A reading from one Corinthians four, one through seven. This, then, is how you ought to regard us as
servants of Christ. And as those entrusted with the mysteries God has revealed. Now it is required
that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful. 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. Now, brothers and sisters. I
have applied these things to myself and Apollo for your benefit so that you may learn from us the
meaning of the saying. Do not go beyond what is written. Then you will not be puffed up in being a
follower of one of us over against the other. For who makes you different from anyone else?
What did you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you
did not? The Word of the Lord?
Please stand for a reading from the gospel. A reading from the Gospel of Luke three, one through six.
In the 15th year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod
Tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip Tetrak of Taconitis in Leisanteus Tetrak of Abilene. During the
high priesthood of Annas and Kaipas, the word of God came to John, son of Zechariah. In the
wilderness. He went into all country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the
forgiveness of sins. As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah, the Prophet, a voice of one
calling in the wilderness.
Prepare the way for the Lord. Make straight paths for him. Every Valley shall be filled in every
mountain and Hill made low. The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways smooth and
all people will see God’s Salvation. The word of the Lord.
So for our kids, it is time for kids alive right now, however, at kids alive, they are working on the
Christmas pageant. If you’re not in the pageant or don’t want to be and you can go to practice and
hang out with them. Or there’s some clipboards there with stuff for you to do during the sermon. So in
other words, you can listen to what I’m preaching about. You can write down some of the things I’m
saying and see maybe what the Lord is saying in the midst of it.
So anyway, pageant practice there. If you don’t know if you want to be in the pageant, why don’t you
just go and see if there might be a cold part for you that we’re going to do on Christmas Eve? Okay,
Father. We pray for our young people. Now we ask your blessing upon them. We ask that you would
fill them with your Holy Spirit and teach them all your ways in Jesus name. Amen. All right. God bless
you kids as you go. It’s at 03:00 on Christmas Eve.
He tells me my water. Please, Father, thank you for this morning. And thank you for your word, which
always instructs us, shapes us and teaches us well. We submit ourselves to you now, asking that you
would do that very thing in our hearts, in our minds and in our lives, and that we actually might be
different because of that, that our lives will become more and more conformed to the life of Jesus,
that the world may know that you are a good God in your name.
We pray, Amen. Here we go. If you want to turn to first Corinthians chapter four, that’s where we are.
And it is really actually a pretty incredible passage for the season that we’re in because Paul seems to
be directing the attention of the Corinthians towards the fact that Jesus is coming again when he
says Judge nothing before the appointed time. There is appointed time when the Lord returns as
judge and as King. And the reason I say it’s a good Advent passage is in this season of Advent, when
we unlike the world, don’t look at Christmas simply as a time of celebration and tinsel and all those
things which I love that.
And I’m glad for that. But we actually look at this season as a reminder that Christ came, he lived, he
died, he rose and he’s coming again. And so in Advent we joined the ancient prayer of that Aramaic
prayer Maranatha, which is Come Lord Jesus Come, or as it is in Latin Adventus, which also means
come. And we begin to ask the question, what does it mean for us to live in expectation of the Lord’s
return when he comes to Judge, to evaluate the quality of our lives, to evaluate how the Church lived
out his purposes in the world?
I don’t know if you like being evaluated. I don’t always like being evaluated. And yet evaluation. It’s a
common theme in life, isn’t it? It’s something we’re submitted to from our peers, from bosses, from
ourselves. Even there’s a movie that came out about, I think, about 20 years ago with Heath Ledger. It
was called A Night’s Tale. Heath was playing a character named William Thatcher, and his archrival
was a Noble named Count Abalard. You can just tell by the name. He’s a villain, right, Count? Anytime
somebody’s a count, they’re a villain.
Count Abalard, early on has a joust in a tournament with William Thatcher, and he defeats him and he
says to him, gloatingly, you have been measured, you have been weighed and you have been found
wanting that’s his evaluation and really the whole rest of the movie is about William Thatcher, who is
born a serf, a peasant and under disguise, wants to become a nobleman, wants to become a Knight.
And it really is all about his evaluation of himself, his father’s evaluation of him, society’s, evaluation
of him, and ultimately, what the nobility think of him.
Evaluation is a fact of life. And evaluation can be a good thing, right? When somebody comes and
gives us their honest opinion of what they see in our lives, if there’s truth in it, we can take it and we
can grow from it. And evaluations in the workplace can be very helpful. Or they can be very fair. They
can be based on an agreed upon set of goals. And so by that evaluation, you can go, yeah, I met those
goals or no, I didn’t. But evaluations can also be devastating.
