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2006-09-17_Specks and Logs and Pearls and Dogs_Matthew 7.1-6

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Specks and Logs, Pearls and Hogs

Matthew 7:1-6   |   Shaun LePage   |   September 17, 2006

I.  Introduction

A.   One of the things I have always loved about the church is her diversity. People from all walks of life—young and old; rich and poor and middle class; white collar and blue collar; red, yellow, black, white and brown; American and German, Japanese and Hispanic; introverts and extroverts; some who grew up in a close family; some who grew up in a broken family; some who grew up in Christian homes, some who grew up in non-Christian homes, some who grew up in nominally Christian homes; among those who grew up in Christians homes there can be very diverse theological backgrounds (especially in the Bible churches)—with highly experiential, charismatic backgrounds or reverential high-church, liturgical backgrounds; new, relatively immature Christians and older, more mature believers—just a great variety of people.

B.    As wonderful as all this is, our diversity can also be the source of some of our problems. The young and old often have different tastes in clothing styles; blacks, whites and Hispanics often have very different tastes in musical styles. Those who grew up in legalistic religious backgrounds will want to emphasize different aspects of the Scriptures than those who grew up in a liberal religious environment. Those of us who grew up in solid, Christian homes with excellent parental role models will often find it difficult to be patient with those who grew up in broken homes or non-Christian homes where the parental role-models did not teach them how to rear their children according to Scriptural principles. Those of us who are new to the faith will often do and say things that are irritating at best and appalling at worst to those of us who have been around awhile. Those of us who have been around a while will often do and say things that are confusing at best and ridiculous at worst to those of us who are new believers.

C.   So, on the one hand, the church can be a beautiful illustration to the world of the greatness of the gospel of Christ which is good news for all nations. On the other hand, it can become an embarrassment. Like the church at Corinth. Their reputation was an embarrassment to Paul. An embarrassment to the cause of Christ. Listen to 1 Corinthians 1:10-11: “Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment. 11 For I have been informed concerning you, my brethren, by Chloe’s people, that there are quarrels among you.” Then, at the beginning of chapter 3, “And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ. 2 I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able, 3 for you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men?” (1 Corinthians 3:1-3)

D.   As Jesus sat with His disciples on the hills above the Sea of Galilee, He made it very clear that His followers were to be different. His Sermon on the Mount teaches that we are to have hearts and minds that are so focused on heaven that our presence on earth will be as bright lights in a dark room. We are to live authentic lives, free of hypocrisy. We will obey God’s commandments at the inner-heart level, not just on the outward, physical level. Followers of Jesus will imitate His scandalous love—seeking to love not just those who love us, but even those who hate us. Our enemies. Disciples of Jesus Christ will give, pray and fast and do all our acts of service to God—not to be noticed by men—but with right motives. The motive of knowing, pleasing and glorifying our Father in heaven. We will not invest our time, talent and treasure in the stuff of earth, but in the treasures of heaven. In other words, we will choose God as our Master. We will have right priorities, we will see ourselves as God’s own possession, and we will exercise much faith, by seeking first the kingdom of God and the righteousness of God. Jesus also taught—in the final chapter of the Sermon on the Mount—that our relationships with people will also reflect Christ. We will be people of grace and truth.

E.    CPS: In the opening verses of Matthew 7, Jesus taught that there is a wrong type of judgment and a right type of judgment. He used specks and logs, pearls and hogs to illustrate that we are to Stop judging one another and start helping our brothers.

II.   Body—Matthew 7:1-6

A.   Put off (the negative command)—“Do not judge”

1.     Look at v.1: “Do not judge so that you will not be judged.”

a)    Josh McDowell reports that until recently, polls showed that the most well-known verse in the Bible was John 3:16. But now, the verse most widely known and quoted by Christians and non-Christians is Matthew 7:1: “Do not judge…” Why is this? Why would “Do not judge…” become such a popular verse? It’s simple, really. Because our culture—our world, in fact—has decided that it would be great if we had no one to answer to. We want to “imagine” along with John Lennon that “…there’s no Heaven…No hell below us…Imagine all the people Living for today” and there’s no right or wrong, no one who will hold us accountable for how we live our lives, no such a thing as sin and we can do whatever we want, when we want and no one will ever judge us.

b)    I recently received an email from a lesbian—a woman who described herself as a lesbian. She was very angry because someone in our church had offended her. That person gave me permission to tell this story, but I will not use his name today. But he had offended her. She is in a homosexual relationship with his sister and when the two women decided to have a ceremony which they called a “wedding,” they invited this member of our church. When he chose not to attend, he was asked why. He communicated that he could not attend the ceremony and support the relationship. So, I—a completely innocent bystander—received an angry email simply because I am this man’s pastor. The email included this question: “Is it encouraged in your church to judge others?”

