Calvary Road Baptist Church

“PSYCHOLOGICAL WARFARE” 

A bit more than a week ago my mind was flooded with a torrent of thoughts late one night that was provoked by an unsubstantiated accusation made by someone against God’s people. The accusation unlocked a vault in the deep recesses of my mind, retrieving long forgotten memories stretching back more than fifty years. It also related to a classic book I was reading written in 1948 and revised in 1954 titled Psychological Warfare: Expanded Edition, in which was expertly described the enemy’s efforts to dismay and discourage the other side during a time of war or conflict.[1]

I mention but a few of my experiences. There was the sermon I heard as a teen delivered by a pastor known to me to be involved in an adulterous affair. There was the part ownership of a Stinson 108 airplane that was stolen from me shortly after my conversion to Christ, the thieves being professing Christians and colleagues at Hughes Aircraft Company. There was the public insinuation that I was a tool of the Devil when, as a new Christian attending a lunchtime Bible study at work, I asked a question to clarify a point the teacher had made. There was the pastor who baptized me screaming false accusations against me in the parking lot of our Church one Sunday evening, in front of my new bride and a whole slew of Church members, rather than talking to me privately about the issues that troubled him. Then there was that same pastor claiming to forgive me without really forgiving me and holding a grudge against me for years.

I should probably also relate to you the betrayal I experienced at the hand of another former pastor and three officials of the school I graduated from who wrongly accepted as true a false accusation leveled against me by a disgruntled Church member, their response being used as the basis for a Church split and years of suffering that followed at my first pastorate. But the memories that recently flooded my mind were not confined to those personal offenses and slights orchestrated by the enemy. There were also the mistreatments of my wife over the years by Church members. There were the mistreatments over the years of my daughter by Church members and their uncorrected children with their parent’s awareness. There were the mistreatments of my unsaved mother by Church members, that partly explained her decision to move to Lancaster before she died. There were the mistreatments of my unsaved brother by Church members while he was living here. There was the haughty arrogance displayed toward my unsaved father by a Gospel minister I introduced him to on one occasion. Imagine a man who counts as friends Federal Reserve board members, federal judges, U. S. Congressmen and Senators, and White House cabinet secretaries, being told when he asked my pastor friend’s name that my dad should address him as “Doctor.” Really? My father was astonished, to say the least.

I recall these things for you so you will understand that I fully comprehend what it is like to be personally insulted and berated, and also to observe loved ones and family members mistreated by Church members and Christians who ought to have known better. And in addition to those things I have personally witnessed there are so much more accusations that have been made to me that I did not personally witness and therefore have no business accepting as true reports of actual events. What has happened to you several times has happened to me, my wife, and my daughter hundreds of times. And the bad reports told you have been told to me many times over. It is a pastor’s lot in life. I bring this message to you so that, as Paul wrote in Second Corinthians 2.11, you too might persevere in the face of spiritual conflict: 

“Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices.” 

The memories that flooded back into my mind, keeping me awake until about 4:00 in the morning, are not memories that fill me with bitterness or resentment. Quite the contrary, I assure you. I do not dwell on such memories. I am wonderfully blessed of God and live a truly contented life, filled with joy and gratitude. So that you will be filled with gratitude and exhibit joy, and so you will not be enslaved to resentment and bitterness, I want to read a number of passages to you by way of introduction before I bring a sermon dealing with the problem most of us are faced with of unsaved loved ones being offended by Church members. There is more taking place than you might imagine.

You might want to follow along as I read some verses from Proverbs so that we might gain a bit of wisdom: 

Proverbs 3.5-6:

5  Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.

6  In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. 

Proverbs 14.7, 12:

7  Go from the presence of a foolish man, when thou perceivest not in him the lips of knowledge. 

12  There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death. 

Proverbs 18.5, 8:

5  It is not good to accept the person of the wicked, to overthrow the righteous in judgment.

8 The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly. 

Proverbs 19.5, 9:

5  A false witness shall not be unpunished, and he that speaketh lies shall not escape. 

9  A false witness shall not be unpunished, and he that speaketh lies shall not escape. 

Proverbs 20.6:

“Most men will proclaim every one his own goodness: but a faithful man who can find?” 

