BE CAREFUL HOW YOU JUDGE

John 7:24 – Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.

One Sunday morning, an old cowboy entered a church just before services were to begin. Although the old man and his clothes were spotlessly clean, he wore jeans, a denim shirt, and boots that were very worn and ragged. In his hand, he carried a worn out old hat and an equally worn out old Bible.

The church he entered was a very upscale and in an exclusive part of the city. It was the largest and most beautiful church building the old cowboy had ever seen. It had high cathedral ceilings, ornate statues, beautiful murals, stained glass windows, plush carpet, and velvet-like cushioned pews. The building must have cost many millions of dollars to build and maintain.

The congregation was all dressed in the finest and most expensive suits, dresses, shoes, and jewelry the old cowboy had ever seen. As the poorly dressed cowboy took a seat, the others moved away from him. No one greeted him. No one welcomed him. No one offered a handshake. No one spoke to him. They were all appalled at his appearance and did not attempt to hide the fact. There were many glances in his direction as the others frowned and commented among themselves about his shabby attire. A few chuckles and giggles came from some of the younger members.

The preacher gave a long sermon and a stern lecture on how much money the church needed to do God’s work. When the offering plate was passed thousands of dollars came pouring forth. As soon as the service was over the congregation hurried out. Once again no one spoke or even nodded to the stranger in the ragged clothes and boots. As the old cowboy was leaving the church the preacher approached him. Instead of welcoming him, the preacher asked the cowboy to do him a favor. “Before you come back in here again, have a talk with God and ask him what He thinks would be appropriate attire for worshiping in this church.” The old cowboy assured the preacher he would do that and left.

The very next Sunday morning the old cowboy showed back up for the service wearing the same ragged jeans, shirt, boots, and hat. Once again, the congregation was appalled at his appearance. Again, he was completely shunned and ignored. The preacher noticed the man still wearing his ragged clothes and boots, and instead of beginning his sermon, stepped down from the pulpit and walked over to where the man sat alone.

“I thought I asked you to speak to God before you came back to our church.” “I did,” replied the old cowboy. “If you spoke to God, what did he tell you the proper attire should be for worshiping in here?” asked the preacher. “Well sir, God told me that He wouldn’t have the slightest idea what was appropriate attire for worshiping in your church.” He said He’s never been in here. That church family sounds rather “dysfunctional.” They are obviously more concerned about what is seen on the outside rather than what is unseen on the inside.

“We are not again commending ourselves to you but are giving you an occasion to be proud of us, so that you will have an answer for those who take pride in appearance and not in heart” (2 Corinthians  5:12). Those who judge after appearance are judging from “pride” and not the Spirit of the Lord. The story above illustrates how both individuals and church bodies can be filled with pride and arrogance, rather than the love of God.

Father, give me eyes to see as You do. Create in me righteous judgment as the Lord Jesus instructs all His disciples to have.

THE PEACE OF DISCIPLINE

Hebrews 12:11 – All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.

In our devotion yesterday, we concluded with the biblical statement of Hebrews 12:11. What the writer of Hebrews is stating is so important that it requires we look deeper into the truth it contains.

The Almighty God, who spun off worlds with His Word, is our heavenly Father if we have trusted His Only begotten Son for our salvation. His Holy Spirit resides in us and bears witness to this fact. “You have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by whom we cry out, ‘Abba! Father!’ The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him” (Romans 8:15-17).

The child of God is not a slave, but an adopted son. The child of God can cry out Daddy and Father.  My oldest son Paul is adopted. He has known this fact from his earliest childhood. Immediately, his mother and I thanked God for him and declared his adoption to legally settle his son-ship in our family. I declared he had a father and a mother who loved him and would never abandon him.  Paul received the same blessings, but also the same discipline as our natural children. I can truly say we did not treat any of our children differently.

Paul the apostle said, “Indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him” (Romans 8:17). The suffering is our identity with His cross. Because of the cross, God raised Christ up and glorified Him. Our access to the family of God is through the cross of Christ. We have been raised up in newness of life and as joint heirs of God’s grace.

The Father’s training comes through discipline. Discipline is not the wrath of the Father, but His love to produce the fruit of peace and righteousness. God’s wrath concerning sin was settled at the cross of Christ. Father God is not angry at mankind and especially those who have been adopted into His family through the redemptive work of Christ. He trains His children through various types of disciplines. We should pay special attention to how Jesus trained His disciples in order to know how God wants us to be trained.

