Title
Sheep's Clothing 2
Date
March 14, 2021
Series
Authors
David Eiffert
Topics
Bible References
Download MP3
Print / Download PDF

Sheep's Clothing 2

Intro

Well we are in week 2 of a 3 week series I’ve entitled “Sheep’s Clothing”.

Teaching the Bible is like a dance And just briefly, being a teacher of the bible, which is what I am, is really a kind of dance, where my voice and the voice of scripture intermingle and hopefully create something that brings about change in the listener. Something that I’m learning and growing in in my calling is to let scripture take the lead in the dance, so letting scripture lead me instead of me leading it.
To let scripture ‘Be the DJ’ so to speak, where scripture not only provides answer to our questions, but it even informs the kind of questions we ought to be asking.
Round Out Teaching And so I’ve been working to ‘round out’ my teaching, where I incorporate things that are clearly in the text, but for whatever reason are not commonly preached on. And this series is certainly that.

1984

I wonder if any of you have read the book by George Orwell called 1984? It’s a cautionary tale about ways that we’re manipulated through oppressive systems of power. It also talks a lot about truth is manipulated through political system. It centers around a fictional totalitarian superstate called ‘Oceanana’. And in Oceanana, all people know about the world is what the government tells them.

Well the government creates a new language for everyone to speak that’s called “Newspeak” which is basically a version of English, but with certain words and phrases removed to discourage ‘critical thought’ in the speaker.

  • So they get rid of the word ‘bad’, and now it’s only ‘ungood’,
  • They get rid of the word great, there's only double-plus-good.

And so what’s the purpose of that? It gets rid of the binary, black and white BAD and GREAT and put us all in this middle area that’s just varying degrees of ‘good’.

We’re living in a time where moral relativism is on the rise. Where you are free to define for yourself what is and is not true.

The Supreme Court has enshrined this idea in a famous passage in a 1992 ruling : “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe …”

Scripture does not make that mistake. Scripture is courageously clear on what is and is not of God.

Some people will say about scripture ‘It’s outdated. It doesn’t work with the times we’re living in. And so while there are some principles that work for our day, love, acceptance, forgiveness, there are also a number of outdated principles that we should reject, absolute truth, judgement, authority.

Well if you were to ask Peter and Paul why absolute truth is under such attack, they would unquestionably say that it’s due to false teachers.

Jesus would call them wolves in sheep’s clothing. According to scripture, these are people who appear to be angels of light that are actually angels of darkness. And Jesus taught that that will happen more as time goes on, not less.

I encourage you to watch or listen to last week’s sermon if you missed it, I spend a prolonged period of time showing just how much time scripture devotes to discussing false teachers.

So for the sake of time, I’m just going to read just a few:

Matthew 7:15-20

“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. (Matthew 7:15)

By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? (Matthew 7:16)

Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. (Matthew 7:17)

V20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. (Matthew 7:20)

Matthew 24:10-13, 24

In Matthew 24, Jesus is speaking of the last days. “Are we in the last days, Pastor David” - Well I can say we’re closer to Jesus returning than we were yesterday.

At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, (Matthew 24:10)

and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. (Matthew 24:11)

Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, (Matthew 24:12)

but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. (Matthew 24:13)

V24

For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. (Matthew 24:24)

Wow, did you hear that? So these false prophets will even have miracle working power. Talk about hard to tell what’s what.

Acts 20

Here we have Paul speaking to the elders of the church of Ephesus.

Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. (Acts 20:30)

Wow, so here Paul is saying that false teachers will arise from their own church leadership.

So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears. (Acts 20:31)

So here we have the apostle Paul weeping over the seriousness of false teaching leading people astray. Wow.

2 Peter 2

But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves. (2 Peter 2:1)

Many will follow their depraved conduct and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. (2 Peter 2:2)

Disrepute means a bad reputation. He’s saying false teachers will give ‘truth’ a bad reputation. Wow.

There are dozens and dozens and dozens of warnings exactly like this all throughout scripture and in particular, the New Testament.


