Having your home burglarized is a dreadful thing to experience. My husband and I have had our home broken into twice in our married life and our cars many times. Each robbery has had a different effect on us depending on what and how much was stolen, damage to our home or car, and how our relationship with God was at the time.
The first robbery occurred when we were newlyweds at seminary living in a furnished home in Fort Wayne, Indiana. We had brought only personal belongings for the nine-month stay but one “extra” we brought was a boom box. One day while I was at work and my husband was at school someone went through the entire house, upturning everything but only taking the boom box, our prized possession. We were not happy, but more than that, we experienced a feeling of being violated as they had gone through our drawers and cupboards looking for anything of value. They must have been greatly disappointed upon finding only elderly lady goods and a poor seminary couple’s personal belongings. To make it worse, about a week later we passed a crowd of people and one young man was standing with MY boom box hanging from his shoulder (I had recently bought a new strap for mine so it was easily recognizable). The crowd size and the way they looked at us told us to keep driving and leave it alone.
The second time we were robbed we lost much more because after fifteen years of marriage and four children, we had accumulated many more possessions. We were out of town doing a revival service with our children in tow. We came home exhausted one late Saturday night only to walk into a ransacked home. There was damage to the house, all our electronics were gone, jewelry, and the like. As we surveyed the damage and missing items that brooding feeling of being violated came over us again. However this time we were in a better place spiritually with God and quickly realized we could overcome and not remain victims. It was discovered the “thief” was a previous resident of our home who was angry his parents had moved the family out of state, so while returning for the summer and staying with a family in our neighborhood, he decided to make us pay for his unhappiness.
Going out to your car in the morning and discovering everything is gone even though you were parked in your own driveway is one of the most senseless and frustrating things that can happen; mostly because it is such a nuisance to replace everything. But one time it was more than a nuisance. We had volunteered at a golf fundraiser the day before we were leaving for a vacation. That morning I had gone to the bank to get cash for our trip and placed it in my wallet, then placed my wallet in the glove compartment at the event since I did not want to carry it around all day. Unfortunately, I forgot to take it in the house with me when we got home so when I remembered in the morning and went out to get it, I discovered it missing along with everything else of value in the car. Not only were we out our vacation money but someone had all my credit cards and license. The added threat of identity theft can cause much more stress and trepidation to one’s life.
As devastating as these experiences were at the time, there is something happening on a daily basis that is much more destructive and potentially deadly because of its eternal consequences. There are robbers and thieves messing with our faith in Jesus Christ. The Word of God tells us Satan and his cohorts are alive and well, watching and waiting for an opportunity to steal from us, much like the young man watched our house for weeks or months looking for an opportune time to break in and take what was ours and make it his. In John 10:1,8,10 Jesus tells us about thieves and robbers in the Church. “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. The thief does not come except to steal, kill, and destroy. I have come that they may have life, and have it more abundantly.”
Understanding proper terminology will enable us to identify and discern thieves and robbers in the Body of Christ, exposing the ways Satan infiltrates the Church, and giving us opportunity to apply wisdom with this knowledge in our lives and churches. A robber takes something illegally using force or violence usually causing damage or harm to a person or place. Robbers come in to plunder meaning they take what is not theirs violently and fraudulently. A thief on the other hand steals somebody else’s property with the intention of escaping unnoticed. Applying these definitions to my personal situations, our homes were robbed because people used force to enter, damaged our property, and stole our belongings. Thieves got into our cars and stole our possessions but did not cause other damage to our vehicles or to us, thus escaped without notice. Thieves and robbers can remain undetectable in our lives – they are just people living amongst us; friends, relatives, and neighbors. But covertly they are planning and scheming because it is in their nature.
Jesus references thieves and robbers in the church, identifying them as false leaders who do not come in by the will of God but make their own way into the church. They are both thieves and robbers which reveals their characteristics and true nature. Unfortunately thieves can remain undetectable in our churches for long periods of time just like other thieves all the while covertly stealing, killing, and destroying through distortion of the truth. They present themselves well giving people what they want, but end up drawing people away from their pastors and leaders, thus pulling them out of God’s will.
The methods these thieves use to steal vary in intensity from pilfering the hearts and affections of people away from Christ and/or His churches to spiritually killing and destroying the faith of people by teaching damnable heresies in the church. Pilfering means they steal love, hope, mercy, and truth habitually from the people of God. They are able to divert the attention of people away from their leaders and churches to themselves or situations in life. They do it little by little until God’s people are left with nothing but lukewarm faith, no energy, desire, or passion for God, and no hope or faith to believe for His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. This happens because people do not follow their leader to the place he leads. They think they are following a new leader, but they are following a thief, whose whole intent and purpose is to draw all men to themselves. People stray and end up lost, not sure of which voice to listen to.
