Inside Out

After saying these things, Jesus was troubled in his spirit, and testified, “Truly, truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he spoke. One of his disciples, whom Jesus loved, was reclining at table at Jesus’ side, so Simon Peter motioned to him to ask Jesus of whom he was speaking. So that disciple, leaning back against Jesus, said to him, “Lord, who is it?” Jesus answered, “It is he to whom I will give this morsel of bread when I have dipped it.” So when he had dipped the morsel, he gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. Then after he had taken the morsel, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, “What you are going to do, do quickly.” Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him. Some thought that, because Judas had the moneybag, Jesus was telling him, “Buy what we need for the feast,” or that he should give something to the poor. So, after receiving the morsel of bread, he immediately went out. And it was night. (John 13:21-30)

Judas Iscariot.   From the beginning he is introduced to us as the one who would betray Jesus.  In fact, in all four gospels, Judas is actually named as the betrayer at the same time he is named as the disciple (Matthew 10:4, Mark 3:19, Luke 6:16, and John 6:71).  Talk about taking the guesswork out of who was going to betray our Lord!

Wouldn’t it be lovely if everyone we met came with such disclaimers? “Hi, I’m Sarah; I will share whatever secret you tell me with anyone else who will listen.” “Hi, I’m Jared. I’m going to act like I care about you until I get what I want. Then I’ll leave you.” Or, “Hi, I’m Susan. You can trust me. I’ll be your friend from this day forward. I will never betray you.” I’m sure such knowledge and foresight would greatly impact our relationship decisions.  Unfortunately, however, reality doesn’t come with disclaimers.  Only God knows the heart of every man.

We must remember this fact–God alone knows the heart of every man–as we read the above passage in John. For even though we as New Testament believers blessed with God’s Word are able to know the true Judas Iscariot from the beginning, at the time of the betrayal, Judas was not the obvious choice.   His betrayal was actually a surprise to the other disciples. In the above passage, upon hearing Jesus share that one of those with Him would betray Him, the disciples did not instantly say, “Oh, it’s got to be that Judas Iscariot.  He’s a filthy, rotten scoundrel who constantly steals from the moneybag already.”  No.  They began questioning who they thought it could be.  Peter even motioned to John to try to get the inside scoop from Jesus.  Even the dipping of the bread didn’t clue the disciples in that Judas was “the one.” Some of them actually assumed Judas was leaving to give money to the poor, not sell out the Savior!

The only one who knew Judas would betray Jesus was Jesus Himself.  Why? Because Judas was a well-wrapped present–a fine-looking disciple–yet his heart was trash, tainted, filthy, and full of sin.   And the only One who could smell the stench of sin within Judas was God.  Judas was like the scribes and Pharisees whom Jesus rebuked by declaring, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness” (Matthew 23:27).

Judas was outwardly righteous, but inwardly wretched. And it was only a matter of time before the inner filth broke through the outer façade.

The key word here I want to focus on is façade.  We as humans tend to stop short with what we see.  If it looks good on the outside, then we assume it is good on the inside.  If the person appears righteous, then we assume she’s righteous.  I recently read a Facebook post that suggested wrapping trash to look like Christmas presents and then leaving the false presents in an unlocked car. Such trickery would give robbers something unexpected and quite deserving.  Imagine their surprise and disgust when they realize the “beautiful” items they thought they had successfully purloined were in reality and quite literally waste.  Kind of funny at first when you think about it, but as I pondered such a bold prank, God reminded me of the not-s0-funny spiritual prank we tend to play with those around us. Yes, we as individuals tend to either take part in such shenanigans or find ourselves on the receiving end of such deception.

In what way?

Well, no, I have never opened a gift to discover stinky, nasty garbage (nor given someone such a monstrosity), but I have discovered people whose neatly polished exterior masked a filthy heart.  I’ve welcomed them into my life only to be left with the stench of sin as the wrapping came off.   Or I myself at various points in my life have actually presented myself with ribbons and bows when indeed there was nothing but emptiness and filth within. Even the disciples learned the hard way as they witnessed their fellow disciple Judas lead the soldiers to the Garden of Gethsemane, that what we see with our eyes may merely be garbage wrapped in shiny paper.

Time and time again God reminds us that what’s inside is far more important than what’s outside. In Luke 6:45 He reminds us it is out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.  It’s not what is outside that makes us clean; it is what is inside (Mark 7:14). Actually, what’s within–good or bad–will always eventually reveal itself without. A trash can may be new and clean, but once it’s filled with rancid, rotting rubbish, the stench of what is in it overshadows the cleanliness of what is outside it.

