Sunday, February 18, 2018
By Rev. James May
Please listen closely because I have a very serious matter to bring before the church this morning, and it could have an impact upon the very survival of our church.
Sitting among us, right here in the sanctuary of our church, among those we call our friends, family and brothers and sisters in Christ, there sits someone who is about to become a betrayer and offender.
Don’t look at your neighbor with that suspicious look. Don’t turn to them and say anything except “Good Morning, God Loves You and I’m glad you’re here.” We don’t want anyone to think that we’re “on to them”, or that we are even considering them to be the one because we might push them into becoming that betrayer and offender before it would have happened on its own.
I know that’s hard to even consider what I’m saying will happen, but I assure you with absolute conviction and confidence that what I’m saying is true.
I know that Holy Spirit would have me to reveal this behind the scenes plot to you because the Lord would want the betrayer and offender to consider their ways and repent now before they entertain the thoughts of betrayal anymore.
The longer the betrayer allows those thoughts of selfishness or personal gain, and forget to focus on becoming the disciple of Christ that they should be, the more likely their acts of betrayal and their works of division and offense will come to pass, and the longer those thoughts are allowed to remain, the greater their damage to both themselves, the church and the cause of Christ will become.
I sensed Holy Spirit saying to me this morning that the betrayer was already among us and that they have tried to justify what will happen thinking that their plans will do no harm, but the Lord would have me to say to you, if you are the one, that your words, your actions and the damage that you will do to your testimony as well as those of the people around you will be serious. So please consider your ways now, before it’s too late.
The Lord has revealed to me who that betrayer could be. He showed me how it could, and probably would happen. He allowed your face to appear before me and I was completely shocked by who he brought to my mind. I’m not going to reveal the identity of the betrayer because I don’t know for sure when it will happen, and the Lord didn’t tell me to call you out by name.
I have no doubt that you are thinking to yourself right now, “Who could the offender be? How could anyone stoop so low as to become a betrayer in the church? I thought everyone here was real and that we all loved the Lord and one another?”
I want you to think about everyone who comes to church here and consider who you think just might be the one who will be the betrayer. Who among us is already showing subtle signs of becoming an offender that will bring guilt and shame into our midst? Who could that guilty person be?”
I know you are curious and would like to know? It’s only natural that you want to know that there is someone in our midst who will soon show their true colors and will become the one that everyone will shake their heads at in disbelief that such a thing could even exist among us? Like me, as this revelation came to me, you want to know why, how, when, where and who they were before they became the betrayer, and before they brought a great offense into our midst.
Let me ask you a question about that too? The question is, “Why would you really want to know who it will be? What would you do about it if you knew?” I think the answers to those two questions are extremely important because they reveal our own attitudes one to another, and will be a great factor in how much damage is done, or whether the offender will ever be able to be a part of this church, or any other church again.
• Would you want to know who that offender will be only so you can shun them, separate yourself from them and somehow isolate them so they can’t cause you too much trouble?
• Would you want to know who the betrayer will be so that you can begin spreading the word about them and perhaps even cause them to go elsewhere before they can commit their act of betrayal?
• Or, would you want to know who that person may be so that you can intercede for them in prayer, hoping and believing that God can change their heart and mind, so that the offense doesn’t happen?
• Or, just as importantly, would you want to know who the betrayer is so that you can make sure your own heart is right with God so that you don’t add to the damage that will be done in the church and in their life as well.
Who is the betrayer? Who will bring such a great offense in our midst? I think that if you’ll go home, pray about it, and ask God to reveal who that betrayer could be, that he will reveal the answer to you.
He will reveal to you in a vision, and I am persuaded that it will be not in a dream, but in a waking vision. He will reveal the image of the one who could be the betrayer and offender to you by leading you before a mirror to look into the face of the person who is staring back at you.
You see, that betrayer and offender could be, and probably will be, at some point, each one of us. There’s no one here that could not fit that description if we were given the right reasons and circumstances. We may not believe that we are capable of such things, and as we look around, we would not think of those around us as being capable to do those things either.
Let me assure you that there is not one person in our midst who does not have the capability to become the betrayer of the church, the offender of the gospel and the source of great division and trouble.
• Are you less concerned now?
• Are you suddenly relieved that I was using generalized terms and that I didn’t specifically name someone who was already in the process of becoming the great betrayer?
• Are you no longer really considering what I have said simply because it didn’t point to any specific person or plot?
• Have you already begun to lapse back into that same state of complacency and self-confidence that you had before?
• Have you already discounted the idea that you could never, ever, under any circumstances become the betrayer of Christ and offender of the gospel?
If that’s the way your thinking is going; if you suddenly feel yourself breathing a sigh of relief, or tuning me out a little because I didn’t name someone, then, my friend, “You are the one that the Holy Spirit is speaking to, so listen carefully.”
Reading in the Gospel of Mark, chapter 14, I want to give you a picture of what’s happening at the Last Supper, on the evening of Passover, when Jesus sat down with his disciples for the last time before going to the cross.
