"WOLVES" General Synod Communion 2012 — Andrew Putnam

by Reverend Andrew Putnam
— re-posted with permission

Acts 20:28-32
English Standard Version

28 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.

29 I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock;

30 and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.

31 Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears.

32 And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.
 


 
Ephesus was an interesting city. a few weeks back I was able to walk the ruins of the city- While I was in Turkey visiting our missionaries. It was amazing to see what the city was like back in the time of Paul. to see what used to be of the city and the church that Paul clearly loved.

Passage this evening: Paul is headed to Jerusalem and stops off along the way to speak with the overseers (elders/presbyteroi) of the Ephesian church and here in the 20th Chapter he takes the time to set before them his example- but also to express his serious concerns about their future. about the problems he anticipates them facing (we know they did- read the letters to Timothy)

Paul warns the elders that he knows (that God has revealed to him) that Fierce Wolves will come in amongst the flock, will rise up from within even the elders…

He’s using this graphic description to warn them of those that will seek to disrupt, derail and destroy the church.

They may do it intentionally or unintentionally.

driven by their ambition, arrogance, pride, jealous, orthodoxy-

or just plain sin !

they will come in as Wolves amongst the sheep- and wreak havoc in our congregations, sessions, presbyteries and synod.

Being an elder or a minister is an exciting and tough job.

It is a calling. As paul reminds them that they are called by the HOLY SPIRIT to Govern the church

and they have been purchased with the Blood of Christ.

as John Calvin said regarding this verse:

“it is no small honor to govern the Church of God”

and so brothers, it is a great task we undertake as Elders of the CHURCH when we gather as a session, a presbytery or a Synod.

Our conduct and our actions must always demonstrate that we understand the price of our salvation and the high calling that has been placed upon us.

But unfortunately, some will be manipulated by Satan for the destruction of the Unity, Peace, Purity and prosperity of Christ’s church.

and the sad truth is that they may not even realize they are doing it !

some are well intentioned carnivores–

but they still have the effect of ravenous WOLVES amongst the flock!

IN 1986 I came under care of the session at 1st Presbyterian Church in Columbia, South Carolina- to be presented to Catawba Presbytery (of the ARP church) as a candidate for ministry.

The evening I was to appear before the church session, they invited the visiting lecturer to bring a word of encouragement to the elders.

the famous apologist, Dr John Gerstner was there as the first Thornwell lecturer and he spoke to the 40 or so elders gathered for the session meeting, prior to my examination….

He read this same passage from the book of Acts.

Then proceeded to blast them and warn them that there were WOLVES in that very room!

That they couldn’t expect the session of that church to be any better than the one that PAUL HIMSELF put in place at Ephesus.

as he said:” There are WOLVES in this very room that pollute the gospel for their own purposes, that will allow the devil to use them for his purposes and will subvert the Gospel for their own power and interests.”

Now let’s examine Andy….

brothers and sisters in Christ: there are wolves in this very room.

we cannot assume that the CONGREGATIONS, SESSIONS, PRESBYTERIES AND SYNOD OF THE ARP CHURCH are somehow immune to the attacks of the devil . . . there are wolves in this very room.

So how do we spot them? ( the wolves )

just like Satan is not going to show up in a red costume with a pitch fork those he manipulates are not always easy to see….

we need to listen and watch carefully in our conversations & meetings

But let me give a few pointers-

THREE things to look for in identifying the Wolves in the church

(over all of this is a call to pray, to seek the Lord’s wisdom in all things)

THREE things to look for in identifying the Wolves in the church

1. They are selfish and ambitious.

they want power.

their first concern is themselves, their base of authority.

like little children – they will do and say anything to get attention

The want “followers” – notice that Paul warns that they will siphon off disciples.

* this is where Calvin will say that “ambition is the mother of all heresies”

dealing in half truths, misleading information- whatever it takes

* you’ll hear them say things like “the ends justify the means”- to get their way

some will try and hold the church hostage!

if they don’t get their way- take their money and go!

(let me tell you a simple way to deal with folks who want to hold the church hostage, I learned it from the all fight attendants on my trips: (Gesturing towards the exits) the exits are located in the rear and sides of the building- go ahead and leave and you’ll make us both happy)

Calvin comments:

that ambitious men will turn away from right purity, and corrupt the word of God. For seeing that the pure and sincere handling of the Scripture leads to this end, that Christ alone may have the preeminence, and that men can challenge nothing to themselves, but they shall take so much from the glory of Christ, it follows that those are corrupters of sound doctrine who are addicted to themselves, and study to advance their own glory, which doth only darken Christ.”

Though they will claim otherwise- they really want church to be about THEM.

And their words & actions will betray a selfish and ambitious AGENDA

{spotting the wolves in the church}

2. they want to disrupt the UNITY of the church

you’ll hear all sorts of arguments and attacks, in an effort divide the flock.

