Judgment

“Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured unto you. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?
Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, ‘Let me cast out the mote out of thine eye;’
and lo, the beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, cast out first the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:1-5).

Judgment: it seems to be the default pattern for human beings.  In a very real and legitimate sense, this is natural: in order for us to understand our environment, we must process that which our eyes see, ears hear, nose smells, and so on and so forth.  We file our impressions and understandings away in our brain, and these help us make continual sense of the world.

But we have a problem when it comes to our fellow human beings: it is very easy and very natural for us to base our impressions and views about them from our experiences and standards.  We may look at our fellow man in competitive ways, and judge their relative value to us or their relative “standing” in the “social order.”

Lamentably, we often judge others at a harsher standard than we do ourselves.  We have built-in excuses for justification when we do not live up to our own ideals, but we do not give our fellow man or woman a similar benefit of the doubt.  We judge ourselves by our ideals; we judge others by what they do.

Jesus’ concern is entirely appropriate.  Too often this passage starts arguments over what Jesus is or is not saying, and that is itself tragic.  Jesus is not telling us that we are not to mentally process information we gain from others.  He is not telling us that we cannot discern the fruit of people (cf. Matthew 7:16-20).  He is not saying that “all judging is wrong.”

But all of these things cannot hinder us from understanding what Jesus is saying: in the end, we are not the judges; God is (cf. James 4:12).  If we justify ourselves while condemning others, we should not be surprised to see others condemning us while they justify themselves.  The picture of a man with his brother seems humorous, but when we make personal application, it just does not seem funny anymore.

It is not funny because we all have those beams in our eyes.  We all have our sins, our faults, our idiosyncrasies.  We are all sinners, and there is not one person among us who is better than another.  We have no right to presume to judge others by our own standards, for in so doing we become “hypocrites.”  Let us remember that the Pharisees considered it their function to judge their holiness and the holiness of others, while Jesus came in humility and compassion to seek and save the lost.  Whom should we be imitating?

We are best served to focus on the “beam in [our] own eye,” and in humility encourage everyone to recognize that judgment will be made by God’s standards (Matthew 25:31-46, Acts 17:30-31, 2 Thessalonians 1:6-9, James 4:12).  We would do well to give others the benefit of the doubt, remember our own place, and show compassion on others.  Discernment, encouragement, and exhortation are our responsibilities; let us leave the judgment to God!

Ethan R. Longhenry

Hope

For in hope were we saved: but hope that is seen is not hope: for who hopeth for that which he seeth? But if we hope for that which we see not, then do we with patience wait for it (Romans 8:24-25).

Hope, in the world, is the antidote to despair.  The word only begins to surface when things no longer go well.  When economic times get rough, people hope that conditions will improve.  When someone becomes ill, people hope that they recover.  Yet, in “normal,” positive day-to-day life, hope does not seem as necessary.

The Christian, however, is to live in hope (Romans 15;13, 1 Corinthians 13:13).  There is not a time in which we are not to await the return of our Lord, the redemption of our bodies, and the opportunity to spend eternity with the Lord (Ephesians 1:18, Colossians 1:5).  It is at that point, as Paul says, that we shall no longer hope, for our hope will have been realized.

But that day has not yet come.  We must never be so comfortable in our lives here that we lose sight of our greater hope.  We cannot allow confidence in the riches of this world to lead us to neglect our hope for riches in Heaven.  We cannot be so satisfied with life here that we no longer hope for a better life in eternity.  If earthly blessings sap our hope for heavenly ones, we of all people are most impoverished.

Many people live almost entirely in hope because they do not have the multitude of blessings that we have.  While we may feel sorry for them now, in the long run perhaps we are to be more pitied, if we lose our heavenly hope in the satisfaction of the present.

As long as we live in a sin-sick and tragic world, let us cling to our hope in Jesus Christ!

Ethan R. Longhenry

He Has Done It

All the fat ones of the earth shall eat and worship: All they that go down to the dust shall bow before him, Even he that cannot keep his soul alive. A seed shall serve him; It shall be told of the Lord unto the next generation. They shall come and shall declare his righteousness Unto a people that shall be born, that he hath done it (Psalm 22:29-31).

While Jesus hung upon the cross, according to Matthew, He cried out with the introductory verse of Psalm 22– “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani”, or, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46, Psalm 22:1). While it is disputed whether this represents an actual separation between the Father and Jesus, or whether He is simply evoking the Psalm, the strong parallels between Jesus’ crucifixion and Psalm 22 cannot be denied.

