How To Stop Worry

Worry. We all do it. It’s been said, ‘Worry does not take away tomorrow’s troubles. It takes away today’s peace.”

In Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, he speaks about worry in Matthew 6:25-34. Jesus said we worry about life (Matt. 6:25) needs (Matt. 6:31) and tomorrow (Matt. 6:34).

Three reasons we should not worry…

1- It is not productive – “Can worry add anything to your life?”
The word “worry” comes from the German word ‘worgen’ and means ‘to strangle.’ The Greek word is a combination of two words meaning ‘to divide’ and ‘the  mind’. Worry causes a divided mind. It is like a dense fog.

2- It is not necessary – “Won’t God do more for you than the flowers and grass?
God is Master. He knows everything. He owns everything (Ps. 24:1). He controls everything (1 Chron. 29:12). He provides everything (Phil. 4:19). God takes care of His own. He feeds the birds and clothes the plants. These are simply His creation but we are His children. He surely will take care of us.

3- It is not worthy – “Isn’t life more than food and aren’t you worth more than birds?”
People have more significance than just a body to maintain. We are more than the fulfillments of our appetites. Our needs are more than physical. We have a deeper need. Everybody has ambitions. We are not like plankton drifting out at sea. We need something to live for, to give meaning to our existence. Some choose ‘material security.’ Others choose God’s kingdom. That is where it’s at.

How to stop worrying…

1. Put first things first. This has to do with priorities. “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33)

Seeking God’s Kingdom means Jesus rules your life. This begins by trusting Jesus as Lord and Savior. It is also a call to be involved in bringing people into His kingdom.

Seeking God’s Righteousness is a broader concept. Because God is righteous, He desires it in every human community, not just Christian. We are to make His righteousness attractive so others will desire it. Live it and encourage it.

2. Live one day at a time. This has to do with simplicity. “Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:34)

This warns us about ‘double worry.’ Tomorrow has enough trouble. Don’t contaminate today by corrupting it with tomorrow’s troubles. If we worry, we double what we worry about. If our fear doesn’t materialize, we worried for nothing. If it does, we worried twice instead of once. In both cases it is foolish.

This encourages us to do it today. Do what needs to be done and do it well. In Luke 10:38-42, Martha was worried and bothered. Jesus told her that one thing was needed. Certain things need to be done. Get them done, and concentrate on God and His Kingdom. And never underestimate the importance of one task.

Worry is the sin of distrusting the promise and providence of God. Worry shows that we are mastered by our circumstances and by our own finite perspectives and understanding rather than by God’s Word. Some worry is good. We meet deadlines, prepare for an assignment, get medical check-ups. Jesus was warning against destructive worry, especially about material possessions. Jesus is not discouraging forethought but rather nervous anxiety.

Worry cannot change the future. We simply must leave that in God’s hands. If you are not for sure that you have accepted Christ as Savior, you can do that today and leave all your tomorrows in His hands. If you have accepted Christ as Savior, and yet are worrying about your tomorrows, that’s not your job. Leave your troubles in the hands of the Savior. He will take care of them and you.

You can read my other Sermon on the Mount articles: Life Redefined: Sermons from The Sermon on the Mount.

How to be a person ‘after God’s own heart’

David was ‘a man after God’s own heart.’ What does that mean? Does it mean you constantly read your Bible, or pray continuously, or go to church every time the doors are open? While these may be wonderful, I think it goes deeper than that. I think a study of David will help us.

More has been written in the Bible about David than any other character in the Old Testament. In the Old Testament there are 66 chapters written about David and in the New Testament there are 59 references to this great man. 73 Psalms are attributed to David.

In Hebrew, the name David means ‘beloved’. He was born about approximately 1,000 years before Christ (1040 BC) and was the youngest of eight son of Jesse (1 Samuel 16:10-11). He is described as handsome and ruddy with beautiful eyes. He was anointed as a boy to be God’s chosen king by the prophet Samuel. From that day forward, the Holy Spirit remained with him for the rest of his life (1 Samuel 16:13).

David is the only person in the Bible whose commendation from God is ‘a man after my own heart’ (1 Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22). Yet, David is guilty of adultery, stealing, coveting, lying, deceiving and murder; hardly the kind of lifestyle described as a man after God’s own heart.

“How can God describe David as a man ‘after my own heart’ (1 Sam. 13:14; Acts 13:22) when he did all of those wicked things that are recorded in the Bible about him?”

Well, one thing is for sure… If David can be a man after God’s heart, so can you.

But I think one reason why David was ‘after God’s own heart’ is because of his own heart. I think if we can apply some of the characteristics of David’s heart, we will become a person ‘after God’s heart.’

What do we mean by ‘heart’?

Before we explore David’s heart, what do we mean by heart? It’s not the physical organ that pumps blood through our body. When the Bible talks about our heart, it is referring to the core of our being… our mind, will, and emotions.

