This week I began a new sermon series at AGC based on Matthew 12. If you take a quick survey of this chapter, you quickly find a list of accusations coming in rapid succession against the Lord Jesus. The single most effective way to take a leader down is to discredit and/or disqualify him. To discredit someone’s message all you need to do is simply discredit him so as to disqualify him or to neuter his influence. Over and over again, Scripture, predicts and promises that in this world we Christians will encounter persecution, simply for being a believer. It is incumbent on us to categorically understand and discern these coming accusations. The word for “Satan” in Hebrew means, accuser (cff. Job 1-2; Zech. 3; Rev. 12:10) so we should not be surprised when he accuses.
False accusations are a near cousin to false teachings. These are lies from the pit of hell, designed to deceive people from knowing who they are as blood-bought believers. Jesus called Satan the father of lies and because he promotes doctrines of demons which usually comes as error-laced Gospel concoctions meant to have enough truth to hook people into spiritual lethargy. For the discerning believer, these lies will become recognizable as they cycle round and round as familiar attacks, false-systems, and false-teachings. New names, in new dress, but the same schemes.
There is no worse punishment than being falsely accused. To be accused of something legitimate such as failure in life is one thing. Dirty laundry being exposed and paraded out into the light is very discouraging. By contrast, the Bible teaches that it is a glory of a man to overlook a transgression and that love covers a multitude of sins. To not repeat a matter and separate intimate friends. Though this is a true hardship that I am certain many of you have faced, it is far worse to be falsely accused. I am not sure anything leaves a deeper wound. Often, when being slandered, you feel like there is nowhere to go! Defending yourself makes you appear guilty. Not saying anything likewise makes you seem guilty. The bottom line is that being slandered or maligned will eat away at your soul if left to itself.
The new sociological trend of our age is to leverage our victim-crazed-culture against its alleged oppressors. False accusations both label and classify people as if they owe debt for something they never did, to another classification of people. This is such a difficult accusation to face (and I know this hits home in the workplace) where you do not know how to respond. “I am not being oppressive!” “What did you just raise your voice at me?” “Are you being aggressive?” When employers or people in public office champion the victim mentality, how are you to respond in a righteous way? We want to be good servants of Christ in the home and at work while at the same time, speaking truth in love. In other words, we do not want to capitulate to these agendas making some kind of false admission to something we never did, just to keep equilibrium at work.
I want to be quick to say that there is a fine line between a false accusation and real accountability. Accusation is evil. Accountability is wise. When someone points to something in your life that you need to change, then though this may be awkward, it is for your own good. False accusations are never good and are meant to put you on the defensive. “So, what is the solution to being falsely accused?” “How do you keep yourself from being drawn into someone’s bad playground?”
1 Peter 2:22-23 teaches, Christ did not revile in return! Return good for evil, instead of returning evil for evil. Still, are we to say nothing to our own defense? Jesus, the Suffering Servant is our model but was Jesus always silent? “What about when Jesus did respond?” “Or Paul for that matter?” The NT book, 2 Corinthians is Paul’s autobiography for being attacked by false apostles inside the church. Their accusation was simply saying, Paul was not an Apostle. Paul’s return fire could be summarized by 2 Cor. 10:5.
We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, (2Co 10:5 ESV)
A verse like this proves Paul was not passive and should likewise not be for any believer. We are defenders of truth. Contenders for the faith. Yes, pray for your enemies but we fight the good fight of faith. It has been said, “Don’t fight people, fight for truth!” As I said before, Jesus promises that this fight will come in the form of persecution. “If they persecuted me, how much more his servants?” Though we are in this battle the key is to decide ahead of time that we do not fight to win but we fight for God. We fight to guard and keep the truth. Remember how Paul exhorted Timothy, when commissioning him into service:
ESV 1 Timothy 1:18-19 This charge aI entrust to you, Timothy, my child,
in accordance with bthe prophecies previously made about you,
that by them you may cwage the good warfare,
19 aholding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting this,
some have bmade shipwreck of their faith, (1Ti 1:18-19 ESV)
ESV 2 Timothy 1:12-14 awhich is why I suffer as I do. But bI am not ashamed,
for cI know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is
able to guard until dthat Day ewhat has been entrusted to me.1
13 aFollow bthe pattern of cthe sound1 words dthat you
have heard from me, in ethe faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.
14 By the Holy Spirit awho dwells within us, guard uthe good
deposit entrusted to you. (2Ti 1:12-14 ESV)
“What does this practically mean?” “How can this battle be viewed in a positive light?” Like what is illustrated in any good SWOT analysis (*business paradigm: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats), someone’s greatest weakness is their greatest opportunity. When someone twists truth to your detriment, simply counter it by holding what they say up in the light of truth. God’s Word will always shine brighter. I had an old professor explain (almost apologetically) that false teachers and false teachings were like the leaves that one day blew into his tulip garden. High winds caused the leaves to surround his high standing tulips, but as these same high winds from before, blew even stronger, the leaves that were originally a real nuisance became like a cast of protection around the base of each flower. The point of this analogy is that what originally was thought to be a nuisance to his garden ended up being a stabilizing effect for the survival of his flowers. “Am I saying, lies being spread against Christian people is ever a good thing?” No, never. However, false teaching, though never to be sought after, or counted as good, still can be used for God’s good purposes. How? Simply put, as Christians stand against what is false, they will grow strong and stronger than they would have otherwise been. Now, with the unexpected gains made from what they were forced to struggle through (from being lied about), they will in turn be able to face a new trial that would have otherwise toppled them over had they not survived the earlier trial.
Without Adam’s fall in the garden, there would have been no need for saving grace. Without Pharoah’s magicians, Moses’ miracles could not have dominated for God’s glory. Without the false prophets of Baal, true prophets like Elijah would not have prayed fire from down from heaven. Without King Saul’s pride, King David’s true heart for God would have been left as mere emotion. Without the alleged “super-apostles” of 2 Corinthians who attacked Paul over again, then he would not have pledged himself to the Lord saying, “Your grace is sufficient, your power is perfected in weakness.” Without anti-Christs, there would not have been a reason to extol Christ as Lion and Lamb who is Creator and Savior. I do not wish for enemies and war but please know that these dynamics always breed noble victors and victory even when it comes with sacrifice.
What we are dealing with are heresies; anything contrary to Christian doctrine. Whether there are old or new titles, there are no new false teachings to figure out. These are Satan’s same old and tired strategies reintroduced in new dress. As one heresy surfaces, just prepare to answer it by holding up the Word as a mirror. Trust in Christ. Look to your Champion, Jesus is sufficient for the war. So, throughout the next few weeks (studying Matthew 12) let’s unpack each of these accusations to see how to face these same lies just like Jesus did! I look forward to your fellowship this coming Lord’s Day!