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“Never Argue With a Snake”
Tips on Overcoming Unfruitful Internet Dialogue
In my few years on the internet, I’ve had to learn some lessons regarding spiritual dialogue the hard way. One of these is, “Never argue with a snake.”
The purpose of the prophetic internet teaching ministry is to build up people in their quest for the Lord through building their understanding of the issues that affect their pursuit of Him. It’s to help them fulfill His purpose in their lives, and to receive the same from readers where they can contribute to perfecting the teacher’s own pursuit of the Lord.
Our enemy, the Deceiver, though, is intent on preventing these objectives from coming to fruition. One way he does this is to pose as an earnest fellow-prophetic truth-seeking responder to an internet ministry. Unknown to the writer, this respondent’s true purpose—knowingly or unknowingly—is to become a distraction to the writer, to sap his time in dialogue toward no fruitful relationship or understanding, while keeping the writer from helping true responders who desire genuine fruitful relationship. This is the “fellowship” of the “snake responder.”
Snake responders are what they are because of their subtlety. Under the guise of friendship, a snake responder’s real intent is to advance an unspoken agenda designed to alter or even co-opt a teacher’s mission. The Bible is peppered with examples of such “snakey envoys.” Everyone is familiar with Eve, who was drawn away from God’s word by the “friendly persuasion” of the serpent himself. But consider these, too:
The Gibeonites were snake responders. They feigned friendship with Israel, but their ruse thwarted Joshua’s purpose to root out the Canaanites. Then in Nehemiah 6, we read of “friendly” enticements by Sanballat, Tobiah Geshem and Shemaiah to detour Nehemiah from his mission. These first three snakes feigned peace, though they openly opposed Nehemiah. But the fourth snake, Shemaiah, was more deceptive. This man posed as Nehemiah’s friend. Yet Nehemiah was able to discern that he was a snake responder, and refused him concourse.
Jesus was accustomed to snake responders. The Pharisees were, of course, “a brood of vipers” who openly opposed Him. But there were among them those who, feigning agreement and friendship, invited him to dinner, saying, “You have well spoken, but now tell us….” with the intent of trapping Him in His words. Jesus’ worst snake encounter, however, was with His own friend. Using Peter, the Deceiver sought to dissuade Jesus from His mission to die at Jerusalem—which Jesus immediately identified for what it was—a snake response.
Never Argue With a Snake
Jesus’ response to Peter was quick and pointed: “Get behind me, satan.” On recognizing Peter’s word as a snake response, Jesus did not enter into debate with Peter about His death. He did not try to persuade Peter of his need to “see things differently.” He simply cut off the snake response.
The same is true when the Lord was tempted in the wilderness. The serpent made some rather persuasive propositions to Jesus. But Jesus did not engage him in dialogue over them. With one answer and no more, Jesus just referred satan back to the immovable word of the Lord itself (which is what Eve should have done in the beginning).
Snake responders thrive on the blood of dialogue. The more you give them, the more they’ll take. They are not interested in learning. They are interested in attention and in proselytizing to pet revelational persuasions. So the more you respond to their issues, the more they bring forth—a never ending verbal cycle that succeeds in its real mission to detract you from your mission.
In the prophetic internet community, many snake responders are unhealed self-absorbed prophetic exiles still lost in their private deserts, still fighting the ghosts of their exilers, and craving a platform for their revelation. Their time of maturing unto release into fruitful ministry has passed, but, unable to overcome self-absorption, they’ve become subject to religious spirits. (The premier mark of a religious spirit is its inability to bridle its tongue. Another is its inability to speak on point.)
Snake responders can be difficult to recognize at first because they use the same prophetic language and lay claim to many of the same propositions of truth that you do. They approach as friendly sincere inquirers after truth. But it’s not until the effect of their dialogue on your spirit becomes more plain that you can recognize them for what they are.
Now, here’s the hard part: There’s….
No Easy Way to Kill a Snake
The serpent’s approach to Eve helps reveal the difficulty in dealing with snake responders. The serpent approached Eve, not Adam. Why? Because he knew he would have more success in approaching that part of man most characterized by relational empathy.
This is what makes cutting off “friendly” snake responders difficult. Snake responders appeal to the empathetic side of our nature in Christ. This godly “Eve” side of our nature is averse and slow to cut people off, but wants to preserve relationship in Christ at almost any cost. It’s the side of us that feels the pain of having to break off spiritual relationship for any reason.
Because of my own experiences in “deep prophetic exile,” my heart holds a special empathy for isolated prophetic visionaries. When faced with a snake responder from among them however, the Lord requires me to “just say no.” We may not allow our compassion for the prophetic needy to become complicit in a snake responder’s usurpation of our mission. Our empathy must submit to our commitment to the Lord’s Voice, which says, “Thou shalt not argue with a snake.”