David well expresses the agony and anguish that Jesus would suffer. He would be mocked and derided for His faith in God (Psalm 22:7-8). His hands and feet were pierced (Psalm 22:16). His enemies surrounded Him (Psalm 22:12, 16). His clothes are taken by others (Psalm 22:18).

Despite the suffering, however, neither David nor Jesus lose their faith in God. Their confidence is wholly upon the LORD of Hosts, the God of Israel, and they will be vindicated.

Jesus was not delivered from His enemies that day in any way that humans would recognize. Three days later He was alive again. The power, the glory, and the might were all now His.

And indeed, it was told to the next generation. And the generation after that. And in every generation until now.

And we continue to declare His righteousness, that He has done it.

He has done what was necessary for us to be saved (Romans 5:6-11).

He has done what the Law could never do– conquer sin and death (Romans 8:1-3).

He has done the reconciliation of Jew and Gentile, bringing people from every nation, tongue, and race to Him (Ephesians 2:11-18).

He has fulfilled all righteousness (Matthew 5:17-18).

He has accomplished the victory for all who would come to Him (1 Corinthians 15:54-57).

Let us never cease to praise Jesus who accomplished so much through His suffering. Let us continue to proclaim His righteousness to everyone.

Ethan R. Longhenry

The Philosophy of Christ

As therefore ye received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and builded up in him, and established in your faith, even as ye were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. Take heed lest there shall be any one that maketh spoil of you through his philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ (Colossians 2:6-8).

The first century world of the Colossians was steeped in philosophical positions. Platonists, Peripatetics, Stoics, Epicureans, and all kinds of permutations of these and other philosophies taught their various doctrines.

The seductions of philosophy have enticed believers in Jesus Christ since the beginning of the religion. Yet, as Paul warns, our faith cannot be rooted in the presuppositions of worldly philosophies that may include some truth, yet also be founded on some errant views.

Instead, we must maintain the “philosophy of Christ”: believe in Him, be rooted in Him as the Lord, as a servant in His Kingdom, walking in His paths. As Christians, we may jointly affirm some truths with various philosophical systems, but we must always remember that our foundation is Jesus Christ, not Plato or Aristotle or Descartes or Derrida.

Let us make sure that our Christianity informs our view of worldly beliefs and philosophies, and not allow our faith in Christ to be compromised by greater faith in philosophical principles than God’s revealed truths!

Ethan R. Longhenry

The Consolation of Israel

And behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and this man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Spirit was upon him (Luke 2:25).

Times were not easy in Israel.

The LORD of Hosts had promised that a Branch would come from the house of Jesse. Yet after Persian rule came the Ptolemies, followed by the hated Seleucids. Yes, the Maccabees gained freedom for awhile, but they brought in Greek practices, and now the Romans were in charge. Israel suffered under the Idumean Herod.

Simeon had seen some of these events take place. He was looking for the consolation of Israel. He looked forward to the LORD’s Messiah– the Christ.

Yet the LORD’s Christ was not coming to redeem Israel from Rome. He would not sit on a throne in Jerusalem and crush the Roman army. He would die on a cross, reckoned as a common criminal, to atone for the sins of mankind.

On the third day He rose from the dead, defeating both sin and death. The LORD’s Christ would rule– over all nations. The LORD’s Christ would defeat Israel’s true enemies– sin and death.

That is how Jesus of Nazareth represented the consolation of Israel: He showed the way of light and truth, the way of the Father: the way of eternal life, free of sin and death.

But Jesus is not just the consolation of Israel– He is the consolation of the whole world. Through Him Jew and Greek would be reconciled to become one Kingdom of God. His sacrifice could atone for anyone who believed in Him. Anyone could share in His victory over sin and death.

Jesus indeed is the consolation of Israel– and the consolation of the world. Do you find consolation in Him and His glorious work? Have you conquered the world of sin and death through your faith in Him?

Let us take comfort in the consolation of Israel: through Jesus Christ, we can overcome the world (1 John 5:4)!

Ethan R. Longhenry

The Secret Things

The secret things belong unto the LORD our God; but the things that are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law (Deuteronomy 29:29).

We humans are curious to a fault. It does not matter if you speak to a child or an adult: tell someone that they cannot do something, and you have just challenged them to try. Humans keep trying to push every boundary– to learn more, to investigate more deeply, to plumb greater depths and ascend to greater heights. Many believe that there is limitless potential with human beings.

