A Voice in the Wilderness - Observations and Excursions of a Christian Zealot

Terry Walker's Weblog --- Occasional articles on the Christian Ethic

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Every Appearance of a Christian.

In 1993, just months after I was saved in a large Presbyterian church in Charlotte, North Carolina, the Pastor, a wonderful and godly man by the name of Stephen Stout, invited me to tag along on one of his weekly door to door evangelism trips. He said “the fields are ripe brother, and the workers are few.” Actually the workers numbered only two as the only other person, out of a 500 member church, which felt motivated to do the same, was my first spiritual mentor and biblical teacher Michael MacCallum. Shortly after I was saved, I demanded a like minded mentor and Pastor Steve instantly suggested Mike. Mike was neither a Deacon nor an Elder, he held no office or position, and because his calling is not very popular today, Mike did not particularly stand out at any church functions. No, rather, Mike was a timid and quiet ex-drug addict, machinist and family man with two young boys and a lovely wife, who ran a very joy filled Christian household. Mike and I unrelentingly studied together and devoured the Bible at tremendous rates, his calming, tranquil voice always urging me into deeper study, meditation and prayer. But when Mike “hit the road” his quiet, passiveness evaporated in the fervent heat of his zeal for evangelism. Mike was on fire for the Lord and the Lord used him mightily.

Yet I doubt many in that church even knew who Mike was, even though he was a relentless reaper for Christ. You see Mike just didn’t have the appearance of a Christian.

So here I am, in the presence of the two godliest men I had ever met, stricken with fear, as they asked me to join them as they reaped souls. I thought them both most insane as I had no idea how to assist is such matters, being just saved myself. I asked my Pastor what in the world I should say, and he responded as he would only to me, and said, “If the Holy Spirit doesn’t lead, hopefully you will keep your mouth shut.” That’s what I liked about Pastor Steve, always straight forward and appropriate for the person.

And so I did for several weeks, until one day my heart was greatly burdened for a woman who had suffered greatly at the hands of an evil man. The Pastor could not find the words to compel the woman to see that he understood her plight, but I, having suffered similarly, suddenly knew exactly what to say and soon she understood the biblical solution the pastor was trying to convey. It was as if the Holy Spirit, through the word, had given me the very words to say. I was hooked and during the time we three spent going door to door, I saw numerous lives changed, marriages reconciled, shattered lives made whole, and the rebirth of many souls.

It was a wonderful time in my Christian walk as nearly everyone I met either literally cursed me or was ready to accept Christ. But that is not where I find myself these days. Today my battles are fought in the minds and hearts of those God sends my way, not for reaping, but for counsel and mentoring. Strangely enough I still find myself stricken with a fear of God, and thinking Him rather insane for using someone as pathetic as myself to further His glory. Perhaps it is because I have a great burden on my heart for a particular group of people. Not true, elect, blood bought believers, as the angels have already sung for them, and the Holy Spirit will sanctify them in due time. Not the happily heathen masses, even though I would not turn down the chance to take one with me, if God so gave me the opportunity. But rather I have a heart for the lost soul, but claiming Christian, for he neither enjoys his earthly years, nor will he enjoy eternity with my Lord. Can there be a worse position on earth than to be a lost unbeliever who lays claim to the Christian way? If you are going to reject Christ as Lord, then the pleasure you may experience while you are yet on this Earth is your only consolation. Why then waste what precious life you have on trying to obtain righteousness without Him Who alone supplies it? Shall you be good in order to endure less condemnation in Hell? Will your lighter torment be more bearable after ten thousand years?

Such was the life of Judas Iscariot, a claiming Christian who Jesus chose, a man who Jesus befriended, entitled with power and trusted. Judas had every appearance of a Christian, so much so that none of his peers had an inkling of the traitorous heart that was hidden within Judas.

The Bible tells us in Mark 3:13-19 and Luke 6:12-16 that Jesus called to himself those He Himself wanted, and He called them apostles and chose Simon, whom He named Peter, and Andrew his brother; James and John; Philip and Bartholomew; Matthew and Thomas; James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon called the Zealot; Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot.

