We Cannot be Careless About Who we Allow Our Children to be With

Mat 19:14 but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”

When I was a youngster I was put in many situations that could easily have resulted in me being victimized by a pedophile or some other abuser. I remember once when there was a record-breaking flood in Southern Oregon. We lived along the river and the water got into our house, so we had to stay with the neighbors. The mother was a very kind woman – she may even have been a Christian. Her husband was a foul-mouthed man and so were her two sons who were in their early 20’s.

One evening when the flood waters were receding a bit, just enough to permit driving on the highway into town, my parents let me accompany one of the sons to the grocery store with a list of things to pick up. He had a car and off we went. On the way, right out of the blue, he asks (I was only 12), “so Jeff, are you masturbating yet?” Needless to say I was taken aback because we didn’t talk about such subjects in our family. But he kept pressing for an answer. I don’t know what I said, I must have mumbled something. But then he proceeded to tell me how his first ______ was one of his high school teachers.

Now, here is my point. Even though nothing else happened, the fact is that my parents, in their naivete, allowed me to be placed in a dangerous and harmful situation. They did not know this young man really. Yet they carelessly assumed. And then they sent me off with him.

I could tell you many similar stories. I had an older relative who kept pornography in his room and my parents often left me there while they were on vacation. Oh, and this was a “Christian” family you know. His parents were very active in their church. He went on in life to embrace homosexuality. Then there was the female relative, a few years older than me, who as I look back on it now was certainly being sexually molested by her much older brother. Yet, again, my parents very often just turned me loose with these people, unsupervised.

Almost all of you, I suspect, could tell very similar stories of your childhood. Some if not many of you probably never told your parents about some molestation episode because, well, you never talked about such things in your family. Besides, would they believe you? Would they think it was really all that serious? Maybe they would be angry with you and tell you it was your fault. And, in your childhood thinking, maybe it was your fault?

Moms, dads, you cannot assume. You must not allow your children to be turned loosed to run unsupervised with the neighbor kids, with some classmate who wants them to spend the night, with those children of your  own siblings (ie, your children’s cousins), with coaches or teammates, school teachers – ANYONE! If you think that I am exaggerating the case, then I would tell you that you are naive and careless.

Evil lurks. Evil dwells in the heart of man. It is all around us.

And woe, woe, woe to the evil ones who cause the little ones to stumble.

 

The Mortal Danger of Living as if Evil is Non-Existent

As a contributor to the Yale Review has pointed out, [Winston Churchill’s appeal for a recovery of moral health] was his way of saying that the English after Munich had to learn all over again to recognize evil. They had lost the sense of villainy; they had no solid principles, unshakable convictions.” [William Manchester]

But [Neville] Chamberlain still did not believe in standing up to Hitler. All evidence to the contrary, Chamberlain remained convinced that if the Fuhrer were treated with generosity, he could become Britain’s best friend. [Ibid]

In politics the squeaky wheel gets little grease. This is particularly true when a public figure challenging the leader carries a controversial reputation in train. The mass distrusts controversy. Reluctant to reconsider its convictions, superstitions, and prejudices, it rarely withdraws support from those who are guiding its destinies. Thus inertia becomes an incumbents’ accomplice. So does human reluctance to admit error. Those who backed the top man insist, against all evidence, that they made the right choice.” [Ibid]

As is evident in just these three quotes from Manchester’s wonderful book on the life of Winston Churchill (these taken from the second volume covering the decade before World War 2 when Churchill as a lone voice was trying to warn of the growing Nazi menace] naivete and ignorance regarding evil can be catastrophic. In this case, it led to some 60 million people dying. SIXTY MILLION! In some ways I regard Chamberlain as guilty as Hitler.

If you really want to gain wisdom regarding evil, read at least this second volume of the series (The Last Lion, William Manchester). If you are at all aware of the nature and tactics of domestic, spiritual, and sexual abusers who hide in sheep’s clothing in churches, I assure you that as you read you will find yourself very often exclaiming, “that is exactly what we are up against in the church when we try to point out evil!”