They can be critical. They can be based on unspoken expectations. They can tear us down and not
build us up. And so there’s a great part of us that wants to agree with Paul when he says, I don’t care
what you think. And Paul says that literally in verse three, it matters very little to me if I am judged by
you or by any human court. And it really is astounding what he says. I do not even judge myself. My
conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent.
It is the Lord who judges me. Paul says an evaluation is coming, and it’s really the only one I care
about as believers. And maybe even if you know somebody who’s not a believer, they could actually
relate to this. Not that they would say, hey, I’m living for the ultimate evaluation of God. But you know
what? When you’re dealing with your neighbors and your friends who don’t know the Lord, yet they are
living for an evaluation. And many of them would agree with Paul. They want to get to a place where
they look at the world.
And they say, I don’t care what you think of me. I care very little if you judge me, the only thing that
matters. And the way they might say it is if I’m a good person and what they’re saying and saying that
is they’re saying there’s a standard out there that they want to live up to. It might be a philosophical
standard. It might be simply what they would say good common moral decency, something that they
think is inherent in the world, even if the world is supposedly an accident.
People are living for some kind of standard, and therefore they are subject to evaluation by
themselves or by others. But they want to be in that place where they’re saying, I care very little. And
as believers, we say, Absolutely, why don’t you want to be in a place where we say, I care very little,
what the world, how the world evaluates me. I’m looking for the evaluation of God, but there’s a gap,
isn’t. There isn’t a gap for you there’s a gap for me, like between caring what the world thinks, which at
times I find I care very much what the world thinks.
I care very much what people think. And I find myself kind of going to a lot of the go tos that.
Everybody goes to for positive affirmation for a sense of like, am I on the right track? Am I doing all
right? Oftentimes I’ve drifted away from living only for the Lord’s evaluation. So what I want to do is
look at this passage and say, how do we get there if Paul is genuinely authentic when he’s saying this,
how do we get to that place where we are like Paul?
I suspect he is. By this time Paul has been through beatings shipwrecks, traveled hundreds and
hundreds of miles. He’s had people persecute him. He’s had people practically kill him. He’s had
people turn their backs on him, let him down. I think at this point in his life when he’s saying, I’m really
living for the evaluation of God, because if I wasn’t, I would have walked away from all of this a long
time ago. How do we get there as a Church and as a people, let’s see if we can discover some ideas
about this in this passage.
So Paul here is writing to the Corinthians. And if you’ve read one Corinthians, you understand there’s a
problem in the Church. They are doing a lot of self evaluating. They’re doing a lot of evaluation of
each other. They’re dividing up into camps. They’re a very gifted Church. They’re a charismatic
Church. They live in a very wealthy section of the Roman Empire. They’ve got standards that very
much reflect the standards of the pagan Roman world around them. And Paul is speaking to all these
things. And he says, in your evaluations of each other, you’re dividing into factions.
One of you, some of you are saying, I follow Paul. Others are saying, I follow Apollos. Paul planted the
Corinthian Church. Apollos was one who came after and was really a very gifted teacher. It seems the
scripture seemed to indicate that he was a gifted order, which was highly valued in that time. And
according to Paul’s letter, it also seems that quite a number of people were in the Apollos camp and
actually setting Apollo up over Paul, you’re a follower. We follow Apollo. We’ve moved on from Paul.
We’re deepening right as Christians because we are connected with a Paulus. And he said, still, some
of you say I follow Sephus. Who is Peter? So Peter had less interaction with the Corinthians, but he
was well known throughout the Church. And maybe there were others who thought that’s where we’re
going to find our identity. Still others said, Well, we follow Jesus, never come across people like that in
the Church. Are you guys into that? I’m into Jesus, right. Let me help get you guys back. You’re
evaluating things completely incorrectly.
This, then is how you ought to regard us as servants of Christ. And as those entrusted with the
mysteries God has revealed, he’s doing something very specific here. He’s saying, look, it’s all about
Jesus, Paul, Apollo, Peter. We’re all pointing towards Jesus, the Church. That’s all where we’re
heading. And you know why? Because we’ve been entrusted with the mysteries God has revealed.
He’s speaking very key words in that culture, because in that pagan Roman culture, the religions of the
day believed in mysteries. Right. A mystery is something you have to discover.
And in the pagan Roman ethos, the way you discovered it was according to the content of your
character, that there must be something special about you. If you’re able to discover the secret keys
of knowledge, there is very much attributed to human effort, human ingenuity, human goodness. The
pulses know the mysteries of God have been revealed. They’re a precious gift. They are Christmas.
They are the Incarnation. They are Christ with us. God revealed. He wants them to understand it’s all a
gift. Now it is required, he says in verse two, those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.
