Charitable Corrections: A Small Group Study Guide

15 Nov

Opening Questions:

Have you ever been in a situation where you thought someone was in the wrong only to find out later that you had misread the situation?

Does that mean we should never evaluate what other people do and have an opinion about it?

Digging Deeper:

What would be proof that we should evaluate or examples of times when we must evaluate?

-1 Kings 3:6-9
-Hebrews 5:14
-Matthew 7:6
-Matthew 7:15

Is there any danger in making these evaluations however?

What is that danger?

-James 4:11,12

-Matthew 7:1-6

How do many people interpret this verse?

What do you think is the essence of what Jesus is saying here?

Let’s read John MacArthur’s explanation and comment on this:

“All throughout the Bible we are commanded to discern, to try the spirits, to have our senses exercised to know the difference between good and evil says Hebrews 5:14. Now, having said that, then, we look at “Judge not.” We know it doesn’t mean that we’re not to discriminate between truth and error. I mean, that’s infantile. It is a child, according to Ephesians 4, that doesn’t know the difference between good and evil, that becomes victimized and prey to Satan’s cunning craftiness because of an inability to discern. We must discern. We must discriminate. We must evaluate. There are things we must judge. That’s not what the Lord’s talking about.

What is He talking about? What He’s talking about is the critical, judgmental, condemning, self-righteous egotism of the Pharisees. They weren’t criticizing people because of sin. They were criticizing them because of their personality, their character, their weaknesses, their frailties, perhaps the way they looked or the way they dressed or the fact that they didn’t do the things the way they did them. They were criticizing their motives, which they couldn’t see or perceive anyway in their humanness. You don’t know why a person does what he does.

To go around saying, “Well, we should love everybody and never judge anybody,” that isn’t what the Lord is saying. In fact, in Leviticus 19:17, it says this. “Thou shalt not hate thy brother.” Thou shalt not hate thy brother? What do you mean? “Thou shalt in any case rebuke they neighbor and not allow sin on him.” In other words, to allow him to sin is to hate him, not to love him. So, if you see, sin is love that makes a change. It is love that demands a repentance. People say, “Oh, I don’t want to say anything.” We just love everybody. No, when you find sin and you tolerate it, you are hating your brother, not loving him. It is love that confronts. It is hate that ignores a fault and a sin and lets a person go in that path.

Jesus expressed such evaluation. He condemned repeatedly. He judged, He evaluated, He criticized. He unmasked and stripped naked the Pharisees in Matthew 23. we’re not talking about that. We’re talking about the ugly, self- righteous, judgmental, critical spirit of the Pharisees, and not only the Pharisees, but a lot of other folks had the same problem, and we fight it, as well, even today. We’re not shirking church discipline. But we are talking about that personal critical spirit.

So if you want an easy translation of what it says in verse 1, it says, “Stop criticizing.” Stop criticizing. Who are you to criticize other people? That’s the issue. We must judge. We must evaluate. Romans 16:17 says, “We must mark them that cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which we’ve learned and avoid them.” We must make doctrinal distinctions, and we must mark the people who offend that doctrine, and we must avoid those people. We can’t all get together. We must make distinctions. And that judgment must begin, says, Peter, at the house of God. We have a right to judge righteous judgment. John 7:24. But not the carping criticism of the Pharisees. And that is essentially what He’s saying.”

Thinking It Through:

It’s true that we need to offer correction. It’s also true that we need to be careful not to become critical in our correcting. This tendency to being critical is a serious problem.

What are some biblical examples of the danger of being critical?

-Joshua 22:10-34
-1 Samuel 1:12-17
-2 Samuel 16:1-4
-2 Samuel 19:24-30
-Matthew 12:22-24
-Acts 21:26-29
-1 Corinthians 10-11

What are some ways you have struggled with making critical judgments?

