Lessons in Discerning False Victim Advocates

1Peter 5:2-3 shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; (3) not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.

In my last post, I showed you sermon outlines and a church position paper from a church that claims to be an advocate for victims of abuse. I stated in that post that a church that has the rules and policies outlined in those documents is most certainly not a church for victims to entrust themselves to. We continue to see far too many professing Christian organizations, pastors, local churches, counseling agencies and so on who claim to be experts on the issue of abuse and who energetically invite (or even require) victims to place themselves in their hands. We must be wise and not be duped. The visible church abounds in “nice” people, but far too often these nice ones turn out to be Pharisees who desire to exercise power and control that the Lord has not given them.

Here, once again, is the position paper which that same church (from my previous article) published. I encourage you to read through it again. Immediately following the document I have pasted in several comments which I received from abuse survivors and true abuse victim advocates. Those comments will help you see in more clarity why any supposed victim advocate agency that holds to such positions is not a resource to trust and in fact will, in the end, enable the abuser and further oppress the victim.

As I expected, I received loud outcries from those I criticized in my previous post, denying that what I said about them is true. But I have grown quite familiar with this kind of duplicity. I have seen it over and over again. Claiming one thing, but practicing something entirely different.

Here then, once more, is that position paper (from a church that claims to be a champion of abuse victims). I have included my own boldface to emphasize particularly revealing portions of this paper:

CHURCH DOCTRINAL ELDER PAPER

Marriage, Divorce & Remarriage

Prerequisites for Marriage

1. God’s design is for one man to be married to one woman, for life.
Gen. 1:27 …male and female He created them. Gen. 2:24 & Eph 5:31 Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.

2. The foundational requirement for Christian marriage is that a believer should not marry an unbeliever. 2 Cor. 6:14-18 Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness?

3. A couple must have a pure relationship if they desire to know God’s will about marriage.

1 Thess. 4:3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality.

4. Those preparing for marriage should also be mature and responsible so that they can meet the appropriate biblical expectations of the partners in marriage.
Eph. 5:22-33 wives, be subject… Husbands, love your wives…

1 Tim. 5:8 But if any one does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith, and is worse that an unbeliever.

Foundational Principles of Marriage, Divorce & Remarriage

1. Marriage was established by God to be a life-long, intimate, covenantal relationship between one man and one woman (Genesis 2:18, 24; Malachi 2:14; Proverbs 2:17). Jesus issued a general guideline that what God joins together, man should not separate (Matthew 19:6; Mark 10:9).

2. Christians must exhaust all biblical means to preserve their marriage. Permanence in the marriage relationship has been, and always will be, God’s ideal and intention.

3. While every divorce involves sin, not every divorce is sinful (Jeremiah 3:6-10; cf. 1 Corinthians 7:15; Jeremiah 31:31-32; Deuteronomy 24:1-4).

4. This pursuit of permanence may involve enduring a marriage that is less than God’s ideal (1 Corinthians 7:12-14, 16; 1 Peter 3:1-2). The desire for God’s glory must supersede one’s desire for comfort or happiness. This principle would not require someone to indefinitely endure unrepentant acts that constitute biblical grounds for divorce (see biblical grounds below). Decisions must be made under the spiritual care, counsel, and authority of the elders.

5. Divorce may be permissible, but is never commanded. Two believers should always be willing to pursue repentance and reconciliation as part of a life seeking to honor God.

6. Biblically allowed divorce implies the right before God to pursue biblical remarriage. They must seek the counsel and care of church leadership in this process.

7. In cases where Christians come to the church having already participated in unbiblical divorce or remarriage situations, the church will strive to provide compassionate counsel that will lead to personal understanding of these biblical principles, and a careful repentance for all involved.

Biblical Grounds for Divorce

Divorce is allowed for two reasons. Below are explanations of those two broad biblical categories.

