Is It Time For A New Wardrobe?

TODAY’S SCRIPTURE – Colossians 3:1-17

There seems to be trending on cable television several SELF-IMPROVEMENT shows. Some of the appeal I think is the DESIRE to make some changes in our own lives.   Also, some of the appeal is seeing others being able to make the needed changes.

There’s a show called What Not To Wear on TLC.  It’s interesting to watch friends and family rat out a loved one as one who has no style and then the show secretly films the offender.  Then the offender is confronted by the hosts of the show with the chance to change what they wear and given a $5000 pre-paid Visa Card to get a new wardrobe.

I’m certainly NOT a fashionista, but really, you should see some folks sense of style. Almost always it’s a lady who needs to make a change.  I guess us men have an instinctive sense of style  (NOT!).

I’m thinking that most who are reading this have something you would like to change about yourself.  I would like to lose 10-15 pounds myself.

Let’s consider our life with Christ for a moment,

How many of us are totally happy with where we are in our RELATIONSHIP with Jesus?

When we give our lives to Christ, we hear about this NEW LIFE God wants us to have.

John 10:10, Jesus tells us that “I came that they [you] may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it overflows).”  

But it doesn’t seem to be happening the way we think it should be.

You’re going to have to realize that in order to be able to make those changes about yourself, you actually have to change some things in your life!

For instance, if I want to lose weight, I have to change my eating habits, my exercise habits (currently, no habits here!), along with my attitudes concerning food.

Without CHANGING these specific areas of my life, the weight is not coming off.  No miracle cure is going to change my weight without me changing some things.

THERE IS NO NEED FOR “WHAT NOT TO WEAR” POLICE…the truth is, what we WEAR daily will have an effect on our lives.  

What we WEAR can help us or hinder us.

For one to grow in Christ we need to realize there are some things we ought NOT to WEAR in a figurative sense.  We all need to rid ourselves of some or our entire current wardrobe so that we can really TRANSFORM our image of Christ.

Colossians 3:5-7 (PHILLIPS):

On so far, then, as you have to live upon this earth, consider yourselves dead to worldly contacts: have nothing to do with sexual immorality, dirty mindedness, uncontrolled passion, evil desire, and the lust for other peoples’ goods, which last, remember, is as serious a sin as idolatry.  It is because of these very things that the holy anger of God falls upon those who refuse to obey him.  And, never forget that you had your part in those dreadful things when you lived that old life.

FIRST, WE NEED TO CLOSELY EXAMINE WHAT’S IN OUR CLOSET

One of the most difficult things for people on the TV show to do is get rid of the old wardrobe…snake skin tights and pink boots.  They gotta go!

They need a wakeup call, and the wakeup call on the show is a 360-degree mirror, a truth teller.  It helps make the fashion offender realize that they need to look at changing what they wear.

After the view in the mirror, the hosts of the show go through their closet and throws almost everything in a nearby trash can.

Well, the Apostle Paul gives us a list of items that need to be taken out of our closet and throw in the trash can.

  • WE NEED to throw out the old clothing that no longer fits
  • WE NEED to realize that we are DEAD to the old life; we’ve outgrown many of the items hanging in our closet.

In VERSE 5, we are told literally “put to death” these things.

To consider DEAD means we’re to hold these items in check, restrain them.  Left unrestrained, they will lead us in the wrong direction.

If you look at VERSE 3 casually, we are told that we have DIED with Christ Jesus…BUT here we are told to consider our members of our earthly body as DEAD!  Remember, someone who is DEAD is no longer aroused by the world around them.

This VERSE should remind us that WE have a part to play in our WALK with God.

We need to toss out the clothing that no longer reflects who we are in Christ.

In VERSE 5 we are given a LIST of things that we are to consider ourselves DEAD too.

IMMORALITY deals predominantly with sexual sin.  The word is the same word we get “pornography” from.

1 Thessalonians 4:3 (GNT)

[3] “God wants you to be holy and completely free from sexual immorality.”

This list includes impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed.  All of these deal with getting what we want.

