An Appearance of Godliness: Case Studies in Evil (Part 11)

Revelation 2:12-13 ESV  “And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write: ‘The words of him who has the sharp two-edged sword.  (13)  “‘I know where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is. Yet you hold fast my name, and you did not deny my faith even in the days of Antipas my faithful witness, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells.

A community of evil. Have you ever thought about this subject? An entire community having an appearance of godliness, yet denying its power.

I live in just such a place.

In this small town, there are many, many churches. And while there are lots of people who do not belong to them, there is nevertheless a facade of Christianity. There is even an unstated assumption that if you are going to go anywhere in your career, then you need to be in the happening scene of one or two particular churches.  There is a ministerial association where the pastor movers and shakers gather. How proud they are of their religious ecumenism where doctrine is not allowed to divide!

Over the years, something remarkable has happened here. There has been, from day one, a strong and harsh hatred for Christ in this “christian” crowd. You see it when you open up the Scriptures and begin to teach accurately what God’s Word says. And particularly when you imply that the Lord would have some changes made because the religious “business as usual” here is not of Him.

Now, that is not the really remarkable thing I want to point out. It’s just the first part. While the gospel and God’s Word and Christ are hated and rejected here by the community, and especially the religious community, so that as time progressed fewer and fewer people were left in our pews, at the very same time a hungry hearing of that same Word began to evidence itself in many parts of the world!  I was going to say “many parts of the nation” but in fact it has been growing in places around the world!

Think about this. Why is it that the very same truths, the very same Scripture, the very same Lord, has met with longstanding opposition here in this local community – a community with an appearance of godliness – and yet has grown and continues to grow in the midwest, in the south, in Canada, in Mexico, in Scotland, in England, and more? Same message. Radically different response. Why?

The reason is the same as what we see in Scripture. Always, always, always there are a few who believe. Not massive crowds, but a few. Furthermore, and to the point of this article, there are communities, towns, cities and regions that are hardened against Christ. Places where, well – places like this:

Matthew 10:11-15 ESV  And whatever town or village you enter, find out who is worthy in it and stay there until you depart.  (12)  As you enter the house, greet it.  (13)  And if the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it, but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you.  (14)  And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town.  (15)  Truly, I say to you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town.

At what has been the clear working and leading of the Lord (no voices from heaven, no voices in dreams, just His doing) I came to the realization some time ago that my energies were not to be expended any longer preaching to this community. Instead, I am to go where there are people who are hungry for and who receive Christ and His truth. And that is exactly what we are doing through our blogs, through social media videos of sermons and Bible studies, and through email and other communications with people who respond to Christ and are invigorated and validated by His truth.

I am convinced, and I think there is scriptural justification for this conclusion, that there are indeed places and people who have heard the gospel, who have rejected the gospel, and who we are to be done with.

And that is still another reason why I will not waste my time in any “ministry” that supposedly works to help, change, teach, etc – abusers. If there ever was a kind of person who we are to shake the dust off our feet and depart from, surely these kind fit that bill.


7 thoughts on “An Appearance of Godliness: Case Studies in Evil (Part 11)

  1. My community is just the same. At least the people with church affiliations, the atheists and agnostics are quite nice people.

  2. You do wonderful, wonderful work, Pastor Jeff. I am very grateful and I am sure we all are. What you write here really rings true to me.

    By the way, you told me once that abusers don’t change. I was hoping my husband would at the time, because he had said he wanted to and would work at it. But he hasn’t, after 7 years – it was just empty words. So I have given up and am looking to leave. You were right in his case!

  3. The ‘social clubs’ claiming to be churches are abuser magnets…and mean girl/bully boys incubators. Queenbees and Kingpin Dads (and grandparents) often make them a multi-generational abuser structure and gives them an unlimited supply of targets (new believers and their families) to devour.

  4. I think about this idea a lot: the spirit of a place, a community… a city… a nation…. it parallels the exact same tactics used by the abuser: strong sense of entitlement to double standards; accusing and vilifying in order to elevate self and to the point of contradiction; chronic deceit; hyper-focus on the appearance of godliness/righteousness, aggressive virtue signaling; seeking to silence your voice and remove your sense of agency….

