Updated: Jun 16
“A wolf in sheep’s clothing,” we have all heard this idiom at one time or another, usually about someone dangerous or malicious portraying themselves as something harmless and innocuous to trap or deceive (cp: Matt 10:16). What I want to talk about today is the sheep in wolf’s clothing, an entirely different situation that we see all too often in the realm of faith-based recovery. Through my direct care training and experience working with the largest worldwide faith-based ministry as well as a local one, I have seen this person regularly. What do I mean?
When most people hear the term, “sleeping saint” their mind goes to the Biblical reference of someone who died in or for the Gospel of Jesus Christ to rise again in the judgment. This type of sleeping saint as it were is still alive. I know because I am one of them. I was abusing methamphetamine and other drugs from the time I was thirteen years old, and I did not get my life together until I went to Teen Challenge and the Lord set me free. You see, I was a sheep in a wolf’s clothing. I was both intentionally accepting and giving off the appearance of being bad or being a wolf with the thought that it would make me seem tough or accepted, when deep inside there was a sheep waiting to get out. Jesus Himself in the priestly prayer of John 17 told us that it was the will of the Father that none should be lost. We should carry with us this same mentality. How then do we help these individuals find freedom?
The answer is actually quite simple once you understand some foundational Biblical concepts. The first realization we must come to is that we can do absolutely nothing. It is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit that does the work. We must realize that the only basis upon which a recovery curriculum should be based is on the three foundations of prayer, worship, and Bible study with the understanding that there are more problems below than we see—drug use is rarely a root issue; it is a manifestation of deeper wounds or mentalities, and just as the Bible says, “Who the Son sets free is free indeed” (cp: John 8:36). Once we realize it is the will of God that none should perish and that it is only the power of God that does the saving (cp: 1 Corinthians 1:18). Now we can move forward. We know the direction we must move, intentionality is the key. This is a slow and steady kind of race strategy.
Now, we must understand the nature of sin. The systematic study of sin is known as hamartiology, this is the study of sin and its effects. In order for us to accept these findings, we must realize that man is in a fallen state (cp: Genesis 3). That being said, we now must realize that God is holy.. in fact, God is so holy and so pure that being in His full glory can kill us (cp: Exodus 33:20). This means that our sinful state “separates” us from God. Imagine the person you love the most choosing something that requires them to be away from you and doing it daily. Are you going to standby and tolerate it? How much more then should God tolerate this? We must encourage this sleeping sheep to live holy and set an example in our actions of holy living (2 Corinthians 6:17). We need only to look at nature to learn about the nature of sin. The genus Hedera Helix, also known as the common ivy is a perfect analogy to the nature of sin. This invasive flowering plant begins small and innocuous enough but it actually takes over its host and robs it of resources in a parasitic way. In fact, to make the analogy even more perfect, I will let you know that the cognate name in Greek for ivy is χανδάνω (khandano) which means “to grasp.” If this isn’t an apt description of sin’s nature, I do not know what is. In fact, we see an example in the life of King Solomon. King Solomon humbled himself to the point of a child (cp: 1 Kings 3:7) thinking of others but fails so miserably in the end that some theologians question if he even made heaven. The Bible lays out the laws governing kings in Deuteronomy 17, Solomon broke 100% of them. You see, if I were to go out and just try for “sport” to break all of them (100 percent), I would have to give it real effort; but given the parasitic nature of sin like I discussed with the climbing ivy, a little bit of sin caused him to break 100 percent of God’s law. A little leaven leaven’s the lump (cf: Gal 5:9). We must encourage the sheep to live holy with the understanding that even a little disobedience leads to full disobedience, this is why we must have strict rules and structure in place.
The final understanding, we must have, is that we not only have to bring these sheep to Christ, but have them remain in Christ. Every faith-based recovery program knows 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone be in Christ, he is a new creation, the old has passed away, behold all things have been made new,” but there is a balance of this verse to John 15 the True Vine that is often missed. You see in John 15, Jesus says, “I am the true vine, my Father is the vinedresser” and in verse 2, He goes on to say that “Every brand in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away, and every brand that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” What does it mean to be in Christ? We see this in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “If we are in Christ, the old must pass away”, we must throw off our slave clothing and our bondage submitting to the renewing of our minds, but we also must show them how to remain or abide in Christ. We must get the students regular and consistent in those three cardinal disciplines: worship, prayer, and Bible study that we discussed above. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says “In Christ we are new,” John 15 says if we are “in Christ” we must bear fruit and then tells us that even the branch that bears fruit gets pruned… and this process huts sometimes. We must get the sheep acquainted with the reality that pleasure and happiness are not the same things. Pleasure is simply a feedback loop of the brain’s biological reward pathways. By its very nature and logia, we are always seeking pleasure. When you have joy in the Lord, you don’t have to seek it out or be unhappy—your joy is a fact that no one can take away from you. This leads me to my final point, we must show the sheep that the new life can be fun as the Lord does His miraculous work and watch for the benchmarks of returned smiles, joy, and a thought process that shifts from praying only about themselves or their needs to simply praising and worshiping the Lord allowing them to remain or abide in the living water Jesus Christ so readily offers. You see, if a man reads Moby Dick 6 times, he is just a man who has read Moby Dick 6 times, but if a man reads the Word, he will come out changed. This word is living, and it is the power of God that does the changing not us.
So next time you see someone and have that thought, “This is a wolf in sheep’s clothing,” I want you to examine your heart and then go into that same living Word and see that you were as well, and then you show them the full unadulterated love of Jesus Christ. These sheep are sleeping saints and the Gospel has called you to wake them up because you never know, the next one you wake could bring hundreds of thousands to God by the blood of the Lamb and the Word of his/her testimony (cp: Rev 12:11)