Coral Reefs, Rainless Clouds, Dead Trees, High Waves, and Wondering Stars: What Fake Christians Do

Do not judge me” has become the ill-conceived moto twenty-first century America. The enlighten soul believes all truth claims can be transcended by culture, necessity, and time. Those who judge others violate the very maxim of contemporary life. While such aversions to judgement protect weary souls from having to listen to Aunt Janice’s underhanded criticisms, the philosophy provides little guidance for those attempting to navigate the twists and turns of life.

The human experience exists because of judgment. One eats vanilla cupcakes instead of chocolate because he judged vanilla cupcake to be more enjoyable. Another chooses her political candidate because the politician affirms policies she deems best. And ultimately the decision to praise or to imprison the young men who pleads with ladies to avoid the abortion clinic resides upon one’s judgment. Humans judge everything and everyone all the time.

Men and women do not struggle with judging their world. They struggle with discerning how to judge their world.

The Christian has no such struggle because the Scriptures claim to be the ultimate authority. Christians separate from non-Christians over the fault line of values. Christians base their judgement upon the Word of God and unbelievers base their values on ideas that camp outside the bounds of Scriptural truth.

To protect the church from unbelievers intent upon its destruction, Christian must stand ready to judge the actions of those within their tribe. Not all who claim Christ have entered the local church by the narrow gate and climbed the hill of Calvary. According to the book of Jude, fake Christians reveal their lack of faith through their teaching, motives, and actions (Jude 11-16).

What do false teachers do? When should we label someone an impostor and call them to repentance? Jude tells his readers that they should contend with those who destroy community, offer false promises, lack spiritual fruit, love evil, and run towards. Judgment.

Coral Reefs

Those who have never known salvation destroy the community of the church. The early church prioritized community. Acts 2:42 reports “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” Today’s church should still be marked by community meals. The people of God should love living with each other in meaningful community built around kitchen tables and restaurant booths. Jude labeled these glorious meals of friendship “love feasts.”

But sadly, not all who come to the table come with pure intentions. False Christians come for complaints and boasting.

As men and women sail into the shallow harbors of community hoping to find rest from the waves of life, they crash into hidden corral of complaints. Like the spies in numbers 14, the false teachers transform the love feast into a complaint filled roast. They use the meal as a chance to glory in the short comings their family, their church, and their friends. After the fake Christians finish complaining, they turn to boasting. They share their latest spiritual nugget about money management although it has nothing to do with their fellow church member’s infertility issues. They turn the love feast into a battle for prestige, influence, and friends, praising and assaulting others in their attempt to gain more influence in their church.

And sadly, the fake Christians lack self-awareness. The text says, “They feast with you without fear, shepherds feeding themselves.” They do not know the evilness of their actions. They believe their selfishness, greed, and pride belong in the church because they have done nothing more than “share the truth,” “passed along information,” or “said it like it is.” Yet no one else benefits from their efforts at ‘truth-telling’ except them. The sheep are starved and wander into error, despair, and harm. The false Christians gain weight while the rest of the church burns calories seeking to mend the damage they the have wrought.  False teachers destroy without fear.

Rainless Clouds

They also have no power. Fake Christians promise that their complaints, their greed, their boasting, and their selfishness will lead others to the rains of peace, unity, and spiritual growth. But nothing comes. They encourage others to follow them but they do not know where they are going and they never arrive at success. I remember hearing a pastor who bragged about how he had created a peaceful church through ignoring God’s commands to purify the church. On the surface, the church appeared to be peaceful. The business meetings came and went without a waft of contention. But under the surface, the church was rocked by contention. Unaddressed sin broke down marriages, destroyed families, and forced more than one couple out of the church. The pastor promised that biblical negligence would lead to rains of biblical peace. But the rains never came. The clouds were swept along, leaving the once hopeful Christians hopeless, broken, and discouraged. Instead of finding a harvest of souls, the congregation slowly shrank.

