“She seizes him and kisses him, and with bold face she says to him, “I had to offer sacrifices, and today I have paid my vows.” – Proverbs 7:13-14

Does a wolf in sheep’s clothing know what he’s doing? Of course. That’s what makes it so terrifying when you catch the glint of teeth inside the fleecy face. He came to eat sheep. But he knows if he comes leaping and snarling, his targets will scatter. He has to look nonthreatening. He has to look like one of them. He has to earn their trust. That’s sin.

The story of this chapter follows a foolish young man wants to be seduced and then is seduced into adultery. What’s striking in the verses above is that the prostitute heads off the objection before it comes. She doesn’t set off alarm bells. She doesn’t surreptitiously pounce on the poor guy from behind a corner. She walks straight up to him, kisses him, then drops in these lines about God, and faith, and her devoted spirituality.

She’s just like him. They believe the same things. She just offered sacrifices. She worships God. She’s got her Bible memory verses and missions trip tee shirt. She’s not trying to draw him away from Christianity. She just wants them to have some fun together. The power comes in her offhanded delivery. At their initial encounter, the subtext is uneasy, electric with forbidenness. But then she casually disarms the security system—nothing to fear on the spiritual front; we’re on the same page there.

This is Satan’s playbook. Think about his two greatest temptations—with Adam and Eve and with Jesus. When dealing with Christians, Satan’s not so foolish as to try to sweep God under the rug and hope you don’t notice. He comes with bold face, quoting Scripture (Gen 3:1; Mt 4:1-10). The initial idea is not so much, You should do away with God. Rather it’s, God’s good with this. It’s not a big deal. Lots to gain, very little to lose.

Many Christians wade into sin lifting up God’s name all the way down. This is especially true of church leaders. Through their profession, gifts, and training, they have built up a biblical expertise and a reputation that comes with it. The easiest path to sanctioning their sin isn’t a total reboot but a recrafting of their narrative with most of the pieces still in place.

The solution takes us back to the wolf in sheep’s clothing. How do you spot him? You learn what the Shepherd sounds like. You spend time with him. You stick nearby him. You learn his tone and manner instinctively. You begin to know the Shepherd so well that you start to think like him. You see the world as he does, which means you spot the frauds better. Jesus defeated Satan’s scripture-twisting by quoting more scripture, in its right context.

As you spend time with the Shepherd, you value the relationship more than whether you or someone else goes through the motions. You love the Shepherd because he loves you.

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