“Watch out for people who cause divisions and upset people’s faith by teaching things contrary to what you have been taught. Stay away from them. Such people are not serving Christ our Lord; they are serving their own personal interests. By smooth talk and glowing words they deceive innocent people.” 16:17-18
This verse makes me think of the story of Little Red Riding Hood. She innocently visits her Grandma and doesn’t recognize that an evil wolf has disguised himself in her Grandma’s nightgown and is about to devour her. Didn’t she notice that it wasn’t her Grandma? How can we avoid this? Become familiar with who God is. Recognize his voice. His character. His story. Sift what people say through Scripture, pray about it and respond to red flags that pop up. Author Jen Hatmaker says it well when she writes “If [something said about God] isn’t true for a poor, single Christian mom living in Haiti, it isn’t true.” This means the prosperity gospel preached by wealthy westerners falls over like a cardboard cutout. My checklist for spiritual leaders I follow, churches I join and organizations I attach myself to is:
-Are they marked by humility? God despises pride.
-Are they accounted for? Accountability is a must. Find out who is standing behind them.
-Are they serving their own interests or God’s?
Today this verse convicted me of the times I’ve been the wolf. Situations where I used the gospel to advance myself, trying to attain my own interests. Ugly, dark parts of me that are divisive to God’s people and his church. We are all capable of being the wolf. I use the checklist on myself! Even writing this blog, I often have to delete parts of posts that are self-glorifying. We are all representing God and all responsible for how we influence his people.
Paul wraps up his letter to the church (love the shoutouts to his lady colleagues, by the way) and exclaims what we all should be exclaiming: what the (early) Bible alluded to and what prophets claimed would happen is now true! His word is alive, available to the least deserving imposters. The gospel is running rampant in people’s lives, lighting up darkness and tearing the blanket off of evil. It’s now available to you, to me, to that person you think will never buy into it and has done the worst things. Share it. Write it down. Tell it to your coworkers, to your neighbors, to that one family member you pray for all the time. Tell it to yourself, when things get messy and the punchline of His story gets blurry. Let’s not forget what we’re a part of!
We made it through Romans! Tomorrow we are swinging back into the Old Testament and starting the book of Ecclesiastes. This books covers the other end of the spectrum of Christian living and we are excited to read through it with you. It’ll be a nice breather from Paul’s firm hand, but it’s strong in it’s own way too.