The scene was somber. Weeping unashamedly each one in turn fell upon the apostle’s neck, covering his face with kisses, embracing him for what they now knew would be the last time. Each of them feared for their spiritual father’s fate, but none could contend with his determination to go on. Regardless of whatever might await him, he would continue by sea to Jerusalem, for the Spirit compelled him.
With moistened eyes and heavy hearts they watched as the ship disappeared on the horizon, straining to follow the last glimpse of the beloved leader for as long as possible. Turning then, they set their faces for the journey home, each one pondering the apostle’s parting words and his warning of the serious challenges ahead (Acts 20:17-38).
Such was the final meeting between the apostle Paul and the leaders of the Ephesian church. Aware that he would not see them again in this life, Paul had tempered his final message to them with this warning:
For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves. Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears. (Acts 20:29-31)
We’ve all heard about wolves in sheep’s clothing, haven’t we? Jesus said these would come into the church claiming to be believers but in reality they would be hungry wolves seeking to devour the sheep (Matt. 7:15). Oh, we keep a wary eye out for them and their cunning ways, herding our sheep into ever tighter compounds as we protect ourselves from the wolf ridden world outside.
But Paul’s warning was twofold. There would also be those rising up ‘from among yourselves’. They would be gifted communicators, using their oratory gifts to pervert the gospel and attract followers.
Sadly, Paul’s prophetic warning to the Ephesian elders is as relevant today as it has ever been.
While the church guards herself against the world, home grown wolves roam among us, drawing multitudes to themselves. Abandoning the leadership of the Holy Spirit, who alone embodies ‘all truth’, believers flock to drink in the latest utterances of celebrity ‘apostles’, ‘prophets’ and ‘pastors’. Every day, via conferences, internet, books and other media, itching Christian ears are tickled by smooth speakers whose intent is to make disciples for themselves.
The doctrines spread by these wolf-sheep are not Christ-centered, do not lead us in the way of Love, and are not born of the Spirit of God. They teach us to live in the kingdoms of men rather than seek the Kingdom of God. At their heart are some ‘perverse things’…..things that are contrary to Christ while claiming to be leading us to Christ.
Let’s not blame the world for the poisonous mixture now in our midst. We are not called to condemn the world; the world is already condemned (Jn 3:17).
It is we, the church, who have been content to simply fill pews and sit in enraptured obedience while our demi-gods build their ever expanding kingdoms. We may call these human idols apostle, prophet, senior pastor, bishop, reverend, priest or pope, but what we have really wanted is a king we can see, handle and adore. A king like us.
The ancient Israelites had the same desire. ‘Give us a flesh and blood king to rule over us” they cried out to God, “so we can be like the other nations’ (1 Sam. 8:4-22).
Recently I had a conversation with a fellow Christian that went along these lines:
Friend: ‘You must read so and so’s (contemporary theologian) works. He is so wonderful in the way he explains the Bible. I’ve read all his commentaries.’
Me: ‘I rarely read commentaries. They don’t form my understanding of scripture.’
Friend: ‘Oh, but so and so’s different. When I’m reading his books it’s like having him in my own house. You should read them too.’
Me: ‘Why would I want him in my house?’
Friend: ‘Because reading his words feels like he’s following you around the house talking to you while you read.’
Me: ‘You mean like the Holy Spirit?’
The person I was talking with is a believer of many years and holds a Masters Degree in Theology.
Jesus did not leave His church defenceless. He sent the Holy Spirit to comfort, teach, reveal truth, and anoint her with supernatural power and spiritual gifts. He also gave her the people-gifts of apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers to serve, equip, edify and mature her (Eph. 4:11-16).
These ones are among us and always have been, but very often they do not look the way we think they should.
The hard working believer beside you riding the train to work could be a prophet. The Christ following lady at the supermarket checkout may be an apostle. That unshaven old man waiting at the bus stop could be an evangelist, a teacher or a shepherd. While the Israelites were fawning after a king who was tall, handsome and from a powerful family, God’s unknown, chosen king sat in a lonely field, as a lowly shepherd guarding his father’s sheep (1 Sam. 9:1-2).
Christ’s people-gifts don’t normally come wrapped in expensive suits and driving the latest model car. They don’t need fancy business cards or state of the art auditoriums and they would probably prefer to ride a donkey than sit in a limousine. You could be one of them. What? Haven’t been to seminary? You’re shy, awkward, a nobody? That sounds just like the raw material God prefers.
