Spotting the Wicked by Watching for their Unguarded Moments

1Ti 5:24 The sins of some people are conspicuous, going before them to judgment, but the sins of others appear later.

If you are a Star Trek fan, you know that the Klingons have a device on their ships called a cloaking device. It makes the ship invisible, though just before they fire their weapons they have to turn it off. They become visible at that point, but for the skilled observer, sometimes the cloaked ship causes a kind of wavy irregularity in space as it is viewed on Captain Kirk’s screen and might be just enough to give away the enemy’s presence.

But you have to be watching, carefully.

The wicked expend large amounts of energy moment by moment maintaining their cloaking device – especially if they are one of the wolves in sheep’s clothing that creep into Christ’s church. Think about it. How much effort does it take to put on a disguise and keep it on, presenting yourself as someone you are not? Quite a lot. All wicked, ungodly people do this to some extent, though not always to keep their cloaking device energized. As Paul writes in Romans 1, all men know God exists and that He is the Creator, but they refuse to honor Him or give Him thanks. Instead, they suppress the truth. And that “suppressing” is like having to constantly hold down a spring lest it spring up into full view.

People who cloak themselves with a disguise inevitably slip at times. Their guard drops in an unguarded moment. The “oh ever so nice” pastor snaps at someone for making a mistake. The quintessential holy saint church member scowls at his wife and speaks to her in a tone of voice you have never heard emanate from him before. The famous “christian” celebrity women’s speaker who has cranked out book after book and can’t keep up with the conference circuit she is demanded by, turns to one of her team members just before going to the podium, gives her an ugly look of disgust, then smilingly and with a saintly air walks to the podium to the adoring crowd’s applause.

See it? You can spot the wicked. The wolf’s sheep disguise isn’t perfect all the time. It slips. There is a waviness in space that betrays who he really is. And if you are wise to this reality about evil, you will be able to spot him. Sometimes the slip is so subtle that it only gives you more of a “feeling” than an objective, measurable “I saw him do such and such” that you can describe in detail. DO NOT IGNORE WHAT YOU SEE IN THE UNGUARDED MOMENTS. Do not just explain your observations away as your imagination. Rather, take careful note and realize that most probably “all is not what it appears to be here.”

Do not be duped. And do not be one of the many who simply “pooh-pooh” it away. “Oh no. It couldn’t be. It’s nothing.” And then such people turn right around and when a victim of the evil man tries to tell them he is not what he appears to be, and say “Oh, come on. Look at him. No one is perfect. He is a fine Christian. You are being way to judgmental.”

If you do that, you become the ally of the wicked.

We Must Understand What Reviling is and What the Reviler Looks Like

Luk 6:22 “Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man!

1Co 5:11 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.

1Co 6:9-11 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, (10) nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. (11) And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

I have written several times before about this matter of the reviler, but it is so important of a subject that it bears repeating quite often. A reviler is a person who villifies others. That is, the reviler accuses others and makes them the villain. Villification is to accuse and slander and charge someone with evil, but very typically the word is used in the context of false accusations. And that is what we have in Scripture. A reviler is a person who assaults others with his tongue, who makes false accusations, who guilts and shames his targeted victim.

Now first of all notice carefully from the above verses that a reviler is not a Christian. Nope. Not. The thing is impossible. Some Christians used to be revilers, but once they were washed clean by faith in Christ they revile no more.

Notice also that the worst revilers in Scripture – such as the Pharisees – were quite religious. They claimed to be the people of God. And so it is today. Revilers hide in the visible church, disguised by a facade of saintliness. They are quite deceptive and intentionally do their share of what we call “crazy-making.”

Let me give you some examples.

Bob is a reviler. He is also a church leader. A Bible study teacher. He is viewed by most everyone as a very zealous and “holy” Christian. And yet there is something about Bob that is evident to at least a few of his fellow church members. Bob can be smiling and very helpful, a real servant you know. He can participate with you in an interesting theological discussion. But then, in some unexpected way and time, Bob blasts you. He might say things like this:

  • You should not have bought your new house. It is too far away from the church building and you have no accountability.
  • You were not patient enough with that man who verbally attacked you. You need to show him GRACE! for pete’s sake. (the caps indicate a virtual shouting volume by Bob)
  • You are not being kind enough to so and so.
  • I know what you are thinking about doing and I think it is wrong.
  • I remember when you….

