The Holy Spirit Calls us to Expose Evil — People Tell us to be Quiet About it

And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.” (John 3:19-21)

All through my life I have seen evil and injustice. Like most of you, I have seen it personally in the workplace and in the church. And every time I have seen it, I have been told to be quiet about it. Not by the Lord, but by people. When you are told often enough that you are exaggerating, that you are too judgmental, that you need to just overlook things, you start to believe it. You think that you must be “a problem.”

Here is the thesis of this article that I want to state and support:

The Holy Spirit inhabits and leads every Christian. Because He is the holy Spirit, He reacts against un-holiness. When the Christian is in the presence of evil, the Spirit in him tells him “something is wrong here. This is not right. This is sin. Here is what God’s Word says about this.” 

And then what happens? When the Christian, led by the Spirit, speaks out against this wrong and exposes it, pressure from the enemy comes against him to be quiet about it. To minimize it. To feel a sense of guilt for even thinking badly about someone else. And this opposition to the Spirit, this quenching of the Lord in us, is particularly effective when it comes from the mouth of someone who claims to be a fellow believer —

“Now, Jeff, that is just how Mrs. Smith is. She is really a very good woman and fine Christian. So just be patient with her tantrums and steer a wide path around her and try to get along. We try not to talk much around here about her foibles. After all, she is such a fine pianist and choir director.”

Mrs. Smith has been the pianist and choir director in that church for 40 years! And for 40 years Mrs. Smith has thrown those wicked tantrums whenever she doesn’t get her way. This is sin. It is evil. Mrs. Smith is an agent of the enemy, but the “godly folk” there in the church make it clear that you must not speak of her sin or talk about the Bible saying we are to deal with sin in the church.

In the very first church that I was a pastor in, I knew by the third day that something was very, very wrong. I wasn’t wise enough to know exactly what it was, but I knew. I felt it. I met with the church board consisting of some six or seven people and I simply did not see Christ in them. Oh, perhaps one or two were believers, but not the rest (time would prove that assessment to be accurate). And there were other issues evident that plainly contradicted God’s Word regarding life in His church.

We were sent to this church by a home missions board that we were with. I phoned our regional director and gave him my assessment of the situation. In just a few hours I received a phone call from the head of the missions agency and he was irate! He told me that “of course the people in that church are unsaved. Don’t try to change anything. Just be patient with them, get to know them, and they will get saved.” In others words, “Jeff, just shut up about these things you see that you say are contrary to the Lord’s truth. You are just going to cause trouble.”

Well, I was in that church for eight years. I assumed the missions director knew what he was talking about. I didn’t want to be a trouble maker. So I preached Scripture and taught the people and. . . what happened? Trouble. Attacks. Constant division and fighting. Rank immorality. A terrible testimony to the community. And why was that? Because the Holy Spirit had been trying to tell me from the very start that this “church” was no church at all because there were but maybe one or two genuinely converted people in it.  That is to say, my first conviction that I needed to announce something like this to a congregation of the wicked was right, and that missions director was dead wrong —

When you come to appear before me, who has required of you this trampling of my courts? Bring no more vain offerings; incense is an abomination to me. New moon and Sabbath and the calling of convocations — I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly. Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hates; they have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them. When you spread out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood.

Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause. (Isaiah 1:12-17)

You see, these were not mere unbelieving pagans. No, these were church members who claimed to be Christians! That “church” needed to be reduced to a small handful and genuine believers, and then begin a real ministry.

The Holy Spirit leads us to expose evil. People, especially false Christians, pressure us to hide it, excuse it, and cover it up.

And that brings us right back round to why abusers are able to operate and hide in most churches. Evil is not called evil. Those who call evil out are labeled as trouble makers. Just like most of you have been called trouble makers, unloving, unforgiving, and judgmental because you dared say that your abuser is a wicked person parading as a Christian. It has taken me decades, but the Lord has finally gotten it through my head. I will not be quiet when the Spirit of Christ shows me evil in His church. I will make trouble for that evil. I will not minimize the circumstances and excuse it with some blow off statement like, “well, you know we are all brothers in Christ here and we just must love and forgive and be patient.” No! Where in God’s Word does the Lord instruct us to keep quiet about Satan in our midst? Nowhere. That’s where.

These are hidden reefs at your love feasts, as they feast with you without fear, shepherds feeding themselves; waterless clouds, swept along by winds; fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead, uprooted; wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame; wandering stars, for whom the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved forever. (Jude 1:12-13)

Sin Destroys Relationships — And Sometimes the Destruction is Total

Then Joshua said to Achan, “My son, give glory to the LORD God of Israel and give praise to him. And tell me now what you have done; do not hide it from me.” And Achan answered Joshua, “Truly I have sinned against the LORD God of Israel, and this is what I did…(Joshua 7:19-20)

As many of you know, a major event in my own awakening to the nature and mentality of abuse involved the sexual abuse of a child. This grievous situation was dropped in the lap of our church through the sin of the perpetrator. I could write pages about it, including about how the Lord used that one event to lead us into the ministry of Unholy Charade. At the same time, He was moving in the lives of others – also through having abuse touch their lives – and eventually led all of us together. That is the happy stuff.  I could also write about the grief and damage done to the victim and to our church.

But what I wanted to write about today is a hard, true, fact that each of us needs to learn. I had to learn it, many of you have learned it, and others of you are still in process of learning it. That lesson is this: Sin damages and destroys relationships, and sometimes that destruction is beyond repair. When it is, we need to stop trying to rebuild it. Abuse damages and destroys a marriage, and usually that destruction is total. Let me show you how I learned this lesson in the case in our church I mentioned above.

