An Appearance of Godliness: Case Studies in Evil (Part 14)

Galatians 4:8 ESV  Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods.

The devil enslaves. Sin enslaves. To be in the kingdom of darkness is to be a slave to it. Owned by it. Possessed by it (I suppose in this sense every person outside of Christ is “possessed”). The devil considers his slaves to be his property, his servants. He owns them. And ownership is what I want to talk about in this article.

A characteristic of the devil and his servants is that they demand ownership. They consider people to be their property. If you have had experience with a domestic abuser, a sociopath, a narcissist, or other such wicked people (some of whom I will describe for you in a moment), then you know this to be true. YOU are the abuser’s property. He owns you. That is his wicked mindset. That is what he is all about in, for example, divorce proceedings. How dare his property try to be free from him! The wedding vows, to him, are a contract of possession. “I’ve got you now!” All of his promises to love and honor are wicked lies.

These 30 plus years of pastoral ministry have brought many such people across my path and numbers of them have targeted me in my role as pastor. They see the pastor as their property. They own him. He is their servant, their hired man. And as a result of course, they demand that he obey and do their bidding. When he doesn’t, literally all hell breaks loose.

Brady is regarded in his community as a model Christian. Self-employed, he devotes a huge amount of his time and resources to his “ministry” which he established. He is all about “winning souls” for Christ and he tirelessly organizes evangelistic events in the community, networking with churches and parachurch groups. In fact, he has been able to invite some pretty well-known guest speakers to come and be “keynote” figures at his crusades.

When a new pastor came to Brady’s church, it wasn’t long before Brady was flattering and recruiting him. Brady (who refused to be a church member because he had his own “ministry”) not only requested, he expected and demanded that the pastor participate in Brady’s own efforts to “lead people to Christ.”

For some months, Brady continued to be a fine “friend” to the pastor, asking to meet regularly with him for prayer for the community and to share ideas about how Brady’s organization could expand. But eventually, the pastor began to realize that Brady was expecting far too much, and in fact was not so subtlely implying that the pastor should devote even more time to Brady than to the ministry in the church. The pastor was also starting to realize that Brady’s goals seemed to center on….Brady, even though he claimed to be serving Christ.

The breaking point came when the pastor had a talk with Brady and informed him that he needed to devote his time primarily to the church ministry and that he would therefore not be able to accept Brady’s insistent and oft-repeated “invitation” to be a member of Brady’s leadership board.

The change was instantaneous.

Brady’s countenance turned dark. From that point on, Brady had a scowling attitude toward the pastor and eventually he quit attending the church entirely. Even to this day, over 25 years later, if the pastor encounters Brady in, for instance, a grocery store, that scowl is still there. Brady’s organization? Well over the years a few more of the board members saw Brady’s egoism and even saw concerning practices regarding the finances of the organization. They resigned. Brady did his part in overt and covert ways to damage the pastor’s ministry.

But you see the point. Brady, just like his real father, has entitlement to ownership. He sees people like the pastor as his servants that he owns, and he demands compliance. Brady is not born again. Brady does not know the Lord, in spite of the intricate disguise he wears.

And then there is Linda. Yes, the enemy has women servants as well as men. Linda was quick to greet the new pastor upon his arrival in the community. Linda introduced herself as “a member and pianist of your church.” She also announced that she held “her weekly women’s Bible study at her home with her ladies.” Emphasis upon “her.” Linda often boasted of her stubbornness – excusing it as something in her German genes, as she would say.

As time passed, it became evident to the pastor that while Linda was a member of the church, she refused any accountability in respect to “her” ministry. She refused to inform the pastor what study material she was using in the women’s study, and she even refused to provide any attendance statistics. Note: The church was being largely supported by an outside missions organization that paid 90% of the pastor’s salary. The pastor was required to file a monthly report with that organization, which included financial and attendance figures). But Linda’s response was “this is MY ministry. These are MY ladies. I don’t have to give any report to anyone.”  She was in charge in her estimation, and the pastor was to be her servant.

All of this was troubling for a number of reasons. Linda was known to embrace some pretty dicy and off the wall theological doctrines. In addition, 2/3’s of the ladies in her group were also members of the church. Much of what they were being taught by Linda was unbiblical and worked to undermine the efforts of the church’s ministry.

Ultimately, the pastor spoke to Linda about the things she was teaching in her group. And predictably, Linda was anything but humble and teachable. She exploded in fact and at the next congregational meeting led several people in (intentionally making an “entrance”), seated them in one row with her, and at mid-meeting point stood and announced that she and her group could no longer attend the church. “You all will have to get along without me and find another pianist.” And then out she went with her little band.

Linda, much like Brady, saw the church and particularly the pastor as owned property existing for the sole purpose of serving them. Linda and her husband (an unsaved man) would eventually move to a new community. Years later, the pastor learned that, sure enough, Linda had joined a church and once again had “her” bible study in her home.

