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About this series
Love One Another
Ten Keys to Experiencing Life in a Supernatural Community
We've all heard the thought-provoking challenge to face life's decisions asking, "What would Jesus do?" But what if we were to live each moment in light of Jesus' "new" commandment to "love one another" - as He has loved us? What would happen within our homes and churches if we took seriously His instructions to foster authentic, caring relationships? This series explores the powerful possibilities of lives lived according to the radical "one anothers" of the New Testament.More from this series
I don’t think there’s anybody here who would deny that the greatest teacher that ever lived, the person who has impacted history more than all others is the person Jesus.
Not just by how He lived, and not only by the resurrection, but His teaching. And the last night before He died, He summed up His teaching. And He said, “A new commandment I give unto you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, so love one another. By this all men will know that you are really My disciples.”
The trouble with words like “love” over centuries is little by little by little they watered down. So, we want to talk about what it looks like, day in and day out, to love one another in His body, the supernatural community?
Someone sent me an email this week and let me share it with you. It’s a story, a true story, of a situation in a church, has to do with loving people. His name is Bill. He has wild hair, wears a t-shirt with holes in it, jeans, no shoes.
That was his wardrobe for all four years of college. He happened to be a very bright young man, kind of esoteric, very, very smart. And while in college, on a major college campus, he became a Christian.
Across the street from the campus was a very well dressed, very conservative church and they wanted to develop a ministry to college students, didn’t know exactly how to go about it.
Well, one day, in his t-shirt with holes, no shoes, jeans, and wild hair, Bill walked across the street and decided he’d go to church. It was a popular church, good things were happening in it, as Bill walked in, the place is absolutely packed. It’s a church from a higher tradition so that there was nice carpet, people were dressed in three-piece suits, all the ladies had very nice dresses on, many had hats on. Sunday best.
Bill came in toward the back of the auditorium and he looked and he couldn’t find a seat. And you can just visualize in your mind, he’s walking down the middle aisle toward the pulpit, looking for a seat, looking for a seat, can’t find one. He gets all the way to the bottom, he is now at the first row, right in front of the pulpit, this place is packed! This is exciting!
And so Bill did what he did at the college fellowship, he looked around, wasn’t a seat, got right in front of the first pew, and sat down on the floor and crossed his legs.
Now, as Bill was walking down that aisle, he caught the notice of a few people. Wild looking hair, holes in his t-shirt, no shoes. He is a brother in Christ but they don’t know that. And most people didn’t come to this church dressed like that. It wasn’t Santa Cruz.
And so there is a stillness that comes over the place and they are wondering what is going to happen, who is going to step in, what should we do, what’s going to go on?
And an old deacon in the back, eighty years old, silver hair, three-piece suit, pocket watch complete with chain, elegant, godly, sterling reputation in the church. He is eighty and all you can hear, dead silence, is him walking down and the click of his cane. Walking down and the click of his cane.
And everyone is thinking, “Well, you know, he’s gotta do what he’s gotta do. I mean, this is understandable. I mean, this guy obviously doesn’t know, he’s never been here, he doesn’t know what we do and how we do it. You can’t sit on the floor, you know?”
So the pastor gets up to begin teaching and he realizes, “You know, until this little scenario in front of me gets solved, I can’t, I can’t preach.”
So, everyone is waiting. Click, step, step, click, step, step. He finally gets to the very front and you can actually hear people breathing it’s so quiet. And this very, very old, godly gentleman reaches over and whispers something to the man on the floor. And he slides over, and the man, with great effort, takes his cane and puts it down, and then with even greater effort, makes his way, and sits on the floor next to him. And said, “I didn’t want you to worship alone.”
The place was just stunned, emotionally. The pastor had the good sense not to try and start his message the way he should have, or had planned. And he looked down at the front row and he said, “What I’m about to teach you will all forget. What you have just observed you’ll never forget.”
Why? Wait a second. What is so unusual about that? Didn’t Jesus say, “Accept one another?” Didn’t Jesus say, “Love one another?” Didn’t Jesus welcome prostitutes and sinners and tax collectors? Yeah, He sure did. But somewhere along the line in the Church of Jesus Christ, when people act like Jesus and do exactly what He said, it looks pretty weird, culturally, doesn’t it?
See, the culture of the average church and the culture of the average Christian has somehow, over time, eroded the most basic truth of the gospel. How in the world can you be connected? How can we be a community? How can you love people if you can’t look beyond the outside and accept them right where they are at and care about them?
Larry Crabb in his book Connecting, I mentioned it earlier, puts it this way, I’ve got the quote in the front of your teaching handout, you might want to pull that out and follow along.
