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?

 

 

O Foolish Evangelicals! Who Has Bewitched You? – The Deceptive Disguises of Legalism Pervasive in the Church Today

For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. (1Co 1:22-25)

Salvation by grace alone through faith alone by Christ alone is the gospel. It is God’s one way of saving fallen man. We are saved by His grace, apart from our own doings, and we are sustained and kept by that grace as well:

O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? (Gal 3:1-3)

The thesis I present to you in this article is that the evangelical church today, and for many, many years past, is presenting and practicing Christianity as a legalistic system of self-help. Now, you may say “amen!” to that and fancy that you have the ability to spot a legalistic false gospel. But I suggest that the prevailing plague of “Christ plus _____” is far more deceptively subtle in its forms. So much so that it seems the very air we breathe in most local churches and Christian ministries is fouled by it.

Christ is a stumbling block to the natural man. His way of salvation is foolishness to Mr. Worldly Wiseman. The flesh craves doing. But God’s way is believing that the doing has all been done by Someone other than me. Good news! Grace! Indescribable gift! And yet, surely the Spirit in the believer needs, some help?

Please don’t misunderstand me. I fully confess that justification is entirely the work of God and that sanctification entails something on our part. I am in no way promoting some kind of misguided quietism in which the believer simply “lets go and lets God.” What I am saying is what Paul said:

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. (Php 2:12-13)

What I am saying is that visible Christianity of our day is adding to this formula of God working in me and me working out what he is doing in me. Want to know the secret to the spiritual life? No need to go buy a book by that title. Just look at the two verses above. God is working in you by His Spirit to shape your heart’s desire, your very will, your free will (freed finally in Him) so that you will live and work and do according to His good pleasure. And what I am saying here is that for the most part in the majority of its teaching, standard, normal, typical evangelical Christianity is adding all kinds of trappings to this work of God to the point that most Christians are suffocating in it all. And the counterfeit Christians are using these things to fine tune their disguises even more.  All of this provides fertile soil to evil!

Let me explain by way of example.

Recently I received a catalog from Christian Book Distributors. CBD. They have been around a long time. If it’s trendy, you can bet CBD will be right on top of it – “Everything Christian for Less” – that’s their motto. Bestsellers. Favorite authors. Sunday School curriculum. Holy hardware as I call it. Bibles, study Bibles. Bible studies. Favorites for men and women. Marriage and family. Christian living. You have the bucks, they have the books.

Let’s look for a moment at the Marriage and Family section. (If you have followed the blog A Cry for Justice, you will recognize some of these titles as terrible, terrible books that enable abusers and oppress abuse victims).

  • Sacred Marriage
  • For Men Only
  • For Women Only
  • Parenting
  • The Total Money Makeover
  • Seeking Him: The Joy of Personal Revival
  • 40 Days with Jesus
  • One-minute Inspirations for Women
  • 199 Promises of God
  • The Battle Plan for Prayer
  • The Bait of Satan – how to escape Satan’s grip
  • Praying through Fear
  • Love and Respect (this one is particularly notorious)

And on and on and on and on it goes. Rick Warren and Saddleback Church has his own page so that you too can scarf up all the books and workbooks and DVD’s and finally find the purpose-driven life. CBD, it seems, is not overly concerned with selling books by false teachers. What’s hot right now. That’s the thing.

But here is my main point. I am saying that all of this junk, this stuff, is sheer legalism. It is exactly the same thing that Paul rebuked the Galatians for. Listen to him again:

O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? (Gal 3:1-3)

Are we so foolish, having begun by the Spirit, that we now believe we are being perfected by all of these doings and programs? Yes. Apparently we are that foolish. And let me ask you, Christian? How’s that all working out for you? I know the answer to that question even though I don’t know you.

For my part I went through the buying of books and dvd’s and programs phase. I never consciously said “today I am done with it all.” But I am done with it. Years ago I totally lost interest in it all and have more than once gone through my library and thrown volume after volume in the garbage, leaving only the very valuable few resources and increasingly turning my attention to the Word of God itself.

Do you see what I am saying? Christian, if you are indeed a Christian, God is at work in you to shape you increasingly into Christ’s image. He leads, you follow. He directs, and you go. He thinks His thoughts in you and you embrace them as your own. His Law is written on your very heart, and you love it. By His Spirit and through His Word, you have everything you need to live as the new creation you are.