Yet we are the creation. Our brains, while magnificent in their complexity, are still finite. There are some things that we are just not going to be able to understand. There are some depths that we cannot plumb; some heights we will not climb.

Three of the hardest words for humans to say are, “I don’t know.” And yet, especially in many spiritual matters, they are very humble and powerful words.

God never intended to reveal everything to humanity– there are many things that we just cannot understand (Isaiah 55:9-10). They are the “secret things” that belong to God. He knows and understands, and we may gain a better understanding when we stand before Him.

Until then, however, there is nothing wrong with saying, “I don’t know,” when the Bible has not revealed it. How can God be Three in One, or One in Three? We don’t know. How will the resurrection take place, and what will we be? All we know is that we will be as Christ (1 John 3:2). Why is there evil and suffering? In the end, we can’t really know.

But we can know what God has revealed to us, and we are to be content with devoting ourselves to that. Let us diligently consider what can be known, and leave what cannot be known to God who knows all.

Ethan R. Longhenry

The Lord in Glory

And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And having turned I saw seven golden candlesticks; and in the midst of the candlesticks one like unto a son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about at the breasts with a golden girdle. And his head and his hair were white as white wool, white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire; and his feet like unto burnished brass, as if it had been refined in a furnace; and his voice as the voice of many waters. And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth proceeded a sharp two-edged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength (Revelation 1:12-16).

Stop for just a moment and picture Jesus in your own mind.

Odds are your mental picture is highly influenced by one of two cultural presentations: a picture of Jesus suffering on a cross, or a picture of Jesus as a gentle, mild shepherd, either present with sheep or children.

We confess that we do not really know what Jesus would have looked like, save that He probably looked little like the pictures made of Him.  Regardless, most of our pictures of Him involve moments in His life and the qualities He espoused in life.

Yet Jesus is still alive, and is now Lord (Matthew 28:18).  Few, if any, when considering Jesus, would think about Him as John describes Him in Revelation.

John, in his vision, sees one “like a son of man,” with a long robe and a golden sash.  His hair is snow white and like wool.  His eyes are fiery, His feet are as refined bronze, from His mouth comes a two-edged sword, and His face shines as light.

It is no wonder that John falls before Jesus as one dead (Revelation 1:17)!  This presentation of Jesus is quite awe-inspiring.  Granted, the picture represents Jesus as the Ancient of Days (cf. Daniel 7), that is, God, who is holy and pure, the light of the world, and His word as the two-edged sword (John 1, Hebrews 4:12).

This is the picture of Jesus today: the most holy and pure God whose Word can give life or can kill.  If we are His servants, we can trust in Him and have no fear (cf. Revelation 1:17).  If He is for us, who can be against us (Romans 8:31-39)?

Let none be deceived: Jesus is not some absentee landlord.  He moves in the midst of His churches (cf. Revelation 1:12, 20).  He knows what goes on (cf. Revelation 2:2, 2:9, 2:13, etc.).  He is there, and He is watching.

When we think in our minds about Jesus, there are times to think about Jesus the Good Shepherd, and Jesus agonizing on the cross.  But it is good to also think about Jesus as the Lord of glory, in the midst of His church, a powerful and awesome sight to behold!

Let us serve our Lord and God!

Ethan R. Longhenry

Counting the Cost

Now there went with him great multitudes: and he turned, and said unto them,
“If any man cometh unto me, and hateth not his own father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. Whosoever doth not bear his own cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, doth not first sit down and count the cost, whether he have wherewith to complete it? Lest haply, when he hath laid a foundation, and is not able to finish, all that behold begin to mock him, saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish. Or what king, as he goeth to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and take counsel whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sendeth an ambassage, and asketh conditions of peace. So therefore whosoever he be of you that renounceth not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:25-33).

As we begin a new year, many people consider resolutions regarding new behaviors that they would like to begin.  Great resolutions are often made– and then just as easily broken.  Some persevere with their resolutions.  Many more start out well and fade quickly.  Far more are never realized in any way.  Such is the nature of people: the spirit is always more willing than the flesh (cf. Mark 14:38).

Jesus knows this, and that is why He intends for everyone to “count the cost” of serving Him.  It is a decision that is not to be taken lightly: Jesus is demanding all of those who come to Him.  They are to suffer the shame and humiliation of the cross.  They are to forsake every other connection and tie if need be to serve Jesus.  To become a disciple of Christ is to be entirely changed; life will never be the same (Galatians 2:20).

Yes, the cost is great, but the reward is even greater (2 Corinthians 4:17-18).  Furthermore, while the cost of not serving Jesus is milder in life, its consequences in death are quite severe (2 Thessalonians 1:6-9).

