Advent Repentance: Burn Everything Away

 

He will sit like a refiner of silver, burning away the dross.

Mal. 3:3

Increasingly, the season of Advent is being turned into a pre-Christmas holiday. Overwhelmed by shopping, gift-giving, parties, and meal preparations, the major themes of Advent are being lost. In the flurry of activity, we forget that Advent has three focuses: the Second Coming of Christ (1 Thess. 4:13-17), Jesus’s becoming fully man at his first coming (Titus 2:11), and his coming into our hearts now by the work of the Holy Spirit (John 14:16-17).

Scripture teaches that the Second Coming should be a motivator for desiring holiness (1 John 3:2-3). When Jesus appears in the clouds, we whose hearts have been changed by the gospel, will want to be living lives that please him. We desire our attitudes and actions to reflect the grace that has been given us in the Holy Spirit (1 John 2:28). We want to bring joy to his heart as we see him face-to-face (2 Thess. 1:10). Therefore, repentance is a key theme in the season of Advent: deep repentance of heart and mind as we prepare for Christ’s visible return.

Repentance begins as a work of the Holy Spirit; he changes our minds convincing us that our actions are wrong and hurtful. The Holy Spirit’s conviction leads to brokenness over our failure resulting in an admitting of that wrong to the Lord (and to others, if necessary). Our confession opens the door of our hearts to the receiving God’s great forgiveness. The overwhelming, enabling grace of God pours out into our hearts bringing about a change in our behavior.

In short, repentance is a change of mind that by God’s grace leads to change of heart which creates a change in our behavior. Repentance is simple, but not easy: a change of thinking that causes a softening of the heart which alters our conduct. All begins with the recognition that God is right and that we are wrong. We are wrong because we have broken God’s law, Christ’s commands, and /or the Holy Spirit’s leading. As a result, our selfish actions have wounded God’s heart and hurt others. Upon repenting, grace is available for pardon and grace is available for power. Pardon for forgiveness of sin and power to overcome the sin that so easily defeated us. Repentance does not earn God’s forgiveness, his forgiveness is already available through Christ’s finished work on the Cross.

My good friend and fellow parishioner of Lamb of God Church, “Jay” Ferguson, wrote this prayer as a meditation for last year’s Advent season. Jay has now passed and we miss him greatly. Jay’s prayer puts into words the cry of our hearts: “Lord, deal with us. Cleanse us from sin, purify our consciences, renew our spirits. We want to be prepared for Jesus’ second coming as well as being ready to worship and praise the Lord for his first coming.”

Burn Everything Away

Father, in Jesus’ name, burn away every dream, desire, attitude, thought, feeling, word and action that is not a result of Your Spirit reigning in my life.

Burn away everything that is more important to me than my revelation of You and my relationship with You.

Burn away everything that hinders me from loving You with all my heart and loving my neighbors as I love myself.

Burn away everything that hinders me from hearing and obeying Your voice.

Burn away everything I believe about who You are and what You are like that is not the Truth.

Burn away everything in my heart and mind that causes me to desire to harm or destroy those who desire or act to harm or destroy me.

Burn away the lust of my eyes, the lust of my flesh and the pride in my life.

Burn away everything that causes me to desire to own or possess anything that is not rightfully mine.

Burn away everything that causes me to desire to lie or exaggerate to get what I want or impress or harm others.

Father, in Jesus’ name, I ask that I will be deeply intimate with You, filled with your Holy Spirit, free of pride, lust and fear, loving, patient, kind, tender- hearted, forgiving, joyful, thankful, grateful, humble, considerate, healthy, successful, prosperous and very generous.

Dr. James H. Ferguson

Godly vs. Worldly Sorrow

Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.

