An Appearance of Godliness: Case Studies in Evil (Part 3)

2 Timothy 3:1-5 ESV  But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty.  (2)  For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy,  (3)  heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good,  (4)  treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God,  (5)  having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.

Before we move on to some case studies in evil disguised as godliness, there are one or two more points in these verses which we do not want to race by. They are:

  1. The people with these wicked hearts, these lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant….and right on down this devilish list of adjectives, are the ones Paul tells us have an “appearance of godliness.”
  2. The fact that we are instructed to avoid such people plainly implies that we are able to identify them.

This list describes the people that we are going to be talking about in the rest of these posts (eventually to become a book). No, every wicked person does not necessarily have the entire list of wickedness in them (although I suppose if we thought it through that in fact might be true!). But just consider that, for example, one of these children of the devil particularly evidences being abusive and heartless.  Do not miss the point that such a person is quite capable of appearing to be a godly, holy, saintly genuine Christian. 

They are not Godly. No way. But they have an appearance of godliness. The thing is wickedly deceptive. An abusive, heartless person (think about those qualities) IS abusive and heartless. But, they look like a child of God. That word “appearance” is interesting – “morphosis.” I took a botany class in college long years ago called “The Morphology of Vascular Plants.” It was a course in the outward structure and overall appearance of plants that have vessels in them (any of you remember xylem and phloem?)  Anyway, you see it here. Outwardly if you were to study these devils you would see the appearance, the morph, of a Christian.

But inside where the real person exists…abusive and heartless.

Matthew 12:33-35 ESV  “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit.  (34)  You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.  (35)  The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil.

Now think!  Think carefully! If we are going to spot these devil plants among us, then we have to STOP focusing on appearances. If you think that you know someone, but in fact  your judgment of who they are is based only upon externals, then you do not know that person.

No, Jesus tells us that the real test is the fruit. It is the words they speak. It is the acts they perform when, now get this down, WHEN their “morph” is dropped. Often that drop only lasts for a second, but you have seen it and you can see it if you are wise. You know that confusing unpleasant feeling you get when a word or an action comes from a person and it just doesn’t match the image you have of them. The mask slips. They put it on again very quickly. Don’t ignore that fruit.

Now, the second point I stated above is the fact that we are told by the Lord to avoid such people obviously means that we are able to identify them!

How many times have we all been hammered by church leaders or other professing Christians or so-called Christian books we have read, telling us that we are never to make judgments like this? Huh? Hello! Christ’s instruction to us and all of Scripture says quite the opposite. How in the world are we going to avoid wicked people if we can’t identify them?!

This is why this truth is soooo important:

Hebrews 5:14 ESV  But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.

Training in the Word. Practice. Wisdom from the Lord. We have to train and become spiritual discernment musclemen (…women…people…). Ignore the verses in the Bible that you don’t find “pleasant” because they talk about evil and evildoers, and you are going to remain a powers of discernment wimp. You won’t distinguish good from evil and you will keep hanging out with evildoers wearing a mask of godliness. You will be their ally – and their target.

4 thoughts on “An Appearance of Godliness: Case Studies in Evil (Part 3)

  1. The thing is though, the wicked’s constant provoking abuse, projection, and reviling slander cause their victims to be the ones labeled with many if not all of these traits, and then they are the ones who get called out as the wicked ones and shunned.
    Sometimes just to emotionally survive, a victim might display ‘bad fruit’ or no fruit at all because they’ve been so emotionally destroyed they don’t even have the ability to attempt to try any longer, they are in a prison of the abusers making, which I believe is purposefully created to keep them from doing good. It’s all so very twisted and sad.
    I know that my heart, soul, and spirit have been shattered and I’m not the same ‘Christian’ I used to be. I feel useless now in being able to make a difference for Christ, and I think many victims feel the same way. It seems that literally every time I make even a little headway in overcoming the abuse, something happens that slams be back down again…I don’t see a way out, and sometimes feel that maybe God doesn’t want me in his army. I know that sounds like a pity-party, but it’s been so consistent that I don’t really know what else to make of it, but then I think of all the Christians suffering in other countries who truly have to hide their faith or face sever consequences, and feel I should be stronger, but I’m so worn down, not only by the abuse by my reactions to it, and then being labeled and treated as the bad one, just for standing up against all the hypocrisy and harm being done under the guise of godliness.
    Prayers for strength, for all victims of this type of abuse are so desperately needed…it’s such a battle.