The list is actually in reverse order…the root of all these issues is GREED!

GREED is the overmastering desire for what belongs to another; it includes the breaking of the laws of right and justice in order to obtain them for oneself. 

It’s the relentless urge to get more.  This is really the ROOT of the rest.

We must move in the direction of pleasing our heavenly Father rather than ourselves.

God isn’t against SEX, but SEX outside of MARRIAGE is wrong, no exceptions!

As long as we live in a fallen world, we’ll struggle with these issues.  The last part of VERSE 5 tells us that these things amount to IDOLATRY.

When we REJECT the true and living God of the Bible, we make up one of our own imagination, and we make our desires, appetites, and lusts our god by the deification of them.

WE NEED TO THROW OUT THE OLD CLOTHING that hampers our growth!

The THINGS listed in VERSE 5 are to be a part of the OLD LIFE.  This is the reason for us to put SIN to death in our lives.

We now walk with God and what WE WEAR should reflect that!

Colossians 3:8-9 (NIV)

WE NEED TO DEVELOP A NEW ATTITUDE ABOUT WHO WE ARE IN JESUS.

VERSES 8-9 really deal with issues that have their roots placed in our attitudes.

We are told that we are in need of putting some old attitudes in the “trash can.” And don’t worry, there’s plenty of room in the can!

To put aside, or rid yourselves means to take off–like taking off clothing.

Each of these ATTITUDES if left unchecked will build upon one another.

ANGER is a deep smoldering bitterness…leads to REVENGE by which being bent on causing injury to another either physically or to their reputation.

ALL these things can lead to SLANDER and FILTHY SPEECH.  We need to rid ourselves of these things.

There are many Christians who still to this day struggle with these attitudes.

Ephesians 4:29 The Message (MSG)

“Watch the way you talk.  Let nothing foul or dirty come out of your mouth.  Say only what helps, each word a gift.”

It’s easy to focus on the EVILS of verse 5 and then forget about the EVILS in verse 8.  It may be more difficult for us to deal with BECAUSE…WE can always rationalize our corresponding actions.  “THEY MADE ME MAD!”

Bad ATTITUDES lead to bad actions!

VERSE 9 encourages us not to LIE to one another.

When we harbor bad things in the heart, they will come out in our actions.

If you find yourself struggling with ANGER issues, don’t just sweep them under the carpet.  Don’t rationalize your ANGER.

Our ATTITUDE towards others needs to reflect who we are in Christ Jesus.

We are called and obligated to treat others in a Christ-like manner, even if they don’t deserve it!

Colossians 3:9-11 New International Version (NIV)

 

We need to rid our closets of things that don’t line up with who we are in Christ.

If you go from digging ditches to being a salesman, be wise to get rid of the work clothing that you used to wear daily as a ditch digger and replace it with clothing that matches up with the new job.

I remember when I went from driving a plumbing supply truck to working in the sales office and I had to do the same thing.

Our new purpose in Christ is to be RENEWED to the true knowledge of Christ.

We can’t be RENEWED to the true knowledge of Him if we don’t know anything about Him.

We need to rid ourselves of the CLOTHING that doesn’t reflect our RENEWED PURPOSE.  By obtaining knowledge of Christ and His will through His Word found in the Bible, our spiritual being is being changed into the likeness of Jesus.

We learn to feel, act and think like Christ!

Romans 12:2 (NIV)

[2] Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be TRANSFORMED by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.  [Capitalization for emphasis by the Word Detective]

Our ultimate purpose in life is to be TRANSFORMED into the IMAGE of Jesus!

2 Corinthians 3:18 (AMP)

And all of us, as with unveiled face, [because we] continued to behold [in the Word of God] as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are constantly being TRANSFORMED into His very own image in ever increasing splendor and from one degree of glory to another; [for this comes] from the Lord [Who is] the Spirit.

That is our calling!  Anything that we figuratively WEAR that hinders, THAT needs to be thrown out!