As he tries to get his arms around, in his psychological jargon, which he uses, which is great, and he describes genuine, biblical acceptance in this way. He calls it “connecting.”
He said, “Connecting is a kind of relating that happens when the powerful life of Christ in one person meets the good life of Christ in another.” That’s what happened on the front row. “What every Christian can pour into another is the powerful passion of acceptance.”
If you’ve got a pen, underline, “What every Christian.” Not some Christians. Not super Christians. What every Christian can pour into the life of other Christians is the powerful passion of acceptance. Where does it come from? “A passion that flows out of the center of the gospel, a passion that fills the heart of God.”
We’re going to talk about what it means to accept one another. We can’t love, we can’t be connected, we can’t be a supernatural community, we can’t be a testimony of the reality of Christ in Santa Cruz county, unless we accept one another. And so I want to spend all of our time actually talking about what it looks like to accept one another.
Now, by way of an aside, here’s what I want to do. We’ve got people at all different levels. Some of you just walked off the street, some came with a friend, and it’s like, “Okay, I like the horns. Enjoyed the music. This is different.”
Others of you have been in the faith for a long time and as an aside, when you take a word like “acceptance” or if you want to look at the word “love” and you want to do a Bible study on it, what I want to do is model for you some practical methods of how to study the Bible.
And so as you open the handout, notice it says, “What does it mean to accept one another?” When you want to study something in the Scripture, first start with the meaning of the word. And I’ll give that to you, I did a little “word study” is what it’s called.
The way you do that is you get a good Bible dictionary, if you’re just starting, Vine’s would be a good one. If you’re down the road, you might look at something called Colin Brown, and if you’re a real scholar, there’s a work called TBNT and you can look at it in the original languages. But you want to study the meaning of the word.
Next, then, now you know what this word means, then you move and you study the word, the meaning from the context. In other words, this comes out of Romans chapter 15 verse 7. “Accept one another just as Christ accepted us, to bring glory to God.” And so you want to look at what do verses 1 through 6 say before 7 gets there?
The next level you want to go to is you want to move and say, “How is this word used in the New Testament?” And I’ll do that for you. And then finally, after you have a broad scope of what the word means, what it means in the context, what it means in the New Testament, then you take it and you place it back in the text where you’re looking at it and say, “Okay, what does this mean, right here?”
Now, I’d like to say that we could take about thirty or forty minutes and I can walk through this very slowly, it would be a lot of fun, and we do that in some of the Tuesday electives and some other classes and Bible study courses.
What I’m going to do, though, is I’m going to skip all that and I’m just going to give you the fruit of my study. And so I’ll just highlight what I learned. But I want you to understand, this is how to go through the process. It’s a phenomenal way to study the Bible, and a great way to really get a grasp on what God is saying.
So, let’s start first with the meaning of the word. The meaning of the word “to accept,” literally means “to receive.” It’s only found grammatically in what is called “the middle tense.” And that has to do with a little prefix on it, and it’s found in a tense that means that we actively are to receive another person.
And so it has the idea of “to warmly welcome someone,” not just generically, but warmly welcome them to yourself. I summarized all the different words and things I could do by this concept. “To grant admission into your heart.”
When the Bible says “accept one another,” what it really means is: Look beyond any preconceived notion, look beyond anything physical in appearance, look beyond just a superficial nod intellectually, and to accept them means to admit admission, receive into your heart. You are willing and open to build relationship. That’s what that eighty-year-old man did with the hippie on the front row.
Second, the meaning from the context. As you would read chapter 15, in fact, you can open your Bible, I’ll just read through the first six verses. Listen carefully as I read. And what you’ll see is the context is about edification, it’s about building up one another, it’s about the source of encouragement, it’s about perseverance in the Christian life, it’s about unity, and then it crescendos in verses 5 and 6 about worshipping God.
And then what we’re going to learn is that all those different things that are happening and are to happen, relationally, are contingent upon verse 7, which is acceptance.
It says, “We who are strong ought to bear with the failings,” or the weaknesses, “of others, and not simply to please ourselves,” verse 1 of chapter 15. “Each of us should please his neighbor for his good,” why? “to build him up,” or edify him. “For,” here’s our example, “even Christ did not please Himself, but as it is written,” quotes Psalm 69, “‘The insults of those who insult you have fallen upon Me.’ For everything that was written in the past,” Old Testament, “was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”
Then he prays for them, “May the God who give endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus,” purpose
- why? “so that with one heart and with one mouth you may glorify God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Now, I’ve got it in the NIV and so there is a little phrase left out. There’s a “Therefore,” or a “wherefore,” right before “accept one another just as Christ has accepted you, in order to bring glory to God.”