Dead Trees

The false Christians’ advice lacks rain because their lives lack fruit. The false Christians may possess a powerful conversion story but they have nothing else. They cannot talk about how they were freed from racism, greed, or fear over the last year. They are the same racist, greedy, and fearful person today that they were at the moment of their conversion. Christians bear fruit keeping with repentance. They do not have to boast of their conversion or secular accomplishments because they can praise God for having liberated them from yesterday’s pride,  praylessness, and  grumbling. Those who lack fruit prove they lack faith.

Jude notes that fake Christians are twice dead and need to be uprooted. Instead of saving, the gospel hardens the false Christian’s heart, preparing them for destruction. Jesus said of the Pharisees in Matthew 23;15 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.”

High Waves

While false Christians lack good works, they excel at evil. Jude describes them as wild waves casting up the foam of their own shame. Instead of hiding their sin, they flaunt it. Husbands attend church with their girlfriends. They boast about mistreating minorities on Facebook. They call up others and regularly flaunt their ability to rip their friends a new one. And, they boast about showing favoritism, inviting Sally and not Johnny to sit next to them at the next church social. They cast their evil before church like a hurricane sending waves crashing onto the shore.

Wondering Stars

Fake Christians destroy love feasts, give empty advice, lack fruit and flaunt evil because they wonder about the heavens apart from God. They are reserved for judgement because they have rejected the gospel and the authority of Jesus. Unhinged from the Scriptures, they float about freely and aimless committing evil deeds.

To illustrate God’s determination to destroy these false Christians, Jude references a prophecy from Enoch which reveals that every ungodly action and word will be punished. Justice will arrive. The vengeance that the hurting and abused have longed for will come to pass. The angels from heaven will come with Jesus to annihilate the false Christians.

If God plans to cast the fake Christians into hell, the church must follow suit. In Matthew 18:18 Jesus tells us that the church should reflect the kingdom of heaven: “Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

Thankfully these warning have come to us to highlight salvation. Christians practice church discipline not to remove men and women who dislike their choices in carpet or sports teams but to gain back brothers and sisters who are walking to destruction. The church best helps the false Christian when she exposes his sin so that he  can see his errors, repent, and join the church as a true brother and sister.

The gospel breaks away from the world at this point. The world believes people live outside the kingdom of change. The drunk will always be a drunk. The greedy will always be greedy. The angry will also be violent. To quote from the Frozen Song “Fixer Upper,”  “We’re not saying you can change her, ’cause people don’t really change.” Yet the gospel presents a different message. People do change. Jesus died on the cross to liberate us from the power of sin and death. We do not have to walk sad fruitless lives. We can go from light to darkness. Jesus came and lived the life of perfection that we were supposed to live and then he died upon the cross to pay the penalty for our sins. And then he rose again showing that all who trust in him will gain access to God and righteousness. If you want to change embrace the saving power of God. Repent and believe.

Identifying Fake Christians: Teachers of Dreams

spy blogSatanic spies have infiltrated the church, intent on wrecking the peace, unity, and doctrines of God’s people. While Bunyan’s Christian saw Formalist and Hypocrisy jump over the wall of salvation onto the narrow way, the average Christian seldom encounters such open hostility to the kingdom of God. Those who enter the church without passing through the hill of calvary at first appear to be as devoted to God as those who entered by the narrow gate.
Aware of this troubling reality, Jude tells Christians how to discern between true and disingenuous faith. Those who serve Satan reveal their true character by appealing to dreams to encourage sexual immorality, to deny the authority of Jesus, and to blaspheme angels.
Though most modern Christian would look crossed at anyone who said they slept with their Bible under their pillow and awoke the next morning with a special message from God, dreams remained a valid means of divine communication in the biblical era. God communicated to Joseph and the wisemen through dreams. Daniel and Joseph also received communications from God while sleeping. The satanic spies of Jude’s day did not dance off into imaginary land when they spoke of dreams. They erred not in claiming to have access to God’s word. They erred because they misrepresented God’s word. They took God’s clear commands about purity and obedience and twisted them into stating the opposite. Sexual sin was now licensed, encouraged, and permitted. The deity of Jesus was doubted. Feelings, human experience, and internal emotion became the defining marks of the false teachers. They prefaced their statements with, “Thus said the Lord” and then proceed to devote to deny the clear revelation of the Scriptures. Jeremiah laments

How long shall there be lies in the heart of the prophets who prophesy lies, and who prophesy the deceit of their own heart, who think to make my people forget my name by their dreams that they tell one another, even as their fathers forgot my name for Baal? 28 Let the prophet who has a dream tell the dream, but let him who has my word speak my word faithfully. What has straw in common with wheat? declares the Lord. (Jer. 23:26-27).

