Spotting A Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing



My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.           –James 5:19-20

Three Ways to Spot a Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

Author:  Category: BlogCounseling



One of the methods bank tellers and merchants learn in order to distinguish real money from counterfeit bills is to examine genuine $100 bills over and over again so that they more likely to spot the counterfeit bills when they see them.  In the same way we can learn to recognize destructive people by knowing what to look for.

Some may object to any attempt to identify wolves among us because it sounds uncharitable and judgmental to call someone a wolf.  Only Jesus knows a person’s heart so who are we to judge?  Yet, Jesus himself warns us that there are those who claim to be believers, they may even be leaders in the church, but they are vicious or ravenous wolves dressed up in sheep’s clothing (Matthew 7:15).

The apostle Paul warns Timothy that there will be people who act religious, but are puffed up with pride, who are unloving, unforgiving, slanderous, and cruel (2 Timothy 3:2-9). Part of spiritual maturity is gaining the ability to discern between good and evil (Hebrews 5:14).  Why is this necessary?  Because Paul reminds us that even Satan masquerades as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14). Evil pretends to be good, especially among church folk.

Sometimes as Christian counselors we make a naive assumption and it gets us into terrible trouble.  We assume that if someone claims to be a Christian and talks like a Christian, and knows biblical principles, that means he or she is a committed Christian.  That’s not true.

Just like there are counterfeit $100 bills that attempt to pass for the real thing, there are those among us who attempt to pass for Christians but underneath they are ravenous wolves. How do we tell the difference?

Jesus said by their fruit we will know them.  A wolf can be an expert at talking like a Christian but over time, when you observe his or her behaviors, they look more wolfish (aggressive). As the saying goes, the sweetest tongue often has the sharpest tooth.  Here are three things to watch out for.

  1. Wolves live for the love of power rather than the power of love. Wolves refuse accountability and resist submission to authority. You’ve heard the phrase lone wolf?  Wolves in sheep’s clothing put themselves as their highest point of reference. They often use charisma and charm to “win” people over but they do not have mutual or reciprocal relationships.  People are to be used, possessed, exploited, or controlled rather than loved.


  1. Wolves look like sheep and talk like sheep but they bite like wolves, especially when the sheep are disagreeing or dissenting. Winning and being right are their highest values and they do whatever they need to in order to stay “on top”. When operating in church or religious settings their methods are often underhanded and cunning in order to appear less aggressive. They don’t want to look like wolves, that’s why they pretend to be sheep.


When you challenge or confront a client what happens?  Is he humble? Reflective? Willing to consider what you are saying?  Or does he bristle, attack you, deflect, or blame?  Remember, when someone willingly comes for counseling, he or she is asking for your help.  When you try to give it to them, do they receive it or is their presence in counseling for a different purpose?



  1. Wolves are experts at deceit. That’s why they are successful at looking like sheep. Wolves pretend to be good and care about the sheep but those closest to them (their family) know the truth. They’ve been bitten again and again and again.


But the wolf’s ability to maintain his cover is one reason why it’s so difficult for church leadership (including Christian counselors) to believe the person (sheep) who has been wounded by the wolf. Those in charge fail to see him as a wolf and assume that what is happening is merely two sheep biting one another.  Look again.  Look harder.  Wolves have much sharper teeth and stronger jaws than sheep do.  A sheep cannot harm a wolf even if he pretends he’s wounded.  A wolf kills the sheep.

It’s interesting that God chose a wolf as a poignant word picture to portray this type of person who lives among us.  A wolf is a predator.  It has a strong jaw and 42 sharp teeth designed to stab its prey to death. The Bible warns us that, “reckless words pierce like a sword (Proverbs 12:18).  Verbal abuse is real and it when regularly done, lethal to the person being pierced by it.

Let’s not naively close our eyes and think that there are no wolves in our churches. They are everywhere.


The most loving thing we can do is to lovingly and accurately warn of error, sin, and false teaching–all of which cause great destruction and lead to death.



The Secret I Kept


I received an email yesterday that has me a bit discouraged. Without going into detail, I will say that this path God has me on is difficult.  I love sharing Jesus with people. I enjoy communicating about His healing. I love being an advocate for women.

But, I have been convicted about a secret I held for someone I loved, for way too many years.   When he shared the secret with me, I was not educated on the subject and didn’t take the necessary precautions I should have.  I watched this secret put a wedge between us for years.  We as of a couple years ago are no longer together, I think this secret was a big part of our downfall and divorce and lack of trust. Now I deal with the ramifications, that, maybe I could have done something to change his heart long ago. This secret has left me with powerful feelings of fear and shame.

