A Serious Matter

Confession, repentance and forgiveness are the absolutely basic, essential fundamentals for the restoration of God’s order in any of our lives. These are the unmoveable and unshakeable steps that we all have to take when we get something wrong and have to face the reality of the mistakes we have made.

Bearing this important truth in mind, I would like to comment on a very pertinent question that someone asked, in response to my last blog posting about the dangers of deception and mixture in the Church – here it is. Why is it that when leaders make mistakes by, for example, endorsing or teaching something that is subsequently proven to have been deceptive error, are they so very reluctant to repent of their mistake and put the matter right, both with God and the people who may have been led astray as a result? There are many examples of this in the Body of Christ – and it is a serious matter.  So why don’t they?

Each one will undoubtedly have their personal reasons for not doing so, and it would be interesting to hear them, but it is not these superficial reasons that are the most important consideration. What we should be more concerned about is the fundamental underlying issue that supports those reasons – whatever they may be. To discover the most likely answer to this important question, we need to look beneath the surface and ask a couple of other questions about the nature of God and the nature of Satan.

Scripture tells us unequivocally that ‘God is love’. This means that the very essence of the Godhead is love. All the fruits of the Spirit, as described by Paul in Galatians 5:22-23 are outward manifestations of God’s love working through His people. And the gifts of the Spirit, as listed for example in 1 Corinthians 12:7-11 (which includes the gift of discerning of spirits), are given by that same loving God for our common good, because He does not want us to be without His help in order to love, live and serve Him in this spiritually very deceptive and dangerous world.  We desperately need God’s supernatural wisdom and discernment.

There is no doubt that God desires that those who are His disciples should be embodiments of His love, living as agents of the King, and using the gifts of the Spirit in their daily walk with Him. As such they are then demonstrating the love characteristics of Father God – and the longer we’ve known and walked with Him, the more able we should be to reflect His character and nature into the world in which we live. It’s a natural thing for children to behave according to the character of their father. And when we become believers we are entering into our inheritance as children of God (John 1:12) and should begin to demonstrate His characteristics.

Turning our attention now to Satan, however, we discover in Scripture that His primary characteristic is not love, but pride. He wanted to be like, and even above, the Almighty (Isaiah 14:12-14)! Pride is an insidious and rebellious condition of the heart (“You said in your heart” – verse 13) and the god of this world will do everything he possibly can to deceive us into following his heart’s desire, leading us away from the true and living God and trying to prove that he’s right and God’s wrong.

And herein lies the core of our problem. When we have been deceived into following the god of this world, even unintentionally, we are following a false father and just as children will grow up to do the same things they have seen their human father doing, then we begin to demonstrate the characteristics of the false father, whose primary characteristic is pride. Satan is no fool and he is a master at coming as an angel of light in order to deceive the saints of God into following his example and pridefully becoming a reflection of his character.

There is a fascinating encounter, recorded in John’s Gospel, between Jesus and some of the spiritual leaders of His day about this very issue! They protested at what Jesus was saying and said “We are not illegitimate children, the only Father we have is God himself” (John 8:41). But in His response Jesus had to tell these deceived leaders that their real problem was that they were demonstrating the character of the one who was their false father, the devil (John 8:42-45)!

We need to understand that the central issue in spiritual warfare is not doing battle with the enemy ‘out there’, but recognising and dealing with the influence of the enemy ‘in here’ – meaning in the heart of man, which Jeremiah reminds us is “deceitful above all things and desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9)! This is the place where the enemy, camouflaged in pride, seeks to govern our souls. It’s not for nothing that Paul urged his readers not to give the devil a foothold (Ephesians 4:27).

Scripture only gives us one remedy for dealing with the times when we have got it wrong and come under the influence of the false father – and that is to “humble yourselves before the Lord” (James 4:10). But to do this runs directly contrary to the nature of the enemy. Satan has never owned up to his own pride.  And pride, within the carnal nature, therefore, will always want to oppose someone who wants to tread the road of repentance, which is God’s only way back to spiritual wholeness and clear spiritual thinking.

Humility is the very opposite of pride. And Satan hates it when God’s people choose to walk the path of humility and in so doing disempower him and remove his influence from their heart. Satan will do everything he can to persuade people not to go this route and put things right God’s way!

