Discover His heart: He provides loving shepherds to protect us from wolves in sheep’s clothing
@2 Corinthians 11
Reading about Paul’s humbling experience defending his ministry is difficult. We know of his exploits of faith to establish churches around his world at that time, but apparently, the Corinthians were not aware of them or chose to ignore them. “Such boasting is not from the Lord, but I am acting like a fool…I know I sound like a madman, but I have served him far more!… You have made me act like a fool—boasting like this.” (17,23;12:11) Naturally, Paul was embarrassed to defend his ministry. After all, he was the one who had founded the church in Corinth, but now the circus had come to town!
Like well-trained carnival people, a group of false teachers had come to the Corinthian church with a pitch that sucked the congregation in under its influence. Like the famous circus showman P.T. Barnum once said, “There’s a sucker born every minute,” and they were being duped. Just like a father will do anything to protect his young child, Paul, who had fathered this young church, was willing to sound like a madman to shake the church free from this deception. Had these false teachers endured beatings, stoning, imprisonment and other dangers in order to preach the message of Christ? Were they afflicted with a thorn in the flesh to ensure humility? Paul felt confident that they had not.
Unfortunately, these charlatans still exist today and their message extends past the local church right into our homes through all forms of media. How do we keep from falling prey to false teachers who want to deceive us? Paul gave us insight into their pitch:
- Do they preach a “different Jesus than the one we preach…a different kind of Spirit than the one you received…a different kind of gospel than the one you believed?” (4)
- Do they mesmerize their listeners through their smooth talking? (5-6) The Greeks were known for theatrical prowess, but content should never be second to performance.
- Do they deceive about their credentials and require huge payment for their ministry? (7-9)
- Do they disguise themselves as servants of righteousness but their lifestyle does not confirm it (13-15)
- Do they boast about human achievement? (18;10:18) Paul did so in his defense, but with disdain and embarrassment.
- Do they attempt to tear down other proven ministries? (22-23) It’s obvious the false teachers had done their best to tear down Paul’s ministry, or he would not have felt the need to defend it.
Paul ended his letter to the Corinthians just as any loving father would follow up a discipline, “Dear brothers and sisters, I close my letter with these last words: Be joyful. Grow to maturity. Encourage each other. Live in harmony and peace. Then the God of love and peace will be with you…May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” (13:11-14) Paul obviously loved this congregation that he had fathered in spite of their failings.
Many ministries we view on television and the internet are valuable to the kingdom of God and serve a valuable role in the church. They may reach people that the local church cannot reach, and I am thankful for their faithfulness to the call. Sometimes the credentials of media and itinerant ministries are difficult to evaluate, and sadly, sometimes we are fooled by impostors.
There really is not a substitute for the compassion and guidance of the local shepherd who is concerned about the growth and health of each of his sheep. He is the pastor who is with us in the difficult times of life to help and strengthen, the one who tells us not what we want to hear but want we need to hear. The pastor knows that he will face us each week and understands that his message must be consistent and honest. There’s nothing like the shepherd who sticks with the sheep.
Moving Forward: I am thankful for my pastor today and pray God’s abundant blessings on him and on his family. I will protect my eyes, ears and heart from those who seek to deceive me with a flamboyant but empty message.
Tomorrow @ Exodus 29-32