Judge yourself honestly

This is a wonderful day. It is the day when our Lord Jesus Christ rose from the grave. It is a day when the laws of nature and the demons of hell could not keep Him in the grave; when the Pharisees gathered unanimously against Him to work up the people of Jerusalem to oppose Him and His followers; God steadily went ahead with His plans and His Son rose on this day. I have never feared opposition. I have never feared that it can kill the church of Christ. Through the ages it has been unable to accomplish this. Do you know what I fear? I fear that I may grieve the Holy Spirit through something I do, think or say and that the revival will silently disappear because God has withdrawn Himself and a deadness has descended on the church. There can be masses of people, beautiful buildings, key politicians but God’s way is this: if He is grieved, He quietly withdraws without a sound, without doing a thing. When you open your eyes, He is no longer there. How do we make sure that nothing comes between us and God and the revival quietens and disappears?

Wherever there has been a true revival, there has always been a deep conviction of sin. If there is anything that will make God withdraw and cause this revival to dry up, it is tolerating sin in our midst. Do not make the mistake; if God has truly spoken to you through His Holy Spirit, you will be convicted of your sins and you may appear the worst sinner of all. You will forget about the mistakes and sins of the people around you because your own sins, which you need to bring to the Lord and receive forgiveness for, are huge.

Richard Baxter, the author of the book, The Reformed Pastor lived in the 1600s. In the reformed churches he is the example of a reformed pastor. On his death bed he said, “I must be the vilest dung worm that ever went to heaven.” Did he say by this because God’s word is not true because it was Paul who said that he was the greatest of sinners? No, because he was aware of his sins, Richard Baxter felt that he was a greater sinner than Paul.

Depth of mercy! Can there be

Mercy still reserved for me?
Can my God His wrath forbear,
Me, the chief of sinners, spare?

When Charles Wesley wrote this hymn, he called himself the chief of sinners. One could say, “But Charles, you don’t agree with the Bible verse that says that Paul is the chief of sinners.” No, when God convicts you of your sins and you have truly seen the evil of your heart, you feel that you are the chief of sinners.

Let us look at how a person continues in the Christian life. How can we stop the precious fellowship with the Holy Spirit from being interrupted in our lives? Brethren, this is what we have been called to do. We have been called to speak to sinners and to show them the way to salvation where they can meet with Christ, have their sins forgiven and emerge with a clean heart, no matter what lives they have led.

Today’s text is taken from 1 Corinthians 11:31-32

31 But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. 32 But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world. 1 Corinthians 11:31 – 32

These verses are written in the context of preparation for the Lord’s supper but it establishes a principle for the church for all time. What is the lesson? Judge yourself and your conscience truly against the background of God’s word and as you find yourself condemned and guilty, go to the Lord and say, “Lord, I have sinned.” God forgives us. By doing this we discipline ourselves and expose ourselves to the discipline of God.

I will look at three examples of this in God’s word.

The first example is Martha.

40 But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” 41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things… Luke 10:40 – 41

This is a well-known text. When Jesus visited Martha and her sister Mary, Mary sat at the Lord’s feet and listened while Martha prepared for the guests. Finally, she spoke to the Lord. Usually Martha’s mistake is preached about, and that Mary did the right thing. Martha was too busy to listen to the Lord and Mary quietly listened to Him. This text has been used to demonstrate Martha’s weakness. Friends, the real strength of Martha is displayed here. What is it? It is easy to miss. She brought her complaint to the Lord and although He reprimanded and disciplined her, she was victorious because she had brought it to the Lord to judge her action.

32 But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world. 1 Corinthians 11:32

Are you afraid to go to God with your mistakes and sins? Do you go to God even when you think you have been treated unjustly? If you bring your life to God, you allow Him to judge your actions and discipline you. Martha did this. She went to the Lord. She might have thought the Lord would take her side but to her surprise He did not, but said, “Martha, you are wrong. You are concerned about many things; Mary has taken the right route.” Can we accept this? Do we bring everything we do in prayer to the Lord? Do I allow God to point out a sin or do I expect God to take my side in a matter and encourage me to go against my opposition?

There is a trick to this because the heart of man is deceitful above all things. You can go alone to the Lord and say, “Lord, I am being unjustly treated. Just look at what they are doing!” You get up from your knees and you are convinced that the Lord is with you. You say, “I brought it to the Lord. The Lord has seen the injustice done to me and He will take my side and fight for me!” Meanwhile, the Lord has not taken my side and I have lost contact with Him. I brought the matter to the Lord but because I did not allow Him to reprimand me, I have lost contact with Him. Do you know what can help in this situation? When you have brought something to the Lord, take it to a counsellor whom you can trust, a person who can look at the matter objectively and say, “Are you sure God is on your side? Are you sure Mary wasn’t right, and you were wrong?” This is where the value of fellowship and walking in the light comes in. You can spend hours in prayer, convinced that God is with you and everything and everybody is against you and that you are being treated unfairly. You continue to believe that God is with you because you have brought the matter to Him in faith.

