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.

Our Destiny Won’t and Can’t Be Overlooked!

Queen Esther
Queen Esther

THE BOOK OF ESTHER:

“For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance shall arise for the Jews from else-where, but you and your father’s house will perish.

AND WHO KNOWS but that YOU have come to the kingdom for such a time as this and for this very occasion?”  (Esther 4:14).

Do I really have SPECIFIC PURPOSE in Life?

In 1963, I was single and working a grave yard shift at a local grocery store chain in Southern California.  I was a part-time student at a local Community College along with some morning classes during the week.  So, on specific days, I would get off work at 7:30 AM; drive to school and attend a 9 AM class, then come home and sleep until 4:30 PM and do it again starting!   at midnight!  I’m exhausted from just recounting the story.  And to make thing worse– at the ripe old age of 21 at the time, my social life was all but non-existent.

One day, pulling my car up in front of the house and sitting there for sometime, I got out of the car and proceeded to kicked the rear tire, with a  loud proclamation to the neighborhood,  What am I doing all of this for?  There must be a better purpose in life other than work, school, money, girls etc.  Well, maybe not girls!  And by the way, in case you might be wondering, I wasn’t a Christian at this time in my life, nor have any relationship with the Lord.  Oh I knew there was a GOD and I knew what Christmas and Easter were all about…but NO RELATIONSHIP. Not until I was married, had three children and reached the ripe old age of 30 did a new relationship begin!  That’s another whole story.

GOD HAS A PLAN:

Jeremiah 1:5  (KJV):

Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.

Psalm 139:13  (NIV):

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

—  Moses was born to lead the children of Israel of Bondage.

—  Elijah was born to be a prophet.

—  Noah was born to build the ark.

—  John the Baptist was born as forerunner of Christ Jesus to baptize in the wilderness. 

—  Paul was born to preach and write most of the New Testament.

Until we discover our PURPOSE, our EXISTENCE, we have no meaning…because PURPOSE becomes the source of FULFILLMENT.  And, success is NOT PURPOSE…because SUCCESS, without PURPOSE, is LIFE without meaning and no, that statement isn’t out of Rick Warren’s book, A Purpose Driven Life [sorry, I’ve never read it!].

DURING THE TIME GOD MADE ESTHER QUEEN…

Haman wanted to kill ALL the Jews and Esther being a Jew, was told by her Uncle Mordecai,  she had the POWER to protect her people.  She was given this position as queen by God for such a time as this…

Although there isn’t an explicit reference to God in the Hebrew text, God’s providence is clearly over His covenant people throughout the reading of THE BOOK OF ESTHER.

Seeking a Purpose–

 Many people today turn to drugs, alcohol, sex, career, seeking a PURPOSE.  Putting a 250-channel remote control in our hands…we’re still restless because the things of life don’t really satisfy.  Maybe for an instance, but afterword, we want more!

We have been born to have a RELATIONSHIP with God and when this happens, God’s purpose becomes our purpose…

JESUS CAME WITH PURPOSE AND DESTINY:

And it came to pass, when the time was come that he should be received up, he steadfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem. ~ Luke 9:51 (KJV).

Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me, yet not My will, but (always) Yours, be done. ~ Luke 22:42 (AMP).

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. ~ Romans 8:28 (NASB).

For God saved us and called us to live a holy life.  He did this, not because we deserved it, but because that was His plan from before the beginning. ~ 2 Timothy 1:9 (NLT).

HOW GREAT is the love the father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!  The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know Him. ~ 1 John 3:1 (NIV).

Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be had not yet been made known.  But we know that when He appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. ~ 1 John 3:2 (NIV).

OUR DESTINY?  WE HAVE BEEN BORN–ANOINTED–SET-APART TO INFLUENCE OTHERS!

The Christian walk in life is a FAITH WALK.  God doesn’t always reveal His perfect will and allow us to see our DESTINY He has set in place for our lives.  But that is no excuse to bury your head in the sand and wait for God to call you home.

He asks us to TRUST Him and take a leap of faith, allowing Him to guide our every step along the way until we come to the end.  Often, it is not until we have reached a milestone or accomplish a major goal that we can look back and see that God has been leading us all along.

With that all said, you might be questioning God right where you are at this moment in time: Why am I here?  Can’t I accomplish great things for your Kingdom at some other place?

Esther Felt the Pain!

Esther couldn’t understand why…why God would allow her to be forced to marry a pagan King; then taken from her family, to live in a palace, where she felt more like a prisoner than a Queen.

According to the Persian Law, Esther could not even go to her husband the King, without his prior approval.  If Esther were to attempt to walk in the presence of the King, without permission, she would be instantly killed if he didn’t want to see her.

Esther’s Destiny Could Not Be Overlooked!

AND THE RESULTS?

Esther’s people shared in the Queen’s Destiny–God’s Plan:

“The Jews had light [a dawn of new hope] and gladness and joy and honor.    And in every province and in every city, wherever the king’s command and his decree came, the Jews had gladness and joy, a feast and a holiday.  And many from among the peoples of the land [submitted themselves to Jewish rite and] became Jews, for the fear of the Jews had fallen upon them”  (Esther 8:16-17 AMP).

