A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing
Note: I published this article originally last year, but retracted it out of concerns that it was motivated by bitterness over the experiences described or boasting about my spiritual experiences. Yet, after much prayerful consideration, I think neither is the case. Instead, my hope is that it encourages those who suffer attacks from those who profess the name of Christ but don't exhibits characteristics befitting His holy name. Later, I may publish an article dealing more fully with the pitfalls to which I think a Christian can succumb that may lead to the 'wolf in sheep's clothing' issue described below.
The Bible says that the devil masquerades as an angel of light. Have you ever experienced that? My wife, Laura, and I did this past January. In particular, Laura did when she met with a person whom she had come to trust as a wise, insightful Christian leader. This individual wanted to meet with Laura to discuss some issues related to a friend Laura has in the ministry this individual heads. Laura and her friend had struggled mightily with their relationship for a few months and Laura believed that the meeting was to serve as a tool of reconciliation for the two (or a final break of the friendship).
When Laura told me she was going to meet with her friend and this Christian leader, I had reservations. During the previous several months, I had experienced misgivings with regard to the ministry in which Laura's friend and the leader worked. God seemed to be telling me to stay away; something wasn't right there. The night before the scheduled meeting, I prayed that Laura would learn from anything true spoken during the meeting and reject anything false and that she would be protected from false teaching.
Well, the scheduled meeting was cancelled, but it turns out that Laura met with the pair the day after while I subbed at an elementary school. The day ended early for me and as soon as I arrived home I knew something was wrong. Laura told me something of what transpired and what was said, but the thing that struck me most was her mood. She seemed defeated, rather than encouraged. The entire meeting seemed not an aim at reconciliation between Laura and her friend, but one long rebuke and warning toward Laura.
Now, the Bible says that he who does not accept a rebuke is a fool. We don't want to be fools, but something about the meeting crushed Laura's spirit and ran contrary to all the work God had been doing in her during the preceeding month. During that month, Laura had experienced some amazing quiet times and had come to know God's love in a way she had seldom, if ever, experienced before. Out of this meeting, by contrast, she came to see herself as a misfit, floundering around and failing horribly in her Christian walk. She even came to question a woman who had in the preceeding 2 months become her mentor, for that Christian leader was 'too soft' compared to the so-called tough love she had experienced at the hands of this other Christian leader.
Laura quickly rejected that notion, remembering the strength and encouragement she had drawn from meetings with her mentor. Nevertheless, the experience that morning had obviously troubled her. We talked about it, but arrived at no obvious resolution. I contended that no matter the intent of the words, their effect was quite contrary to the work of God and she accepted that, at least on a surface level. Deep down, it was hard to shake the trust and even admiration she had felt for the Christian leader who met with Laura and her friend that morning.
It turns out that the ministry for which this particular person served as the leader had a marriage seminar that night. Due to the misgivings I felt toward the ministry, I didn't want to go, but Laura had been praying about it the night before and felt that God wanted me to go. I trust her ability to hear God, so I went despite the events of that morning. Their true import hadn't sunk in, anyway.
The event start out innocously enough. The ministry's band played and we sung some worship songs. I didn't feel God strongly during 'worship', but that happens. When the speaker began his message, though, a dreadful insight dawned on me. Certain things he said, the manner of his delivery, and the general spirit of the place filled with horror. I began to pray fervently for the Spirit of God to fill the place, for I felt none of Him there. Part of me protested that it might be I who had separated myself from the Spirit, so I prayed about that, too. The dread remained and I began to get the impression of a massive stone, a large weight, hanging over the proceedings. It brought to mind what Jesus said of the teachers of law, that they put heavy burdens on people's shoulders without doing a thing to lift them. If I had the language at the time, I would have cried out "Ichabod", the Spirit of the Lord has left this place.
I resolved to not make to much of this experience, however, determined to give the ministry the benefit of the doubt. When I got home, though, Laura and I naturally discussed the meeting. I couldn't hide my distaste for long. More came out about the meeting that morning and based on both experiences, I resolved to have nothing more to do with the ministry. Though the seminar would continue the next day, I wouldn't attend. I threw out the binder I had received at the seminar and concluded that something was greatly amiss at this ministry.
All of these events transpired on a Friday late in January. The next day or so consisted of the usual family stuff, plus more discussion of the events of the previous day. Laura spoke much of her continued trust in this Christian leader (whom I had not had the chance to know well). I continued to insist the meeting was not of God and quite contrary to his work in our lives. More stuff came out about what was said until I felt the need to enjoy an extended quiet time on Sunday.
The quiet time, enjoyed in a remote desert location in Colorado, proved quite moving. Laura told me that I looked like I was 18 when I arrived home, so full of the joy of the Lord was I. Yet, not all that I heard from God during that time was joyful. I prayed about the events of that past Friday and saw Satan coming with shackles to bind up what God had set free. God had worked mightily in Laura's life the past month or so, yet Satan sought to destroy the work of the Lord. I prayed for protection, though, and experienced God's presence so fully that the revelation given to me did not trouble me much. I resolved to share it with Laura, though.
