Matthew 10:16 Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.
This is the third in the “Be Ye Therefore…” series. In these last days, a Christian needs spiritual discernment now more than ever. The Lord is reminding His disciples that as they serve among enemies within and without, they are to combine the wisdom of the serpent and the simplicity and humility of the dove.
We Have Met the Enemy… And He is Us
Christ reminds believers that He is sending us forth as sheep among wolves. But wolves will also creep into our midst. The apostle Paul told the Ephesian elders this in his final meeting with them before going to Jerusalem and imprisonment, “For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.” Acts 20:29-30 This is why it is particularly important in the last days to heed the advice of our Lord.
Wise as Serpents, Harmless as Doves
The serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made according to Genesis 3:1. But notice the Lord doesn’t just want us to be wise as serpents alone. Some have done just that and the result is the cunning and tricky, sometimes even deceptive person who would lack the compassion and humility to serve our Lord well. It is important however that we have spiritual discernment in order to guard against false teachers in our midst as well as the wiles of the devil out in the world. Such discernment only comes from God through His Holy Spirit and the great resource of His word. Christians who before salvation were strangers to the household of God are now becoming strangers to God’s word by choice. It is no wonder they don’t have spiritual discernment. (For more on this topic click here.) Too many have chosen not to study God’s word and the result is the modern Christian who gets most of what they believe from the back of ‘Christian’ t-shirts and annual Christmas cards.
Someone once shared with me that they were taking a training course at the bank where they worked in order to be more educated on counterfeit money and fraud. After spending most of the day learning about the characteristics of actual American money, one of the students raised their hand and asked the instructor when they were going to learn about the counterfeit stuff. The instructor responded by saying that the best way to guard against fraudulent money is to know everything about the true currency. The same is true for Christians. We must know the truth to know the error.
But we must combine the wisdom of the serpent with the humility of the dove. To be harmless is to remember that our fight is a spiritual battle. Paul tells us in Ephesians that “…we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” And in 2 Corinthians 10:4 (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) We are not called to change this world system, God will do that when He judges it. We are called to sow the gospel among the world of sin. Many of the problems in churches today are the result of what I affectionately refer to as ‘Hoof and Mouth Disease’ or ‘Foot in Mouth Disorder’. Many are quick to give knee-jerk reactions to situations in church and in the world without prayerfully considering the Lord’s will.
Finally, in looking at the beginning of our verse we see one very important detail… “Behold, I send you…” We should always remember that we are the ambassadors of Christ sent to share the gospel of reconciliation to the lost and to edify our brothers and sisters in Christ. Be ye therefore wise and harmless. Know when to fight, where to fight, and who your fight is with. Most importantly know who you’re fighting for. The cause of Christ and not bringing shame to it should be our highest concern as Christians.
THINK ON THESE THINGS…
A Fellow Servant