The Spirit of Truth and Light
vs. the Knowledge of Evil
By Jim Patterson
Editor, Shepherd’s Voice Magazine
Our adversary the devil is tempting the Church to forsake its calling. He is using an old tactic used from the beginning with Adam and Eve and he is using it again to give us a false sense of wisdom with the knowledge of evil. Help protect yourself and the people you love by reading what follows in these pages.
Increasingly, there has been in the Churches of God a gravitation to worldly knowledge and the evil affairs going on in the world. The Spirit of God has not led us to this. This article investigates the issue.
It can be a powerful feeling to have information; the feeling to be in the know. It is just human nature. After all, in a world in which so much is known, and so little of it by us individually, it’s tempting and empowering to think you have inside knowledge of what’s really going on.
“Knowledge is Power” seems to be a true statement, but this statement is not entirely consistent with believers, as we shall see. We know that the world is under the sway of Satan, and believers have been called out of the world no longer to serve sin and death, but to serve the One True God. We know that this is what is really going on.
God has made it known to His people especially in these latter days that the Devil has deceived the whole world, but some in the Church want to go further than that. They want to understand more of the details of exactly what the Devil is doing. But are they doing this so they may feel they are “not ignorant of his devices” (2 Corinthians 2:11), but in reality, they are perhaps being caught up in his devices. Do not underestimate the adversary.
It seems some believers now and in history have been driven to know more about what is going on than is God ordained for us to focus on, and it is human nature that is driving it, not the Spirit of God. We see the fruits of the feeling of empowerment this kind of knowledge gives people and groups. Ironically, the source of information that they believe makes them wiser comes from the same system they think they are wising up to.
This article is directed at the believer as a warning; with a prayer that those already fueled up by pride in their own wisdom will pause to hear. We are not interested in discussing the ignorance of the One True God in the world today at large, or the general ignorance of what He has purposed here on earth. We are simply not concerned about our (the believer’s) awareness of the ignorance of others in this article. The awareness of the world’s ignorance of God profits us very little, unless our egos need a boost.
There are very well-meaning Christians today that are allowing their attention to be misdirected to worldly knowledge and the evil affairs going on as a means to wisdom. “Knowledge” of this kind, often speculative, true or false, has increased significantly in availability, and they are too little concerned in how they are sharing it, with whom they are sharing, and the truth of it.
Knowledge of Evil
None of this is new, it is just a repeat of old. Eve felt the temptation to be in the know, to be as God and be wise. For clarity purposes, The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil was not identified as the “Tree of the False Knowledge of Evil and the True Knowledge of Good” The evil to which their eyes were open to was true, perhaps fact based if you would. In a somewhat perverted sense, Adam and Eve should be congratulated, they are now in the know, they have graduated and are now members of an elite group.
I have wondered on occasion why the Lord God did not warn Adam of the serpent; more cunning than any creature of the field. It would certainly seem reasonable to warn others of evil lurking about in your neighborhood would it not? The reason He did not warn Adam is more significant than we may have normally considered.
Remember Adam had an unmarred relationship with the Lord. His needs of security and significance were fully met and he had dominion over all things, and this he had not knowing everything. He lived a life free of angst, fear and suspicion. If the Lord warned Adam of the serpent, the following would become true:
- Adam would have the knowledge of evil. God would have saved the serpent time and energy convincing Eve.
- Adam would know fear. He now knows what it is to have an enemy. He has a powerful adversary in the midst of the Garden. He would be aware of being naked and defenseless.
- He would start to build his own set of defenses against a snake with sticks and leaves.
- He would likely begin to hate what the serpent did and throw rocks at it; the serpent would play the victim and complain.
- Adam would become more preoccupied with the threat of evil, leaving less time for his devotion to his creator.
- Adam would have more questions and possible suspicions—if not immediately, then soon afterward.
The result? If God had warned Adam, even on a most minor point, we would have a fallen world as we see it easily playing out above. We should praise God in His wisdom.
A Church Reality Check
So here we are today, and one would think that the knowledge of true evil might be a good thing to protect our interests, but it is not the knowledge of God in which we are to grow in that leads to life. Here is what is happening: we are witnessing in the Church of God both by groups large and small and by individuals who have found this new calling to believe that their research and proliferation of the knowledge of evil in the world, some of it true, and some (much) of it false, is doing themselves and their fellow believers a favor. They feel a need to warn their fellow believers, and too many “fellow believers” get caught up in this “knowledge”. If they use email, it gets widely distributed, with all kinds of convincing web links to support it.
This teaches us only to hate, have anxiety and suspicions, and poisons our capacity to love God and our enemies, and the process by which our minds are negatively altered is insidious. The Bible teaches us to abide in faith, hope and love, but instead there is a significant segment of believers that are teaching others to hate. Learning to hate is much easier than to learn how to love, so the hate brigade catches on. Of course, nobody in a Christian church would readily admit to teaching others to hate, or feel they are learning to hate, so we hope that God will grant them repentance.
