Judas and Simon Peter both betrayed Jesus, but the end results were completely different for each. Judas double-crossed the Lord, but when Jesus was found guilty and sentenced to death, Judas was suddenly filled with regret. He wanted to find a way to undo what had been done…but it was far too late. And so Judas was filled with despair…but it was a worldly sorrow…a selfish dread of the consequences it would cost him… without a trace of true repentance. And as he sunk deeper into self-induced despair, Judas gave up hope. We need to though ask ourselves this question – Would the newly resurrected Lord have forgiven Judas? The obvious answer is Yes, but Judas gave up that chance when he took his own life. But now on to Simon Peter’s betrayal of Jesus, which wasn’t once, or twice, but three times he denied he even knew Him. Peter too was filled with deep despair when the rooster crowed. But his despair drove him to repentance and a turning back to the Lord for forgiveness. And three days later, when he beheld his risen Lord, Peter’s hopelessness and fear melted away and disappeared.
I love the word sluggard, and it’s used quite often in Proverbs to denote laziness in people. But the point of this Proverb isn’t loafers, but the people they represent. Both my sister and I were in careers where we were in charge of Staffing. We both interviewed, hired, gave verbal and written warnings, and terminated people when they didn’t live up to their job requirements. And now that both of us are retired, we have shared together staffing nightmare stories! For there’s nothing more irritating than to have someone, who’s representing your company to the public, conduct themselves in a manner that casts an untrustworthy, unethical, or immoral shadow on your business. Proverbs 26:6 sums up this frustration well when it says, “Like cutting off of one’s feet or drinking violence, is the sending of a message by the hand of a fool.” There is nothing quite as wonderful as a trustworthy, faithful team player on your Staff…and if I was you, I’d thank them today for their work.
Ah, we see the good old Double Standard popping up in these verses. We are very quick to judge and denounce people… but when it happens to us, we cry foul. It’s the “Do as I say, not as I do” message that reeks of faulty principles that apply only to you but never to me. But Matthew 7:1 is pretty straightforward when it says, “Don’t judge or you too will be judged.” Or even James 4:11 that tells us, “Brothers, don’t slander one another.” Or as Jesus so wisely said to the group of men gathered around the woman caught in adultery…”If any one is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone.” (John 8:7)
What do you allow to occupy your mind? Maybe it’s every unresolved issue in your life where you felt rejected, wounded, misunderstood, and/or disrespected. It’s become a endless rambling loop of reliving your hurtful past…or as I call them, the would of, should of, could of’s I wish I had or hadn’t done. These negative thought patterns are difficult to break free from, for they are deeply ingrained…and when we throw in unforgiveness and bitterness, they become a deep rut to crawl out of. So what are we to do with these old habits that seem too daunting for us to control? The first is to acknowledge what God wants us to think about, which is, to paraphrase Philippians 4:8, “Whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy – think on these things.” But how do we do that? As the verse says above, take into captivity every thought that’s not of God. It means purposefully turning back to God’s truth…intentionally refocusing our thoughts, and deliberately reining in all the negative notions. And what will happen if we do? Peace will abide in our minds not chaos…for God’s mercy will grant us deliverance and freedom from all distress. Or as a very wise Biblical Counselor said, “Keep persevering to do the right thing and talking to the real one who can help you.”
To get a little historical context – the Temple was undergoing renovation when this hidden scroll (which we now know as the Book of Deuteronomy) was found by the high priest. We could wonder why such an important part of the Pentateuch, (the first five Books of the Bible) had gone missing… but we only have to look back on the fifty-seven years prior of immoral, corrupted, and evil rule by Manasseh and Amon to see how generations of Jews had simply forgotten God. In fact, when Shaphan brought the scroll to King Josiah, they both had no idea what it was or contained. But when the scroll was read to the young king, (the son and grandson of Amon and Manasseh) he immediately ordered its requirements to be observed and took active steps to clean up the mess his family had made…triggering an intensive reform in the worship and morals in the Jewish nation of Judah.
If you stop to consider what this verse says, it’s astonishing to think how destructive our lips are. They make up such a tiny part of our body, but boy can they get us into trouble. Our lips are the gateway to honesty or deception, and sadly, we can switch seamlessly between the two in a moment depending on who we’re with and the situation. And if it benefits us, we’ll stoop to excessive flattery without a shred of sincerity. But the funniest part of this verse is actually thinking that we own or lips and can mock God. A good example of this type of “big talk” is found in Psalm 73 where it says the arrogant scoff and speak malice…that pride is their necklace and that the evil conceit of their mind knows no limits. They may think they can swagger and boast that no one “owns” them…but little do they realize they are only mocking the One who “owns” everything, including them.
Through the disobedience of the first Adam, sin raised its ugly head and the world was condemned to spiritual and eternal death and everlasting punishment and separation from God. To paraphrase Romans 5:14-18, Death reigned because of Adam’s trespass, but God’s grace came in the form of the second Adam, Jesus Christ, and with it the gift of salvation. For the first Adam brought condemnation, but the second Adam, Jesus, brought justification and a way back to God. Or as it tells us in verse 19 of Romans 5, “For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the One man the many will be made righteous.” Through the fault of the first Adam, the curse of sin and death came into the world…but God then sent His Son, Jesus, the second Adam, to atone for our sins and break off that curse…that we might be set free.
It’s difficult to correlate suffering with perfecting while we’re in the middle of enduring pain, bearing loss, and/or experiencing illness. But Jesus is our shining example of how suffering brings about perfection. For it was through Christ – our Savior -and His sufferings, that our atonement and salvation was achieved, once for all. He suffered first for us, while we were yet sinners and far from Him, that we may be set free from sin and guilt and have eternal life. Jesus suffered first for us to make the path of our personal suffering endurable…for we are now suffering for His sake and because of that, not only sharing in His sufferings, but coming out the other side refined as if gold.
During His Ministry here on earth, Jesus would often look compassionately upon the crowds gathered around Him and liken them to harassed and helpless sheep without a shepherd…calling them the lost sheep of Israel. But here in Jeremiah and elsewhere in this Book, God through the prophet Jeremiah is condemning the Leaders and false Teachers for only being concerned for themselves and not the flock God had entrusted them with. God accused them of purposely leading His people astray with reckless lies and deception and causing they to roam far from Him in the form of idolatry, (the setting up and worshipping of pagan altars on every high hill and under every spreading tree.” Isaiah speaks to this when he wrote, “We all, like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way…” For it’s when we’re doing our own thing that the enemy can easily pick us off…and then have the audacity to blame us for being caught up in their trap. But the good news is God is still in control and even though the lions may have chased and scattered the flock…the Lord assures us, “I will bring Israel back to his own pasture.”
It’s very simple – “If we claim to have fellowship with Him yet walk in darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth.” (I John 1:6-8) That person may appear to be a pillar of the Church and Community… yet in the shroud of night shadows watch porn on his computer. Another may teach Bible Studies and be well respected by all…yet emotionally cheat on her husband. We may think we’re getting away with it and that no one knows…but we’re only fooling ourselves…and admit it, deep down we know it and so does God. For the bottom line is, to know God is to obey Him, but if we continue in our double standard charade, John admonishes us to remember this harsh reality, “No one who continues to sin has either seen Him or knows Him.” (I John 3:6) So can you say with utmost confidence today, “I know Him.” ??