Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing
Recognizing a false teacher by specific characteristics
Written by Jesse Morrell in 2005
(This is Chapter Fourteen in the book, “Cleansing the Temple: A Call to Radical Christianity. Buy it here: Bookstore)
I am not one to see a legion in every pig or a snake in every garden. But through studying the Word of God and observing many modern preachers I can boldly declare in the full confidence and blessing of God that there are wolves disguised as sheep amongst our flocks! Though there are many wolves in the woods and fields of secularism and false religions, I am afraid that there are some who have wondered out of those territories looking for food and have entered into our own pastures.
False teachers can be distinctly defined because their characteristics are obvious enough and are clearly outlined in scripture. Yet it seems that so few believers recognize them in these modern times. The True Shepherd spoke much on this issue, yet it seems to be a greatly neglected subject today as though our generation is exempt and our Churches are not in any danger of false teachers. Wolves pose a serious threat to the flock of Christ so Christians must be wise and on the look out for these types. This message is not one as “the boy who cried wolf” but rather is a serious and sobering warning. Many sheep have been lead astray and have been caught in a deadly trap disguised as a beneficial program. Many Churches have let down the walls of discernment and thus become spiritually broken down cities being trampled upon by the enemy. Our hearts must become as Jeremiahs who said “My heart within me is broken because of the prophets”. (Jer 23:9).
Every single minister must be measured by the Word of God and not by their degrees or popularity. No minister should be exempt from this. No other tool can adequately measure a minister then the Holy Scriptures. We should be so familiar with the truth that when false teaching and false teachers are seen and heard by us they will stick out as black sheep and be automatically recognized. If we do not know the Word of God we will not recognize the lies of Satan. Many modern ministers would certainly be in big trouble if those in the pews actually started reading their bibles as they should. If some congregations would open their bibles certain preachers would have to shut their mouths. They would be caught red handed as the foul, fiendish, frauds that they really are.
Ezekiel’s ministry was sure not to be a popular one when he was told to “prophecy against the prophets.who prophesy out of their own hearts.” (Ez 13:2). It’s time that we also risk our reputations and “prophecy against the prophets” that appear to be helping the body of Christ, but when in the actuality of reality they are gravely hurting the body of Christ. This is not a “naming names” article, there would be too many names to name, but it clearly reveals scriptural characteristics to equip every Christian to individually examine ministers.
While working on this message I awoke in the middle of the night after tossing, turning, and even sweating under the fear and torment of the thought that I myself was a heretic for writing a message such as this. Then I realized that this overwhelming fear was the handiwork of the accuser. I began to rest in the fact that all the points made are backed up by the truth of the Word. It is my hope and prayer that this message hits the devil hard and that it becomes a thorn in his side.
“Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.” (Matt 7:15)
“Oh I’m not too worried about false prophets. I’m sure I’ll recognize them when I see them” someone might think to themselves. You don’t know the nature of deception. Recognizing false teachers is not easily done considering that they have the appearance of being sheep. Does a spy have the appearance of being a government official? If he did he wouldn’t be able to accomplish his purpose. The mission of a deceiver is to deceive. Deceivers will not always appear deceptive, or else they would never be able to deceive anyone. Their lies will always be disguised as truth. Beware because their charm will be enticing and their glamour blinding for those who refuse to be discerning.
The neighbors of caught serial killers always say “I just can’t believe that he could commit such a horrendous act. I knew him personally; he was such a nice guy.” Likewise when a nice, friendly, commercial smile preacher teaches doctrines which are contrary to the Word of God, his followers defend him by saying “Oh but he’s just so sincere and genuine.” Be careful. Appearance can be quite deceiving. “Never judge a book by its cover” and never judge a man by his outward appearance. (John 7:24). He may look like a fellow believer outwardly, but inwardly he is a wolf who is out for himself and not for the flock. While many believe a false prophet is the town nut who has no teeth and walks around babbling spiritual nonsense, which is not always the case. Often they will look better and more successful then everyone else, portraying the image that everyone would want to be like. Their grass many look greener and their water clearer, but they are poisoned with lies and seasoned with deceit.
“Woe to you when all men speak well of you, For so did their fathers to the false prophets.” (Lu 6:26)
It would seem that the very ones that the earth respects and adores are the very ones that Heaven rejects and abhors. You must always be cautious when you hear men highly singing the praises of a certain minister and telling you how wonderful he truly is. There is a problem if all men speak well of him. It seems to be often that those whom everyone speaks nasty of are the ones that I find uncompromisingly preaching the Word of God. The top concern of a false teacher is to please man while the interest of a true and faithful witness is to please God. Those who please man often do not please God, and those who please God often do not please man.