CBD catalog going in the trash can now.

 

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.

 

Evil Reigns in “Churches” When the Spirit Departs

Revelation 2:7a He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

Christ’s letters to the seven churches in Asia are recorded for us in the second and third chapters of Revelation. In each one of them, the Lord signs off with this formula. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

It is increasingly evident today that the Holy Spirit is not present (perhaps never was?) in many, many local churches, pastors, and members. How do we know this is the case? Because they will not (can not) hear what the Spirit is saying to them.  That is to say, they are deaf to the Word of God. Show them Scripture, plain and simple truths right in front of their eyes, and they cannot see or hear. They can not because they will not. He who has ears…let him hear.

The real Christian has “ears.” The Spirit indwells the believer and illuminates his mind’s eyes to see and warms his heart to love Christ’s truth. But not all who claim to know Christ really do and therefore they are deaf and blind. It is a willful blindness of course. They choose to reject His Word and therefore they cannot be given sight.

That all these things are true become plain not only from the Scriptures but also to anyone who shows God’s Word to “Christian” people. In my case, not only as a pastor but as one who ministers in exposing domestic abusers hiding in the church, I have seen this over and over again. The Lord repeatedly, literally from Genesis to Revelation, instructs His people to protect the oppressed from the wicked. The widow, the orphan, the stranger in the land.

Exodus 22:21-24 “You shall not wrong a sojourner or oppress him, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt. (22) You shall not mistreat any widow or fatherless child. (23) If you do mistreat them, and they cry out to me, I will surely hear their cry, (24) and my wrath will burn, and I will kill you with the sword, and your wives shall become widows and your children fatherless.

James gives us the same thing in New Testament terms:

James 1:27 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

Don’t miss how huge this is. Hundreds of verses in the Bible repeat this very command and warning. Hundreds. This is why I continue to tell people (most won’t listen) that the subject of domestic abuse, particularly in the church, is one of the acid tests of whether a church or pastor or member even belongs to Christ or not. Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom, not oppression. There are ears to hear, not deafness. There are eyes to see, not blindness to the plight of victims of evil.

And yet the vast majority of professing Christian churches today do not have ears to hear these things. They do not have hearts softened by the Lord to love His Word and His people. Instead, they enable the wicked and ally with them just like the counterfeit church of Martin Luther’s day. God says that such religion is defiled. Filthy. Disgusting. He says that His curse, not His blessing, rests upon such places and people.

Do you doubt that things are as grim as I say? Well, here is a real-life example of what is pandemic in the churches today. Listen to this Christian abuse survivor tell it firsthand:

All that you say about the vast majority of churches not hearing truth is so true. I’m about to be basically excommunicated from my church while for more than a year they preach sermon after sermon about how “we can never know if someone is a Christian or not based on their lives” — a very encouraging message for my abusive husband of course.

See it? Everyone is a Christian, no matter how evil their deeds. We must never judge. We must assume. And yet anyone who knows anything at all about God’s Word in truth knows full well that the Bible reiterates over and over and over that it is by a person’s fruit that we can know what the are. James says, “look at their works.” The Old Testament prophets said “you claim to be My people, you come to My sanctuary with your sacrifices, and yet your hands are covered with blood and injustice, adulteries and robberies. Close the doors of My house!” Yet today we have these pastors in pulpits, claiming to speak from the Lord, who tell us that no matter how a person is living, if he says he believes in Jesus, he is a Christian and we are bound to treat him as a real Christian.

Well, alright then, Mr. false preacher. Let me point something out to you. You say that the wicked “Christian” is on his way to heaven and that we must love and embrace him. Let’s say he is a Christian (which he is not). The Bible says that it is the one who claims to be our brother who is to be put out of the church and avoided like the plague he is. Here it is right smack in front of your eyes:

1 Corinthians 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.

2 Corinthians 6:16-18 What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. (17) Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, (18) and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.”

But put these commands of Christ in front of so many “Christians” today and you will be told “I don’t agree with your interpretation of that verse. Besides, God does not want us to go on some ‘sin hunt.’ Everyone is welcome in our church.”

