Summary: There are many who seek to judge us, but only one really matters.
In Exodus 18, there’s an interesting incident where Moses was visited by his father-in-law, Jethro. During his visit, Jethro noticed that Moses was spending all day trying to settle the questions and disputes of the people of Israel. So he said to Moses, "I’ve got a better idea." Now, this wasn’t the first (or the last) time that an in-law has said, "You’re not doing that right. Let me tell you how you ought to do it." The difference is that, this time, the father-in-law really did have a good idea.
Jethro said, "Why don’t you appoint qualified men to handle the less difficult situations, and have them come to you only when the problem is one they can’t deal with?" So Moses did that. "And Moses chose able men out of Israel, and made them heads over the people: rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens. So they judged the people at all times; the hard cases they brought to Moses, but they judged every small case themselves." (Exodus 18:25-26). And that worked well.
In our judicial system in this country, we have essentially done the same thing. We have various levels of courts. In case you hadn’t noticed, we have had a most unusual presidential election this year. Here it is almost two weeks past the election, and we’re still not absolutely certain who our next president is going to be. The vote has been certified in Florida, but we still have some issues to be settled by our courts. Case after case has been presented to the court system on behalf of both sides in this election, some to the Florida lower courts, some to the Florida state supreme court, some to federal courts, and eventually the U.S. Supreme Court will probably have the opportunity to say something about this.
In determining what is legally right and wrong, all of our courts are important, but some of them have more authority than others. For example, small claims court is important, and it’s important that we take it seriously, but in comparison to the Supreme Court, it’s obvious which one carries with it the greater authority.
We find that the same thing holds true in the spiritual realm. Every day of our lives, as Christians, we have a lot of decisions to make. Many of those decisions involve matters of right and wrong. We ask ourselves, "Am I doing what’s right? Am I making the best choice?" And there are different standards by which we can judge our actions, different "courts", if you will.
And just as we have different levels of courts in our judicial system, so there are different levels within the spiritual judicial system. All of these "courts" are important, but some of them are more important than others. This morning I want us to think about three of those courts, two of them lower courts and one of them what we might call the "Supreme Court" of spiritual matters.
I. The Court of Self-Evaluation
It’s important for a Christian to evaluate his own life on a regular basis to see whether he’s doing what’s right or not. Let’s look at a couple of scriptures that teach that truth.
In Galatians 6:3-4, Paul writes, "For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another." Paul says here that we have the responsibility to examine our own work, to evaluate our own deeds and actions. The emphasis here is on looking at what you are doing individually.
Everyone enjoys being a member of an active, serving, working, growing congregation. But a lot of times, we find that Christians enjoy being around the activity without actually being a part of it. And then they talk to others about what "we’re" doing "down there at church". Their whole sense of fulfillment and achievement is derived from the work of other Christians. But Paul says that it’s important for each of us to examine and evaluate our own personal involvement and service.
What are you doing personally for the Lord? How much are you studying God’s Word? How much time do you spend in prayer? How are you helping those who are in need? Who are you sharing the gospel with?
II Corinthians 13:15 also emphasizes the responsibility of self-evaluation. Part of the congregation at Corinth had attacked Paul and his work by denying his apostleship, discrediting his work, and attacking him as a person. Paul responded by saying, "Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Prove yourselves."
As we try to understand and proclaim God’s truth, there is an enormous temptation to focus all of our attention on the sins and shortcomings of other people. It’s easy for a Christian to become the expert who knows everyone else’s sins and shortcomings but who never examines his own. But, we must evaluate ourselves. I’m not talking here about something you do once in a lifetime or even a once a year, as we’re prone to do around the first of every January. It’s a continual responsibility. "Examine yourselves."