Look at what the Apostle John says:

Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. (1 John 4:1)

So of course eternal judgement is something that is reserved only for God, however scripture clearly teaches that we as Christians are to apply tests to teachers to see if they speak for God or not.

And so the idea of this series is to give you biblical criteria by which you can determine who does and does not speak for God.

And there is positively no self-seeking in talking about this, because I am giving you tests to to use on me. And I encourage you to do so. And anyone else who claims to speak for God.


Discernment And again, for me, it just keeps coming back to this word: Discernment. Because there has never been a time in my lifetime where discernment is more needed than it is right now. And discernment is not just a feeling you get, it’s also wisdom that is gained through discipleship to Jesus and the wisdom he provides in scripture.

Body

Which brings us to our main scriptures for this sermon and really this sermon series. Now just to warn you, I’m going to read these verses, it’s like 11 of them, and like I said last week, you are going to have positively no idea how this helps us in any way. You’ll feel like I accidentally said the wrong chapter and just started reading. It feels like Paul is just mumbling about whatever.

But what I hope to show you this week and the following 2 weeks is that Paul here brilliantly and systematically shows us how to discern true teachers from false teachers.

For a little bit of context, Paul here is contrasting himself (a true teacher) from this group of people he calls the ‘Super Apostles’ who are absolutely false teachers.

And so I have for you 10, yes 10 tests that will help us identify true teachers and false teachers. - So as we read these verses, pay attention and see if you can pick any of them out. (And I highlighted some parts just to give you guys some clues).

You are judging by appearances. If anyone is confident that they belong to Christ, they should consider again that we belong to Christ just as much as they do. (2 Corinthians 10:7)

So even if I boast somewhat freely about the authority the Lord gave us for building you up rather than tearing you down, I will not be ashamed of it. (2 Corinthians 10:8)

I do not want to seem to be trying to frighten you with my letters. (2 Corinthians 10:9)

For some say, “His letters are weighty and forceful, but in person he is unimpressive and his speaking amounts to nothing.” (2 Corinthians 10:10)

Such people should realize that what we are in our letters when we are absent, we will be in our actions when we are present. (2 Corinthians 10:11)

We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise. (2 Corinthians 10:12)

We, however, will not boast beyond proper limits, but will confine our boasting to the sphere of service God himself has assigned to us, a sphere that also includes you. (2 Corinthians 10:13)

We are not going too far in our boasting, as would be the case if we had not come to you, for we did get as far as you with the gospel of Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:14)

Neither do we go beyond our limits by boasting of work done by others. Our hope is that, as your faith continues to grow, our sphere of activity among you will greatly expand, (2 Corinthians 10:15)

so that we can preach the gospel in the regions beyond you. For we do not want to boast about work already done in someone else’s territory. (2 Corinthians 10:16)

But, “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 10:17)

For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends. (2 Corinthians 10:18)

So something you need to understand about Paul is that he was absolutely the DEEPEST theologian of all the biblical writers. His letters are DENSE. And they are crammed full of deep theological concepts, yet amazingly, the writing in most cases appears very simplistic.

And here he is writing to a church that has by and large, received false apostles as true apostles.

And as you’ll see his criticism with these “Super Apostles” (and that’s a term he coins facetiously) is really two things: Distorting the truth and harming the church. (Say those with me)

And this text that we read, is him systematically dismantling the arguments and false teachings of the super apostles.

And I have created out of these teachings 10 “TESTS” that can you apply to a spiritual teacher to help you know how much weight to give their voice in your life. Now let me say that these things to do PROVE that someone is a false teacher, no these are just the warning signs maybe, that Paul gives us in our pursuit of discernment.

Last Week Review

Just to fly by, here was last weeks 3 tests:

  1. Does their teaching and their life model intimacy with Christ? The true teacher is going to practice what they preach. They’re going to not just talk about the way of Jesus, they’re going to live it.
  2. Do they speak the truth or only what you want to hear? We don’t balance truth and love because they’re not in competition. The true teacher who loves you will tell you the truth even when they know it’s not what you want to hear.
  3. Are they being pastored themselves or are they a “Lone Ranger”? All spiritual fathers must first be sons. The biblical example set by the early church is clear: Pastors are IN authority, while also being UNDER authority themselves.

