Friday, March 4, 2016

Has Your Faith Become Counterfeit?

I worked at a bank for many years.  And for those who know me, I gave them as hard of a time as any of my youth in my current youth group.  Aside from the phone calls that I gave to the person next to me, I actually learned a thing or two about banking.

Image courtesy of franky242 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
One of the most important lessons that we were taught was about counterfeit money.  At a seminar in Savannah, we were taught to recognize all types of counterfeit things.  The best way to recognize a counterfeit bill was to be intimately acquainted with the real thing.  Before we even encountered any of the counterfeits, we spent a good part of the day looking at the real bills.  We felt their texture.  We learned every little secret about the bill.  Some are well known to the public.  Some are not. 

To be honest, by the time we were done, we were bored.  I mean, this is the currency that we handled and counted everyday...numerous times a day.  Yes, we know what a one dollar bill looks like.  Yes, we know what a twenty feels like.  Yes, I remember about that cool security feature that you have mentioned 15 times this morning.  (And it is beginning to lose its "coolness" because of you.)  We thankfully broke for lunch with the promise that afterward we would actually look at the fakes.

When we got back, as promised, the counterfeits were shown to us.  What surprised me was that anyone would have been fooled by these obvious frauds!  Immediately, when we handled the bills, we could tell that they were not the real thing.  The coloring was off.  The print wasn't that close.  The texture felt weird.  Yet, here we were looking at these bills that had been taken in by businesses and banks fooled into believing that they were the real thing.

So what caused these people to take in the false so easily?  And what does this have to do with us knowing the Word of God?

1)  Many of them didn't know what the real currency was.

Unlike us in the seminar, they had never taken the time to study the real currency.  Therefore, when they were presented with something that looked somewhat similar, they were easily fooled.

The same thing happens with many who profess belief in Christ.  They know of Christ.  They have heard Him preached from the pulpit.  They have read books by people who seem to know Him.  But because they, themselves, have never studied the Word for themselves, they can be easily lead astray by something that sounds somewhat Christian, but really isn't.

I am currently reading a book that stated that Jesus (or the Bible) never uses shame to draw people to Christ.  While there are many good things about this book, I know the Word of God well enough to know that statement (and therefore the entire chapter) wasn't true.  What is one to do with Matthew 23 and the denunciation of the leaders of Israel...by Jesus?  Didn't Jesus love them too?  Didn't He wish for them to follow Him and recognize Him as Messiah?  Yet, He uses harsh language and shame to expose their ways. 

And don't get me started on Paul.  There is shame and sarcasm dripping through many of the things that he wrote, inspired by the Holy Spirit, for the express purpose of drawing people closer to Christ.  I mean, read 1 Corinthians for numerous examples of this.

Now shame isn't always used and the author rightly points out that many times Jesus met those in downtrodden circumstances with grace where shame was expected, but not always.

You see, I only recognize this false point (by a Christian writer) because I compare even my brother and sister's teaching to the Word of God.  It helps me not only recognize the obvious differences between true Christian faith and cults like Jehovah's Witnesses or Mormonism, who twist the plain reading of Scripture, but also the faulty reasoning of fellow believers using Scripture to prove their point rather than letting God speak for Himself.

It is why I want those in my congregation to test my teaching with that of Scripture and not just "take my word for it."  My word is not the real currency...only His Word is. 

2)  They became lazy with what they knew.

There were some of those who did take classes like we were taking.  However, in our class, we were told that we needed to pick up the bills throughout the day during our downtime and continually remind ourselves about the money we handled.  To be perfectly honest, I am not sure that I did this all that much.  Neither did those who carelessly handled and accepted the counterfeits they were so sure they would recognize because they studied the dollar bill once.

I have heard so many people say things like, "I've read the Bible once" as if once was enough to protect them against being tossed "to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes" (Eph. 4:14).  Many a "former" Christian who "read the Bible" stopped after one time believing that once was enough to inoculate them from all the false teachings of the world, only to come to the conclusion at a later time that the Word of God was one of those false teachings.

Drawing close to God means that we learn about Him continually.  We recognize His Word, not because we have read it just once, but we want to know everything about it because it tells us about Him.  And He is the One we love, not just know stuff about.

3)  They were rushed.

Counterfeiters are often in a hurry because they don't want you to look too closely at what they are giving you.  So they tell you to hurry up.  They talk through the whole transaction.  They point out other things like photos of their family or get you engaged in a story.  Their whole effort is to get you away from the one thing you should be doing:  Focusing on the money you are taking in.  Many in the banking industry fall for this ploy...and so do many Christians.

Our enemy prowls around like a lion seeking to devour (1 Pet. 5:8).  He is the enemy who wishes to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10).  He doesn't want us to keep our eyes on of Jesus (Heb. 12:1-2).  So, in our culture, he has made us busy.

We are so busy, we never seem to have time for God and His Word.  We go from one event to another and before we know it, another day has gone by and we haven't been in the Word.  If this happens enough, we find ourselves taking in doctrines and teachings we never thought we would.  We still want to regard Jesus, but we just never have time for Him.  We never test and approve what the will of God is (Rom. 12:1-2) because the time just isn't there.  So we settle for less.  We accept the counterfeit and then wonder later why our lives are so unfulfilling and compromised.

We are like Martha distracted thinking so many arrangements in life are needed when only one thing is necessary (Luke 10:38-42).  Jesus didn't take that one thing away from Mary.  May we not take that one thing away from ourselves and our children because of busyness.

The Bible is God's declaration about Himself.  Through it, we discover His revelation of Jesus Christ.  We need to know the Word.  We need to remind ourselves of the Word.  And we need to make sure that the Word of God isn't cut out of our lives through busyness.  Only then, will be able to withstand all the counterfeits that are thrown our way...and test even the good things that are given to us.     

Don't Believe Everything You Read...(not even this)

I'm about to get into trouble.  Maybe with a lot of you.  But for sure with some of you. However, I can't stay silent anymore.  I ...