“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.”
Matthew 7:15, NIV
I use my channel changer and I flip through the enormous darkness that exists in the world. Jesus clearly warns His flock of the cold, hard realities of deception and deceitfulness that we will be dealing with. Trickery abounds and things simply are not what they seem to be. Darkness has a brutal grasp on so many.
There should be an alertness for the inevitable. Sometimes, sheep will not really be sheep. This is astonishing. Our senses are not always adequate or capable to identify counterfeit Christians. We get confused by the outside (it looks like wool to me). But it is a lie. The wolf has deliberately taken on the dress of the believer. He has a real, definite sinister agenda. (Can you say, “lamp chops“?)
Jesus alerts us to what is really taking place. He wants us to discern. He wants us to become adroit observers. Every believer needs a holy skepticism of outward displays of faith. This is not cynicism or negativity. But it is a cautious faith– one in which we can discern the realities of a world that regularly deceives.
“The first step on the way to victory is to recognize the enemy.”
Corrie Ten Boom
“Ferocious” in verse 15 is a sobering word. When I read it, I think of Alaska, or maybe the grasslands of the ‘Serengiti.’ A dangerous carnivore that is hidden by an outward covering. It is a ‘predator’ word, a word that intensifies. It patiently stalks and then ambushes its victims. There is only one focus, a single purpose, and that is to destroy. It is Satan’s ‘calling card.’
For us who are accustomed to an ideal of love and peace in our walks, we are disturbed and perhaps almost pulled off balance by this disturbing revelation of evil in our midst. Jesus tells us that we must possess a reality of deception, for that is the real world. He gave us plenty of warning.
“Now go, and remember that I am sending you out as lambs among wolves.”
Luke 10:3, NLT
Do you know what wolves do to lambs? But yet He still sends them. That is interesting.
“In the long run, we are all dead.” —John Maynard Keynes
“Are you afraid to die? Remember that for a child of God, death is only a passing through to a wonderful new world…” —Corrie Ten Boom
The idea of death is unpopular, unsettling and perhaps a little rude. It is a great way of putting a good conversation into flight-stopping stall. No one likes it (except maybe ‘Goths‘ and the perennial AC/DC fan). It is perhaps ‘too true’ and the reality keeps us from dwelling on it. But it is going to happen, you will die.
“We live for seventy years or so (with luck we might make it to eighty), And what do we have to show for it? Trouble. Toil and trouble and a marker in the graveyard. Oh! Teach us to live well! Teach us to live wisely and well!”
Ps. 90:10, 12, MSG
Our modern society has made considerable effort to avoid the subject of death. Thinking through this strikes me as unhealthy and confusing. Through the past centuries, our present day attitude would be regarded as strange by them.
The Bible teaches us how to prepare to die well.
We have been given several decades of life on this planet, but not much more than that. The psalmist recognizes this. He prepares for his/her personal appointment for death. He prays that he will use wisely all the time he has left. Psalm 90 has been part of that preparation for millions of Christians, for many centuries.
One way to help you purify a faith that is strong enough to look death straight in the eyes, is to have a few older Christian friends. For me there is Pastor Ray. He is in his 80s now. I see myself marching behind him, and watching his back as he moves to heaven. It helps me follow in some small way. It gives me peace. Maybe that is how it is supposed to work.
The Bible is a book that is to prepare us for death, and then eternity. It is our compass as we look for ‘true north’. It has instructions and guidance, if we listen to the voice, it will bring us through the ‘door of death’. “Fear not, little flock. It is God’s pleasure to give you the kingdom”.
“Lord, please get me ready to see you. Teach me how to live wisely, and not as a foolish person. Teach me to be a model of faith and strength to everyone who is watching me move toward death. Give me courage and faith. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”
“Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.”
Ephesians 4:32, NLT
Great hearts are often shuttled through experiences with intense forgiving. The Father tutors us through out our earthly lives, with many visits to this classroom. It is here we get our learning. It will happen several times in our walk, and we carry different nuances, or slants. Each time we are required to forgive authentically. The course is set for us. We can’t choose to skip these lessons without injuring ourselves, and harming others.