Not all who claim to know God’s word truly know it. Not ever pastor, parachurch leader, and professor who proclaims to speak for Jesus speaks for Jesus. Many claim to be speaking for him while allowing young men and women to engage in sexual sin. They say God would not give us urges if he did not want us to exercise them. They give license to divorce, abortion, and homosexuality as well. The false teachers must license and encourage sexual sin for “sexual immorality, impurity, and sensuality” are the works of the flesh (Gal 5:19). They lack the power of God found in the resurrection of Jesus Christ to overcome their own sin. Thus, they indulge in sexual sin and encourage others to do so for they know nothing else.
When they deny God’s sexual ethic, they also undermine the whole gospel. Jesus restricted sexual expression to the marriage bed stating,

“Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate. (Matt 19:4-6).

If Jesus misunderstood God’s sexual ethic, humanity has little reason to trust Jesus salvific teachings. He ceases to be the God, man who holds the universe together. He becomes a inspiring but somewhat antiquated religious sage. The false teachers destroy the authority of the Gospel, proclaiming God to be evolving.
Such denials feed upon logical insecurity. The Christian faith does not evolve from age to age. Jude encourages men and women to contend for the faith because it was “once for all delivered to the saints.” Any message from God will align with all of the earlier messages from God. John 15:26-27 reminds its readers that,

“But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.”

God works in unison with himself. The Father, the Son, and Spirit all promote the same message. To pit one against the other in the name of relevance, culture revolution, or love is to defame the very word of God. Those who say “Thus says the Lord” and then proceed to deny the content of the Bible have never walked up the hill of Calvary and repented of their sins.

Have you entered by the narrow gate? What comes after, “Thus says the Lord?”

The Coronavirus: A Parable For the Church

Virus Blog

The Coronavirus has captured the world’s attention. It reminds us that everyone from the young to the old, from the blue collar worker to the college professor, and from the minimum wage earner to the CEO can be dropped into the grave by the tiniest of organisms. Death scares us.

But the world has focused upon the Coronavirus for another reason. The virus has tested China’s ability to handle a major health crisis. The nation claimed to have learned the lessons extracted from the SARS epidemic and the Bird Flu. Yet despite China’s promises to do better and her ability to wield the massive amounts of resources needed to create a hospital in 10 days, the Western press has found the nation’s management of the coronavirus to be less than inspiring.

The New York Post reported that China had discovered the germs in December and then hid the outbreak from the international community. According to CNN, the news of the virus reached the world because Dr. Li innocently and then boldly talked about the virus with other doctors and the press in an effort to protect humanity. The Wuhan police charged Dr. Li and several others with low level crimes for “spreading rumors online.” China also placed a gag order on the researchers who first identified the virus. on As late as January 8, 2020, China’s government continued to withhold vital information from the U.S. Center of Disease Control that revealed the virus had become more contagious. Though the nation possessed the resources, manpower, and technology to address the crisis, China still lacked the transparency, the ethics, and the humility needed to effectively address this latest medical challenge. According to the international community, China had not internalized the lessons of the past. Though the nation knew another epidemic would come, she was not prepared for it.

As China, the church also knows that viruses will come, testing their spiritual preparedness. Jude encouraged his readers to

Remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. They said to you, “In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.” It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit (17b-19).