The popular minister is not like Christ who was thrown out of the synagogues, who even foretold to those who follow Him “They will put you out of the synagogues” as well. (John 16:2). All of God’s greatest men have been some of the most hated men. Martin Luther who started the protestant movement, John Wesley and George Whitefield who founded early Methodism and sparked some of the great revivals of history, William & Catherine Booth who formed and lead the Salvation Army, were all people that were kicked out of the established Church of their day. If a “good” name or a “good” reputation automatically meant a good preacher, then what about the early Church that was “spoken against everywhere”? (Ac 28:22)
Consider the perception of the people who observed both Jeremiah and the false prophets. While Jeremiah “shouted” “violence and plunder” (Jer 20:8), the false prophets gently spoke of “peace, peace”. (Jer 6:14). How odd, how strange, how abrasive, Jeremiah must have appeared to the onlookers. He was wrongly thought of as being negative, condemning, and judgmental compared to the easy, tolerant, smooth talking prophets of his day. Jeremiahs spoke the words that shattered like a hammer. The false prophets spoke soft words that couldn’t prick even the strongest conscience. Their messages may drip honey and their words are smoother then oil but their feet go down to death and their doctrines lay hold of hell.
I am thoroughly convinced that a minister will be rejected by Heaven if he is accepted by the world, “for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness? (2Co 6:14) I can not think of a single minister of God in the New Testament that got along with the world. Most of them ended up being martyred. Those who get along with the world must not be getting along with the God who the world has rejected. A false teacher will be allowed to preach even on the vilest of TV channels. You can expect to find their books even in secular stores and hear their messages of “How to never be hurt again” and “Walking in the anointing of wealth” on secular channels like I have seen. A false teacher will have the stamp of approval of the devil, the stamp of approval of the world, but will not have the stamp of approval of Heaven. The only thing Heaven will stamp on them will be the words “Depart”.
The false teachers will reign high and lifted up on the mountains of acceptance while the true and faithful are forced into the desert of rejection, soon to be imprisoned and beheaded. Even the most bizarre “prophetic” words are being well received while the foundational and biblical message of “repent” is entirely neglected and largely ignored. Rather then being salt we have many candy-land preachers who are serving the never satisfied bellies of men. “The prophets prophecy falsely, and the priests rule by their own power; and my people love to have it so.” (Jer 5:31).
“For they have healed the hurt of the daughter of My people slightly, Saying, Peace, peace! When there is no peace” (Jer. 8:11, Eze 13:16)
The comparison between Jeremiahs message and the message of the other prophets stands in sharp contrast. As Jeremiah shouted his message of “violence and plunder” (Jer 20:8) for Israel if they didn’t repent and turn back to God, the other prophets came with a message of peace and prosperity for the wicked and backslidden nation. They became very popular and loved with their ivory-tower message. They gave false hope and false peace because “there is no peace,’ says the Lord, ‘for the wicked.” (Isa 48:22). They make the enemies of God feel as though they were His friends. They make those whom God is against feel as though God were for them. They flower up that which is ugly by calling that which is abominable, desirable. (God loves us not because we are lovable but because He is loving). They make those who are in terrible danger of hell feel as though they were in secure safety on a cruise ship to Heaven. “They continually say to those who despise me, ‘The Lord has said, ‘you shall have peace’; and to everyone who walks according to the dictates of his own heart, they say, ‘no evil shall come upon you.” (Jer 23:17). The refreshment which they give is a delusion and the comfort they give is imaginary. They will prophecy lies and deceit to sooth those who are on their way to eternal destruction.
In David Kirkwoods book called “The Great Gospel Deception” he wrote “Of course, no teacher in the church is going to stand up and declare that what he is teaching is contrary to the New Testament. Rather, he will neglect certain important scriptures and twist others to persuade his constituency that he is teaching the truth. This is being done today by many very popular and influential teachers who teaching about a grace that is foreign to the bible. The grace they proclaim is not the true grace that leads to holiness.”
The deceptive part is that they will appear to be preaching grace, but it’s another grace. They appear to be preaching the gospel, but it’s another gospel. They appear to be preaching Christ, but it’s another Christ. The subtly is so deceptive that few are able to make the distinction.
A false teacher will tell his people whatever it is that they want to hear. They will play the chameleon and will always be politically correct. They avoid any truth, no matter how important, that could be controversial or could rock the boat. They are peace-keepers, not peace-makers. Their messages keep the peace between themselves and men rather then creating peace between men and God. Their messages are always pleasant and easy to swallow, intentionally avoiding the heavy and hard scriptures in the bible. A false teacher goes with the crowd. God’s men, more often then not, always goes against it!
