We are starting a new series this morning. Most of you who have been reading the bulletin know what that series is, and it is entitled “The Bible Doesn’t Say That.” I don’t know if you’ve come across [some sayings], over the years that you’ve been a Christian, or the months maybe, where you wonder, is that really in the Bible? Does God help those who help themselves? Were there really three wise men in the Bible? Did you know there weren’t? What? We don’t know how many wise men there were. I’m not against three wise men. There’s frankincense and myrrh and gold for the gifts. I’m assuming you know He wasn’t born on December 25—Christmas. So there are a lot of things that aren’t necessarily in the Bible, but I’m not going to talk about those issues.

The title this morning is “Who Are You to Judge Me?” Now unless you’ve lived on another planet for the last few years, you realize that this is a popular statement these days. This is how Hollywood and Washington get out of a conviction: Who are you to judge me? I remember a famous athlete, a pro basketball player, who was considering running for public office, and they mentioned the big issues of the day—abortion, gay marriage, and different things—and he said, “Doesn’t the Bible say, ‘Judge not?’ Who are you to tell people what they can and cannot do?” Isn’t that a good point? Because if the Bible says, “Judge not,” who are you to judge?

So we’re going to talk about a lot of those issues in the series, “Does the Bible Really Say This?” And here is the problem up front: biblical illiteracy. Most Americans, even those claiming to be Christians, really don’t know what the Bible says. They might’ve glanced through it, they might hear a sermon now and then, they might have a little daily devotional that has one little Scripture in Proverbs, and if you’re not careful you can take things out of context. Even the best of us are guilty of picking and choosing certain Scriptures, like “Oh, I like this,” like a menu.  You go through a buffet—remember those? Do they still have those around? You know, “I’ll take this. I’ll take this. I don’t like this.” And if we’re not careful, we can go through the Bible like that. I don’t like this, but I really like this. Abusive husbands will say, “I like this Scripture, submitting to your husband.” Well, that’s out of context.

Biblical illiteracy is pretty rampant right now, especially in the church. I just heard a story about a pastor who went to a couple’s house for dinner, and she set out the nice silverware, expensive silverware actually, with real silver in the spoon. After he left, she noticed that the spoon was gone. He took the spoon, and this really bothered her. So for many, many months she was praying, “Lord, I don’t know what to do.” Months went by, I think almost a year went by, and she finally had the courage to say, “Did you take my spoon?” And he said, “I did. I put it in your Bible.” Funny but not funny.

One of the difficulties with pastoring is you tell people over and over, “You’ve got to read the Bible.” We all know that, but you need to actually go a little deeper. Make it a spiritual discipline. We’ll go to the gym. We’ll do things we don’t feel like sometimes. But you have to make it a daily discipline so it actually becomes part of your life. It becomes part of your morning or evening. It becomes part of something you look forward to. You start to spend time with God, maybe have a journal. I’ve tried to journal a lot of times; I’m not really effective at it. But you write down thoughts: “God, what about this?” And prayers. Have it be a part of your life, and as you go through the Scriptures, write down questions you have. Get to know the Bible, and then let the Bible know you. Let it cut you deep, let it begin to build as well.

So it has to become a daily discipline, especially now in our culture, to know what the Bible really says. Do you know it has something to say about a nation protecting borders, following law? It speaks into all these issues. That’s why everybody who is against conservatives and biblical principles will say, “You’re not to judge. The Bible just says, ‘Love your neighbor.’” In context though, what does it say?

Often the Bible will put the responsibility back on us to respond. That’s where the real word responsibility comes from. We have the ability and responsibility to respond. Tony Evans said, “Truth takes the guesswork out of life.” I love that statement. Knowing the truth takes the guesswork out of life. You don’t have to be like: I wonder about this. I wonder about that. Should we be doing this? Should I be dating that person? Should we be marrying this person? Truth takes all the guesswork out of life. You know how God wants you to live.

So where do we find this famous, famous, famous Scripture, “Judge not”? Matthew 7:1. Jesus is talking, obviously, and He says:

Judge not, that you be not judged.

So don’t judge people lest you’re going to be judged according to that same judgment.

For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.

Just in that one verse you could see where people come up with this. “Hey, don’t judge, don’t judge me. I won’t judge you because however you judge me, it’s going to come right back on you.” But here’s the irony. Very few people reference the context. They don’t look at the context, and they forget about other Scriptures such as John 7:24 where Jesus says, “Judge with righteous judgment.” Wait a minute, isn’t that a contradiction? Judge not, but then He says judge with righteous judgment. Well, again, look at the context, and we’re going to do that in a minute.

