“Is it I?”


When evening had come, He sat down with the twelve. Now as they were eating, He said, “Assuredly, I say to you, one of you will betray Me.” – Matthew 26:20-21

The mere thought or reading of this verse is devastating to me. I can barely take in the magnitude of what was happening at this moment in time. The closeness of the relationships that had been formed for three years between Jesus and the twelve is probably hard for us to grasp at this point in history. We have very little to compare that level of relationship, these men traveled and ministered together, and were with each other for nearly every moment.

Judas was a good liar, and he was adept at concealment. He knew how to blend into each and every situation. He might have started out with wonderful expectations of the Messiah. Perhaps, he thought the Messiah would deliver them from the hands of Rome…finally, and then he would achieve the goals he had, the fulfillment he desired, or whatever it was that he really thought he wanted. He clearly, in his inner most being, had no desire for Christ for spiritual reasons.

But don’t we all have those tendencies and desires sometimes?

When I put the work into examining my motives for what I do, and why I do them, I really must stop sometimes and say, “What are you doing?” “Why did you do that?” “Was that for God’s glory or for your own pleasure, your own personal fulfillment?”

Then Judas, who was betraying Him, answered and said, “Rabbi, is it I?” – Matthew 26:25

Did he know?

Isn’t this a profound question, something for us to really think about?

Did Judas realize what he was doing, or did his sin blind him so much that he didn’t think that far down the road. In fact the Lord said, “It would have been good for that man, if he had not been born.” (Matthew 26:24) Can you imagine that it would have been better for Judas to have never been born, to never have walked the earth, to never have breathed a breath, or have his heart beat, to never have seen the sun, taste good food, or to have walked with God Himself on this earth?

He spent time with his Creator, he knew Him on a very intimate level, but yet he really never knew Him at all. Just think, Judas associated with Christ, but he never “knew” Christ, there are many people out there just like Judas. Many of them have a deep intellectual understanding of Christ, yet they don’t know Him.


They are holding onto something… To truly know Christ, means denying yourself, it means that you will abandon everything you have ever, or will ever place your trust in, outside of Him. Charles Spurgeon once said that “If you really long to save men’s souls, you must tell them a great deal of disagreeable truth.” Those that evangelize to the dead, or preach the gospel of peace, know this reality. You know people don’t like what you are telling them. They don’t want to face their sin. It means they have to let go of something. It means they have to admit “it would have been better that they never had been born”, and this is so very true isn’t it? Because what’s the alternative? The alternative is a short life, here on earth, grasping for 30 pieces of silver. When we get that silver, we realize it never held any real satisfaction…a temporary fix at best. Its blood money, but most don’t see it that way.

This past week I had a conversation with a guy that I’ve known for a long time and as I listened to him tell me things I could see that what he thought about himself was really important. However, my heart was crying for him, because he is so lost, and he doesn’t even know it. He’s a nice guy, in some respects, but he doesn’t know the wrath of God abides upon him. He doesn’t know that it would be better that he had never been born, unless he repents and believes the gospel.

From his book “Twelve Ordinary Men” John MacArthur wrote this:

“He was a coward. He knew the popularity of Jesus.   He was afraid of the crowd. Like every hypocrite, he was obsessed with concerns about what people thought of him, so he was hoping to betray Jesus as quietly as possible. He was looking for the doorway to hell that was most convenient. And when he found it, he plunged right in.” [1]

What happens when we fall into sin? Are we a Judas or are we Peter? Do we have sorrow that leads to death or sorrow that leads to repentance? This is the difference and if you’ve never understood that you are a Judas outside of godly sorrow leading to repentance, then you are still a Judas. Judas deceived himself, and he never knew his eternal fate had been sealed when he committed himself fully to Satan’s plan.

You will either be broken on the Rock, or smashed to pieces by it. Today is the day to get right with God. Today is the acceptable day of salvation for those that truly understand they are hanging by a thread over the eternal flames of hell. Those in eternal torment right now, with no way out, know it. Don’t find it out too late. Repent, and turn from your sin and be saved.


“So expert was he in his hypocrisy that he fooled everyone but Jesus, right up to the very end.” – John MacArthur [2]



[1] John MacArthur, Twelve Ordinary Men (Thomas Nelson, 2002) 193

[2] Ibid – 192

When is it time to leave a church?

