Why Evil-doers are Enabled and Welcomed in Local Churches

It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife. And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you. (1 Cor 5:1-2)

A very, very common “slogan” found in the “happening” local churches of our day is this: “Imperfect people serving a Perfect God.”  Pretty catchy, right? Feel it tug at your heart and warm your inner fuzzies? Well, those inner fuzzies are more accurately called the flesh. This motto is a perfect example of a biblically imperfect heresy. What? Let me show you why.

We know, if we carefully and regularly read God’s Word, that a typical quality found in the preaching of false teachers (the creeps who creep in among us according to Jude) is sensuality. Read 2 Peter or Jude and you will see it. The way they gather a large following (“many” will fall in with them says Peter) is to do what Paul calls “tickling itching ears.” That is to say, they preach a message which is all cloaked outwardly in “Bible,” but at its core it is worldly wisdom that is totally opposed to Christ’s truth. It is darkness. A shadow casting itself over the blinded eyes of the foolish who crave to hear a message that tingles their flesh. “Ohhhh, yeah, right there, that’s the spot. Feels so goooood.” We are imperfect people serving a perfect God.

The result? Not only are ears tickled and crowds swelled, but most every sort of evil is welcomed to the pews. If you don’t believe that, just talk to Christians who have been the targets of these evil ones. Domestic abusers, sexual abusers, pedophiles, revilers. Talk to the victims about how they were treated when they went to the church leaders for help and blew the whistle on their wicked oppressor. What happened? Almost every single time, what happened? The evil one was protected, excused, “loved and forgiven.” The victim? Chastised and even expelled from the church. Why?

You see the very same thing in the church at Corinth and Paul is taking them on for it in unmistakable terms. “What? Are you kidding me!!?? You have a man sitting in your midst showing off his disgusting and vile sin, defying God, and are you grieved about it? No! You are ARROGANT.”

What did Paul mean?

Here were these Corinthians who claimed to belong to Christ. But they had bought into a message pretty much like our contemporary jingle: We are imperfect people serving a perfect God. That is to say, and here is the heart of the heresy – the grace of God is magnified by our sin. Therefore as we continue to sin, God continues to forgive us and so WE embrace the very same “grace” toward one another. We forgive. No matter what. We are a sanctuary of non-judgmental “love.”  And rooted in all of this jibberish is arrogance. Pride. Go online and check it out for yourself. You will see it on these “church’s” web pages. In their name. In their slogans and preaching. The result of it all is that evil is not only permitted in the lives of the people, it is boasted about in the lingo of twisted “grace.” The only real sin in such places is calling sin, “sin.”

Now, you may be asking yourself “but isn’t it true that Christians in this present life are imperfect? So why is it that the slogan is a heresy? Certainly God is perfect, right? Doesn’t that add up then to the phrase – imperfect people serving an imperfect God?

No.

Do you know what happens when imperfect people stand before the perfectly holy God? They don’t. Dead in their sins they are cast out of His presence forever. God is holy, holy, holy and His eyes are too pure to even look on sin. Only the perfectly holy can be in His presence. The gospel is good news for us because – now hear this – Christians are indeed perfectly holy  people!  Because of Jesus Christ we are perfectly righteous, without guilt, seated in the heavenly places with Him right now! We were sinners. Now we are justified by faith alone in Christ alone. That is why the Bible calls us “saints.” Holy ones. The whole thrust of the New Testament is that we must be who we are.

As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:14-16)

So the slogan “sinners serving a sinless God” would actually be more in step with what the false teachers really are preaching, but to put it that way is too revealing. Why? Because the Bible does not call Christ’s people “sinners.” So they disguise what they really mean in this flowery language of “imperfection.” Sin is my fault. Imperfection is not. Don’t blame me. It’s how God made me.

And then this brings us down to the real essence of the evil in this ear-tickling heresy. Peter tells us in 2 Peter 2 –

But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. (2 Peter 2:1)

That is to say, “imperfect people serving a perfect God” is a heresy that denies Jesus Christ. It denies His person and His work. It tramples under foot His blood shed for us at the cross. It says, you see, that His sacrifice for sin was unnecessary. After all, if imperfect people can meet the perfect God and thrive, then what is all the fuss? “The cross must have been misinterpreted by “stiff-collared” judgmental types all these centuries,” say the mega-church wannabes.

The glory and power of the cross, of the Son of God given for our sins, is that in him we become perfectly righteous, able to stand on that Day before the blazing glory of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, see Christ as He is in His ascended glory, and live.

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-11)

So the next time you hear “imperfect people serving a perfect God,” don’t be duped by its appeal. See it for what it is – another gospel, another spirit, another Jesus, pronounced anathema by the Lord.

