July 4, 2016

Suspicious Citizenship

by Clint Archer

Today 52% of Britons are celebrating their week old independence from the EU while their American cousins are celebrating their own independence from Britain. Well, they are celebrating having a day off. Citizenship has varying degrees of meaning to various people. But one thing we all hate is when non-citizens pretend to be citizens. Being caught out can be embarrassing and even dangerous, as was discovered by ten illegal aliens in 2010.passports

The FBI called it Operation Ghost Stories. The mission was to detect and expose the ten Russian deep cover agents who had been living in the USA since the mid 90s.

The spies snuck in unnoticed, and using forged birth certificates they assumed American identities. They bought homes in the suburbs of New Jersey, got jobs, enrolled in universities, and started assimilating into American culture, making friends with people in the government, and even having children together to cultivate the façade of innocuous soccer moms and baseball dads.

Their assignment was to channel classified information to Moscow Center. The problem was that they weren’t very good at it.

Fifteen years into the masquerade and they were still empty-handed. They never transmitted a single shred of classified information. They just seemed to be enjoying middle class suburbia while playing spy vs spy with no real effect. Their tradecraft would later be described in a report as sloppy and amateurish.

They would write messages to each other using invisible ink. You know, like kids do. They delivered information by swapping identical briefcases with other agents on the subway. Oooh sneaky. One spy filled out a form with the following fake home address: 99 Fake Street, USA. I kid you not.

And one of them, Richard Murphy aka Vladimir Guryev, had some really bad luck.

This hapless agent surreptitiously enrolled in a university to learn more about American culture. Then, per chance, the course advisor who was assigned to him happened to be the well-respected Russian-American professor Nina Kruchsheva. Vladimir kept insisting that he was a Philadelphia native named Richard Murphy, born to American parents, and had never even been to Russia. But he kept insisting all of this in a heavy Russian accent.

Dr. Kruchsheva told the FBI that she was constantly puzzled by his “… completely Russian behavior. …He had a thick Russian accent and an incredibly unhappy Russian personality.” (I find that charming evaluation especially endearing coming from a Russian lady).i spy

In July 2010 Operation Ghost Stories culminated in all ten diabolical sleeper agents being arrested.

In the spiritual realm there are also posers.

  • The Apostle Paul warned the Philippian church that although their “citizenship is in Heaven” there are “many who walk as enemies of the cross” (see Phil 3:18-20).
  • Jesus told a parable in Matthew 22 of a man exposed as a fraud by the king at a wedding feast. Without the proper dress code he stood speechless (taking the Fifth?) and was bound hand and foot and cast out.
  • And in Matthew 13 Jesus called these sleeper agents tares among the wheat.
  • Jude calls them “hidden reefs” in the love feast (Jude 12).
  • In 1 John 2:19 the Apostle John avers that some among the number of the church would eventually turn apostate and leave them, and that this was to show that they were never genuinely saved to begin with.

This repeated theme in Scripture should alert us to three implications:

  1. A person’s profession of faith needs to be examined and bear fruit. You should not be offended if, for example in an interview to become a church member, you are asked to provide a testimony of your conversion. We should not be shocked when professing believers are exposed as unbelievers.spy vs spy
  1. When a professing Christian turns away from Jesus, we need not doubt the doctrine of perseverance of the saints (the fact that God takes responsibility for keeping believers us saved). Rather, we should realize the one falling away was never really saved to begin with, and was masquerading all along.
  1. Believers should thank God daily for our citizenship in Heaven, kept safe for us by his power (1 Pet 1:4). That eternal citizenship can only be obtained at birth, or more accurately, rebirth (John 3:5).

There is another chapter in Operation Ghost Stories. After the ten spies were arrested, they were not punished; they were exchanged. In the controversial prisoner exchange ten US citizens were released from prisons abroad as substitutes for their Russian counterparts.

As believers you can take comfort in knowing that though we were guilty of high treason against God, we get to go free. Through a dramatic substitutionary arrangement, God himself bore the eternal consequence of our crimes on the cross, in exchange for our freedom from sin, and thus purchasing for us priceless and irrevocable citizenship of Heaven.

That is an independence worth celebrating today and every day.

Clint Archer

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Clint has been the pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church since 2005. He lives in Durban, South Africa with his wife and four kids.
  • I removed your two comments because they were mean spirited and not in keeping with the tone of this blog’s community of commenters. If you’d like to mail me directly you can do so at admin@clintarcher.com

  • Kermos

    There is another set of examples in “Operation Ghost Stories”. All based on your story, Clint, (1) the Russian spies worked fruitlessly, (2) they imagined their facade was convincing, and (3) they “just seemed to be enjoying middle class suburbia while playing spy vs spy with no real effect”.

    Clint, look in your church, look at your archers, look at yourself.

    Item 1) The Lord Jesus said “You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they” (Matthew 7:16)? The church walls are an obstacle to evangelizing. Church pastors/teachers declare in sermons that churchgoers sit under their teaching as well as obedience to the man sitting in the office of pastor. So, on Sunday mornings each week, where are the laborers in the harvest (Luke 10:2)?

    Item 2) Church pastors/teachers decree, even convincing, people that church membership and obedience to the eldership is a fruit from God, in contradiction to the Word of God (the Greek manuscripts of Hebrews 13:17 says something different than English translations, see http://JesusDelivers.Faith/ for a multitude of Holy Scripture supporting this statement). If you doubt this, I spoke with an attendee of a church run by a graduate of the Master’s Seminary recently, and, when we talked of salvation, he said “we’ve lived good lives, and go to church”. Wow, that pastor has successfully given that man a convincing facade for himself because that pastor strongly pushes local church!

    Item 3) Those spies looked like the world because those spies ARE the world. Far too many faithfully attending churchgoers imagine that their church attendance with obedience to clergy are their saving grace, yet the churchgoer’s lust for, even embracing of, worldly pleasures/hobbies/dalliances dominates them. Friendship with the world is enmity toward God (James 4:4). Hungering and thirsting for righteousness, being a peacemaker is something different – it is the Love from above, the Father of lights, where the children of God reach out to the lost as well as gather for encouragement and the worship of the risen Christ! Does God want people to have a mortgage for a house, a car payment, and responsibility to tithe in support of a church building mortgage? Let’s look at Acts 2:45 “and they [began] selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need.” It even sounds like they shared housing, not just meals. That sounds an awful lot like the opposite of church building…

    Let’s examine “an interview to become a church member” based on the Holy Scripture. How many interviews do you think they held at that time of Pentecost (Acts 2:41)? No mention of interviews, no mention of church (kuriakon), no mention of member (as in church). How about when Paul instructed Timothy NOT to lay hands on anyone too quickly, so that Timothy would not share guilt (1 Timothy 5:22), that very teaching does not indicate “an interview”, rather it indicates relationship and patience.

    No, there is no such thing as “an interview to become a church member” except where men lust for authority. The Apostle Paul wrote love believes all things as well as to test all things. That is not interview. Repent, dear Clint. Are your churchgoers free, Clint, or are they in bondage to you?

    • So if I understand you rightly you’re saying the real bad guys are a) all pastors and b) all church members. Your comment isn’t really on topic. If you mail me directly with a link to your own blog post I’ll check it out, but the comment sections of theCripplegate isn’t the best place to publish your own blog post.

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