“You Meant it for Evil, But….”

Gen 50:20 As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.

These words of course were spoken by Joseph to his brothers who had abused him so terribly. The brothers – a very rare case – came to him in what appears to be genuine repentance. But even if they had not, this particular part of Joseph’s words to them would apply. “You meant it for evil…but God meant it for good.”

I think that at least at the other end of abuse, especially when we have been enabled to get out of the abuser’s evil control, and we look back, we can see this. I was reviled by many “fine Christians” down through the years and what they did (NONE of them have ever repented) they will give account for to God. But I also know that in these years of misery I was in school. I suppose we can also think of Moses out there for 40 years in the desert thinking that his usefulness for the Lord was done and kaput! In fact, it was just beginning!

Evil people are evil. God’s wrath is upon them. But He uses them in our lives to wake us up to evil and its tactics so that we can expose it and help others and continue to stay free of it ourselves. “Thanks,” abusers. Your evil has turned to my good.

There is no Hope for a Wolf in Wool

Mat 21:19 And seeing a fig tree by the wayside, he went to it and found nothing on it but only leaves. And he said to it, “May no fruit ever come from you again!” And the fig tree withered at once.

Luk 10:13 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes.

You have heard me say many times that abusers never change. Not the kind we deal with here. The conscienceless, power and control hungry, sociopathic/narcissitic cruel taskmaster. And most of them wear wool. That is to say, they are wolves who look to devour, but they disguise themselves as sheep.

There are MANY scriptures in the Bible that speak about this kind of person. The Pharisees and scribes (with very rare exceptions like Paul and Nicodemus, who as I have recently written, were not abusers as we define them), the wicked kings of Israel like Ahab or his evil wife, Jezebel, Pharoah, the citizens of the cities of Chorazin and Bethsaida. Think on this carefully. We are never presented with such people in scripture as people who there is great hope of salvation for. Why? Because they know. What they do, they do intentionally, knowing full well that…well, here it is:

Rom 1:32 Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

Think of the domestic abusers whose evil deeds we hear about time after time after time. Their victims tell about it. They tell us how this evil one is regarded as the most pious saint in his church, how he is so popular and charming and everyone just thinks he is wonderful, and yet behind the scenes….you know too well what goes on there.

Recently I had an appointment and as it turned out, an evil man our church had to deal with many years ago was scheduled at the same time. He didn’t even recognize me (have you ever noticed this phenomenon – that such a wicked person is so caught up in themselves that they suppress and forget the evil things they have done and the people they have doen them to?). But I knew him. The people in the office where I had my appointment took note of him and said to me – “he’s such a wonderful man.” Well, I took the opportunity to do a bit of educating. “No he isn’t,” I said. “Let me tell you about him.” Their response? “I would never have guess he would do such a thing.”

But he does do such things. The wicked of his kind do such things because they are of their father the devil. He is a murderer and a liar. They are murderers and liats. He puts on a disguise of angelic light. They put on the same disguise. And what I am saying here is that there is no hope for such a person. They know. But they will not do. They know what the Lord requires. They know who the Lord is. And yet they choose to USE the Lord and His church for their own evil self-glory seeking designs. Year after year. Decade after decade.

They will perish in their sins. Do not pity them.

An Appearance of Godliness – The Real Thing (Series Finale)

2Ti 3:5 having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.

We have looked in this series at many real examples of counterfeits. People who, as Paul warns, have an exterior appearance of godliness but who, like the whitewashed Pharisees, do not possess Christ within. We are told to avoid such people. This means:

  • We CAN identify such people (in spite of being told and told by pastors and churches and “experts” that we must not “judge” and that we cannot spot the fakes)
  • We must be wise to evil (Heb 5:14 But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.)
  • We CAN recognize the real thing (1Jn 2:5 but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him:)
  • We are not to just blindly “go to church” assuming that most everyone there is a Christian. We are to AVOID the counterfeit and in many cases virtually entire church memberships are filled with corrupt, “christian-in-appearance-only” types.

But in addition to these things, we can be encouraged by the biblical truth that we CAN identify real godliness. That we CAN recognize Christ’s true people, even though their numbers are small and in this day of a plague of false gospels in churches, they are widely scattered. We CAN know them:

  • Joh 10:4-5 When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. (5) A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.”
  • Joh 10:14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me,
  • 1Jn 2:10 Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling.
  • Mat 7:17-20 So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. (18) A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. (19) Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. (20) Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.

Now, this means we must be able to recognize good fruit. Mostly we have been taught that fruit can be judged by its skin, but the real test involves what is inside. And THE key defining fruit of Christ’s people is LOVE. In all of the cases that we have examined in this series of articles, this is the one thing that is always lacking. Love. Love for Christ. Love for Christ’s people. A love that will not let go. A love that is not self-serving. A love that is so great that we will follow Christ wherever He leads. A loyal love – not a blind loyalty, but a loyalty that clings to Christ in truth and stands with His people in good and bad times.

Christ’s real people DO exist! Elijah, you recall, thought he alone was left. But it wasn’t true. The gates of hell will not prevail against Christ’s church and though His flock be scattered and persecuted so that they are found in caves rather than in cathedrals, we can always know that the real church exists. This of course all requires a big paradigm shift in our minds regarding what Christ looks like and what His church looks like.

Heb 11:37-38 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— (38) of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.

 

In all of these years that I have been a pastor, there have always been a few. People who genuinely love Christ, love His people, whose love is a persevering, loyal love that is never extinguished. It is a love that is wise. It sees evil. It refuses to walk, stand, or sit with evil. It stands with those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake. In other words, the real thing, the genuine article, walks by faith and is willing to pay the price of following Christ. THERE is the church. There is the power of godliness. Embrace such people!