David Jeremiah - In a World of Betrayal, BE FAITHFUL
The man strolling through a public park in Fairfax County, Virginia, didn't look like one of the world's most dangerous spies. He was a middle-aged, middle class, a bit out of shape guy. Look more carefully and you could see he had a plastic bag in his hand. Now you see it, now you don't. Robert Hanssen, an FBI agent with top security clearance, had been betraying his country for almost two decades as a double agent. Starting in 1985, he sold thousands of US classified files to the Russians, including detailed military plans for responding to a nuclear war. He betrayed American operatives, some of whom were executed by the Russians. He even told the Russians about a secret multi-million-dollar eavesdropping tunnel under the Soviet Embassy.
Unknown to Hanssen, the FBI was watching on that day, February 18, 2001, when he made a dead-drop delivery beneath the bridge in Foxstone Park, and they swarmed and cuffed him. Hanssen asked one question when he was caught: "What took you so long"? Between 1985 and 2001, Robert Hanssen had betrayed his country time and time again. The FBI's official statement reveals the depth of his treachery. Here's what they said: "A betrayal of trust by an FBI agent, who is not only sworn to enforce the law but specifically to help protect our nation's security, is particularly abhorrent. This kind of criminal conduct represents the most traitorous action imaginable against a country governed by the Rule of Law. It also strikes at the heart of everything the FBI represents: the commitment of over 28,000 honest and dedicated men and women in the FBI who work diligently to earn the trust and confidence of the American people every day".
What a bitter phrase that is, describing this man: "A betrayal of trust". A man like Robert Hanssen makes the headlines and history books, but how many of you know that acts of betrayal happen every day? Every day in politics, in business, and in life. Maybe, as I mentioned that subject, you're thinking of the time when you were betrayed, when you were damaged by someone who broke trust with you, and in the process, broke your heart. So what does this have to do with the world of the end? Well, Jesus says, Matthew 24:10, "And then many will be offended, and will betray one another, and will hate one another". Jesus said as you get closer to the time when he comes back, the whole issue of betrayal will become more and more prominent in our culture.
Few things in life hurt worse than personal betrayal. If you asked me if anyone has ever betrayed me, I'd have to answer yes. Betrayal is one of the strongest words on the emotional scale. We don't use it lightly. What makes betrayal so raw and painful is that it comes not from our enemies, but from those we believe to be our friends, even from our family. People can't betray us unless we've allowed them through the grid of defenses into our life, unless we've let down our guard, unless we've trusted them. Betrayal exposes and exploits our vulnerability. That wounds us because makes us subject to a double-cross. Les Parrott wrote this, he said: "Backstabbers put on a front that appears accommodating, loyal, and even sacrificial. Then, without warning, they raise their knife, and by the time you see the glint of the blade, it's almost always too late".
Perhaps you shared your most private thoughts with someone only to discover that they betrayed your confidence, told somebody else that you didn't want to know. Maybe you paid someone in advance for work or equipment without getting what you'd bargained for. Far more painful is discovering your spouse is cheating on you or a sibling has lied to you. Many people feel betrayed by a dad or a mom who failed to love or respect them, or by a business partner who did them dirty. Honestly, I don't know if there's any other pain in life that is worse than being betrayed by someone close to you.
My friend Phil Waldrep wrote this, he said: "It changes everything. After such an experience, the world is simply a different place: one far darker and crueler than you ever thought possible before". Every evening, people all over the world go to bed with the feeling that they were burned by someone, and the pain lingers for a long time. Many of them seek to forgive and move on, but it's hard and it's painful, and it's a long process. The portraits of betrayal go way back.
Let me tell you, there's nothing new about being burned by somebody, by someone "doing you dirty" is how we usually say it. The sin of betrayal goes back to the beginning of human history when the archangel Lucifer turned against his Creator, and a host of angels followed him. Ever since that point, betrayal has cascaded through the human story like falling dominoes. Adam and Eve were seduced by Satan. Cain betrayed his brother, Abel. Jacob double-crossed his brother, Esau. Think of how Joseph must have felt when his own brother stripped off his colorful robe, threw him in a pit, sold him into slavery. Delilah betrayed Samson. The Psalms of David are filled with anguish over various acts of betrayal, including an attempted coup by David's own son, Absalom. Psalm 55:12-13 says this: "It is not an enemy who taunts me, then I could bear it; it is not an adversary who deals insolently with me, then I could hide from him. But it is you, a man, my equal, my companion, my familiar friend".