Mark 14:16 And his disciples went forth, and came into the city, and found as he had said unto them: and they made ready the passover.
Mark 14:17 And in the evening he cometh with the twelve.
Mark 14:18 And as they sat and did eat, Jesus said, Verily I say unto you, One of you which eateth with me shall betray me.
This verse reveals the fact that Jesus knows the heart. He knew his disciples then, just as He does now. He knew that all of them had their own personal issues. He knew that more than one of them would eventually betray him, although the one that he would reveal this night would be the one who would sell him out for 30 pieces of silver to be arrested, tried, tortured and killed.
But there were others there who were just as capable of betrayal. Look at Peter, who said in Mark 14:29, “…though all shall be offended, yet will not I!” Peter didn’t think that he would ever deny Christ through his words and actions, but we all know that only a few hours later, Peter would do just that; not once, but three times.”
We know also, that every other disciple who sat at that table with Jesus that night;
• who had walked with him for all of his earthly ministry,
• who had seen Jesus do miracles, signs and wonders;
• who thought they knew the very heart of Jesus;
• who sat with him any times to eat, to study, to learn and to try and become a true disciple
– Every one of them, except one, would forsake Jesus, run and hide to save themselves, and suddenly be cast into a state of doubt and fear when Jesus was crucified. They all betrayed him and were offended in Christ for a while.
Who was that one? It was John, the disciple that had grown closer to the heart of Jesus than all the others. They all knew the relationship that John had with Jesus. He was the one whom Jesus “seemed to love” more than the others. I stress the word seemed because the only reason Jesus “seemed” to love John the most is because John pursued and worked on building a close relationship with Jesus more than the others.
Jesus loved them all equally, but their love for Jesus had not grown as John’s did. John had paid a price of drawing near to Jesus’ heart more than the others. They loved the Lord. They wanted to serve him. They wanted to be True Disciples, just as much as John, but their own personalities, their own hang ups, their own hearts had not changed to the point of being as close to Jesus as they could have or should have.
Just like all of us, each of those 12 had to deal with their own set of circumstances, beliefs, troubles and trials.
• They had their own past to deal with, and just because we love the Lord and desire to serve him doesn’t mean that some of the things in our past are not going to have an impact on our spiritual growth.
Some things are hard to let go of and the guilt keeps hounding us. Shame, guilt, and un-forgiveness of themselves or of others who may have offended them in past; broken relationships, broken hearts, shattered lives – all of that takes its toll on our commitment and dedication sometimes until we can finally learn to let go and give it all to Jesus.
I think John learned that quicker than the rest. Peter was quick tempered and would want to fight at the drop of hat. James and John were known as the sons of thunder, giving me the impression that they were always wrestling because of sibling rivalry. Thomas was forever branded as “Doubting Thomas” later on, revealing that his heart, most likely, wasn’t fully persuaded on many things that Jesus taught and he had a lot of growing to do.
• They also had to work around their own individual lack of understanding; their own lack of education or their own inability to receive spiritual revelation from the lessons that Jesus taught.
Each one was a unique individual and Jesus called them in that uniqueness for his purposes, but they all had to grow at their own pace as he taught them
It just seemed that John had grown faster, closer and stronger than all the rest and they all recognized that fact.
John’s relationship with Jesus was very evident when we read in John 13:22-24 that Peter asked John to ask Jesus who the betrayer would be. John then leaned near to the heart of Jesus to ask, and that’s when Jesus revealed the answer.
In that Upper Room, when Jesus said that one of the 12 would betray him and become an offense, you could have heard a pin drop! Things got very quiet! This took them all by surprise. Never would they have thought that any of them would be capable of such a terrible thing! But it had to be true. Jesus had said it. That’s when the questions and whispers began.
Mark 14:19 And they began to be sorrowful, and to say unto him one by one, Is it I? and another said, Is it I?
Here’s the heart of the matter. Who could, or who would be the betrayer? Who among them was capable of such a thing?
I believe that Holy Spirit conviction came upon every one of them that night! We know it was Judas Iscariot that Jesus was speaking of, but was Judas the only one?
I think the Spirit of Christ was revealing that capability in the heart of every disciple who sat there, revealing to them that they could be the one; that somehow, things could change, or something could happen to cause any of them to betray Jesus! Why else would they begin to ask, one by one, “Is it Me?”
Could it be that in that moment in time, as they sat before Jesus, Holy Spirit began to reveal in each one of them those things that were in their hearts that could bring about the thought of betraying Jesus?
I believe that Holy Spirit is moving in this sanctuary, and in each of our hearts right now, doing the same thing. He is revealing to us things in our hearts that we need to put on the altar in repentance.
He is revealing past offenses that we can’t forget. Perhaps He is revealing sin in our lives; perhaps wrong motives; wrong thoughts and wrong ideas of who Jesus is. Maybe He is revealing places in our lives where lack the commitment to give it all to him that we need. Maybe He is revealing just how close, or how far away we are from the very heart of Jesus!
