Chapter 6

 
 

                   SIX – A Pseudo-Christianity

     One day, as the story goes, Satan had a sale.  Wanting to attract some buyers, he displayed the most precious and valuable tools of his trade.  He carefully and proudly exhibited implements—such as pride, lust, and envy along with all sorts of evil and carnality.  Off to the side, highlighted with great fanfare and fuss, was a small but pricey group of vintage and well-worn tools.  Because of the tools’ condition and cost, they captured the attention of several.  Motivated by intrigue, someone asked, “Why are these tools special?”  Satan responded, “They are quite an asset to my work.  You see, they are the tools I use most often.  When other applications fail, I can usually count on these to come through for me."” Piqued, the potential buyer continued his query, “Just what are these tools?”  Leaning in close, the devil said “Doubt.  Yes sir, doubt, aided by deceit and lie.  If I can cause Christians to doubt, then the victory is mine and their joy is lost!”

     Obviously, this is just a tale; still there is a measure of truth to it.  The enemy of our soul is always at work to achieve his goal and rob us of our joy by doing whatever he considers necessary.  Because humans excel at forgetfulness, the adversary with expertise attacks this weak spot.  With deceit and lies he tempts us to forget the Lord is faithful and doubt God's eternal Word of truth.  God knows our weakness so, in grace, He provides reminders, which continually testify of His faithfulness and power.  The Lord’s Supper is a prime example, “‘. . . Do this in remembrance of Me’” (1 Corinthians 11:23 – 34).

     Because of this vulnerability, our illustration of the cross and two circles needs further development.  Satan seeks to make us doubt God’s plan, and provides a pseudo environment, or a false sense of security which can cause born-again believers feel as though they are living a life which is pleasing to God.  In reality, they are living a fleshly, worldly, superficial, and vain existence (Figure Five).  This sort of lifestyle lacks the ability to supply joy and contentment to God’s children but, most importantly, it does not glorify the Lord.  The foe wants to lure us away from God’s plan and provision.  He wants us to doubt the things God has said and, therefore, works to deceive and trick us.  Never forget Satan is the master of deception and ruse.

 

 

What is God’s advice?  “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap” (Galatians 6:7).  The Living Bible paraphrase captures the intent of deception—“Don’t be misled . . .” The Greek word for deceived, which is transliterated into English as “planao,” means to lead astray or to cause to wander.  Therefore, in the strength of the indwelling Holy Spirit, we must not allow the enemy to insinuate himself and provide leadership because consenting to his control only results in confusion and eventual frustration.  Remember his deception will only cause us to aimlessly wander through life.

     Various writers of Scripture used this term.  In 2 John 7, the apostle applied this word as a name for the yet future world leader, commonly known as Anti-Christ.  Several times in his first epistle John used the same word, here we cite one example:

Little children, let no one deceive you, the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous, the one who practices sin is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning.  The Son of God appeared for this purpose, that he might destroy the work of the devil (1 John 3:7, 8 [italics added]}.

 

     Three times in His Olivet Discourse, found in Matthew 24, the Savior used the same word to warn against false teachers who in the last days will mislead many (Matthew 24:5, 11, and 24).  Christ’s counsel is, “‘. . . Do not believe them’” (11:26); because they have no credibility, they are liars, and seek only to confuse and lead astray.  The false christs and false prophets, of whom the Lord spoke, are Satan’s agents.  This is always Satan’s tactic—he has no other.  This is the enemy’s sole method of operation; when Christians are not Spirit-controlled and alert, Satan will pull the same evil shenanigans on them.  Now we begin to get a sense of the important of living in obedience to the Lord.  Vital to knowing God’s joy is learning to trust His Word and live in the environment He provides (the bottom circle).  It is the place of blessing, wisdom, light, and safety.

     So what is the foe’s strategy?  He is the master of deceit and counterfeit.  Always working to pull the believer from obedience and righteousness, he offers a pseudo environment, which is capable of producing only pseudo righteousness.  It is an environment, which appears much like the spiritual environment the Lord provides.  Unfortunately too many believers are fooled into feeling they are living lives which please the Lord.  They go through the motions and do all the “right things” (i.e. attend church regularly, read a few verses of Scripture daily, perhaps even teach a Sunday school class or sing in the choir).  However, this pseudo life is conducted only in the strength of the flesh and motivated by self and does not exalt nor glorify the Lord Jesus.

