Possessing a Thankful Heart

By Francis Frangipane

" 'Did I Myself not choose you, the twelve, and yet one of you is a devil?' Now He meant Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for He, one of the twelve, was going to betray Him" (John 6:70-71).

To what was Jesus referring when He identified Judas Iscariot as "a devil?" Was He speaking figuratively or factually? Could a human being not only "have" a devil, but actually become one?

Some believe that Judas had become so perfectly possessed by satan that he actually lost his humanity. Yet, consider: after this fallen apostle delivered Jesus up, he felt such remorse for betraying Christ that he committed suicide. Could a devil feel remorse for sin? I do not think so.

What I believe Jesus is identifying in Judas Iscariot as a "devil" is something that even today exists unchecked among many Christians; slander. In the New Testament, the Greek word translated "devil" in this text (diabolos) is rendered by its impersonal, generic definition elsewhere. The word, diabolos, simply means a "false accuser," "slanderer" or "a malicious gossip." In fact, 1 Tim. 3:11 & 2 Tim. 3:3 both translate diabolos (Strong's #1228) as "malicious gossip(s)."

In other words, what Jesus is actually saying is not, "one of you is a devil" in a biological or theological sense, but is identifying "a false accuser, a slanderer." While the disciples were almost bragging about their loyalty to Christ, Jesus corrected them, in effect saying, "Yes, I chose you, but even among you is malicious gossip, a slanderer, who will eventually betray me to my enemies."

In The Last Days
This problem of Christians who gossip, Paul tells us, will continue right into the end of the age. Listen carefully to what Paul wrote to Timothy about the end of the age: "men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips..." (2 Tim 3:1-3). In the midst of this list of great sins of the apostasy, the apostle includes "malicious gossips." This is exactly the same word translated "devil" in John 6.

Perhaps you know people who always have something negative to say about others, always bringing negative information about people into their conversations. I'm praying that the Holy Spirit will give us convictions about how "malicious gossip" is akin to the nature of satan himself!

The Scriptures say that we will be justified or condemned by our words. Yes, our words, even those spoken in secret with a spouse or friend about others, are used by God to measure our obedience to His will. Simple words, yet James writes, "If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man..." (James 3:2).

Scripture reveals that "Life and death are in the power of the tongue..." Prov. 18:21). Words have power. Your words and their confession of faith brought you into salvation; but words without faith can lead us and others into destruction and heartache.

Indeed, James 3:8 warns, "the tongue...is a restless evil...full of deadly poison." This little organ, he says, "is a fire, the very world of iniquity." He then reveals a most profound thought, that the "tongue . . . sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell." If we talk negatively about someone or maliciously gossip, the destructive fire released in our words has its origin in hell itself! Lord, help us to understand the power of our words!

I believe God wants to break the power of gossip, of negativity from the church! I don't care what your opinion is, unless it's fully centered in God and redemption, your opinion of other people is probably wrong. Christ calls us to become a house of prayer, a people of intercession motivated by compassion, wisdom and peace.

Yet, imagine if the apostle Paul came into a typical American city. Do you know what he might say about our divisions? Probably what he told the Corinthians, "I am afraid that perhaps when I come I may find . . . there may be strife, jealousy, angry tempers, disputes, slanders, gossip" (2 Cor 12:20).

Does that remind you of any churches anywhere? Strife? Jealousy? Slander and Gossip? How can we approach God with these things existing in Christians? I believe God desires to give the church a whole new approach as we enter the twenty-first century. However, we cannot lay hold of the future unless we first let go of the past.

Some of you are thinking, "So and so should hear this." Perhaps, but if you're thinking that this message is for someone besides you, then you're missing it. This message is about no one in particular and everyone in general. How do you respond to life's imperfections? Do you gossip? When you hear of someone's failure, are you quick to spread the news? If Jesus was looking at the group of disciples with whom you fellowship, would he say to you what He spoke to His early apostles, "one of you is a malicious gossip?"

Judge Not
Even if you are not a gossip or slanderer, you must be careful to avoid "fellowship" with gossips. "A little leaven leavens the whole lump." If you walk with the wise, you'll become wise, but if you open your heart to the cynical and critical, you'll become like them.

Jesus did not say, the Father's house shall be called a house of criticism, but rather "a house of prayer." Prayer has a very positive focus. People who pray are people with vision. They see what could be. They see how God could move. They see God's greatness.

Remember, none of us stands perfectly upright. Every time we judge someone, we position ourselves to be judged as well. Indeed, we each lean in the direction of our weakness. Only by the grace of God are we kept from falling. The moment we begin to self-righteously judge or gossip about another for their failings, we step into pride. God gives grace to the humble, but removes grace from the proud.

What should you do when you see something wrong? Pray without judging, be motivated by mercy, and if you must discuss the situation or individual, make sure you harbor no malice or ill will. Let redemption be your guide, not revenge.

A Thankful Heart

We can journey through life angry and proud, which manifests in slander and division or we can become a Christian who truly represents the life of God. It was specifically in this regard that Paul wrote, "See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek after that which is good for one another and for all men." He then said, "Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you..." (1 Thess 5).

Joy, prayer and gratitude, not slander, is "God's will for you." Paul is saying when you see something wrong in life, don't lose your joy over it. God is with you; His power is in you. You are heaven bound, so let the world know your faith by your joy. What you can't remedy immediately, turn over to God in prayer. Don't descend into anger. Rejoice always! Pray without ceasing! This is the positive approach to life.

He continues, "In everything give thanks." We must enter the gates of God's presence with thanksgiving. Several years ago someone whom I loved very much went through a confusing time. I prayed and prayed, but soon became angry at the slow progress the individual was making. After several months, I remember praying, "Lord, I don't know why this person hasn't changed yet." Suddenly, the presence of the Lord descended into my spirit and my eyes were opened. I saw literally dozens of answers to prayer! God was working, but because of my anger, I couldn't perceive the working of God. This is why we must remain thankful. Thanksgiving is the language of faith. The moment we spend time thanking the Lord, we begin to see more clearly what He is actually doing. I have come to realize that the "world of the ungrateful" is a world inhabited by demons. Listen to what God's word says:

"For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God, or give thanks; but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened...and just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers..." (Rom. 1:21-30).

They knew God, but did not "honor Him as God, or give thanks." As a result, God gave them over to a depraved mind. Think of it: we either have a mind that honors and thanks God or we wind up with a depraved mind, full of sin, gossip and slander. The world of the ungrateful spirals ever downward until they became "futile in their speculations...their heart was darkened." Theirs is a world in darkness. Let me say it again: if we are not reaching for a thankful spirit we are slipping toward a depraved mind.

This is a spirit that has penetrated many throughout the body of Christ. Gossip is so prevalent in the church today it has been elevated to the status of a church tradition. It is my passionate, focused desire to see every one of us be delivered from this deception and rediscover the good life that God has for us. I am fighting for you! We are a blessed people, but God's blessing is attached to our words, our confessions and our thankfulness.

So, if you are one who has a propensity toward gossip, repent. Renounce speaking evil of others. Do you want to love life and see good days? Keep you tongue from speaking evil and your lips from uttering deceit. Become an intercessor. If you're in need of forgiveness for gossip, for backbiting, for slander or for ungratefulness, this is the time.

Lord, deliver me from words that carry gossip. Jesus, create in me a passion to walk in thanksgiving and praise to you. Free me to be an encourager to others. Amen.