2 Cor. 7:10 NIV

Godly Sorrow:

1. Godly sorrow begins with the conviction of the Holy Spirit.

2. Godly sorrow is pain over breaking God’s heart.

3. Godly sorrow is remorse over hurting and disappointing others.

4. Godly sorrow is heartfelt grief over violating God’s law.

5. Godly sorrow receives Christ’s forgiveness from the Cross.

6. Godly sorrow produces hope knowing that God’s grace is sufficient for our sins.

7. Godly sorrow hungers for a deeper relationship with God and burns with the desire to please the Holy Spirit.

Worldly Sorrow:

1. Worldly sorrow begins with having gotten caught.

2. Worldly sorrow is pain over having to suffer the consequences of my actions.

3. Worldly sorrow is anger and frustration that life will be more difficult.

4. Worldly sorrow is grief that I did not get what I wanted.

5. Worldly sorrow attempts to earn God’s approval through doing better and trying harder.

6. Worldly sorrow produces despair, I can never be good enough.

7. Worldly sorrow wants God to fix things and make life better.

 

When sorrow for sin has swept over your heart, and you have been deeply convicted of that which you have done and you have cried like David of old, “Against thee , thee only have I sinned”; when you have seen your sin not simply as an offense against the law of the land or a rejection of the voice of conscience, but as sin against God; when it is all over and your heart has been broken about it, will you then still be facing the same way?

Is it right-about-turn or is it as you were? Has there been a right-about-turn and a complete switch around and now an upward look into the face of the Lord Jesus? This the reality of repentance–something that has led you to His feet that has changed the direction of your life, that has caused you to turn right around, and with a broken heart come to Him for cleansing and forgiveness.

Alan Redpath, Blessings Out of Buffetings (Old Tappan, NJ: Revell, 1965), 137. [paragraphing mine]

Repentance: The Door to Being a Great Receiver

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. . . . He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.

1 John 1:9, 2:2

Repentance is not turning inward, but turning around. Repentance is not self-condemnation, but Holy Spirit conviction. Repentance is grace in action: Jesus points out the areas in our lives that are wrong and he then releases, restores, and renews. Repentance is a change of mind that by God’s grace leads to change of heart which creates a change in behavior.

Repentance begins as a work of the Holy Spirit; he changes our minds convincing us that our actions are wrong and hurtful. The Holy Spirit’s conviction leads to brokenness over our failure resulting in an admitting of that wrong to the Lord (and to others, if necessary). Our confession opens the door of our hearts for the receiving God’s great forgiveness. The overwhelming love, mercy, and grace of God pours out into our lives bringing about a change in our behavior.

Repentance is the recognition that God is right and that we are wrong. We are wrong because we have broken God’s law; and as a result, our selfish actions have wounded God’s heart and hurt others. Repentance is not trying to prove to God our sincerity, nor is it a mechanism for earning God’s pardon. Repentance allows you and me to receive the forgiveness that was accomplished for us on the Cross two thousand years ago.

Repentance does not twist God’s arm to give us a forgiveness that he would otherwise be reluctant to release. Repentance is opening the door to a joy and a freedom that has already been given in Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. Repentance says, “Yes, Lord, your work on the Cross was for me and I receive it now without any qualification or hesitation.”

Jesus earned our acceptance before God, now receive it, and walk in it (Rom. 3:21-26). Be a great receiver!

Repentance in the Christian sense is not primarily concerned with doing ‘better’ from now on; it means returning home to him who has done all things ‘well.’

Helmut Thielicke, Being a Christian When the Chips Are Down (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1979), 43.

 

Ash Wednesday: “We Are But Dust”

The Meaning of the Lenten Season

Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.

Ps 51:10 KJV

Ash Wednesday is the service and Lent is the season for repentance from phony Christianity, pretend spirituality, and words without works Christian living. The Holy Spirit uses the Lenten focus as a tool to open our hearts which have grown calloused through selfishness and pride. Throughout the busy year, we become spiritually dull and unapologetically self-absorbed. Our attitudes and actions are insensitive to others’ needs and disobedient to God’s call to life and holiness. Ash Wednesday stops us in our tracks and reminds us that we are but dust and to dust we shall return. Dust can’t demand, dust can’t argue, dust can’t exalt itself, and dust can’t boast. Dust needs God to have life and only in God can these “jars of clay” minister life (Gen. 1:7, Ezekiel 37:4 ).  Ash Wednesday reminds us that we are nothing but dust, dirt, and mire without the crucified and risen Jesus.

We too easily forget our Maker and Redeemer; replacing God with things and ambition. Lent is the season that does something about this situation. It calls us back to God, back to the basics, back to to the spiritual realities of life. It calls us to put to death the sin and the indifference we have in our hearts toward God and our fellow persons. And it beckons us to enter once again into the joy of the Lord–the joy of a new life born out of a death to the old life. That is what Ash Wednesday is all about–the fundamental change of life required of those who would die with Jesus and be raised to a new life in him.