-you don’t see the wolves leading vibrant, growing, healthy congregations-

quick to tell us what is wrong with just about any growing ministry…

some will claim they are seeking “purity”, that somehow that’s going to bring about peace, unity and prosperity-

*AS if perfection can exist in the church this side of Glory

–and that they would let you into a perfect congregation….

1. *logical conclusion of a pursuit of purity is that the church gets down to 2 people: who question each other

Satan will sow seeds of disunity in the body any chance he gets–

and he will attack anyone who shows Grace or LOVE towards another.

you know, the ARP church used to be known for it’s LOVE-

-Now some will actually MOCK the idea of us being NICE to one another?

as if Christian Compassion and the fact that we are brothers and sisters in Christ — is a BAD thing!

 

I so looked forward to this Synod meeting: all of the encouragement, the peace, the unity presented — almost said that with a straight face..

but now because of the fighting, the fussing, the backbiting, the attacks

we dread going to Presbyteries and Synods, and sometimes sessions meetings and even sometimes going to Church

What sort of a WITNESS is that about the Love and LORDSHIP of Christ?

those who seek to disrupt, derail, destroy the church

will take every opportunity to drive a wedge between Christians…

There are Wolves amongst us.

{spotting wolves}

3. they abhor the Gospel.

years ago, I had an elder in ARP church complain to me that his pastor was talking too much about JESUS.

the elder went on to tell me that he was really an Atheist, but that his family had always had an elder on the session of his church and he didn’t want to give up the power…. He just didn’t want to hear all this talk about Jesus.

Wolves hate the simplicity of the GOSPEL MESSAGE,

just like satan- they really abhor the GOSPEL

you can flush them out— ask them about the last person they led to Christ,

then listen to see if you get an answer or instead a lecture.

1. *they can tell you of the most detailed theological points, but won’t talk about simple truth of the Good News.

2.*

3.*as I’ve said before:

some will tell you that their job is to build up others to spread the gospel… (or if they think real high of themselves, their job is to train others- to train others to spread the gospel…. sort of a PRESBYTERIAN PYRAMID SCHEME)

it is every Christians responsibility to give that free offer of the Gospel!

simple message-

1. we are sinners. – no hope in our own abilities of getting into heaven

  1. 2.God loves us– Christ died for us, he went as payment in our place.
  2. 3.God is at work in our lives calling us to himself

pulling out of us that confession of sin, that repentance — that acknowledgement of him as our savior–

And then we are HIS—- SAVED- part of the family

1. *if you don’t know where you are going to spend eternity, what would happen if you died- see me or one of the Christians around you before you leave here tonight

But wolves hate the GOSPEL Message.

I know that there are some of you here tonight who are tearing apart everything I just said- ripping apart each word—as if it was RAW MEAT, before wolves.

we are suppose to be eager to preach the GOSPEL. To demonstrate the Grace and Love we’ve been shown. To offer that Gospel Freely.

but there are wolves amongst us

who will pervert it for their own purposes

so what do we do?

We can’t expect to get rid of them completely.

I have 3 suggestions on what to do in our churches, sessions, presbyteries and in SYNOD with the Wolves around us.

  1. 1.identify them.
    1. a.TAG them with radio collars- cannot give them color coded name tags ( I asked) but be on the lookout.
    2. b.if you are one of these folks being manipulated- sitting here realizing that I’m talking about you: you have two choices; you can get mad and go howl at the moon ( or someone who will listen to you) – or repent! seek the Lord while he may be found!
  2. 2. I like swamp people: in the words of Troy Landry. CHOOT EM

If I go home and find a wild dog, or a coyote or a wolf in my back yard; I can promise you it is going to die of lead poisoning.

as God said through Joel (chapter 3) It’s time to beat the plows into swords and for the weak to say “ I am a warrior”

I’m not advocating murder. But we must not let them roam free. we don’t need any more. It’s time to THIN THE PACK.

Don’t be afraid to take them on. Romans 8 reminds us we are more than conquerors. Nothing to be afraid of and you might win them to Christ

  1. 3.Starve them to death.
    1. a. give them no quarter, no safe haven, do not feed them.
  2. don’t pay attention to them. don’t follow them.

DO NOT FALL INTO THE TRAP of believing that if we just give them what they want they’ll be good. You feed a wolf, it’s just not hungry for a few minutes- It’s still a wolf.

again: we need to be in prayer constantly and preaching the Gospel message.

there are wolves amongst us

if we do not address this appropriately

someday soon, like Ephesus (in a way)

I fear that folks will be standing

in the ruins of the ARP church-

talking only about what it used to be….

let us pray


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Tony Locke

Live in Gwinnett, GA next to Lake Lanier Islands. Married with four children. Pastored three churches over 18 years. Spent time serving as an Army Chaplain. Traveled in ministry to over 34 countries. B.A., M.A., M.Div., M.A.T.S., D.Min. BCC with NSC. Covering Georgia and upstate South Carolina

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