In the wake of the Grassley Investigation, which was the topic of my previous post, there are reports that the response of most of those ministries being probed is one of adamant denial and angry disputation. The investigation is focused on six prominent ministries: Benny Hinn, Kenneth and Gloria Copeland, David and Joyce Meyer; Randy and Paula White; Creflo and Taffi Dollar; and Eddie Long. Several of them are now publicizing their view that such an investigation by a government body is illegal, unjustified, and improperly intrusive, along with their vow to therefore resist and in some cases stonewall the Congressional committee’s inquiries.
I am neither judging nor condemning any of the persons or ministries named, such is not my purpose, and we are proscribed from doing so by Scripture. However, I do not believe that denial, disputation, and enmity in the public discourse is the right or the Biblical response for these high-profile ministries and ministers. As I indicated in the previous edition, along with elevation to the high-profile status comes high responsibility and accountability. To whom much is given, much is required, yea, even demanded, both by God and men.
As any parent knows, children commonly deny, lie, and obfuscate when they are caught in a blatant act of disobedience and deception. Though it may sound to some harsh to say, such a response is a characteristic of either immaturity or guilt.
I think it is telling that demons do the same thing. When they are first being discovered, identified, and called out, their first response is almost always denial and adamant defensiveness. That’s why people with addictions, compulsions, and obsessions, often live in “denial,” and are the last person to realize and recognize it is beyond their control — because it is unclean spirits that are behind and driving the addiction, compulsion, or obsession. Demons always first deny they are there. Many times they have actually responded to my calling them out by saying, “No, we are not in (the person)!” I usually can’t help busting up laughing when they do that. The host often first denies they are there as well.
Denial of this sort is a form of lying. Inherent in Jesus’ calling Satan “the father of all lies” is that he is the chief denier. Lying is denying; denying is lying. All liars are deniers. Pathological liars, of whom Satan is the master and original, always deny that they are lying, in other words, they lie about lying. But what makes them pathological is that they actually BELIEVE their lies. For that reason, pathological liars can often pass a lie-detector test with flying colors. Pathological liars can sound and seem so convincing, and make you doubt your own discernment and sanity. They also are good at making you feel that your audacity in questioning their credibility is beyond all credibility, and attempt to put you on the defensive.
In no way am I saying that those questioned in the Grassley Investigation are pathological liars but I am saying that indignant denials of all wrongdoing, vociferous defending of themselves and their ministry operations, angry denunciation of their inquisitors, and pledges to stonewall, is not a response that is going to quell suspicion or be conducive to exoneration. The correct response to such a probe for those who have nothing to hide should be full cooperation and forthright answers. If no laws have been broken and no moral or ethical violations have been committed, then why should there be a concern about answering the inquiry truthfully and forthrightly? Makes one think of the quip of Queen Gertrude in Hamlet, “The lady doth protest too much, me thinks.”
Years ago, a reporter called to ask if she could interview my wife and I concerning the business we had that had enjoyed some moderate success and as a result gained some notoriety in the relatively small we lived in. She said the theme of the story is how serving God can produce success in business. We agreed, and when she came she proceeded to tell her story about how she had recently been Born Again and renounced Satan’s kingdom as an advanced witch, and been delivered from the kingdom of darkness. As a result of that she also left her job as a reporter with a secular paper, and she had recently been hired by a new upstart paper in the area. She had heard about our business “success story” and wanted to write about it. I assumed it would be a small blurb on the last page of some edition they needed filler for. Instead, to our utter shock, it was a six-week front page feature series in the next edition. That was great, we thought, and it was, but the next week’s “letters to the editor” section was filled with negative nay-saying from critics lambasting the reporter for writing the article, the editor for printing it, and us for our statements about the premise of Biblical prosperity and success. One grumbler commenting on our picture they published, calling us the “Christian Ken and Barbie.” I howled laughing at that one! But, as PR agents say, “There’s no such thing as bad press, as long as they spell your name right.” New customers came in telling us they had read the articles.