The way some of the people on the TV Show would dress often hindered their advancement chances at their job.  IF we choose to WEAR the STUFF from our old life as described in our passage of Scripture; we will be severely hindered in our TRANSFORMATION.

TACKY IS IN THE EYES OF THE BEHOLDER.

It amazes me what some people will wear and thinks looks great.  It seems as though they are the ONLY ones in the room who cannot see it.

Are you one of those TACKY DRESSERS who wear things such as:

  • Sexual immorality,
  • Impurity,
  • Passion,
  • Evil desire,
  • Covetousness.

DO you wear things such as…

  • Anger,
  • Wrath,
  • Malice,
  • Slander,
  • Obscene talk (dirty talk) coming from your mouth?

IF you do, others can see and hear it and it’s time to put on some NEW clothing.

 

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CREDITS –

Wikipedia What Not to Wear (U.S. TV series); http://www.tlc.com/tv-shows/what-not-to-wear

Photos:  Google Image Search/Advance settings.

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV) except where noted.

More STUFF from the Minor Prophets: WHEN STUPID DECISIONS ARE MADE…WHAT THEN?

A STUDY IN THE BOOK OF MICAH:

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Back in 2005, the FBI received reliable information about a sitting member of the U.S. Congress illegally using his official position to solicit bribes from American companies.

The congressman in question was William (Bill) J. Jefferson, who had been serving Louisiana’s 2nd congressional district since 1991.  In the FBI investigation, it was revealed from 2000 to 2005, Mr. Jefferson sought hundreds of millions of dollars for himself and other co-conspirators from companies whose success depended on the approval of certain U.S. and West African government agencies.  Mr. Jefferson ended up pocketing more than $478,000 but wasted significantly more in U.S. government resources to further his illegal claims.

During the investigation, the FBI–while serving a search warrant on his residence–found $90,000 in Jefferson’s freezer.

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In August of 2009, Mr. Jefferson was convicted and sentenced to 13 years in prison.   [See Footnote [i] for source.]

CORRUPTION IS STILL ALIVE AND WELL!!!

We hear similar stories to this of BRIBERY in other parts of the world all the time–India, China, and Russia all typically repeat offenders–but it’s not something we expect to happen in our own backyard.  We’re better than that, right?  I’d like to think so, but that doesn’t stop people from making STUPID DECISIONS!

When people make stupid decisions, they have to face the consequences–a trial in a courtroom perhaps–but in Bible times,  bad decisions meant something even harsher, like FIRE & BRIMSTONE, right?

Usually, YES; that is unless you count the time that GOD brings Israel to court for IMMORALITY.

LOOKING AT THE BOOK OF MICAH, Chapter 6:

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In Chapter 6, verses 1-8 are read like a courtroom drama: “Law and Order: Jerusalem Crimes”.

You start first with the PROSECUTION, in verses 1-5:  I can almost hear a southern lawyer, yelling this today–‘God is demanding that the people explain their actions!’  You see, at this point, the ISRAELITES were extremely corrupt and in self-denial.

In Micah 2:8-9 (NIV)–the EVIDENCE presented:

[8]  Lately My people have risen up like an enemy.  You strip off the rich robe from those who pass by without a care, like men returning from battle.  [9]  You drive the women of My people from their pleasant homes.  You take away My blessing from their children forever.

In Chapter 3, God calls out the LEADERSHIP specifically–verses 1-5 (Amplified Bible):

[1]  And I [Micah] said, Hear, I pray you, you heads of Jacob and rulers of the house of Israel!  Is it not for you to know justice?–

[2]  You who hate the good and love the evil, who pluck and steal the skin from off [My people] and their flesh from off their bones;

[3]  Yes, you who eat the flesh of my people and strip their skin from off them, who break their bones and chop them in pieces as for the pot, like meat in a big kettle.

[4]  Then will they cry to the Lord, but He will not answer them; He will even hide His face from them at that time because they have made their deeds evil.

[5]  Thus says the Lord:  Concerning the false prophets who make My people err when they have anything good to bite with their teeth they cry, Peace; and whoever gives them nothing to chew, against him they declare a sanctified war.

