by Mike Ratliff
The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness. (2 Thessalonians 2:9-12 ESV)
God’s truth, which is the truth and there is no other, is true regardless of whether people believe it or not. I pray for wisdom and discernment every morning before I go to work. God answers this is surprising ways sometimes. One way He does this is when I receive an email or comment from one who is opposed to what we teach here. As I read what they have to say, I often have to retreat into prayer right then in order to grasp the direction the deception is coming from. Other times I can see it quite readily. In these cases, it is very easy to spot the error because their suppositions or arguments are based on one or more invalid assumptions about God’s truth. Never forget, it is very easy to build a very deep case on an invalid or wrong point. When people do this, then their entire case is nothing but a house of cards ready for the strong wind of truth to come in and blow it away. In the other cases in which I must retreat into prayer in order to ascertain how to respond to the attack, I have found that our enemy or one of his minions has caused this through some level of spiritual protection for those serving him. However, their power is nothing when compared with God’s. We may not, on our own, be able to see through the mist or haze or whatever that protects the lie(s), but when we humbly and boldly take the attack to the throne of grace, God is good and will reveal the truth to us in His timing. Through this, we know how to respond or whether to respond at all.
What is the purpose of these attacks? I am sure those attacking God’s people like this have no idea that they are tools of the enemy. However, we must never forget that God is omniscient and omnipotent. He is sovereign. When we are attacked as we serve Him, it is for two reasons. The first reason is that God has allowed it. The second reason is that our enemy and his minions desire to discourage us and create some sort of leverage in which to thwart us in our ministry. These are the people who, when we share God’s truth with them, they ignore it and like Lot’s sons-in-law, cannot discern that we are giving them the truth. They are spiritually blind and hard of heart. They may be very religious. They may believe they are actually serving God when they persecute those who actually are serving Him. God does give people over to their idols when they love what is not true as if it is the truth, refusing to believe us no matter how often or fervently we share God’s truth with them.
The prophet Jeremiah was given the ministry by God to “speak whatever God commanded” (Jeremiah 1:4-10). However, anyone who has read the book of Jeremiah knows that hardly anyone listened to what he prophesied. All through this book, Jeremiah obediently prophesied evil that was to come upon the Kingdom of Judah because of their idolatry and rebellion against God. In Jeremiah 12, the prophet complains to God about his task.
Righteous are you, O LORD, when I complain to you; yet I would plead my case before you. Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why do all who are treacherous thrive? You plant them, and they take root; they grow and produce fruit; you are near in their mouth and far from their heart. But you, O LORD, know me; you see me, and test my heart toward you. Pull them out like sheep for the slaughter, and set them apart for the day of slaughter. How long will the land mourn and the grass of every field wither? For the evil of those who dwell in it the beasts and the birds are swept away, because they said, “He will not see our latter end.” (Jeremiah 12:1-4 ESV)
“If you have raced with men on foot, and they have wearied you, how will you compete with horses? And if in a safe land you are so trusting, what will you do in the thicket of the Jordan? For even your brothers and the house of your father, even they have dealt treacherously with you; they are in full cry after you; do not believe them, though they speak friendly words to you.” “I have forsaken my house; I have abandoned my heritage; I have given the beloved of my soul into the hands of her enemies. My heritage has become to me like a lion in the forest; she has lifted up her voice against me; therefore I hate her. Is my heritage to me like a hyena’s lair? Are the birds of prey against her all around? Go, assemble all the wild beasts; bring them to devour. Many shepherds have destroyed my vineyard; they have trampled down my portion; they have made my pleasant portion a desolate wilderness. They have made it a desolation; desolate, it mourns to me. The whole land is made desolate, but no man lays it to heart. Upon all the bare heights in the desert destroyers have come, for the sword of the LORD devours from one end of the land to the other; no flesh has peace. They have sown wheat and have reaped thorns; they have tired themselves out but profit nothing. They shall be ashamed of their harvests because of the fierce anger of the LORD.” Thus says the LORD concerning all my evil neighbors who touch the heritage that I have given my people Israel to inherit: “Behold, I will pluck them up from their land, and I will pluck up the house of Judah from among them. And after I have plucked them up, I will again have compassion on them, and I will bring them again each to his heritage and each to his land. And it shall come to pass, if they will diligently learn the ways of my people, to swear by my name, ‘As the LORD lives,’ even as they taught my people to swear by Baal, then they shall be built up in the midst of my people. But if any nation will not listen, then I will utterly pluck it up and destroy it, declares the LORD.” (Jeremiah 12:5-17 ESV)
Think of the growing apostasy in the Church in our time. Think of those men with their huge following and lucrative book deals from publishers like Zondervan, but these have forsaken the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. They have created another Jesus that is nothing but a man-pleasing idol and have changed the Gospel into something that pleases the masses, but saves no one. Now, do you think that God who spoke vv5-17 above against those idolatrous Jews who had broken covenant with Him will long tolerate what is going on in the Church in our time?
After the destruction of Jerusalem, the Babylonians allowed Jeremiah to go free. However, he was captured by the remnant Jews who wanted to escape the land and go to Egypt in disobedience to what God had commanded. The leaders came to Jeremiah to ask for a word from God about their plans.