What a “coincidence” it was that later that year we received a letter from the IRS saying our business was being audited based on some anonymous “tips.” With my accounting and business administration background, I kept the business’ books but worked with a CPA for validation and tax preparation. As a meticulous record-keeper I inundated the auditing agents with receipts and records for every transaction down to every pencil we bought. My initial response was indignation and outrage because I knew in my spirit it was a result of that series of articles. But, after praying and asking the Lord for guidance, I told the IRS agent, he had my full and complete cooperation, and I would do all I possibly could to provide every ounce of information available to me, because I knew I had absolutely nothing to hide. I also could not resist telling her that the Lord had assured me in prayer that I would, in the end, be totally and completely vindicated, and she and the IRS would have to apologize for such a groundless and unnecessary investigation and invasion and into our lives. We lived with the cloud of aspersions over our heads that no one can generate like the IRS for FIVE long years! But, it ended with the IRS Magistrate saying with tears in her eyes, “Mr. Lambert, we apologize for what we have put you through over these last five years. The results of the audit are that not only do you not owe the IRS any money, but that we owe you money for deductions to which you were entitled but you did not take. I have here a check for the amount of refund you are entitled to, and please accept my apology on behalf of the IRS.” The check was not a large amount, but the vindication after five years of suspicion and innuendo was invaluable! The Lord assured us that the audit was no “coincidence” and the anonymous tipsters were a few envious and devious agnostics as well as possible competitors.
Nevertheless, the point is, if you have nothing to hide and everything is on the up and up, an audit or probe such as the Congress’ of a few high-profile ministries should be no problem at all, but merely an opportunity to demonstrate conclusively to the public that nothing improper is going on, and thereby clear their name and the collective reputation of the myriad of other ministries legitimately operating in this nation to fulfill the Great Commission and Jesus’ charge to “occupy” or “do business” until He returns. Why the angry and defensive public reactions and responses? Is it intrusive? Yes, it is, somewhat; but it’s also a great opportunity for the innocent to prove their innocence. Is there a line somewhere regarding the intrusiveness of government into the matters of the church in a free nation such as ours? Of course there is, but I don’t see this investigation as approaching that line. Does this inquiry portend of an evil conspiracy by government to abate religious freedoms and negate privacy rights of religious organizations on a large scale. I don’t think there’s any credible evidence of that inherent in this probe. I believe Senator Grassley and his committee are simply following up on the legitimate concerns addressed to them from a number of Americans. I see nothing sinister here. Regardless, I don’t see a response of angry public denouncements, obstinate refusals to cooperate, defensiveness, and obfuscation as being the “right response,” nor the response of the Spirit. Christians, and especially Christian leaders, should be the standard-bearers of uprightness.
I’m also always further suspicious of those who have been accused of wrongdoing who defend themselves by citing a laundry list of all the “good” they and their organizations have done, inferring that somehow all the “good” they have done should negate or balance out any “bad” that may or may not be taking place. Some people apparently actually believe that God “grades on the curve” or “the average system.” Will somebody please inform me where that is in the Bible?
On the contrary, what IS in the Bible is a poignant and sobering premise such as that expressed through one of God’s most powerfully anointed no-nonsense prophets of all the so-called “Major Prophets” of old, Ezekiel, in which He made it clear that someone’s “good” deeds do not negate or balance out that person’s sinful deeds:
“Again, when a righteous man turns away from his righteousness and commits iniquity, and I place an obstacle before him, he will die; since you have not warned him, he shall die in his sin, AND HIS RIGHTEOUS DEEDS WHICH HE HAS DONE SHALL NOT BE REMEMBERED; but his blood I will require at your hand.” (Ezk. 3:20).
The prophecy is recited almost verbatim later in the same book, with this addition: “All his righteous deeds which he has done will not be remembered for his TREACHERY which he has committed and his SIN which he has committed; for THEM he shall die” (Ezk. 18:20).
