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.