Tuesday, 22 November 2011

A Case for Judas: Oh to be Like Him

A very popular notion that has always been expressed regarding how the Bible should be read and followed relates to that aspect of Judas’ story where it says that he “went out and hanged himself,” (Matt. 27: 5), and then what if the next thing that you read is “look unto me and do likewise,” (Judges 7: 17).  Judas is mainly known for how his life ended, and not for how he conducted his life up to the point of his death.  Was he all wrong? Should he be avoided like leprosy, or the plague?  Is there anything that we could benefit from by studying the life of Judas – that is apart from learning what not to do?

Before we look at Judas Iscariot we need to note the radical nature of Jesus’ method of teaching lessons as recorded in Luke 16.  This was a story of a certain steward accused of being wasteful of his master’s goods.  When the steward was summoned to give account of his stewardship, and being threatened that he would no longer be retained as a steward, this steward did something that was strangely commended by Jesus:  he called in all the debtors and gave each one a special concession, hoping to secure favour with these persons once he comes upon hard times after he would be fired.  Jesus did not focus on the ethics of whether the steward ought to have behaved in this manner.    Neither did he focus on the possibility that these persons could take the deal but forfeit when it comes around to returning the favour to this unfaithful steward.  What Jesus rather locked in on was the sheer wisdom of the steward exhibited in seeking to secure his future, for somehow He is aware that it is within this arena that He will most likely engage an individual.  In seeking to secure ones future one usually: 

  •    Does a reality check of where one is in life and must gain a sense of the trajectory that one’s life is likely to take given the current situation.
  •        Determines whether or not one is headed in the direction one desires to travel. 
  •       Develops an agreement/relationship with those who can assist one in securing the desired future. 
  •      Decides on an appropriate course of action that will derive the desired outcomes.
It is doubtless that Judas had exhibited these very traits and would have intrigued Jesus with the prospect of reaching him with the plan of salvation.  Alas however Judas seemed locked in on a predetermined outcome and was not up for a discussion on the matter.  But much like the ten virgins had many things in common at the beginning of that story; Judas likely had no outrageously different earthly ambitions than had the other disciples who often contended with each other about who’d be greatest in the kingdom they thought Christ had come to establish.  The difference with Judas though was that he exhibited a much keener focus on his target and was always alert to the presence of an opportunity waiting to be exploited.  The Apostle Paul was a man similarly characterized with the acumen of singleness of purpose: “For I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” 1 Corinthians 2:2.

When Judas would have discovered Jesus, He would have been the hottest new “fad,” who attracted quite a following from all levels of the society.  And if ever an opportunity was present in a situation this would be that situation.  He probably was not certain at first how exactly he could exploit this situation, but he determined to monitor the operations of Christ and when the opportunity presented itself he would make his move.  Obviously, Judas was not interested in Jesus per se, he only saw Him as a way out of his current jam.  Invariably however the power of Christ’s influence could not be entirely nullified from impacting Judas.  Judas didn’t accept Jesus, but he understood a lot about Him, and though he probably would have denied that fact he had been changed, even as he locked the deal with the enemies of Christ, Christ had awakened his moral cognizance.  And so whereas he would have calculated that the Jewish leaders had no power to capture Christ against His will, the long awaited opportunity had come, for Judas convinced them that he could arrange for the seizing of Jesus… for a price of course.  But when he saw that Christ was indeed captured, and that He faced unavoidable death at the hands of the heartless Romans and at the behest and conniving of the ruthless Jewish leaders, Judas was overcome by guilt, for he had “betrayed the innocent blood.”  Matt. 27:4.  Here the story for Judas ends with him hanging himself; choosing the path of eternal separation from God, even as Christ was dying for him, and herein lays his fundamental flaw.

Judas’ fundamental flaw is: not that he had ambition and a sense of direction that he wanted his life to take; not that he sought for and exploited an opportunity that resided in Christ; not that he formed alliances.  Judas’ fundamental flaw was that he missed the true value that Christ afforded him.  He had consistently resisted every appeal to the conscience that Christ had wrought with His winsome ways.  And so unlike Peter, who not only desired earthly greatness like everyone else, but allowed Jesus into his heart; allowing himself to be pulled in by the cords of love, when he denied Christ knew that there was still forgiveness and acceptance with Him.  Chances are Judas never took the time to discover that about Jesus.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Judas actually liked Jesus; respected Him even.  I wouldn’t be surprised if he really didn’t intend for Jesus to be hurt in anyway, he probably only wanted to “teach” these detractors of the Saviour of all mankind a lesson… at a premium cost of course.  He would have likely calculated that Jesus would save Himself, and he (Judas) would be thirty pieces of silver the richer.  There would be nothing that these devious leaders could do – he had kept his end of the bargain and had taken them to Jesus – a deal’s a deal.  For what Judas had set out to accomplish, it seemed a foolproof plan.  And…it was: He did his self-assessment and understood where he was with respect to where he wanted to be;  he determined that he needed to align himself to achieve his goal; he developed  the relationships appropriate to what he determined he needed to accomplish; he decided on a specific course of action to get him his desired outcome.  That these actions were wrongly motivated and misapplied in no way minimizes the value of carrying out the actions.  And so of a truth Judas’ life does have many positive lessons that, correctly applied, would enrich the observer’s life and accomplishments.  After all his story is a part of the featured stories of the Holy Writings.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