Robert Webber, Ancient-Future Time: Forming Spirituality through the Christian Year (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2004), 99.

Advent Repentance: Burn Away Everything

 

He will sit like a refiner of silver, burning away the dross.

Mal. 3:3

My good friend and fellow parishioner of Lamb of God Church, Jay Ferguson, wrote this prayer as a meditation for this year’s Advent season. Jay’s prayer puts into words the cry of our hearts: “Lord, deal with us. Cleanse us from sin, purify our consciences, renew our spirits. We want to be prepared for Jesus’ second coming and ready to worship and praise the Lord for his first coming.”

Father, in Jesus’ name, burn away every dream, desire, attitude, thought, feeling, word and action that is not a result of Your Spirit reigning in my life.

Burn away everything that is more important to me than my revelation of You and my relationship with You.

Burn away everything that hinders me from loving You with all my heart and loving my neighbors as I love myself.

Burn away everything that hinders me from hearing and obeying Your voice.

Burn away everything I believe about who You are and what You are like that is not the Truth.

Burn away everything in my heart and mind that causes me to desire to harm or destroy those who desire or act to harm or destroy me.

Burn away the lust of my eyes, the lust of my flesh and the pride in my life.

Burn away everything that causes me to desire to own or possess anything that is not rightfully mine.

Burn away everything that causes me to desire to lie or exaggerate to get what I want or impress or harm others.

Father, in Jesus’ name, I ask that I will be deeply intimate with You, filled with your Holy Spirit, free of pride, lust and fear, loving, patient, kind, tender- hearted, forgiving, joyful, thankful, grateful, humble, considerate, healthy, successful, prosperous and very generous.

Dr. James H. Ferguson

The Sacrament of Confession

What is Sacramental Confession?

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

James 5:16

Confession is one lover going to another lover and admitting their faults in the relationship while yearning for restoration and forgiveness. Better yet, confession is the offended lover pouring upon the hurting, shamed, and guilty lover: abundant grace, mercy, and pardon. In relationship to Christ, confession is knowing and experiencing first hand the embrace of the waiting father (Luke 15:20). It is the comfort and security of being able to enjoy once again the lap of Abba Father who smothers the bewildered child with acceptance and love (Gal. 4:4-6).

Reconciliation is grace upon grace; it is forgiveness being poured out like a waterfall. It is finding our way home. It is being affectionately loved by Christ.  It is receiving affirmation, forgiveness, and reconciliation. The Eastern Orthodox Church calls sacramental confession, “the kiss of Christ.” “Kiss me again and again, for your love is sweeter than wine” says the Song of Songs (1:2). Confession is experiencing and expressing Christ’s love for us. Confession is having the opportunity to start anew.

Catherine de Hueck Doherty, Kiss of Christ: Reflections on the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation (Combermere, Ontario: Madonna House Publications, 1998), 7.

Private confession should be retained in the church, for in it consciences afflicted and crushed by the terrors of sin lay themselves bare and receive consolation, which they could not acquire in public preaching. We want to open up confession as a port and refuge for those whose consciences the devil holds enmeshed in his snares and whom he completely bewitches and torments in such a way that they cannot be free or extricate themselves and feel and see nothing else but they must perish. To such, then, an approach to confession should be opened up so that they may seek and find consolation among the ministers of the church.

Martin Luther cited in Thomas C. Oden, Classical Pastoral Care, Volume Two: Ministry through Word and Sacrament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1987), 135.

My entire essay on the sacrament of confession entitled, “Experiencing Our Heavenly Father’s Embrace: Sacrament of Confession as Counseling” is available as a Google document.

Repentance: The Joy-Filled Life

Ash Wednesday Sermon

For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.

2 Cor 7:10-11

Definition: Repentance is simple, but not easy: repentance is a change of mind that by God’s grace leads to change of heart which creates a change in our behavior.

Conclusion: Even when we fail, God keeps his face turned toward us. We are still his child, but our behavior he cannot honor. Therefore when we sin, the Lord withdraws his presence from us (not our salvation). Repentance allows us to enter back into his presence and enjoy all the blessings of New Covenant (Jer. 31:31-34).