Allow me to read an excerpt from the East African revival. I have referred to this revival thrice before and this will be the fourth time. There is so much in that revival which is similar to how God has worked in this revival. This excerpt is from My Calvary Road by Roy Hession:

We have become so used to the fact that God knows all about us that it does not seem to register with us, and we inevitably end by not knowing the truth about ourselves. But let a man begin to be absolutely honest about himself with but one other, as God guides him, and he will come to a knowledge of himself and his sins that he never had before, and he will begin to see more clearly than ever before where the redemption of Christ has got to be applied progressively to his life. This is the reason why James tells us to put ourselves under the discipline of "confessing our faults one to another."

In 1 John 1:7, of course, the purpose of "walking in the light" is that we might "have fellowship one with another." And what fellowship it is when we walk this way together! Obviously, love will flow from one to another, when each is prepared to be known as the repentant sinner he is at the Cross of Jesus. When the barriers are down and the masks are off, God has a chance of making us really one. But there is also the added joy of knowing that in such a fellowship we are "safe." No fear now that others may be thinking thoughts about us or having reactions toward us which they are hiding from us. In a fellowship which is committed to walk in the light beneath the Cross, we know that if there is any thought about us it will quickly be brought into the light, either in brokenness and confession (where there has been wrong and unlove), or else as a loving challenge, as something that we ought to know about ourselves.

That is what happened to Martha. There was something that she had to know about herself. Friend, have you allowed God to test and trial you, have you judge yourself so that all these things can be dealt with in your life?

It must not, however, be forgotten that our walk in the light is first and foremost with the Lord Jesus. Then it was that God sent back to England some missionaries and African leaders from Uganda, Rwanda and Kenya, and they came back expressly to share with the Christians of England what they had been learning in revival…

The east African revival had continued for 50 years so he arranged a conference where the speakers were Africans from the countries that had experienced revival. Very often they were brought into the fullness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ through the testimony and challenge of the Africans. Friends, he was the man who arranged the conference. He invited them. But they saw his needs. Oh, for humility. Thank God that he did not object.

Well, that revival touched me because I invited these men to my conference, to be the speakers, and I little knew that they'd get more concerned for the leader of that conference than for anybody else. And they really began to counsel me. They began to share the little they had begun to see of my need - and I was in a state of need! “Roy, you need to repent.” I said, “Where do I need to repent” In all honesty I didn't know - I was working so hard, I was praying so much, I was preaching so strong, doing so much. They said, “Well, we don't know where you need to repent. We could, of course, make a suggestion. You see, we've only just got to know you. But we've got to know enough to be able to suggest at least one place where you might begin, and that's in your relationship with your wife. When we came on the campus, you said. 'Fellows, get in the car, I've got to go to one of the other houses to make some arrangements.' And in that house we saw you talking to a young lady; we didn't know by the way in which you spoke to her whether she was your secretary or your wife...” Well, I took it to heart. I had a special “victorious life” message, which had ceased to work. And I said to myself, I'm going to park that message and am just going to respond to current light as it comes. That current light came to show me sin where I hadn't seen it before, and I began on a path of repentance. Hession, R. (1950) My Calvary Road. Roy Hession Book Trust. (pp10, 30) Roy Hession began experiencing revival.

Friends, God has given us a gem of a revival between different races here which I have not seen anywhere else in South Africa or in the world. We have gold. Let them oppose us; put us before a firing squad, but this is too precious for us to let go of because of the basic truths God has taught us.

“Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. Isaiah 1:18.

What does this mean? Sit down and be transparent about where you have made mistakes and sinned. Allow Me to reprimand you and show you your mistakes.

The second example is Moses who was trained in the royal palace of Pharaoh. One day he saw an Israelite being mistreated. The following day when he tried to stop two Israelites fighting, they said, “Listen, are you going to kill us like you killed the Egyptian?” Moses could have kept that deed to himself and from the Lord, we do not know how he presented it to the Lord but from the fruit it is obvious that brought everything he did to the Lord. Some people wonder why Moses killed the Egyptian - it could have been in anger. Friends, anger is a terrible thing! Do you find excuses for your anger? Husband, do you take your temper episodes with your family or your wife to the Lord so that He can judge and discipline you? By hiding your anger and justifying yourself, you close the door for the Lord to work? The Lord works when we expose our sins.

