Recent Convert, Conceit, Devil’s Fate
September 16, 2016
While practicing my memory verses a few days ago, 1 Tim. 3:6 struck me in a way it hadn’t before. Regarding overseers in the church (its leaders / pastors / teachers), it says, “He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgement as the devil.” Wow, I thought, “fall under the same judgement as the devil.” That’s severe. That’s terrifying. That judgement is something everyone should flee from and warn others about. For truly, the devil has an awful eternal future he heads toward, and if a human falls under that same judgement –well, that human has a horrific eternal future as well.
Who is it who is in danger of receiving the same sentence as Satan? This verse shows that it is the person who, after recently becoming a convert to Christianity, then becomes an overseer of a church, becomes conceited, and thus brings himself into enmity with God. In other words, a person who makes the claim to submit to and follow Christ and who then quickly rises to a leadership/teaching role within the church is prone to becoming conceited through doing so, and that this conceit will be the root cause of that person’s condemnation –the same condemnation and punishment the devil is under and will receive.
Such a warning should give all of us very sober pause. Pause in believing just any teacher’s doctrine. Pause in following just any pastor’s leadership. Certainly those who have for a long time claimed to belong to Christ may also be conceited, but we are told to be especially careful about recent converts who quickly become church leaders. But, how recent does “recent” mean? We’re not told, but those in whom the Holy Spirit dwells should utilize the discernment He gives.
Several years ago my husband and I attended a church for about a year where Rick, the pastor, had only been a Christ-follower for about six years, before that having been a drug dealer. He did show signs of conceit in the pastorate but we tried to over-look it, not only because he was using his Spirit-given gifts, but also because we felt anyone doing Bible-based ministry through the Spirit should not be dis-encouraged.
Even so, at the intense and repeated promptings of the Spirit, I wrote him a handwritten letter, and as lovingly as I could, addressed his pride. He didn’t accept it so we went to church elsewhere. However, after crossing paths with him, his wife, and his congregation at a tent revival meeting about a year later, we went back to his church a few times because we still considered everyone there to be our friends. Once again, though, the Lord impressed me to write still another letter to Rick warning him about pride. So after much prayer and weeping I did, and the next Sunday I had it with me, ready to give it to him. My husband, though, pained over the potential strife, had asked me if I couldn’t just wait a couple of weeks; and after church he again asked me to wait. Conflicted about obeying God or adhering to my husband’s wishes, I reasoned I could please them both if I still gave Rick the letter, but not yet.
Well, I never saw Rick alive again. I was in North Dakota that following week, arriving home Sunday night. The next night (Monday) Rick shot himself in the head. I never had given him the warning letter. (Yes, both my husband and I repented through many tears.) It was a letter that could’ve woke Rick up, could’ve shaken him to his senses, could’ve made him hopeful enough, or mad enough, or scared enough, to call out to God for help. The letter could’ve alerted him, reminded him, that even if he was fooling the church people and stealing money from the church treasury for his renewed drug habit, God was seeing all of it and could write him a warning even through the pen of someone who didn’t know anything about how far his pride had actually taken him.
Well, I say all that to say this: Rick was a skilled, smart, and incredibly likable guy. Whoever had helped him get into the pastorate could see that, as could those who eagerly chose to sit under his leadership. But there were other valuables missing –like humility, wisdom, maturity, and careful alertness to the devil’s cunning schemes. Such things come through time, by repeatedly putting into practice Christ’s commands, by exhibiting faithfulness when tested and disciplined by the Lord, and simply through gradual, steady progress. Yet recent converts typically don’t realize this. Thus it’s up to those who are sound and mature in the faith to allow no provision for recent converts to be spiritual leaders.
Does this mean recent converts shouldn’t be urged to evangelize or share their faith? No, for they should. They should be encouraged in proclaiming Christ everywhere. But 1 Tim. 3:6 does teach us that a recent convert should not be given a leadership role or a role of authority pertaining to church discipline, money, or doctrine. The mature should know better than to put a person in a position where Satan, through the strength of temptation, is able to take advantage of a leader’s naivety, immaturity, and lack of experience and discipline. It is no small sin to aid someone in their folly, to assist in the ensnarement laid for someone by the evil one –he who tries to entice everyone into receiving his same destiny.
What is the judgement that the devil has already received? He was ejected from his God-ordained position of being guardian cherub (Ezek. 28:14-16), and this because his pride corrupted his wisdom (v. 17) and his heart. (Isa. 14:12-15) His presumptuous conceit sealed his doom to a non-escapable fate. It is a God-declared condemnation (John 16:11) that, manifesting in the future at God’s appointed time (Rev. 20:1-3,7-10), will sever Satan’s rule and glee forever –as he is “thrown into the lake of burning sulfur” (v. 10), never to emerge.
And again, what does 1 Tim. 3:6 warn us of? It warns us that a spiritual leader, particularly if he is a recent convert, may become conceited and fall under the same judgement as the devil –!!! Yes, to those receiving the same judgement as Satan, Jesus will say, “Depart from Me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” (Mt. 25:41) “Then they will go away to eternal punishment…” (v. 46) For as Jesus warned even those branches already in Him, if we do not remain in Him, we will be cut off and thrown away to wither, then picked up, thrown into the fire, and burned. (John 15:1-10)
Conceit. It blinds those who begin to think they are better than others, that they are above the rules others must follow, that they are smarter, spiritually stronger, and more gifted than the average. Conceit, if left unrepented of, grows like a cancer, making horribly foolish the one who won’t give it up.
Where does conceit lead the adherents? It leads them to abandon the faith (1 Tim. 4:1) as they delight in listening to deceiving spirits teach their demonic doctrines (same verse), as they listen to godless myths, fallacies, and evil suspicions / conspiracy theories (4:7 & 6:4), and as they continue developing their unhealthy interest in controversies (6:4) so that their corrupted minds (v. 5) are no longer able to teach sound doctrine. (v. 3-5) Such a person’s fate is the same as the devil’s. –Condemnation in the lake of burning sulfur. (Rev. 21:8)
Let’s take note that many verses, including 1 Tim. 3:6, are speaking not of false converts, but of converts to the faith / to Christ –yet who have allowed conceit to overtake them so that they incur upon themselves the same eternal sentence that is coming upon the devil.
Who then is teaching, “Once in Christ, always in Christ”? According to the Scriptures, such doctrine just isn’t so.