Everyone may be welcome in such “churches,” but they are not welcome in Christ’s church. Coming back again to those letters in Revelation 2-3, just take note of how many of them include instructions to expel the wicked from among the congregation and in fact the Lord “has it against” the churches who have not put such evil out.

Where the Spirit has departed, evil sweeps in and reigns. It is my conclusion that in our day many (and actually I believe, “most”) local churches are not the temple of the Lord at all, but mere facades with nothing behind them like those fake Hollywood western town movie sets.

Depart from such places. Find Christ’s real remnant.

Matthew 15:14 Let them alone; they are blind guides. And if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.”

“Biblical Counselors” Such as the Newheisers Would Tell Phinheas that he Had Sinned

While Israel lived in Shittim, the people began to whore with the daughters of Moab. These invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people ate and bowed down to their gods. So Israel yoked himself to Baal of Peor.

And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel. And the LORD said to Moses, “Take all the chiefs of the people and hang them in the sun before the LORD, that the fierce anger of the LORD may turn away from Israel.” And Moses said to the judges of Israel, “Each of you kill those of his men who have yoked themselves to Baal of Peor.”

And behold, one of the people of Israel came and brought a Midianite woman to his family, in the sight of Moses and in the sight of the whole congregation of the people of Israel, while they were weeping in the entrance of the tent of meeting. When Phinehas the son of Eleazar, son of Aaron the priest, saw it, he rose and left the congregation and took a spear in his hand and went after the man of Israel into the chamber and pierced both of them, the man of Israel and the woman through her belly. Thus the plague on the people of Israel was stopped. Nevertheless, those who died by the plague were twenty-four thousand.

And the LORD said to Moses, “Phinehas the son of Eleazar, son of Aaron the priest, has turned back my wrath from the people of Israel, in that he was jealous with my jealousy among them, so that I did not consume the people of Israel in my jealousy. Therefore say, ‘Behold, I give to him my covenant of peace, and it shall be to him and to his descendants after him the covenant of a perpetual priesthood, because he was jealous for his God and made atonement for the people of Israel.'” (Numbers 25:1-13)

At the heart of what is variously called nouthetic or biblical or Christian counseling is the simplistic false assumption that all of our problems are due our own sin. Oh yes, others sin, they say, even sin against us, but the REAL issue for nouthetics is how victims respond to the evil committed against them. And so they are all the time telling their counselees to “look to themselves” and see how they have contributed to the sin scenario. It is not unheard of for such counselors to even address cases of rape this way. And then along with it all goes the rest of the baggage: “are you bitter toward your rapist?” “Are you harboring unforgiveness?” “What did you do to contribute to the crime?” All that sort of wicked stuff.

Jim Newheiser, a reformed baptist pastor, is one of these types and has now become, as I have written about before, the head of the counseling department at Reformed Theological Seminary. Here’s a bio from the RTS site:

Dr. James (Jim) Newheiser, Jr., is the Director of the Christian Counseling Program and Associate Professor of Christian Counseling and Practical Theology at RTS Charlotte.

For 25 years, Dr. Newheiser served as the Preaching Pastor at Grace Bible Church in Escondido, California. He is also the Director of the Institute for Biblical Counseling and Discipleship (formerly CCEF West) and an Adjunct Professor of Biblical Counseling at The Master’s College. Furthermore, Dr. Newheiser serves as a board member at both the Biblical Counseling Coalition (BCC) and the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC).

Rebecca Davis recently posted on her blog, Here’s the Joy, about Caroline Newheiser (Jim’s wife) teaching this very kind of nonsense that is sooooo incredibly damaging to the innocent.

So let’s think about all this a bit. Here is Phinehas, a godly man who was zealous for the Lord. When he saw that evil man and woman fornicating in open defiance of the Lord, committing the very wickedness for which many were dying, he took action. And I suggest to you that he was NOT calm and weepy about that poor couple he was about to run through with his spear. NO! Phinehas was incensed. He was ( to use what is regarded by the nouthetic crowd as a curse word) ANGRY! Yes He not only HATED what they were doing, he hated them! And he killed them!

Now, imagine if Phinehas had “shared his thoughts and heart” ahead of his spear throwing with the local “biblical counselor.”  “Hey, Jim, I gotta talk to you. I, I think I feel rage in my heart. I want to take a spear and turn that man and woman over there into shish-kebab.”  “Oh my, Phinehas, that is sin. You must never be so angry toward anyone.”