Though scholars have failed to discover the specific prophecy Jude has referenced, we know Jude has accurately represented the teaching of the apostles. Paul often warned the church about future spiritual virus in his pastoral letters (1 Tim 4:3; 2 Tim. 3:1-5). Paul’s words to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20:29-31 summarized his view. Paul said, “I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.” The apostle John concurred writing, “Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour.” The apostles new wolves, antichrist, and virus would come into the church. The church must prepare accordingly, remembering that no amount of growth, goodwill, or resources can keep germs away. They will come. Will we be ready?

To prepare for the next spiritual virus that will descend upon our church, we must capitalize on the times of peace. Jude provided his readers with direction for such preparation. He wrote, “keep yourselves in the love of God.” While such terminology sounds comforting, it still begged the question of how. How do we keep ourselves in God’s love? Jude gave us three phrases that will guide our preparation.

First, Jude told his audience to “build yourselves up in your most holy faith.” The phrase “build yourselves up” means to build on another’s foundation. More specifically, we are to build our faith on the teaching and testimony of the prophets and the apostles who delivered to us the faith once delivered for all (Eph 2:19-21). To prepare for the next spiritual virus, Christian need to be regularly studying the word and listening to the word preached. Believers who neglect the preaching of the gospel will not know truth and can easily be infected by false teaching. The best antidote for error is a gross familiarity with the Scriptures. For this reason, congregations must stand ready to remove pastors who fail to preach the Scriptures well.  The careless pastor destroys the church’s immune system and prepares the church for spiritual doom. Likewise the believer who neglects the preaching of the Bible and personal study cannot help but be destroyed when error infects his blood stream. Those who survive the spiritual pandemics of their age build their lives upon the faith once delivered for all.

Second, those who are prepared for the next round of spiritual error pray: “praying in the Holy Spirit.” The author E.M. Bounds noted, “Prayer and devotion are united as soul and body are united as life and the heart are united. There is no real prayer without devotion, no devotion without prayer.”  Many Christians lack joy, hope, peace, and love simply because they do not pray. James 4:2 says, “You do not have, because you do not ask.” James does not advocate for the health and wealth gospel, telling us that if we ask hard enough we will get everything we want. He notes that “You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly to spend it on your passions (4:3).” Prayers can be selfish and ungodly. Thus, John tells that we must ask for things “according to his will (1 John 1:14).” We must ask for God to grow our faith, to increase our patience, to provide for our health and material needs, knowing that God promises to care for us. Indeed prayer is a powerful and essential tool in the believer’s tool belt. James reminds us that “The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.”

God works through prayer. He has ordained all that is to come to pass. He knows what he will do before we pray. Yet, he still works through prayer. I do not fully understand this paradigm. But God saves the Israelites because Moses prayed. He takes Jonah from the belly of the fish because he prayed. He saves Hezekiah because he prayed (2 Kings 2:20). God either answers our requests or he changes our heart, providing us with the peace of God as Jesus experienced in the garden of Gethsemane. Though prayer God blesses us and changes us and transforms our church into his image.

If we want to be ready to stand firm when viruses hit, friends be praying. Set aside time at night, in your car, or in the morning to pray. Create lists, use apps, keep a notebook. The method does not matter. The praying matters. Prayer is no trivial thing. It essential to the Christian life. John Bunyan powerfully said, “You then are not a Christian if you are not a praying person (57).”

And if we do not pray we evidence a sickly dependence upon ourselves or a lack of faith. Those who know God is there life source as revealed in Scripture pray.

Lastly, we must look to the future. Jude wrote that believers wait “for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life.” To expose virus takes courage as Dr. Li exemplified. He spoke when few others would, understanding the implications of covering up the coronavirus. Christians who are prepared for the next spiritual virus also understand the future. They know Christ will come back and that nothing in this world with devils filled can undo them. They do not fear correcting error, standing for unpopular truth, and the hate of their neighbors. The believer knows the outcome of the future. Nothing a false teacher or government does can separate him or her from the loving power of Christ. Their eternal destiny remains firm.

The coronavirus exposed the weaknesses of the China. What will the next spiritual virus reveal about your heart and about your church? Are you studying the word, praying, and gazing towards the future? Are you ready for the next spiritual virus?