John 10:26-28 but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. (27) My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. (28) I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.
It is absolutely crucial that we regularly remind ourselves regarding the difference between the visible church and the true church. Otherwise we are going to get into all kinds of trouble.
With some sad frequency I hear from people who profess to be Christians and who have been mistreated or abused in their church, and as a result they speak of “the church” as being hypocritical, condemning, unloving, unforgiving. Recently one such person said that they would rather hang out with the most wicked in the world rather than having anything to do with “the church.” Why? Because, as she said, “the church” is condemning and judgmental and hypocritical. Better to have worldlings as companions than those in “the church.”
Do you see the problem? This lady lumps all who profess to know Christ together into one big mass and calls it “the church.” She fails to differentiate between the visible church and the invisible church. So let’s clear this up.
We know, as Christ plainly said in John chapter 10, that His flock consists of His true sheep. Sheep who know Him. Sheep who hear His voice and who only follow Him. Sheep who will not follow a stranger. And we also know that on the Day when He comes in judgment, MANY will come to him and boast about all the great works they did for Him. But He will say to them “I never knew you.” In contrast, His true sheep on His right hand will be known and welcomed by Him.
So you see it? There is a true church, and there is a false church. There is the visible church which we can see on this earth. Your local church is part of that visible church. You can go to it. You can see the people in it. You can touch it, you might say. But then there is the invisible church which you cannot see. Why? Because it consists of all true Christians from all eras and all places, including those who are in heaven now. We will see this church one day, but you cannot see it now. It is a vast host that no one can number.
Now, what characterizes the visible church? It contains false sheep. Hypocrites. Pharisees. Not all members of the visible church are such. No, some are genuine Christians. But the visible church is a mixture and sadly it is often the wicked counterfeits who set the reputation of the local church. They are often the “movers and shakers” of the visible church. They are the children of Ishmael, products of the flesh rather than of the Spirit, who even to this day persecute the real children of Abraham.
But if we fail to discern these two churches, the true and the false, the invisible and the visible, then we are going to end up wanting nothing to do with Christ’s church. We are going to throw the baby out with the bathwater. We are going to wrongly accuse and reject Christ’s bride whom He died for.
So when I hear someone say “I will have nothing to do with the church.” I immediately ask them – “well, just what “church” are you talking about?” Because to reject the true bride of Christ, to malign the yet imperfect body of Christ, is to reject the people for whom Christ bled and whom He has loved from eternity past. It is also to reject the very nature of Christ’s salvation and what He effects in His true people when He regenerates us. He does not leave us wallowing in our sins. He does not keep calling us sinners or hypocrites. No. He calls us saints, holy ones, children of God, sons of Abraham, new creations, and a whole host of other glorious names.
Our challenge today then is to discern, by His Spirit, those who really are His sheep, and those who are not. How? His sheep hear His voice. They follow Him. They will not follow a stranger. Look around you. See them? They are there if you will look, and if you yourself are one of them.
Many of you and myself included have been sorely mistreated by people who claim to be Christians. By pastors who claim to speak for Christ. By local churches that claim to be the body of Christ. Well, here is encouraging news. It wasn’t Christ or His people who did this to us. Oh, for a time a real Christian can be deceived and in naivete be duped by the wicked. But their eyes will eventually be opened. Such people (and they aren’t many, they are a “remnant” you know) will come back to us and ask for forgiveness and confess their sin against us. But Christ’s true church will never side with evil in the end. What we have not fully understood is simply this: many if not most local churches today are not Christ’s churches. We have suffered at the hands of counterfeits just like the blind man whom Jesus healed in John 9. And like him, we find Jesus outside the formal temple.
Wow another great sermon! I look forward to your posts everyday. Thank you!
Excellent Pastor Crippen.
[Edited by moderator] I love that Jesus says that those who love Him will keep His commands, and they are not burdensome. You can pretty much observe the rotten fruit someone brings forth by not following the Lord’s very simple commands, and being born again it is a joy to keep them! I can always spot the false brethren. They tell lies to make themselves look better or to slander some innocent soul. They promise something and do not keep their word (which the Lord equates to lying) They are greedy for gain or popularity. They are arrogant (don’t have a teachable spirit) and are COWARDS who will not stand up for righteousness concerning a person or situation. There are plenty more but we all see it comparing a person’s actions against the word of God. With these wicked people who are deluded think that they “belong” to Christ, I pray “Lord let me always be wise as a serpent and gentle as a dove.” When handling these counterfeits.
Edited your reference that critiques a particular church. Thanks for your comment. I just don’t have time to read and research various individual churches and ministries and so on so we normally try to not name those that we aren’t familiar with.
this online blogging ministry is one of the few really great uses of the internet. accessible to all with an internet connection, and ever ready to connect the remnant with other true followers of God. the care of the soul is so crucial. and theres nothing like spiritual abuse to also harm a dv victim.
this post was a good reminder that the visual, brick and mortar churches aren’t necessarily the true church body of Christ and His followers, so those with negative experiences need not be too terribly distraught and discouraged, as all that matters in the end is Christ’s true followers, His true servants
online fellowship is perfectly legit and so, so helpful
Desiring God posted an article on personality disordered people and how they are fellow Christians who should be treated with great care and concern. I am divorced from a 40 year abusive marriage with a narcissist who also had untreated bipolar (he refused meds) and blind rages.. He did many horrific things to my children, and me. I’ve read many of your articles in which you state such people are not really Christians. I am curious what your response to the DG article would be. Here is the link: https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/still-saints
Schari – This is a good question because these “experts” teach so much enslaving false nonsense and wrap it all up in “Bible” talk. I don’t have time to read the article but frankly, I really don’t need to. To claim that personality disordered people are Christians who are to be treated with great care and concern is an example of the false gospel that is all around us today, coming out of supposed “Christian” circles. And by the way, I have really no use for anything Desiring God publishes. John Piper laid the false foundation over there long ago.