The Bible tells us that our ‘heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked’ (Jeremiah 17:9). We may do good things, but at our core we are wicked. Our mind, emotions and desires are tainted by sin. And often, we are unaware of it. But it is from our heart that the sinful actions come. We are not sinners because we sin, we sin because we are sinners. Our heart needs to be changed.

In order for a person to be saved, the heart must be changed. This only happens by the power of God in response to faith. ‘With the heart one believes unto righteousness’ (Romans 10:10). God can create a ‘new heart’ within us (Psalm 51:10). This is what happened to David’s heart.

So, what was it about David’s heart that caused him to be a ‘man after God’s own heart’?

I looked up every reference to heart from the words of David in the Psalms. I jotted down all the times he talked about his own heart. I discovered 8 characteristics of David’s heart…

A JOYFUL HEART

“…my heart shall rejoice in thy salvation.” (Psalm 13:5)

What makes your heart happy? Is it the joy of the salvation that God has given us, or do you find more enjoyment in things that won’t last?

A LISTENING HEART

“the law of his God is in his heart…” (Psalm 37:31; also Psalm 19:14; 40:8)

What captures your thoughts? Is it God’s Word, or the news of the day? Do you listen to God’s Word or simply read it? 

A STRUGGLING HEART

Psalm 13:2 – “…sorrow in my heart daily…” (Psalm 13:2). “the troubles of my heart are enlarged…” (Psalm 25:17). “my heart is sore pained within me…” (Psalm 55:4). “… my heart is overwhelmed…” (Psalm 61:2). “… my heart is wounded within me” (Psalm 109:22). See also Psalm 34:18; 38:8; 69:20; 143:4)

Are you so proud that you are afraid to admit your weak heart? God can only heal the hurts you admit.

A PRAISING HEART

“I will praise thee, O Lord, with my whole heart…” (Psalm 9:1; see also Psalm 86:12; 138:1)

Do your words reflect a positive heart or a negative heart? Do you praise or complain about what God has brought to your life?

A HUMBLE HEART

“Lord, my heart is not haughty, nor mine eyes lofty…” (Psalm 131:1)

At your core, is it all about you? Or do you honestly seek the welfare of others?

A FAITHFUL HEART

“My heart is fixed, O God, my heart is fixed…” (Psalm 57:7)

Does your heart go up and down according to circumstances? Or is your heart fixed on the unchanging God?

A REPENTANT HEART

“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.” (Psalm 51:17; See also Psalm 40:12; 51:10)

Does your heart break because of the sin that separates you from God? Are you willing to see how dirty your heart really is? Only when you admit the dirt, will God clean it up.

A DEVOTED HEART

“When thou saidst, Seek ye my face; my heart said unto thee, Thy face, Lord, will I seek.” (Psalm 27:8; also Psalm 28:7)

Do you seek God’s face at the core of your being? What is your ultimate motivation and priority in life?

To be a ‘man or woman after God’s own heart, you need to invite Jesus into your own heart. He will then clean your heart and renew it to be like His heart. You will discover that He will change your heart to express these characteristics.

You can also read my other article about King David: A Story of True Friendship – David and Jonathan.

Investing for Eternity – Wise use of Money

Money is important to people. I remember a funny story about riches…

On a secluded island a lone pirate was captured who couldn’t speak English. The captain of the ship told his interpreter to say to the him, “Tell him if he doesn’t tell us where they have hidden all of their gold, we will make him walk the plank.” Through the interpreter the pirate responded, “I’d rather die than tell you where the gold is hidden” The captain tied the pirate’s hand together and led him to the side of the ship.” The pirate again responded, “I’d rather die than tell you where the gold is.” With that, the captain pushed him to the end of the plank. Sharks were just 5 feet below. The captain said to the interpreter, “Tell him if he doesn’t tell us where the gold is, we will push him off the plank.” The pirate could stand it no longer and said, “The gold is hidden in a little cave on the island just behind the large waterfall. The waterfall is one mile over the hill to the right.” The interpreter related the following to the captain, “He said that he would rather die than tell you where the gold is.”

Not only is money important to many people, it may surprise you, but money is important in the Bible. Jesus talked a great deal about money. Sixteen of the thirty-eight parables were concerned with how to handle money and possessions. In the Gospels, an amazing one out of 10 verses (288 in all) deal directly with the subject of money. The Bible offers 500 verses on prayer, less than 500 verses on faith, bt more than 2,000 verses on money and possessions.

If money and our possessions are so important, we surely want to keep them secure. We want to make sure what we have will last.

When John D. Rockefeller, Sr. died, someone asked the accountant one day, “How much did John D. leave? We know he was an immensely wealthy man.” Without a moment’s hesitation, the accountant answered, “Everything!”

