After all, it's easy to follow Jesus when things are good. Everyone likes God when life is going along as you had hoped. But when you're not getting the things you want, will you still follow him? When it looks as if following him is going to bring you benefit, it's fine. But when it becomes obvious that faith will cost you, what will you do? In the end, it boils down to this: do we love God, or do we love the things that he does for us? It's worth asking ourselves:
- What happens to my relationship with God when he isn't giving me the things I think I need in order to be happy?
- Have I ever complained to God that I've got it a lot worse than people who aren't Christians, or people I feel are less mature or servant-hearted Christians?
The DifferenceTwo disciples betray Jesus. Yet one has gone down in history as the ultimate villain, while the other went on to become a hero. Why? What they did next made the difference. Matthew's Gospel tells us the next and final part of Judas's life:
When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty silver coins to the chief priests and the elders. "I have sinned," he said, "for I have betrayed innocent blood." "What is that to us?" they replied. "That's your responsibility." So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself. (Matthew 27:3-5)Too late, Judas changed his mind. He may well have shed tears, just like Peter. Certainly he felt great guilt. He regretted what he had done and the consequences. But that was it. We never see him ask for forgiveness or turn to live for God. He just felt remorse, and it sent him to his death. Peter, on the other hand, repented. He wept bitter tears for his sins, but he didn't just weep. You can tell that he repented for his sins because his life changed after that moment. He became bold and courageous for Christ. After the crucifixion, he joined with the other disciples for prayer. He was the first disciple to enter the empty tomb. After Jesus' resurrection from the dead, Peter was reconciled to him and received forgiveness from him, just as Jesus had predicted (Luke 22 v 32). And so later on in his life, Peter could testify to the way that Jesus' death had secured forgiveness for people far from God: "For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God" (1 Peter 3:18).
4 Ways to RespondJudas and Peter's guilt were the same: their responses were very different. When you stumble—whether it's an obvious moral failure you can't hope to hide, or a subtle pattern of pride that you don't want to admit—how do you respond? Judas and Peter show us there are four options:
- Like the religious leaders, you can focus all your energies on the things you don't like about other people. Instead of dealing with their own issues, they obsessed over getting Jesus.
- You can try to make up for your mistakes, like Judas giving back the money he had received. The problem is, of course, that you can't un-ring a bell, and you can't undo your sins.
- You can give in to despair, stew in your guilt, and let it eat you alive, as Judas did.
- Or you can repent, as Peter did. You can bring your sin before God for mercy and put things in place that will help you change the way you live.