I started the new year off by taking a team of 6 to Northeast China. While there we decided to visit the nearby border of North Korea; a land of much mystery and the unknown. As we came to the border we stood on the banks of a frozen river that separated this land from China. It was cold, twenty five degrees below zero. As we looked into North Korea beyond the guard towers that stood at every 100 meters, there was a coldness that transcended the physical experience of the moment.
Our guide began to tell us stories of the inner workings of North Korea. One story she told boggled my mind. She explained how the people of North Korea were filled with government propaganda from a very early age. The children are taught that people from the west, and especially pastors, may be nice to you initially, but actually they have ulterior motives. Though they may be nice, in time if given the opportunity they will rape your wives and eat your children!
As I hear this I laughed inside because of the ridiculous nature of it all. It was then explained this teaching over the last 60 years had become so common place that it was now received and accepted without any question. I pondered the obvious question, “How could a lie of this grand proportion be so readily accepted?”
My friend of many years sent me a verse this morning. Jesus is talking to a large group of people and He warns them, “Watch out for false prophets...they come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.”
The placement of this verse is curious. It follows a discussion where we are warned not to judge. I suppose simply said that we are called not to judge but to walk through life undiscerning is quite foolish. The intention of those false prophets is not stated but the condition of their hearts is exposed. Inwardly, they are ferocious wolves.
Wolves are exceptionally good hunters. They have been known to track their prey for up to 100 miles a day and to successfully bring down prey up to ten times larger than themselves. Wolves make careful preparations before the hunt, even practicing and reforming their techniques. They can smell potential prey at a distance of two miles in the right wind conditions. As they move toward their prey they can reach speeds of up to 40 miles per hour and sustain that speed for long periods of time. They are stealth, sometimes picking up snow in their mouths so that their breath will remain invisible. When hunting large prey they will keep them on the run in order to deny them access to food and water. As the weary animal slows the wolves will then gradually weaken the animal by snapping at it’s flanks from time to time. In the end, the victim simply gives in due to exhaustion and injury.
It is somewhat disconcerting to me that false prophets are compared to wolves. Why didn’t Jesus just say, “Watch out for false prophets they do harm?” Or, “Watch out for false prophets they will trick you?” Why did He compare them to such a ferocious animal? A false prophet indicates that there are true prophets. I imagine that the false prophet will sound very similar to, or very much like the true prophet. These wolves are dressed in sheep’s clothing so it appears that they will be religious people, or at the very least appear in religious circles.
When you think about a wolf and his stealth ability to “catch” his prey we must then consider and compare how false prophets of our day will catch their prey. False prophets are gifted and talented, able to run circles around their prey; smell their prey from far off; they are stealth and hardly detectible.
I know a few in the body of Christ who have been weakened by life and injured to the extent they finally give themselves over to them.
Jesus warns us of such and even tells us that while we are not to judge, we can discern them. Later in this same passage He tells us we can know them by their fruit. He reminds us that “every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.”
I once heard a guy blasting homosexuals in his sermon. He said, “I am no man’s judge, but I can be a fruit inspector if I want to.” I think there is something wrong with that exegesis. The more notches on our revolver loaded with Jesus bullets isn’t the better fruit. I have also heard on a couple of occasions that you can tell a man’s fruit by how many he has won to Christ. That is almost as crazy. Fruit in some settings is defined by the occurrence of the miraculous. And by the way, miraculous as they define and desire it. This I believe is also potentially and dangerously deceptive. Maybe, like me, you have seen demon filled shamans in India do incredible miracles.
Still, Jesus says, “Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them....Every good tree bears good fruit but a bad tree bears bad fruit.”
These wolves in sheep’s clothing will not display the fruit of the Spirit but rather the fruit of the flesh. The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control.” Come to think of it, I don’t believe I have ever seen a wolf who exhibited these things over the long haul. Jesus is so amazingly practical and so profoundly simple. It might also be true that He is increasingly relevant.
As I drove away from the North Korean border that day the Lord turned my question back on me. “What ridiculous lies have I believed that are now so common place that they seem normal?” Lies that have come from false conclusions that I have drawn from life’s experiences. Lies from wolves in sheep’s clothing. Lies that are easy to adopt in my weakened conditions. Ultimately these lies serve to keep me from the freedom Jesus has provided. Their intent is to destroy. Their exposure is paramount and of critical importance. For these lies to find shelter and remain undetected in my mind and heart will cause a bondage greater than the North Korean citizens are experiencing. I too can have guard towers that serve to destroy any incoming influences that would bring freedom.
“For the Word of God is alive and active; sharper than any double edged sword. It penetrates even to divining soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” The Word of God provides a no spin zone. The Word of God reveals and convinces of truth cutting off all lies. The Word of God, both written (Bible) and living (The Holy Spirit). Both are true. Never contradictory. And provided in order that we might be led into all truth. After all, it is the Truth that sets us free.