Friday, January 10, 2014

Searching Till I Found...

I suppose the subtitle of this blog could be "Who Are You?"

I ask that sometimes, when I'm in the mirror... when I am convicted... when I am pricked in my heart over something... I ask that of others sometimes... when I am shocked by an action... when I am shocked or surprised by inaction... or when I see a side that I didn't know existed.

There are two main messages here today:
  • Who Are You? You can drown in Christian Service. You can hide behind works. You can even die, and go to hell - forever - while in the very service of Christ.
  • Jesus Never Fails. If you search for Him, you will find Him. If you call out to him. He will answer you.
John 13:21
21 After Jesus had said this, he was deeply troubled and declared openly, “I am telling you the truth: one of you is going to betray me.”
22 The disciples looked at one another, completely puzzled about whom he meant.

Yes, we know that the Christ had to be betrayed to fulfill scripture. But, this... technically, was the very First Communion in history. Think about that. Think on the fact that for the first time in history, a group of believers in Jesus broke bread together and he told them that the bread was his body, and the wine was his blood, and that they were to commune and share, and support and believe... together... in His absence. Imagine what that's like at a restaurant when you are all together with friends and you are listening to 4 different conversations and hear a snippet of news between people. It wasn't quiet. It wasn't sermon-esque. It was supper. It was casual. They were lying around talking and eating. They were communing. And then in the verses leading up to verse 21 are where Jesus is talking and explaining that He is God. He'll go away. Terrible things are coming... and then He explains that someone in His very own group will be that someone. It will be someone close... someone in the very room... someone seated at that very table... someone trusted... someone of position... someone that close will be the one that betrays Jesus. Someone that close...

Notice though, it still hurts. Jesus was "troubled in His spirit." And no one knew. In fact, Peter did what almost ANY good Southern lady would do and asked "the disciple that Jesus loved" to ask him directly and report back. And that's what happened. And that's when Jesus directly spoke to Judas. And that is when Satan also entered Judas, and all of his work - not undone, or forgotten - changed in an instant. He wasn't erased. He wasn't not Judas any longer. He probably justified every bit of what he did, in his mind. But, be clear... it was still betrayal and it forever altered the course of his life. He had followed Jesus everywhere. He had seen miracles. He had cast out demons, gone out in the "two-by-two's" of the disciples. He'd been there when Jesus raised the dead, healed the sick, and forgiven sins. He'd been there and seen it with his very own eyes. He held the treasury for the very disciples of God that are purported to be listed on the foundations of New Jerusalem.

What are your reasons? Are you bogged down in Christian Service? Are you concerned with the treasury? Do you see Jesus as the very reason you have salvation? Are you concerned with works? Do you worry more about what others think of you, and what you'll be perceived as? Are you humiliated to think of yourself as equal to the lowest? Do you balk in the fact that we are like the homeless that reek of body odor, or human waste? Our own righteousness is as filthy rags. Does that give you pause? Do you wonder if you are finally good enough because your grandmother, mother, and now you are all generationally attached to the same church and you "do your best?"

No one I've ever met in this life deserves God. Not one. This seems depressing, and it's not great. But it's possible, and it happens every day. I've been raised in church, around church, and loved church my whole life. But "church" doesn't save you. It won't keep you. And it won't make you new. Don't be sad. Don't fret. Don't despair. Listen for the second part of this...

Matthew 26:47
47 Jesus was still speaking when Judas, one of the twelve disciples, arrived. With him was a large crowd armed with swords and clubs and sent by the chief priests and the elders. 48 The traitor had given the crowd a signal: “The man I kiss is the one you want. Arrest him!”
49 Judas went straight to Jesus and said, “Peace be with you, Teacher,” and kissed him.
50 Jesus answered, “Be quick about it, friend!”

Now, I have a many, many friends from every walk of life. Every one. And in conversation, be it at work, the mall, a club, a lounge, a restaurant, in the gym... anyone I've ever "counseled" can attest that I'll be the first to quickly admit that no one is worthy of God. We don't deserve God. YET, let me be the FIRST to stand up and say that the passage in Matthew is the one I'll rest in. It gives me unparalleled hope and reminds me of the grace of Jesus (or , the "Grace" of Jesus, if you are like me and realize that it probably deserves a capital G). Of all the passages I could point to that describe the Lord’s devotion to an unworthy people, today’s is the one I think best showcases the unqualified friendship He offers His followers.

After the supper and the First Communion, mentioned above, Jesus was praying in the garden of Gethsemane. Now, being God, Jeuss knew that this was the prayer meeting of all prayer meetings. We can lay on our faces in the prayer room. We can remember 4A. We can even rest on our laurels and think back to old conferences and Because of the Times. We can remember saints that have gone on... but this - THIS - prayer meeting was the flesh God wore, calling out in stress, distress, and anguish at what was coming. This was the night before His crucifixion. And what happened? What came?

Judas - member of the original 12, man that held the money, church secretary, treasurer, demon-caster-outer, preacher, minister, pastor, trusted - Iscariot approached him with a band of men. He stepped forward. He walked to Jesus. And he embraced him and kissed him. Think on this in the dark, and in the night... he walked to him, in a garden, and stepped forward and kissed the face of God incarnate. And what was Jesus’ response? According to Matthew, He called the man “Friend."

Now, I know that we call him the betrayer, we have names that describe the horror of what happened to Judas and God even cursed the field where his blood fell. But, Judas expected Jesus to establish His kingdom on earth and drive the Romans out of Israel—anyone who could calm a storm at sea could easily remove an oppressive government! But Judas’s interest in Jesus was more personal and political than spiritual. Hear that, and let it sink in again... Judas was interested in Jesus, and he KNEW who He was! He was God! And He was there to save and help and deliver! But, you can know who God is, know that Jesus is God, and still think of him in a political, governmental, and financial way. Are you concerned with your organizations treasury? Do you spend more time balancing the books and lobbying for your church's political clout than on your face before God? Do you need respectability more than you need repentance? We use the name of Judas now to describe any betrayer. In fact, John reported that his fellow disciple stole from the money box (12:6). Today the man’s name is synonymous with those who betray others for personal gain. Here is the good news: In spite of Judas’ greed, blind ambition, and betrayal, Jesus never stopped loving him; He still used the word “friend” to address the one-time disciple. The Lord does not place conditions on His love or reject people who fail to meet certain standards. He simply cares for us as we are.

People cannot earn Jesus, the Christ’s love and friendship. He takes the initiative, reaches out, and draws into fellowship those who are willing. We are not worthy, but we are privileged to live in His love anyway. In the Lord, we find a friend who sticks closer than a brother (Prov. 18:24).

I am the very lowest of the low. I am not what I need to be. I am nowhere near even where I've been before. But I know forgiveness. I know the love of God. Do you? You can. Do you feel anxious? Do you feel like something is amiss? It's humiliating to admit you need help. It's humiliating to admit that you are lost, and that you need intervention. It's humbling to finally admit that you cannot do this. You cannot save yourself. You cannot bear this weight. It's painful. God can bear it. God can save you. God can heal you. God can forgive you. God can clean you. God can make you new. Is today your last day? It doesn't have to be - it can be your first day. Jesus never fails. If you search, you will find. If you call out, you will be heard. If you ask, you'll get an answer.

I love you, right where you are.

#JustBeingMichael ツ

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