8 Lessons from the life of Judas

Kyrel Ruth

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Eight Lessons from the life of Judas By Mark Driscoll

This is part of a sermon transcript I thought would be beneficial to share, I know it blessed me. It's a long read, but its worth it. So grab a drink, turn off the TV, and selah.

Eight Lessons from Judas

How’s it going for you and Jesus? It’s a sober sermon. It’s a sober Scripture. One of the most infamous, arguably the most infamous man in the history of the world. So, I want to close with eight reflections, lessons from Judas.

Lesson #1

Number one: Sometimes you bear no responsibility for a person you love who betrays you and/or wrecks their life and shipwrecks their faith. How many of you know someone, they have wrecked their life and shipwrecked their faith? And some of you feel a sense of guilt or responsibility.

Now, perhaps you should. “I didn’t love them well. I didn’t pursue them. I didn’t help them. In fact, I contributed to the circumstances that led to their devastating conclusion.” And if so, own it to God. Own it with them. Apologize. Try and make right and make amends in the grace of God.

But sometimes it’s not your fault. There’s nothing else you could’ve done. They were determined to self-destruct. In this occasion, Judas wrecks his life and shipwrecks his faith, and none of us can stand back and try and pin any modicum of responsibility on Jesus. You can’t say, “Well, if Jesus was a better friend.” He’s God, the perfect friend. “Well, if Judas just had better community.” Look at his community group! It’s God and eleven disciples! Right? “You have a problem? Well, you could talk to Peter or John. Hey, pick your favorite New Testament author and chat with him in your Community Group.” He’s not lacking in opportunity for counsel and care! You can’t look at his situation.

But, see, here’s the truth. We live in a culture where it is profitable to be a victim. If you can prove you’re a victim, then you can take your life and you can push the responsibility for whatever failures, and flaws, and faults you have on someone else, and it’s their fault, and you’re abdicated of responsibility, and you may even get some money for it. So, we blame our parents. We blame our genetics. We blame the culture. We blame the enemy. I mean, it’s the blame game.

I mean, even today, you know, you never see protests where people stand up with a sign saying, “It’s my fault. I’m sorry.” It’s always somebody else’s fault. You’re responsible for your own life. There may be people and circumstances that have contributed to making your life more difficult, and I don’t want to dismiss those or diminish those, but Judas has nobody to blame but Judas, and perhaps you have nobody to blame but you. And if you’ve done it to yourself, you’re not a victim. You’re a fool. And I tell you that in love. But Judas is not a victim. He’s a fool.

Lesson #2

Number two: Sitting under good Bible teaching is not enough; you have to believe it. See, sometimes what happens is a person who seems to be a Christian, or maybe they even seem to be a ministry leader, they wreck their life and shipwreck their faith, and everybody wants to blame the senior leader. “Oh, well, obviously, that church doesn’t do a good job.” And I hear this about other churches, and I’m sure they say it about ours. “Oh, so-and-so did this, or so-and-so did that. Well, that’s because they go to that church. You know that church.” “No, actually, I know that pastor, and they love Jesus, and they’re really nice, and they do teach the Bible. And we don’t agree with them on everything, but it’s not the teaching. It’s the believing on the part of the hearer, not the proclamation on the part of the instructor.”

Sometimes people like to blame the teacher. Oh, yeah. And the truth is people are products of their instruction, but in this instance, we can’t look at it and say, “Poor Judas. You know, he just didn’t have a lot of theological formation and education. He didn’t get a lot of Bible teaching. He sat under, you know, not the best instruction.” Right? Three years, he went to the seminary of Jesus Christ. There are only twelve in the class! [Congregation laughing] Right? He’s walking around with the breathing, breakfast-eating Word of God, right?

I mean, there are days when Jesus is like, “All right, turn to Daniel, and we’ll talk about the day I showed up in a furnace.” I mean, that’s a really amazing Bible study! Right? “Tell you boys about Daniel, because I was there.” Judas has complete access to all the biblical teaching that he needs to live a life of godliness.

And you know what? So do we. I mean, right now, you could log on to the Internet and download amazing world-class Bible teachers for free, more than you could possibly ever listen to. You can go online. You can find Bible study tools and resources for free, the kinds of opportunities that the world has never had. You could buy books and commentaries and concordances and software. You can go to conferences and seminars. Even if you can’t afford the Internet, you can turn on the radio, and it’s there for free. You can come to church. It costs nothing. We go through books of the Bible. You could take classes. You can go to Community Group. You can be in a Redemption Group. You can understand counseling in community. If you want, we’ve got a master’s level program called “Re:Train.” It’s all there! It’s like somebody starving to death at the grocery store. That’s a decision you made.

