Friday, October 30

The Invisible Man

Is who God Created You to BE still trapped in the person you've become?


Have you ever wondered, "Why am I here?" The answer is that you have a special treasure, a gift God has given you, that no one else has. You may not be able to see it yet, but it's there inside your "invisible man".


When I was about nine years old, my friends and I enjoyed getting together to watch Shock Theater, a locally-produced weekly program that featured classic monster flicks, such as Dracula, Frankenstein, the Werewolf, and the Mummy. One Friday each month, some of us would get together at one of our houses for a sleep-over, and at the stroke of midnight -- with the curtains in the room drawn tightly together and everyone securely zipped in their sleeping bags -- it was time! The show that we had waited for all month was finally on. As a pipe organ played the creepy introduction, the camera would slowly pan over to an old coffin perched on a cloth-draped pedestal in the center of the studio. The camera man would zoom in on the coffin's lid, as the sound of its slowly opening hinges -- that were in dire need of a good oiling -- blended with the ghastly sound of the old organ music. This made for a pretty scary moment, especially when you were as young as we were.
All of a sudden, out of the coffin's slightly opened lid came the hand of the show's host, in an obvious rip-off of the classic entrance made famous in 1931 by the Dracula of all dracula's, Bela Lugosi. When the lid was completely open the camera then zoomed in on the host, as he lay there with his eyes closed. Suddenly, his eyes opened, he sat straight up in the coffin, and -- even though it was just after midnight -- with a scary voice he said, "Gooooood eeeeeevening!" Then, dressed in his black and red cape, he climbed out of the coffin, introduced the night's feature movie, and cut to a commercial. Pretty scary, huh?
It was during one of those outings that I first learned how "The Invisible Man" was a scientist who had developed a strange combination of chemicals that made him invisible shortly after drinking it. This state of being allowed him to go totally undetected, even when he was in a room filled with people. While the movie was fictional, imagine what it would be like to spend time around a real invisible man. How would you react? Needless to say, the prospect of being in the same room with someone you cannot see could be very unnerving. Especially considering there is very little difference between the concept most people have of an invisible man and a ghost!
On the other hand, imagine yourself as the Invisible Man. What do you think you would experience being invisible to others? The color of your eyes, hair, and skin would be irrelevant. It also wouldn't matter the size of your nose, neck, ears, or any other feature that we often see people obsess over or become depressed by in the physical. None of those things would matter, because no one would be able to see you for what you really are.
Now this is much more than a mental exercise. The Invisible Man is real, and in fact there are many Invisible Men. That may sound fantastic, but it is indeed true. The Apostle Paul wrote about "the inward man" (Romans 7:22, 2 Corinthians 4:16) and, similarly, the Apostle Peter wrote of "the hidden man of the heart." (1 Peter 3:4)

The Invisible Man of the Heart
What is the nature of this Invisible Man, "the hidden man of the heart"? The Scriptures define the inward man as being a spirit and a soul. These are not to be understood as interchangeable, because the Word of God divides between them, "For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart." (Hebrews 4:13)
The Word of God differentiates between the soul and the spirit. Furthermore, we must have understanding in this crucial area of the Word, because if we do not know the difference, how can we properly apply passages of Scripture that deal with the inward man? Furthermore, as we shall see, ignorance of this one fact is associated with much that is hurtful within the church. Remember, Jesus said, "And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." (John 8:32)
We will be made free (not set free, as many wrongfully suppose), when we know the Truth and continue in the Truth. For the verse quoted above is preceded by these words, "Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If you continue in my word, then are you my disciples indeed." (John 8:31) Knowing the difference between the soul and the spirit is an essential part of being made free. As an example, consider the following verse, "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new." (2 Corinthians 5:17)
The application of this verse to the Spirit of the born-again believer is different than the application to their Soul. The Spirit of that person is made a new creature at the very moment the person is born again. Therefore, the spirit of the born-again believer is instantaneously free, having been made free through the Holy Spirit of Truth. Conversely, the soul of the believer is not yet free. The liberty of Christ comes to the Soul as it is renewed in conformance to the image of Jesus Christ. This comes through continuing in His Word and abiding in Him. This is the crux of the matter facing the believer, for their spirit is a new creature, and their soul is not.
The soul is divided between the old man -- that is, the areas of the Soul that have not been made free -- and the new man -- that is, the areas of the Soul that have been made free. The new man of the Soul has the renewed Spirit of the believer and the Holy Spirit as its allies. The old man has a carnal nature, and is often referred to as the flesh. Indeed, the unregenerate Soul and the body of flesh are partners. This is not a good thing; and the Apostle Paul calls them "the body of this death".

