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Summary: This is Part 14 in a 14-part series of studies I call “The Christian Character” in the “Sermon on the Mount.” This part deals with Jesus' assurance - Ask, seek, and knock; the narrow gate; false prophets; and building on the rock.

Part 14 - Ask, seek, and knock; the narrow gate; false prophets; building on the rock

Sermon on the Mount

The Christian Character

Matthew 5:3 - 7:27

(Cf. Luke 6:20-49)

This is Part 14 in a 14-part series of studies I call “The Christian Character” as described by Jesus to a crowd of people on a Galilean hillside as he delivered what is more familiarly known as the “Sermon on the Mount.”

The 14 parts are as follows:

Part 1 - Introduction

Part 2 - Beatitudes – the poor in spirit

Part 3 - Beatitudes – those who mourn

Part 4 - Beatitudes – the meek, and those who hunger and thirst

Part 5 - Beatitudes – the merciful and the pure in heart

Part 6 - Beatitudes – peacemakers

Part 7 - Beatitudes – the persecuted and insulted

Part 8 - Salt of the earth and light of the world

Part 9 - Righteousness exceeding that of the scribes and Pharisees; divorce, oaths

Part 10 - Eye for eye, loving neighbor and hating enemy, being perfect

Part 11 - Three things to do, not to be seen by men and a model prayer

Part 12 - Laying up treasures, eye is the lamp of the body, serving two masters

Part 13 - Do not judge, do not give what is holy to dogs and pigs

Part 14 - Ask, seek, and knock; the narrow gate; false prophets; building on the rock

Review of last week

In the 7th chapter of Matthew, still teaching within the broad framework of Christian (Christlike) character Jesus turned his attention to judging:

Matthew 7:1-2 ESV “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.

I suggested last week that most of us are of a divided mind about judging. On the one hand, we think if it right and proper –in fact our duty - to judge others in some sense, and point out their shortcomings, because we only do so for their own good. Or that’s what we tell ourselves.

Shall we take his plain, direct, and easily understood commandment on its face? By not speaking to any exceptions, does Jesus mean there are no exceptions? Or should we look at judging as a nuanced matter, to be applied within certain appropriate circumstances?

We find ourselves in a corn maze of questions about how we can and should recognize others’ sins, and act on that knowledge – yet not judge, lest we be judged?

Judge is from the Greek krino, (pr. kree'-no) which means to distinguish, i.e. decide (mentally or judicially); by implication to try, condemn, punish, avenge, conclude, determine, esteem, sue at law, ordain, call in question, or pronounce sentence. This definition of the word “judge” (in both the original and our language) shows that it is a very elastic word, stretching around several meanings depending on the situation at hand.

As a case in point, doesn’t another person’s sin place a responsibility on us to proactively condemn his actions for his own good? As James wrote:

James 5:19-20 ESV My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.

How can we do what James says without “judging” the one who is sinning in some way? And isn’t it an act of protective love to – in this way – judge others who are sinning?

Let us take the question to the bible. There we find that Jesus tells us not to judge, yet other passages tell us to do things that require the application of judgment. One such is Jesus’ exhortation later in this same chapter, “Beware of false prophets,” as he says, “by their fruits you shall know them.” How are we to recognize and beware of false prophets except by judging their fruit?

But when Jesus said in Matt 7:1-5 that we are not to judge, it can’t mean nothing. What does Jesus want us not to do? Does he not want us to even observe and detect flaws in other people, some of whom are diametrically opposed to the doctrines Jesus and his apostles taught?

There is a difference between being (1) a person of a judgmental temperament seeking and finding pleasure in pointing out others’ shortcomings, and (2) perceiving that a brother or sister is following a dangerous course and - as privately and lovingly as possible - encourage them toward a better path in the interest of being pleasing to the Lord and securing their salvation. Finding that boundary must be done in every situation where another person is – or so we believe – following a destructive course, applying judgment and diplomacy.

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