It is insightful to me that when Luke listed the twelve apostles, when he came to Judas Iscariot, he identified him as the apostle "who became a traitor" (Luke 6:16).
Let me start with a question, a sincere question that may be the most important question you can ask yourself: What are you becoming? Judas Iscariot was an apostle "who became a traitor." This was a man who had been used mightily by the Lord to "heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers [and] cast out demons" (Matt. 10:8). Judas knew the excitement, joy and power of personally walking with Jesus. He saw miracles, signs and wonders.
Yet Judas had a serious character flaw, a moral weakness. The Scripture reveals that, despite the fact that God was using him, Judas "was a thief" (John 12:6). He used to pilfer the money box. It is significant, my friend, that Jesus allowed a thief to carry the money box. Sometimes we think the Lord is going to challenge us on every issue, but there are times when His silence about our repeated sin is His rebuke. Judas knew what he was doing was wrong, but since Jesus didn't directly confront him, Judas minimized the severity of his iniquity. Perhaps he rationalized that if pilfering was truly bad, God would not still be using him to work miracles.
How a little leaven leavens the whole lump! A relatively minor sin that we do not attend to can lead to a major sin that destroys our lives. The Bible says that Judas "became a traitor." He started out in ministry loyal to Jesus, but then he began lying about the finances until his deceitful exterior completely hid a very corrupt and darkened heart. Judas was a thief who became a traitor, eventually taking his own life. His compromise with sin went from bad to worse and it destroyed him.
Today Christians look at the world and see injustice, immorality and corruption. The anger we feel because of these things is not only understandable, it's justified. Why shouldn't we be angry at what we see? Indeed, in many instances we are actually watching hell manifest itself through people and situations in the world!
Knowing we would grieve over the evil in the world, God's Word tells us, "Be angry, and yet do not sin" (Eph. 4:26). We must discern at what point anger degrades into sin. Paul continues, "Do not let the sun go down on your anger." We can be legitimately angry about things that are truly wrong, but our indignation must find a more noble, redemptive attitude of expression.
I do not mean we shrink into passive indifference; I mean we rise into aggressive intercession. We feel the same passions against unrighteousness, but we learn how to pray the mercy prayer: "Father, forgive them."
I’m thinking of Stephen who while being stoned to death saw Jesus and prayed, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them" (Acts 7:60). Every time we face an injustice may God give us a fresh revelation of Jesus, that we would not pray for judgment, but for mercy. Out of Stephen’s prayer for mercy, grace was released. It tracked down Saul until Saul too saw Jesus.
You see, when we don’t deal with the anger we feel, if we don’t respond to injustice with mercy and intercession, we soon find ourselves becoming something we never intended. Let me say it again: Judas became a traitor.
Judas mutated from an apostle doing miracles into living a double life. Our anger, left unattended, will do the same to us. It causes us to degenerate into something we never planned on becoming: "Christian Pharisees." Paul warned about letting the sun set on our anger as though we had just 24 hours at most to deal with issues. I must admit, there are issues in life that have taken me months of wrestling with them before my indignation was lifted and transformed into intercession. So stay with the struggle until you heart is not embittered, but empowered.
Today America is overstocked with angry Christians. What can we do? We must turn indignation into intercession. We must make our heartache work for us, aligning ourselves with Christ in the prayer of redemption – actually praying for those who persecute us.
Thank God, Jesus didn't look down from the cross at the Pharisees and say, "You need to be taught a lesson. It's the principle." No. He prayed, "Father, forgive them." And then, amazingly, He covered their sin, saying, "They know not what they do."
The sense of Christian indignation infiltrating the church has not come from Heaven. Don't dismiss your anger as a little sin; it disqualified Moses from entering the Promised Land! You see, there are things at stake that are bigger than our indignation about right and wrong. The world is watching how we relate to those who are morally wrong, even when we are biblically right. And they are watching to see if we sound like the Savior or like the Pharisees.
Yet there is one thing more crucial than how the world sees us, and that is how Christ sees us. He is watching what is happening to our hearts. He asks each of us a simple question: Do you know what you're becoming?
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