In Christ’s Object Lessons, 73, we are given the names of a number of the tares who were found in the early Christian church. We find Ananias and Sapphira listed, who, when their sin became open, were removed from the church by death. There are also Simon Magus and Demas, both of whom were at one time welcomed into church membership, but who, when their sin became open, were later openly disciplined or removed from fellowship. There is also Judas, who was perhaps the best known of all and whose name has become closely associated with being a prime example of a tare. When his sin became open, Judas took his own life, effectively removing himself from the church. It is most interesting to note, however, that Caiaphas, assumed* by many to rank close to Judas in notoriety, is not mentioned.
It also interesting to note that for at least the last year of his ministry, Jesus knew what was going on in the heart of Judas and that he was a tare, thought no one else suspected his real motives.
“Christ’s discourse in the synagogue concerning the bread of life was the turning-point in the history of Judas. He heard the words, ‘Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink His blood, ye have no life in you.’ He saw that Christ was offering spiritual rather than worldly good…
“In all that Christ said to His disciples, there was something with which, in heart, Judas disagreed. Under his influence the leaven of disaffection was fast doing its work. The disciples did not see the real agency in all this; but Jesus saw that Satan was communicating his attributes to Judas, and thus opening up a channel through which to influence the other disciples. This, a year before the betrayal, Christ declared. ‘Have not I chosen you twelve,’ he said, ‘and one of you is a devil?’” The Desire of Ages, 719, 720
The history of Judas presents a sad ending of a life that might have been honored of God. By becoming the slave of one vice, he gave himself to be driven to any lengths in sin.
I would like us to think about some of the experiences that Judas had which should have been sufficient to keep him from sin. More than that, however, his life is a warning to us that there is never a time when we can safely rest secure, believing that we have nothing to fear.
“Judas saw the sick, the lame, the blind, flock to Jesus from the towns and cities. He saw the dying laid at His feet. He witnessed the Saviour’s mighty works in healing the sick, casting out devils, and raising the dead. He felt in his own person the evidence of Christ’s power. He recognized the teaching of Christ as superior to all that he had ever heard. He loved the great Teacher, and desired to be with Him. He felt a desire to be changed in character and life, and he hoped to experience this through connecting himself with Jesus.” Ibid., 717 [All emphasis supplied]
It is significant that it was not sufficient that Judas enjoyed being in the presence of Jesus and desired to be with Him. It was not even sufficient that he recognized that his own character needed to be changed and that he even desired that Jesus should accomplish this for him. Without a willingness to put forth earnest efforts, casting sin out of the heart, he did not have a genuine relationship with Christ and his experience proved worthless.
Here is where the amazing love and patience of God is revealed. “The Saviour did not repulse Judas. He gave him a place among the twelve. He trusted him to do the work of an evangelist. He endowed him with power to heal the sick and to cast out devils. But Judas did not come to the point of surrendering himself fully to Christ. He did not give up his worldly ambition or his love of money. While he accepted the position of a minister of Christ, he did not bring himself under the divine moulding. He felt that he could retain his own judgment and opinions, and he cultivated a disposition to criticize and accuse.” Ibid.
Can you comprehend this? Jesus gave every possible benefit to Judas, even to the point of endowing him with power to heal the sick and cast out devils; but Judas failed of fully surrendering himself to Jesus.
“The expulsion of sin is the act of the soul itself. True, we have no power to free ourselves from Satan’s control; but when we desire to be set free from sin, and in our great need cry out for a power out of and above ourselves, the powers of the soul are imbued with the divine energy of the Holy Spirit, and they obey the dictates of the will in fulfilling the will of God.” Ibid., 466
We need to get on our knees and agonize with God, as did Jacob, that our heart may be broken and we may come to the point of fully surrendering ourselves to Christ. It is not enough that we do the work of an evangelist. It is not enough that we may have chosen to connect ourselves to Jesus and have felt His power in our soul, hoping for a change in character; if we never come to the point of a full surrender to Him, there is still a connection between Satan and our souls.
“If one sin is cherished in the soul, or one wrong practice retained in the life, the whole being is contaminated. The man becomes an instrument of unrighteousness.” Ibid., 313
“Judas was blinded to his own weakness of character, and Christ placed him where he would have an opportunity to see and correct this.” Ibid., 717. If you are deceived, it is impossible for you to know it, because if you knew it, you could no longer be said to be deceived. We need to be pleading that Jesus will place us where we have an opportunity to see the defects in our character that we are blind to.
