The subject of Grace Presbyterian Church came up again last night, this time between my wife and our 6 year old, Andy. He called it “Satan’s Temple.” That was so disturbing that she brought me into the mix since calling a group of people “Satan’s Temple” really is quite serious. He said that he called it that because the people there were so bad.
I made sure that he understood there were a lot of good people in the church who are good friends and were not behaving in a godless manner. He agreed. But he knew enough to know that there were people there who were behaving less than cordial (I was going to say “Christlike” but they were not even close.)
Is Grace Presbyterian Church Satan’s Temple? I’m not sure. But I will say that Satan can and does use believers from time to time to try and disrupt the plans of God. Remember that Jesus had to rebuke Peter when he was being used by Satan to prevent Jesus from going to the cross (Matthew 16). We cannot say that those who were so ugly are without faith at GPC. But we can say that seem to be acting in a manner that is less than Christlike.
I can also say that the actions of a few have truly grieved the Holy Spirit. Ephesians 4:30-32 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. 32 And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.
The group that rose up two Sunday’s ago to confront the elders and demand my removal were not acting in a manner that can be construed as “kind to one another; tenderhearted, forgiving one another…” They were grieving the Holy Spirit according to God’s word. That is really all we can say about them and what they did. They were not acting in a manner that was submissive to the leadership and in their rebellion against that leadership, they were rebelling against Christ as well.
That should grieve our hearts as well. Whenever those who are called Christians act in a fallen manner, it should cause us to grieve and examine our own hearts. When these people were so ugly, how did we respond? Did we try and get even by sending across some well-worded zinger? Or did we respond in kindness as Christ calls us to do?
I know there were times when I responded in anger and with the zingers, and for that I repent. It was wrong to respond that way even though justice was not being carried out. My responses in anger and harsh words, would probably be hailed in more worldly circles, but we are not called to be of the world. We are called to be like the ONE we know who didn’t respond with anger, but took on the death of a sinner even though He was innocent.
It is that reminder and the reminder from Ephesians 4:30-32 that allowed me to respond the way I did when things came to an end for me at GPC. I knew that tensions were growing in the congregation, although I wasn’t sure about why the tensions were so high. I did know that I was staying very close to that verse. I came across it while preparing what ended up being my last two sermons. I was preaching on the Maker of the Church, the Sender of the Church and the Equipper of the Church, from Matthew 16, 28 and Ephesians 4.
I really wasn’t writing these sermons for the people of GPC here in Jackson. I have already preached these things here. While I knew it would be a good reminder to those who love God’s word, I also knew that some in the church would reject the message out right, simply because they were no longer listening to anything I said. I could have said, “Jesus wants you to be rich, happy, wealthy and wise, just believe in Him,” and they would have rejected it.
I was preparing those two sermons for a church that I was interviewing with in New Mexico that invited me out for a visit. One of the elders called me and asked me to preach on the purpose of the church so that those in the congregation could be reminded why it is that Christ has made the church. After the first sermon, I could tell the contentious bunch at GPC was even more contentious and when I preached the second one, they were spewing venom from the back pews.
This didn’t surprise me. While praying the previous day, I prayed that the Lord would tender the hearts of those who belong to Him so that they could hear the message and rejoice. I also prayed something more serious. I asked the LORD to harden the hearts of those who were rejecting HIS word and make it obvious to all who were there. I’m not sure why I prayed that, but I did.
And He answered that prayer. While I was confident in the message given to me to preach, those whose hearts were hardened, exploded that Sunday. I don’t know the full extent of it, but they went after two elders and an elders wife. The vicious attack led the elders to conclude that it was better if I resigned. They asked me to that night, and I did.
I knew the LORD would take care of me and my family. He had a job waiting for me in New Mexico and I thanked the two elders who had stood with me for the two years at GPC. I don’t begrudge them at all. They were actually doing me a favor by asking for my resignation. They provided me two months severance and the opportunity to leave that church. I was thankful and relieved the battle was over. It was a blessing from God.
The sad reality is that those who attacked did not need to. Had they been patient, the LORD would have moved me and my family on without the need for them to sin against the LORD and His elders. They added more burning coals to their already scalded heads. That is what people do when they are not walking in the Spirit. The flesh has a tendency to destroy itself and what is left of that church will now turn on itself. The two elders that were raked over the coals, resigned after I did and left the church. The congregations is now down to about 15 people. While I’m not sure what will happen to them, unless there is some repentance on the part of those brood of vipers that ran us off, that church will remain Satan’s temple. As long as we operate in the flesh, as they did, we too can be used by Satan. That is why we need to keep our eyes on Christ, walk by faith in the Spirit, and trust Him with His church. After all, it’s His church to deal with. He can redeem those in it, or leave them to their flesh, the world and the devil. I thank God He has redeemed me and brought me out of Satan’s Temple