He who is guilty of wrong is the first person to suspect wrong in someone else. When human beings start accusing, they are not satisfied with simply pointing out the supposed defect in somebody else, but will resort to coercion to force others to comply with their ideas about what is right. This is what the Jews did in the time of Christ.
In Matthew 7:1, Jesus said, “Judge not, that you be not judged.” When men try to earn salvation by their own works, they inevitably are led to pile up human exactions as a barrier against sin. When they see that they fail to keep the law, they devise all manner of rules and regulations of their own to obey and they esteem these higher than the law or even in place of the law. All this turns the mind from God and toward self, and as a result the love of God dies out in the heart, and with it perishes love for our fellow men. This system of human intervention, with its multitudinous exactions, meant to make people good, will always lead its advocates to judge those who come short of the prescribed human standard. This develops an atmosphere of selfish and narrow criticism, stifling noble and generous emotions, and leading men to become self-centered and judgmental.
The Pharisees were of this class. Ungrateful for the great privileges that God had given them, they left their religious services without any sense of their own weaknesses. Instead, they were filled with spiritual pride, believing their thoughts, feelings, and knowledge made them better than others. Their own attainments became the standard by which they judged everyone else. Putting on a garment of self-dignity and self-righteousness, they mounted the judgment seat to criticize and condemn others. Jesus referred to the prayer of the Pharisee found in Luke 18:11, where he said, “God, I thank You that I am not like other men.” The people partook of this very same spirit. It intruded upon the conscience and they began to judge one another in matters that should have been kept between the soul and God alone.
It was in reference to this spirit and practice of judging in matters of conscience that Jesus said, “Judge not, that you be not judged.” There is no true standard or ideal except that of God’s law and standard of perfection. It is man’s distortion of God’s standard that results in man setting himself up as the standard, putting forth his opinions, view of duty, and interpretation of scripture as the criteria for everyone else in the world. Man condemns others because they do not come up to his standard of ideals. And he criticizes them, presuming to know their motives, which he cannot truly know, and passes judgment on them.
The apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 4:5, “Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts. Then each one’s praise will come from God.” Paul also says there is coming a time when everyone in the world will be judged: “We must all stand before the judgment seat of Christ … to receive a reward for deeds done in the body.” 2 Corinthians 5:10
Jesus said that there is coming a time, according to God’s providence, when everything that has ever been done in this world will be known (Matthew 10). He knows the hearts of mankind, the secret motives that drive them to do what they do, and say what they say. But as human beings, we cannot read the heart. We ourselves are faulty and unqualified to sit in judgment over others because we can only judge by the outward appearance.
God knows the secret springs of action, and He will judge righteously and compassionately. Paul again brings a rebuke to those who are entering upon the judgment seat in Romans 2:1: “Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things.”
Notice, those who condemn or criticize others are also guilty themselves because they do the same things. In condemning others, we pass sentence upon ourselves, and God declares that this is a just sentence, accepting our own verdict. The sin that leads to the most unhappiness is the cold, unforgiving, critical spirit that characterized the Pharisees. When the religious experience has no love in it, the sunshine of Jesus’ presence is not there. No matter how active we may be in the service of Christ, that zeal cannot supply the lack of love.
We may have a wonderful keenness of perception to discover the defects of others, but anyone who seeks to discover these and expose them is a hypocrite. We must first cast out the log in our own eye (Matthew 7:5). When men indulge in this accusing spirit, they will not be satisfied with pointing out what they suppose is the defect in another. If milder means fail to make someone what they think he or she ought to be, they will, as far as lies in their power, force others to comply with their ideas of what is right.
This is exactly what the Jews were doing in the days of Christ and the apostles, and it is what the Christian church throughout history, whenever she has turned away from Christ to follow her own way, has done. When the church has found itself destitute of the power of love, it has relied on the strong arm of the state to enforce its dogmas and execute its decrees. Understand that, and you will understand the secret behind all the religious laws and legislation that have ever been enacted; you also will know the secret of all persecution from the days of Abel to our own time.
Jesus Christ does not use these methods. He does not drive men to be righteous; instead He seeks to draw all men to Himself. Only by love does He compel us to do what is right. Paul says, “The love of Christ constrains us.” It is love that persuades us, causes us to act. But when the church seeks the support of a secular power, it is plainly evident that the church is devoid of the power of Christ, the constraint of divine love.
Today, in the whole world, Christianity must be constrained by the love of Christ to have His character inside. This alone drives us to do that which is right for Christ. When we take upon ourselves His yoke of obedience and service, no one will have to crack the whip over us to make us do what is right. Jesus says that if we need anything, we need only come to Him and ask for it.
In Matthew 7:7–11, Jesus says, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!”
Jesus does not specify conditions. If we feel our need enough to ask, the Lord promises to hear. Are we hungry for His mercy, do we desire His counsel, long for His love? If we ask in faith and contrition, we will receive. The Lord has pledged His word and it cannot fail. When we ask for the blessings we need so that we might perfect a Christlike character, the Lord assures us that we are asking according to a promise that will be verified. No matter that we may be terrible sinners, we can cry out to Him asking for His mercy and compassion and He will answer.