1. Divorce is allowed in cases of unrepentant sexual immorality (Matthew 5:31-32; 19:8-9).

  • The “sexual immorality” referenced (Greek, porneia), is broader than adultery, and would include the litany of sexual sins listed in the Old Testament (specifically Leviticus 20:10-21).
  • This provision may also include other violations not specifically mentioned, but which are similar in nature. To constitute biblical grounds for divorce, the sexually deviant behavior of this kind must be continual and unrepentant.
  • Evaluations and decisions must be made under the spiritual care, counsel, and authority of the local church elders.

2. Divorce is allowed when an unbelieving spouse abandons the marriage covenant (“unbelieving” may be determined by their profession, or through the application of church discipline).

  • The unbeliever leaves. First Corinthians 7:12-15 clearly teaches that when an unbelieving spouse “consents to live with” the believer, then the believer should remain married to them. When the unbelieving spouse separates/leaves, however, the believer is not bound to the marriage covenant.
  • The unbeliever says they want to, or are going to leave, but will not. An unbelieving spouse’s unwillingness to remain married (1 Corinthians 7:13-15) may be broader than physical separation or leaving. Repeated expression of resolve and/or desire to divorce, while not pursuing the good will of a mutually beneficial and healthy marriage, may also be not “consenting to live with.”
  • The unbeliever does not threaten leaving in any way, but live as though they have abandoned the marriage. There may be other extreme cases where church leaders determine that the unbelieving spouse has “effectively abandoned” the marriage covenant, although they do not pursue or express a
    desire to separate or divorce.
  • Evaluations and decisions must be made under the spiritual care, counsel, and authority of the local church elders.

Now, here are a few comments abuse survivors and advocates sent to me in response to the first post:

  • Look at all the ‘shoulds and musts’ in this, and the mention of ‘church authority’ and ‘church discipline’. The victim is not permitted to make her own decisions. (Barbara Roberts)
  • Where is the scripture that says you must “entrust” yourself to church leadership? To God, yes, but the church elder board, just like the Pharisees of the time, did not have the authority to tell people if they could or could not get divorced. It’s not their place. (Abuse survivor/advocate)
  • You know, the Bible makes no clarification about a divorce taking place only when the adulterer is unrepentant. It only says divorce is allowed if there is adultery, period. So all these additions they make about being unrepentant are the Pharisees making additions of their own man made traditions and doctrines. (Abuse survivor)
  • The Bible also makes no clarifying statements about the leaders or Church making those decisions for a believer about abusive marriages. None! It’s all additions by power hungry leaders taking control of believers’ lives. (Abuse survivor)

My last post also included two sermon outlines from messages preached by the pastors of this same church. Here is a portion of one of those outlines to refresh your memory, followed by a very insightful comment by an abuse survivor and professional counselor. You will notice here that the very same theme laid out in the position paper continues to rear up in this pastor’s teaching – that victims must not make decisions for themselves but are required to put themselves under the “care and counsel” of the pastors:

Sermon outline-

  1. Individuals should put themselves under the care and counsel of godly shepherds
  2. Church leadership must understand and respond properly to abuse
    • Scripture requires God’s people to protect the innocent sufferer, and to seek justice toward the oppressor (Psa. 82:3-4; Psa. 10)
    • God-given authorities exist to bring justice where it is needed (Rom. 13:1-4)
    • Discernment must be used to measure and apply principles of repentance, confession, forgiveness, and accountability
  3. Victims must understand and respond properly to abuse
    • To not “cry out” ignores God’s desire for justice, and neglects God’s provision and protection for you and others
    • The abused must overcome fear, and entrust themselves to God and those called to protect and care for them

And here is the victim survivor/professional counselor’s comment:

I have a problem with statements like this: “Discernment must be used to measure and apply principles of repentance, confession, forgiveness, and accountability.” Yes, their discernment usually means and they go by how the abuser presents himself to them (fake). Also, after they said all that, then they offer the only two biblical reasons for divorce! And abuse isn’t included, so they would be compassionate and offer “care and counsel,” but not authorize (which of course they don’t have the authority to do) divorce for abuse. Very cleverly worded on their part to look like they are advocates for victims.

We must be wise. Professing Christians – pastors, elders, church members, counselors, etc – so often present themselves as experts who are wiser than we are, who are appointed by God to rule over us, as people who claim to “care,” when in fact the authority they are claiming has not been given to them by God at all. Such people are quite capable of displaying a kind, caring, knowledgeable appearance, but only later do we find out that in fact they intend to enslave us.

