A Warning to Shepherds Who Mislead the Sheep

sheep sun

Some of the strongest warnings in the Bible are directed to leaders who mislead God’s people, to prophets and priests and pastors and teachers who by their example or their doctrine lead the sheep into sinful conduct and destructive beliefs.

Be very careful not to hurt God’s flock! You are touching the apple of His eye, and He does not take this lightly.

Recently, I was speaking to a pastor about a major church in his city that had just announced its support for committed homosexual unions, sending shockwaves throughout the region, since it is a highly influential church that claims to be “evangelical.”

I said to him, “There are obviously other areas of compromise in their midst,” to which he replied, “When we met with the one of their key pastors, he explained that he was now ‘inclusive’ when it came to salvation” – meaning that people of all religions are saved through Jesus, even if they don’t believe in Him, as long as they don’t willfully opt out. The pastor also told me that, “The leader I was speaking with dropped F-bombs during our interaction and then lit up a cigarette as soon as we went outside.”

Is it any surprise that this pastor has now changed his beliefs about homosexuality?

Every leader sets an example for better or worse, and when our example is substandard, it is not only repeated by those who follow us, it is exaggerated, opening up a floodgate of destruction on those for whom Jesus died.

We dare not play games with the lives of those who were purchased at the high cost of Jesus’ blood. As Paul said to the Ephesian elders, “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood” (Acts 20:28).

When God spoke to Jeremiah about the sins of the false prophets, he was devastated: “My heart is broken within me; all my bones shake; I am like a drunken man, like a man overcome by wine, because of the LORD and because of his holy words” (Jeremiah 23:9; I once heard a preacher use this verse to justify getting “drunk in the Spirit”; what an abuse of the Word!).

The prophets of Samaria had been guilt of prophesying in the name of Baal, misleading the nation. But what the prophets of Jerusalem did was even worse, “. . . in the prophets of Jerusalem I have seen a horrible thing: they commit adultery and walk in lies; they strengthen the hands of evildoers, so that no one turns from his evil; all of them have become like Sodom to me, and its inhabitants like Gomorrah” (Jeremiah 23:14).

They prophesied in the Lord’s name but lived in sin and led the people into sin. As a result, the ungodly were strengthened, the godly were discouraged, and no one turned from evil.

And it was the sin of the false prophets that led to the destruction of Jerusalem: “Your prophets have seen for you false and deceptive visions; they have not exposed your iniquity to restore your fortunes, but have seen for you oracles that are false and misleading” (Lamentations 2:14).

To God’s people, I say in the strongest possible terms: Beware of those who make light of sin, who trivialize holiness, who throw a wet blanket on the fires of conviction, who minimize repentance, and who brand others “legalistic” and “religious” because of their devotion to the Lord. Beware!

Such shepherds do not have the heart of God and, rather than protecting the sheep, are leading them to slaughter.

Paul was so burdened about false teachers that he warned the Ephesian believers about this for three years, night and day with tears, saying, “I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them” (Acts 20:29-30).

That’s why he exhorted Timothy, as a young leader, to “set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity,” reminding him to “keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers” (1 Timothy 4:12, 16).

Pastors, when you indulge in ungodly entertainment and compromised living then demonstrate your “freedom” by speaking about it from the pulpit, referencing the latest unclean movie in your oh-so-cool sermons, you spew filth on those whom Jesus has cleansed, encouraging them to follow in your footsteps – and beyond.

You will have to answer to God for this one day. (I write this while trembling on the inside.)

It’s the same when you minimize God’s standards for marriage, divorcing and remarrying without cause.

There is spiritual and moral blood on your hands.

And what of those who preach deceptive and destructive doctrines of carnal prosperity, appealing to greed and motivated by greed, manipulating the gullible flock to their personal financial gain? What does God say to them?

In the words of Peter10-, “They have eyes full of adultery, insatiable for sin. They entice unsteady souls. They have hearts trained in greed. Accursed children!” (2 Peter 2:14)

Perhaps many of our contemporary leaders have not fallen this far, but to the extent we are leading God’s people away from purity and truth by our example and our teaching, we are in serious danger.

Repent, my fellow-leaders, before it is too late, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil” (2 Corinthians 5:10).

And to the sheep who are being misled, I urge you in the fear of the Lord: Run for your lives and get into a place of health and safety. There are plenty of godly leaders who will help you, not harm you.

And to each of those godly leaders I say, “Be strong and be faithful. Your reward will be great.”



Others Will Fail Us

Matthew 18:21-35

You’re in a difficult situation, and one by one, friends have fallen away and lost contact. Now the pain is worse because you’re suffering alone.

Why did these people desert you? There are many possible reasons. For example, they might have left because they felt inadequate. Or maybe they couldn’t stand to watch you suffer. Perhaps, though, some had their own best interests in mind and feared falling into similar trouble or being associated with a socially unacceptable situation.

