Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Grading Yourself On A Curve

We've all most likely heard someone quote the verse, "Judge not lest ye be judged".  It's likely the most quoted verse in Christian scripture.  It's easy to see why this is so.  I mean, who really wants to subject themselves to the scrutiny of someone who might be less merciful than God Himself?  I would guess that not many of us would volunteer for that.  But you know, I have often said that if you love me you will not leave me to my sinful devices.  If you really love me, if I fall into temptation and succumb to it you will snatch me from the flames.  This is a biblical mindset.  But how many believers are willing to subject themselves to the scrutiny of others so as to be made accountable to them for their behavior?  

If you are a person who studies God's word you are probably familiar with the Apostle Paul and his ministry to the people of Corinth.  I'll be candid with you and just say it plainly, in my opinion the people of Corinth seem like a completely depraved and nasty people.  These guys were into things that to me seem so extremely vile that I can hardly believe they could call themselves Christians, but they did.  From adultery and debauchery to orgies and the like, these people (at least some of them) seemed so far given over to their sinful flesh that I often wonder at the fact that God spent so much time reaching out to them through the Apostle Paul, but He did.  

What my eyes and mind would cling to is the fact that at least I'm not a sinner "like those sinners".  And in the spirit of hypocrisy I would cling to some ill-perceived saving worth within myself when compared with these people.  But I would be wrong.  While it's true that I am not a sinner like these people were sinners, I was equally in need of a Savior, and I am still.  

My sinfulness and equal need of a Savior does not negate the fact that there was great evil being practiced in the church of Corinth, nor does it negate the fact that God was not pleased with it.  When Paul wrote to these people his words were full of judgment and warning, rebuking them for the sinful things they were into, and sending the clear message that those who do such things are to cease and desist, or suffer for not doing so.  From being cut off from the church, to succumbing to death, Paul makes clear that consequences would follow the unrepentant.  How would these people be cut off from the church without judgement?  Surely God didn't come down and mark each unrepentant individual so as to segregate them from the rest of the church.  No, these people were marked by their lifestyles....and they were judged within the church for it.  

Paul says in 2 Corinthians 13:5  "Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith.  Test yourselves.  Or do you not realize this about yourselves that Jesus Christ is in you? Unless indeed you fail to meet the test!"  Just before he said it, he warned that he was coming again and he was going to do some discipline in the church, complete with witnesses and judgment.   He even said, "I will not spare them" when speaking about those who were living sinfully while claiming to know God.  He meant business, and it was serious not just to him, but to the entire church.  God says, "Do not be deceived, God can not be mocked.  A man will reap what he sows".  Paul intended to come to Corinth and set up court in which brothers and sisters in the Lord would not only have to make a judgment about each other but actually witness to what they knew of each other and yield themselves to the scrutiny of the body of Christ as a whole.  And there were consequences attached to this hearing.  Paul, in challenging these people, told them to "examine yourselves" and "test yourselves" prior to his coming.  In order to take an examination or a test there must be facts and standards.  That means there is definitive criteria by which a person can KNOW if they are in the faith....and it most certainly includes an assessment of behavior, not just a confession of faith.  And those who are not walking according to the rules of faithful Godly behavior most certainly fail that test.  

Unfortunately, anyone who wants to can claim to be a Christian.  This is nothing new.  It happened in Corinth and it happens today.  It's the reason so many horrible things have been done in the name of Christ.   But unlike in the days of the early church there is no longer an expectation of accountability or a strict standard by which men and women are judged.  Instead, a large percentage of the body of Christ has bought into the "judge not" rhetoric and consequently the "test" is no longer administered on demand.  There is no fear of being turned out of the church or cut off from the rest of God's people.  There is no push to change behavior.   There is only the all inclusive call to "just have faith", and condemnation is believed to be averted!  The church began grading on a curve and the standard is zero judgment, zero mention of proper behavior or of condemnation (because that just isn't loving or pleasant and it makes people feel bad).  No, the test that is currently being used to "examine yourself to see if you are in the way" has one and only one criteria, "Claim you are good and it will be so".  But God says, "Woe to those who call evil good..."!   Of course, you know how that kind of test turns out for the church.  Every Tom, Dick and Harry, Sally, Jane and Sue is welcomed with open arms and open minds into the church, regardless of his or her lifestyle and this is how the culture of church has changed so much through history.  Unlike the church in Corinth, there often is no challenge to forsake sin.  No longer is sin an abomination, but rather, it is just a "poor choice" or a "struggle", nothing shameful.   It isn't unusual for sin to be considered just an "alternate lifestyle".  Adulterers, thieves, homosexuals, bisexuals, abusers, neglecters, the lazy and the indifferent....all are welcome without challenge and without judgment...all because there is ONE scripture to which the masses cling, "...judge not...".  

Unfortunately, for those who refuse to "examine" or "test" themselves truthfully according to God's standards, judgment is coming.  And though many believe they are free from damnation simply because they've learned to think well of themselves and cheer themselves on with encouraging scriptures about there being "no condemnation", it would be wise for the all tolerant masses to take seriously the command to examine themselves to see if they are in The Way.  I challenge you, like Paul, to search out what that test includes!  It's important, because when God said, "there is therefore now no condemnation" He was referring to those who are "in Christ" not those who live in sin!  Paul's letter should give men a clue that it isn't only a matter of laying claim to being a Christian.  Anyone can say they are a Christian.  But if you are someone who is living like the Corinthians lived, you should be afraid, because more severe than the judgment of men is the judgment of Christ Himself!  When you stand before God and make your futile claims to Christianity, He will not be swayed by your mere words or claims aligning yourself with Christ.  He will not grade you on a curve.  A man is either with God and living like it, or he is not with God and living in sin.  Examine yourselves to see if you are in The Way, both in body and mind.  And don't think that you will benefit from grading yourself on a curve.