So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. 1 Pet 2:1
Lots of people feel called to prison and recovery ministries today. Almost everyone has a different twist on what they think former inmates and addicts need. In truth, prison is like the Eagle’s song “Hotel California”. People check out but the majority never really leave. Statistically, approximately two percent actually become the people God created them to be. Mat 7:13-14, Mat 22:14 The only way past the revolving door of recidivism is in the words of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, to
“Live not by lies.” John 8:32
“Hey, you know – I was just thinking…”
began my three-hundred-pound Samoan prison bunkie, “I wouldn’t want to do or say anything that would make someone want to kill me when I got out.” The implication was profound. We’d just learned that another Christ-professing friend of mine in the same prison drug treatment program had been found shot in the back of the head – execution-style. They found him slumped over on his knees in the parking lot behind his church.
He’d been out less than a week.
“He was a rat!” they said. A rat is a liar who for whatever reason suddenly begins telling the truth.
To be honest, my dead friend’s speech and behavior weren’t always reflective of a surrendered life. He’d still had a lot of world in him. James 1:8 That is always dangerous. Granted all of us are works in progress. Phil 3:12-14 But, Paul was clear about,
forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
Too many people continue to dabble in darkness after they are saved. Instead of getting as far as possible from the edge of the abyss they want to know how close they can get without falling in. If there is one thing I learned in prison, running a prison/recovery ministry, and finally living on the foreign mission field it is that safety is only found in the context of obedience to God. That obedience begins with truth that itself is found in
Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting! Psalms 139:23-24
Live not by lies.
The root of why addicts relapse and die is that they believe their own lies. This understanding is a prerequisite for prison/recovery ministry. Once committed to a wrong course of action those in active addiction seek affirmation from well-meaning albeit naive people. While it may not be a conscious decision, deep down they need an excuse to abandon their recovery and someone to blame for the inevitable future consequences of their choice. Personal responsibility ruins the pleasure of sin. If someone refuses to affirm their lies they simply move on until someone does. Those who support them become “the best ever!!” Those who fail to affirm them become a source of offense. Offense produces hypocrisy, envy, malice, and slander.
I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive. Rom 16:17-18
Anyone truly living their lives in the context of Psalms 139:23-24 will immediately recognize that all of us are recovering criminals and addicts to some degree. Eph 2, Rom 3 Still how easy it is to lose sight of our mutual status as cracked pots that only the Potter can transform. Isa 64:8, Rom 8:29 Of course we are new creations. If you are already fully transformed and conformed to the image of His Son then none of what I am writing applies to you. How tempting and easy it is to magnify and compare one crack to another. 2 Cor 10:12-16 Hence our primary identifying sign of Rom 16:17-18 in action is when WE fail to truly own OUR OWN transgressions and failures. “Yeah, I know I’m not perfect but
As the saying goes, “Everything before the “But”_is a lie.”
Offense is deadly to us but especially to the population we serve. “Resentment is the number one offender.” Any malice they may hold for those they perceive as having betrayed them becomes a root of bitterness that eventually turns inward. Left unchecked it always results in relapse that in turn eventually ends in death. Rom 6:23 Unforgiveness is deadly for those in recovery. Once again,
We are all in recovery. Phil 3:12-14
It’s not that we are committed to enlarging the proverbial cracks in our pots by consciously conspiring to lie. Rather, rationalizing, justifying, minimizing, and generalizing otherwise known as “criminal thinking errors” are a primary means of survival in our dysfunction. Some or all of these are present when repentance is lacking. Hence defining truth is the first order of business. Defining truth means confronting a lie. Confrontation is always a potential breeding ground for hypocrisy, envy, deceit, malice, and slander that Paul requires us to
Charm is also listed as a criminal-thinking error and adds to the confusion. The most astute criminal knows how to charm others into affirming their lies so they can avoid taking responsibility for their choices and actions. Lies mixed with truth is satan’s and the world’s preferred approach. Succumbing to charm looks like condoning sin in the name of love. Left unchecked this progresses to viewing authority and correction as hate. Finally disobedience becomes the supernatural hand of God who is
doing a new thing!
A common strategy of the Devil is to inflate our Phil 4:8 hope for a struggling person then beat us to death with it when they fail. You can be sure you are under spiritual attack if one day you are God’s unique gift, more helpful than anyone else. The next you are a religious-spirited, legalistic, Pharisee. A fake Christian, hypocritical, and unloving. Know this! You can be certain that you are dealing with a spirit of witchcraft anytime you feel compelled to
Align with a lie.
Those who remain faithful in ministry understand that faithfulness to God alone must be the goal. Success if it happens in our presence is incidental and only given by God. 1 Cor 3:6-8 If we take credit for the increase that only God can produce then we must also receive blame for the failures.
Aim for truth and faithfulness.
That is all.
If in your frustration you do give way to envy that itself is rooted in pride and do not repent- you will eventually fall. The fruit of envy is manipulation, intimidation, and domination which is also witchcraft. If you strive to control rather than water and sow, you will soon find the crack in your pot matching those of your fellow cracked pots that betrayed your trust.
If on the other hand, the role of Chief Enabler is your default and you are easily charmed – if supernatural manifestations fix everything in your view and everyone just needs to be healed. Know this,
“Then he (Jesus) began to denounce the cities where most of his mighty works had been done because they did not repent.” Mat 11:20
People are not transformed because they refuse to repent. They may be saved, and have seasons of popularity and success that are misconstrued as approval from God. They and others will weep in confusion when the fantasy finally unravels. 1 Cor 3:13 The truth that remains and can save us is that complete repentance in accordance with His word is God’s standard. Luke 13:1-5
It does not change.
It is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, it discerns the thoughts and intentions of
Our hearts. Heb 4:12
It is impossible for us to discern the intention of our hearts on our own.
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? I the Lord search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings. Jer 17:9-10
The word of God is a mirror that shows us what we really look like in God’s eyes. James 1:23-24 The word of God is a strong tower to which the righteous can flee to safety. The word of God is Truth. Apart from it and the willingness to lean not on our own understanding or be wise in our own eyes Prov 3:5-8 and surrender to Jesus, every last one of us is a lying, malicious, criminal, hypocritical addicts ridden with envy and slander. Search me O’ God that I may
Live not by lies
At the end of the day, the fruit of malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander is the same wherever they arise. They are the root of disunity the opposite of which Paul calls us to pursue. Eph 4:11-13 Every believer must actively put them away. The only real difference between one cracked pot and another in the midst of these is that one might have a plank and one might have a speck in their eye. Mat 7:3-5 That status may be reversed the very next day. What is important to understand is that the plank in one person’s eye in no way diminishes the severity and importance of the speck in the eye of another.
Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me…Help me put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander… lead me in the way everlasting! Psalms 139:23-24, 1 Pet 2:1
Lord, you are the Potter. Test me. Have your way in me. Burn off the dross. Conform me to the image of your Son Jesus.
“It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.“