For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia. Luke alone is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me for ministry. Tychicus I have sent to Ephesus. When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and above all the parchments. Alexander the coppersmith did me great harm; the Lord will repay him according to his deeds. Beware of him yourself, for he strongly opposed our message. At my first defense no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me. May it not be charged against them! But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. (2 Tim 4:10-17)
Follow the lives of Christ’s people in Scripture and you will find for the most part, that they were lonely people. Jesus Himself was abandoned. Standing for God’s truth is never popular, and standing for those who are oppressed by evil is even less popular. Show me a professing Christian who is popular with lots of people and I will show you a phony.
Evil loves to isolate its victims, so it is no surprise that abusers very characteristically destroy the relationships of their victims, destroy their reputations, force them to move far away from family… you all know these drills pretty well by now I am sure. The end result is that when you are the target of an abuser, you are going to experience loneliness. How many of you have told us over the years that when you left your abuser you were shunned by your old church, by family, friends, and even in many cases by your own children? This is the work of the evil one and his emissaries.
It is very hard to be lonely as a result of the devious actions of an abuser and at the same time to have to watch the abuser enjoy popularity and even sympathy from those who used to be your friends. But this is what the world of the victim looks like so often and this is a grief that we frequently have to bear.
Want to minister the love of Christ to an abuse victim? Break off the company line of evangelicalism, reject the false teachings about marriage, divorce, and abusers-are-Christians-too nonsense, start watching for victims, and be their friend. It actually is remarkably easy to be a friend to these people. All you have to do is listen to them, believe them, help provide for them, fix things for them, and be willing to stand with them in saying to their abuser, “Thou art the man! Go away!”
This brilliant post by Natalie over at Visionary Womanhood, analyses the different negative and judgemental things that bystanders are saying about Nahgmeh Abedini.
Spot on, Natalie! You’ve hit it out of the park!
And is kind
It is not proud
Is not puffed up
It thinks no evil
You have broken my heart
My heart being so tender has been further broken by you.
You say you loved me but you critiqued me nearly every day. You humiliated me in a group or with your best friend. You never tried to find a dream and make it happen. You tried to dampen my dreams .. suppress me and make me what you wanted me to be.
Your rage was like a knife that cut deep in my heart … your words were painful like the sting of a viper
Your lack of empathy
Your poor me mentality
Your lack of respect in the bedroom
Your harsh ways
Had me walking on egg shells and fearing the consequences of my actions, my behaviour or something I said. Sometimes wondering what mood I’d be dealing with when you walked in the door
My heart is broken. . It is closed. I cannot open it up to any one. I have to protect myself from more pain.
I thought you were my rock
My rock I could cling to when things were tough
Instead I got buffeted about by the huge waves that hit against me. My man was not my rock he was a storm
Each wave .. each hit of the viper’s venom wore me down more and more to a place of no strength
My heart bleeding and broken to a point of almost disrepair
Anxious depressed weary I went about asking for help. I being a desperate women needing understanding and support
NOONE .. NOONE at all was there .. ALONE … desperately alone
My heart is dead .. my heart is shut .. never to let another in .. not you not anybody will ever be trusted with my heart again.
I trusted you .. I gave myself to you .. I believed you … I loved you … YOU were not and are not worthy of my love nor my heart …
A tender rose … with delicate petals needing love and lots of it
A butterfly weak and vulnerable with wings still yet to dry .. needing understanding .. nurturing … and patience. .. the wings a beautiful purple and royal blue .. a princess butterfly arrayed in beauty … unable to fly .. unable to be free … a prisoner to the tree it was bound to
I am a princess, arrayed with beauty and jewels of The King. He watches over me and has collected every tear I have cried in a bottle. He is my King… my Father and my Husband. He is faithful to me when I am so faithless.
