Wolves Among Us

Text: Jude 1:20-25

In the name of Jesus: Amen.

Be cautious of false preachers who smile a lot, dripping with practiced sincerity. Chances are these false preachers are out to rip you off some way or other, or they will manipulate you for their own personal gain.

Be alert for fake pastors who seem to be followers of Jesus – who walk the walk and talk the talk – but underneath the white alb and collared black clergy shirt are perverters of grace and enemies of righteousness. 

Be watchful for false prophets, who come to you in shepherd’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.

Yes, be aware! 

Why should you and I be aware?  Because Jesus calls us to be aware!  He does this in the Gospel of Matthew.  Furthermore, we are also told to be aware from Jude, the one who wrote the epistle that we read this morning.  Sadly, by the time Jude wrote his letter to the church – the Epistle reading from today - Jesus’ sad prophecy from Matthew’s Gospel had come true.  Otherwise stated, Jude’s epistle was written to show that wolves, disguised as sheep and shepherds, had already infiltrated the church.  Jude, in his epistle, was attempting to show that certain crooked people had crept quietly into the church, undetected. 

These certain people came in with stealth; they came under the radar; they came in covertly; and with them they brought perversion.  Not sexual perversion, but the tactics of perversion; the ability to twist, slant, change, and manipulate the Lord’s Word and the Christian Faith. Because of this, Jude was distressed and outraged, and rightfully so!  Though Jude did not hunger for controversy, he was forced into it by his concern for the Christian Faith. 

It is beginning to make sense now why Jude wrote his Epistle, this letter.  He wrote it not to be an intolerant-unloving-hater, but he wrote it to warn his fellow Christians that there were wolves in sheep and shepherd’s clothing in their midst.  He wrote it to stir up the church to watchfulness!  He wrote it to expose and enact God’s judgment upon the false teachers and lying prophets.  Simply stated, he was calling the church to alertness and driving them to repentance, faith, prayer, and service in light of the fact that false prophets had infiltrated them. 

Let it be clear today, the problem that Jude was addressing was not outside the church in some distant land of violence and bloodshed, but the problem was within the walls of the church; it was most likely with some pious sounding people who were doing religious things in the name of goodness.  You see, “The church of all ages will be assaulted by Satan on two fronts.  One assault will come from outside, from unbelievers who will use physical means to hurt the church: ridicule, legal harassment, confiscation of property, persecution, imprisonment, torture, even death.  The second form of assault is [actually] worse, though: infiltration from within.  Satan gets his agents inside congregations, in positions of leadership if possible, who work gradually to replace God’s saving truth with lies from hell.”[1]

Today, things are no different.  We live in a similar time.  The evil one will attack from outside the walls, but as previously stated, the greater threat comes from within the walls of the church, it comes from wolves leading churches and standing in the churches’ pulpits.  Yes, wolves come into the church, but do so wearing shepherd’s clothing.   

These wolves in shepherd’s clothing have this fault of always teaching something different and new.  Their wicked spirit is not rooted in solid doctrine and causes them to look for something hip, relevant, and better.  They do this because their conscience is not captive to the Word of God, but based off their natural and physical instincts.  Their god is their belly which is guided by the spirit of the age – that is the blowing winds culture - and not the Word of God. 

American churches though have not had a good record of responding to and discerning false teachers and lying prophets over the years. That is to say, American churches are unfortunately not properly equipped and catechized to discern the wolves in the church.  As a result, churches in America will ask the wolf if he is a wolf and the wolf will howl 'no,' and churches will respond, ‘Good enough for me.’[2]  Then they will follow the wolf into his lair because they are sluggish and bored with solid doctrine. 

What makes this even more troublesome in our contemporary culture is that some parishioners, churches, synods, districts, and denominations have not only come to tolerate wolves in the pulpit and leadership, but actually promote and train wolves.  They will even teach them how to covertly dress like shepherds and act like shepherds, in order to deceive the sheep.  That is to say, they “promote pastors and professors who deny the historical truthfulness of the Bible, teach evolution, . . . [support same-sex marriage] and abortion, [diminish the severity of sin, elevate mankind’s ability,] deny the existence of hell and a last judgement, [make grace into a license to sin, pervert the Biblical definition of love,] and accept the legitimacy of all world religions as though equal to Christianity.  Jude calls these people scoffers, divisive, worldly, and without the Spirit of God.”[3]  They are most certainly not shepherds and not sheep, but are wolves clothed in a fa├žade; clothed and disguised as servants of God, but in reality agents of evil.

Tragically, when considering the teachings from Jude’s epistle, it is rather obvious that wolves in shepherd’s clothing actually abound in our day and age.  We are not immune as the church in the twenty-first-century. 

Considering the blunt, direct, sobering, and truthful message that we’ve heard from the Epistle of Jude this morning and its application to our contemporary culture, we may find ourselves asking, ‘What is our plan of response?’ In other words, after being confronted with Jude’s jarring message, a message for the church to wake up, where should we go from here?  How shall we respond to Jude’s message?  What must we do?  How shall we endure in the weeks and months to come as we live in the midst of a culture that persecutes shepherds and exalts wolves?