There are many more examples in the Bible, but there's only one that matches the horrendous betrayal of Satan against God the Father, and that is the betrayal of God the Son by Judas Iscariot. Judas Iscariot, the betrayer. Luke 22:3-4 says: "Then Satan entered Judas, surnamed Iscariot, who was numbered among the twelve. So he went his way and conferred with the chief priests and captains, how he might betray Him to them". When we study the character of Judas in the Bible, he's almost always mentioned with this little phrase. I'll show you what I mean. Matthew 10:4: "Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed Him". Luke 6:16: "Judas Iscariot who also became a traitor". John 13:2: "And supper being ended, the devil having already put it in with his heart, Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, to betray Him".
Now, put yourself on the Mount of Olives where this whole thing is happening, where Jesus is talking to his four disciples. The sun is descending in the western sky, and Jesus knew that within hours, he would experience the most infamous act of betrayal in history. He must have known that as he quietly warned these that a spirit of betrayal was coming, that he himself would experience the sting of it before the day was over. The pain of betrayal and the portraits of it. And the prophecy of betrayal. That brings us back to our verse, Matthew 24:10: "And then many will be offended, and will betray one another, and will hate one another".
Have you noticed how many of Jesus's prophetic promises in the Olivet Discourse are connected to emotional wounds? Prophecy is about more than earthquakes and pestilence and heavenly signs. It's about offenses and betrayal and hatred, things that happen every day, even now. Every word of Jesus is intentional, so we're not gonna leave any of them out. We'll follow through the three things that he said are gonna happen around betrayal. First of all, he said: "The time of the end will be a time of offense". This is a really interesting word in the language of the Greek. The word "offend" is the word "skandalizo". It's the word from which we get the word "scandal" or "scandalize". The term is used 30 times in the New Testament, and it refers to a hidden foot trap in the ground that causes someone to stumble and fall. I'm sure at some point in your life, you've been walking along, you didn't see a broken piece of concrete or a root in the ground and it tripped you up and sent you sprawling.
That's the picture Jesus painted with the term "skandalizo". The idea has to do with Satan using other people around us to set traps for us. The Lexham English Bible says: "And then many will be led into sin". For example, when a Christian engages in some particular habit of sin, he or she tries to take others down the same road. Have you known that? Sin wants company. Sin doesn't wanna be alone. Because company gives it a kind of sense of being okay. When preachers begin departing from sound teaching of Scripture, others are tripped up. When a well-known Christian personality transgresses morally, it causes some to become cynical. When a Christian institution is exposed for ethical failure, it sends a number of believers stumbling forward and flailing the air with their arms. When a preacher, a church, or a denomination begins to minimize a sinful trend in society, it gives a weaker believer a license to engage in that sin.
Jesus said that in the end... and he's not talking to people outside the church. He's saying, in the end, people who are in the church are gonna live so carelessly that by their actions, they will cause other people to stumble. They will offend others, they will scandalize them, they will cause them to take the wrong direction. And you know, I don't wanna get personal about anybody that you and I know, that you've read about in recent days, but it just seems like we've lived through an awful lot of that in recent days, everywhere you look. You know, the Bible says that "Satan goes about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour". And one day I realized what that really means is this. I mean, he's not gonna devour you physically, not gonna eat you up. But the word "devour" there is a reference to Satan's desire to destroy your influence.
Why does Satan go after people in leadership? Because if he takes them down, he takes down their influence and it affects a lot of people; it's a scandal. That's what we call it, isn't it; it's a scandal. Satan loves to scandalize people because when he takes down someone with influence, he not only gets that person, but he gets all the other people over whom he has influence. That's why, as leaders, as preachers, as teachers, we should pray every day that God will protect us from the enemy. I know that many of you pray for me like that, and I'm so very thankful because it means a lot. So, to offend someone in the biblical sense of "scandalize" means to allow the spiritual failure of another person to affect you.
Jesus warned that this trend would grow and increase as we move toward the end; there would be more frequency, more intensity, more of this is gonna happen. And we're watching it. It's happening more. And you say, "Well, no, that's just 'cause we have Internet and we have better communications". I don't think so. I think it's just where we are. And the Bible says that's what's gonna happen: a world of offense. And then Jesus says in the same verse, he said, "A world of betrayal". Now, the word "betrayal" is a common word in the New Testament, used 121 times. It's translated into a lot of English words like deliver, betray, give over. In the context of Matthew 24, it paints the picture of Christians trying to escape persecution or justify themselves by delivering or handing over other Christians to be judged. In other words, you give up your friends so you can be safe. You betray your friend in order to protect yourself.
