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FOLLOWERS OF JUDAS: TELEVANGELISTS AND YOUTUBE PROPHETS

Judas Iscariot was one heck of a preacher. He was excellent at his missionary job, which is why none of the other disciples suspected him of betraying Jesus. At the very end, he was, of course, outright in his betrayal, but earlier on he was as swept up in the Jesus wave as the other followers. He thought he believed in Jesus, he thought he felt the same about the mission as all the other disciples. It was only toward the end of the three years working with Jesus that his beliefs and feelings changed, and he, the arch-deceiver, began to see Jesus as the deceiver. But Judas carefully hid his doubts, as deceivers do, and doubled down on his enthusiasm in case anyone should suspect his plans.

There are many followers of Judas Iscariot in the Christian preacher community, especially on YouTube. I know preachers who are alcoholics, preachers who are on antidepressants, preachers who just consider preaching a way to make a living and to be looked after in retirement. These are all modern-day Judases, but I doubt that any of them would see themselves as such. They come across as ultra-sincere and committed to Jesus. Sometimes they’re so good at preaching their sincerity, they start to believe it themselves. It’s only when they step away from the pulpit that their doubts creep in.

By God’s Spirit, you can discern the Judases among us. They love to preach, because while they’re preaching, they feel real. The common impression is that Judas Iscariot was bad or at best mediocre at what he did. But he was good at preaching, one of the best among the disciples. His stellar performance as a preacher and subsequent presumed commitment to the mission is what led to his being entrusted with the group’s finances. Scripture tells us that he stole from the funds the disciples held in common. “But surely someone who preaches like that can’t be dishonest!?!”

Televangelists and their latest incarnation, the YouTube prophets, are all Judases. I do not apologize for making that generalization, as I have yet to come across any televangelist or anyone who self-promotes on YouTube who is not a Judas Iscariot-level false prophet. If you want to work on and practice your skill of discernment, pick any televangelist or self-promoting prophet on YouTube and see if you can find their Judas streak. As I said, they all have one. Sometimes it’s blatant, but other times it takes a few minutes to find.

There are two things they all have in common, these followers of Judas. The first is that they’re glib preachers, smooth with their words. Paul, by his own confession, stumbled over his, which is one of the reasons why he relied so heavily on his letters to get the message out. God would have had a hand in Paul’s lack of spoken eloquence, just as he has a hand in the surfeit of spoken eloquence of Judas’s followers.

The second thing that Judas preachers all have in common is their focus on money. They’ll preach for free, but they’ll solicit donations, or they’ll preach for a salary. Money will always be part and parcel of preaching the Gospel for them, as it was for Judas. They worship mammon, so preaching the Word is just a means to an end (the end being making money). Genuine followers of Jesus never accept a penny for preaching the Word. They’ll graciously and with gratitude accept any donations that are offered free-willingly, but they’ll never solicit them. That is one of the key ways to discern a follower of Jesus from a follower of Judas. God will permit the tares to grow among the wheat until Judgement Day, so it’s up to us to discern who’s a tare and who’s wheat, lest we, too, be deceived.

I know a few Judas preachers personally, and it’s difficult at times for me to keep quiet about them, but God wants me to let them be. He well knows who they are and he tells me that even the Judases have a role to play in bringing believers to the Kingdom. God uses everyone and everything to draw his people ever closer to him. Jesus knew about Judas, but he let him continue to preach to the end. He let him continue because Judas had a role to play in the redemption process, which he played willingly.

We’re not to expose the Judases among us, but rather to discern who they are and let them be. There’s nothing to be gained in exposing them, nothing to be gained in confronting them, and nothing to be gained in trying to stop them from preaching. They are an earned reward for people who prefer to have their ears tickled with smooth words.

God lets those people be, too.

He doesn’t force himself on anyone.

STRANGE CHRISTIANS

Hypocrites

There’s a strange kind of Christian that is very much like the strange kind of Jews that Jesus railed at.

You know which Jews I’m talking about – the lipservers, the ones who considered themselves dyed-in-the-wool descendents of Abraham and who thought they had a guaranteed ticket to Heaven based on this heritage.

Jesus let them know that their expectations were in vain, and they hated him for it.

Jesus never railed against heathens and unbelievers. Not once. But he did rail a good deal against his own followers and against those who considered their salvation a done deal (sort of like the “once saved, always saved” crowd). The strange Christians of today spend a lot of time railing against the 21st century versions of heathens and unbelievers (Muslims, Buddhists, atheists, etc.) without seeming to realize that they are not the enemy. They are spiritually sick and demon-enslaved, yes, but they’re not the enemy.

Just like in Jesus’ day, our enemies are those who say they know God and are doing his will, when in fact they don’t know God and are doing the devil’s dirty work. Remember the parable of the ten virgins? Remember the parable of the goats that were shocked at being sent to Hell instead of Heaven?

These are strange Christians.

I went to school with a former atheist who became a strange Christian. He ‘converted’ in his late teens and since then has preached in various churches. He now has a full-time job as a pastor at a small local church. He records his sermons and uploads them onto the church’s website.

When I was born again, I wanted to go see this guy. He claimed to be born again, so I figured we must now be spiritual kin. But for one reason or another, God kept me from contacting him. After listening to a few of his sermons, I realized why: He isn’t really born again. He’s a professional preacher and strange Christian. He’s legalistic and (not surprising) a cheerleader for pressure-tithing into the church’s coffers, but he’s not born again. To God, he’s still a stranger.

Even worse, he thinks you should be paid for preaching the Word, just like you would for any other job. But preaching God’s Word is a privilege, not a job, and payment is in God’s blessings, not in money.

This is how you know a real Christian from a strange one: a real Christian does not demand financial remuneration for preaching the Word, whether as a pastor or a writer or a musician. A strange Christian, on the other hand, not only expects to be paid, but demands it and bases his or her “success” as a preacher on how much money he or she makes for selling God.

And regardless of their asking price, the actual amount is always the same: 30 pieces of silver.

Don’t be a strange Christian. Be like Jesus. Get to know and love God as your Dad. Never request or demand money for preaching the Word. Ditch the donation button.

And remember: The most bizarre phrase in all of Christendom is “retired minister”.

No real Christian ever retires.

We preach for free until we fall down dead.