You have three perfect examples of this in the quote above:

  1. When Christians live in an isolated Christian “bubble,” when children grow up all their lives in such a place, they lose all sense of, as Churchill would put it, “villainy.” “Goodness gracious!” is about as strong of language as they hear. Bad guys are always dressed in black and in the end the good guys in white always win. And all this leads such people to this….
  2. If we just treat even the most nasty people with generosity, if we appease them and give them their way whenever we can, then surely eventually they will be truly thankful to us and become our bestest friends.
  3. When evil is uncovered in, for example, a local church, institutional inertia demands that it be discounted and ignored. Everyone is quite reluctant to admit that they have been duped by saintly old deacon Smith who, it turns out, has been sexually molesting children or abusing his wife all these years.

As for those who report these evils, such as the victims of it all, well, as Manchester put it, “the squeaky wheel gets little grease.” In other words, victims are ignored or told to stop squeaking! Why? Because they are upsetting the momentum of the institution that has been running oh so smoothly for a long, long time. To receive and believe the victim’s report of evil in the pews would demand a total reboot of, well, of just about everything that is held dear.

Willful ignorance of evil on the part of pastors and church members, counselors and popular Christian writers, has been enabling evil and oppressing its victims for far too long. Just as Neville Chamberlain and his “peace in our time” crowd had been provided with mountains of evidence that Hitler was arming Germany at an astounding rate, so Christians have been given God’s own Word that clearly exposes wickedness. How it hides among us. What its schemes are. What our weapons are. Paul reminds us-

2Co 2:11 so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs.

Eph 4:14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.

But we are children. We are ignorant of his designs. There is a multitude of reasons for this. Sometimes we are taught by leaders who do not belong to Christ at all. Sometimes professing Christians plug their ears to the truth when it is preached and cry “no more!” like the Israelites at Mount Sinai. And often we have carelessly embraced the traditions of men as the Word of God because we have not searched the Scriptures carefully ourselves. But whatever the cause, the widespread willful ignorance to the nature and tactics of the evil that has crept in among us in the church is permitting and even empowering wicked, ungodly men to parade as eminent holy men while all the while they feed on the flock.

Wake up, Christian. Listen to the victims. Believe them. Admit your ignorance about the devil and his methods and start taking serious steps to correct that ignorance. World War II never needed to have happened! There were scores of opportunities and years of time to stop the enemy without a shot being fired or a life being lost. So it is in your church and your family when it comes to protecting Christ’s people from the wicked.

1Th 5:4-8 But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. (5) For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. (6) So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. (7) For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night. (8) But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation.

 

The Abuser, Thrashing Tantrums, and the Devil

And someone from the crowd answered him, “Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he has a spirit that makes him mute. And whenever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid. So I asked your disciples to cast it out, and they were not able.” (Mar 9:17-18)

It would be a great error (which a wicked man would use to garner pity for himself) to treat a wicked, abusive, power-hungry person as if they were victims of a demon. Jesus healed the boy described here by Mark, but you do not see Him “healing” the wicked, evil, unrepentant person.

But I do want to point out something that I have encountered several times in which an evil man, denied his demands or confronted with his wickedness, throws himself down in a fit rather like a tantrum-throwing child might do. And I have a theory. Namely, that this is indeed a sign of the devil’s involvement in the wicked man’s tactics to punish and guilt and control others.

Let me explain.

Some years ago I refused to give in to a man who paraded himself as the most holy saint you could ever find. And yet he was devoid of love, quick to accuse – a reviler if you will. It took a long time to grow in wisdom and understand what we were dealing with in this man who lusted to be “number one” in the church (like Diotrephes, see 3 John).  After we had come to see more clearly exactly what he really was, he tried to isolate me in the church building when no one else was there so that “we could just talk.”

Well, I have had that kind of thing happen to me in my years as a pastor often enough that I knew this was an attack in the making, so I stopped him and told him I was going to call the other elders in our church right then to come and sit down with us and THEN he could go right ahead and say what he had to say.

Well, he kept using his “kind, Christian” meekness for a bit and said “Oh, no, that won’t be necessary. Just you and I can handle this.” I said, “no.” And I picked up my phone and called our elders and they said they would be right down.

