Are You Identifying the Root Cause?

Last week I wrote about root fears that feed worry. You can read that post here. Today, we’re going deeper to consider the root that demands inspection for every Christian wrestling temptation to sin.

I hit pause on John 13 in my reading. The disciple invites us to engage in Jesus’ suffering. Initially, the Lord was betrayed, and John did not gloss over it. In fact, there are five statements in the passage about betrayal. John wanted us to get this. He also emphasized the humble act of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet. As Jesus taught them and prepared them for His departure, why was this illustrative lesson the one He targeted?

We’ll come back to that.

I asked the Holy Spirit what the enemy found in Judas’ heart to latch onto that enabled him to betray Jesus. Something the passage makes clear for us: The evil that found partnership in Judas was not more powerful than Jesus to escape it. Let us be clear: “Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under His power, and that He had come from God and was returning to God…” (John 13:3). We know from the Scripture that He laid down His life; no one took it from Him. Even the act of betrayal, fueled by evil and granted partnership through a willing vessel, even that was allowed by the power of God to accomplish salvation for humanity! In fact, access to Jesus’ life was only permitted when He conceded-  Jesus gave a piece of dipped bread to Judas. “As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered him” (John 13:27). How many other times had Jesus escaped man’s attempt to apprehend Him and kill Him? It was not yet Jesus’ time to surrender His life in all the other instances. This was now the appointed time, and He allowed it to happen.

So what open door did Satan find to use Judas as an instrument of betrayal? Greed. But one of His disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray Him, objected, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.” He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it (John 12:4-6). With greed in his heart, Judas would find himself susceptible to the enemy’s scheme.

Maybe greed is not a weakness of the flesh that you and I wrestle, but what about lust, fear and pride? Do Christians really deal with these sins? Of course we do! But we are not without recourse. The Holy Spirit grants us insight as to why these sins manifest and plague our Christian witness.

The root of all of them is unbelief.

Judas’ unbelief fueled his greed even though he was in constant company with the One who rested in God the Father, in spite of His having no place to rest His head. Jesus and His companions did not own a compound or a shelter, but they were always provided for because God the Father is faithful to take care of His own. This is why Jesus confidently taught that in the kingdom of God there should be no worry concerning our needed provision.

Lust stems from unbelief because there is no trust that God is the author of true and lasting pleasure. A soul unsatisfied because it is unknowingly thirsty for the living water Jesus gives will fall easily to lust again and again.

Fear is rooted in unbelief of God’s protection.

Pride finds its source in unbelief that the God-given identity is the true and lasting basis for significance. Oh, how Jesus modeled this for humanity in surrendering His holy life on behalf of sinful mankind. He did the most humble of all acts, allowing all those inspired by evil to believe that Jesus was dutifully charged. But His confidence in who He was never diminished. Though Jesus suffered at the hands of men, still they could not strip Him of His identity.

“When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am who I claim to be” (John 8:28).

Notice how Jesus taught His disciples and continues to teach us through the Spirit-breathed scripture. “… He got up from the meal, took off His outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around His waist. After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash His disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around Him” (John 13:5).

The scene is dramatic. Jesus is their teacher and their Lord, but He conducted Himself in that instance as a slave. It was repulsive to Peter. He told Jesus that He should never wash his feet. He honored the Lord too much to allow Him to lower himself to that menial, less-than-human task. But this is the exact point Jesus is making. Nothing He does and nothing that happens to Him will ever shift the factuality of who He is! His identity is secure. He remains Lord while washing their feet, and He will remain Lord while hanging on a cross to die.

“I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you” (John 13:15).

One of the biggest pitfalls for all Christians- pride- has been countered by Jesus’ most important illustrative lesson that He chose to teach hours before His departure. Pride will grant the enemy access into our hearts, and from there any partnership with evil will result in the tainting of our Christian witness. But, we have this example from Jesus Christ the Lord, and we have the Holy Spirit’s empowerment, and we have the knowledge afforded us by the written Word of our true identity- no matter the false accusation, no matter the level of betrayal or offense against us, no matter the humble path we are called to walk, our confidence in who we are in Christ never alters. You and I can be mistaken, misunderstood, misjudged, and mishandled, but we will never lose the essence of our identity granted us by the blood of Jesus.

Friend, I pray this revelation of unbelief washes over you anew. It’s the age-old sin of not trusting God to be who He says He is and to do what He says He does. As His child, you are continually learning His heart toward you is to be secure in your identity in Christ. You are increasingly trusting that He has all provision stored for you and will continue to bring it to you in the proper time. You are experiencing His eternal source of true and lasting pleasure that is found only in His presence. You are growing increasingly confident in His promise to protect you and bring you safely into your eternal reward.

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