We ask ourselves why this is happening, and why it is being tolerated. I suppose now that the cat is out of the bag and we know we have an enemy in the world, we need to arm ourselves, but arm ourselves spiritually, not with worldly wisdom:
"Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places." (Ephesians 6:10-12)
A fundamental part of our armor is faith, and faith is the enemy of fear, and is not given for us to be on the defensive, but on the offensive. When you have faith, you cause things to happen.
If fear, distrust, and the resentment of the world is part of our language, then we are going against the Word of God. Jesus Christ died to liberate us from fear:
"… to release those who through the fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage." (Hebrews 2:15)
Satan uses the fear of death to control and enslave mankind. The fear of death goes beyond the obvious fear of the cessation of physical life. The enslavement, or bondage the writer of Hebrews refers to, is the fear of death, which causes one to behave in a way that pleases the devil. This would include all self-preserving and selfish behavior, whether it is conscious or unconscious. The world is full of intimidation and falsehood that makes mankind feel threatened and insecure. So why would a Christian, given his or her freedom to serve God, disobey the truth and cultivate fear all over again? We may believe we are acting on behalf of the brethren and of God, but in reality, we are doing a favor for the enemy by the proliferation of fear and distrust.
Fear mongering should not even be part of our nature:
"For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind." (2 Timothy 1:7)
If fear, distrust and suspicion with a focus on secular issues are part of our language in a local congregation, then the Church will lose its identity. New people that come into the midst of a congregation should feel and recognize a distinct difference in the people and feel the presence of the Spirit. A church that has even a small element of what we are discussing in this article will leaven the whole lump, and can lose its candlestick if it does not get corrected.
Some are more vulnerable than others and get caught up in the vain wrangling of issues of various types. Paul warned Timothy to avoid it:
"O Timothy! Guard what was committed to your trust, avoiding the profane and idle babblings and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge— by professing it some have strayed concerning the faith." (1 Timothy 6:20,21)
The profession of vain knowledge means one believes it, follows it, and becomes it.
When the Person of God is no longer satisfying enough (for reasons beyond the scope of this article), a believer may look to other avenues to knowledge. So much of the debates and divisions over speculative doctrine are born out of an unsatisfied relationship with God. It is my suspicion that Christians who spend an inordinate amount of their time researching and pointing at the sins of the world are doing so to compensate for their own lack of personal spiritual development. When there is spiritually arrested development, a new avenue of self-assurance needs to take over, and being in the know does a good job of that.
Again, we see nothing new here. Eve decided to take this alternative path she thought was parallel to and perhaps shorter to knowledge: to be in the know. It sure tasted like good stuff and she was empowered by it, at least for the short term. Her empowerment led her to share in it with Adam. Are we seeing the parallels? How good did this turn out for them? Should it turn out better for us?
A Witness and a Warning?
Does the above phrase sound familiar? It is actually not found in the Bible. You may have heard some proclaiming to be a modern-day Watchman but only Ezekiel was appointed to be one (Ezekiel 33:7). I have encountered a number of brethren who have assumed these roles in their own way as being a watchman, and have morphed the gospel into a witness and warning tailored to their own political leanings and patriotism (see also last issue of SVM-An Outreach that Works-Perspectives on Evangelism). These messages vary but they seem to focus around several speculative ideas about the future and what is going on behind the scenes. They feel they are in the know and want others to know they are in the know.
So, I have a couple of questions: Are we as Christians to proclaim a warning to the world as a witness? Are we to warn the brethren of upcoming events in the world to watch out for?
We are in need of examples to help us recognize what we are talking about here. I took a perusal through my inboxes and my memory of the kind of material I am reading and hearing in Church of God circles. Below is a non-exhaustive list, however we want to remind the reader again, we are not interested in discussing if, some, none, or all of these are true or false; this is not our focus:
- The terrorist group ISIS is a US backed creation to justify war and US intervention in the Middle East.
- The US government and other agencies orchestrated the murder of its own citizens by the events of September 11, 2001.
- The ruling elite is secretly planning a one-world order.
- The financial system is about to collapse, and the US government is having training exercises anticipating public chaos.
- Chemtrails by highflying jets are being released to willfully poison the public.
- Accusations against the modern sciences involved in our food and drugs.
- Generalizations of all politicians being corrupt or bought off.
- Secret agendas of various institutions, including churches, governments, medicine and others.
Some of the above is often discussed in the “light of scripture” sometimes suggesting we should do more research into them, often with web links. Indeed, the Bible does record some conspiracies carried out by evil men and women. But the Bible solution was not “improved conspiracy unraveling,” but turning from sin to righteousness.
Some of the readership will recognize a few of these as conspiracy theories; some would argue they are not theories at all. Regardless as to what our position is, the reckless dissemination of this kind of material has largely born the fruits of suspicion, confusion, fear and hatred; particularly in those who are more susceptible. The lack of discernment by those who are proliferating this kind of material is appalling. We need discernment in these areas.