Well, it turns out that Laura's afternoon had not passed so joyously. She had been brooding over the meeting and when I mentioned my insight, she shared more of what was said. I flipped. My sudden youthfulness vanished in a sea of rage. I denounced the Chrisitan leader as a false teacher and false prophet, claiming that she was an agent of the devil rather than of God. When this leader spoke during the meeting, it was Satan who hissed at my wife, I insisted. None of my claims alleviated the problem, though, and in fact troubled Laura more. We had to go to someone's house for dinner that night, so the discussion didn't last long.
Eventually, both of us met with this leader. The person admitted the meeting wasn't right and that she shouldn't have spoken certain things to Laura (stuff regarding me), yet never admitted error in anything she said. She seemed mostly unapologetic. On a surface level, though, it resolved some of the tension that had sezied us over the weeks following the meeting.
Ultimately, however, nothing was resolved. Laura's friend claimed that she had made much ado about nothing with regard to the meeting. Laura couldn't agree and neither could I. Certain issues pertaining to the stuff this person had said kept cropping up again and again. Accusations have a powerful effect sometimes. Even if one rejects an accusation consciously, they have a way of eating into a person's heart so that suspicion lingers, ready to rear its ugly head at the slightest hint that the accusation is correct. Mistrust hangs heavy where accusations have been spoken and numerous ones were said of me during that meeting. Laura tried to shake them off, but it proved difficult.
I withdrew some of my hardline stance toward this person and the ministry, but maintained that something was very wrong there. Somehow, deception had weaved its way into the ministry and the hearts of its leader, I contended, and had brought about false teaching and a spirit of condemnation. After certain things happened to confirm my impression, Laura accepted my conclusion despite the high regard she had previously held for the Christian leader who headed the ministry.
When issues related to the meeting would not fade, Laura discussed it with her mentor. She had hesitated to do so previously because this is a small town and she didn't want to hurl accusations herself at the person in question. Gossip, even if not intended, is not a pretty thing. The mentor simply suggested praying for wisdom concerning the meeting, asking God what he wanted Laura to learn from it. Laura did. We suspect the mentor prayed for wisdom for Laura, as well.
Last night, the clouds that had obscured the meaning of the meeting parted. A few things emerged during the course of the conversation that spoke of blatant lies uttered by the leader. She had made a terrible accusation regarding one of our family members one minute, but retracted it only 5 minutes later. Worse, she spoke of a visit to our house in October by she and her husband. During the meeting in January, she claimed that upon entering our house that evening, the family dynamic was so off that she could barely eat. In October, she ate seconds and commented repeatedly on how wonderful the food was. She also seemed completely at peace that evening and thanked us for such a wonderful time; she had truly enjoyed meeting with us, she said twice to me back in October. Which was true? To me, it seemed like the comments made in January were completely contrary to the truth of what happened in October. Why the sudden retelling of events, the complete change in perspective?
When we rehashed the words spoken that day by the leader, she said absolutely the worst things possible to Laura. She attacked her home, her children, and her husband, biting at all insecurities Laura had. Very contrary to Laura's experiences during quiet time the previous month and, in fact, contrary to the Spirit of God. When God rebukes, it doesn't lead to death; it doesn't destroy, but brings life to those who have ears to hear it. Laura has ears to hear it. The words spoke hate and, indeed, seemed very opposite to the manner in which this leader had dealt with Laura previously. It was not this woman speaking, nor, certainly, was it God. Indeed, Satan spoke that day, either directly or through one of his demons. He spoke through an 'angel of light', so to speak, with the strategy to destroy Laura's relationship with God and with me. Both suffered somewhat as a result and the damage persisted 5 months after. What God says in His Word is true; the devil can masquerade as an angel of light and he is the destroyer, one who hates us utterly. We got a taste of it.
Yet, as troubled as we are about the experience, for the idea of a supposedly Christian leader succumbing to such pervasive evil is trouble, God's protective work encourages us more. He had prepared us for this event months in advance, giving me insight into the ministry in question and Laura insight into God's character. Both buffered Satan's attack, though we suffered wounds as a result. He had spoken to us both, and to me directly about the meeting. The vision I had was not a delusion, but a real depiction of Satan's aims that day. He had spoken true.
God is true. He had not led us into a situation which we were not capable of handling, but one for which we were prepared. God is true. God is real. My hands trembled last night in awe as I behled the reality of God, his active presence in our lives, and His ongoing love. He hears us, cares for us, and provides us, if we take it up, with the armor to withstand all the fiery darts of the enemy. We feel convicted because we did not trust His word to us more fully, but revel that he spoke to us and that He continues to reveal his truth and character to us. God is! What an amazing thing! I am in awe!
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Scripture warns us to be aware of the doings of the Enemy of our soul, especially in these days. I, too, went through a very hard period that proved to be training ground to strip the wolf of his sheep's clothing. Once he was however, he was so much easier to pick out of the crowd! God was true throughout. The mental, physical and emotional suffering as I sought the Truth was very real, but I am His - forever - and I can rest in the fact that He will neither leave me nor forsake me. My daily goal upon waking is to profess my love for God and to listen, hear and obey what I will hear from Heaven that day. 'When You said, Seek My face," my heart said to You, "Your face, O LORD,I shall seek." Psalm 27:8; 'Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.' Romans 8:1; 'For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.' Ephesians 6:12 Be blessed, John and Laura!