Sitting under good Bible teaching isn’t enough. And my hope, my prayer is to increasingly be a better Bible teacher. Okay? I really love teaching the Bible. I’ve been doing this for fifteen years. I love Mars Hill Church. I want to die a long time from now as a pastor at Mars Hill Church. Okay? I love teaching the Bible here. This is a great church. I have so much freedom to teach the Bible. They don’t put time restrictions on me. I don’t know if you’ve noticed that. [Congregation laughing] I mean, like, it’s amazing. I want to thank you for hanging in there.

I did a conference recently in Atlanta called, “Catalyst,” and it was great. I loved it, and they were awesome. And before I got up, they were, like, “You’ve got thirty-five minutes.” It’s like, “All right, great, thank you. I appreciate one minute, but at Mars Hill we call that an introduction, thirty-five minutes.” Right? Like, it was great, but I know pastors, and they’ll tell me, “How do you get people to stay there?” I say, “What do you mean?” They say, “Well, if I talk over twenty-five or thirty minutes, people literally get up and start leaving.” I say, “People start getting up and leaving, but it’s not because of the time, it’s because of the content, when I’m preaching. They don’t like what they heard. But most people hang in there, and they’ll hang in there for an hour plus.”

I want to thank you for that. I want to thank you for being a church that says, “We love the Bible. Help us learn the Bible. Teach the Bible.” I mean, we’re at Luke #94. We’ve grown by a few thousand people in Luke. All right, no gimmicks, no tricks, Bible teaching, and the people of God in Community Groups.

But sitting under Bible teaching can give the impression that you are a Christian and are growing spiritually. Jesus’ brother, James, says it this way in the book bearing his name. “Do not merely listen to the Word and,” what? “Deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” See, you need to hear the Word of God and obey the Word of God; otherwise, you’re prone to deception. “I’m very knowledgeable. I’m very spiritually mature.” Are you obeying? Are you believing what you’re told?

So, you know, I tell you all the time, “This is the Word of God. Jesus is the Son of God. He is God among us. He lived without sin. He died on a cross, in our place, for our sins. He was buried. Three days later he rose from death. He is ascended on high. He is coming again to judge the living and the dead. He is Lord. He is King. He is God. He is Christ. He is friend. He is Savior. He is all!” But you have to believe that. Do you believe that? I really want you to believe that.

See, Judas heard that, but he didn’t believe that. Jesus gave him all the information, and Judas didn’t respond with faith. He didn’t trust a word of it. Sitting under the best Bible teaching has the potential of merely increasing your self-deception. It also increases the opportunity of experiencing sanctification, growing in grace. And whether it becomes self-deception or sanctification is contingent upon you believing and obeying what the Bible actually teaches.

I’m not saying that I’m always right, and that I never get it wrong. And I want to do my best. So, even take what I say, like the Bereans did, take it to the Bible. Check it and make sure it’s what the Bible teaches. And if I’m wrong, help me to repent and do a better job, because at the end of the day, we want the truth to be told, we want Jesus to be loved, and we want people to be served.

Lesson #3

Number three: Being in community with Jesus’ people is not enough; you have to be one of them. We’re glad you’re here. We hope you get in a Community Group. We hope you get connected to God’s people. You need to be connected to God’s people, but first you’ve got to be connected to God, or at least, at some point, you need to be connected to God.

Again, look at Judas’ Community Group! I mean, what an amazing—that’s a Community Group, right? This is the first Community Group in the early church. Here’s Judas with John: 1, 2, 3 John; the Gospel of John; Revelation; pretty impressive resume; he wrote books of the Bible. He’s in that Community Group. Peter: leader of the disciples; 1 and 2 Peter; he wrote books of the Bible. That’s who’s in his Community Group! That’s amazing, but that’s not enough.

You can be in community. You can have Christian family, amazing! You could go to Christian school, maybe amazing, maybe not. You could be in a dynamic youth ministry. You could go on an amazing retreat, or a missions trip, or a conference. You could go to a great church like Mars Hill. You could be part of what God is doing. You could know the people of God. You could see the presence of God. You could experience the work of God, and not be a child of God, because you don’t believe in Jesus.

And sometimes people think, “Well, I’m fine because my family loves the Lord,” or “I’m fine because my church loves the Lord,” or “I’m fine because my school loves the Lord,” or “I’m fine because my friends love the Lord.” Do you love the Lord? Do you love Jesus? Judas didn’t. You say, “I know Jesus.” Do you love him? See, Judas knew Jesus, didn’t love him. You can know Jesus and not love him. Knowledge is information, but love is what leads to the transformation.

Lesson #4

Number four: Leading a ministry is not enough; you have to love Jesus. Judas is in full-time ministry for three years. He’s part of the staff. He’s with Jesus! It’s like Jesus is the senior pastor, and here are all his associate pastors, and this is his top twelve, and there are others beyond that. You can be in ministry and go to hell. You can be in ministry and be an enemy of God.