In Chapter 7, God lists more specifics!

Micah 7:2-3 (NET):

[2] Faithful men have disappeared from the land; there are no godly men left.  They all wait in ambush so they can shed blood; they hunt their own brother with a net.

[3] They are determined to be experts at doing evil; government officials and judges take bribes, prominent men make demands, and they all do what is necessary to satisfy them.

Sounds a bit like William Jefferson did!

So in Micah 6:1-5, the JURY is selected…and, the PROSECUTION begins.

The LORD’S Case Against Israel

“Listen to what the LORD says;  “Stand up, plead My case before the mountains; let the hills hear what you have to say.  Hear, you mountains, the LORD’s accusation; listen, you everlasting foundations of the earth.  For the LORD has a case against His people; He is lodging a charge against Israel.”  (Verses 1-2, NIV Bible).

The “mountains”, the “hills”, the foundations of the earth” are selected for the unshakable JURY.

In the Gospel of Luke (19:40), it says if we’re all silent, the “ROCKS” themselves will cry out in praise–is it then too much to think that mountains, hill’s and the foundations of the earth serve as a JURY if asked to by their Creator?

NEXT, God is asking the defense,  “Why are you doing this to me? What have I done to deserve this?”

He then begins to list off what He has done like it says in VERSE 5–God wants to make sure the Israelites “know the righteous acts of the LORD”–[Num. 23:7-24; 24:3-24; Josh. 3:1; 4:19].

What comes next is such a human reaction to the charges–

THE PEOPLE want to jump to the other extreme!  They go from not listening to God’s commandments at all–to wanting to go overboard with burnt offerings, thousands of rams, ten thousand rivers of olive oil…”TEN THOUSAND RIVERS”?  REALLY?  Perhaps a little dramatic?

But this was their thinking.  They were like the criminal who, overcome with GUILT, tells the cops to throw him in jail, throw away the key and let him starve to death in solitary confinement because he did something wrong.

And you know what?

The Israelites deserved every one of those things.  They disrespected the Creator of the universe, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords!  God would be well within His rights to point His finger and zap them all with lightning bolts!  BUT…as a loving Father, He doesn’t.

IN VERSE 8, God tells them what He wants; what He requires.

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That sums it up!

God doesn’t care about these huge, outward displays of GUILT–HE’S GOD!

He knows how you’re feeling, and whether your GUILT is legit or not.  All He wants is for you to follow Him.  That is the very definition of MERCY!

Let’s go back to the Courtroom Drama with the lawyers and the jury.

God says, It’s OK!  I will continue to BLESS you, and this is how.”  

Micah 7:11-12 (NIV):

[11]  “The day for building your walls will come, the day for extending your boundaries.

[12]  In that day people will come to you from Assyria and the cities of Egypt, even from Egypt to the Euphrates and from sea to sea and from mountain to mountain.”

So what does this all mean to us–today–right now?

It means that if we sin–if you do something to DISRESPECT God or to ANGER God, He doesn’t expect you to flip a little switch and become a SuperChristian to make up for it!

All God wants is for you to follow Him–the rest of it will take care of itself if you do that.  And when you do sin–and let’s face it, it will happen–don’t wallow in SELF-PITY and make absurd promises to God that you know you can’t keep:  

“God, I’m so sorry that I cheated on my math test that I’m going to eat nothing but bread and water for the rest of my life!”  I think you get the idea.

Instead, just be honest with God–admit that you’ve sinned–and go back to following Him.  THAT’S ALL HE WANTS!!!

 

 


FOOTNOTES & CREDITS –

Footnote [i]:  https://www.fbi.gov/news/…/a-look-back-at-the-william-j-jefferson-corrupotion-case/

Photos:  Google Image Search & Freezer Photo taken from Footnote [i] story.

Bible Translations Used:  New International Version (NIV), except where noted.

What’s the ‘FINAL STRAW’?