The local church does indeed have authority – the authority of Christ. But notice that virtually all of the authoritative statements in this position paper and in these sermon outlines, apply to the abuse victim, not to the abuser. In fact, the authority of the local church to deal with abuse in its midst (as with all sin by professing brethren) applies to the abuser, to the wicked! It is the evil man who falsely claims to be a Christian who is to be put out of the church. That is genuine authority (see 1 Cor 5). But this church focuses on what the innocent must do, the authority the victim must submit to.

Finally, in any claim to be a true advocate of abuse victims and justice-seeker in regard to abusers, a church like this that is associated with John MacArthur, Jr. needs to openly break with MacArthur’s longstanding position and teaching that abuse is not grounds for divorce. And any past wrong dealings with victims and abusers needs to be humbly confessed and repented of before I would begin to think that just perhaps such a church is on the right track to genuine advocacy for the oppressed and abused.

 

 

A Sure Sign a Church’s Claim to be a Friend of Abuse Victims is False

Currently, we are seeing churches and organizations jumping on the band wagon of supposedly exposing domestic and sexual abusers in the church and coming to the aid of their victims. Occasionally these claims are genuine, but most frequently they are false efforts to “cover the bases” and preserve the institution. After all, there is an increasing outcry against evildoers hiding in and even leading churches and supposedly Christian organizations. The Southern Baptists, for example, are under the gun and rightly so.

So in such a climate you can expect that the guilty will start trembling a bit. They have plenty of skeletons in the closet in which they have enabled abusers and disregarded the pleas of abuse victims, so they do what I call a “pre-emptive strike.” They hold conferences on abuse. They make announcements about how they are the defenders of the abused. And they do so without repentance. By that, I mean they do not come humbly broken, confessing their many sins and wrongs they have dealt to the innocent, confessing that they are ignorant of these evils and have been duped by the wicked. Oh no. Suddenly THEY are experts to whom we are all to go now for help and aid. 

Recently I received just such a claim. It comes from Faith Bible Church in Spokane, Washington. This is a John MacArthur, Jr. church in that the pastor was trained at The Master’s Seminary and teaches at a TMS satellite. If you have followed A Cry for Justice (blog) or read my books, you know that John MacArthur has consistently taught that divorce for abuse is forbidden by God.

Below are the outline points of two messages given by the lead pastor of Faith Bible Church, Dan Jarms, and his associate, Brian Sayers. Following these two outlines I have included the Faith Bible Church Doctrinal Elder Paper on marriage, divorce, and remarriage. I could go on and on pointing out to you how these two sermon outlines and doctrinal paper evidence clearly that Faith Bible Church’s claim to be a friend to abuse victims is false and that in fact, this church has not truly changed its positions at all. Don’t be naive. The claims here that divorce is permitted for abuse are going to be practically (in practice) denied when it comes right down to a victim divorcing her abuser.

Rather than, as I said, going on at length regarding my criticisms of these things, I have simply bold-faced one major, plain evidence of falsehood that is repeated throughout the outlines and paper. This one persistent demand made by this church is all we need to know to be able to conclude that the church is in no way truly repentant of past wrongs to victims and that in fact its supposed “change” is feigned and false. As you will see, this single demand is that abuse victims are required to place themselves under the authority of the pastor and elders and are not to proceed with divorce, separation, or any other action without the church’s authorization. I can tell you that anyone who does this is going to find themselves further oppressed and wrongly controlled by church leaders who arrogantly claim this privilege for themselves but who are ignorant of the evils which oppress the victim.

THIS is the most certain proof that a church like this and pastors and elders like these men have not fundamentally changed at all. That is to say, they are continuing to demand that abuse victims place themselves under their authority, never acknowledging the history (as is easily found in MacArthur’s teaching and practice) of dealing out injustice to victims and enabling the wicked. They are not humbled in other words. They remain arrogant. This is plain Pharisaism.