Jesus modeled the Father’s love. He first showed the Father’s nature “full of grace and truth.” He taught through words with love and authority. He reached out to the weak and needy. He demonstrated the Father’s love through direct action. He told His disciples to go do as he was doing, and gave them the authority to accomplish the assignment.  He corrected their misunderstandings, bickering, and wrong heart motivations. He promised them another Helper just like Him so they would not have to go it alone.  

Father, I want to be corrected and rebuked by You when necessary. I know it won’t be pleasant, but I also know it will mature me and produce the peace of righteousness in my life.   

DISCERNING THE BODY OF CHRIST

1 Corinthians 11:31-32 – If we judged ourselves rightly, we would not be judged. But when we are judged, we are disciplined by the Lord so that we will not be condemned along with the world.

This is a very powerful and important portion of Scripture. Paul helps the church at Corinth to examine their approach to the “Lord’s table.” Every congregation should read and study carefully what Paul writes. Verse 30 answers the question why many are sick in the body of Christ and why some have died prematurely. Paul says it comes from three things:

Eating the bread and drinking the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner
Failure to examine oneself, causing judgment on oneself
Not judging the body of Christ rightly
Close examination of these passages and, in fact, the entire book of Corinthians reveals how they addressed relationships within the body of Christ. When there is broken relationship among believers, it opens the door for the kingdom of darkness, reproach from an unbelieving world, and hinders the Lord’s purposes.

Jesus said, “If you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you,  leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering (Matthew 5:23-24). The Lord puts a very high premium on relationship within His body. We must examine ourselves regularly to make sure our hearts are right toward our fellow believers. Paul informs us that not “judging the body rightly” causes sickness and even premature death. Our scripture today says that “if we judged ourselves rightly, we would not be judged.” The Father wants His children to learn how to examine their own hearts. The Holy Spirit enables us to do this if we will ask for His help.

“When we are judged, we are disciplined by the Lord so that we will not be condemned along with the world” (1 Corinthians 11:32). We know that we are sons and daughters because the Lord disciplines His children (see Hebrews 12:5). 

A true father disciplines his children. Today, many children have not known the loving discipline of a father. Many are self-centered because of not experiencing a father’s love through discipline. Some have known only anger from their father. The loving discipline of a father helps to produce respect for authority and a respect for others.  Father God disciplines His children for their good. The writer of Hebrews says, “All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness” (Hebrews 12:11).

Father, cause me to be discerning about how I treat my spouse, my children, other believers, and those outside Your kingdom. Make me aware when I have offended another and grant me humility to ask forgiveness of the offended one. When You must discipline me, cause me to be open and willing to receive Your discipline, for I know it will produce in me the peaceful fruit of righteousness.

THE FAMILY OF GOD

Ephesians 2:19 – You are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household.

Within the body of Christ, our basic relationships can be expressed in terms of family. We are part of God’s extended family. God is our Father and we are brothers and sisters through Christ. There was a time in each of our lives that we were strangers and aliens to God’s household. Through the power of the Holy Spirit we were born again. He made us “fellow citizens with the saints.” The Spirit is the one who is charged with the work of connecting us in Christ’s body. If you have been born again, you are in the household of God.

As families join to families, a kinship is developed. People from many walks of life are joined together in covenant love. Covenant love is God’s kind of love and happens within committed relationships; Love which is rooted in relationship, established under pressure, and developed through servanthood.

This is God’s plan for maturing His sons and daughters. It all begins as “little children” (Matthew 18:3). Life in Christ grows inward to bring forth a “godly seed.” At the same time, new lives are added from without. While we grow in numbers and organizational complexity, we must also grow in our call to be family. If either of these is ever lost, we have missed God’s purpose.

Jesus said, “Come unto Me all you that labor and are heavy burdened, and I will give you rest.” As each one comes to Jesus, we receive forgiveness and acceptance from the Father. We in turn are to give the same to others.

The chorus of an old gospel song (Words and Music by William J. Gaither Copyright 1970) goes like this:

I’m so glad I’m a part of the family of God. I’ve been washed in the fountain, cleansed by His blood.

Joint heirs with Jesus as we travel this sod, I’m so glad I’m a part of the family of God.

The family begins in God the Father. God the Son has made it possible for you and me to be joined into this eternal family. The Holy Spirit uses the seed of God’s word to join us to the Father and the Son, but also to each other in this incredible eternal plan.

Father, I thank You for joining me to the family of God. I celebrate You as my heavenly Father. I thank You for Jesus, my Redeemer King and my Elder Brother. I thank You for giving to each believer the Holy Spirit, who applies the blood of Jesus to cleanse me, who then nurtures me and reveals that my identity now comes from You.

WHAT IS THE FATHER LIKE?