In the same way Judas’ heart was dirty long before he chose to betray Jesus, what is within will always overshadow what is without.

Now I wish I could insert here a step-by-step guide on how to avoid being deceived by imposters, but I can’t.  No one knows the heart of man except God. The disciples didn’t know one of their own would turn against them.  And we as mere mortals do not have the ability to gauge the hearts of everyone we meet either.

The one heart we can gauge, however, is our own.

And this is what I’m going to ask you to do today.

No, you are not perfect.  No one is.  We have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).  So do not deceive yourself by thinking you have to be perfect.  But I do encourage you to be true to yourself, true to others, and most importantly, true to God.  Judas had an unclean heart bent toward selfishness.  Yet he presented himself as a lover of Christ.   He may have fooled man, but he never fooled God.

None of us can–not even you.

So I ask you this question: what is your heart like?

Does what is within match what is currently without?  If someone were to “unwrap” you, would they find treasure or trash?  riches or rubbish?  We must remember no amount of paper, ribbon, and bows will ever fully mask the odor of unrighteousness.  Any stocking–even a fancy one–is still capable of holding coal.

So when you look within, what do you see?

If what you see is sin, then repent.  Turn from your wicked ways and seek your Savior.  Allow Him to cleanse you from within.  As you do–as you seek Him first with all your heart–you’ll soon see the stench of sin replaced with the aroma of righteousness.   You’ll soon see that what is outside accurately reflects what is within.  You’ll soon see the words of 1 Peter come alive in your life:  your adornment won’t be merely outward–rather it will be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.” (1 Peter 3:4)

Finally, I leave you with this. It wasn’t the stable that made the Savior special; it was the Savior that made the stable shine.  We don’t celebrate the Nativity because of the barn’s beauty; we celebrate the Nativity because the Savior was in it.  Don’t spend your time adorning your appearance; fill your heart with Jesus. It is then you’ll see the true beauty of the Savior shining through.


A Matter of the Heart

Six days before the Passover, Jesus went to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom He had raised from the dead. So they gave a supper for Him there. Martha was serving, and Lazarus was one of those reclining at the table with Him. (John 12:1-2)

The anointing at Bethany.  If I mentioned this event to you, you’d instantly recall the moment Mary took the fragrant oil, poured it over Jesus’ feet, and then wiped his feet with her hair.  It was a beautiful moment of submission, humility, and service.  And when Judas complained about the “waste” of such an expensive perfume, Jesus rebuked Judas while praising and verbally honoring Mary.

Yet as I read this passage in John the other day, my eyes were drawn to another act of submission, humility, and service I’ve always overlooked.  It is an outward expression of an inward transformation; and it’s found in three words: “Martha was serving.”

Martha was serving… what a testimony to what God can do! In the many times I’ve read this passage, I’ve missed the significance of the clause “Martha was serving.”

Do you get the significance? To fully understand it, we must look back to the first time Mary and Martha were mentioned.  Read it with me:

“Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.’ But the Lord answered her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her. ‘”(Luke 10:38-42)

The situations appear quite similar.  Jesus is visiting; Martha and Mary are hosting.  Mary is at the feet of Jesus; Martha is busy getting things ready.

Yet there’s a big difference between the two passages; it is found in the hearts of the two women. Mary from the beginning loved to be at Jesus’ feet. She wasn’t distracted; she was focused. Serving didn’t distract her in the beginning, and the cost of the perfume didn’t distract her near the end. Even after the death of Lazarus, Mary didn’t leave the home; nothing could distract her from mourning for her brother–until, of course, Jesus came back. And then she ran to Him and again fell at His feet.

Martha, on the other hand, began her journey with Jesus distracted. She may have been called to serve–she may have been a doer by nature–but she allowed the actual call of God to get her eyes off God. It is why she initially complained to Jesus. She was “distracted by much serving” and “anxious and troubled about many things.” Yet I do not believe serving was ever Martha’s problem; we need to serve. I believe being distracted by the serving was her problem.

Think about it. When we are distracted by something, our focus has been redirected from what it should be to something less relevant or completely unrelated. In the case of Martha, Martha was distracted by her serving. She was focused on the service, the busyness, and making sure everything was okay; she was not focused on her Savior.

In the beginning, Martha missed the point of serving; she was distracted by it.

Yet then we fast forward to the book of John. By this time, Jesus has raised Lazarus from the dead. He has demonstrated His power and love and faithfulness time and time again. Both Mary and Martha now trust Him wholeheartedly.  And this change of heart becomes apparent when Jesus again visits Mary and Martha. Mary does what Mary is called to do: she places herself at the feet of Jesus and proceeds to anoint Him.