The Body of this Death
So very much like the tales of the Wolf Man and Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde, both the old man and the new man inhabit the same body; and like those famous stories, the situation is quite far from harmonious, because these two sides, the flesh and the Spirit, are at war. "For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that you cannot do the things that you would." (Galations 5:17) "For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members." (Romans 7:22-23)
However, unlike those tales, in which the protagonists are aware of the torments of their inner struggles, many Christians are comfortable being the Wolf Man or Mr. Hyde, not recognizing the horror of their old man. But Paul saw his old nature for what it truly was, a hideous monster that had him in bondage, "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" (Romans 7:24)
The Apostle Paul cried out for deliverance from his old nature, because he knew that it was opposed to all that is godly. On this he wrote, "For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) dwells no good thing." (Romans 7:18) However, many Christians value their old nature, and justify it under the guise of self-esteem. Thus, instead of looking for deliverance from the body of this death, they seek to preserve it. In so doing they prevent themselves from seeing their old nature for what it truly is. Like Dracula, the old nature hates the light, and cannot see itself for what it is in the mirror of the Word of God. "For every one that does evil hates the light, neither comes to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that does truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God." (John 3:20-21) "For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholds himself, and goes his way, and straightway forgets what manner of man he was." (James 1:23-24)
That is the sickness of the Laodecians. They were blind; they could not see themselves in the mirror of God's Word. "I know your works, that you art neither cold nor hot: I would you wert cold or hot. So then because you art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew thee out of my mouth. Because you sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked... ." (Revelation 3:15-17)
These people are like the Pharisees, and like the Mummy -- death wrapped up and hidden from sight. "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you are like unto whited sepulchres, (tombs or graves), which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so you also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within you are full of hypocrisy and iniquity." (Matthew 23:27-28) "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you are as graves which appear not, and the men that walk over them are not aware of them." (Luke 11:44)
Even so, there are others, who hate the old nature and are ashamed of him. Yet, like the Galations, they have not learned to fight the old man with the weapons of the Spirit and instead employ the ways of the flesh. Rather than killing the old man by dying daily, they attempt to reform the old man, rearranging him and striving in the flesh to pump some life into him. These people create a Frankenstein's monster in themselves, that will destroy them if it is not killed. "Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it." (Luke 17:33)
In this verse, the word "life" translates from the Greek word "psuche", which in English is "psyche", meaning soul. Jesus said that those who seek to save their psuche, shall lose it. Hence, psychology, self-help books, transcendental meditation, and other such "means of improving our life" cannot save the soul. These are all elaborate means of wrapping the body of this death in the grave clothes of the Mummy, trying to hide the monster of Frankenstein inside.

Death to the Monster!
Jesus said that the old nature cannot be reformed. The old man must be killed through the death of the cross. "Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin. Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him: Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death has no more dominion over him. For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. Likewise reckon you also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God." (Romans 6:6-13)
Notice that Paul wrote, "... reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord." We must reckon ourselves dead unto sin through Christ, that is, we must reckon that we are no longer the old nature. For truly the old man is no longer what we are. As Paul wrote, "Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me." (Romans 7:17-20)
There is a flip side to this. We must also reckon ourselves alive unto God through Christ; that is, we must reckon ourselves to be our new nature, the new man. This must all be reckoned in faith because our true nature is still invisible to us, "For we walk by faith, not by sight." (II Corinthians 5:7) To do this, we each must, as Paul tells the Colossians, "Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory. Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry." (Colossians 3:2-5)
Though we have been made a new creature through Christ, our old nature lies to us, claiming to represent what we truly are, attempting, through lies, to steal our lives like a malicious virus. A Christian who accepts the deceit of the old nature as valid is, as Peter wrote, "... blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins." (II Peter 1:9)
Such a person has forgotten that God has saved them from the old nature, and that they have been made a new creature. They cannot see themselves for what they truly are; they are invisible to themselves. Furthermore, because they do not reckon themselves to be the new nature, they cannot reckon others in the body of Christ to be their new nature, either. They can only see themselves and others as the old, dead nature. The new man is invisible to them; they are blind to him. They are living in the deadness of their souls.