I will one day forgive you but I can never love again.. never open my heart up nor my soul. I am damaged beyond repair…
And the Philistine moved forward and came near to David, with his shield-bearer in front of him. And when the Philistine looked and saw David, he disdained him, for he was but a youth, ruddy and handsome in appearance. And the Philistine said to David, “Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?” And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. The Philistine said to David, “Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and to the beasts of the field.”
Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the LORD will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head. And I will give the dead bodies of the host of the Philistines this day to the birds of the air and to the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the LORD saves not with sword and spear. For the battle is the LORD’s, and he will give you into our hand.” (1 Sam 17:41-47)
We do not recognize the leading and working of the Holy Spirit in us as clearly as we might think. And in fact most Christians are confused about recognizing the Spirit in them because they have been falsely instructed about His nature and character. As a result, evil remains disguised, Christians wear false guilt, and the Spirit of God in us is quenched.
How did the Spirit of God in David react to evil? That is to say, how did David, led by and filled with the Spirit of God act as he faced Goliath, this taunting enemy of the Lord?
This day the LORD will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head. And I will give the dead bodies of the host of the Philistines this day to the birds of the air and to the wild beasts of the earth…
I want us all to consider this very carefully and compare David’s words with the typical claims of so many pillars of the church today. I will strike you down and cut off your head. Do you see? That is nothing less than the Spirit of God speaking in David. That is how the Spirit reacts to evil. And yet,
- David should have shown love for Goliath and tried to lead him to Christ,
- David should not have been carrying any weapons of any kind,
- David should have chosen to suffer, knelt down, and passively let Goliath cut off his head.
But David killed him. The Spirit of God enabled David, guided that stone, and killed the evil one. And then he cut off his head.
One of the tactics of evil by which its emissaries work to remain hidden under a cloak of “holy light,” is to quench the working of the Spirit in us so that we do not recognize it and act by it. The Spirit is quenched by the lies of the evil one. Lies such as:
- “It is always sinful to show anger”
- “We must never speak negatively of anyone”
- “Passivity and pacifism is what we are called to”
And so, Goliath is left to oppress and to kill and destroy because Christians are duped and do not follow the leading of the Spirit in them.
How does the Spirit of God react when evil comes into its presence? Here are some answers:
Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil. (1Th 5:19-22)
The Holy Spirit is at work in us, leading and directing us in righteousness. He directs us to abstain from every form of evil. EVERY form. That means that we must:
- Be wise about what evil is, what it looks like, and
- Be innocent of it ourselves
To fail to heed the Spirit’s leading in this is to ally oneself with evil. We are to TEST things. We are to hold fast to what is good, but we must necessarily judge and say “this is evil, this is good,” or we will inevitably quench the leading of the Spirit in us. The Holy Spirit will immediately sound off warnings to us when evil comes into our presence.
But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. (18) But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. (19) Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, (20) idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, (21) envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Gal 5:16-21)
Do you see this? The desires of the Spirit are AGAINST the flesh. Powerfully. When sin and unrighteousness and evil rise up in His presence, He opposes it. Paul is here dealing with the flesh, but we must also understand that this is not our own flesh and sin, but includes the wickedness in others. The Spirit actively opposes evil. The Spirit is against evil.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (22-23)
Did David exercise these fruits of the Spirit when he opposed Goliath? Was he at peace with Goliath? Was he patient with and kind to Goliath? He killed him and cut off his head!
Many supposed Christian teachers and preachers today would have David quench the Spirit. They would have told him that he was wrong to do what he did, that he should have been more patient, more kind, and should have tried to get Goliath to see the error of his ways and repent!
We have been taught wrongly and at best this wrong teaching is rank naivete, but more often I believe that it is evil that is working to cloak itself in righteousness.
[Jeff gives several examples to illustrate his point.
