JUDAS TRAGEDY ~ My Greatest Fear
I was a little boy, I remember being scared of spiders. One of my brothers
and I had a bedroom in the basement of our house. On the other end of
the basement was a shower that had been enclosed, we called it the "shower
room." When you first went in, there was a little area where the
towels were kept and then there was a shower curtain you closed, to
help keep the water confined to the shower area.
Sometimes, when you would pull the shower curtain back to go in and
turn the water on, there would be a huge hairy spider that had crawled
up out of the drain , standing there ready to pounce on your bare feet
and looking like he could use a blow dryer.
I suppose this lead to me being afraid of spiders , at least the big
hairy kind. I haven't even seen one of these spiders in years, but would
probably still jump back a little, especially if I was bare footed.
I also didn't particularly care for wasps or snakes, but those huge
hairy spiders were probably "my greatest fear" , at least
as a young boy.
Now that I am older, I would have to admit I have another "fear"
, one of a much more serious nature. This is something that has nothing
at all to do with insects, snakes or any of the common childhood fears.
For many years now I have traveled to churches around the nation, speaking
and drawing with our ministry which is called "Drawing Closer Ministries"
( See www.chalkartist.com )
We have had the opportunity of being in hundreds and hundreds of churches
over the years and have literally met thousands of people who would
identify themselves as being "Christians."
My "fear" is....and I hope I am wrong, but my "fear"
is that there may quite possibly be an alarming number of what could
be labeled "false converts"in churches all throughout the
Numerous studies, perhaps the most stunning of which was done by the
Southern Baptist Convention of it's own youth....revealed that the lifestyles,
values, and the resulting worldview of most of those that attend "evangelical
churches" was no different than that of "non-Christians."
Plus, the study also found that a huge majority of students leave the
church after their high school graduation, never to return.
While studies like this reveal a definite problem, they don't really
explain what caused it. My "fear" is that the root of problems
like these are created because our churches today are filled with "false
Sadly, "repentance" is not a Christian doctrine that is taught
often enough , many churches never teach it. This dire reality should
concern every Christian.
Scripture is forthright about how important this is:
The word "repent" and it's various forms is used over 100
times in the Bible.
John the Baptist preached in the wilderness, "Repent, for the kingdom
of Heaven is at hand!" (Matthew 3:2)
Jesus preached this same message of repentance. Mark
1:14,15 says, "Now after John was
put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom
of God, and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of
God is at hand. Repent, and believe the Gospel."
In Mark 6, Jesus sends out the 12 disciples
two by two. Verse 12 states, "So
they went out and preached that the people should repent."
Every single day, 150,000 people step off into eternity, and a frightening
percentage of them fall into eternal judgment, separated from God for
eternity in a terrible place the Bible calls "Hell."
Many will have thought they lived a "good life" as defined
by today's standards. They went to church, perhaps even "walked
an aisle" or prayed the "sinner's prayer". Maybe they
were even baptized. Some may have taught Sunday School and were involved
in the work of the church. But, Jesus warned us this would happen in
perhaps the most stunning text in all the Bible.
In Matthew 7:21-23 Jesus said this..."Not
everyone who says to me "Lord, Lord," will enter the kingdom
of Heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in Heaven.
On that day MANY will say to me, "Lord,
Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and cast out demons in Your
name, and do many mighty works in Your name? And then will I declare
to them, I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.
This is perhaps the most tragic passage in all of the Bible. Here is
the sad reality....there will be people who stand before God ( "many")
who will assume they are about to enter Heaven, only to be told they
are on their way to Hell. This is without question, the worst possible
illusion that someone can have. To be mistaken about your salvation
and therefore your "eternal destiny."
Over the years, I have on occasion been asked this question...."
Are Roman Catholics Christians?" I would pose this question...."Are
Protestants always necessarily Christians?" Or- "Are 'Evangelicals'
necessarily Christians?" Or, even more importantly...." Are
YOU a Christian?"
Could it be some of us who "profess" Christianity are among
the "many" that are self-deceived? I am convinced that in
the name of "Christianity" today there are many places that
call themselves "churches", that are not churches. There are
many men who are leading these people who call themselves Pastors and
they are not Pastors. They have congregations who call themselves "Christians",
and they are not Christians. They are not churches, they are not Pastors
and they're not Christians. Yet, they proudly post the label - "Christian"
Matthew 7: 13-14 lists ONLY two possible
options, the "narrow road "and the "broad road."