It was a source of frustration to Judas that Jesus always seemed to be dwelling on the negative and discouraging side of life, talking of trial and persecution. He was offended when Jesus presented the spiritual nature of His kingdom, and he allowed doubts to begin running through his mind; he began to question Jesus. Though Judas had not yet decided that Jesus was not the Son of God, he began questioning and seeking to find some explanation of His mighty works. In spite of all this, “Judas made no open opposition, nor seemed to question the Saviour’s lessons.” Ibid., 720
You see, a tare is not a person who is in open sin. His sin is the sin of hidden doubt, and thus he becomes the embodiment of error and false principles. (See Christ’s Object Lessons, 71.) This was the experience of Judas. Though he was not openly sinning, he was secretly stealing.
Judas’ experience was not all one-sided. Even though he was plagued with doubts and uncertainty, we are told that, “he felt the satisfaction that always comes in service to God.” Ibid., 718
Although he felt the satisfaction that always comes in service to God, those feelings were not sufficient to save him. We must never forget that if we rely on our feelings as a barometer of our experience, we are on dangerous ground. Our only standard is the law of God. It matters not how good you may feel about helping the homeless and giving Bible studies; if your heart is not fully surrendered, it is to no avail. Until the root of selfishness is pulled out of the heart by the power of Christ and by our own choice, we are in a blind condition.
“John and Judas are representatives of those who profess to be Christ’s followers. Both these disciples had the same opportunities to study and follow the divine Pattern. Both were closely associated with Jesus and were privileged to listen to His teaching. Each possessed serious defects of character; and each had access to the divine grace that transforms character.” Acts of the Apostles, 558. And, though Judas might have comprehended the methods of Christ, his selfish desires blinded him and he found only disappointment and confusion.
Because of his disappointment in Jesus’ failure to fulfill his expectations in setting up a worldly kingdom, Judas decided that he was not going to unite himself with Christ quite so closely but that he could draw away easily. From that time he expressed doubts that tended to confuse the other disciples.
The scribes and Pharisees “had misinterpreted God’s promise of eternal favor to Israel: ‘Thus saith the Lord, which giveth the sun for a light by day, and the ordinances of the moon and of the stars for a light by night, which divideth the sea when the waves thereof roar; The Lord of hosts is His name: If those ordinances depart from before Me, saith the Lord, then the seed of Israel also shall cease from being a nation before Me, saith the Lord: If heaven above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, I will also cast off all the seed of Israel for all that they have done, saith the Lord.” Jeremiah 31:35-37. The Jews regarded their natural descent from Abraham as giving them a claim to this promise. But they overlooked the conditions which God had specified.” The Desire of Ages, 106. They had taken the promise of God’s everlasting favor to be an unconditional promise by which God had bound Himself. They believed that no matter what the Jewish people did, they were still the people of God.
“Many who were convinced that Jesus was the Son of God were misled by the false reasoning of the priests and rabbis. These teachers had repeated with great effect the prophecies concerning the Messiah, that he would ‘reign in Mount Zion, and in Jerusalem, and before His ancients gloriously;’ that He would ‘have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth.’ Isaiah 24:23; Psalm 72:8. Then they made contemptuous comparisons between the glory here pictured and the humble appearance of Jesus. The very words of prophecy were so perverted as to sanction error.” Ibid., 458. Because Jesus failed to meet their false expectations, they concluded that He was an imposter and sent messengers all over the country to warn the people about Him. (See Ibid., 213.) Incredibly, the Author of the Scriptures was among them and yet they used the very words He inspired the prophets to write to turn the nation against Him. Just imagine the Bible studies that were given throughout the land and the Bible based sermons that were given, all with the determined purpose of turning a nation from the truth.
The scribes and Pharisees great problem lay in their failure to understand the spiritual nature of the true church, and, they were offended that Christ did not have the due regard that they supposed He should have for the priesthood. “Christ’s oft-repeated statement that His kingdom was not of this world offended Judas.” Ibid., 718. In all that Christ said to His disciples, there was something with which, in heart, Judas disagreed. He picked up the flawed theological thinking of the church leadership and was found “repeating the arguments urged by the scribes and Pharisees against the claims of Christ.” Ibid., 719. Jesus saw that Satan was communicating his attributes to Judas, and thus opening up a channel with which to influence the other disciples. He would introduce texts of Scripture that had no connection with the truths Christ was presenting, yet he did so in such a way as to make it appear that he was conscientious. (See Ibid., 719.) In taking the truths that Jesus taught and presenting them in a different light, he was attaching to the words of Jesus a meaning that He had not conveyed.