This wicked man morphed in front of me, literally throwing himself down on the couch in my office, thrashing around on it, all the while shaking his head and repeating over and over, “no, no, no! Now you’ve done it! Now you’ve ruined everything! Now no one is going to listen to me!” And I remember thinking as I looked at him doing his tantrum thing – “and this guy is supposed to be an adult, a mature, holy Christian man?”

Once the other elders arrived, I told him, “alright, now you have something to say. Go ahead.” Sure enough it was a string of accusations. His bodily agitations and hand waving and head shaking continued. We all rebuked him and it was not long before (he did not repent) we found that his evil deeds in secret were continuing. We put him out of the church.

All of this came to my mind recently and I believe I have connected some more dots. I have mentioned in other recent posts that I am reading the wonderful three volume biography of Winston Churchill by William Manchester. (Read it. Especially volume 2. I say again, read it! Please! If you want to see evil playing itself out and being enabled by naive, cowardly people and victims being thrown under the bus, read this book. The abuser is Hitler. The enabler is Neville Chamberlain and his cohorts in his cabinet who through their cowardice and willful blindness to evil nearly handed the world over to the Axis powers).

But listen to this account Manchester gives and see if you don’t have an “aha!” moment as I did. Hitler was about to forcibly invade and take over Czechoslovakia. The British Prime minister, Neville Chamberlain, had been pursuing a course of “appeasement” for years in dealing with Hitler which essentially was “give the Furher what he wants and he will leave England alone.” This included throwing the Czech people to the SS storm troopers, execution squads, and concentration camps. So Chamberlain flies over to Germany in 1938 to try to make Hitler happy and avoid war at all costs (well, except to Hitler’s other victims of course). When Hitler found out that the Czechs refused to give him the northern part of their country,

…Hitler fell to the floor, writhing in one of his famous fits. [The British envoys] noted that the Reich chancellor ‘shrieked a good deal.’ [It was effective and the Brits decided not to deliver any kind of stern warning that Hitler must not invade Czechoslovakia].

Now, this deserves serious and thoughtful consideration by all of us. Was Hitler demon-possessed? It is very possible, is it not? And what really struck me as I read this account is how similar his “fit” was to what I had observed in the wicked man I had to deal with. So what might we conclude?

Evildoers, sociopaths, psychopaths, wolves in sheep’s clothing who come among us parading as Christians, will sometimes (perhaps more often that sometimes) throw a thrashing fit like this and when we see such a thing we can be certain that we are in the presence of an evil person. What is it such an evildoer is after? Sympathy? Perhaps. “Oh you poor man. I didn’t mean to make you feel so badly.” Or perhaps it is a reviling, shaming, guilting form of assault upon you for daring to deny the fellow his demands. Whatever his motive, he is after power and control. You will submit to his commands or he will thrash and tantrum to punish you.

For myself, I believe that such a thing is in fact demonic. I have no sympathy for the man. I do not see him as a victim of the devil. Oh no. I see him as an emissary of the devil working to destroy Christ’s people. I am sure of it. I will be sure the next time I see such a thing.

You can be sure too.

 

 

The Problem is Often with What is NOT Said in our Sermons and Teaching

The church I attend does not talk about domestic abuse. There is sermon after sermon about how marriage should work, and what each party should be doing, but almost nothing about what you can do if your spouse consistently mistreats you. And the absence of that teaching leaves victims stuck, unsafe, and unsupported.

A wise lady wrote this paragraph to me recently and it deserves serious thought.

The Bible has MUCH to say to us about how to deal with sin and evil and the devil and his servants. Yes, it does certainly give us God’s design for life in Christ, including His design for marriage and family. But when churches only give conferences and seminars and sermons on how things “ought to be,” (and so often they even get that part wrong!), and fail to deal with what a “marriage” looks like where wickedness is reigning, then evildoers are emboldened and their victims are further oppressed.

Evil and wickedness are not pretty. It is not a fun time to study and hear about the dark deeds of the kingdom of darkness: the details of child molestation, what really goes on behind closed doors in the house of an abuser, what “deacon Smith” is really like behind that fake mask, how much evil is hiding in local churches, and so on. But is the Bible silent on such subjects? NO! Just imagine how thin your Bible would be if you cut out all the parts that deal with such things.

