This post was published this morning at my other blog, lightfordarktimes.com, but I am also publishing it here at Unholy Charade because I would really like all of you to see it. If you haven’t followed LFDT’s yet, please go there and sign on to follow. This post is the first in a series which will become a book and…well, here it is and I explain what this series is for – [I will just publish this first post in the series here at Unholy Charade. The rest will appear each Friday at LFDT’s] –
I have the outline of a new book sitting here on my desk, which I never seem to have time to get started on. So I thought what I would do is write it here with a weekly installment, and have you all provide your observations and comments and thereby…help me write the book!
Here is the central theme scripture the book title is drawn from and which is really a statement of the purpose of the book:
2 Timothy 3:1-5 ESV But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. (2) For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, (3) heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, (4) treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, (5) having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.
Most all of the wicked people I have had to deal with as a pastor, in the church, were this very kind of person. They had the appearance of godliness, but they denied its power. Let’s see if we can think through what this means.
Paul told Timothy, and us, that the “last days,” that is, the church age in which we live, will be difficult times. Difficult for whom? For people like Timothy. For genuine Christians. For people who really have been born again. The times will not be so difficult for the worldling, but for the godly it is going to be a struggle.
Because of evil. Because of evil people. Because of people like this:
- Lovers of self
- Lovers of money
- Proud and arrogant
- Disobedient to parents
- Without self-control
- Not loving good
- Swollen with conceit
- Lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God
We could spend a lot of time, with considerable profit, going through that list one by one and thinking about how those particular evil qualities work themselves out all around us. Those of you who have experienced domestic violence will recognize your abuser in many, if not all, of these traits.
But what I want to focus on in this study is that last “punch line” characteristic that I believe Paul is saying is the most evil of all – having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Let’s just think about that description a bit.
What does it mean to “have the appearance of godliness”? Well, it means to be a counterfeit. It describes a person who in fact walks in the evils in the preceeding list but who wears a disguise of godliness. Who puts on a mask – and a very convincing one – of being someone who knows God. A wolf in wool if you will. Someone who claims to be a Christian and who appears, outwardly, to be a Christian.
But it is just an “appearance.” And as they say, appearances can be deceptive. What appears to be, often is not. I like to put it this way – Not all Christians are.
What this also tells us is that the most dangerous kind of enemy we face is this kind – the kind who wears this “godliness” mask. The man or woman who is just the finest church member, the eminently “holy” one, the pillar of the church. That kind of person who expends constant energy “keeping up apprearances,” deceiving and being deceived. They are most dangerous because they are the most deceptive. They work to get next to us. To gain our trust. And all the while they are working behind the scenes to destroy Christ’s true people, His true church, and His ministry. That diabolical list of evils Paul gives us here, in other words, are not practiced openly and plainly by these kind of creeps. Most people would be shocked and offended if you ever tried to reveal to them just who these wicked ones really are. (Note: I use the term “creeps” because Jude warns us that they “creep in among us.”) An appearance of godliness, you see.
In the next installment in this series, I want to talk more about what a denial of the power of godliness is. That is what these people do and it is what they are. By their life and their words, they deny something that is apparently central to what Paul calls “godliness.” What does this mean? We need to find out.
Finally, by way of further introducing this series, let me tell you about how I plan to go about it. After making some initial observations about our central theme – an appearance of godliness – I want to actually flesh this subject out by introducing you one by one to “case studies in evil.” That is to say, I want to write descriptions of this kind of counterfeit in the church who you can expect to meet.
I know this, because I have met them.
I admire your courage in doing this. I am a counselor, and have met this kind of person not only in my office, but out in the larger community as well. I’ve also born the brunt of this kind of evil at the hands of a pastor, as well as from a family member. I’d be happy to share my thoughts/experiences in all of these realms as long as my confidentiality is ensured. Thank you, Pastor Jeff, for tackling this.
Excellent!! Confidentiality assured. Absolutely.
This kind of person is so hard to spot for average Christians, as they are disguised as an “angel of light” in their communities.
They are often the heads of charity organizations, churches, CEOs of agencies that help the community, such as animal welfare groups, children’s charities, or nursing homes.
They appear to be doing good in the world, even while they only do it to deceive others, get wealthy off the misery or guilt of others, or create a facade that allows them total freedom to abuse knowing nobody would ever believe their victims because of this facade.
