June 17, 2013

The flip side of good

John Grisham’s book, “The Brethren” has characters that are in jail, downright selfish, and doing their best to continue their illegal activity. Their evil attitudes are obvious.

For the past few days, my devotional readings have focused on Judas, the traitor who for thirty pieces of silver sold out Jesus Christ to those who would crucify Him. While this man walked with Jesus and saw Him do miracles, even experienced His love and compassion as did the other disciples, he allowed one passion to grow unchecked in his own heart. He was the treasurer for this company of men, and this gave him opportunities to indulge himself; he liked money.

Jesus knew the heart of Judas. Before the event, He asked the disciples if they would stick around, even as others were walking away. Peter boldly said,

Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God. (John 6:68–69)

Jesus may have smiled. Finally, at least one of them got it. However, He answered them,

“Did I not choose you, the Twelve? And yet one of you is a devil.” He spoke of Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the Twelve, was going to betray him. (John 6:70–71)

Did this register? Did Judas even hear what Jesus said? Did this disciple know his own capacity for sin? Or was he so focused on what he wanted that Jesus’ words seemed as nothing to him?

Grisham’s book also has a character who seems a fine, upstanding citizen. He has no flaws, and appears to be the hero of the story. However, power appeals to him, makes him walk taller. As the story unfolds, he is offered an opportunity beyond anything he’d ever expected. I’m only into the first part of the book, but already see this man is being tested. Will he choose wisely? Or will he indulge himself?

I once took a test designed to bring out which Christian ministries would best fit my passions and skills. One of the questions involved personal strengths. After circling words from a long list of possibilities, the next question said, “For each strength circled, describe the corresponding possibility for sin in the use of that strength.”

Some of this was easy. For instance, someone with a good imagination can use that ability for evil or for good. A person skilled in leadership can use it for a personal power trip. However, the answers became more complicated and more revealing. I learned much from that exercise. It comes to mind as I think about Judas. He may have had some strengths but his life needed a test. In God’s wisdom, he was given charge of the money bag. Would he pass? Or would his greed get the best of him? Obviously, he made the wrong choice.

This is a warning. Most of us do not think about the trap hidden in godly opportunities. When opportunities come, we can so easily be blindsided. For every good thing done in service to God, there is a dark side, an appeal to my selfishness. I can even start out doing the right thing for the wrong reasons, but more often start with the right reasons and wind up in the ditch.

My crashes may not be as obvious and those that have happened to prominent television evangelists, other pastors, Christian authors and leaders. But little people are not immune. The devil wants to destroy the credibility of all Christians, not because we are particularly important in his eyes, but because God can use anyone for His glory. If the Lord offers me a wonderful opportunity, I can go for it, but must remember that I can also make foolish decisions, and like Judas, betray the One who handed me the choice.

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