Instead of being critical, we should learn to be charitable. Ken Sande explains, “Instead of judging others critically, God commands us to judge charitably. The church has historically used the word “charitable” as a synonym for the word “loving.” This has resulted in the expression, “charitable judgments.” Making a charitable judgment means that out of love for God, you strive to believe the best about others until you have facts to prove otherwise. In other words, if you can reasonably interpret facts in two possible ways, God calls you to embrace the positive interpretation over the negative, or at least to postpone making any judgment at all until you can acquire conclusive facts.”

Now, let’s think through the importance of charitable judgments.

-Matthew 7:1-6
-Matthew 7:12
-Matthew 22:39
-1 Corinthians 13:4-7

The importance of making charitable judgments goes all the way back to the Old Testament. Once again, Ken Sande explains, “The call to judge others charitably is not something new or novel. It finds its roots in the Ten Commandments and is consistent with hundreds of years of church doctrine. In Exodus 20:16 God says, “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.” The church has historically interpreted this commandment not only to forbid lying but also to require charitable judgments. Luther’s Small Catechism teaches that this commandment means, “We should fear and love God so that we do not tell lies about our neighbor, betray him, slander him, or hurt his reputation, but defend him, speak well of him, and explain everything in the kindest way.” Similarly, the Westminster Larger Catechism teaches that this commandment requires “preserving and promoting truth between man and man, and the good name of our neighbor, . . . a charitable esteem of our neighbors; loving, desiring, and rejoicing in their good name; sorrowing for and covering of their infirmities; freely acknowledging of their gifts and graces, defending their innocence; a ready receiving of a good report, and unwillingness to admit of an evil report, concerning them . . . .” Jonathan Edwards, one of America’s greatest theologians, thoroughly discussed God’s call for charitable judgments in his superb book, Charity and Its Fruits.[4] Drawing on the passages discussed above (Matt. 7 and 1 Cor. 13), he shows that the Bible condemns censoriousness, which he defines as “a disposition to think evil of others, or to judge evil in them,” and commends charitable judgments, which he describes as “a disposition to think the best of others that the case will allow.” The phrase “charitable judgments” may sound new to many of us today, but the concept itself is rooted deeply in the Word of God and the teaching of the church. Therefore, it should be rooted deeply in our hearts and displayed in our lives.”

We must judge charitable, but does that mean we are to evaluate with our eyes closed? What are the limits on charitable judgments?

1. Don’t have to believe an action is good when there is significant evidence to the contrary.
2. Don’t have to accept without question everything that people tell us.
3. Should be not used to stifle discussion, questioning and debate.
4. Does not mean we can’t apply church discipline.

In what areas should we be very careful of making critical judgments in particular?

Ken Sande suggests, “We should become alert to three ways that we judge critically.

First, we think negatively of the qualities of others. When we develop a critical attitude toward others, we start a subtle but steady process of selective data gathering. We easily overlook or minimize others’ good qualities, while at the same time we search for and magnify any unfavorable qualities. As we find faults that reinforce opinions we have already formed, we seize them eagerly, saying to ourselves (and sometimes others), “See, I told you so!” One critical judgment looks for and feeds on another, and the person’s character is steadily diminished and ultimately destroyed in our minds.

The second way we judge others wrongly is to think the worst of their words and actions. We hear rumors of conversations or observe fragments of an opponent’s behavior. Instead of searching for a favorable interpretation of their actions, or giving them a chance to explain what happened (Prov. 18:13), we prefer to put the worst construction on what they have done. We overlook things that are in the person’s favor and focus on the things that seem to be against him. To top it off, we fill in the gaps with assumptions and finally judge the person to have done wrong.

One day a small church was expecting a guest preacher. He arrived early and sat in his car writing additional thoughts in his notes. He periodically put his short, white pencil in his mouth so he could free a hand to turn to a verse in his Bible. A deacon pulled in beside him, watched him for a moment, and then went inside. When the guest preacher walked into the church a few minutes later, he sensed antagonism from the entire group of deacons. He asked if he had done something wrong. The head deacon replied, “We find it very offensive that you would sit in our church parking lot smoking a cigarette, especially when you were about to preach God’s Word from our pulpit!” You can imagine the deacons’ embarrassment when the man pulled the pencil from his pocket and explained that he had only been working on his sermon.

