And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened. Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not. For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders; so that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. (Matthew 24:22-24 KJ2000)
Lie not in wait, O wicked man, against the dwelling of the righteous; spoil not his resting place: For a just man falls seven times, and rises up again: but the wicked shall fall by calamity.
(Proverbs 24:15-16 KJ2000)
He who misleads the upright into an evil way will fall into his own pit; but the blameless will have a goodly inheritance. (Proverbs 28:10 RSVA)
I was baptized into the Roman Catholic Church as an infant and raised in it, so I didn’t have a lot to say about that until I was old enough to see that it was doing nothing for the hunger that God had put in me. Out of frustration as a young man, I finally went looking for something that could scratch my spiritual itch. Being steeped in religion, my next stop was the religion my wife grew up in, an Armenian type Bible church that at least knew about the scriptures pointing to salvation in Christ. The problem was that they did not believe that the Holy Spirit was needed to be a Christian, and that only the “ascended masters” (I jest) in the church got the Holy Spirit when they had “the very seed of sin” removed from their lives. The rest of the unwashed masses had to struggle along Sunday after Sunday, going up for the altar call and getting saved all over again because they sinned during the week. In reality, it was no different from my RCC experience there they told us that the sacraments were needed every Sunday for the same reason. As my wife put it, “They believed that Jesus had the power to save them, but not enough power to keep them saved, so they had to do that on their own.”
That church experience only lasted a couple of years until the itch to really know God in a personal way grew unbearable once again. He kept calling me to find His power that I needed to walk upright before Him as His son instead of groveling at the church altar every Sunday.
I became most miserable from some deep rooted issues that were hanging over and in me from the Vietnam War. I had PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and didn’t know it. In 1969, nobody even talked about this mental disorder. I knew from what I was doing to my family that I needed help that I was not finding it in the churches. Finally, one Sunday in June 1970, I came out of my up tight little church and found a hand bill on the windshield of my car. It told me the Jesus People were holding park meetings. We went to check them out.
The park where the meetings were to be held was the local hippie hang-out park where local rock bands put on a free concert every Sunday afternoon during the summer. Imagine what this very straight laced couple thought as we saw hippies walking around with their wine jugs, toking on pot, and hippie girls in their long dresses and combat boots. The real shocker was a girl about 8 months pregnant wearing a bikini! But I was determined to see what these Jesus People were about, so we sat there in our Sunday best looking totally out of place.
Finally, a group of kids gathered that were not like the rest. They had the long hair and funky clothes (no bikinis), but they were different. Their faces shone with the presence of the Lord and I had never seen that in any church! I found out what they had that I didn’t–they had been filled with the Holy Spirit. By the end of a couple more park meetings, I found out what God wanted–an unconditional surrender of all that I had been, was and ever hoped to be, everything I owned and clung to on this earth, and even my family! One young man explained that if I was going to be filled by His Holy Spirit, I had to be emptied of myself. I knelt down after one meeting and did business with God. I confessed it all, sins past and present, and surrendered everything to Jesus without any conditions.
That was the turning point in my life. The next morning I woke up a new man in Him. I fully expected that God would take away everything and in time many things that had been so important to me dropped away as He put His order in my life. And yes, I got to keep my wife and kids. I didn’t speak in tongues and all that Pentecostal stuff, at least not at first, but for the first time in my life I had power over sin. I could choose not to sin or to cave into it and that was a real breakthrough for a man who was still a Catholic sailor in his mind. I was now a new creation in Christ!
As usually happens, the enemy could not allow a group of people to be running around in the freedom of Christ with shining faces. A man came in among all these new believers that were saved out of Hippie-dom and started to take the preeminence one small step at a time until he had total control over all our lives. He knew the Bible better than any of us and also knew how to twist it to give him the power he needed to take control. My wife and I were under this man for six years and by the time he was through, he had replaced Jesus in all our lives, His Spirit was quenched in each of us, and the voice of His Spirit was drowned out by this man’s cleaver arguments and teachings. Later we learned that the leader had studied the mind control books by Peale, Carnegie, and Napoleon Hill and was using them against us.
After escaping from that man-made hell, we tried some “normal” churches for a while, found them lacking, and ended up in non-denominational church that was small and personal and started to feel like family. They loved us back to life and we started to recover our freedom in Christ among them. That went well until the pastor resigned and the assistant pastor rose up and brought in men from outside the area that took over and started to shape the group into another cult under their control. We recognized what was going on quicker this time and got out, but not without some severe spiritual wounding in the process. If cults cannot control you they try to kill who you are as a person.
Don’t kid yourselves, even the so-called “main line churches” are guilty of these practices! They do this by bringing your salvation into question or even saying that you are demon possessed. Some dear saints have their faith destroyed by watching the church leaders fall into sexual sin or even being sexually molested by the leaders themselves. Satan is good at what he does and knows just where we are vulnerable. In my case the cult leaders used a brother in Christ I had walked with for many years, meet with me and ask me if I had ever been saved. After that I was gladly ready to go off into the wilderness for I had had all that “fun” with these Christians I could stand.
The next part of my walk–a spiritual wilderness–lasted 14 years. Part of the wounding from the cult was what I call “scape goat-ism.” They lay their hands on you and put all their sins (blame casting) on you, and send you out in the wilderness to die (see Leviticus 16:20-22). Many of you know what this is all about. I was angry and bitter most of that 14 years and that had a lot to do with it lasting so long. I was mad at God for what He let His people do to me, my wife, and my family! After about 12 years, I finally came to see my sin against God and confessed it to Him as sin. Then He started to slowly heal my heart over the following two years.
In 1994, I was totally released of all the pain and wounding and had an encounter with Jesus that restored my first love for Him. Since then, my church experiences weren’t any better, but I was able to see what was of Christ and what was of the flesh and not come under condemnation any longer. I knew who I was in Christ and that kept me clear of deceptions and condemnation. After that the Lord brought me into a writing ministry and put me in fellowship with George Davis. We have co-authored several books and articles on spiritual matters concerning God’s kingdom and what we have learned along the way. If you are interested, you can find them on our website at: http://www.awildernessvoice.com.
God bless you for taking the time to read all this. I hope it helps you see how “the very elect can be deceived,” yet overcome the wicked one by the power of God calling you to Himself as your loving Father and releasing others as He does.