4. Do they trust in God’s power or their personality?

v10 “For some say, “His letters are weighty and forceful, but in person he is unimpressive and his speaking amounts to nothing.”

These false teachers were trying to discredit Paul. And this one is pretty clever really. First off, they had to admit that his letters were weighty and forceful. There was no denying that. Paul’s writings ARE weighty. And they’re also forceful. When Paul ministers, it’s not through his own ability, but through God’s power. And that enabled Paul to be more bold, more courageous, more ‘FORCEFUL’ than he would be in his own power. And that’s what you need if you’re going to last in ministry. Because I’ll tell you, when I was a younger preacher, the thought of coming up here and saying things that I believed needed to be said and then knowing that a high percentage of you are going to get in your cars and talk about what I said, and often times talk about ME. Just being under that level of scrutiny all the time, when you’re a young minister can feel very overwhelming. But Paul models for us that when we minister, there is a weight and a force that we put on as part of our anointing.

So even Paul’s critics had to admit that his letters were weighty and forceful.

But then they immediately go into this “But in person he is unimpressive. And his public speaking skills? Pff. Amount to nothing.”

So let’s look at both of those: First, in person he’s unimpressive. Well we know that Paul is a bit of a homely guy.

There’s this second century document called “The Acts of Paula and Theudia” says this, quote: “Paul was a man small of stature with a bald head and crooked legs in a good state of body,” that means healthy, “with eyebrows meeting and a nose somewhat hooked.” Now that seems a little unnecessary. To write in a historical document that he had a unibrow. That’s just cold man. And a crooked nose. So anyways, these false teachers are saying “That ugly guy.”

But second, they say “His speaking amounts to nothing.” - What is that? They’re saying that he’s not a charismatic public speaker. What is charisma? “A compelling attractiveness or charm that inspires others” So it’s that electricity that comes from someones personally and appearance. “They control the room.” And these false teachers are saying “Paul’s not a charismatic preacher.”

Now I want us to really think about that for a minute. Think about the famous preachers of our generation. And don’t make the mistake of thinking that this means being charismatic is BAD in any way. That would be a mistake. But you have got to admit that in certain parts of Christian culture, charisma is the primary thing that QUALIFIES you to be a spiritual leader.

But Character trumps Charisma every time.

So let’s put me under the microscope. I like to think that I’m maybe decently charismatic. I think people can enjoy being around me, and I hope to be an engaging speaker and engaging leader. I do. And there’s nothing wrong with that. But if you would allow yourself to be pastored by me simply BECAUSE I’m charismatic, that would be a mistake on your part. Just because I can come up here and say things in a microphone that make you laugh doesn’t qualify me to have a voice in your life. It doesn’t. And that sounds simple, but this test can really help you. Just because someone calls themself a pastor or a minister and can work a crowd like no one’s business, doesn’t mean you’re supposed to give them a voice in your life.

False teachers, more times than not, will be slick and charismatic. The Greeks of Paul’s day worshiped human eloquence.

So here comes Paul. Short, unibrow, crooked nose. Paul just didn’t have “the look”. He doesn’t know how to work a crowd. He doesn’t control them with the power of his electric, dynamic preaching or his brilliant mind or his amazing vocabulary. No, Paul trusted in the power of God.

So does this play out? How you can tell? Well I believe that true prophets, and true teachers will be humble and able to recognize and even talk about their own limitations. Because they don’t need to trust in their own charisma, they’re free to admit that they’re not the best at everything.

