The Judas Connection
The name Judas brings to mind many things to different people; traitor, impostor, rebel etc. His infamy transcends every denomination. Yet, in the beginning of Christ's ministry this man was one of the chosen twelve empowered to carry the gospel.
Many people put Judas in the ranks of what would be called an unsaved church member. Meaning, although he kept with all the rules and principles of Christ, had never truly been born-again. They base this presumption on their interpretation of John 17:12. "While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled."
But, if we study the gospels we find that Judas had received the same commission, instructions and anointing as the other eleven.
Mark records, "And he ordained twelve that they should be with him, and that he might send them forth to preach, and to have power to heal sickness, and to cast out devils:" (Mark 3 14,15) Judas manifested the same miracles from the same power source as Peter, James or John. The truth is, Judas began his ministry as an anointed vessel of Jesus Christ. He was not an unsaved church member. Luke also confirms this, "For he was numbered with us, and had obtained part of this ministry." (Acts 1:17)
Judas was ordained with a God given ability and anointing to be used mightily in the kingdom.
Some theologians believe that Judas joined the ranks of the twelve to deliberately betray Jesus for one reason or another at his first opportunity. However, as we have just read Mark's account, Jesus chose Judas not the other way around.
Still others believe that Judas was deliberately chosen by Jesus to betray Him. He was predestined from the beginning and he had no choice but to betray the Lord.
If this was the case, it would mean that Judas could not have exercised his right as a free moral agent. His future, his actions, whether good or bad would have been out of his control and determined by an outside power. But, this isn't the way God operates. Everyone has the privilege of making up his or her own mind.
In fact, after Judas had made his pact with the Sanhedrin to betray Jesus and went to the upper room for the feast of the Passover, I believe he could have still changed his mind.
As Jesus told His disciples on that fateful night that one of them was going to betray Him. As He looked into the eyes of Judas while they dipped their bread together, this traitor could have fallen on His face and cried out to Jesus that he was the one. He had bartered their friendship for thirty pieces of silver and the favor of the leaders of Israel. Judas could have begged the forgiveness of his Lord and received it right then and there causing the betrayal to come from another avenue. But he didn't, sealing his fate for eternity.
What could have caused this man who walked, talked, ate and slept with God in the flesh to betray Him and sell Him into the hands of those who hated Him? Is Judas any different than any man or women today who have once walked with Jesus? Those who have preached to multitudes and witnessed miracles and tremendous Holy Spirit manifestations in their ministries? Could we go down into spiritual infamy like Judas.
The Road to Betrayal
The word apostasy means a "departing from a religious belief". For the most part it doesn't come over night.
Judas didn't wake up one morning after a night of walking with Jesus, witnessing His mighty miracles and decide to betray Him. It was a slow process that was fueled and finally triggered by one or more areas in his life that he refused to fully submit to God.
When the search light of the Holy Spirit reveals areas of darkness in our lives, it is God's intention that we deal with them through His grace and the redemptive power of His blood. It is His will that we repent and continually call on Him to be cleansed and remain clean.
When neglected, these areas become an open door for Satan to come in and slowly but surely steal our joy, discernment and eventually our eternity. Judas' unwillingness cost him dearly.
The growth process in a Christian's life is full of a continual revealing of spots, wrinkles and blemishes that we must identify, admit to and repent of.
When we reject the Holy Spirit's correction our hearts become hardened and our consciences become seared to the degree that we can sit under the most anointed preaching and teaching and be untouched and unmoved to the Spirit of God.
The infection of apostasy begins to set in when we neglect the Lord's correction, we dabble in the things and entrapments of the world, or are wounded. It also develops when we have a misconception of who God is and in His
ultimate plan and purpose. Many have stopped serving God and even now are angry with Him because He did not perform as they thought He should, or were told He would. We are warned in scripture, "Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God." (Hebrews 3:12) "Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness." (2 Peter 3:17)
All of us run the risk of failing God and departing from the faith by not dealing with our sin and rebellion. No matter the direction our attacks come from we are admonished to be strong in the Lord and the power of His might. To be aware that the devil goes about as a roaring lion seeking those he can devour.
His methods may vary, but the outcome is always the same when we do not fully rely on the grace and power of God to see us through.
The same methods used to convince Judas to betray Jesus, Satan still utilizes to entrap today's Christian.