c)    Is this what Jesus meant? That no behavior, no lifestyle can be questioned? Unless we read this verse in the context in which Jesus said it, we might interpret it—as so many do—to mean that we should never call any behavior, any action, sin. No one should judge, so no one’s behavior can be judged. Is that what Jesus meant?

d)    The word “judge” (krinw) appears 114 times in the New Testament. It has different meanings depending on how the word is used in its context. That’s true in English as well. If I told you I was “judging” someone, you might not know whether I was being overly critical of someone or doing my job as a judge in a court of law or doing my job as the judge at a dog show. You would need more information. When we come across krinw, we have to look at the context to know exactly what is meant. Basically, it can mean two things: Bad judgment—which is self-righteously condemning other people without a good reason—or good judgment—which is using discernment to make a wise choice.

e)    My premise is this: Jesus was commanding us to stay away from the bad judgment—the bad sense of krinw. In Matthew 7:1, He is telling us not to self-righteously condemn other people. We humans don’t make good judges (I’m not saying that we should not have judges in a court of law—that’s a different issue). This kind of judging which Jesus is talking about is God’s job.

(i)   We don’t know all the facts—God is the only one who knows everything. We don’t know why people dress the way they do or why they behave the way they do. We don’t know how much they’ve changed or grown in the past year. We don’t know how hard they’re struggling with their sin. God knows.

(ii) We don’t know someone’s motives just by looking at the outside—only God knows the motives of a man’s heart. We may see someone who appears to be unfriendly, but they may have just lost a loved one or been fired from a job. Maybe you got mad at some guy because he didn’t shake your hand. Well, maybe he didn’t shake your hand because he didn’t want to give you that skin rash he’s been trying to get rid of. We can’t discern motives usually.

(iii)    We tend to pre-judge people based on how they dress or the color of their skin or how they smell or whatever. God is completely objective and shows no favoritism. We just don’t make good judges.

f)     Another time, Jesus taught on this same subject and Luke recorded a somewhat expanded version of this command: Listen to Luke 6:36,37: “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. 37 Do not judge, and you will not be judged; and do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; pardon, and you will be pardoned.” This list supports my interpretation of this command in Matthew 7:1, which is that Jesus is telling us not to have an unmerciful, judgmental, condemning attitude toward people. The question is, does the context support this?

2.     Look at v.2: “For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.”

a)    This verse tells us that if we “judge” in a wrong manner, it will directly affect the way we are judged. Possibly, this means God will judge us by our own impossible standards. If you are short on mercy and long on condemnation, perhaps God will not show you much mercy. Remember what Jesus said in Matthew 6:14-15: “For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 “But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.” Same principle.

b)    But, I think Jesus had something else in mind here. If you and I are unmerciful and judgmental of others, I believe others will pick up on that and treat us the same way. We don’t like unmerciful people—as a general rule. We have trouble extending them mercy. We have trouble giving them the benefit of the doubt that they have good intentions. People tend to be repelled by a judgmental person. We judge him by dismissing him. Ignoring him. Just wanting to get away from him. So, Jesus is telling us that if are unmerciful and judgmental, we will repel people and our good intentions will never be known.

c)    A few months ago, I had to go to Topeka for an appointment. As I drove through town, I passed by what I believe was a funeral home. I’m not sure because I was greatly distracted by a group of protestors on the sidewalk outside the business. They were young and old—some even children. They all held signs or wore t-shirts that proclaimed, “God hates fags.” Did those people have good intentions? I can believe they did. Was anybody going to listen to them? No one will even give them the time of day because their whole approach is so unmerciful and judgmental. I disagree, by the way. God does not hate homosexuals. He loves them. “God demonstrates His own love toward (homosexuals), in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for them.”