The Living Dead
What happens when churches are full of people who are blind to their true nature in Christ? Remember, the gifts and callings of God reside in the new man, not the old; since the new man is invisible to the spiritually-blinded church, then so also will God's gifts and callings be invisible. Such congregations will choose and follow blind leaders. Neither they nor their leaders will recognize the true leaders God has ordained.
Consequently, such churches will seek to exploit natural talents instead, while vainly calling them spiritual gifts. Similarly, such people also will fall into the snare of materialism. When I looked at the picture of the Invisible Man, I could not help but notice that his clothes point to the things people do in their own strength to be seen. Being empty inside, they seek to fill their lives with things and activities -- such as buying expensive clothes and cars, going into debt for new buildings and large homes, earning prestigious degrees from universities, professing to be things that they are not -- in order to get attention, and so forth. In the same manner, the Invisible Man wrapped himself in clothes so that his form would be visible, but not his true self, "Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof." (2 Timothy 3:5)
More than that, however, those who walk in the flesh will despise and persecute those who are walking in their new man. They will seek to suppress or exploit those who have true spiritual gifts, "But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now." (Galations 4:29)
However, not all persecution is overt; sometimes it takes the form of flattery. This may sound strange, but consider the following Scriptures. "And they that understand among the people shall instruct many: yet they shall fall by the sword, and by flame, by captivity, and by spoil, many days. Now when they shall fall, they shall be holpen (helped) with a little help: but many shall cleave to them with flatteries." (Daniel 11:33-34) "A man that flattereth his neighbour spreadeth a net for his feet." (Proverbs 29:5)
Flattery is an example of something that can take the form of a false show of love in an attempt to earn favor or gain approval in the eyes of men. This is a form of manipulation that is rooted in selfishness and is ultimately an attempt to achieve by the flesh what can only be attained through Jesus Christ. Flattery is the act of using praise to appeal to a person's old, fleshly nature in an attempt to persuade them to use their talents and time, in the strength of the flesh, to achieve the flatterer's selfish ambitions. The flatterer seeks to turn people from the power of God in order to devour their strength. Therefore, coveting a person's talents for one's own selfish purposes, however noble they may seem, is paramount to stealing from God. A good example of this is the famous account of Martha and Mary, in which Martha was attempting to steal Mary from Jesus, so that Mary might help serve the other guests.
When someone in the body of Christ, at any level of influence, is so shortsighted that they would steal a person's gifts in order to build their church or ministry, they have led that person out of God's will for their lives into a life of slavery to the flesh. "Ye did run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth? This persuasion cometh not of him that calleth you. A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump. I have confidence in you through the Lord, that ye will be none otherwise minded: but he that troubleth you shall bear his judgment, whosoever he be." (Galatians 5:7-10)
Like Dracula, such people are thieves, stealing life from others. The Bible has many warnings against such behavior, such as, "But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another." (Galatians 5:15) Ultimately, because such churches are working in the Flesh and not in the Spirit, both the leaders and the members will burn out, leaving trails of destruction behind them. This includes the flatterers and those exploited by them, and in large part, that is the state of the church in America today. There are a growing number of people in our churches who, because they are anointed by God, are being shunned or simply overlooked by those around them, or are being drawn away from sitting at the feet of Jesus in order to serve tables. Faithful men and women of God sit in church pews each week, with true spiritual gifts and callings that are being ignored in favor of the strength of the flesh. On top of all of this, the lack of the true power of godliness is being cloaked through the increasing use of wealth and modern technology. Nevertheless, the pomp and pageantry is no substitute for the power of the Almighty God!
The entire church ought to be working together with God to identify and develop the purpose for which God created every member of the Body of Christ. However, the church is blinded. It can see neither itself nor others as God does. "And unto the angel of the church in Sardis write; These things saith he that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars; I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead." (Revelation 3:1)

Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead!
"Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light." (Ephesians 5:14)
Believers must awake to how God sees them. That is, they must awake to the truth that they are new creatures, created in the image of God. For even as the old nature is a hideous monster, far worse than those found in the famous tales of horror, so also is the new nature a great wonder, far surpassing the power of our language to describe it.
Jesus "is the image of the invisible God" (Colossians 1:15), and we are "to be conformed to the image of his Son." (Romans 8:29) Therefore, our new natures are being made into the image of the invisible God. That is the high calling of God indeed! The full implications of it are unspeakable, yet consider the passage, "Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, and meted out heaven with the span, and comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance? Who hath directed the Spirit of the LORD, or being his counselor hath taught him? With whom took he counsel, and who instructed him, and taught him in the path of judgment, and taught him knowledge, and shewed to him the way of understanding? Behold, the nations are as a drop of a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance: behold, he taketh up the isles as a very little thing. And Lebanon is not sufficient to burn, nor the beasts thereof sufficient for a burnt offering. All nations before him are as nothing; and they are counted to him less than nothing, and vanity. To whom then will ye liken God? or what likeness will ye compare unto him?" (Isaiah 40:12-18)
There the prophet describes a little of the greatness of God, and then asks, "To whom then will ye liken God? or what likeness will ye compare unto him?" He continues with a description of those who attempt to imitate God through the flesh, "The workman melteth a graven image, and the goldsmith spreadeth it over with gold, and casteth silver chains. He that is so impoverished that he hath no oblation chooseth a tree that will not rot; he seeketh unto him a cunning workman to prepare a graven image, that shall not be moved." (Isaiah 40:19-20)
The Scriptures continue with a condemnation of the counterfeit, "Have ye not known? have ye not heard? hath it not been told you from the beginning? have ye not understood from the foundations of the earth? It is he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers; that stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in: That bringeth the princes to nothing; he maketh the judges of the earth as vanity. Yea, they shall not be planted; yea, they shall not be sown: yea, their stock shall not take root in the earth: and he shall also blow upon them, and they shall wither, and the whirlwind shall take them away as stubble. To whom then will ye liken me, or shall I be equal? saith the Holy One. Lift up your eyes on high, and behold who hath created these things, that bringeth out their host by number: he calleth them all by names by the greatness of his might, for that he is strong in power; not one faileth." (Isaiah 40:21-26)
Over and over again, God asks, "To whom will ye liken me, and make me equal, and compare me, that we may be like? They lavish gold out of the bag, and weigh silver in the balance, and hire a goldsmith; and he maketh it a god: they fall down, yea, they worship. They bear him upon the shoulder, they carry him, and set him in his place, and he standeth; from his place shall he not remove: yea, one shall cry unto him, yet can he not answer, nor save him out of his trouble. Remember this, and shew yourselves men: bring it again to mind, O ye transgressors. Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me." (Isaiah 46:5-9)
God is Everything The Scriptures say He is... and there is none like Him. No one has the power to duplicate him; but He has the power to make us into His image, and He will do it. "Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is." (1 John 3:2)
Consider the immensity of that truth. For example, when God spoke to Job out of the whirlwind, He described many things about Himself, such as is in Job 40:6-14, "Then answered the LORD unto Job out of the whirlwind, and said, Gird up thy loins now like a man: I will demand of thee, and declare thou unto me. Wilt thou also disannul my judgment? wilt thou condemn me, that thou mayest be righteous? Hast thou an arm like God? or canst thou thunder with a voice like him? Deck thyself now with majesty and excellency; and array thyself with glory and beauty. Cast abroad the rage of thy wrath: and behold every one that is proud, and abase him. Look on every one that is proud, and bring him low; and tread down the wicked in their place. Hide them in the dust together; and bind their faces in secret. Then will I also confess unto thee that thine own right hand can save thee."
The Truth is that none of us can save ourselves. Our possessions cannot save us, and neither can we remake ourselves into the image of God. Nevertheless, there is hope. Jesus said, "The things which are impossible with men are possible with God." (Luke 18:27) This does not mean that God intends to preserve our old nature. Many believers weary themselves with vain prayers seeking for the reforming of their Souls, not knowing that God wants their old nature to die, so that He can remake them like Himself.