So, what I want you to understand, this idea of acceptance is to have admission, to warmly receive another, and to be an active participant, to draw people into your world. It doesn’t mean you agree with them, doesn’t mean you approve of what they do, but it means you accept them. That’s the meaning of the word.
The context, it flows out of the life relationships in the Church, of encouragement and perseverance and of our worship and it says, “It can’t happen unless we first accept one another.”
In the New Testament, it shows up in a number of different places and the reason you need to do this is because it’ll give you little pictures because it’s translated “acceptance” here but, for example, Romans 14:1 to 3, the issue is about Christians getting along with one another, that come from different backgrounds.
And the idea will be used to teach them, this word “acceptance” has to do with literally admitting others into the fellowship who think differently about the faith than you do.
In Acts 18:26 it’ll have the idea, “to welcome into your heart and into your home in order to build upon the grace and the goodness that you see in them.” In that case, it was Aquila and Priscilla who saw this new Christian Apollos, and as soon as he got done speaking, they accepted him, took him home, built upon the goodness and the grace and the gifts that they saw.
In Mark 8:32, the word is used and it’s translated “taking aside,” it’s a negative passage. It’s where Peter takes Jesus aside and rebukes Him. His message was wrong, his method was right. He was accepting, he was protecting, he was guarding the dignity of Christ and he thought, Jesus maybe had had a little too hard of a day.
And this stuff about going to the cross and, “I must suffer.” So Peter accepts, takes Him aside in private and he tells Him, you know, “Lord, you just had a bad day. This stuff about the cross, that’s not it.” Now, his message was really bad and Jesus did not take him aside. He publically rebuked him.
But what I want you to see here is that this concept of accepting goes well beyond an intellectual ascent to, “Oh, I accept them where they’re at.” It’s to admit them, it’s to be active, it’s to care, it’s to move into their life. It has to do with whether we’re going to have real unity and real fellowship and real love for one another.
Finally, when you look at the meaning of the text and right in chapter 15 verse 7, notice that the first portion is a command. This isn’t like, “Do this if you’re a super Christian.” It’s a command: Accept one another.
Secondly, notice how it’s to be done. Now we take the import of the meaning of that word and you are to do it and I am to do it just the way Christ did. And as you study the life of Christ, you know what you learn? How did Jesus accept people?
Jesus accepted people unconditionally and indiscriminately. Jesus was a human relational magnet! Everywhere Jesus was, people were drawn to Him. It didn’t matter what their gender was, it didn’t matter their race, didn’t matter their political persuasion, it didn’t matter if they were the worst of sinners. He was a magnet. Why was He a magnet? Why did everyone want to be around Jesus? You know why? He didn’t judge them. He didn’t condemn them. He didn’t hear from other people and make opinions about them.
He warmly welcomed sinners, letting them know that they mattered and yet telling them truthfully, “Your sin is not acceptable.” He cared. Even though Jesus was better, you know? You ever heard that phrase? You know, “He just thinks he is better than everybody else.” Jesus was.
He was better than everybody else but He never treated anyone like He was better than them. He made every single person that came in contact with Him feel like they really mattered, even though they didn’t believe they mattered.
See, if you want to learn how to accept people, study the life of Jesus – unconditionally. Now, did He approve of it all? No. Did He agree with what people were saying and doing? No. But He always accepted.
He admitted them, warmly, into relationship with Him and then He spoke the truth in love. That’s what we are to do.
Now, let me stop here for just a second and say, “Why?” Why is that so important? This phrase says, “Jesus did it in order to bring glory to God,” what is glory to God? That’s literally to enhance someone’s reputation.
How did Jesus bring glory to God? You know, the average person in that day, and the average person in our day, really thinks God has His arms crossed, is mad at the world, tapping His toe, waiting for people to mess up so He can bust them on the head. Really! The average person doesn’t believe God is on your team. The average person believes that you’re not worthy of God, you have done… of course He knows everything about you.
Jesus brought glory to God, and gave people an accurate picture of the Father
- how? Very simply. He treated them the way the Father feels about them. Total, unconditional, indiscriminate acceptance.
In a day when, if you were a woman, you were a second-class citizen. If you were a slave, you were subhuman. In a day where, if you were of this race instead of that race, they wouldn’t even talk to you. In a day where a Gentile and Jew wouldn’t even eat in the same house. In a day when prejudice was rampant like it is today. Jesus unconditionally, indiscriminately accepted each person and said, “You matter to God.” That’s what He wants us to do.
