Why Impostors Love the Church

After eighteen years of ministry it is still difficult to distinguish between genuine believers and those who are nothing more than wolves in sheep’s clothing. If we are not careful we can allow an unbeliever unrestrained access to those God has placed in our care.

In his post “Why Impostors Love the ChurchRussell Moore gives us a few good reasons why predators are drawn to the church.

Dr. Moore writes:

Recently I read a book that kept me awake a couple of nights. It was about “Clark Rockefeller,” and the scare quotes are important. The man was neither “Clark” nor “Rockefeller.” He was a German immigrant who crafted an identity as an heir of one of America’s wealthiest dynasties. He married, fathered a child, and was involved in fraud, theft, and maybe even murder. And no one ever knew, until the very end.

What made me squirm was that fact that the fake Rockefeller’s inroad to all his deception were churches and relationships, particularly with women. He would make the connections he needed in local congregations, and he would charm the women there. At the same time, he would parasitically imitate the men, watching and mirroring back to them their convictions and opinions, even the inflections of their voices. But, behind all of that, there was nothing real but a predatory appetite.

The New Testament warns us, of course, about spiritual impostors. Sometimes these “wolves” are there to introduce subtly false doctrine. But, just as often, it seems, these spiritual carnivores hold to true doctrine, at least on the surface. But they use this doctrine and service for predatory ends. The sons of Eli, for instance, use their priestly calling to co-opt the fat of the offering and to lay with the women at the altar (1 Sam. 2).Virtually every New Testament letter warns us about the same phenomenon (e.g., 2 Pet. 2; Jude).

But why, when there is so much opportunity for debauchery out there in the world around us, do such people choose the church?

First of all, I think its because deception can look a lot like discipleship. A disciple is like a son learning from his father, Jesus tells us. The student resembles his teacher. That’s good, and right. But the satanic powers turn all good things for evil. A spiritual impostor can mimic such discipleship when he’s, in fact, just “casing the joint,” watching the mores, learning the phrases, mimicking the convictions. It can seem like the passing down of the faith when, in reality, it’s an almost vampiric taking on of another identity, all for the sake of some appetite or other.

Second, I think it’s because these impostors are looking for something they can’t find in bars and strip clubs. Many of them “feed” off of innocence itself. The Apostle Paul, therefore, warns of those who “creep into households, taking captive weak women burdened down with sins” (2 Tim. 3:6). The impostors are able to gain power over the weak not only by deceiving them but by morally compromising them.

Often these victims are drawn, for reasons good and bad, to spiritual authority. The impostor mimics this authority, sometimes with a precision almost to the point of identity theft. But he uses it to defile, sapping away what seems to them to be innocence as a vampire would lap up blood.

Finally, the church often draws such impostors because of a perversion of the Christian doctrine of grace. The Christian gospel offers a complete forgiveness of sin, and not only that, a fresh start as a new creation. But both Jesus and the apostles warn us that this can easily be perverted into a kind of anti-christ license. Faith is not real without repentance, and faith is not like that of the demons, simply assenting to truth claims. Faith works itself out in love. Faith follows after the lordship of King Jesus. Faith takes up a cross.

But a notion of “grace” apart from lordship can provide excellent cover for spiritual impostors. That’s why virtually every sex predator I’ve heard of compares himself, or is compared by one of those on whom he’s preying, as a latter-day King David. This is often the case even while this person continues to run rampant in his sin against the Body of Christ. Those who seek to hold accountable, or even just to warn the flock, are then presented as “unmerciful” or “graceless” or unwilling to help along the “struggling.”

This often leads to a church that then loses its ability to be the presence of Christ. The church, desiring to be seen to be merciful, loses any aspect of the merciful ministry of Christ because we don’t do what he called us to do: to tend the flock of God. Or, we are so burned over by the presence of predators among us that we lose the ability to trust anyone. Yes, there is Demas, and yes, there is Alexander the Coppersmith. But there’s Timothy and Titus too.

Moreover, the presence of impostors can cause us to lose confidence in the church itself. But how can that be when Jesus warns us from the very beginning that we must be watchful of this. The apostolic Word gives us confidence that spiritual predators, like Pharaoh’s magicians, “will not get very far” (2 Tim. 3:9).

There’s nothing more enraging than the sound of a lamb bleating in a wolf’s mouth. But the Shepherd is coming.

(Image Credit)

All I Want for Christmas is to Search Like the Shepherds

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” (Luke 2:8-15 ESV)

During this time in history, shepherds spent months away from their families tending sheep.  Most people looked down on shepherds and considered them way down in social status.  Since God’s Son was coming to be the Good Shepherd, God saw shepherds differently.  God sent an angel to them to announce the birth of the Savior of the world—Christ the Lord.  This child would grow up to be the sacrificial Lamb of God.  The shepherds were told where to go to find the Messiah and to expect “a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”  To make sure they understood the importance of what was happening in their midst, God allowed them to witness a group of angels praising God for this event that would bring peace to men. After this, the shepherds left their sheep and went in search of the Savior.

This year for Christmas, I want to search like the shepherds.  Each day I want to be looking for the Savior to return.  He could come back at any time, and I want to be ready.  I want my life to look like that of the life Jesus lived while here on earth.  Others know when you are searching for the Savior because it shows in your life.

You search for the Savior when you serve others as if you were serving Him.  Visit those who are in the hospital and away from family.  Take snacks or gift-cards to the local Ronald McDonald House, purchase children’s games and donate them to the children’s hospital— regardless of what it is, do something for those who are going to be away from home this Christmas.

Search for the Savior at your local John 3:16 Mission, an assisted living center, the Baptist Home for Children, Big Brothers and Sisters of Tulsa, or any place—a visit, card, or gift would be a pleasant surprise.  Just showing that you care will be the best present you could ever give.

We search for the Savior by spending time in the Bible to see just how God has revealed Himself to us.  We take what we learn from Scripture and demonstrate those godly attributes to the rest of the world.  Let people know that the reason for your kindness is because of God’s great love for them.

This year, all I want for Christmas is to search like the shepherds.  The Savior of the world wasn’t exactly what they expected, never-the-less, they searched and searched until they found Him.  In searching for the Shepherd, I might find people to serve who don’t look much like Jesus; however, He taught us when we help those in need we are really helping Him!