 

 

You Will be Cast Out – The Counterfeit Church Expels Christ’s True People

I have said all these things to you to keep you from falling away. They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God. And they will do these things because they have not known the Father, nor me. (John 16:1-3)

If you are a Christian and if you have either been the victim of an evil one parading behind a false facade of “saintliness,” then you most likely have felt the very common sting of being viewed with contempt or even driven out of your “church” for daring to expose the domestic or sexual or spiritual (sometimes all 3 wrapped up on one) abuser. Well, let me encourage you by showing you evidence that the visible church is far more apostate and corrupt than most professing Christians even want to know. In other words, let me show you that it was not Christ’s true people who cast you out, but counterfeits – wolves in wool.

The Lord Jesus spoke very plainly. His words, as quoted above from John 16, tell us that the true remnant of God can expect, increasingly as the Day of the Lord approaches, to be “put out.” Speaking to Jews, He specified “put out of the synagogue.” In other words, the clergy, the visible church that claims to be the church of God, cannot and will not tolerate a genuine Christian in its midst. And, as Jesus goes on to say, when they ex-communicate Christ’s people, they will boast that they are doing it all in the name of the Lord!

Now, what is really going on? That is to say, so many of you who have been shunned or ex-communicated or accused or shamed by your local church for daring to speak out about the evil that is going on behind the scenes, were treated this way because those pastors, those elders, those church members, do not know Christ. Oh, I know that can be hard to believe. They put on such a show. Perhaps you were in such a “church” for many years and were quite active in serving there. Surely, you thought, these people are Christians. And yet, Jesus tells us that we can know that when the righteous are cast out of such places that place is in fact a den of robbers, not His Body. Read His words above again. That is exactly what He said.

God’s Word repeatedly, and I mean VERY repeatedly, records this very thing – the casting out of the righteous from among those who claim THEY are the church of Christ, but are not –

Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” (John 9:35)

(His parents said these things because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed that if anyone should confess Jesus to be Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue.) (John 9:22)

Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; (John 12:42)

See it? Why should we be so surprised when it happens? Let’s not be confused by this fog the enemy likes to hide behind. These words of the Lord in Scripture blow that fog away and enable us to see what is truly going on. YOU were put out of your church when you reported a wicked, counterfeit “christian” abuser because you are light and they are darkness.

This is still another Scripture on this matter. I really love this one:

Hear the word of the LORD, you who tremble at his word: “Your brothers who hate you and cast you out for my name’s sake have said, ‘Let the LORD be glorified, that we may see your joy’; but it is they who shall be put to shame. (Isaiah 66:5)

Your brothers. Of course in the Old Covenant that meant fellow Israelites. But we can surely apply it to our situation in the New Covenant where we so often (and nowadays typically) are surrounded by “brothers and sisters” who aren’t. So, what do these fine “christian brethren” do? Same thing as Isaiah said – they hate every real Christian and cast Christ’s people out, claiming to do so for the Lord’s name’s sake!  That is exactly what Jesus said in John 16. They cast out Christ’s people and then boast that they have brought glory to the Lord. But…

it is they who shall be put to shame.

Why is it that most all of the hundreds and thousands of domestic and sexual abuse survivors, whose abuser targeted them in a local church, are no longer in such a place? Why do the majority not attend a church like they used to? Because, whether formally or informally, they have been cast out by the wicked counterfeits who do not know the Lord. And they are finding the real Body of Christ in some pretty unconventional places. It has always been that way you know. Catacombs. Caves.

Therefore, like the blind man healed by Jesus in John 9, when we are put outside the temple, we will find the true temple – Jesus. And we are seeing this very thing play itself out more and more in our day. We really can rejoice when this happens to us. It’s not fun, but it really clears things up.

 

Evil Reigns in “Churches” When the Spirit Departs

Revelation 2:7a He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

Christ’s letters to the seven churches in Asia are recorded for us in the second and third chapters of Revelation. In each one of them, the Lord signs off with this formula. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

It is increasingly evident today that the Holy Spirit is not present (perhaps never was?) in many, many local churches, pastors, and members. How do we know this is the case? Because they will not (can not) hear what the Spirit is saying to them.  That is to say, they are deaf to the Word of God. Show them Scripture, plain and simple truths right in front of their eyes, and they cannot see or hear. They can not because they will not. He who has ears…let him hear.

The real Christian has “ears.” The Spirit indwells the believer and illuminates his mind’s eyes to see and warms his heart to love Christ’s truth. But not all who claim to know Christ really do and therefore they are deaf and blind. It is a willful blindness of course. They choose to reject His Word and therefore they cannot be given sight.

That all these things are true become plain not only from the Scriptures but also to anyone who shows God’s Word to “Christian” people. In my case, not only as a pastor but as one who ministers in exposing domestic abusers hiding in the church, I have seen this over and over again. The Lord repeatedly, literally from Genesis to Revelation, instructs His people to protect the oppressed from the wicked. The widow, the orphan, the stranger in the land.