And on and on we could go. You get the idea. Bob is a reviler. Revilers accuse. Revilers make other people (never themselves) the villain. Why does the reviler revile? Because like all abusers he craves power and control over his targeted subjects. He lusts to be numero uno and wants to be seen and praised by others for his zeal. And he likes to keep you off guard so that you are easier to control. After all, if you don’t realize Bob is a reviler by his very nature, if you think he is a genuine Christian who happens to be a bit difficult at times, then you are not going to be able to expose Bob for what he really is.

Revilers keep us down. They load us up with shame and false guilt. They make us believe that we are the problem and that we really just don’t measure up to Bob’s level of sanctity. Therefore, the Lord commands us to be wise, to know a reviler when we see them, and put them out from among us, having nothing to do with them.

Otherwise, I can assure you, you will continue to keep getting in the traumatic train wreck the “Bobs” around us love to cause, and there will never be true peace in our lives or in our church if we keep Bob around.

The Wicked Blame Everyone but Themselves

Mal 1:6-7 “A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If then I am a father, where is my honor? And if I am a master, where is my fear? says the LORD of hosts to you, O priests, who despise my name. But you say, ‘How have we despised your name?’ (7) By offering polluted food upon my altar. But you say, ‘How have we polluted you?’ By saying that the LORD’s table may be despised.

If you have dealt with thoroughly evil people – domestic abusers, sociopaths, rank hypocrites who claim to be Christians but do not know the Lord – then you know that they never accept blame for their sins. They always blame others – particularly their victims.

You see this very thing here in Malachi. The wicked are such deceivers that they even deceive themselves, entering into contention with God! “How have we despised your name?” “How have we polluted you?” Here is another example:

Mal 2:13-14 And this second thing you do. You cover the LORD’s altar with tears, with weeping and groaning because he no longer regards the offering or accepts it with favor from your hand. (14) But you say, “Why does he not?” Because the LORD was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant.

And still another:

Pro 30:20 This is the way of an adulteress: she eats and wipes her mouth and says, “I have done no wrong.”

Over and over and over we see this pattern, and if we are going to be wise in regard to evil then we had better thoroughly understand that this is how the wicked operate. Accusing. Blaming. Guilting. Everyone but themselves.

Here is an evil man who habitually, deceptively, and horribly abuses his wife. Oh, he claims to be a Christian and people at church think he is just the most saintly fellow around. So when his wickedness percolates to the surface – perhaps when his victim comes forward and asks for help – very few want to believe her. And even if, over the course of time, the evidence piles up so that the hypocrite is obviously exposed for what he is, what happens inevitably is that those who have to deal with him end up being the ones primarily blamed.

  • They weren’t gracious enough
  • They didn’t forgive him
  • They didn’t handle things as we think they should have
  • They told the whole church and should have kept it confidential
  • Etc, etc, etc

Here you are, perhaps a church elder or a counselor or a pastor or perhaps just the victim’s friend. This evil abuse comes to the surface. It has to be dealt with. Now, unless you are a phony yourself, or a coward, you hunger and thirst for righteousness. Justice must be done. And so you act. Well guess what? The abuser and his allies will now move their sights to YOU! Count on it. The thing is certain.

This shifts blame, you see, off the truly guilty one and puts the focus on others. We see it in the news every single day. An evil criminal is out doing his evil – perhaps even murdering people – and the police catch him. What happens? Soon loud outcries are pouring out of people against the police. Everyone seems to have short term amnesia, forgetting the fact that – “hey, this all started with the criminal! The police didn’t create the situation. They just had to deal with it.”

And so it is when we confront the wicked who are oppressing victims. It happens in the local church all the time (at least in churches where evil is truly exposed and dealt with as the Lord commands). Pretty soon the focus shifts from the wicked man to the victims and to those who did not ask to have to deal with the situation but who are charged with doing so. Now they are being blamed and the real culprit loves it.

There are many people who hate me. Why? Because as a pastor myself and our elders had to deal with evildoers. They didn’t like how we dealt with them. Which is to say, by the way, they didn’t liked that we DID deal with them! Soon, people started listening to their outcries. “They didn’t handle this right. They should have…they should not have…they were too harsh…” and on and on.