Repentance is a lifestyle not a one-act play. Repentance is a life-long interaction with the Holy Spirit: convicting, forgiving, releasing, restoring, and renewing. We are joyful because Christ forgives freely, Christ’s righteousness applies always, and Christ’s presence is available constantly. We are therefore free from self-consciousness, sin-consciousness, Satan-consciousness, and performance consciousness. We are free to enjoy Jesus.

My sermon outline and notes for “Repentance: The Joy-Filled Life” are available in their entirely as a Google document.

How Can Our Hearts Be Changed?

300px-Caravaggio-The_Conversion_on_the_Way_to_Damascus

Evangelical Essentials (Part Three)

We are hard. We are selfish. We are blind. We are self-absorbed. What hope do we have for real change in our character, choices, and lives? Can someone or something really change me? Yes, we can change, but not by our own power and ability. God can and will change us from bad people to good. Not only does God desire this change in our lives, he requires that we undergo a complete re-creation of our hearts.

How does God change us? How can God take a bad person like me and change me into good person?  He gives us new hearts (Ezek. 36:24-28, Jer. 31:33-34, 32:40-41). The Cross melts our hearts by his great love, his grace pours out a salvation we do not deserve and his Spirit transforms us by making us new creations (2 Cor. 5:17).

Do we really believe that the Cross can change lives? Do we believe that the crucified Christ can meet anyone in their sin, selfishness, and pride and conquer their hearts by his great grace, mercy, and love? The answer must be yes. The Apostle Paul declares,”For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes (Rom. 1:16 NJKV). The Cross can change any heart, transform any life, break any addiction, and heal any pain.

As we look to Christ in faith, how does the Cross deliver us from our selfishness? Evangelicals appeal to the words of Jesus, “You must be born-again” (John 3:7). To be born-again is to receive a heart-change by the power of the Holy Spirit: a motivation transformation from selfishness to Christ-centeredness. This regenerative work is a ministry of the Holy Spirit:

In the new birth, the Holy Spirit unites us to Christ in a living union. Christ is life. Christ is the vine where life flows. We are the branches (John 15:1–17). What happens in the new birth is the supernatural creation of new spiritual life, and it is created through union with Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit brings us into vital connection with Christ who is the way, the truth, and the life.

[John Piper, Finally Alive: What Happens When We Are Born Again (Geanies House, Fearn, Ross-shire, Scotland: Christian Focus, 2009), 32.]

He has washed us and given us new hearts: ones that hunger to love, serve, and please God. As a result, we are children of God; we are made new creations; cleansed, transformed, and regenerated by the Holy Spirit.

What happens in the new birth is not the improvement of your old human nature but the creation of a new human nature—a nature that is really you, forgiven and cleansed; and a nature that is really new, being formed in you by the indwelling Spirit of God.

[John Piper, Finally Alive, 37]

Our motivation is changed so that all we want to do is to please him (2 Cor. 5:9, Song 4:9, Zeph. 3:17). We do not want to say or do anything that will break God’s heart or cause his Holy Spirit to be grieved. The Cross has done this work in our hearts: we are now free from sin-consciousness, self-consciousness, and performance-consciousness. Regeneration occurs when we “confess with our mouths and believe in our hearts that God raised Christ from the dead” then and only then are we “justified” and “saved” (Rom. 10:9-10). This heart change occurs when we repent of our past sins and look to Christ to be our saviour. (Repentance and faith are the conditions of salvation and baptism is a condition of obedience.)

Repentance is is simple, but not easy; a change of mind and heart which affects my attitude and alters my conduct. Repentance is not turning inward, but turning around. It is the recognition that God is right and that I am wrong. I am wrong because I have broken God’s law; as a result, my selfish actions have wounded God’s heart and hurt others.

Faith is directed towards a person, Jesus. It is in fact a complete commitment to Jesus Christ involving not only an acceptance of what is offered, salvation and forgiveness, but a humble surrender to what is or may be demanded, his Lordship. The bent knee is as much a part of saving faith as the open hand. Faith is receiving what Christ for us on the Cross in the past and submitting to what Christ will do in our lives in the future.

Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.”

Acts 2:38-39 NKJV

Lose All Your Guilty Stains

christ_on_the_cross-400

There Is a Fountain Filled with Blood (Chapter Nine)

The soul who sins shall die (Ezekiel 18:20 ESV).

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom 6:23 ESV).

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Cor 5:21 ESV).

