Jude 1:4 For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.
As a Christian, where has the major portion of suffering and persecution come at you? What has been its most typical source? We are usually taught that we should be looking for attacks from the world, and certainly that is one common base of the enemy. The world, the flesh, and the devil, you know.
But I want to show you from my own experience and from Scripture that the most typical locale for the enemies of Christ to attack from is not “out there.” Rather, it is within the walls of the visible, local church.
Before I was a pastor, I was a police officer. I had many unsaved friends who were fellow officers, even though they all knew I was a Christian. We were a team. My wife, all these years, has experienced the same thing. In her workplace she is a team member with many non-Christian people. I saw her recently visiting with a neighbor lady near our house, relating to her very well.
But then there has been our experience in the local church. I say “local church” because I want to carefully distinguish what we call the “visible church” from the true, invisible church which consists only of real believers both in heaven and on earth. So let me tell you a bit about our experience among people who claim to be Christians.
The moment I left the police department on Friday and became a pastor two days later, peace was gone. For eight years in our first church (and simultaneously in a second church we planted from a Bible study), there were virtually daily attacks from hypocrites and counterfeits. There were a few (very few) genuinely converted people who we have seen continue to grow in Christ over these years. But most of the crowd were fakes. And they never missed an opportunity to discourage, to criticize, to try to divide, or to mock. Mind you, they all claimed to be Christians.
How much trouble did I experience in those first eight years from unsaved people in the community? Virtually none. Oh sure, they had no use for Christ for the most part. But they never attacked us. They did not hate us. They weren’t out to destroy the church.
And how has it been these next 28 years after leaving that first church and moving on to pastor two more – the most recent here in Tillamook for 26 years now? It has been the very same experience. While we enjoy peace and unity right now in the small band of believers who remain, most of those years have been characterized by being the objects of hatred from professing Christians. Hypocrites. Counterfeits. Many were members of our own church for years and all those years they worked their evil conspiracies.
How much trouble have we experienced from the unsaved community here? Almost none. A critical letter in the paper now and then in response to a sermon we might publish there. But that’s about it. All the rest of the attacks have always been from people who wear a Christian disguise.
Now think this through. If you have been the victim of a domestic abuser, where has most all your grief and oppression come from? You know the answer. The abuser himself claims to be a Christian. The people in your church. The pastor. “Christian” books on marriage. THERE is the enemy’s assault base. In fact many if not most of you have received the best help from secular sources.
What does this all tell us? It tells us that when the Bible states something, we had better pay closer attention to what it is saying. If you cut out all the verses in Scripture that deal with enemies creeping in among God’s people, just how much of the Bible do you think you would have left? You know the answer. Not much at all.
Consider Jesus. Consider the Apostles. Where did their enemies primarily come from? Pharisees. Saducees. Scribes. In other words, from the visible church. Think for instance of say…Galatians. Why was it written? Because enemies had infiltrated the churches of Galatia. How many accounts of conflict do we have in the Gospels between Jesus and the religious leaders in Jerusalem? Who is it that Paul warns the Corinthians about – the ones who can appear as an angel of light or sons of righteousness? Who are the savage wolves that Paul warns the Ephesian elders about? Professing Christians. Hypocrites. Counterfeits.
And think about church history. Where has the primary persecution of Christ’s people come from? Caesar? Sure, somewhat. But church history is the history of the “church” of Rome and her wicked children warring against the saints.
Should we be so surprised at what we are experiencing today? Should we be so reluctant to believe that old Mr. Smith, the indispensible most holy saint down at First Church, is actually a serpent in disguise? Should we be shocked when the so-called church we have been a member of for decades casts us out for divorcing an evil abuser? It is shocking indeed. It is hard to comprehend. Nevertheless God’s Word confirms these things – and it also gives us a great promise.
When we are cast out, we will find Jesus there. We will learn that He departed that place long ago Himself, because He was not received by those who claim to belong to Him.
Joh 9:35-39 Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” (36) He answered, “And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” (37) Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you.” (38) He said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him. (39) Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.”