Once again, the saddest part of Matthew 24:10 is the phrase, "One another". You say, "Why is that so sad"? Well, this is not people outside of the church betraying Christians. No, this is Christians betraying Christians. Christians betraying one another. More accurately, people who claim to be Christians betraying those who really are. Earlier, I listed some infamous examples of betrayal in the Bible, but there's one more that you probably don't know about that's kind of hidden in Paul's writings, but it's pretty insightful, so I'm gonna tell you about it. It's about a guy named Alexander. He was called Alexander the Coppersmith. Many commentators believe we first meet this guy in 1 Timothy 1:20 when he was saying untrue things about God among the churchgoers in Ephesus. Paul removed him from the church along with another heretic named Hymenaeus. Paul delivered them, according to 1 Timothy 1:20, to Satan "that they may learn not to blaspheme".
Boy, you don't want to be delivered to Satan, but Paul did that to these two dudes. What happened isn't certain next, but many commentators believe Alexander harbored a deep bitterness toward Paul and at some point, betrayed Paul's whereabouts to the Roman authorities, and this led to Paul's final arrest, perhaps, in Troas, and all this took place during the most dangerous days the church had yet experienced, when Emperor Nero declared Christians as public enemies of the Roman government. If this scenario is correct, Alexander's betrayal led to the imprisonment, the trial, the execution of the greatest evangelist and missionary in Christian history.
In the final chapter known to be written by Paul, which is in 2 Timothy, here's what he said: "Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world. Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for ministry. Bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas when you come, and the books, especially the parchments". Now, watch. "Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm. May the Lord repay him according to his works. You also must beware of him, for he has greatly resisted our words. At my first defense no one stood with me, but all forsook me. May it not be charged against them". Paul never forgot what Alexander did. I don't know what he did. He hurt him deeply. I don't know if he ever got it right or not, but I do know he hurt Paul. He betrayed him.
And we see current evidence of Christians being betrayed by family members and neighbors, even by so-called Christian brothers and sisters. We've seen terrible persecution is afflicting the church. We talked about that last time. Intense pressure is sometimes placed on believers to give up the names of other Christians. Sounds like what may happen during the Tribulation when raw evil will operate on steroids. The machinery of the Antichrist will seek to track down every new believer and force from them the names of other converts, but as we've seen, the birth pains are already occurring. Some of that is beginning to start. And then he says: "It will be a world of hatred". As appalling as betrayal is, hatred is even worse.
You say, "Well, Pastor, what do you mean by that"? Someone may be tricked into betraying you or they may do so out of weakness, but when the motivation is hatred for you, it's a new level of evil. Jesus said: "Many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other". Now, this is the second time Jesus has mentioned hate. Back in verse 9, he warned that the world would hate us. We don't like that, but we could almost understand it because the Bible says if it hated Jesus, it's gonna hate us if we're Jesus followers. But in verse 10, he warned Christians that there would be hatred by other Christians toward them. Hatred within the body of Christ. And that kind of extreme hating will become commonplace in the world of the end, even within the established church.
Some Christians or fraudulent Christians during that time will fulfill the words of John: "But he who hates his brother is in darkness and walks in darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes". The pain of betrayal, the portraits of it, the prophecy of it. That's what's gonna happen in the future. That's gonna be a part of the culture in the future. You see little pieces of it here and there. Don't get surprised, 'cause the Bible says it's gonna happen. It will be full-blown in the future, even though we're only seeing little bits and pieces of it now. But I don't wanna ever leave these messages without answering the question: so what do we do? Well, first of all, choose your friends carefully.
It's amazing how we're influenced by the friends we choose when we're 13 or 19 or any other age, how easily we're drawn in to unhealthy relationships. I mean, I know friendships go through ups and downs, but we need friends who will remain loyal to God and to us when all is said and done. I'm gonna give you some verses about friendship that I think are really helpful. These are tucked away in the book of Proverbs and you wouldn't find them unless somebody pointed them out to you, but listen to this. Proverbs 12:26 says: "The righteous should choose his friends carefully, for the way of the wicked leads them astray". Do your friends help you draw closer to God? Or do they push you away from God? That's the question you need to ask. When I'm with my friends, do they make me wanna love God more and be a better Christian, or are they pulling me away from my love for God and being a Christian?