When myself and our elders were trying to sort out what justice and love and mercy and wisdom would look like in this scenario, we came to a conclusion.  It took some time because none of us had experienced something like this before. Our church was small and close – what looked like a family. And then this test came. When we concluded that there was no way we could provide a safe, healing church environment for the victim and at the same time permit the perpetrator to continue to attend our church, I remember telling the congregation that sin destroys relationships. Even when there is real repentance and real forgiveness, some sins are so grievous that the destroyed relationship simply cannot be put back together again – nor should it be.

Now, the response from a couple of people went something like this – “but we are all sinners. And we have all been forgiven by Christ. How can you say that sin destroys relationships when grace and mercy and love are able to overcome any sin? We don’t believe what you are saying. We think everyone should forgive one another and love one another and the relationship will be restored and everything can be like it was.”

That kind of talk is unbiblical, false, exceedingly selfish, and very damaging to the victim and everyone else. The fact is that some sins are so grievous, so destructive, and so harmful that any relationship between the perpetrator and the victim is fully and finally over. That destruction is the perpetrator’s doing. Abuse not only harms a marriage, unrepented of (which is the normal case) it destroys the marriage irrevocably.

Abuse, as we define it on this blog, especially the kind perpetrated by a pseudo-Christian, fully and finally reduces the husband-wife relationship to ashes, never to be rebuilt. (In many cases the relationship was a mere facade from the very beginning!)

I am afraid that many professing Christians are radically ignorant of this hard fact. Namely, that certain sins are so evil that to begin to beat the drums of “forgiveness and reconciliation” is sheer madness. I am afraid that there are Christians, for example, who would actually propose that the Lord would have a madman who had walked into a church service and slaughtered a host of people, welcomed into that church with a great big hugfest carried out to the tune of “Only a Sinner, Saved by Grace.”

But the Lord Jesus Christ calls this foolishness, not love. He calls us – no, He commands us – to put the wicked one out from our midst. He shows us in case after case in His Word that there are indeed limits to His mercy. Did you hear that? God’s mercy and grace are not infinite. That is why there is a hell. He tells us that there are lines which, if crossed, there is no returning to Him. Esau (see Hebrews 6) is a prime example. And the infamous Achan of Jericho fame is another example.

Did you read the verses above? Listen to them again-

Then Joshua said to Achan, “My son, give glory to the LORD God of Israel and give praise to him. And tell me now what you have done; do not hide it from me.” And Achan answered Joshua, “Truly I have sinned against the LORD God of Israel, and this is what I did…(Joshua 7:19-20)

How does that sound to you? It sounds like a script worked up to introduce a happy ending, right? “Truly I have sinned against the Lord…this is what I did….”.  Yay! Achan repented! Everything is ok, right? Nope –

And Joshua and all Israel with him took Achan the son of Zerah, and the silver and the cloak and the bar of gold, and his sons and daughters and his oxen and donkeys and sheep and his tent and all that he had. And they brought them up to the Valley of Achor. And Joshua said, “Why did you bring trouble on us? The LORD brings trouble on you today.” And all Israel stoned him with stones. They burned them with fire and stoned them with stones. And they raised over him a great heap of stones that remains to this day. Then the LORD turned from his burning anger. Therefore, to this day the name of that place is called the Valley of Achor. (Joshua 7:24-26)

Achan, you recall, had by his sin caused the death of over 30 of his fellows. Achan had crossed the line.

Sin damages and destroys relationships, and sometimes that destruction is total so that rebuilding of the relationship is impossible and even wrong. Remember that the next time you sense the tempter at your door. And let us all remember this when working with the victims of grievous evil, and when we must deal out real justice to their oppressors.

Because with some sins, the sinner gets no second chance at the relationship. Molest a child and your relationship with that child and the child’s family is over, no matter how close you were. Abuse your wife and, well, do not tell us that you deserve another shot at the marriage. Betray the trust of an entire church congregation over whom the Lord placed you as shepherd – understand that such betrayal may well totally and fully and irrevocably destroy your relationship with those people.

We close with one more account of two people who crossed that line, and there was no going back –

But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, and with his wife’s knowledge he kept back for himself some of the proceeds and brought only a part of it and laid it at the apostles’ feet. But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.” When Ananias heard these words, he fell down and breathed his last. And great fear came upon all who heard of it. The young men rose and wrapped him up and carried him out and buried him. After an interval of about three hours his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. And Peter said to her, “Tell me whether you sold the land for so much.” And she said, “Yes, for so much.” But Peter said to her, “How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.” Immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. When the young men came in they found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. And great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things. (Acts 5:1-11)

Pastoral Care Has Its Limits and Must Allow for the Priesthood of the Believer

One of the recurring themes we hear from Christians who are abuse victims/survivors is that when they went to their pastor or church for help, reporting the abuse, they were told that they must remain with their abuser or at most separate from him for a time, always working toward reconciliation.

In all cases like this, we have seen pastors and churches “shepherding” or “caring for” the victim and abuser — as they put it. And behind all of this there has been an attitude or conviction or doctrine of the church and of the pastorate and even of the nature of the individual Christian that essentially says “we will mediate Christ to you.” It is quite Roman Catholic actually. The thing is much like a formal priesthood which behaves as if the individual Christian is led and directed by the church, unable on their own to discern the voice of the Good Shepherd. And yet:

I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me  (John 10:14)

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. (John 10:27)

Every real Christian is indwelt by the Holy Spirit and is led by the Spirit (See Romans 8; Galatians 5:16ff). Every real Christian is thereby enabled to understand Scripture.

Continue reading “Pastoral Care Has Its Limits and Must Allow for the Priesthood of the Believer”