Am I really being all that ridiculous here in this imaginary setting? I don’t think so. You see, in the nouthetic counseling crowd not even the holiness of God justifies such anger.

But wait just a minute! God blessed Phinehas for his zeal!  And the LORD said to Moses, “Phinehas the son of Eleazar, son of Aaron the priest, has turned back my wrath from the people of Israel, in that he was jealous with my jealousy among them…” Phinehas did what GOD would do! Phineas’ action was Godly action. To be intensely angry at a rapist is Godliness!

But not according to this bizarre brand of “counselor” that seems to have overwhelmed so many Christian churches and schools and organizations today.

You have had this very kind of thing laid on you I bet. Either from a pulpit sermon or by a book you picked up that the local Christian bookstore or at a “Christian” conference, or by some “Christian friend” who just knew the Lord wanted him to rebuke you for your sin – even though YOU were the victim!  I have,

One of the most devious and deceptive and wicked men I have ever known did this to me numbers of times over the years before I wised up to what he really was. He wore a “saintly” disguise but was in fact a reviler who craved power and control for himself. One time a very wicked man, not a Christian, who popped into our church now and then for selfish reasons, phoned me late at night. He was drunk and started to accuse me and use the Lord’s name in his curses. I told him he was evil, that he didn’t scare me, and that if he wanted to make good on his threats to attack me physically, he could come right over now and I would meet him. I also told him that he should be very fearful of God’s wrath against him. He shut up and then hung up.

And what was this fine, eminent, “Christian” man’s response to it all the next day?  “Oh, that was sinful of you to speak that way to him.” He would bring up that accusation repeatedly in the future. What was he really doing? Exalting himself by putting me down. Presenting himself as the greatest, most patient saint of all. He wasn’t angry about the Lord’s name being blasphemed. Oh no. I have no doubt he would have chastised Phinehas.

Our lesson in all this? Don’t listen to Newheiser. Don’t listen to these lying accusations made by arrogant seekers of self-glory. Walk away. And before you walk, tell them they have no zeal for the glory of God nor do they hunger and thirst after righteousness.

What the Newheisers Would tell the Wife of the Texas Church Shooter – By Rebecca Davis

This is an excellent article by Rebecca Davis, exposing the horrible counseling that is being taught to seminary students and Christians at large by Jim and Caroline Newheiser. This is a must read post and largely explains the unbiblical, false mentality that is behind churches telling domestic abuse victims that they must not only remain with their abuser but they must look for much of the cause of the abuse as being due to their OWN sin!!! Sickening. Thank you Rebecca.

At the heart of the “biblical counseling” theology is the foundational false insistence that all of our problems are due at least in part to our own sin. All of our problems and sufferings. All! This is the reason why I have long rejected the “nouthetic” counseling school. It has done and continues to do incredible damage to people. This article gives a perfect and common example of what I mean.  Just click on the link to read it:

Should the Texas Shooter’s Wife Have Gotten Biblical ‘Counseling’

 

How to Watch for the Rise of Evil in Your Church

The following verses from Paul’s letter to the Galatians outline a flow of events that has continued to replay itself in every era of church history, and it continues to thrive today. This sequence inevitably introduces evil (through evil persons) into the visible church and most professing Christians are (inexcusably) oblivious to it. Read the following scriptures and then I will explain:

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—(Galatians 1:6)

For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. (Galatians 1:10)

Yet because of false brothers secretly brought in—who slipped in to spy out our freedom that we have in Christ Jesus, so that they might bring us into slavery—to them we did not yield in submission even for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you. And from those who seemed to be influential (what they were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality)—those, I say, who seemed influential added nothing to me. (Galatians 2:4-6)

Have I then become your enemy by telling you the truth? They make much of you, but for no good purpose. They want to shut you out, that you may make much of them. (Galatians 4:16-17)

I am finished with involvement in church denominational organizations. I have given it a go in three different, supposedly genuine, “Christian” fellowships of local churches and each time ended with disappointment, betrayal, and hopefully, increased wisdom. In essence, those groups were not what they appeared to be nor what they claimed to be. What was happening in the churches of Galatia had happened among them.