1. Judas was a thief. The motivational force behind a thief is greed. Many go through all the motions of praise and worship to get God's attention for their needs. Yet the real motive is greed , pure and simple. We want what we want, and it is usually to fill a temporal need, not for the holiness of God to be imparted to our lives. "Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men:" (Isaiah 29:13)
This is the same indictment Jesus levied against the Pharisees of His time. They spoke of God often. Their entire life was dedicated to keeping every aspect of the law. Outwardly they were giants of the faith, but their hearts were cold and dead toward the living God.
Today it is much the same. We have the greatest praise and worship teams money can buy. Church floors shake under the vibrations of hands clapping, feet stomping and joyous shouts of hallelujah and praise the Lord. But they have removed their hearts from God to follow the teaching and precepts of men.
A heart that is totally given over and surrendered to Jesus Christ is a heart that hungers for Him and Him alone. It longs for holiness. It breaks and cries over sin. It looks for ways to please the Savior. Worship from a pure heart brings us into the very presence of a holy God.
Today our style of Christianity and worship is designed to make God give us what we want in order to satisfy our carnality.
I was watching a nationally known pastor on television for a for minutes the other day. When I turned on his show he was standing behind the pulpit leading his congregation in today's Charismatic mantra, "Gimme my stuff!" Thousands of church members standing, shouting and shaking their fists (at who, I do not know). "Gimme my stuff!" "Gimme my stuff!" God help us! Lord, forgive us!
A local pastor sits in front of a television camera hosting a ministry's telethon for donations. With a pious and humble look he gazes out at the audience telling them that while he was in his prayer closet that day, praying for the telethon, the Lord spoke to his heart to tell the people that there are 20 viewers that God was speaking to that were to give one thousand dollars.
Another predicts complete and miraculous debt relief for all those who give a certain amount.
I have seen evangelists take up offerings, telling churches that there are ten people here tonight that can give $100.00. "Come up and let me pray a one hundred dollar blessing over you." Then to $50 - to $25. I missed a blessing in that service - I only had thirty cents in my pocket. To many, giving to the Lord is not fostered by love and obedience, it is greed, plain and simple.
How is it that literally thousands of church members can line up at coliseum and civic center entrances to get front row seats at a Prosperity Revival? I believe it is because without an intimacy with the Word of God we listen to men rather than the Spirit of a Holy God.
Men will tell us what we want to hear if it will increase their attendance and offering.
I am a pastor, I realize money is very important in keeping a ministry going forward. But what ever happened to prayer and fasting. What ever happened to depending on the Lord to provide for a ministry that He established, He commissioned and He sent forth. We should repent of some of the promises we make to people in order to entice them to give. The message of today is no longer how to get to Jesus. How to walk in obedience and holiness. Now the predominate sermon is how to get wealth from God.
We, like Ephraim have become drunken. Not because of wine or strong drink. But for things! According to Isaiah 28, this is all vomit on the table of the Lord.
2. Judas, like the religious Pharisees and some disciples could not discern worship from the heart.
The lust for things is not the only avenue causing church members to remove their heart from God.
All four of the gospel writers record the visit of Mary of Bethany to a supper that Jesus had also been invited to. Immediately upon her arrival she breaks open the seal to a pound box of spikenard. A very expensive perfumed ointment of high quality.
She pours the ointment over His head and begins to work it in to His scalp. Weeping and broken, Mary falls to her knees, kissing Jesus' feet, washing them with her tears and wiping them with her hair. In Mary's heart there was no other way to thank Him. No other way to honor Him or express her gratitude for His forgiveness and redemption.
Those whose hearts and spirits are broken over their sin are worshipers in spirit and in truth. There is nothing they will hold back from Jesus. Those are the ones received and honored by Him.
Those who have never truly been broken over their disobedience do not see worship from the heart in the way Jesus sees it.
The Pharisee in Luke's gospel could not understand Mary's brokenness or recognize her form of worship. All he could see was that this woman was a sinner, he could not believe that Jesus would talk to her, let alone allow her to touch Him. Not too different than many church members of today. "We don't smoke, drink or chew. We don't hang with them that do." No wonder sinners don't darken our doorways. And if they do they will not return.
Jesus responds with, "Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little." (Luke 7:47) Those who come to the realization of the deadliness of their sins and break before the Lord, He will run to them with forgiveness, mercy and grace.
The multitudes who have experienced this fountain of grace can not respond with anything but tears of worship, joy and thanksgiving.
