The Vapory Ether of Deception

2 Corinthians 4:2-4, “But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. (3) And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing. (4) In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”

Writing the story of the incredibly difficult trial she and her husband went through in their church, Jonna Petry makes this very insightful observation that we would do well to heed:

“We were in the ether, under a kind of “delusion.” I have come to believe that when idolatry is at play, it often creates and allows for an unreality to take hold of those who participate, as if under a spell, unable to see or hear the truth because it is all filtered through a projected “reality.” But it is a false reality – a delusion. I believe this dynamic is often true in cults where there is one dominant, charismatic, controlling leader. As I look back, this “delusion” aspect makes sense to me and helps to explain why the abuse is allowed and continues, while so many people are unaware and/or unwilling to confront.”  (http://joyfulexiles.files.wordpress.com/2012/03/jonna-mhc-story-29.pdf)

We were in the “ether.”  I suspect that most of our readers know exactly what she is talking about.  The fear of man is a snare, and when a man seizes power and control because he craves to be first, be it in a local church, in a marriage, or in a government, a vaporous “unreality” does indeed take shape.  It seizes our minds and deludes us. Hitler cast his spell over millions.  Jim Jones’ saga ended in people so spellbound that they drank the infamous Kool-Aid.  Those who begin to cast off the spell and see what is really happening are quickly singled out for special “treatment.”

We know from Scripture that Satan majors in darkness.  He is the prince of darkness.  He blinds the minds of those in bondage to him.  And I think that the stories of the abuse of power and control that all of you and many others are telling is evidence that Satan can affect the Christian’s mind as well with his ethery darkness.  It is a spell cast by lies and threats.  By re-writing the facts of history.  Without the Spirit of Truth sent by the Light of the world, we would remain in that darkness.

The thing is frightening, and we should be frightened.  Scripture tells us to be on guard because Satan is on the prowl. One single charismatic, “gifted” emissary of the devil can rise up from among ourselves (Acts 20) and delude us all far more quickly than we would like to think.  And the same deceptive vapor is spread by the domestic abuser as well.  If you want to see real spiritual warfare in action, study abusers.  Learn about them.  Talk to their victims.  Talk to people who have been swept up in the abuse of power and control in a church as Jonna Petry and her husband were. Talk to survivors of sexual abuse, especially if their abuser was a professing Christian.  They will all tell you — they were in this “ether” as if they were drugged.  They look back now and wonder how they didn’t see it sooner.  And yet, in many ways, this should not surprise us.

John 8:44, “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”

So let’s take our Lord’s many warnings to heart.  Seriously.  Let’s immerse ourselves in His Word and pray without ceasing.  Let’s put on the Lord Jesus Christ as our armor.  Because those flaming missiles are incoming, and for the most part, they are cunning lies aimed right at our minds.

We Must Understand the Nature of Sin if we are to Properly Deal with it in the Church

For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living. As for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good. If anyone does not obey what we say in this letter, take note of that person, and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed. Do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother. (2Th 3:10-15)

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. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.” (1Cor 5:11-13)

One of the most prevalent errors in the church today, one which is causing much grief to the victims of the wicked and bringing shame to Christ’s name, is the persistence of local churches, church leaders and pastors to regard all members of the church as Christians, no matter what the nature of their sin.   This is not biblical thinking. It is not truth. God’s Word plainly teaches us that not all sinners are of the same type, nor are they to be dealt with in the same manner.
Let’s consider the two examples given in the Scriptures above: 1) The sluggard, and 2) The reviler (to select one from Paul’s list).

What does Paul tell us about dealing with the sluggard? He commands the sluggard directly, first of all, to get to work. He tells us not to bail the sluggard out of the consequences of his sin — if he won’t work, neither let him eat. And if the sluggard will not take these admonishments to heart and repent, the strong measure of the church having nothing to do with him is to be taken, in order to shame him into repentance.

But then, Paul says something quite curious: “Do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother.” Here is a person, a person committing a serious sin, who is still to be considered a brother in Christ. Perhaps we should also take note of the context of the situation at Thessalonica. There seems to have been an “end-times” theological distortion going on there and perhaps this was the reason you had these people there who were not working but rather sitting around waiting for Christ to return. But Paul says to regard such a person as a Christian, at least at that point.

Now, when we come to the second category of sinner, the one identified in Paul’s list in 1 Cor 5 as a “reviler” (a person who uses his mouth to attack, to condemn, to malign, to abuse), Paul’s prescription for dealing with him is different. The remedy, you see, must fit the crime. Once more we are to put that person out of the church, but Paul uses harsher terms: “Purge the evil person from among you.” Paul does not regard the reviler (or idolater or swindler or the rest of his list) as a Christian, and neither are we to do so.

Abusers are revilers. They hurt and murder with their words. Not because they lose their temper on occasion and end up saying something they later regret. No, the abuser is calculated. He reviles in cold blood. And he habitually does it because a reviler reviles.  This kind of sinner is to be put out of the church, and regarded as an unbeliever. He is not a brother in the Lord.

In failing (refusing?) to make this distinction that is plainly set forth for us in God’s Word, local churches today are giving sanctuary to the wicked, providing them with false assurance of the state of their soul, and permitting them to continue to revile and assault the innocent. For such willful disobedience, all will one day give account to the Lord of the Church.

**An Exercise: If you look at the introductory comments (from the editor) to the Epistle of Jude in the ESV Bible you should be able to see a statement in it that is a distortion of what Jude says about the wicked ones who have crept into the church, and how we are to deal with them. Do you see the error? If you spot it, let us know in the comments here.

Being Abused Does not Give us the Right to be Mean

Eph 4:32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

Abusers are evil. Abuse is evil. Wicked. It is cruel and those who exercise it are going to be objects of God’s wrath. Abuse harms its victims greatly in many kinds of painful ways. Abuse is the spirit of murder. It is of the devil.

But coming to realize that we have been treated wickedly, betrayed, slandered, (and just go on here and list all the terrible things abusers do)…does not give us the right to be the center of everyone else’s thoughts. It does not give us the right to lash out at anyone anytime they say something or do something that happens to jolt us or kick off one of those mental replays of some evil that happened to us. That is to say, we do not have the right to walk around like a fuse that can be lit by some statement or action or event and then the expolosion goes off to blast those around us.

I am convinced that a lot of so-called therapy that abuse victims seek help from is what could be labeled “me, myself, and I” philosophy. “You’ve been a victim,” this line of thinking goes, “and now it’s time for you to stand up for yourself anytime someone says something or does something that lights your fuse.” Well, guess what? If you embrace this kind of mentality, you are not following Christ. It will not heal you. It will leave you in the ditch and mire and perpetual “chip-on-the-shoulder” victimhood.

We can be honest with ourselves. We can be honest with others when it is appropriate, and when our words will not be abusive themselves. We do need to learn how to set boundaries and the kind of people who don’t respect boundaries need to be firmly admonished. But if we choose to keep everyone around us walking on eggshells and making them worriy that anything they say can and will be used against them by us in a blast of anger and accusation, then we are sinning. Understand?

I am not talking about abusers who are wicked and who abuse. I am talking about other people we have contact with who might say something in ignorance or they might even say or do something that is not even directly related with or connected to your abuse – but it stings because of your past sufferings. If you lash out and attack and accuse and blame everytime something like this happens, then you are embracing the “me, myself, and I” mentality that threatens to punish anyone who says or does something you don’t like or that triggers you.

And guess what? If that is the path we take, our relationships are going to crash one after another. We will not exercise the love that Christ calls us to live by, and we will regularly hurt and sin against others. And that is the very same thing our abusers did to us.