So he’s speaking of Himself and Apollo and the teachers. And he’s saying, We’re directing you to
Jesus, and we’re trying to be as faithful as we can with what we have with what we have been given
today. Sitting in this field are a bunch of people who have been given something you’ve been given to
Church. You’ve been given relationships, you’ve been given families, you’ve been given jobs. There are
all kinds of things that have been interesting to you. And ultimately, the question will be, have you
And that’s a key word, not. Have you been successful? Not. Have you been glamorous? Not. Have you
been smarter than everybody? Have you just been faithful with what you have, with the moments you
possess with the day that’s being given to you right now. And it’s only after he said all this that he
says, I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court. No, he says, I care very little, not. I
don’t care at all. Right. The world actually kind of wants to get to this place.
I don’t care what anybody thinks, Paul says. I care very little. He’s saying, there’s a real balance here.
We can take the evaluations of the world and say, do they measure up at all to the evaluation of Christ
and where they do? We can listen. We can grow, we can learn. But he says, I care very little because
I’m ultimately going towards that big evaluation. Care very little if I’m judged by you or by any human
court. Indeed, I do not even judge myself. And that’s the second place he takes us oftentimes in this
When we say, I don’t care what people think about me. The only thing that matters is what I think
about myself that doesn’t even matter. Ultimately, he says, My conscience is clear, but that does not
make me innocent. If you know anything about mafia culture, if you know anything about mafia
culture, you will know that many of the killers in Mafia culture, the cold blooded killers are men who
go home and they care for their Mama, men who go home and are considered to be some of the best,
most affable neighbors who go home and actually sleep well at night.
Their conscience is clear. You talk to them and I’ve heard them say, yeah, I kill a lot of people, but they
deserved it. Just like everybody else. We can have a clear conscience that does not make us
innocent. It does not make us innocent. And Paul acknowledges this. It is the Lord who judges me. It’s
the Lord whose evaluation ultimately counts. It is the Lord who will be absolutely 100% right in his
assessment of how I live my life. Therefore, he says to the Corinthians, Judge nothing before the
appointed time, wait until the Lord comes.
When he says, Judge nothing. And lots of people love this. They love to point out the verses in the
Bible that says, do not judge, lest you be judged. If you go to chapter five in one Corinthians, you will
see Him telling the Corinthians to judge within the Church. Judge an immoral person who’s actually
flaunting their immorality in the Church in the name of Christian freedom, he says, Judge them. Don’t
judge people outside of the Church. Judge people inside the Church, expand the immoral brother if he
So there are things we are to make judgments about in life. But when he says, Judge nothing before
it’s appointed time, there are certain things that are appointed only for Jesus ultimate Salvation,
ultimate reward, all of those things, ultimate worth. All of those things are only in the purview of
Jesus. They have nothing to do with the judgments that we make every day and the judgments we
need to make often, 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.
That’s where you would expect that to end. That’s a fearful thing. One day we will stand before the
Lord and the motives of our hearts will be revealed, and every single one of us knows that the motives
of our hearts are not always pure, that there’s things that go on in our hearts and our minds that we
would not want any of our brothers and sisters here to know about the motives of our hearts. But the
passage doesn’t end there. He says he will bring the light what is hidden in darkness and will expose
the motives of the heart.
At that time each will receive their praise from God. That’s not what I expect to hear at that time. Each
will get the discipline they deserve at that time each will have the comeuppance for the hidden
motives of their heart. No, Paul says each is going to get the praise they deserve. I was thinking about
what’s going on here. Have you noticed something when you watch the Olympics when you watch the
Olympics, people who lose who don’t come in 1st, 2nd or third do not get punished right.
If there’s any punishment at all, it’s internal, or maybe if they’re on a Communist team, they might get
punished. I don’t know. But if there’s any punishment at all, it’s internal. If they know they didn’t do
what was required. But on the other hand, if they say I worked my tail off, I improved whatever times I
could. I ate the right things. I did what I could. Then they can stand in the glory of the Olympics, in the
triumph and revel in simply the fact that they were there like Eddie the Eagle.
If you know who he was worst ski jumper of almost all time. One of Great Britain’s only ski jumpers
ever, but made it into the Olympics. Placed last in each event by a lot and became a hero in Great
Britain. He gave it everything he had. Each will receive their praise at the proper time. The way the
Lord is going to judge his beloved children is the same way we judge our beloved children. We look at
their best and everything they’ve offered. And we say when you did that, that was awesome.
When you gave praise to me here, that was awesome when you reached out and helped that person.