Matthew and Mark do not focus on the woman's past, but the response of the people's lust for money. When Mary broke the box of oil Matthew says the disciples became indignant over the waste of the oil. They were perplexed because it could have been sold and the proceeds given to minister to the poor.
Mark says that some became indignant. But John records that it was Judas who spoke up. It may very well have been Judas who stirred up those who were there. Jesus' response of "The poor you have with you always," did not minimize the poor. It rather maximized the fact that the people would not have the physical Jesus with them much longer.
Mary seized the moment. She dove head-long into worship. She honored her master to such a degree that Jesus promised that for as long as the gospel is preached, her actions would go up as a memorial to her.
Instead of Judas and the rest of the disciples following suit, they became offended and began to murmur.
A heart that is removed from God speaks without anointing. There is no Holy Spirit unction, there is no abiding fruit. There is no longing for holiness. There is very little contact with God outside of Sunday morning. We praise, but we won't pray, we lift our hands, but through the week we won't open our bibles. If we do, we don't see a need to allow God's Word to change us.
I ran into a lady the other day who couldn't wait to tell me that she had just finished reading her bible through for the seventh time. But in the next breath, she is maligning a co-worker and her pastor. Something is very wrong here! We have ears but we hear not, eyes and see not, and a heart without understanding. Many times when someone will call our church to get directions they will ask what we believe or the type of music ministry we have. You can usually tell early into the conversation that the real reason for all the questions is to determine who's camp we are in. Does our doctrine and inspiration come from Tulsa or Broken Arrow, Kansas City or Fort Worth? I am not demeaning any ministry from these cities. The point I'm trying to make is we need to refuse to become an echo of anyone other than the Holy Spirit. "...their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men." (Isaiah 29:13b NIV)
When we watch Christian programs it seems too many preachers are preaching what they hear others saying and are not getting a fresh word from the Spirit of God.
One man began teaching the Year of Jubilee, other ministries picked up on it, it never happened, who was listening to the Holy Spirit? Y2K. It sold books and tapes, but it never came to pass the way we were told. Who heard from God? Where are the Beareans of today?
3. Judas was an adversary of Jesus. "Jesus answered them, Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil?" (John 6:70) In 1 Peter 5:8, Satan is referred to as being our adversary. An adversary is an opponent. Judas opposed the true mission of Jesus Christ. For whatever reason Judas had perceived God's coming to earth in the flesh, it was not for the purpose he had envisioned, and he opposed the true mission.
The apostle Peter almost fell into the same trap in the sixteenth chapter of Matthew. Jesus told His disciples how he was going to suffer under the hands of the religious leaders of Jerusalem, that He would be killed and then raised from the dead.
Peter began to rebuke the Lord, telling Him this could never happen. Jesus did not mince words when He responded to Peter. "...Get thee behind me Satan: thou art an offense unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men." (Matthew 6:23)
People who have not fully submitted their wills to the purpose of Jesus Christ will inevitably seek the approval of men. They will become performers, doing their own thing, while all the time pretending to follow the leadership of God.
"Ah sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity." (Isaiah 1:4)
In this verse God is not speaking to the heathen, He is speaking to His people. A people who could be found in the Synagogue on every Sabbath day. A people who paid their tithes and sang in the choir. But Jesus was not the real Lord of their life. The Hebrew word Avon is translated here iniquity. It's meaning is perversity. It inundates church pulpits and pews. It is defined as (1) Unwilling to submit. (2) Highly offensive in character, nature and conduct. (3) Obstinately self-willed in refusing to concur, conform or submit.
Pastors have become consumed with what they are doing instead of submitting to what God wants to do. We have become our own Lord. We do what we want to, how we want to and when we want to so that any and all glory and praise can fall on us and our ministry.
We don't pray like we should, we never fast, our intimacy with Jesus has been reduced to delivering God a spiritual shopping list instead of searching His mind for direction and His face for holiness.
We patronize our congregations with platitudes of wealth, health, prosperity and nonexistent miracles. We talk about a power that we do not possess. It is a real power, but too many do not have it because we will not submit to God. We will not surrender our wills and desires, all we do, we do for self-aggrandizement. William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army puts it this way, "The greatness of a man's power, is the measure of his surrender."
