In Genesis 3, the serpent did a couple of things: (1) He turned the focus of Adam and Eve inward, away from God and his goodness; (2) he de-emphasized the need to esteem the gracious and life-giving words of God.
Adam & Eve also did a couple of things: (1) They demonstrated little familiarity with the actual words of God (Eve adding “neither shall you touch it”); (2) they evaluated the serpent’s words on the basis of what made sense to them rather than on what God had said.
He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?”
And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’”
But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. (Gen 3:1-7, ESV)
Today, the most destructive lies in the church follow the same general pattern: (1) Leaders focus our attention on our worship and our obedience, rather than the One being worshiped and obeyed; (2) leaders treat Scripture like a troubleshooting manual rather than the gracious life-giving words of God.
Church leaders who, in word or in practice, repeat these lies–“It’s all about us and what we do,” and “We don’t need to study Scripture a whole bunch, we just need to act”–serve neither the King nor the kingdom.
Additionally, we repeat the sins of Adam & Eve: (1) We have little familiarity with the words of God; (2) we make decisions according to our desires rather than according to the words of God.
Notice that the problem begins not with a straight-out lie, but with a de-emphasis of God and God’s words. These problems will never show up as an obvious lie on the front end, but they will lead to destruction all the same.
Today, tomorrow, forever–fix your eyes on Christ! Study the Word! Encourage your leaders and congregation to do the same!
Yours by the Grace of God,