But when we die, they say, we can’t take it with us. But can we? The Bible says we can have treasure in heaven.

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21)

How can we invest for eternity?

Two Banks: Heaven or Earth

Earth. Riches and possessions on earth are constantly threatened by such things as decay, depreciation, and theft. Nothing we own is completely safe. People can steal what we have. Time can damage what we have. Things get old and worn out. The value of things don’t last. It has been said, “I can’t think of anything that’s as much fun to own as it is to look forward to owning.” The more a person has, the more they worry about moths, and worms, and rust. And even if we keep our possessions perfectly secure during our entire lives, we are certainly separated from them at death (Job 1:21).

Heaven. Possessions that are used for God’s purposes can be a means of accumulating heavenly possessions. There are only two places to store treasure. When done for the Lord, we can build up heavenly treasures that are completely free from destruction or theft. Jesus suggests heaven because it lasts longer, the vaults are more secure, and the banker more reliable. This is God’s formula for earning dividends that are both guaranteed and permanent.

Martin Luther said, “God divided the hands into fingers so that money could slip through.” Laying up treasure in heaven is to do anything on earth whose effects last for eternity. It is now a kind of credit account in heaven which we and others might draw.

Note: This is not a ban on possessions in themselves. Saving is not forbidden. It is wise. (Prov. 6:6). We are not to despise, but enjoy God’s blessings (1 Tim. 4:3,4; 6:17). What Jesus warns agains is the the selfish accumulation of stuff. Accumulating possessions simply for our own sakes.

Two Attitudes: Now or Later

Jesus illustrates this concept with a ‘good’ and ‘bad’ eye (Matthew 6:22-23). A good eye will help us see everything clearly and make good decisions. However, a bad (“dark”) eye leads to poor choices because we can’t see clearly.

When a person invests on earth, he makes poor choices. He’s only looking for immediate results. But when a person invests in heaven, he makes wiser choices with his possessions. He’s looking for the long term results of his decisions.

Two Masters: Jesus or Money

Just as we cannot have our treasures on earth and heaven, or have our attitudes both now and later, we cannot follow two masters.

“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” (Matthew 6:24)

Men can work for two employers, but no slave can be the property of two owners. To try to share Jesus with other loyalties is idolatry. It is like loving two women. You can, but once you love one, you have sacrificed the love of the other. You are either a slave to Christ or sin (Rom. 6:16-22).

Sigmund Freud’s favorite story was about the sailor shipwrecked on an island. He was seized by the natives, hoisted to their shoulders, carried to the village, and set on a throne. He learned that it was their custom once each year to make some man a king for a year. He liked it until he began to wonder what happened to all the former kings. Soon he discovered that every year when his kingship was ended, the king was banished to an island, where he starved to death. The sailor did not like that, but he was smart and he was king for a year. So he put his carpenters to work making boats, his farmers to work translating fruit trees to the island, farmers growing crops, masons building houses. so when his kingship was over, he was banished, not to a barren island, but to an island of abundance. It is a good parable of life: We’re all kings here, kings for a little while, able to choose what we shall do with the stuff of life. “Lay not up for yourselves treasures on earth… but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven…”

You can read some of my other articles about money: If God Doesn’t Need My Money, Why Give? Giving – It’s Not the Size That Counts, Life Lessons From A Bag Of Skittles.

You can read my other Sermon on the Mount articles: Life Redefined: Sermons from The Sermon on the Mount.

That’s not what a kiss is for…

I found a few quotes about a “Kiss”…

  • Who would have thought that something so small could be so everlasting. Something so minute, yet I spend most days waiting for.
  • One day you’ll kiss someone and know those are the lips you want to kiss for the rest of your life.
  • A kiss seals two souls for a moment in time.

And there are some famous kisses in history:

  • The sailor and nurse at Times Square after World War 2
  • Rhett Butler & Scarlet O’Hara in Gone with the Wind
  • Spiderman’s upside down kiss
  • Lady & the Tramp
  • Sleeping Beauty
  • The rock band, KISS
  • And of course a Hershey’s Kiss.

According to Webster’s Dictionary, a kiss is ‘to touch someone with your lips as a way of showing love’. But it was a kiss that was given to betray Jesus – the kiss of Judas. You can read the story in Mark 14:43-52.

We find four characters in this scene. From these four, we might discover something of ourselves.

PETER – How easy to be out of step with Christ when we think we are serving Him.

Mark omits the names, possibly because it was not yet safe. It was Peter who drew his sword to cut off the head of Malchus, but he ended up cutting off his ear. Jesus performed His last miracle and healed it. Perhaps remembering his own words that he would never deny his Lord, Peter attempts to defend Jesus. It may be wrong to draw a sword and hack at a man to kill him, but somehow we are glad that there was one man there who, at least on the impulse of the moment, was prepared to stand up for Jesus. But it easy to think we are serving Jesus, when we are actually serving ourself.

