Archive for October, 2010
No one names their son Judas. It is one of the most infamous names in history because it is the name of the man who betrayed Jesus. Judas was one of the closest followers of Jesus, he was the one who took care of the money, he was heavily involved in the ministry of Jesus… and he betrayed him. Even people that know very little about the Jesus story have heard of Judas. His name is synonymous with betrayal, hypocrisy, and greed.
Judas ended up committing suicide. I wonder why? Was he having second thoughts about what he had done? Maybe he did not really think the authorities would actually condemn Jesus to death. Perhaps he thought Jesus would save himself at the last instance. Or did reality set in when he realized he had betrayed the Son of God. I wonder if he belatedly realized that he believed in Jesus and was so horrified by what he had done that he could see no way out.
So here is my problem with Judas. How could he have spent some much time with Jesus and still not get it? If he was in trouble, Jesus would have helped him. Jesus would have forgiven the betrayal. Judas could have been saved. He could have lived forgiven. He could have lived forever. He just did not get it.
I wonder how many people are like that today – people who may not share the name of Judas, but who share the wrong understanding of Jesus. People who grew up believing in Jesus, but abandoned him years ago and now do not believe they can come back. People who were involved in church but surrendered to sin in their life and now do not think they can be forgiven.
The problem with Judas is not what he did… it is what he did not do. He did not understand the message of Jesus. He never realized forgiveness was there for the asking. He missed the whole reason Jesus came to live among us.
So if you are wondering if you can come back to Jesus, I have good news for you. Jesus is still the way back to God. again.
It was meant to be a towering achievement… pardon the pun. Thousands of years ago, a group of men came together and decided to build a city, a great city with a tower that would scrape the sky. Their plan was to make a name for themselves, to leave an indelible mark on this world.
Working together, they felt that they could do anything. Human intelligence. Human technology. Human achievements. These things would allow them to prosper and be remembered for ever.
That was man’s plan. But it wasn’t God’s plan. God wanted them to depend on Him, not just lean on one another.
So He made it so that they spoke different languages, which led to them scattering and forming nations according to those languages. The city was called Babel because of the babble of languages that was created there.
For years, I read this story and only saw God’s actions as punishment, an almost capricious act of jealousy and anger. Then someone pointed me to a passage in the New Testament, when the apostle Paul was speaking to a group of intellectuals in Athens. Paul told them: “From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.” (Acts 17:26-27)
God did this so that men would seek Him, rather than seeking their own glory. He put men into different nations so they would reach out for Him, rather than merely depending on one another. God acted at Babel so that men would find Him.
An interesting side note is the fact that we don’t know the names of any of the builders of Babel. They weren’t recorded. But in the very next chapter of Genesis we meet a man who never built a city nor a tower, a man whose only construction was the building of altars. God came to him and said, “I will make your name great.”
That was Abraham, of course, the father of three of the world’s great religions: Judaism, Islam and Christianity.
Today, we still have people desperate to be known and to be remembered. We still have people who want to lean on human wisdom and human accomplishments. And we still have a God who wants us to seek Him, reach out for Him and find Him. In Him, we will be known and remembered forever.
I am not a very good golfer. I would like to be better, but it is not easy for me. I do not have a natural swing, I do not understand the strategy, and I do not even understand the terminology sometimes. But I enjoy the game. I play with great enthusiasm. I consider myself a golfer. My son, on the other hand, is a good golfer. He hits the ball well, and he scores well. He wants to hit the ball right at the hole. I want to be near the green.
We got to play together recently for my birthday. To make things fun and competitive, he gave me two strokes. Not two strokes per nine holes, but two strokes on each hole. My goal each hole was to hit my second shot well enough that I would be near his first drive. His round consisted of hit the ball, drive around till we found Dad’s ball, watch Dad hit it a few times, then play his next shot. I can only imagine how frustrating that would be. Except that we had had a great time. He was patient, never made me feel inferior, complimented my occasional good shot, and gave me really good advice when I asked.
By the second nine, I was playing better. Just being with someone who was good helped my game. His encouragement helped. I knew he wanted me to play well. And, of course, he loves me. We are family.
That is how church works. New Christians do have a lot to learn. They are not as experienced in the Christian life as others. But they are family. They are loved. They are not inferior spiritually. Their new Christian family wants them to grow spiritually. New Christians can ask for help and advice, knowing they will receive it from people who want to help.
And we all enjoy the journey together. We become community. So if you have wondered about how it would be to live life as a new Christian, let me assure you there are people who will help you figure it out.
I have to admit, I’m a big fan of the Disney/Pixar movies. I always look forward to the movies they bring out. I’ve become surprisingly attached to fish, bugs, cars and robots as I’ve watched their films. Yet the films that really stand out in my mind are the “Toy Story” movies.
There’s one bit of imagery I like in those movies that emphasize the concept of belonging. There are important scenes where the toys are shown to have their owner’s name written on them, emphasizing the tie they have to him. They are his toys, his treasured possessions.
One reason I like that imagery is because it reminds me of what the Bible says about our relationship to God. Speaking to Christians in the Middle Eastern city of Philadelphia, Jesus promises to the faithful: “I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on him my new name.” (Revelation 3:12)
I love that idea, that God will want to show everyone that Christians belong to Him. He will write His name on us.
The apostle Peter wrote, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” (1 Peter 2:9-10)
We are a people belonging to God. Once we weren’t even a people, but now we are the people that belong to God. God has written His name on us for all to see. God has chosen us to be His.
Who do you belong to? You have the chance to belong to God, to give yourself to Him and let Him write His name on you. You can be his treasured possession.