3.     Look now at vs.3-4: “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?”

a)    This is one of Jesus’ greatest illustrations. He talked about the “Speck” in your brother’s eye and contrasted that with the “log” in your own eye. A “speck” is small. A “log” is big. Do you get the picture? Imagine a person standing here with a speck in her eye and I come along with an enormous log in my eye and I say, “Here, let me help you with that speck in your eye.” It’s really quite humorous. The word “speck” here refers to any tiny piece of wood, or grass or hay. The word “log” refers to the main beam holding up a building. An enormous piece of lumber! The point is this: The “speck” and the “log” represent sins. Jesus is mocking a person with a big sin making a big deal out of the relatively small sin of someone else. In fact, the humorous part of this picture—which is actually the sad part—is that this person with an enormous beam in his eye does not even seem to be aware of his sin. This tells us that his sin is self-righteousness.

b)    Listen to how Pastor John MacArthur explains this: “Almost by definition, self-righteousness is a sin of blindness, or of grossly distorted vision, because it looks directly at its own sin and still imagines it sees only righteousness.” (Matthew 1-7, p.435)

c)    Don’t think it won’t happen to you, either. Any of us can be completely blinded by our own self-righteousness. King David—a man described by God as “a man after God’s own heart”—took Bathsheba, another man’s wife, got her pregnant, then had her husband killed to try to cover up the sin. Turn to 2 Samuel 12. David was so blinded by his own self-righteousness, he had no idea Nathan’s story was about him. No doubt, the tears came and washed that big log out of David’s eye.

d)    What did Jesus mean by “Do not judge…?” Do not be self-righteously judgmental. It is God’s place to judge. Only He can judge in pure righteousness. But, Jesus did not mean we are unable to “judge” (i.e., discern) what is and is not sin. Look at v.5:

B.    Put on (positive commands)—“Take the log out”. I see four main applications here for us.

1.     5 “…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.”

a)    First, Jesus tells us “take the log out of your own eye.” Obviously, He’s telling us to begin by taking a good hard look at ourselves. Before we can remove our logs, we must find them and admit that we have them. Before we can do that, we’ve got to quit judging others? Why? If we’re busying ourselves with everyone else’s sins, we can easily ignore our own. 1. Ask God, What are my logs? Then confess your sins.

(i)   Ask God, “What sin am I not seeing in my own life?” When He shows you, don’t make excuses. Don’t even start with promises. Just agree with Him that its sin and grieve with Him. Remember earlier in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:4) Jesus said, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” He was saying that those who understand how bad sin is will grieve with God over the destructive nature of their sin.

(ii) Then confess your sins. 1 John 4:8 tells us, “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us.” God’s not surprised when there’s logs floating around in our eyes. Don’t you be surprised either. Don’t be surprised when you see one in my eye. Don’t be surprised when you see one in Scott’s or David’s or Allen’s or Frank’s…If anyone claims to have no logs he is deceiving himself and the truth is not in him. But fortunately, God has no logs. He is faithful and righteous. The next verse, 1 John 1:9 gives us one of the sweetest promises in all the Bible: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Confess it and get rid of it.

(iii)    James 4:8-10 says, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.” That’s how you get rid of logs. Mourn over and confess your sin, humble yourself before God ask Him to cleanse you.

b)    2. Ask God, What specks should I remove? Then proceed with caution.

(i)   In the second part of this verse, it becomes clear that Jesus did not say we should never “judge” someone else. There is such a thing as good judgment. In other words, a “speck” represents someone else’s sin. If you’ve had a speck, a grain of sand in your eye—maybe under a contact lens—you know that it’s painful, it’s destructive and it must get out of there. It’s no log, but it’s still sin. In this verse, Jesus encourages us to “take the speck out of your brothers’ eye.” That’s a good thing to help a brother or sister in Christ to remove the sin from their lives. Never forget that you must be seeing “clearly” before you do this. You must let God examine your own heart and you must confess your own sins first, but there is a time to address someone else’s sin and help them remove it.

(a)  In Colossians 1:28, Paul described what ministry should look like: “We proclaim him, admonishing (warning) and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ.”

(b) 1 Thessalonians 5:14 says, “And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone.”

(ii) Here are some guidelines:

(a)  Make sure it’s an important matter. Romans 14:1 says, “Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters.” Some things are disputable matters and we might not need to deal with those at all. This does not mean something that is “disputable” is not important. It just means that we might need to be patient with a new believer or a weaker brother. Don’t make a big deal out of a disputable matter at the wrong time or in the wrong situation.

(b) Let the Word of God be the judge. You’re not acting as judge from your own idea of what is sin. If you’re going to help someone remove something from his eye, make sure it’s a speck and not his retina. Make sure it’s really sin. Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” When we let the Word of God be our guide, we are not kicking God off the throne. We’re letting Him be judge. When we judge ourselves by the Word of God, we are sufficiently humbled and equipped to “judge” others because we will judge them by that “standard.” It will not be you or me judging them, but God’s Word and thus, God Himself—the true Judge.