Keep in mind that in the Epistle of Jude there is no complex strategy.  There is no line of attack.  There is no master-minded think tank plan. But rather, Jude calls out these wolves.  He rebukes and condemns them.  He reveals their evil work.  He drags them out of their covert tactics, he pulls them out from the shadows, and he pulls off their disguise in order to show the evil that they embrace and teach.  He does the same for us, as we consider his teaching in our current culture. 

And in case we are becoming a bit self-righteous at this point, the exposing of these wolves in shepherd’s clothing actually reveals sin with us here today as well.  You see, Jude demonstrates and shows us that we are easily led astray by false doctrine.  We really are.  We are prone to wander and prone to leave the God that we love.  We are easily distracted by flashy and sexy doctrine, which is nothing more than a seductive lie.  In other words, you and I may not be a wolf in shepherd’s clothing, but boy, aren’t we easily led astray by the false ideology of wolves?    Furthermore, if we are not led astray by false wolves, Jude reveals something else to us as well.  He shows us that we tolerate wolves.  Yes, in order to keep peace and harmony, we actually tolerate wolves in shepherd’s clothing. To put this in another way, we can never compromise the Gospel, which is the foundation of our salvation, yet we do compromise it when we allow wolves and their false doctrines to remain covertly in shepherd’s clothing. 

Dear friends, we must repent.  Repent of believing the lies of the wolves in shepherd’s clothing, repent for tolerating wolves in shepherd’s clothing, repent for the apathy of not caring about the sound truth of the Gospel, and repent for turning a blind eye to false doctrine present within the walls of the church.  Yes, we must be repented, for we have sinned, sin that is like a stain that has smeared or oozed onto our robe of righteousness, which we have from Christ. 

. . .

You whose garment is stained by the bloody bites of the wolf, you whose garment is stained due to rolling around in the filth of false doctrine, you whose garment is stained due to the corruption and destruction of your own sinful heart, do not leave, but remain.  Stay in the church, hang your body and mind and soul upon the Word of God.  You must be captive to the Word of God.  There is no other way.
Yes, do not run, do not leave, do not fail to meet together often as some are in the habit of doing, and do not fall into deception, for you have full salvation in Christ already, salvation that has been delivered and will be continually delivered to you in the Word and Sacraments. 

Realize this today, the Lord has chosen to give you spiritual strength for spiritual warfare through the Word and Sacraments – today and tomorrow and for the weeks and months to come.  The Lord has snatched you out of the fire and keeps you in His love and mercy and truth today, so that you might be warned and kept from the deception of the evil one.  He is able to guard you despite the stealthy-pathetic-lies of the wolves, as you wait for Him to take you home. 

Do not fear for Christ’s blood has made you white again with His forgiveness.  Your sins are covered, by Christ so that the Father does not see the stain.  You are forgiven for Christ’s sake.

You, who have ears, hear this:  “United with Christ in your Baptism, you have already passed through judgment and are living an eternal life.”[4]  You belong to Jesus, who is truth, and not to the evil one of lies.

You, who have ears, hear this: Jesus’ Word is for you; receive it; it is yours!   The Word of God is the only source of your faith and practice.  “Satan’s lies and bribes will shrivel up under the bright light of the Bible’s truth.”[5]  Wolves in shepherd’s clothing are brought to nothing; they will not prevail, for the Word of God exposes them and shames them.  They will wither like the grass, but the Word of God remains forever. 

You, who have ears, hear: The Sacrament is for you as well. Take and eat; take and drink.  “Despair and fear fade away when you and your Savior are united through the blood of the covenant.”[6]

Indeed, the Lord keeps you in the faith when you are assaulted from outside and from within the church.  Because of Christ, your salvation is not based on your own reason or strength or might, but is wholly the Father’s work in Christ.  Therefore, when you are exhausted and struggle from the attacks outside and inside the church, you have an exalted, changeless, and majestic Lord who is for you. 

Do not fear, for you are kept in Christ’s grace and mercy until He comes to deliver you from all evil and bring you to everlasting life. He, who is faithful, will not forsake you in this life or the next.   

No power of hell and no scheme of man, can ever pluck you from His hand.

Till He returns or calls you home—
you will stand, for He is able to keep you from stumbling.

To Him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before His glorious presence without fault and with great joy - to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore.  Amen.

[1] Mark A. Jeske, People’s Bible Commentary: General Epistles (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2004), 324. 

[2] Paraphrase of a Twitter quote from Pr. Jordan Hall of First Baptist Church in Sidney, MT.

[3] Mark A. Jeske, People’s Bible Commentary: General Epistles, 339-340.

[4] The Lutheran Study Bible (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2009), 2189.

[5] Mark A. Jeske, People’s Bible Commentary: General Epistles, 341.

[6] Ibid. 

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