Beware the Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves…” – Matthew 7:15

The last few years have seen an attack on Christianity. Violent mobs have stormed churches and destroyed all sorts of religious symbols like the Cross. People dedicated to liberalism have torn up Bibles. It has been vastly under reported, but hundreds of religious leaders have either been killed or forced out of their homes, and the government has made the few that remain swear allegiance to the Constitution. Are you wondering why you haven’t heard about this in the news? That’s because this all happened during the last few years of the 1700s during the French Revolution. In the centuries before the French Revolution started in 1789, the Catholic Church and the Monarchy had an iron grip on French society, dictating every aspect of life for Frenchmen. The Catholic church grew rich taking tithes from poor peasants, owning 10% of all land in France, while not paying a single livre in taxes. The French revolution sought to overthrow the old system of life (the Ancien Regime) and establish a republic built on the principles of the Enlightenment much like the United States had done just a couple of decades earlier.

For a devout French peasant in 1793, the attack on the church must have felt like the end times prophesied about in Scripture. Yet, it wasn’t the end times, it was merely the wheel of empire turning from one empire to another. These moments in time, periods of transition or instability for people of faith are often marked by two things: first, people of faith are worried or unsure about what is happening and seek help; second, wolves in sheep’s clothing come to prey on those insecurities to profit from steering God’s people away from the Faith and towards doomsday-like prophesies.

Christians fearing world events is nothing new. In fact, even Jesus’s earliest disciples were caught up in the Jewish struggle against the Roman Empire and went so far as to try and make him an earthly king so that he might overthrow the pagan Romans (John 6:14-15). Yet Jesus made clear to his disciples (including us) that our focus should not be on the things of this world, but rather on things above because we belong to a Kingdom not of this world (John 18:36). It should be noted that as soon as Jesus knew the crowd wanted to make him an earthly king, he withdrew into solitude. Also, during his trial he pointed out the false accusations of the Pharisees by noting that he didn’t lead a military rebellion with clubs and swords (Mathew 26:55-56). So then as Christians, what are we to do with “the world” if we are not a part of it?

As Christians it is far too easy to draw a dichotomy between “us” and “them” when in fact the barrier between the two is much more permeable than that. Where do we get new disciples if not from “the world”? Some of Jesus’s strongest disciples were from the dregs of the world in Matthew (a corrupt tax collector) and Mary Magdalene (a prostitute). Likewise, we are to use the things of this world to help further our mission without being consumed by them as Paul recommended to the church at Corinth (1 Corinthians 7:29-31). Our mission is to be disciple-making disciples for Jesus, and if we focus too much on the evil of this world then we lose focus for our mission. While the end times can be a fascinating topic of study, if you get caught up in that then you see Doomsday in every little crack on the street. The United States is a sinful nation…but not more so then the French Empire of the 1700s, or the Abbasid Caliphate of the 800s, or the Mali empire of the 1400s, etc., etc. Doomsday prophesies distract us from living out our daily mission for Jesus in the normal rhythms of our life.

Ideally, the barrier between “us” and “the world” should be a one-way street—that is people coming to Christ. Unfortunately, the barrier goes both ways, Christians becoming enraptured with the things of this world like money or power, and seizing on tumultuous times to lead Christians astray. False teachers are nothing new, and particularly false teachers about the coming of Jesus. Even Jesus himself warned about this in Matthew 24 saying that during times of distress false prophets will say “’look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. For false Christs and false prophets will appear and preform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect…” (Matt 24:23-28) Jesus, Paul, and many other New Testament writers warn about false teachers. The reason being false teachers are often very seductive. They rely on preaching of “new revelations” or things no one else knows and drawing parallels between contemporary times and Biblical times, making you forget about the 20 centuries that have taken place between then and now. The false teachers will also call out anyone and everyone in the world and label them with prophetic names like the antichrist, or the harbinger of the end times.