Now, let me throw up a thought for you. Just relax here for a second. I don’t know about you but my observations of my heart and my observations of people are that we spend untold amounts of energy, finances, and effort to get people to like us. Don’t we?
Don’t you get up in the morning, look in the mirror and say, “Okay, now, I’m going to be in this group and I’m going to go here,” and maybe not consciously but at least unconsciously, “I need to wear this so they will like me.”
We spend incredible amounts of money and time to please other people. What are the seven worst letters in the English language? Rejection. We hate to be rejected. We have people in our society that will willingly get beat up on purpose so they can get the acceptance of a group. What’s the group called? A gang.
We have people who will spend money they don’t have to get - what? Acceptance from a group that if you drive this or wear that, then you’re in. Now, let’s look at this just carefully, because this is big.
If you desperately need acceptance, and I desperately need acceptance, if we long to be loved and accepted for who we really are, and not what we project or what we think people might think, and if God says, through the person and the life of Christ, that we are one hundred percent accepted because of God’s character and His work on the cross.
And if you’re a believer you are completely forgiven, you are completely secure, so you are accepted by God, and then if He commands you, and commands me, to accept each other the way we have been accepted and I know everybody in the room needs it, I know I need it and I got it from Christ and I am commanded to give it to you, here is the big question that puzzles me. Why don’t we accept one another? Right?
Why don’t we accept one another? Why do we judge by the exterior? Why do we have rankings? Why are we prejudiced? Why do we show favoritism? Why do we not accept one another if I know I need it, you know you need it, if we can just pull the lid off this thing then realize we’re all insecure, then it would seem to me that the safe environment that the Church could provide is we could just be ourselves accepted in Him, accept one another, and there could be a supernatural community where people could grow and get loved like nowhere else.
Let me give you four reasons from Scripture why it’s so hard to accept one another. I’m just going to highlight them.
Four roadblocks, four enemies to genuine, authentic, biblical acceptance that leads to life in relationships.
The first one is judging others’ faith by extra-biblical standards. The technical term for it is legalism. Legalism is judging others by extra-biblical standards. And what I mean by extra-biblical is that we evaluate things, not based on what the Bible actually says, but by other stuff.
Let me read Romans 14:1 to 5 and then verses 10 and 13. Just follow along and see if you don’t pick up the drift. “Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters.” With them, it was whether you should eat meat or just vegetables, whether you should worship on this day or that day.
“One man’s faith allows him to eat everything, but another man whose faith is weak eats only vegetables. The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has,” here’s our word, “accepted him. 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.” It’s true in our day, isn’t it? Some people worship on Saturday, some on Sunday. “Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.”
Skipping down to verse 10, “You then, why do you judge your brother, or why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat; therefore stop passing judgment on one another, instead make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way.”
The context, these are those grey areas. Let me play it out for today. Some people would say, I’ve been in parts of Texas, coached a little basketball team part-time, and we played against a team that their extra-biblical standard was you were accepted or not accepted based on the length of your hair.
Now, this happened in Texas. So there are some little corners where people think like this. And they literally wouldn’t have association with anyone whose hair touched the top of their ears or whose hair would be on their collar.
Now, these were good people, these were Christians, these people loved God. And somehow, over the years, they got the idea that the length of your hair made you holy or unholy. I mean, Jesus couldn’t get in their church unless He got a haircut!
For other people, it’s the use or nonuse of alcohol. For other people it’s a spiritual experience. If you have this spiritual experience, you’re on the in. If you haven’t had this spiritual experience, you’re on the out. For others it’s hobbyhorses. And we are really big into prophecy or we’re really big into this or really big into that.
And we’re on the in and you’re on the out. Extra-biblical standards. Stop it, stop it, stop it. That’s what the Scripture says. If you want to have those, if you want to have your personal views about length of hair, about the use of alcohol; if you want to decide about areas that the Bible clearly doesn’t teach about and good Christians from a variety of backgrounds have honest differences, great. But don’t look down your nose at them. Don’t feel superior. Don’t think that you have the higher calling, the higher truth, that you’re the in and they’re the out.
You know what that produces? Disunity. Not authentic community. It’s sad.
I’ll tell you, I want to give you a word of encouragement, I met a guy, either two or three weeks ago after a service. He was from out of town, he came in, our worship service is different from his.
He said, “This is really different for me,” he said, “but I really like it here.” I said, “Why?” He said, “I sense two things as I look around and I see people of different ages and people dressed in all kind of different ways and,” he said, “I sense two things. I sense that you stand for truth here and I sense there’s genuine acceptance.”
And I thought, “Boy, praise God.” Do we have a ways to go? You bet. But praise God.
