Dear Friend,

Greetings in the wonderful name of Jesus!

Before I get into my teaching today, I want to thank you for signing up to receive your first teaching letter from me. Welcome! I’m so glad you decided to join our family of deeper readers. I spend hours writing these letters each month, sharing my heart and the insights gleaned from my studies in God’s Word. I pray that this letter, and every letter I write in the future, truly ministers to your heart and strengthens your walk with God.

Soon everyone will be getting ready for Easter — that hopeful and much-anticipated time when we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection! In His selfless act of love, He laid down His life on the Cross to forever conquer sin and death. And one event in particular that preceded the crucifixion of our Savior is what I want to speak to you about today.But before I share with you what’s on my heart, I want to remind you that we are here to pray for you. PLEASE…never think this is just a cliché with us. We are absolutely serious about praying for our partners and friends. James 5:16 (AMP) says, “The heartfelt and persistent prayer of a righteous man (believer) can accomplish much [when put into action and made effective by God — it is dynamic and can have tremendous power].” Not only do Denise and I pray, but our team earnestly calls out in faith-filled prayer for God to move in the lives of our partners. We truly believe that our prayers are dynamic and can have tremendous power. So, please, let us know how we can pray for you!

It is in this season that the Church around the world celebrates the Cross and the resurrection, but before Jesus went to the Cross, He was betrayed by a disciple. The act of betrayal is what I want to talk to you about today.

But first, I want to ask you: Have you ever felt betrayed by a friend or by someone you dearly loved? If you have:

  • When it happened, were you shocked?
  • Did it feel like that person put a knife in your back by violating your trust and revealing things that should have been kept in confidence?
  • Did you marvel that such a trusted friend could turn out to be so disloyal?
  • Did you wonder, How in the world could a person so dear and close be used so viciously by the devil to attack me in this way?

It’s painful when a friend betrays you. It’s even worse when the person is your best friend or someone you’ve known and trusted for many years. Jesus certainly understands this, because He was betrayed by someone in His inner circle.

Betrayal is something that has happened to people since the beginning of time. It is simply a fact that the devil is a master at distorting and ruining relationships. He knows how to lure people into situations where they end up feeling hurt or offended; then he coaxes them into nurturing their offense until it mutates into strife that separates even the best of friends and the closest of family members.

Don’t forget — Satan was kicked out of Heaven because of his unique ability to create confusion, discord, and strife. Heaven is as perfect as an environment can be. Yet even in that perfect environment, the devil was still able to affect one third of the angels with his slanderous allegations against God. Angels who had worshiped together for eons of time now stood opposed to each other over issues the devil had conjured up in their minds.

That should tell you how clever the devil is at creating discord and strife! If the devil is persuasive enough to do this with angels, think how much easier it is for him to deceive people who live in a far-from-perfect environment and who wrestle daily with their own imperfections and self-image!

Satan watches for that opportune moment when a person is tired, weary, or exasperated. Then he waits until someone does something that person doesn’t understand or agree with. Suddenly it is as if the devil shoots a fiery arrow of rage straight into his or her emotions! Before long, strife, bitterness, unforgiveness, and division begin to mount. Friends who once stood side by side and cherished each other now stand facing each other as hostile rivals.

If this sounds familiar, know that this same scenario happened to Jesus! After working with Judas Iscariot for three years, the devil found his way into Judas’ soul, turning him so sour against Jesus that this disciple became His betrayer.

What opened the door for this deception to occur inside Judas?

In John 13:2, the Bible gives us powerful insight into the way the devil establishes a foothold in people’s minds. Looking back to John 12:3-7, we can read that Mary had brought a pound of spikenard and poured it on Jesus’ feet. Judas thought her act of love was a waste of money and took issue with Jesus about it. But Jesus told Judas to leave Mary alone and allowed her to continue. John 13:2 then tells us, “And supper being ended, the devil having now put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him.”