- a anecdote from his own life
- Nehemiah being led by the Spirit in how to respond to Sanballat’s attempts to undermine the re-building of the wall
- Samson shaking the pillars of the Philistine’s meeting house till it fell down
- The Apostle Paul calling Elymas the magician “You son of the devil!’ ]
Do you see that if you have been taught a distorted, milk-toast version of God and specifically of the Holy Spirit’s leading in the believer, then you are going to quench that leading when evil comes into your presence and is revealed and opposed by the Spirit. Which means you will be left to act in a fleshly manner of cowardice or denial, enabling the evil. You will confuse the leading of the Spirit with the flesh and the other way round as well.
Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. (John 8:43-45)
Was Jesus led by the Spirit? And yet today a response like this to the wicked is branded as being “un-Christian, unkind, un-spiritual.”
Where the Spirit of God is quenched, there is no fear of the Lord. Evil flourishes unchecked and unexposed.
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 man 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. (Act 5:1-11)
Ananias and Sapphira lied to the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit killed them. Was Peter unspiritual and unkind and unloving to them?
Then the disciples came and said to him, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?” He answered, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be rooted up. Let them alone; they are blind guides. And if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.” (Mat 15:12-14)
Was the Lord Jesus speaking by the Spirit when He offended the Pharisees? What about when He told the disciples “tough. Don’t worry about them.”
When evil comes into our presence, the Spirit of Christ in us mightily opposes it and exposes it.
We must understand that this is indeed the Spirit in us or we will be duped. Do not be so quick to condemn your reaction as “sinful”.
Let me give you an example that I saw just this last week. I was driving through the little town I live in and I saw a person alongside the highway hitchhiking. They had a walker and as I went by they lifted the walker up and kind of shook it to call my attention to their disability so I would give them a ride. I knew that is what the person was doing (I wasn’t able to tell if the person was male or female), and I just kept driving.
The next day I was in a local business and I asked the owner about the hitchhiker with the walker. He told me, “oh yeah, that guy has been around here for months sponging off people. And I just found out that he stole that walker from someone’s yard. The churches here have been helping him and paying his bills and I don’t understand it because he is obviously a charlatan.”
So what does the Holy Spirit say about sluggards and con artists? If they won’t work, then they don’t eat. We are not supposed to support such a person. And yet here, as a very poor example to the non-Christians in town, it is the professing Christians who claim they are showing this guy the love of Christ!! In fact they are participating in his sin.
The Holy Spirit is not a wimp. The Son of God is not a wimp. But we have been taught that he is. So evil flourishes among us. God is not feared. The Day of the Lord is presented as some fun-filled Day when most everyone is going to happily walk into heaven.
This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering—since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed. (2Th 1:5-10)
Are those the words of the Spirit of God? I hope that we all understand that they are indeed, and the we each one carefully give thought to what the leading of the Spirit in us really looks like. We must be wise as serpents in regard to the nature and tactics of evil while remaining innocent as doves as to participation in it.
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This sermon can be found in both audio and PDF format here.
Mark your Calendars!
Jeff Crippen spoke at the 2015 Overcoming Powerlessness conference. They have asked him to come back. Here is a post about his 2015 presentation:
I used to have Hepatitis C. The Hep C virus rarely kills you. Most sufferers die with it, but not of it. It only causes death in a few cases where the infection so afflicts the liver that the person gets liver cancer or full-blown cirrhosis. Being a heavy drinker increases the risk of getting Hep-C-related cirrhosis or liver cancer. Males are at higher risk of dying from Hep-C-related cirrhosis or liver cancer. Alcohol is like a fertilizer for the Hep C virus because alcohol is a liver poison.
But for most folk who contract the virus, and I was one, they have the Hep C virus in their bloodstream without being aware of it. It may cause almost no symptoms. Or it may cause fatigue, a bit of depression, minor gasto-intestinal problems, a little brain fog from time to time. Nothing that shouts “liver disease”. That’s just how the church is with its bad theology. Nothing to really pinpoint that there’s a virus (unless you are a victim of abuse and at the pointy end of that bad theology, that is).
Most Christians don’t wonder much about why the Church is a little fatigued, a little depressed, a little unable to digest stuff from time to time… In fact, they’re so used to this state of affairs they think it’s normal. But it’s not normal. Not by the Bible’s standards for what Christ’s church ought to be.