JUDAS – How easy to show love to Christ when we are actually betraying Him.

In the Greek language (original New Testament writings) when Judas says, ‘Whom I shall kiss, that is he,’ he uses the word phileo which is the ordinary word. But when it is said that he came forward and kissed Jesus the word used is kataphileo. The kata is intensive and kataphileo means to kiss as a lover kisses his beloved. The sign of the betrayal was not a mere formal kiss of respectful greeting. It was a kiss of love. It is easy to outwardly show signs of love for Jesus, but our heart is filled with bitterness, hatred and anger.

MARK – How easy to follow Christ in the shadows but run in public.

Only Mark records this unidentified young man. The most probable and popular view is it is Mark and this is his way of saying, ‘I was there.’ We know as we read Acts that the meeting place of the Jerusalem church was in the house of Mary, the mother of John Mark. It may be that they had the Last Supper in her home as well. Maybe Mark was there in the shadows listening, watching, and following them to the Garden. This would explain where the Gethsemane story came from since the disciples were asleep. One thing is certain, Peter would not have remembered this incident because he and the other disciples ran away. But this incident is a reminder that Jesus was all alone. No one was there. He faced His enemies and the cross alone. It is easy to be a silent Christian, but the light of Jesus in our life is meant to be seen.

JESUS – How easy to walk alone when you know you are following God’s will.

Jesus had already struggled with God’s will in His prayers in the Garden of Gethsemane. He know what His Father wanted Him to do. So He was willing and almost eager to stand alone against all odds to fulfill God’s will. When you know, really know, what God wants you to do, nothing will stand in your way. You never stand alone. Jesus stands with you.

As I conclude this event, I see an interesting indictment against modern Christianity. Our society is all about ‘me’. It’s the ‘selfie generation’. As a matter of fact, this consumer approach to living has creeped into the church. Congregational life tends to be based on meeting people’s felt needs. But the story of Jesus’ arrest and betrayal reminds us that none of His followers felt the need for a Savior who would die for them. We cannot forget that the salvation that Jesus bought and paid for is much more comprehensive than the relief of the temporary needs we feel. We need to decide if our church will be built around our assessment of ourselves and how our needs will be met or around the mission of God and the salvation of souls.

Remember, it’s not about you… or me… It’s about Him (Jesus).

Thy Will Be Done – Jesus’ Prayer in Gethsemane

People often say, ‘I will follow Jesus no matter what.’ Such talk gives me a thrill. But it also fills me with apprehension because it is often naïve. It is like Dorothy and the Tin Man singing, ‘We’re off to see the Wizard,’ not knowing the witch is out to get them.

Before Jesus went to the cross He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane. He knew all the disciples wold abandon Him once He was arrested. He would go to the cross and die alone. His friends, upon whom He counts to win the world, would desert Him in His crisis.

Gethsemane is a Hebrew word that means ‘olive press.’ It was probably an orchard of olive trees with a press for extracting this oil. This is strangely appropriate considering the agony that was about to press in on the Lord.

You can read the story in Mark 14:26-42. As Jesus prayed, He was ‘greatly amazed.’ The word means ‘to be stunned with astonishment.’ Jesus was brought into contact with another world that awed Him – the world of our sin, the world of unspeakable horror that lay before Him at Calvary when He would take on Himself our guilt and be ‘made sin for us.’ He was ‘very heavy’ – deeply weighed down.

He cried out to ‘Abba, Father’. Jesus used these two words for God. ‘Abba’ is the word of a child (like Daddy). ‘Father’ is used by an adult son. This is the full relationship He had with God.

He desired ‘the cup’ to be taken away. What did this cup represent? It was a cup full of sin and of God’s wrath. By ‘drinking’ He became sin. Yet, he yielded ‘not my will, but thine, be done.’ In all of this we find unconditional surrender. In the greatest display of obedience that will ever be known, Jesus took the full cup of man’s sin and God’s wrath, looked, shuddering deep into its depths, and in a sheer act of His will, drank it all. The physical suffering would have been enough. But what Jesus feared most was the cup of spiritual suffering – taking on sin and separation from God.

While this was going on, the disciples were sleeping. Jesus called Peter by his old, earthly name – Simon. He had boasted he would never fail, but already his loyalty was failing. Jesus knew Peter better than he knew himself. Jesus fully knew the weakness of human flesh. We desire to do God’s will yet are so weak in our flesh that we often fail to follow through. It is remarkable that in His severe agony, Jesus had concern for His disciples. More attention is given to the sleeping disciples than the suffering Messiah.

Lessons from Jesus…

If we truly follow Christ, we will experience our own personal Gethsemane. So, know that Jesus is enduring with you. But what practical things can we do when we feel the pressures of life?