See, the first thing that kills acceptance is when we think our extra-biblical standards with regard to another’s life or faith is the measure by which we judge. And we don’t.
The second thing, Bible calls “favoritism.” Judging others by external appearance or possessions. That’s favoritism, or discrimination, partiality, whatever you want to call it.
II Corinthians 5:16 says, “So, from now on, we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer.” Another translation says - Paul is talking about his commitment to the new covenant and his ministry - and he says, “I am compelled by the love of Christ.”
And as he goes out to minister and to love people, he realizes he has internal prejudice. He is a born Jew! That means he doesn’t like Gentiles. And God has called him to love Gentiles so he’s got a problem!
I love, the New American Standard translates this, “Therefore, from now on,” the apostle Paul writes, “I’ll regard or judge no man according to the flesh.” He says, “I will no longer look at a person’s outward appearance or their background or what they have or what they don’t have or what they wear or their racial background or where they have come from. None of that, even though I have known Christ according to the flesh, I’m not even going to evaluate that that way any longer.”
James chapter 2 verses 1 to 5 puts it very clearly. He says, “My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don’t show favoritism. Suppose a man comes in your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man with shabby clothes also comes in.
“If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, ‘Here’s a good seat for you,’” hear the favoritism? “But you say to the poor man, ‘Um, you stand over there or, uh, on second thought, sit on the floor next to my feet,’ have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?
“Listen, my dear brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom He promised those who love Him?”
You know why we’re not accepting of one another? Because we judge people by their outward appearance and we judge people by their possessions. When someone pulls in next to you at the grocery store or the church parking lot, you have an opinion. If it is a beat up VW van in the late sixties model with peace signs on it, you have a different opinion if it’s a Beamer on the other side.
And what I want you to know is you have no idea what is going on in either of those people’s heart and neither do I. You form opinions and I form opinions as we walk by people, as they walk into the marketplace, based on their hair, their dress, their lack of tattoos or thereof, where they shop, where they’ve been, and where they have come from. And we unconsciously start making evaluation and judgments about them.
And then we unconsciously compare or consciously compare and we put them either above us or below us and then we respond in that way. You know what? You can’t accept them if you do that. That’s sin. Comparison is at the heart of all carnality.
What did we just learn? That person will stand or fall before God. God can take care of that stuff. We’ll learn there are areas we are judged, this isn’t one of them. Appearance isn’t one of them.
I’ll never forget, in fact, it was the second time we had ever been here at this church. I have told this story before, I’ll tell it a dozen more times. It powerfully… it was one of the confirming evidences that I longed to get to come to this church.
And we had decided to come and we shared our testimonies that night and I shared and my wife shared and when we got done, there was this long line of ladies waiting to talk to my wife and then I talked to this group of people, in fact, it was Lee and, you know, he was oblivious.
And at the time I think Lee was an executive with Seagate, I’m not sure. And he was over here and I didn’t know him very well other than that he was involved in music, so I got to know him a little bit.
And I was brand new. And Lee was standing right here in front, over at the chapel. And he was talking to a gal who had straight, long, dark hair about down to her waist. And her face, if you have ever been around people who have been heavy in the drug scene, hard drugs for a lot of years, they look about ten or fifteen years older. You know what I mean? The lines.
And, boy, this gal, you could tell, she had been there and done that. And I looked down, she had a hole in her jeans and she didn’t have any shoes on. And, you know, Lee, Lee is a sharp dresser. And he lives in a different world than her.
And I was behind him and I watched him. Man, it was everything I could do not to cry. He looked at her and gave her respect and gave her love and treated her like she was the CEO of Apple Computer.
And, I mean, she was just in off the streets. And I thought to myself, “Here is a guy that I know what he does and I know his world and here is a woman that it’s obvious where her world is. And when I see God working like this…”
You know, I went away, I told my wife, I said, “Honey, I don’t know anything else about this church but God is here because that stuff doesn’t happen, that stuff doesn’t happen if God’s not there.”
It’s interesting, about a year or two later I got a letter from her, she was letting me know that she is not going to be coming to the church anymore. She didn’t live on the streets anymore. She had finished her PhD in counseling and was moving out of the area to do substance abuse counseling with others.
You know why? Where would she be if someone would have evaluated, “Oh, you’re off the streets, you’ve got a drug problem, you…” Favoritism. It keeps us from accepting one another.
The third reason, according to the Scripture, is prejudging. This is judging others based on preconceived notions about them. Luke 6:37, it says, “Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven.”
This is sort of the generic kind of judgment where I’m not to judge another person based on preconceived notions or ideas. In other words, I’m not to evaluate a person based on they come from a different culture.