A great preacher once said “heresy is highly exalting one biblical truth over the rest, so that other biblical truths become neglected.” False teachers speak only of blessing, prosperity, and the favor of God but will not touch on Gods righteous wrath or His holy indignation. They promise an easy life, Christ promises a crucified life. They serve the flesh as opposed to serving The Spirit. They appeal to the greedy heart of man as oppose the conscience of man. The days in which Paul warned about are devastatingly upon us, though few seem to recognize it. “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. ” (2 Ti 4:3-4). These congregations have an appetite for fleshly pleasure, a craving for self satisfaction, a lust for covetous prosperity and power. Their Christianity is a façade and a front to mask their worldly and fleshly goals, ambitions, and desires.
These teachers sit on thrones of greed and are crowned with covetousness. Their messages will manipulate scriptures to mean the exact opposite of what it was originally for. “Whatsoever a man sows, that shall he also reap” (Gal 6:7) is often used when a preacher is begging for money. However in context this particular scripture has nothing to do with money but everything to do with death and life. The following verse says: “For he that sows to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that sows to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.” (Gal 6:8). Whatever happened to freely giving and expecting nothing back? Modern preachers will teach “give and expect your blessing back!” Giving to get is greedy giving.
Christ had no “Cadillac donkey” as one preacher put it, but he did come humbly on a borrowed donkey! (Zechariah 9:9). “Christ became poor so that you can become rich” they teach. The early Church would not have been convinced of such a doctrine. How many of these hot-shot prosperity preachers can say with the great Apostle Paul “To the present hour we both hunger and thirst, and we are poorly clothed, and beaten, and homeless”? (1 Cor 4:11) You can be rich and be a Christian. God blesses you to bless others. You can also be poor and be a Christian. The problem is when faith becomes a ticket to riches and Christians are taught that they are entitled to wealth or they are being ripped off by the devil, or are weak in faith.
So rather then preaching life eternal, many are preaching life enhancement. Rather then preaching deliverance from sin and hell, they preach deliverance from suffering and hurt. Ray Comfort wrote “The modern gospel has degenerated into means of happiness, rather than one of righteousness.”
“Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many.” (Mt 24:11)
The pulpit-less street corner preachers are often viewed as being false preachers while those with large mega churches are thought of as having “the blessing and anointing of God”. This again is judging by outward appearance and by the worldly standard of success as opposed to judging the content of their message by the scriptures. If John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness, or Jesus Christ came preaching on the hill top, or the Apostle Paul came preaching in the market place, I wonder what modern Christianity would think of them? It says that “many” false teachers will “deceive many”. This means that they will have many followers, even enough to fill a mega-Church. If we measure a mans anointing or the blessing of God on a ministry by how many people believe in the message and the messenger, then the false prophets in the Old Testament would be from God and men like Jeremiah would be considered a liar.
“For false christ’s and false prophets will rise and show signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.” (Mr 13:22) A false teacher will deceive both the sinful and the uneducated. Their audience will be made up of both sinners and Saints. They appeal to the sinner because sinners never are made to feel bad about their lifestyles, but rather are given false hope and false peace. They appeal to the Saint because they appear to be the real deal; they are wearing sheep’s clothing though they are wolves. “For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light.” (2 Cor 11:13-14) May this ring in our ears and sting in our hearts!
“Woe to the shepherds of Israel who feed themselves! Should not the shepherds feed the flocks?” (Ezekiel 34:2)
The motive and reason behind a false teacher is entirely selfish where as a true and faithful minister is entirely selfless. A false teacher has an eye on people’s bank accounts while a true preacher has his eyes on eternity. False teachers may have the appearance of loving people, yet they are truly only concerned about themselves to further and enhance their own processions and careers. They feed themselves when they need to be feeding the flocks. They skin the sheep alive to cloths themselves, leaving the sheep beaten, battered, and bloody to die. Paul was “poor, yet making many rich” (2 Co 6:10) while these men are rich by making many poor! With their manipulating words and twisting of scriptures they ransack and plunder the pockets of unsuspecting people to line their own. Some preachers have no shame of this and openly admit in their sermons to their congregations that they are out for prosperity.
Leonard Ravenhill wrote: “Preachers who have homes and cottages by the lake, a boat on that lake, and a big bank balance, still beg for more.These dear, doll-like preachers-boys no longer change their suits once a day, but two or three times a day. They preach the Jesus of the stables, but themselves live in swank hotels. For their own lusts they bleed the audience financially in the name of the One who had to borrow a penny to illustrate His sermon. They wear expensive Hollywood suits in honor of One who wore a peasant’s robe.How fearful will all this be in the judgment morning?”