I will also underscore several other portions of these documents that I am convinced demonstrate that these men in this church do something else absolutely unbiblical and damaging. Namely, they treat the abuser as a Christian. Thus they proceed with the idea that they are going to rescue the marriage, fix the abuser, and all that this requires is their counseling and that the victim “gut it out” in the abuse “for the glory of God.” All Christians, you know, (say these pastors) can be abusers and an abuser can be a Christian who simply needs to “make war on entitlement mentality.” Absolutely false teaching.

Of course I know they will deny these charges and say I don’t know what I am talking about. Well, so be it. I do know what I am talking about. You are never going to instruct, teach, disciple an abuser who has been faking it as a Christian all along into a godly, loving spouse. Not gonna happen!  And yet you will notice the total absence of any of that truth here in these documents, with no mention at all of God’s plain command that we put such counterfeits out of the church (see 1 Cor 5).

Dr. Dan Jarms is teaching pastor and team leader at Faith Bible Church in Spokane Washington, as well as associate dean at TMS Spokane….  He earned his B.A. in English at the Master’s College, B. Ed. at Eastern Washington University , MDiv and DMin in Expository Preaching at The Master’s Seminary.

Sermon Notes (Dan Jarms)

1. Cultivate Love

Colossians 3:19 Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them.

Titus 2:4 and so train the young women to love their husbands and children.

1 John 4:7-11

  • Keep the love of Christ in constant view.
  • Become a Romans 12 friend/spouse.
  • Make war on an entitlement mentality.
  • Put “cherish my friend/spouse” on your daily to do list.’

2. Cultivate Christlikeness

Ephesians 4:15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

Colossians 1:28 Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. 29 For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.

  • Get the log out of your own eye first (Matthew 7:3-5)
  • Pray for specific Christlike qualities
  • Husbands convey warning and teaching with a servant’s heart
  • Wives convey warning and teaching with a respectful heart

 

Brian Sayers is the Pastor of Discipleship and Counseling at Faith Bible Church.

Sermon Notes (Brian Sayers)

  • How should we define abuse?
  • Individuals should put themselves under the care and counsel of godly shepherds
  • Church leadership must understand and respond properly to abuse
    • Scripture requires God’s people to protect the innocent sufferer, and to seek justice toward the oppressor (Psa. 82:3-4; Psa. 10)
    • God-given authorities exist to bring justice where it is needed (Rom. 13:1-4)
    • Discernment must be used to measure and apply principles of repentance, confession, forgiveness, and accountability
  • Victims must understand and respond properly to abuse
    • To not “cry out” ignores God’s desire for justice, and neglects God’s provision and protection for you and others
    • The abused must overcome fear, and entrust themselves to God and those called to protect and care for them

FAITH BIBLE CHURCH DOCTRINAL ELDER PAPER:

Marriage, Divorce & Remarriage
Prerequisites for Marriage
1. God’s design is for one man to be married to one woman, for life.
Gen. 1:27 …male and female He created them. Gen. 2:24 & Eph 5:31 Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.
2. The foundational requirement for Christian marriage is that a believer should not marry an unbeliever. 2 Cor. 6:14-18 Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness?
3. A couple must have a pure relationship if they desire to know God’s will about marriage.
1 Thess. 4:3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality.
4. Those preparing for marriage should also be mature and responsible so that they can meet the appropriate biblical expectations of the partners in marriage.
Eph. 5:22-33 wives, be subject… Husbands, love your wives…
1 Tim. 5:8 But if any one does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith, and is worse that an unbeliever.