In the pews it is much the same. I have asked this question many times over the past seventeen years of pastoring. "How could someone who claims to be a Christian, who say they love the Lord and their heart's desire is to serve Him, not commit to a local church?"
They come when they can, they attend when they want to but they won't commit. Their jobs, personal interests, family and carnal pleasures hold a higher priority to them then a relationship with Jesus.
Others have left the local church altogether. They meet with a handful of believers in someone's home. There is no pastor or leader, there is no vision or goals that the Holy Spirit imparts to the local assembly. For whatever reason they give for becoming a part of this type of fellowship, if it replaces their commitment to the local body, it is not only out of order, it is iniquity and perversity.
I realize that most of the people who are involved in these types of meetings love the Lord and are very sincere in their worship. However, regardless of our sincerity, we must do everything in decency and in order. If what we do is to bring honor and glory to the Lord Jesus Christ, than it must be done in conformity to His Word.
The Great Betrayal
Have you ever run into someone you had known years before but have not seen for many years? When you knew them they were on fire for God, but now the fire is seemingly out. They are mad at God, His people, His ministers. They are hurt and disillusioned and have fallen back into a life of sin from once delivered. You would never believe that they had ever heard the name of Jesus. What has happened?
Some of the most hard hearted people I have ever met were once committed Christians. Some how, some where in their church experience God did not perform as they had expected or were taught that He should. For one reason or another, no matter how long or how hard they named and claimed, God did not respond.
Sometimes it wasn't God that let them down. Many times it was a pastor or other church members. Nonetheless they are mad and can see no practical reason for following Jesus. They believe that their life was easier and less complicated when they were in the world. Their spiritual immune system has been devastated and they are in the most dangerous condition of their life.
I have never been tempted to smoke marijuana or crack cocaine. I have never wanted to stick a needle full of heroin in my vein or to snort some other mind altering drug. The reason is I have never done it in my life. There has never been a door open to the devil to introduce me to the drug culture.
However, before I became a Christian there were many doors to sin and debauchery opened in my life. Thanks to
Jesus' blood and saving power those doors were closed and sealed. But when the devil tempts me today, he knocks on those same doors that Jesus closed and sealed. Since there is no door in my life marked "Drugs", he tries the doors that were once open.
Judas was a thief. Whether that door was ever closed and sealed during his relationship with Jesus, scripture doesn't say. But when Satan came knocking with thirty pieces of silver, Judas opened the door with his hand out.
Had Judas' door been lust, Satan would have knocked with a Jezebel or Delilah. Had it been drugs, a needle or crack pipe. His goal was the betrayal and death of the Lord as well as the destruction of Judas. He tried with Peter. Satan knocked on Peter's door of fear and Peter answered with, "I don't know Him." Not once but three times. But Peter, when confronted with his sin, cried out to God for forgiveness and was redeemed. Many today, like Judas, have not left the church. They remain sitting in the pew, their heart estranged from God. Whenever Satan knocks, there is no resistance. It's almost like we have not only learned to live with our sin, but to justify and excuse it.
The Road Back
Anger, unforgiveness, pride, covetousness etc. These are all doorways into our heart that we must allow the Lord to close and seal forever. Each one causes our hearts to harden toward the Lord and His Church. If not dealt with by repentance and forgiveness, these doors could very well begin to be labeled "Betrayal".
Judas had come to a point where nothing about Jesus phased Him anymore. He could sit among the other disciples, even directly across from Jesus Himself and not be moved to holiness.
How many Pastors and church members sit in the same seat? Surrounded by doors never closed. Consumed with hidden sin, pride and apathy. But there is hope.
I love the book of Psalms. One hundred times in this book you will find the word mercy. In Psalm 136 there are twenty six verses. Each one of them ends with the words, "His mercy endureth forever.
No matter how far we have separated our hearts from God, His mercy is there waiting for our repentance. No matter what iniquity has seduced our life and will, His mercy is there waiting on our submission and surrender.
No matter how mad we are with God for not performing as we asked Him to, or believed He should have. His mercy is waiting for us to find His will and endeavor walk in it.
There is so much in the world waiting to entrap and ensnare the believer. Had it not been for His mercy, many of us would have been shipwrecked a long time ago.
His hand is extended right now to all who will abandoned themselves for Him and Him alone.
"Who remembered us in our low estate: for His mercy endureth forever. And hath redeemed us from our enemies: for His mercy endureth forever." (Psalms 136: 24,25)