Jesus tells us the narrow gate is hard to find and hard to go through
because it demands denial of "self", denial of self-righteousness,
full repentance, submission to Christ and to obey Him and follow Him
no matter what the cost. The true way is narrow and away from the crowd,
you must come naked-alone and penitent, plus, Jesus said you must "strive"
On the other hand, the broad road is filled with the "religious"
people of our day, with plenty of false prophets enabling them. False
representatives of Christ, the false agents of God, who are really the
agents of Satan disguised as the "agents of light."
In all the 35+ years of our chalk artistry and Bible teaching ministry,
there has been nothing that has come to as high a level of concern as
this issue. Of course, it is a terrible tragedy for Hindus or Buddhists
to go to Hell. It is a tragedy for Muslims to go to Hell. It is a tragedy
for Atheists or Jews, who reject the Messiah to go to Hell. But it seems
to me that the "tragedy of all tragedies" is what I entitled
this article, what we might call the "Judas
Tragedy".... that is, where you "hang around"
Jesus , but end up belonging to Satan, that's the REAL tragedy.
I am certainly not "the judge" and hope and pray all of this
is not nearly as problematic as it seems to be. However, I'm afraid
there are some American Pastors who fit into this category of not even
being Christians in the Biblical sense. There are churches who are filled
with people, some made up of almost entirely people who are totally
deceived about their spiritual condition. So, it is important that we
hear the words of our Lord. Believe me, if I'm concerned about it, He
is far more concerned about it.
When the Lord said these words He wasn't speaking to "irreligious"
people, He was speaking to extremely religious people, people who we
might say were "religious to the max" - basically obsessed
with religion. It permeated their whole life. These people were as religious
as you could get but they had no relationship with God- "religious
but lost." They were self-deceived and on the wrong road. We have
this today- everywhere! We have it in our culture. Thousands of deceived
souls in churches today that are on some kind of "Jesus trip"
thinking all is well.
The frightening part of this deception is that it is not just outside
on the perimeter in "oddball" churches, it's something I fear
is occurring right in what we might consider today as "evangelical
What has contributed to this phenomenon? I think one thing that has
played a major role is...
1. A Superficial Understanding of the Gospel
There is an ever increasing failure to understand the true terms of
the Gospel. This superficial understanding of the Gospel permeates,
if not dominates "Christendom" in our modern day. We seem
to have developed such a weak and shallow and superficial and trivialized
and emotionalized and physiological approach to the Gospel that many
today who would identify themselves as being "Christians"
couldn't give you a meaningful explanation of the great doctrine of
Redemption. They don't know them. Nor- are they expected to know them,
because in many cases the people who teach them don't know them either.
The result produced is people who have a false understanding of their
spiritual condition because they don't even understand what "saving
faith" and the "saving Gospel" are.
Of course, this line of thought is bound to "tread on people's
feelings" because it invades the comfortable bed of people's tolerances.
To many , it would seem to be "divisive" - but the truth always
does that. Much of "the church" today is so ignorant about
the Gospel that when the "true Gospel" is presented, the person
doing the "proclaiming" may even be vilified.
In the churches effort to become relevant, they have become nearly "irrelevant."
For a number of years now, the church has tried so hard to "appeal
to the culture" that it now finds itself in a position of being
unable or unwilling to "confront the culture."
2. A False Sense of Assurance
The Gospel is often presented as an equitable contract between the lost
person and God. "If you will turn to Jesus, He will be your friend."
"If you will invite Jesus into your heart, He will provide for
you." We sell the Gospel in some cases based on what they will
"get from God" in this life, which in turn means their motive
for turning to Christ is the impending blessings from God.
The idea is that if you " feel good" about God and have some
emotional attraction to God (which might be called "love")
and you "want to connect to Jesus" and "associate with
Jesus" and be a part of whatever Jesus is doing and you want Jesus
to "work with you" and make you what you want to be....you're
in ! And, this will be affirmed. You will be told that if you just "pray
this prayer", you'll be a Christian. You will be "certified"
and in some cases if you come to an altar and pray this prayer you will
be "doubly certified."