But the reality is…what? The evildoer is the one who started the whole thing with his wickedness.

Do righteousness and you will have nothing to fear. Walk in evil and you have no complaint about how you are dealt with.

Rom 13:3-4 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, (4) for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.

 

The Reason Churches Protect Abusers and Cast Out Victims is that they do not Fear a Holy God

Most all of you know the sickening pattern. Wicked, evil person hiding in the church behind a disguise of “saint.” He victimizes the innocent who then cry out for justice. Victims are marginalized, disbelieved, silenced, and even thrown out of the assembly. The evil one? He is not only allowed to remain in the church, but he is often coddled, pitied, and even put into a ministry position?

Why? Why this same evil mantra pattern? Over and over it happens. Why?

Let me tell you. I believe I know the answer. First, read the following account of two deceivers in the early church – Ananias and his wife Sapphira.

Act 5:1-11 But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, (2) and with his wife’s knowledge he kept back for himself some of the proceeds and brought only a part of it and laid it at the apostles’ feet.

(3) But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? (4) While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to man but to God.” (5) When Ananias heard these words, he fell down and breathed his last.

And great fear came upon all who heard of it.

(6) The young men rose and wrapped him up and carried him out and buried him. (7) After an interval of about three hours his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. (8) And Peter said to her, “Tell me whether you sold the land for so much.” And she said, “Yes, for so much.” (9) But Peter said to her, “How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.”

(10) Immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. When the young men came in they found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband.

(11) And great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things.

I am not sure where to begin, so I will simply begin. Over a decade ago, a great evil occurred in our church. Initially, as it was the first time most of us had had to deal with such a thing, it took some sorting out. Immediately we informed the perpetrator he could no longer be present in our church (for the protection of the victim). We reported the matter to the police. He and his family left our church.

Subsequently, I studied this matter of abuse (in its multiple forms) and eventually preached a 22 sermon series on the specific subject of domestic abusers hiding in churches, exposing not only them but the typical ways local churches and pastors covered for the wicked and oppressed the victims. That sermon series is still available at sermonaudio.com/crc. And ultimately I wrote my first book on the same subject, A Cry for Justice.

What was the outcome? Justice for the perpetrator. Validation for the victim. All’s well that ends well, right? Not so fast.

Ultimately many people left us. Our church now has about 30 people in it. One or two people became so hostile that we did not “forgive and forget” the whole matter that they became antagonistic and divisive and eventually had to be put out of the church. We are labeled. Unforgiving. Mean-spirited. Made a mountain out of a mole hill.

In other words, standing for righteousness proved to be quite costly.

But only in the short term. On that Day it will not be those who stand for victims of oppression who are going to pay the real price.

Now, back to our original question. Why is it that people – church members, pastors – normally champion the cause of the evil man and not that of the victim? Why is it the victim that is so typically oppressed, silenced, and put out of the church? I said I know the answer, and here it is:

Professing Christians in large part do not fear the Holy, Holy, Holy God. They look upon sin quite lightly and convince themselves that God does as well. They think, in the end, that Ananias and Sapphira got a rather raw deal, and that their case was not the norm.

You see, if we deal with sin in the church as Christ has commanded us to do, if we do not even eat with a person who says they are a Christian but lives like the devil (1 Cor 5) then suddenly sin rattles our world. Old Mr. Smith the deacon who, it turns out, has been abusing his wife for years, is suddenly put out of the fellowship and his evil exposed. The business is scary. Earth-shaking. Uncomfortable. Why, if I do what he did, I just might be the next to be expelled.

That is how it was when this young man decided he could treat God as no more than a man:

Jos 7:19-20 Then Joshua said to Achan, “My son, give glory to the LORD God of Israel and give praise to him. And tell me now what you have done; do not hide it from me.” (20) And Achan answered Joshua, “Truly I have sinned against the LORD God of Israel, and this is what I did:

Jos 7:24-25 And Joshua and all Israel with him took Achan the son of Zerah, and the silver and the cloak and the bar of gold, and his sons and daughters and his oxen and donkeys and sheep and his tent and all that he had. And they brought them up to the Valley of Achor. (25) And Joshua said, “Why did you bring trouble on us? The LORD brings trouble on you today.” And all Israel stoned him with stones. They burned them with fire and stoned them with stones.

