When faith trusts God, it trusts God to do something (Romans 4:20-22; Hebrews 11). Baptism doesn’t need to show that one merely believes God; confession accomplishes that! Baptism is not just a restatement of one’s confession. It is more than that. Notice what Peter says on the matter of baptism. “The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” Notice what is said in this passage. 1) Baptism saves us. 2) Baptism is not merely taking a bath. 3) Baptism is the response to God of a good conscience. 4) Baptism saves by the resurrection of Jesus. Notice item number 3). When we are baptized, we have to have a good conscience about it–we must do it with the right purposes in mind. The good conscience when taught properly is going to understand that baptism is necessary for salvation and is going to motivate the individual to take the appropriate action. To say that one can be baptized correctly without understanding the purpose of baptism denies the role of the conscience in baptism.

Many have asked me the question: “Can you be taught wrong and baptized right?” In response, I ask, “Can you be taught wrong and hear right?” “Can you be taught wrong and believe right?” “Can you be taught wrong and repent right?” “Can you be taught wrong and confess right?” If we cannot do these things, then what makes us think that we can be taught wrong and baptized right? The bottom line is that God has clearly identified the purity of purpose for baptism. There is no reason for someone not to know what the purpose of baptism is when they are baptized and if they are not following the purposes that God has clearly set forth, they are just getting wet.

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