i am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. [galations 1:6-7]
we are astonished–and yet not astonished–at how quickly believers desert Christ. so many other “different gospels” are presented every day–and we need to know that there are those wolves who intentionally seek to trouble the body of Christ–they seek to kill and destroy the sheep in the flock of the body of Christ. how do we recognize them?–Jesus tells us:
“beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. you will recognize them by their fruits. are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? so, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. a healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. thus you will recognize them by their fruits. [matthew 7:15-20]
what can we learn from Jesus?
false prophets look like sheep.
people who cause the body to desert Christ come speaking ‘the language’, ‘looking the part’, practicing a false humility. the words that they say seem to accord with scripture, but when you look deeper…
inwardly they are ravenous wolves.
when you get to know these individuals, you will see the deep anger and resentment they have for the bride of Christ, you will see their pride, they will gossip and divide. they feel owed position and power, they feel like they should be in charge, they have deep criticisms that are not found in scripture. they will not be corrected without becoming angry and defensive. their hearts are not soft to the gospel of Christ–they may know what the bible says, but they will look for worldly reasons not to follow the Word.
you will recognize them by their fruits.
false prophets and teachers will point you to everything but the cross of Christ, they point away from God’s glory. false teachers point you to “another gospel” that emphasizes your personal moral achievement, your material gain, your health, your wealth, your accomplishment, your brand, they point to a ‘better way of doing things’ that has nothing to do with God’s design for the Church. false teachers will fixate on some ‘special’ revelation or ‘secret’ they received “from the Lord” instead of the revelation we have in the word. they will twist the bible’s words to meet their own theology. they do not know God.
every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
this is incredibly sobering. God will protect his people, he will protect his bride, the Church. this warning is a promise of God, that in that day he will fully and finally exact justice against those who seek to malign her.
so, how then does God protect Christ’s bride? paul tells us–
pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God,which he obtained with his own blood. i know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. therefore be alert, remembering that for three years i did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears. [acts 20:28-31]
by the Holy Spirit, pay careful attention/therefore be alert.
while the elders and leaders have a special responsibility to be aware of false teachers and prophets, we all play a part in making sure that wolves don’t ravage the Church–by knowledge of the Word and through the Holy Spirit, we need to call out lies and inconsistencies. when someone is living contrary to the gospel of Christ (by letting other belief systems or worldliness to sneak in to our thoughts, words, and actions) correct gently, and discern whether there is intentionality to deceive others by it.
be aware of pain in the people around you (when wolves are not sparing the flock).
is the suspected false teacher/prophet taking advantage of others, abusing them? maligning Christ? Seeking to build a following or a brand? leading people away from the the truth? we need to get our eyes off of ourselves and look to the needs of others. help others recognized they are being deceived, and talk to leadership (lot family leaders, elders) if you suspect a wolf is prowling around.
admonish with tears.
by prayer, by the word of Christ, through tears, call deceived believers back to Christ.
by prayer, by the word of Christ, through tears, call those who seek to deceive to repentance and to a true faith in Christ.
we know that you have made the promise to protect the bride of Christ–your church! forgive me for my blindness! give us eyes to recognize the wolves, give us soft hearts turn our eyes away from ourselves so that we may tend to the wounded sheep, pointing them to Christ who can heal them and make them whole. for your name’s sake. for your glory alone.