We are to accept one another despite differences in our race, our culture, our physical appearance, our economic status, our theological or religious background, our personalities, and our philosophical differences. We’re to accept one another and we’re to transcend all that!
Does it mean you necessarily agree with them? No! Does it mean you approve of their lifestyle, of their views? Not necessarily. Does it mean you accept them and grant them admission into your heart? Yes. It does. That’s what Jesus did. And we’re to accept one another - how? The way He accepted us.
Now I gotta be careful right now because this is a button of mine. I have been around Christians and it doesn’t matter which side. They can be either on the Republican side or the Democratic side and especially with all the stuff that’s going on now.
And it blows my mind. It blows my mind that your allegiance to a political party can take precedence over your allegiance to another Christian. And I hear people talk about, “Well, this is what I think, nya, nya, nya, nya, nya, because I’m a Republican.” “Well, this is what I think, nya, nya, nya, because I’m a Democrat.” I’ll tell you something. Our allegiance to Christ is above all that.
You can disagree on political issues and love one another and accept one another. But I’ll tell you what, it doesn’t happen with a lot of churches.
Our commitment to accept one another, it’s gotta transcend race. The leading, cutting edge of reconciliation of people who treat one another with dignity, regardless of their race, ought to be born again Christians. And if it’s not, shame on us.
And philosophy and culture. We don’t have to agree with people that look differently. We don’t have to agree with people that have bizarre looking behavior, in our minds. But we need to love them and we need to accept them.
What did Jesus do? What did Jesus do? The word, it’s our word, welcomed sinners, welcomed differences.
I learned this one the hard way because even inside Christianity this happens. You know, if you’ve been around for a while, you get to know the spectrum, right? There are evangelicals and inside that there are a lot of spectrums. And then you have conservatives that are more conservative than you and they’re kind of radical weirdos. Of course, have you ever noticed that wherever you describe yourself, it’s the middle?
You know, there are the ultra-conservatives, no matter where you’re at, and the liberals. And you’re balanced, like me. And so you got the liberals way over here, don’t believe the Bible and all this kind of stuff, and then inside evangelicalism, you got those denominational types… they’re a little out of touch. Organs, stained glass music…
Or, if you happen to be in one of those churches, “Oh, you got those new, non-denominational type groups. Guitars, horns, electric, man, it’s loud! It makes me nuts! It’s dark in the place! They use those screens. No hymnals! They’re ungodly!”
All Pentecostals, you know what they do. Baptists! Oh, man! You know what those Baptists do. Lutherans! I hear they can drink. But they can’t… and it goes on and on and on.
So, here I am. We have been meeting, we’ve been talking, we decide as the ministers here, really spearheaded by a very, very godly man who used to be at University Baptist, was there for twenty plus years, Marv Webster got us all together, we started to break down some of the barriers, and we decided to have a prayer meeting.
So, we’re at Calvary Chapel, there are twelve or thirteen at the time, and we pull some pews together and some of us are sitting on the floor and we’re in a circle, and we’re going to spend half a day in prayer.
And Marv spearheads it and then he, of all things, has this denominational guy lead out and be responsible. So, I’m thinking, “This is never going to fly.” In his denomination, I didn’t think there were any Christians and I wasn’t sure about him!
This was my prejudice! Now, I didn’t say any of this. You know, I’m smiling, “Oh, good to see you, brother,” all that junk that we do. And I’m thinking, “If he’s going to lead the prayer time, we’re in big trouble.”
And then next to him is this Pentecostal guy and his hair looks like… he comes right out of the Pentecostals, so he’s got to be shallow. That’s what I’m thinking. Well, I’ll tell you what, we start to share and then we pray. And then that denominational guy did something that people in my circles don’t do a lot. He said, “Let’s have a time of confession. Be quiet before God. Ask Him to bring to your heart anything that you think would be grievous, especially as it relates to relating to one another.”
And that denominational guy then shared honestly, vulnerably thoughts about envy and issues in his heart. And then that superficial, Pentecostal guy? When he got done praying I’m thinking, “I don’t deserve to be in the same room with this guy.”
And then the Baptist guy, and then the Foursquare guy, and then the Congregational guy, and then all of a sudden, you know what? An hour later, we’re praying; another hour, praying; and then we share. And you know what? All those labels, all those preconceived notions are gone and we went around the room and asked, “What do you think your spiritual gift is? And why do you think God brought you to Santa Cruz? And how can we join together and be a team and see God do a great work?”
And that was about six years ago, and I’m telling you, I believe with all of my heart, it was at that point where God started some things that are starting to grow and we ain’t seen nothing yet.