Well, it’s finally the end of football season except for the playoff games and of course…The Super Bowl.  We all have our favorite teams, and I’m no exception.  My Seattle Seahawks, again are in the playoffs, and the 12’s, the Seahawk Fans, are ‘Ready for some football’!

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The old Monday Night Football song featured Hank Williams Jr. singing, “Are you ready for some football?”, was something I looked forward to every week.  And for the most part, the games were absolutely worth waiting for.  They were PREMIER MATCHUPS of equally matched teams, bound to have some wonderful surprises with some extraordinary highlights.

In THE BOOK OF AMOS in the Old Testament, we can also see a premier matchup of teams NOT equally matched at all.  

BUT…there are still bound to be some probably NOT so wonderful surprises but some extraordinary highlights!

TEXT:  AMOS 5:18-24 (NIV)

The Day of the Lord

[18] Woe to you who long for the day of the Lord!  Why do you long for the day of the Lord?  That day will be darkness, not light.

[19]  It will be as though a man fled from a lion only to meet a bear, as though he entered his house and rested his hand on the wall only to have a snake bite him.

[20]  Will not the day of the Lord be darkness, not light–pitch-dark, without a ray of brightness?

[21]  “I hate, I despise your religious festivals, your assemblies are a stench to me.

[22]  Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them.  Though you bring choice fellowship offerings, I will have no regard for them.

[23]  Away with the noise of your songs!  I will not listen to the music of your harps.

[24]  But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!”

First, let’s look at the prophet Amos:

Contrary to what you might think, AMOS was neither a prophet nor the son of a prophet to begin with(7:14).  He was a herdsman and a dresser of sycamore trees…actually, a wild fig or mulberry fig tree.

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A DRESSER is better translated as a bruiser.  Sycamore trees had a fig-like fruit.  In order to make the fruit ripen and sugar content, he would take a long stick and tap them and bruise them.  AMOS picked these for a living and since the FRUIT wasn’t particularly good tasting, only the poor people ate it.  [See footnote [i] ]

So while AMOS was tending sheep and dressing trees…he became aware of the conditions of his day.

Today’s awareness of surrounding world conditions, might be around the water cooler.

Amos’ day conditions were discussed around a sycamore tree or while he was herding the sheep as caravans passed along a well-traveled highway.

WHAT WERE THE CONDITIONS?

Wealth abounded…actually, it was an either or situation.  On one hand there was luxury and self-indulgence, and on the other…there was absolutely miserable poverty.  I’m sure you have seen videos of the homeless camps fixed under overpasses in our cities today.

  • The GOVERNMENT was corrupt…there was evidence of extortion…there was riots and violence in the streets and CLASS was hated.
  • Dishonesty was the rule rather than the exception and there was also a gross indifference to the suffering.

The RELIGIOUS conditions followed the same pattern

Outwardly, it seemed that RELIGION was thriving in and around the center of population…attendance soared while the treasuries bulged…BUT…inside there was sickness.

The priests were professional leeches.  They would preach exactly what would tickle the ears of the people.

IMMORALITY was practiced in the name of Jehovah God…

There was so much hypocrisy and insincerity in the assemblies while real RIGHTEOUSNESS was hated and oppressed, sometimes violently.

In my study this past week, all this became painful for me to read and understand. This period of PEACE and God’s GRACE…instead of being grateful to God for their peace and prosperity He had given…they used this time to plunge into the pool of sin.

Much like America is today…outwardly it seems like things are going pretty well…BUT on the inside, decay and rottenness.

AMOS saw the JUDGMENT of God coming upon the nation but the greatest threat, then and now, lies in the religious community!!!

In Chapters 1 & 2…AMOS speaks of JUDGMENT on the surrounding nations. The people really like that part.  Notice that Amos repeats the phrase, “For three sins…even four” (vs. 4, 6).

He uses this formula to focus attention on the FINAL ITEM–GOD’S ‘FINAL STRAW’!

AMOS doesn’t list the first three sins, but moves directly to the fourth, bringing the JUDGMENT of God down to the actual audience to whom the message is directed–ISRAEL.

