December 18, 2010

To Live is Christ — being helped so I can help others

The Bible is clear that I am not to make any judgment or condemnation on the sins of others when I am guilty of the same thing. This means no finger-pointing concerning their failures when I’m also guilty of the same kind of failure. But it also says that those who are spiritual need to restore those caught in sin (Galatians 6:1). To do that, I need to recognize and make judgment calls about those who are caught in sin. This verse adds the qualifier that I must first consider myself lest I am also tempted, the same as today’s devotional verse.
Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. (Matthew 7:5)
Removing the “plank” from my own eye means seeing, acknowledging and confessing my own sin. Sin cannot be removed by trying harder. Only the Spirit of God can cleanse the human heart. 
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)
Suppose my sin is gossip. I’d excused it or never noticed it, but after awhile, the gossip of others starts to bother me. I am feeling judgmental toward those who do it. Then to my shame, I realize that I do it too. As with any sin, my first reaction might be annoyance at myself and an effort to stop. It doesn’t work.

I must take this sin (and all sin) to God, confessing it for what it is. He may take me deeper, showing me that the real reason I do this is to make myself look better than others, or some such thing. After confession, He forgives me because Christ died for that sin. Jesus Christ is God’s only basis for forgiveness, as is His shed blood is His only basis for cleansing or removing sin.

I also might need to confess this sin to other people, but once this is done, I am starting in a fresh place. However, removing the plank is one thing; keeping it out is another. After I’ve been forgiven, suppose I am with a group of people who begin gossiping. At this point, I have a choice. I can go along with what they are doing, get angry at them for doing it, or ask the Holy Spirit to help me. He desires my deliverance from this sin even more than I do. He might give me a word of rebuke for others, or have me simply walk away and find someone else to talk to without gossiping.

The verse from Matthew goes farther. It says that once my sin is taken care of, then I can see clearly to remove it from others. Of course, I am not literally able to do that. Again, only God can remove sin. However, His work of removing it begins with recognition and conviction. All of us first need to realize we are sinning, whether it is gossip or something else. Then we need to have a sense of guilt before God for that sin. God might ask me to talk to someone about their sin, even a sin that was once mine too.

There is no “speck removal” formula. This is something that requires being in tune with God and having my own life clean. He might ask me to share my struggle with my plank. He might have a different way for me to help someone else. However, if my heart is free from the same sin and the eye-blurring guilt of it, I will have clearer vision. I will know what it is like because I’ve been there myself. I will also have greater compassion and be able to speak with kindness and understanding.

Jesus never sinned, but the Bible does say that He was tempted so that He could aid those who are also tempted (Hebrews 2:18). In a similar way, those of us who struggle and overcome a sin are given the command to help those still caught in it. Judging is never to be a finger-pointing, “me vs. others” thing. It is always to be a gracious “I’ve been there, I can help you — we are in this together” ministry.

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