Professing Christians who read this post should first judge themselves in the light of the Word of God. In my opinion, this is the first principle for each of us to keep in mind when exercising judgment/discernment toward other people who we might think are not Believers. Is there a litmus test for me? Yes, there is and judgment must begin at the House of God; meaning me personally.
I will begin with Paul writes to his friend Timothy in 1 Timothy 3: 1-7 because of the calling God presented to me when I was 19 years old, “It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do. 2 An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money. 4 He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity 5 (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?), 6 and not a new convert, so that he will not become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil. 7 And he must have a good reputation with those outside the church, so that he will not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.” NASB.
I may have bumped into a ‘bad apple’ in the rather large barrel of preachers whom I have known over the years, but not many…perhaps a small sampling of those who fell into disgrace and into the Devil’s trap. However, the vast majority are men of God whose lives have been and continue to lead lives which are exemplary, men who are righteous before God. Will anyone of them claim to be without sin? No, because they do sin once in a while, but they practice righteousness and do not practice sin. The statement Paul makes in verse 2 will describe the men I have known and know now for they are “above reproach.” And like the Apostle Paul wrote, “Be imitators of me, just as I am also of Christ.”
Judgment begins of God in the house
For many decades I found myself behind a pulpit or in front of a congregation of worshipers speaking or I have written statements concerning temptation, sin, the need for repentance and the purpose and need for folks to declare Jesus as their Savior and Lord. Sometimes people have been offended by what I have either said or written and have said these words, “You are judgmental and self-righteous.” Please allow me to say in my defense, “No, I am not for every time before stepping up and proclaiming a message from the precious and inerrant Word of God I always ask for God’s forgiveness, His guidance, and power. Judgment must begin in the heart of the messenger before proclaiming His judgment.”
Every time anyone speaks concerning the judgment of God which will come upon a lost person we must first consider who we are in Christ. “Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. 12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; 13 but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation. 14 If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. 15 Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler; 16 but if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name. 17 For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18 And if it is with difficulty that the righteous is saved, what will become of the godless man and the sinner?” 1 Peter 4:11-18.
It is important to remember that when this life on earth is done every Believer will stand in front of the Christ at His seat of judgment, not one of us will pass Him unnoticed. “Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. 11 Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade men, but we are made manifest to God; and I hope that we are made manifest also in your consciences. 12 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. 13 For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are of sound mind, it is for you. 14 For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; 15 and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.” 2 Corinthians 5:9-15.
God’s judgment is pronounced in His love
Everyone who knows God fully understands that God is love, but do not always receive His harsh judgment upon us especially when that judgment is spoken from among us. I doubt very seriously than any one of us would look into the face of God and say to Him, “You are self-righteous.” This has happened more than one time after proclaiming and reading the Word of God concerning the result of sin in a person’s life. Hey, this is what the BOOK says, God said this, not me. I suggest you take this up with Him. God always speaks from a heart of love even as He pronounces judgment.
In Romans 12:9-21 Paul writes these words, “Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; 11 not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; 12 rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, 13 contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality. 14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. 16 Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation. 17 Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. 19 Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 “But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” NASB.
The operative phrase here is, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” We must remember that while we are pronouncing God’s Word upon sin, this is God’s judgment, not our own and we must do so with a heart of love. The difficulty is that not everyone will receive His Word graciously.
To receive from God is to be submissive to Him
The most difficult reaction to another person who is administering the Word of God is to be submissive to that person’s spiritual authority. And not everyone will do this or is able to do so. Why is this true? Most see another person as their equal, which is true, but in the Body of Christ, there are those who are called by God to deliver His message in love. Submission to that spiritual authority is necessary.
Please read from Hebrews 13:1-17 which ends with this encouragement, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.” HCSB. Every pastor will one day stand before the Lord for what he has done in His Name as His servant and in every place he has served. We who have stood and listened or have refused that leadership should make their work easier in obedience to them and to God. The question is, “Will these men of God be able to testify before God that there was joy when they stand before Him?” We are to receive from these called men of God as from God because they have been appointed by Him.
Every Believer is righteous before God
Every Believer is has equal status before God although He has appointed some to be our spiritual guides, the leaders of His Body on earth. Lost people will reject that truth and the truth these men bring to them and when they are confronted with His truth they respond as who they are, lost in their sin. But, we who are Followers of the Christ stand before Him with confidence.
“And now, little children, remain in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink away from him in shame when he comes back. 29 If you know that he is righteous, you also know that everyone who practices righteousness has been fathered by him. 3:1 (See what sort of love the Father has given to us: that we should be called God’s children—and indeed we are! For this reason the world does not know us: because it did not know him. 2 Dear friends, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet been revealed. We know that whenever it is revealed we will be like him, because we will see him just as he is. 3 And everyone who has this hope focused on him purifies himself, just as Jesus is pure). 4 Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; indeed, sin is lawlessness. 5 And you know that Jesus was revealed to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. 6 Everyone who resides in him does not sin; everyone who sins has neither seen him nor known him. 7 Little children, let no one deceive you: The one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as Jesus is righteous. 8 The one who practices sin is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was revealed: to destroy the works of the devil. 9 Everyone who has been fathered by God does not practice sin, because God’s seed resides in him, and thus he is not able to sin, because he has been fathered by God. 10 By this the children of God and the children of the devil are revealed: Everyone who does not practice righteousness—the one who does not love his fellow Christian—is not of God.” 1 John 2:28-3:10 NET2.
And what does a Follower of the Christ look like? Look at your heart for Jesus is Lord.