The third and most insidious type of critical judgment is to assume the worst about others’ motives. Some people are habitually cynical (distrustful or suspicious of others’ nature or motives); others assume the worst only in certain people. In either case, the effect is the same: they are quick to attribute others’ actions to an unworthy motive, such as pride, greed, selfishness, control, rebellion, stubbornness, or favoritism.

When doing this, they think or say things like, “All he cares about is money.” “She likes to go first so she can impress everyone.” “They are too proud to listen to advice.” “What he really wants is to force us out of the group.” “She is just too stubborn to admit she is wrong.” Although these appraisals may be true on some occasions, in many cases they will be false.

So, is there ever a time that we can properly form a firm opinion about someone’s motives? Yes, we may do so whenever the other person expressly admits to such motives, or when there is a pattern of incontrovertible facts that can lead to no other reasonable conclusion.

But when such clear proof is not present, it is wrong to presume we can look into others’ hearts and judge the motives for their actions. Scripture teaches that God alone can see into the heart and discern a person’s motives (see 1 Sam. 16:7; Ps. 44:21; Prov. 16:2). When we believe that we also are able to do this, we are guilty of sinful presumption.

All three types of critical judgments violate God’s will. Scripture sternly warns against those who indulge evil suspicions against their brothers and fail to give them a chance to explain themselves (1 Tim. 6:4; Ps. 15:3, 50:19-20). Our sin is compounded if we develop the habit of receiving or circulating evil reports about others (2 Cor. 12:20; Eph. 4:31). Jonathan Edwards likens our believing and spreading a critical judgment to “feeding on it, as carrion birds do on the worst of flesh.” That is what we are doing when we receive and circulate bad reports about others: it is like passing around rotting flesh.”

It’s important that we correct, but we must do so with the right attitude. The goal of becoming good at correcting is not the same as becoming good at being critical.

For further study:

Stop Criticizing: http://www.gty.org/resources/sermons/2250
Charitable Judgments: http://www.peacemaker.net/site/apps/nlnet/content3.aspx?c=aqKFLTOBIpH&b=1084263&ct=6869591#sthash.eW3EI4bW.dpuf

A Guidebook to Satan’s Strategies: part 2

14 Nov

Satan wants to keep people from seeing the beauty of Jesus.

While The Bible doesn’t say a lot about what Satan does to unbelievers, one of the things that it does say is found in 2 Corinthians 4:4 where Paul is explaining one of the reasons they don’t appreciate the gospel message.

He writes,

“In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”

When it comes to telling unsaved people about Jesus, we are kind of like tour guides at maybe Victoria Falls with a bunch of blind people in our group. If you are a tour guide of a bunch of blind people, you can talk for a long time but there’s only way at the end of the day those people are going to appreciate how beautiful Victoria Falls is, and that’s a miracle.

When unbelievers aren’t seeing how great Jesus is, we sometimes get worried and think, ahh man, maybe I need a new strategy, and what I mean by that is we start to think, maybe I need a better strategy than the one I find God giving me in Scripture, but there are no man-made tricks that can cause a blind person to be able to see, only a miracle can do that.

And that’s actually what Paul says happened in our lives.

In 2 Corinthians 4:6 he says, “For God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” Paul says you know how you came to see how great Jesus was, the same God who spoke back at the creation of the world and light happened, spoke into your life, and instantaneously and miraculously turned on the lights in your heart so that you could see Jesus.

Now once that’s happened, let me say this, don’t think Satan’s done trying to keep you from seeing the beauty of Jesus. He can’t blind you the way he did before you were saved, but you know what he will try to do, he’ll try to distract you from your love for Jesus.

In fact Paul was concerned about that happening in the Corinthians lives actually. If you turn over to 2 Corinthians 11:3, he says this straight out.

“But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.”

One of the ways he does that is through false teaching about Christ. That’s what Paul’s concerned about in 2 Corinthians. In the very next verse he says the reason I am afraid you are going to be led astray is because “if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough.”

How does Satan scheme to lead these people astray?