John 14:9 – He who has seen Me has seen the Father

The four Gospels give us wonderful understandings about the Father. Today, we will devote our selves to the Gospel of John and examine what he reveals about the Father through the Son who is the expressed image of the Father.

Jesus is the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:14). Jesus is full of grace and truth because the Father is full of the same. The Father loves the Son and has given all things into His hand (John 3:35). The Father loves His sons and daughters in the same way He loves Jesus. The Father seeks those to be His worshipers (John 4:23). The Father knows that it is through worship we enter into His presence, His liberty, and His peace.

“My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working” (John 5:17). The Father has always been a worker. He worked the six days of creation and then He rested from His work. He created Adam as a worker in the Garden. Jesus relates the Father’s work with His work. He calls each believer to enter into the work of the Father and the Son through the power of the Holy Spirit.

“For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself is doing; and the Father will show Him greater works than these, so that you will marvel” (John 5:20). It is marvelous how the Father loves the Son and gave Him all things. Here, Jesus tells us that the Father shows Him all things. He also tells us that the Father will show greater things to the Son. The greater things are:

The ability to give life to whomever He wills.
The ability for the Son to have life in Himself.
The Father gave all judgment into the hands of the Son.
We can see by these few verses that the Father delights in His Son and loves to give to Him. Our heavenly Father loves us as well. As we live in the center of His love, He will choose to give us those things from His riches in glory. “My God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. Now to our God and Father be the glory forever and ever. Amen” (Philippians 4:19-20).

Many have been disappointed with earthly fathers because of their sin and neglect. Our heavenly Father wants to heal any brokenness we might carry from past relationship with a father. Father God will help us enter into His abundant love through His only begotten Son. The Holy Spirit has come to reveal the love of the Father through the kindness given to Christ and now available to all who will believe. 

Father, I thank You for Your goodness that was revealed through Your Son, Jesus. Thank You for sending the Holy Spirit to give me the experience of Your love. Your love that forgives me, Your love that grants me eternal life, and Your love that gives me the security of Your grace. You are a good Father!

ONENESS WITH THE FATHER

John 14:12 – Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father.

As Jesus partakes of His last meal with His disciples, He shares some of His most intimate thoughts. He knows the events which are about to take place would shake their world to the very core. The chapter begins with Jesus saying, “Let not your heart be troubled.” He points them to His Father as the source of belief. He assures them that He is going to prepare a place for them in the Father’s house. He also assures them that as He goes, He will also return for them so where He is, they might be also. 

Jesus assures them that He is the way to the Father. No man can come to the Father except through the Son. He says, by knowing Him one should know the Father. Everything we see in Jesus is what the Father is like. He is full of compassion. He loves the unlovely. He is a provider. He is a protector. He heals and delivers from evil. He forgives the vilest of sinners and transforms their lives.

Jesus reinforces the fact that the words He speaks are not His, but they originate from the Father. He also makes it clear that the works He performs are not His works, but the Father’s works through Him (John 14:10). He gives them two options for belief. “Believe Me that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me: or else believe Me for the very work’s sake” (John 14:11).

Some have trouble believing the words of Christians because they do not see or experience the reality of those words in the life of the confessing Christian. Jesus modeled how we are to live out the believing life. He modeled this for us by allowing the Father to fill Him with the Father’s life both in word and deed.  He gave us the Holy Spirit who is the Spirit of the Father and the Spirit of the Son. This is the greater works Jesus promised we would do. We are not just to model the Father and the Son, but we are to pray for others to receive the Holy Spirit, even as we have received Him.

God did not intend that we should try to be like Jesus in our own effort. He fills us with His Holy Spirit so His life can be lived through us. This is why Paul could say, “We offer ourselves as a model for you, so that you would follow our example” (2 Thessalonians 3:9). Paul was a model to the saints, as we too should be a model for others. Not in our own effort, but by the power of God.

Daily, we need to be filled with the Holy Spirit. It is only the Holy Spirit who can produce the life of the Son and the subsequent life of the Father in us. In the natural, one’s identity comes through their father.  The scriptures reveal that Jesus came for a number of reasons, one of which was to reveal His Father to Israel. Their identity was wrapped up in Abraham as their father. Jesus came to reveal the one in whom Abraham trusted. Through the Spirit of God, by faith, Abraham saw Jesus’ day. Jesus wanted Israel to find their identity in the heavenly Father. He wants the same for each of us. Allow the Holy Spirit to reveal more of the Father to you. Let your full identity be in Him.

Father, I believe in You and I believe in Jesus whom You sent. I choose to receive my identity from You. I pray for Your life to be revealed in me, the fruit of the Holy Spirit. I ask the Holy Spirit to make me a model for others, as You did with Paul.