“And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, the same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God.” Revelation 14:9. This warning is not restricted in its application. It applies to any individual, church, or group of individuals who worships the beast and who receives his mark. I would like you to consider with me the question: “Lord, is it I?”
As the disciples were seated around the table eating the last meal they would all share together, they were sorrowful. Earlier in the day there had been strife among them as to who would be the greatest; and now, absorbed in their own conflicting thoughts, they were suddenly startled to hear Jesus addressing them with the words, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, that one of you shall betray Me.” John 13:21. He then added, “But, behold, the hand of him that betrayeth Me is with Me on the table.” Luke 22:21
“At these words amazement and consternation seized them. They could not comprehend how any one of them could deal treacherously with their divine Teacher. For what cause could they betray Him? and to whom? Whose heart could give birth to such a design? Surely not one of the favored twelve, who had been privileged above all others to hear His teachings, who had shared His wonderful love, and for whom He had shown such great regard by bringing them into close communion with Himself!” The Desire of Ages, 654. But as they reasoned thus, they remembered how true His sayings had been in the past, and fear and self-distrust seized their hearts. Matthew gives this graphic description: “They were exceeding sorrowful, and began every one of them to say unto Him, Lord, is it I?” Matthew 26:22
As each of the disciples searched the faces of his companions, “with the most painful emotion, one after another inquired, ‘Lord, is it I?’ But Judas sat silent.” The Desire of Ages, 654
Friends, the question that comes to each one of us is, Whom are you worshipping today? Are you worshipping self? If this is the case, you are preparing yourself to receive the mark of the beast. There are only two voices to which we can listen. One is the voice of God speaking to us in His Ten Commandments; and the other is the voice of Satan, seeking to lead us to place anything else first in our lives.
Finally, John asked the question, ” ‘Lord, who is it?’ And Jesus answered, ‘He that dippeth his hand with Me in the dish, the same shall betray Me. The Son of man goeth as it is written of Him: but woe unto that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed; it had been good for that man if he had not been born.’. . . And now the silence of Judas drew all eyes to him.” Ibid. Amid the confusion of all the questioning, Judas did not hear what Jesus had said. He missed it. “But now, to escape the scrutiny of the disciples, he asked as they had done, ‘Master, is it I?’ Jesus solemnly replied, ‘Thou hast said.’
“In surprise and confusion at the exposure of his purpose, Judas rose hastily to leave the room. ‘Then said Jesus unto him, That thou doest, do quickly. . . . He then having received the sop went immediately out: and it was night.’ Night it was to the traitor as he turned away from Christ into the outer darkness.” Ibid.
This brings us to one of the most important questions in the Scriptures. “Who can understand his errors?” Psalm 19:12. Human nature can so readily detect the errors in others, but it is with great difficulty that we see our own.
Let us consider what it was that led to Judas’s downfall.
“Judas was highly regarded by the disciples, and had great influence over them. He himself had a high opinion of his own qualifications, and looked upon his brethren as greatly inferior to him in judgment and ability.” The Desire of Ages, 717
In comparing himself to the other disciples, Judas was led to have a far greater appreciation for his own condition than was warranted; and it led to a false experience. Friends, if we are looking at and comparing ourselves to anyone other than our perfect Example, we will be deceived as to our real condition. The human heart is “deceitful above all things.” Jeremiah 17:9
The Spirit of Prophecy, speaking of Judas, uses the term “false disciple.” The prayer of our hearts must be, “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me.” Psalm 139:23, 24
Judas felt the satisfaction that always comes in working for others, and while he might have developed an unselfish spirit in ministering to them, he did not. Blinded by his own selfish desires, Judas never allowed that light to penetrate his own soul, revealing the deformity of his own heart. (See The Desire of Ages, 718.) He knew the truth, but a knowledge of the truth that is kept out of the inner soul will never save anyone. Here is the seriousness of looking to one another. Unless the Lord reveals to us our true condition, we will come to a false experience just as Judas did. “When sin has deadened the moral perceptions, the wrongdoer does not discern the defects of his character nor realize the enormity of the evil he has committed; and unless he yields to the convicting power of the Holy Spirit he remains in partial blindness to his sin. His confessions are not sincere and in earnest. To every acknowledgment of his guilt he adds an apology in excuse of his course, declaring that if it had not been for certain circumstances he would not have done this or that for which he is reproved.” Steps to Christ, 40. The spirit of self-justification is a human tendency which has been exhibited in every son and daughter of Adam. For this reason, we need to plead with the Lord, “Is it I?”
