Hey, I’m Reed.
Does anyone love their sports teams??
I do, crazy loyal to my buckeyes, crazy loyal to my Cincy teams (Browns stink).
Sometimes MY BUCKEYES OR BENGALS… they’re deceivers, right? Maybe pretenders?
To the point where they take advantage of my love for them all the time.
How many times will I allow the Bengals to deceive me into thinking that this is THE YEAR! Super Bowl, baby! Lies!
I am the father of two and husband of one.
I’m going for challenging today, soooo I’ll start easy. Does anyone have kids?
How many times will I allow my kids to make me think they aren’t feral? Yeah, they're cute but they can be deceivers!
Isn’t that just like life though? I feel like I’m caught in a never ending circle of trying to guess who a pretender is… and who isn’t. Who’s trying to to deceive me and who is for me.
You want to know what I learned is a huge part of football, which also happens to be a huge learning curve in walking with Jesus?... DECEPTION. Or if you’ve ever watched football, commentators like to coin the term DISGUISE often.
To be honest, I look back every once in a while at those times and think “man is this what life is?" A life where everyone’s out to get me? Even the best people I know are trying to play an angle. Their angle.
I’m afraid people are disguising their true intentions constantly. To the point where It’s hard to believe compliments, it’s hard to believe they could want to see me for who I really am, even to the point where I should change my behavior to protect myself. If I show the real me I’m doomed.
Sometimes I really just don’t see things for what they are… my fear skews the truth and I’m left thinking, isn’t there a better way than this?
Anyone easily fooled in here? A little gullible maybe?
Luckily… yes there is! We can start the conversation in Matthew 7.
Matthew 7:15-20 says, “Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves. You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. So every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire. Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions."
Jesus just warned us of a path that leads to destruction. Now He reminds us that there are many who would try to guide us along the broad path that leads to destruction.
It is in the nature of these people, these false prophets to deceive and deny their true character. Often they deceive even themselves, believing themselves to be sheep when in fact they are wolves.
Jesus says we can guard ourselves against false prophets by taking notice of their fruits. This means paying attention to several aspects of their life and ministry. Bet you know some bad fruit people. Shoot I do… anyone in here a bad fruit?
This fruit is the inevitable result of who we are. Eventually, though it may take time for the harvest to come, the good or bad fruit is evidently revealing what sort of “tree” we are. That’s a fun game you can play with your friends later… what tree am I? Also, if this is true, you can’t hide.
Anyone ever try to give you the ole run around? I’ve dealt with some weird church hurt, some weird times of someone in authority speaking to me as my friend only to reveal motives that can only be nicely described as wolf behavior. Man, what I thought was some great fruit ended up being some really bad fruit that’s still affecting things in my life.
But this thought isn’t really limited to people...
A teacher is defined as "a person or thing that teaches something?" Are there false teachers all around us that we’re listening to? Teaching things that don’t deliver? Teaching things that don’t have substance?
Michigan says it’s pure…there’s nothing that’s pure about Michigan!
We know Disney is lying about their tagline - there are many, many happier places on earth.
Wheaties says we’ll all be champions!! No, the heck we won't!
America runs on Dunkin? Actually… this one might be kinda accurate.
We’re letting culture dictate for us what our “true” selves should look like. Other times we’re letting outside forces tell our children what their “true” selves look like...what they “need”, who they need to be.
There are false prophets all around us. In families, family members have been teaching hate and division "in the name of God." And that type of message has been passed on for generations.
So let's study up here:
This is a sheep… (visual used)
This is a wolf… (visual used)
This is a sheep… disguised as a wolf (visual used)
How do I know if I’m one?
Look at your Actions
- Don't tell me, show me.
- Be aware of the things influencing your actions. Check your sources!
- Be aware of how your actions are influencing others.
Look at your Intentions
- Do you want something for me, or do you want something from me?
- See the wolf’s main fault lies in self-interest. Where does your own self-interest get the better of you?