For God IS Love
So what are believers going to be like when God completes His work of righteousness? Every description of God in His Word reveals something about what God is fashioning every believer to be. Yet all of this may sound contradictory considering if "there is none like Him", how can we be made like God? Consider the contrast between the two passages, "I am the LORD: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images" (Isaiah 42:8) and "the glory which thou gavest me I have given them... ." (John 16:22)
In the first passage, God declares that He will not give His glory to another, while in the second, Jesus declares that He has given the Father's glory to us. How can that be? The answer is to be found in His next words, "...that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me." (John 16:22-23)
God in His love has given us His glory through Jesus, that we might be one with Him. He will not give His glory to another; but we are not another, for we are made to be one with him, even as the Trinity is One. Therein is the unspeakable gift of God, "Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift." (II Corinthians 9:15)
Prior to His arrest on the night before He was crucified, Jesus prayed for us, "And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent." (John 17:3) Knowing God and Jesus Christ is Life Eternal, for we shall know the Truth, and the Truth shall make us Free. True freedom is only found through being remade into the image of the invisible God.
Now we know that "God is love" (1 John 4:8) and Jesus "is the image of the invisible God." (Colossians 1:15) Therefore, Jesus is the image of the love of God. Since God predestinated us "to be conformed to the image of his Son" (Romans 8:29), the conclusion is that we are to be conformed to the image of the love of God. This is where so many believers miss the point. Being comes before doing. So many people miss the mark entirely by getting it backwards. They think that being a Christian comes from doing Christian deeds. The truth is exactly the opposite. We can only perform Christ-like deeds by first becoming like Christ. We cannot love, until we are in Love, which is to be in God, because He is Love. Thus, before we can truly love others with the love of God, we must be transformed into His Image, including being conformed by His Love into His Love.
On this very subject of being conformed to the image of God's love, the Apostle Paul wrote the following in which the word "charity" means love, "Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I gave my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing." (1 Corinthians 13:1-3) Can it get much clearer than that? Without the love of God, we are nothing!
God's motives are always based in His all-consuming love for His people. Even when He chastises them, rest assured, His reason for doing so is firmly based in love. After all, He is Love.
In order to love people the way God does, we must know Him personally. When we know Him, we learn to become like Him. We then become able to see ourselves and others through His eyes. Being able to help others develop in their walk with God and fulfilling God's will and calling for their lives is one of the highest callings! It is also the Royal Commandment, "the Law of Love." Jesus said, "This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:12-13)
I cannot stress the point enough that we are all called to assist one another in reaching our full potential in God, actively loving people in the same way He loves us. This includes going out of our way to help others find God's way for their lives. Sadly there are more people in the church today who have no idea why God created them than there are people who do. When I hear people ask, "Why am I here?" my answer is that each one of us has a special treasure, a gift of God, that no one else has, and your gift, working in harmony with that of each and every one of us around you, is irreplaceable and necessary for God's will to be fulfilled in this life on earth. Even if you are not able to see what your gift is, you can be sure it's there - in your "invisible man".
Keep PRESSIN' IN!
    

Keith's "Comments from the Author":

"When I was a young believer, I remember hearing someone at our church make the statement, 'Sitting in a pew makes you a Christian as much as standing in a garage makes you a car.' When it comes to identifying ourselves as Christians, I often say that we are identifying ourselves by a verb, not a noun. What I mean by that is Being conformed into the image of Christ is a process that takes place over time. The one who is seeking to be conformed into the image of Christ must daily apply himself to being transformed. Though going to the alter at church to ask Christ to come into your heart gets your name in The Book of Life, becoming Christ-like in nature is a journey that, at that point, is just beginning. I have found that my being successfully transformed takes one key ingredient. That is 'having the WANT to' to change, having the WANT to be just like Christ."

"Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light." (Ephesians 5:14)



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Wednesday, October 21

The Abomination of Misrepresentation

You don't need a gun or a knife to commit murder!


  Have you ever been falsely accused? Have you ever been blamed for saying something that you never said or for doing something that you never did? Have you ever had something that you said or did so distorted that it literally had nothing in common with what you originally said or did? If so, then you can surely empathize with those who have experienced the terrible feelings that come with being falsely represented in the eyes of others.

            When I played football in college, after the final game of our season in which we won the National Championship, someone on my own college football team falsely accused me of stealing my home jersey. It was the most horrible feeling I had ever had in my life. Why? Even though I wore the jersey to play the game, it was not mine to keep. Like the helmets and shoulder pads we were issued, the jersey was the property of the college's Athletic Department. Therefore the theft of the jersey was an offense committed against the school. Far worse than that, however, was the deliberate attempt to kill, steal, and destroy the good reputation that I had worked so hard for years to achieve.

            Curiously enough, this took place just after my precious grandmother sent me my first Bible and shared with me a dream she had of my preaching God's Word to large crowds. I later realized that this incident was perhaps my first substantial spiritual attack; an unclean spirit of false accusation had come to steal the Word of God that my grandmother had spoken over my life. Here is how it happened.

            On the day after our final game of the year, everyone on the team reported to the training facility on campus to clean out our lockers and turn in all of our gear. Three days later, much to my surprise, I was called into the coach's office and told that a member of the team had reported seeing me steal my home jersey. I felt as if someone had kicked me right in the stomach. I explained to the coaching staff that I had turned in my jersey, along with the rest of my equipment, to the team trainers. After about an hour the coaching staff let me go. I will never forget the heaviness and frustration that consumed me for weeks afterward! I knew I was innocent, but I could see that the coaching staff was not so convinced, or at least I felt that way. All I could think of was how everything that I had done to win the respect of my coaches had all been destroyed with one lie.

