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

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

1Co 5:11 But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler–not even to eat with such a one.

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

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

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

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

Let me give you some examples.

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

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

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

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

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

The Wicked Blame Everyone but Themselves

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

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

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

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

And still another:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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.

 

 

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.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

And yet….

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

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

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

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

 

When Victims of Evil Become Evildoers Themselves

Now the rabble that was among them had a strong craving. And the people of Israel also wept again and said, “Oh that we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt that cost nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic. (Numbers 11:4-5)

As we confront wickedness, one of the chief reasons we do what we do is for the benefit of its victims. We confront domestic abusers hiding in the church because we want their victims set free. We oppose false teachers who bring another Jesus, another gospel, and another spirit because we do not want people deceived by them. And many times we receive deep and sincere thanks from these victims.

But not always.

Over the years I have seen more than one wife of a wicked husband choose to stand with him. To be his defender. For a time it seemed that perhaps these women were starting to see the bondage they were in. A couple of them even asked for help and we poured our lives into them in an effort to confront the wickedness and get them free.

But then they made a choice.

Just like the wavering Israelites longing for “the good life” in slavery in Egypt, these victims chose to defend their own “Pharaoh” and they became very abusive themselves toward those who had tried to rescue them. “My husband is a good man. How dare you speak against him!” They chose up the side they were on and became allies of evil themselves.

This is important for all of us to understand and expect. That sometimes the very people who are targets of evil, the people we are trying to help, will turn against us and become our enemies.

Why? How can this be? I will suggest a few possible reasons:

  • They did not want to give up the material benefits they enjoyed. Some were married to wealthy men and they had grown accustomed to that wealth. To stand for truth and against evil would require them to give at least some of that up.
  • They enjoyed a widespread “reputation” as a fine Christian couple and family. The wickedness which is so often hidden and secret, behind closed doors, was something not many people knew about. The facade of saintliness had its benefits.
  • Others allowed fear to drive their choices. Certainly it is fearful to be the target of an abuser, but most often, eventually, victims will conquer that fear and go to freedom. But not all. I have known several who chose to stand on their abuser’s side, defending him against anyone who would confront him with his evil. In this way, they believed, they could remain in good graces with him and escape at least some of the abuse.

In each of these instances, the victim becomes an ally of evil and eventually exercises evil toward others herself. This decision, this change of attitude toward those who she was once warm toward and who she saw as her rescuers, can happen as quickly as you can throw a switch. One day she is your appreciative friend, perhaps having even come to you for help. The next day the warmth is gone, replaced by a cold distance, as if you had never been a friend at all. The years of friendship are over and soon fade into a distant memory until eventually it is as if you had never known one another before.

Knowing these things will provide us with wisdom. When we are working to help victims of evil, it is wise to proceed with some caution. We must realize that one day this person who is so appreciative toward us now may turn against us and choose the abuser’s side. Whatever things we have discussed or shared with such a victim in the past may well then become common knowledge to Pharaoh once she is back in Egypt.

The fact is that we simply cannot set someone free from evil if they are not willing to be free of it. Not even the angels who came to rescue Lot and his family could help Lot’s wife. She yearned for Sodom, she looked back, and she was salt. So let us be wise in these things.

 

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.

 

Evil Always Has an Element of Betrayal – And this is Very Telling

Matthew 26:47-49 While he was still speaking, Judas came, one of the twelve, and with him a great crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the elders of the people. (48) Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man; seize him.” (49) And he came up to Jesus at once and said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” And he kissed him.

Judas, the epitome of betrayers. He is infamous for his evil. One of the twelve, as Matthew reminds us – and with a kiss – a most cruel symbol of false loyalty wrapped around a heart of wicked treachery.

Psalms 41:9 Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me.

I want to talk today about this quality of betrayal that is present in evil. Anyone who has been the victim of evil has felt it, though perhaps not every victim fully understands that they have been betrayed. A vow or trust has been broken. And that is very painful, especially when it comes from a close friend or spouse or some other person who you thought loved you and was loyal to you.

I think that I have felt the most pain from the betrayal of people who were closest to me, and it is for this reason that I can very much empathize with victims of domestic abuse. The sharpest and most traumatic blows of betrayal hit us when they originate in someone we absolutely believed loved us. In my case, as a pastor, these arrows have come from people who I literally spent years and years ministering to, counseling, trying to help and who, because we are a very small church, I considered to be my friends and brethren in Christ. They weren’t. As it turns out they were really just using me for selfish motives. Hard lessons to learn.

Evil is treasonous and treacherous. It is only loyal to itself. When a wicked person appears to be reaching out in friendship, the fact is that he is merely playing the role, like Judas, because he wants something for himself that he believes you can give him. Judas, among other things, wanted money from the coin box and perhaps he wanted some kind of attention through associating with the Lord.

When someone you have loved, and whom you really believed loved you, rejects you, abandons you, turns on you as an enemy, the pain of betrayal hits you hard. YOU loved them, so you gave them your heart. But THEY never loved you, so the betrayer (though he may pretend in order to get pity) doesn’t feel any real pain. And as you begin to realize this, the sense of betrayal grows even more intense. I have sat face to face with people who I counted as very close friends, who I had believed were brothers and sisters in Christ, and had them coldly, with no guilt or sense of conscience, tell me they were leaving and would not be seeing me anymore. That is how divorce feels when someone you thought loved you serves you with the papers. And it is how an abuse victim feels when the fog starts clearing that the abuser has cast over their mind and they begin to realize that this spouse they loved all these years, never loved them. Never. Betrayal. Treason. Treachery.