But in 1 Corinthians 2:15, the apostle Paul said that those who are spiritual should judge and discern all things. Here’s the biblical mandate: those who are mature, those who are spiritual, those who are seeking God should be the ones judging what’s going on in our culture. That’s why the pulpit should speak about issues in our culture and not be silenced. That’s why you’ll hear “separation of church and state.” What does that mean? Church be quiet. Keep your faith to yourself. Keep it within your four walls. Don’t talk about these issues.

But God has given us a biblical mandate to discern all things, to say it’s not okay to murder a child in the womb—or outside the womb now—to say this is what God says about marriage, to say this is what our policy should look like. We’re actually called to do that. It shouldn’t take up all our time. The priority of the pulpit is to preach the gospel but also to discern what is going on in our culture.

Here’s what John Calvin said about these words of Christ: “These words of Christ do not contain an absolute prohibition from judging, but they are intended to cure a disease—criticism.” See, the context is Jesus is going after a critical heart. Sin sniffers. Do you know those people? Maybe you are that person. You can sit and point out the sin in everybody out there, and you don’t look in the mirror, you don’t look in your own heart. So whatever you’re using to judge, that’s going to be thrown back on you, that same judgment. It’s a call against a critical spirit.

I like what Martin Luther King Jr. said: “The church must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state but the conscience of the state.” The church is to be the conscience of the state, that light on a hill. So how can you remove the church from politics or remove the church from Hollywood? We should be making a difference in media. We should be making a difference in all areas of life—unless you read the Scripture differently: You shall be a light upon a hill, go and be the salt of the world—but don’t affect these areas; stay out of those areas. See, the truth is to permeate, saturate, all areas of our culture. We should be vocal about the sex slave trade. If you think the church shouldn’t be involved in some of these things, look at governmental spending. Look at what we’re leaving for the next generation. We’ve got this Hezekiah attitude: “At least it’s not going to affect me. I’m outta here before God judges.”

So the church should be able to speak into all these issues. Think about this. Moses spoke to Pharaoh, Nathan spoke to David, and Samuel spoke to Saul. Prophets throughout the Old Testament and even into the New Testament. Paul went to King Agrippa. You would speak into the culture. Regarding moral issues that destroy lives and dishonor God, we are called to judge, which is basically to call into question behaviors, choices, and lifestyles that lead people in a dangerous direction, especially if these issues are to become social policy and legally sanctioned. So when they say, “Judge not,” we have to remind them, “No, we’re actually called to judge.”  

However, we have to keep reading. It gets pretty important here. Here’s the context. Picking back up:

And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye?

Maybe we have some speck hunters here. “What is that in your eye?” Well, what is that in your eye? Huge plank. So Jesus said, “Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye?” Basically going around— do you know those people? But boy, they can find fault in anything. Any public speaker, anything. They just find anything. I’ve told you before, if you ever want criticism, start a church. If you ever want criticism, start a radio station. As you know, we just launched the Westside Christian Fellowship Radio Network, and I’m getting emails from people: “How can you have Greg Laurie and Alistair Begg and David Jeremiah? They’re part of the one-world religion. They’re false teachers.” What in the world are you smoking? What are you drinking? What Bible are you reading? See, little things. “Well, I think they had lunch with a Catholic priest two years ago.” Oh boy, I guess they’re leading people astray. See, pick that little speck, that little speck. That’s all they do, and it drives me crazy.

These armchair-quarterback heresy hunters with these negative websites just like to go in and pull down everybody because they don’t measure their standard. And often if you follow that person around, you’ll see a lot of sin in their life. They’re a Pharisee.

Jesus said:

And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First. . .

Here’s the key: you want to judge others or speak into their lives? You want to have a ministry, or some of you listening out there, and I know a lot of pastors listen in—if you want to speak into this area of judging, you want to make spiritual judgments, here’s the key:

First remove the plank from your own eye.

What’s He talking about? You have to be completely broken, humble before God. We shouldn’t be excited about pointing out sin, we should be broken about the sin.

First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. “Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces.