Exodus 22:21-24 “You shall not wrong a sojourner or oppress him, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt. (22) You shall not mistreat any widow or fatherless child. (23) If you do mistreat them, and they cry out to me, I will surely hear their cry, (24) and my wrath will burn, and I will kill you with the sword, and your wives shall become widows and your children fatherless.

James gives us the same thing in New Testament terms:

James 1:27 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

Don’t miss how huge this is. Hundreds of verses in the Bible repeat this very command and warning. Hundreds. This is why I continue to tell people (most won’t listen) that the subject of domestic abuse, particularly in the church, is one of the acid tests of whether a church or pastor or member even belongs to Christ or not. Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom, not oppression. There are ears to hear, not deafness. There are eyes to see, not blindness to the plight of victims of evil.

And yet the vast majority of professing Christian churches today do not have ears to hear these things. They do not have hearts softened by the Lord to love His Word and His people. Instead, they enable the wicked and ally with them just like the counterfeit church of Martin Luther’s day. God says that such religion is defiled. Filthy. Disgusting. He says that His curse, not His blessing, rests upon such places and people.

Do you doubt that things are as grim as I say? Well, here is a real-life example of what is pandemic in the churches today. Listen to this Christian abuse survivor tell it firsthand:

All that you say about the vast majority of churches not hearing truth is so true. I’m about to be basically excommunicated from my church while for more than a year they preach sermon after sermon about how “we can never know if someone is a Christian or not based on their lives” — a very encouraging message for my abusive husband of course.

See it? Everyone is a Christian, no matter how evil their deeds. We must never judge. We must assume. And yet anyone who knows anything at all about God’s Word in truth knows full well that the Bible reiterates over and over and over that it is by a person’s fruit that we can know what the are. James says, “look at their works.” The Old Testament prophets said “you claim to be My people, you come to My sanctuary with your sacrifices, and yet your hands are covered with blood and injustice, adulteries and robberies. Close the doors of My house!” Yet today we have these pastors in pulpits, claiming to speak from the Lord, who tell us that no matter how a person is living, if he says he believes in Jesus, he is a Christian and we are bound to treat him as a real Christian.

Well, alright then, Mr. false preacher. Let me point something out to you. You say that the wicked “Christian” is on his way to heaven and that we must love and embrace him. Let’s say he is a Christian (which he is not). The Bible says that it is the one who claims to be our brother who is to be put out of the church and avoided like the plague he is. Here it is right smack in front of your eyes:

1 Corinthians 5:11 But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one.

2 Corinthians 6:16-18 What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. (17) Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, (18) and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.”

But put these commands of Christ in front of so many “Christians” today and you will be told “I don’t agree with your interpretation of that verse. Besides, God does not want us to go on some ‘sin hunt.’ Everyone is welcome in our church.”

Everyone may be welcome in such “churches,” but they are not welcome in Christ’s church. Coming back again to those letters in Revelation 2-3, just take note of how many of them include instructions to expel the wicked from among the congregation and in fact the Lord “has it against” the churches who have not put such evil out.

Where the Spirit has departed, evil sweeps in and reigns. It is my conclusion that in our day many (and actually I believe, “most”) local churches are not the temple of the Lord at all, but mere facades with nothing behind them like those fake Hollywood western town movie sets.

Depart from such places. Find Christ’s real remnant.

Matthew 15:14 Let them alone; they are blind guides. And if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.”

Clear Signs that Pharisees are Controlling Many (most?) Churches

The more I read about the Pharisees in Scripture, the more certain I am that many, many local churches, seminaries, and other “christian” entities are controlled by them today. In fact I conclude that the Pharisees (along with their libertine anti-types) have been controlling the evangelical church for quite some time. Just read the following Scriptures. I noted (bracketed) what specific evil quality each Scripture identifies:

Matthew 16:12 Then they understood that he did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees. [They do not teach the true gospel and doctrine of Christ that sets people free. Their teaching enslaves]

Matthew 23:23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. [When a victim of injustice and oppression comes before them, they do not deal out mercy and kindness. Their emphasis is on the letter of their law]

Mark 7:5 And the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” [They teach traditions made by man, claiming it has the authority of God’s Word]

Luke 11:43 Woe to you Pharisees! For you love the best seat in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces. [They crave praise and glory and worship for themselves]

Luke 16:14 The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all these things, and they ridiculed him. [Like Balaam, they are motivated by greed. The are not teachable and they ridicule the true Word of God]

Matthew 12:14 But the Pharisees went out and conspired against him, how to destroy him. [They actually hate Christ and His servants. His Word is light that exposes their evil, so they desire to destroy a true Christian]

Matthew 15:14 Let them alone; they are blind guides. And if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.” [Once again, they teach darkness, they do not desire to see light, they are not teachable]

Luke 11:46 And he said, “Woe to you lawyers also! For you load people with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers.  [They seize unlawful authority over God’s people that the Lord has not given them, even when they disagree among themselves about the point they are enforcing]

Alright then, there is not much more that needs to be said by way of application, is there? These descriptors of Pharisees match the so-called “christianity” being taught in so many churches, and they match the habits and characteristics we see in so many of the leaders of those churches.