What was the exact moment that Satan put this thought into Judas’ heart? Apparently, it was when Judas became offended at Jesus about the spikenard. Perhaps Judas didn’t agree with Jesus’ decision, or maybe he didn’t like the fact that Jesus told him to leave Mary alone in front of the other disciples. Or maybe it was because Judas was a thief. As the ministry treasurer who stole regularly from the moneybag he held, he probably didn’t like it when money was spent elsewhere instead of being placed in the treasury!

Whatever the reason, it was at that moment of disagreement and offense that the devil found an open door into Judas’ heart.

Especially notice the phrase “…the devil having now put into the heart of Judas Iscariot….” The words “put into” come from the Greek word ballo, which means to throw, to cast, to thrust, or to inject. This word ballo carries the idea of a very fast action of throwing, thrusting, or injecting something forward, such as the throwing of a ball or rock, or the forward thrusting of a sharp knife.

It is significant that this word was used in this context, because it tells us how quickly the devil moved to inject a seed of betrayal into Judas’ heart. When the seed of betrayal was injected, it went so deep that it turned Judas — one of Jesus’ closest associates — into a deceiver and a betrayer. Judas became the epitome of a disloyal and unfaithful friend. And when Satan finally penetrated Judas’ mind and emotions with this seed of betrayal, he injected it so hard and fast that it became deeply embedded or lodged in Judas’ soul.
John 13:2 could therefore be translated:

  • “…the devil having now thrust into…”
  • “…the devil having now inserted into…”
  • “…the devil having now forcibly hurled into…”
  • “…the devil having now embedded into….”

There is no doubt that the word ballo means the devil quickly seized an opportunity to inject a seed of betrayal into Judas’ heart. Judas was so offended by Jesus that a window to his heart and emotions opened, even if only for a brief moment. When the devil saw that opening, he moved like lightning to penetrate Judas’ mind and emotions in order to sour a long-term relationship and turn a trusted friend into a betrayer.

Satan was able to use Judas as his instrument because Judas allowed the enemy to drive a wedge between him and Jesus. Rather than let go of the offense and forget about it, Judas let the issue become a big deal in his mind — something so blown out of proportion that the devil was able to use the offense to lure him into the ultimate act of disloyalty. Because Judas didn’t take his thoughts captive, the devil succeeded in tainting this disciple’s view of Jesus. This then led to a disastrous effect on Judas’ relationship with Jesus.

It’s important that you learn how to recognize those times when the devil tries to inject a seed of division into your heart. He wants to drive a wedge between you and the people you love. Rather than let him get away with this evil tactic, make a decision to resist every temptation to get angry and offended. By resisting these thoughts, you can take a stand against the devil and protect your relationships.

This is very different from the usual message of Easter, but these are the circumstances that led to Jesus’ betrayal before He went to the Cross. There is so much to learn from the disastrous mistake that Judas Iscariot made when he allowed the devil to use offense to turn him into a betrayer. We have all been hurt by others — and it’s probable that we’ve all been a source of hurt to someone else at some point in the past.

But we must determine to never let any issue get so blown out of proportion that it turns any of us into a disloyal, lying, betraying friend. And if you are hurting because someone has recently betrayed and hurt you, choose the route of forgiveness. Remember, what you sow is what you reap — if you sow forgiveness now, you will reap forgiveness from others when you need it in the future.

If anyone understands betrayal, it is Jesus — and if you are hurting from a disappointment you suffered in a relationship, Jesus will heal your heart. Go to Him and He will pour a healing balm into that wound!
I pray the words in this letter have ministered to you — or that they will help you minister to someone else who bears the wounds of a disappointing relationship.

Please remember that we want to pray for you — and please remember to pray for Denise and me and our team as we do what God has called us to do. It’s not just us — it’s us and our partners all working together that will get the job done, fulfilling God’s marvelous plan to reach people with help from His Word!

We love you and thank God for you!
We are your brother and sister, friends, and partners in Jesus Christ,

Rick and Denise Renner
along with Paul, Philip, and Joel and their families