Sunday, July 5, 2009

Trinity 4 Sermon

Pastor Brown’s Sermon – Read by Elder Matt Cue
July 5th, 2009 – Trinity 4

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost +
Today we hear our Lord Jesus speak to us about how we are to live, how we are to approach our life here on earth. We all should be well aware of the fact that life here is full of dangers and traps and people seeking to do us harm. But today Christ warns us of the most dangerous person in our lives – ourselves. The person who can do each of us the most harm is the one we see when we look in the mirror each morning when we wake up – and our Lord is showing us what we need to avoid in order not to harm ourselves. Let us look at the text.

Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not and you will not be condemned. This is perhaps the most misused and misinterpreted verse in the entire bible. Today, if you hear a person quoting this verse, they are probably using it to tell another person off. This verse is used to defend every type of behavior imaginable, and if you dare to say that what someone is doing is wrong, this is the verse that will be thrown in your face. The verse is used as though people think it says, “live and let live” or “mind your own business”. But that is not the lesson our Lord is teaching us today – the lesson we are to learn is not merely to keep to ourselves. This verse does not mean that we aren’t to judge between what is right and what is wrong – but rather this. This verse speaks to our own attitudes and how when our attitudes are wrong, everything comes crashing down upon us.

For a moment, imagine a courtroom with two people in it. On the one hand there is the judge, sitting in his seat, wearing stark black robes, a gavel in his hand, ready to hand down a sentence. On the other, there is someone standing before the bench, someone who is guilty and knows, someone whose only hope is to throw himself before the mercy of the court. The judge and the guilty. The one with power and authority, and the one who has no defense for his actions. Which one are you? Which one of these two people are you more like? Which attitude is yours – that of the judge who has the power to condemn, or that of the guilty person hoping for mercy?

As a Christian, you are to be like the one seeking mercy. Every week here we confess our sins, we begin our worship with an admission of our own guilt. Every week, many times, we cry out to God “Lord, have mercy upon us.” This is part of what our worship does, it trains us to remember that we are people who are always in need of God’s mercy. But here is the problem. Our sinful flesh likes to be in control, likes to be the one with power, likes to be able to hold something over our neighbor – and so we like to be the judge. We like to think of ourselves as better than the next guy – of being such a good Christian while clearly they are just horrid people. It makes us feel good, it makes us feel superior. We lower them and then we feel high and mighty and “see what a good person I am.” And that is the attitude that Christ is warning us against this morning – the attitude where we place ourselves over another – the attitude where we forget or ignore our own faults and magnify theirs. There may not be an attitude that is more dangerous to a Christian because it goes exactly against who a Christ is to be.

Consider this. As a Christian, is it your duty to judge and condemn your neighbor – to assign them punishment, or is your duty as a Christian to show them love and point them to Christ Jesus, the same Christ Jesus who has forgiven you? We are to be people of mercy, we are to be people of forgiveness, we are to be those who confess our sins and receive forgiveness and then also forgive those who have sinned against us – and if there is any punishment to be handed out, we let God do that, He is the judge, not us. And the danger is this – when we stop being people of mercy, people focused on receiving and giving out Christ’s mercy, we can forget Christ. We lose who we are, and we abandon Christ, we become lost.

And Christ spells this out in the next parable. Can a blind man lead a blind man? With they both not fall into a pit? Do you hear what Jesus says to us? Each of us here is just as blind and messed up and as bad a sinner as the person next to us. We are in and of ourselves just as bad as the worst person out there, and if we were left on our own, we’d fall into the same pits as everyone else. The old phrase is true – There but for the Grace of God go I. That is what Christ is teaching. Our pride and arrogance can make us think that we are such wonderful people – but the simple truth is we aren’t, and when we think we are wonderful, we are only going to run into problems. When we think in our arrogance that we are better than others, we have become lost. Our eyes are no longer focused upon Christ but upon ourselves, and so we are as good as blind – our vision is clouded.

Our Lord continues, “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?” We can be so quick to try and fix our neighbor’s life, tell them what they need to be doing, while we ourselves are messes. Pride can make us ignore our own faults and rather focus on the neighbor’s faults – and that is an ugly thing. Do you see the attitude that Christ is teaching us to avoid? Stop looking at your neighbor – rather “first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your neighbor’s eye.” A Christian’s life of repentance always begins by looking at his own sin, by self-examination and confession, an acknowledgement of his own lack.

Christ is eager for this, Christ is eager for us to examine ourselves because He is eager to forgive, because Christ Jesus our Lord wants to forgive us, wants so much to forgive us and wash us that He is willing to go to the Cross so that we can be forgiven. And He wants us to see this, to have the truth of His forgiveness be the biggest thing in our lives. And when this is, when Christ’s forgiveness and mercy is central, this impacts our life. Did you hear what Christ said – after the log is out of our own eye, after we have forgiveness – then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your neighbor’s eye. When we know Christ’s forgiveness, we will be people who give out, who proclaim that same forgiveness. When we see our neighbor caught in sin, our instinct won’t be to judge, won’t be to condemn, won’t be to say how horrible they are – but we will see clearly. They are just another sinner like me who needs Christ’s forgiveness just like me. And then, knowing Christ’s forgiveness for us, we will be prepared to speak forth that same forgiveness to them – to correct and instruct in love and with mercy.

And you know Who does this for you? Christ Jesus does. This is what Christ does with His Word. Consider how God uses His Word. Does God just wantonly blast you with His Word, or rather, when His Word has brought you to repentance is not God quick to give you forgiveness? Christ, the One who had no sin, takes us and pulls the dirt out of our own eyes and washes us clean with the tears He shed upon the Cross, so that we might rejoice in forgiveness, that we might speak it out – that we who are his disciples might grow and become more and more like Him, agents of mercy and love to a world full of people who need so desperately need love and mercy, even and especially those people who are most hurtful and cruel to us, especially to the people who we would want to judge.

Dear friends in Christ, let us be on our guard, lest we become prideful and arrogant, lest we think ourselves better than others and then become blinded by our own sin. Rather, remember that this truth reigns over all – that while we were yet sinners Christ Jesus died for us – and that He is the One who washes us clean, who focuses our eyes upon Him. God grant us strength by His forgiveness, so that His love and mercy might be central in our lives, both now and forever more. In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost + Amen
[Please rise] Now may the peace of God which surpasses all human understanding keep our hearts and minds upon Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

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