Isaiah said it about as straightforwardly and unequivocally as it could be said when he said that all our righteousness or so-called “good works” are as “filthy rags” unto the Lord (Isa. 64:6). Satan is identified as “the accuser of (the) brethren” (Rev. 12:10). He is God’s prosecuting attorney. The fact is, whenever the accuser starts accusing us of wrongdoing, there is almost always some semblance of truth to the charges, if nothing more than in our flesh. Even Satan is not so stupid as the prosecuting attorney to levy charges against us that he knows have no foundation in fact whatsoever. Anyone who has the unmitigated audacity to start enumerating all their good works before God in the face of charges of wrongdoing has only exponentially increased his/her wrongdoing and definitely is on the wrong track.
Indignant and defensive denial of the charges the accuser of the brethren levies against us is not the right path to justification. The only way to receive the justification Jesus, the Christ, purchased on the Cross, and have our debt stamped “Paid In Full,” is to admit it, own up to it, then not seek pardon on the basis of our own righteousness, but on the basis of His and the propitiatory sacrifice He died to provide. For, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:21). It’s not our righteousness that justifies us, but Jesus’ righteousness. In fact, we have none of our own: “There is NONE righteous, not even ONE” (Rom. 3:10).
Indignant denial is the wrong response when the accuser of the brethren accuses us. Jesus was the only human who ever lived who was completely innocent down to the very core of His being of all charges made against Him, and during His trial, He was the Lamb led to the slaughter who answered not a word in His defense, even though Scripture says lying false witnesses rose up against Him. He did not respond with indignant defensiveness, but rather let God be both His Defense Attorney and Judge.
Why does God sometimes allow us to be put on trial by accusations from Satan? Because, as David learned, “Behold, You (God) desire truth in the INNERMOST BEING, And in the HIDDEN PART You will make me know wisdom” (Psa. 51:6). “The spirit of man is the lamp of the LORD, Searching all the INNERMOST PARTS OF HIS BEING” (Prv. 20:7). God is after far more in His sanctifying dealings with us than only external appearances of piety. He DESIRES TRUTH IN THE INNERMOST BEING. As a man thinketh in his heart, so IS he — especially to God. God knows every thought of our hearts. God wants to purify us down to the very core of our being — our attitudes. An outward appearance of piety that is not a reflection of genuine inward holiness is the very definition of HYPOCRISY.
God absolutely despises hypocrisy. Jesus’ vehement righteous indignation, castigation, and denunciation of the Pharisees and the Sadducees who were utterly possessed with hypocrisy reflected God’s utter contempt for hypocrisy and hypocrites. Behind all hypocrisy is a defiling and diabolical religious spirit that emanates from Satan himself. Satan is the master-religionist. Nothing is more defiling and diabolical than religious spirits because religiosity, i.e., false outward piety, is the very nature of Satan himself. Religious spirits are counterfeits of the Holy Spirit. Religious spirits are murdering spirits. They are the real hidden culprits behind all the hatred of false religion that makes people murder people or commit spiritual murder, that is hatred or contempt of your brother: “Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him” (1 Jn. 3:15). The false face of religion, of which Satan himself is the author, is the ultimate source of all hatred, contention, strife, divisiveness, and murder that exists in the world today.