Whoa! Poor Achan. Man, he said he was sorry. Today (you know this was Old Testament stuff) we hug Achan and tell him everything is ok. We tell him he is forgiven and no one is to ever mention what he did again. Grace that is greater than all our sin, you know. Makes us feel really warm and fuzzy and good.

But then there is that troublesome account of Ananias and Saphhira. Hmmmm….book of Acts. I think that is in the New Testament. Maybe things haven’t changed quite as much as so many professing Christians would like?

And that is exactly right. God has not changed. God is holy, holy, holy today and always. Do not be deceived, God is not mocked. Whatsoever a man sows, that he shall also reap.

Professing Christians today (and I say “professing” purposely because far more who claim to be Christians are in fact unconverted) do not fear the holy God. That is why they want to treat even the most evil sins in the ranks of the church so lightly. It is why they want to forgive and restore a pastor who has been involved in shocking or even criminal sin. Because if in fact we are required by God to tell such people they should fear God’s wrath, if we seriously hear the Apostle Paul tell the Corinthians that a number of them are weak and sick and some are DEAD! for mocking the Lord’s table, then – well, hold on just a minute….

Heb 10:26-31 For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, (27) but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. (28) Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. (29) How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? (30) For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” (31) It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

Most professing Christians do not believe this. This is not their god. They have no fear of the Holy One.

And THAT is why they will not act in holy obedience to the Lord when an Achan or an Ananias or a Sapphira crops up in their midst. Like the Corinthians whom Paul chastised, they arrogantly boast of their “graciousness,” embrace the wicked man, tell the victim to embrace him too or leave, and everyone sings another chorus of Jesus Paid it All.

 

Shunning is Not Always Wrong

Many times I have heard people criticize churches and Christians for “shunning” someone. And in many of those cases the criticism is valid because the person being shunned is in fact a victim of some evil which the church refused to confront. Instead, they blamed the victim and threw them under the bus.

Somehow the idea of “shunning” someone has become something that is thought to be always evil and wrong. But that is not so. The Bible is quite plain that there are people with whom we are to have nothing to do. People we are to shun. Here are some scriptural examples:

1Co 5:11-13 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. (12) For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? (13) God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”

Rom 16:17-18 I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. (18) For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive.

2Th 3:6 Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us.

I could go on citing more, but this certainly should suffice to prove that the Christian is to keep away from, avoid, and not even eat with certain people. Namely and especially, people who claim to be Christians but who are walking in evil and therefore are servants of the devil.

This idea that shunning is always wrong and evil in itself is something that is often used to justify keeping the wicked in the church, enabling them in their evil. But to do so is to refuse to obey the clear commands of the Lord. For myself, I simply cannot understand why any real Christian would want to continue in fellowship with a counterfeit believer who has crept in among the brethren to destroy and harm. We are light in the Lord. Why would we want to associate and be bound together with darkness?

Notice once again (you see it in the verses quoted above) that it is not the average, normal unbeliever that is the most serious threat to the church, though of course we are not to be intimately connected with them either. I count numbers of unsaved people as my friends. But I wouldn’t marry one. I socialize with them (as Jesus ate with sinners) but I realize that we are not at all on the same page when it comes to ultimate truths of God’s Word. Nevertheless, the greatest evil, the most wicked and dangerous person, comes to us disguised as a sheep, yet is a ravenous wolf. If someone claims to be a brother in Christ but in fact bears evil fruit as a regular pattern of his life, then that is the person to shun.

So, yes, I shun certain people. Our church shuns certain people. And in doing so we are obeying our Lord’s command.

The Evil Man Consistently Works to Make the Righteous Look Bad

Then the Rabshakeh stood and called out in a loud voice in the language of Judah: “Hear the word of the great king, the king of Assyria! Thus says the king: ‘Do not let Hezekiah deceive you, for he will not be able to deliver you out of my hand. Do not let Hezekiah make you trust in the LORD by saying, The LORD will surely deliver us, and this city will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria.’ Do not listen to Hezekiah, for thus says the king of Assyria: ‘Make your peace with me and come out to me. Then each one of you will eat of his own vine, and each one of his own fig tree, and each one of you will drink the water of his own cistern, until I come and take you away to a land like your own land, a land of grain and wine, a land of bread and vineyards, a land of olive trees and honey, that you may live, and not die. And do not listen to Hezekiah when he misleads you by saying, “The LORD will deliver us.” (2Ki 18:28-32)

Hezekiah was a righteous, godly king whose faith and trust were in the Lord. This righteousness was the very point at which the enemy attacked him by calling the King’s faith foolishness. The Assyrians were trying to alienate the people from their king by deceptively accusing him in their presence.