Proverbs 21.30: 

There is no wisdom nor understanding nor counsel against the LORD.” 

Proverbs 25.18, 19:

18  A man that beareth false witness against his neighbour is a maul, and a sword, and a sharp arrow.

19  Confidence in an unfaithful man in time of trouble is like a broken tooth, and a foot out of joint. 

Proverbs 26.17, 20, 28:

17  He that passeth by, and meddleth with strife belonging not to him, is like one that taketh a dog by the ears. 

20  Where no wood is, there the fire goeth out: so where there is no talebearer, the strife ceaseth. 

28  A lying tongue hateth those that are afflicted by it; and a flattering mouth worketh ruin. 

Proverbs 28.25: 

“He that is of a proud heart stirreth up strife: but he that putteth his trust in the LORD shall be made fat.” 

There is a contrast made in God’s Word between the child of God and the unsaved Christ rejecter, who is categorized in Scripture as foolish, as wicked, and as a deceitful liar and talebearer. Though a lost person may occupy the same geography you and I live in, such a person exists in a different realm than you, and I inhabit. Along this line of thinking consider Romans 3.4, where the Apostle Paul writes, “let God be true, but every man a liar,” and the Apostle John. In First John 2.22 the Apostle John writes, 

“Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son.” 

So, unsaved people are recognized not only as citizens living in a different realm but also as liars in God’s infallible Word. Then, in Revelation 21.8, the apostle records “a great voice out of heaven saying,” 

“But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.” 

What do these passages from God’s Word establish to those of us who embrace the Word of God as our only rule of faith and practice, to we who are blood bought and blood washed children of God? At the very least, they establish that the unconverted, the Christ rejecter, the unregenerate, the person who is so spiritually blind as to discount and dismiss as true the claims of Christ, must be recognized as a troublesome witness of fact. Add to that spiritual reality the Bible principle that nothing is established apart from the testimony of two or three credible witnesses (those passages available to anyone who reads this sermon when it is posted online), and anyone with intellectual honesty will admit that no unsubstantiated accusation leveled against another person should be treated as true and that most accusations should be utterly dismissed as not being credible without corroboration.[2]

I have been a believer in Jesus Christ for forty-three years. I have probably seen it all, heard it all, read it all, and perhaps even experienced almost all of it. How, then, are these issues to be dealt with? How have I survived this onslaught? What is the proper response in the face of an accusation made by someone you love and desperately want to see converted to Jesus Christ, who claims some Christian known to you, perhaps a member of your Church, a professing Christian who admittedly displays less than sterling character at times, has mistreated or in some way wronged your loved one, and for that reason he or she vows never to darken the door of the Church again.

To be sure, you have liberty in Christ to do what you think is God’s will for your life, as you are enlightened by the truth of God’s Word and led by the indwelling Spirit of God. Before you do anything, however, may I recommend three considerations?

 

First, CONSIDER THAT THE ACCUSATION MADE IS TRUE AND THE WRONG THING PURPORTEDLY DONE TO THE UNSAVED PERSON CHERISHED BY YOU ACTUALLY HAPPENED AS THAT PERSON SAID IT HAPPENED 

No one would claim a professing Christian is not capable of committing a sin, of doing harm to another person, or of somehow compromising his Christian testimony. Therefore, in light of the possibilities, ask several questions, at least, of yourself, if not of not the person making the accusation:

First, was there actual harm done? Sometimes the aggrieved party becomes outraged, not because anything approaching harm was done, but because someone dared to say or do something he or she did not like, did not approve of, or found troublesome. We, admittedly, live in a very touchy culture that is quick to take offense. To us, however, the Word of God declares, 

“Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them.”[3] 

I have gotten into trouble on some occasions for not believing what was said to me by liars. Let me ask you, have I harmed a liar by not believing what the liar told me? I may have infuriated, offended, or outraged a liar by not believing what the liar said, but have I in any way caused harm to a liar by not believing what the liar said to me without corroboration? I don’t think so. Try to determine if actual harm was done.

