Betray or Deny

Offenses Toward Jesus

This time of year, we often reflect on the story of Judas’ betrayal of Jesus as well as Peter’s denial of Jesus, but we analyze each situation independently. We look at them as two separate occasions and two distinct instances both with differing results. We also see the role of Judas as being a major sin while we look at the denial of Peter as simply being human. We make a bigger deal out of Judas’ betrayal than we do of Peter’s denial. Certainly, we can see how they are both connected in time as events leading up to the crucifixion of our Savior. But, in reality the end result of both occurrences is the same. Both friends left Jesus completely and utterly alone on His journey to the cross. The two circumstances piled on together lay an excruciating burden on our Lord.

nmi_2011_fashionyear_00469a-1But, let’s look at both situations as if they were occurring in our own lives. What is more hurtful, being betrayed or denied? What would scorn Jesus more, us betraying Him or denying Him? We may not see either of these circumstances in our own lives, but in reality, they are sprinkled all over our very existence.

The following are all examples of betrayal. They may seem small in comparison to Judas, but betrayal is betrayal. How many times have we experienced a friend who chooses another group, friend or activity over us? How many times has a sibling downplayed our existence so they can connect with someone else? How many have experienced a romantic breakup just to discover that there was a third party involved? Have you ever had a classmate sell you out on a project or stab you in the back by saying they did your work and that you didn’t do any work at all? Have your parents broken a promise? Has anyone shared a secret of yours? Have you done any of this to Jesus?

What about denial? Have you ever contradicted yourself, said one thing to one person and something else to another? Have you ever tried to hide the truth from your parents or pretended you didn’t know your little brother when you passed him in the halls? Have you ever refused to do something your parents asked you to do? Have you ever rejected a friend to hang out with a boy? Have you ever declined hanging out with your family to go to a party or gathering? Have you ever dismissed doing a homework assignment to catch up on your favorite TV show? How about nixing a friend’s idea because you think yours is better? Have you ever rejected someone because of the way they looked? Have you ever abandoned your friend in her time of need? How often has Jesus experienced any of these excuses or justifications from you?

We do these things more often than we think and we probably do them to the Lord more than we do to the people around us. Certainly choosing our friends, a boy, school, money, popularity or family over the Lord is a pretty normal act. When was the last time you went out of your way to look good or portray a certain image rather than being the genuine person that God created you to be? These are both real examples of betraying Jesus.

Betrayal may seem devastating, but denial is just as painful. When was the last time that you denied being a Christian, going to church or being involved in youth group because you didn’t want to look uncool? How often do you skip spending time with God through prayer, reading the Bible or stillness because you have other things to do? Do you ever sugar coat a prayer request when asking for support and advice from the Lord? Have you ever felt God calling you to do something and you disregarded it because you felt uncomfortable? Have you ever read the Bible and not considered all of it true – just following the parts you agree with and like?

When you look at it for face value and you break it down into practical elements, denial is just as hurtful as betrayal. Do you think Jesus was more hurt by Judas or Peter? Both hurt him, and that’s the point.

We don’t necessarily know Judas’ motive for betraying Jesus. Certainly, his motives may have been the money, but it could have other elements in which we’re unaware. Judas was plotting with others, he knew what he was doing, but he didn’t realize the results. The Bible doesn’t speak of the details, so there’s a lot that we can’t assume when evaluating the heart of Judas. Just because we understand that Jesus was destroying death and sin doesn’t mean that His disciples did – they were in the midst of the chaos, we are outsiders looking in. Jesus would have known the heart of Judas; we do not.

Peter loved the Lord, clung to Him, stood up to express his love and then denied Him over and over again. To have someone so close completely turn your back on you and deny you entirely has to hurt. And, Peter didn’t even know what he was doing. He acted in fear and confusion. Peter was blind to his own actions.

Where do you stand on this spectrum? We’ve all hurt Jesus and He’s forgiven us all – no matter how big the pain caused or how many times we’ve hurt Him. But, we can’t let that paralyze our relationship with Christ. Instead, we must continue to grow. Peter was strengthened and he became a pillar – the rock in which the entire Christian church was found on. Realizing what he had done, he learned his lesson. Judas, however, was devastated and took his own life – the very life that Jesus gave him. It’s the result that makes us think Judas’ actions were more harsh than Peter’s, but in reality, we all have a choice on how we respond to the pain and suffering we cause the Lord. He looks past all devastation and sees our true, pure heart. Rather than denying or betraying Him, grow closer to Him and admire the true character and person He is in our lives and for this world.

Quick Turn Around

NMI_2010_FashionYear_00619AScripture is an intricate narrative of God’s character. It was created to bring us closer to our Maker. The Bible has extrinsic value because it calls us to look outward and upward to God.

We tend to look for stories or truths presented in the Bible that can be applied to our personal life. There is nothing wrong with needing an encouraging word or insight that helps us become more of the person God created us to be. But, if we linger too long on the Bible being about human failure, then we may begin to lose focus on God and veer into selfish and internal territory. Satan wants us to look inward because that’s where we see our own insecurity and inability. Satan loves to keep our focus on our failures and where we fall short. The power of the Bible brings our focus off ourselves and back on to the Lord. Certainly, we are human and we are fallen. That’s our reality. But, we don’t want to remain in this pit. We need to accept who we are. We are a New Creation, a Beautiful Beloved Daughter of God. He gives us the strength we need to overcome any fault or frustration.

The Bible has a purpose, therefore, we should reflect on the scriptures. Instead of focusing on how it applies to our lives to make us better, we need to let it guide us to Christ so we can see how He has already healed us, He is currently growing us and He will always be beside us. Jesus is guiding us through all of lives circumstances.

