By Rev Dr Ed Hird at All Saints Crescent Beach.
“Enemies disguise themselves with their lips, but in their hearts they harbor deceit. Though their speech is charming, do not believe them, for seven abominations fill their hearts. Their malice may be concealed by deception, but their wickedness will be exposed in the assembly.”
Proverbs 26:24-26 NIV
I was so pleased to have Dr Brian Stiller speak on Friday at our 37th annual White Rock South Surrey Leadership Prayer Breakfast. How many of you attended? What was it like for you? I was reminded of the Oikos Project when Dr Stiller said that God can do miracles of multiplication through us when we choose like that little boy to share our five loaves and fishes.
Dr Stiller has remarkable energy and wisdom at age 80, having visited the Ukraine four times in the past year, helping mobilize global relief for the refugees. He said that he has never wept as much as when he is there in the Ukraine. He sensitively said that there are many Russians who are struggling with this issue.
In an autocracy, you can suddenly disappear when you publicly question the government. Dr Stiller talked about needing the wisdom of Solomon for such intractable issues. In democracies, we need to always guard against government overreach, particularly in the area of media, education, and family.
As I have been praying a lot for reconciliation and peace between Russia and Ukraine, God keeps leading me to the wisdom of the book of Proverbs. James 1:15 says “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”
We as a church are called All Saints. Saint means holy. We are all called to be holy. On Nov 1st each year, All Saints Day, we remember that all of us who love and serve Jesus are saints, which means holy and forgiven. In the Jewish tradition, a day begins on the evening before. An example of this is Christmas Eve which kicks off the day of Christmas. Similarly All Saints Eve begins on the night before on Oct 31st with a holy evening. Few realize that Halloween comes from the older word ‘Hallowed’ as in ‘hallowed by thy name’. We live in a culture that has no idea how to celebrate holiness. It is often far more attracted to darkness, falsehood, and deception. Fifteen billion dollars are spent on Halloween paraphernalia every year, a lot of it on unholy ghosts, demons and witches. Four hundred million dollars are spent annually on Halloween items for dogs.
Galatians 6:7 says “Do not be deceived. God is not mocked. For whatever one sows, one reaps” What will you be sowing on All Saints Eve?
Deception is a huge topic in the biblical wisdom literature. You will notice how Proverbs 26 twice talks about deception: that evil people carry deception in their hearts and that malice temporarily conceals deception, but it is all exposed eventually.
Deception and falsehood are addictive. Like in the murder mystery mysteries, one lie leads to another.
As 2 Timothy 3:13 says,
evildoers and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. That is why Jesus wants us to being passionate about truth, letting our yes be yes and our no no.
Dr Brian Stiller said that each of us can release feelings of hatred or humanity. He noted that each of us do good and harm every day. It is easy to point out the deep and tragic harm that Putin is doing to the Ukrainian people. But each of us need to also face the potential for evil in our own hearts. As Jeremiah 17:9 puts it, our hearts are deceitful and desperately wicked. Evil is not just out there; it is lurking in the heart of All God’s Saints. As King David said in Psalm 139, “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”
Psalms 139:23-24 NIV
Sometimes as God’s forgiven saints, we are naive and unaware about our own potential for evil and self-deception. There are few people more dangerous than self-righteous Christians, convinced of the purity of all of our motives. It is so easy to slip into the blame game where evil is some one else’s fault, the government, our coworkers, maybe even our spouse. What if tomorrow on All Saints Eve, we started searching our own hearts and admitting our own wickedness and offensiveness? Revival, reconciliation, and real fellowship often start when we walk in the light as he is in the light, just like in the East African Revival. In 1 John 1:8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. What might it prayerfully take to bring true, lasting reconcilation between the Ukrainian & Russian people?
It is very difficult to discern what is really happening in the Ukraine as we listen to the legacy media. It is too easy to demonize all the Russian people and lose sight of their humanity, who are also being made in God’s image. God has been leading me to read the wisdom of Russian Christians like Leo Tolstoy, Fyodor Dostoevsky, and Alexander#Solzhenitsyn who understand the deceitfulness and potential violence of each human heart. Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky in their famous books War & Peace and Crime & Punishment show clearly both the trickiness of evil and the reconciling power of the gospel. I believe that rediscovering Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, and #Solzhenitsyn could be part of a genuine reconciliation between Russia and the Ukraine. Because Russia has a deep historic suspicion of the West, I am praying that they may rediscover the peacemaking message of their own Russian Christian writers.
Solzhenitsyn insightly commented that “Violence finds its only refuge in falsehood, falsehood its only support in violence.” He also observed that “By the time of the 1917 Revolution, faith had virtually disappeared in Russian educated circles; and amongst the uneducated, its health was threatened.”
This is not just a problem for the Russian elite. Without being rooted in God and the Bible, all of us will fall into carefully disguised deception.
Solomon in Proverbs 26 says that enemies disguise themselves with their lips
Our lips have an amazing ability to produce both genuine & fake smiles. Just for a moment, give me a fake smile. Now give me a genuine smile. What is the difference?
How can you tell when Canadians are angry at you? You can see it in their frozen smiles. Many smiling Canadians are notorious for stabbing others in the back.
There are over 500 smiles described in Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina novel, many of them false.
Have you noticed how many Dead smiles there are at Halloween?
As a child, my favorite hero was Superman. I would dress up as Superman, even wearing a blue wig once, as the comic books gave him a blue tint. Who was Superman’s archenemy? Lex Luther. Who was his buddy Batman’s archenemy? The Joker. The most twisted thing about the joker was his smile, a dead smile. Have you noticed how much that ghosts, demons, and witches smile at Halloween? It drops our defenses. They feel harmless. As Proverbs 26 puts it, our enemies disguise their evil with their lips. We are warned not to believe them, as they have seven abominations in their heart. Seven is the biblical symbol here of complete deception. Many smiling people are completely deceived and deceiving. Those of us involved in politics have sometimes learned that not every smile is benevolent. That is why the sermon on the mount is so key where Jesus calls us to love and bless our enemies, the very ones who will stab us in the back.
Ephesians 6:12 reminds us that we are not fighting against people but rather evil spiritual forces.
I was somehow raised to think of demons as mythical cartoon characters in red suits with horns and pitchforks. But evil is not so obvious. It often disguises itself with a smile, appearing like an Angel of light. You may remember the song in Little Orphan Annie “You are never fully dressed without a smile.”You May have heard that evil live spelt backwards.
Evil often looks more like a smiling Prince Charming than Lex Luther. Evil, as Proverbs 26 puts it, has a charming smile and charming speech. Have you ever been tempted by charming evil?
As Bishop Peter put it, there is Kryptonite everywhere waiting to deceive All The Saints, the charming Kryptonite of worldly peer pressure, the charming Kryptonite of putting our family before God, and the charming Kryptonite of doublemindedness. Where is evil charming you this Halloween? Where are you being deceived with smiling half-truths? Where do you need to more fully surrender your life to our Lord Jesus? Where do you need to come clean and walk on the light on All Saints Eve?
Let us pray: Father, open our eyes so that we will no longer fall into deception, particularly during Halloween. In Jesus’ name. Amen.