Next, was the offensive deed accidental or intentional? This is an important consideration. James 3.2 reminds us that not one of us passes through life without offending people from time to time, and rare is the individual who does not say something sometime that others might find offensive: 

“For in many things we offend all. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body.” 

Another important consideration is the intent. Recognizing that people are very prone to mistake the motives of others, is it possible to detect if the offense was accidental or intentional? Good grief. How many times do family members intentionally say or do grievous things without people vowing never to see or speak to them again? Accidental or intentional is important.

Third, was the offense witnessed by anyone? Did anyone else see what happened? I have identified twenty-six times in the Old and New Testaments in which mention is made about verifying by the testimony of two or three witnesses the truthfulness of an event that is said to have occurred. You will find the passages footnoted in this sermon when it is posted online later today.1 The point being, how dare you or I, or anyone else, take as true a damaging accusation leveled against an individual without corroboration? Especially if God, Himself, insists on corroborating what He declares to be true before expecting us to believe Him. As the great theologian, Ronald Reagan once said: “Trust, but verify.”

Fourth, is there a willingness to resolve the matter or does there seem to be an apparent desire to hold a grudge? I am not suggesting, to this point, that the offending statement or deed did not occur. I am simply pointing out that reasonable people conduct themselves in reasonable ways, and no one has a right to demand that either you or I act unreasonably. If the offense took place, but no one other than your loved one witnessed it, would your loved one be willing to accompany you to the offending person to resolve the matter? That should tell you a great deal. As well, if the offense was accidental or intentional. Does the offending person even know your loved one was offended by what was said or done? Wisdom is required when dealing with these kinds of things, especially if the offense took place and you are persuaded there is an issue to address. Since Second Corinthians 5.18 declares that God has given to us a ministry of reconciliation, I would encourage you to proceed in your dealings with this situation more as a great opportunity given by God than as a tragedy produced by the devil or an evil Church member. 

Or, CONSIDER THAT THE ACCUSATION MADE IS NOT TRUE AND A PURPORTED WRONG THING WAS NOT DONE TO THE UNSAVED PERSON CHERISHED BY YOU AS THAT INDIVIDUAL SAID IT HAPPENED 

Your difficulties now being much more complicated, I would suggest the following questions be pondered before you say or do anything you may regret later:

First, was the false accusation the result of a mistake? Did your loved one leap to a wrong conclusion about something that was said or done? Remember, we live in a culture that is increasingly hypersensitive to perceived slights and offenses. Maybe your loved one has a guilty conscience, Proverbs 28.1, and is reacting more to the provocation of a guilty conscience than anything said or done. It happens. Therefore, if, while assuming the offense the Church member is accused of committing proved when investigated not to have occurred, consider the real possibility that your loved one mistakenly made a false accusation. Such a thing is serious, but if only you were told of the accusation, it could be safely put to rest with no further action required. However, if you are the second or third person told of the wrong that did not take place, of course, you have a responsibility to the accused Church member to protect his or her reputation. You need to do what you can to encourage the accuser to seek forgiveness for maligning the reputation of a Christian who, in this instance, did no wrong.

On the other hand, perhaps you have concluded the false accusation was intentional, the result of a deliberate lie. I have loved ones who have not always told the truth. Here is where moral courage comes into play, and you discover whether you have moral courage or not. Say you discover another person was witness to what happened and your loved one’s accusation is an obvious and intentional distortion of reality. Perhaps it is even a complete fabrication. It is now on you, isn’t it? Whose side will you come down on? Will you stand with the falsely accused child of God? Or is family or friendship more important to you than the family of God? I know of several pastors who have sided with their own lying children against Church members who had done nothing wrong. Whoever sides with blood family in the wrong against family of God people unjustly accused is most assuredly on the wrong side of the situation.