Last week in a branch of the mission in Mozambique, a girl was brought to the clinic who suffered from episodes of ‘going dead’. The doctor there phoned me and said, “I do not understand - she is dead, but after a while she wakes up. When she has woken up, I check everything. The heart is normal. Her blood pressure is normal. The sugar is normal. Everything is normal. I cannot find any fault but in 5 minutes she is literally a dead person.” She apparently had an abortion some time ago. The doctor asked whether she should send her to a hospital. I responded and said, “This sounds like a spiritual thing. The next time she wakes up speak to her about the abortion. Ask her why she had the abortion and see whether there is not a spiritual reason for these episodes where she leaves her body.” (Oh, the girls in our country who abort, you do not know the power that you give to Satan to rule over your lives!)
The doctor said, “Shouldn’t we rather send her to the hospital because what if we keep her and she dies on our hands?” When she woke up, they began probing. When did she have the abortion? Why did she have the abortion? She had the abortion because her father forced her. “My father is a sangoma and he wanted me to have an abortion,” she said. We do not know what he wanted to do with the aborted child, he may have wanted to make a tokoloshe or something. This girl exposed her sins. After she had spoken about the abortion, all the evil she had committed poured out of her mouth. They sat with her late into night and then she fell asleep. The following morning, she brought two pages of sins that she had written down in which she had been involved. They phoned the parents who were so concerned about her. They brought the beads, ropes and fetishes that she had and burned them. She is now perfectly normal. There are no attacks. Do you know what she asked? “Please come on Sunday and preach in my community.” So today, they are taking a service in her community. Do you see the power if we expose ourselves to God, judge ourselves and let God judge us?

We do not know why Moses struck and killed the Egyptian. Many people say that he acted in anger. Anger is a terrible thing. In a coal mine there are poisonous gases that accumulate where miners work. If there is no ventilation for the gases to escape and there is a spark from machinery or equipment, that place will explode. What is it like in your heart? Do you allow the poisonous gases of anger in your heart? Let me warn you - a day will come when there will be a spark! Somebody will say something, there will be a spark and you will be unable to control yourself. Get fresh air into your heart! Open your heart up. Clean air needs to enter. You need the grace of God to fill your heart. You do this by speaking to a child of God and asking him/her to pray with you.

Moses may have killed the Egyptian in anger. He could have sinned by acting in a carnal way - he wanted to sort out the injustice of an Egyptian beating a Jew. There are many reasons why he could have sinned. Moses had to flee because Pharaoh heard that he had killed an Egyptian. How did God discipline Moses because of this? God sent him into the desert for 40 years as a herder of sheep. 40 years! Friends, what must have gone through the mind of Moses for 40 years? “Lord, this is a discipline that is above what I can bear. Lord, you have given up on me. You have thrown me away. I made a mistake and there is no hope for me. You can never use me again. The only place where you can use me is to look after sheep. I am talented. I was skilled by Pharaoh. I can build pyramids and buildings. I was taught about politics and how to handle political situations. I know how to make war against other nations but here I sit every day in the heat of the desert thinking about my mistakes and how the Lord cannot use me.”

Can you imagine what must have gone through the mind of Moses? Is there any hope? Friends, if God disciplines us, one of the biggest temptations is to lose hope under God’s hand. 40 years in the desert looking after sheep! This brilliant man sat and looked after sheep in the hot sun. Nothing happened. Nobody cared. God’s discipline can be harsh, but this is where you are willing to expose your heart and sins to God. Are you afraid to expose your sins to God? Are you embarrassed to go to a child of God and admit where you have gone wrong?

Moses’ ambition could have taken him away - I want to become something. Do you know how many people are taken from the Lord’s will through their ambition? I want to study then I will serve the Lord but once they have studied, they are no longer willing to sit for 40 years in a desert waiting for God to speak to them.

It was a blessing to me that Moses did not go to another country and try his own little business there because he had the ability. He remained in that dead place where nothing was happening and where God had put him. It was in this desert (not back in Egypt, not doing anything else) that he saw the burning bush and God revealed Himself to him. If only we can submit ourselves to God’s discipline!

The biggest challenge for Christians; the main reason why they lose revival is because they cannot submit to the discipline of God. They cannot allow God to make nothing out of them and still be faithful where God has put them. You run away from the desert, the burning bush and the place from where God would have spoken to you and go to friends who say there is nothing happening where you are, there is nothing happening for you on the mission. A mother said to her son, “You have a future. You need a wife and children. At the mission, you have no qualifications. Leave that place and get a job please, for God’s sake!” About a year later, while this man was studying, he took a walk one night and was found the next morning on a street corner without pants or a shirt. His head was bashed open. He was dead because his mother said to him, “Leave this place, you are getting nowhere!”