Let me give you an example. For years now through the A Cry for Justice ministry, pastors and seminary professors and other “notable” leaders in the visible church have been called to repent of the injustices dealt to victims of domestic violence abusers in the church. And what is the most common response received? Hard heartedness. Arrogance. Refusal to learn. Even hatred for Christ’s truth put before them. And then they have continued right on dealing out their oppression to victims and enablements to the wicked.

If that does not describe a Pharisee, I do not know what does.

Another example is how so many churches and church leaders seize for themselves unlawful authority over Christ’s people. You need not look very hard to find examples. Who, for instance, ever gave churches the authority to say yea or nay to a divorce? Certainly churches are to exercise Christ’s authority over unrepentant, ongoing, flagrant sin in the church, but where did this notion come from that the Christian must seek permission from their church to divorce a wicked, abusing spouse? Yet that is common practice today,

And one more example. Pharisees never agree among themselves. They set up their own peculiar systems of nuanced legal interpretations, like the rabbinic schools in Jesus’ day. Once more, you don’t have to think very hard to see that this is the exact situation we are in today in the visible church. How many positions, for instance, are we ordered to follow in regard to marriage, divorce, and remarriage? This confusion is another typical trait of the Pharisees, yet they insist that people must obey their particular take on Scripture.

If this be the case, if in fact as I am suggesting you that many if not most local churches and Christian entities are controlled by Pharisees, then the fact is that the mass of professing Christians today are enslaved to a false gospel, led by false shepherds, reading false books, and worshiping a false God. Yes, the situation is indeed that serious. Just as serious as it was in the dark days before the Reformation.

Ezekiel 34:1-4 The word of the LORD came to me: (2) “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy, and say to them, even to the shepherds, Thus says the Lord GOD: Ah, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep? (3) You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fat ones, but you do not feed the sheep. (4) The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the injured you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them.

An Absolutely Accurate Description of the State of today’s Church

Our friend Dale Ingraham gave the following assessment of the state of the visible church today. He is saying exactly what I have been preaching increasingly this last year.

I believe the church today is much like Israel in Jesus’ day. The Pharisees, Sadducees, and Scribes were the religious leaders. They were the educated elites and yet they didn’t know God. They were selfish, greedy and corrupt. There were only two Pharisees at the time, that we know of, who followed Jesus. [Today] Sex offenders are allowed to freely operate within the confines of most churches and few are trying to hold them accountable. Until the people in the pews throw out the wolves in sheep’s clothing, nothing will change before Christ’s return.

And I would add to that “domestic abuse offenders” as well. Thanks Dale.

The Reprobate Wicked Always Cast Blame, Never Acknowledge Their Guilt

The following verses from Malachi perfectly illustrate the mentality of the wicked who have crept into the visible church. They are never to blame. Someone else is always guilty, not them. In this case, they are blaming God Himself. Read the verses and then we will think further about how this denial of culpability is prevalent in professing Christian churches today:

“I have loved you,” says the LORD. But you say, “How have you loved us?” “Is not Esau Jacob’s brother?” declares the LORD. “Yet I have loved Jacob but Esau I have hated. I have laid waste his hill country and left his heritage to jackals of the desert.” (Malachi 1:2-3)

“A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If then I am a father, where is my honor? And if I am a master, where is my fear? says the LORD of hosts to you, O priests, who despise my name. But you say, ‘How have we despised your name?’ By offering polluted food upon my altar. But you say, ‘How have we polluted you?’ By saying that the LORD’s table may be despised. When you offer blind animals in sacrifice, is that not evil? And when you offer those that are lame or sick, is that not evil? Present that to your governor; will he accept you or show you favor? says the LORD of hosts. And now entreat the favor of God, that he may be gracious to us. With such a gift from your hand, will he show favor to any of you? says the LORD of hosts. (Malachi 1:6-9)

And this second thing you do. You cover the LORD’s altar with tears, with weeping and groaning because he no longer regards the offering or accepts it with favor from your hand. But you say, “Why does he not?” Because the LORD was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. (Malachi 2:13-14)

“Look at the mess we are in. Crops are failing. Rains aren’t coming. Enemies rising against us. Why? Where is God? He is supposed to be blessing us. This is all His fault.”

And they have the audacity to even say this to God’s face. Directly accusing Him.

Weep. Groan. Pity party.

The truth of the matter was that God was being absolutely true to His covenant Word. These people whom He had set His love upon now despised Him. So much so that these “offerings” they boasted about were second and third rate. Defective stock that no one else wanted. “Let’s donate it to the church then.” “Ok, Lord, now you have to bless us.”

If that were not enough, they regularly and even typically broke their marriage covenant. Adulterers. Revilers against the wife of their youth. Oh, not in “church” of course, but in everyday life. In secret. But God saw it all.