When you brought in coats for the coat drive. When you sang worship to me, when you lived as a
good neighbor to the neighbor next to you, that was awesome. Each will receive their praise at the
proper time. God will reward even if you give a cup of cold water to somebody because they bear my
name. He says, you’ll no way lose your reward. So what Paul is trying to do is do you see how little
these evaluations of each other and ourselves matter?
What matters is we’ve got a God who is looking forward to the day when he will be able to bring to
light everything. And the thing he will point out will be our faithfulness. Each whoever will receive their
praise. Now, obviously there’s another side to this. You could be living a farce and a lie and the hidden
motives of your heart are exposed. And there is no joy on that day. But He’s wanting the believers to
know that there’s a great reason to join that ancient prayer.
Come, Lord Jesus. Come look forward to the day of Consummation, when all that is dark is made
right, including all that is dark within our hearts, for each will receive their praise at the proper time.
Now, brothers and sisters, I’ve applied these things to myself and a policy for your benefit. We’re
trying to practice what we preach, and we hope that our lives will be an example to you, but together,
not over and against each other. Me, Apollos, Paul, Sephus, Isaac. You name it, whoever you want to
talk about in Christian leadership.
That’s what we want to be all about. And applying these things to ourselves so that you may learn
from us the meaning of the saying do not go beyond what is written. Just a little aside here,
commentators have no idea what that means. Scholars have been studying that phrase, and they say
it’s probably some kind of internal phrase to the Corinthians, and they don’t know what Paul’s referring
to there. They make some inferences and some ideas, and maybe he’s talking about the Scriptures
don’t go beyond the scriptures.
We don’t know. But we do know that that’s true for us, right? That if we live according to the Lord and
His commands and His word, that’s enough for who makes you different from anyone else? He’s not
saying you’re not different, but who makes you different? What do you have that you did not receive?
And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not say, here’s the evaluation. Whatever
you’ve got you got from God, be faithful with that. That will be enough.
That will be enough. So here’s the way we apply this to our lives. The good news of the Gospel is
Jesus Christ came and died for you. Why? Because you were of infinite worth in his eyes. You’ve
heard people say if you were the only person who lived, he would have died for you. And that’s true
because each person that God has created is of infinite worth and value in His eyes. And so the
Gospel sets us free to live into that worth and to be free from the weight of the evaluation of others.
The weight of self evaluation, which can be even more crushing and to live for the glory of his
evaluation. Because Jesus died for us two ways. I believe we can apply this on one on a corporate
and the other on a personal level, on a corporate level. Together, we can apply this by belonging to
one another and rejoicing in that evaluation free, right? Not that we won’t ever help each other get
better or suggest improvements or things like that. But to actually say, when it comes to ultimate
worth, I reserve that evaluation until the day when the Lord Jesus does it.
That belongs to him. That’s what a Church is. It’s a group of people who come together and say, I’m
choosing to throw my lot in with you, regardless of how talented, smart, beautiful, dumb, whatever you
are, I’m choosing to be with you. A number of years back, I was helping a couple through a crisis in
their marriage, and at one point the wife looked at me because I was trying to say, as your pastor, here
are some things I want to help you guys take steps in.
And she said, I don’t really consider you my pastor. I was like, I didn’t say this, but you’ve been coming
to my Church for years. I pray for you when I’m preparing to preach and everything. It’s for you. I
mean, it’s for everybody in the congregation, but it’s for you. I believe I’m your pastor. I didn’t say any
of this, right? But she like so many of us in this country, want to reserve judgment and say, you know, I
don’t quite like the way that guy pastors or, you know, I don’t quite like that group in the Church over
So I’m going to avoid them and go over there. But no, the point of the Church is we just belong to one
another. The pastor you’ve got is the pastor that God gave you. I’m sorry, but that’s who you got. The
people you’ve got here, that’s the people who God is brought and is given to each other. And when we
let go of the need to evaluate, then we can just welcome and connect and do life together. So on a
corporate level, I think this passage works out that way.
Secondly, on a personal level, I would say simply this if I can find it. Oh, yeah. Filter all the evaluations,
all of them. Filter them. Filter your own self evaluations under the filter of the Lord. It’s not an excuse
to ignore all evaluations, but to put them in their place as little, right. And you filter them through the
Lord so that whatever is of the Lord will stick whatever criticism that somebody has for you, it’ll find
its way into your heart. Whatever is right that they’re saying.
But whatever is ultimately an evaluation of your ultimate worth, let it fall to the ground. Filter all
evaluations through the lens of Jesus Christ. You’ll be good to yourself. And you’ll ultimately grow to
be a person who’s who lives for the evaluation of the Lord. For that David is coming. Come, Lord
Jesus, we pray. Come. Amen.