Guest post from Ross Rohde: Why we don’t judge

Judging others
 Others should not encounter us like this!

Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand. One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind (Rom. 14: 4-5).

Oh, come on Paul; give it to me straight, should we worship on Sunday or not? Can we eat meat sacrificed to an idol or not? Don’t hem and haw, just give me the rule and I’ll obey. But he doesn’t; why not?

Paul doesn’t give us hard and fast rules to live by because that’s not how Christianity works. That’s how Judaism worked, but not Christianity. Judaism had a covenant with God called the law (or the old covenant). It was a written code. One showed fidelity to God by following the laws, rules and biblical principles. It didn’t work well, and that was God’s point. We can’t please God in our own power. He gave mankind every opportunity to show Him we could please Him by trying real hard. What we showed Him was that we would cave in to our flesh. So, in his grace he gave us a new covenant that would work; one based on the power of the Spirit living in us.

For if there had been nothing wrong with that first covenant, no place would have been sought for another.  But God found fault with the people and said:

   “The time is coming, declares the Lord,
   when I will make a new covenant
with the house of Israel
   and with the house of Judah.
 It will not be like the covenant
   I made with their forefathers
when I took them by the hand
   to lead them out of Egypt,
because they did not remain faithful to my covenant,
   and I turned away from them,
  declares the Lord.
 This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel
   after that time, declares the Lord.
I will put my laws in their minds
   and write them on their hearts.
I will be their God,
   and they will be my people.
 No longer will a man teach his neighbor,
   or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’
because they will all know me,
   from the least of them to the greatest.
 For I will forgive their wickedness
   and will remember their sins no more.”

 By calling this covenant “new,” he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear (Heb. 9:7-13).

Here’s the secret of the new covenant we Christians (and those of Israel and Judah who became Christians) have with God. Our covenant isn’t a crude, one size fits all law, rule or principle. It is God’s direct instruction for our particular situation. It is based on our personality, character and our particular circumstance. But it is God’s individual law put directly into our heart and mind (see Heb. 8:10). And, it will never violate God’s written word. So, let’s live in that new, superior covenant. Let’s not judge God’s other servants. He may have given them other instructions. Let’s live in the freedom of our new covenant with God. Yet let’s reflect everything we think we hear from God through the beautiful lens of Scripture. That’s what it’s for.

  • Why do you think we want to go back to laws, rules and principles?
  • What is the difference between living according to “biblical principles” and living in the new covenant?
  • What is the difference between living according to the law and “biblical principles?”
  • Does Jesus’ instruction to not judge others (Matt. 7:1-2) make more sense now?

For other blogs on the new covenant and other aspects of the simple church life, read Ross's blog The Jesus Virus.  He will soon have a new book out: Viral Jesus: Recovering the Contagious Power of the Gospel. Watch this space for more information.

 

How to set yourself free from guilt-based religion

In my last post on this subject, I looked at my personal journey  and how God set me free from guilt-based religion. For me, that liberty came many years ago during my medical school days. I've not always lived in that freedom, but it has formed a basic backdrop for my life.

Man on beach freedom

My advice to people wanting to be set free from legalism and guilt/shame-based religion today would be a little different.

Guilt-based religion relies on keeping a series of laws whether external  (a good Christian is expected to have to have a daily quiet time/speak to other people about their relationship with Jesus/ pray at least one hour per day) or internal (I'm going to get closer to God; therefore I will pray for one hour every day/read my Bible through in one year etc.). Note these are all good things that will enhance your walk with the Lord. And over the years I've made many a promise to myself to do them, tried for a few days/weeks and then lived with the guilt of letting God down.

These days I do it differently. I make an active practice of listening to God.

Most days I try to journal. This is a skill I picked up from a book by Mark Virkler many years ago called "Dialog with God." He outlines four basic steps to hearing from God. 

  1. Free yourself from distractions
  2. Focus on Jesus
  3. Listen for the flow of spontaneous thoughts
  4. Write down what you hear

After I have written down the flow of thoughts, then I go back and weigh what I wrote. Is it Scriptural? Does it bring a sense of peace? (Col 3:15)

Most of the time when I journal, what I write is good and Scriptural but not earth shattering. Often I sense the Lord expressing his love and approval of me. Sometimes I ask him specific questions and get very relevant answers. Sometimes I sense him telling me to focus on a particular subject which will form the basis of my studies in the Word for a while. Sometimes I go back through what I have written and put a large question mark beside it because I'm not convinced I heard the Lord accurately. Sometimes I write things that make a profound difference in my life.

For example, a few months ago, I sensed the Lord saying, "Lean into me," with the sense of having to rely on him for strength, courage etc. Within a couple of weeks, I found myself in the middle of all kinds of events I couldn't have foreseen including being with my mother in the UK as she went through major cardiac surgery, a cardiac arrest, collapsed vertebrae and a house move, Tony's mother in a coma for a few days (both mothers are now doing well), a week trip to India without Tony speaking for several hours a day at conferences and so on. The number of times I said to the Lord during that time, "Father, I don't have what it takes, but I lean into you!" were too numerous to count.

For me, listening to God (and doing what he says) is the antidote to legalism because it creates a two-way relationship. Jesus said to his disciples, "No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you (John 15:15).

Having a friendship with Jesus is not a chore or duty. It's a desire.