Wise as Serpents: Exposing Evil in its Practice (Part 1 of a sermon series by Jeff Crippen)
From today we will be featuring each Sunday a sermon series that is currently being preached by Pastor Jeff Crippen. The series is titled Wise as Serpents. Jeff preached the first sermon in this series last Sunday at Christ Reformation Church Tillamook. He intends this series to go for quite some time (a year or more) and will be using it as the basis of his next book.
Anyone who wishes to can listen to the services live on web-stream, at the time the service occurs which is 10.45 am Pacific Time, USA. The audio recording of each sermon along with its written version (pdf) are uploaded to the sermon audio website the day after the service … or sometimes on the day itself, after the service is over. Instructions for listening to the live web-stream of the services can be found on the Sermons page of our Resources.
In the text of each Sunday post here, we will not reproduce the entire written text of the sermon. Where we use some exact text from the sermon, it will be in black. Where we summarize some of the sermon, or insert a comment that was not in the sermon, we will make the text grey rather than black.
At then end of the post we will give a link to where you can find the audio and full written version of the sermon, should you wish to do so.
Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of men… (Matthew 10:16-17a)
In the years prior to World War II, as Germany under Hitler was re-arming in violation of the treaty that ended WWI, naivety, arrogance, and a fantasy view of world peace almost destroyed England and her allies. Hitler’s efforts were not unnoticed, but the warnings given were not heeded for the most part until the cost of stopping this terror rose to what was ultimately paid – millions of lives lost.
One exception to this naivety was Sir Winston Churchill who repeatedly warned his nation of the impending threat. Few would listen. But one thing Churchill was able to do was to participate in efforts to find a way to detect enemy airplanes while they were still a distance away from England. Germany was obviously building its air force and this is where the real threat would come from.
Churchill noted that when people truly perceive a threat and set their minds to devising a way to meet that threat, incredible things can be invented. And so it was with this thing called RADAR which proved to be a life saver for England in coming years. A small group of scientists and leaders spared no effort to perfect this system of radio waves. Why? Because they saw the threat. They knew the threat was real. You might say, the enemy was on their radar.
Largely, far and wide, the church of our day does not have evil on her radar screen. Why? Because the evil is not there? Of course not. It is there in droves. But evil is not on our radar because most Christians do not want to admit of its existence among them.
This new sermon series that we are embarking upon, Wise as Serpents, is a practical theology of evil. By that adjective, I mean that my purpose is to expose evil in its practice. I also mean that our method is not primarily to produce an academic, theoretical, nor philosophical treatise, but rather an experiential and earthy (yet profoundly spiritual) walk in the footsteps of Christ’s people sent out as sheep in the midst of wolves. It is practical truth for practicing followers of Jesus Christ who, whether they fully realize it or not, actually do have a roaring lion on the prowl seeking to devour them.
The sermon went on to give 13 practical examples of evil operating in the church that Jeff has personally seen or heard about in his more than two decades as pastor. In the vast majority of these cases the existence of evil was denied. In some of the examples the evil is still denied by the churches concerned; in others it was denied until Jeff and other brave Christians in the church woke up to it and exposed it.
The sermon then reproduced some comments from the readers of this blog. — Yes; your words are important and highly valued by Christ Reformation Church!
In NO seminary of the Christian church where the shepherds of Christ’s church are largely trained, will you find any training provided on this subject that will in fact be the very weapon the enemy is going to surely use against any true church, any true pastor, any true Christian. None. Evil is not on our radar. Especially, evil in the church among the sheep. And we have no excuse for this ignorance. It is a willful blindness.
It is our purpose in this series of sermons, Wise as Serpents, to remind ourselves and to demonstrate to others that the Word of God is packed full of truth and warnings on this subject of evil, and specifically how that evil will most certainly creep in among us unnoticed, in disguise, cloaked in darkness, intent on extinguishing the light of God’s Word.
Christ commands and calls us to be as wise as serpents in regard to this evil and its tactics, yet to be as innocent as doves in respect to participating in it ourselves. We must see it for what it is, recognize it when it comes, know its tactics, and stand firm against it. This is the real practice of putting on the Armor of God and standing firm against the devil so that he flees.
Jude 1:3-4 Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. 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.
Jude 1:12-13 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.
And yet, as we heard recently from a woman who works with a secular agency which works with the police to advocate for victims of pedophiles:
I have been in many court rooms in which a church member or leader is appearing, having been charged with molesting or assaulting someone, usually a child or a woman, in the church. And, especially if the person charged is some ‘notable’ figure in the church such as a pastor, the courtroom is consistently PACKED full with church members there to support the suspect. I have NEVER seen a courtroom packed full of people there to support the victim of such a crime. Never.
Now I ask you to consider these things very, very carefully. That is the testimony of a person from outside the church, from the secular world, honestly describing what really happens when evil is found in a local church. What message is that sounding loudly and clearly to everyone about the gospel, about Christ, and about what claims to be Christ’s church? Here is God’s Word and command to us in dealing with such people:
Pro 28:17 If one is burdened with the blood of another, he will be a fugitive until death; let no one help him.
Proverbs 28:17 (NASB) A man who is laden with the guilt of human blood Will be a fugitive until death; let no one support him.
Proverbs 28:17 (RSV) If a man is burdened with the blood of another,
let him be a fugitive until death; let no one help him.
And yet in most cases today Christians ARE helping the wicked and in doing so flagrantly disobeying our Lord’s command.
I do not want to be guilty of these things. I don’t think you do either.
Psa 23:4-5 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.