Now we’ll get to that in a minute, but I don’t want to leave this one: “First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you’ll be able to see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” I’ll just tell you up front, admittedly I failed in this area because I did not exercise grace at opportune times. I just told my wife this morning, “It is so hard to go from like a John the Baptist, calling the nation to repentance, calling the political system out, being the voice in the wilderness, calling people back to God, and then when I step down from here, I have to become Mr. Rogers—nice, gentle, meek, understanding, compassionate, listening, not overbearing.” See, you go from this type-A preaching to that. That’s the balance, that’s the struggle.

In order to do that, He says here, “Remove that speck from your eye. Humble yourself.” We should not excuse sin in exchange for tolerance. Extending grace does not mean we approve of sinful behavior, but it does mean extending compassion, removing the plank first from your own eye. Romans 14:4: “Who are you to judge another’s servant?” Who are you to judge another’s servant? A judge hears the evidence and pronounces judgment. We are in no position to do this. We do not have all the facts.

So you have to look at this word judgment that Paul is talking about in Romans. It’s a different type of judgment. It’s a judgment like saying, “You’re going to hell. You don’t deserve God. You’ve always drifted. You’re a false this.” And you’re judging the person. We’re in no position to do that, but we are called to make righteous-judgment types of decisions. For example, I have told people, “Based on the fruit I see in your life, I would be very concerned. Do you truly know Christ? Do you have a relationship with Him?” I’m not judging them and coming down hard on them; I’m bringing a reality to them that there’s no fruit in their life.

It’s interesting. One of the sure signs of someone who’s been filled mightily with the spirit of God is they are anxious to get that plank out. They’re humble, they’re broken, they’re often just weeping in their own sins and looking their own hearts, and then when they go to someone, it’s coming out of a spirit of love, not the finger-pointing. And what we sow we do reap. What we sow we reap. A judgmental attitude is often judged. I’ve seen this many times before. These people, maybe their ministry gets big, or they’re heresy hunters, or they’re in the church and are very critical—they’re a critical type of person, always judging, always putting down. Be careful—your day is coming, sir. You will fall because pride comes before a fall. Those people often just fall flat on their face. And I can’t tell you how many times, how many heresy hunters, how many arrogant, critical armchair quarterbacks and mean-spirited websites there are under the banner of defending the truth. That’s how they hide. I’m just defending the truth. No, you’re arrogant. You’re mean-spirited, and it has to be called out. We call out sin in carnal Christians; we have to call sin out in Pharisees as well, those who have not been humbled by God.

But let me give you a test. Are you excited about critiquing others? Don’t raise your hand. You see, I’m going after an attitude there. There’s an excitement about critiquing others. Are you argumentative and very opinionated? That’s not always a good thing. Actually, the Bible says that even leaders in the church should not be quarrelsome, should not be argumentative. You’ve got to stand for the essentials for sure, but when it comes to the nonessentials you have to allow people the freedom to believe what they want to believe. Because if you’re always critiquing others, you’re argumentative, and you’re very opinionated . . . Also, do you leave churches because you disagree with someone on things that aren’t important? See, it’s showing the heart. It’s revealing what’s in the heart.

And are you excited about telling others that someone fell or someone’s in sin? “I can’t believe it!” and you’re excited? Do you see what I’m getting at here? It’s a spirit of “I am just so glad they fell,” “I can’t wait to tell others,” “I’m pointing out that sin in their own life,” and then if they disagree with me, if they challenge me, God forbid. I’m opinionated, I’m the final authority. No, that’s arrogance, that’s spiritual arrogance. We forget that Jesus rebukes spiritual arrogance just as much as unbelievers. Can you imagine a row of nicely dressed Pharisees, dressed in their whatever they were dressed in, their phylacteries and things, and He said, “You whitewashed tombs. You are full of death inside. You look nice on the outside, but you’re full of dead bones. Well did our fathers who prophesied about you. You are dead and decaying. You draw nigh to Me with your lips, but your hearts are far from Me.” He just rebukes these religious leaders.

Hypocrisy, spiritual pride—because spiritual pride says, “Right now, that sermon’s not for me. Let me get this CD for Bill,” and we try to defend. It’s ironic. Sometimes I’ll go to people and say, “Listen, don’t you see this in your own life?” “No, but I’m defending the truth.” No, you’re arrogant. Defenders of the truth are broken and humble—not perfect—but they don’t want to point out the sin in others.