Foundational Principles of Marriage, Divorce &
Remarriage
1. Marriage was established by God to be a life-long, intimate, covenantal relationship between one man and one woman (Genesis 2:18, 24; Malachi 2:14; Proverbs 2:17). Jesus issued a general guideline that what God joins together, man should not separate (Matthew 19:6; Mark 10:9).
2. Christians must exhaust all biblical means to preserve their marriage. Permanence in the marriage relationship has been, and always will be, God’s ideal and intention.
3. While every divorce involves sin, not every divorce is sinful (Jeremiah 3:6-10; cf. 1 Corinthians 7:15; Jeremiah 31:31-32; Deuteronomy 24:1-4).
4. This pursuit of permanence may involve enduring a marriage that is less than God’s ideal (1 Corinthians 7:12-14, 16; 1 Peter 3:1-2). The desire for God’s glory must supersede one’s desire for comfort or happiness. This principle would not require someone to indefinitely endure unrepentant acts that constitute biblical grounds for divorce (see biblical grounds below). Decisions must be made under the spiritual care, counsel, and authority of the elders.
5. Divorce may be permissible, but is never commanded. Two believers should always be willing to pursue repentance and reconciliation as part of a life seeking to honor God.
6. Biblically allowed divorce implies the right before God to pursue biblical remarriage. They must seek the counsel and care of church leadership in this process.
7. In cases where Christians come to Faith Bible Church having already participated in unbiblical divorce or remarriage situations, the church will strive to provide compassionate counsel that will lead to
personal understanding of these biblical principles, and a careful repentance for all involved.

Biblical Grounds for Divorce
Divorce is allowed for two reasons. Below are
explanations of those two broad biblical categories.

1. Divorce is allowed in cases of unrepentant sexual immorality (Matthew 5:31-32; 19:8-9).
• The “sexual immorality” referenced (Greek, porneia), is broader than adultery, and would include the litany of sexual sins listed in the Old Testament (specifically Leviticus 20:10-21).
• This provision may also include other violations not specifically mentioned, but which are similar in nature. To constitute biblical grounds for divorce, the sexually deviant behavior of this kind must be continual and unrepentant.
• Evaluations and decisions must be made under the spiritual care, counsel, and authority of the local church elders.

2. Divorce is allowed when an unbelieving spouse abandons the marriage covenant (“unbelieving” may be determined by their profession, or through the application of church discipline).
• The unbeliever leaves. First Corinthians 7:12-15 clearly teaches that when an unbelieving spouse “consents to live with” the believer, then the believer should remain married to them. When the unbelieving spouse separates/leaves, however, the believer is not bound to the marriage covenant.
• The unbeliever says they want to, or are going to leave, but will not. An unbelieving spouse’s unwillingness to remain married (1 Corinthians 7:13-15) may be broader than physical separation or
leaving. Repeated expression of resolve and/or desire to divorce, while not pursuing the good will of a mutually beneficial and healthy marriage, may also be not “consenting to live with.”
• The unbeliever does not threaten leaving in any way, but live as though they have abandoned the
marriage. There may be other extreme cases where church leaders determine that the unbelieving
spouse has “effectively abandoned” the marriage covenant, although they do not pursue or express a
desire to separate or divorce.
Evaluations and decisions must be made under the spiritual care, counsel, and authority of the local church elders.

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 True Christian Forgives as Jesus Forgives – True, and False

This past week my wife and I were driving up the interstate when we saw a large billboard that said:

Real Christians Forgive Like Jesus

The sign also included a Scripture reference,

Luke 23:34 And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments.

This is an example of not only misusing Scripture, but of dealing simplistically with a Bible doctrine that requires far more than a mere five words on a sign. And it is not harmless! Great damage is done by these kinds of foolish statements thrown out at people like cannon shots.

The pessimistic realist that I am, I suggest to you that I know what the message is that these sign preachers are throwing at us. “You don’t forgive like Jesus forgives. If you are a real Christian, then you must love your enemies (true). And this means that you must not seek justice for wrongs they have done you, you must strive to maintain relationship with them, and if you don’t do these things then you are not forgiving as Jesus forgives and it is doubtful you are a Christian at all.

Yes, Jesus prayed that His Father would forgive those who crucified Him. But a short time before He was put on the cross (see John 17) Jesus specifically said that He was praying for those the Father had given to Him, not for the whole world. Jesus knows His elect. And Jesus’ death on the cross at the hands of these people was an act of redemption and atonement for His own. Jesus, in other words, was unique. To make an across the board simplistic application of Jesus’ prayer for His enemies there on the cross to every single Christian in every single case subsequent to the cross is foolish.

But there is more.

