Judgment Call

We believe that God has spoken in the Scriptures, both Old and New Testaments, through the words of human authors. As the verbally inspired Word of God, the Bible is without error in the original writings, the complete revelation of His will for salvation, and the ultimate authority by which every realm of human knowledge and endeavor should be judged. Therefore, it is to be believed in all that it teaches, obeyed in all that it requires, and trusted in all that it promises.”

-EFCA Statement of Faith

When a referee blows his whistle in a game it signals a stoppage in play (another basketball analogy?).  In a basketball game, often it means that some violation has occurred, such as a foul or traveling with the ball, or ball went out of bounds and so on.  Like a good referee in a game, he must make a judgment call based on what he sees and knows of the rules.  From a coach’s perspective, sometimes he gets it right, and other times he missed the call.  

As followers of Jesus, we are called to make judgments.  That is different than being judgmental and feeling empowered to referee everyone else’s life.  But we are to discern between truth and error.  And as D.L Moody put it, “The best way to show that a stick is crooked is not to argue about it or to spend time denouncing it, but to lay a straight stick alongside it.”  Our straight stick is the Word of God.  

This past week, I had to make a judgment call around a Bible Study video series that I was excited about.  When the study was sent to me from the Adult Discipleship team, I loved the subject matter and I personally have listened to and appreciated the ministry of Andy Stanley going as far back as 30 years ago when I served as youth pastor.  There is a great need today to have guardrails in our lives so that we don’t fall off the edge morally, financially, physically, and spiritually.  

That was one reason my decision to replace this study with another study was so challenging.  But church, when I laid the straight stick of the Word of God alongside of some other words spoken by the respected Andy Stanley, a judgment had to be made.  I understand Pastor Stanley had his reasons for saying what he did around the virgin birth and the Old Testament (you can research it yourself), yet in the essentials of the faith in particular we must be precise.  In my judgment, he wasn’t precise and for the collective good of the church, I did blow the whistle.  

Let me clear, there is not a writer or preacher out there, or right here at EBC, that has it all correct.  You have heard me say often while it is my responsibility to handle the Word of God as accurately as I can, it is your responsibility to make sure what I and anyone else says lines up to what Scripture says.  Be Bereans, who “received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true” (Acts 17:11).  Wow!  Every day?

Also, I want to be clear in saying that it is not my responsibility to find something wrong with everyone.  In other words, there is no perfect teacher so there is no perfect teaching.  We won’t agree with every teaching, in every message or every book.  That doesn’t mean we can’t learn from what that teacher says.  Nor does it mean we can’t use the material for personal study or to teach others.  We are back to our word, “discernment.”  Please use discernment!  Please examine the Scriptures.  Don’t accept everything you hear or read.  Lay the straight stick of the Word of God alongside of it.  

As we have held up these last two weeks through our two messages on the Word of God, I do not want anything to undermine our belief in the Scriptures.  In my judgment, this was at risk, so a decision had to be made.  I do hope you will attend the timely study on “Kingdom Agenda” by Tony Evans, that begins on Sunday, February 6 from 9:00-10:00.


We believe that Jesus Christ is God incarnate, fully God and fully man, one Person in two natures. Jesus—Israel’s promised Messiah—was conceived through the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. He lived a sinless life, was crucified under Pontius Pilate, arose bodily from the  dead, ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father as our High Priest and  Advocate.”

-EFCA Statement of Faith

Down!  Everything about that word and everything it touches seem so negative: downhill, downsize, downcast, downfall, breakdown, lockdown, shutdown, knockdown, and worst of all down under.  Who chooses down as a direction for life?  

In Philippians 2, verse 6 in speaking of Jesus it says, “Who being in very nature God did not consider equality with God something to be grasped. But made Himself nothing.”  

