Spiritual Discernment: S. Lewis Johnson, the Sheep Do Not Listen to Strangers
From S. Lewis Johnson’s Gospel of John series comes this timely observation. It was true thirty years ago same as now: some professing Christians are easily led astray, going after first one teacher then another. This message from John 10:1-6 puts things into perspective, especially with all the interest in “discernment ministries” and the tendency of some to focus excessively on warning other Christians about false teachers.
Now, we read here, a stranger will they not follow. So when Paul Tillich calls out we don’t respond. When Moltmann calls out we don’t respond. When Bultmann calls out we don’t respond. When William Barclay calls out we don’t respond. When Wolfhart Pannenberg calls out we don’t respond. When Gerhart von Rott, we don’t respond. When Eichrot, Jako, Kumal, all the great scholars of the present day who are not members of the body so far as we can tell, when they call out as shepherds of the sheep, the true sheep do not respond. They do not follow the voice of a stranger.
Now that is a problem for me, because there are some people who do not seem to be able to distinguish the voice of our Lord from the voice of strangers. Isn’t it a remarkable thing? You probably know some Christians, professing Christians like that. They hear something and they immediately run after it as if it were something great until they discover that’s not quite as great as it was, and they come back. And then a new voice is heard and they rush after them. That makes me wonder, because the true sheep do not follow the voice of a stranger. They don’t run after Mary Baker Glover Patterson Eddy. They don’t run after Ellen G. White. They don’t run after Rutherford. They don’t run after the false voices, they follow our Lord Jesus Christ. They hear his voice. They know him. They follow him. That should be a word of admonition to us.
Many of the names mentioned above are unfamiliar today, the scholars of liberal (unbelieving) Christianity. But we can certainly add the current set of questionable teachers — such as Beth Moore, the Jesus Culture, and the latest from John Piper — to the same understanding: the true sheep do not follow the voice of a stranger, and will not be led into such deception. Yes, sometimes true Christians are those who come out of cults and out of false teaching (who were not believers when they got into those cults). Sometimes also young, immature Christians (the carnal babes, those recently saved — not the willful carnal) for a time will lose focus and not seek the best teaching. But as S. Lewis Johnson so well observed here, true Christians will not continue to manifest such behavior; they will not rush after one voice, then to another voice, and so on. We can trust in God’s sovereignty, that He knows those who are His, and rely on His promise, that His sheep will be able to distinguish our Lord’s voice from the voice of these false teachers.