"Who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, and as a root out of dry ground. He has no form or comeliness; and when we see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him. He is despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all" (Isaiah 53:1–6).
It is important to understand that a religious system crucified Christ. Although the Roman authorities were the instruments of His death, the religious order of the day—created by God's own people—put the Son of God on the cross. There were leaders in that generation who adorned themselves in righteous robes and loved to be called "Teacher" in the marketplace (see Matthew 23:7). They ended up creating a system of salvation that was much wider and more inclusive than the one God had given. All kinds of people were coming into the temple defiled and going out the same way. They were living in ways that the Bible clearly indicated would leave them excluded from the kingdom of God forever.
In contrast, Jesus came in a form that lacked grandeur in the eyes of men. He was not dressed in righteous robes, not trying to garner their titles, not doing things their way. The Bible says, "There is no beauty that we should desire Him" (Isaiah 53:2). They despised and rejected Him because He challenged their religious system of redemption. Remember, it is the propensity of humankind to conclude that we can be as God, becoming judges of what is good and what is evil—the original sin in the Garden of Eden. If you take that to its logical extension, we can start declaring that God forgives things when He does not. We can start telling people that they are going to heaven when they are not. That is the grave danger of religion. Can you imagine sitting inside a place as a supposed believer in Christ only to end up at the throne of God one day and find out you have been outside all along? What a tragedy it is going to be for so many.
He was "a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief" (Isaiah 53:3). There was a heaviness in the heart of the Son of God as He looked on the people as sheep without a shepherd. "And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him" (53:3). We are, in great measure, reliving the Scripture again in our day. In many places, even where God's people are gathering, the Word of God is despised. We are now gravitating toward fancy preachers who have opened the door wide to people who are not going to heaven, giving them false peace when they are not at peace with God.
THE FULL COUNSEL OF GOD
Paul was a true shepherd who did not hold back from declaring the truth. This is what he said in the book of Acts: "Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God" (Acts 20:26–27). It is the cry of my heart that if anyone reading this today ends up in hell, let it never be because I failed to declare to you the whole counsel of God or did not warn you of something that had the power to drag you down into eternal darkness.
Paul continued: "For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves. Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears" (Acts 20:29–31). He warned that wolves are going to come—which we are seeing in packs in our generation. These wolves are going to devour the sacrifice of Christ and the promise of new life through Him. They are going to promise the people liberty, though they themselves are slaves to corruption (see 2 Peter 2:19). Wolves teach that you can live a lifestyle against the Word of God and still claim heaven as your eternal home. Such a wolf is now at the door of the Christian Church in America.
Yet the apostle Paul clearly warned in the book of First Corinthians: "Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators..." (1 Corinthians 6:9). These are people who engage in sexual intercourse outside the bonds of marriage between one man and one woman—and will not inherit the kingdom of God. Do not be deceived into thinking you can live an immoral lifestyle and still have heaven as your eternal home. This is hard for this generation to hear, especially when so many preachers are saying, "Well, God understands need and God is a God of love. He won't send anybody to hell." That is not true! Yes, He is a God of love, we know that, but the Bible tells us that fornicators have no inheritance in the kingdom of God.
"Nor idolaters..." These are people who have other loves—something in their life that is their whole obsession. Christ (or church) is just a little part of their life; they are pursuing something else.
"Nor adulterers..." Today we take a word such as adultery and call it an "extramarital affair" as if it is a black tie event. "You are invited to an extramarital affair next Friday at 5 o'clock." Yet the Bible calls it adultery. Settle it: Sex outside the bonds of the person you are married to will keep you outside the kingdom of God.
"Nor homosexuals, nor sodomites..." In other words, this applies to both men and women. I understand the dilemma that some might face in same-sex attraction. Nevertheless, you cannot give in to that lifestyle on any level because the Bible clearly says it will leave you outside the kingdom of God.
"Nor thieves..." This refers to all people who steal—even just a little. Perhaps they have a contract and steal a little bit more than they should, or maybe they cheat on their taxes.
"Nor covetous..." These are people who are always wanting more of the things of this world, never satisfied with what they have.
"Nor drunkards..." Week after week, there are people who go to church on Sunday after being out at the club the night before, drinking and dancing.
"Nor revilers..." Especially in our country today, reviling has become the speech of the day. It is fashionable just to curse everybody around you.
"Nor extortioners" In other words, those who take advantage of others will not inherit the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9–10).
However, Paul finished with good news: "And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God" (1 Corinthians 6:11). He was saying, "In contrast, you are set apart for the kingdom of God. You have honestly repented and walked away from what God's Word says is wrong. You have walked away from this old way of thinking and behaving and have instead set yourself apart for the kingdom of God."
THE HIRELING WILL FLEE
Nevertheless, we must be aware that we are living in an hour when the wolf is heading to the door of the Church, demanding that we bow down to these new definitions of good and evil. The days of being able to declare truths like the ones above without penalty are very close to being over, if they are not over already.
Jesus once said, "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them. The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep" (John 10:11–13).
There are hirelings in a lot of pulpits in America today. They do not necessarily leave the people, but they leave biblical truth when the wolf is at the door. The wolf says, "This is what you will preach; these are the truths that you will espouse." And the hirelings bow down when the music plays in order to save themselves, for it has always been about them and never really about the sheep. And so the hirelings end up leading the people into the broad way of destruction rather than into the narrow way of eternal life.
In contrast, the true shepherds of God in this generation are going to care more for the people than for their own safety or reputation. Of course, it will not be an easy road. We are about to join our brothers and sisters in China, Iran and other places who are being persecuted and even put to death for what they believe. We have lived a very comfortable, lazy Christianity in America, but those days are over. The wolf is now at the door.
And so I challenge you with all my heart to turn from sin. Find that new life in Christ, and rise up to be the person that God has called you to be. You already know what God has His finger on. Ask Him for help in turning away from watching pornography, from drinking, from flirtation in the office, from railing. Ask Him to deliver you from cowardice and instead put a love for people in your heart—a love that casts out all fear.
Let this society despise Christ, consider Him ordinary, rebel against His words. But by the grace of God, we will not bow before the wolf in this generation. By His grace, we will stand unashamedly for the truth of God. We will begin to pray again as a Church Age. We will have the courage in this generation to stand for those who do not have a voice for themselves—for our children, for the unborn, for our high school students, for college students; for every mother, father, and child in this country who needs to know there is a Savior who died for them!
This newsletter is an edited version of "THE WOLF IS AT THE DOOR," a sermon given on February 9, 2020 in the sanctuary of Times Square Church in New York City. Other sermons are available by visiting our website at tsc.nyc. You are welcome to make additional copies of this sermon for free distribution to friends. However, for all other forms of reproduction or electronic transmission existing copyright laws apply. This sermon cannot be posted on any website or webpage without permission from Times Square Church. Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Scripture taken from other versions are noted.