Are your words seasoned with grace? Are your words seasoned? The Bible says seasoned. Do you put seasoning on anything? Now I’m telling you, I could sit right there because I’m preaching to myself this morning. This is my constant challenge, right? I’ve got to be bold against sin, but I’ve got to be passionate with others. I’ve got to be convicting and then graceful and gentle with others. Then when you speak to others, seasoning your words with grace. If you’re going to go after someone, don’t go after them. Season your words with grace and be gentle.

Now I’m not talking about sweeping corruption under the rug and hiding it. We are to confront. If you know me, I confront. That’s why it’s hard to find that balance. And people are surprised. They’ll sometimes come to my wife and say, “How do you live with that? He must be. . .” No, who you are up here is not necessarily who you are at home, laughing and joking and leading and loving and being compassionate and understanding. I don’t go and talk to the single mom like this: “How could you? Repent and believe in the gospel, you sinner!” But see, you can talk a lot different to the masses than you do individuals. That’s what preaching really is. I don’t know where the Holy Spirit’s arrows are going, but He does—and boy, does it go.

Let me ask one more question. Are you proud about your knowledge and eager to put others down? Oh, it’s quiet. Pin drop, or is it a little pin? But we have to be careful, and I kind of draw back a little bit when I see zealous young Christians. I love zealous young Christians, praise God for it, but when they start saying, “I’m reading the Bible. I’m also reading this book. I’m reading this book, I’m reading this book,” and this knowledge starts to do something interesting. It puffs them up. They memorize the five points of Calvinism, now they think they’re a scholar. They quote John Owen, a famous Puritan and Calvinist, and now they think they know it all. And they begin to go, “But have you read this? But have you done this?” There’s this building up of self, there’s this knowledge, and so they can start to put other people down. They look forward to debating the Mormon before they cry for them. See, they come with the wrong heart. I notice these people often; I was one. And I can slip right back into that very easily if we don’t stay broken. I would encourage you to come to the morning worship. That’s really where you get broken. Those types of things are where you’re going to see the most transformation in your own heart.

So anyway, proud about your knowledge and eager to put others down. In 2005—I think I shared this before—my mom came to me and said, “Shane, your family doesn’t want to be around you anymore.” And I thought I was spiritual. No, I was critical. I could put down everybody. I know this: you need be very, very, very careful where you’re getting your information from because there’s a lot of negative heresy-hunter websites out there who are not filled with love and compassion and broken. They want to pull everybody down. There are groups out there that will go after anybody who’s charismatic. I tell them often, “If this church keeps growing, watch out. I’m next on their hitlist.” An hour and a half of worship? You guys are brainwashed. On the altar weeping? Oh my Lord, you’re emotional. No, that’s God breaking a heart. That’s biblical. Fasting? Oh, what’s wrong with this group? Fasting, emotional worship, the Holy Spirit might be moving and convicting and drawing. See, they’ll just start nailing you with all that because you’re not conservative like they are, and you begin to be one of their targets.

So anyway, 2005, I could put down everybody. Beth Moore, I mean, you name it—I had something critical to say. Why? Because I was listening to the wrong voices. To be honest with you, the Bible says to go directly to the source and hear what they have to say. We have to allow people, we have to give them the same grace that we would like. The same grace that we would like, we need to show to others. So ask yourself those questions: Are you excited about critiquing others? Do you have a negative, judgmental heart? Are you argumentative? Are you very opinionated? Are you excited about your education and what you’ve learned, and you’re excited to tell someone off and excited to win an argument? We never should be excited about winning an argument and have that argumentative spirit. I can see them coming from a mile away. They’ll start to ask, “What’s your view on this?” They’re not concerned about my view; what are they looking to do? Argue. They want to argue my position. They’re not even listening to what we have to say. They’ll show their pride and show their arrogance. So be careful. God does not approve of that.

That’s what He’s saying here. If you go back to the Scripture we saw up on the screen: remove the plank from your eye, humble yourself. So basically, before critiquing others you really need to spend time in the prayer closet. If you want to go and critique others, spend time broken before God and say, “God, I humble myself before you. I don’t want to do that.”

Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces.

What is He talking about? Well, I like what GotQuestions.org said, so I’m just going to read what they said: “In His sermon, Jesus uses dogs and pigs as representative of those who would ridicule, reject, and blaspheme the gospel once it is presented to them.” Is that not true? Most of you know that. “We are not to expose the gospel of Jesus Christ to those who have no other purpose than to trample it and return to their own evil ways.”