We are learning to love– it is our calling and destiny. There are no “accidents” or misaligned ‘drop-outs’ here. We step into our classroom, and the Teacher and Comforter begins His instruction. Many things will strike you as diabolical. Deep inside us we have simply no idea of how “this” will turn out for good. And you’d be right. But the power of God steps in, and “all is well”.
Corrie Ten Boom was a Dutch Christian. After her release from a Nazi concentration camp, she began traveling the world and speaking to any who would have her. The needs of postwar Europe were desperate. She traveled as an evangelist telling people who Jesus is and spoke about His redemption. She gave many people hope.
Through her travels she came in contact with a few of the guards that had been a part of the Nazi regime and had to practice forgiveness that only Jesus can bring. The first encounter with one of her previous jailers proved to be most difficult.
Here is an excerpt from her book, “The Hiding Place”.
“It was a church service in Munich that I saw him, the former S.S. man who had stood guard at the shower room door in the processing center at Ravensbruck. He was the first of our actual jailers that I had seen since that time. And suddenly it was all there – the roomful of mocking men, the heaps of clothing, Betsie’s pain-blanched face.
He came up to me as the church was emptying, beaming and bowing. “How grateful I am for your message, Fraulein,” he said. “To think that, as you say, He has washed my sins away!” His hand was thrust out to shake mine. And I, who had preached so often to the people in Bloemendaal the need to forgive, kept my hand at my side.
Even as the angry, vengeful thoughts boiled through me, I saw the sin of them. Jesus Christ had died for this man; was I going to ask for more? Lord Jesus, I prayed, forgive me and help me to forgive him.
I tried to smile, I struggled to raise my hand. I could not. I felt nothing, not the slightest spark of warmth or charity. And so again I breathed a silent prayer. Jesus, I cannot forgive him. Give me Your forgiveness.
She then took his hand and the most incredible thing happened.
From my shoulder along my arm and through my hand a current seemed to pass from me to him, while into my heart sprang a love for this stranger that almost overwhelmed me.
And so I discovered that it is not on our forgiveness any more than on our goodness that the world’s healing hinges, but on His. When He tells us to love our enemies, He gives, along with the command, the love itself.”
Corrie’s Wisdom for Us
There is no pit so deep, that God’s love is not deeper still.
Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart.
It is not my ability, but my response to God’s ability, that counts.
When a train goes through a tunnel and it gets dark, you don’t throw away the ticket and jump off. You sit still and trust the engineer.
Faith is like radar that sees through the fog-the reality of things at a distance that the human eye cannot see.
Trying to do the Lord’s work in your own strength is the most confusing, exhausting, and tedious of all work. But when you are filled with the Holy Spirit, then the ministry of Jesus just flows out of you.
Thoughts from Other Believers
Forgiveness is me giving up my right to hurt you for hurting me. Author Unknown
To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you. C.S. Lewis
There is such a big difference between forgiveness and reconciliation. It takes two to reconcile, so it is not always possible to be reconciled. But it takes only one to forgive. So if people do you wrong, forgive them, whether or not they ask for forgiveness. You cannot cancel their sin. Only God can do that, and He will only do it if they repent. But what you can do is set aside your own anger, bitterness, and resentment towards them. Philip Graham Ryken
Forgiveness may be described as a decision to make four promises:
“I will not dwell on this incident.”
“I will not bring up this incident again and use it against you.”
“I will not talk to others about this incident.”
“I will not let this incident stand between us or hinder our personal relationship.” Ken Sande
For her efforts to hide Jews from arrest and deportation during the German occupation of the Netherlands, Corrie ten Boom (1892-1983) received recognition from the Yad Vashem Remembrance Authority as one of the “Righteous Among the Nations” on December 12, 1967.
“The Hiding Place” and her many other books can be purchased at Amazon.com. It really must be read and there is a movie out with the same name.