A Texas megachurch pastor urged his congregation to avoid the "modern-day betrayal" of Jesus and warned against falling into what he called the trap of "different degrees" of "Judas-type syndrome" — the act of denying or betraying Christ in today's society.
The Rev. Terry K. Anderson, the senior pastor of Houston's Lilly Grove Missionary Baptist Church, preached a Sept. 25 message stressing the importance of Christians evaluating their relationships with Jesus daily and remaining humble through sincere repentance before God.
The 63-year-old explained that genuine repentance to God is vital to avoid betraying Jesus just like Judas Iscariot, who famously betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver.
"There are two or three names in Scripture that are so infamous. No one has named their daughter 'Jezebel.' No one has named a good dog 'Judas,'" began Anderson.
"Those two names, among others, live in infamy. We cannot help wondering about Judas. … He wanted to reap position and prestige and prosperity and power because he thought Jesus' kingdom was an earthly kingdom. But, disappointment over Christ's failure to materialize the earthly kingdom on which he set his sights probably played a large part in Judas' decision to sell Jesus out."
Anderson, who has pastored the Baptist house of worship since December 1990, emphasized that "any of us ... can be a Judas" within the modern-day Church.
"We [often] pride ourselves that we are not like Judas. But are we?" Anderson inquired. "Judas represents all who reject the Messiah out of greed and selfish ambition. Judas was neither a hero nor a demon but a deeply flawed human being who did, in fact, betray his Lord."
"All of us are flawed human beings," he added. "There are, brothers and sisters, degrees by which we fall into a Judas-type syndrome."
Anderson listed examples of "how you can betray Jesus and not be named Judas," the first being that "you can betray by being a closet-Christian." He defined 'closet-Christian" as someone "who never tells anybody about your faith."
"You can deny Jesus in a moment of intense pressure, wanting to fit in," Anderson stated. "That's betrayal."
Another way is to be a "passive apostate," referencing James 5:19-20. Those verses highlight the importance of turning "a sinner from the error of their ways," which in turn "cover[s] over a multitude of sins."
Anderson said that Judas' life showed that God allows all Christians the opportunity to choose whether or not they want to display sincere repentance for their sins.
"Jesus chose him. Jesus knew who Judas was, and He still chose him. Jesus knows who I am, and He still chose me. Jesus knows who you are. Jesus knows what you are capable of. Jesus knows your sinful proclivity. Jesus knows that you will go left when you're supposed to go right. Jesus knows that you will fall. But, it's not the falling that sends you to Hell. It's the refusal to get back up," Anderson said.
"I can't testify for you. I can only be a witness for myself. I did enough last week that God should have blotted my name out of the Book of Life. But, He says: 'whoever comes to me, I [will not] cast them out.' Jesus said: 'if you're in the Father, you're in Me. And I hold you in the palm of my hand, and the devil in Hell can't even pluck you out.'"
Anderson warned against the idea that "Judas was born to be condemned" while acknowledging that he was known as the "son of perdition."
"But Jesus chose him. And Jesus' choosing of him did not make Judas do what Judas did. Judas betrayed God, the Son of God because he made a human decision. And God saves us, but He does not take from us free will," Anderson said.
"Because if God took our [free] will from us, that would make us puppets on a string. God does not make us love Him. God chooses us if we choose Him."
Anderson cited Deuteronomy 30:19, in which Moses told the Hebrews, "that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life so that you and your children may live."
"You don't have to choose [life], but the consequences of not making a choice is the same as the consequence of making a choice. Because not to choose is to choose," Anderson preached.
Anderson compared and contrasted Judas with Peter, the disciple who denied knowing Jesus three times but later repented of his wrongdoing.
"Both of them sinned. What Peter did was no worse than what Judas did. And what Judas did was no worse than what Peter did. Because there are no degrees of sin. All unrighteousness is sin," Anderson said.
"Peter and Judas were both chosen by Jesus. Both of them were Jesus' disciples. Both sinned in the most crucial of ways and in the most crucial of moments. Peter is guilty of denial, while Judas is guilty of betrayal. And denial is not worse than betrayal. … Denial and betrayal are two sides of the same coin. No one sin is greater than the other, but what happens after the sin is what makes us still talk about Peter."
Anderson argued that "if Judas had come to Jesus like Peter did, Judas would have gotten saved, because God does not allow us to be born to condemn us."
"Nobody is born so that God will send you to Hell just because you were born. You go to Hell because you refuse His invitation," Anderson stated.
"Judas went out and hanged himself by his own choice. I've decided to follow Jesus. Some other folk have decided to follow Satan. The choice is yours. 'Jesus did not come into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.'"