How does Jesus forgive? Does He forgive everyone? Of course not. Check this out:

2Th 1:5-10 This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering– (6) since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, (7) and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels (8) in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. (9) They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, (10) when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed.

We could go on and on. The Lord does not forgive everyone. And yet these signboard preachers throw distortions of Bible truth at car after car motoring up the freeway, insisting that a real Christian forgives everyone no matter what. Offers the worst of them warm hugs and kisses. I ask you, is this what we see Jesus doing in the Gospels? Is this what the Apostles preached and practiced as recorded in The Acts and the Epistles? Of course not.

One final point (though I could go on and on).

Unsaved people see signs like this and do you know what they conclude? I know unsaved people. I know lots of them. Many are my friends. I know what they would have said if they were in my car when I went past that sign. “Christians are idiots and fools.” And you know what? People who claim to be Christians but who distort and pervert the Word of God like this are fools indeed!

Christians, true Christians, really do forgive as Jesus did. And more. We pray for God’s holy wrath and justice to break out upon the wicked and destroy them for their oppression of the widow and orphan. Yep –

Psa 139:21-22 Do I not hate those who hate you, O LORD? And do I not loathe those who rise up against you? (22) I hate them with complete hatred; I count them my enemies.

You Cannot Appease Evil – It Will Just Grow Stronger

Pro 22:10 Drive out a scoffer, and strife will go out, and quarreling and abuse will cease.

A widespread, common, and dangerous fallacy rampant among Christians is that if victims of evil just submit to it, if they work harder at not provoking it, if they look within themselves and try to see that they have a share in the blame for the abuse, then eventually the evil oppressor will be satisfied and back off. Appeasement is the word for all this. Appeasement of evil by giving it what it wants.

If you study the buildup in the 1930’s to the second world war and watch the policy of appeasement toward Hitler and the Nazis at work, you will have a real lesson in wisdom. The leaders of Britain, with very few exceptions, embraced the policy of appeasement by giving Hitler what he wanted time after time. Even France held back at critical times when they should have been preparing for war because they didn’t want to make Hitler mad. Chamberlain and others embracing this fantasyland philosophy of appeasement sold out Czechoslovakia, Poland, and other countries all with the goal of giving Hitler what he wanted to appease him. Eventually, they insisted, he would be satisfied with what he had and his aggression would cease.

Wrong. WWII. Near destruction of all democracy in Europe if not in the world.

You cannot appease evil. You must not appease evil. Evil sees appeasement as weakness. Hitler viewed Chamberlain and his crowd was wimps and fools, which actually they were.

The same kind of appeasement policy is being pushed for by today’s political liberals. Don’t do anything to upset the tyrants. Give them piles of money. Promise to stay out of their business. Wear the blame for all that is wrong in the world. Believe their promises. And all the while they continue to secretly arm themselves for world domination. Hitler, you know, had specific plans for invasion of England and it included rounding up all males of age and shipping them into Europe to serve the Nazis as slaves. It very nearly happened. And then he planned to come for us here in the U.S.

In churches today, evil is being “dealt with” by a policy of this same kind of appeasement. “Don’t push his buttons,” abuse victims are told. “Submit even more and eventually he will change for the better.”  And we in the church, well, we are supposed to love, love, love the unrepentant evil man or woman with the same kind of insane foolhardiness that Chamberlain used on Hitler.

Evil is never appeased. Never. The devil never has enough slaves, never tires of working his wickedness. He is a murderer and the father of lies by nature, and so are his children (see John 8). We must stand up to evil. We must call it out. We must expose evildoers who are parading as Christians in our churches, and we must never, ever tell abuse victims that they must work to appease their abuser. That is spiritual malpractice. It is to ally with the wicked.

 

The Danger of Confusing Faith with Superstition

Heb 11:1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

Many non-Christians accuse Christians of being superstitious (and therefore foolish) people. Some of these accusations are correct. Let me show you why. First, some definitions:

Faith is trust in God. Superstition is trust in man.

Faith is reliance upon God’s Word. Superstition is reliance upon man’s word.

Faith has what is unseen as its object. Superstition’s focus is upon man’s visible, tangible actions.