When we’re facing any type of hardship or uncertainty, it’s easy for our minds to be consumed by our personal issue or struggle. Again, this is exactly what Satan wants. He wants us to dwell on our problems. But, we must train ourselves to have a quick turn around. The faster we can take our focus off our selves and change our intentions to be on the Lord, then our struggles will be squelched and relief will soon resonate.

A simple way to change your mindset when looking to learn a lesson from scripture is to stop asking, “God, what am I supposed to learn today?” Instead ask, “What can you reveal to me?” Or, change “What have you called me to do for you,” to “What are you going to do?” The first response is about your self-seeking concerns or what you need from God. The second is about God. Yes, God wants to engage with you and bring His glory into your life. So, when you’re with Him, stop monopolizing the time. Step aside and let God work through you, reveal himself to you and be your counselor. Give God the glory; He deserves it a lot more than you do.

Who Has the Last Word?

Melinda sitting on pile of booksWords are so crucial to our faith. John wrote, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1) The most important words we will ever say in our lives are the words, “I believe in Jesus.” Then, through tender love and compassionate fervor, we will speak of God’s truth to others, inviting them to say those same gracious words.

When we focus on these words, which are centered on Christ, we begin to realize that our words are more than just letters put together to make a specific sound. They have deep, intimate meaning – significance that determines our future; substance that determines our fate. Saying the words, “I believe in Jesus” marks the point in time where we can separate ourselves from death and pass into glorious life.

As our relationship with Jesus grows, our words become the foundation in which we communicate with Him. We can’t see Him or feel Him in the flesh, so we rely on scripture as well as the narrative of the Holy Spirit to understand our Lord. We connect with Him through written word and prayer. Jesus desires conversation with us as we delve deeper into a personal relationship with Him. Just like any other relationship, our words convey who we are, how we’re struggling and growing as well as what we feel, think and believe. Words have the ability to express what our heart and mind wishes to convey.

Our words demonstrate how we perceive another person. When we speak in various tones, our words take on a different meaning. Our words must be uplifting and encouraging. We must not curse or put other people down. Instead, we should use our words to build one another up, leading others to the love of the Lord. The power of words can direct and guide another person toward salvation, and God takes these words seriously. Our words can be a light that penetrates into the heart of a darkened soul who longs for meaningful remarks in their own life.

God spoke the first words, which was the beginning of our foundation. God said, “Let there be light.” His words spoke things into being. He saw that His new creation was good; He gave both the light and the darkness a name. His foundation was glorious, so He continued to speak newness into being. God has been speaking life into His world ever since.

When our lives come to an end, God will have the final say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Those words will remain in our hearts for all of eternity. Embrace words for their value and speak according to God’s will.

Read this post in niNe. magazine

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No More Clichés

NMI_2010_FashionYear_00602AChristianity is full of clichés, most of which are expressed when we’re struggling in our faith, suffering or going through a difficult time. Our friends, leaders, parents and mentors listen to our issues with a concerned and loving heart. In an effort to help us through our difficulty, they typically comment with one of the following:

‘God won’t give you more than you can handle.’

‘Everything happens for a reason.’

‘This must be God’s will.’

 

In reality these clichés aren’t comforting nor are they true. So, really we just need to eliminate them from our vocabulary entirely. Clichés such as these actually keep us from relying on God and they keep us from understanding His character and purpose for our lives. Sadly, if we buy into the idea that these clichés are all that there is then we don’t see new opportunities, we don’t pursue what we’re fully capable of and we don’t push the boundaries that the world has placed on us. Regrettably, we limit who God is and what we can do.

If we’re convinced that God won’t give us more than we can handle, then we’ll live a very disappointing life and feel overwhelmed the majority of the time. The truth is that God will give us more than we can handle, He tests us and challenges us so our faith can be strengthened. He also gives us more than we can handle on our own so we learn to fully rely on Him.

If we settle into the idea that everything happens for a reason, we aren’t giving God credit for leading us and guiding us through life’s ups and downs. Plus, we aren’t seeing our role in the situation. We won’t see that we can engage with the Lord and move our life onward. Yes, God does allow certain toils to occur, but He also activates upstanding events in our lives for our benefit.

If we anticipate that our struggles are God’s will, then we’re refusing to see God’s love, compassion and goodness. We then may not allow ourselves to see how God made good come out of a bad situation. We may not push ourselves to grow from the experience.

Melinda Laging Walking Away from Black and White BackgroundThese are just the surface of the barrage of clichés that we hear on a daily basis as we grow in our relationship with Christ. Instead of believing them, ignoring them or being annoyed by these clichés, use them as a reminder that we can seek God and learn from our circumstance. It’s hard to be a Christian and life as a teenager is difficult. So we must not let clichés discourage us. Instead hold on to the truth that God is growing us and challenging us to be more like Him.

  • God cares for each of us and He holds our hearts in His hands. He will guard them and protect them if we let Him.
  • God will redeem everything. He may not choose to fix everything, but He will make it good in the end.
  • God will not abandon us, even in our darkest hour when it feels like God is nowhere around, He’s still actively engaged in our life and what He’s called us to do.
  • God is constant, but He is also surprising. He may speak to you in the most unexpected ways, so don’t listen to the cliché – listen to a compassionate God.

When everything seems uncertain, don’t confuse yourself further with empty clichés. Rather cling to the truth you know and trust.

This post was inspired by Matt Bays book “Finding God in the Ruins.”