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Sunday Evening Evangelistic Message #168
TEXT: Matthew 10:16: “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.”
We are in a series of messages on the theme of what it means to be a true disciple of Jesus Christ. We are looking at Jesus’ words to His disciples in Matthew 10:16-42 as He sends them out on a missionary journey. Jesus Christ makes it clear that they will face trouble, conflict, and difficulty as they preach that the Kingdom of God has come, and He tells them how to handle the conflict that they will face.
In the first three messages in this series, we looked at the first part of verse 16 where Jesus says, “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves…” Today, we are moving on to the second part of this verse where He says, “be ye therefore wise as serpents and harmless as doves.”
When we think of serpents, we most often associate them with evil. The devil appeared to Eve in the Garden of Eden as a serpent, and throughout Scripture, Satan is referred to as a serpent. When we think of serpents, we think of fangs, venom, and the pain that they can cause. We think of the sickening way a serpent kills its prey — by coiling itself around its victim, crushing the life out of it, and then swallowing it whole.
Why, then, does Jesus tell us to be wise as serpents.
1. First, when we are wise as serpents, we are wary of the ways of the world. The word “wise” in this text means intelligent or prudent. When we think of being as wise as a serpent, we are reminded of Genesis 3:1 which says, “Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made.” The word “subtil” means cunning or clever.
Scientists have for a long time studied animals in order to determine how smart they are compared to human beings. Research has found that dogs, chimpanzees, dolphins, pigs, and ravens have varying levels of intelligence. And the Word of God tells us that the serpent is the most cunning creature God made, and Christ commands us, as His followers, to be subtil, wise, and cunning like the serpent.
When we speak of wisdom, we must understand that there are two forms of wisdom — there is God’s wisdom, and there is the world’s wisdom (or ‘pseudo-wisdom’ because it is not true wisdom). Perhaps you remember Mr. Worldly-Wiseman from Pilgrim’s Progress. Mr. Worldly-Wiseman tells Christian that he can get rid of his burden of sin by engaging in religious activity — by meeting a man named Mr. Legality and moving to the City of Morality. You see, this is the world’s “wise” way of dealing with the sin problem, but it is not God’s way.
The Bible warns us to be wary of the world’s wisdom. In I Corinthians 2:5, Paul writes, “Your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.” The Christian should be suspect of what this world calls wisdom. The world’s wisdom, no matter what it promises, cannot lead us to God or to a truly fulfilled life. First Corinthians 1:21 says, “the world by [its] wisdom knew not God.” The world will often count us as fools for following Jesus Christ, but the Bible says, “the foolishness of God is wiser than men.”
The world’s wisdom will tell a young woman that it is okay to have sex with a man in order to “keep” that man. But, God’s wisdom tells her to keep herself pure, save herself for marriage, and let God bring her the mate He wants her to have. (Somebody once said that when a young man tells a young woman, “I love you,” what he is really saying is, “I love me and I want you.” God’s wisdom will tell a young woman this and save her a lot of trouble.) The world’s wisdom will tell a businessman that it is okay to make a few illegal backroom deals in order to “get ahead”. But, God’s wisdom says it is better to keep everything above board, let the chips fall where they may, and still come out on top. The world’s wisdom tells a husband that he can tell “little white lies” in order to keep the peace in the family. But, God’s wisdom says honesty is the best policy if you want to have true peace in the home.
Reinhold Niebuhr wrote in his book, The Children of Light and the Children of Darkness, “Let the children of light be as shrewd in goodness and virtue as the children of darkness are in wickedness and evil.” To be wise as a serpent, we must be wary of the wisdom of this world.
MUSICAL SELECTION: “Thank You” by Walter Hawkins and “I Must Tell Jesus” by The Sensational Nightingales
Daniel Whyte III has spoken in meetings across the United States and in twenty-three foreign countries. He is the author of thirty-four books. He is also the president of Gospel Light Society International, a worldwide evangelistic ministry that reaches thousands with the Gospel each week, as well as president of Torch Ministries International, a Christian literature ministry which publishes a monthly magazine called The Torch Leader. He is heard by thousands each week on his radio broadcasts, The Prayer Motivator Devotional and the Prayer Motivator Minute, as well as Gospel Light Minute X, the Gospel Light Minute, the Sunday Evening Evangelistic Message, the Prophet Daniel’s Report and the Second Coming Watch Update. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Theology from Bethany Divinity College, a Bachelor’s degree in Religion from Texas Wesleyan University, and a Master’s degree in Religion from Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary. He has been married to the former Meriqua Althea Dixon, of Christiana, Jamaica for twenty-five years. God has blessed their union with seven children. Find out more at www.danielwhyte3.com. Follow Daniel Whyte III on Twitter @prophetdaniel3 or on Facebook.