But let’s think this through. These guys are claiming that sociopaths, narcissists, psychopaths and a host of other people with destructive “disorders” are Christians. That simply cannot be. Oh sure, a person could be given to depression or be suffering from PTSD and still be a real Christian. But full-blown personality disorders? When Christ saves us, he does not leave us wallowing in slavery to sin. He brings the Prodigal out of the pig pen and brings him to his senses. He delivers the demoniac so that he is clothed and in his right mind.
So these “experts” are going to guilt and shame you for divorcing your raging, child terrorizing, narcissistic “Christian” husband and tell you that you need to repent of not treating the poor fellow with “great care and concern.” People like this need to be thrown out of their profession for malpractice. But they can find plenty of so called churches and pastors to endorse them, boast with them about how full of mercy and kindness they are, and help them abuse people like you.
Disregard their evil lies and enjoy your freedom. You have God’s blessing I am sure.
So true. The false counterfeit christians with “personality disorders”, the sociopaths, psychopaths, abusers…are the ones who CAUSE injuries-physically breaking bones, choking, bruising bodies..as well as mental “invisible” injuries & scars like anxiety, depression, PTSD to their VICTIMS! We victims are left nursing the wounds and praying for Jesus to heal us from the damage inflicted by the wicked false wolf christians. Let’s concentrate on helping the victims get free of the bondage of wicked counterfeit christians and to heal from their destruction.
Do the “personality disordered” sociopaths/psychopaths/abusers SEEK God and PRAY for His intervention? His protection? His Wisdom? His discernment? His strength? NO. Their victims do! And God HEARS & ANSWERS THEIR PRAYERS! His Face is turned AWAY from the wicked. He doesn’t hear their prayers. Because he does not know them. He knows and hears His sheep. Praise God for that certainty.
Thank you Z I appreciate your comment!
Pastor Crippen I wrote a long post it may have accidentally gotten deleted. I hope you didn’t delete it because it too long winded or inappropriate? Can you provide feedback to me?
WordPress sent your comment to Spam – unknown why. No worries. Sometimes it takes us longer to find and approve comments due to differing time zones and little glitches like this with WordPress.
My personal experience with the phony visible church has been with women in church leadership. The small time conference speakers, authors, pastors daughters, church staff members and church board members. Totally arrogant, condescending and cliquish. Totally ignore me even though I’ve been in churches and have been acquainted with them for many years. The only explanation for their horrible behavior is that they are not saved. Thanks again pastor for your clarity and telling it like it is.
Stormy – I read your longer version of this comment and I fully understand. This paragraph summarizes your experience and point very well. You have my Amen! to it. When I first came to the church I have now pastored here for 26 years, there was a very similar clique – in fact, there were several of them. There was a “young marrieds” group of about 30 people that met as its own Sunday School class. There was the choir and the music “team.” Then there was the band of the church “board.” And finally, there was the informal group of those who had lived here their whole lives and still, as you alluded to, were really in high school to that day. None of these groups accepted me. I don’t even understand why in the world they even called a pastor. But, as is your experience, time proved that they did not even know the Lord. “Church” was a social club clique that really had nothing to do with Christ, even though they dressed it all up in Christian outward appearance.
What has this got to do with domestic abusers in the church and their victims? Plenty. These are the kind of people who embrace abusers and reject victims. When I ultimately from the pulpit shone light on the sins that were dominating this church at that time, the fangs came out. There was no repentance. No empathy or remorse over how so many were treating my wife and I and how their sins shamed the name of Christ. All the empathy went to the key culprits who “were so hurt and embarrassed by what the pastor said.” What I said was that “this church is dominated by mean, unsaved people who are shaming the name of Christ and unless there is repentance then my wife and I are not going to be able to last here.” The battles intensified and now, 26 years later, the smoke having cleared, we have about 30 faithful people comprising the church. If you were to talk to the wicked, who hate us to this day, you would here abuser allies stories of how cruel and harsh “that church” was to “such fine, noble Christians.”
And that is largely why I can fully identify with abuse victims and how I was taught how abusers operate.
Your words are “The Balm of Gilead” to my wounded soul. I respect you and your wife so much and to know you stand with me means so much. To hear that you went thru what I went thru and to hear you call it out for what it is brings me healing. You are an answered prayer. I hope I can do for others what you’ve done for me. Thank you!
Your wisdom and insight has been proven yet again to me.
For brievitys sake I didn’t include in my long post that while I was being wrongfully snubbed by women in the church I concurrently had an abusive female neighbor. You tied my experience back into an abuser without all the information. That is true insight.
The abusive female neighbor gathered allies amosgnst the women in the neighborhood against me. Her allies included the preachers daughter who was a Christian speaker and author.
The abusive neighbor presented a false persona as a suffering servant in the neighborhood and was looked upon by many as a servant of righteous. She was a bully. Behind closed doors she would surprise me with harassing phone calls, I think she was psychotic or something really bad. She got other women to hate me who never even knew me. It was horrible but yes this type of injustice has the root from the abuser. I believe the church folk are shallow, condescending, clicquish and mean and easily aligned themselves with abusers because they are not saved.