Tuesday, February 3, 2009
When Your Church Becomes Infected
The great deceiver uses his many tricks in many churches. Because believers comprise the local church and the enemy has the ability to deceive believers (see 2 Corinthians 11:3; 2 Timothy 2:25; 1 Thessalonians 3:5), we should not be surprised at his successes. In fact, Satan was tempting and creating havoc within the earliest New Testament churches. Paul issued warnings about the tempter to the churches in Corinth and Thessalonica, and he warned the young yet God-fearing Timothy and other godly servants not to quarrel but to be kind and gentle to everyone (see Ephesians 4:31-32; 2 Timothy 2:24). All of us become duped at one time or another, no matter how careful we are. We are most open to deceit, though, when we are not connected with the Lord through the Scriptures, prayer, and obedient living. People seek the wrong things in the church and turn to other resources, such as the occult, in order to get them. Watch out for counterfeit truth. Satan is in the business of destroying churches. What then are his greatest weapons in destroying them? Let me give you four primary methods he uses to undermine leadership and stop a church's progress. First, Satan can counterfeit the truth. Second, Satan can give great feelings, and believers, remembering feelings of joy, even ecstasy, upon their conversion and first weeks with the Lord, may associate good feelings with spirituality. Some Christians crave those joyful feelings they experienced at the end of a week-end-retreat-the so-called "mountaintop high"-as proof all is right between God and them. With great feelings, these believers think they must be "spiritual" because they "feel so good." But feelings are fleeting and dangerous. Extreme emotional highs often produce extreme emotional lows. Yes, the fruit of the spirit includes joy (and peace, for that matter), but we should not test our spirituality by seeing if strong emotions are constantly present. Where fruit is present on an ongoing basis, we can be more assured we are walking in the Spirit. Patience, kindness, goodness, self-control, and the other fruit listed in Galatians 5:22-23 should be evident in a believer's life. Courtney loved those moments of high emotion, and Satan seemed to use them to delude her about her relationship with God. As we visited together in a counseling session, Courtney said, "I think I am a religious-high junkie." She explained that over the past few years when any big-name faith healer visited the area she would go to the services. Sometimes she gave large amounts of money against her husband's wishes. Several of those times she was able to talk to the faith healer, and he or she would lay hands on Courtney and offer some type of "imparted wisdom" to her. She told me, "Dr. Copley, the feeling was absolute ecstasy. The exhilaration was like nothing I had ever experienced." I could imagine that it was! She went on. "But there was one problem. It would never last. I would always have to seek another high. Besides that, the lows became extremely low." As we talked about the Christian life, I was able to show her that the normal Christian life is one in which we walk in love with Jesus Christ, and go where He leads us by His Spirit and through His Word. I told her that while there might be times of ecstasy and exhilaration, those experiences were always preceded by a reason. "For instance," I said "King David danced before the ark when it was returned by the Philistines. He experienced ecstasy and worship. But he had a strong reason to do so-the glory of God." She agreed, and I added, "As we walk with the Lord in a personal love relationship with Him led by His Spirit through the Scriptures, we can live a life that glorifies God without any counterfeit joy or peace or exhilaration that might not be from Him in reality." Courtney began seeking God through the Scriptures and prayer and found through the practice of true Christian disciplines her life evened out and became much more stable. Watch out for counterfeit healing. Satan can also counterfeit healing (see 2 Thessalonians 2:9). You can be sure the enemy will seek to counterfeit anything that is truly from God, even healing. I believe God can and on occasion does heal in the day in which we live. To say that He does not is to deny the power of God. Many times, though, He does not choose to heal. I have seen situations where people have sought out certain ailing Christians to persuade them to receive the healing that they so desperately needed. Shawn was so duped. He had been diagnosed with schizophrenia in his early twenties. He had battled this debilitating illness for several years by taking anti psychotic medications. Because of modern scientific research, we have found that many drugs can take such people from a highly dysfunctional condition to a rather "normal" state of mind. In Shawn's case, he found that when he would take his drugs properly he could work a job, think with clarity, and function well. However, he always felt somewhat dull and "stupefied," which is a typical side effect of such drugs. Shawn came to my office after being released from the psychiatric ward in the local hospital. He told me right away, "Dr. Copley, some weeks ago a faith healer came to town and I went forward. The faith healer laid hands on me and then he pronounced me healed of my schizophrenia. The strangest thing was I had not told him I was schizophrenic. After he laid hands on me I felt like a lightning bolt suddenly charged through my body. I walked out of that place feeling higher than I ever have in my life. As a result, I stopped taking my medication cold turkey." Listening, I realized he was in much distress about this. He went on. "For the next fifteen days I was higher than a kite. I was happy, bubbly, personable, striking up conversations with strangers, full of energy, shouting out loud hallelujahs, and it was great. But then I bottomed out, and I ended up back in the hospital, back on my medications, back to living life as I had. What happened to me? I said, "What happened to you was you became the victim of a false healing. That which God truly does He does permanently. We have an enemy, and the enemy wants to deceive and disillusion us and eventually destroy us through these deceptions. One of those is false healing. I'm sorry to say. God probably wants you to take your medication, perhaps for the rest of your life." Shawn agreed and has been normal ever since. But he was actually lucky. I have heard of good Christian people like him who have committed suicide or slipped into deeper psychosis as a result of such deceptions. I believe it's possible for God to heal completely in such cases. But it's rare. The more common way God "heals" is through modern medical techniques, which are legitimate and can help people immensely. Keep in mind that Satan does empower for false healing, partial healing, and even occasional full healing to lead people away from God. Watch out for counterfeit power. Finally, Satan can grant limited power. Many people seek power or control-sometimes both. Satan, who has temporary rule over this world, has power that he can bestow.It is limited compared to that of God almighty, but it is still power, and this counterfeit power can woo and impress and deceive us. It's easy to understand why power is so appealing. We all have a sense of personal inadequacy. There are times n counseling that the client and I both reach a state of hopeless despair at our own inadequacy to solve a problem. It's at that point that we cry out to God for His help, because when we are weak, God is strong (see 2 Corinthians 12:9-20). There's nothing wrong with this, and it's certainly not that bad place to be. When we realize the need for help beyond what this world has to offer, we are being exactly what God made us all along: dependent creatures who need His love and power to survive. Dr. Ken Copley is available for counseling, conferences, and local church meetings. Many people, though, seek the wrong kind of power: the power of Satan. And Satan does have earthly power; that's why he could offer Jesus the kingdoms of this world (see Matthew 4:8-9). Today Satan offers different kinds of power to Christ's followers. Some of the power sources that come from the enemy are: 1. Signs and miracles. 2. False Ecstatic worship, which is actually a highly toxic mysticism. The fruit from this worship is weak, which in turn produces weak Christians. 3. The false promise of health and wealth if you love God and have faith (and give to a certain ministry). 4. False authority. Those who have such authority refuse to be tested in their faith by mature brothers. I see this all the time among church members and even pastors. It's up to the church to expose Satan's counterfeit power with God's truth. When the church operates in the power of the Holy Spirit, the result will be seen in true conversions, changed lives, genuine love, and world evangelism, plus numerous other Christian virtues that are practiced by the church. These all witness to the presence of a loving God willing to give abundant life and bring freedom from the lies and oppression of the enemy. Satanic power always corrupts, though, and those who seek it will ultimately be destroyed because that is the enemy's real purpose behind his so-called gifts. Dr. Ken Copley is available for counseling, conferences, and local church meetings.