1 – Keep watch. Stay awake and be morally vigilant. Temptations often heighten under stress.

2 – Pray to God. This is how you maintain your vigilance. Don’t allow your stress to pull you away from God. Keep talking and listening.

3- Seek support of friends and loved ones. This is how you build up your resistance and help one another. Don’t isolate yourself. When one is weak, others are strong. You need them.

4- Focus on the purpose of God. This is how we do God’s will, not our own. You may not know why but God does. Trust Him.

I hope as you endure the pressures of life, you will follow the example of Jesus. Even if you go through the ‘valley of the shadow of death’, He will walk with you.

You can read some of my similar articles: A Great Example – Jesus, The Cost to Follow Jesus, Jesus Loves You More Than Anything, The Prayer That Reaches Heaven.

If a Christian Commits Suicide, Is He Still Saved?

It is a sad fact that some Christians have committed suicide. You may have a friend or family member who professed to be a Christian, yet in a particular stressful situation or result of mental illness, took their own life. I want you to know that the sadness and hurt you feel is one of the deepest in human experience. I am so sorry you are going through this.

Adding to the tragedy is the false teaching that committing suicide automatically consigns one to hell. Many believe that a Christian who commits suicide will not be saved. This teaching is not supported in the Bible, but comes from church tradition. So, I want to help you understand the Biblical teaching of the believer, salvation and suicide.

I hesitate to even post this because I know some are looking for a way out of their existence. I think the Bible is not ‘specific’ in this area to prevent people from choosing suicide over life. If you have never been at this crossroad, it is a horrible existence. There is hope, but it is hard to see. If you are contemplating suicide, please reconsider. God has better plans for you.

Scripture teaches that, from the moment we truly believe in Christ, we are guaranteed eternal life (John 3:16). According to the Bible, Christians can know beyond any doubt that they possess eternal life (1 John 5:13). Nothing can separate a Christian from God’s love (Romans 8:38–39). No “created thing” can separate a Christian from God’s love, and even a Christian who commits suicide is a “created thing”; therefore, not even suicide can separate a Christian from God’s love.

Jesus died for all of our sins, and if a true Christian, in a time of spiritual attack and weakness, commits suicide, his sin is still covered by the blood of Christ.

 According to the Bible, suicide is not what determines whether a person gains entrance into heaven. If an unsaved person commits suicide, he has done nothing but expedite his journey to hell. However, that person who committed suicide will ultimately be in hell for rejecting salvation through Christ, not because he committed suicide (see John 3:18).

I should also point out, however, that no one truly knows what was happening in a person’s heart the moment he or she died. Some people have “deathbed conversions” and accept Christ in the moments before death. It is possible that a suicide could have a last-second change of heart and cry out for God’s mercy. We leave such judgments to God (1 Samuel 16:7).

The suicide of a believer is evidence that anyone can struggle with despair and that our enemy, Satan, is “a murderer from the beginning” (John 8:44). Suicide is still a serious sin against God. According to the Bible, suicide is murder and it is always wrong. Christians are called to live their lives for God, and the decision of when to die is God’s and God’s alone.

A suicidal person feels he has exhausted all his options. Life has no meaning, no purpose, no future, so why continue to endure its extreme unhappiness, anguish, hopelessness and despair? The idea that nothing will ever change for the better leaves him feeling helpless, with the thought that death is the only way out.

Such a person is a victim of depression, tortured with feelings of unworthiness, sin and failure, deep guilt, and the need to be punished. There are better answers to these feelings than suicide. It is important to share your struggle with another believer or pastor. Remember that God always loves and cares and will never leave you (Hebrews 13:5). God still forgives and restores (1 John 1:9). Look to the Lord not the problems and circumstances (Proverbs 3:5,6). It is important to get into God’s Word and talk to Him in prayer. Connect with a Bible-teaching church for support.

May God grant grace and the psalmist’s perspective to each one who is facing trials today: “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God” (Psalm 43:5).

You can read some of my similar articles: 3 Positive Ways To Deal With Depression, Nanu Nanu Robin Williams, 5 Reasons You Can’t Lose Your Salvation,

Close But No Salvation – Was Judas Saved?

History has had many famous betrayals. Julius Caesar was betrayed by his nephew, Brutus.The Continental Army was betrayed by Benedict Arnold. However, the most famous betrayal was made by Judas Iscariot. He betrayed Jesus Christ to the Jewish leaders, which eventually led to his crucifixion by the Romans.

Betrayal is the breaking of a trust within a relationship. Judas was chosen by Jesus Christ to be one of His apostles. Because of his betrayal, the question of his spiritual condition is called into question. Was Judas a true believer or was he just a fake?