    1. I feel the same way. For some of this, our primary abuser was a parent…and professing Christian. The mind control and spiritual abuse are worse than the other forms of abuse he inflicted, because now I am an adult child who will never grow up and never be free until he dies. I simply can’t risk jumping from the frying pan to the fire anymore.

  2. I agree with IrisJane – a lot of the abuse is to purposefully keep from doing good. It is also to vilify the victim for doing normal, healthy things. I have been vilified for volunteering in my daughter’s school, wanting her to continue attending Christian school, among a long list of other things, including choosing to not feed our daughter bananas after she was tested for a food sensitivity to bananas. It is really mind blowing, head spinning and dizzying. And after year of this I’ve concluded it is demonic.

    The biggest battle has been my efforts to separate from my abuser – he has repeatedly tried to vilify and label me for separating from him, limiting contact with him, filing a no trespassing order and not engaging in non emergency email arguments he continuously tries to rope me into and wear me down with. I’ve even been vilified for practicing B.I.F.F. email responses. Vilified means that I have had to pay legal fees and spend valuable time responding to these complaints.

    I think before we can return to feeling “useful” again we have to really be disconnected from the abuser with little to no contact. My fight is no longer about proving I do not have a mental illness (I had to spend tens of thousands of dollars, plus weeks and weeks of time, engaging in forensic mental heath investigation fees to prove this) ensuring our daughter remain in the Christian a school (I lost that) now it is about cutting off connection to I can avoid and rebuild.

    Not in same house. Check. (that was an outrageously expensive and exhausting battle and resulted in a criminal complaint filed against me for false imprisonment – my abuse told church members I hardly knew that I needed a mental health intervention for wanting to leaving him and then I was psychiatrically hospitalized in the absence of a mental illness and threat to harm to myself or others).

    Filing no trespassing order. Check.

    Not engaging in joint meetings whenever the abuser wants. Check.

    Limit email exchanges to little to no emails compared to his hundreds of emails sent to me each year. Almost check.

    I am now officially bankrupt from trying to break free from him.

    But I believe that God loves, provides and cares for the widows and her children. In the midst of all this, I was able to return to school, get a teaching degree, and now teach ELA to high school at a high school related to a top psychiatric hospital in the world. My students have a history of trauma and psychiatric hospitalizations resulting from self harm (which is why people are hospitalized…wanting to leave an abusive marriage is not a reason for psychiatric hospitalizations). While I grieve over crushed dreams, I know God is taking care of me. I get to research and read so many lovely stories and poems to encourage hurting teens — and do not have to worry about meeting common core and state standards. It is not only therapeutic for them, but for me too.

    I have to trust God is also holding my daughter in his hands and he has a plan for her too.

    A lot of times these past few years I can not pray full prayers as I ma still bogged down with legal stuff, so instead I sing the Lords Prayer in a simple tune in the darkness and I write out scripture verses to put on a bulletin board in the bathroom and kitchen. I am so thankful to God for leading me to Jeff Crippen’s ministry and have read all of his books.

    There is a verses in Romans 8:26, “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.”

    Earlier this week, I read a Pablo Neruda poem to my students called, Ode to Thanks. There is a great line from the poem that reads, “Thanks….A bit of brightness
    strikes into the forest,
    and we can sing again beneath the leaves.”

    1. Yes LG, being vilified for doing normal things is something I’ve lived with almost daily…and mocked, reviled, and teased as well. From making toast to working hard and trying to make intelligent decisions, and everything in between, they try to tear us down and put negative attention on things that are mostly just the very basics of living a normal existence, yet they want positive attention and a parade thrown for them if they do a very basic normal thing such as wash the dishes…the constant twilight zone attention and drama given to these normal everyday actions is wearying. I often think of the saying ‘They make much of nothing’, which is so true.

      Praying for God’s continued blessings on your situation…so very sorry for all that you’ve been through and still have to go through, but what a gift your job is, a true silver lining amidst all the pain and misery. May you and your daughter stay protected and strengthened by God’s grace and truth.

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