I conclude this portion of my message by asking you to reflect on the question of whether there is evidence of an agenda in play. Let us understand that there are forces at work in the affairs of men that go beyond mortal men. Paul writes to Timothy about seducing spirits influencing individuals and provoking them to wrongdoing using the doctrines of devils.[4] In John 8.44 the Lord Jesus Christ told unsaved men that their spiritual father, the Devil, is a liar, and the father of lies. That is the reality we must face concerning every unsaved person we have ever known. Unsaved people are not spiritually neutral individuals. Neither are they driven by morally pure considerations. Lost people are spiritually blind, with consciences that are often seared, people who are adrift in a sea of moral confusion and perplexity that leaves them uncertain about what is right and what is wrong, not to mention what is good for them. To borrow imagery from Paul’s letter to the Colossians, every person you know who is not a Christian abides in the “power of darkness,” while we who know Christ have been “translated into the kingdom of his dear Son.”[5] The degree to which our loved ones pursue an inappropriate agenda while advancing a story line about being wronged by a Church member should always be factored into our thinking. 

Finally, THE CHRISTIAN’S WISE RESPONSE 

Understand, God wants you to exercise wisdom. Wisdom is so important because the Spirit of God leads His people, not normally by nudging you or suggesting to you what He wants you to do. Rather, He imparts wisdom in answer to prayer, by the accumulation of lessons learned through experience, and by the instruction of God’s Word and its application to daily life. That means you have a serious burden of individual personal responsibility concerning your reaction when a loved one comes to you and accuses a Church member of wrongdoing, or when you observe a Church member engage in wrongdoing against a loved one, or against you. Wisdom dictates what you should then do to address the problem before you.

My recommendations are not that you should do this or do that. Rather, my recommendations are that your responses would include several ingredients:

First, let me urge upon you the planning of a spiritual, God-honoring response to implement. God is sovereign. Nothing occurs by accident. Therefore, God can be glorified in any situation that you come to be involved in. Your determination should be to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. That is what the Lord Jesus Christ taught in Matthew 6.33 as the driving principle in every Christian’s life, so it is what I commend to you as your course of action.

Second, recognize that, in this spiritual warfare that is the Christian’s life, you may lose a skirmish here and there, but your goal should always and ever be God’s glory and your loved one’s conversion, in that order. Paul described the Christian’s life regarding a spiritual warfare in Second Corinthians 10.4-6, emphasizing in the process of it all our obedience to Christ. You may find yourself cornered by a clever, loved one who challenges you to display your loyalties. In such cases your loyalty to Christ is paramount. Might such a demonstration of loyalty provoke outrage and anger? It may very well result in outrage and anger, that you would choose a Church member over a family member. However, remember that believers are urged in God’s Word to prefer one another, to love one another, to receive one another, to bear one another’s burdens, to forbear one another, to forgive one another, to comfort one another, to edify one another, to exhort one another, and to consider one another.[6] Those with whom we will spend eternity are very, very important. That is not to say we must side with a Christian who has done wrong. Not at all, because, when appropriate, we are called upon also to admonish believers who have done wrong, while loving and forgiving them.[7] The goal is to lovingly and firmly address wrongdoing to bring about reconciliation and restoration. If the unsaved loved one is willing, then that is great and the result may eventually be conversion. But even if your unsaved loved one decides he or she will never come to Church again, you will have engaged the situation properly and maintained your testimony, while also doing your part with the Church member’s testimony. However things started or ended up.