The son of Leonard, David Ravenhill wrote in his smashing article “Modern Day Money Changers”, “I’m convinced that the carnal, cunning, conniving, crooked crooks that Jesus drove out of the Temple are still among us today. These modern day moneychangers are forever devising new and deceptive doctrines to defraud God’s people out of His/their money. These masters of deceit have now set up their changing tables throughout the Christian television industry.Stop pandering to these moneychangers. These men and women live like kings while spending your money to buy mansions and jets for themselves. They dine in the finest restaurants, wear the latest designer fashions and then have the audacity to tell you that you can live the same way as long as you give to their ministry.” Why pay for one mans mansion when you can help finances God’s mission?
The devil showed Christ all the Kingdoms of the earth and said “All these things I’ll give you if you fall down and worship me” (Matt 4:9). Many preachers basically show the church all the riches and wealth of the world and say “All these things God will give you if you reach into your pocket and give to me.”
A true preacher speaks for God while a false preacher speaks for himself. “There is a conspiracy of her prophets in the midst thereof, like a roaring lion ravening the prey; they have devoured souls; they have taken the treasure and precious things; they have made her many widows in the midst thereof.” (Ezekiel 22:25) The ingredients that make up their ministries are: greed, covetousness, jealousy, lies, and selfishness. Because they are self seeking and self serving their followers are the same. They are greedy, ungodly men who outwardly appear righteous, but the inside of the cup is filthy and covered in slime.
A false teacher may preach a message saturated with truth, but it will be seasoned with lies. They will use the bible and speak the name of Christ. Their Christian language will be the same as ours, and that is their deception. Even the devil lies with half truths! These men may encourage people to go after God, but will not convict people of their sin. A preacher is “to exhort and convict those who contradict.” (1 Tim 1:9). They never warn people that their sin is destructive to their life, deadly to their soul, and disgusting to a Holy God. A watchman that does not blow the trumpet when he sees the sword coming must not love the city!
“And He spoke a parable to them: “Can the blind lead the blind? Will they not both fall into the ditch?” (Lu 6:39)
The sad truth is that many modern preachers are empty wells, spoiled milk, and broken bridges. They are captives who promise freedom, slaves who guarantee liberty. “Both prophet and priest are profane; yes, in my house I have found their wickedness’ says the Lord.” (Jer 23:11) They have a reputation among men for being alive but are just as dead in their sins as the worst of men in the eyes of God.
If they were of God, they would be like God. If they walked with Jesus, they would preach like Jesus. A false teacher will give birth to false converts. “But if they had stood in my counsel, and had caused my people to hear my words, then they would have turned them from their evil way and from the evil of their doings.” (Jer 23:22).
They will never, or rarely, speak on the anger and wrath of God because they risks becoming unpopular, so those who sit under these men feel that God accepts them just as they are, and that there is no need for repentance. Many today are being sold forgiveness but not at the cost of repentance. They are promised Heaven yet without holiness. Men need medicine but are receiving candy. “Because with lies you have made the heart of the righteous sad, whom I have not made sad; and you have strengthened the hands of the wicked, so that he does not turn from his wicked way to save his life.” (Ezekiel 13:22). This was also true in Jeremiahs day “They commit adultery and walk in lies; They also strengthen the hands of evildoers, So that no one turns back from his wickedness. All of them are like Sodom to Me, And her inhabitants like Gomorrah.” (Jer 23:14). The hands of sinners were strengthened in both Ezekiel and Jeremiahs day, and because of modern messages which lack repentance but are saturated in the love of God, sinners hold tightly to their sins today!
A false teacher will turn the grace of God into lusciousness by teaching that God came to save men in their sin, not from their sin. “For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Jude 1:4). They make the grace of God into a license for wickedness, thus denying the Lord God and the Lord Jesus. These men ultimately say “Enjoy your sin and enjoy Jesus too”. This is the old destructive lie which says Jesus can be your Savior but doesn’t have to be your Lord; God is pleased with you even in disobedience. This truly is the modern heresy which has inebriated many. “Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, burn incense to Baal, and walk after other gods whom you do not know, and then come and stand before Me in this house which is called by My name, and say, ‘We are delivered to do all these abominations?” (Jer. 7:9-10) This is the despicable message of freedom to sin rather then freedom from sin. They speak death disguised as life. They lead to bondage cloaked as freedom. They snuff out the lamp of God’s Law and so lawlessness flauntingly parades itself in the darkness.