Let me see if I can put this on display for you: I believe that God has given me an ability to think clearly and concisely. I think he has given me the ability to make difficult things understandable. With that said, there are other people who are far better than I am at lots of things. There are preachers (good Godly ones) that you put them on this stage and they can motivate you like no one’s business. T.D. Jakes you put that guy in front of a group of people and give him 30 minutes and those people are ready to run out of the room and change the world. There are people who are better at encouraging than I am. If we were to bring Max Lucado in here, I mean within about 7 second of hearing that man talk, it’s like you can feel this encouragement and kindness flow over your body. It’s amazing.

I hope to be motivating, and I hope to be encouraging, but other people are much more gifted at that than I am. But here’s what’s important: I’m fine with that. Because I believe when I offer my abilities to God, just like bringing those loaves and fish, that God is able to turn my ordinary, into something extra-ordinary.

But a false teacher, they will admit no weakness. They often times have a very sensitive ego. They won’t be able to handle criticism, they won’t be able to admit the things they still need to get better at. Because their own charisma and ability is all they have.

Me: I’m taking off my ability and putting on your anointing. - I’ll give you a little behind the scenes of be teaching. Every time I speak, at some point in the minutes leading up to me stepping on stage, I close my eyes, and I say this “God, I am taking off my ability and putting on your anointing’. Absolutely every time I step up on this platform, I acknowledge that if God’s power is not with me, then what I do up here means nothing.

Make it personal: In my life’s challenges, do I trust in my own ability or God’s ability?

Some of you are incredibly gifted and incredibly talented. Brilliant businessmen and women, incredible leaders, dynamic realtors and sales-people and entrepreneurs. Those are all great gifts from God, but to trust only in your own ability, well that’s a mistake. Never forget it’s God who is able to work behind the scenes to bless his children and to take care of them.

5. Do they show respect or disrespect to the ministries of others?

Now right off the bat I have to say that this point might sound counter intuitive, as this whole serious is literally a way for you to identify illegitimate ministers and ministries. But there are many many many good, Christ centered, Bible teaching ministries out there, and it's important for us to respect them not disrespect them.

For we do not want to boast about work already done in someone else’s territory. (2 Corinthians 10:16)

So here you can see Paul has a willingness to recognize and show respect for work done in “someone else’s territory”.

Like gangs? So how does that work, are churches like gangs that we have turf wars and you’re not supposed to enter my territory. No of course not. And that’s not what Paul is communicating here. What he is communicating here is “I will rejoice in the work God does through me, but I will also rejoice when God works outside of me. Through other people. Through other ministries.”

And before you say “Isn’t that obvious David?” - I will say that that is not nearly as common as you’d think. For ministries to celebrate the victories of other ministries. No, what’s more common among ministries in the same city is a sense of competition and fighting over the same handful of people.

Circuit City Story I wonder how many of you remember circuit city? Man, I loved that store. And I’m sure most of you remember when it went out of business in 2008. Well during that time, I was working as a web developer for another electronics company here in town. And it was a tough time for us financially, margins were very thin, there were concerns that we were going to be able to stay open. And so when we got news that circuit city, our closest competitor was going out of business, was that good news or bad news? It was GREAT news.

And honestly is makes sense, it’s the way of the world. If you sell electronics, the electronics store down the street going out of business is good news. And the other side of that coin: If you sell insurance, you might not celebrate when the insurance company next-door doubles their client base. Why? Because it threatens your bottom line. BUT THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS NOT LIKE THE WORLD.

And so that’s why we say to Citizen church - we bless you, we speak success over your ministry, New Life city - we bless you, we speak success over your ministry, North Church, Legacy Church, Calvary Church, Sagebrush Church, Life Church, Oasis Church, New Creation Church, and every other Christ following church in Albuquerque NM, we bless we, we speak success over your ministry.

How can we do that? We do that by remembering what we’re here to do. We don’t pastor this church because we think it’s a cool career choice and it’s a good way to make money. No we pastor this church as a response to Jesus calling us to make disciples. And to spread the gospel in both word and deed. And so if Calvary church has a huge easter service and 500 people give their life to Christ, we celebrate because the most important thing is the gospel going forth.