And yet….

What are we being taught in our churches? What are the subjects focused upon in conferences, retreats, seminars, and the popular books of the moment? For the most part the answer is “happy things.” Ear-tickling things. Things that give us warm fuzzies at the end of the story (those fuzzies then being called “the Spirit”). After all you know, we can’t lay too much heavy stuff on folks or they will not want to come to church. So we don’t. We don’t say things. We don’t teach about them. We just teach about how “it ought to be.”

And by this omission – let’s face right up to it – we are empowering evil by letting it remain invisible in the darkness.

Just very recently a Christian woman who had left her abuser husband in order to protect her children and herself, was shot to death by him. Her church and pastor? Well, they pretty much told her to do her best with the lot God had dealt her and keep on a happy face. This is how that prescription turned out.

You cannot defend against your enemy if you do not know that enemy. His nature. His tactics. His weapons. Christ calls us to be wise in regard to evil while remaining innocent of it. For the most part, this command of our Lord has been ignored. It seems that ignorance of evil has been turned into an asset. A mark of “true godliness.” It isn’t. The blind only lead the blind into a pit.

 

It is a Great Error to Assume that Even the Devil is Open to Negotiation

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 does not stand in 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. (Joh 8:44)

We who genuinely know and love Christ desire good. In the end, every Christian longs for peace, for right relationships, and for reconciliation.

The wicked are not so. And when we think that our enemy and his servants desire the things we desire, we err greatly and we err dangerously. Christian, Satan does not long for the things you long for. He does not desire the good that you desire. He longs ONLY for death, for destruction, and for the utter annihilation of the Lord Himself. Always. Only. He longs for these things. And so it is with his servants.

Listen to William Manchester (I am still reading the biography of Winston Churchill, The Last Lion by Manchester) describe this kind of insane and horribly destructive thinking. In 1936 as Hitler continued to militarize Germany in open defiance of the treaty of Versaille, Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin….

Called for his fiddlers three – Samuel Hoare (now first Lord of the Admiralty), Lord Halifax (lord privy seal), and Neville Chamberlain (Exchequer) – and moved toward what they thought was firmer ground.

It was quicksand. Their new mantra was diplomacy — negotiation as a sensible alternative to war. Britain’s honor, they told the public, would be preserved; the negotiating table, not the battlefield, was where differences between England and Germany would be resolved. They were convinced that Hitler had his price. Some of them believed this even after all their assumptions, and much of London, lay in ruins. Devoted to peace, they could not understand that the ruler of Nazi Germany disdained negotiations, enjoyed bloodshed — including the shedding of German blood — and therefore preferred military conquest. [The Last Lion, Volume 1, pp 205-06]

This is precisely where much busyness (no, I didn’t misspell it) we do in the church goes so wrong. Consider “Biblical Counseling” for instance. The mass of those propelling this movement insist that there is “redemption” for everyone. That through counseling, through reasoning, and thus through “negotiation” with even the most vile and wicked person, redemption will draw nigh. Like Baldwin and his fiddlers three, they are viewed by the wicked as fools – and indeed, fools they are.

Like Hitler, there are many, many people around us today who are not at all interested in “negotiation” or listening to “reason.” They have no conscience. They only desire to kill and destroy and oppress. Secular psychology knows this full well. Such people are called sociopaths or psychopaths. We meet them in the church as they parade behind a facade of “saintliness” while in reality they are domestic abusers or sexual predators or simply people who would be like “The Most High.”

Largely, local churches and pastors and “biblical counselors” are handling such evil ones in the same manner Baldwin and his puppets tried to deal with Hitler. Rather than standing up and using the overwhelming military might they and the allies still possessed at that early date, they plunged the world into a virtual apocalypse that slaughtered 60 million people all over the globe.

Appease the evil one? Reason and negotiate with him? How is that going for you? Look around the visible, professing church today and you will have your answer. Do you hear the victims crying out?

 

 

Co-Dependency as Bondage to (and participation in) Evil

The proverbs of Solomon. A wise son makes a glad father, but a foolish son is a sorrow to his mother. (Pro 10:1)

The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother. (Pro 29:15)

“But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger!
(Luk 15:17)

There is a pattern of sin that I have personally experienced or dealt with over the years that is quite common. It is a trap and snare which all of us must be on guard for. And in particular, my experience indicates that it is a snare which commonly catches mothers, sometimes in regard to their daughters but more often in respect to their sons.