Yet, the people in the world cannot be false teachers. The world tells you exactly what it is, it doesn’t have to lie about it. For example, famous atheist Richard Dawkins does not claim to be anything but what he is, an atheist. No, a false teacher by definition must be someone claiming to be a Christian but teaching false doctrine. They seek to distort the Word of God for worldly pleasures like fame, riches, or power. The good news is you can tell if it is a wolf in sheep’s clothing by looking at their fruit because “by their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.” Matthew 7:15-20.

So like Paul urged Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:2-5 – I urge you, when you hear someone preaching about prophecy and the end times and you find yourself being persuaded, ask yourself if you are keeping your head and discerning the Spirit, or are you trying to find a way to scratch your itchy ear?

The Chosen Reading Plan – Week 5

We hope you are enjoying this series so far as we start week 5 today!

Day 1
Exodus 23:14
Deuteronomy 16:16
Luke 2:41-52
Day 2
Proverbs 30:4
Luke 3:2-9
John 1:19-24
John 10:40-42
Matthew 17:11-13
Day 3
1 Kings 19:19-21
2 Kings 2:11-15
Matthew 13:44-46      
Luke 9:57-62
Day 4
Exodus 15:1-21
Jeremiah 33:10-14
Psalm 118:22-24
Isaiah 28:16-19
Day 5
John 2:1-11
Day 6
Watch Episode 5

Questions to Consider:

John is the only gospel to tell the story of water into wine. What do you think John wanted to relay by noting this passage? What does it relate to you?

In this episode, both Peter and Mary the Mother of Jesus urge Jesus to make himself known. What do you think were their motives, and why was Jesus moved by Mary and not Peter’s approach?

Nicodemus is uncomfortable, in every aspect of the word, talking to John, yet as he notes, it is through his discomfort that he even sought John. What does this suggest about our spiritual Journey?

Declaring Independence from the United States of America

“When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.” 

On July 2nd, 1776, the Second Continental Congress voted to separate the 13 colonies from Great Britain. Penned by Thomas Jefferson, the words above make up the preamble to the Declaration of Independence which was signed on July 4th, 1776 and adopted on August 2nd. There is a long historical debate about when the colonists began to see themselves as independent from Great Britain which I won’t hash out here, but for many of the members of the Continental Congress the idea of actual independence was a new and radical idea. For many reading this blog, what follows may be as equally a radical idea as separating from Great Britain, but God called and continues to call for the citizens of his Kingdom to be radically different from the World. God calls us to be Citizens of his Kingdom, not citizens of the United States of America. 

Especially in the Southern United States, being a Christian is intertwined with being a patriot. In fact growing up, the hymn book I sang out of had patriotic songs in the back. Or think about how most churches have an American flag somewhere close to or insight of the pulpit. This connection also works the other way. The Pledge of Allegiance has the phrase “One Nation, Under God” and U.S. currency has the phrase “In God We Trust.” That being a Christian is to be an American is so ingrained in our culture that many Christians will call the United States a “Christian Nation.” As both a Christian and a historian I am here to tell you that the United States is not nor has never been a Christian nation. The idea that the United States is a Christian nation is only about 70 years old and was created as a piece of propaganda during the Cold War as a way to make the United States seem like the “good” guy against the atheistic “bad” guy the Soviet Union. The harsh truth is the United States is part of the “Powers and Principalities” (Ephesians 6:12) of this world and as such will pass away (1 John 2:17). 

Furthermore, living an American life is the antithesis of living a life for the Kingdom. After the preamble to the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson wrote the colonies were separating from Great Britain in part so the colonists could secure the rights to “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” In their American context, all three of these ideas stand opposed to our Kingdom mission. The first is the easiest to explain. As Christians our life is not our own, but to God. Therefore, if we fight to save our life from the powers of this world, we will accomplish nothing but losing it. (Luke 9:24). Yet if we lose our life in service of the Kingdom, then we have gained it. Similarly, as a Christian there is really no true freedom. We are either slaves to sin (i.e. the world) or slaves to righteousness (i.e. the Kingdom of God) (Romans 8:15-18). However, being a citizen of the Kingdom means we are free to become like any and all people so that we may reach as many people as possible (1 Corinthians 9).   

