Posted in discernment, false doctrine, the subtlety of satan

How a Pastor guards his flock: Jim Murphy’s sermon "The Subtlety of Satan" Part 2: God takes away the discernment of the elders

Earlier today I wrote of a pastor in Johnson City NY who had preached a raw and compelling sermon to his flock on Sunday. The sermon is called The Subtlety of Satan, and it is a blessing and an encouragement to Christians who are fainting at the Tsunami waves of falsity swamping us, and the lack of reaction from brethren, leaders, and pastors who either don’t comment or worse, purposely allow it. In these dangerous times Paul wrote about, we know wolves will infiltrate the church, bringing with them poisonous teachings, false doctrine, myths of men, and much more.

But where are the discerning leaders who are protecting their sheep, speaking out against the false and wrong and dangerous? They are out there, laboring in corners of the nations, in home churches, in large churches, in small churches. Most of the time they are unacknowledged, and in many cases, unappreciated. The strong brother in a church sliding to apostasy may feel lonely, but there are still strong members of the body speaking for truth out there. The Lord is good to raise up strong, discerning, unafraid pastors who stand for truth in a dying, lying world. In this case, one of these strong pastors came to our attention. Thank you Lord.

Pastor Jim preached a sermon that was full of raw faith and strength, fierce for the truth and potent in warnings. It is called The Subtlety of Satan, by Pastor Jim Murphy at First Baptist Church of Johnson City, NY.

Deception is subtle. How do I know? Because satan is the liar and the father of lies, (John 8:44), who is out to steal, kill, and destroy. (John 10:10). That is what the Word of God tells us. Further, it tells us that satan is the most subtle creature in the garden. (Genesis 3:1). We must not ignore the many warnings in both testaments about falsity. There is one True God and He is to be held above all else. He died to bring us the true testimony of the Gospel that saves.

Speaking against deception is speaking for Jesus.

Some may ask, OK, that is all well and good, but why does the pastor, or anyone, have to name names? Isn’t that unloving? No. Here is an analogy. We’ll use food. The word feeds us. (I Peter 2:2; Matthew 4:4; Job 23:12). Jesus is the bread of life. We thirst and He is the living water. There is good leaven and bad leaven. Food is the analogy.

So Baptists are known for their covered dish suppers. In the north they’re known as pot luck suppers. Long tables laden with food groan under the weight of all the covered dishes atop them which people brought. Church members gather to have fellowship or to celebrate. They eat together.

Source Decatur Daily

Scenario A: (names are made up)

Pastor Joe Smith is completely undiscerning. He has no idea that some of the food his flock are about to eat contains worms, dung, and poison. He does not warn them that wolves brought that food, because he does not know they are wolves. Why? If a pastor, teacher or elder fails consistently enough to pursue truth and learn to discern wheat from chaff, and fails to teach his flock how to discern good from evil, sometimes God takes away the discernment of the elders.

“He deprives of speech those who are trusted and takes away the discernment of the elders.” (Job 12:20, ESV).

Gills’ Exposition, “Speech is proper to mankind, and a benefit unto them, whereby they can converse together, and communicate their minds to each other; this is the gift of God.” One of the Spirit’s gifts to men is that we are brought into the Light of His truth by seeking Him through His word. If He gives the gift of discernment, He can also take it away- and He does.

Geneva Bible Study warns of the results of the Job verse, “He causes their words to have no credit, which is when he will punish sin.”

These sheep under Pastor Joe Smith are at great risk. Not only are they not being warned, but they are through passive means being taught not to discern. And so, the students will become like their teacher. (Luke 6:40).

Scenario B1:

Pastor Pete Jones organizes a covered dish supper in his church’s fellowship hall. He knows that some of the people bringing food to the table are wolves, and he knows that some of the food will make his people sick, or even poison them. He has discernment, but he has a skewed view of what being “loving” is. His people eat heartily, pray, and sing, then they go home. Reports start to come in that this one is in the hospital, or that one fell away from church because they got sick, or this one died. Tearful congregants approach the pastor, and bitterly ask him, “You knew some of the food was bad! Why didn’t you warn us?” Pastor Peter replies, “Well, I didn’t want to be unloving. I thought that the wolves would be struck in their heart by our loving and tolerant attitude, seeing that we accept all food equally and in love, and they would convert.”