In spite of their obvious guilt, they refused to admit it. They blamed God. The problem was with God. God was the one. Point finger. Accuse. That is what revilers do, you know. They vilify others. They even make God the villain ultimately. Poor them.

I have met many such people hiding in the ranks of the visible church. Many. Nothing is ever their fault. Oh, they might own up to some small thing just to make it look like they are repentant, but keep pressing them and you will see that they remain blame-casters. Make no mistake now. We are not talking about people who are the typical sinner, the unsaved who in their sin put off confessing their lost condition and their need of Christ. No. We are speaking here of people like these “covenant” people of God in Malachi’s day who openly boast about being “the chosen.” People who claim to be Christians and who even put themselves off as eminently holy saints. All the while however, they walk in the paths of evil. Abusers, revilers, swindlers, liars. All dressed in deceptive garments of wool.

It is long, long past time for us in the church to cease being deceived by these deceivers. When victims of their evil come forward and seek our aid, we must not be taken in by the often smooth excuses of the wicked. And we must expect something else when we stand against them, calling them out for their lying perversions of the truth. We must expect them to start blaming us. You will find yourself suddenly painted as the guilty one. It’s all your fault now. No matter how much factual evidence you put before him. No matter. It’s not his fault.

Remove that wicked one from among you. Stop trying to “redeem” him. Cease thinking that you can help “fix” him. That is not how the Lord instructs us to deal with such a person and to set out on some course of “counseling and therapy” with such a one is to flagrantly refuse to obey the Lord:

And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you. (1 Corinthians 5:2)

 

How to Watch for the Rise of Evil in Your Church

The following verses from Paul’s letter to the Galatians outline a flow of events that has continued to replay itself in every era of church history, and it continues to thrive today. This sequence inevitably introduces evil (through evil persons) into the visible church and most professing Christians are (inexcusably) oblivious to it. Read the following scriptures and then I will explain:

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—(Galatians 1:6)

For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. (Galatians 1:10)

Yet because of false brothers secretly brought in—who slipped in to spy out our freedom that we have in Christ Jesus, so that they might bring us into slavery—to them we did not yield in submission even for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you. And from those who seemed to be influential (what they were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality)—those, I say, who seemed influential added nothing to me. (Galatians 2:4-6)

Have I then become your enemy by telling you the truth? They make much of you, but for no good purpose. They want to shut you out, that you may make much of them. (Galatians 4:16-17)

I am finished with involvement in church denominational organizations. I have given it a go in three different, supposedly genuine, “Christian” fellowships of local churches and each time ended with disappointment, betrayal, and hopefully, increased wisdom. In essence, those groups were not what they appeared to be nor what they claimed to be. What was happening in the churches of Galatia had happened among them.

First, Paul confronts the Galatians with their desertion of the gospel. He had taught them well. They had received the Spirit and that not by any works on their part but by faith alone in Christ alone. Yet here they were, allured to another Jesus, another spirit, another gospel. Why? How?

False brothers had crept in among them with a false gospel and an evil motive. They were full of flattering words but their goal was to be “made much of.” All of their flattery was wicked, aimed at bringing them into power and control among those churches, creating an environment in which they would be praised and hold the reins.

Of course that all necessarily requires a false gospel because the real gospel, Jesus, is obnoxious to the masses. If you want a big following then you are going to have to create a message that fleshly, worldly “christians” want. Out goes grace alone and in comes man’s own self-doings to earn merit with God.

Now, here is my point, I have found that wicked people, like these false teachers at Galatia, thrive and multiply in “structure.” The bigger and more elaborate the structure, the faster they multiply. What do I mean? Let me explain by example.

Initially, when you examine some structured Christian organization such as, say, a denomination, everything looks good. Their doctrinal statement is sound. The leaders appear godly. Unity in Christ, it seems, is the spirit of the thing with everything supposedly being done for the glory of God.

It isn’t.

Naively (and we are without excuse for this), Christians permit “certain persons” to advance up the structure of the thing. He is pastor Jack, let’s say. What a godly guy! What a servant of the Lord! That guy is on several committees. He is willing to do most anything to help. Another leader in the group announces at an annual meeting, “If you all want to know how to ‘do’ worship, just visit Pastor Jack’s church. They ‘do’ worship with excellence there.” Yep, I am witness to that very thing being said. Commonly.

But Pastor Jack and his kind are evil. They do not really know the Lord. Their goal is to exalt themselves, to be praised, and to bring YOU into bondage -into bondage to them! And if you doubt my warning, I suggest that you just try to correct them or disagree with them and see what happens.

As it was in Galatia, so it is today. “Those who seemed to be influential.” Influential. There is an interesting word. People “of influence,” which is really to say, “people with power.” Pretty clear? Then why is it that in spite of these plain warnings in God’s Word given to us, most every church and certainly most every multi-church organization is characterized by “people of influence?” Power-brokers? The moment you see these kind rising into view, you can be certain that sin is operative and evil has already crept in.