We must be wise to this tactic. I have written about it before but we really cannot be reminded often enough. Satan, by nature, is an accuser. He accused God in Eden and successfully turned Adam and Eve into rebels.

I have found that while abusers and other evil people frequently if not typically appear to be quite inconsistent, they are really very constant. You get the feeling that you never know what direction they are going to go, or which side of an issue they are going to come down on. They appear to be very unpredictable, and this unpredictability on their part is quite intentional. They want to keep us guessing so we don’t know what they are up to. The evil man wants his targets to be off guard.

But what clears the fog of this seeming multi-directional “going off” is to realize that by his nature, the wicked man who craves power and control, turns every situation that he can to his own advantage. Consistently and quite naturally he sees opportunity in a given situation that comes along to use it to make the righteous look stupid or mean or guilty. Satan’s agents are really quite skilled at this, able to pull it off without really having to even think about it but for a split second. You see this very think in Diotrephes:

For they have gone out for the sake of the name, accepting nothing from the Gentiles. Therefore we ought to support people like these, that we may be fellow workers for the truth. I have written something to the church, but Diotrephes, who likes to put himself first, does not acknowledge our authority. So if I come, I will bring up what he is doing, talking wicked nonsense against us. And not content with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers, and also stops those who want to and puts them out of the church. (3Jn 1:7-10)

This evil must be exposed. We must be able to recognize it, shine light on it, and not be duped. “Stop that! We know what you just did. Repent of your wickedness, or leave our midst.” Put Diotrephes’ name in lights and most always he will hit the road, bound for greener pastures where he can practice his dark trade.

 

Evil Has no Shame – An Identifying Mark of the Evildoer

Jer 6:15 Were they ashamed when they committed abomination? No, they were not at all ashamed; they did not know how to blush. Therefore they shall fall among those who fall; at the time that I punish them, they shall be overthrown,” says the LORD.

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.

The wicked have much to be ashamed of. The domestic abuser, for example – particularly the one who has claimed all along to be a Christian yet has carried out years and years of constant abuse upon his victim. How, we ask, can such a person even show his face at church? And yet he does. He even seems to thrive at doing so.

It is because he has no shame. If you have been the target of such an evildoer, you know this very well. Shamelessness. Just like the wicked ones Jeremiah rebuked, such people do not know how to blush. God promises that in the Day of the Lord you can be sure that these creeps will finally experience true shame. Oh, not for repentance, but they will be shamed by the Lord for all creation to see.

Over the years, I have seen this shamelessness in domestic abusers and other wicked hypocrites. Once they are called out – perhaps by a victim whose eyes are cleared of the fog abuse produces – they often grow even more bold. They have no shame to keep them from demanding court appearances where they stand up in front of the judge and lie and deny and accuse. They have no shame to prevent them from persevering in contacting their victim – even after the divorce. They have no shame to dissuade them from marching into the local church on Sunday, standing and weeping and praying and using the Lord’s name in efforts to deceive and garner pity for themselves.

These evildoers will insist on contacting their victim. Proper shame would cause a person to hang their head and be too ashamed to push themselves upon the person they had wronged. But not so with these shameless ones. They email. They telephone. They send cards. They insist on seeing the children. Understanding this, I myself always mark “return to sender” on any such shameless communiques I might receive without ever reading them.

On one occasion long ago a person who had acted very, very wickedly – to the point of being put out of the church due to unrepentance – telephoned me and began to question me, carrying on in conversation as if nothing had happened at all. I finally interrupted and said, “you have no shame.” Click. End of conversation.

This shamelessness is a common and regular mark of evil. Think of the pastor or elder who is an abuser for instance. How in the world could anyone, you ask, stand in a pulpit and preach every Sunday when all the while he is cruelly abusing his wife behind the scenes? Answer – no shame. No conscience. In fact, not only is he unashamed of his evil deeds, he is proud of them. As Paul told the Romans as quoted above, he even encourages others to jump right into the pool of evil with him.