First, Paul confronts the Galatians with their desertion of the gospel. He had taught them well. They had received the Spirit and that not by any works on their part but by faith alone in Christ alone. Yet here they were, allured to another Jesus, another spirit, another gospel. Why? How?

False brothers had crept in among them with a false gospel and an evil motive. They were full of flattering words but their goal was to be “made much of.” All of their flattery was wicked, aimed at bringing them into power and control among those churches, creating an environment in which they would be praised and hold the reins.

Of course that all necessarily requires a false gospel because the real gospel, Jesus, is obnoxious to the masses. If you want a big following then you are going to have to create a message that fleshly, worldly “christians” want. Out goes grace alone and in comes man’s own self-doings to earn merit with God.

Now, here is my point, I have found that wicked people, like these false teachers at Galatia, thrive and multiply in “structure.” The bigger and more elaborate the structure, the faster they multiply. What do I mean? Let me explain by example.

Initially, when you examine some structured Christian organization such as, say, a denomination, everything looks good. Their doctrinal statement is sound. The leaders appear godly. Unity in Christ, it seems, is the spirit of the thing with everything supposedly being done for the glory of God.

It isn’t.

Naively (and we are without excuse for this), Christians permit “certain persons” to advance up the structure of the thing. He is pastor Jack, let’s say. What a godly guy! What a servant of the Lord! That guy is on several committees. He is willing to do most anything to help. Another leader in the group announces at an annual meeting, “If you all want to know how to ‘do’ worship, just visit Pastor Jack’s church. They ‘do’ worship with excellence there.” Yep, I am witness to that very thing being said. Commonly.

But Pastor Jack and his kind are evil. They do not really know the Lord. Their goal is to exalt themselves, to be praised, and to bring YOU into bondage -into bondage to them! And if you doubt my warning, I suggest that you just try to correct them or disagree with them and see what happens.

As it was in Galatia, so it is today. “Those who seemed to be influential.” Influential. There is an interesting word. People “of influence,” which is really to say, “people with power.” Pretty clear? Then why is it that in spite of these plain warnings in God’s Word given to us, most every church and certainly most every multi-church organization is characterized by “people of influence?” Power-brokers? The moment you see these kind rising into view, you can be certain that sin is operative and evil has already crept in.

I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” (1 Corinthians 1:10-12)

Stop it! Stop permitting this. Stop allowing yourself to be mesmerized. Quit sitting back and “letting them do it.” In my case, a personal application of these truths has meant that I will never again be a member of a church denomination, nor will I crave to pastor a “large” church. I will not help establish a “structure” which evil people can use as their own personal tower of Babel to ascend into the heavens. I find that keeping wickedness out of our single, local church is enough to keep us all busy.

For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. (1 Corinthians 1:26-29)

Fail in these things and you will, be assured of it, end up rejecting the Apostle Paul and embracing the agents of the enemy. Fail in these things and you will find yourself retracing the same old steps to Rome.

 

When Churches Exceed Their Authority, Evil Comes into the Church

This is a guest post kindly submitted at my request by James and Linda Sander. They are the authors of Rethinking Biblical Divorce: Let Scripture be Your Guidewhich I highly recommend. Let me introduce their article with a few words:

Without thinking, most Christians assume that they must obtain permission from their pastor/church in order to divorce their spouse. And local churches certainly behave as if this were true, even to the point of ex-communicating a member who divorces for “unbiblical” reasons (as defined by that local church or pastor). James and Linda Sander maintain that Scripture nowhere gives churches that authority and they outline at least part of their argument here in this post. I fully agree with them.

Let me make a clear point lest anyone misunderstand. Neither the Sanders nor myself are denying that the church has Christ’s authority in certain arenas. The Word of God is authoritative and when the church preaches it in truth, there is authority. And of course the church has authority to put wicked counterfeits out of their midst and to admonish those who are sinning. Largely in our day churches are failing or refusing to exercise this proper authority and instead are claiming authority that is not theirs. The result is that the wicked are enabled while the innocent are cast out.