We need to remember that, if we come to the Word of God with the selfish desire to prove our own point or to lift up ourselves, we are certain to come up with a false reasoning, just as did Judas. So, when you see professed Historic Seventh-day Adventists who are lining up theologically with the scribes and Pharisees of today, repeating their arguments about the nature of Christ’s kingdom [His church]—beware!
And so it was that a year before the betrayal, Christ declared, “Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil?” John 6:70. It was generally Judas who began the contention as to who should be the greatest. “His suggestions were constantly exciting an ambitious desire for temporal preferment, and thus turning the disciples from the important things they should have considered.” Ibid., 719. The “embodiment of error” is an apt description of Judas, though his depravity was known only to Jesus. Judas offered no open opposition to the Saviour, nor did he openly murmur against Him. No matter how hidden we think our thoughts are, any thought that leads away from truth will eventually absorb us and turn us into the “embodiment of error.” “This will be the experience of every one who persists in tampering with sin. The elements of depravity that are not resisted and overcome, respond to Satan’s temptation, and the soul is led captive at his will.” Ibid., 720
There is a lesson here for us. Because we know that we have the truth of the three angels’ messages for the world, and because we have stood against the celebration apostasy and the new theology and firmly resisted the encroachment of worldliness into the church, I am fearful of our tendency to excuse our “little” sins. We fail to remember that beyond all of these things we must still overcome anger, impatience, overeating, fretfulness, love of the world, and a myriad of other sins that all come under the heading of selfishness.
“We may flatter ourselves that we are free from many things of which others are guilty; but if we have some strong points of character, and but one weak point, there is yet a communion between sin and the soul. The heart is divided in its service, and says, ‘Some of self and some of Thee.’ The child of God must search out the sin which he has petted and indulged himself in, and permit God to cut it out of his heart. He must overcome that one sin; for it is not a trifling matter in the sight of God.” Review and Herald, August 1, 1893
“‘How may are betrayed into sin, because they have not, through prayerful study of the Word of God, realized the sinfulness of sin, and found out how they may steadfastly resist it. When temptation comes upon them, they seem to be off guard, and ignorant of the devices of the enemy. We are living in perilous times, and as we draw near the close of earth’s history, there will be no safety for those who do not become familiar with the Word of God. I would warn the disciples of Christ of the impending days of peril, and beseech you to prepare for the time of test and trial; for everything that can be shaken, will be shaken. Do we now obey the Word of God, and live by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God? Are we established and settled in the present truth? There is need of closely examining yourselves whether you are in the love of God; for except Christ be in you, you are reprobates. Self-deception is dangerous, and no one of us can afford to go on in delusion.” Youth’s Instructor, May 18, 1893
Of ourselves we cannot know our error. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” Jeremiah 17:9. We may even attempt to express our poverty with words, while all the time it goes unacknowledged by our proud hearts as they swell with conceit at their own superior humility.
“When sin has deadened the moral perceptions, the wrong-doer does not discern the defects of his character, nor realize the enormity of the evil he has committed; and unless he yields to the convicting power of the Holy Spirit, he remains in partial blindness to his sin. His confessions are not sincere and in earnest. To every acknowledgment of his guilt, he adds an apology in excuse of his course, declaring that, if it had not been for certain circumstances, he would not have done this or that, for which he was reproved.” Signs of the Times, March 16, 1888
Our only safety is in the prayer, “Lord take my heart; for I cannot give it. It is Thy property. Keep it pure, for I cannot keep it for Thee. Save me in spite of myself, my weak, unchristlike self. Mold me, fashion me, raise me into a pure and holy atmosphere, where the rich current of Thy love can flow through my soul.” Christ’s Object Lessons, 159
May this be the prayer of each one of our hearts.
*As students of the Word, we need to be very careful that by a lack of careful study we do not come to some conclusions for which we have no inspired support. These ideas though we fail to realize it, are assumptions. An assumption is an idea that is so taken for granted that it is not thought necessary to prove it. Assumptions, once accepted, become very powerful as they bypass the critical faculty in the thinking process, shaping all of our other thoughts and decisions. It matters not how sincerely we hold them; false assumptions cannot help but lead us to wrong conclusions.