            I remember going around to certain members of the team asking them if they had heard of anyone finding the jersey. After a few days I was approached by our defensive team captain, who informed me that he had heard who had my jersey, and that the thief had taken it because he was angry at me about something. The plot thickens!
          During that school year I had spent some time with a young lady, and I soon learned that one of the team trainers had a crush on her. That was where the problem became difficult! Why? The team trainers were off limits to the players; much like diplomats from foreign countries, they had complete immunity from us. We could not touch them physically or accuse them before anyone; to do so meant immediate dismissal from the team. As my mom would have said, "He had me over a barrel and he knew it!"

            I would like to tell you that the matter was resolved, but it never was. The fellow that had stolen the jersey never came forward, and there was no way that I was going to file a complaint- which I later discovered was exactly what he wanted me to do. I simply had to wash my hands of it and go my own way, no matter how much I was tempted to do otherwise. Do you see how much damage one false accusation can cause? In my case, it almost cost me both my hard-earned reputation as a football player and my place on the team I had loved and worked so tremendously hard to be a part of.

            However, you might enjoy knowing that about five years later, a band that I was touring with performed about fifty miles from my old school. One morning while we were in town I drove out to the campus just to walk around the stadium and visit the awards room. Before I left I thought that, by some long shot, head coach Norton might be home, and I drove up to his house and knocked on the door. Much to my surprise, Coach Norton answered. When he saw me, he smiled and invited me in, and we must have talked for an hour about all of the things that happened the year we won our division's national college championship. It was a season that none of us will ever forget! Just before I got up to leave, I asked, "Coach, you do know that I did not take my jersey, don't you?" He replied, "Shealy, I knew your heart, Son- I knew you could have never taken anything. Besides, you earned something that no amount of money in the world could have bought. You walked away from here a champion; you walked away with a ring!"

            As I stood up and made my way to the door, Coach Norton reached up, gave me a big hug, and said, "You know you still have a few years of eligibility left?!" At that, I smiled real big, hugged his tree stump of a neck again, got back in my car, and drove off. The ride back that day was perhaps the lightest that I had felt in years. I had finally been released from the weighty chains of having been misrepresented and falsely accused in the eyes of the one person that I had loved and respected the most at that time in my life.

            Why do we feel so badly when we have been falsely accused or misrepresented? The answer is to be found in this verse from Proverbs, "A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favor rather than silver and gold." (Proverbs 22:1) A good name, a good reputation are worth more than great riches! Of all the things a person can possess, one of the most precious is a good name and reputation.

            Now, we are told that Satan comes to kill, steal, and destroy, and the good reputation is one of his favorite targets. When it comes to attacking a person's good name, the tongues of people are quite useful to him. "And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defiles the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell. For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind: But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison." (James 3:6-8)

            Consider this example from the life of the prophet Jeremiah. His words of warning to God's people stirred them up, but not to repentance. Instead, they attacked the prophet for bringing God's Word to them. "Then said they, Come, and let us devise devices against Jeremiah. Come, and let us smite him with the tongue." (Jeremiah 18:18) Upon hearing this, Jeremiah made this supplication to the Lord.

            "Give heed to me, O LORD, and hearken to the voice of them that contend with me. Shall evil be recompensed for good? for they have dug a pit for my soul." (Jeremiah 18:19-20) What was the evil these people had devised against God's prophet? What was the pit they dug for his soul? Words! They said, "let us smite him with the tongue." They called him a liar! "Let us not give heed to any of his words." (Jeremiah 18:18) The witness of the people against the prophet was false. They were engaging in slander. Now, you may still be wondering why this is a big deal. Do you remember that bearing false witness against a person is forbidden in the Ten Commandments? "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor." (Exodus 20:16)

            In addition to being one of "The Big Ten", bearing false witness is one of the Seven Abominations. "These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, A heart that devises wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren." Proverbs 6:16-19

            God hates all sin, but these seven are especially abominable to Him: a proud look, a lying tongue, murder of the innocent, a heart that imagines wickedness, feet that quickly get into mischief, a false witness, and those who sow discord within families (including God's family). Observe how prominent the tongue is in the Seven Abominations. Notice also that God looks at a lying tongue the same way He does murder.

            Slander, libel, and gossip (even in the disguise of "prayer requests") are tantamount to murder. This is why it is also called character assassination, because the unjust destruction of a person's good name is akin to murder.