But not only were the twelve chosen, but Jesus wanted each man to be with Him so that He could send them out not only to preach, but to have the power to heal sicknesses and to cast out demons. This power was given to all the apostles including Judas Iscariot. (Matthew 10:1) Not only was Judas given miraculous power but Judas had a place in the apostolic ministry of the twelve. (Acts 1:16-19, 25)

But not only was Judas chosen as an apostle, gifted with miraculous power and contributed to the ministry, but Jesus considered Judas a trusted friend. Psalm 41:9 prophesied of Judas saying, “Even my own familiar friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted up his heel against me.” And again in the Garden in Gethsemane during His very betrayal, Jesus greeted Judas thusly;  “Friend, why have you come?” (Matthew 26:50)

By nearly every meaningful measure Judas had it made. He was a trusted, money box carrying, member of the inner circle of apostles. But there was a problem and it wasn’t that Judas was not from Galilee, as were all the other apostles. (Judas is presumed to be from Kerioth in Judah1)

Upon Judas the Bible has given the distinction of being the only human ever to be called the Son of Perdition, a name he shares only with Satan himself (John 17:12, 2 Thessalonians 2:3 KJV) And Jesus Himself said of Judas that he “was a Devil.” (John 6:70) What kind of evil must a man possess in his heart to deserve such distinctions? It is a question I had to answer, as it leads to the point of this message.

You can read every verse dealing with Judas Iscariot, in both the Old and New Testaments in less than an hour. Give it another week to meditate on what the Bible has to say and, if you are honest, you will walk away with a singular notion about the state of the evil within the heart of Judas, he ‘aint much different than you or I. He was an ordinary man who was merely a petty thief. He did not kill countless children as Herod did, he did not commit genocide as was Haman’s desire, or even slaughter saints as Saul had done, before he became an Apostle. No, Judas simply betrayed Jesus for a mere 10 shekels of silver more than the Ishmaelite slave traders paid for Joseph. (Genesis 37:28)(Luke 22:3-6) And while I have heard people say that Judas may have been trying to force Jesus’ hand, in an attempt to rush what he thought would be an earthly kingdom with Christ as King, I do not give Judas such tribute, as I believe that Judas was simply a small time crook, no worse than I was years ago, no worse than any of us were or still are! Judas was just a common heathen, doing what the unsaved do, with an unclean heart and only one birth to his credit, he could do little more than serve his real master, Satan. (Matthew 6:23) The same as you and I did before grace alone snatched us from the pit into which Judas fell headlong, that is unless you are still falling.

But did Judas really know, as he went hither and yonder executing the duties of his ministry and apostleship, that he was the son of perdition; that he would have been better off having never been born? (Matthew 26:24)Were you aware of your spiritual condition before the Holy Spirit removed the scales from your eyes? How much less do you think Judas’ awareness was, as he was gifted to perform great wonders? Judas was blind to his sin. Judas was unaware that the Bible was speaking to him when it says that the heart is evil, (Jeremiah 17:9), the flesh is evil, (Romans 7:14-25), the tongue is evil (James 3:2-12) even the eyes can be evil. Luke 11:33a says “No one, when he has lit a lamp, puts it in a secret place or under a basket, but on a lampstand, that those who come in may see the light. The lamp of the body is the eye. Therefore, when your eye is good, your whole body also is full of light. But when your eye is bad, your body also is full of darkness. Therefore take heed that the light which is in you is not darkness.” 

But Judas did not take heed that the light which was in Him was not darkness. He had every appearance of a Christian, but his body was full of darkness.

We are all desperately wicked. Are we in some way more superior to Judas that we can know our own hearts? Nay, yet does this not make you wonder “Do I simply have the appearance of a Christian? Am I a Judas also?” When was the last time you really searched your heart for that hidden sin? When was the last time you thought of the purpose behind your every motive, confronted your every action and watched your every word? The Bible is clear, without the Holy Spirit your body is dead, and so to is your faith dead without works. (James 2:26)

Are your works dead? What about your faith? What do the motives behind your works and faith reveal to your mind? Maybe they are alive and just need a little motivation. What is the first commandment? Is it not to love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength? (Mark 12:30) What do you think all those all’s mean? If Judas had done the same personal inventory and self confrontation as I am suggesting that we all do, continually, what may have been revealed? We look at this from a responsibility perspective while affirming without apology God’s sovereignty over Judas’ life.