I would be glad to share the story of what my family has endured at the hands of one of these “Godly” monsters.
I’d be happy to contribute any of my own experiences with the professing Christians within my own large and powerful family. My mother, my 4 siblings, my estranged husband, 3 of my children and hundreds of members of my former Baptist church have often used this exact passage about “denying the power” of Scripture- though they themselves have proud, cruel, angry, hate-filled testimonies based on just this problem! They exclaim the power of God to change a person and yet even in their 50’s and older they are still slaves to their hearts full of gossip, sexual perversion, anger, jealousy, greed, cruelty to parents… -Susan
Thank you Susan!
Many predators operate like this, They deliberately cultivate a collection of allies who have been groomed and selected to bear witness to their supposed goodness, The creeps make a point to have a very clean public image. Such traps and disempowers the victim even more. I’m sure this is very much a long-term strategy of theirs. The victim not only has to fight the creep, but then has to fight each person groomed by the creep, societal victim-blaming, and it’s too much for most to bear.
Due to how fast things change these days, it plays to predators advantage all the more. People move more often than they used to, change jobs way more frequently, and it’s really hard to decipher who is who when you don’t have a lot of time to see their long term pattern of behavior. It’s gotten to a point where if you find a genuinely good person, that’s a real rarity. Most argue against this, but such has been my experience. Most people are awful and untrustworthy. I’m not sure how anyone lives these days. Perhaps those with more power and privilege still have nice lives, but at the bottom, in extreme vulnerability, the reality is very grim. Canary in the coal mine? Or is it happening to others, too?
Frankly, given how bad this world is, and the proportion of people who are wicked, if I had school-aged children, I’d be surely seeing to it they’d be homeschooled. I wonder how many generations are actually left before Jesus returns. Maybe 1?
The visible church is overrun with those who have an appearance of godliness, yet deny its power as they find ways to profit off of the Christian persona they put on. You see this in the charismatic mega-churches whose cult of personality mesmerizes its members. You see it in business when people claim to be Christian but then have no compunction about defrauding and deceiving those they are in relationship with. You see it in families who put on the facade of holiness when they are in the presence of other Christians, yet actively damage their spouse and their kids.
As someone who has experienced trauma from all of the aforementioned types of “Christians,” I applaud you on your willingness to tackle this topic. It is desperately needed.
If you would like to hear more of my story for the book, I’m willing to help shed a light on this pervasive evil we face.
Thank you!! Everyone is welcome to leave comments here or email me if they prefer. Anonymity will be respected.
I am so excited to hear that you are writing another book! I agree wholeheartedly with those who have already commented here. My experience in a 50 year abusive marriage to a “pillar in the community” has left me wounded and now alone. My experience is with the covert aggressive narcissist/sociopath. Because he is “covert”, he gets away with murder – almost literally. I have been ill much of the time or also in physical pain. Hospitalized over 25 times. I was shocked to find out how angry he was soon after the wedding. This behavior had not manifested itself during our courtship. And the workaholism! Nothing would do but that he work long hours to be “at the top” of his corporation. I tried to submit, defer and cover for his sins as my mentors taught me to do. I did not know that I was dealing with such a personality disorder. I didn’t even know what a personality disorder was or that it even existed. I could do nothing right. And no matter what I did, which was to try to please him, he was angry, angry, angry. And his anger made me sick and the sicker I got the angrier he became. I never ever intended to leave him because in my book, divorce was never an option. And I did not want my children to come from a broken home. So, I hung in there and did the best I could under dire circumstances. He was two people. Like Jekyll and Hyde. He claimed to be a Christian, but after he stole tithe money, forged my signature multiple times, moved money around without telling me; threatened to leave me in another state, abandon me sexually. He raped me repeatedly against my will. The list goes on and on. Finally there was an incident that “broke the camel’s back” and I left him. Still hoping to reconcile. Burt after reading and learning on my own with little help from anyone else, it became clear that I could never go back. There has been fallout with the family and I am the loser there. It had to be terribly bad for me to sacrifice my children and grandchildren. So if there is a was to help you and others by my experience, I would be so honored to do so.
Beth – thank you for sharing with us what is I am sure just the iceberg tip of your suffering.
You like all our readers can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and with your experiences we can put together a very helpful book for people who have been targeted by these evildoers.