Think about that. There are groups out there—I’m not going to name names or get too specific here, but there are people that I’m not even going to talk to. Locally, right over that hill, certain groups I’m not even talking to. They know where I stand. They don’t know the gospel. What am I going to do? I’m going to back away and pray. That rhymes; you can remember it easily. I’m just going to back away and pray. I’m not going to keep throwing the gospel to those who trample it under feet. And He says something interesting: “Lest they trample it under their feet, and then they turn, and they tear you in pieces.”

So it’s this image here of being a doormat, of being like “Come on guys, come on guys,” and you keep bringing the gospel to these people, you keep trying to be that light. He says, “Stop it.” At some point you need to say like Paul, “I turn you over to Satan. Bye-bye. I can’t keep doing this.” Now maybe many of you haven’t encountered this, but the longer you become a Christian, the more you stand up for Jesus, you will encounter people where you need to just stop because it’s not productive anymore. GotQuestions.org said, “Repeatedly sharing the gospel with someone who continually scoffs and ridicules Christ is like casting pearls before swine. We can identify such people through discernment, which is given in some measure to all Christians (1 Corinthians 2:15–16).”

So be careful who you involve yourself with. Now I’m not telling you not to witness or spread the gospel. That’s what we’re called to do. But there are some people where you’ve tried, they know where you stand—should I say family members sometimes might fall in this camp? You’ve shared it, they know where you stand, and you just keep bringing it to them. It’s not productive anymore; it’s almost like you’re arguing, you’re coming with an argumentative spirit. It’s unproductive. You just need to let that go.

And then He said in verse 7 here to keep asking, seeking. and knocking. The context is being judgmental, humbling yourself, not throwing the gospel out to those who will keep demeaning it. And then I don’t know if He’s talking about praying possibly or asking for discernment in this area, but it seems to flow together.

Ask, and it will be given to you;

Some of you need to hear that this morning. Ask, and it will be given to you, but also:

Seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.

Sometimes we make these separate things. Okay, let me ask; that’s separate. Let me seek; that’s something different. Let me continue in this; that’s something different. It’s all together—what are you asking God for in your life? God, remove this from my life. God, bring this into my life. God, open this door, whether it’s marriage or work or whatever. What are you asking God for? It says here to keep seeking that. Now, this isn’t just seeking with our heart, this is also lining up our life with what you believe God is doing. If you’re saying, “God, I need that job opportunity. God, I need some employment,” well, don’t sit at home and watch Netflix. Go fill out applications. Go be available. Seek whatever you’re praying for. God, restore my marriage. Husbands say all the time: “God, restore my marriage,” and I say, “Stop being a jerk.” Can you say that from the pulpit? Stop being a jerk. You have to line up with Scripture as well.

So asking, seeking, knocking. It says:

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.

Now this can be a whole new sermon on what’s not in the Bible: whatever I ask, I receive. That’s where the “name it and claim it” movement came from. You know what that is? Name it—the new S-class Mercedes. Is there an S-class? I don’t know. That new Mercedes, and I’ve got a picture of that $85,000 luxury vehicle right there on my refrigerator. I’m going to put my Tony Robbins, Anthony Robbins, CDs right next to it, and I’m naming it, and I’m claiming it. God, your Word says if I ask, if I seek, I’m going to work hard. Lord, that’s my goal. Name it and claim it. And while I’m at it, I’m going to get this nice new house I just saw on the MLS (that’s the multiple listing service for the real estate agents). I’ve got this nice, big 12-bedroom house up there in the mountains, and I like those pools that drop over the valley. I’ve got that right there. I’m naming it and claiming it.

That’s where it comes from. This ministry someday, someway, somehow is going to have its own private personal jet Gulfstream. I’m naming it; I’m claiming it. It’s only $68 million. So on your way out; we have an envelope here. No, Phil, don’t leave. If we can start now, that’ll become a reality; I don’t have to fly coach anymore, and we can spread the gospel all around the world with this new Gulfstream.

All three of those examples are examples of what is happening in the Christian community. I mean if anybody needed a Gulfstream, Billy Graham needed a Gulfstream, and he didn’t do that. Maybe I should do a whole sermon on this. But you can’t just say, “It says to ask and receive. Your Word says it.” Right, but if you look again, if you’re reading the whole Bible, it says whatever you ask “according to My will.” Whatever you ask according to My will. God’s not going to hear that? So whenever a person asks and says, “Lord, according to Your will. I don’t need that car. Lord, how about just a car that runs?” And then God might answer that and give you a car. According to My will. “Lord, I need that to get to church. I need that to get to work. And a house, I’d love to provide for my family. But let’s downscale that. Let’s just get a basic living. God, would you provide these living conditions?”