Had Judas considered his lifestyle of unrepentant sin, as he often helped himself to the contents of the money box for which he was entrusted, a sin not noticed by any of the other apostles, it might have revealed to him his heart’s lustful desire for money. The Bible says you cannot serve God and mammon both, and the rich man will lie down but not be gathered up, He opens his eyes, and he is no more. (Matthew 6:24)(Job 27:17)

Had Judas considered his manner of speech it might have reveled his uncommitted, unsubmitting heart. When Jesus announced that one of the twelve was a traitor, each apostle in turn asked “Is it I Lord?”, that is, all but one, Judas asked “Is it I Rabbi?” And on the night that Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss, he first greeted Jesus saying “Greetings, Rabbi!” Is Jesus your Lord or Rabbi? Even sinners have teachers, but only true Christians have the Lord. Make no mistake, there is no such thing as Jesus being the Savior of your soul but not Lord over your life. He is either both or neither. You cannot have two masters. (Matthew 6:23) When Jesus said ALL your heart, soul, mind and strength, He meant ALL!

Had Judas considered his lack of sorrow over his sin, he might have become aware of his unrepentance and need of a Savior. The Bible says that godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death. (2 Corinthians 7:10) Judas had remorse for taking money in trade for innocent blood, but in the end his worldly remorse left him hanging from the end of a rope. (Matthew 27:3-4a)

As we are now under the new covenant, it is the pureness of heart and not the letter of the law by which we must judge ourselves. Yet so few today look within to see the darkness of their hearts, preferring to strive for the lesser gifts, seeking that which will see corruption, or simply preferring to remain pleasantly naive. Judge yourselves brothers and sisters, dig deep into that insidious heart and rip out that infectious puss of denial. Your days are numbered and the last one is getting ever closer. You have every appearance of a Christian, but is it just an appearance or is your heart pure?

Let us test ourselves.

Would you rather laugh or mourn, be rich or poor, be full or hungry, be assertive or meek, be accepted by all or persecuted? Would you rather be care free or afflicted with tribulation? And would joy be the result if those around you reviled you and despised you and spoke evil of you?

I tell you that Judas did not want to be poor. The Pharisees did not want to be meek. The Scribes wanted all to know of their fasting and sought attention for their deeds, and the Sadducees took the finest seats at every table leaving the poor to go hungry.

Oh dear Lord, why do we not grasp Your words with all our hearts and minds and commit ourselves to Your service? Which of us is exhausted to the point we can’t lift our arms to wash another’s feet? Which of us mourn out of a love for our enemies? I cry even as I write and my heart breaks over our lethargic apathy. Break us oh Lord and let us understand. Amen

Blessed are you poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.
Blessed are you who hunger now, for you shall be filled.
Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.
Blessed are you when men hate you, and when they exclude you, and revile you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of Man’s sake. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy! For indeed your reward is great in heaven, for in like manner their fathers did to the prophets.

But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.
Woe to you who are full, for you shall hunger.
Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep.
Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for so did their fathers to the false prophets. (Luke 6:20-26)

Let us lend without repayment, love those who spitefully use us, give to all who ask and hope for nothing in return, for what credit is it to us if we do as the sinners do, for even sinners do good to those who do good to them.

Dear Jesus let each of us examine our own hearts and say is it I Lord? Is it I Lord, who walks with washed feet but a filthy heart? Is it I Lord, who denies You with a kiss and a song on Sunday? Is it I Lord who will cast but a mite back at Your feet?

Brothers, Sisters, let not another minute be wasted in useless daytime slumber while we still breathe air on this earth. If we are Christians, who do not merely have the appearance of Christians, then let us make an oath of commitment, not to a rabbi, but to our Lord, not dwelling unduly on this life, but striving for the prize of that which is great in Heaven, not with halfhearted anemic exertion, but serving the Lord Jesus with all our heart, all our soul, all our mind and all our strength, working out our salvation with fear and trembling, and tonight we, for once, might sleep the sweet sleep of a laboring man (Ecc 5:12) having exhausted everything that is within us and doing so with a conscience toward our Lord Christ Jesus, our King, Savior and Messiah. Amen.

Brother Terry Walker
Providence Baptist Church
Greer, South Carolina

1 MacDonald, W. 1997, c1995. Believer's Bible Commentary : Old and New Testaments (Lk 6:13). Thomas Nelson: Nashville