For me, this is like a kick to the soul. When I was a brand-new Christian, I had this strange experience at a conference. It was a mainline denomination, and they brought me in to their national convention to teach a seminar on how to reach young people. This was when I was in my twenties. I had no right to be there. I had no idea what I was doing, but I got up to teach, and they wanted me to talk about how to reach young people, and so I started with Romans 1, that, “The gospel, this good news about Jesus, it’s the power of God to the salvation of all who believe!” And I said, “You know, young people don’t really get excited about religion and tradition and rules, but they’ll get pretty fired up about Jesus. So, people need to preach Jesus, and believe in Jesus.”

And I had a pastor raise his hand. And he was an honest guy. It was a room of maybe a couple of hundred people, and he said, “What if you don’t believe that?” I was like, “Believe what?” He said, “Well, that Jesus died and rose.” “What?” [Congregation laughing] I was a brand-new Christian. I was a brand-new pastor. I didn’t know there was a possibility of a pastor who didn’t believe in the resurrection. I said—and I’m not the best at filtering my own thoughts, you know, and I said, “Well, you’re not a Christian, man. You’re probably going to hell and stuff, so—” [Congregation laughing]

I was like, “Ah, I can’t get that toothpaste back in the tube. Like, that’s—that’s out.” [Congregation laughing] And then I looked at the people. I was like, “Do some of you guys not believe Jesus is alive?” And some of them didn’t. “Oh, well, then I’m not going to tell you how to get young people, because I don’t want them to go where you’re going. Instead, let’s—” And I started doing evangelism with the pastors. [Congregation laughing] Because leading a ministry is not enough; you have to love Jesus.

And some of you say, “Well, I’ve had bad experiences at church and crazy stuff.” Do you know what? I don’t know, I don’t judge, Jesus does, but maybe some of the leaders weren’t Christians, and that was the problem. I had this early on with a leader in Mars Hill. He came from another church, and he’d led there, and he’d done well, and he showed up, and he had habitual sexual sin in his life, and I finally met with him.

I’m like, “Buddy, look, we love you, man. I don’t understand. What’s going on?” I said, “Are you a Christian?” He said, “Yeah, I’m a Christian.” He was kind of offended that I asked. I said, “Well, how do you know you’re a Christian?” He said, “Well, I’ve been serving the Lord for years, and I did this, and I did that, and I have been on the stage at this conference, and I worked at this church.”

I said, “No, you’re talking about you, not Jesus; what you’ve done, not what he’s done. That’s not how you know you’re a Christian.” And, in the grace of God, he was humble, and he said, “Oh.” And so we talked. He really didn’t know Jesus as God and Savior. And he did give his life to the Lord, and he has had a radical life change, and his whole life course has changed. He’s doing great, and I’m really proud of him, and he is serving the Lord, but you can be in ministry and be an enemy of God. Judas was.

Lesson #5

Number five: An enemy of Jesus parading as a minister can lead people astray for thousands of years. Can you imagine how confusing it was for the people who were following the ministry of Jesus, but they had a particular affinity toward Judas? Because, see, that’s what happens, right? Like, we’ve got Mars Hill Church, and we’ve got all of our churches, and we’ve got various leaders, and then imagine we’re all going together, and then one person really gets off track, and the people who are with us, but they have a particular affinity for that leader, all of a sudden, they’re confused, like, “Where’s he going? What’s he doing? Who’s right, who’s wrong?” There’s a conflict, and tension, and drama, and, “Oh, no, which side are we on, and who’s responsible for him?” And they get defensive.

I mean, this is a very divisive moment for the ministry of Jesus. And I’m sure there were some people who were confused. Like, “Wait, we’ve been following Judas, and he’s been following Jesus, and now we’re following Judas. We don’t know if he’s following Jesus. Do we keep following Judas or not?”

And some people, even to this day, have. It’s been a few thousand years, and you can look it up on Amazon. Just put in “Judas,” and there are all of these books about Judas. “Oh, he’s misunderstood. Let’s psychoanalyze him. Maybe he was onto something, and Jesus was the bad guy, and Judas was the good guy.” Wow. We even have something that was kind of a lost gospel. It’s called the Gospel of Judas, and it’s not in the Bible. It was written long after Judas was dead, something called pseudepigrapha, which means “pen name.” And now “scholars,” educated beyond their intelligence, you know, are sort of looking at it, saying, “Well, maybe there’s something here.” And the story there is that Jesus and Judas had a deal, and Jesus told Judas to murder him, and Judas obeyed Jesus and murdered him, and then Jesus was going to promote Judas to heaven in a primary position of leadership. [Congregation laughing]That’s an interesting hypothesis . . . for some people. It’s crazy. Some people are still following Judas, trying to make him into the good guy.

