Purifying our Heart's Vision
The place we need to make a decision.
There is an alternative thought. He might have thought up a plan to 'make' everything work like Jesus was prophesying. He would just make a little money on the side. In either case, personal desires were shaping his life decisions. Judas would not be able to fulfill his personal plans for self-improvement through Jesus, so he would not need to follow Jesus any longer.
This is the crisis of vision. It occurs when a man sees that what he is really after will not be accomplished through following Christ. Man often fools himself. People call themselves Christians for many reasons. They will endure all sorts of difficulties for the sake of Christ. But when their secret ambition is something different from what Christ reveals, they part roads.
This is the crossroads of our faith. This is the place we need to make a decision. It seems that the most crucial decisions are set up in such a way that we are observant of what we actually are thinking.
Judas not only heard Jesus speaking of death, he also began to despise the way Jesus was handling money. Judas didn't come out and say this. He voted with his feet. He left Jesus. This one lady poured out an expensive vial of alabaster perfume on Jesus' feet.
I sense that Judas no longer could tolerate what he thought were Jesus' blundering misuse of good money. He probably finally caught on that Jesus was not for storing up money or even receiving it. So he tried to make the best of the situation. He would sell Jesus for twenty pieces of silver. No doubt this bothered him some but he probably justified it by thinking that he was doing God's will because Jesus said it would happen. He actually thought himself to be helping God.
Judas finally got to see how he was not going to find the idea of success that he had for life in being with Jesus so he departed from Him. In this case, the two events intermingled in his soul until he was so clear as to what Jesus was doing, that he could see his own desires and follow through on them.
While Judas responded to the crisis of not being able to accomplish what he had hoped, Jesus steadfast and resolute went through His time of testing. His testing comprised of understanding what He would soon need to go through - the ordeal of the cross with all its suffering and shame.
The temptation in the end boils down to a choice just like for Judas. The incident that brought Jesus to such a intense wrestling was the simple knowledge of what He would soon face. This knowledge produced in Him an awareness that He actually had to be separated from His heavenly Father.
We see that Jesus three times sought God in prayer. He even tried to have His friends accompany Him through this trial. Jesus also had a way out, at least practically speaking. He could have called twelve legions of angels to His aid.
Or do you think that I cannot appeal to My Father, and He will at once put at My disposal more than twelve legions of angels? (Matthew 26:53).
He had to work through what His real vision in life was. It was to fulfill the Father's will, not His own. He set His own preferences aside so that the scriptures might be fulfilled.
In this case then, we find Jesus finding agreement of His heart with what God had wanted. This is the pattern for us. Difficult trials might cause us to scream on the outward, but inwardly our hearts patiently and humbly concur. We recently went through a financial testing. Month after month we struggled with having enough to pay our bills. Always on the edge. Our account even went down to zero after we withdrew the last $3.12. in order to buy milk.
We were tested. In our case we had to accept what the Lord had designed us to have so that we could trust Him. We had to accept His judgment. Even though He could have made us rich, this impoverished situation enabled us to reach deep in our hearts and find a peace that we really want what He wanted after all. Yes, there was all sorts of difficulties, but God was faithful - always.
Jesus is our perfect example.
For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted. (Hebrews 2:18).
For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. (Hebrews 4:15).
Difficulties push us to extreme situations where our purpose in life is questioned. We wonder if it is worth it all. If our hearts are faithful, we choose to go God's way all the way.
And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, "My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as Thou wilt." (Matthew 26:39).
Peter also faced a time of difficulty. He was inconsistent. On the one hand he would boldly proclaim, "We will die with you." On the other hand, though like this situation here, he would deny he even knew Jesus.
But he denied it before them all, saying, "I do not know what you are talking about." (Matthew 26:70).
It is easy to say that there are only two categories like Judas and Jesus, but Matthew wisely left Peter's example for us to observe. For here we see that sometimes our heart is not pure. We get easily disillusioned and vote 'forget it all.' On the other hand, when we can really get to our heart's inclination, we would vote, "Yes Lord, whatever you say."
Jesus was not praying for some custom. War was going on in His mind. The devil no doubt was screeching at Him with all sorts of accusations of foolishness and whispering subtle thoughts begging Jesus to be prideful, "You're too good for that." "You could serve others more if you ..." We do not see Peter praying. He fell asleep.
And Peter remembered the word which Jesus had said, "Before a cock crows, you will deny Me three times." And he went out and wept bitterly. (Matthew 26:75).
From this lesson, we need to learn two things.
(1) Prayer always needs to be a real part of our lives. Even when we are busy, we must refuse not to pray. The harder things get, the louder our prayers must get. The more we need to quote scriptures. We need to fight our way through our deep inside will to love God and serve Him.
(2) God can pick us up when we fall. Even though we blunder, we can again through His grace again stand. Peter's tears spilt over the ground much like Jesus' blood. They showed a repentant heart. Often, it is only in bitter defeat can we come back in touch with our heart's genuine desire. Perhaps Peter wanted security, but then later realized what good was security if He was not where God wanted him to be.
Below is a chart helping us see all three responses.
|Person||Response||Character Revealed||The focus of their heart.|
Treacherous (Mat. 26:14-25)
Focused on what was lost.
Faithful (Mat. 26:26-56)
Focused on what was gained.
Inconsistent (Mat. 26:57-75)
Not focused. Went back and forth.
