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Briefly explore a sample lesson of a new Christ-centered, Bible study, The Life of Christ. This 54 week study will enrich the spiritual life of your congregation. It offers a wide variety of great resources and visual aids from the Internet. Thank you for your time and thoughtful consideration.
Blessings to you this day.
Ed Markquart, Author of this website.
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Specks and Logs
Grace to you and peace from
God our Father...
And our Lord and Savior Jesus
The title of the sermon for
you who are taking notes is "SPECKS AND LOGS." Write that in the space marked "title." The text is
The theme for today is a
famous teaching of Jesus. Write the following words, down, kids.
“First, take the log out of your own eye before you take the speck
of dust out of your neighbor’s eye.” Again, “First, take the
log out of your own eye before you take the speck of dust out of
your neighbor’s eye.”
This teaching of Jesus is
so graphic, so visual, so seeable. We can all see the log in our eye
that needs to be taken out before you take the speck out of your
This is the tenth dialogue
sermon. These dialogue sermons are based on Jesus’ Sermon on the
Mount. As we know by now, Jesus was teaching large crowds on
the shores of Lake Galilee. After finishing teaching the large
crowds, Jesus invited a small band of his followers up
onto a mountainside overlooking the lake. Jesus was going to give
his small band of twelve followers an entry-level course in
“Christianity, 101,” called Beginning Basics for Believers. In
his course, Jesus talked about the important everyday issues of life
such as anger and hate, love and marriage, worry and prayer, money
and sharing. Jesus then
addressed another important issue: judging others. Jesus knew that
most people were very skilled at pointing at other people's sins
while minimizing their own. Jesus then said to his disciples...
"Do not judge, so that
you may not be judged." Don't
condemn others lest you yourself be condemned.
"Why do you see the speck in your neighbor's eye, but do
not notice the log in your own eye?"
Don't be judgmental!
We human beings are so
instinctively judgmental. It is easy to make snap judgments in our
minds. For example, we hear teenagers quickly appraising the
situation and saying:
Her clothes are … so old
He doesn’t have any
She’s boring. Really
Kind of ugly.
Kind of dumb.
A real wacko.
Adults do the same thing.
We make snap judgments
about those people all the time.
Those people don’t look too smart.
Those people are white
Those people begging
on the street corner are just rip offs.
don’t disciple their kids very well.
aren’t such good parents.
To be honest, those
people are right wingers, nothing but fanatical right wingers.
To be honest, those people
are liberal and left, nothing but fanatical left wingers.
And so we as human beings
make numerous snap judgments about people all the time.
Jesus’ teaching about
specks and logs is a really well known saying of Jesus. People
really relate to this one.
We hear it quoted over and over again and again, as much as
any Bible verse.
"Judge not, lest
you be judged!" “How can you pull out a speck from another
person’s eye when you have such a large log in your own!”
John, when is this verse
most likely to be quoted?
It's when people are on the
defensive. It's a
clever way to turn the tables on someone who is confronting you
about a particular issue. "Who
are you to judge me?" We
use it to protect ourselves. It's
another way of saying, "Mind you own business!
Don't be so judgmental! Don’t be condemning of my
King Solomon wrote a wise
proverb. “Correct an insolent man and he will hate you.
Correct an intelligent man and you will gain a friend.”
John, tell me, is there is a difference between criticism and
condemnation? What do
I think so.
Criticism can be either constructive or destructive.
Constructive criticism given in the spirit of love is
intended to help the one being criticized.
On the other hand, destructive criticism given in the spirit
of condemnation does nothing but tear down a person.
That's simply condemnation.
John, tell that story you
told me about when you were in college.
first year back at college I didn't have much of a social life.
I spent almost all of my time either in class or studying.
The second year I began to lighten up a bit and concentrated
a little more on social interaction.
That's when I made the varsity crew team and started to get a
little too proud of myself. I
had a real close friend at that time by the name of Ralph.
Ralph talked to me one day and said that I was beginning to
act like a "Big Man on Campus" and was ignoring some of my
friends. He said that
my head was getting a little too big for my own good.
And Ralph was right. I
hadn't been taking care of my friendships and I needed to cool my
jets and think about what I was doing.
To this day I consider Ralph one of my best friends because
he was willing to challenge me and give me a word of truth in love
which is exactly what I needed to hear.
That was constructive criticism in the spirit of love.
That’s good. I remember a
similar situation of two people being critical of me. This happened
to me more than thirty years ago, but it has stayed with me through
all these years. I was in CPE, clinical pastoral education at
Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, Illinois. There were two
supervising pastors. I felt my two supervisors had totally different
attitudes towards me. One supervisor didn’t like me very much and
his criticisms felt sharp and stinging. What he said about me was
true, but I couldn’t hear him because I felt he didn’t like my
kind of person. The second supervisor offered the same criticism
about me, but way down deep, he liked me and my kind of personality.
I was able to accept the legitimate criticism from the supervisor
who fundamentally loved and appreciated me as a person. From the
other supervisor, I only heard condemnation and destructive
one of the first points of the sermon is this: Jesus is not trying
to discourage loving honesty. Things
that you may need to tell a person to protect him or her from future
embarrassment or harm. That
kind of loving honesty is one of the greatest gifts you can give or
receive. It takes a
special friend to do that.