How all this relates to the scrutiny into which the Grassley Investigation is bringing a few prominent Charismatic ministries is reflected in the contextual verses of the First John passages just quoted:
Do not be surprised, brethren, if the world hates you. We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love abides in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer; and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth. We will know by this that we are of the truth, and will assure our heart before Him in whatever our heart condemns us; for God is greater than our heart and knows all things. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; and whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do the things that are pleasing in His sight. This is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as He commanded us. The one who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him We know by this that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us. (1 Jn. 3:13-24)
Jesus warned Peter, “Simon, Simon, Satan has demanded permission (from God) to sift you like wheat” (Lk. 22:31). I’ m sure Peter had the same thought occur to him that does to us when we find ourselves in a “fiery trial” authored by the Adversary — why didn’t Jesus merely pray for him and foil the plot of Satan that He foresaw in the Spirit. But, the truth was that He couldn’t, because as He stated to Peter, Satan had “demanded permission” from God to sift him. God’s prosecuting attorney demanded to try Peter because there were some defiling things hidden in Peter’s “hidden parts” or “innermost being” that gave “the accuser of the brethren” legal right to bring him up on charges and sift like wheat. Sifting is a purging process to separate the grain (the usable part) from the chaff (the unusable part). What Jesus foresaw was a “fiery trial” that was necessary for Peter’s purging of the fear, faithlessness, treachery, and self-centeredness that was hidden in his heart and was spiritually defiling him. But, Satan and all the fiery trials he authors in our lives, are only tool in the hands of God. If we will respond properly to the purging process of the Spirit, which is by humbling ourselves, admitting our faults, and allow godly sorrow to produce genuine repentance in us (1 Cor. 7:11), then we, like Peter, receive genuine pardon and exoneration of the Spirit. Instead of praying to remove the trial that was coming, which would have only foiled the purposes of God, Jesus told Peter, “but I have prayed for you, and when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”
Instead of praying for removal of the fiery trial, Jesus prayed for and prophesied something of far greater value — Peter’s repentance — and then charged him to strengthen fellow believers with the empowerment he gained as a result of the purging process. And, in the end, Peter did precisely what Jesus prayed and prophesied, for that very reason — because He prayed and prophesied it — which is precisely what especially prophetic believers must learn to do with their fellows.
Self-examination, godly sorrow, repentance of revealed sinful attitudes, and graciousness toward our human accusers is the only right response to accusations of wrongdoing that have some basis of truth to them at some level, whatever that level may be. On a personal basis, as long as we are trying to resist the accusations of the accuser of the brethren by defending ourselves and declaring our goodness, he has legal right to continue to accuse, prosecute, and judge us. Jesus admonished, “Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison” (Mat. 5:25). Peter made it clear our ultimate adversary is the devil, Satan (1 Pet. 5:8). As long as we are denying the charges Satan makes against us, we are in a prison of one sort or another. If we agree with the charges of the adversary QUICKLY, confess our sins, seek forgiveness, and repent, then we will receive the full pardon Christ provided through His sacrifice and be released from the prison cell in which we’ve been confined.
But, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 Jn. 1:9). The only kind of sin or wrongdoing that can be forgiven and pardoned is CONFESSED sin or wrongdoing. I would urge every minister and ministry in the days of Spirit-compelled circumspection that are now upon us, in which God is purifying the sons of Levi [church leaders] (Mal. 3:1-3) and testing the building materials of every ministry (1 Cor. 3:10-15), not to be so quick to resist and deny the accusations of the enemy out-of-hand without sincere self-examination to determine if there is any semblance of truth in the spirit realm to the prosecuting attorney’s charges. If there is, consider it a merciful and gracious purging by the Spirit. If not, no harm, no foul.
Let a man regard us in this manner, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. In this case, moreover, it is required of stewards that one be found trustworthy. But to me it is a very small thing that I may be examined by you, or by any human court; in fact, I do not even examine myself. For I am conscious of nothing against myself, yet I am not by this acquitted; but the one who examines me is the Lord. Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts; and then each man’s praise will come to him from God. (1 Cor. 4:1-5)
The Lord is coming to the Church these days and bringing to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclosing the motives of men’s hearts. The sad and unfortunate indictment against the Church is that He is having to use worldly means and mediums such as public probes like the Grassley investigation to bring forth His judgment that must begin with the household of God, i.e., the Church. Instead of cursing the accusers, the proper response is to “in all things give thanks,” and “Rejoice, and again I say rejoice, and let your forbearing spirit be known to all men.” And,
Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved (or, passed the test, margin), he will receive the crown of life, which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. (Jas. 1:2-4; 12)
In the next posts, I will be addressing what I see as being the real causes and spiritual context behind such matters as the Grassley Investigation, and convey some prophetic revelations about other workings of the Spirit in the purification and perfecting of the Church.