Paul wrote, “Satan transforms himself into an angel of light – therefore it is no great thing if his servants [errand runners, attendants] also transform themselves into ‘servants of righteousness,’ whose end will be according to their works.”
The devil’s most effective lie is that he doesn’t even exist at all. His second most effective lie is that he is harmless, ineffective, impotent and worthy only to be completely ignored. His third most effective strategy is to pose as if he were Christ (one meaning of the word “antichrist”) and thus lead off any who, through hidden desires of the flesh, are unwary, unwilling or unable to recognize that the spirit leading them is not Christ’s Spirit of truth and righteousness.
Those who are truly servants of Satan and his kingdom will thus present themselves as “servants of righteousness” (righteousness being most readily defined as “what is right and good in God’s eyes”) but in truth (as we glean from the context of this passage) they truly only desire that others regard them as something above the common herd of humanity so that they might (secretly or openly) boast of themselves. Paul calls these false messengers, workers filled with deceit (the primary product manufactured by the devil) as they transform themselves into (that is, they mimic the outward activities and poses that cause people to believe them to be special or superior specimens of) followers of Christ.
The “pastor” – in part because he has spent a small fortune or countless hours in being schooled in how to polish his part and to pad his role – is expert at this. The “aura of infallibility” (his ability to present himself as a studious Bible expert who should be believed, followed and paid a handsome sum as a reward) that comes upon him as he speaks forth the words of the Bible from his pulpit or from center stage may indeed be demonically enhanced. If the man is popular – that is, he has a large “church” following – one can be certain that the “birds of the air” are nesting there somewhere.
But the “pastor” is not the only one who knows how to put on “Christian” disguises. The handyman (as but one example) who learned to fix things and to rely upon himself since childhood brings his pride and fleshly skills into his Christian life and convinces himself that now he has “the gift of helps.” He will work himself to exhaustion and complete burn out helping others but he won’t allow anyone to help him and is offended when people even try. This is not the fruit of the Spirit of love – and these kinds of examples are not hard to find (if the person involved allows you to get to know the real person behind his masks.) The “Christian” businessman who knows how to get his friends to travel from miles around to aid him in his business or who gives to “churches” to aid orphans in Mexico (and to gain a tax break) but who doesn’t help the orphans, widows and the least of Christ’s brothers of his own circles and neighborhood in the ways they really need help is another example. The father who spends all his weekdays at his job and his weekends and nights “ministering” or “serving” at the “church” or one who continually travels on apostolic or evangelistic “missions” while his own family’s emotional and spiritual needs are neglected is yet another.
In the end, however, everyone will be judged by an impartial God for what he has done and how he has done it. In the meantime, we can know that the one who practices righteousness (what is truly right, good and pure in God’s eyes) has been born of God but the one who practices sin and lawlessness (what is right in his own eyes) is of the devil. The one who practices acts that are cleverly designed to imitate righteousness but which bear the fruit of self-exaltation (or self-debasement, a flip-side of the same coin) and diversion of people away from Christ, is one of Satan’s best workers.
The one who has had some real experience with Christ but who refuses to reject his pride and flesh but insists on using those to “serve” Christ and His body is greatly deceived, under the control of the demonic and stands in a perilous position indeed.
Let he who has ears hear.
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