  In the previous reference to Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 24 concerning false christs and false prophets who mislead, Jesus used an interesting Greek word for our English translation “false”:  “pseudochristos” {“false christs”) and “psuedoprophétés” (“false prophets”).  By now it is clear where the English word “pseudo” is derived, and it means false.  Paul used the same word in 2 Thessalonians 2:9, 11 where he spoke of “false wonders” which one day Satan’s man of destruction will perform—and said Paul, the world will reject the truth while they believe deception and lies.  Just as God only traffics in truth, the enemy only traffics in the pseudo, the counterfeit.  Anything he offers to the believer is fraught with deception and lies, no matter how genuine it may seem to be or how right it may appear.  Since the foe desires to keep believers from godliness, he serves up his own brand of righteousness.  He does not mind if Christ is prominent in one’s life just as long as Christ is not preeminent.

     The pseudo environment may take any number of tracks, however, in every case, it is full of self.  It may, for instance, involve some sort of legalism.  This line of thought would have one believe that if a person rigidly adheres to a prescribed set of man-made standards and regulations, his life is pleasing unto God.  In reality, obedience to man-made mores and ideals can only produce a man-made righteousness, which is a product of the devil.  For instance, Satan’s brand of righteousness may comprise rules about the length of one’s hair or skirt; it may concern itself with social activities, and even dietary matters.  The believers whom Paul addressed in the book of Galatians had fallen into this pseudo-Christianity.  Rather than trusting God, understanding and enjoying the freedom Christ brings to the life, the Galatian believers were caught in a trap of bondage, a snare of legalism.  “It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1).  As one reads this entire New Testament book, it soon becomes apparent Paul was in a battle for the truth of the gospel of grace and liberty in Christ.

     The only way to avoid this pseudo setting, or environment, which leads to slavery, is to learn and apply the truth of Scripture and allow the indwelling Holy Spirit to control.  This is a sure-fire way to stay away from the foe’s tricks and traps.  Rather than leading a Christian to further spiritual maturity, this counterfeit lifestyle leads a believer into bondage and weakness.  The pseudo setting, designed by the master deceptor, leads to self-centeredness, self-absorption, and pride.  Instead of exalting and glorifying the Lord God, it lifts up one’s own achievements and gives only a false sense of relationship with Christ.

     At this point, it is imperative that a brief statement is made regarding the top circle found in the illustration of this book.  When a person receives Christ as Savior, he becomes a forever-member of God’s family.  Nothing or no one can alter that relationship (John 10:28, 29).  Born-again believers are in Christ both now and forever.  So, then, even when a Christian fails and falls for a trick of the enemy, his position in Christ is sure, because we cannot be separated from God nor from His love (Romans 8:38, 39; Jeremiah 31:3).  I hasten to remind each believer that unconfessed sin does affect our fellowship with the Savior and robs our joy.  The promise found in 1 John 1:9 assures believers that confession of sin to the Savior cleanses us from all unrighteousness.

     In addition to the Galatian believers, another biblical example of Christians who were tricked and living in the pseudo environment are the believers who resided in Corinth.  The historical record of Scripture informs us this local church was composed of men and women who were worldly-minded and carnal.  In other words, they were believers who were controlled by the flesh and the enemy.  It appears the congregation was fragmented.  Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 1:12 concerning their loyalties—some were ardent followers of Paul, others preferred the great orator Apollos, still others supported Peter’s work and plain and simple approach to ministry.  On top of these divisions, was yet another group of prideful, super-spiritual people who thought more highly of themselves than they should and claimed they did not follow any man but only Christ.  There was constant wrangling and posturing for position and prominence because envy and jealousy were the principle tools the enemy used among them.  It seems these brethren were filled with ability and exposed to the most talented and celebrated teachers of their time.  Corinth had it all or at least, that was the general consensus.

     First Corinthians 3:10 – 15, gives a more accurate picture of the situation; Paul wrote:

Now if any man builds upon the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it, because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work (11:12, 13).

 

     The apostle warned these believers they were living in the pseudo-environment.  The work and life they invested in was temporal, and not lasting, their building materials were wood, hay, and straw.  In the face of God’s judgment, these works cannot endure.  Jesus said only foolish people build their lives in this manner (Matthew 7:24 – 29).

     Like so many Christians, these ancient brothers and sisters unwisely focused their attention on the wrong subject—they focused upon themselves and others, but not Christ.  They disobeyed the Hebrews 12:1 and 2 principle.  Their wrong focus resulted in a loss of effectiveness, power, strength, and joy.