Lesson #6

Number six: Sometimes false teachers appear to be credible, loving, and generous to the poor. Did Judas appear to be credible? “So, where did you go to seminary?” “Jesus Christ Seminary.” “Really? Who was your professor?” “For Old Testament, I had Jesus Christ. For Prophecy, I had Jesus Christ. For Preaching, I had Jesus Christ. For Leadership, I had Jesus Christ. For Evangelism, I had Jesus Christ.” “Well, have you ever worked in ministry?” “Yeah, I did an internship for three years.” “Oh, really? With who?” “Jesus Christ.” “Really?” “Yeah, it was pretty fantastic. I saw him raise people from the dead. One day, a few guys went water skiing, no boat, no skis.” [Congregation laughing] “You should read the resume. It’s pretty interesting, that resume I’ve got.”

He looked credible, and sometimes false teachers, false leaders, they come out of good seminaries, good Bible colleges, good churches, good denominations, good traditions, and they go a bad trajectory. Also, he appeared loving. If you had asked, “Well, Judas, is he a mean guy? Is he a bad—?” “No, he’s a loving guy. The last time I saw him, he walked up, and he gave Jesus a big kiss, and they’re best friends. To me, it looks like he’s a very loving guy. It looks like he loves Jesus, and he’s generous. Oh, he’s so generous, this one day, people were wasting money, and he said, ‘No, let’s give it all to the poor!’” False teachers appear to be credible, loving, and generous to the poor, and sometimes it’s just another Judas.

Lesson #7

Number seven: You cannot lose your salvation, but you can fake it. Judas never lost his salvation. He’s the one doomed for destruction. Jesus tells them all the way back early in the ministry in John 6, “One of you is a devil.” Judas was stealing money from Jesus the whole time! And see, what sometimes happens is we think, “Oh, that person was walking with the Lord, and then they just disappeared, or they fell away.” No, you know what? In their heart, they had been drifting for a long time, and then you just see externally who they are internally. Judas’ betrayal of Jesus was not a change in his character; it was a revelation of his character. He hadn’t changed; he had simply been exposed.

You cannot lose your salvation, but you can fake it, and Judas faked it. Some of you are faking it. You’ve learned the Christian language, you’ve been around the church, you know a few believers, your parents love the Lord. You can fake it. You can fake it, and the way you know you’re faking it is you present yourself as one person in public, and you’re not that person in private. In public, Judas was associate pastor to Jesus Christ; privately, he was stealing money.

Who are you privately? Who are you really? Who are you truly? Are you a Christian who loves Jesus and hates your sin, or are you just a Judas who’s faking it? Are you faking it so that your parents will be happy, your friends will be happy, your school will be happy, because it benefits you in some way?

Lesson #8

And number eight: How your life concludes is far more important than how your life begins. Amen? It’s not the first day of your wedding and marriage that’s the most important; it’s the last day of your marriage. It’s not the first day you get saved and baptized; it’s the last day of your life. See, we tend to make a big deal of the start, and we should, and we should celebrate and rejoice. People are getting married. People are making professions of faith. People are being baptized. Praise be to God. But the most important day: the last day.

Some of you come in here, and you say, “You know what? It’s not been great ‘til now.” Praise God you’re still alive. He loves you. This is a word of encouragement and exhortation and invitation to say, “You know what? Judas ran away from Jesus, and it killed him. I’m going to run to Jesus, so I can live with him.” And that’s God’s invitation to you today. Some of you would say, “Man, it started good, but it’s not gone well.” Then do like Peter did: get brokenhearted, run to Jesus and his people, receive the grace of God, and finish well.

I believe this is a prophetic word at a significant time in the history of Mars Hill Church. It’s like the early years with Jesus and Judas for us right now. I mean, God is with us. God is with us, Mars Hill. We are a miracle. We’re one of the largest, fastest-growing churches. We’re planting in other states. People are getting saved. Marriages are coming together. Babies are getting born. People are being transformed. We can’t even keep up with all the grace that God has given us. And it’s wonderful and it’s amazing and it’s sobering, because it’s about the last day.

Had you looked at Judas early on, you would’ve said, “That guy, what a life, what an amazing life.” We’re there. A guy like Peter, through humility and repentance, his last day’s a great day. “Crucify me upside down! I still love Jesus! I’ll tell him you said hi.” That’s Peter. Judas hangs himself, and his guts come spilling out, and the last day is a tragic day. And I want you, and I want me, and I want us to be able to say like Paul, “I’ve run my race! I’ve kept my faith! And now I’m ready for my reward.”

Please pray that for me. Please pray that for your elders, and your deacons, and your Community Group leaders, and your Redemption Group leaders. Please pray that for yourself. Please pray that for your family. And it all starts with each of us making a decision in the grace of God, humbly, prayerfully, soberly saying, “God, give me the grace to not be a Judas. Save me from myself.
Just listened to that sermon today. Great reminder that none of us are beyond needing God's grace every day and in every way.