Do you know what? No preconceived notions. Do not judge. And, man, I have the utmost respect for people but I had preconceived notions about ‘em. How about you? How about you?
The fourth reason is I call it “mind reading.” Judging others in areas that it’s impossible for us to assess accurately. Yeah! I hear that! I Corinthians 4:1 through 5 develops it but let me read just verse 5, by way of summary. “Therefore,” the apostle Paul writes, “judge nothing before the appointed time and wait until the Lord comes, He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men’s hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God.”
We cannot judge other people’s motives. And yet we do it all the time. “She said she was sorry but I know she didn’t mean it.” Oh really? “He said he came here for help and he really wanted to have a fresh start but he is a loser. He’s just playing the system again.” “She said she wants to reconcile but I know she just isn’t getting enough support. I know she doesn’t mean it.” “My son or daughter said he really wants a fresh start but they have pulled our chains so many different times, no way.” “That person said they want to be involved in our ministry. I know really she is just interested in that guy or he is interested in her.”
It’s amazing this ability we have to read people’s minds, isn’t it? To know exactly what they’re thinking, why they are thinking it.
I’ll never forget, a fellow a few years ago, and he’s been around the country and back now, but he came and sat on the first row for a few weeks in a row. Made me very nervous.
I affectionately ended up calling him Dan, Dan the Hippie Man. And he is now playing in the Graceland band and Dan, Dan the Hippie Man looks very unusual. I mean that kindly. He wears these really funny hats, he’s got really, really long hair. He wears stuff that I just don’t know quite where it came from. I mean, really bizarre. Sort of like tunics and he kind of walks like this, like this.
And I’m thinking he looks like an ex-drug addict or he’s a guy that’s an obvious street person - dressed the part and everything. He’s an obvious street person, he comes on the front row, he’s really worshipping, he’s having a really, really good time. In fact, he’s having a little bit too good a time for me.
It’s part of my prejudice. I got some preconceived notions about worship and wherever my limits are, he’s kind of going over them and I’m here and he’s over there having just a little bit too much fun with God, you know?
And I’m thinking, “This guy is coming to church because he needs a handout and he’ll say something to me afterwards and we’ll try and help him out and, you know, street people, ‘Lord bless them,’ you know…”
So, I get done and I’m thinking I don’t even know if he’s listening. And I can’t get down the stairs and he stops, grabs me by the shoulders and says, “Thank you so much! God spoke to my heart!” And then he began to talk about it. And then he hugged me! I mean, not like a little hug, I mean, like, a hug, hug. Hug. And it was so sincere! And I was so uncomfortable!
And then he told me… and, see, all my preconceived ideas, we talked and you know what I learned? He doesn’t have to be on the streets. That’s his ministry. He willfully lives on the streets to share Christ. He wanted to be fed [spiritually]. He came back every week and then later he traveled. He said, “God wants me to go to another city.” You know what? John the Baptist. God bless you, I don’t know how it works but, man, he was sincere and he was real.
And then I got a letter from him, a cult was starting to pull him in and he was starting to go for it and he said, “I’m struggling and I don’t know what’s true,” and he wrote me a long letter and I wrote him a letter back and I gave him material and I got it and then I got a letter back, “Oh, thank you, thank you, thank you! Oh, I was missing it and you’re right and, man…”
And he got out of that cult, then he came back around and we met and gave him some counsel about where to go to school so he can be involved in ministry and… all my preconceived notions about his motives were wrong.
Now, if you’re a leader, a parent, or a marriage partner, or have an analytical mind, you really struggle with this one. Because what makes you good at these things, what makes you good at these things… See, you read people’s motives or their thoughts just often enough where you’re right, where you think you’re right all the time! Right? “I know what you’re thinking.” No you don’t!
I have had great struggles here and God and Theresa have really helped me. That’s where I got the title. I’ve had cars pull up and I’ll look at the sticker and this and this and that and this, this and I’ll think… you know, I’m telling her their life story. And she’ll turn to me and say, “You know what? You don’t read anybody’s mind. You don’t know what God’s doing.” That’s right…
Now, we know the meaning of the word “accept.” We know it means “to grant admission into your heart; to welcome and to receive.” We know that you desperately need it, I desperately need it, we’re commanded to do it, and if you’re a Christian, you already got it! So, we ought to just make this happen!
But because of legalism, favoritism, because of this judging, this preconceived prejudice that we have, and because of the fact that we think we are mind readers, we don’t accept one another.
Does this mean that we should never judge? Isn’t that what our world is saying? If someone is in sin and you say, “Hey, you know what? I think that behavior is wrong.” “Who are you to judge me?”
