Church Wolves Will Come

The downfall of pastors both great and small should sadden us. But such events should not surprise us. In Matthew 7:15, Jesus tells his disciples, his church, to “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.” In other words, false teachers will come. Pastors will fall. The church should prepare for the arrival of wolves.

Why no Guards?

The prevailing sentiment of God’s people makes no allowance for the possibility of such false teachers. The local congregation sees no need to guard the pulpit or its ministry apparatus for it assumes that only qualified, sincere, and devoted candidates will express a desire to pastor or lead a class. The local church assumes the very inclination towards the pastorate, mission field, or Sunday school room is the greatest prove of the person’s qualifications for the said ministry. When a question or two does arise that challenges the persons fitness, the majority of the congregation falls back upon this or that positive experience that they shared with the pastoral or missional candidate. The members remark that he was pleasant a conversationalist at lunch the other day or that she passionately cared for the kids in nursery the other night. Moreover, they assume that if the soon-to-be installed leader were truly of the devil, he would tell us about his love of money, or she would list teaching heresy as one of her hobbies on her social media profile. Since he’s nice, he must be qualified to lead the youth group. Since she’s nice, we really should support her trip to Nepal. No thought is given to the possibility that that the nice face could just be a mask hiding the soul of a wolf.

Beware the Wolf

According to Jesus, we should entertain such a possibility. Instead of blindly trusting every person with a Bible, our savior longs for us to test the spirits. In other words, we should examine the fruit of those who aspire to church and ecclesiastical leadership. Jesus notes in Matthew 7:18, “A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit.” When a prospective leader arrives at the church, the church should pat down the person’s character to see what fruit he or she has produced. Anyone can say “Lord, Lord,” talk passionately for a few minutes, or make a charming impression at a church social. But a man called by God to serve as an elder will bear fruit well beyond the controlled interactions tied to his professional ministry. He will consistently affirm others with his words, demonstrate a love for his family, a compassion for his enemies, a contentment with his income, and sexual purity. The man who spews out hate, hungers for money, and focuses inordinate amount of his attention upon sexual topics should not be advance into the pulpit even if he seems sincere, passionate, and gifted. In other words, the man who justifies his moral failings through appeals to his ability (an ability he may truly possess) is unquestionably wolf. To borrow the words of Paul, a faithful teacher must be above reproach (Titus 1; 1 Timothy 3). There is no room for equivocation. A good teacher will not preach truth on Sunday and then lie on Monday. A godly leader will produce good fruit.

What A Wolf Does

Once the church grants the wolf unfiltered access to the sheep, the false teacher will feast on the lives, relationships, and finances of the sheep, leaving a path littered with the bloody fruit of sin. The wolf may not stop feasting until he has eaten that local church into extinction. The damage one wolf or a wolf pack can do stretches the limits of our imagination. If a wolf cannot be removed quickly, the sheep should flee.

What God Does

Though wolves remain a very real threat, no wolf will overthrow the Church. Local outposts may fall into disrepair when their pulpits are left unguarded, but the church militant will forever survive. Moreover, justice will come. Someday soon, the false trees will be cut down and cast into hell (Matt 7:19). The good shepherd will also attend to his wounded sheep, restoring them to health. God will always show himself faithful even during a wolf attack.

Though God will stand by his church, wisdom demands that local churches should exam a potential church leader’s spiritual fruit long before giving him the keys to the pulpit or the ministry framework. Not every wolf has to run rampant among the sheep if we will but stand guard. Will you?

What Do False Teachers Do?

false-teachersFalse teachers do not march into church carrying a sign that reads, “I hate Jesus and You!”  They come into church dressed in religiosity, Christianese, and shallow kindness.  The Apostle Paul wrote that false teachers have “the appearance of godliness but deny its power (2 Tm 3:5). False teachers will throw on a coat of niceness over their evil souls before coming to church this Sunday. But that form of godliness does not change their character. These false teachers still remain some of the most selfish, prideful, unloving, deceitful, slanderous, and hateful people in the world.

So how can we determine who is genuine and who is false? How do we discover who is in the ministry for the money, for self-promotion, and for sex and who is in the ministry to love the broken, to help the needed, and to encourage the faithful?

Though the hearts of men and women are hard to judge their actions are more easily seen. False teachers generally do two things according to Paul. He writes in 2 Timothy 3:6-9

For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions,  always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth.  Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men corrupted in mind and disqualified regarding the faith.  But they will not get very far, for their folly will be plain to all, as was that of those two men.

Avoid Those Who Go After Little Women:

False teachers are attracted to the weak and the defenseless. They are particularly drawn to weak or little women.

Paul is not equating femininity with gullibility. Paul valued women in his own ministry and view them to be integral members of the church. He evangelized Lydia in Philippi and later stayed with her (Acts 16:13-15). He praises Phoebe as a servant of the church and spoke well of the evangelistic couple Priscilla and Aquila (Rom. 16:1-3). And in 1 Timothy 3-5 and in Titus 2 Paul reveals that churches will only be healthy if they have faithful, reverent, and godly women. Paul was not a misogynist.

Paul is not attacking women in 2 Timothy 3. Rather, he is discussing reality. In 2014, The Telegraph estimated that a majority of cult members (70%) tend to be women even though most cult members are men.  False teachers prey on women with weak or little faith.

