Spotting “Out-of-Bounds” Wolves Isn’t Easy

Scripture Reading in Acts 20:28-31 [Amplified Bible]

[28] Take care and be on guard for yourselves and the whole flock over which the Holy Spirit has appointed you bishops and guardians, to shepherd (tend and feed and guide) the church of the Lord or of God which He obtained for Himself [buying it and saving it for Himself] with His own blood.  

[29] I know that after I am gone, ferocious wolves will get in among you, not sparing the flock;  

WOLVES CAN BE HARD TO SEE SOMETIMES
WOLVES CAN BE HARD TO SEE SOMETIMES

[30] Even from among your own selves men will come to the front who, by saying perverse (distorted and corrupt) things, will endeavor to draw away the disciples after them [to their own party/side].  

[31] Therefore be always alert and on your guard, being mindful that for three years I never  stopped night or day seriously to admonish and advise and exhort you one by one with tears. 

WHAT DO YOU SAY WHEN YOU SAY “GOODBY”?

When an apostle says farewell and addresses leaders in the next spiritual generation for what he thinks as the last time, a  “farewell monologue” is in order.

As Paul reviews his past as a model for the Ephesian elders’ future work and charges them as Spiritual-appointed pastoral overseers, we can be quickly aware Luke intends his message to ALL church leaders in every spiritual generation (Acts 20:13-17).

Spiritual Watchfulness in the Church…it’s NOT a “one-man show”–

In a day when individualism, authoritarianism or simple economic necessity turns the pastoral responsibility so we may promote TEAMWORK in pastoring or shepherding of the local flock.

LEADERSHIP must be spiritual:  “the Holy spirit has appointed you [“overseers” – KJV] to take care of and watch over the whole flock (verse 28).

Paul’s WARNING to the ELDERS…even some wolves will show up from amongst the leadership (verse 30).

The Bible tells us our ENEMY isn’t so easy to spot.

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Where is the WOLF?

When we think of our enemy–we may tend to think, some guy standing around in a red suit with a tail and a pitchfork.  But 2 Corinthians 11:14 tells us “…for Satan himself MASQUERADES as an angel of light.”

*  He looks almost righteous.

*  He looks almost religious.

In other words, you’ll not always know he’s evil and how he looks.  Even FALSE TEACHERS don’t always show up with snake oil and a handlebar mustache.

JESUS warned us in Matthew 7:15, they look like the flock and they have wool just like all the other sheep.  And here in Acts 20, Paul warns the church elders, some of those wolves would show up from amongst their leadership:  “Even from among your own selves men will come to the front”  (verse 30 a.).

OBSERVING THE TRUE NATURE OF WOLVES…

“WOLVES” tend to look like everyone else, feeling that they are in the right.   AND…they are willing to destroy anything in their way.  So let me backtrack a bit.

The WOLVES Jesus and Paul talk about look like us.  You can tell who the Jehovah Witnesses are: They’re the ones with the green bibles and the funny looking tracts.

You can recognize the Mormon missionaries:  They’re the ones riding their bikes, wearing white shirts and ties.

BUT these wolves look like us and that’s because they often ARE us.  They’re often “part of the family”; could be an Elder, a Preacher, a Teacher…it could be ME…it could be you.  AND that’s scary.

Often wolves don’t even realize they’re wolves; so convinced that they’re right…nothing else matters.  So we might actually end up being wolves without realizing it.  And THAT’S SCARY!

“Bah-a-a-”

WOLVES may look “cool” in a TV Documentary series, but I don’t want to be one.  JESUS didn’t call us to be wolves…He called us to be SHEEP. [Sheep and wolves by the way, are natural enemies].

BUT…if WOLVES can “get out-of-bounds” by arising from among our number, and IF those wolves could end up being you or me, how do we recognize when we’ve stopped being a SHEEP and become a WOLF???

“Out-of-Bounds”…

FIRST– I’d know I’d stepped over the line (“Out-of-Bounds”) when I find myself consumed with power and influence.

Paul tells us that these wolves will come forward “saying perverse (distorted and corrupt) things, will endeavor to draw away the disciples after them [to their own party]”  (verse 30 b.). 

These folks want the church run “their way” and the rest of the church be THEIR disciples, and IF they’re not… they’re either fools or heretics.  The one phrase often repeated is “This is MY church!”–it belongs to them and should be run THEIR way.

But there’s a big problem with that phrase.  The problem is…it isn’t THEIR church, not your church, it isn’t MY church.  IT IS CHRIST’S CHURCH!!!

Paul tells the Elders from Ephesus:  “Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with His own blood” ~ verse 28 b.

But if WOLVES don’t think that way…if they can’t get their own way…they tend to forget whose church it is.

ILLUSTRATION:  Years ago in one particular church located in southern California, the Pentecostal movement began to take shape within the church body [early 70’s].