Returning now to the original question, it’s obvious that as long as people, especially leaders, remain publicly unrepentant over situations where they could have led people astray, then all those who have followed their lead will still be thinking that everything was, in fact, OK with God when, in reality, it was the very opposite. For this reason the same old deceptions are empowered to keep on raising their heads like the proverbial dandelions, because they have never been properly faced by those in a position to lead people into truth, with the result that the roots of deception are left in place (instead of extracted) and are getting stronger all the time! The sheep are being led astray and, as Ezekiel observed in his day “they became food for the wild animals .  . . and were scattered” (Ezekiel 34:5-6). No guesses needed to discern what the wild animals represent!

Pride says, “I can’t be wrong!” And pride also says that “even if I know I did get something wrong, I don’t want to admit it for if, especially as a Christian leader, I admit that I got something wrong, I may lose my reputation, my credibility, my position, my support, my income and everything I’ve worked so hard to build up!”

So, rather than face reality and follow Scriptural encouragement to humble oneself and repent, people tend to cover things up, ignore the truth – even if it is blindingly obvious – leaving the sheep, who are looking to their shepherds for a godly lead, very confused and even more vulnerable to further deception. It’s so easy to forget what we read in James where it says that “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6). How much better it is to humble oneself under the grace of God than to remain in pride under the favour of the enemy!

We not only need to pray for those who are in key positions of leadership in the Body of Christ, but I believe it’s time for us all to re-hang the plumb-line of the Word of God in the Body of Christ and weigh and test everything we do. We must, as a matter of urgency, ask God for His discernment and wisdom as we navigate the difficult and turbulent seas that we are currently sailing on. Unless we stay true to both the Word and the Spirit, the enemy will continue to walk all over the Church, knowing that his work will not even be recognised for what it is, and the work of deception will be complete. It’s time to get on our knees and examine our hearts.

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8 Responses to A Serious Matter

  1. gloria potter says:

    Thank you Peter, this is very helpful and useful. I will pray on it.
    Gloria

    • Tamsyn lewis says:

      I also found this comment useful, not just because I have family members out of church at the moment because of unresolved hurts from leadership, but also a greater insight into the insidious nature of pride.
      Thanks.

  2. Pippa Hadfield says:

    Of course, if Christians continue to tear each other apart the way we did over the Todd Bentley debacle, no-one will feel safe to confess their errors. The body of Christ needs to practice what it preaches and not be so quick to judge those leaders who fall – leaders for whom the attack against them has been such things as Satanists offering live sacrifices outside the places where they are preaching. Maybe if we spent more time exercsing our knees befoer God than our tongues before one another, such failings would be less likely to occur and be less in intensity when they do. I’m not saying the behaviour we’ve seen in some high profile Christians is right or good, but surely we need to be less judgemental? After all, as the saying goes, “There but for the Grace of God go I”

    • Trevor Griffiths says:

      Hi Pippa, I agree that there are too many people keen to fire the first shot, so to speak, and who seem to be on the look out for the next target at which to take aim. They would do well to read your post.

      I think there is a role, though, for a limited number of people, who are qualified, to speak out. Their qualification will be as recognised leaders of experience, tried and tested in pastoral matters, and able to point out where the pasture is healthy for grazing. Sometimes that also means pointing out where the water is stale or even poisonous and to be avoided.

      In other words, I see a difference between just being judgemental for the sake of it, and exercising discernment out of concern for people who may otherwise be led astray. Plenty were at Lakeland.

  3. Trevor Griffiths says:

    I think I was the author of the pertinent question so thank you, Peter, for a such a full and speedy blog by way of reply.

    At the core of the issue for me is how we respond to deception. Looking back at Lakeland, I don’t think it came into the difficult category in trying to discern what was going on. With sick old ladies and others being physically assaulted on stage, we didn’t need to be mature bible students to work out that something was far from right! No, the puzzler was how so many leaders (some in the UK too) and supposedly mature Christians thought this was a revival and a manifestation of God’s power. Even to the non-Christian layman looking on, such a conclusion was clearly bonkers! In the end, it was the secular media who ran the exposes and Lakeland was over.

    This blog goes a long way to answering how so many Christian leaders simply abdicated their responsibility, so thank you for explaining that so fully. Perhaps because I am not in Peter’s chair with the responsibility for running Ellel; and, definitely because I have a lot more to learn about humility, I am going to add a bit more.