It’s not by coming and telling them to stop being religious. He doesn’t come and say stop trusting Christ. Instead he comes and he starts preaching a different Christ and a different gospel. He keeps the name, Christian, but changes the content.

And look, this is not always obvious.

In 2 Corinthians 11:13 verse 13, Paul describes false teachers like this. “For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ.” What is a disguise intended to do? Trick you. “And no wonder” Paul goes on, “For even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness.”

What’s he saying? He’s saying that when Satan comes to lead Christians away from Christ he doesn’t usually announce his intentions and say, I am coming to lead you astray from Christ but instead uses men who claim to be speaking for Christ, and these men use a bit of truth, twist that truth, and by twisting the truth make it a lie that leads people astray.

This is why when you listen to false teachers, you usually hear a little bit of truth because Satan needs that little bit of truth to make it sound all right to Christians, but he mixes that truth with lies in his attempt to keep us from going deep with Christ and seeing how truly beautiful He really is.

Simple Family Devotions #13: Loving God

13 Nov

Life is busy. But our most important priority is clear. Love God! But what does it mean to love  God today? Look up the following verses and note the way the author shows you how to love God.

1.) Psalm 27:4

2.) Psalm 63:1,2

3.) Psalm 119:97,103

4.) John 14:15,23

5.) 1 John 4:20,21

6.) Psalm 31:6,14

Which of these verses stood out to you? How specifically do you need to grow on your love for God? Having seen some different ways to love God, how will you do these today?

A Guidebook to Satan’s Strategies: part 1

12 Nov

One of the most important things you can know about the devil is that he is a liar. 

Jesus tells us that in John 8:44. 

He is speaking to a group of people who were rejecting him and he is explaining what is at the root of their hostility towards him. 

He says,  

“You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires.”

Which would have been shocking to them because they thought their father was the great godly man Abraham, but Jesus says no, the way you are acting proves your father is really the devil.

And then he explains what the devil is like.

Jesus says, 

“He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him.  When he lies he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”  

We will come back to the part about being a murderer but for now just focus your attention on what it says about his relationship to the truth.

First, Jesus says he has nothing to do with the truth. 

Second, he says there is no truth in him.

Third, he lies.

Fourth, he says that when  he lies it is normal for him, because it is his character.

Fifth, Jesus says that he not only lies, he is a liar.  

And finally, he tells us that he is actually where lies come from.  

Which means that if we are going to understand the way our enemy works we can start by appreciation his absolute opposition to the truth.  

He’s not neutral towards the truth.

And we see this opposition to the truth from the very beginning.  You know the very first words we hear the devil speaking?  

Has God actually said?

Now look, I am pointing all this out to you because there are many people who think of spiritual warfare in spooky terms.  The main images that come into their minds when they think about Satan’s attacks on the church are of people being possessed or chairs lifting off the ground or all kinds of other scary things happening.  But fundamentally, what you need to understand about spiritual warfare is that the devil’s war on God’s people is a war on truth. In Revelation 12:9, he’s described as the “deceiver of the whole world” because that’s what he does, he attempts to deceive people about God, his good and power in particular, about Jesus, His supremacy and deity, about the gospel, it’s sufficiency and exclusivity, about sin, its danger and its consequences, and about Scripture, its meaning and its application to our lives. And I think knowing this, is actually very practical, because if you know the devil is a liar who is constantly attacking the truth, well, how do you live with a liar and not be fooled, you have to know the truth inside and out. This is part of what the church is all about. The church is the ground and pillar of the truth. And it is why truth is a non-negotiable, we have to be so serious about knowing it, otherwise we are putting ourselves right in the line of Satan’s fire because first and foremost,  Satan is a liar.

Dads: Day Eight

11 Nov

I have been working on a little devotional for fathers and thought I might share some of it with you from time to time. I know I need it!

——

“Fathers, do not…”

Ephesians 6:4 and Colossians 3:21

The very first responsibility Paul gives fathers is a negative one.

In Ephesians Paul says, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger…” In Colossians, he says something similar, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children, lest they become discouraged…”

While we’ve read this so many times it may seem commonplace, it’s actually a little bit shocking.