Motherly love is a wonderful thing. It is very powerful. It protects, nourishes, grieves for, rejoices with, takes pride in, instructs, and sacrifices for. A mother’s love is a great blessing given by the Lord.

But when that powerful love goes wrong….it ceases to be love and can turn into a prodigal child’s greatest hindrance to repentance. A mother can, if she is drawn into this snare, become her son’s or daughter’s biggest enemy.

Real love seeks the genuine welfare and good of the object loved. Real love therefore includes discipline when required:

For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” (Heb 12:6)

But when this sinful dynamic (often called “co-dependency”) engages, a destructive “I cannot be happy if you are not happy and therefore I must always make you happy” mechanism comes into play. It is a malignant kind of symbiosis with each person feeding off the other one. It is really not about love, but about getting. It is selfish. Let me illustrate:

Mary is 52 years old, married to Jack, and they have a 30 year old son, David. David is a grief to his parents. He is selfish and lazy. David is, you might say, a parasite. A black hole who sucks from everyone who comes near him.

And David is a master at playing his mother for all he can get. Though Mary often loses her temper with David, is disgusted by his sin, Mary just cannot and will not say “no.” Mary sends him money when he calls (which is frequently). David says he lost his latest job, but it wasn’t his fault. If he had a decent car he would have made it to work on time. Besides, everyone at work was against him. David is thinking about suing for wrongful termination. Mary lies awake at night fretting over his situation. Mary, in fact, is more worried about David than David is worried about David!

Jack wishes Mary would stop it. He has told her so, but he knows that if he presses the matter Mary is going to blow up. She will accuse him of not caring. Of not loving. Of not forgiving as a real Christian should.

And David is on drugs and alcohol. It isn’t really his fault, says Mary. Because he was so traumatized when he was younger. The other kids picked on him, she didn’t spend enough time with him, and he eventually just fell in with the wrong crowd. Mary feels very guilty about it all, blaming herself, and spends hours every day trying to make David happier – so she can be happier.

Fundamentally, Mary thinks that the father of the Prodigal Son in Luke’s Gospel should have chased after his son, found him in the pig pen, rescued him and brought him home. Or at least wired him some more money when he called. Of course the father in that parable represents God the Father, and the Prodigal represents the sinner who flees from the Lord and goes after the world in sin. Therefore, though she doesn’t really see it, Mary thinks that her method of dealing with David is superior to that of God’s. She just could never let her son wallow in the mire with those pigs.

And yet, it is in that very muck that the Prodigal came to his senses and repented.

My own mother, my maternal grandmother, numbers of people I have known over the years – all of them professing Christians – have been snared by this trap. And I can tell you – no good came from it in any of these cases. I can tell you something else – only one of these cases ever showed any kind of repentance. Marriages were damaged or destroyed. The prodigals never came to their senses. And the “Mary’s” persisted in believing they had done a good thing. To the day they died.

Surely this is a favorite trap of Satan to take souls to hell and to blaspheme the name of Christ.

Sometimes (even often) genuine love walks away, let’s the prodigal go his own way, prays often and intensely, and leaves the outcome to the Lord.

And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. (Mar 10:21-22)

 

“No Trap is so Deadly as the One You Set for Yourself” (William Manchester, The Last Lion)

2Co 11:4 For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough.

Listen to the following quotes and see if you can guess who their subject is:

“The central fact today is that he does not want war and is prepared to renounce it as a method of settling disputes with his neighbors”

“He seeks our friendship. If we fail him, he will turn elsewhere and we shall be sorry to have refused him.”

“He is the greatest living [citizen of his nation] and I told him that to his face.”

“He is a born leader, a magnetic, dynamic personality with a single-minded purpose…to keep the peace.”

“With this man at the helm, [his country] will never invade any other land.”

“I only wish I we had a man of his supreme quality at the head of affairs in our country today.”