Damnable heresies always begin and end in hell by teaching the people of God to call what is wrong, right and what is right, wrong. Thieves can quite literally deceive and murder the souls of God’s people by stealing away His commands and replacing them with their own carefully devised beliefs leading to a watered down Gospel. This in turn causes ignorance and idolatry in the Church which destroys and kills God’s people who wander away from their leaders and congregations. Thieves tell people what they want to hear in order to be popular and gain followers. They carefully and deceptively bring disrepute to the pastors and leaders of churches by coming up with new “revelations” perking the attention of those people who have itching ears. Thieves pacify people in their sin by tolerating excuses for things like: not gathering with the saints; making everything palpable so as not to offend people; avoiding truth in order to keep people comfortable; adding to the Word of God so that it is seemingly more relevant for our lives today. They are good at using “buzz” words to capture the minds and hearts of the people of God which gains them popularity and causes people to listen to them rather than to the voice of their pastors. People who have bought into these damnable heresies may not leave Christ immediately, but if they wander long enough they become disillusioned and confused. If they hear and follow the voices of those who are not their shepherds, the thieves and robbers, they will separate themselves, emotionally, physically, and spiritually from the body of believers where God has placed them, leaving them exposed and potentially leaving Jesus altogether.
When thieves cannot lead, drive, or carry people away from their churches they turn to robbing the people of God in an attempt to kill and destroy their faith through persecution, accusation, and false witness, usually directed towards the appointed leadership. They will attempt to destroy true shepherds/pastors by dividing and scattering people. They appear innocent with the best intentions, perhaps even proclaiming their allegiance to the “called” leadership, but will say and do things to destroy unity by causing people to speak negatively about their pastors and drawing people out of their church. We see this evidenced when they come into a church and completely disrupt the flow and atmosphere by being unwilling to submit to the pastor’s leadership. Or when people expect their pastor to embrace and implement teachings they have gotten from other leaders, books, or conferences, and when it does not happen they take offense, or get bitter and angry. They have received the influence of thieves and robbers and oftentimes spread this poison to others, accusing their pastor of being close minded, controlling, reluctant to recognize their gifts or callings, unwilling to invite other leaders in to bring life to the church, and the like. We can safely conclude a thief has been busy in these scenarios. Remember: thieves and robbers in the church are stealing faith – they do it by means of separation – they steal our trust for our leaders – they steal our willingness to live as sheep of God’s pasture – they steal our loyalty and dedication to doing our part in the body of Christ! When we do not live according to God’s plan, our faith suffers immensely!
We can have the best home security systems in place, take every precaution to safeguard our homes, cars, and other property, and we will still never rid ourselves of thieves and robbers or their deceptive ways of getting into our lives and taking what they want. As long as this world exists, sin lives on, and people will find ways to take what they want, how they want, and when they want. If we put our trust in our security system, we will be severely disappointed. We must be wise, safe, and continue to do the right things to protect and be good stewards of what we have been given, but in the end, we are still completely dependent on our good and faithful God.
In the church we can have good leaders, great ministries, prayer coverage, and faithful believers but still thieves and robbers will continue to come into the church to steal, kill, and destroy. Jesus would not have given these revelations of thieves and robbers if this was not a matter of concern to be continually watchful for in the church today. If we put our trust in the greatness of our church or faith, we will be easily led away by thieves and robbers. Knowledge of how to protect our churches and faith is great – but we must know our Good Shepherd, hear and follow Him, and cooperate with His will by following our earthly shepherds. We find life and protection in the body of Christ, in the specific body (sheepfold) He has placed us in. We find abundance, provision, guidance, and discipline as we remain submissive and obedient to our leaders, hearing their voice, and following after them.
I started this with stating the effect of each robbery was different depending on what and how much was stolen, the damage inflicted, and where we were at in our relationship with God. There is nothing more valuable and precious than our faith in Jesus Christ so no matter how much is stolen it is still a crime. As a Christian, it is devastating to have even a little faith pilfered. To have it completely destroyed is unimaginable, yet if we do not wake up, it is most certainly conceivable.
Having things taken from a home or car leaves a person with the feeling of being violated but all material things are replaceable. Having someone steal your identity spells disaster in the natural and it is difficult to stop the fraudulent behavior and regain your identity, but it can be done. But having someone steal away your affections, love, and obedience to God and His will is far more devastating; the damage potentially damning!
It is time for believers to know where they are at in their relationship with God, and a good way to start is looking at the relationship we have with our pastors and church families. They are all intertwined and since we know thieves and robbers will always exist, and are constantly looking for opportunity to kill, steal, and destroy, we best stay very close to one another (sheep find protection in numbers) and follow our earthly shepherds who are appointed by our Good Shepherd.
Are you connected with a church family and do you have a shepherd? A pastor to lead and guide you? Are you willing to be a part of a family of God, to hear and follow, and to live His way and not your way? His way is the only way we are able to recognize the thieves and robbers who want to destroy us! Burglaries are going to occur – Are you prepared? Are you under cover? God has us covered! Stay under Him!