You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans? (1 Corinthians 3:3)

For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not mere human beings? (1 Corinthians 3:4)

What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. (1 Corinthians 3:5)

I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. (1 Corinthians 3:6)

So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. (1 Corinthians 3:7)

So what’s happening here? Well Paul is saying ‘Hey, it’s not about if you’re a Paul guy or an Apollos guy, the important thing is God is making you grow.

Story - people leave church - Part of being a pastor is having meetings with people, of course. Well sometimes someone will schedule a meeting with me to tell me that they’re leaving the church. It’s almost always after they’ve already decided which seems weird to me. A better way to do it would to talk to a pastor while you’re still in the season of seeking what God has for you, and inviting a pastor into your decision making process instead of just telling us what you already decided. People almost never do this, even though most people know this is the right way.

But anyways, people will come in and say why they’re leaving. Likely they take issue with something we said or didn’t say. And so the thing that I tell people when they leave is some form of this: “I understand what you’re saying, and I love you, and we’ll always be family. But if you would allow me to tell you one thing it would be this: Make SSUURREE you get plugged in to a bible-teaching, Christ centered church. That’s the most important thing you can for this transition.” - Now how could I do that? Why wouldn’t I just beg and plead and threaten them to stay at our church? Well it’s because I know we’re just Pauls and Apollos’s. And at the end of the day, what’s most important is that you continue to be pastored, you continue to be taught, you continue to grow in your relationship with God. That’s the most important thing.

I can’t vouch for if this is true or not, but this past week we were cautioned by staff members at another church to watch out because people from a different church have been logging onto their live streams and inviting people to come to their church instead. So that would be a believers center members, for example, logging on to a Believers Center live stream and inviting people to their church instead. Again, I can’t confirm if that happens or not. But if it DOES happen, then you gotta admit that's not right. We’re not competing with other churches.

Do you remember a million years ago, Pastor Marshall used to make us look at our neighbor and say “I am convinced by the authority of God’s word that you are not my problem.” - OH MAN THAT’S GOOD. Let’s do that. Look at a neighbor, and say that “I am convinced by the authority of God’s word that you are not my problem.”

False teachers will lead out of insecurity and disrespect other people’s ministries. So if you see that start happening, that is a red flag.

Personal: Do I rejoice in the victories of others or only my own?

6. Are they content with the scope of their calling?

We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise. (2 Corinthians 10:12)

We, however, will not boast beyond proper limits, but will confine our boasting to the sphere of service God himself has assigned to us, a sphere that also includes you. (2 Corinthians 10:13)

The false teacher is always overstating. They overstate their giftedness. They overstate their influence. They overstate their impact. They overstate their achievement. They overstate their sphere of ministry. They puff everything up. They inflate everything until it appears to be far greater than it is.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve listened to “sermons” that is really little more than just bragging about how great their gifting and impact is.

A true teacher of the gospel will be humble.

It seems that these false teachers came into Corinth and must have presented the Corinthians with an amazing list of their own accolades. So what’s Paul going to do? Is going to fight on that ground?

v13 We, however, will not boast beyond proper limits, (Paul is not going to exaggerate his accomplishments. He’s not going to say anything that’s not true.) but will confine our boasting to the sphere of service God himself has assigned to us, a sphere that also includes you.

Sphere What does that mean? Sphere? It just means an area of a particular size. And notice what he says there. He says that this ‘sphere’ of ministry is not something that he achieved by brilliant marketing or whatever, no this was a sphere that God himself assigned to them.

Did you know that a church being small doesn’t mean that they’re doing something wrong? They might be doing something wrong, and that’s why the church is the size that it is, but it could also just mean they’re being faithful in the sphere of service God has personally given them.

And in the same way, did you know that just because a church is huge doesn’t mean they’re doing everything right. The question that a church needs to ask themselves is ‘Are we being faithful to what God has called US to do?’ That’s real success.