Well, you have probably guessed that all of the lauds were spoken of none other than Adolph Hitler by leading members of the English government – Lloyd George the famous Prime Minister being one of the most outspoken. And perhaps the most mind boggling of all was this statement that came from leading Anglican churchmen:

“[We have] boundless admiration for the moral and ethical side of the National Social (Nazi) programme, its clear-cut stand for religion and Christianity, and its ethical principles, such as its fight against cruelty to animals, vivisection, sexual offences, etc.”

You can find all of these quotes and more in William Manchester’s second volume of The Last Lion, pp 79 ff, Bantam books.

All these people and more wanted to believe that Hitler was for peace because peace is what they wanted. They wanted peace so much that they were willfully blind to the facts, embraced fables, and in the end had the furious firestorm of this despot unleashed upon their homeland, nearly to its destruction. Oh perhaps some of them more noble than others truly sought peace because peace is good, but the mass of them acted out of purely selfish reasons. Their self-serving motivation became increasingly evident as more and more facts about what Hitler really was came out.

2Co 11:14-15 And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. (15) So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.

All during this time of Hitler’s rise to nearly unstoppable power, there was one voice issuing warnings – that of Winston Churchill. He was not only disregarded, he was mocked and put out to pasture, relegated to a mere back bench in Parliament. He saw the rising evil tide, he warned of the consequences of this blind quest for a disarmed world in which there would never again be war. But for the most part, no one listened. As Manchester summarized, “no trap is so deadly as the one you set for yourself.”

The state of the visible church today is very much the same. For the most part, pastors and professing Christians, churches and their members, simply do not want to be troubled by reports of evil in their midst. It seems to me that one of the quickest ways for a pastor to insure that he is “back-benched” and regarded as “finished” (“too bad. The fellow had so much promise you know”) is to declare that all is not well in the pews nor in the pulpits.

Micah 2:6 “Do not preach”–thus they preach– “one should not preach of such things; disgrace will not overtake us.”

But disgrace did overtake Israel. Because they would not listen.

Let me close with one final sobering illustration of willful blindness to evil. While Winston Churchill was poring over facts and figures in reports from Berlin which showed what Hitler was really up to, Americans also entered into the fantasy of Hitler as “good guy.” Here it is:

The most painful toast to Hitler, for Americans, is a Walter Lippmann column which appeared in the New York Herald Tribune on May 19, 1933. Lippmann had heard a speech by the new chancellor (Hitler) and described it as a “genuinely statesmanlike address,” providing convincing “evidence of good faith.” He told his readers, “We have heard once more, through the fog and the din, the authentic voice of a genuinely civilized people. I am not only willing to believe that, but it seems to me that all historical experience compels one to believe it.” He went further. Persecuting the Jews served a purpose by “satisfying” Germans’ yearning to “conquer somebody”; it was “a kind of lightning rod which protects Europe.” Walter Lippman was a Jew. [ibid, p 81]

Willful blindness to the obvious. A willingness even to sacrifice  one’s own countrymen in order to persist in a selfish fantasy that “all is well in my world.” And so it is in the visible church today. If you doubt it, just look for example at how victims of sexual or domestic abuse (abused even by pastors and/or church members) are treated in most local churches and denominations when they report what happened.

Such acceptance of evil is evil itself. Those who embrace it eventually become unable to discern truth and they will believe the lie instead, to their destruction.

 

Paul’s Last Words to the Ephesian Elders are About Evil Creeping into the Church

Acts 20:28-31 Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. (29) I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; (30) and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. (31) Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears.

I am thankful to a good friend for pointing these verses out to me, and the ones which follow in this post. How very different Paul’s words sound in contrast to the typical teaching that pastors and church leaders are being given today.

Whenever we have a record of someone’s “last words,” as we have here, we do well to pay close attention to them. Paul was never going to see these Ephesians again. He had limited time. He had instructed them for three years about many things, but here he distills a final warning down to this very point – Be awake and alert. Fierce wolves are coming and some of them are going to rise up from your own ranks. If you are careless, they will lead the flock away to destruction. 

