First Week of Advent
November 27, 2022
Today we celebrate the first of four weeks of Advent – Advent is a season observed in many Western Christian churches as a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the birth of Jesus at Christmas. The term is a version of the Latin word meaning "coming."
But as we prepare to celebrate the BIRTH of Jesus, Advent should also be a time that we continue our preparation for the RETURN of Jesus. And to that end, living a holy lifestyle should be foremost in our hearts. It should be our primary goal as we journey toward that Celestial City.
And so, my text for today comes from the seventh chapter of Matthew’s gospel. The message in this chapter – indeed, in the entire Bible from Genesis through Revelation – guides us toward what must be our primary goal.
7 “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.
There is an unscriptural attitude floating around our culture which promotes the dangerous idea that no one has the right to judge another. But if you listen closely, those who say such things often mean, “Don’t tell me what’s wrong or right. I’ll do what I want to do, and you’d better not give me your ‘Bible morality.’
Unfortunately, “Judge not, lest ye also be judged” has now infected the attitude of the Christian who often retreats to the safety of: “Who am I to judge?”
But the misuse of Scripture by the ungodly to silence the proclamation of truth is a perfect example of the maxim: A text taken out of context is a pretext to teach error.” And ‘error’ is precisely what people do when they appeal to verse one of chapter seven here in Matthew’s gospel.
Now, of course, if we are talking about judging the final destination of people after they die, only God will make that judgment. Only He has the authority to judge and send either to an eternity in the Lake of Fire, or an eternity with Him and all the angels and saints in heaven. The Lord Jesus tells us in Luke 12:4-5 – I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that have no more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear the One who, after He has killed, has authority to cast into hell; yes, I tell you, fear Him! (Luke 12:4-5)
But if we are talking, for example, about morality or theology, God actually commands us to make judgments. Why? Well for at least two reasons. First, to protect ourselves and others from falling into sin – the result of which will be eternal separation from God. And second, to protect ourselves and others from falling into heretical or erroneous doctrine – the result of which may also lead the person to eternal separation from God.
Here are only a few texts in which God commands the Christian to make judgments of a person’s morality:
1 Corinthians 15:33-34: Do not be deceived: “Bad company corrupts good morals.” Unless we use Biblical principles to judge the company we keep, we risk our own morals being corrupted.
2 Corinthians 6:14-15: Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? To avoid being “bound together with unbelievers” one must make judgments based on what God tells us marks the character of unbelievers.
2 Thessalonians 3:14: If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of that person and do not associate with him. Once again Paul instructs his Christian readers to judge the actions and words of others by God’s holy word.
1 Timothy 5:19-21: Those who continue in sin, rebuke in the presence of all, so that the rest also will be fearful of sinning. How could church leadership rebuke those who continue in sin without judging their actions by the clear teaching of Scripture?
And here are only a few texts in which God commands the Christian to make judgments of a person’s theology. Why? Because subtle lies embedded in ideas about God that SOUND reasonable have often sucked God’s people away from truth.
For example, did you know some pastors and book authors now teach the doctrine of ‘Limited Inerrancy.’ This heresy claims that the Bible is only inerrant on matters of faith and morals, but NOT when it speaks of history or matters of science. In other words, God knows about faith and morals, but not about history or science.
Another damnable heresy is called ‘Restorationism.’ It is also called ‘Universalism.’ This heresy claims that EVERYONE will be saved because a loving God would not send anyone to an eternal lake of fire. In other words, Jesus lied when He warned of that destiny for the non-believer. And the apostles also lied when they also warned against that destiny for the non-believer in Christ.
And then there is the heresy that teaches people who die unrepentant will have a ‘second chance’ for salvation. Of course, to teach this satanic lie is to deny the whole of Bible teaching about salvation, such as the ominous warning in Hebrews 9:27, “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the Judgment.”
Not long ago I heard a pastor tell us from the pulpit: “The universe is eternal.” And I wondered how many in the pews recognized THAT as a tenet of Hinduism? Only God is eternal. It is He who CREATED the universe through Christ. The Holy Spirit tells us through St Paul’s quill: “For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him.” (Colossians 1:16)
Yes, we’d BETTER make judgments about a pastor’s or teacher’s theology because if not judged and challenged, they will lead multitudes of Biblically illiterate men and women into that Lake of Fire with them.
Yes, we’d BETTER make godly judgments. And indeed, is that not also implicit in the Lord’s commandment to us in John’s gospel: “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgement.” (John 7:24)
We all know appearances can deceive. Indeed, appearances USUALLY deceive. That is why that text in Matthew 7 can be best interpreted, “Don’t make RASH judgments. Don’t rush to judgment but EXAMINE what we see and hear.”
And oh, by the way, if we are going to judge a person’s morality, we’d better FIRST examine our own morality, lest we also be judged with the same judgment as we render of others.
Here is what the Holy Spirit tells us through St Paul’s pen: Therefore you have no excuse, everyone of you who passes judgment, for in that which you judge another, you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things . . . . But do you suppose this, O man, when you pass judgment on those who practice such things and do the same yourself, that you will escape the judgment of God? (Romans 2:1-3)
Okay, enough about making judgments. I hope by now I have demonstrated sufficiently with the Scriptures that God REQUIRES us to make PROPER judgments of what people say and what they do. As the Lord also said in the context of verse one in chapter seven: 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.”