“The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!” Matthew 6:22, 23. A partial blindness is worse than complete blindness because when you are partially blind, you think for sure that you can see.
“Behold, all ye that kindle a fire, that compass yourselves about with sparks: walk in the light of your fire, and in the sparks that ye have kindled. This shall ye have of mine hand; ye shall lie down in sorrow.” Isaiah 50:11. You see, friends, we can, of our ownselves, generate what we believe to be light. “But when the light from Christ shines into our souls, we shall see how impure we are; we shall discern the selfishness of motive, the enmity against God, that has defiled every act of life. . . . One ray of the glory of God, one gleam of the purity of Christ, penetrating the soul, makes every spot of defilement painfully distinct, and lays bare the deformity and defects of the human character. . . . The sinner’s acts of disloyalty in making void the law of God, are exposed to his sight. . . . He loathes himself as he views the pure, spotless character of Christ.” Steps to Christ, 28, 29
Many come to depend on an experience they have had in the past, but this will lead us to a false experience. “When I shall say to the righteous, that he shall surely live; if he trust to his own righteousness, and commit iniquity, all his righteousnesses shall not be remembered; but for his iniquity that he hath committed, he shall die for it.” Ezekiel 33:13. God is no respecter of persons, and of the highest and most exalted man is required the same obedience and repentance as that of the lowest. No one can disregard the least commandment of God and excuse it because of his temperament or on the basis of his position of the work that God has called him to do. We must overcome.
There is another aspect of the false experience that we need to guard against. Just as there is a false security that comes with comparing ourselves with others, there is also a false humility that leads to a false confession. True confession is not just coming and saying, “I am sorry for everything. You know, I am just sorry.” That is not true confession.
Until we have humbled our hearts before God in acknowledgment of our guilt, we have not fulfilled the first condition of acceptance. “True confession is always of a specific character, and acknowledges particular sins. They may be of such a nature as to be brought before God only; they may be wrongs that should be confessed to individuals who have suffered injury through them; or they may be of a public character, and should then be as publicly confessed. But all confession should be definite and to the point, acknowledging the very sins of which you are guilty.” Steps to Christ, 38 [Emphasis supplied]
There is a confession that is unacceptable to God. “Confession will not be acceptable to God without sincere repentance and reformation. There must be decided changes in the life; everything offensive to God must be put away. This will be the result of genuine sorrow for sin.” Ibid., 39. You see, true confession does not say, I know I did this wrong, but I was really pressured that day and. . . No, if we are doing that, if our confession is not accompanied by a change in our life, we are still partially blind, and we need to pray for the light of God to flow into our soul.
“For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death. For behold this selfsame thing, that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you, yea, what clearing of yourselves, yea, what indignation, yea, what fear, yea, what vehement desire, yea, what zeal, yea, what revenge!” 2 Corinthians 7:10, 11
Are you praying for this godly sorrow, which is the true sorrow for sin? It says in James 1:17, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above.” Friends, this is the greatest gift that you can ask for. When you receive it, it will cause your heart to be broken over sin.
Great care needs to be exercised that you do not try to judge either your own, or someone else’s sincerity. Appearance can be very deceiving. Judas had a good appearance.
“Had Judas died before his last journey to Jerusalem he would have been regarded as a man worthy of a place among the twelve, and one who would be greatly missed.” Desire of Ages, 716.
Not all proper-appearing conduct finds its basis in a true experience. “It is true that there may be an outward correctness of deportment without the renewing power of Christ. The love of influence and the desire for the esteem of others may produce a well-ordered life. Self-respect may lead us to avoid the appearance of evil. A selfish heart may perform generous actions.” Steps to Christ, 58
Clearly, it is possible to do the right things for all of the wrong reasons. If we are looking to others to determine our standing, we will then certainly be deceived. A selfish heart may perform generous actions. Here, then, is the question: By what means can we determine whose side we are on?
“Who has the heart? With whom are our thoughts? Of whom do we love to converse? Who has our warmest affections and our best energies?” Ibid. These are the test questions. What are you talking about? Are you justifying yourself? Are you talking about the failings of others? Are you looking to one another and either getting depressed because you do not think you are as good, or being like Judas and getting elated because you think you are better? Who has the heart? What do you think about during the day? “If we are Christ’s, our thoughts are with Him, and our sweetest thoughts are of Him. All we have and are is consecrated to Him. We long to bear His image, breathe His spirit, do His will, and please Him in all things.” Ibid.
Before we will be able to give the third angel’s message to the world with power, this message must have accomplished its work in our own hearts. We must each humbly ask the question, “Lord, is it I?”