In their book the Sanders also argue (quite well I might say) that no one but the individual Christian has the right to decide if remarriage is permissible and that when a church claims authority in this matter, that church is contradicting Jesus’ words:

The disciples said to him, “If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.” But he said to them, “Not everyone can receive this saying, but only those to whom it is given. For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let the one who is able to receive this receive it.”  (Matthew 19:10-12)

Here then is what the Sanders maintain about church authority and divorce:

Jesus said,

Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate. (Matthew 19:4-6)

And the cross reference,

But from the beginning of the creation, God ‘made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’ so then they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate. (Mark 10:6-9)

In discussing these verses, we will focus on the words, “Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate” (or “let no man separate”).

If asked, “What do the words, ‘What God has joined together, let no man separate’ mean?” many Christians will answer (perhaps somewhat uncertainly), “It means we should not divorce.” But is this what the words are really saying? There are three difficulties with this understanding.

  • One, most Christians agree the Bible does allow divorce.We might differ regarding when it is allowed, but most of us agree Scripture does indicate divorce is allowed. Therefore, it would be inconsistent to assume Jesus’ statement, “What God has joined together, let no man separate” means we should not divorce.
  • Two, the command,“What God has joined together, let no man separate,” is found only in this confrontation with the Pharisees; it is found nowhere else in Scripture.Jesus said this as a retort to the Pharisees in their attempt to trap him.

We often see in Scripture that Jesus spoke to the Pharisees in a different way than he spoke to his followers or to the receptive crowd like the one listening to the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5. This makes sense because the Pharisees were antagonistic and were not interested in learning from Jesus’ answers nor were they interested in becoming followers of Jesus. In the passage we are considering, the Pharisees confronted Jesus and were attempting to trap him and publicly discredit him. Because of this, Jesus does not answer them in the same way he answered questions from his followers who were seeking truth. [NOTE from Jeff: This point about Jesus speaking in a different way to the Pharisees than to receptive people is incredibly important and is in my opinion one of the most important interpretive principles that the Sanders emphasize both here and in their book]

  • Three, there is another meaning of this command that better fits the context. We take a step toward understanding what Jesus meant when we keep in mind that the Pharisees thought of themselves as the arbiters of most issues of Jewish life. They considered themselves to be the ones with insight and understanding. Further, they considered that their rulings should be deemed authoritative for the masses in issues of daily life and religion, which, of course, included divorce.

Once we realize the Pharisees claimed the religious authority to say under what circumstances a husband and a wife could divorce, then we begin to understand how Jesus’ command would challenge their position.In fact, Jesus was doing this very thing with his command—he revealed to all that the Pharisees’ authority was self-appointed rather than from God.

The word “man” is anthropos, here meaning “human being” (male or female). Jesus said, “What God has joined together, let no human being separate.”Jesus is contrasting mere man with the Almighty God. God created marriage and God is the one who joins a couple together in marriage. The idea is, “If God joins a couple (and everyone in Jesus’ audience agreed that this is true), then who is a human being to say when a couple is permitted to divorce? How did the Pharisees, mere human beings,obtain such an authority that they can separate something God has joined together?”

Picture Jesus developing his argument as he responds to the Pharisees’ attack (and the crowd listens in)—

  • “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female,” and everyone agrees with these familiar words.
  • “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife.” Again, they agree with this Old Testament statement describing marriage; a new family unit begins.
  • “And the two shall become one flesh. So they are no longer two, but one flesh.” And again, all nod their heads understanding that in marriage and in the sexual relationship, the man and woman become one.

No one would disagree with anything Jesus said; in fact, they are all in agreement. They revere the words of the Old Testament.

Then Jesus quashes the Pharisees, “What God has joined together, let no human separate.” Jesus bluntly tells them that no human has authority to separate a marriage God created.

The Pharisees had usurped an authority that belongs to God alone, and with these words, Jesus exposed their lack of God-given authority.

The correct way to think is, “What God has joined, God alone separates.” No Pharisee, or any other human being or any human authority, has the right to separate what God has joined together.

“What Godhas joined together, let no humanseparate,” means “It’s not up to you—mere human beings—to decide who is allowed to divorce.” Jesus used the “let no man separate” command to challenge the Pharisees’ self-appointed authority that they are the ones who determine if a couple can divorce. Pharisees should not decide when a divorce is allowed, and they should not decide for a couple if they are permitted to divorce.

