What idea jumps to mind when you hear, “a wolf in sheep’s clothing”? For most Biblically literate people, the mental image snaps to view of someone incorrectly teaching God’s message. Perhaps this type of four-footed trouble is the easiest to spot. Unfortunately, disguised savage canines operate in other ways also.
If we are to heed Jesus’ warning to watch out for ferocious wolves that appear in sheep’s clothing, does this not also necessitate being alert to those who would distort God’s message by limiting it to their own canon of what is good? Consider how God’s message is distorted by these limiting filters.
? Only teach that God is love. Although comforting, this ignores how God describes himself as being both love and just (Exodus 34:6,7; Deuteronomy 5:9,10; 7:9,10).
? Present only a positive and uplifting message. Like mice to the bait, people will eat this up. Those in Judah loved the continual empowering encouragement that all was well, even when their lives were engulfed by sin. But what good were those lies when God acted in judgment (Jeremiah 6:13,14; 5:31; 8:11)?
? Totally avoid sensitive issues of morality, such as addressing divorce and homosexuality. God’s message might not be politically correct, but the scriptures are clear (Matthew 19:9; 5:32; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11).
The list of ways in which a false teacher might distort God’s word through limiting his teaching to his own idea of what should be taught can be almost limitless. Undoubtedly, many such wolves will view themselves as effective and sophisticated servants of the Lord.
How can the church be alert to such nearly invisible distortions? This type of four-footed creature evolves when a disciple uproots God’s priorities to plant his own ideas of what is most important. Even good values when given too much value become bad values.
For example, the goal of loving God with its accompanying obedience may be replaced by trying to reach more numbers. Teaching the whole counsel of God could be supplanted by worshiping tolerance. The goal of embracing the biblical author’s intended message might be exchanged for presenting a culturally palatable message.
How can the church be alert to such nearly invisible danger? Just consider what goals drive the decision-making process and behavior.
False teachers limit what they teach to their own idea of what is good.