The Bride of Christ recognizes only one King. All others desiring her adoration are usurpers craving His crown. God ordained authority does not seek to stand out in the crowd celebrity-like. It looks like you, and me, and Mr and Mrs Blogs down the road.
When we come into Christ we are encouraged to no longer recognize anyone ‘according to the flesh’ (2 Cor. 5:16 NASB). That means how someone looks, where they come from, their academic credentials or their Bible-quoting should not impress us. Neither should their charismatic personality, their ability to gather a crowd or even their spiritual gifts.
When we elevate others in their flesh, no matter how spiritual they may appear to us, we diminish the call of God on our own lives.
We convince ourselves that we have no place of service in Christ’s Body because we could never do as well as the one we’ve elevated. The good news is we were never meant to be like someone else – we are to be conformed only to the image of Christ. Knowing each other after the Spirit is simply recognizing, receiving from and responding to Christ in one another.
John the Baptist did not recognize the One He had been waiting for among the crowd until the Spirit revealed Him (Jn. 1:33). ‘One stands among us whose sandal strap I am unworthy to even loose’ he told the Pharisees who were supposed to be watching for their Messiah. Regardless, Jesus insisted on submitting to John’s baptism (Matt. 3:14,15). In a beautiful act of mutual submission, Jesus recognized and honoured the Holy Spirit in John, and John complied and submitted to Jesus’ wish.
When we refuse the anointing and call of God upon us, no matter how inadequate we feel, we dishonor the Spirit.
It is no accident of chance that you and I are alive at this moment in history. Our Kingdom is not of this world. Because we belong to a King and a Kingdom that are outside the boundaries and systems of our surrounding world, we are always placed in a unique position to be part of the solution.
We are alive at such a time as this because our King has need of us for such a time as this! None of us were born simply to warm pews. None of us became Christ followers in order to help build and maintain the kingdoms of usurpers who seek the Bride for themselves.
Nor are we here to ‘tut tut’ and shake our fingers at the messed up world. We are here to get our hands in among the grime and the muck and demonstrate another, better way.
We are here as light among darkness.
We are here as healing among suffering.
We are here as a royal priesthood of lovers and peacemakers.
We are here as Lifebearers in the shadow of death.
We are here to be about our Father’s business, and His only.
Let’s each of us find out what that business is for us, and seek, together, to be the answer in a church and a world rapidly running out of answers.
For truly, there has never been such a time as this, and never will there be again.
© Cheryl McGrath, Bread for the Bride, 2015 and beyond. Copyright Notice: Permission is granted to freely reproduce any Bread for the Bride articles in emails or internet blogs, unaltered, and providing this copyright notice is included. To permanently display an article on any static website please contact me for permission.
16 thoughts on “Of Wolves and Kings”
Cheryl I’m glad I came across your site ….. I have come across many wolves in my time but Jesus has brought me through each time. I do not read any commentries at all I trust in the Holy Spirit all the time now. God Bless you xx jacqui xx
Glad to meet you Jacqui.
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“When we elevate others in their flesh, no matter how spiritual they may appear to us, we diminish the call of God on our own lives.” I sure needed that now.