A true shepherd will lead the flock to the pastures of God’s word for nourishment, yet these shepherds lead the flock to the slaughter house of false doctrine. A true preacher will lead people to rivers of eternal life to freely drink. Martin Luther wrote concerning true preachers of eternal life by saying “They [believers] should also acknowledge such preachers as right Shepard’s, that is, as servants of Christ and stewards of God, and pay no attention at all to the fact that the world proclaims and damns them as heretics and seducers. Those who preach something else than the gospel…may indeed praise themselves ten times with the name of the Apostles, adorn themselves with the name and title of the Christian Church, and even raise the dead. Actually they are horrible wolves and murderers that do not spare the flock of Christ, but scatter, torture, and slaughter it.”
“But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry” (2 Tim 4:5).
After the Apostle Paul had warned Pastor Timothy of the coming itching ear preachers, the well experienced Apostle told the Pastor exactly what he should do: the work of an evangelist! “But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry” (2 Tim 4:5). It was as if Paul was saying “yes, men are preaching lies and will continue to deceive the multitudes. But as for you, preach the truth”. We can constantly judge and condemn other ministries, or we can have ministries of our own. It is the truth that will prevail against lies!
David Wilkerson said “We are in a famine in this land. A famine of hearing the Word of the Lord and it’s going to get worse, it’s going to rage, and many are going to starve spiritually and fall by the wayside on the right and on the left.Name me one Jeremiah type preacher on television. Name me one man who stands unashamedly, not afraid of his income, not afraid of anything! Name one in the media now who’s standing up like Jeremiah or John the Baptist! Where are they? Where are the voices? … The pulpit was meant to be a burning bush, where a fire was never to go out. And the man who stood in that sacred pulpit is suppose to be a man shut in with God, a man who waits on God, in God’s presence until he hears the Word of the Lord, until he hears from the throne of God. And he comes out before the people with the mind of God. He’s to speak with plainness the Scriptures said, his speech not in the wisdom of man. He’s to speak with spiritual authority. He’s to be absolutely fearless. He’s to name sin. He’s to be the voice of the living God in these last days! This is a burning bush!”
If you want to be a true and faithful witness, you must seek to serve the glory of God and not the glory of yourself. You must be out to expand the Kingdom of God and not to expand your own wallet with earthly treasure that will perish anyways. You must be a salty preacher causing mouths to thirst for righteousness and cuts to burn with conviction.
Vance Havner said “God’s preacher is not popular…The King sent Micaiah to prison with hard fare prescribed, bread and water of affliction. True prophets are not always rewarded with an increase in salary and a Church downtown. Many of God’s Micaiahs still eat his fare.”
To answer the well known question of “can’t we all just get along?” The answer is no. The only way that the world will accept you is if you accept the world. Christ came to cause division. (Matt 10:34). We must be completely for Christ, we can not have any side loyalties to the world. If you want to follow in the way of the Master, kiss the world good-bye!
Throw reputation out the window for the sake of the truth. Endure afflictions, overcome any hardship; persevere through any tribulation to recover even one sheep that has wondered off. Count it a blessing and a joy when you are hated, rejected, spoken badly of, persecuted, and even killed. Live your life with your heart for God’s glory. Even if people do not care for you or your message, care for people and their souls. So then, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” (Mr 16:15)
David Kirkwood: The Great Gospel Deception page 230.
Ray Comfort: Revivals Golden Key page 45
Leonard Ravenhill: Why Revival Tarries page 57
David Ravenhill: Modern Day Money Changers found at http://www.sermonindex.net
Martin Luther: Freedom and Faith put out by Vintage Spiritual Classics page 55.
David Wilkerson: “Speak to me” compilation found at http://www.sermonindex.net
Vance Havner: By Still Waters page 83-84
For the Audience of One
http://www.OpenAirOutreach.com – Taking the Gospel where it belongs
“Cleansing the Temple” was written by a young fiery street preacher. Jesse Morrell was only eighteen years old in 2003, preaching in the streets of New England, when he began to write the contents of this book. It is not your typical Christian book. It is a compilation of very passionate articles calling the church of believers to uncompromising holy service to God. This book is primarily about purity, prayer, and preaching. The hope is that this book will cleanse modern Christianity to be the bride that Christ wants her to be.
“It is my prayer and belief this book will be used by God to purify and perfect His church to do the work of the ministry and raise up laborers for the harvest. It is packed with scripture, anecdotes, historical nuggets, personal examples and testimonies. It is not necessarily a devotional book but it will challenge you to seek the Lord. It is not necessarily a book on doctrine but it is full of sound doctrine and will make you want to read your Bible. It is not necessarily an open air training manual but will prepare you for open air ministry.” ~ Micah Armstrong, 2016
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