Scenario B2:

Mindful of the disaster at his previous church, pastor Pete, at a new church now, has grown a bit (a tiny bit) in his discernment. He organizes another covered dish supper. He knows that some of the people bringing food to the table are wolves. He knows which ones are wolves, too. He knows that some of the food will make his people sick, or even poison them. The potato salad has been left in the sun for hours, the hamburgers have e coli, and the apple pie was laced with cyanide. He knows which food is bad but he sees all the good food too. However, not wanting to have a repeat of the disaster that happened before, He prays over the food, and he warns his flock.

“People! Listen! Some of this food is bad for you! Some of it will make you sick. Some of it will kill you. Some of it will be delicious and fill you up. There. I have warned you.”

“But pastor, which food is bad? Who brought the poisonous dishes?”

“People. It would be unloving of me to name names. We might hurt that person’s feelings. It would be unloving of me to point to which food is bad, because they spent a long time making it and they brought it here sincerely today. We must not judge! OK, enough said, Buon Appetit!”

Scenario C:

Pastor Lupus organizes a covered dish supper. Over the course of the week, he had called his Canis friends and asked them to bring poisoned food to the supper. He sees that there are too many people in his congregation loving the Lord. He hates this. He wants to weed those Christians out. So he brings diseased food and knowingly feeds his flock with it. He knows that those strong eaters of the food will soon be gone and he will need his pews filled up. He doesn’t care that the strong ones go away and the weak ones die. He just wants replacements to fill his pews so he will look good. Feeding them evil food is the best way to do it. But he does it slowly and on the sly. He is the wolf, baying to his wolf friends to come into the church. The covered dish supper is the means to break his church because direct poison kills swiftly.

Many people were surprised that John Piper made Pastor Jim Murphy’s list of those who are failing their duty and who are bringing a false word. Piper has been a towering man of the faith for many years. But he is slipping. Not possible you say? Not Piper! Really? Look what happened to Solomon. The wisest man who ever lived became foolish in his old age. Is Piper different, or excused, or immune to the same fate? Are any of us? No.

The Lord God organizes all the affairs of men. He does what He wills. Discernment is a gift from Him, and a  mercy and a help. When He sees fit, He takes it away.

Matthew Henry comments on the Job verse about when Lord takes away the discernment of the elders. Think of John Piper when you read it. Or substitute any voice which once was strong but now is not.

“Those that were famed for eloquence, and entrusted with public business, are strangely silenced, and have nothing to say. He removeth away the speech of the trusty, so that they cannot speak as they intended and as they used to do, with freedom and clearness, but blunder, and falter, and make nothing of it.”

“Those that were bold and courageous, and made nothing of dangers, are strangely cowed and dispirited; and this also is the Lord’s doing: He taketh away the heart of the chief of the people, that were their leaders and commanders, and were most famed for their martial fire and great achievements; when any thing is to be done they are heartless, and ready to flee at the shaking of a leaf. Those that were driving on their projects with full speed are strangely bewildered and at a loss; they know not where they are nor what they do, are unsteady in their counsels and uncertain in their motions, off and on, this way and that way, wandering like men in a desert.”

Is John Piper excluded from this danger just because he is an elder of the faith, so successful for so many years? No! As a matter of fact he is more at risk. “The stouthearted were stripped of their spoil; they sank into sleep; all the men of war were unable to use their hands.” (Psalm 76:5).

That is why I keep saying, pray for our pastors! Pray, pray, pray; and then pray some more. He is a gift from God! And the pastors who are not discerning, not bold, not warning us? They are a judgment from God. Which pulpit do you want to sit in front of? Just think about that the next time you go to a covered dish supper. Which food are you being fed? Good healthy food (doctrine)? Or poisonous food (doctrine)? Don’t you want a pastor who will love you enough to feed you good food and to teach you how to tell if the food is good? And don’t you care enough about yourself- you who Jesus died for-to then go out and practice that discernment and growing in strength to detect good doctrine from bad, so you can then turn around and teach others?

Pray for Pastor Jim, if you would. God has blessed him with discernment, strength and fire! Do you see from this lesson how that is a gift and a blessing straight from God? Pray for the ones Pastor Jim named who are false. Pray for each other, “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people” (1 Timothy 2:1 ESV). In all things, pray. (Phil 4:6)


Christian writer and Georgia teacher's aide who loves Jesus, a quiet life, art, beauty, and children.