Have you ever wondered about Judas?  I have.  Why did Jesus choose Judas, knowing that he would betray Him?  Yes, in order to fulfill Scripture, Jesus needed to be betrayed . . . but wasn’t it kind of a setup to choose someone for that role?  After all, Judas ended up hanging himself.  It’s pretty well certain he went into eternity without forgiveness.  How do we know?  Well, no mention is ever made of him seeking forgiveness from Jesus–or even from the other disciples.

So how could Jesus choose someone to betray Him and be damned?  Because that’s NOT what Jesus did.  Jesus chose Judas, a man who was at the doorstep of damnation, whose only hope of salvation was divine intervention in his life.  Judas was very bad on the inside.  He was just like you and me.  Jesus chose him, to save him.

Before Jesus died to save all mankind, he worked intimately in the lives of twelve men, molding and shaping them.  He put each of them in situations that tested and tried them, that gave them the opportunity to overcome their own personal sins and issues.

Peter, for example, came face to face with his pride, over and over again.  He learned to live by faith, rather than by his own strength and abilities.  Do you think it was by chance that Jesus came to him, walking on water that night?  Surely it was confidence that caused Peter to step out of the boat–as well as his love for Jesus.  But it was confidence in the power of his love for Jesus, not faith in Jesus Himself.  And so, becoming aware of the wind, he began to sink–an object lesson for sure.  When Jesus reached out to save Him, He chided him ‘You of little faith, why did you doubt’?  Little faith?  He stepped out of a boat, in a storm, to walk on the water to Jesus!  Great love, great confidence, great bravery–but little faith.  God knows our hearts.

Again Peter had to face his pride, when Jesus was betrayed.  We know the story.  At the ‘last supper’ Jesus shared with His disciples, He told them that they would all leave Him, that very night.  Peter was the most vehement in promising that he would not forsake Him, even after Jesus specifically told him that he would deny Him three times that night!  Of course, that’s how it turned out, and Peter’s pride was finally broken.  Regret is the hardest thing to live with.  It is the closest thing to eternal punishment that we have in this life.

Jesus said that He had not come to condemn man.  So, why did He tell the disciples they would forsake Him that night, if it was not to condemn them?  (He had also told them that one of them would betray Him.)  He wanted them to search their hearts.  We know that eleven of them did.  (Did Judas?)  And yet, even after twice searching their hearts, they all declared with Peter, that they would not forsake Him, but they did.  They could not truly see what was within their own hearts.

Scripture tells us that the heart of man is desperately wicked, and that if we would judge ourselves, we would all find ourselves innocent.  The lesson here is that we need to let God judge our hearts, and then listen to what He tells us!  Jesus specifically told Judas that he was the one who would betray Him (even then, the plans had been made), and told Peter that 3 times he would deny Him.*  Yet, apparently, neither believed Him.  We so badly want to believe we are good!

It is not what is outside of us that destroys us–it is what lives within us!!  We should fear our own hearts most of all!!  How dangerous, to have within us something wicked, to which we are totally blind, that can so easily lead us astray!!  Scripture tells us to work out our own salvation–with fear and trembling!!  (Fear and trembling, in my opinion, of how we aren’t really as good as we may believe, and of the trouble our hearts can lead us into.)

So, we have two examples here, where Jesus personally dealt with a disciple, regarding what was hidden in his heart that could destroy him.  And we see two examples of men, totally blind to the sinfulness of their own hearts, that pay no heed to Jesus’ warning.

Back to Judas, and my contention that Jesus chose him to save him.

What will most surely bring a man to his knees?  That which has the power to destroy him.  While adultery or alcoholism may finally bring some men to their knees, true regret can break the pride of ALL men.