Let’s turn our attention briefly to the Lord’s guidance regarding prayer:
“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!” (Matthew 7:7-11)
Now, let me get – as they say – ‘real’ here. Some teach – and they do so erroneously – that God always gives us what we ask for in faith. But I am here to tell you that is not the case. It should be clear to all Christians who have asked God for things we think good and right – that God does NOT always say ‘yes’ to our prayers.
And if we know the scriptures well enough, we know that God did not always say ‘yes’ to the prayers of His children throughout Church history. St Paul should be the most obvious. Three times he asked the Father to take away his thorn – whatever that thorn was – and three times the Father said, ‘No.’
What about Timothy? Here is 1 Timothy 5:23, “No longer drink water exclusively, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments.” And now 2 Timothy 4:20, “Erastus remained at Corinth, but Trophimus I left sick at Miletus.” Do we think Paul did not ask God to heal his friends and companions? Of course he did. But apparently God decided to not answer those prayers in the affirmative.
And then there is the great Moses. He asked the Lord three times to let him enter the promised land, and three times God said, ‘No.”
And what about the saints of God in the latter half of Hebrews 11 of whom God tells us He said no to their prayers for deliverance and safety and health?
How should we look at these examples in light of this text on prayer in Matthew 7? Well, let’s remember how the Lord taught us to preface our prayers: “Our FATHER.” Remember, He is our merciful, loving, compassionate Father, our Daddy, who wants only the best for us.
Even when the best means heartache? And pain? And ongoing illness? And continuing struggles? Yes. Even then.
He has in the past, and will in the future, and even today, work all things for good to who love him. He asks us only to trust Him, as Paul trusted Him, and Moses trusted Him, and David and the other psalmists trusted, and the saints in Hebrews 11 trusted Him.
Yes, we, too, can trust our Father to do what is right by us.
So, what about prayer? Ask and you will receive. Seek and you will find. Knock and it shall be opened. Shall we pray once and see what happens? Or pray often, and in faith, that God's will WILL be done not only in heaven and on earth, but ALSO in our lives?
It is of interest AND of importance that the Greek word for those verbs indicates a CONTINUING action. In other words, KEEP asking. KEEP seeking. KEEP knocking. Here is how Luke records the Lord’s encouragement to continue in prayer. We find it in the 18th chapter of that gospel:
“Now [Jesus] was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart, saying, “In a certain city there was a judge who did not fear God and did not respect man. There was a widow in that city, and she kept coming to him, saying, ‘Give me legal protection from my opponent.’ For a while he was unwilling; but afterward he said to himself, ‘Even though I do not fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow bothers me, I will give her legal protection, otherwise by continually coming she will wear me out.’” And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge *said; now, will not God bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him day and night, and will He delay long over them? I tell you that He will bring about justice for them quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:1-8)
Please hear me. I can list several prayers my wife and I have prayed for more than 20 years – prayers which have yet to be answered. Prayers for family members who are not walking at all with the Lord. And we know that God is not willing that any should perish, but that all will come to salvation. We KNOW the salvation of souls is the Father’s ‘A-Number-1’ priority. And so, He continues to woo our loved ones. He continues to draw them. He continues to pursue them. He is doing all that He can do within the limits of our own free will.
KEEP praying. Keep asking. Keep knocking. And – and this is important – even if they should die without our knowledge of their conversion, that does not mean that God did not call them to Himself even in their last moments of life.
DO NOT misunderstand what I am saying. No one is offered a second chance for salvation after they have died. No one. Every soul that dies in an unrepentant state WILL suffer eternal death.
But only God knows the heart. Only God knows the motives. Only God knows the last thoughts of the dying. And so, we can HOPE that our loved one repented of their sins in those last moments of life.
Which brings us to the last words of the Lord to the people during this Sermon on the Mount. Remember, the Sermon extended from chapter one through chapter seven. Here is what Jesus said as He closed His message:
“Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell—and great was its fall.” (Matthew 7:24-27)
Everyone who hears what the Lord has spoken in these three chapters AND acts on them . . . .
When was the last time you read the entire Sermon on the Mount? We’ve spent only a few weeks highlighting only a small section of the Sermon. We’ve barely scratched the proverbial surface of His words of challenge, encouragement, exhortation, and warning. And we dare not stop with only the Sermon. We must – we MUST go on through the entire Bible, old and new testaments – if we hope to build our lives on the solid rock of Christ.
St Jerome (he died in AD 420) translated the Bible from the original languages into Latin. It was the Vulgate that formed the basis of our English translations. Jerome said, “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.”
Storms have come into all of our lives, one after the other, after the other. And we are not yet done with storms. We should expect them until the day we breathe our last. But we DO have the Lord’s promise – His PROMISE – that those who build their lives on and around and through His Holy word, will remain unwavering when the storms slash into us. We will remain unmovable when all others around us collapse in destruction.
We must – we MUST know the scriptures IN CONTEXT with the entire Bible from Genesis through Revelation. Satan can seduce the Biblically illiterate with his sweet-sounding deceptions. But He CANNOT seduce the biblically literate.
And we all know, no one becomes biblically literate by reading snatches of scripture here and there. Our reading of His holy word must be intentional, consistent, and obedient to its commandments and principles.
The storms are coming. It’s already drizzling in some of your lives. God still has so much to teach us – while there is still time left to teach.