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Beware of Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing

Mike Gendron On Wolf,  Brennan Manning  –

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The Lord Jesus Christ warned His followers, “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheepʼs clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves (Matt. 7:15). The warning was important because Jesus later said to them: “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; therefore be shrewd as serpents, and innocent as doves” (Matt. 10:16). The apostle Paul, with tears and a deeply troubled spirit, penned a similar warning: “I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock” (Acts 20:29). Throughout church history these warnings have seldom been taken seriously. Christians continue to be deceived because they can not discern truth from error.

According to Websterʼs Dictionary “deceive” means “to lead astray or to cause to accept as true or valid what is false or invalid.” Could it be the church has not only lost its ability to discern truth from error but also to discern wolves from sheep?

Consider Brennan Manning, an inactive Roman Catholic priest, who has some obvious characteristics of a “wolf,” yet goes mostly undetected. In the last ten years, he has become a popular speaker in many “evangelical” churches. Manning was ordained to the Franciscan priesthood after graduating from St. Francis Seminary in 1963. Later he was theology instructor at the University of Steubenville (a Catholic seminary and catalyst for Mary to be named co-redeemer). After being treated for alcoholism and leaving the Franciscan Order in 1982, he married Roslyn Ann Walker. The marriage has since ended in divorce but his popularity as a writer and speaker continues to grow despite his proclamation of “another” gospel.

The teachings of Manning are charming, seductive, cunning and dangerous as he takes advantage of his undiscerning audiences. He teaches that you can overcome fear, guilt and psychological hang-ups, even alcoholism, through meditation. His meditation techniques are drawn from a mixture of eastern mysticism, psychology, the New Age Movement and Catholicism. Manning gives the impression that he has a very intimate relationship with God and reports having many visions, encounters and conversations with Him. He assures his audiences that if they apply his teachings, they too can become more intimate with God.

I first met Manning at the Christian Booksellers Association in New Orleans. As he was signing autographs for his book, The Ragamuffin Gospel, I asked him if his “ragamuffin gospel” followed the Catholic plan of salvation or the biblical plan of salvation. He responded, “Read it and find out for yourself.” Still trying to gain insight into his theology, I gave him a tract I had written called Roman Catholicism: Scripture vs. Tradition and asked for his comments. After looking at it for a couple of minutes he tore it into pieces and threw it in the trash.

The next time I saw Manning was January 21st at Hillcrest Church, a congregation of over 5,000 members in north Dallas. Manningʼs message was about our need for a second conversion, a conversion that can only take place when one overcomes self-rejection and gains esteem through self-acceptance. After the service I asked two elders of Hillcrest Church how they could allow a Roman Catholic priest speak to their congregation. Their response—”we welcome everyone who loves God.” This was indeed a fulfillment of Paulʼs prophetic words: “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires; and will turn away their ears from the truth, and will turn aside to myths” (2 Tim. 4:3-4).

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The following are some of the major lessons of the Levitical offerings by way of review and application:

By David Cloud

Way of Life Literature

1. Man is a sinner and is separated from the holy Creator God by his sin against God’s law.

2. Only through an acceptable sacrifice can man be reconciled to God. The sacrifice required both the blood and death of a perfect, innocent victim, which was fulfilled in Christ. God paid a great price for man’s salvation in that He gave His only begotten Son to suffer on the cross. Salvation is not by good works or sincerity or religion.

3. There is only one way of salvation. Just as the Israelite had to bring the right sacrifice to the right place in the right way, so the sinner must come to God in the prescribed way through the one gospel and the one Saviour.

4. The same salvation is available for all men, rich and poor, rulers and servants (Lev. 1:14; 4:22, 27).

5. All of the Levitical sacrifices point to Christ and the various characteristics of His salvation. He is everything the sinner needs before God, and in Christ the believing sinner is fully accepted. See 1 Corinthians 1:30; Ephesians 1:3. The believer needs to live in awareness of the benefit of Christ and His sacrifice.