Although he was chosen to be one of the Twelve, all scriptural evidence points to the fact that he never believed Jesus to be God. He even may not have been convinced that Jesus was the Messiah. Unlike the other disciples that called Jesus “Lord,” Judas never used this title for Jesus and instead called him “Rabbi” (Mark 14:45), which acknowledged Jesus as nothing more than a teacher. While other disciples at times made great professions of faith and loyalty, Judas never did so and appears to have remained silent. In a parable of the judgment, Jesus refers to disciples who performed miracles in Jesus name (which Judas did), but Jesus will pronounce the final judgment “I never knew you” (Matthew 7:21-23). This a hint to Judas that He needed to change.

So, what does this tell us? It tells us that someone can play the part of a hypocrite so well that no one but Jesus Himself knows that he’s a fraud and pretender. Judas was just like the rest of the disciples… except that he never turned to Jesus. But he had his chances.

At his baptism. Tradition says Judas was a follower of John the Baptist before following Jesus. At his baptism, he had an opportunity to make his profession of faith. Yet he chose to just go along and lie about his true faith.

At his calling. Tradition says that Nathanael introduced Judas to Jesus. As he began following, I’m sure he had many conversations with Jesus. Though an unbeliever, he professed belief in Jesus. At anytime he could have admitted his hypocrisy. Especially when he was chosen to be one of the 12 apostles, he should have admitted his fault. But he held to his fraud. He was even picked as the trusted treasurer. But all this must have gone to his head. In his pride, he refused to humble himself.

At Mary’s anointing of Jesus. Judas spent 3 years with Jesus and the other eleven disciples. Nobody, but Jesus, doubted his sincerity. But during the last week of Jesus’ life, his true self came to the front. Mary anointed Jesus’ feet by using an expensive oil. Judas immediately objected to the waste. Now, others knew that he cared more for the poor (and money) than Jesus. But he still did not confess his unbelief (John 12:1-8).

In the Upper Room. Jesus gathered the 12 disciples for one Last Supper. When nobody volunteered, Jesus washed all the disciples’ feet. As he washed Judas’ feet, Judas had his chance (John 13:1-17). As they sat around the table, Jesus between Peter and Judas. Judas had another chance. And when Jesus proclaimed that one of them would betray Jesus, Judas should have realized that his scheme to turn Jesus over to the Jewish leaders was found out. Even to save himself, he should have confessed. But he continued through with his sham (Matthew 26:17-25.

In the Garden of Gethsemane. The last time Judas saw Jesus, he moved close to give a kiss to identify him to the arresting soldiers in the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus looked at him and simply said, “Friend, Why have you come?” (Matthew 26:50). Jesus knew why he came – to betray Him. But Jesus was giving Judas one last chance to come for forgiveness. But Judas walked away.

Later that night, Judas felt remorse over what he did. But instead of going toward Jesus, he went to the Jewish leaders to attempt to release Jesus. When he found out that was not going to happen, he committed suicide (Matthew 27:1-10).

But even today, Judas has been in Hell for about 2,000 years. He has been thinking about all his missed chances to truly receive Jesus as Savior and Lord. He was so close, but so far. If he could tell us anything, he would say, “It gets harder and harder each time you say NO.”

One day, Judas will stand before God at the final judgment. He will see Jesus in all His glory. I’m sure as he anticipates his sentence, he plead for his soul…. “I’m a good man. I’ve been baptized. I was part of the apostles. I’ve worked miracles. I’ll even give back the 30 pieces of silver if I can. I’ll stand and proclaim who Jesus is now.” But it will be too late. Jesus will sentence him to eternity in the Lake of Fire.

Like Judas, many people are given multiple chances to turn to Christ. For others, they may only get one real opportunity to turn from sin and embrace Jesus with their whole heart. Turn today. You do not know how many opportunities you have left. This may be your last chance to turn to Jesus.

You can read some of my other articles about salvation and following Jesus. 3 Tests of Salvation, 5 Reasons You Can’t Lose Your Salvation, A Word of Salvation from the Cross.

Judas in the Mirror – Why Did Judas Betray Jesus?

betrayed_wide_t_nvIt is easier to forgive an enemy than to forgive a friend. Better to have an enemy who slaps you in the face than a friend who stabs you in the back. You don’t expect betrayal from a friend. But for there to be betrayal there must be trust. The saddest thing about betrayal is it never comes from an enemy. Because sometimes the people you’d take a bullet for are the ones behind the trigger.

Have you ever been betrayed? Maybe a friend told one of your secrets. Or a child broke a trust and your heart. Or a spouse had an affair. It hurts, real deep. You kind of know how Jesus felt when He was betrayed by one of his most trusted disciples, Judas. His betrayal is very famous. He sold Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. He betrayed Him with a kiss. His betrayal led to the most famous murder in history – the crucifixion of Jesus, God’s Son.

