Summary: Jesus' words about sheep and wolves point us toward the right approach with interacting with the dangerous world around us.
FOUR MISTAKES IN APPROACHING A DANGEROUS WORLD:
1. IF THE WORLD IS MESSY AND DANGEROUS, IS THE WISE OPTION TO JUST WITHDRAW? No, Jesus is sending us out.
- Matthew 10:16a.
- Our tendency is to withdraw from the world because it’s a scary place.
- Over time, churches find that everything they’re doing is inwardly focused. Preachers can speak on what a horrible world is out there and so you need to stay safe inside church culture. We don’t push for being out and about. We don’t push for interaction with the world.
- Yes, the world can be scary, but go out anyway.
- We should remember the “gates of hell” passage. In Matthew 16:18 we are promised that the gates of hell will not be able to withstand the assault of the church of Jesus Christ.
- We are called in the Sermon on the Mount to be salt and light. Matthew 5:13-16 indicates that we have those roles to play in the larger society we are a part of.
2. DO YOU HAVE TO BECOME THE DRAGON TO DEFEAT THE DRAGON? No, don’t change the nature of who you are.
- Matthew 10:16b.
- If we’re not going to retreat from the world, we sometimes will go to the opposite danger: if you’re going to fight the dragon, you have to become a dragon. By that I mean that we sometimes believe that we need to become like the world if we’re going to make progress in this world.
- We have to become wolves if we’re going to make it. Instead, Jesus points us toward remembering who we are.
- We must maintain our core identity – we are His sheep. We belong to Jesus.
- Let’s look at our core identity and use a few keys words. We’ll also look at the “wolf” temptation with each.
a. A sheep.
- The wolf temptation: believe that you’ve got to take care of yourself rather than knowing that you have a Good Shepherd watching over you.
b. A disciple of Christ.
- The wolf temptation: going to church occasionally and saying you’re a Christian are sufficient rather than knowing that we are called to obedience.
c. A new creation.
- The wolf temptation: believe the core of who you are is still that you’re a sinner rather than the Biblical truth that you have been made into a new creation in Christ.
d. A Spirit-filled vessel.
- The wolf temptation: listen to the advice of the world instead of to the Spirit’s guidance.
3. CAN WE ACCOMPLISH OUR MISSION BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY? No, maintaining a pure heart opens up God’s power.
- Matthew 10:16d.
- He doesn’t call us to “do what it takes to get it done.” Going back to point 2, we must remember who we are.
- That manifests itself in how we live. There is often a desire to accomplish Kingdom ends by non-Kingdom means, but that is something we must resist.
- What are examples of this?
a. Someone does me wrong and I’m going to get revenge, not forgive.
b. When there’s a church fight, using gossip to make your case.
c. Refusing to love someone with whom you disagree politically.
d. At work, sabotaging someone who stole some of the credit for my work.
- Sections like Matthew 5:1-47 present a challenging vision of the Kingdom. It’s not just radical – it’s also superior! We are to actually live out what He has called us to.
- The idea of being “innocent as doves” brings to mind the classic Dostoevsky novel The Idiot. In it, one character returns amid high society conniving, backstabbing, and ambition. In the midst of that, he lives a life of goodness, open-hearted simplicity, and guilelessness. These actions mystify those around him. What’s his game? What is he up to? They simply cannot understand what he is doing because they don’t have anyone else around them that are trying to live a good life. All of this lead them to consider him “the idiot.” And yet at the same time he has an unexpectedly powerful impact on several of those lives.
- That story is a powerful one for the point that this final phrase makes. It’s so easy for us to pursue actions that are in line with how everyone else does business. Yes, we are to be shrewd, but we are also to be innocent as doves.
- Earlier, under point 2, we talked about who we are. Now we’re talking about what we do. Our actions.
- We do what is right, what God has called us to do. It may not be what everyone else is doing. It may not even be what we consider the best thing to do. But we do it to obey Christ.