To some degree, the evangelical church has fought just such a fight in the past century, particularly standing against liberal theology that denies the foundational doctrines of the gospel – the deity of Christ, His resurrection, the inspiration of the Scriptures, and so on. And yet the battle against what I suppose is best called “legalism” has not been fought well at all. Paul warned the Galatians that they had been set free by Christ and must never, ever again be subject to a yoke of slavery. And yet, what are we seeing today? The traditions of men trumping the Word of God so that large segments of the church are enslaved.

Nowhere are these man-made counterfeit “doctrines” more evident than in their approach to the very evil that Paul warns about. We are told (“commanded”) by leading Christian celebrity authors, pastors, conference leaders, movers and shakers in the counseling movement, and others things such as:

  • Anger is always sinful
  • We must be sure that our churches have a “non-judgmental” atmosphere toward everyone
  • Everyone, no matter who they are, is to be welcomed into our churches
  • Regardless of the evil committed by someone, God requires us to forgive them and that forgiveness must include reconciling relationship with them
  • All of us are sinners, all just as bad as anyone else
  • No one is beyond God’s mercy

And on and on we could go. Not one of these teachings is true. None are to be found in Scripture. In fact, what we do find in Scripture is the very opposite of these supposed “bible” truths.

Paul did not lay these things on the Ephesian elders in his “closing statement” to them. What he did tell them was to wise up about evil, to fully expect emissaries of the devil to show up, to not be surprised that some of those diabolical agents were already in position disguised as brethren, and to be ever vigilant in guarding Christ’s flock. You can bet that in those three years of instruction, Paul had described what these wicked types look like, how they operate, and what Christ commands us to do with them. THIS is what he is telling them to remember!

Did they listen? We don’t know. But something we do know – most of the elders and pastors and church leaders today are NOT listening. And as a result the majority of local churches have numbers of these savage wolves sitting in the pews if not actually standing at the pulpit! This means then that another Babylonian Captivity of Christ’s people has happened and that a new exodus is sorely needed away from this bondage. These are dark, dark times when Christ’s light is needed desperately.

Ephesians 4:11-14 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, (12) to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, (13) until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, (14) so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.

 

“Propriety” and “Protocol” are Often Used to Protect Evildoers

Then the disciples came and said to him, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?” He answered, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be rooted up. Let them alone; they are blind guides. And if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.” (Mat 15:12-14)

Evildoers and those who protect them often create “protocols” in order to silence anyone who would seek to expose wickedness. As we work to shine light upon evil that is hiding in churches, we see this tactic very frequently.

As you can see in the verses above, Jesus smashed through the niceties of the day and confronted the wicked in broad daylight. The Pharisees were the “clergy” of the day. The exalted church leaders claiming God’s authority, yet they did not know Him at all. They misused God’s Word to keep people in bondage and to exalt themselves. Power and self-glory were their goal.

And he called the people to him and said to them, “Hear and understand: it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person.” (Mat 15:10-11)

He called the people to him. He told them publicly. So that not only the people, but the Pharisees could hear. He said that the theology and doctrines of the Pharisees were bunk. And everyone knew exactly who he was talking about.

The disciples, bound to some degree by the evil-protecting etiquette of the day, cautioned Jesus that he had offended these holy ones. “Too bad. Forget about them. They are destroying people along with themselves.” That was Jesus’ reaction to “protocol.”

We have the same false, binding, evil-protecting rules laid upon us today. For example:

  • Oh my goodness, you said these men who are our brothers in Christ covered up for a child molester. Yes, I see there is a possibility they did, but it just isn’t right for you to say so where everyone can hear.
  • You must not speak of your husband that way. Sure, what he is doing is wrong, but a wife must obey her husband.
  • It is wrong (Bill Gothardism here) to “take up an offense of someone else.” You must not speak of a sin or crime committed against another person besides yourself.
  • A Christian must never, ever say something negative about a fellow Christian. Especially in public.
  • That man is a great, holy Christian who has accomplished magnificent deeds for the Lord. And YOU dare criticize him?
  • Ok, ok, he did that. But now is not the proper time to say so. What you say may be true, but I don’t like the way you are telling it.
  • In response to a news article about a wicked man who claimed to be a Christian, charged with murdering his wife and two children, one commenter said: “There isn’t enough information to even tell if he’s guilty or not. It shouldn’t be guilty before being proven innocent. There are no details at all about the crime and why they think that he is guilty.” So we must not speak of it, you see.

