WOLVES AMONG US
One of the great blessings of being a Christian living in our time is the abundance of resources readily available to further our love for and study of God. Christians living in our age are swimming in Biblical resources easily at our disposal in ways our brothers and sisters from generations gone by would only have dreamt of. We can listen to 24/7 Christian radio, view preaching services on television, and are at a point where just about every church has their sermons streamed on the internet. In addition, the amounts of books and Christian literature readily available to us abounds. It seems that every week several good and worthy books are released for our consumption as we seek to love the Lord with all of our mind (Matt.22:37) and seek godly wisdom for daily living (Prov.1:2-7). We have inexhaustible resources for Bible study (study Bibles, commentaries, online Bible tools, etc.) and should utilize all of these gifts as we seek to grow in our faith (Phil.2:12-13, 1 Peter 2:1).
With that said, we must also be aware and discerning enough to know that there are many false forms of Christianity and misrepresentations of the gospel. Ever since Christianity began in the first century people have attempted to distort its message and either add to or take away from the foundational elements of our faith. If you read through the New Testament, it’s almost shocking to see the frequency of which the Apostles and Biblical writers speak of false teachings/teachers and expose the lies therein. Both Jesus and the Apostles are clearly very concerned about those who would distort God’s truth and make a mockery of it. In fact, Jesus’ and Paul’s harshest words were for false teachers. They showed compassion to the sinners and those outside of saving knowledge of Christ; yet would quickly sternly rebuke anyone who sought to twist the truths of God for personal gain (Matt. 23, Gal. 1, 2 Peter 2:1-3). Through all of this, a major theme appears, and reappears, to those who are discerning enough to heed the warnings both then and now: *there are wolves among us*.
Dustin Benge writes, “The devil is not fighting religion. He’s too smart for that. He’s producing a counterfeit Christianity so much like the real one that good Christians are afraid to speak out against it.” But speak out against it we must.
In Paul’s letter to Titus, he writes to the young pastor and instructs him to, as he frequently did, rebuke anyone who distorted the gospel message and misrepresented the teachings of Jesus:
“For there are many rebellious men, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision, who must be silenced because they are upsetting whole families, teaching things they should not teach for the sake of sordid gain. … For this reason, reprove them severely so that they may be sound in the faith, not paying attention to Jewish myths and commandments of men who turn away from the truth. To the pure, all things are pure; but to those who are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure, but both their mind and their conscience are defiled. They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient and worthless for any good deed.” – Titus 1:10-16 NASB
Elsewhere in the letter he commands Titus to:
“…hold fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict.” - Titus 1:9 NASB
“These things speak and exhort and reprove with all authority. Let no one disregard you.” - Titus 2:15 NASB
Clearly, Paul, writing under the inspiration of the Spirit of God, wants to ensure that leaders in any local church are lovingly bold enough to call out false teaching for the sake of God’s people. Paul knew of the danger of getting the truth wrong and how it could shipwreck the faith of many and potentially lead people astray. It was vitally important then, and now, for pastors to do the same. In fact, any pastor who neglects this calling to warn a flock of false teaching is unqualified for his office because he shows that he would rather allow his people to suffer under the burden of spiritual error than to offend those caught in or propagating its lies.
Our age is one that goes out of the way and does all that it can to ensure not to offend or disagree with others. In essence, we don’t like calling a spade a spade. We live in a time and culture in which disagreeing with someone is deemed unloving; but the opposite is typically true. It’s unloving to allow someone to continue in lies that can ruin them. Often, the most loving thing a person (or pastor) must do is to speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:15). The gospel is in itself an offensive message because it tells us what we naturally do not want to hear; that we are accountable to a Holy God and are guilty before Him without any way of personally righting our wrongs. That’s not politically correct!
With that said, be mindful of the enormity of false teachers that surround us. Because we have such quick and ready access to so-called Christian teachings on our phones, computers, radios, televisions, and in print – be all the more diligent to test the spirits (1 John 4:1-6) of what you hear. Beware of the abundance of false teachings that flood the airwaves and promote a false Christianity on bookshelves in nearly every store you visit. It is a serious matter and one that we must be aware of. Few things bother a pastor more than to know that his people are constantly exposed to messages that in many ways contradict true biblical Christianity and yet, like a wolf in sheep’s clothing, are often hard to spot (John 10, 2 Peter 2:1-3,2 Cor.11:13).
As your pastor, I will do my best, with the wisdom allotted to me by the Lord, to protect the flock entrusted to my care by the Chief Shepherd from these wolves. I do so not because it’s easy, fun, or convenient – but because it’s the duty of a pastor to keep watch over the spiritual wellbeing of God’s flock. I seek to study to show myself approved and, when need be, to correct those who would distort the good news of Christ with the lies of the devil (Titus 1:10, 2:1).
Grace to you,