Third, be mindful of what lies behind the entire conflict. You don’t know what is in play here and neither do I. That said, I know what could be in play. It could be that someone is the pawn being manipulated in a spiritual conflict. Just make sure you are not the pawn by your determination to glorify God and do His blessed will. That way, if it is a ploy to evaluate your loyalty to Christ, a game to detect your commitment to remain principled under stress, a gamble to ascertain the depth of your convictions when tempted to waver, or a ruthless calculation of your steadfastness to Christ in the face of manipulation, you be the one who makes sure you are not being played by either party. It is not always unsaved loved ones who are in the wrong. When this begins to unfold you have no idea who is doing right and who is doing wrong. All that you know is that God is true, God’s Word is true, and your best course of action is to proceed in a manner that pleases God. 

Beloved, I want you to know that I care. I care very deeply. Additionally, I am aware of what is happening. If I wasn’t aware of what is going on I assure you that I would likely have quit this ministry stuff a long time ago to live a life with far less pressure, making a lot more money, and driving a much nicer car. But I am a God-called preacher of the Gospel whose great privilege is to shepherd this flock of wonderful Christians. Therefore, because of our convictions and the conduct of our ministry, we will face serious opposition. Some of that opposition will come from our unsaved loved ones and some of that opposition will be directed toward our unsaved loved ones, but it originates with our enemies the Devil and his demons. Whatever the threat, I can tell you what the intent of the assaults against you and others in this Church are intended to accomplish. The purpose of the assaults against you, against other Church members, and even against your unsaved loved ones, is for the sole purpose of dislocating you from this flock, separating you from the other sheep, where wolves will do their best to slaughter you.

Don’t let that happen. For God’s sake, don’t let that happen. For Christ’s sake, don’t let that happen. For your sake and your family’s sake, don’t let that happen. As Hebrews 10.25 warns, 

“Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.” 

When addressing a potentially divisive issue with the Philippian congregation, the Apostle Paul appealed to those Church members for unity. The basis for Paul’s appeal is found in Philippians 2.1. To summarize, Paul reminded them of four things useful to them continuing as a congregation with spiritual unity: their consolation in Christ, their comfort of love, their fellowship of the Spirit, and what I take to be their emotional attachment to each other.

I close with this final thought. God knows everything. God controls everything. Part of His providential watch care over all includes what He allows every unsaved person to experience before conversion, holding each person responsible for how they deal with their experiences. You remember what it was like for you, as I remember what it was like for me. Is there any real comparison between the conduct of a Church member that is problematic and the glory of Christ in the Gospel? That adulterous pastor did not ruin the Gospel for me. Neither should any inappropriate conduct by a Church member ruin the Gospel for your loved one unless someone is looking for an excuse. That Christians sometimes behave badly does not discredit the Gospel, but rather illustrates why every sinner needs the Savior, both to become a Christian and to be sustained as a Christian.

__________

[1] Paul M. A. Linebarger, Psychological Warfare: Expanded Edition, (Landisville, Pennsylvania: Coachwhip Publications, 2012)

[2] Numbers 35.30; Deuteronomy 17.6-7; Joshua 24.22; Ruth 4.9-11; Job 10.17; Isaiah 8.2; 43.9-12; 44.8-9; Jeremiah 32.10, 12, 25, 44; Matthew 18.15-20; Luke 24.46-48; Acts 1.8; 2.32; 3.15; 5.32; 10.39-40; 13.31; 2 Corinthians 13.1; 1 Thessalonians 2.10; 1 Timothy 5.19; 6.12; Hebrews 10.28; 1 John 4.1; 5.7-9; Revelation 1.1; 2.2

[3] Psalm 119.165

[4] 1 Timothy 4.1

[5] Colossians 1.13

[6] Romans 12.10; 13.8; 15.7; Galatians 5.13; 6.2; Ephesians 4.2, 32; Colossians 3.13; 1 Thessalonians 4.9, 18; 5.11; Hebrews 3.13; 10.24-25; 1 Peter 1.22; 1 John 3.11, 23; 4.7, 11; 2 John 5

[7] Romans 15.14; Colossians 3.16

Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org