I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” (1 Corinthians 1:10-12)

Stop it! Stop permitting this. Stop allowing yourself to be mesmerized. Quit sitting back and “letting them do it.” In my case, a personal application of these truths has meant that I will never again be a member of a church denomination, nor will I crave to pastor a “large” church. I will not help establish a “structure” which evil people can use as their own personal tower of Babel to ascend into the heavens. I find that keeping wickedness out of our single, local church is enough to keep us all busy.

For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. (1 Corinthians 1:26-29)

Fail in these things and you will, be assured of it, end up rejecting the Apostle Paul and embracing the agents of the enemy. Fail in these things and you will find yourself retracing the same old steps to Rome.

 

Why Does the Lord Describe the Motives and Methods of the Wicked for Us?

We have been learning about this category of person called the reprobate. The kind of false teacher described by Peter (2 Peter 2-3), Jude, Hebrews 6, and many other Scriptures. Peter says of such people:

These are waterless springs and mists driven by a storm. For them the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved. (2 Peter 2:17)

For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them. (2 Peter 2:20-21)

These are not just any sinner, as we have been careful to point out in previous posts. Oh no. These are knowing, willful, evil people parading as Christians, motivated by greed, set out to mislead many and take them to hell along with them. Utter darkness has been reserved for them. Their place in hell is eternally secured. And they brought it all on themselves:

But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. (2 Peter 2:1)

Anyone who refuses to acknowledge this category of person thereby refuses to believe God’s Word.

Now, I can hear another kind of objector. “Ok, so the Bible does say that there are people who are reprobate. But there is no way WE can know who they are. That is God’s business. We must never judge or even assume that someone is one of them. We must always pray for everyone and work our best to lead them to repentance and faith in Christ.”

My response? If we cannot discern who these false teachers are, then why in the world does Scripture warn us about them, describe them for us, tell us their very motives, and then call on us to put them out of the church?  Pretty good question, eh? Let’s just review what Peter tells us about them:

  • They operate secretly/covertly
  • They actively “teach”
  • Their message is heresy, and it is destructive
  • They deny Christ, particularly making the cross unnecessary
  • Their false gospel is sensual. It appeals to the flesh
  • They are motivated by greed and a lust for self-glory
  • They despise authority
  • They have no shame – they revel even in the daytime
  • They particularly target “unsteady souls” (Oh, hello there new young person. Come to my house and I will disciple you).
  • They are very, very deceptive and able to mimic a sheep quite well

Want me to go on? I could by simply looking at other similar Scriptures like Jude. But just look at this list and ask yourself once more – If Peter did not expect us to be able to identify these evil ones as they creep in among us, if in fact identifying them is something ONLY the Lord can do, then WHY did Peter even bother telling us all this? Understand?

The reason God’s Word shines its light on the darkness of these deceivers is because by applying the truths it tells us about these wolves, we can see them for what and who they are, avoid being deceived by them, and put them out from among us.

And yet, what is the prevalent mentality and teaching in the visible church today in this regard? Don’t judge anyone. Only God knows. God’s mercy is infinite. God loves everyone. And on and on and on the formula goes. It is a teaching from the enemy. It is darkness.

Shine the Light of Christ’s Word on it and show it for what it is.

 

When Churches Exceed Their Authority, Evil Comes into the Church

This is a guest post kindly submitted at my request by James and Linda Sander. They are the authors of Rethinking Biblical Divorce: Let Scripture be Your Guidewhich I highly recommend. Let me introduce their article with a few words:

Without thinking, most Christians assume that they must obtain permission from their pastor/church in order to divorce their spouse. And local churches certainly behave as if this were true, even to the point of ex-communicating a member who divorces for “unbiblical” reasons (as defined by that local church or pastor). James and Linda Sander maintain that Scripture nowhere gives churches that authority and they outline at least part of their argument here in this post. I fully agree with them.

Let me make a clear point lest anyone misunderstand. Neither the Sanders nor myself are denying that the church has Christ’s authority in certain arenas. The Word of God is authoritative and when the church preaches it in truth, there is authority. And of course the church has authority to put wicked counterfeits out of their midst and to admonish those who are sinning. Largely in our day churches are failing or refusing to exercise this proper authority and instead are claiming authority that is not theirs. The result is that the wicked are enabled while the innocent are cast out.

In their book the Sanders also argue (quite well I might say) that no one but the individual Christian has the right to decide if remarriage is permissible and that when a church claims authority in this matter, that church is contradicting Jesus’ words:

The disciples said to him, “If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.” But he said to them, “Not everyone can receive this saying, but only those to whom it is given. For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let the one who is able to receive this receive it.”  (Matthew 19:10-12)

Here then is what the Sanders maintain about church authority and divorce:

Jesus said,

Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate. (Matthew 19:4-6)

And the cross reference,

But from the beginning of the creation, God ‘made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’ so then they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate. (Mark 10:6-9)

In discussing these verses, we will focus on the words, “Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate” (or “let no man separate”).