The biggest problem to experiencing personal revival is sin, individual and corporate. My sin and your sin grieve the Holy Spirit and prevent him from blessing our lives and our ministry efforts on his behalf. Our relationship with God remains in tact, but our fellowship with each person of the blessed Trinity suffers. In chapter ten of The Calvary Road, Roy Hession explains the simplicity of “walking in the Spirit” (Gal. 5:25) and maintaining on-going fellowship with God:

The message and challenge of Revival, which is coming to many of us these days, is searching in its utter simplicity. It is simply that there is only one thing in the world that can hinder the Christian’s walking in victorious fellowship with God and his being filled with the Holy Spirit – and that is sin in one form or another (pg. 97).

We all sin and we know that our behavior disappoints God and hurts others. I am wrong because I have broken God’s law; my selfish actions have wounded God’s heart and hurt others. Sin turns the world upside down: it says that everyone and everything should revolve around my desires, needs, and wants. My sin is rebellion toward God and unbelief in his plans and purposes. Sin came into the world through Adam’s fall and continues through my willful rebellion and unbelief.

I have failed as a Christian so what do I do? I try harder. No, I look to the same grace that saved me to forgive me. I must remember that I am accepted by God not based my personal performance, but based on Christ’s infinitely beautiful performance on the Cross. “But  if we walk in the light,  as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and  the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin (1 John 1:7-8 ESV). I run to the blood of Christ to find forgiveness, cleansing, and renewal.

There is only one thing in the world that can cleanse him from sin with all that that means of liberty and victory – and that is the power of the Blood of the Lord Jesus. It is, however, most important for us that we should see what it is that gives the Blood of Christ its mighty power with God on behalf of men, for then we shall understand the conditions on which its full power may be experienced in our lives (pg. 97).

The blood of Christ is clear confirmation that Christ died a sacrificial death to pay for our release from the captivity of sin and bondage to Satan’s schemes. In other words, we owe our salvation to the death of Christ. His blood removes our guilt before God (1 Pet.1:18-19), cleanses ours stricken consciences (Heb. 9:14), gives us bold access to the Father (Heb. 10:19), on-going cleansing from our sin (1 John 1:7) and conquers all of Satan’s accusations (Rev. 12:10-11). We sinned, the penalty of our sin is death, Christ took our place, and died so that we might live. Jesus’ blood condemns death and in that death, the penalty of our sin was paid in full. In short, the blood of Jesus is the virtue of his death for our sins. That virtue continues to flow even after we become Christians.

How many achievements and how many blessings for men the Scripture ascribes to the power of the Blood of the Lord Jesus! By the power of His Blood peace is made between man and God (Col 1:20). By its power there is forgiveness of sins and eternal life for all who put their faith in the Lord Jesus (Col 1:14; John 6:54). By the power of His Blood Satan is overcome (Rev 12:11). By its power there is continual cleansing from all sin for us (1 John 1:7). By the power of His Blood we may be set free from the tyranny of an evil conscience to serve the living God (Heb 9:14). By its infinite power with God the most unworthy have liberty to enter the Holy of Holies of God’s presence and live there all the day (Heb 10:19) (pg. 98).

How do we experience the full power of the blood of Christ in our lives? Repentance. Repentance is simple, but not easy. It is a change of mind and heart which affects my attitude and alters my conduct. Repentance is not turning inward, but turning around. It is the recognition that God is right and that I am wrong. Repentance renews my fellowship with the Lord that was lost through sin. Repentance opens the door to the forgiveness that was already bought for me on the Cross. Repentance is not trying to get God to forgive, but receiving the forgiveness that Christ released two thousand years ago on Calvary’s hill. That forgiveness, that blood, that joy is flowing, always flowing from Golgotha.

There is a fountain filled with blood

Drawn from Immanuel’s veins;

And sinners, plunged beneath that flood,

Lose all their guilty stains.

Forgiveness is not getting even: it is giving away the right to get even. We have committed grave injustices in the world. In fact, we have acted in such a way that we place ourselves above all others. By our behavior, attitudes, and actions we have turned the world upside down by making ourselves the center of attention instead of God and his glory. When God forgives us, he chooses to forget all the wrongs that we have done to him and all damage that we have done to others. Because of Christ’s awesome and bloody sacrifice, God himself gives away the right to get even with us. Forgiveness is always found in the blood of Christ.

