Spot the Wolf: Part 5
This is the fifth installment in the on-going series authored by Pastor Anton Bosch pertaining to the exercise of discernment regarding Christian leaders.
As we have seen in the preceding articles, many of the characteristics of wolves who present themselves as shepherds are manifest in their relationship with the flock in their care. But it does not end there. Not only do false leaders not spare the flock, they also hate true prophets, teachers and shepherds.
Jesus said: “Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city.” (Matthew 23:34). Of course, He was speaking of Himself, but not of Himself only, but of other prophets, wise men and teachers that would come after Him, beginning with the Apostles and continuing throughout the church age. In looking back, Jesus lists Abel as the first martyr, and Zechariah as the last of the Old Testament righteous ones to be killed because they stood for the truth. (Matthew 23:35)
The sad reality is that in the last 2,000 years more people have been persecuted and killed by false “christians” than by the world! “For example, it has been estimated by careful and reputed historians of the Catholic Inquisition that 50 million people were slaughtered for the crime of "heresy" by Roman persecutors between the A.D. 606 and the middle of the 19th century.”
Not only were the Romanists guilty of the blood of believers, Calvin and Luther also murdered many true believers such as the Anabaptists. “Oh but that was those days – we would never do such a thing today!” Is that your response? It was the response of the Pharisees in Jesus’ day and I am sure is the response of many today who perpetuate these same crimes against those who dare to disagree with their perverted form of Christianity!
Maybe we have become more subtle, and maybe many of the modern Pharisees no longer kill people physically, but they often do worse by killing a man’s friendships, his reputation and his ministry! After one group of “christians” got done with someone I know, that man wished that he had rather been crucified than he and his family put through the spiritual and emotional torture that they had endured. These people destroyed every friendship this man ever had and ruined his reputation (and continue to do so), so that many years later many people, who used to be his friends, will not even greet him.
What is the difference between killing a man’s body or killing everything around him? When you walk down the street and people that you led to Christ look right through you as you don’t even exist – is that not murder? (In case you wonder what terrible sin this man committed – he simply pointed the finger at leaders and told them what they were doing is wrong.) His experience is not unique; it is repeated many times each day as those who dare speak the truth are persecuted without mercy by those who claim to be followers of Christ.
Of course, butter could not melt in the mouth of the persecutors. They even “build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous” (Matthew 23:29). They claim that they would never do such things while doing the very thing they deny. When you ask them about some of the people they have “killed,” they may even tell you how wonderful the victims are and how much they admire them. They may even pay homage to martyrs of the past while they continue to persecute and martyr true prophets.
Jesus wept over Jerusalem who killed the prophets (Matthew 23:37). Thus He lays the guilt not only at the feet of the leaders but at the whole city, including the people who did not stand up against these false leaders but allowed them to be used to cry out “crucify Him, crucify Him”. Today He weeps over churches, not only because of the leaders who persecute true Christians, but also over the members of those churches who witness the injustices and do not speak out against them.
Jesus pronounced two judgments over Jerusalem because she persecuted the prophets. First, her house would be left desolate and, second, they would not see Him. These judgments were fulfilled. The first, in 70AD when Jerusalem and the Temple were sacked by the Romans, and the second came into action almost immediately because Israel was blinded to their Messiah and, while seeing the very prophecies fulfilled, did not recognize Him. (2Corinthians 3:14,15)
These same judgments will also be passed onto any modern leader and church that are willing to follow in the footsteps of Jerusalem. One often wonders how some leaders (and churches) can be so blind as to not see the Truth, even if He stands before them. This is a direct result of their disobedience and of their willingness to destroy the truth. “And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” (2Thessalonians 2:11,12)
Jesus has some very strong words for these leaders: “Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell?” (Matthew 23:33)
Is there no cure for the churches that are accomplices in the murder of men of God? Yes, there is. Jesus said that their house would be desolate and they would not see Him “till you say, `Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord’” (Matthew 23:39). When Israel finally says those words of Jesus, she will finally be restored but it will not all be joy. “…then they will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn. In that day there shall be a great mourning in Jerusalem…” (Zechariah 12:10,11). I believe this also holds true for churches and their leaders. When a church will finally say “blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord” and accept the message of true prophets, the spiritual desolation and blindness will be lifted and they will see. The problem is that very few have the courage to turn from their evil ways and to accept the truth of God’s Word.
The bottom line is: Do not allow leaders to incite you to hate and to call for the blood of men that you know in your heart have done nothing wrong except speak the truth. Stand up in defense of those who speak the truth and don’t fear what men will do to you. If you are in leadership, speak the truth in love, no matter the consequences. If you feel the need to condemn another preacher, be very sure about the reasons and motives before you call for his head.
“Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.” (Matthew 5:11-13)
A sixth and final part will be soon forthcoming.