But what was the motivation behind Judas’ betrayal? Why did he do this? I think we can find at least 3 motivations behind his betrayal? The problem is I discover these same motivations in some of my actions. I’m sure you can too. So, can you see Judas in the mirror?

1- MONEY

The Gospel authors tell us that this was the primary reason Judas betrayed Jesus. It was for the money…

  • Matthew 26:15 – And said unto them, What will ye give me, and I will deliver him unto you? And they covenanted with him for thirty pieces of silver.

Judas negotiated a deal, a business arrangement – seeking economic advantage, by getting the best price that he could manage, and so for 30 pieces of silver he sold his relationship with Jesus. It seems pretty clear, he did it for the money.

A corrupt love of money is a powerful motivator. Just think of what people driven by greed will do. Consider the impact of money on our political system. Business leaders go along with unethical decisions driven by greed. Consider how once close and caring family members will get in battles over disputed inheritances. Or as if a divorce weren’t  brutal enough, the greed when dividing the assets. People will betray country, business partners, family and friends for money. Our prisons are packed by those driven by love of money.

Greed and the love of money can bring out the very worst in people. It brought out the worst in Judas, to betray his Lord, and that ought to get our attention and it ought to concern us very much. Our material things in this life, will either help or hinder, enrich or destroy — and our attitude toward money and possessions most clearly reflects our relationship with God.

2- PRIDE

It could be that Judas thought Jesus was heading down a wrong path. If Judas had followed Jesus, expecting Him to overthrow Roman tyranny, perhaps by having Jesus arrested, he hoped to force Jesus into a rebellion against Rome.

There is nothing that tells us that this was his motivation. However, there is a hint. After the betrayal and arrest, Jesus offered no resistance. Judas returned to the Jewish leaders, brought back the 30 pieces of silver, and said, “I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood.” Then, in guilt, hung himself. His plan didn’t work.

For sure, Jesus was not doing what Judas expected. Jesus could not and would not be who Judas wanted Him to be. So he did it his way. Countless people today do the same thing. How often do we try to tell God how to do things? When life doesn’t make sense, we question the overall plan of God for our life. When faced with God’s will and our will, we choose selfishly. Our pride thinks we know best, even in relation to God. That’s what Judas thought.

3- SATAN

In Luke’s account of this moment tells us Satan himself entered Judas.

  • Luke 22: 3 – Then entered Satan into Judas surnamed Iscariot, being of the number of the twelve.

Satan does not involve himself with every temptation and spiritual battle. He did tempt Eve in the garden and Jesus in the wilderness. Here he enters Judas for the purpose of betraying Jesus. So, one of the motives for betraying Jesus was Satanic.

This does not assume that Judas became the innocent victim of a Satanic takeover. Judas could have changed his mind. But he reached the point where he couldn’t turn back. Satan took over. And after he committed his betrayal, he regretted his decision. But it was too late.

Whether it is Satanic, demonic or our own sinful nature, we often go down a path we know we should exit. We know it’s not right, but often we think we can handle it. But we often regret the consequences of our actions. You can’t play with sin and not have to pay the consequences.

No is Not Enough – Thoughts on Fasting

Fasting is an exercise in self-denial and self-discipline to abstain from food. Going without food or drink for any period of time is a form of fasting. “Breakfast” means to ‘break a fast.’

Many ancient pagans believed that demons could enter the body through food. When they felt they were under demonic attack, they would fast to prevent more evil spirits from gaining access to their bodies. In modern western society, fasting has become popular for purely physical and cosmetic reasons.

Legitimate fasting always had a spiritual purpose and is never presented as having any value in and of itself. The only fast commanded in Scripture is the one connected with the Day of Atonement. They were to ‘humble their souls’ (Lev. 16:29), a Hebrew expression including forsaking food as an act of self-denial. Fasting is shown to be an entirely non-compulsory, voluntary act, not a spiritual duty to be regularly observed.

Jesus spoke about fasting in His Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 6:16-18.

1. False Fasting (Matthew 6:16)

Fasting had become a ritual to gain merit with God and attention before men. Many Pharisees fasted twice a week (Luke 18:12), usually on Monday and Thursday. They claimed those days were chosen because they were the days Moses made the two separate trips to receive the tablets of law from God on Mt. Sinai. But those two days also happened to be the amor Jewish market days, when cities and towns were crowded with farmers, merchants, and shoppers. They were the 2 days with the largest audiences.

2. Proper Fasting (Matthew 6:17-18)

Fasting is mentioned 30 times in the New Testament, almost always favorably. Fasting is normal and acceptable in the Christian life. Jesus assumes His followers will fast on certain occasions, but He doesn’t give a command or specify a particular time, place, or method.

Jesus’ disciples did not fast while He was with them because fasting is associated primarily with mourning or other ties of con suing spiritual need or anxiety.