We do not have to be holy or fulfill some condition before we can come to God because the Bible says there is no one like this. We come as we are, but we must understand that God does not intend to leave us as we are. If we desire Him to cleanse and purify us from our sin, recognizing the utter helplessness that makes His redeeming power a necessity, then we present our need, and our need will be fulfilled.
Job 22:21, first part, says, “Now acquaint yourself with Him, and be at peace.” In 1 Chronicles 28:9, last part, when David was talking to Solomon just before his death, he said, “If you seek Him, He will be found by you.”
The Holy Spirit is the greatest gift that God can give us. All good things are contained in this gift. In fact, the Creator Himself cannot give us anything greater or any better. When we ask the Lord to send the Holy Spirit to dwell in our lives, we are asking Him for a gift that will bring with it every other gift we need. When we ask the Lord to pity us in our distress and to guide us by His Holy Spirit, He will never turn away our prayer.
The Bible asks the question that if a child comes to his or her parent for food, would a parent turn the child away? The question is asked with the belief that the parent would not turn them away, because in this world, there are exceptions. But it is true that some human parents know how to give love and good gifts to their children. So then we can believe that God knows how to, and will, provide the needs of His children. God will never turn away from a longing and needy heart. To people who have felt in their distress that God was not mindful of their need, the Lord has told them, “Zion said, ‘The Lord has forsaken me, and my Lord has forgotten me.’ ‘Can a woman forget her nursing child, and not have compassion on the son of her womb? Surely they may forget, yet I will not forget you. See, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands.’ ” Isaiah 49:14–16. When Jesus was nailed to the cross, we were inscribed on the palms of His hands. The Lord says, even though a human parent may forget, I will never forget.
Every promise in the word of God, therefore, brings us subject matter for prayer. They show us what we may pray for. It is our privilege to claim these promises through Jesus. We need only come to Him in faith, confession, and repentance, asking for our sins to be forgiven, and He has promised to forgive (1 John 1:9). We may not only acknowledge our need for forgiveness of sins, but our need for spiritual help, strength, and salvation.
We are perfectly free to come to Him with any temporal concern—financial difficulties, need for food and clothing, shelter—whatever our need is, we are invited to come and ask for it. However, we must remember that in claiming these promises, we also claim God as our Father, acknowledging that we are His children, and have given ourselves to His work. It is to these that Jesus said, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness …” that He gave the promise, “Ask, and you will receive.”
Jesus said, “… [W]hatever you desire that men should do to you, you do even so to them.” Matthew 7:12. This is known as the Golden Rule. In this text Jesus teaches us that we should not be concerned with what we receive, but rather with what we give. The standard of our obligation to others is found in what we ourselves would regard as their obligation to us were our situation reversed. In our association with others, we need to put ourselves in their place, to enter into their feelings, difficulties, and disappointments, their joys and sorrows—identify with them, and then treat them in the same way we would want them to treat us.
This is the true rule of honesty and courtesy, the genuine expression of the law. Jesus says in Matthew 22:39, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” This is the substance of the teaching of the prophets, a principle of heaven, and everyone who is fitted for the holy companionship of heaven will have developed it in their life before they are allowed to go there. The truest illustration of the Golden Rule is seen in the life and character of Jesus Christ. When we study His life, we see not only softness and firmness, but beauty and sweetness flowing from His very presence.
This same spirit is to be seen in His children. If Jesus is dwelling in the heart, then we will be surrounded with a divine atmosphere, a fragrance of purity. No one who genuinely understands what constitutes true Christian character will fail to manifest the sympathy and tenderness of Jesus Christ. The influence of His grace softens our hard hearts and gives us a heaven-born sense of delicacy, a true sense of propriety. As with all gifts and blessings of this life, whatever we have that our fellows do not have obligates us to those that are less favored. Are there people around us who are sick, widowed, orphaned, fatherless? Are we treating them in the same way that we would want them to treat us?
The Golden Rule teaches, by way of implication, the very same truth that Jesus taught in Luke 6:38, last part, where He said, “For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.” Whatever we do to others, whether it is good or evil, will surely react upon ourselves, whether in blessing or in cursing. Whatever we give, we will receive again.
The earthly blessings that we give to others are often repaid in kind. What we give often does come back to us, even in this world. All gifts are repaid in God’s eternal time of reckoning, both good and evil. Any person who has been free to condemn or discourage or bring hardship upon others, will, sooner or later in his own experience, be brought over the same ground where he has caused others to pass. He will feel what he has caused others to feel.
The Golden Rule is the standard of Christianity. Any religion that leads men to place a low estimate upon those whom Jesus estimated to be of sufficient value to surrender His life on the cross is not a Christian religion. Any person who expresses a careless disregard of the needs, sufferings, and rights of his fellow man is not a Christian and is proving themselves to be a traitor to Jesus Christ. It is because men call themselves Christians while denying His character in their life, that Christianity today has so little power in the world and the name of the Lord is blasphemed.
Friends, we need to ask ourselves, especially if we call ourselves Christians: Is my religion real? If our Christianity is real, we will manifest and practice the principle of the Golden Rule in our lives.[All emphasis supplied.]
Pastor John J. Grosboll is Director of Steps to Life and pastors the Prairie Meadows Church in Wichita, Kansas. He may be contacted by email at: email@example.com, or by telephone at: 316-788-5559.