But Martha?  How does she demonstrate her love of Jesus? Does she also sit at Jesus’ feet?  No. That’s Mary’s calling–not Martha’s.  Martha serves.

She serves!

Martha didn’t give up serving when she met Jesus; she just ceased being distracted by it. She no longer complained. She no longer stormed about all huffy. She just served. She simply served her Savior.

That, my friend, is powerful to me.  Martha did not quit doing what she was called to do; she just began doing it with the right heart.  God had transformed Martha from an anxious, busy, distracted doer to a focused, devoted, servant of our Savior.

And if He can change Martha, He can change anyone.

So what has God called you to do?  Are you a writer?  A teacher?  An encourager?  A musician? Whatever it is God has called you to and equipped you for, I encourage you to walk in it. However, do not be like the Martha who was distracted by her service; rather, be like the Martha who just served.  Be like the Martha who humbly walked out her calling with her eyes firmly fixed on her Savior.  Keep pressing on in what God has called you to do.  Don’t allow the things of the world or the calling itself to distract you from the plan God has for you.  Be like the Mary and Martha of the book of John. Serve your Savior in whatever capacity He has called you. Whether that is sitting at His feet or serving in the kitchen, you can be sure God sees you–and He sees your heart. And whatever God sees in secret, He will surely reward in the open–if not in this age, then definitely in the one to come.

Sharing Jesus

Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me all that I ever did.” So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days.  And many more believed because of his word. They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.”
John 4:39-42

It is no longer because of what you said…for we have heard for ourselves.  As I’ve been reading through John, I’ve been noticing an important aspect of evangelism:

Sharing Jesus with others is not just telling others about Jesus; it is introducing them to Him. 

There is a difference between telling and introducing.  I can tell you the facts about a famous person without ever having met that person.  I can tell you the accomplishments of a renowned athlete without ever having met that athlete.  Yet when I introduce a friend, a coworker, or a relative–someone I have met and with whom I have had fellowship–I can do more than merely tell facts; I can share a relationship.

In the same way, true evangelism shares more than a name; it shares a personal relationship.  When we share Jesus with others, we want to go beyond sharing His Name (although that indeed is powerful in itself); we also must share what we know, what we’ve experienced, and what we’ve seen with our own eyes.  We want to share the living, breathing God of the Bible–a God who is still active and an intimate part of our lives today as much as He was in the days the Bible was written.

In the above story, the Samaritan woman, after having a one-on-one encounter with Jesus, in which He told her all that she ever did (John 4:39), in turn went back to her people and shared what God had done in her life.  She believed, and she shared the experience of that belief; she shared her personal testimony.

Her testimony alone didn’t save the others; but it did intrigue them.  They wanted to see for themselves this one who appeared to be the Savior of the world.  Remember, the woman was very specific in using the exact terminology the Samaritans would understand.  Before she realized who Jesus was, the woman had described the Messiah as one who would tell them all things (John 4:25).   So when she described Jesus as One who told her all the she had ever done, she in essence declared she had personally met the Messiah.  They believed her and her testimony, which was awesome in itself, but more importantly than just believing what she said, they sought Jesus for themselves.  They wanted to know Jesus like the woman knew Jesus.

The Samaritan woman shared. The people began to seek.

And when they sought the Savior, they found the Savior.  They were able to joyfully proclaim to the Samaritan woman, “It is no longer because of what you said…for we have heard for ourselves.”

What the Samaritan woman believed with all her heart, she shared with those around her.  She shared her relationship.  She introduced others to the Jesus she knew.  In essence, her personal experience was a powerful testimony.

In the same way, we have to live our belief in order to share it in way that makes others seek to catch it.  When it comes from the heart, people will believe; they will seek.  They will begin searching for themselves.  And when they then seek what they see in you, they will not just believe because you believe; they will believe because they see for themselves that what you have declared is indeed true.

Therefore I encourage you today, my friend, to introduce Jesus to those around you.  Don’t just tell the facts; share the experience.   Joyfully proclaim to those God has placed within your reach all that Jesus has done and continues to do in, through, and for you.  Remind them that what He has done for you, He will do for them as well.

Share your testimony.  Share your experience.  Share the Jesus you know.

And as you do, you’ll soon find that others will want to know Him as well.  You’ll soon hear those around you joyfully proclaiming, “It is no longer because of what you said…for we have heard for ourselves.”