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.
Here Paul warned the Elders at Ephesus that some of those wolves would show up from amongst their own leadership.
Paul says, the wolves look like us. Well, that’s because they often ARE us. They’re often “part of the family” It could be an Elder, a Preacher, a Sunday School Teacher. It could be me… it could be you. AND that’s ….scary. Right? It is!
And most of the time, I would argue that wolves don’t even realize they’re wolves. The enemy doesn’t even know who they’re working for. They’re so convinced that they are right… that nothing else matters. And so, in turn, we’ll see their commitment, and we confuse it for truth, and who knows? We might actually end up being wolves as well.
How many of you here would like to be a wolf?
Of course you wouldn’t
Jesus didn’t call us to be wolves… He called us to be His sheep.
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.
Why does the Bible use these symbols of sheep and wolves? Well, because in nature wolves and sheep are enemies. This is why John says “don’t give them the time of day” not because he’s trying to be rude, or unloving, but because they are the enemy.
But if wolves can arise from among our own, and IF those wolves could end up being you or me, how do we recognize this when it happens? Tell me something, how can you spot a wolf in sheep’s clothing?
Well Jeff Foxworthy has his “You might be a redneck jokes…” So we’ll call this “You might be a wolf if…” You might be a wolf if…
1. You seek to have your own way
2. You play fast and loose with the truth… AND
3. You don’t care who you hurt.
Remember back in Acts 20, Paul tells us that wolves “distort the truth in order to DRAW AWAY DISCIPLES …after them” (vs. 30)
And the key words there are “after THEM.” Wolves seek to have their own way. They’re not just pulling people out of the congregation, or away from the Church but they’re pulling sheep towards themselves! This is why John calls them ANTI-Christ’s. They set themselves up to be the truth and the focus! These are the folks who would say there’s only one way to run the church – theirs!
The one phrase they use a lot is “This is MY church;” and they actually think that it belongs to them! But there’s a problem with that phrase; and what’s the problem?
The problem is – this isn’t their church, and it’s not your church, and it isn’t my church.
Whose church is it? (Christ’s)
Back in California, I heard of an elder who told someone that he had the church so wrapped around his finger, that he could set up a Ferris wheel in the church parking lot and nobody would question him. Can you imagine?
Paul tells the Elders from Ephesus in
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
Jesus bought his bride with his own life. The church is his. But see, a wolf doesn’t think of it that way. And if they can’t get their own way in church matters, they tend to forget whose church it really is.
And this is typically how quarrels and church splits begin, over ego. Over pride. Over will power. Problems in the church happen every time our own way gets ahead of God’s way. Remember what John said? Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God.
We can’t get ahead of God – and the truth is – we’re not going to like everything, we’re not even going to agree with everything – or everyone – and that’s ok. Why? Because it’s not my church.
Roman 12:18 says If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
Second, Paul also tells us these wolves “distort the truth” And that goes hand in hand, if a wolf can be a false Christ then their teaching can be a false doctrine.
Just like we saw in Acts 20:30
And from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things…
So why on Earth would a believer listen to lies or follow after these people?
2 Timothy 4:3-4
For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.
Paul says, some people have “itching ears,” in other words, they’ll listen to anyone who will scratch. Or tell them what they want to hear. Remember wolves don’t care about the truth, or the church – their only interest is themselves.
Lastly – Wolves don’t care who they hurt
He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees…
Again they’re only interest is themselves, and it’s usually the church that suffers. I’ve heard of all kinds of crazy things these people do….
They send out nasty e-mails
They try to steal off church members to follow them as their disciples.
And they’ll find ways to attack the character of the preacher, elders, or anyone else who gets in their way.
Because the flock isn’t important.
Getting their way is what’s important.
So they don’t really care who they hurt as long as they accomplish their goals.
They’ll tell you they love Jesus… but they don’t. Because they don’t love his bride.
Last week we read 1 John 3:16
By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us
And so in order to get their way, they’ll drag the bride of Christ through the streets, and shred her wedding gown, and shame her publically. Because – for them – they’re right – and that’s all that matters.
So what do you do?