It started slowly at first, and then it began to take hold, led by their senior pastor.   Murmurers,  even malcontent also began to take hold in the membership.

One Sunday morning, the pastor decided to inform the body of the new direction and how he was led by the Holy Spirit to do so.  He also said that not all of the leadership approved, but the calling of God was so strong in his spirit, there would be a change in some doctrinal teaching.

In the following weeks of the announcement, over 50% of the church split–leaving and going to more “evangelical conservative” denominations.

The “nipping” and “biting” of WOLVES before the kill…

I’m not saying the reasons for their leaving were right or wrong.  What I am saying is what occurred in the interim.  The people who left tried to get the balance of the church to leave by writing letters of disapproval–notes were passed to the unknowing, all fairly nasty.  And although no one else left and the church grew in number…scars were formed in those who stayed, and those who left that were hard to heal.

Distortion of the Truth…

Paul also tells us the WOLVES “distort the truth” (verse 30).  

TRUTH is often one of the first victims of a lone wolf, or… a wolf pack.  Sometimes that DISTORTION comes in the form of FALSE DOCTRINE…and,  too often that same distortion comes in the form of character assassination.

So, WOLVES seek to have their own way…they often play fast and loose with the TRUTH…AND they don’t care who they hurt in the process.

Notice Paul’s words in Acts 20:29:  “…ferocious wolves will get in among you, NOT SPARING THE FLOCK.”

They don’t care who they hurt.  JESUS said  “…the WOLF attacks the flock and scatters it” ~ John 10:12.

* They send out nasty e-mails…

* They try to peel off church members to follow them as their disciples…

* They’ll find ways to attack the pastor’s character, elders, or anyone else who opposes them.

WHY?  Because the FLOCK isn’t as important to the WOLVES.  Getting their way is what’s important.  They don’t really care who they hurt as long as they accomplish their objective.  They’ll even tell you they LOVE Jesus!–but they don’t.  They don’t because they don’t care for His bride (the CHURCH).

In order to get their way, they drag the BRIDE of Christ thru the streets, shred her wedding gown and throw the pieces in the mud, stomping on it. All because–they’re right…that’s what matters!

The Concern with the “What IFS”…

“But…now wait a minute Mr. Word Detective.  What if the leadership of a church is heretical?  What if they’re teaching false doctrine?  Or, if they’re allowing immorality to run rampant in the local church?”

Dealing with it must be done in a biblical way, and HERESY and IMMORALITY can’t be ignored in the assembly.  BUT you want to be careful how you handle it–because you’re still dealing with the Bride of Christ.

FINDING A “MAN AFTER GOD’S OWN HEART” IS A GOOD START:

That above phrase sounds familiar.  It’s finding someone in Scripture who handled something very similar in their midst.  A man who understood the mind of God.

THE MAN DAVID:

Did David ever have to deal with a leader who was immoral?  Dis David have to deal with a man who directly disobeyed God?  Did David ever have to deal with a man who was tormented by demons?  He certainly did…

A MAN NAMED KING SAUL sought to kill David in 1 Samuel 24:1-13:

NOTICE when you read the referenced verses, David confronted Saul in his WICKEDNESS:

Heresy or Immorality MUST BE CONFRONTED and must be called out for what it is.   BUT, if you are in the position of church leadership, use your position to deal with that SIN with responsibility–perhaps even removing such people from the fellowship.

Being Careful…CAREFUL IN responsibility.  

DAVID in the story refused to destroy SAUL…even when it was in his power to do so.  Even when what Saul was doing was clearly wrong and identified this kind of behavior with EVIL.  As the old saying goes,  “Out of the WICKED comes forth wickedness; but my hand shall not be against you”  (24:13).

DAVID withheld his hand because SAUL was the “Lord’s anointed.”

In the same way, every Christian is ANOINTED by God! (1 John 2:20, 21; 2 Corinthians 1:21).

When we become Christians, the Spirit of God came and resides inside our hearts–spirit, mind and soul.  His presence confirmed our RELATIONSHIP with God the Father.  So IF I hurt or damage another Christian in what I say or do, might I be GUILTY of wrongdoing?

But how could David do that?  How could Davis just stand back and let Saul get away?

Well, he could do that because he TRUSTED GOD (1 Samuel 24:13).  

When David said this, he was quoting Deuteronomy 32:35:  Vengeance is mine saith the Lord, I will repay (KJV). 

Using Our AUTHORITY…

When we have the AUTHORITY to discipline a wayward brother or sister in Christ, we should do so, but being careful how we deal with them and the circumstance… because we may find ourselves opposing God in getting His way.  We might even find ourselves becoming WOLVES in the process rather than who we are supposed to be…the  SHEEP.

GOSPEL OF JOHN 10
GOSPEL OF JOHN 10

 So, are there WOLVES in  your midst, or there but SHEEP?  Keep watch, for they’re sometimes hard to identify!

 

Photo Credit:  Photo Pin.

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