You might wonder how to respond to them. Whatever the reason was for desertion, there is only one appropriate biblical response—forgiveness. The reason is that as forgiven people, it makes no difference what someone has done to us; we never have the right to withhold forgiveness.

After being left alone during his Roman imprisonment, Paul wrote this about those who had abandoned him: “May it not be counted against them” (2 Tim. 4:16). In other words, he forgave them. The apostle probably remembered what happened when Stephen was stoned. Paul had been present as one of the persecutors, after all, and he heard the dying man cry out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them!” (Acts 7:60).

But it is probable that Paul had an even greater act of forgiveness in mind: Christ’s atoning death and His attitude toward the crucifiers (Luke 23:34).

Because God forgives us (and all who turn to Him) of all sins, we don’t have the right to withhold forgiveness from anyone, and that certainly includes our friends. Is there someone you need to forgive? If so, do it today.

Rooted and Built Up

“Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving.” (Colossians 2:7)

The Christian walk must be “rooted” and “built up” to endure. The word picture goes back to the parable of the sower. “Behold, a sower went forth to sow. . . . Some [seeds] fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth: And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. . . . the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended” (Matthew 13:3-6, 20-21).

According to the Lord of the harvest, some will respond “with joy” to the gospel message, but without any root they will not last in either their joy or their Christian testimony—they “fall away” (Luke 8:13). Just what is involved in a “root” that stabilizes and provides nourishment for the seed of the gospel in the human heart?

Fervent love for God’s Word and for the work of the ministry is surely a foundational element—“being rooted and grounded in love, [we] may be able to comprehend . . . the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge” (Ephesians 3:17-19).

The root also requires being “stablished in the faith”—all the “counsel of God” (Acts 20:27). “Stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle” (2 Thessalonians 2:15). These factors should make us to “be stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:58). With good roots, we will “build up,” being affirmed in the faith, increasing in that walk with real thanksgiving. HMM III

Crowds at Any Price

As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one…. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. —Romans 3:10, 12

The crowds-at-any-price mania has taken a firm grip on American Christianity and is the motivating power back of a shockingly high percentage of all religious activity….

Our constant effort should be to reach as many persons as possible with the Christian message, and for that reason numbers are critically important. But our first responsibility is not to make converts but to uphold the honor of God in a world given over to the glory of fallen man. No matter how many persons we touch with the gospel we have failed unless, along with the message of invitation, we have boldly declared the exceeding sinfulness of man and the transcendent holiness of the Most High God. They who degrade or compromise the truth in order to reach larger numbers, dishonor God and deeply injure the souls of men.

The temptation to modify the teachings of Christ with the hope that larger numbers may “accept” Him is cruelly strong in this day of speed, size, noise and crowds. But if we know what is good for us, we’ll resist it with every power at our command. SIZ117-119

Lord, give me a deep, unshakable commitment “to uphold the honor of God in a world given over to the glory of fallen men”—whether I achieve crowds and success or not. Amen.

In the Church: The Lordship of Christ in Control

… Ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession unto the praise of his glory. Ephesians 1:13, 14

The nervous compulsion to get things done is found everywhere among us and right here is where the pragmatic philosophy comes into its own.

It asks no embarrassing questions about the wisdom of what we are doing or even about the morality of it.

It accepts our chosen ends as right and good and casts about for efficient means and ways to get them accomplished. When it discovers something that works, it soon finds a text to justify it, “consecrates” it to the Lord and plunges ahead. Next a magazine article is written about it, then a book, and finally the inventor is granted an honorary degree. After that, any question about the scripturalness of things or even the moral validity of them is completely swept away.

You cannot argue with success. The method works; ergo, it must be good!

The whole religious atmosphere around us is largely geared to pragmatic methodology. What shall we do to break its power over us?

The answer is simple. We must acknowledge the right of Jesus Christ to control the activities of His Church. The New Testament contains full instructions, not only about what we are to believe but what we are to do and how we are to go about doing it. Any deviation from those instructions is a denial of the Lordship of Christ!

Cheap Religion

Neither will I offer burnt offerings unto the LORD my God of that which doth cost me nothing. 2 SAMUEL 24:24

What passes for Christianity in our day is cheap religion! To listen to the current concepts of Christianity, we would conclude it is little more than bits of beautiful poetry, a man-made bouquet of fragrant flowers, a kindly smile for our neighbor and a couple of good deeds on behalf of a brother or sister.

When I consider some of the elements now offered in Christianity as acceptable religion, I have to restrain myself lest I speak too disapprovingly. I fear my words would be so strong that I would have to repent of them! And I read in the Scriptures that there are some things God does not want us to say even about the devil.

What do we find surfacing in much of our Christian fellowship? The complaint that God takes a long time to work out His will. We do not want to take the time to plow and cultivate. We want the fruit and the harvest right away. We do not want to be engaged in any spiritual battle that takes us into the long night. We want the morning light right now!

We do not want the cross—we are more interested in the crown!

Lord, help me to be satisfied with Your timetable concerning certain issues in my life. You are the sovereign God who is never late! Your divine timing is impeccable!