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.