Before We Criticize

Yesterday I picked up my friend Peter Kennedy. As we drove off, the “ding-ding-ding” warning sounded, and I said to Peter, “Seatbelt, Brother.” He said, “I have my seatbelt on.”

I looked. He did.

I didn’t.

I had a good laugh over that!

There’s a lesson in that

How human it is to be more conscious of others’ perceived faults than our own.

“Why,” Jesus asked, “do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is 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” (Matthew 7:3, 5).

The Pharisee in Jesus’ parable prayed in the temple, “God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.

“I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get”

Big Me, little you. O what a good boy am I!

God was not impressed.

The attitude God can bless

But the tax collector, standing nearby, humbly confessed, “God, be merciful to me, the sinner!” It was that man who went home a forgiven man, Jesus said, while the Pharisee did not (Luke 18:9-14).

Humility goes a long way with God.

Pride gets nowhere.



Scripture quotations taken from the NASB:

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Jesus, Yes! Church, No?


It’s probably true to say that most people who know anything about Jesus truly admire Him.

He showed such compassion for the downtrodden. He sacrificed Himself for others—including those who crucified Him.

No wonder so many find Him appealing!

And yet . . . .

These positive feelings often don’t transfer to the church. Why not?

“Church members don’t practice what they preach.”

“They think they’re better than others.”

“They’re intolerant of those who don’t believe as they do.”

“They can’t even get along with each other.”

“When I tried going to church I did not feel welcome.”


Guilty as charged?

Sad to say, many of these charges are true. Christians are often poor advertisements for Christ.

But let’s see if we can put things into perspective.

If we are to see the church accurately, we must view it through the eyes of its Founder.

In the New Testament Christ reveals His will for His church.

We read of congregations that greatly pleased Christ (like the Philippians), but also those He was extremely upset with (such as the Galatians).

Even the best churches had their faults. The letters of Paul, James, Peter, John, and Jude and the book of Hebrews show what was right with the church and what was wrong.

Where churches fall short, repentance is called for (Revelation 2-3).

The same is true today

Only Jesus is perfect.

The plan He left for His church is perfect (1 Timothy 3:15).

Those who profess to belong to Him are often far from perfect—including me.

Jesus warns that on Judgment Day He will say to many who call Him Lord, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness” (Matthew 7:21-23).

Jesus does not accept all who claim Him: “The Lord knows those who are His” (2 Timothy 2:19).

He is the only Head of only one body, His church (1 Corinthians 12:12-14; Ephesians 1:22-23; 2:16; 4:4).

What Christ establishes, Satan counterfeits.

But Jesus embraces His true disciples who humbly and penitently admit their failures and who make a sincere effort to grow into His likeness.

Jesus never gives up on His church.

Nor should we.


Scripture quotations taken from the NASB:

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Outward appearance

I watched my nephew unwrap a candy bar, then immediately throw it away uneaten. It was infested with bugs!

The Lord doesn’t need to remove the wrapper around our hearts to know what’s inside (John 2:24-25).

Jesus directed His harshest words at the Pharisees: “For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness” (Matthew 23:27, emphasis added).

How much easier to care more about looking good than being righteous!

As our preacher Joel Shelton says, “God hates fake!”

Inward integrity

In contrast, Jesus could say of Nathanael, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” (John 1:47).

Nathanael was the real-deal—from the inside out.


Scripture quotations taken from the NASB:

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“What You See is What You Get”


Authentic vs. Fake

Someone who is transparent is “free from pretense or deceit” (

Nathaniel was transparent. Jesus assessed him as “an Israelite indeed in whom is no deceit!” (John 1:47).

Ironically, the expression “see through someone” is the very opposite of “transparent.”

No one ever fooled Jesus (John 2:24-25). He could see right through pretenders (Matthew 23:27-28).

Sincerity Plus….

Sincerity alone is not sufficient. Saul of Tarsus persecuted the church in all good conscience (Acts 23:1; 1 Timothy 1:12-13).

And yet sincerity is an absolute essential if we are to please God. Sincerity plus truth is the winning combination!

Because Saul was sincere, he repented when he learned the truth.

Only then could God use him.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB:

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Why did the tower cross the road?

Traveling to Sulphur Springs, I like to ask my passenger which side of the road the water tower ahead is on.

Your eyes tell you it’s on the left. But as you approach, the road curves left, and the tower “jumps” to the right.

Not what we thought!

Some people are like that. They certainly seem like fine Christian folks. But in time their true character comes out.


Since God knows all, we might as well put our masks aside and admit with the penitent tax collector in Jesus’ parable, “God, be merciful to me, the sinner!” (Luke 18:13).

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB:

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Have You Been Burned?

As a preschooler I found a short length of electrical cord that had been cut off from an appliance. When I plugged it in, sparks flew! It was a long time before I plugged anything else in!


Over-reacting, perhaps?

How easy it is for our thinking to be permanently short-circuited by an unpleasant encounter.

What happens when we get burned by someone claiming to be a Christian? “Well, if that’s what Christianity is all about, I want no part of it!”

Does that give us an out?

Yes, there are frauds and pretenders posing as Christians. Christ will take care of hypocrites (Matthew 13:41-42).

Does the counterfeit negate the genuine? Do hypocrites exempt any of us from obeying Christ? (Hebrews 5:8-9)

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