"But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil." (Hebrews 5:14)
What we read from Hebrews above applies to evil that is before us and the evil we already know. If you have knowledge of evil, then it better be of needed edification if you are going to share it, otherwise you yourself will become a conduit for evil. Be very discerning and discriminating with what evil you know, or think you know.
So, No Warning at All?
If the reader has resistance to the thesis of this article thus far, it can be expected. This bursts the bubble of some and their righteous indignation, and nobody likes to be corrected. Counter-arguments would be based on how God has warned people through His prophets, and indeed with no uncertain language. John the Baptist was certainly among them. There are plenty of warnings, but the overwhelming majority of the warnings are directed at God’s people.
"Cry aloud, spare not; Lift up your voice like a trumpet; Tell My people their transgression, And the house of Jacob their sins." (Isaiah 58:1)
This scriptural message is not a call to the Church or selected members to call out the United States of America or other western nations to repent. This has been a useless endeavor by many anyway.
Judgment is indeed coming, but judgment is coming by a just Judge. So, what should we glean from this fact before we point our fingers at the ignorant evil world out there who we feel “have it coming”?
"For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God?" (1 Peter 4:17).
"Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless, we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells." (2 Peter 3:11-13)
All the things we can get so distracted by are going to get dissolved. Will God reward believers for their knowledge of the sins of others, or for the works they do based on the foundation of Jesus Christ?
(1 Corinthians 3:10-15) Judgment begins with you the Christian, and it will be your love, faith and hope in Him that He will be looking for.
I think that God would be consistent, wouldn’t He? So, a reality check should first take us to whether it is we, the church, who are in need of heeding any warning or witness regarding our conduct and attitudes. So, if you are going to warn the brethren, I think it would be more fruitful to consider what needs correction in a church, rather than concerning them with what Barak Obama, Germany or the Pope might be secretly up to.
Who Are We?
Jesus Christ made a very challenging prayer request regarding the disciples as well as us regarding our remaining presence in the world:
“I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world”. (John 17:15,16).
This is a tricky request. If you think it is not tricky because God can do anything, then ask Him how easy it was to have His only begotten Son in the world for 33 years. If not a complex request, then Jesus fasting for forty days and nights was just for show. We too have such a difficult time defining this as well, given our dependency on the systems of the world for our physical needs and all the good things that can come our way. Babylon has many benefits we take advantage of. Just ask Daniel and his three friends.
How do we define ourselves in it? Do we define ourselves in this world by pointing our finger at others? Is it by our research and knowing the deception of evil out there that sets the Christian apart? Some believe the answer is yes to these questions, but of course would never admit it. Perhaps God would grant them repentance when confronted with the reality we are presenting here.
Jesus actually reminds the Father (for the sake of our hearing) on just how we are defined: “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth” (John 17:17).
We are sanctified by the truth of God, not by our knowledge of evil, or even good. There is no unique combination of God’s truth and the knowledge of evil or good that sanctifies us, because the knowledge of evil only pollutes. Why should we pollute our minds already with endless arguments; it is already enough to overcome our carnal selves and resist temptations. Any knowledge that is truly worthwhile is according to the image of God. The knowledge a Christian should treasure is spiritual, not carnal:
"… and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him, … " (Colossians 3:10)
Peter helps us broaden our perspective further of who we are in this world. However, if you would permit this writer to highlight his words in a few places, and table contrary behavior this article is attempting to address:
But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.
Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation. Therefore, submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, or to governors as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men— as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God. Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king (1 Peter 2:9-17).
|The Christian Witness||The Carnal Witness|
|…that you may proclaim the praises of Him…||Proclaim the evils of the World|
|…Abstain from fleshly lusts…||Indulge in the tasty morsels of the knowledge of evil and boast in it|
|…that when they speak against you as evildoers…||Point to them as evil doers|
|…submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, or to governors…||Submit only if we like their policies and politics, otherwise they are fair game.|
|…that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men…||Silence ignorant people by calling them out on their ignorance and evil|
|Honor the King.||Trash the character of the President, Prime Minister or head of state|
What we are trying to convey here may meet resistance from the pride of those who have been compelled to “speak out” and “call out” the behaviors of all that offend them. It is a very self-convincing pursuit to point at the ignorant sins of others, including nations and institutions. However, our primary witness as Christians is the expression of light, not the expression of darkness. They say you are what you do, so let us do who we are.
Our calling is to proclaim the Gospel of the Kingdom of God, which is about opportunity and salvation far more than it is about the destruction of Babylon, at least as far as you should be concerned, unless you are one of the two witnesses, and you are probably not. Babylon and the powers behind it have already been judged. For those who want to keep up an unwittingly carnal witness to serve Babylon, they will continue a message of fear and suspicion; for assuredly I say unto you, they have their reward.
One day the world will be free of fear and suspicion. The Gospel is already pointing us to that time ahead, and we should focus each other to that time, instead of the passing evils of the present.
(This article was previously published in Shepherd's Voice Magazine - Winter 2016 )