I had a conversation with a friend last night and he announced to me he and his wife were leaving our church.  I am grieving this loss and I began to think about why one would leave a fellowship of God’s Church.  There are certainly legitimate reasons to leave which I think primarily revolve around the lack of the gospel or truth.  If this is the case that person should go seek restoration and call leadership to repentance (Matthew 18:15-17) or in the case of a sinning leader scripture speaks clearly how to handle (1 Timothy 5:19).

What if we just don’t like what comes from the leadership?  This really is the point of the rub.  Can we disagree and still be in fellowship?  Can we be like-minded and still have some points of disagreement?  Paul tells us to strive for the unity of the gospel (Philippians 1:27).  This is a major problem, sinful man likes autonomy.  Merriam-Webster defines autonomy as “self-directing freedom and especially moral independence”, we like this don’t we?  Isn’t this what it usually comes down to?  I don’t like to be told what to do, if it disrupts my world-view I would rather rebel than consider my-self directed freedom.  Scripture is full of examples of this.

Matthew 8:19-20 Then a certain scribe came and said to Him, “Teacher, I will follow You wherever You go.”  And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.”

Do we understand that following Christ is difficult?  Have we not seen the many examples the Lord Himself has provided.  What about John Chapter 6?  This message was so shocking and so scandalous that Jesus ran them all off, all but the twelve that is.  This shook people to the core.  John 6:61 When Jesus knew in Himself that His disciples complained about this.  He said to them, “Does this offend you?”  verse 66 From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more.

But this was Jesus right?  If Jesus was the one getting up and preaching it would be no problem.  If He made challenging demands it would not be an issue.

Hebrews 13:17 Obey those who ruler over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls as those who must give account.  Let them do so with joy and not with grief.  For that would be unprofitable for you.

The writer of Hebrews gives us clear direction that we are to be submissive to leaders in the church.

John MacArthur commenting on this verse:

That God is a God of principle, that God is not a God who says, do your own thing. But God has some very strong and very rigid and very clearly defined standards of behavior…

In order that those who read might understand that joy is produced by obedience. And in order the readers might understand that witness to the world depends upon the consistency of the pattern of their living.

And I want you to notice how this submission is ordered, verse seventeen, “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves,” and we’ll stop there. Now here is a responsibility toward God. You say it sounds to me like a responsibility towards some rulers. Yes it is, but the wonderful thing that is evident in this text and evident in other texts in the New Testament is this, that God, now watch it, that God mediates much of His rule in this world through men. God has done that for a long time. Throughout the Old Testament God mediated His rule at times through kings, through prophets, through judges. And in this age God mediates His rule through Spirit-controlled men. Someday God will mediate His rule in the living Christ who sits on the throne of David and rules in the world and the kingdom, right? And He’ll mediate His own kingdom. But at this time God is literally ruling His people through certain Spirit-led men.

These men were ordered of the Spirit of God to have the rule of the church. They do not rule for themselves, they rule in the stead of Christ. They are called undersheperds, and that’s really what I am. That’s what your pastors are, that’s what any pastors are in any given church. So when in seventeen it says obey them that have the rule over you and submit yourselves, the submission here is not really to men but it is to God, as He rules, mediating His rule through Spirit-controlled men. So there were in that assembly, as in all early local churches gifted men, chosen by the Lord, granted to the church to rule.  You can read or listen to the sermon here:  http://www.gty.org/Resources/sermons/1642

Here is the issue.  Pastors and Elders are called to rule well.  Not for their own gain.  Believers are called to submit to them.  This is an act of the will, a decision to do so.  Many will attempt to say I’m submitting myself to God but they won’t submit to men appointed by God.  The truth is they are NOT submitting to God.  This submission thing is a big deal to God.

So what should we do if we disagree?  I’ve already shown above that we are to go to those that we have disagreements with or that have sinned.  Proverbs 1:5-6 A wise man will hear and increase learning, and a man of understanding will attain wise counsel.  If we don’t follow this we are doing the opposite.  Proverbs 18:1-2 A man who isolates himself seeks his own desire; he rages against all wise judgment.  A fool has no delight in understanding, but in expressing his own heart.

The issue with my friends was persecution and trials that came from making tough decisions and challenging stances.  Are these sin issues?  They may or not be depending on how they are handled.  This is why one should attain wise counsel.  Didn’t Jesus teach us that persecutions would come when we stood on His truths?