Or if someone is doing some things that you know are really wrong and are really going to hurt them and you step in and say, “Hey, I really want to talk to you.” “Oh, who are you to judge me?” Does the Bible actually teach that we should never judge? I want to tell you, absolutely not. We are not to not be judgmental but there are certain areas and I’m not going to go through them but I am going to give you a Bible study.
There are certain areas you are commanded to judge! Look at them. We are commanded to judge when there is interpersonal conflict in the Church, I Corinthians 6. Two other believers have a problem, it was lawsuits in this case, we are commanded to step in and judge, so they don’t embarrass the Church by taking it to court.
Secondly, if there is immoral behavior in the Church, I Timothy 5:20, I Corinthians 5. Immoral behavior? We are to confront them and say, “Hey, this is wrong.” Does that sound like judging? Yes. You know why? It is. Because we are supposed to. We’re commanded to.
Third, when someone sins against you, Matthew 18:15 to 17. When someone gossips about you, sins against you, does something wrong against you, you should go to them, first in private and say, “Hey, I think we have a problem here.” “Who are you to judge?” “Well, God told me to, Matthew 18:15 to 17.” “Well, I won’t listen to you.” “Great, verse 16, I’ll bring back a friend.” “Well, I’m not going to listen to either of you!” “Great, verse 17, we’ll tell it to the Church.” Does that sound like judgment? You better believe.
The fourth is when God places you in a position of spiritual responsibility, II Timothy chapters 3 and 4 are just filled with, “Spiritual leaders, you better judge and assess the conduct, the purity of what is going on in the body.” You better judge it rightly, according to - your whims? No. According to Scripture.
The fifth reason, to maintain doctrinal purity. [There are] clear passages, when people are going into heresy, judge it. Confront them. How? Lovingly.
Too much soft, middley-piddley, “Well who am I to say anything?” You are to say something if you are in the body of Christ and if wrong doctrine is being floated around.
Fifth is when church unity is threatened. I Timothy 5:20 says if you have a divisive person, warn them once. Warn them twice. After that, don’t associate with them. Get rid of them. Does that sound judgmental? Yep. It is. God’s unity and purity are more important.
So, don’t be judgmental. Accept one another. Speak the truth in love. But in certain areas, you must judge. And don’t buy the culture saying, “Who are you to judge?” I’m a believer, I’m commanded to do this. And I’m not doing it because I’m down on you, I’m doing it because I’m commanded and I love you.
Well, how do we grow then in accepting one another? First of all, just remember what’s at stake. If you want to love people, if you want to be connected to people, the testimony of Christ, the impact in the world, your needs, their needs, this is not optional. We have to accept one another.
Second, refuse to compare. That’s a good place to start. Just in summarizing all that you have heard. Where do I begin? I’m not going to compare myself with others. I’m not going to compare. That’s a great place to start.
Third, renew your view of others. Renew your view of others. You’ve got to look at people differently. I have such struggles with this that I have a little card I made a little over a year ago. I call them “desire cards.” They are desires I have that God will do in my life.
And it’s not happening and so I feel like if I get it in my mind, I pray about it, and I read it over, then little by little, God will do it. And I put my desire card in this area. I am a very judgmental person. I’m a very analytical person. I assess things quickly. I make snap judgments. I think I can read your mind. I know what’s best to do. Just ask me.
It’s ugly! It’s ugly! I have had private conversations with myself, evaluating other people that I know nothing about, that are so ugly I can’t stand to be in my own mind with me! I’m serious.
So, here’s my desire card. I read this over, try and do it several times a week. I read this, “I’d like to view others in light of their eternity and need, instead of by their outward appearance, possessions, status, or abilities.”
You know, I study in these little nook, crannies and different people come in these donut shops and coffee shops and I walk downtown sometimes to just remember where we’re at and why. And when I see different people, bang, I start thinking these thoughts and then, “I desire to, I desire to view others through their eternity.”
You know, when you start looking at people and the first label is, “Are they lost or are they found? Are they loved and secure, a part of God’s family or are they in need?” It changes how you think.
I want to view people through their need and their eternity. What I have found is the people that disturb me, that really make me crazy, they usually have been through some really hard times. And instead of judging their behavior, their actions, their morality, how they are dressed, what they drive, and all that stuff, I start thinking about, “I wonder what their need is? I wonder why they have to act that way? I wonder why they have to be so exhibitionist in that fashion? Why are they trying to gain so much attention?” And you know what happens? Compassion starts to come up.
See, when you view people in light of their need, and you view them in light of eternity, then you can look past appearance, possessions, abilities, and status.