I probably should tell you a story about what happened to me. It was not quite as plainly seen or known as a presentable story but God does lead and instruct faithfully. When I became a Christian and was baptised I was determined to be 100% His alone and not allow anything less. After four years of service and some slight weariness coming upon me which I was not fully aware at the time. After being told things like, “Do not buy drinks or juice or pop or water when out shopping but take free water.” One time I bought another jumper to get me through winter. I spent $1 on that but carefully weighed up my need for it as I only had two other jumpers which meant to make a full load of washing I had to wear none on washing day. Yes, pretty silly, but this is how the bishop and deacon inpounded into us denial for the sake of the ministry. We were building a house for orphans. Anyway, God showed me a vision of my bishops face taking up the whole sky. I had exalted mans teaching above His teaching. Over the next few years he took off his sheeps disguise and showed how he really was building the huge mansion and ajoining block of land with another house and horse stables for himself. The next minister came along and gleaned testimony from us (not all exposed all) about the money we had given and planned to caveat the property for the ministry. Over a little time fruit showed he too was only seeking it for himself. The first wolf still has full rights to that material gain. The next minister wanted us. He took photos of us and enrolled us in bibleschool and had his son-in-laws name in large print on the booklets. He had his daughter as Chief Administrator of Childrens Church Department and his son was Superintendant and Treasurer. His wife was Chief Intercessor. Very sad. After he sold the property and relcated to the USA where he could use the credentials he was divorced and alone suffering cancer to an early death. Two things I know he did was a lady who had a pay out for a car accident that left her crippled with brain damage and a severe limp. She gave him the money for the church. She was loyal in cleaning the premises without pay or recognition. She lived in a rental unit and the owner sold it. She had to move. She asked the pastor for help. He told her he and his able bodied wife would call removalists and organise their own affairs and that she ought to do so too. Clearly no understanding of limited funds of one living on disability paying rent. Another sister had a gift of tongues and interpretation. It was so immense during worship a somber silence would fall on us and each time she would speak. The anointing was amazing and so encouraging to us all. She was my friend. She had to sign something for the pastor once. (I’m a bit vague on what now) Her name is known as Robin (her middle name and what she chose to be known by since becoming a Christian), but her real first name began with G and her surname is Cory. The pastor revealed his jealousy after looking at her signature and made a snearing comment as it looked like Glory. She told me this and was still going strong in her faith however soon after this I relocated. We kept in touch but when that pastor left everyone and sold the building she and her husband slowly returned to their former lifestyle. I feel very sad talking about it. If you knew her and her children… I have to stop here, but unfortunately the antics of wolves did not end here. God bless you Cheryl, Love and shalom Lucy
Date: Mon, 25 May 2015 01:49:46 +0000 To: email@example.com
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Lucy, I am so sorry to you and your friends experienced such spiritual abuse at the hands of wolves pretending to be sheep. Such treatment by those who are supposed to represent Christ to us can leave us shaken and scarred. Many of the people who read Bread for the Bride have experienced abuse in the church system, and I and my family have also had more than our fair share. Through it all Jesus, our Good Shepherd, assures us that He loves and cares for us more than we can know. I pray and trust that despite your experiences Christ will be more real to you with every passing day and that His grace will continue to sustain and heal you.
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Cheryl, getting caught up on my emails after being gone. This has fed my spirit, thank you. Thank God. What struck me speechless was this: “We may call these human idols apostle, prophet, senior pastor, bishop, reverend, priest or pope, but what we have really wanted is a king we can see, handle and adore. A king like us.”
“What we have really wanted is a king we can see, handle and adore.” Cheryl, such striking truth there. God help us.
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Thanks Becky. In the garden of Eden the heart of mankind was poisoned with the desire either to be king, or to enthrone any other ‘king’ apart from the only true King, Jesus Christ. We caught the Satan disease. Thankfully the Blood of Jesus Christ is more than sufficient to heal us!
The same quote caught my attention, too, probably because I have struggled with the same urge. And while I think there is something beautifully right about our spiritual leaders incarnating the Spirit of our Great High Priest for us, that so easily can cross the line over into idolatry (whether they want that sort of glory or not). In His mercy, God topples those idols by eventually uncovering the “underbelly” of every leader and institution. Lo and behold they are all just as flawed as I am, just as in need of the grace and transforming power of the Spirit!
Thankyou for your comment Tiffany. God loves to work with the flawed ones who are aware of their constant need for the grace and transforming power of the Spirit. There is much grace and patience and longsuffering (of God) extended to those in leadership positions (whether appointed by God or man) who cross that line into craving the adulation of the Bride. Unfortunately, I have seen too many examples of that grace being spurned over and over again. Then God must do something to protect His people from gross abuse and must call such ones to account. The fear of God is indeed the beginning of wisdom for all of us.
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Your passion is showing!
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Ha ha ha, oh no!
A friend once pointed out to me that while sheep peacefully eat grass, wolves thrive on flesh, tearing and ripping and devouring…
I share all the concerns you have so powerfully spelt out, Cheryl, and they disturb me no end. I have to keep my eyes constantly on the the gracious Shepherd of the sheep and the sovereign King of the kingdom! The encouraging thing is that more and more people around the world are beginning to see through these false leaders, and are turning to those with some discernment on these issues.
Thanks also for your insightful comments, Paul.
Yes, unless we keep our eyes on the King we cannot see a thing!
I love the path the Spirit has you on, Cheryl. The greater the exposure of the enemy by the Holy Spirit, the greater the enemy’s desire to deceive the church in new ways; ways that the mind has yet to consider, challenging faith against doctrine. To the eager follower, doctrine (coming up under a king) is much more appealing than surrendering ourselves to Jesus.
May His Kingdom come, fully and completely, in His Bride.