Faith is reliance upon God’s actions. Superstition is reliance upon man’s actions.

We could continue making these contrasts, but this should be sufficient.

Now, why do I maintain that the “faith” of many professing Christians is actually superstition? Let me give you some examples.

  • I have been very good today. God will give me that new job.
  • If I just keep working harder and harder on submitting to my abuser husband, God will work a miracle and change him.
  • If I don’t go to church this Sunday, God will not bless me this week.
  • I am going to gather as many people together to pray and God will heal my friend. The more people we get to pray, the more likely God will hear us.
  • I faithfully tithe to my church. God will give me back more than I give.

Understand? Do you see that these common notions are all examples, not of real faith, but of superstition? It is pure myth that by my doings I can manipulate God. That is not Christianity. It is pagan magic. You see it in Rome. Say this many hail whatevers, crawl up so many stone steps, etc, etc, and God will act. But evangelicals have their own brand of chants, charms, and mantras.

If you are a victim of domestic abuse and if you are a Christian, there is a very high probability that you have been told/taught/indoctrinated with superstitions of this sort. And perhaps you are even still clinging to them. They need to go. To the dump. Right away.

Superstition has as its agenda man’s agenda. Faith trusts in God’s agenda. So to remain in an abusive marriage under the guise of “faith and obedience” as the path to the salvation of your abuser and the healing of your marriage is superstition. It is seeking your own agenda. Most often, God’s agenda is radically different than ours – and radically better. The one is fiction, the other is reality given and scripted by God alone.

Take a close look at yourself. How much of your “faith” could actually be superstition? And in what ways is that superstition working to keep you in bondage?

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Many of Today’s “Christian” Counselors are Descendants of the Sons of Sceva

Act 19:13-16 Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists undertook to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, “I adjure you by the Jesus whom Paul proclaims.” (14) Seven sons of a Jewish high priest named Sceva were doing this. (15) But the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?” (16) And the man in whom was the evil spirit leaped on them, mastered all of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.

Like these strange Jewish exorcists, we have many people in our own day who claim the name of Jesus Christ for themselves and their “ministries,” but who are unknown to Christ and whose “power” is non-existent as the devils well know. As a result, they are not empowered by Christ’s Spirit and all of their works are a sham, leaving the oppressed in worse condition than before. Let me illustrate.

One of the words I watch for is “redeem.” You see it thrown around all the time, particularly in the “Christian” counseling arena. Redeeming marriage. Redeeming anger. Redeeming finances. Yada, yada, yada. Words like this are so over-used in so many areas that they become meaningless. So it is with the word “redeem.” Modern day counselors (or better, conjurers) publish their books and give their conference talks on “redemption.” Their purpose, they say, is to redeem your domestic abuser or your sexual predator child molester. Listen to them. Follow their formula and incantations and you will be redeemed from….whatever. Are you listening CCEF bigwigs?

But Jesus does not know them. And even the devils know they are powerless fakes.

Redemption is effected only by Jesus Christ – and He has already pulled it off on the cross. Christ died to redeem, to buy back, to set free, HIS people. The Christian is redeemed. Fully and completely. But Jesus did not die on the cross for your marriage. He did not shed His blood for your reconciliation with your rapist. He did not give Himself on the tree for your finances. No, He died for YOUR redemption from sin, from bondage to the devil, from the power of death. He redeemed you by effecting a perfect righteousness that becomes your righteousness through faith in Him. That is redemption.

Christ alone is our Redeemer. Christ alone is THE Redeemer. No one else.

So when these “biblical” counselors come along, as they so often do, promising to exorcise most anyone from their various ills, they come preaching a different gospel, a different Jesus, evidencing a different Spirit. Jesus does not know them. The devils laugh at them.

Only in this case they aren’t the ones who end up naked and wounded. Oh no. It is the oppressed, the downtrodden, the victims of evil that are injured. Of course, say these Scevites, it’s not their fault. The victims didn’t follow their incantations and formulas correctly. Guess these “redeemers” better write some more books for us so we can get it right next time. Oh, that will be $19.95 plus shipping.

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.”