    I live in such a place that is controlled by a spirit of lies. At first I thought it was just that as I have gotten older I am realizing that a lot grown ups lie – a lot of them, not just the abuser, although his are exceptionally pathological. But now I think some places: towns, cities, etc actually are more prone to such wickedness than others. Many people are so greedy for gain, they do not have the time or inclination to be kind or reach out to their neighbor in need, yet are first to post social justice signs on their front lawn (and there are a lot of such signs in my town). I notice our schools teach this to our children too: values like being “grade grubby” “ambitious” “competitive” and “argue and debate” — all the same things my abuse values.

    I think often of 1 Thes 4:11: “aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands.” The abuser, however, seeks to deliberately interrupt and sabotage this peace and even seems to be angered by those who strive to live like this….such as people who want to peaceably homeschool or have school choice…. a luxury and dream I had to give up with the divorce.

    In our community church “corporate prayer” this past week I found it unsettling that the focus was on praying for “mercy” from God’s judgment on our nation rather than praying for repentance in response to God’s judgement. I am too leery of peaking up and contributing to corporate prayer and not sure if the whole idea is even a good thing in the first place – since I am not even sure all those who are praying corporately are even genuine. I am torn about my church involvement. On the one hand, I always admired Elizabeth Elliot (a missionary, published author of many books and theology professor at Gordon-Conwell) and who remained committed to the same church despite radical shifts in the theology and feeling rejected and persecuted within her church and a lone voice of opposition…. On the other hand, I long to dwell in the house of the LORD and still feel His spirit and presence there despite all the fallenness and more apparent appearances.

    I am so incredibly thankful for Pastor Crippen’s online ministry. It is such nourishment for my spiritual walk. I am so thankful we delving deep into the Old Testament judges and kings, the book of Jeremiah (some of my favorite verses in the Bible come from Jeremiah) and the Gospel of John to really learn deeply what it means to be truly born again. I have grown up in the church and have read so many “Christian” books, but after my divorce I stopped wanting to read “Christian” books and for the first time wanted to seek out the scriptures first hand, not second hand.

    I remember praying for God to bring His word alive to me, because until then my eyes would just glaze over when I read the Bible, and so I relied on second hand sources and interpretations (and children’s preschool devotionals that I read to my daughter) to feed me. But it was not enough.

    Suddenly right around the exact time of the divorce – God’s word came alive to me for the first time in my life. The timing was amazing and weird on many different levels. Nevertheless, suddenly for the first time in my life I could read His word insatiably and never grow weary and His word meant something to me. God’s word made sense and had meaning for me for the first time in my life.

    I remember Psalm 18 being the first Words in the Bible to really speak to me and then all the Psalms came alive.

    And then all different the battle stories in the Old Testament made sense: escaping Pharaoh, then Joshua (and Celeb), Gideon (God provided signs beyond the dumb signs Gideon demanded), and 2 Chronicles 20:21, “After consulting the people, the king appointed singers to walk ahead of the army, singing to the LORD and praising him for his holy splendor. This is what they sang: “Give thanks to the LORD; his faithful love endures forever!” At the very moment they began to sing and give praise, the LORD caused the [enemies] to to destroy one another.” I learned singing worship songs drives the enemy away. And now I am understanding the all the books by John for the first time – the books I always understood the least and had been least interested in until recently.

    Like unwrapping a beautiful and precious gift….

    I am so thankful that Pastor Crippen is delving so deep into the word and that he is not afraid.

    I fear my current church pastor, a very dear and sweet new and youngish pastor, might be bullied and bamboozled by the “veterans” of the church. I would like to give my pastor Pastor Crippen’s books, but am not sure it is appropriate yet, as I am pretty sure my new pastor is already getting plenty of “books you should read” from all the veteran church board members.

    Although, I am disappointed that there is not a community of believers like Pastor Crippen’s ministry here where I live, and my church here has disappointed me in many ways, I am at so thankful for what Pastor Crippen has been providing. I think I would have stopped going to church all together if it were not for Pastor Crippen’s ministry to inspire me to keep going (via zoom these days) albeit now with a more discerning spirit. Thank you Pastor Crippen!!

    (sorry my posts end up being so long….)

    1. You’re very welcome lg! Thank you for these encouraging words. And also for the wise insights. Once you experience evil personally, the Bible does indeed come to life. “So that’s it! I know exactly what that verse means!” That is what happens.

      First John is about as clear as any part of scripture could be. And yet the large majority of professing Christians are blind to it. Tell them what it says and they don’t like it and they blow you off.

      Most Christians – aren’t. They are not born again

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