(c)  Make sure you have the right goal. Jesus said later in Matthew (18:15), “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over.” Is the point of “removing specks” to make someone feel bad? Is it to demonstrate your superior spiritual maturity? No. If you even suspect that you have prideful motives, back way up. Jesus says you’re trying to “win your brother over.” You’re proceeding with caution for the sake of someone else. That’s the right goal.

(iii)    French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre once said, “We do not judge the people we love.” If he meant, we are not judgmental toward the people we love, he was right. But, if he meant, we never call any behavior sin and just keep quiet no matter how destructive we believe their behavior is, he was wrong.

(iv)     “Brothers” help each other with their “specks.” A sister who loves her sister in Christ will lovingly and gently help her remove that sin from her life that is blinding her. Brothers in Christ will find a way to help their brothers recognize the presence of sin in their lives and help them remove that sin.

c)    Look again at v.6 (Matthew 7): 6 “Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.”

(i)   Jesus indicates here that you have something that is “holy”—spiritual “pearls.” 3. Ask God, what are my pearls? Then get ready. The words of Jesus Christ in this great Sermon on the Mount are life-changing and eternally important. We have been given the great privilege of calling people to be disciples of Christ—to live a life of surpassing righteousness, to be light in a dark world, to be salt in a decaying society, to store up treasures in heaven and seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. You are part of a church that by God’s grace desires to equip you to share this amazing truth. By God’s grace, your elder board has made some very difficult decisions over the past few years in order to lead CBC to become a church that is healthy, balanced and growing up in Christ. To become a church that invites people to trust Christ and grow up in Him. To become a church that is ready, willing and able to offer our “holy pearls” to the world around us.

(ii) “Dogs and swine” in that day were not pets—not valuable livestock. Most were wild scavengers. They foraged through the garbage dump on the edge of town and were potentially dangerous to anyone who came near. So, what did Jesus mean? Jesus isn’t talking about dogs and hogs—He’s talking about people. A type of person who is so angry, so closed-minded, so stubborn, so lethargic, so stuck in their ways that it is a waste of time to try to convince them that there is sin in their lives and they need to change. I believe Jesus is telling us to use another type of good judgment—discernment to know when we should just shut up and pray. 4. Ask God, who are my hogs? Then pray and get out of the way. We have great treasure to share with people. But there will be many who treat these truths—not as holy and priceless—but as foolish or unimportant. “They will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces” if you invite them to trust Christ and grow up in Him. They might chew you out. They might call you names. They might leave the church. They might quit talking to you. They might just completely ignore you. There comes a time when we just need to pray and get out of God’s way.

(iii)    Psalm 81:11-14 shows us what God does with such a person: “But My people did not listen to My voice, And Israel did not obey Me. 12 “So I gave them over to the stubbornness of their heart, To walk in their own devices. 13 “Oh that My people would listen to Me, That Israel would walk in My ways! 14 I would quickly subdue their enemies And turn My hand against their adversaries.” What does God do with those who disobey and refuse to follow Him? He “gives them over to the stubbornness of their heart.” They miss out on His protection and blessing.

(iv)     Look at Jesus’ instruction to His disciples in Matthew 10:11-15: “And whatever city or village you enter, inquire who is worthy in it, and stay at his house until you leave that city. 12 “As you enter the house, give it your greeting. 13 “If the house is worthy, give it your blessing of peace. But if it is not worthy, take back your blessing of peace. 14 “Whoever does not receive you, nor heed your words, as you go out of that house or that city, shake the dust off your feet. 15 “Truly I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city.” At this point, the disciples were offering Israel the “kingdom of God.” I believe this principle applies to both believers and non-believers. There comes a time when we “shake the dust off our feet” and offer our pearls to someone else.

(v) When does the time come for us to quit talking to someone about the things of God? I can’t answer that for you. If you can’t bring yourself to do it, maybe God is telling you it’s not time. And don’t forget that we can always pray. If sharing the gospel with the unsaved people in your life is like banging your head against the way and your attempts at encouraging believers to grow up in Christ is met with constant resistance, perhaps God is telling you to just step back, pray and remain silent for a time. Perhaps it is time for God’s discipline and we just need to get out of the way.

III. Closing. Specks and logs, pearls and hogs. The bottom line of all this is that we’re faced with tough choices as members of the “Church”. Will we help our brothers with their sin specks? Will we deal with our own logs of sin? Will we stand ready to share our pearls with those in spiritual poverty? Will we pray for the spiritual hogs in our lives? To tackle these difficult assignments shows how different we are as the disciples of Jesus Christ.

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