Now, this is important when it comes to our ability to see where the evil really lies. That is to say, sorting out who the guilty one is and who the victim is. The wicked are often quite skilled at making themselves look like the victim and the victim look like the evil one. So we must take care. And one thing we can watch for is – where is the pain? Where is the sense of betrayal? Because you see, Judas had no pain in betraying Jesus – he kissed Him! Whatever it was that led to Judas hanging himself, it was not Godly sorrow. And so it is with the wicked person who betrays. They may moan and groan about how they have been wronged, but remember – they are feeling absolutely no sense of being betrayed. The victim on the other hand, is. For the most part, the betrayer has no pain of conscience, no grief of remorse. They are, after all, betraying, not being betrayed. And this is very, very telling if we watch for it.

Let me give you an example. I have known people who professed to be fine Christians, and appeared to be, only to be found out years later that in fact they have been practicing wickedness all along. Secretly. Some were domestic abusers in their homes. Others were cruel taskmasters to their employees. But when they were found out, they did not evidence grief or guilt or shame. In other words, they did not repent. What they DID do is blame others, break off fellowship with their victims, and effect that betrayal we are speaking of. You will see grief and pain in the ones betrayed. But you will NOT see it in the betrayer. In fact I have noticed over the years that wicked ones like this are not at all bothered if they come face to face later with those they betrayed. All smiles. Just as if nothing had ever happened. And when you see this, you know with certainty who the evil one really is in the situation. They feel no pain or sorrow.

They only leave a trail of it.

Want to find evil? Watch for the betrayer and you will have found it.

 

 

If You Refuse to Acknowledge Evil, You Don’t Believe God

And he said, “Go, and say to this people: “‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’ Make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy, and blind their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.” (Isaiah 6:9-10)

Willful blindness leads to further darkness. When human beings refuse to acknowledge and give thanks to God, He steps back (Romans 1). The darkness increases because God is Light. Christians are no exception. When God’s people close their eyes to the light of God’s truth in His Word, they too can expect darkness to overshadow them.

Literally everyday, and I say this with no exaggeration of the facts, I read or see or hear real life examples of professing Christians (are they Christians at all??) willfully choosing ignorance and falsehood rather than Christ’s light. Want some examples? Here:

  • Hugh Hefner, porn king who led millions of people into wickedness and used and abused how many women, died recently. What did some “christians” have to say when Hefner’s evil was pointed out? “We must not and cannot judge him. He was someone’s son. His life should be celebrated. He too was one of God’s children.” Really. I am not making this up. They said it and were incensed that anyone would be “judgmental” about Hefner.
  • A sermon is preached in a mega-church by an “expert” on marriage. He says that every marriage – EVERY marriage – is a garden that, if properly tended, will be beautiful and bear good fruit. The only reason the garden goes bad, says this “doctor of ministry,” is because the husband and wife let it go to weed through neglect. He makes no mention of the fact that there are many spouses who are sociopaths, conscienceless workers of evil whose intent is to deceive and destroy.
  • A wicked and evil man is confronted for his unrepentant and ongoing reviling of the righteous and enabling of the wicked. He is put out of the church. He simply drives down the road the next week, plugs into another “church,” wearing his facade, and within two years is appointed to a leadership position there. The pastor and other leaders never bother to look into his history.
  • A growing, “happening” mega-church wannabe boasts about how many new people are swelling its ranks and how many “baptisms” are being performed. “It’s the Lord at work! We are kingdom-minded and He is going to do a huge work through us!” When a church member involved in the women’s ministry cautions the pastor that there are numbers of men who are domestic abusers parading as Christians who are members of this church, the pastor scoffs. He accuses the lady of being paranoid and asks her rather mockingly, “do you want us to go on a sin-hunt in a church this size?”
  • As judges will testify if you ask them, when a pastor or “saintly” church member appears in their courtroom, charged with rape or child molestation or some other unspeakable evil, the courtroom seating will be filled on the defendant’s side. Filled with other church members who have come to “support” their fellow “brother in Christ” who they just know could not possibly be guilty. Oh, and who is on the victim’s side of the courtroom? No one. None. Empty.

And on and on we could go. The climate in most local churches is one which accepts as valid virtually anyone’s claim to be a Christian, regardless of how they are living their life. They can be walking in immorality. We must not judge them. They can be people who mistreat their employees, who regularly look at porn with no remorse, who love the world and the things in the world, and yet “grace abounds,” for them we are told. The only really heinous sin it would seem is to call sin, well…sin!

But there is more. If you take the time and have the opportunity to chat with the average, typical member of local churches today, you will very commonly find an astonishing degree of biblical ignorance. The Apostle’s words are spot on for our day:

For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. (Hebrews 5:12-14)

Take particular notice of the very last phrase here. “…who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.” Did you think that “spiritual maturity” was something else? Like knowing lots of verses by memory, or winning attendance badges in Sunday School, or reading your Bible through in a year? Those can be good things, but the fact is that spiritual babies can and do accomplish those things if tantalized by the right bribes. No, real spiritual maturity is the ability to distinguish good from evil.

Therefore, my thesis is this: The light of God’s truth is exceedingly dim in most local churches and individual professing Christians today. And the proof of this statement is the plain, evident fact that the large (very large) majority of church members cannot or will not distinguish good from evil. Instead, this is what we are seeing:

Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! (Isaiah 5:20)

Do you want to grow up? Do you want to be someone who loves righteousness and hates evil, who is sick and tired of the name of Christ being blasphemed because of the actions and teachings of those who claim to belong to Him but do not? Then stick with us here at Light for Dark Times as we contrast what God’s Word says with the darkness being preached in the visible church.

Remember, anyone who refuses to acknowledge evil is a person who necessarily refuses to believe God.