How does one contract the Hep C virus? It is a blood-borne virus and is only transmitted by one person’s blood making direct contact with another person’s blood. The main modes of transmission are
- IV drug use where the users share needles and other injection equipment; that’s how I got it back in 1975 when I was a heroin addict.
- Receiving a blood transfusion prior to 1989. The virus was discovered in 1989, prior to that they were not testing donated blood for it because they didn’t know it existed.
- Tattooing that is done without proper infection control procedures.
- Occasionally it might be transmitted by a needle-stick injury to a professional in a hospital setting. But health professionals are meant to observe infection control procedures regardless of whether or not the patient has any infectious disease, so this is pretty rare.
I was diagnosed as having Hep C nearly thirty years after I’d become infected. I decided to have treatment. For me, the treatment involved a gruelling year of drug therapy. This brought about a cure — but they don’t call it ‘cured,’ they say I ‘cleared the virus’. Same difference. As the side effects of the treatment drugs wore off, I began to feel truly alive and amazingly well for the first time in my adult life. (I’d contracted Hep C when I was 19). It was like bubbles of spritz were sparkling through my veins. I could not believe it. This is what it is like to be healthy! I’d never known!
No wonder I’d felt awful! No wonder I’d found life much harder than most other people seemed to find it! They were well; I had been sick. I’d had a virus eating away every day destroying my liver cells, and my liver had been attempting to grow back every single day. It had been an ongoing battle between my body’s capacity to self-restore, and the virus’s ability to kill liver cells. Before treatment, on days when I’d felt particularly fatigued, that was when the virus had the upper hand for a while.
There’s more to this analogy. The treatment I underwent to clear the virus was horrific. The side effects of the drugs were far worse than my symptoms of Hep C had ever been. But once the treatment finished and my system cleared out the drugs, I felt an astounding quantum leap upward, into realms of energy, optimism and effectiveness I’d never known before.
Treatment for bad theology is pretty horrific too: you have to humble yourself and be willing to examine and if necessary jettison your pet Christian-ese crutches. It will expose and demolish long-held doctrines and presuppositions if they are false. It will be scary. It can make you feel ashamed of how self-satisfied you’d been with your theology. Not to mention ashamed of the harm you might have done to others while spouting that virus-ridden theology. Renewing one’s mind can be hard work. It can make you feel inadequate. As an individual you realise you are swimming against the stream and you may get stigmatized. But if the church undergoes treatment, the cure can be incredible.
Another point: my treatment for Hep C took nearly a year back in 2005. My genotype (subtype) of the virus required me taking a combination of two drugs for 48 weeks. The side effects for me were depression, brain fog, body aches, vomiting, fever, circulation problems in my extremities, lack of oxygen in my bloodstream so I couldn’t walk except really slowly, I’d get out of breath, often I couldn’t even stand up for long, I had to give up work — and that’s only some of it. Different people get different side effects from treatment, and there is no predicting who will get which side effects. The only ‘good’ thing about the side effects was that they were never super-intense all at the same time. Each side effect could intensify or diminish for no apparent rhyme or reason. I learned to ride the waves and only got through it because I had lots of support from the medical and mental health professionals and the Hepatitis Victoria hotline.
Since then, new drugs have come on the market which have shortened the length of treatment and have fewer unpleasant side effects. But at this stage, even with these improved drugs, treatment for Hep C is still not guaranteed to clear the virus.
One last point in this analogy: If a person has had Hep C and undergone treatment and been cleared of the virus, they can catch it again. If the blood from someone who has active Hep C virus gets into their bloodstream, they may have no defence against this new infection because the genotype (subtype) of the virus may be different from the genotype they had before.
I’m sure we can all see the parallels here between the Hep C virus and the virus of bad theology in the church.
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This post is an adaptation of a comment I wrote on a post by Jeff C, back in 2012.