            Think about it for a moment: false accusation strips its victims of all credibility. In many cases, it destroys a person's ability to benefit society altogether, fulfilling satan's agenda of hindering the fulfillment of God's will for every individual. Lies and misrepresentation brand the accused as unclean, whether they are guilty of the offense or not, making it all but impossible for anyone to receive the words of the accused as credible. Once the accusation has been made, taking it back is all but impossible, much like trying to return an omelet back to eggs. How many times have journalists of liberal-leaning television news stations repeated baseless, empty charges against someone who had a stellar, lifelong reputation in service to our country? Or, what about the heartbreaking stories of innocent people who sat in prisons for years because they had been falsely accused of crimes they did not commit? Misrepresentation has caused many lives to be destroyed; that's a fact!

            False accusations are satan's devices, and people who engage in such practices are his accomplices. Satan especially delights in using false accusation and deception, in an attempt to destroy God and His people in the eyes of those who do not know God. It is incredible that some of his greatest allies in that endeavor are people who sit in pews or stand in pulpits on Sunday mornings. The following words from the book of Revelation describe what has happened.

            "And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God; I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew thee out of my mouth. Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked." (Revelation 3:14-17)

            What had the church of Laodicea done? They claimed to represent God's ways when they did not. They were bearing false witness against God. The Lord, describing Himself as "the faithful and true witness," said that that made Him want to vomit! The words He used, "spew thee out of my mouth", signify Him throwing up. The Lord would rather that they had been cold - that is, wicked with no pretense of righteousness - or hot - that is, truly righteous. But the church of Laodicea was lukewarm, while claiming to be hot. They were therefore assassinating the character of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is no wonder, then, that the Lord said He would vomit them out of His mouth!

            That is the condition of the church in America today. The church has given the enemies of the Lord great occasion to mock God and to speak evil of the way of Truth. This includes all of the well-meaning, sincere people who go about doing damage to the cause of Christ through being busy working for God rather than working with God, all the while believing they are serving their Creator. This is no isolated problem, either. Many ill-prepared church folks distort what God wants to do in the lives of mankind.

            Those who claim to be Christian, but do not walk according to their new nature in Christ, are lying about God and effectively claiming that God is a liar, for not only are they misrepresenting Him, they are not trusting Him. Furthermore, those who bear false witness against God and do not trust Him are walking in hatred of Him. ""A lying tongue hateth those that are afflicted by it; and a flattering mouth worketh ruin." (Proverbs 26:28)

            The lukewarm Christian flatters God; they know all the right words to say, but they do not really believe it. As Jesus said, "This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men." (Matthew 15:8-9)

            Unless we are walking in the Truth, all of our works, including worship, are worthless. For instance, how much can be taught by a pastor who does not know God and His Word? Not much! Why doesn't he know much? He was taught by others that did not know much, who in turn were taught by others that did not know much either, and the cycle goes on. "And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch." (Matthew 15:14) [By the way, do you know what they call a medical student that graduates at the bottom their class? Doctor! Selah.]

            How could such a decline take place in the church? It happens much like this. When I was in the fourth grade, our teacher had the entire class stand shoulder to shoulder around the classroom, facing inward toward the center of what had become a large circle. She then asked us to join hands. Once we had done so, she stepped in as part of the circle, took the hands of the students to the right and left of her, and asked us to be very still. She then said that she was going to show us how someone can say something that can be taken totally out of context. She told us that she was going to whisper something in the ear of the student that was holding her left hand, and that she wanted them to repeat exactly what they had been told to the person next to them, and so on, until the last person repeated what they had heard back to the teacher. Once the message had traveled around the entire circle, and had come back to the teacher, she asked us all to return to our desks. Once we were seated, our teacher went to the chalk board and wrote what her original message had been, and also what the message the last student was that had been relayed to her. The difference, as we compared the two messages, was astonishing! The two had nothing in common.

            Similarly, when people's opinions of God's Word are taught and repeated in Christian circles instead of, as the Scriptures say, as "the very words that proceeded from the mouth of God", great misrepresentation of our heavenly Father will be the result. Hence, we see the lukewarm condition that most of the church body finds itself in today. Many years ago, Thomas Jefferson said, "Had the doctrines of Jesus been preached always as pure as they came from His lips, the whole civilized world would now have been Christians."

            Billy Graham, another great American, once told a story that also makes this point. On one occasion, after Billy had finished preaching a fiery message, a rather irritated older man walked up to him and said harshly, "Mr. Graham, I am very disappointed in you, Sir!" Billy replied, "Why?" The man said, "Are you aware that your message tonight has set the church back fifty years?" At that, Billy replied, "I'm terribly disappointed. I hoped to see it set back two thousand."