I'm Actually a Seven day Adventist

No, I didn’t make a mistake with the caption, albeit such a common assault among persons in some cultures who are not so adept with the language – often leaving off the “th” from many words.  Where this occurs the word THREE is often rendered TREE; BIRTHDAY is often rendered BIRT-DAY; SMOOTH becomes SMOOD, and so on.  It is often within this vein of lingual misappropriations that the name Seventh-day Adventist becomes seven-day Adventist.   But what an accidental truism!

Yes, I am a Seventh-day Adventist.  But a literal and uninformed interpretation of this name may give the impression that my belief in the second coming of Jesus is mysteriously activated every seventh day.  Let’s face it; the meaning of our name really isn’t self-evident, as is the case with many prophecies in scripture – but no sooner than it is explained and you quickly get it.  But to say that I am a seven-day Adventist makes a very strong and decisive point without much explanation needed.  Mind you, if we were to go with this contraption we would lose a very vital element currently present in our name – The Sabbath.  So this is not an attempt to have a name change, but to simply make some lemonade of a lemon – the mispronunciation of our name, Seventh-day Adventists.

Seventh-day Adventists all around the world have often been accused of being one-day Christians – an accusation that many of us are too often guilty of.  It is therefore important that we understand that the Sabbath is a seven days of the week commandment.

The first evidence of that is the creation week.  The creation of the Sabbath occurred in relation to God’s creative activities in the previous six days.  The Sabbath was an important climaxing, resting and celebration of what was accomplished in the preceding six days.

In Exodus 20: 8-11 all seven days of the week are included in in the Sabbath Commandment, “six days shalt thou labour.”  To fail to work is to fail to meet the ideal condition under which the Sabbath may be truly celebrated.  The work done in the week is wide a varied and requires multitasking.

Unless one is in full-time voluntary ministry there is a main activity, in terms of time, that one engages in to be able to afford the means of survival (food, shelter, clothes, etc.).  But in the process of engaging in that primary activity, there are a number of other activities that are to be taking place.  From the perspective of the Christian life these are activities that pertain to matters of spiritual nourishment, growth, and development.  They also have to do with the accomplishment of the Gospel commission.  In context of the Sabbath it has to do with experiencing the blessing, the sanctifying, the redemption, and in a special way the re-creation from God.  The progress made in these areas characterizes the quality of the worship experience of the Sabbath.  It is as if on Sabbath all of these experiences come full circle, and no sooner than the Sabbath ends the cycle starts again.  Hence for the true Sabbath observer it is an inescapable a way of life, every day of one’s life.

So yes I am a Seventh-day Adventist, but I am also a seven-day Adventist.

Reliving the Encounter with the Devil

In the beginning God created the human species, and everything was very good.  They had an excellent relationship.  God would come down in the cool of the day and would commune with mankind.  Then enters the serpent on the scene, possessed no doubt by the devil. 
“So God says you shouldn’t eat of the tree in the middle of the garden, huh?”
“Yes, that’s what He said.”
“Well,” said the serpent, quite possibly between the bites of the fruit forbidden to humans, “it’s actually very good for food.  And more than that, if you eat it, it’ll make you wise like…like God Himself.  How do you think that I, a serpent could be talking to you this way?  It really works, try it.”
“I’m scared; God said it’ll kill me if I ate it.”
“Do you see me keeling over?  Trust me, nothing will happen to you.  God…well He kinda likes to be God, you know, all wise and all powerful.  And you see He knows that no sooner than you eat this fruit, that’s it; you’re like Him, and you won’t have to depend on Him like you do now.  Don’t you wanna be like God?”
“Are you sure?”
“Trust me,” said the serpent with a diabolical look of faked earnestness and hurt at not being trusted.
At first there was nothing, except the succulent delight of eating the forbidden fruit.  It was no better in quality than any of the other fruits in the Garden of Eden – everything was very good – but it sure tasted that way.  Just something about indulging in the forbidden.
“Eve!” What have you done?
“No, no, no, it’s okay.  Do you notice anything different about me?”
“Well, that’s it.  Nothing.  Nothing has happened to me, and God said we would die.  And what’s more, it is ‘Sooo Gooood.  Try it.”
“I don’t know about this.”
“Adam, this is Eve your wife, the love of your life, trust me, nothing will happen to you.  Just try it.”  With the change already taking place in her, Eve’s facial expression showed that her ego was beginning to be bruised by Adam’s hesitance to accede to her wish – already demonstrating the first lesson from the Devil.
“I really don’t think we should be doing this.”  And so against his better judgment Adam ate the fruit to appease his wife, who for the first time since their union had started to show signs of being hurt.  He was surprised, scared, and concerned about this strange exhibition from Eve, not realizing the fact that sin had entered her.
While that exchange took place the serpent was looking on as though he were a proud father of a daughter who had done well.  But no sooner than Adam had eaten the fruit, the uncomfortable expression on his face was quickly reset to match the dark evil that possessed his heart.  And with an abandon that seemed certain that its victory was secured; the human species had proven his claims against God to be true, he started to laugh.  It was a deadly, diabolical, and devilish laugh.  The serpent seemed no longer aware of the presence of the humans.  Their usefulness to his evil conspiracy had expired.  At least so he thought, or at least hoped.
Turning to be commended by her suitor, whom she heard laughing – thinking this was a victory moment for all present, Eve was shocked by the expression the serpent now wore.  And instantly it clicked, she had been duped.  And as with every post sin episode everything started to become clear.  They both noticed for the first time that they were actually naked.  They also now began to feel guilt.  And whereas they would eagerly anticipate the visit of their Heavenly Father, now they dreaded His appearing.  They hurriedly sowed fig leaves to cover themselves.  It was a vain attempt to cover their guilt really.
So God came, as he normally did, but the couple now ran away to escape His presence.  God spoke to them and made for them proper clothing of animal’s skin.  The first animal had died, shadowing the eventual death of Jesus Christ, the Lamb slain from the foundation of the earth (Rev. 14: 8), whom God promised would come to earth to redeem the human species.  He spoke to the serpent as well.  He cursed it and gave it a promise that its head would be crushed by Jesus Christ. Gen. 3:15.  
The promise of God came not in response to mankind’s demonstrated faithfulness, but in response to its failure.  Salvation is an initiative of God, not humans; God acts humans react.
How often have you reenacted the horror of Eden in your own experience?  Do you sometimes feel like there’s no hope for you?  Know this, God loves us anyway, and His only desire is to save you.  Jesus while on earth said, “I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”  Matt. 9:13.  He came to Adam and Eve, He’s here for you right now.