Everything that makes God, God, was there in the Lord Jesus.  Jesus is at the very top.  There was never a time when Jesus was not God.  Jesus was and always will be truly and totally God. The incarnation is more about addition that it is subtraction.  The moment in time when God the Spirit became man, has everything to do with what he added to His being rather than what was taken away.  Jesus at conception and as he passed through Mary’s birth canal and grew up and lived on planet earth, added humanity to His divinity.  God came down!  

That passage in Philippians 2 then says, “He made Himself nothing.”  Nothing!  

Nothing!  In most cases, that is not a good thing.  There seems to be nothing good about nothing.  What are you bringing to the potluck?  Nothing!  What are you bringing to the Yankee swap?  Nothing!  What do you have left in your checking account?  Nothing! How many sales did you make this past year? Nothing!  What did you do to your sister?  Nothing!  What do you bring to our company if we were to hire you?  Nothing!  

Jesus made Himself nothing.  Jesus chose to put aside the glories of heaven.  He chose to be a servant.  He chose to live humbly.  He chose to go down as low as anyone could possibly go by dying a criminal’s death, not for his sins, but for ours.  We will dig in some more this Sunday on our belief about the work of Jesus Christ which cannot be separate from who he is. 

But I want to pull out an application for us from the passage in Philippians 2.  Do you recall the context of those words?  Do you know the reason Paul wrote of Jesus coming down and making Himself nothing?  The verses prior to those words call the church to like-mindedness, unity, and in humility to “consider others better than yourselves.”  The call is to do nothing out of selfish ambition.  “Your attitude should be the same as that of Jesus Christ.” Paul says in Philippians 2:4.  

What was his attitude?  Down!  How is God calling you to take a step down?  How do you need to practice the discipline of down?  How is God calling me to “make myself nothing”?  In what situation am I to surrender my rights, my wants, my agenda for the sake of someone else; for the sake of the church?  What we believe about the person of Jesus is not some cold proposition, but transformational in how we live.  

As Brennan Manning put it, “The single greatest cause of atheism in the world today is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, then walk out the door and deny Him by their lifestyles.  That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.”

Let’s show the unbelieving world that Jesus is believable!  

Jesus Was God with Skin on

“We believe that Jesus Christ is God incarnate, fully God and fully man, one Person in two natures. Jesus—Israel’s promised Messiah—was conceived through the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. He lived a sinless life, was crucified under Pontius Pilate, arose bodily from the dead, ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father as our High Priest and  Advocate.

-EFCA Statement of Faith

A little boy was frightened by a storm one night. Several times he cried out in fear and his mother would come to his room for comfort and to remind him that God was always with him. As she prepared to leave the third time her son grabbed her arm, held tight, and said, “I know Mommy, but I want God with skin-on!”

As we looked at this past Sunday, the God who heard our cries, came down to planet earth and encountered suffering personally in a way that the Almighty God had never before encountered.  Jesus was God with skin on.  Let me take this one step further.  

As the church, we are Jesus’ body.  Jesus was a visual representation of the invisible God.  

We are to be God with skin on to each other in the church and to our unbelieving friends and neighbors.  Jesus met each person at his point of need.  We should, too.  

I have been blessed by that warm smile on Sunday morning, that reminder I am being prayed for, and that handwritten note that says, “thanks for the livestreaming of Sunday services.”  

For the one who could use a meal right now, God with skin on, drops that meal off.  We can be God with skin on to the one who needs some companionship, or a ride to an appointment, or a word of encouragement.  In scary, challenging times, we can be “God with skin on” by speaking words of hope to each other.  

The ministry of presence is something we are called to and does not require a certain gift set.  However, since God has arranged the parts of the body just as he determined, we do use the spiritual gifts God has given each of us to carry out the ministry of presence.  For some, it is through the gift of hospitality.  For others, it is through the gift of encouragement or mercy or helps or giving or one of the other many gifts mentioned in Scripture.  s
The late Wayne Oats called the idea of “God with skin-on” the ministry of presence. Whenever we share our lives with others or when we are the hands and feet of Jesus in meeting a need, we become the powerful presence of God.  How can you practice the ministry of presence this week?