            You see, what both Thomas Jefferson and Billy Graham were describing are perfect examples of the abomination of misrepresenting God. Both men could see that what passes for Christianity bears little to no resemblance to the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. Much like diluting paint to the point that it has become useless, both God and His Word are so misrepresented by so many that the Gospel is discredited in the eyes of masses of uneducated people. We ignore this situation to our own destruction, because the Scripture contains the following warning.

            "There shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of." (2 Peter 2:1-2)

            So, what do we, as individual Christians, do to not misrepresent God in today's society? I once heard a man of God say, "The best thing that we can do for the poor is to not be one of them." as the Scripture says, "Come out from among them and be ye separate, saith the Lord." (2 Corinthians 6:17) The Scripture also says, "Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light. See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil." (Ephesians 5:14-16)

            In the Scripture verse from 2 Timothy 2:19, "Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity", the phrase "depart from iniquity" mean stop sinning! This includes sinning through ignorance. The word "depart" is used in that phrase to also mean we leave sin behind. We are not to linger in it, or be slack. We must not hide behind the false righteousness of saying, "Well, I'm not as bad as others."

            Consider the fly in the ointment, as in Ecclesiastes 10:1, "Dead flies cause the ointment of the apothecary to send forth a stinking savor: so doth a little folly him that is in reputation for wisdom and honor." What does this verse mean? Well, today we use the word "pharmacist" instead of "apothecary." If we go to the pharmacist to fill a prescription and take it home only to open the package and find a dead fly floating in the bottle, would we still take the medicine? No! The dead fly ruins the entire contents of the bottle. Similarly, "the fly in the ointment" of our testimony represents that one sin -- it could be a habit or a single act -- that will cause us to appear as false witnesses for Christ. In other words, that one sin that we have committed will be what satan uses to hold up in front of others, to try to discredit us, and all of the good work we have been known to have done in the past.

            To illustrate how a little folly does damage to him that is in reputation for wisdom and honor, imagine taking a gallon of pristine, fresh, mountain spring water and putting one single drop of raw sewage into it. What will you end up with? A gallon of sewage. Therefore, the best advice is to, "Abstain from all appearance of evil." (1 Thessalonians 5:22)

            We who name the name of Christ are His ambassadors, and we must be ever mindful of the reality that we carry His reputation with us wherever we go. Spiritual slothfulness in our walk with God will be a stain that cannot be hidden, and we will be perceived as false witnesses for our Lord and Savior. This is the abomination of misrepresentation!

            The answer is to awake from our spiritual sleep, put off the old man, and put on the new man in Christ, created unto good works by God the Father. This means that we must die to our old flesh nature, with all of its selfish cravings. Only then can we truly understand that a false witness, toward God or anyone else, is like a murderer and we should never so much as mention a false word against anyone among us.

            God desires that each of us abide in Him, that we love Him with all of our hearts, and love our neighbors as ourselves. All of this, of course, is humanly impossible! But with God all things are possible. If we will but humble ourselves under the mighty and sovereign Word of God, then He will lift us up.

            It's a fact... as we walk with God, we will become more like Christ Jesus, and the faithful witnesses of God. And our lives will become living proof of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the Gospel that Jesus Christ preached.

            It is our prayer that, as the LORD looks on your life, He will find you... "rightly accused of rightly representing Him!"

Keep PRESSIN' IN!


      


Keith's "Comments from the Author":


"In our note for Wisdom Wednesday, we are speaking about being an effective representative for Christ Jesus to our coworkers and others in the workplace. Over my many years in business, The Person of The Holy Spirit has taught me countless lessons on how to not just succeed, but how to excel as a Christian in a secular work environment. With demonic spirits of 'entitlement' permeating society today, business owners and managers are finding it tremendously difficult to 'weed through the masses' and locate, hire and invest in training employees who will give them, as my grandfather used to say, 'an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay'. Having managed several companies over the years, I have decided to pass along to you, from 'the boss's perspective', some simple, yet tremendously effective ways that you can increase your chances of holding on to your present job during these tough times, and to also greatly increase your potential for advancement. We will continue, in the next several weeks, to lay out several things for you to consider for working into your daily routine. Our Wisdom Wednesday graphic this week (below) is the third principle of ten."



"Ye are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men. ( 2 Corinthians 3:2)




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