Let Me Show You What a Den of Robbers (“church”) Really Looks Like – An inside view

Mat 21:12-13  And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons.  (13)  He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.”

I have often been accused of being “too negative,” or “too judgmental.” The religious leaders in the swamp want us all to believe that their churches are wonderful, loving, holy places that are doing great things for Jesus. Well, I have been a pastor now for 36 years and I have been the pastor of 4 churches in that time, the last 26 years here at Christ Reformation Church in Tillamook, Oregon. Our small remnant here is a unified band of real believers who love the Lord and one another.

But it wasn’t always like this.

I could tell you stories from the previous three churches to accomplish my “fly on the wall” viewing that I want to show you, but I will just stick with this church in Tillamook, as it was 26 years ago when I first came. Why am I doing this? Because I want to suggest to you that THIS picture I am going to show you is the typical, real condition of most local churches today, AND this is why the innocent victims of evil are so typically oppressed by their pastors and churches when they expose the evil and ask for help. Sexual abuse victims. Domestic violence victims. You see it in the news all the time.

So here we go. This is the “church” I came to, presenting itself as the most wonderful, Christian, family church in all the county. What a show they put on each Sunday. Let’s look behind the scenes:

Jack and Jill – Jack was head of the church board. Longtime resident. Active in the community. Taught the adult SS class. You wanted something – just ask Jack. In fact, you better ask Jack or else. Jack however, when he wasn’t obeyed, raged. Ultimately he raged by storming out of a board meeting when I confronted him with this dictatorial behavior at a recent congregational meeting. And finally he raged by storming down the church aisle in a worship service and raging at me on the pulpit for things such as “We built this building and HE (me) doesn’t give us any credit for it!” And Jill? Well, Jill was a rather nasty, mean person as well. Jack and Jill stormed off and went down the road to “bless” another church with their presence.

Jerry – Jerry was a deacon board member. Presented himself to everyone as a fine Christian man. But Jerry abused his wife. More than once she came to me in tears (this was long before I knew what I know now about abusers). Jerry exploded in anger in front of the whole church at a church function. He refused to apologize and ultimately left the church, coming up to me after a worship service and saying “we are leaving so your pure church won’t have to be corrupted by the likes of us anymore.”

Harry – Harry was also a deacon board member. A seminary graduate and professional counselor. Yep. You got it. A “Christian” counselor. Harry and his wife were at each other all the time. In fact, Harry left every week for several days so he could do his counseling in another town, and then their “marriage” worked better.  I helped Harry bring his wife home from the hospital when she was dying of cancer, but Harry ended up hating me anyway. In front of several people one Sunday he said “you are not qualified to be a pastor.” He then left and never returned. Harry wanted everything to be about Harry and the pastor was to serve his whims.

Charles – Charles professed to be a humble Christian man, a member of the church for  years. But Charles had engaged in a perverted sexual relationship with another man and had been caught in the act. Over time, Charles and “the church” thought it was wonderful that Charles and his wife were so gracious in that they worked to “lead this partner in fornication” to the Lord.

Leo – Leo had molested his step-daughter and been arrested and served some jail time. But Leo was “forgiven” by the church and he continued to live with his wife. In fact his wife had been counseled by the previous pastor to forgive him and remain married to him.

REMEMBER: These people were all members of the church when I came, the ones sitting in the pews, clapping away to the happy 7-11 worship songs each Lord’s Day.

Ned – Ned was a dairy farmer, known well in the community for having a terrible temper and a foul mouth. But Ned also was a full-privileged member of the church. His children once announced to the other children in their SS class that their mommy and daddy said we should all pray for the pastor (me) because “he is being used by Satan.”

Ray – Ray was another member of the deacon board. Ray was known throughout the community as a lazy, gossiper. I found out later that he would go tell the other evil people in the church all of the details of our discussions in board meetings. His co-workers all cheered when he retired so that they wouldn’t have to be plagued with his presence at work any longer.

Mitch – Mitch was another dairy farmer. He was extremely arrogant and demanding. He and his wife pretended to be genuine Christians and good friends, but as I preached through Romans their demeanor quickly changed. Mitch angrily shouted at me just before they left the church, “I don’t care what you say! My mother was a Christian! I know because I heard her pray one time!” I had never said anything about his mother. I never met her. Real reason? He hated the Word of God.

Gerry – Gerry was a real “go-getter” in the Christian realm. He had organized a local men’s outreach ministry and put together what you might call mini “crusades,” bringing in well-known speakers and so on. Gerry was right there for me when I came, offering his full support. But when Gerry realized that I was not going to make “his” ministry my main focus, he literally turned on me overnight. To this day I can see the hatred in his eyes if I run into him in the store.

Now I could go on and on and on and on. There were scores of others just like these kind that made up this “church” over two decades ago. What in the world had the “pastors” who preceded me been doing? I can tell you. They had been ear-tickling. They had been teaching false doctrine which said you can be a Christian and though it is good that you don’t walk in sin, well, we are all still sinners and you are still saved even if you do.” And this is the horrid evil mess that it created. Of course, those pastors eventually “moved on because the Lord had called them” to a new ministry. Right.

As I look back over all these years, I have the advantage of seeing these people not just for a few years, but for many. And I can tell you with absolute certainty – NONE of them are saved. None. Oh sure, most of them just went down the street to another “church” when they left and continue their “Christian” facade in a place where they can keep doing their evil and never be called on it. But for all their churchianity, they are children of the devil. I can only think of maybe 10 people out of that original 150 or so who, over the years, have shown themselves to be Christ’s true people.