Where there is no shame you can be sure evil is lurking and practicing its wickedness. When you see someone who has done great evil, who it turns out has been walking habitually in that evil for years without repentance yet all the while masquerading as a Christian, you can be sure that shamelessness will evidence itself. This is still a further confirmation of the kind of person you are dealing with.

 

The Bible Emphasizes “Being” – We Must not be Satisfied with “Doing”

Eph 4:20-24 But that is not the way you learned Christ!– (21) assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, (22) to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, (23) and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, (24) and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

Consistently the New Testament reminds the Christian that he/she is a new creation and therefore is to live consistently as that new creation. Be who you are. That is the Bible’s instruction to us. Realize who you now are and don’t live like the person you used to be. Being, you see. Not just external doing.

The false Pharisaical religion of course was all about doing. Do this. Don’t do that. The heart remains hard and unchanged, desiring evil but man-made religion says “I know that is what you really want down in your heart, but don’t do it. Do this instead, even though you would rather not.”

It is this second false religion that is characterizes most professing Christians today, and that is a main reason they turn out to be dens of evil.  And most churches are satisfied with it. Let me give you an example.

Let’s say a local church decides steps should be taken to prevent pedophiles from molesting the children. That’s a good thing to do. Yes it is. Background checks are required for volunteers in various ministries. Windows are installed in classroom doors. More than one adult is required to be present in a class. Staff is trained in these procedures. All well and good.

The problem is, everyone is satisfied. “There, we have placed constraints in our programs so that molesters cannot harm our children.”

Or, another example. To help ensure that adulteries and fornications don’t flame up among church members, certain rules are put in place. Some formal and written. Some unwritten and informal. A man is never to be along with a woman not his wife. A woman is never to be alone with a man who is not her husband. Husbands and wives are to have full access to one another’s email accounts. Computer software is to be installed that will prevent going online at a porn site. Women are to dress in a certain way. The “six-inch” rule of no touching is taught and enforced among the youth.

And again, the problem is, everyone is satisfied. “There, that should do it.”

But it won’t. In fact, if the power of sin is the law (as Paul told the Corinthians) then these kinds of rules often simply dump gasoline on the fire.

So what is the biblical way of handling such things? Be who you are. This is who the Bible says you now are, Christian. Be that person. Be led by the Spirit. Put to death the deeds of the flesh, by the Spirit. Any other means of “mortifying” the flesh simply feeds the flesh.

This requires, therefore, a congregation of Spirit indwelt people. In other words, a church where the people are actually Christians!! Pretty radical, huh? But that is NOT the case in most local churches. No. Someone is a Christian if they say a prayer and get baptized, either as an infant or adult. No matter really how they are living the days of their lives (none of us are perfect, after all) or whether they show any spiritual growth or not. They are pronounced Christians. But you’ve just got to keep these “christians” in tow – and thus the rules like the ones I mentioned above. John may be an adulterer at heart (well, in his “flesh” as they say) but as long as we make John follow the rules, he won’t adulterize. If he does slip, well, we are a forgiving bunch here, you know.

And the child molester? The rules. Make everyone follow the rules and all will be well – they say. But, let me ask – “just how well is that working for you all?”  Answer: It isn’t. Why? Because your “church” is full of people who aren’t saved at all – they don’t know Christ and He does not know them. They are still slaves to sin and Satan.

And this is why I am always highly suspicious of local churches that seem to grow in numbers so easily. What this most always means is that the unsaved are being pronounced saved, welcomed into the church, and held to a very low standard of holiness in the name of “love and grace and forgiveness.”

The proper course? The biblical one? People who claim to be Christians must evidence they are Christians if they are going to be in the local church. Well, there is one other category that is welcome – those who openly confess they do not know Christ but are seeking Him. NO third category of person is to be in the church!! Have your rules for children’s ministry and so on, but if anyone thinks that the key to Christ-honoring local churches is “be sure everyone follows the rules,” you are grievously mistaken.

1Co 5:11-13  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. (12) For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? (13) God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”

“But,” you say, “that will mean that local churches will be quite small in number.”

Yep. They will be. They should be. That, in fact, is what you consistently see in Scripture. A body of believers that is called, “the remnant.”

