Rethinking Judgement — Part 2

Thinking Man

In the first article of the series, I established several foundational ideas:

  • Judgement was the Original Sin, as seen in the creation account, and is the basis of all human brokenness.
  • Judgement means elevating ourselves as gods, assuming we know the motives of the heart.
  • Only God can judge, and we should never step on that sacred ground.

Accurate self-judgement is impossible.

Today I’m looking at judgement of the self, which is the assumption of our own motives. Paul makes it clear this is not our place. 1 Corinthians 4:3-5,

‘I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God.’

Paul knew a great personal freedom here – he was unconcerned about the judgements of others, which meant he was free from people-pleasing. I know very few people who truly live this way, but those who do are free indeed! His second statement – that he doesn’t even judge himself – is pertinent to this article. He makes it clear that only God knows the heart, and that even if we live with integrity and a clean conscience, that doesn’t mean we are in a position to judge ourselves with any kind of accuracy.

My partner is a gifted psychotherapist, and frequently digs into my motivations (sometimes without invitation). Over the years I’ve come to understand much of what drives me, but to use a cliché, human motivation is like an onion – peel off one layer and there is another beneath. I might make a personal discovery, which is in and of itself transformative, only to discover it is underpinned by yet another negative self-belief. We can only perceive what we’re ready to see.

Even for the most honest and open people, understanding personal motivation is a lifelong pilgrimage. We can make progress, but the journey is never complete. That is what Final Judgement is for. As quoted above – ‘Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God.’

Judging ourselves is not only foolish; it is harmful, and harm is the essence of sin. For our perfect example, we turn to Jesus, the author and perfector of faith.

Jesus struggled with self-doubt too.

In Matthew’s Gospel, we see that at the commencement of his ministry he went into the wilderness to fast, pray and battle temptation. Matthew 4, 1-11:

‘Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:,/p>

“‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”

Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”,/p>

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendour. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”

Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.”

Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.’

These three temptations were not arbitrary. These were crucial personal battles Jesus had to fight and win before he was ready to fulfil his calling. I’d love to look at all three lessons, but for the purposes of this article, I’ll focus only on the third – the temptation to judge himself insufficient for the task God had set him.

The Devil’s offer to give him ‘all the kingdoms of the world’ if Jesus would worship him was a test of his trust in himself. If he believed himself able, called, anointed, he had no need to lean on Satan’s supernatural help. If he were insecure, doubting, judging himself anything less than the Saviour of the World, he might have given in to temptation.

Sometimes I think about the young Jesus, and wonder how much he knew and when he came to know it. I certainly don’t believe he was born omniscient. Was he the only human ever to be fully self-aware through his birth? Did he walk around with knowledge of the future, secretly daydreaming about helicopters? Of course not. I’m convinced that Jesus lived and grew as an ordinary human being. The first indication that he’d entered into revelation knowledge of his divine nature is found in Luke chapter 2, when his parents realised they’d left him in Jerusalem, and after searching frantically, found him in the temple courts:

After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers.

When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.”

“Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?”

Based on this, it is safe to assume that between the age of zero and twelve, Jesus had undergone a process of revelation, until one day he must have finally grasped that he was, in fact, the Great I Am. Jesus was as subject to vulnerability as any of us, and must have known doubt. His knowledge was a matter of faith rather than demonstrable fact, so there must have been times when he questioned his own sanity, or at least his sufficiency for the task.

And so, eighteen years later, when Satan promised to bring the world to his feet, Jesus was offered a guarantee of success where he might have felt uncertain. Hebrews makes it clear that Christ was tempted in every way that we are tempted, and in that moment, with his body malnourished and his mind stretched to breaking point, it would have been easy to judge himself insufficient for what lay ahead.

In a tremendous show of faith, Jesus rejected Satan’s offering and sent him packing, at which point his preparation for ministry was complete. Any person with a calling from God must judge themselves able to fulfil it (in the power and strength of the One who called them), or they are guaranteed to fail.

Jesus wrestled with self-judgement in Gethsemane.

If we skip to the Garden of Gethsemane, we see the fruit of this early preparation. Matt 26, 32-36:

‘They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he said to them. “Stay here and keep watch.”

Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”

In those dark hours, Jesus became embroiled in the same battle he’d fought in the wilderness. When perceiving the burden about to be laid upon him, he must surely have doubted his sufficiency for the task. I’m not referring to the physical pain he was to endure, nor the jeering and spite of his own creation. The worst torment of the cross was that Jesus became sin, which as previously written about, is human brokenness. The perfect Lamb of God became the state and sum of all human harm. 2 Corinthians 5, 21:,

‘God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.’

Ultimately, Jesus refused to give into self-judgement, and bowed the head to his Father. For us, there is a lesson here – if God has called us to do it, we will be empowered to complete the work he has given us.

Jesus goes before us in everything. He is our perfect example – in devotion, in power, in obedience, in love, and in his approach to judgement, including judgement of the self.

Self-judgement is a dream killer.

Our lives are shaped by self-perception, our opportunities for blessing and joy limited by ceilings we construct above our heads. Self-judgement keeps us from receiving mercy, from making friends, from fitting in, from contributing. That little voice that says ‘I’m not good enough’ is an insidious enemy.

What about you? Do you judge yourself harshly? Do you feel you’re not good enough? I hope you’ll let me encourage you.

You were good enough for God to dream you up in the first place, and good enough to be subject to divine knowledge and love. You are the pearl of great price, perhaps the treasured lost coin, or even the sheep who went astray, and for whom the Lord searched until he found you again. You are good enough to call, to be chosen, to have your place in the Body of Christ, to be a member of the Divine family. You have a place in Heaven, prepared for you by Jesus himself. You are good enough to feast at the table, to have anointing oil poured on your head, for goodness and mercy to follow you every day of your life. You are the joy set before Christ, with whom you are a co-heir for eternity. I promise you are good enough.

What judgements have you hemmed yourself in with? In what ways do you doubt yourself or even sabotage your chances? What Biblical truth can you replace those judgements with?

1/7/2022 12:30:57 AM
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    About Duncan Pile
    Duncan Pile is a writer, author and speaker, living in Derbyshire, England with his wife and stepson. His mystical approach to faith straddles the Evangelical/Progressive divide, and flowing from lived experience, he is passionate about the deconstruction and reconstruction of the Christian faith.