You will be affirmed regularly that "God loves you" and that
His love is "unconditional" and that all He wants is to "fix
your life" and fulfill every dream and desire you have in your
life. And ," ... since you are here on a regular basis and take
part in praise and worship each week you are putting yourself in a position
where you are really going to be "blessed" by God. "
This line of thinking lures people into the "dream" that they
are somehow "right with God", and they're not. We are telling
people who have not reached the Biblical standard of salvation that
they are saved. We are telling lost people, whom we have pronounced
redeemed, that they can be decision-making members within our congregations.
We are leading people, who have no intention of making personal sacrifices
for the sake of the Kingdom, to believe they are in "good standing"
with God. No doubt, churches are baptizing people who have no intention
of choosing the Lord Jesus' will over their own.
Basically, we have reached a day in American churches where we have
given ourselves the authority to adjust the Biblical standard of salvation,
and we are reaping what we have sown. Most churches that do recognize
this problem are trying to "program" their way to a healthier
church. However, the problem cannot be fixed through leadership style,
church structure or attempting a hip music program designed to reach
lost people or the "younger generation." The problem, in my
view, can only be fixed at the point of entry into the Kingdom of God
Jesus provides the standard of salvation in His sermon in Luke
14:25-35. The premise of the passage is that a "decision"
as significant as becoming a follower of Christ should not be made without
first "considering the cost"involved. The decision should
not be made emotionally or frivolously, but with serious consideration
given to the price that one might have to pay for the sake of the Kingdom.
Christ preached this sermon to lost people. While in their lost state
they were to consider the price to be paid and if they were unwilling
to pay such a price, they were not ready to be saved.
Jesus also modeled this kind of evangelism for us in Luke
18:18 with the story of the rich young ruler. When the lost man
indicated his reluctance to obey Jesus, the Lord deemed him unready
for salvation. We must maintain the Biblical standard of salvation regardless
of perceived relevance or context and we must stop giving a "false
sense of assurance" to people who fall short of the standard by
telling them that they are saved. Only then will they understand the
high calling of the Gospel.
3. A Failure of Self - Examination.
If we could lose our salvation, we would. The good news for the true
believer is that God's pencil has no eraser. We can thank God for the
assurance and permanency of this precious and costly gift. But, if you
doubt your salvation, there is a reason you doubt your salvation. It
may not be a legitimate one, but, it "could" be a legitimate
one. There are many people living under a massive illusion about their
relationship with God and Jesus said there will be "many"
in this category.
Of course, we want people to "feel good ", we want people
to "like us", we don't like "confrontation." But
2 Corinthians 13:5 commands us..."Examine
yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves..."
Sometimes we need to go back to the beginning and make certain we are
in the faith. Of course, the Lord's Table (Communion) is a great opportunity
4. A Fixation on Religious Activity
Religious activity is everywhere, "feeling spiritual" is in.
Just being around others who call themselves Christians, even being
in a Bible Study group, being part of some "Christian organization"
sometimes can lull people into the deception that this sort of "activity"
equals being saved. Just think of all the Christian organizations, Christian
books, Christian publishing companies, Christian magazines, Christian
television stations, the list of Christian this and Christian that seems
"Entrepreneurial churches" are popping up all over the land
and are often built around the personality of the leader. I recently
read of a new "Techno-Church" on the west coast that featured
"break-dancing Jesus boy." Ludicrous and ridiculous are words
that are too weak to describe something as idiotic as this.
5. Familiarity with Biblical Morality
This can also lull people into a false sense of security. Example: "
Hey- I don't deny what the Bible says, I believe in Biblical morality,
I'm not 'pro-homosexual' or 'anti-marriage.' I agree with the Bible.
Sexual activity should just be between a husband and wife inside the
bounds of marriage - I hold to that morality! I must be on my way to
Heaven, I support all that stuff."
There are LOTS of people in this category. ( Example: the Mormons) "I
mean - I'm not trying to twist the scripture like liberals do, I don't
deny the Bible. I don't really know what it says, but I think these
are the type of things the Bible advocates and I'm for them. Besides,
I am basically a good person and I believe in God. I haven't raped anyone
or murdered anyone. I support my family, I even take my kids to Little
League. God is not going keep me out of Heaven."
All these things are sadly just a big deception. None of them have anything
at all to do with our salvation. None of them. The real issue is this
- the people that are deluded and deceived have failed to come to the
"narrow gate." No repentance for sin, no confession of sin,
no submission to the Lordship of Christ, no brokenness, no humility,
no contrition, no obedience.
