“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.”
Matthew 7:15, NIV
My channel changer flips through the enormous darkness that exists in the world. I’m reminded that Jesus clearly warns His flock of the cold, hard realities of deception and deceitfulness they face.
Trickery abounds and things simply are not what they seem to be.
Darkness has a dark grasp on so many. The devil’s cunning is his ability to adapt to each person’s weakness. Deception has worked well for him for thousands of years. But understand: Lucifer is alive and well and he is prowling planet Earth.
An alert has been sounded by Jesus.
The reality of deception is now made obvious. Sometimes, some sheep will not really be sheep. Our senses are not always trained to look for counterfeit Christians. We get confused by the outside (“it looks like wool to me”). But it’s a lie. The wolf has deliberately taken on the attire of a believer.
Jesus explains what really is taking place around us.
(Oh my, how He wants us to discern!) I think every believer should have a holy skepticism of outward displays of faith. This is not cynicism or negativity; rather it is a cautious faith– one in which we can discern the realities of a world that routinely destroys people. The first-generation Church understood the reality of evil and what it would do when it’s unleashed.
“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 my home in Alaska with its wilderness and its wolves and brown bears; or maybe the grasslands of the ‘Serengeti’ with its lions or leopards. A dangerous carnivore is often hidden by its camouflage.
Ferocity is a ‘predator’ word, a word that intensifies danger. Satan can patiently stalk for days, and maybe even months, and then he springs his trap and ambushes its victims.
“I know that as soon as I’m gone, vicious wolves are going to show up and rip into this flock, men from your very own ranks twisting words so as to seduce disciples into following them instead of Jesus. So stay awake and keep up your guard.”
Acts 20:29, MSG
The Bible tells us that we must understand two critical things:
1)Deception is quite possible for the real believer, that in 2000 years the darkness is still potent. Satan is alive and well on planet Earth.
2)Living in close proximity to Jesus will protect us in the dark. The true Shepherd keeps His flock. He is our complete protection and safe place against evil things we don’t quite see.
When we’re alerted that the enemy is close to us, the best thing we can do is to move closer to our Shepherd. The battle is His, we are His.
“The devil is nimble; he can run apace; he is light of foot; he hath overtaken many. They that would have heaven must run for it.”
I think that most of us in the Church fail to get a real grip on what pastoring is all about. And that is sad and bad. Not only do we stunt our pastor’s growth, but we cripple ourselves, and flunk some important spiritual lessons.
Three things (there are more, believe me)–
1) Our pastors are sinners.
Surprise! They are just like you and me– definitely not superheroes and certainly not always saintly. They will have their moments and struggles. We really need to understand this to fully receive from their giftings. Just knowing this about them, prepares us to receive deeply and sincerely from their ministries. It seems that their own battles work a brokenness and humility within.
2) Our pastors need to be prayed for.
What they do is probably one of the hardest, most challenging work on planet Earth. The good pastors know this. But they still wade courageously into the thick of things. Our real prayers can buttress and stabilize their lives. They substantially encounter the darkness and do warfare for us. Most have a family to pray for, but they also have a Church they must cover too. A local pastor must have active intercessors, or they will certainly stumble and fall.
3) Our pastors must be empowered by the Holy Spirit.
God’s work must be done His way. And He repeatedly insists they be filled with the Spirit. They receive power right from the true source. Again, Jesus, the True Shepherd gives power and wisdom and grace for each singular moment. A good pastor over time and much prayer– develops discernment and an awareness for his flock. He learns to love them as he watches over them.
Much, much more could be written. There are so many facets to ponder. I only want to encourage you to love and honor your pastor. When you do this, it will probably activate the gift, and fresh ministry will become available. Real work will be done, inside of you and inside your pastor.
“Then I will appoint responsible shepherds who will care for them, and they will never be afraid again. Not a single one will be lost or missing. I, the Lord, have spoken!”
Jeremiah 23:4, NLT
My Pastor, David and Karen Taylor, CCC, Homer Alaska
I have to admit, I always wondered what this part of Psalm 23 meant. I thought “He anoints my head with oil” was figurative language for God keeping the Psalmist healthy. I never knew this parallel.
“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.”
Psalm 23:5, ESV
“Sheep can get their head caught in briers and die trying to get untangled. There are horrid little flies that like to torment sheep by laying eggs in their nostrils which turn into worms and drive the sheep to beat their head against a rock, sometimes to death. Their ears and eyes are also susceptible to tormenting insects.”
So the shepherd anoints their whole head with oil.
“Then there is peace. That oil forms a barrier of protection against the evil that tries to destroy the sheep. Do you have times of mental torment? Do the worrisome thoughts invade your mind over and over? Do you beat your head against a wall trying to stop them? Have you ever asked God to anoint your head with oil?”
He has an endless supply!
His oil protects and makes it possible for you to fix your heart, mind, and eyes on Him today and always! There is peace in the valley! May our good good Father anoint your head with oil today so that your cup overflows with blessings! God is good and He is faithful!!”
“Suddenly, Jesus’ words flashed through Peter’s mind: “Before the rooster crows, you will deny three times that you even know me.”And he went away, weeping bitterly.”
Matthew 26:75, NLT
Three denials are followed by three reaffirmations.
“A third time he asked him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt that Jesus asked the question a third time. He said, “Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Then feed my sheep.”
The apostle Peter was a fervent disciple. He knew who Jesus was before most. He was always included in special times (e.g. the transfiguration, Gethsemane). He was favored by Jesus throughout times of ministry. I also believe that he was Jesus’ friend.
Peter is known for:
being called on the shores of Galilee, Matt 4:18-19
‘almost’ walking on water, Matt 14:29-30
finding the tax money in a fishes’ mouth, Matt 17:24-27
having his feet washed, John 13:6-7
in Gethsemane– cutting off an ear, John 18:10-11
his remorse at denying Jesus, Matt 26:75
at the empty tomb with John, John 20:3-8
Peter’s own denials were of a serious nature affecting who he was, and who he was to become. Jesus astutely intervenes as they ‘breakfasted’ on the seashore. There would be three affirmations; one for each denial. Peter needed to meet the resurrected Jesus, and speak with him about what he had done. Peter needed this.
A denial has different intensities and can be used in many different ways.
Out of our own confusion, we realize that we can also deny Jesus. Perhaps frequently. And none of us have an immunity as of yet. We deny the Lord when we refuse to speak of him to others. We deny the Lord when we fail to do what is right. Sometimes we deny him flagrantly, other times it is a more subtle attitude. At best, we’re still inconsistent, and at worst, apostate.
We’re not punished or abandoned for this behavior.
Human logic would suggest that we should be. But instead we are gently restored. Given the opportunity, Peter the fisherman, would eventually become a wise shepherd to the young Church. I would also suggest that Peter’s personal weakness would serve him well as a gentle, and caring pastor.
Peter, near the end of his life, goes ‘full circle’ and uses a very precise Greek word foundin only two places in the New Testament. It is the specific form of the word “shepherd.” It is only used in John 21:16-17 in Peter’s restoration, and in 1 Peter 5:2. Peter encourages the Church with the same words Jesus himself spoke to him on the beach so long ago! Peter wrote:
“Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing.”