Once certain you are dealing with a snake responder—and this does take growth in discernment—you must lose no time in cutting off the dialogue. This hurts to do, but there is no “merciful alternative.” You must not keep engaging snake responders in discussion and so become detoured from your mission and its fruit.
“But I believe he means well.”
He may. But it doesn’t matter. Cut it off.
“But if I’m patient, he may change.”
No. The Lord will change him without you. Mind your mission. Cut it off.
Once you determine to kill a dialogue, the responder may charge you with being “unloving” or “ungracious.” This is to evoke guilt and keep you subject to the responder’s pull for more dialogue. Or he may reveal his true color by labeling you “unteachable,” “controlling,” “Jezebel,” etc. Snake responders don’t want any government on dialogue because it prevents them from receiving attention, asserting their agenda and co-opting your true mission.
As much as we hate to sever relationships (and true prophets do hate and hurt to have to sever communications with any responder), it remains that God allows no mercy on snake dialogue. Be gracious as possible, but don’t allow your grace to keep alive what God says must die. No matter what a snake says to evoke guilt, you must be faithful to kill the dialogue. You must not fear “bringing rejection” on a man or of rejecting real truth from the Lord. The Lord never uses guilt to correct our teaching.
Greet No Man
Remember this: dialogue never takes precedence over faithfulness to the mission. If dialogue with a responder distracts from what God has put on your heart to deliver, it must be cut off.
This prophetic principle is underscored in the Old Testament where Elisha sends Gehazi on a mission with strict instructions to greet no man. This was also the Lord’s instruction to the 70 on their last major evangelical mission before His death. (See II Ki. 4:29 and Lk. 10:4.) Why was this directive issued? It was to prevent prophets and apostles from becoming detoured from their mission.
One time, a prophet disobeyed the Lord’s pointed instruction to return from a mission by a different route, and ended up killed by a lion (I Ki. 13). Why did the prophet disobey? Because he was tricked by a snake responder who was also a prophet! He believed a false word from a persuasive source that literally detoured him from his route, contrary to what the Lord had given him. And it killed him.
The lesson? Don’t let false responders trick you out of the word the Lord has committed to you and detour you from your appointed course! If you do, it can mean the death of your ministry. For the snake is also a lion, seeking whom he may devour.
Am I a Snake Responder?
Peter’s snake response to Jesus offers us a last important lesson. Unlike the Pharisees, Peter was the Lord’s real friend. He really did care about the Lord. He had no hidden motive. He just didn’t understand the Lord’s mission and heart.
The lesson here is: While there are some whose entire approach to dialogue with internet teachers is nothing but distracting and unfruitful, the possibility of snake responses is not limited to them. In truth, if we are not careful with our words and our purpose, any one of us can unwittingly become used as a snake responder to someone else’s ministry.
Before responding to someone else’s teaching, whether in agreement or to challenge a point, we need to be clear in our own hearts about our purpose and motives. Before responding to another’s online ministry—
· Listen for a teacher’s heart behind his words. (Do you really think he meant to say what he said the way you read it?)
· Make sure that whatever you have to say, your desire is for the teacher’s best in Christ.
Then, when you respond—
· Be transparent, be upfront. Don’t carry a hidden agenda.
· Speak to the point. Don’t beat around the bush.
· Speak as concisely as is possible. Don’t ramble. Offer more as it is asked for.
· Offer to make your own teachings available, but don’t push your revelations on another teacher. If a teacher finds blessing and continuity of mission in your approach, he will be inspired of the Lord to ask you for more.
And finally—If, just if, you feel compelled of the Spirit to have to issue a strong rebuke or warning, make sure it is your absolute last resort after seeking to approach a teacher with grace in accord with the above pointers.
These tips won’t help the practiced inbred snake responder. But they will save those of us who don’t want to unwittingly be used as one!
Fruitful Dialogue Requires Pruning
John 15 holds the beloved lesson of the vine. Jesus tells us that to bring forth more fruit, a vine must be pruned of bad branches. This applies to prophetic internet dialogue. We are charged to bring forth a fruitful interchange with those we can build up in the Lord and be built up by. That’s our mission. But unfruitful dialogue must be discerned, cut off and cast into the fire.
If we don’t discern unfruitful from fruitful dialogue, we will be forever sidetracked by snake responses to the ministry, making us unfruitful. The weeds of false responders will choke out the good seed given our hearts to plant and reap in true responders.
“Lord, make us all fruitful in our interchange and dialogue with others as we grow together in your revelation.” That is our prayer.
Today’s article is the fruitful redemption of some otherwise lost time spent dialoguing with snake responders to my own ministry. May these tips in dealing with snake responders prove helpful to the honest listening prophetic internet teacher. And may they cause inbred snake responders to think twice before attempting to seduce any genuine ministry away from its mission.
New Meadow Neck, Rhode Island
First Love Ministry
- a ministry of Anglemar Fellowship
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Page created January 9, 2017