False teachers do not go after the woman who has a knowledge of the Bible, the woman who can confidently speak of the grace of God, and the woman who regularly chooses Christ instead of the her own wants. The false teachers go after the woman who is overcome by sin, is led astray by passions, and is always learning.

False teachers prey on women who feel the weight of their sin. They have had a secret abortion and yet they can never forget those horrific moments. They feel guilt when they think about all the mistakes they made as a parent. They feel condemned because they can never make it to church on time. They feel the weight of their sin day after day. They long to escape it but do not know how. False teachers seek out women who fear God will never approve of them.

They also seek out women who are controlled by their passions. Instead of being self-controlled, these weak or little women do what they want when they want to do it. If they seek affirmation, they devote their lives to chasing complements on Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram. They will jump into affairs and expose themselves to gain a fleeting complement or a sense of love. They live their life for approval. And once the complement fads, they once again feel the weight of their sin ever so deeply.

They also chase meaning through stuff. They buy shoes, carpets, toys, books, and anything else that catches their eye on Amazon, Waiyfair, or Zappos. The ladies run up the credit card bills and find themselves lying to their friends and spouses about their spending habits. These women bend and shape their life, families, and budgets to fund their passions. But once the rush of the order is replaced with the boredom and worry about debt.

Passions lead to hopelessness. False teachers seek out women overcome by sin and controlled by their passions.

And lastly, false teachers seek out women who are always learning but are never able to arrive at the knowledge of the truth. Again Paul is not saying that the women who are attracted to false teachers are intellectually stupid. Rather he is saying  women of little faith do not understand the gospel. 1 Timothy 2:3-4, Paul defines knowledge of the truth as follows:

This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

Knowledge of the truth is knowledge of the gospel. The women who are targeted by false teachers are women who want something more than the gospel. Yes, they understand that God created the world, that men and women sinned, that Christ died for their sins, and that salvation is freely given to all who repent and believe. But these women want something more. They want to be able to do something. They want to say a special prayer, to find a special diet, or to create a special list that grants them everything for life and godliness.

They read book after book, they go to class after class, they do spiritual thing after spiritual thing, thinking, “Surely belief, repentance and faith can’t be enough? There must be more!”

False teachers thrive on this sentiment. Bruce Wilkinson wrote the Prayer of Jabez for such women. He told his readers that they would experience an amazing physical and spiritual life if they would pray one little prayer from 2 Chronicles over and over again. Sadly, Wilkerson’s teachings were extremely flawed as evidenced by his failed African ministry. Yet, his book continues to sell.

Those who have a form of godliness but deny it power prey on weak women overcome by sin, driven by their passions, and who are unable to grasp the truth of the gospel. We need to avoid such false teachers. Moreover, the church needs to be on the lookout for woman who are struggling and must offer them Biblical love, support, and counsel.

Avoid those who deny the Scriptures.

All false teachers oppose the truth like Jannes and Jambres. These two men opposed Moses by magically turning the staffs into snakes to compete with Aaron’s message from God (Ex 7:10-12). Today’s false teachers do the same thing.They replicate the ministry of true teachers with one subtle difference. The false teachers deny the truth of the Scriptures.

Again, they do not come out and say that they hate Jesus and the God of the Bible. Rather, they talk about unhinging the Bible from its less popular parts that unnecessarily confuse the average non-Christian. They talk about evolving beyond the antiquated spirituality of yester-year that defined the four gospel and the writings of Paul. They talk about finding the real Jesus was has been deformed and hidden by religious thinkers over the years. The false teachers claim to be purifying, improving, or saving the faith. But in reality, they are just denying it.

They words of Paul William DeYoung reveal this to be true. The author of The Shack released a theological book, Lies We Believe About God, in 2017 to further explain and expound upon the theology symbolized in Mack’s encounter with God. He clearly and unreserved goes against the Scriptures when he writes,

Is God a Christian? If you are asking if God is about separation and treats people of different denominations, faiths, and ways of thinking as outsiders until they pray a special prayer to “get in”…then of course not.

About a hundred pages later, Young calls the God of the Bible “a cosmic child abuser,” and boldly asserts, “Better no god at all than this one.

Such sentiment boldly denies the truth found in 1 Peter 2:21-25:

For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.  He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.  For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

False teachers want to snatch bits here and pieces there, but they do not want to follow the one true Jesus who has revealed himself in the Scriptures. If the false teachers wanted to follow Jesus, they would affirm the Scriptures. Jesus did no less in Matthew 5:17-19

Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

Essentially, false teachers want to claim Christ, but they want to claim a Christ that they can understand, control, and manipulate. Instead of submitting to God, they require God to submit to them and their finite ideas. And as the false teachers take ownership of God, they cannot help but seek to change, improve, and better the the the Word of God. They cannot help but oppose the truth.

What If Someone’s On the Fence

No some of us may be sitting on the fence wondering if that guy over there or if that girl over here is genuine or false. How do we tell? We wait them out.

We patiently observe them. We watch them. No one can fool all of the people all of the time. Their works will become evident in time. They will tip their hand. They will continually boast in the Scriptures or they will talk about how we need to change with the times and embrace the sin. They will love others well or they will start taking advantage of the women of little faith teaching them error, taking their money, and even exploiting them sexually. The secret works of the heart can never be hidden forever. They will be find out and in a timely matter. Keep watching.

Can you spot the false teachers?