Matthew 5:11-12 “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake.  Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecute the prophets who were before you.  We know Paul affirmed this 2 Timothy 3: 12 Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.

Jesus also said we should count the cost.  https://uncommonfaith.org/2012/11/16/count-the-cost/

Is this a salvation issue for my friends?  I hope not but I know the scripture shows them to be in rebellion to God’s Word.  I say that as the most loving thing I can possibly say to them.  They have rebelled against God’s authority through His Church.  Is it time for them to leave?  NO, it’s time for them to talk and work through the issues, not flee.  I hope they will attain wise counsel and search diligently to see if they are in sin.  I hope they will seek restoration.  This is what scripture call them to do.  What is my responsibility?  I must pray for them and I must plead with them to work through this.  If we call ourselves Believers then we have a guide book.  We must use that to seek truth and to seek like-mindedness.  Not because my opinion matters, but because God’s opinion matters.


The paralytic

Mark 2:1-11 describes a very interesting scene.  Jesus had become well known through His ministry and the crowds have quickly become very large, almost a mob scene.  People are being healed and Jesus is doing some pretty crazy stuff so of course people want to know what it’s all about.  It’s natural they would be curious.  They are looking for something to happen, maybe they want to see a miracle, maybe they want to be healed, or maybe they want to be fed like in John Chapter 6.

Mark 2:4 And when they could not come near Him because of the crowd, they uncovered the roof where He was.  So when they had broken through, they let down the bed on which the paralytic was lying.  When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven you.”

I find this fascinating and wanted to offer a couple observations about this passage.

The most obvious is this man’s friends cared enough for him that they would go to this much trouble to bring him to Jesus.  They wanted him to be healed.  They were willing to go to extreme measures for their friend.  When Jesus saw what they had done he pronounced the paralytic’s sins were forgiven because of “their” faith.

John MacArthur commenting on this

Jesus knew what he really wanted. He wanted healing, sure. But far more than that, he wanted forgiveness. The other guys didn’t seem to care about that, but then again maybe they hadn’t really come to grips with their sin because they were able bodied. The sinner who is paralyzed may have a different view about his own wretchedness and may see that paralysis as a judgment. Certainly they did in that culture. They just connected those and so did the people who were ill. But whatever the motivation, or whatever the stimulation, the man knew himself to be wretched on the inside, as much as wretched on the outside, and He wanted not just a healing, but he wanted forgiveness and he believed that this was the one who could bring him forgiveness from God.

And so, Jesus on this moment on the basis of His own personal authority, absolved the man of all his sins. Listen carefully, “Apart from works, “ right? He didn’t do any works and He obliterated the guilt and this man went from being sentenced to eternal hell to being given the privilege of eternal heaven. The man’s heart must have been like the Publican in Luke 18 who said, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” That man went home righteousness, Jesus said.

What is faith?  The word used here is “pis’-tis” moral conviction (of religious truth, or the truthfulness of God or a religious teacher), especially reliance upon Christ for salvation; abstractly constancy in such profession; by extension the system of religious (Gospel) truth itself: – assurance, belief, believe, faith, fidelity.

But you say the verse says the men also had faith, why weren’t they saved, look at the work they did to bring their friend to see the Christ?  Jesus only pronounced the paralytic’s sins were forgiven.  This is a big question.  Many go to see Jesus when He’s performing.  Lots of people attend churches and they seem to have faith but what kind of faith do they have?  Is it faith that brings them to repentance and forgiveness of their sins?

John MacArthur sheds light on this once again

Now they all had faith. They all had faith that Jesus could heal. How could they have that faith? Was this some…some supernatural kind of faith? No…no, they believed He could heal…why? Because He had been doing it. This is natural faith. This is human faith, the same faith that allows you to go into the hospital and have surgery. Why do you do that? Why do you let somebody put you asleep? And then they wheel you into a room and somebody slices you open and messes around…why do you do that? You don’t know the guy, you don’t know how he treats his wife, his kids, his friends, his enemies. Well what do you think he’s going to do to you? Why do you do that?

Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace you have been saved through faith (pis’-tis), and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works lest anyone should boast.

This was God’s gift through no effort of his own.  He was able to see his sin and his helpless condition.  That is saving faith.  Let’s also contrast a couple other notable passages about faith or belief.