Linda is unsaved. Linda is not born again. Linda and Brady have an appearance of godliness, but deny its power.

Avoid such people.



4 thoughts on “An Appearance of Godliness: Case Studies in Evil (Part 14)

  1. It is interesting that the very same year, (w/in six months) when I started to really read the Bible on my own, so that it suddenly after a life time of it not really speaking to me as I had wanted it to, but prayed that it would, God Word suddenly made sense to me . Almost overnight, His Word came alive and I could not ever seem to read enough, it never grew tired of it.

    It was then when the most traumatic divorce imaginable attempted to drown me and consume me.

    When I started to get to know God and His Word in a more personal way, He started to work to set me free from the enslavement of a man who wanted to be worshipped as if he were my god.

    I wish I knew that when I tried to separate from him how dangerous it is to try and separate from someone with his kind of mentality of ownership, entitlement, and desire to be worshipped.

    This mentality is what feeds his need to control and enslave, even post divorce. No matter how much I use the “grey rock” method and seek protective orders, he demands constant contact in order to manipulate a distorted accusation against me with capricious rule changes, gas-lighting games, constant threats of reduced parenting time if I don’t do whatever he wants.

    God is still working to release me from the bond of this man’s enslavement: spiritually, physically, emotionally and financially….

    God promises to deliver us from men of violence and bring us to a broad place:

    PSALM 18:

    ….The cords of death encompassed me;

    the torrents of destruction assailed me;

    5 the cords of Sheol entangled me;

    the snares of death confronted me.

    6 In my distress I called upon the LORD;

    to my God I cried for help.

    From his temple he heard my voice,

    and my cry to him reached his ears.

    7 Then the earth reeled and rocked;

    the foundations also of the mountains trembled

    and quaked, because he was angry.

    8 Smoke went up from his nostrils,

    and devouring fire from his mouth;

    glowing coals flamed forth from him.

    9 He bowed the heavens and came down;

    thick darkness was under his feet.

    10 He rode on a cherub and flew;

    he came swiftly on the wings of the wind.

    11 He made darkness his covering, his canopy around him,

    thick clouds dark with water.

    12 Out of the brightness before him

    hailstones and coals of fire broke through his clouds.

    13 The LORD also thundered in the heavens,

    and the Most High uttered his voice,

    hailstones and coals of fire.

    14 And he sent out his farrows and scattered them;

    he flashed forth lightnings and grouted them.

    15 Then the channels of the sea were seen,

    and the foundations of the world were laid bare

    at your rebuke, O LORD,

    at the blast of the breath of your nostrils.

    16 He sent from on high, he took me;

    he drew me out of many waters.

    17 He rescued me from my strong enemy

    and from those who hated me,

    for they were too mighty for me.

    18 They confronted me in the day of my calamity,

    but the LORD was my support.

    19 He brought me out into a broad place;

    he rescued me, because he delighted in me.

    20 The LORD dealt with me according to my righteousness;

    according to the cleanness of my hands he rewarded me.

    21 For I have kept the ways of the LORD,

    and have not wickedly departed from my God.

    22 For tall his rules were before me,

    and his statutes I did not put away from me.

    23 I was blameless before him,

    and I kept myself from my guilt.

    24 So the LORD has rewarded me according to my righteousness,

    according to the cleanness of my hands in his sight.

    ….the LORD my God lightens my darkness….

    He made my feet like the feet of a deer

    and set me secure on the heights.

    34 He trains my hands for war,

    so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze.

    35 You have given me the shield of your salvation,

    and your right hand supported me,

    and your gentleness made me great.

    36 You gave a wide place for my steps under me,

    and my feet did not slip….

    39 For you equipped me with strength for the battle;….

    47 the God who gave me vengeance….

    48 who rescued me from my enemies;

    yes, you exalted me above those who rose against me;

    you delivered me from the man of violence…..

  2. The false appearance of godliness is so deceptive. As a new Christian I was fooled by the church group bible study leaders and music ministers. The men were going to strip clubs and paying for prostitutes. The women bible study leaders were mean bullies that delighted in tormenting others. Horrible people —wolves in sheep’s clothing. Thanks for your ministry that helped me wrap my head around the lies.

  3. Your examples are somewhat, er, interesting, in light of the pattern of spiritual abuse that has been well documented within the church. In the vast majority of spiritual abuse and narcissism in church settings, of which I am aware, it is almost always the pastor and/or elders who have a false, authoritarian sense of ownership of their ‘church’ and its members, rather than vice versa.

    Such men demand complete control over all that is said, done or ‘taught’ as if they alone have access to the Holy Spirit, and their beliefs are presumed inerrant. Or as my former pastor put it, ‘When I speak from the pulpit, I speak for God’.

    Any who dare challenge them – or even disagree with them – are immediately ‘corrected’ or rooted out. No doubt lay abusers exist in the church as well, but they appear to be greatly outnumbered by the spiritually abusive ‘leaders’.

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