That brings me to the ‘Final Straw’ portion of this blog-study:

THE DAY OF THE LORD (Chapter 5):

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Israelites of Old Testament times looked for the day when God would intervene in the affairs of the world, righting the wrongs and establishing His rule on the earth.

For the first time in Scripture, the concept of the DAY OF THE LORD is introduced. The term appears only in the prophetic.

What do we think when we hear the term?  Do we think of the time when JESUS will come back for His bride, the church?  Or, that glorious time when we’ll leave this old world and go to heaven?  “Oh, what a glorious day that will be!”

AMOS gives us a clear picture of what the Day of the LORD would be like for the people.  1st it would be a time of DARKNESS–not light.  

People thought it would be a bright, happy time of celebration…tickertape parades…dancing in the streets, etc..  Instead, it would be a time of unparalleled hopelessness…There would be no place for them to escape the JUDGMENT OF GOD!

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He says it would be like a man who would run from a lion only to meet a bear; from something ferocious to something even worse!

In desperation this man manages to reach his house–a place of safety and shelter. He arrives breathless, leans his hand against the wall to catch his breath…and as he does, hidden in some crevice, a snake bites him.  The DEATH he thought he would escape awaited him at his own house.  NO SAFETY…NO ESCAPE anywhere!

Verse 20:  Not only DARKNESS…

[20] Don’t you realize the LORD’S day of judgment will bring darkness, not light–gloomy blackness, not bright light?  (NET Bible)

This is a far cry from the joyful expectations the people of Israel had.

In VERSES 21-24, AMOS gives details of some of the things that helped bring on this JUDGMENT…THE FINAL STRAW:

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Each of the ESSENTIAL ELEMENTS of their worship was examined and in each case…they were totally rejected by God.

What God required was not the RITUAL or the OFFERING, but rather RIGHTEOUSNESS in the courts, in the marketplace, in every aspect of their conduct, because this is what it takes to WORSHIP GOD…not the outward show.

But these “saints” all still performed their duty on occasion…and think it will be enough to cause God to overlook the SIN in their everyday life.

But their COMMITMENT to God is revealed in their lifestyles.

They pretended to REJOICE, to Praise the LORD…they had their solemn assembly for their worship.  ALL the right moves…ALL the right notions…

BUT God HATED and DESPISED it.  He said take it away…Get it out! (verse 22).

How About the WORSHIP MUSIC in the Congregation?

Vs. 23 – Away with the noise of your songs…

MUSIC was an important part of their worship, as it is today in our church services.  —HOW COULD THEY MESS THAT UP?

It had all the right words…the music was sweet to the ears, but it wasn’t offered to God…it was just the next step in the process.

–HOW ABOUT US?

When we sing, do we mean what we say?

Now, this has not been all too pleasant reading so far…it’s been pretty negative.  But when God deals harshly with His people, it’s always REDEMPTIVE in nature.

It’s never meant to beat you down…rather, it’s to help us get our focus back on Him.

That brings us to VERSE 24 – BUT…LET JUSTICE ROLL!

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What is AMOS referring to here?

He wants us to do a turn-around!  Act justly.  Be honest!  That means in our everyday life, in our dealings with others…whether business or social relationships.  Don’t take unfair advantage and treat everyone as God Himself would treat them.

It also means being HONEST before God…recognizing our true nature–who we are in Christ Jesus.

RIGHTEOUSNESS like a never-ending stream.

JESUS said, “He that drinks of the water that I give…out of his belly shall flow rivers of living waters”  (John 7:38 – KJV).

That’s what is available for you and I today.  We need to examine ourselves where we are in life…examine our motives–honestly, and make whatever adjustments the Holy Spirit tells us to do.  And then, and only then, can we truly long for THE DAY OF THE LORD.

 


CREDITS –

Photos:  Google Image Search.

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV), except where noted.

Footnote [i] :  Dr. Claude Mariottini – Professor of Old Testament, AMOS’ Occupation, June 17, 2014. 

 

 

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.