The deceived come in several categories....
A. The Superficial
They are the ones that call themselves Christians because at some point
when they were a child they "accepted Christ." Or, they say
they "believed in God" but are now "uncommitted."
Often it is a "past event" of some sort normally reinforced
by their parents. It's almost always about a past event, they settled
that case back then and put it to rest. They feel they have "taken
care" of that necessary item in their life and the only time you'll
generally see them in church is on Christmas and Easter so when they
roll into church on Easter Sunday you better wish them a Merry Christmas
because you won't be seeing them again until then.
B. The Very Involved
They are all through the church. Jesus called them the "tares"
amongst the wheat. They know about the church and the life of the church,
they know some Bible stories, they know the "Jesus narrative."
They know a little bit of theology, just enough to be dangerous. But
- there's no real humility, there's no brokenness, there's no Godliness,
they're just "there." They are not trying to be deceivers
or "false Christians," but they go because of the fellowship
and the social aspect of being with "their people."
C. The Hypocrites
They know they are not real believers. They show up at church on Sunday
because it's Sunday but can't wait for it to be over so they can get
back home and do whatever it is they do. They have given up on trying
to pretend to be what they know they are not. They are not so much deceived,
How do we help these people? How do we get to these people, to unmask
them for their own sake? What do you look for? How can a deceived person
know he's being deceived? How can we spot someone who is deceived? Here
are a few suggestions:
1. Look for people who are seeking feelings -
blessings - experiences - healings -angels - whatever. They are
only interested in the "by-products" of the faith, not in
Christ. They are not really consumed with the glory, the honor, the
beauty, or the magnificence of Christ. They are not consumed with honoring
Him, loving Him, trusting Him, obeying Him, seeking Him, serving Him,
submitting to Him, proclaiming Him, exalting Him or confessing Him.
They are only there for the "by-products" which are "attached"
to Him. Inotherwords - "Give me blessings, give me spiritual experiences,
give me a spiritual high, give me good feelings, give me some nifty
music and a "band", give me healing, give me prosperity."
The "prosperity gospel" used to be just a part of the larger
'Pentecostal-Charismatic' movement. Now it has swallowed the entire
movement. The whole movement is now predicated on giving people the
"products of God" - but not God. The "products of Christ"-
but not Christ. They are not looking for Christ.
A dedicated believer of years gone by once wrote:
Let me have Christ whether I am sick or well,
Let me have Christ whether I am rich or poor,
Let me have Christ whether alive or dead,
Let me have Christ for my sins, Christ for my guide, Christ for my King.
I don't care whether I have anything - but Christ.
That's not what you hear today. In fact, if that's your message the
crowd will thin out fast in most churches. Remember, in one sermon,
Jesus' audience shrunk from 20,000 to 12. The true Gospel does not offer
the sinner what the sinner wants naturally. What does a "natural
sinner" want ? Good feelings ? Healing? Happiness? Money? Blessings?
Riches? Success? A bunch of angels working for him? All unregenerate
people want that naturally!
That is not the product of the work of the Spirit in an unregenerate
heart. The Gospel doesn't promise the sinner what the sinner already
wants! It promises what the sinner does NOT want! That is, righteousness,
holiness, Heaven, and dominating all of that - Jesus Christ. What is
the attitude of our present world toward Christ? They hate Him. Just
turn on the news and listen to left-leaning politicians.
2. Look for people who are more committed to "churches"
or "their denomination" than to scripture. Denominations,
movements, groups, it's almost like sort of a social thing. Not purely
social, but social with a spiritual 'twang'. "......oh - it feels
good to be involved in a God - thing." How could anyone actually
be committed to God, and not be committed to His Word ?
"Yes - but I really want to "connect with God." Ok -
here's what God says. Confess your sin, repent and embrace His Son as
your only hope of salvation. And if you don't agree to that the Bible
says you will go to Hell. Now- do you want to hear the next thing God
says? How about deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Me, then
you can work on hate your father-brother-mother and even your own life,
then we can talk about counting the cost. " What? He's asking all
of that?" And by the way - the laws of God never change, God's
moral law will have to become your passion. "What?" Which
is another way of saying everything you love now you must hate and everything
you now hate you have to love. Are you ready for that?