If we are able to draw close to the Lord when all things are well, then we can touch basis with our real heart's desires in light of the love and glory of God. At times like these, we will sense a call to a deepening commitment. We should then take the opportunity to tell Him that we seek not fame, riches, reputation or ease, but Him and His will. Even if He calls for us even to die for Him, we will follow.
These times of touching our deepest part of our hearts and accentuating it through such commitments, helps us in more difficult times when it is hard to think clearly.
Week Study: "Increasing our Fear of the Lord"
| Increase our awareness of our fear of man and how to replace this long term with a healthy fear of the Lord.
|Study and reflect on the "Fear God not Man" series.|
|Read and study each of the ten pages of the Fear God, Not man series. State the ways that each article is important to putting away our timidity as well as properly fearing God.
The scripture tells us that the real testing is not crises but praise. For this reason the Lord holds back many a compliment. Memorize Proverbs 27:21. Study the passage. Explain how the first line is used to help teach the meaning in the second line. Reflect on times when you hear compliments or praise. How do you respond? Are you convinced that God is really to be praised? Study Psalm 8 and its questions for further reflection.
Judas was an intimate friend that turned on Jesus. All for a little profit. Or was there more to it? Have you ever been betrayed? How do you handle it when people misunderstand and malign you? Study Psalm 55 and reflect on the following page.
Why does the Lord allow treachery? Why might God have permitted Jesus to experience such devilish hatred?
How would you help another person understand their true motives? Read through the six pages starting with "Endurance Training".
What are the key questions that we are to keep in mind as we counsel others or evaluate our own hearts?
What is the fear of man? How is this different than the fear of God? Do you compromise? Read the following study on The Fear of Man and reflect upon the way that you might choose an alternative path from what God wants when you face opposition from others.
The word 'burnout' is often used to describe some Christian leader who has lost his zeal and in many cases has shipwrecked his faith by some immoral affair. What is a biblical understanding of 'burnout?' Can we avoid it? If so, how? What are the signs of someone experiencing burnout? What would you do or say to someone going through such a time? Have you gone through such times? How is it different from or the same as backsliding? Refer to the article "Preventing Burnout through Devotions" to help you understand the issues involved. Be able to describe the diagram provided.
Some people think that the fear of God is wrong and even oppressive. Share why this concept is not true.
Christians seem to go to extremes of trusting in God alone (in other words God will do it) to I must watch out for myself. Jesus showed us a good balance. He purposely called upon God to help Him in times of need. We need to use our wills to depend upon Him.
Success for some is to get along fine in this world. But we find that the greater our sin, the more inward stress and guilt occur, leading to suicide in his case. Peter might have seemed noble, but he was totally unwilling to stand for God's cause. He saw God's purpose through Jesus a lost cause. Jesus understood the success as doing His Father's will no matter what happened to Him or the circumstances around Him.
How close was Judas to Jesus? Reflect on verse 14.
What did Judas ask of the chief priests (14)?
How did the chief priests show their agreement to Judas' plan (15)?
How do verses 26:17-20 relate to verses 14-16?
What did Jesus state to His twelve disciples on that evening (21)?
What were the disciples' response (22)?
How might Jesus know that He would be betrayed? See Psalm 55:12-22.
Is there any secret thing you strongly desire to do or not to do? How would you respond if they did or did not happen?
Confirm you faithful allegiance to the Lord no matter what happens to your life.
Describe the different scenes given in 26-30 (both what was done and said).
How did Jesus know that all of His disciples would fall away (31)?
Have you ever been the only faithful one in any given situation? What was it like? Did you stand firm? Why or why not?
What did Jesus know about the future (32)?
List three Old Testament verses that speak about the Messiah's (i.e. Christ) resurrection.
What are two further circumstances that could have caused bitterness in Jesus (33-35; 40-45)?
Read carefully through verses 36-46. List several things that Jesus did to handle the crisis.
Read 26:49-50. What part of the betrayal might have been the hardest for Jesus?
We often think of escape as a means of dealing with the crisis. (If we had more influence or more money, etc.) Jesus had these things but did not tap into those resources. How do we know Jesus was aware of His resources (51-53)?
How was Jesus able to go through such pressure (54)?
How do you respond to pressures? Have you ever gone into serious prayer mode upon finding yourself in great difficulty?
State two steps that you can take to deepen your prayer life.
What is it that Peter did after Jesus' arrest (57-58)?
What were the chief priests trying to do (59)? Why?
How did they try to do that (60-62)?
When Jesus was forced to testify about Himself, what did He say 63-64)?
What was the high priests response to this (65-68)? Why?
List the three times Peter denied being associated with Jesus (69-74).
What happened when the crock crowed (74-75)?
Did Peter not realize it when he denied the Lord? Why did he have to be reminded by the crowing?
How is Peter's response to pressure different than Judas' or Jesus'?
Define the fear of man and explain two situations where you felt or succumbed to the fear of man.
Can you remember having faced this crisis of vision before? What was the decision between? What did you choose? Explain.
What kind of regular prayer life do you keep? If you pray less than 30 minutes a day, do you think that you really will be protected from such crises? Why so?
Have you ever traveled Peter's sad road of backsliding? Share what that was like. How long did it take before you got back on track? What aided you in returning to the Lord? Is there someone you know that you can seek for his or her return to the Lord?
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