YOU’RE NEVER TOO OLD OR YOUNG TO DO WHAT GOD HAS CALLED YOU TO DO:

Moses was 40 years old when he began tending sheep in Median and did the same mundane chores for 40 years.  When Moses was 80 years old God called him for His purpose.

When is became a born-again Christian in 1972, I was told by a wise old pastor:  Mel, God has a special calling just for you in life.  My thought process at the time?  Okay pastor, what “calling” is that?  It took over 20 years to discover it and another 20 to follow through with it.  What was it? TEACHING!

Ways to Determine Your Purpose in Life–

When I was investigating Esther’s Destiny; her calling…I uncovered some informative ways to determine God’s calling in your life by John Piper:  10 Ways to Determine God’s Calling in Your Life ~ April 25, 2005.

Although the ten questions were directed to people who desired committing their lives to the Mission Field, I thought Mr. Piper wouldn’t mind if I shared with you a few ways of not overlooking your destiny–your God blessed purpose here on earth.

Our calling can be deep-seated and lasting in our spirit (our hearts).  After all, it is the work of God [not your work] that brings your heart to a point of conviction.  All things considered–including Scripture–this pathway is the path to obedience.

[Esther’s pathway was chosen by God but it was her chosen obedience  that couldn’t be overlooked].

 Conviction is not infallible–

Although conviction isn’t perfect, but when it is of God, it certainly brings peace to your soul.

How does God waken such a calling in our lives?

John Piper suggest 10 Ways in grasping God’s plan for your life and only one of them is infallible–The Bible.  [I’ll present only 2-ways for reference.]  All others are relative and are not absolute but still important for determination.

Also, various combinations he lists are fuel God uses to drive the engine for His calling in your life.

#1. Above all, know your Bible and saturate your mind with it:

God’s Word, His will for your life shapes our minds:  Psalm 1:1-3.

It makes us burn for Christ:  Luke 24:32.

#2.  Know your gifts and know yourself:

Every Christian has spiritual gifts (1 Peter 4:10-11 AMP):

“As each of you has received a gift (a particular spiritual talent, a gracious divine endowment), employ it for one another as [befits] good trustees of god’s many-sided grace [faithful stewards of the extremely diverse powers and gifts granted to Christians by unmerited favor].”

“Whoever speaks, [let him do it as one who utters] oracles of God; whoever renders service, [let him do it] as with the strength which God furnishes abundantly, so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ (the Messiah).  To Him be the glory and dominion forever and ever.  Amen.”

Knowing your special gifts shapes your convictions about your calling and knowing yourself (as Paul illustrates in Romans 7:15-24), deepens your sense of fitness in various ministries.  Remember, this can be over-ridden by other facts that come into play.

This is but two means given by John Piper, to get you thinking.  If you want the other 8, you will have to go to John Piper’s book.

ARE YOU LISTENING FOR GOD’S CALL IN YOUR LIFE…DISCERNING YOUR DESTINY?

A blogging friend and published author, Jeannie Pallett, said recently in a message,  “I won’t be blogging this week.  I think my life [‘my destiny’]    is about to change…a sensing God wants me to open our home for my unsaved niece to live here for awhile” [the words in brackets are mine].

God’s Main Call First–

Careful Listening
Careful Listening

First, is to a restored relationship then a close fellowship.  Have you ever tried to have a verbal conversation with someone and they did all the talking?  You couldn’t even get a word in edge-ways ; an answer, if it really was a question.  How do you feel?  How does God feel when you do all the talking–asking all the time, but never listening for His answers.  That is not relationship or fellowship.  That’s spiritual deafness!

Eternal life that comes with being a Christian is not just accepting JESUS as your Lord & Savior, then waiting around to go to heaven and live for ever.  It’s about relationship with God–getting to know Him, serving Him and obeying Him because you love Him:

John 17:3–  Now this is eternal life that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.

John 15:15–  I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business.  Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.

John 15:14–  You are my friends if you do what I command.” 

“God’s call is for you to be His loyal friend, for whatever purpose He has for your life” ~ Oswald chambers “My Utmost For His Highest”.

The apostle Paul tells the church located in Corinth:

“God is faithful (reliable, trustworthy, and therefore ever true to His promise, and He can be depended on); by Him you were called into companionship and participation with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord”  (1 Corinthians 1:9 AMP).

GOD’S SPECIFIC CALLING FOR YOUR LIFE:

What is God’s call in your life?

That’s the question many Christians wonder about and seek an answer to.  Is it full time ministry, or to be a missionary, or to be a lay person, or…?  You need to prayerfully seek God and ask Him to help you discern His special plan and calling designed especially for your life.  Ask Him to give you the faith and courage to follow–obey–whenever He leads you.  You will be the happiest and full of joy when you are in the middle of God’s will and plan.