And as you commit your ways to the Lord, your thoughts become established according to Proverbs. Your thinking actually changes, if you’re open for it. The Gulfstream wouldn’t even be on the radar. Your prayer life starts to change. It starts to line up. So when God puts something on your heart—for example, I’ve talked about this before, when He put the radio stations on our heart and the heart of the elders—we begin to ask and seek and continue. “Lord, is this what You want to do? Lord, You show me.” And I say this often. I’ll tell you—I’ll publicly admit this. You ready? I don’t trust my feelings, but I trust Him. And I said, “Lord, I fully trust You. If You’re doing this, we’ll just step out of the way. But if You’re not, please close the door. I don’t trust my feelings.”

One of the things I have to work on—this is confession morning—is, and I know you can relate to this, sometimes we forget how big God is. When I started to really pray and fast for the radio stations (for those of you who don’t know, we just purchased four radio stations, and you can actually listen live now online and hear it all over the world. So there are people tuning in from all over, listening to it online) but I thought, there’s no way this can happen. But then your mind goes, I know God can, but I don’t think He’s going to. Do you ever fall into that? I mean, you know He can. I would tell Morgan, I’d catch myself, “You know that’s impossible. They’re not going to drop their price in half. I don’t know anything about running a radio station. God can’t handle this one. This is way too much.” But God often likes to show who He is, and I’m learning to believe God for big things. Big things.

Something else I’ll tell you about on this topic. I’ve probably heard this a lot over the last couple years, that people really see how Westside Christian Fellowship could really grow and be in a church where there are a thousand people worshiping. What do I say? I don’t think so—there’s no way. God’s not going to open that door. That’s too big. God’s not going to give us a campus somewhere else and have a couple campuses and have enough people to oversee two, three campuses. That’s impossible. But people say, “No, I can see God doing that.” No, no I can’t. Why? Where’s my thinking? Limited. It’s can be limited because the flesh comes in, and it really limits. Can God give your kids a dream and turn their hearts right back to Christ? Just ask Jim Cymbala. That’s exactly what happened. No, that’s too big. I don’t think God can do that. And we start to really limit our prayer life.

Now, on the flip side, you don’t just start believing God for the Mercedes and for this and get outside of His will. But when God gives you a glimpse, gives you a picture. I doubted even what we’re doing right now when He showed me glimpses fifteen, twenty years ago, of what we would be doing. I was not speaking to anybody. There was nothing on the radio. We didn’t have anything. I would say, “No, that’s impossible. Don’t they know I didn’t go to seminary?” I can’t speak very well. I’d love to preach like Billy Graham and be articulate like Alastair Begg. You hear these guys and be like, I could never. I mean, that’s incredible; it’s impossible. And then God begins to slowly [do His work.]

See, sometimes we dumb down what God wants to do and what God can do. It doesn’t give us free license to believe all these crazy things because there’s a fine line between faith and presumption. You know what presumption is? I presume. And I’ve seen people fall flat on their face by presuming God is in something when He’s not. But they cloak it, they hide it, with faith: “I’m just having faith, brother.” I don’t know, have you sifted that through the filter of God’s Word? Have you spent a lot of time in prayer and fasting? Is it really faith? Because when it is, you grab hold of it.

I’ve seen this I think happen more often than any other time in the area of finances. Ministries, churches and people, will go, “Man, I think God is doing this, and we’re going to step out in faith.” Well, you’d better make sure you have something in the bank account. Now there is a time to step out in faith. I don’t want to minimize that, but the many failures I’ve seen over the years are because people got too presumptuous. Even this week I told one guy, “No, don’t go into that business deal. I think God will provide, but you have nothing right now. You have nothing.” God will show you.

