Paranoia goes “hand in hand” with the Pastorate. It might surprise you to know that every good and faithful Pastor/ Elder is a little paranoid…..AND SCRIPTURE COMMANDS HIM TO BE. The passage we are studying in our Bible Study tonight is from Acts 20:25-32, where Paul exhorts the Ephesian Elders to: “Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be on the alert…” (Acts 20:28-31 NASB)
A good Shepherd HAS to “be on guard” for the flock. In the Old Testament, David was known as a good Shepherd. He’s also well known for the Psalms he wrote, and for his ability to play the harp. No doubt he practiced these skills while spending those long days and nights out with his sheep. But make no mistake….while David was writing poetry and singing songs…he was doing it with an eye fixed on the horizon scanning for possible predators. His harp wasn’t all he carried……word has it he was pretty handy with a sling shot too (isn’t that right Goliath?). So what’s the point?….
Pastors, Elders, and really all Christians must be on guard for the purity and unity of the church. Now, that’s a notion that flies completely in the face of our modern sensibilities…where no one is allowed to take a stand on anything….and you’re certainly not allowed to make your view the authority. But what about GOD’S view? If a church is going to be a church in the Biblical sense, then it must regard God’s Word as true and authoritative….it must seek to be a witness in a lost world…and it must have Shepherds that are “on guard” for potential problems.
With that said….here are three different kinds of “animals” that exist in the church. First, there are sheep. No surprise here….sheep are Christians. They follow the Chief Shepherd Jesus Christ. They come to church for worship, fellowship, etc. They are “born again” and desire to follow Christ. They can easily stray….they sometimes stink….and they occasionally act like the world, but not for very long because “sheep” have the Holy Spirit living within them to guide, comfort, and convict. Those are sheep.
Everyone who’s not a sheep could be considered a goat, but I want to differentiate between two different kinds of “lost people” that I will call “goats” and “wolves.” Keep in mind…they’re both lost and both heading for Hell, unless they become sheep. But for church purposes, we need to differentiate. So here goes….
Goats pose no real threat to the church, per se. They could cause problems, but that’s not why they’re really at church. They’re attitude is generally indifferent. They’re there on Sunday morning because the wife made them come, or because they think going to church is just the “thing to do” on Sunday morning. Others are deceived “Christians” (notice the quotation marks) who think they’re saved….or maybe even phony “Christians” who know they’re not saved….but simply don’t care. (For examples of this see 1 John 1, or if you attend my church, think back to the 4 sermons I just finished preaching on 1 John 1). One more type of goat is what might be called a “seeker.” (Please be patient while I go on a diatribe.) When I say “seeker” I’m NOT talking about this mythical creature that wonders the world looking for “meaning” because they have a “God-sized hole in their heart.” Its true we were created to worship…and its true that we all know deep down that God exists and that He should be worshiped….But the fact is people are born “enemies of God” (see Ephesians 2) and really have no desire to please anyone but themselves. I’m sorry if that sounds harsh….but it’s Biblical, and if you have small children, you know it’s a reality. No one has to teach a 2 year old to be selfish, and to cry and throw a fit when they don’t get their way. They do it naturally. Why? Because they have a sinful nature. Why? Because they inherited it from Mom and Dad who are no better than the kid….just older and more able to disguise the sin nature. When I say “seeker” I mean someone who is curious about Christianity….and according to the Bible, the reason they’re “curious” is because the Holy Spirit is drawing them (see John 6:44). Romans 3:10 says, “No one seeks after God.” This is why I have such a problem with the “seeker-sensitive” approach to church that has become so popular. It starts with a false assumption that all people are “seeking” God…then it attempts to package the gospel in a way that “seekers” will respond….INSTEAD OF preaching the truth…the whole truth…and nothing but the truth like Jesus, Paul, Peter, James, John, etc. did. OK, diatribe is over, now back to the main topic.
Some “goats” may be “seekers” who are being drawn by the Holy Spirit…we are glad they came to church and we pray for their salvation. The door is always open to sheep and to goats….but NOT to wolves.
Wolves are dangerous…and are ignored at the church’s peril. Wolves are NOT indifferent….they are hostile to the church, to God, to Christians, and to the gospel. But beware….they are sometimes disguised as sheep. Paul said not to be surprised at that since even Satan disguises himself as an “angel of light.” (2 Corinthians 11:14) Wolves must be taken seriously. Paul reminded the Ephesian elders that he had warned them about things like this constantly for three years “with tears.” Sheep being destroyed by wolves broke Paul’s heart….and he never allowed it. The hard part for us is determining whether someone is a “goat” or a “wolf.” We MUST be watchful and prayerful and ask God to direct. But Jesus does tell us that wolves will eventually make themselves known: “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will know them by their fruits.” (Matt 7:15-20 NASB)
So what do you do with wolves? Paul “handed them over to Satan.” (see 1 Tim. 1:20 and 1 Cor. 5:1-5) Why? Because he hoped Satan would torment them so bad that they would repent and be saved. It IS possible for a wolf to become a sheep…in fact Paul is probably the biggest example….But one thing Paul NEVER did….he didn’t allow wolves to stay in the church and risk harming a sheep’s faith or a goats chances of salvation. If a wolf is to be saved….it’s going to have to take place outside the fellowship of the church, in most cases.
So what are you: sheep, goat, or wolf? I’m a Pastor….which means I’m a sheep of Christ that also serves as an under-Shepherd of His Church…..and NOW you know why I’m so paranoid. The Bible commands me to be. You also know why I’ll never have a sign in front of the church that says, “EVERYONE WELCOME” because everyone is NOT welcome. Lost people are welcome no matter what sin they may be struggling with. Druggies, drunks, and fornicators are welcome. Obviously sheep are welcome……but not wolves. Anyone who has a desire to destroy the Lord’s church is NOT welcome……but that’s OK…there are plenty of other church’s that don’t mind having wolves around….since many churches in our day……are being pastored by them. It’s scary. It’s sad. But its true…….So, what kind of “animal” are you?
P.S.---For my next “paranoid” blog, I may write about my belief that Barrack Obama is the Anti-Christ, Hillary is the False Prophet, and the Great Tribulation will be starting sometime shortly after November of 2008. If I’m wrong about Obama, then my second guess is Oprah. Hillary’s too mean to deceive anyone. But what about Obama?.....Hmmm…very interesting isn’t he?