Friends, may God give us the spirit of Moses. There is a possibility that Moses did not sin when he killed the Egyptian. Jewish tradition says that Moses did not kill the Egyptian by striking him with his hands but with his mouth in the same way that Ananias and Saphira were killed when Peter spoke to them. Nowhere in the Bible do we read that God judged Moses for killing the Egyptian. It is possible that Moses was not even aware that he had sinned against God and yet God put him in the desert for 40 years. Let me warn you friends, God will allow things that you will not understand. 40 years in the desert and you do not know why you are there. Why is God doing this to me? Moses kept the faith. Matthew Henry says that God wanted to use Moses to set the Jews free but, on the day, when he wanted to separate the two fighting Jews and they responded as they did, it was clear that they were not yet ready. “You are not ready to be freed, you are not ready for Moses as your leader, so continue for 40 years until you are ready to be set free.” The leader might suffer because the sheep are not ready for what God wants to do. Thank God Moses ended in victory.

I will conclude with a person who did not allow God to discipline and judge him: David’s general, Joab. When David was on his deathbed, he said to his son Solomon, “I want you to see that Joab does not die in peace.” This is a brutal, violent statement. David said, “Solomon, do not let his grey hair go into the grave in peace.” 2 Kings 2:5,6. Usually we are inclined to be soft and tolerant with old men. Solomon sent someone to kill Joab in 2 Kings 2:28 – 32.

Joab had killed family members of Saul’s general, Abner, for no reason and nothing happened to Joab. David allowed him to become the general of his army. He fought many battles for God’s children and God’s anointed man, David. He experienced victories. We never hear that he was confronted with his sin. When David sinned with Bathsheba, he wanted her husband, Uriah to return home and sleep with her but Uriah did not want to. David hoped that if he came home, Uriah would think that Bathsheba’s child was his, but Uriah did not sleep at home. David sent a message his general: 14 In the morning David wrote a letter to Joab and sent it by the hand of Uriah. 15 In the letter he wrote, “Set Uriah in the forefront of the hardest fighting, and then draw back from him, that he may be struck down, and die.” 2 Samuel 11:14. Joab knew David’s crime and participated in it. Afterwards he sent David a message to say that Uriah had been killed.

We know that David was confronted about his sin by the prophet Nathan. God disciplined David and said what he had done in secret would happen to his wives in public. David received forgiveness. When we are disciplined, it does not mean that we have not received forgiveness. Joab remained quiet even though he was part of the scheme. He must have thought that he was fighting for God’s people, for David, for what God’s people wanted. He was on their side and a general on top of that. He must have felt that surely God saw that he was serving Him. But he did not allow God to judge him. He kept quiet about his part in this sin and life went on.

Joab did not realise that David waited until he was near death for him to make right, to confess his sin and receive forgiveness. David then commissioned Solomon to make sure that Joab did not die in peace. Friends make sure that you do not live or work with God’s people or support God’s work but never judge yourself and never allow God to judge you. You may have been on the mission for months, possibly years and you think you have escaped. You have been allowed to be part of God’s work. You may have even been given a leadership position and everything is good for you, but you do not pay attention to this verse: 31 But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. 32 But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world. 1 Corinthians 11:31 – 32

Friend, do you desire to work for God? Are you on fire for God? Do you want to win souls for God? Prepare yourself for this: you are going to make mistakes and if you make mistakes confess them, make it right, humble yourself and apologise. You are on fire for God and we thank God for that. Be prepared that if you make a mistake, you say sorry, admit your sin and ask for God’s forgiveness.

As we have heard from Roy Hession, we can deceive ourselves and therefore it is good to share with a child of God with whom you can walk in the light. It is strange that the Lord must have taught them this lesson in that revival which lasted for over 50 years.

Friends I do not want any of my wrongs to be hidden and covered up. If I have made a mistake, I am open to correction because I do not want the curse of Joab to come upon my life, whether it be sin in the sexual realm or the sins of anger, bitterness, hatred and ambition. May God allow us to judge ourselves so that we will not be judged.

Conclusion Detlef Stegen
We thank the Lord that He speaks to us. I hope that we have an ear to hear. You need to cry that God’s Spirit will reveal the truth of these words to you. If you rely on your human understanding you will not benefit from this service. In judging yourself, you need the Spirit of God, lest you excuse or justify yourself and remain in your rebellious self-righteousness.

May the Lord reveal these truths as we proceed from here today, tomorrow and the next day. Allow God’s spirit to judge you. Blessed are the people who receive correction and chastisement from the Lord.