“We need to always most thankfully receive His inestimable benefit. In other words, we must by faith accept Christ as our five-fold offering, on the basis of which alone we are saved and have our standing before God. Morning by morning as we awaken let it be with the consciousness that in the burnt offering and meat offering of Christ we are accepted and blessed of God, that in His peace offering we have the right to commune with Him, that through His sin and trespass offering every defect is remedied and every fault will find pardon” (James Gray, Concise Bible Commentary).

6. The perfection and sufficiency of Christ’s sacrifice is emphasized in many ways, such as the manifold aspect of the sacrifices (burnt, peace, meal, trespass, sin), the spotlessness of the sacrifice (Lev. 1:3), the blood sprinkled seven times (Lev. 4:6), and the continual burning of the sacrifice (Lev. 6:13). In all of these ways Leviticus is teaching that “Christ is all I need.” See Hebrews 10:10, 14.

7. Though God has provided the way of reconciliation, the individual sinner must obtain reconciliation. Each individual had to bring the sacrifice before God in the prescribed way. This signifies the fact that each sinner must come to God and acknowledge his sin and put his faith in Jesus Christ. God has provided the Sacrifice, Jesus has died for the sins of the world, but men must receive Him. When the worshiper put his hands on the sacrifice he was signifying his need of it and his identification with it (Lev. 1:4). This is symbolic of repentance and faith. Likewise, the believer must come before God when he sins and obtain mercy day-by-day (Heb. 4:16; 1 John 1:9).

8. Salvation is an exchange. Christ took the place of the sinner, and the sinner takes the place of Christ. See 2 Corinthians 5:21.

9. Christ’s life and sacrifice was a sweet savor to God the Father (Lev. 1:17; 2:9; 3:5). God testified that He was well pleased with the Son both through the prophets and directly with a voice from Heaven (Isa. 42:1; Mat. 3:17; 17:5). Christ is the beloved of God, and the believer is accepted in the beloved (Eph. 1:3).

10. Salvation is not merely a matter of being forgiven of sin; it is a matter of being devoted to God, walking with Him in sweet fellowship, and serving Him. Thus, there was not only the sin offering but also the burnt offering and the meal offering. Salvation is not a ticket to heaven whereby one prays a sinner’s prayer and then lives his or her life as before. Salvation is to come into a right and intimate relationship with God through Christ as an adopted son and to serve Him as a disciple, a priest, an ambassador, a soldier.

11. The believer is to give his best to Christ. This was signified by the wave offering, whereby the breast and right shoulder of the peace offering were to be waved before the Lord (Lev. 9:21). The breast signified the passion and devotion of one’s heart and the shoulder signified one’s strength and fervor of service. Compare Romans 12:1-2.

12. The believer is to emulate Christ’s life and follow His example. Christ is the believer’s law and rule of life. While Christ is the Great High Priest, every believer is also a priest who is to walk in Christ’s holy ways and to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God (1 Pet. 2:5, 9).

“Then let us remember that we should also daily endeavor ourselves to follow the blessed steps of His most holy life. After we have accepted Him and represented Him to God as our sacrifice by faith then we can follow His example. We are not in a position to do this before. He is our burnt offering, a perfect dedication to God, but we are also bidden in Him to present our bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is our reasonable service (Rom. 12:1). He is our meal offering presented to God for the service of man, but we too are to ‘please his neighbor for his good to edification’ (Rom. 15:2). He is our peace offering, making and maintaining peace between God and us, but we are also to be peacemakers (Mat. 5:9; Rom. 12:18; 14:19; Heb. 12:14; 1 Pet. 3:11). It is impossible that we should make atonement for sin as He did, but there is a sense in which we may ‘bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ’ (Gal. 6:2)” (James Gray, Concise Bible Commentary).

13. The believer follows Christ by yielding to Him. The Christian life is not a matter merely of imitating Christ and following His example; it is a matter of yielding to the Christ who dwells in us by His Spirit. See Galatians 2:20. This was depicted by the eating of the appointed offerings (Lev. 10:12-15). The breast and shoulder of the peace offering signified Christ’s character and strength, and in eating it the priest signified that he was internalizing Christ so that Christ’s heart and Christ’s strength would flow through him. We see the same picture in the Lord’s Supper. In eating and drinking, the believer signifies his unity with Christ and His Sacrifice, both for salvation and for living.

April 2012



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