Sometimes Jesus intentionally overstates things to show us how ridiculous we are being or how serious our sin is. In Matthew 7, He is teaching about so many things, how to live the nitty-gritty of life. This chapter opens with "Judge not, that you may not be judged."
This word "judge" is not the word which means "discern, weigh, evaluate" but "condemn," and "pronounce a verdict." We know from other passages that we are to consider other people's conduct, to discern whether we should follow them or not. However, we are not to condemn people, because we cannot see their hearts.
I have heard the saying that we like to look at ourselves with a telescope, but look at others with a microscope. Like the metaphor Jesus uses, with the log and the speck, we (okay, I) am very critical of others, and quick to pronounce judgement! But oh! if others looked at me the same way, I would be doomed! We are all works in progress! We all need the Spirit of God to renew our minds and hearts! Lord, help us not be hypocritical in our dealings with others!
As I was reading this chapter earlier this morning, I was quite perturbed with myself at this point. How dare I be judgmental, seeing as how far I have yet to go! How dare I condemn others at all, because we are all equal at the foot of the cross! I was pleading with the Lord to change me, to give me His vision toward others.
Then I turned the page to the rest of the chapter, and a blessing from God awaited me there. "Ask, and it will be given to you. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives, and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, it will be opened."
Aaaahhhh. Thank you for Your Word, O Lord, that does not leave us with our sin, and the hopelessness of our condition. But Your Spirit is in us, empowering, illumining our hearts and turning these hypocritical would-be-little-Christs, into reflections of Your Son! How this works, I don't really know, but I am so grateful for it!
Beware, my friends, of trying to appear more spiritual than you are. "By their fruit you will know them." What is inside of your heart will come forth. There are some apples that look beautiful--but the inside is rotten and full of worms. Be pure and seek the Lord! Ask Him to cleanse you, to sanctify you---and that will yield lovely fruit.
If you and I are known by our fruits, what does that reveal about us? Are we healthy, vibrant apples? Or diseased figs? Oh God, who sees our hearts! Change us that our fruit may be that of Your Spirit at work in us!
In closure, Jesus uses the illustration of the men who built their houses on the rock, and on the sand. "Everyone who hears these words of mine AND DOES THEM..." (Matt. 7:24)
"But be doers of the Word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves." (James 1:22)
The change within us is not in the hearing, but in the doing. We are being changed as we ask, seek, and knock. As we do not condemn our brothers and sisters. As we enter the narrow gate, which is hard, but OH! SO WORTH THE DIFFICULTY! For when we are tried and purified, we produce beautiful fruit: apples of gold!