If you have friends that are taking you in the wrong direction and you follow them, guess what? You're gonna end up where they end up: in the wrong place, destroyed, betrayed, and they don't care. And, you know, you can have a friendship with somebody who's not a Christian if you're leading them toward Christ and not being led by them away from Christ. But that's the key. If you're not leading them to Jesus, they're leading you away from Jesus and you're gonna end up in a place you don't wanna be. Here's another verse in Proverbs that says this: "A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity".
What happens with your friend when you're going through a tough time? Are they there helping you? Are they there encouraging? Or are they off to play games somewhere else? Difficulty sorts things out, doesn't it? You look up and say, "Oh, look who's still here. And whatever happened to old Joe"? We need friends who will be honest with us, friends who will tell us the truth. Friends who will keep us from mistakes or missteps. Here's another Proverb: "Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful". The best way to avoid people who are stumbling blocks or betrayers or hateful is to nurture a handful of rich relationships with people who are sold out to Jesus Christ. If they are loyal to him, guess what? They'll be loyal to you. That's the key. That's the test. Find people who are loyal to Jesus, connect with those people, and they'll be loyal to you.
So, choose your friends carefully. And stay focused on your purpose. Here's an interesting thing about Jesus. Do you know what Jesus did when he was betrayed? You should read it, 'cause if you're not looking for it when you read it, it'll just pass right by you. So let me help you. Jesus, he knew what Judas was gonna do, and Judas had left the Upper Room to inform officials where Jesus was. And Jesus knew this. He knew Judas was up to this. But Jesus had stuff to do before this happened, so he didn't run off and hide someplace or go get help. The Bible says he gave the disciples the greatest sermon of his life. In the Kidron Valley, Jesus offered his longest prayer recorded in the Bible, at John 17. In the middle of betrayal, Jesus remained focused on his purpose. He knew what was coming. We don't know it's coming. It hits us blind. But Jesus knew it was coming, and he preached his longest sermon and prayed his longest prayer and just kept marching forward.
You know, that's what we have to do. Even later, after he was arrested because of Judas's betrayal, Jesus remained steady in the awful work before him. He didn't let the betrayal derail him. Instead, he continued forward even to the cross. Hebrews says that Jesus, "for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God". When you get betrayed, you can get all inside yourself and, "Why did God let this happen to me"? And get on your own case. The Bible says betrayal's gonna come, and you're gonna feel it. Somebody's gonna do something that'll hurt you. What do you do? Keep your eyes on the goal and keep marching forward. You will discover that when you do that, it's the greatest therapy for how you feel there could ever be. If you stop and pout and think about it, it can take you out of the game, and you don't want that to happen.
Betrayal can be so painful, so agonizing, that we're unable to focus on anything else. We don't let it go, and our hearts get bitter. We chew on the possibility of revenge. We make up speeches. I've made up a few speeches in my car and preached them, out loud, to people who've hurt me. What a dumb thing to do. When you're betrayed, choose to focus not on yourself but on your purpose. Be like Jesus, choose to live above the mindset of bitterness. Pour your life into the work God has called you. This is the best way to say it: staying focused on your purpose will allow you to keep your pain in perspective and you won't get lost. Third, choose your friends carefully, stay focused on your purpose, pursue loyalty. Loyalty and commitment are often unpopular because they require us to think of others rather than ourselves. But the beauty of loyalty counterbalances the bitterness of betrayal.
We see evidence of that beauty in this Scripture, Revelation 2:10: "Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil's about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful unto death, and I'll give you the crown of life". In a world of betrayal, we need to pursue the kind of loyalty that inspires others to remain faithful in their commitment to Christ. Don't falter or give up doing good so you can concentrate on the bad that's been done to you. You've just now joined the other team, and you don't wanna do that. And then this is maybe the hardest one and I have to honestly tell you, when I put this together, I knew there were a couple of verses in the Bible about this, but I didn't know that the body of work on this particular subject was so large.