Judas was a man whose heart was not in the right place.  Although that’s obvious to us now, in hindsight, it wasn’t obvious to anyone then.  No fingers were pointed at Judas when Jesus said that one of them would betray Him.  In fact, when Jesus specifically identified him as the one, the other disciples seemed oblivious to what He was saying.  The chief priests and elders didn’t approach Judas, seeing he was a wicked man (he went to them).  No one knew what lived within his heart.  He put on a very good outward show.  But, as I’ve said before, if you deal in dishonesty for too long, you lose the ability to discern the truth from a lie altogether.  I believe that Judas had convinced everyone, including Judas, that he was a good man.

Jesus chose Judas, knowing that he was a thief and a traitor, and knowing his motives and his issues.  He called him into His inner circle and treated him just like the other eleven disciples.  Judas heard the same teachings, saw the same miracles, took part in the same conversations–yet none of this opened his eyes to the sinfulness in his own heart.

So, Jesus put him in charge of the money bag, knowing he was a thief.  Surely there was opportunity to feel remorse, walking with Jesus while stealing from it.  Did Jesus set him up?  Yes.  Jesus gave Judas the opportunity to sin, feel convicted and repent, so that He could save him!**

But, apparently Judas felt righteous in what he was doing.  Here was God, in the flesh, divinely intervening in his life–and Judas was unable to discern, in contrast, the wickedness within himself!  How powerful is sin, to harden our hearts, and blind us to truth and love!

Judas’ next opportunity for repentance came, at the ‘last supper’.  Scripture tells that Jesus said that the man who would betray Him ‘is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish’.  Then, dipping the piece of bread, He gave it to Judas Iscariot.  As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him.

It is important to know that Satan cannot just enter a man at will–the man must allow him entrance.  What true follower of Jesus would even take the piece of bread from Jesus’ hand, after what He had said?!  Yet Judas felt justified (righteous) in what he was doing.  And, with his perspective distorted by his sinfulness, he probably thought that this is what Jesus wanted him to do!!  Surely the Scripture makes it clear that this wasn’t the case.

Another opportunity, when Jesus tells Judas ‘What you are about to do, do quickly’.  If Judas had any misgivings, Jesus’ words should have pierced his heart and caused him to beg His forgiveness.

It wasn’t until after the deed was done, after Satan was done using him and had departed, that Judas was finally able to see what he had done, and he was seized with remorse.  But remorse is a feeling–true repentance is action.  Judas’ remorse did not lead him to Jesus or the disciples to beg forgiveness.

Instead, feeling guilty, he tried to return the money and undo the deed.
He went back to the corrupt priests and elders, and gave his confession to them.  He had ‘betrayed innocent blood’ he said.  Even then, he was unable to recognize Jesus as more than just an innocent man!  For over three years he had walked with Jesus, yet was still unable to discern that He was God.

We don’t know what motivated Judas to betray Jesus.  Perhaps it was the fear of persecution–after all, Jesus was telling the disciples what was on the horizon.  Maybe Judas, seeing bad times ahead, sensed that the time had come to decide where his loyalties lay–that it was time to ‘get off the fence’, so to speak, and save himself.  Unfortunately, he got off on the wrong side.  But even his remorse did not wake him up to that.

Yes, Jesus set Judas up–even giving him the final opportunity of betraying Him . . . because if anything could have driven him to his knees, could have caused him to repent and be saved,  it would have been the torment of remorse over betraying his Lord.  But his heart was so hardened by years of sin and deceitfulness, and justifying his actions to himself, that he was no longer able to repent.

That is a sobering thought!  If it could happen to a man who walked, for over three years, with Jesus–who seemed righteous, to others, in his outward appearance–who saw himself as a righteous man–could it happen to you . . . or me?

Certainly!!  Fear what may be hidden within your own heart–and fear your heart itself, for it is desperately wicked!  Fear sin–for it has the power to take root in your heart, deceive your mind, and harden you to the point that you are no longer able to repent!!

We are all so worried about the bogey man outside–‘The Beast’, ‘The Antichrist’, 666 . . . the real enemy is within each of us!!