 

My Experience as a Pastor With Evil in its Favorite Nesting Place – The Visible Church

Gal 1:14 And I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers.

Php 3:4 though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more:

2Co 11:16 I repeat, let no one think me foolish. But even if you do, accept me as a fool, so that I too may boast a little.

In the first part of this article, it is going to sound like I am boasting. I assure you that I am not, and so I ask you as did Paul, to bear with me a bit while I talk about myself. It is necessary in order to make my main point, as you will see.

Not far from where we now live is the small town of Monmouth, Oregon where you will find Western Oregon State University. That is the universtiy (college at the time I attended) which my wife and I receive our Bachelor’s degrees from way back in 1973.  I was thinking about those days recently and the realization struck me that in my pre-pastorate life, things went quite well for me. I was a Christian then, but not very strong in the faith yet. Here are some of my experiences from that era:

  • I won the freshman outstanding chemistry student award
  • I was regularly recognized by my science, math, and history professors as their “best student.” regularly posting the highest exam scores of the class
  • Both my wife and I graduated with honors
  • My senior year I was chosen out of a large group of applicants for a deputy sheriff’s position in Benton County, Oregon
  • I attended the Oregon Police Academy (Camp Withycombe as it was known back then) and placed second in the class academically, and I won the shooting trophy for scoring the best target with my .38 revolver
  • Two years later I once again was hired out of a large number of applicants as a deputy sheriff in Multnomah County (Portland), Oregon. I would have the same experience some 8 years later when I was hired as a police officer in Gresham, Oregon, having competed for the position with over 200 applicants.
  • In seminary I won the biblical languages award and was also given the honor of preaching at the graduate class/faculty chapel.

And then, in 1983, I was a police officer on a Friday, and a pastor of my first church on Monday.

Alright then, that’s is the end of the boasting. It was also the end of my advancement in the eyes of man.

What has been my experience these 35 years as a pastor in the local, visible church? Oh sure, there were some tough times as a police officer. I was hated by criminals I arrested, but almost always we enjoyed real comradery with fellow officers. But in the vast majority of my experience in the church, I have found that the enemy sits in the pews. Police officer and comrade on Friday. Hated and targeted by false christians on Monday. The change was that real, and that fast.

We now enjoy a very small church of genuine believers here in Tillamook, but this came only after years and years of attacks from counterfeits who had, as Jude puts it, crept in among us. They professed Christ but they hated His truth and anyone to spoke it to them. And as a result, as a whole over these three plus decades of pastoral ministry, I have been hated. There have been no accolades. No awards. Just hatred from those who claim they serve the same Lord I do.

The Lord has been very faithful to us. He raised up the A Cry for Justice ministry in which He used us to expose evil hiding in the church in the form of domestic abusers. He has continued to circulate the books he impelled me to write and we regularly receive the thanks of abuse victims who have been greatly helped by them. But, I say again, as a whole, the mass of what claims to be the Christian Church has hated me.

When I was a police officer, I apprehended wicked people so they could receive what was coming to them. I loved it. In fact the reason I was hired over all the other applicants at the Gresham Police department was that in my application interview one older, experienced Lieutenant asked me, “Jeff, why do you want to be a police officer?” My answer was, “because I love to throw bad guys in jail.” He stood up and said “THAT is the answer I was looking for!”

I still love to throw bad guys in jail by exposing them whenever I can, and that means exposing hypocrites in local churches parading as Christians among the flock.

But my point is, I received a slap on the back for doing this as a police officer. “Good job nailing that armed robber, Crippen! That was great police work!” We were a team. We backed each other up.

That all ended when I became a pastor. Why? Because local churches are filled with people who are fake christians. Or with people who might be Christians but who have been so brainwashed by false teaching that they have been told that it is unloving to throw bad guys in jail! The former class is far more common however.

What is my point in all this? My point is that this is the very same experience the Apostle Paul had. When he was called by Christ, he left all behind. And what was he greeted with in the church? Well, he met some genuine believers. He had the faithful Timothy and Epaphroditus. There were a handful of other faithful brothers and sisters standing with him. But largely, his experience in the visible church is that wicked people would creep in and before long they would have the whole place turned against him. Peter found it to be the same, as did Jude, and of course as did the Lord Jesus Himself.