Fasting is never shown in Scripture to be the means to heightened spiritual experience, visions, or special insight or awareness – as many mystics, including some Christians mystics, claim. Fasting is appropriate in this age because Christ is physically absent from the earth. But it is appropriate only as a response to to special times of testing, trial, struggle.

When is fasting appropriate?

  1. Times of sorrow (2 Sam. 12:16; Ps. 35:13)
  2. Overwhelming danger (2 Chron. 20:3; Esther 4:16)
  3. Penitence (Jonah 3:5,7)
  4. Beginning of an important task or ministry (Acts 13:2,3). d.
  5. Helps us share in others in need. Share what we might have eaten (or its cost) with the undernourished.

A person who fasts should do everything to make himself normal and do nothing to attract attention to his deprivation and spiritual struggle. The one who sincerely wants to please God will avoid trying to impress men. Fasting is not to be a display for anyone, including God. We can bluff a human audience and they can be taken in by our performances. But God is not mocked. We can’t deceive Him. God hates hypocrisy but loves reality.

I hope these thoughts helps you in your Christian journey. Fasting provides an opportunity to practice self-discipline to draw closer to Jesus Christ.

You can read my other Sermon on the Mount articles: Life Redefined: Sermons from The Sermon on the Mount.

An Extravagant Act of Love for Jesus

The story of the anointing of Jesus is found in three Gospels – Matthew 26:6-13; Mark 14:3-9; John 12:1-8. A recent sermon I preached about this event reminded me that Jesus deserves every opportunity to show our love to Him.

Jesus has just a few hours left to live. It’s His last week on Earth. So how does he spend His time? He goes to a party at a man’s house known as ‘Simon the leper.’ Nothing else is known about him, except that he once had leprosy. Maybe Jesus had healed him of his leprosy and in gratitude he threw a party. Along with the actions later in the evening, maybe this was a party of some of the close friends of Jesus who had been touched and changed by Him.

Neither Mark nor Matthew names the woman, but John tells us she was Mary of Bethany, the sister of Martha and Lazarus. It’s interesting that Mary is mentioned only 3 times in the Bible (Luke 10:38-42; John 11:31-32; John 12:1-8). Each time she is at His feet. She had a close fellowship with the Lord and listened to Him.

She took an alabaster box of spikenard ointment, broke the box, and poured the entire contents on his head. It was customary to pour a few drops of scented oil on guests as they arrived or sat to eat, but she gave it all. She used spikenard. Spikenard was imported from the Himalayas.

The disciples criticized her. According to John, this was led by Judas. Two complaints: First, it was a waste. At the least, anointing many heads is better than only one. Second, it could have been better used. They could have sold the perfume for 300 pence and fed the poor. 300 pence is 300 daily wages. Today, this would be worth about $45,000.

But according to John, it wasn’t the poor Judas was concerned about. He held the money for the group. His concern was motivated by greed or at least control over the money. It is the ‘love of money’ that is the root of all evil. This event probably pushed him over the edge in his determination to betray Jesus.

Jesus defended Mary’s action. First, He proclaims that she did a good work and would be rewarded for it. Mary may not have set out to anoint Jesus for burial, but her ‘over the top’ act of love will always be remembered for that. Second, their concern for the poor is important, but the poor will always be around. But the opportunity to do what she did will not. It is not that Jesus is not concerned for the poor, but every opportunity must be evaluated in relation of Jesus. Today, it is important to remember that Jesus said what you have done to the ‘least of these’ you’ve done to Him (Matthew 25:40).

What can we learn from this story?

A life spent in selfless devotion to Jesus is not wasted, but a life spent on self is totally wasted.

Earlier Jesus said, “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?” (Mark 8:36)

  • Selfless devotion is costly: It may cost you financially (stuff) …socially (pride)… criticism (reputation).
  • Selfless devotion grows from personal love and gratitude.
  • Selfish devotion flows from knowing Jesus personally.
  • Selfish devotion results in action… the fragrance of Christ surrounding your life… service for Christ…witness for Christ.

Mary’s action reveals the proper basis for evaluating our own actions: Did I do what I did because I love Jesus? She didn’t do this out of duty or pressure, but out of sheer devotion for Christ. She did it from a perception of Christ that even the apostles lacked. She knew He was worthy of extravagant love. The more she learned about Him listening to Him in His ministry, the more she loved Him. When Jesus is your treasure, you will spend your life in selfless devotion to Him.

She did what she could. Her public expression of commitment to Christ invited others to decide what they would do with Him.  Her action forced the hands of all present and moved them either to relationship or rejection of Jesus. As a result of her action she was ridiculed by others.  But as a result of her action she was honored by Jesus.

What have you done recently for Jesus that is ‘over the top’? How have you expressed your love to Him in a tangible way?

You can read my other similar article: She Did What She Could.