John, what was the original
setting for this teaching about judging?
Was Jesus thinking of anyone in particular when he taught
Well, of course it was the
Pharisees who had a tendency to be very judgmental. They were intensely religious.
They made sure they practiced all of their religious rituals
and that was what made them so much better than everyone else. The Pharisees were very quick to point out who the
"sinners" were and you could be sure they were not among
them. They were better
because they were intensely religious and the sinners were not.
They were intensely religious
rather than intensely loving. Jesus
was talking about love not
religion. Jesus was an
example of loving all kinds of people like tax collectors and
prostitutes. Jesus didn’t condemn the tax collectors and
prostitutes who were “easy targets” of criticism by the
Pharisees just didn't “get it” that Jesus loved sinful,
imperfect, flawed people.
The Pharisees acted like they
knew the mind of God. They
seemed to know who would be saved and who would not.
They would judge as though they were God. That reminds me of another time when I was in college and
there was this guy who was going to be a Baptist pastor -- a
conservative Baptist pastor. He
knew that I was interested in the Lutheran ministry and so he used
to lie in wait for me and always try to get me to argue with him
about things like infant baptism, immersion vs. sprinkling, women in
ministry, all those differences between our two traditions.
One day during a discussion we were having he made the
announcement that according to him Lutherans were saved.
I thanked him for pronouncing Lutherans saved and then asked
him who he thought he was to be able to determine who was and was
not saved? Talk about
That does bother us
doesn't it? When others seem to know who is saved and who isn't. Other religions like the Mormons and the Jehovah Witnesses
say they are the only ones who are the true church and only they
will be saved. We
bristle when the Mormons suggest that only those belonging to their
Mormon Church will be saved. We bristle when the Jehovah Witnesses
say that only 144,000 will be saved and only Jehovah Witnesses are
part of God’s elect. We bristle when we hear that only Catholics
or Lutherans will be saved. All these groups used the Bible and
Bible verses to prove their judgments. Today, I hear similar
judgments: only Christians are going to be saved. People in
other religious of the world are not. They are going to hell.
People persistently use selected Bible verses to condemn and
judge other groups. And to be honest, I bristle when I hear
Christians say that they seem to know who are not going to be saved
and who are not going to be saved, and use the Bible to prove their
point of view.
These groups are like the new
Pharisees today always quick to judge others as though they speak
directly for God. We
know, however, that only God knows the heart and only God will judge
in regard to salvation.
As John and I prepare our
sermons, we often talk with people in our parish about the text we
are addressing. The other day, I talked to some of the retired
people during our Tuesday morning Bible Study and asked them about
this business of judging. They had some interesting things to say.
One older person said that it is much too easy to judge
grandchildren. She said that seniors are not try to impose the way
seniors lived on the grandkids today and look judgmental on our
grandchildren simply because the grandchildren do things differently
than we seniors do. Another older person reminded us that when we
point a finger at others that three fingers are pointed back at
ourselves. And still another said that this teaching of Jesus is
similar to his teaching not to throw stones. People who live in
glass houses are not to throw rocks.
I thought about the topic of
judging and figured a good person to talk to about this would be
Judge Darrell Phillipson. He
does it for a living. So
I called up Darrell and asked him what he thought.
He said that he felt Jesus was referring to the
hyper-critical person who says, "everything you do is wrong and
what I do is right. I
know how to live my life and you ought to live yours the way I live
mine. There are eleven
billion people and none of them live their life the way I want them
to. We apply our standards to other people and then judge them
creates separation and distance between ourselves.
Darrell said that when he meets with his group of friends the
most important judgment is that they love me.
I am not a bad person but maybe what I am doing is not a good
thing to do. That kind of judgment or criticism in the spirit of
love is a good thing.
We have to be especially
careful when it comes to the controversial issues. There are a many
issues today that can result in conflict and we often impute God’s
righteousness to our own point of view. Some of the dividing issues
today are about gay marriages, the ordination of gays, the war with
Iraq. Peoples’ feelings become quickly hot about these issues.
Quite often, we feel that God’s righteousness and verdict is on
our side of the argument.
That can be difficult.
The attitude is: I am convinced that I am right and you are wrong but you are
not at all convinced that you are wrong.
That's where the difficulty comes in.
That can create some real conflicts.
Long ago up, Jesus was
sitting on a hillside, overlooking Lake Galilee. Jesus and his
disciple were sitting on grass, and all of them were looking out at
the beauty of the lake below. Jesus was teaching them about the
basics of Christianity, of what it means to be a follower of the
kingdom of God. Jesus was giving his new disciples a new way of
living, a new moral law, a new moral order. He talked about
practical issues such as anger and hate, love and marriage, worry
and prayer, money and sharing. And Jesus then added one more issue
for human beings when he said:
Do not judge, so that you may
not be judged. Do not
condemn lest you be condemned.
First take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see
clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor's eye.
The Apostle Paul said that we
have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Not one of us is without sin.
Recognizing the sin in our
own lives is a prerequisite to helping another person see the sin in
his or her life.
In other words,
first…first…first… take the log out of your own eye before you
try to take the speck of dust out of your neighbor’s eye.