Most of the examples in this series are positive examples-- examples we can pattern our lives after. In this week's lesson, we study the macabre example of Judas; a life that started out well, but finished horribly. His life is a negative an example, a "do not go hear" sign should be placed over his life. Yet, some do. Judas is not alone. In fact, many of us start better than we finish. If you met on the week of December 29, you covered the topic of helping people who seem to be falling away. I have two different endings to this lesson, depending on whether you have studied that lesson. You have people in your group that probably will greatly disappoint our Lord, as Judas did. You can't prevent all of that any more than Jesus did. But, you can warn the group of the dangers that are down that path, and strengthen their resolve to stay off that path.
"Lord, we freely admit that we are capable of falling away, as Judas did. Empower us to endured to the end. Help us to be a body that holds one another together in love. Help us to reach out effectively to those in our group who seem to be slipping away. We just now recommit ourselves to you. For the rest of our lives, we promise to love you and serve you and worship you. In Jesus name we commit lives to you. Amen."
1. This is a grave distortion of the doctrine of the eternal security of the believer. This is the kind of thinking that gets the "once saved always saved" crowd in trouble. Matthew 26:24 says it would be better if he had never been born. That doesn't sound like a resident of heaven to me. Those who endure to the end are saved. The [truly] saved endure to the end.
2. "I have sinned," is mere confession. Repentance is turning and going the other way. Most anyone will confess. There are precious few people who will not admit that they have sinned. Few are willing to walk away from their sin.
3. One answer has to do with human's ability to push emotions underground. We can behave one way and feel and believe another. Judas probably doubted for quite some time, though he was all smiles on the outside.
4. There are several theories on this. See the commentaries. One helpful source of material is the Baptist Sunday School Board. You can reach them at 1 (800) 458 2772.
5. Psalms 11:5 The LORD examines the righteous, but the wicked and those who love violence his soul hates.
6. A better question is, "Why did he call me when he knew that I would disappoint him so?" Judas had a place in redemptive history. Jesus had a reason to call him. He helped fulfill Jesus purpose.
7. No. There are not two kinds of people on planet earth, good guys and bad guys. There are only bad guys. We are all bad guys.
8. Too much teaching talks about truth without ever causing life change. Some accountability really helps to drive it in. You can't do too much of this in an open/ Sunday School type group, lest you make newcomers feel uncomfortable. But you can do some. In many groups there are not any newcomers. If you teach one of these groups, push them hard!
9. Two or three things come to my mind. First, we must be humble enough believe we are capable of falling Those who believe they are not capable of falling are the most likely to fall. Second, we must commit our selves to the disciplines of faithfulness. We must guard ourselves to being faithful each day to prayer and the Word. We must watch for the little things that creep into our lives. We can have friendships that hold us accountable. Ultimately, people do what they want to do. People do what seems to be in their best interest to do. If we want to stay with if for the long haul, we must learn to enjoy the ride.
10. Early interdiction is one thing. The earlier we get to a person who is slipping the better. This is one reason why I recommend we invite every member and every prospect to every fellowship every month. This is a natural and easy way to make sure that people who are slipping get invited back into the fold. A second step might be to do something more personal with those who are slipping away-- have them into your home, or out for breakfast. Often, just some social contact is a gentle nudge that will pull people back. We may need, at times, to confront people. There is a place to admonish people to come back.