And I'm gonna share it with you because this may be a hard thing to do, but it is not in doubt as to what the Scripture says. We know from Jesus that people will betray us, even people who call themselves Christians. It is gonna happen. We can count on it. With that in mind, how should we respond? This is one of those questions to which the Bible gives a very simple answer, and it gives it over and over again. Proverbs 25:21-22: "If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat; And if he is thirsty, give him water to drink; For so you will heap coals of fire on his head, And the Lord will reward you". Matthew 5:43: "You have heard it said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you". And we're right about ready to say at this point, "Are you kidding me"?
And then there's Romans chapter 12: "Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live in peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: 'It is mine to avenge; I will repay,' says the Lord". This is about the only time some of you ever try to do the Lord's work. He says it's his work to take revenge on the enemies and you try to do his work. Let him do his work, and you do what you're supposed to do.
And then there's 1 Peter 3:9. Did you know this was all here? "Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing". The Bible says we are to flip the script and take this out of the hands of the enemy and take control of it. And how do we do that? When people hurt us, we go out of our way to find a way to bless them. Maybe the hardest one for me has always been, it says: "Pray for those who spitefully use you". I'm sure there's been a lot of strange prayers offered up in response to that encouragement. "Lord, I know I'm supposed to pray for this guy. What he did to me, I don't really wanna do it... but bless him if you can".
You know, I'm telling you, that's kind of the way it is when we're really honest, isn't it? So, do good to those who hate you. That's how you deal, when you're betrayed, don't act in kind. Here's what we do. Somebody hurts us and we wanna hurt them worse, and if we do, then they find a way to hurt us worse and it keeps going down and down and down, and you have to draw a line in the sand and say, "Not on my watch. It's not gonna happen on my watch. I'm gonna turn this thing around, and if he wants to mock me because I took a pie over to him instead of getting mad at him, that's his problem".
I tell you, most of the time, it just melts people and they don't know what to do. And then number five, count on the character of God. That brings me to this final suggestion. This was the conclusion Joseph made after years of processing his brothers' betrayal. Here's what I love. This is Genesis 50. Most of you know this. "Do not be afraid, for I am in the place of God. But as for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, in order to bring about as it is this day, to save many people alive".
When Paul was sold out by Alexander the coppersmith, he pressed on to write his final book, 2 Timothy, with the resolution of finishing his race and keeping the faith. And that final epistle contains these words: "But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that the message might be preached fully through me, and that all the Gentiles might hear. Also I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion. And the Lord will deliver me from every evil work and preserve me for His heavenly kingdom. To Him be glory forever and ever". Perhaps the key to processing the betrayal we experience as followers of Jesus Christ is reckoning that for every person who deserts us, God has blessed us abundantly with more people that don't desert us, and with his own unending faithful love. Friends are gonna fail us. We're human. And some of you have those stories and maybe you talk about 'em now and again. Don't let them be a part of your history. Don't let them define you. Don't be defined by what other people do to you. Be defined by what you do in the name of Christ to be an encouragement for other people.
In 1850, John Gray arrived with his family in the city of Edinburgh, Scotland. And though he was a gardener by trade, there was a shortage of work in the city, so John joined the Edinburgh Police Force as a night-watchman, and every evening he walked the streets to ensure the safety of the people of that little village. John Gray did not walk alone, however. His constant companion was a little Skye terrier named Bobby. No matter the temperature or the weather outside, John and Bobby could be seen walking together through the streets at night, alert for any trouble or any cry for help.
After many years of performing his job with dedication, John Gray died from tuberculosis. He was buried in a cemetery called Greyfriars Kirkyard within the city. Bobby the terrier refused to leave his master's side. Every day, he came to spend long hours lying by John's grave. At first, the Kirkyard gardener attempted to shoo him away, but after months of witnessing Bobby's faithfulness, the gardener made a small shelter so the little dog could be out of the weather while continuing his silent vigil. The dog was later named Greyfriars Bobby, and he visited his master's grave every day for 14 years until he also passed away.
The residents of Edinburgh erected a granite fountain outside the cemetery with a statue of Bobby on the top. You can still read his headstone today: "Greyfriars Bobby died 14 January, 1872, aged 16 years. Let his loyalty and devotion be a lesson to us all". Now you can all sniffle. But you know, that's a great story. Let's learn the value of loyalty. We can talk about betrayal and we need to understand it, but the way we deal with betrayal is to determine we won't betray someone. We'll be loyal. We'll be like this loyal dog and be faithful every day of our life. Let it always be said that followers of Jesus are faithful and true, even in a world of betrayal. Don't let such a world trip you up and drag you down. So your marching orders for this week are: be faithful.