All of these factors must be considered and a firm decision is called for.  There can be no “fence-sitting” on this question: you either decide to become a disciple of Christ or you decide to go your own way.  A lack of a decision is a decision against Him.

It is a decision that each must make for him or herself.  What will you choose– a hard life and a great eternity, or an easy life and a heinous eternity?  You must count the cost.

Even those who decide for Jesus must continually consider themselves and their faith (2 Corinthians 13:5).  Do you still have your first love (cf. Revelation 2:1-7)?  Are you growing in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18)?  Are you pressing upward toward the goal (Philippians 3:14-17)?

As we reflect upon the past year and make decisions for the new one, let us consider the state of our soul.  Let us count the cost and be firm in our decision.  Let us strive to grow in Jesus Christ!

Ethan R. Longhenry

Light Momentary Affliction

For our light affliction, which is for the moment, worketh for us more and more exceedingly an eternal weight of glory; while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal (2 Corinthians 4:17-18).

Forty lashes.  Beaten with rods.  Stoned and left for dead.  Shipwrecked three times.  Floated in the sea for a day.  Imprisoned.  Constant danger.  Suffering thirst and hunger.

These are the sufferings enumerated in 2 Corinthians 11:24-28 that Paul personally experienced for the sake of the Gospel.  How many of us can say that we have suffered even one of these difficulties?

In comparison, our sufferings are minor.  We may be derided for our faith.  We may be laughed at or dismissed.  We may even lose a job or two.  Under some circumstances we might be physically beaten.  We suffer setbacks in our finances, relationships, and in our health, and these cause us great distress.

While our sufferings may not compare to Paul’s, nothing prevents us from having his attitude toward them.  He described them as light momentary affliction.

If he can consider being stoned “light,” how should we look at times when we suffer persecution?

If he can consider being lashed and shipwrecked as “light,” how should we look at our own physical difficulties?

If he can consider nearly starving as “light,” how should we look at our financial difficulties?

Paul is not really attempting to diminish the difficulties involved with suffering: suffering poses great challenge and trial of our lives and of our faith.  Yet, in comparison to the glory that awaits us from God, we can understand that we experience is very light.

Therefore, when we go through difficulties in our lives, let us be humbled by the sufferings that others have suffered for their faith, and have yet persevered.  When we go through difficulties, let us be encouraged by recognizing that the glory of the resurrection and being with God and Christ will make our sufferings pale in comparison.  The worse we suffer, the greater that day will seem!

Ethan R. Longhenry

Divine Kindness

“But love your enemies, and do them good, and lend, never despairing; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be sons of the Most High: for he is kind toward the unthankful and evil” (Luke 6:35).

Love and kindness come easily for those who are loving and kind to us.  We enjoy time we spend with those who love us and who are kind to us.  We get together with them and eat and give presents and receive presents.  We recognize that such people in our lives help make life worth living.

Can you imagine attempting to share such gifts with those who hate you?  What happened if you gave gifts to ungrateful people?  What if you did good to others and were repaid with evil?  What happens if you lend someone money and they never repay?

According to human logic, we would at best have nothing to do with such persons, and at worst do them harm (cf. Matthew 5:43).  It is expected that lovable people are loved and unlovable people are shunned.  It is expected that those who are ungrateful get little and those who do not repay have no credit.

Yet, in the Kingdom of God, all of these things are turned on their head.  Jesus turns the world upside down!  He prayed for those who reviled Him and crucified Him (Luke 23:34).  He prayed for His disciple whom He knew would deny Him (Luke 22:31-32).

As it is written,

For while we were yet weak, in due season Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: for peradventure for the good man some one would even dare to die. But God commendeth his own love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, shall we be saved from the wrath of God through him. For if, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, shall we be saved by his life; and not only so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation (Romans 5:6-11).

While it is always easier to point fingers at everyone else, we must recognize that we, too, have spent our time in unkindness and ungratefulness (Titus 3:3-8).  God has showed kindness to us when we were unthankful and evil.  He showed us mercy despite our unmerciful attitudes.  He was not yet willing to condemn us even though we were willing to condemn others.  He provided wonderful gifts even though we forsook Him.

Therefore, it ought to be but a little thing for us to show divine kindness: love and help not just those who love us and help us, but also to those who make us uncomfortable, those who might use and abuse us, and those who may hate us.  After all, without God showing us such divine kindness, where would be be?

Ethan R. Longhenry