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Lies in the Church

Next stop: the Church.

To Stop the Lie (4)

For there are many insubordinate, both idle talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision, whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole households, teaching things which they ought not, for the sake of dishonest gain. Titus 1.10, 11 

In the household of faith
The lie can too easily become established within the household of faith.

Paul’s immediate focus in our text is local house churches – “households” – and the trouble, upset, and turmoil caused in them by those who promulgate lies, whether knowingly or unknowingly.

In Paul’s day, not only on the island of Crete (the destination of his letter to Titus) but in every other place Paul went, those who peddled lies came in after the apostle, objecting to his teaching, offering their own views about salvation, and, in general, causing upheaval and tumult in the churches.

Paul deplored the division and dissension caused by the lies that were infecting the Lord’s churches. He insisted it had to stop, and those who were the source of it must be silenced. Once we have begun to work on our own souls, so that we always prefer the truth of God to the lies of the world, the next place to turn in stopping the lie is to the Body of Christ, of which every believer is a member.

Winds of false doctrine blow across the sails of the Church continuously, bringing lies against the ship of truth to drive it off its Kingdom course. Wafting in from worldly thinking, these false doctrines downplay the Word of God, make the needs of people rather than the glory of God the focal point of religion, introduce alien practices to worship and church life, and becalm the Body of Christ into complacency. Such lies must be exposed, deconstructed, and stopped.

Blind to lies
This can be a difficult challenge, because those who are involved with lies don’t always realize it and won’t readily admit it. In the classic film, Bridge on the River Kwai, the British colonel, played by Alec Guinness, was blinded by pride to carry out a most excellent lie and build “a proper bridge” to show up his Japanese captors. What he could not see, and what William Holden tried to get him to understand, was that his pride had blinded him to the fact that he was aiding and abetting the enemy in his military objectives. Only too late did Colonel Nicholson realize his mistake and accomplish a partial redemption – but at the cost of his life.

Many in our churches are living the lie in ways they don’t even recognize. They have bought into the materialistic values and lies of the day, and so they are deeply in debt and distracted by their pursuit of things. They don’t give much to Christian endeavors, and they spend the bulk of their free time indulging their possessions and diversions. They lead undisciplined lives, care little for discipleship, and are content to be attenders rather than fruitful and serving members of the Body of Christ.

Others have embraced the lie which says that Christians don’t need to learn and obey God’s Law; all we need is love – and this despite the fact that Jesus defined love in terms of the Law, and He warned any who negate the Law that they can expect to know the displeasure of God.

Still other believers have embraced the lie which says that the Lord’s Day is a kind of “free day” for whatever diversion we desire. Or that we don’t have to reach out to our neighbors with the Gospel; the church will do it for us. Or that we can watch whatever we want, listen to whatever we like, ignore divine standards of everything and indulge our flesh as much as we can, and it will not affect our relationship with Jesus Christ.

These behaviors are forms of the great lie that says we can have Christianity on our terms rather than God’s. And all this indulging in the lies of the world takes place with at least the tacit approval of church leaders.

Speak up and speak out
As a result of such lies, people get hurt – relationships are upset, debt-ridden people lose sleep and fight with their spouses, children are victimized by the moral standards of their peers, church members squabble over doctrinal disagreements, the flock of the Lord is deprived of the full and abundant life Jesus promised, and the witness of the local church is compromised by people who do not live the truth of Jesus in their everyday lives.

Once we have begun to love the truth and stop the lie in our own lives, it’s time to turn to our believing friends and our churches, and begin insisting, with great patience and love, that we must not allow the lies of our unbelieving age to shape the way we worship, live for, and serve the Lord.

We must be resolute here. Scripture calls us to teach, admonish, and correct one another, whenever such is appropriate. If we refuse to speak up and speak out whenever lies are being advanced in the church, we’ll never have the courage or skill to do so in the everyday situations of our lives. And we’ll end up not caring so much that lies keep finding their way into our own thinking.

We are enemies of the lie and agents of truth, and we must face up to and face down the lie as often as we encounter it, especially among our fellow Christians. Failure to do so only brings upset, upheaval, and turmoil to the church and its members.

It was true in Paul’s day, and it is true in ours. But God intends to stop the lie in all its forms. Let’s make sure that we’re on His side of the truth.

For reflection
1.  Why would it make sense to look into the Church as a logical place to discover, expose, and eradicate lies?

2.  Who has the primary responsibility for stopping the lie in the church? How does that work in your congregation?

3.  Meditate on Matthew 18.15-18. What is the role of church discipline in stopping the lie in the Church?

Next steps – Preparation: Meditate on Matthew 18.15-18. Suggest a way of dealing with lies in the church that is consistent with what Jesus teaches here. What should your role be in this?

 T. M. Moore

You can download all the studies in this series, “Let God Be True,” by clicking here.

Our free ReVision study, “Winds of Doctrine”, can help you identify, expose, and stop the lies that want to ruin your church. Download the entire series by clicking here.

The devil is wily, and we must be cautious and always ready to resist him. Our book,
Satan Bound, can help you understand his workings and rest in the sovereign control of Jesus over the devil and all things. Order your free copy by clicking here.

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T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
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