Jesus’ command includes the word “therefore.” “Therefore, what God has joined together, let no human being separate.” The “therefore” lets us know that this is the summation and answer to the Pharisees’ original question. The Pharisees’ original question was, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason?” Jesus’ “therefore” statement renders irrelevant the Pharisees’ question whether it is lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason—Jesus commands that no human, which includes these Pharisees, decides this.

There are two interesting points of grammar about Jesus’ words “Let no man separate.” First, it is clear in the Greek that this is a command; we might not fully realize it is a command because of the use of the word “Let.” But make no mistake, this is an imperative—Jesus gave a command.

Second, notice Jesus’ use of third person here. He included other people besides these Pharisees. He uses third person because he is stating a command that goes beyond the Pharisees.

Although Jesus’ command was initially directed to the Pharisees and was designed to strip the power from the Pharisees (who were the ones ruling on divorce issues at that time), the use of third person strips the authority from any who would claim such power today. It removes the right from anyone who would decide for a couple if they are allowed to divorce—or from anyone who might be tempted to take on such authority.

There is no place in the Bible that gives one person the authority to decide or pronounce when or if another person is permitted todivorce. In fact, we see in Jesus’ words to the Pharisees it is just the opposite. Only God has this authority. This is the purpose of the “Let no human separate” command. It is not a statement explaining if or when divorce is allowed.

So in this passage, it is critical for us to note that this command does not prohibit divorce. What it states is that no human has the authority to say if or when a couple can divorce.

Since Scripture does allow divorce, we are then left with the questions, “Who is allowed to divorce?” and “How is it decided?” Simply, Christian men and women decide this in the same way they decide any other issue that might come up in their lives—by prayer, by spending time in the Word, and by the leading of the Holy Spirit.

We explain more about this topic, and others, in our book Rethinking Biblical Divorce, Let Scripture Be Your Guide (available at Amazon).

 

A Typical Distortion of Scripture Used by False Shepherds to Protect the Wicked

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, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-10)

This is a wonderful passage of Scripture that shines Christ’s light brightly on the darkness that is so widespread in local churches today. But alas, there is no end to the attempts to distort even the clearest statements of God’s truth and here is one I heard of again recently (not for the first time).

As you can see from Paul’s words, people who walk in sin, who are characterized by the same wickedness that has always characterized them, can claim to belong to Christ all they want. The fact is they do not. They have no inheritance in His kingdom.

Now, it is plain that the people Paul is speaking of are not rank pagans who make no claim to Christ. No. These are people who come in among us in the church wearing a saintly disguise. Else why would Paul even have to state the obvious if he were only speaking of people who make no profession of faith at all? No, these are counterfeits and he wants us all to be very clear in our thinking about them. You cannot walk in sin, you cannot live the life of a worldling, and have your cake (heaven) too.

Now notice that one of these kinds of people is of a class that we should be getting quite familiar with – the reviler. Revilers will not inherit the kingdom of God. Revilers are dead in their sin. And what is a reviler? A reviler is a person who uses his tongue to assault others. He villifies, he makes them the villain, he accuses and blames and shames. And he does it all falsely. Here are some other references to this kind of evil person:

“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. (Matthew 5:11)

For God commanded, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ (Matthew 15:4)

“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! (Luke 6:22)

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. (1 Corinthians 5:11)

having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. (1 Peter 3:16)

Pretty plain, right? Revilers make false accusations against others, specifically against believers, and they do so specifically BECAUSE their target is a believer. Ultimately, revilers are reviling God Himself.

Anyway, here is the preposterous “end run” excuse a church leader recently used when he was called on to deal biblically with a reviler. He said,

But Paul is talking about people who reviled God. He doesn’t mean those who revile other people.

Can you believe that anyone would even make such a claim? Need I say anymore to disprove this claim? All we need do is read the Scriptures quoted above. Revilers are people who habitually revile other people, and on some occasions directly revile God Himself. And as I said above, a reviler who is reviling a Christian for being a Christian (even if the reviler does not say so in overt language) is also reviling Christ.

This church leader, you see, does not want to put the reviler out of the church. He wants to keep regarding the fellow as a Christian who just needs to be “fixed.” And so, under this leader’s watch, there is no watch. Wolves are permitted to put on their wool coats, come right on it, and devour the flock.