If asked, “What do the words, ‘What God has joined together, let no man separate’ mean?” many Christians will answer (perhaps somewhat uncertainly), “It means we should not divorce.” But is this what the words are really saying? There are three difficulties with this understanding.

  • One, most Christians agree the Bible does allow divorce.We might differ regarding when it is allowed, but most of us agree Scripture does indicate divorce is allowed. Therefore, it would be inconsistent to assume Jesus’ statement, “What God has joined together, let no man separate” means we should not divorce.
  • Two, the command,“What God has joined together, let no man separate,” is found only in this confrontation with the Pharisees; it is found nowhere else in Scripture.Jesus said this as a retort to the Pharisees in their attempt to trap him.

We often see in Scripture that Jesus spoke to the Pharisees in a different way than he spoke to his followers or to the receptive crowd like the one listening to the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5. This makes sense because the Pharisees were antagonistic and were not interested in learning from Jesus’ answers nor were they interested in becoming followers of Jesus. In the passage we are considering, the Pharisees confronted Jesus and were attempting to trap him and publicly discredit him. Because of this, Jesus does not answer them in the same way he answered questions from his followers who were seeking truth. [NOTE from Jeff: This point about Jesus speaking in a different way to the Pharisees than to receptive people is incredibly important and is in my opinion one of the most important interpretive principles that the Sanders emphasize both here and in their book]

  • Three, there is another meaning of this command that better fits the context. We take a step toward understanding what Jesus meant when we keep in mind that the Pharisees thought of themselves as the arbiters of most issues of Jewish life. They considered themselves to be the ones with insight and understanding. Further, they considered that their rulings should be deemed authoritative for the masses in issues of daily life and religion, which, of course, included divorce.

Once we realize the Pharisees claimed the religious authority to say under what circumstances a husband and a wife could divorce, then we begin to understand how Jesus’ command would challenge their position.In fact, Jesus was doing this very thing with his command—he revealed to all that the Pharisees’ authority was self-appointed rather than from God.

The word “man” is anthropos, here meaning “human being” (male or female). Jesus said, “What God has joined together, let no human being separate.”Jesus is contrasting mere man with the Almighty God. God created marriage and God is the one who joins a couple together in marriage. The idea is, “If God joins a couple (and everyone in Jesus’ audience agreed that this is true), then who is a human being to say when a couple is permitted to divorce? How did the Pharisees, mere human beings,obtain such an authority that they can separate something God has joined together?”

Picture Jesus developing his argument as he responds to the Pharisees’ attack (and the crowd listens in)—

  • “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female,” and everyone agrees with these familiar words.
  • “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife.” Again, they agree with this Old Testament statement describing marriage; a new family unit begins.
  • “And the two shall become one flesh. So they are no longer two, but one flesh.” And again, all nod their heads understanding that in marriage and in the sexual relationship, the man and woman become one.

No one would disagree with anything Jesus said; in fact, they are all in agreement. They revere the words of the Old Testament.

Then Jesus quashes the Pharisees, “What God has joined together, let no human separate.” Jesus bluntly tells them that no human has authority to separate a marriage God created.

The Pharisees had usurped an authority that belongs to God alone, and with these words, Jesus exposed their lack of God-given authority.

The correct way to think is, “What God has joined, God alone separates.” No Pharisee, or any other human being or any human authority, has the right to separate what God has joined together.

“What Godhas joined together, let no humanseparate,” means “It’s not up to you—mere human beings—to decide who is allowed to divorce.” Jesus used the “let no man separate” command to challenge the Pharisees’ self-appointed authority that they are the ones who determine if a couple can divorce. Pharisees should not decide when a divorce is allowed, and they should not decide for a couple if they are permitted to divorce.

Jesus’ command includes the word “therefore.” “Therefore, what God has joined together, let no human being separate.” The “therefore” lets us know that this is the summation and answer to the Pharisees’ original question. The Pharisees’ original question was, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason?” Jesus’ “therefore” statement renders irrelevant the Pharisees’ question whether it is lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason—Jesus commands that no human, which includes these Pharisees, decides this.

There are two interesting points of grammar about Jesus’ words “Let no man separate.” First, it is clear in the Greek that this is a command; we might not fully realize it is a command because of the use of the word “Let.” But make no mistake, this is an imperative—Jesus gave a command.

Second, notice Jesus’ use of third person here. He included other people besides these Pharisees. He uses third person because he is stating a command that goes beyond the Pharisees.

Although Jesus’ command was initially directed to the Pharisees and was designed to strip the power from the Pharisees (who were the ones ruling on divorce issues at that time), the use of third person strips the authority from any who would claim such power today. It removes the right from anyone who would decide for a couple if they are allowed to divorce—or from anyone who might be tempted to take on such authority.