And so sometimes I find myself reminiscing about those “good ol’ days” when Jeff was advancing, when people would say “you have a great career ahead of you,” when outstanding performance was recognized and rewarded. Those were the days. And then I have to talk to myself and remind myself that following Christ looks exactly what my experience as a pastor has been. That my reward, my “atta boys” need to come from Christ, not from man. Because if all the world slaps you on the back, flatters you, praises you….well, you had better take a hard look at yourself and see if you know Jesus at all.

That “Most Holy Guy in the Church” is often an Agent of the Enemy

[I originally wrote this article on my Facebook page but I am publishing it here as well so everyone can see it]

Beware of people who are too “religious.”

I have been a pastor now for going on 35 years. And I can tell you that the people who have caused the most grief and trouble in the churches I have served as a pastor are the people who APPEAR to be the most “holy.” Let me explain.

Christ came into this world to set all who believe in Him right with God. We don’t enter this life righteous. We all know this. No one had to teach us to throw a tantrum or to be selfish or to curse someone who gets in our way, even using God’s own holy name in that curse. Nope. We all know how to do this even in our earliest years. But Christ came to 1) Pay for our sin by dying on the cross, and 2) live a perfect life in perfect obedience to His Father – FOR US. So that when we simply believe this good news, embrace by faith Christ as our Savior and in fact the ONLY Savior who can make us right with God, HIS perfect life and HIS redeeming sacrifice on the cross become OURS. It is all by Christ alone through faith alone by God’s grace alone. NOT by anything we do or don’t do. That is the gospel.

Ok, so what about these “holy” religious people. Well there is nothing wrong with holiness or with religion, as long as it is true holiness and true religion. The problem comes in when “holy” people base their holiness on works – on things THEY do or things THEY do not do. And then they start telling us that we have to keep the same code as them or God will have nothing to do with us. In other words, they teach by example and by word that getting right with God (salvation) requires not only faith in Christ but “doings and not-doings” on our part. The Bible calls all of this “works of the law” – the Old Testament requirement of keeping perfectly the ten commandments. If that is your idea of what God requires of you, well, let me ask you – “how’s that working out for you?” I can give you the answer. It’s not. Because God requires total and complete, perfect, flawless obedience to His Law, and only Christ could ever pull that one off.

But back to these “holy” people I have known and perhaps who you have run into. Listen to what Martin Luther said about these kind:

“Note carefully that every teacher of works and of the righteousness of the law is a troubler of the church and of people’s conscience. The more holy the heretics seem to be outwardly, the more mischief they do.” (Commentary on Galatians)

Man, I have to tell you, it’s true! Luther is right on. I could write books about the grief and false guilt and misery these kind have brought my way over the years. They come into the local church, they look OUTWARDLY like the best most holy Christians you have ever known. People start listening to them and imitating them, thinking this is Christ. It’s not. These people are phonies. As Luther said and as the Bible says, their “holiness” is barely skin deep. Their hearts are evil and unchanged. They crave to be worshiped themselves and they despise real Christians and the real truths of the Bible.

Let me suggest to you that the most holy, perfectly sinless, purest Man who ever lived, the Lord Jesus Christ, at times would cause people like Peter to say, “depart from me, for I am a sinful man.” And yet very frequently and even typically, “tax-gatherers and sinners,” the outcasts of Jewish society in His day, would flock to Him, invite Him into their homes, and listen to Him. He didn’t ever of course enter into their sin, and He told them exactly what they needed to hear. But people who really were “heavy-laden” with the weight and sense of their sin, craved to be with Him. In other words, the Holy One was not “holier than thou” as we say today.

Beware then of people who display great “outward” holiness. They don’t drink alcohol. They never say a bad word (so you can hear them that is). They are all the time quoting Bible verses. All they do, it seems, is religious. Don’t trouble them with “frivolous” talk about daily things. Oh no. They are too “deep” for that. They say long prayers. They are at every single meeting of the church.

And by their counterfeit holiness, they preach in word and in action a false gospel that can never set us free and give us a clean conscience that no longer condemns. In fact, their “law-keeping” actually promotes and energizes sin. That is why you so often read or hear about these kind being “found out.” Turns out what Jesus said about them was true all along:

You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel! “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean. “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. (Mat 23:24-28)