Look for people who have a commitment to some "organization",
some "place", some "group of people" that they are
far more committed to, than actually committed to knowing the Word of
God so they can obey the Word of God. I prefer to go to church for one
primary reason, "Tell me what the Word of God says!"
3. Look for those people who see God as a "means
to their own ends." Example: "I want to get God in
my life cause I got all these things I want to do. I have all these
plans and ambitions and if you are telling me God will help me get there,
I want in!"
That's Joel Osteen - but that is not Biblical Christianity. If what
he is "selling" is not heresy, it is about as close to it
as you can get. God is not the "genie in our bottle" that
jumps out when we rub it and says "Tah-da - 3 wishes." That
may be filling church buildings today, but that is not Christianity.
We need to help those people who see God as a means to their own ends.
People like this are those who will one day say, " Lord, Lord "-
only to hear Him say, "depart from Me, I never even knew you."
These are the people who "think" they are going to Heaven,
but according to God's own Word, they're not.
What about you ?
I will wrap this up with a story that is told of a great violinist who
announced he would give a concert using an unusually expensive violin.
On the designated night, violin lovers packed the hall to hear the instrument
played. The violinist came out on stage and gave an exquisite performance,
climaxed by a thunderous ovation from the appreciative crowd. He bowed
to acknowledge the cheers, then suddenly threw the instrument to the
floor, stomped it to pieces, and walked off stage. The audience was
A few minutes later, the stage manager came out and said to the stunned
crowd, " Ladies and gentlemen, the violin that was just destroyed
was only a twenty-dollar violin. The maestro will now return to play
on the advertised instrument." He did so, and few could even tell
You see, it isn't primarily the violin that makes the music: it's the
violinist. Most of us are twenty-dollar violins at best, I know I am
- maybe even a five-dollar one, but in the Master's hands we can make
beautiful music. God uses ordinary people with a variety of strengths
and weaknesses. It's not what you are that's important, but what you
are willing to become.
I recall the first 26.2 mile marathon I ran years ago. I started out
too fast and was getting pretty wobbly by mile 20. That's the way many
believers live the Christian life. They start out fast, but, undisciplined
and adrift spiritually, they soon encounter obstacles or impediments,
slow down, give up, or just plain collapse. The Christian life is a
marathon, not a sprint. To win a marathon, you must be disciplined to
endure weariness and exhaustion. The same is true in the Christian life.
Hebrews 12:1 says, "Let
us run with endurance the race that is set before us."
Nothing is more disturbing than to see Christians who have little desire
to win. They are content to be saved and to wait to go to Heaven. But
that's unacceptable for a follower of Christ. If you claim allegiance
to Jesus Christ as your Lord, you need to strive for as much excellence
as you can in every endeavor. If you're a Sunday School teacher, be
the most excellent teacher you can be. If you lead a Bible Study, lead
your flock with excellence. If you're a homemaker, make your home as
excellent as it can be.
That is the only way to live the Christian life. It takes discipline,
but we must demand excellence of ourselves and run the race to win.
No one runs a marathon without some expectation of a reward, even if
it is just a personal best time or the goal of finishing. And the same
is true of the race of faith - if you don't have something to look forward
to at the end of it, you'll likely never start it, let alone finish
Jesus glorified God on earth by displaying the Father's attributes and
completing His Father's will. We "run" for the same reason
Jesus did and we achieve victory in the same way. By following our Lord's
example, we glorify God by allowing His attributes to shine through
us and by obeying His will in everything we do. The reward at the end
thus becomes our motivation to forget "what
lies behind and (reach) forward to what lies ahead," pressing
on "toward the goal for the prize of the
upward call of God in Christ Jesus." ( Philippians
When we get to Heaven, we can cast our "crowns
before the throne, saying, Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to
receive glory and honor and power." ( Revelation
Will you be there ?
Drawing Closer Ministries
177 Eastlake Street
Branson, Missouri 65616
www.chalkartist.com On the
Remember, the Truth is the Truth,
whether we believe it or not. Our opinion or "personal beliefs"
have no bearing whatsoever on the Truth .
The article above was "in part" based upon material in the
book "Hard to Believe"...The High Cost and Infinite Value
of following Jesus by John MacArthur.
Thomas Nelson Publishers