Crying “Wolf!”

We must equip God’s people to recognize wolves in sheep’s clothing.

They feed off the sheep rather than feed the sheep. Surely this is what Jesus meant above when he called them ravenous wolves. In Ezekiel, as the Lord chastised the false shepherds of Israel, he said, “You eat the fat and clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fat sheep without feeding the flock” (Ezek. 34:3). Thus, these are men and women who use the church and the people of God to bolster their own pride, positions, and purses. Often they sound as if supporting their ministry is promoting the cause of Christ, when in reality it is simply a ploy for promoting themselves instead. Consider whether a leader appears to be sacrificing for the church or is rather asking the church to sacrifice for him.

 

We are all familiar with the proverbial story of the boy watching sheep who cried “Wolf!” falsely a few times for fun. He then paid the price when a wolf actually did show up and begin attacking the flock. The townspeople, the objects of his earlier mockery, ignored his cries when they were truly needed.

To avoid this error, here at Gentle Reformation we have made a commitment not to be alarmists. We do not want to use the blog like a cyber megaphone and call out every heretic, be it one truly, perceived, or otherwise. This commitment is even found in our mission statement. Though we do not shy away on occasion from pointing out heretical teaching (see here for an example then here for recent confirmation by our friends at TGC), our primary focus is on truth and its practical application rather than on falsehood and its awful perpetrators.

However, we must equip God’s people to recognize wolves in sheep’s clothing. As the Lord told us, God’s people are to be able to determine who they are.

Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will know them by their fruits.” (Matthew 7:15-20)

Years ago, as a student in seminary, my New Testament professor, Dr. Renwick Wright, had us read all 27 books of the New Testament and log, section-by-section, the primary doctrine taught there. One of my discoveries doing that exercise is that every one of the books in the New Testament contain warnings about false prophets. Clearly, the church is to be on the alert for wolves in its midst.

So what are the fruits – or the attitudes and behaviors they exhibit – that we are to know them by? Because these wolves can be very clever, appear to be nice in certain settings, and often act very zealous for the kingdom of God, they can easily fool the flock. Here then are five primary traits they have.

They feed off the sheep rather than feed the sheep. Surely this is what Jesus meant above when he called them ravenouswolves. In Ezekiel, as the Lord chastised the false shepherds of Israel, he said, “You eat the fat and clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fat sheep without feeding the flock” (Ezek. 34:3). Thus, these are men and women who use the church and the people of God to bolster their own pride, positions, and purses. Often they sound as if supporting their ministry is promoting the cause of Christ, when in reality it is simply a ploy for promoting themselves instead. Consider whether a leader appears to be sacrificing for the church or is rather asking the church to sacrifice for him.

They put their practices in areas of Christian freedom above the freedom of the gospel.

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