God also gives us wisdom. Why have we forgotten about that? Above all else, get wisdom, and in all your getting, get understanding. She will exalt you. She will promote you. So what we try to do is make wise decisions. For example, let’s just say (it’s not happening, so this is not a good example) but there’s 150 acres across the street for sale, only $1.5 million. “Hey, elders let’s do it.” We don’t have $1.5 million. “Well, who cares? Let’s do it. Let’s just trust in faith. Let’s believe. What will they take? Will they carry the note? We can make a $40,000 payment every month, and really just squeeze it out of the people?” Wait a minute. $1.4 million is probably an $88,000 payment, depending on interest, what they charge, if it’s a hard-money loan, and all the stuff you don’t need to know. That wouldn’t be a good idea. “But Shane, you’re limiting God.” No, that’s not wise. That will hurt the church financially. What I would do is take it to prayer, and the owner would call and say, “We’re donating the land.” That’s how God often works. I’ve seen Him work that way.

A lot of you don’t know it, I’ve never talked about it, but there have been some places in Lancaster that have approached me back before we were even here, and they’d say, “Hey, it’s $3 million, we’ll carry the note for you guys,” and every time it never worked on the books. Like, “This is not going to work. We’re going to be strapped financially. This is not going to work.” Because, see, the devil will open doors too. A business investor wanting to make money will open doors too. So, in the area finances, be careful. We usually step out when it makes sense, when God provides. The new roof we’re putting on, right? Asking people if they’d like to donate to that—make sure we have the resources and step out. So God often uses wisdom with His will. I’ve seen so many people fall flat on their face because they don’t use wisdom. And God says, “I will not be mocked.”

Here’s the thing we have to remember about God. If you step out and do something, God doesn’t have to do anything. He doesn’t have to go, “Oh, darn it. I was hoping they wouldn’t do that. Now I’ve got to bless them.” No, He’ll say, “No, come back, come back, fish. I’ll reel you back in. You come back here.”

So that was a big, big rabbit trail on prayer and using wisdom and asking and seeking because that verse is taken out of context quite a bit. Hey, whatever you ask, man, you’ll receive. Whatever you ask. No, it’s according to God’s will. Maybe I should just do a sermon on the prayer that God answers. I did that before, but more specifically on this verse.

But then verse 9:

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! Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.

That’s another sermon. Whatever you want men to do to you, do to them as well. It’s the Golden Rule that we know. But look at this here. This is a good God. For what man is there among you who will give his son a stone for bread or would give him a serpent? If we, being who we are, know how to give good gifts to our kids, how much more a good God, a perfect God? See, I trust in His sovereignty. Trust in who He is. Stop being angry and bitter at God and trust in His sovereignty. He knows what is best.

There’s a song out there. One of the lyrics says this: “When I only see in part, I will prophesy your promises.” When I only see in part. Lord, I don’t know what You’re doing. We see through a glass dimly. There are things in my way. I don’t know what You’re doing, but I’m still going to prophesy, which is proclaim. When I say prophecy, charismatics say, “Amen!” and conservatives say, “Shhh, don’t use that word.” That word just means proclaim. Prophesy—proclaim what God’s Word has said. God’s Word says, “I will never leave you. I will never forsake you. I will never fail you. I’m there. You can call on Me. I might even set a table before you in the presence of your enemies.” You say “Lord, I’m going to eat right here. All these are people against me.” He says, “Not one hair of your head can fall to the ground without My notice. No one can touch you if I’m not going to allow them to do that. I’m sovereign. I’m in control.” Not one hair of your head falls to the ground without His notice, just like a sparrow. This is the God we serve. Because God finishes what He starts.

And then it goes into a very difficult passage for many people:

Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it.

Remember that. Broad is the way to hell. Just look at our culture. Who’s on the broad road? It’s huge. It’s this big road that everybody’s walking down. So He said:

Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.

So He says, “Choose the narrow gate.” And then we skip to verse 21:

Not everyone who says to Me, “Lord, Lord,” shall enter the kingdom of heaven.

So not everybody who says, “But I’m a Christian,” enters the kingdom of heaven. Isn’t that a wake-up call for many people?

But he who does the will of My Father in heaven.

And I do ruffle feathers sometimes. I’ll tell people, “Listen, I don’t see you doing God’s will. I don’t see any fruit in your life. Are you sure you’re on the narrow road?” Because one thing that is guaranteed in the Bible is that the genuine believer will have genuine fruit. It’s not perfect fruit. It might be fruit that’s missing here and there, but there will be something in them that is genuine. It’s a genuine relationship. They can’t fake that.  

Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name.”

In other words, “Have we not spoken in your name? Did we not say things in your name?”

Many will say to Me in that day, “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?”

This is just mind-boggling. I think of a lot of guys on TV when I read this, who are acting flamboyant and charismatic and crazy and cuckoo, doing all these things in the name of the Lord. And Jesus someday will say, “I don’t even know you. Depart from Me. Sure, you say all these things, but do you truly know Me?” And Jesus said:

And then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!”

