What Price Revival?

Fathers, the best gift you could receive today would be the overwhelming desire to seek repentance from the thrice-holy Almighty, the One whom we have long forsaken for the pleasures of the world. Paul reminds us that we are to set our affections on things that are heavenly, not on the things of this world. We need revival in America and in England, but at what price will it come?

5 Indicators of an Evil and Wicked Heart

This blog was posted at Association of Biblical Counselors and was written by Leslie Vernick. I believe the words are very appropriate for what we are seeing, sadly, in many evangelical churches today. While it is important that we call sin what it is, we should be doing so with much love and grace. Ignoring the sin that is present in a congregation and not addressing both forgiving the offender as well as seeking forgiveness when the one offending is a recipe for disaster. The post below is in its entirety as found on the Association of Biblical Counselors website complete with links.

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As Christian counselors, pastors and people helpers we often have a hard time discerning between an evil heart and an ordinary sinner who messes up, who isn’t perfect, and full of weakness and sin.

I think one of the reasons we don’t “see” evil is because we find it so difficult to believe that evil individuals actually exist. We can’t imagine someone deceiving us with no conscience, hurting others with no remorse, spinning outrageous fabrications to ruin someone’s reputation, or pretending he or she is spiritually committed yet has no fear of God before his or her eyes.

The Bible clearly tells us that among God’s people there are wolves that wear sheep’s clothing (Jeremiah 23:14; Titus 1:10; Revelations 2:2). It’s true that every human heart is inclined toward sin (Romans 3:23), and that includes evil (Genesis 8:21; James 1:4). We all miss God’ mark of moral perfection. However, most ordinary sinners do not happily indulge evil urges, nor do we feel good about having them. We feel ashamed and guilty, rightly so (Romans 7:19–21). These things are not true of the evil heart.

Below are five indicators that you may be dealing with an evil heart rather than an ordinary sinful heart.  If so, it requires a radically different treatment approach.

1. Evil hearts are experts at creating confusion and contention.

They twist the facts, mislead, lie, avoid taking responsibility, deny reality, make up stories, and withhold information. (Psalms 5:8; 10:7; 58:3; 109:2–5; 140:2; Proverbs 6:13,14; 6:18,19; 12:13; 16:20; 16:27, 28; 30:14; Job 15:35; Jeremiah 18:18; Nehemiah 6:8; Micah 2:1; Matthew 12:34,35; Acts 6:11–13; 2 Peter 3:16)

2. Evil hearts are experts at fooling others with their smooth speech and flattering words.

But if you look at the fruit of their lives or the follow through of their words, you will find no real evidence of godly growth or change. It’s all smoke and mirrors. (Psalms 50:19; 52:2,3; 57:4; 59:7; 101:7; Proverbs 12:5; 26:23–26; 26:28; Job 20:12; Jeremiah 12:6; Matthew 26:59; Acts 6:11–13; Romans 16:17,18; 2 Corinthians 11:13,14; 2 Timothy 3:2–5; 3:13; Titus 1:10,16).

3. Evil hearts crave and demand control, and their highest authority is their own self-reference.

They reject feedback, real accountability, and make up their own rules to live by. They use Scripture to their own advantage but ignore and reject passages that might require self-correction and repentance. (Romans 2:8; Psalms 10; 36:1–4; 50:16–22; 54:5,6; 73:6–9; Proverbs 21:24; Jude 1:8–16).

4. Evil hearts play on the sympathies of good-willed people, often trumping the grace card.

They demand mercy but give none themselves. They demand warmth, forgiveness, and intimacy from those they have harmed with no empathy for the pain they have caused and no real intention of making amends or working hard to rebuild broken trust. (Proverbs 21:10; 1 Peter 2:16; Jude 1:4).

5. Evil hearts have no conscience, no remorse.

They do not struggle against sin or evil—they delight in it—all the while masquerading as someone of noble character. (Proverbs 2:14–15; 10:23; 12:10; 21:27,29; Isaiah 32:6; Romans 1:30; 2 Corinthians 11:13–15)

If you are working with someone who exhibits these characteristics, it’s important that you confront them head on. You must name evil for what it is. The longer you try to reason with them or show mercy towards them, the more you, as the Christian counselor, will become a pawn in his or her game.

They want you to believe that:

1. Their horrible actions should have no serious or painful consequences.

When they say “I’m sorry,” they look to you as the pastor or Christian counselor to be their advocate for amnesty with the person he or she has harmed. They believe grace means they are immediately granted immunity from the relational fallout of their serious sin. They believe forgiveness entitles them to full reconciliation and will pressure you and their victim to comply.

The Bible warns us saying, “But when grace is shown to the wicked, they do not learn righteousness; even in a land of uprightness they go on doing evil and do not regard the majesty of the Lord (Isaiah 26:10).

The Bible tells us that talking doesn’t wake up evil people, but painful consequences might. Jesus didn’t wake up the Pharisee’s with his talk nor did God’s counsel impact Cain (Genesis 4). In addition, the Bible shows us that when someone is truly sorry for the pain they have caused, he or she is eager to make amends to those they have harmed by their sin (see Zacchaeus’ response when he repented of his greed in Luke 19).