- Do you love to take power instead of empowering others?
Look at your Playbook
- Let’s be honest, It’s not gonna end. 2 Peter confirms wolves have been around… they’ll continue to be around to deceive the flock. You WILL be led astray, you WILL be attacked.
- Do you know what the Bible also says? We combat it with knowing the truth. Knowing scripture. When Scripture is written on our hearts, we see when it’s misused and manipulated.
It’s time to course-correct here people. There’s too much at stake. To many souls that NEED to see, hear and experience the truths that a relationship with Jesus offers.
Be skeptical of the people you really listen to. Because you know what… we’re all wolves sometimes. We all have the capability of being one. It’s in us.
Earlier in the chapter, Jesus warned us to judge ourselves first, to look for the beam in our own eye before turning our attention to the speck in our neighbor’s eye. Therefore, before asking it of anyone else, we should first ask: “Do I bear fruit unto God’s glory?”
Before asking it of anyone else, we should first ask, "Am I a wolf?"
You need to ask yourself, am I leading people to destruction? Have I skewed the truth?
In how I post online… how I lead a small group… who I intentionally 'don’t’ invite into my life… who I choose to NOT associate with. As a leader… are you representing the gospel or a gospel that fits your preferences and comforts?
The Christian small group leaders who make political posts that are rooted in division, making fun of or tearing down other people… other leaders… other people groups...
There’s no place for that… that’s not scripture… that’s not Jesus. That’s false teaching.
Have my attitudes shown people the love of Jesus??? Yikes…
Does my attitude at home to my family and close friends reflect my attitude in public?
Well, let me rephrase, where are you a wolf?
1 Corinthians 1:10: "I appeal to you, dear brothers and sisters, by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, to live in harmony with each other. Let there be no divisions in the church. Rather, be of one mind, united in thought and purpose."
This is a gut check for US. Am I allowing God’s word to penetrate my heart, to transform my heart? Am I allowing the Holy Spirit to transform me from the inside out? If I’m not being intentional, if I’m not being obedient, if I’m not sacrificing myself and surrendering every day… then I will become a bad tree… with a bad heart. I will become a wolf dressed up in sheepskin… devouring people AND things around me to satisfy my selfish desires and interests. THIS IS IN ALL OF US.
Great, we’re in it together. Don’t mess with the flock. We’re heading into a pack of wolves every day. Our students.. kids are headed into the same pack.
You know, I was just processing all of this, this week. I have the best boss. My story is full of wolves. Pastors who were wolves, me being a wolf. Full of false promises. Full of my soul longing for someone to speak truth. Jesus’ truth. About me.
Grab someone who wants to heal your wolf wounds and keep you from being a wolf yourself. You need someone to walk through your pain with you so you can be the best you. If you’re not sure you have those people, then ask… it’s never too late. I asked this week for someone to help me walk through some of mine.. to tell me God’s truth instead of the enemies… cause I’ve let the lies of the wolf speak a little too long in my life.
It will affect how you love the flock, how you love yourself.
I want our students to have one place.. just one, where wolves aren’t dictating their path...where we as a church are so self-aware of where we’re pointing our young leaders. To Jesus? Or to other places? Lies and deceit or to their truest selves in Jesus?
I want them to:
- See the church the way Jesus does
- Serve the way Jesus does
- Love the way Jesus does
- See themselves the way Jesus does
I want that for you, too.
Our future is so bright. Our biggest movements lie ahead. The truths we live out will have a grand effect. Good or bad. But that relies on our vigilance.
You don’t have to live in my story. Our students and kids don’t have to live in a world written by wolves. They’ll have to work through pain... that we know. But the truth of Jesus means we’re a healing place and not a hurting place.
My hope is that you’re with me. I’d love to leave the church a little better than when I found it. And when I do, my prayer is we have leaders who have seen, heard, and found the truth of Jesus through us.