The Bible say’s “So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Matt 10:26-28

We may harbor secrets because we think the truth about a single evil past act or a continuing bad habit is too shameful to tell, or we may keep our secrets hidden because we don’t want to risk losing our friends. Either way, we remain alone, isolated, and desperate to stay hidden.

My own choices to keep this secret has caused me a lot of pain and confusion for years.  I have shed many tears on how I could done things differently.  I am ashamed that I did not make a bigger deal of it when he shared.  I truly thought he had changed had genuine sorrow and that it was a thing of the past… wasn’t.

I have found that Sin grows with secrets..“As Iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.  Proverbs 27:7.  Did I fail at this.  Because at the end of our marriage this secret came crashing back.  He had not change one bit.  He was still stuck in this sinful past.

Our sinful nature always desires more.  When you get away with something in secret, the deceitful nature of sin will convince you that it’s a reason to keep going.  Eventually, you find yourself somewhere you don’t want to be, and there are only painful ways out.

What I realize now is, that darkness causes sin and pain to grow, the light brings redemption.  In keeping this secret, I allowed darkness to grow.  I also did a disservice to him for keeping it hidden.  Some secrets bring much greater destruction into our lives than if they were revealed.

The truth is: this secret costs me a lot. My marriage…and that’s okay because perhaps it is my cross I bear. I just wish I could have had the joy of seeing him find healing and freedom which would have trumped all this angst.  But now, I am ready to close the door on this: I need to close the door on my expectations.  My expectation that he would really change his heart and be a new man.

Revealing this kind of secret can be a painful and a fearful experience. However, I realize now that it opens up new opportunities to experience God’s healing.  But ignoring sin is never the solution. Never. We cannot allow ourselves to be deceived into thinking that we can sin “safely.”

Even among Christians it can be a real struggle to find the balance in when to keep a secret and when to reveal a secret sin-whether it is your sin, or your friend’s sin or your husbands sin.

It gets even more complicated for some Christians. Even if you have confessed your sins to Jesus, which sins should you reveal to others?

One young man who had been married for about a year revealed to his wife that he had been struggling with pornography. He thought this honesty would help their marriage. But his wife was so devastated by this admission, that her distrust of him grew to the point that she divorced him.

So should he have kept this secret from his wife? Would they still be married if he had said nothing to her? There are no simple answers to these complex questions.

God clearly reveals what lies in our future. “For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open.” (Luke 8:17) We can’t hide our sins forever.

The power of shame can cause us to give far too much power to our failures of the past. You can begin to believe the lie that “if others know about my failures, they won’t like me. They won’t trust me.” So we put up walls to hide our secrets, and live in fear of what will happen if others really know the truth about me.

Jesus states clearly that His arms are wide open for you. He said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28 )

You can’t keep any secrets from God. No matter what you have done, He still loves you. Learning to live in the light of His truth will put you on the path to healthy living and peace in your heart.

The problem comes when we seem to be left in the dark. God often does not give us His 5 year plan for our future. He wants us to learn what it means to walk by faith-taking one step at a time, and putting our trust in Him that He knows what is best.

This faith walk goes against our natural desire to be in control. Surrendering control makes us feel vulnerable.

When we allow God to be in control, we open the door to a new level of freedom in our lives. You can have the confidence that He has your best as His top priority.

Since only God knows all the future, it’s a great choice to give Him full control.

If someone came to me today, with this same secret I would point them to a male counselor/pastor and probably would have distanced myself from him.  I am not sure, although I know I was wrong in the way I handled it.  I pray the Lord forgives me.

When the people closest to us sins, it hurts. Sin is destructive. When we are standing close by, we often get hit with shrapnel.  My shrapnel was the secret.

The truth is, we all have a sin problem. That’s why we need Jesus so much. But if someone you love is trapped in a pattern of sin, or refuses to repent from sin the stakes can seem sky high. When I don’t know what to pray, I pray God’s Word.

But your iniquities have separated
    you from your God;
your sins have hidden his face from you,
    so that he will not hear. Isaiah 59:2

I pray for them to see their sin as God sees it.

 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. Ezekiel 26:36

I pray that their heart will be soften.

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Hebrews 4:12

Pray the word changes their heart.  

God is in the business of dealing with sin. There is no sin too big for Him to forgive and no sinner too far for God to take them back. As you wait for Him to do the miraculous redemptive work only He can do, keep praying with great expectation.

Do you know someone stuck in a pattern of sin? Which of these prayers will you start praying on their behalf?