After all, if you tell the average person someone else needs to obey them completely, how do you think they would typically respond?

It would be natural to begin thinking of all the different ways they could use that person to do what they want. We respond like that because no matter how nice we may appear on the outside, as human beings, we are by nature, extremely self-centered.

It is typical for us to take power and use it for our own interests.

If you have any doubts about that, think about the way many fathers act in cultures where they are given unlimited power over their families. Does this position of power and respect make them more caring and servant-hearted towards their families? Not usually! How common is it to find lazy, self-seeking fathers who are demanding respect that their actions don’t deserve? These kind of men are everywhere.

And because of that, the world’s response to these kind of abuses of power and authority is to try to attack the very idea of power and authority. What we see in Ephesians and Colossians however, is that the gospel’s way of dealing with this problem is radically different. The gospel doesn’t deal with abuses of power and authority by getting rid of the idea of authority. Instead, it challenges and changes the way people in authority view their position.

Take what we find in Ephesians 6.

Paul does not minimize the child’s responsibility to his parents. In fact, he clearly tells children they are responsible for obeying their parents in everything as a way of honoring the Lord. He then encourages them that this is something that pleases God by pointing them to the promises God attaches to these commands. But what makes this passage so different is that Paul doesn’t stop there! He goes on to challenge fathers not to use the authority they have been given in self-centered ways by telling them that they too have a responsibility before God. They must not use their positions of power in ways that provoke their children to anger or discouragement.

While being a father is a privilege, even more fundamentally, it is a responsibility. The gospel calls you to a life of servant leadership. Leading your children well means you don’t think first about what they can do for you, but instead, on how you can use your authority to serve them. You must lead your family, certainly! But you must be careful not to lead them in a way that makes it easier for them to sin.

Take Time To Reflect:

1. How do you define leadership? How has the gospel impacted your definition?

2. How are you actually leading your family? Does your family revolve around you and what you want, or do you use your leadership to serve Jesus by serving them?

Practical Suggestion:

Sit down with your wife and ask her to honestly evaluate your leadership style. What does she think you are doing well? What does she think you can improve? Then take some time to talk with your children. Ask them how you can serve them better? Encourage them to share ways they think you can make it easier for them to obey.

Simple Family Devotions #12: God is King!

8 Nov

You need to start this day by remembering that God is in control of what happens. He is King! And this King has a plan and will accomplish that plan no matter what. Look up the following verses and note what they teach you about the sovereignty of God. What is He doing? What is He in control of? What difference should that make on your life?

1.) Isaiah 46:9-10

2.) Daniel 4:34,35

3.) Isaiah 14:27

4.) 1 Samuel 2:6-7

5.) Matthew 10:28-31

6.) Proverbs 21:30

7.) Psalm 31:15

While it is not always easy to understand what God is doing, we can never doubt that God is at work and that His plan is good and that absolutely no one can stop Him. Your problems may seem big today, but God is much, much bigger. 

The One Thing!

6 Nov

What’s one thing that can change everything?

What if you could choose ONE THING to pursue that would be sure to have a positive impact on absolutely everything else in your life?

How important would that one thing be?

It’s kind of obvious.

And it may be hard to believe, but it’s not money.

I am sure getting more money is nice, it can have a positive impact, but you can’t guarantee more money will have a positive impact on EVERYTHING else. 

It might even make some things worse. 

And it’s not education. It’s great to get a degree. Go for it. 

But, you can’t guarantee getting a degree will have a positive impact on everything else. There are lots of people with degrees, that are really not doing well. 

The one thing is godliness. 

If you are godly it will have a positive impact on your finances. It will have a positive impact on your family. It will have a positive impact on your attitude. It will have a positive impact on your choices. 

Godliness is literally good for everything. It has value in every way, so says Paul, and that’s something you need to know and FEEL. Because, all the explanation in the world about what godliness is, isn’t going to change you. 

Unless, you WANT godliness.

Do you want it? Do you want to be godly? If so, prove it. What in your life right now demonstrates the value you put on becoming godly?