The Scriptures contain many parallels and foreshadowings, to help us understand.  In the ‘latter days’ (in which we are now living), this story will be played out again–countless times.  True believers, like Jesus, will be betrayed by those closest to them, and put to death.  And like Judas, ‘followers of Jesus’ (‘Christians’) will be the ones to betray them, while believing they are acting righteously.

Satan takes a perverse delight in turning man against his brother:  from Cain against Abel, his eleven brothers against Joseph, Judas against Jesus, the Jews against the early Christian Jews, the Catholic church against Protestants–to, in the future, the apostate church (‘Christians’) against true Christians (‘radicals’?, ‘extremists’?).

As I look at history, the ‘unsaved world’ hasn’t proven to be the enemy of God’s people to anywhere near the degree that ‘God’s people’ have!  All the striving seems to be from within!  Sure, God’s people may not be popular with the ‘unsaved world’, but the rest of the world looks a lot more like spectators to me, as those who call themselves by His name kill one another!

It was the Jews who called for Jesus’ death, as the Romans tried to extricate themselves from the situation; it was the most religious of the Jews that called for the deaths of Jesus and the early Christians; it was ‘The (Catholic) Church’  (Christianity infiltrated and subverted by paganism) that persecuted true Christians during The Inquisition and the Protestant Reformation; Hitler (a Jew) that exterminated six million Jews; Ahmadinejad (a Jew) who wants to destroy the country of Israel.

(I am not anti-Jewish.  If the truth were known about all who descend from all of the twelve tribes of Israel [not just the Jews/Judah] there would surely be much more to tell.  My point is simply that Satan delights in turning people who claim to be God’s people against each other.)

So, like a suspenseful movie with a twist of irony at the end, here’s one way things may play out in the days ahead:

  • WHO:  ‘mainstream Christians’ / the ‘lukewarm church’ in the book of Revelation / the ‘apostate church’ / ‘Christians’ / ‘followers of Jesus’
  • WHY:  believing themselves righteous, blind to their sin, eager to maintain a good reputation in ‘the world’,  fearful because of prophecies they don’t understand, fearful of persecution, believing they are in danger from ‘the beast’ and ‘the antichrist’, eager to compromise to have peace and safety, believing ‘radical Christians’ are going to get them in trouble too, believing it will ensure their safety
  • WHAT:  distance themselves from ‘radical Christians’ (Christians who actually want to live in obedience to Christ), verbally separate themselves from ‘radical Christians’ , vehemently and publicly disown them  (think of Peter disowning Jesus)
  • WHEN:  when they start to become unpopular, when they feel persecuted verbally
  • HOW:  play into Satan’s hand by betraying true Christians, handing them over to be arrested

Ok, so maybe now you’re starting to worry about who will betray you and turn you in . . . but that’s not the point!!  If you ARE a true Christian (and we all think we are, don’t we?) . . . being betrayed, arrested and/or killed will not destroy you.  But acting out of your fear, rather than faith, might.

The real question is . . . might you be a Judas, and not realize it?

After all, in the end, it was Judas that was damned . . .  by a life of little ‘secret sins’, justifications and dishonesty. . . unaware that his heart was so hardened that he could no longer tell right from wrong, or discern the truth from a lie, or know he needed to repent . . . blinded to his own sinfulness . . . pawn of the devil . . .  sorry and miserable at the end yet, nevertheless, unwilling or unable to repent.

As the saying goes:  ‘be afraid . . . be very afraid’ . . . of what lurks within.

*I think it should be instructive to us, that Jesus didn’t plead with them, or warn them of the consequences for what they were about to do.  He did not ‘prolong the altar call’, so to speak.

When a person is confronted, before they are sufficiently broken, instead of repenting they will harden their heart and create justifications for themself that serve to further entrap them in their sin.

** Likewise, the purpose of the law was not to save men, but to cause them to realize their sinfulness, by their inability to keep it, so that they could repent and be saved.

Beware Of The Second Beast!

Christian Persecution In America?

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