     Later in 1 Corinthians, Paul again reminded his readers of their weakness.  They felt themselves to be strong and so ample, yet reality testified of their inability and ineffectiveness.

If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.  And if I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.  And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor and if I deliver my body to be burned, but do not have love it profits me nothing (1 Corinthians 13:1 –3).

 

     Those eloquent words are right on target.  These believers who thought they had the world on a string were, in fact, carnal and controlled by the enemy.  They had missed the mark, they were fooled by the foe and living in a pseudo Christian environment.  Rather than glorifying and pleasing God, they were bringing glory to themselves and fragmenting the Body of Christ.  They appeared to be spiritual giants; however, they were actually spiritual pygmies.

     Not only does the pseudo-environment track as legalism, it also produces a lukewarm Christianity and mediocre life.  In Revelation 3 we read the words of the Lord Jesus to an ancient local church located in Asia Minor.

And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write:  The Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God, says this:  I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I would that you were cold or hot.  So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth.  Because you say, “I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing, “and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire, that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and eyesalve to anoint your eyes, that you may see.  Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; be zealous therefore, and repent.  Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him, and will dine with him, and he with Me.  He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.  He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches (Revelation 3:14 – 22).

 

     This is a startling commentary on the condition of these first century believers.  They thought themselves to be rich and without a care or need in the world; actually, God saw them quite differently.  Jesus described them as wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked—spiritual guttersnipe.  Within His description, the Lord chose some very interesting adjectives to describe these born-again believers who were living in Satan’s pseudo-setting; and they were miserable or distressed.  Paul used the same word in Romans 7:24, when he detailed his own plight:  “wretched man that I am . . .”  The word carries the idea of a man who is exhausted after a tremendous battle.  Revelation 3’s Laodicean Christians were poor, or like one who crouches and cowers, hence beggarly.

     These believers were living sinful, carnal lives and, in His assessment, the Lord leaves nothing to the imagination.  Notice too Jesus’ reference to “gold refined by fire.”  This corresponds to Paul’s message given in 1 Corinthians 11:12 and 13.  Whether it be a first century or twenty-first century believer who lives in sin, his life is out of step with the Father, and he is a miserable, disobedient, sorrow-filled child living much as he was before knowing Christ as Savior.  The only way to correct this kind of walk, so that the erring child may return to the place of blessing and joy (the bottom circle), is by dealing with the sin with confession (Figure Three).  The Apostle John wrote, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).  Agreeing with God about the sin (the literal definition of “confess”) is the only way back to a restored walk, obedience, and the joy of the Lord.  It is like telling on yourself.

     Jesus communicates to these born-again believers they are lukewarm and, like a tepid, warm beverage, He would spit, or vomit, them out.  Unlike the other six churches of Revelation 2 and 3, there is not one word of commendation for the Christians who live in Laodicea.  Most people enjoy their cold drinks ice cold and hot beverages piping hot anything less is distasteful.

     Understand Jesus does not threaten these believers with the loss of their salvation.  The truth of security in Christ is firm (top circle).  Rather, the Lord Jesus is calling His children to confession or repentance (3:18, 19).  He longs to fellowship with them—notice His word in verses 20 and 21.  Hallelujah, there is always a way home—any beverage can be made hot or cold with the proper application of heat or ice.

     Living in the pseudo-spiritual environment the adversary provides is living in sin, resulting in the consequence described by the Lord in Revelation 3:17.  Satan is deceitful and seeks to trick a believer into thinking everything is fine.  Jesus Christ was prominent among the believers of Laodicea, but He was not preeminent, as a result they were powerless and miserable.  Living in the pseudo-environment, the setting from Satan, is disobedience, which produces sorrow and an empty, shallow life.

     Do not be fooled by the enemy, rather, trust God and follow His true and genuine way.  Keep running the race with your eyes fixed on Jesus (Hebrews 12:1, 2).  He said, “’I am the way, the truth, and the life. . .’” (John 14:6). He will never lead you into an unsafe or counterfeit place.  “Loving God means doing what he tells us to do and really, that isn’t hard at all; for every child of God can obey him, defeating sin and evil pleasure by trusting Christ to help him” (1 John 5:3, 4 TLB).  Motivated by love for Christ, be obedient to the truth of His Word and know His marvelous joy.

Copyright © 2010 by J. Michael Fo
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