I write this because I want you to know that the wickedness with which you as a survivor of sexual or domestic abuse, were treated in your church is explained by the truth that Darkness hates Light. People and churches such as this are counterfeit, and they are not just a few, they are everywhere today.  Don’t believe or accept their shaming lies and accusations made against you. If anyone is truly born again, indwelt by the Spirit of the Lord, then they are certainly going to be hated by antichrist and his minions. If you track this theme through the Bible, you will find that this is how it has always been. The visible church is very largely counterfeit, and its trademark is the persecution of true believers.

And this is why I regularly tell our people in this little flock in Tillamook and those who have connected with us online, never, ever be discouraged that there are not many of us. Never, ever wish we had bigger buildings and hundreds of people in the pews. Glory in the fact that Christ has set us free. 

1Jn 2:19-20  They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.  (20)  But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge.

Another Way the Wicked Creep into Local Churches

Joh 1:12-13  But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,  (13)  who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

How does anyone become a “child of God” according to the Apostle John? By being physically born to flesh and blood parents? Of course not.  Not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man.”  We must be born of God. The new birth. Born again. Regenerated. Entirely a work of God.

Joh 3:6-8  That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.  (7)  Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’  (8)  The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

Now, I have good friends who are Presbyterians. We welcome them in our church even though we know that our view of baptism is quite different than theirs. And I know one or two faithful Presbyterian pastors I highly respect. This does not mean however that I think this difference is not extremely important. It is. Let me show you how.

Some Protestant Christians such as Presbyterians practice infant baptism. And if you talk with them, you will notice that they use the term “covenant children.” What they mean by that phrase is that children who are born to at least one Christian parent are “covenant children.” That is to say, they hold that just as it was in the Old Testament era when babies were born to Israelite parents and thus were to be (the boys) circumcised as a sign of the covenant. so it is in the church today. In other words, that somehow these “covenant children” are “in the realm of the covenant” and thus they are to be baptized as a sign of that covenant standing.

[Note: Baptists make a similar error quite frequently as I will mention in a moment. My goal here is not to pick on Presbyterians].

Now, we would ask them this question: “What covenant are you saying these children are in? Because there are only two covenants in Scripture: the Old Covenant made with Israel, and the New Covenant established by Christ which we enter not by birth, not by the will of man, not by being born of flesh, but by the new birth which is a work of God in which the Holy Spirit regenerates us through faith alone. So which covenant are these “covenant children” in? we ask. While most pedobaptists (Christians who baptize infants) will point to a few verses in the New Testament as support, that New Testament argument is very weak. And a leading pedobaptist of old, B.B. Warfield, acknowledged that the fundamental biblical argument for infant baptism/covenant children is derived from the Old Testament, not from the New.

But, here is my point in this article. Anytime we teach that someone is “in the covenant” or “in the realm of the covenant” or somehow “in the church,” we are opening the door to pronouncing unregenerate people as being Christians. Let me be quick to say here that Baptists can have the same error, but just come at it a bit different way.  They don’t baptize infants, but they do rather quickly call children and others who have walked down the church aisle and then been baptized, “Christians.” Baptist or Presbyterian – both tend toward this error. Lutherans travel much further down the path toward Rome in their teaching on baptism, proclaiming that water baptism regenerates the soul. Rome of course goes all out here and actually teaches that water baptism, including the baptism of infants, accomplishes justification before God (although as soon as you mess up and sin, bye-bye justification and hello works and purgatory).

Whenever we have these kind of low views of who a Christian is (ie, of what people are in the New Covenant in Christ), we are opening the doors of the church to evil. We tend toward lightly pronouncing unconverted people as “converts.”

And what I have noticed over the years as a result is that churches who make these kinds of errors (and there are MANY) readily tend toward calling wicked people “Christians” even though such people show NO fruit of the Spirit in their lives, no real love for Christ or for His Word, no love for the people of Christ. You see the thing in how domestic abusers in the church are dealt with. “Oh, now, Mrs. Abuse victim, it takes time to determine if your husband is saved or not. Sure, he has been abusing you for decades (though you surely have to wear some blame for that too), but that doesn’t mean he couldn’t be saved.” Yeah. Right.

As my fellow elder said to me recently, “The gospel is actually quite simple. Only a theologian could get it so screwed up.”

The Essence of Sin is Lawlessness and the Lawless Love the Rush it Gives Them

Isa 14:13-14  You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God I will set my throne on high; I will sit on the mount of assembly in the far reaches of the north;  (14)  I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’

Tit 2:14  who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.

1Jn 3:4  Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness.

The “rush” of sin in the wicked is that feeling of exhilaration from having power. Serial killers for example are motivated by (even addicted to) this thrill. It thrills them to have absolute power of life and death over someone, to invade the most intimate parts of their victim’s life and ultimately to be “god” over them.

But serial killers are not the only ones who crave the rush of lawlessness. Evil people, domestic abusers, sexual predators and other brands of the kingdom of darkness hunger for it. Evil is thrilling to the evil man. This is why abusers for instance, abuse. They love that sense of deity they gain from exercising power and control over another. Like Satan, they say in their heart, “I will be like the Most High.”

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