    Looking again at the confrontation in John 8, the blog describes the leaders opposing Jesus as “demonstrating the character of the one who was their false father, the devil!” I sense something more going on here and I think this is relevant to the question of how we confront deception. For all his loving character, Jesus goes a few rounds with the Pharisees, if you read the whole of the fight in John 8.

    Jesus doesn’t pull his punches: “You do not know me or my Father,” (v.19), ” I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins.” (tough love!), “You belong to your father , the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire” (v.44). When Jesus asks :” Why is my language not clear to you?” (v.43), his answer seems to go beyond just seeing his opposition as demonstrating Satan’s character. They are certainly doing that, but the nature and extent of Jesus’ replies seems to be stronger than just pointing out their pride and the error of their ways.

    Maybe these are only things that God Incarnate can discern and say, as He both loves and judges. But Paul said that he was not afraid to confront Peter when he thought he was wrong. No light call, that. After all, Peter had spent years as a disciple walking with the Lord and Paul had not. Paul’s track record on his treatment of the first believers would have left most of us troubled by his CV (Galatians 1:13), to put it lightly, and not entirely sure if he was best qualified to put Peter straight (a little how I am feeling now!).

    But when the future of the church and the truth for believers was at stake, Paul was not afraid to go into a full public confrontation and tell it straight to Peter’s face, with an audience too. See Galatians 3:11-14. “When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong.”

    I pray that God will raise up more Pauls in the church today. We are going to need them. And, thank you Peter, for showing us the way to go in handling these issues.

  4. Richard Fila says:

    “I’m sorry, I was wrong, please forgive me, I love you”

    These are the basic words we say when we have gotten something wrong. Every single person – most definitly including every Christian leader – makes mistakes. These words or something similar to them should then be a regular occurance in our lives both in the giving and receiving between everyone in the body of Christ.

    I confess there are times when I know I should say them but in the forgiving nature of those around me I just seem to get away with it. Surely such humbling of ourselves though would serve for our benefit and the benefit of those for whom we are cover (family, congregation, staff etc.) And not only would it benefit people close to us but is it not this kind of humility that sparks real revival which we all so frequently say we want?

    ‘Nothing is impossible with God’ – this isn’t some cliche but a pretty basic signpost. If we can just push past our selfish minded carnal nature and partner with Him then we’d most certainly up our game in our own personal issues right up to these big global issues of church.

    Lord please bless me with opportunities to say these words today – eyes to see where they are and courage to say them and mean them.

  5. hestie says:

    powerful message that we desperately need God’s wisdom and discernment and demonstrate His characteristics and to not to follow Satans heart and give him a foothold. Bitterness and anger towards another a person in the name of christianity started to effect me and anger was creeping in my heart – thank you so much for this message not to allow satans desire in my heart and seek God.

  6. Sandra Barnes says:

    “The road of repentence is God’s only way back to spiritual wholeness and clear thinking.” Reading this give me a picture of the Father holding us as we weep and cry out to him. Listening and loving us through the ugliness of the sin and of our confessions. Coming into the church as a new believer I was attracted to messages and scripture about God’s love, mercy, the fruits of the spirit. I still am! However thatthere is nothing like the washing of our sins and the covering of God comes when we realign ourselves with Jesus. The difficult road to walk is as the layers are revealed and the repentence becomes real at the core. Walking out in repentence and dealing with the consequences of the sin and rebellion hurts! In the story of Jonah, we know those days in the belly of the fish we know must have been difficult! For us today, the process of repentence can take longer than several days. More like the 40 years in the desert! Leaders and sheep alike need community to walk along beside one another, as we heal. To support the one who is repentent and speak words of truth and encouragement, lifting off the shame and humiliation. Humility is so not the same as humiliation. We see again how sneaky the Devil is and how close he strikes at the crux of what the Lord is working through in us, Satan shows up to tempt us and disillusion us. Show us another path that looks easier, seems simplier and yet leads us away from God. My dream is for the church of today to teach more about Godly order, Gods plan for our lives, our families, surrender and repentence. To encourage confession with one another, acountability with each other. Menoring. Thank you Ellel for teaching these godly principles. Kingdom truths.

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