“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. – Luke 6:37 (NIV)
One of the oldest and most quoted verses of the Bible seems today to be the least followed. God makes clear to us that He and HE alone has the authority to judge a man. It is not up to any of us to be the world’s moral police because, after all, man is imperfect. Why would God put anyone imperfect in charge of judging who or what is righteous? That is for Him to decide, for he is perfect. When we judge others for any reason, we are disgracing the Lord. We go over His head and assume that we know better, which could not be further from the truth. Our only job is to show love and mercy to one another despite any flaws or shortcomings. I ask then, based upon this, how would God judge you? Would he dismiss you as a self-righteous hypocrite? Or would he cherish you as he would his own child, well behaved and obedient?
Jesus sent him away at once with a strong warning: “See that you don’t tell this to anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.” – Mark 1:43-44 (NIV)
After Jesus heals a leper, He commands him to not say anything to anyone but rather to go straight to the church and show the priest. Jesus knew that lepers were not permitted inside the church, and was more interested in repairing the leper’s relationship with God than using the incident to toot his own horn. In this case, Jesus is leading by example. When we do good works, He wants them done only for the glory of God, not to be purposely seen by others for approval. Jesus could have easily spun this in his favor had he sought only the approval of man. However, He taught us that man is imperfect, and the Heavenly Father’s approval is the only one that matters.
Are your good works done for the glory of God and not of self? ”for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.” - Luke 14:11
But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit. – Jude 1:20 (NIV)
Referring back to God commanding us to pray to him behind closed doors, Jude asks us to build ourselves up in prayer. Only in private can one hold a candid conversation. If you’re among others at prayer gatherings outside church, are you really speaking to God one on one? Do the words you repeat mean anything to you? Most importantly, do you believe they mean anything to God? It is too easy to lift up your hands and sing praises to the Lord in front of others, especially in a largely choreographed environment. Does this type of prayer really build us up? It is much more difficult to be alone and open up to God about our faults and problems, and it is for this reason that God challenges us to pray on our own time. When we come to God in secret, we are being much more open and honest with him than we would be in front of others, and He will show his appreciation by listening to and answering our prayers.
In those days, when your numbers have increased greatly in the land,” declares the LORD, “men will no longer say, ‘The ark of the covenant of the LORD.’ It will never enter their minds or be remembered; it will not be missed, nor will another one be made. – Jeremiah 3:16
God, speaking through Jeremiah, tells Israel that a physical symbol is not as important as what it means. Much like the Wizard of Oz handing out useless trinkets to psychologically ease some serious character flaws, so too is the fabled Ark of the Covenant. The force behind people spreading the word of God’s love and mercy is far more impactful than a box or rumors thereof. God tells the Israelites that such an object is of relatively little importance compared to the Holy Spirit that lives and breathes within all of us. Rather than seek out proof for God’s existence, we need to BE that proof. We need to be the change we wish to see in the world. If we want to bring the glory of God down to the Earth, we need to act godly and encourage others to do the same. Ask yourself: can others see God living in me? For that is the only real proof we have, the rest is left to faith.
Matthew 6: 5“And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 6But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
Jesus tells us as part of his Sermon on the Mount that prayer is to be regarded as a sacred conversation between men and their heavenly Father. Jesus says that those who need an audience to pray have already gotten what they were looking for: the attention and praise of others. If one truly wants to speak to God and God alone, he will do so within the confines of his room. If one only wants to show others how holy and righteous he thinks he is, he calls a prayer session with hundreds in attendance. God knows what you need and what you want before you even ask, and rest assured He is ready to answer your prayers if He feels that doing so would have a positive impact on your life. Jesus was a master of the virtue of humility, and he calls on all of us to be the same. Do not pray to your Father if all you seek is the approval of others, for the only approval that really matters is God’s.
Psalm 66 : 16-18
Come and hear, all you who fear God,
and I will tell what he has done for my soul.
I cried to him with my mouth,
and high praise was on my tongue.
If I had cherished sin in my heart,
the Lord would not have listened.
God promised to unconditionally love His people, however He may not always listen to us. Just as a Father would for an insubordinate child, God may not hear the prayers that come from our hearts if they pass through a filter of sin. God despises the sin, not the sinner. He demands that our hearts be open only to Him. There simply is not enough room for any man to hold dear both God and sin. And so, until we clear our hearts of iniquity, we cannot truly come to know God, for he will neither listen nor speak to us. My friends, I ask you: Is there something you are keeping that may prevent God from hearing your prayers?
God is not without mercy, and is eager to show us love and forgiveness for our wrongdoings, but in order to receive that divine love and forgiveness, we have to acknowledge our shortcomings and make a conscious effort to fix them. God will help those who help themselves. Once we clear our hearts to make room solely for God, He will do the same for us.
43“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
In Matthew 43-48, Jesus instructs us to love everyone, just as our Heavenly Father does. As followers of Christ, we must learn to love and accept all men, despite their failures or shortcomings. For better or worse, the earth is home to everyone, Christians, Muslims, Jews, whites, blacks, Hispanic, Arabs, etc. If we believe that we are all children of God, does that not make everyone our worldly brother? Are we really doing anything good by only reciprocating love and kindness that others give rather than “paying it forward”?
Jesus calls on us to “be perfect… as your Heavenly Father is perfect.” God is the only perfection, in the form of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. A man will never be perfect, however, that is the expectation. Jesus believed in the good of humanity enough to challenge us to be like God. This is a task that everyone has to take up. The real question is will you accept the challenge?
When Jesus tells the parable of lost sheep (Luke 15: 1-7), the people who thought of themselves as righteous began to denounce Jesus for accepting sinners (which we all are) and tax collectors (pretty much the scourge of the Earth at the time) into his ranks. Jesus is quick to shoot down this hypocrisy, not by stating the obvious fact that they have all sinned and really have no room to talk, but rather as a loving Father would for any of his children: by saying he would leave 99 sheep to find one that had been lost.
Being a follower of Jesus is not an exclusive club and should not be treated as such. So called “street preachers” tend to alienate people by focusing too much on the sins of the world rather than the salvation and comfort that Christ brings to the life of so many. This is akin to the shepherd leaving his gates open, whipping his sheep and then wondering why they took off. If a message of love and mercy is constantly being drowned out by people telling each other how bad of a person they are, then what reason do non-believers have to come to know Jesus?
Check out this story of a family’s power of prayer helping their son survive injuries suffered from a tornado. http://bit.ly/iF0U8Y
This story is truly a miracle. At a scene where many were killed, God spared these individuals from death. Remember that everything happens for a reason and that every dark cloud has a silver lining.
In Matthew chapters 5 and 6, Jesus delivers his famous Sermon on the Mount, where he tells us that God wants us to make peace with others before coming to him:
“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” (Matthew 5:21-24)
Jesus makes it clear to us that if we are going to come to God with prayer, we must first have a clean slate. If someone has wronged you, or if you have wronged someone else, Jesus commands us to reconcile with that person before we come to God with anything. John 4:20 states that “If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.” Jesus worked to share the good news of God’s love and mercy, and also lived his teachings by showing love and mercy to everyone who came to him, no matter what their faults or downfalls. If we cannot show love and mercy to someone who is next to us, someone who came from the same creator and champion of love and mercy that we are praying to, then what reason does God have to believe any sincerity in our prayers?
If you are holding a grudge against someone, or if you know someone is mad at you for something, I encourage you to reconcile with that person. You must be the change you wish to see in the world. After all, how in good conscience can one pray for peace on earth while carrying hate in their hearts?