Judas betrayed Christ because his thoughts were on riches. He kept the money for the group and his thoughts were always on money. I don’t think it was a coincidence that Jesus led the disciples to choose Judas to carry the purse for them all.
Jesus knew the greatest temptation that Judas would have to face so he gave him the job that would allow him to face that temptation and overcome it, but Judas yielded to the temptation rather than recognize his sinful heart and repent of it.
He didn’t have to sell Jesus, but his desire to gain wealth became more important than repenting of his sin.
Judas, like every other disciple there, had many opportunities to deal with the sin in their hearts. Jesus was constantly revealing what was really in their hearts. Sometimes they learned and changed, but sometimes they kept holding onto whatever it was that needed to be dealt with. None of them were perfect.
They were all growing in the Lord, but they were going to need all of the power they could get through Jesus to really overcome their issues. That power would not come until the Day of Pentecost when they were all filled with the Holy Ghost and spoke in tongues as the Spirit gave them the words to speak. That’s why we need that baptism in the Holy Ghost just as much today as they did then.
One other thing about Judas, and probably every other disciple in that Upper Room did the same thing, is that he justified what he was doing and never considered the consequences that would eventually come of it.
In Judas’ mind, he thought that this wouldn’t matter too much. Somehow it would all work out in the end, and the ends justified the means. Somehow Jesus would take the bad and turn it into blessing.
Sure, Jesus would be arrested but he had seen Jesus get into trouble many times before. Jesus had put the religious leaders of Israel to shame and escaped their hands many times before. Why wouldn’t he do it again?
Judas would gain a lot of money for the disciples to carry on their work, with perhaps a bonus for himself. Jesus would simply walk away unharmed and they’d all be the richer for it.
Like everyone who is caught up in sin, Judas didn’t know the penalty of death was so close.
He truly didn’t understand the seriousness of his sin. He didn’t know how far it would take him or how quickly it could become deadly serious for his life and his soul, as well as those of Jesus and all the other disciples. All of the reason for justifying his actions blew up in his face when he realized what was about to happen. He tried to stop it, but it was too late. The deed was done. The outcome was set. There was no turning back.
Judas couldn’t forgive himself for his own actions. He could find no place of repentance and never considered that he could seek forgiveness. He could not forgive himself, neither could he ever face the other disciples, or Jesus again. He was forever branded as the betrayer, and not worthy of trust. The money suddenly meant nothing. He could not live with the guilt and shame of what he had done so he went out and committed suicide, and lost his eternal soul.
• How long will we play with sin in our own lives?
• How many things can we come up with to justify doing what we know is wrong?
• How many excuses will we make up to continue doing wrong and how much do we expect them to hold up in the courts of heaven? If you’re under conviction now, doesn’t it seem logical that they will bring condemnation upon us at the judgment?
Sin cannot enter Heaven’s gates! It must be dealt with now, or as the saying goes, “Sin will take you farther and deeper than you ever thought it would, and it will condemn you longer than you could ever dream.”
The real message in all of this is that each of us, all of us, can become the betrayer of Christ.
• We can deny him by turning away and allowing the sin of this world to become too attractive.
• We can twist and interpret the Word of God to say what we want it to say to justify our sin.
• We can become an offense to the gospel by allowing our testimony to be shattered because of just one moment of selfishness and personal gain.
• We can allow one sin to remain just one moment too long and all will be lost.
• We can find ourselves in that place of feeling unworthy, unloved, unable to repent, and hopeless without God.
May none of us become that betrayer! I hope no one becomes an offender. But the chances are that someone will and anyone could unless we are like John, continually drawing nearer to the heart of Jesus where we can have that very strong, personal, intimate relationship with Christ that acts as a shield against the attacks of the devil.
A cold relationship means we have left the love of God behind and are walking in darkness. A lukewarm relationship will only serve to place us under constant conviction and in danger of judgment. The only place of safety that will help us guard against becoming a betrayer is right next to the very heart of God!
As we close this morning, consider your life and your ways. Are you as close to God’s heart as you can get? Of course not – no one is!
Is there anything in your life that the Holy Spirit has been convicting you of? What’s He revealing to you right now? Are you even close enough to Jesus to hear his voice or sense his presence?
I think that we are all Christians here. We are all Disciples of Christ.
But just as those disciples in the Upper Room, we must all be honest and say, “It could be me. Lord, help me to never be a betrayer, or to bring offense to the gospel and to the name of Jesus.”
It would be good for all of us to come down and place it all on the altar this morning. Make an altar wherever you want, but give it all to Jesus and repent of that which the Holy Spirit reveals.
Come and seek the Infilling of the power of the Holy Spirit to help you be an overcomer in every temptation to make excuses or justify sin. He is here to help if we will only call on the name of Jesus .