Lord, teach us to run to the foot of the Cross that there we might repent and receive the forgiveness bought for us by the blood of the Lamb.

Correction and Confrontation

the_calvaryroad_hession

The Speck and the Plank (Chapter Seven)

We continue in our study of The Calvary Road by Roy Hession with some reflections on personal correction and one-on-one confrontation in the Christian life.

Judge not, that you be not judged.  For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and  with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but  do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye?  You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye (Matt 7:1-5 ESV).

Matthew 7:1-5 is one of the most misused, misunderstood, and misappropriated passages in the entire New Testament. These verses found in the heart of the Sermon of the Mount have been used to justify my right to sin, “you should not judge me” and my right to reject correction, “you have more faults than me,” and my right to be defensive, “you have no right to speak to me about my failings.” Yet, these unique verses which describe, “specks” and “planks” are God’s gift to not only bring personal revival to the offender, but also to the offended.

Now we all know what Jesus meant by the mote (speck) in the other person’s eye. It is some fault which we fancy we can discern in him; it may be an act he has done against us, or some attitude he adopts towards us. But what did the Lord Jesus mean by the beam (plank) in our eye? I suggest that the beam in our eye is simply our unloving reaction to the other man’s mote. Without doubt there is a wrong in the other person. But our reaction to that wrong is wrong too! The mote in him has provoked in us resentment, or coldness, or criticism, or bitterness, or evil speaking, or ill will – all of them variants of the basic ill, unlove. And that, says the Lord Jesus, is far, far worse than the tiny wrong (sometimes quite unconscious) that provoked it. A mote means in the Greek a little splinter, whereas a beam means a rafter. And the Lord Jesus means by this comparison to tell us that our unloving reaction to the other’s wrong is what a great rafter is to a little splinter! (pg. 81).

Jesus has allowed a fault of another to touch our sensitivities: we are offended, our hurt is real or imagined, and we long for some type of justice. We want the offender corrected, but as Hession stated, our reaction, in many instances, is many times worse than the original offence. God by his sovereignty is exposing a flesh pattern in my life: playing the martyr, sorrow for the victim, and pity for the wounded.

It is some fault which we fancy we can discern in him; it may be an act he has done against us, or some attitude he adopts towards us. But what did the Lord Jesus mean by the beam in our eye? I suggest that the beam in our eye is simply our unloving reaction to the other man’s mote. Without doubt there is a wrong in the other person. But our reaction to that wrong is wrong too! The mote in him has provoked in us resentment, or coldness, or criticism, or bitterness, or evil speaking, or ill will – all of them variants of the basic ill, unlove. And that, says the Lord Jesus, is far, far worse than the tiny wrong (sometimes quite unconscious) that provoked it (pg. 83).

So, what exactly is the plank in our eye?

The first beginning of a resentment is a beam, as is also the first flicker of an unkind thought, or the first suggestion of unloving criticism. Where that is so, it only distorts our vision and we shall never see our brother as he really is, beloved of God. If we speak to our brother with that in our hearts, it will only provoke him to adopt the same hard attitude to us . . . (pg. 84).

To help our brother or sister in Christ, we must first go the Cross with our offense and find the peace of Christ concerning that offense.

Very often bystanders will tell us, and sometimes our own hearts, that the sin we are confessing is not nearly so bad as the other’s wrong, which he is not yet confessing. But we have been to Calvary, indeed we are learning to live under the shadow of Calvary, and we have seen our sin there and we can no longer compare our sin with another’s (pg. 85).

We gain freedom from sin by taking our attitude to the Cross and then we gain a friend who now knows that we care about their needs and blind spots. Notice, the text does NOT say notice your faults and give up on correcting and confronting your brother or sister. The text does say, “You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye” (Matt 7:5 ESV). After God deals with us, then we are equipped by the Holy Spirit to help others with their spiritual lives. The offenders will now be able to receive the correction that the Lord has been longing to give him or her, but God could not confront because of our bad attitude.

He who ignores discipline comes to poverty and shame, but whoever heeds correction is honored (Prov 13:18 NIV).

Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself (Gal 6:1-2 NLT).

My dear brothers and sisters, if someone among you wanders away from the truth and is brought back, you can be sure that whoever brings the sinner back will save that person from death and bring about the forgiveness of many sins (James 5:19-20 NLT).