John 3:16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes (pisteuō) in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

This uses the verb form of the word as does James 2:19

James 2:17-20 Thus also faith by itself,  if it does not have works, is dead.  But someone will say, ‘You have faith, and I have works.’  Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.  You believe (pisteuō) that there is one God.  You do well.  Even the demons believe (pisteuō) and tremble!  But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?

Just as the friends of the paralytic did not have saving faith we can see from the James passage that demons believe and don’t have saving faith.  The question is do you have saving faith or some other type of faith, do you have some intellectual knowledge of god or do you “believe”?

Heavenly Father may You grant faith to those that understand their wretchedness and helpless condition today.  May you open eyes to see that we can only be saved by You and the faith You give us will produce good works.  Works do not produce faith and I humbly ask that you might show someone this today for the very first time, for Your glory Father.  Amen.


Is your church growing?

A quick note:  Part 2 of Proud to be an American is coming later this week.  You didn’t miss it.

This seems to be a common question in the church world.  I always remember my parents speaking about pastors that would go to conferences and the big question for pastors seems to be “how big is your church?”  The joke was pastors would exaggerate.  The term was “evangelically speaking” we have X amount of people on Sunday morning.

Recently I walked into Starbuck’s and ran into a man that I used to go to church with.  He’s a guy I don’t mind seeing but I probably wouldn’t put much effort into attempting to see him.  The first question out of his mouth was “Where are you going to church?”  I knew this was a loaded question but I told him I’m still going to Grace Fellowship.  “Oh great how’s it going down there?”  Wonderful I told him.

Here it comes….

“Is it growing?”  “I’ve heard a lot of people have left their” Yes it is growing I told him.  “Oh great because I know that the “So and So” family left and a lot of others…. whose still there from the original launch?”  “Well it was nice to see you”

Yes it was God Bless.

So this really had me thinking about what’s the big deal about church growth?  Is it important for pastors to exaggerate how many members or “attendees” they have each week.  If this is the benchmark for success I’d say Joel Osteen is the clear winner.  He’s going to have more crowns than anyone could imagine.  How do we really measure growth?  Mankind cannot read hearts so the only way they can measure success is by numbers.  It kind of makes me think of how the Pharisees and early Jews measured success.  If you had health, wealth and prosperity God had certainly given you His favor.

This all sounded great until that Jesus guy came along.  Seems He turned everything upside down.  His measure of success was the exact opposite of everything they thought.

But many who are first will be last, and the last first.  Matthew 19:30

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Matthew 5:3

For whoever desires to save his life will lose it…  Luke 9:24

Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you… Matthew 5:11

But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you… Matthew 5:44

This guy is radical.  Maybe He was having an off day; perhaps He’s better at building a big church.  We know he had a lot of followers.  The crowds were enormous.  There were mobs, “multitudes” the scripture tells us.  More people than could possibly be counted.  He certainly had something great to offer.  After all He was healing them all.  Anyone that came to Him was healed.  Can you imagine how cool that must have been if you were sick.  Incredible!

Then He does something so unusual that the modern day church builders must really scratch their heads and say why?  In John chapter 6 the Lord is giving a sermon for the ages.  Can you even begin to comprehend what it must have been like to hear God Himself proclaim the gospel?  I can’t imagine how incredible that must have been.  But this sermon was different, it rocked their world and it upset the status quo….  “This Guy is out there, He’s just plain wacky.”  “Eat My flesh?”  What?  “Drink My blood?”  “This guy is nuts….”

John 6:66-68 From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more.  Then Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you also want to go away?”  But Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.  Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 

There it is church growth 101….  Well okay not exactly.   So how do you measure the success in a church?

2 Peter 3:18 but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  To Him be the glory both now and forever.  Amen.

1 Peter 2:2 as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious.

Ephesians 4:14-15 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head Christ

Ephesians 4:12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ,

I don’t believe a big church is sinful.  I’ve attended Grace Community Church in California where John MacArthur is the pastor and I know God has numerically blessed that ministry as His word is faithfully taught.  I also don’t believe that a small church that is not growing numerically is a bad thing.

What one must really consider is how are the saints being edified and trained for ministry?  Are you growing in holiness and sanctification?   Are people being saved and lives being changed?  Are you being challenged from the pulpit?  Are you accountable to the leadership and submissive to them?  Do they proclaim the gospel message and does a call to repentance go out consistently?

These are all signs that God is growing His church.