Lastly, the Continental Congress wanted to separate from Great Britain so that Americans could pursue happiness. In today’s climate happiness is often equated with comfort. The American ethos is work hard so you can buy stuff that makes you comfortable and happy. In fact, there are some that have married the idea of being a Christian and being wealthy into “the Prosperity Gospel” which is as false a teaching as someone could preach about the Gospel. But as Christians we are not called to be happy in the world, rather we are called to take joy in the Kingdom. Think about how often you have heard someone say I have worked hard for my stuff. While undoubtedly true, as members of the Kingdom we actually don’t own anything. Anything and everything we have is to be used for the Kingdom and by the Kingdom, because anything we have we must treat as if we are just borrowing it. (1 Corinthians 7:29-31) (Acts 4:32-35). To be clear, this does not mean we have to sell everything we own and go live in the desert and live off of honey and locust. What it means is that everything we have and do must be centered towards building the kingdom. And to put a bow on this thought, Jesus in Matthew 6:24 during the Sermon on the Mount said “”No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” Now in this passage the other master that Jesus referenced is money, and not an earthly kingdom, yet the lesson is clear. In terms of priority, God and his kingdom is first, and there is no second. 

In terms of priority, God and his kingdom is first, and there is no second. Click To Tweet

Just like treasure we store up for ourselves on earth will pass away (Matthew 6:19-21), so to will the Kingdoms of this world including the United States. In Daniel Chapter 2 Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had a dream. In this dream, he sees a giant statue with a head of gold, torso and arms of silver, belly and thighs of bronze, legs of iron, and its feet a mix of iron and clay. In this dream a rock not made of human hands smashes the statue and then the rock grows until it covers the earth. Daniel revealed to Nebuchadnezzar that his kingdom was the head of gold, and the rest of the statue were going to be the kingdoms that came after his. The rock was the Kingdom of God, which will smash the kingdoms of the world and set up an everlasting Kingdom on the new Earth. (Daniel 2, Revelation 21-22). The United States is represented somewhere on that statue and as humans we can either be a part of the everlasting Rock, or a part of the destroyed statue. 

Now, at this point you might say that Paul was a citizen of the Roman Empire and he said we have to submit to whatever authority we live under (Romans 13). To that I would say that submission to the powers and principalities of this world is not the same submission that we have to Christ. We are called to abide by the rules of the authorities so long as it does not interfere with our Kingdom mission. Note that the same Paul who said we should submit to the rulers and pray for them (1 Timothy 2:1-3) is also the same Paul who was arrested countless times by the rulers and authorities for preaching the gospel. What Paul meant, at least in my Kingdom centered interpretation of these passages, is it doesn’t matter what authority in the world you happen to live under give unto them what is theirs, like taxes, but don’t get caught up in the world. Paul used his Roman citizenship insofar as to use it to spread the gospel, but he considered his Roman citizenship and everything else he had or knew “garbage so that I might gain Christ” (Philippians 3:8). This was one of the most important lessons the Jewish followers of Jesus had to learn. For centuries, they had been waiting for David 2.0. An earthly king who would reestablish the Davidic kingdom of Israel on Earth and overthrow the Roman Empire, or at least kick them out of Palestine. Yet, Jesus made clear his kingdom is not of this world. As Christians we are called to live out God’s picture of His Kingdom here on Earth regardless of where we live. 

Jesus is often called the Prince of Peace, and rightly so, for citizens of the Kingdom his yoke is easy and his burden light (Mathew 11:30). But for those outside of the Kingdom, there will be no peace. Even among biological families Jesus said “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn ‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. A man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’ Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” (Matthew 10:34-37). How much more unworthy are we of Jesus if we love the country we live in more than Jesus. Therefore, to fully live out our Kingdom mission we must spiritually revoke our citizenship from the world, divest ourselves from its cares and concerns and declare our Independence from the United States of America. 

If you found this article encouraging, insightful, convicting, and/or challenging, SUBSCRIBE for more!