He is saying here there are people who spoke, “Thus saith the Lord.” Not everyone who says, “God said,” or “God this,” is of the flock. They said, “Thus saith the Lord.”  They did spiritual things, did they not? They did spiritual things, and apparently, they did wonders. “If you do all these things in My name, cast out name demons, and you do many wonders in My name.”

That’s one of the things they believe the false prophets and antichrists coming later and all these things, that they’re going to be doing some type of wonders that can deceive people. I read on the news that Tom Brady says his wife is a “good witch,” who shares rituals that helped him win the Super Bowl. (Be careful what team you root for.) Anyway, I thought of wonders, you know. I don’t think it has anything to do with them winning, but there’s this sense sometimes in the Christian community of people doing things, so “how can they be a false prophet,” or “look at what they do, look at their ministry, look at their outreach.” That person in Brazil, John of God. I don’t know if you’ve followed that. There’s a sexual abuse case against him. He’s just a false prophet. From the moment I saw him I could tell. But many people were like, “He’s on Oprah, and he’s a Brazilian faith healer.” You could tell from the get-go. It just screamed false prophet, but many people are left asking, “What happened? We’re so hurt. He said he was of God.”

Those who do all these things in My name “who practice lawlessness.” Now I’m going to close with this: practice lawlessness. What does practice mean? It’s the customary habitual way of doing something. So be very encouraged if you don’t practice sin, meaning it’s not your habit, it’s not what you’re comfortable with, it’s not what you want to do. You struggle with it, but the difference between the sinner and the person who is saved is that the person who is saved hates the sin. They hate their miserable condition. They want God to help them. They cry out for help, and they’re fighting against this. The unbeliever says, “I enjoy it. I practice it.”

That’s why Paul said, “Do you not know that those who practice adultery, homosexuality, fornication, drunkenness, stealing,” all these things, it’s their practice. It’s their lifestyle. It’s who they are. Do you ever meet people and be like, “Where’s the conviction in them?” They’re not even convicted. They don’t even know what they’re doing wrong. They couldn’t care less. They’re hurting people. They’re practicing lawlessness. But there will be those people in the church who say, “But, Jesus, I went to church. I went to a Christian school. I thought I did things for You, and I spoke about God. I gave this wonderful example of how I thought God moved in my life.” But they’re practicing lawlessness. They never repented and believed in the gospel.

So back to the question: Who are you to judge me? Well, let God’s Word judge you. Have you truly repented and believed? Because the reality is that there is a judgment coming. There is a judgment coming where God will look at the hearts of all men and will ask the hard questions: Do you truly know Him? And as a believer, what will be our practical application? Well, is sin trying to take us in the wrong direction? Is sin trying to take us down?

I have an article that I’m actually releasing tomorrow in response to what recently happened to James McDonald, somebody I’ve looked up to, read his material. The title is “The Struggle Is Real: Passive and Pushy Pastors.” So it’s primarily to pastors, but I also want to encourage you with this: if you are on a cliff, and you’re about ready to fall into sin, take time now and repent. It will hurt, but the fruit of repentance far outweighs the fruit of exposure. God’s grace will see you through. A penitent person is a person who is truly sorry about sin, they accept full responsibility for their actions, they don’t blame others, they don’t resent others, there’s no bitterness, they seek forgiveness.

What we need to do is begin to repair the cracks in the armor by making God, not the ministry, the priority. Deep healing needs to take place. Weep and worship, while God breaks and heals and restores. Let the Bible study you. Let it cut deep and remove the cancer of pride. Pride is deadly and damning. Ask God to heal and help you. It does beg the question: You call yourself spirit-filled, but are you? Because many people can use that theology but not be truly spirit-filled. That’s the key—to be broken and humble before God, exposing sin as soon as it begins and staying vigilant and remembering that your enemy goes about as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour.

All of us have to be on guard, the pulpit and the pew. All of us have to take a real short account of sin, like John Owen said, “Be killing sin or sin will be killing you.” So that would be the practical application this morning. You’re on the narrow road, but that broad road looks enticing. And even though I don’t think a person can switch to the broad road, I think they can put one foot on and play in that area and be in the enemy’s camp and walk willingly to the enemy’s camp. It’s good for us to get back on track and give our lives back to the Lord.