An Appearance of Godliness – Part 19

Mat 10:34-39  “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.  (35)  For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.  (36)  And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household.  (37)  Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.  (38)  And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.  (39)  Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

One of the tell-tale signs that someone who claims to be a Christian, and even appears to be a Christian, is in fact a counterfeit, is their refusal to follow Christ at the cost of family relationships. Recently I was talking to a lady whose wicked husband demanded that she renounce Christ and return to the family (false) religion. Those are the moments that are defining. Which choice will we make? In her case, she chose Christ – and it ultimately even cost her relationship with her children.

I have written on this subject often and I mention it frequently in my teaching and sermons. Why? Because it is one of the most common stumbling blocks for so many poeple. Faced with a choice (and really, we are all faced with this choice), we must choose Christ. If we find our life here in this world, we will lose our real life for all eternity.

When we see someone who outwardly gives the appearance of a fine, saintly Christian, habitually choosing human relationships rather than obeying Christ, we can be sure that we are looking at a mere appearance of godliness, but that is all it is. An appearance. There is no power, no regenerating work of the Spirit. You see it evidence itself in choices like these:

  • Consistently placing events scheduled by family members over Christ’s command. For example, what happens when there is some kind of family reunion, or gathering of some kind, scheduled on Sunday morning? Will we obey Christ and honor the Lord’s Day, or will we yield to the pressures put upon us by father, mother, sister, brother, aunt or uncle?
  • Remaining in relationship with ungodly relatives, compromising Christ’s call to follow Him and to come out from among the wicked. Jesus said that His real family consisted of those who loved and obeyed Him. There will be a price to pay, but will we pay it?
  • Pursuing a career/job that makes us choose it over Christ?

I think you get the idea. When you see a person who claims to be a Christian, even if they put on a pretty convincing saintly front, in their habitual practice choosing the world instead of Christ, always making a choice that does not require them paying any price for being a Christian, then you can be quite sure that you are only looking at a facade of godliness. And be assured – as you choose to obey Christ and follow Him, as you grow in real godliness, you are going to see that these counterfeits will have less and less to do with you and in the end, they will hate you.

I also wanted to add that there is a related sign of a counterfeit in regard to this issue of the family. Numbers of times the fangs of false believers who have crept in among us have come out when they saw a real Christian giving godly counsel to their adult children. For example, once a young man asked me to meet with him because he said he would like to talk to me about career goals for himself. We met and in the course of the coversation I was giving him some ideas for him to think about – EMT, construction, Coast Guard, etc. He thanked me and not long after that I found out that his father was in a rage, telling others that I had dared tell his son to enter the Coast Guard!

Now, I could give you additional examples of this very same dynamic, but what it demonstrates is that evil is lurking. That father, and in other cases I have seen, mothers, demand continued power and control over not only their spouse, but over their children. They see the children as property and any indication that one of them is thinking about launching as an adult is met with rage, accusation, shaming and guilting.

And this is why, once again, Jesus said more than once that we must love Him above all others, and that when we do follow Him we can expect that we are going to be hated by the world, and in particular by evil family and relatives who demand that we worship them and remain part of their kingdom. This is the evil one at work. It is a common ploy of Satan to pressure people to choose the world instead of Christ. And it is a generational, evil dynamic that if we bow to it will keep not only us in bondage but our children and their children and their children.

So don’t be duped. This kind of false Christian may put on a great show of “godliness,” but that is all it is – a show. They in fact belong to their father the devil and do all they can to suck others into that black hole.

The False Appearance of Godliness Has Typical Identifiers (Part 18)

Mark 12:38-40 ESV  And in his teaching he said, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes and like greetings in the marketplaces  (39)  and have the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts,  (40)  who devour widows’ houses and for a pretense make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.”

While wolves in wool certainly can be quite skilled at their disguises and deceptive tactics, there are identifiers that just keep coming up over and over again. We would be wise to take note of them. You see it in Jesus’ words above:

  • Craving attention and celebrity status
  • Being addressed with titles that set them above others
  • Elevated places of honor
  • Love of money at the expense of others
  • Use of “holy-talk” to impress the adoring masses

If you would spend some time reading up on the various “Christian” organizations whose notable leaders have been busted for child molesting, embezzlement, sexual immorality, and other notoriously wicked sins, you will find a pattern. It is largely the same pattern Jesus is warning us of in this Scripture…beware! Beware of the scribes… And He described them for us.

Alright, so just how do we “beware”? Look for the signs. Whenever, and I mean, whenever! Whenever you see some preacher or theologian or evangelist who is characterized by these things and treated this way by the adoring followers, beware! You can count on it – they are a fake. They have an appearance of godliness but what they really are is servants of the devil.

The thing can sneak up on you. The pattern develops over time. But eventually there is fame and fortune. Finances that are inappropriate in size and use. Notoriety that is inappropriate. A friend of mine recently told me that he was at a conference once and was disheartened to see, just before a well-known Bible teacher and pastor was about to speak at a session, a number of young men scurrying to get front row seats, all the while remarking “Pastor _______” is about to speak!” Contrast that with Scripture:

1 Corinthians 2:1-5 ESV  And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom.  (2)  For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.  (3)  And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling,  (4)  and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power,  (5)  so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.

We have all seen this often enough that it is past time for us to really see it for what it is. The Lord Jesus did not evidence these kinds of things. And I, for myself, am done with it all. I am finished with the big name celebrity conferences, done with oohing and ahhing at the videos these groups put out boasting about what tremendous things they are doing on the mission field (google Voice of the Martyrs scandal and read up on what has been going on there for years).

We will be called judgmental and unkind for doing this, but I ask you – if a person or organization evidences the qualities Jesus exposed in the scribes and told us to beware – how is it wrong to obey our Lord by being done with them?

An Appearance of Godliness: Case Studies in Evil (Part 17)

Harry is a Christian counselor. He holds a seminary degree and is on staff with a large Christian organization where he has his counseling practice. Harry is a member of his church where he also serves as a church board member, holding the office of deacon.

When the new pastor arrived, Harry was very welcoming. He seemed to share the same doctrinal views and as time went along, Harry agreed with the pastor’s observations about some problem individuals in the church.

Over time however, the pastor got to know Harry more accurately. And there were some troubling signs which indicated Harry was not the fine Christian saint he portrayed. For example:

Continue reading “An Appearance of Godliness: Case Studies in Evil (Part 17)”