Ambition at Any Cost?

The Organization
Scenario 1
Scene 1                 Out of office meeting
Character 1:        “I heard of the decision that was made regarding a certain position that I’ve been thinking of for a while now.”
Character 2:        Really?
Character 1:        Are you sure about the choice you guys have made?
Character 2:        Well, he seems to have the right temperament for the job.  He’s a nice guy.
Character 1:        But will he take anything new to the table?  I mean, he’s been in that department for a while now, albeit not at the head, but have you felt his presence?  There are few things I’d change about that department as it is.  Sure, he’s a nice guy, but does he have the strength to push through the necessary changes desired?  I know that he doesn’t have the administrative exposure that I have, and I’m not so sure that he will be able to bring about the desired change.
Character 2:        Hmm, the board has already decided on a course, but you never know what can happen.  Let’s see.
Scene 2                 Out of office run-in
Character 1:        Hey, how are you doing?
Character 3:        Hey, I’m fine.  You?
Character 1:        Doing great.  Say, how long have you been in your department?
Character 3:        A few years now.  Why?
Character 1:        No, I was just wondering if you are comfortable in that department.  You do seem a bit overwhelmed, and I do notice a few things that are kind of slipping out of your control.
Character 3:        Yeah, like what?
Character 1:        It’s quite a bit actually, and I wouldn’t really have the time. It would be easier for me to just do the job. But a few of us were talking though and we think that you would probably do better somewhere else.  Certain roles are better left for certain people.  You know what I mean?
Character 3:        Yeah, I do.  Anyway, have a good day.
Scene 3:                Chairman’s office
Character 4:        The board met and decided to ask you to take over operations in your department.  Are you up for the job?
Character 3:        Funny that you should say that, because I was thinking that maybe I really ought to be heading out instead of heading up.  I’ll be straight with you, I have no doubt that I can do the job, but I have little taste for the sort of political wrangling that would obtain once I assume this position.  Money and position cannot buy peace of mind.  I don’t think I’ll accept.
Character 4:        I do understand where you are coming from, but why don’t you sleep on it and give me your final answer in the morning.
Character 3:        I don’t think I’ll have a change of heart, but sure, I’ll sleep on it.
Scene 4:                Chairman’s office the next morning
Character 3:        I discussed it with my family, we prayed about it and the decision remains – I appreciate the offer, but I will not accept.  I’m sure you’ll find someone else who is willing.
Character 4:        You know, for the very reason that you will not accept is why I think you are the perfect person for the job, but do what your heart tells you to do.
Scene 5:                In the boardroom
Character 4:        Character 3 has declined so the floor is now open for nominations.
Character2:         Mr. Chairman I beg to nominate Character 1.  It is his area of expertise, he has the requisite administrative experience, and I do believe he has the mettle to bring about the needed reform.  I don’t know why we never thought of him before.
Character 4:        All in favour of Character 1… it is carried.

How far will you go to get your heart’s desire?  How far have you gone to get where you are today?  And mind you there are so many other self-compromising ways to get where you want to go.  Is it worth it…at any cost?