Tim Keller writes, “If you have been the victim of a heinous crime. If you have suffered violence, and the perpetrator (or even the judge) says, ‘Sorry, can’t we just let it go?’ You would say, ‘No, that would be an injustice.’ Your refusal would rightly have nothing to do with bitterness or vengeance. If you have been badly wronged, you know that saying sorry is never enough. Something else is required—some kind of costly payment must be made to put things right.”1

As Biblical counselors let’s not collude with the evil one by turning our attention to the victim, requiring her to forgive, to forget, to trust again when there has been no evidence of inner change. Proverbs says, “Trusting in a treacherous man in time of trouble is like a bad tooth or a foot that slips” (Proverbs. 25:19). It’s foolishness.

The evil person will also try to get you to believe

2. That if I talk like a gospel-believing Christian I am one, even if my actions don’t line up with my talk.

Remember, Satan masquerades as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:13–15). He knows more true doctrine than you or I will ever know, but his heart is wicked. Why? Because although he knows the truth, he does not believe it or live it.

The Bible has some strong words for those whose actions do not match their talk (1 John 3:17,18; Jeremiah 7:8,10; James 1:22, 26). John the Baptist said it best when he admonished the religious leaders, “Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God” (Luke 3:8).

If week after week you hear the talk but there is no change in the walk, you have every reason to question someone’s relationship with God.

Part of our maturity as spiritual leaders is that we have been trained to discern between good and evil. Why is that so important? It’s important because evil usually pretends to be good, and without discernment we can be easily fooled (Hebrews 5:14).

When you confront evil, chances are good that the evil heart will stop counseling with you because the darkness hates the light (John 3:20) and the foolish and evil heart reject correction (Proverbs 9:7,8). But that outcome is far better than allowing the evil heart to believe you are on his or her side, or that “he’s not that bad” or “that he’s really sorry” or “that he’s changing” when, in fact, he is not.

Daniel says, “[T]he wicked will continue to be wicked” (Daniel 12:10), which begs the question, do you think an evil person can really change?

 

[1] Tim Keller, Jesus the King, page 172

Christians Don’t Lie … Or Do They?

Christians don’t tell lies; they just go to church and sing them.
~A. W. Tozer

This quote came to mind a couple weeks ago as the congregation sang, “‘Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus.” As I looked around, I wondered how many were thinking about the words that were coming out of their mouths: “Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus, just to take Him at His Word.” My own thoughts were full of how sweet that truly is and yet how much I need to grow in the area of trust.

For many who have grown up in church, it is easy to sing songs because we have memorized them and yet the words elude us. How many times have you sung “Here I raise my Ebenezer” and had no idea what an “Ebenezer” is. (A name for a goblet perhaps?) I know there are exceptions to the rule, but I see way too many people singing lifelessly, and I expect that it is because the words are lifeless to them.

Our songs should be sung from the heart. Our worship must be honest. If you cannot sing honestly, don’t be afraid to stop and ponder the words or pray that God will help you to grow in an area.

There may be times you should sing in faith, “Because He lives, I can face tomorrow,” but if you have not surrendered and are not willing to surrender all to Jesus, don’t sing, “I Surrender All.” God inhabits the praise of His people but, if that “praise” is done simply for show or merely out of rote, He will not bless it.

I do not want to discourage you from singing but I do want to inspire you to sing with your whole heart. Know what you are singing and let Him know that you mean it. You are not singing those words because you have to; you are singing because you want to, and you intend to live them. It’s possible that this simple act could be what it takes for revival to begin in our churches.

Servanthood

This is another trait that I do not excel in but I love watching it in action. It seems to me to be the epitome of Christianity. Jesus said that He came to serve, not to be served. I personally like to be served but that is not why God put me here on earth. It is not all about me.

I was talking with a lady yesterday who is always opening her home to others, organizing gatherings, etc. She mentioned that no one ever offers to help; they just comment on how this lady and her family do such a great job. This happens way too often in the Church. It’s easy to leave hard work to the pastor or church leaders because, after all, that’s their job or it’s what they are paid to do. Servanthood is not a gift, however; it is a calling for every Believer.

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You may deal with insecurity as I do, thinking that there is no practical way you can serve others or maybe you feel like everyone else is better at doing things than you are. I guarantee you, though, that if you ask God to show you ways that you can be more of a servant, He will show you and teach you how to do so effectively. Don’t underestimate the blessing that you can be if you will lay aside your inhibitions and allow God to use you. Most people are not going to criticize genuine works of love, even if not done perfectly. And as you begin to serve in small ways, you will begin to be more confident and see more ways that you can practically serve others.

If you are one who tends to sit back and let everyone else do all the work, begin to pray about a place of servanthood that you can fill. If you are one who is getting burnt out because you are always the one pouring out, don’t be afraid to ask for help. It’s possible that others are willing to help; they just haven’t considered the fact that you need help or they may be afraid to admit that they don’t know what to do. Some just need a mentor to guide them.

I am not an expert on this topic and, as I mentioned, this is an area that I definitely need to grow in but I am trusting God to open my eyes to things I can do and to help me to grow in this area. I trust that you will pray about this too.

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