Gal 4:13-17 You know it was because of a bodily ailment that I preached the gospel to you at first, (14) and though my condition was a trial to you, you did not scorn or despise me, but received me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus. (15) What then has become of your blessedness? For I testify to you that, if possible, you would have gouged out your eyes and given them to me. (16) Have I then become your enemy by telling you the truth? (17) They make much of you, but for no good purpose. They want to shut you out, that you may make much of them.
The Apostle Paul was often maligned by enemies of the gospel who came in behind him and worked their evil spells to alienate the people he had preached to and who embraced him and his message of salvation in Christ. The goal of these enemies was to alienate the churches from Paul and, in the end, from Christ. They attributed selfish motives to Paul. They criticized his method and message. All the while exalting themselves. They want to shut you out that you may make much of them. There it is.
Wicked people (often parading as Christians) typically work their evil by doing all they can to alienate friends, family, other Christians from the wicked one’s target. Many if not most of you have experienced this very thing. Domestic abuse scenarios very often exhibit this painful dynamic. Children won over by the abuser, alienated from the abuse victim. Even long-time friends are poisoned by the venom.
2Co 10:10 For they say, “His letters are weighty and strong, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech of no account.”
The “they” Paul is referring to here are the wicked ones who are at work to turn the Corinthian Christians against him. You find this thing evidenced in many of Paul’s epistles as he counters the lies and confronts people with their gullibility. Satan’s tactics are the same today.
We need to be wise. Wicked people disguise themselves as righteous and they lie in order to gain glory for themselves. You have heard me say it before – not everyone who says they are a Christian – is. In fact, I would go so far as to say that the majority of people who claim to be Christians – aren’t. MANY will come to Christ on that Day boasting of all their “christian” service, and He will pronounce them unknown to Him.
I am observing a person right now who seems to talk a lot about their service. They mention that people need to be doing things to go along with their salvation, which is hard to argue with but the “work” Jesus spoke of was works in keeping with repentance. If my understanding is correct, it means a changed heart which will be in tune with the needs of others and hence will lead them to “work” on their behalf. This could be just spotting someone’s need for companionship or compassion which might lead to a listening ear or a ride to the store. Here is an example from my own life. I was in deep emotional despair, and you might say “despondent.” I called on a family member hoping for some kind of solace but the person said, “I can’t do anything for you now, I have a Bible Study I need to attend.” To be fair, they may have said it was at their house and people would be arriving soon, but I’m not really sure. But here is where the rubber meets the road, will we be willing to cancel plans when something more urgent comes up? Will we prioritize our “work” based on immediate need or not? I’m not sure why this particular post brought this to mind other than perhaps the Bible Study of this family member meant more in terms of the approval, and/or glory from others? I don’t really know, but one day God will judge all acts such as this in His righteous way.
Thank you for this reminder Pastor Crippen. Your depiction of the dynamic is completely accurate. I have so many scars to attest to a wolf that disguised himself as a Christ follower, only to prey on his future wives in church. Of course each time it was at a new church so no one knew what had happened at the last one…..until it was too late. Regardless, the wolf was satan in every account of the deceiver’s script, and made a life professing their superior Christianity while habitually defaulting to every one of the Lord’s list of detestable things when no one was looking – and still does.
The part that resonates is that I had seen this over and over and over again in different church related places (private school, family, friends, church sponsored functions, Bible studies, small groups, etc.) and I did not fully realize it until after I went through this almost deadly experience with the wolf. I am embarrassed to know I missed it so many years and in so many places. I shouldn’t say I missed it, because all along I would have a sinking gnawing type feeling and “ick” when around the wolves (male and female), it was that it wasn’t until later that I realized that was the Holy Spirit shooting rockets of awareness – so it’s not that I missed it, I am embarrassed that I ignored it.
Susan, As for the talkers – they’re just that – talkers. It’s usually better to be doing the service rather than talking about doing the service. Sometimes it helps to remind ourselves Jesus had nothing to do with the church’s, self-righteous, talkers. They’re always disguised so sometimes it takes a few double takes, but watch them – they’re predictable in nature….. wicked and evil are through and through wicked and evil, that is their core.
Remember wolves live in packs, even amongst the sheep.
I am dealing with this great hurt now, even being tempted to abandon faith. I am just flabbergasted at how the church I invested myself into never accepted my son and I, seeing us only as possessions of my narcissistic spiritually abusive father. I could not ask for advise or guidance or support because everyone always assumed I would get it from him. The pastor even directly blew me off and directed me to go to him. This only demonstrates that they had absolutely no clue who this man is behind closed doors at home. I feel so stupid for falling for his ploy to come home, for hoping that he had finally found a church that would hold him accountable, and for hoping and trusting that these people would be our family. The man has never given me a piece of advise my entire life. He would laugh and dismiss me, say my life is too complicated…he never in a million years would do anything to help me become independent. He shamed me for getting a job because I had less time to devote to him, but when I didn’t have a job shamed me for needing financial help. He wants to be a great Bible scholar but enables my brother to be a heroin addict. I am not even mentioning the sexual, physical, and verbal sin, but it is my disappointment and heart break over the church that kills me. I volunteered, I called the single old ladies to make sure they were ok for hurricanes…I was always laughed off/brushed off. I have been more isolated and alone than I would’ve been if I didn’t have this church.
Christ keeps our faith alive. That is the only reason we are overcomers. I fully understand- I have been a pastor 40 years and have been on the receiving end of all kinds of evil. But Christ is our king.
Psa 73:2 But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled, my steps had nearly slipped.
Psa 73:3 For I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
Psa 73:16 But when I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome task,
Psa 73:17 until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end.
Psa 73:18 Truly you set them in slippery places; you make them fall to ruin.
Psa 73:19 How they are destroyed in a moment, swept away utterly by terrors!