People who expose injustice know that if they “play by the rules,” nothing is going to change. They are not going to be heard. Because “the rules” are most typically loaded in favor of the wicked. Of those holding abusive power. Think for example of the civil rights movement. Protocol said that a black person was not to drink from a “whites only” water fountain, or sit in a whites only seat on a bus and so on. These were the very things that civil rights workers did. It got some of them killed. But it was right. The protocol was what was evil and wrong. Or think of the women’s suffrage movement which sought to get the vote for women. They did not always concern themselves with “propriety” so as “not to offend.” Because the propriety was what was wrong in the first place. It silenced the righteous.

And so it is in the church today, just as it was in Jesus’ day. If we are going to expose domestic abusers hiding in the church, or pedophiles creeping in among us, or power and control junkies like Diotrephes (see 3 John), then we cannot “play by the rules.” Like Jesus, we must be willing to be hated by the powers that be and press right on in announcing that they are leading people into a pit.

But in order that it may spread no further among the people, let us warn them to speak no more to anyone in this name.” So they called them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” (Act 4:17-20)

Evil is Darkness – It Always Pressures Us to be Quiet

And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. (John 3:19)

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. (1 John 1:5-6)

This post is about a subject that most all of you have experienced if you are a true Christian and have worked to expose evil, particularly evil hiding within a church under a “christian” disguise. This is still another tactic that is so commonly evidenced by wicked hypocrites because it proceeds from the very Prince of darkness himself. It is no surprise that his servants reflect it as well. Here is our topic:

Servants of our enemy, so often parading as servants of Christ, always work to silence those who would expose evil. You’ve heard it all before I bet, and certainly if you have seen wickedness masquerading as a saint in your church:

  • You need to be quiet. It isn’t “christian” to say such things about a brother in Christ.
  • You need to stop saying such things. You are trashing Christ’s church.
  • That is gossip.
  • All church members are required to never talk to the media about what has happened in our church.
  • Stop being so arrogant. We are all sinners.
  • The church leadership did not tell the members about Fred molesting his children because there is no need for everyone to know. So you be quiet about it and if you don’t we will discipline you.
  • No, we didn’t report this to the police and you must not either. Jesus wants us to handle this within His church and not get the state involved.

And on and on the list goes. You could easily add many more such wicked statements all designed to silence the light of truth.

Now, what we all need to do is totally blow off such intimidating threats (and that is precisely what these bullying tactics are – threats) and shout out the truth with even more clarity. We must have confidence, knowing that we are doing what Christ would do. “Woe to you, scribes, Pharisees, hypocrites!!” Jesus commands us to call out evil that has crept into His church and put it out from among us. See 1 Corinthians 5 on that as a clear example.

And here is something to add to our confidence. We can know with certainty that anyone who is working to expand and maintain the darkness rather than exposing evil with the light of Christ’s truth, does not know Him nor belong to Him. Oh sure, we might initially (in the days of our naivete) be confused and uncertain and wonder if we are to speak out or not. But if you are a Christian then the Spirit of Truth indwells you and He is going to turn on the lights for us and guide us into all truth. The truth in these cases is, “here is an evil person hiding in the church, claiming to be a Christian, but in fact his deeds reveal that he is still in darkness and is actively working to remain in that darkness. He has crept in among us. He is to be exposed and put out.”

Just read the verses quoted above once more. Pull out your Bible and read 1 John for instance. You either ARE or you AREN’T in Christ. And if you love the darkness rather than the light then I know everything about you that I need to know.

Our little church here in Oregon knows these things are true. We have, by the Lord’s gracious leading, exposed darkness and evil numerous times. As a result we are a small band. We are hated by many who claim to belong to Christ, and the fellowship of churches we used to belong to detests us for speaking out. Lo and behold one of their own “pastors,” Tom Chantry, was subsequently arrested on multiple felony charges and yet they still insist we must all defend him. We parted company with them years ago. And we can see that their persistence in walking in darkness and protecting others who do evidences exactly who they are.

So they called them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:18-20)

Nope, not going to shut up. Do your worst.