You show me a pastor who only cares about one thing: Being the most famous preacher in the nation, and I will absolutely show you someone who has fallen into false teaching. They will compromise the truth. They would be dumb not to. If all they care about is getting famous, the truth isn’t going to help them. Like we said last week: The truth is not always popular. But the truth is what we’re called to. In love.

So let say for me personally. I would love to see our church grow numerically. Wouldn’t you? And that’s not so that I can feel like a success or anything like that. No I would love to see this church grow because I think what we offer at this church and who we are at this church is worth sharing. And us expanding our influence in this city would make the city better. I do believe that. So yeah, I want this church grow numerically. But hear me: In no way will we compromise who God has called us to be for the sake of numerical growth.

I mean you wanna talk about a failure. Think about a church that sacrifices who God called them to be so that they could be successful in the worlds eyes. THAT’S ultimate failure. Of course we can do better, or course we can do our services better, or course we can find ways to be more welcoming to non-Christians, all of that. Absolutely. But it’s a mistake for us to think that the most important thing is to grow numerically, no matter the cost. No, we’re gonna be faithful. We’re gonna keep on doing what we know to do. We’re gonna keep worshipping Jesus, we’re gonna keep teaching the scripture, we’re gonna keep taking care of people who need our help, we’re gonna keep being a force for good in the world.

Because God has given us all a sphere of influence. And the most important thing is being faithful in the sphere.

To make it personal:

Melinda It was interesting, this past week I’ve been thinking about that word ‘Sphere’. And then this past Friday, me, and Jordan, and Grace went and got haircuts. Yes, we all look incredible, that’s for pointing that out. Just kidding. But anyways, I was sitting in Melinda’s chair and she starting talking about her sphere of influence and finding freedom and contentment in simply being a good steward over it. I liked what she said so much that I texted her the next day and asked to write it down for me. And so I’m gonna read it to you (which she probably didn’t expect me to do). That’s the risk you when you’re friends with a preacher. Anything you say can and will be put on the screen.

No matter how big I think my “platform” is, I only have Influence over my sphere. God gives me my sphere and it may change in size but I cannot affect change where my voice is not welcome or accepted. Trying to speak or change things and people outside of my sphere just causes frustration and discord. I have to be aware of where the Lord has placed me and find peace in knowing some things are not my responsibility.

Listen that is a word for some of you. Spending all day fretting over things you have no control over. Instead of spending all day ranting about what the president or the governor or the mayor ought to do, how about you become the best version of yourself and faithfully steward what God has given you?

Parable of the talents Think about Jesus’s parable of the talents, where people are given a certain amount of whatever, and at the end they give an account for how they used their influence. Not somebody else’s, theirs.

You will give an account not for what other people did, but what you did.

To make it personal: Am I making the most of the sphere of influence God has given me?

Closing

Closing Statement

Scripture has a great deal to say about what it calls False Prophets, False Teachers, False Apostles. We live in an age of loud voices and many who speak with authority. It is vitally important that today’s Christian use discernment in deciding which voices to hear and which voices to ignore.

Thankfully, the New Testament writers give us many principles that will enable us to discern the true teacher from the false teacher.

  1. Do they trust in God’s power or their personality? - Character trumps Charisma every time. The true teacher will lean on God’s power and wisdom not their ability to work a crowd.
  2. Do they show respect or disrespect to the ministries of others? - The Kingdom of God is not like the world. We don’t operate through competition. We rejoice with and bless other ministries and churches in their gospel work.
  3.  Are they content with the scope of their calling? The true teacher doesn’t let their own desire for success compromise their integrity or faithfulness to that which they’re called.

The questions also apply to you: In your life’s challenges, do you trust in your own ability or God’s ability? Do you rejoice in the victories of others or only your own? Are you making the most of the sphere of influence God has given you?

Which leads us right to Jesus.

You wanna talk about a man who knew what he was here to do. Jesus courageously walked out what the Father had for him to do which was to live a perfect, sinless life, put the Kingdom of God on display, offer his life freely, be brutally killed, be raised from the dead, and offer forgiveness and eternal life to all who believe.