Jesus taught that after He left there would be wolves and false prophets who’d come into the church. It sounds extreme, but this is really practical. I think the point is: Just because people look like they’re Jesus-followers, just because they claim to be Jesus-followers, doesn’t mean they are actually following Jesus. There will always be people to look for churches to elevate themselves and make themselves feel important (like wolves), rather than looking to follow Jesus as their Shepherd. And there will always be people who LOVE to give advice, and love telling other people what to do, and what they think God wants (because they love the feeling of importance this brings them), and they can be really convincing! This could be me! This could be you! Or it could be that person (many of whom are my friends) who go to church year in and year out and just complain about the pastor… So how can you spot actual Jesus followers?
The short (and long answer) is you look for the fruit (according to Jesus in Matthew 7:16)! But here are five things to look for:
5. Are they excited by strife, anger, judgment? Do they love pointing out the “stupidity of the world?” or the stupidity of other people? Or do they make friends (loving even enemies) and bring about love, joy, peace in their relationships?
4. Do they take care of others, or do they mainly use their time and money for themselves, and take from others?
3. Do they love positions of honor (like the Pharisees and Sadducees)? Or do they downplay their actual accomplishments and abilities and choose a servant role wherever they can (like Jesus)?
2. Are they open to thoughtful disagreements and debate (the way Jesus was), or are they always on the attack ready to accuse and mock those who disagree with them?
1. Are they open about their flaws and weaknesses, repenting openly in appropriate ways (James 5:16), while downplaying other people’s sins, OR do they only enjoy pointing out other people’s sin?
Wolves and false prophets are often energetic and charming and capable and smart! That’s why you have to look closely for the fruit… Love, joy peace patience kindness goodness gentleness self-control? Or things like enmity (hating people and things), strife, divisions, envy…?
Keep the Jesus followers close! Tell them you appreciate them when you can. And don’t worry about the busybodies who only want to make you feel bad (to make themselves feel better). There will always be the wolves and false prophets in the church; some of them will wake up and repent of their ways. Pray for them… But don’t let them deter you from knowing the real Jesus, and seeking real Jesus people to walk (and serve) alongside…