Then all the commanders of the forces, and Johanan the son of Kareah and Jezaniah the son of Hoshaiah, and all the people from the least to the greatest, came near and said to Jeremiah the prophet, “Let our plea for mercy come before you, and pray to the LORD your God for us, for all this remnant–because we are left with but a few, as your eyes see us– that the LORD your God may show us the way we should go, and the thing that we should do.” Jeremiah the prophet said to them, “I have heard you. Behold, I will pray to the LORD your God according to your request, and whatever the LORD answers you I will tell you. I will keep nothing back from you.” Then they said to Jeremiah, “May the LORD be a true and faithful witness against us if we do not act according to all the word with which the LORD your God sends you to us. Whether it is good or bad, we will obey the voice of the LORD our God to whom we are sending you, that it may be well with us when we obey the voice of the LORD our God.” (Jeremiah 42:1-6 ESV)
Notice that they promised to obey the voice of the Lord even if they did not like what He commanded. Jeremiah faithfully went to the Lord with their petition. In vv5-22 we have the Lord’s answer. He tells them to stay in the land. If they will obey Him then He will protect and build them up, but if they refuse and escape to Egypt, what they believe they are escaping from will surely find them and destroy them. What was the response of those who had promised to obey the voice of the Lord?
When Jeremiah finished speaking to all the people all these words of the LORD their God, with which the LORD their God had sent him to them, Azariah the son of Hoshaiah and Johanan the son of Kareah and all the insolent men said to Jeremiah, “You are telling a lie. The LORD our God did not send you to say, ‘Do not go to Egypt to live there,’ but Baruch the son of Neriah has set you against us, to deliver us into the hand of the Chaldeans, that they may kill us or take us into exile in Babylon.” So Johanan the son of Kareah and all the commanders of the forces and all the people did not obey the voice of the LORD, to remain in the land of Judah. But Johanan the son of Kareah and all the commanders of the forces took all the remnant of Judah who had returned to live in the land of Judah from all the nations to which they had been driven– the men, the women, the children, the princesses, and every person whom Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard had left with Gedaliah the son of Ahikam, son of Shaphan; also Jeremiah the prophet and Baruch the son of Neriah. And they came into the land of Egypt, for they did not obey the voice of the LORD. And they arrived at Tahpanhes. (Jeremiah 43:1-7 ESV)
This is exactly the reaction we see in these men today with their man-pleasing ministries. They and their apologists respond to God’s truth exactly as these stiff-necked Jews did when Jeremiah spoke it word for word to them. They are going their own way regardless of how many reveal to all who will hear about the unbiblical nature of what they are feeding their “flocks.” Why do they do it? Why do they reject the truth and go their own way? They are in unbelief. They are spiritually blind. They believe they have something better than what their unregenerate hearts see in what we call Orthodoxy. You see, only the regenerate heart can grasp and love God’s truth in obedience and surrender.
In Egypt God spoke more words to Jeremiah, which he shared with the Jews who had forced him to go there with them. It was a word of judgment because of the people’s refusal to repent from their idolatry, such as making offerings to the queen of heaven and other gods. What was their response?
Then all the men who knew that their wives had made offerings to other gods, and all the women who stood by, a great assembly, all the people who lived in Pathros in the land of Egypt, answered Jeremiah: “As for the word that you have spoken to us in the name of the LORD, we will not listen to you. But we will do everything that we have vowed, make offerings to the queen of heaven and pour out drink offerings to her, as we did, both we and our fathers, our kings and our officials, in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem. For then we had plenty of food, and prospered, and saw no disaster. But since we left off making offerings to the queen of heaven and pouring out drink offerings to her, we have lacked everything and have been consumed by the sword and by famine.” And the women said, “When we made offerings to the queen of heaven and poured out drink offerings to her, was it without our husbands’ approval that we made cakes for her bearing her image and poured out drink offerings to her?” (Jeremiah 44:15-19 ESV)
Those in their apostate ministries in our time say that “God is surely blessing our ministries” since we have moved away from Orthodoxy into this “really cool” “intellectual” “easy-believism” form of Christianity that seeks only peace with everyone. And, hey, those Muslims and Hindus and Buddhists are on just another path to God so we believe in peaceful coexistence with them, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera… You can have your Orthodoxy; it is just another form of our religion anyway…
This is the voice of unbelief and it comes from hearts that have been given over to their idolatry and so are spiritually blind. Unless God opens those hearts, no amount of Godly preaching and teaching will penetrate. We see this very clearly in John 6.
Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” (John 6:35-40 ESV)
Jesus answered them, “Do not grumble among yourselves. No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me– not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father. Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. (John 6:43-47 ESV)
But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, “Do you take offense at this? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.” (John 6:61-65 ESV)
Those who are truly in Christ were given to Him by the Father. These come to the Son not by self-will or by any self-power, but they “will come” because of the work of God in the heart. Those who held Jeremiah captive demanded to hear from God and even said they would obey Him, but when they received the truth, they rejected it and moved off into rebellion. This is what the natural man does and, will always do, unless God draws him or her by the washing of regeneration.
In light of these things, we should understand better why so many who oppose our ministries simply will not listen to the truth. They are convinced of their own way because they have been given over to it. They are spiritually blind and unless God breaks through that blindness, they will never believe and repent. Therefore, we must remain faithful and be content where God has us. We minister according to His will and by His power. He is our strength and portion forever.
Soli Deo Gloria!