There is no place in the Bible that gives one person the authority to decide or pronounce when or if another person is permitted todivorce. In fact, we see in Jesus’ words to the Pharisees it is just the opposite. Only God has this authority. This is the purpose of the “Let no human separate” command. It is not a statement explaining if or when divorce is allowed.

So in this passage, it is critical for us to note that this command does not prohibit divorce. What it states is that no human has the authority to say if or when a couple can divorce.

Since Scripture does allow divorce, we are then left with the questions, “Who is allowed to divorce?” and “How is it decided?” Simply, Christian men and women decide this in the same way they decide any other issue that might come up in their lives—by prayer, by spending time in the Word, and by the leading of the Holy Spirit.

We explain more about this topic, and others, in our book Rethinking Biblical Divorce, Let Scripture Be Your Guide (available at Amazon).

 

Evil Always Has an Element of Betrayal – And this is Very Telling

Matthew 26:47-49 While he was still speaking, Judas came, one of the twelve, and with him a great crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the elders of the people. (48) Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man; seize him.” (49) And he came up to Jesus at once and said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” And he kissed him.

Judas, the epitome of betrayers. He is infamous for his evil. One of the twelve, as Matthew reminds us – and with a kiss – a most cruel symbol of false loyalty wrapped around a heart of wicked treachery.

Psalms 41:9 Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me.

I want to talk today about this quality of betrayal that is present in evil. Anyone who has been the victim of evil has felt it, though perhaps not every victim fully understands that they have been betrayed. A vow or trust has been broken. And that is very painful, especially when it comes from a close friend or spouse or some other person who you thought loved you and was loyal to you.

I think that I have felt the most pain from the betrayal of people who were closest to me, and it is for this reason that I can very much empathize with victims of domestic abuse. The sharpest and most traumatic blows of betrayal hit us when they originate in someone we absolutely believed loved us. In my case, as a pastor, these arrows have come from people who I literally spent years and years ministering to, counseling, trying to help and who, because we are a very small church, I considered to be my friends and brethren in Christ. They weren’t. As it turns out they were really just using me for selfish motives. Hard lessons to learn.

Evil is treasonous and treacherous. It is only loyal to itself. When a wicked person appears to be reaching out in friendship, the fact is that he is merely playing the role, like Judas, because he wants something for himself that he believes you can give him. Judas, among other things, wanted money from the coin box and perhaps he wanted some kind of attention through associating with the Lord.

When someone you have loved, and whom you really believed loved you, rejects you, abandons you, turns on you as an enemy, the pain of betrayal hits you hard. YOU loved them, so you gave them your heart. But THEY never loved you, so the betrayer (though he may pretend in order to get pity) doesn’t feel any real pain. And as you begin to realize this, the sense of betrayal grows even more intense. I have sat face to face with people who I counted as very close friends, who I had believed were brothers and sisters in Christ, and had them coldly, with no guilt or sense of conscience, tell me they were leaving and would not be seeing me anymore. That is how divorce feels when someone you thought loved you serves you with the papers. And it is how an abuse victim feels when the fog starts clearing that the abuser has cast over their mind and they begin to realize that this spouse they loved all these years, never loved them. Never. Betrayal. Treason. Treachery.

Now, this is important when it comes to our ability to see where the evil really lies. That is to say, sorting out who the guilty one is and who the victim is. The wicked are often quite skilled at making themselves look like the victim and the victim look like the evil one. So we must take care. And one thing we can watch for is – where is the pain? Where is the sense of betrayal? Because you see, Judas had no pain in betraying Jesus – he kissed Him! Whatever it was that led to Judas hanging himself, it was not Godly sorrow. And so it is with the wicked person who betrays. They may moan and groan about how they have been wronged, but remember – they are feeling absolutely no sense of being betrayed. The victim on the other hand, is. For the most part, the betrayer has no pain of conscience, no grief of remorse. They are, after all, betraying, not being betrayed. And this is very, very telling if we watch for it.

Let me give you an example. I have known people who professed to be fine Christians, and appeared to be, only to be found out years later that in fact they have been practicing wickedness all along. Secretly. Some were domestic abusers in their homes. Others were cruel taskmasters to their employees. But when they were found out, they did not evidence grief or guilt or shame. In other words, they did not repent. What they DID do is blame others, break off fellowship with their victims, and effect that betrayal we are speaking of. You will see grief and pain in the ones betrayed. But you will NOT see it in the betrayer. In fact I have noticed over the years that wicked ones like this are not at all bothered if they come face to face later with those they betrayed. All smiles. Just as if nothing had ever happened. And when you see this, you know with certainty who the evil one really is in the situation. They feel no pain or sorrow.

They only leave a trail of it.

Want to find evil? Watch for the betrayer and you will have found it.