Probably more infamous than any other name in the Bible, except Satan, is Judas Iscariot. His name has become synonymous with everything that is treacherous and false. A trusted man among the twelve disciples, none would have suspected him of stooping so low as to turn against the Messiah. How could he? Did he not see all the miracles and wonders done by Christ, and all the sick that were healed and the broken that were mended? And yet, with a fleeting kiss he traded the Prince of Heaven for the silver price of a slave.
“And while He was still speaking, behold, a multitude; and he who was called Judas, one of the twelve, went before them and drew near to Jesus to kiss Him. But Jesus said to him, ‘Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?’” (Luke 22:47-48)
We look at Judas and hold him in contempt. What a fool he must’ve been to do such a thing. Nothing would have caused us to so grievously sin against the Lord.
As much as we’d like to believe that there’s nothing in our hearts that would sell Jesus, we know the sad truth. The workings of the heart of man are wicked beyond knowing (Jer. 17:9). We need to beware the many ways in which we can betray Christ, just as Judas did. Any time we “kiss” Christ in outward devotion yet inwardly sell Him for the world’s silver, we are no better than Judas.
Building our own little kingdoms
This is perhaps the most “innocent” way of betraying Jesus: using the outward articles of the faith to construct our own little kingdoms. These kingdoms can be of many kinds, but there are usually two types.
One is building a kingdom of a career. This can begin with the best of intentions. Maybe we feel that there is a calling on our lives, that God is leading us to pursue an occupation and one that will allow us to do good for His glory. But all too soon we can lose sight of that calling and take it for ourselves. Even in ministry, the temptation to compromise a little in order to please men or to please self is present.
The second is far subtler: building a kingdom of morality. This isn’t necessarily legalism, but it is no better. It is adhering to a standard of behavior and considering that sufficient to stand righteous before God. Trusting in good deeds to count for something. This is no different than scorning the cross of Christ. If someone did a great kindness to us, would we be so rude as to pay him or her back with a bucket of sewage? And yet the Scriptures call our righteous deeds “filthy rags.” Do we reject the perfect sacrifice of Christ as payment for our sins, and insist on insulting God with buckets upon buckets of our filthy rags? This is what our little kingdoms of morality are.
When I was a child I thought that it was okay to sin if I only prayed for forgiveness afterward, or did something really good to cover it up. It was only when God’s work began in my heart that I realized the foolishness of this mindset. But even now this idea can creep into my heart and before I’m aware, I’m attempting to buy a license to sin again.
We need to beware of bribing God, trying to buy Him off so that we can get from Him what we want. We need to beware of not caring about righteousness, just the appearance. This is betraying Christ and His salvation for the slave-price of a few thrills. We should thank God that our works of bribery and our purchased sins leave us empty because that emptiness will drive us back to Him in repentance.
Selling out Christ’s Bride
Imagine a man goes on a long business trip and leaves his young wife in the care of a trusted friend. This friend is to make sure the young woman has all her needs met, is protected from harm, essentially cared for in every way while her husband is gone. Now imagine that this friend decides that the young woman needs to make more acquaintances for the good of her husband’s business, but in his mind, she isn’t an attractive kind of person. So, he proceeds to dress her in revealing clothes and parade her in the public square to get the attention of men. Maybe he makes her do favors for these men, and they, in turn, invest in her husband’s business.
For a while it works, but then the investors get bored with her. So the man tries to make her even more attractive until she finds herself no better than a trained dog doing tricks. Everyone who isn’t bought by her act and false charm looks at her in disgust. But the man believes he is doing her husband a great favor. When her husband returns, will he thank the man? No. He will see the man as a traitor and deal with him violently for debasing his wife.
We have been given a great responsibility: the care of the Church. This especially applies to leaders in the Church. Are we guilty of dressing up the Church in a way to attract more members? Do we scheme and look for ways for the Church to cater to worldly appetites, all in the name of spreading the Gospel? Maybe we see that the numbers in the pews are dwindling, so we come up with some new thing that the Church can do to get more attendance on Sunday morning. Maybe we realize that the Gospel isn’t interesting to young people, so we replace it with a “Christianized” version of what young folks are interested in. The Church becomes a beggar willing to do anything in exchange for an hour of attendance on Sunday, rather than a bride keeping herself pure for her Betrothed.
Will Christ thank us for this when He returns, or will He be angry that the Church is dressed like a harlot? Will he find us faithful stewards of His kingdom, or traitors willing to sell His Bride for the favor of the world?
The answer to these warnings is not to micromanage our every movement or to sit still until our motives are pure before doing good things. The answer is simple: love Christ. Judas didn’t love Christ, only the idea of what he thought Christ should have been. We cannot love Christ because of what we want Him to do for us, but we should love Him because of Who He is.
We have to look again to the cross, with all our sins past and present, and let His love for us warm our love for Him. The heart of God is not only willing to forgive us, but that is His desire (2 Peter 3:9). We have only to cry out to Him for grace, and He will supply.