A friend on Facebook recently joked about going to the Far East and returning with several Rolex watches for the family "costing £10 apiece".
My topic today is "verification". How can one verify that:
- a watch is a Rolex
- a ham is from Parma
- Scotch whisky is from Scotland
- a banker is a valid person to care for one's money
- New Labour is anything like "Labour",
- a Tory is a Conservative
- a Christian is "from Christ".
We all know that there are counterfeit people, like products, using the names of reputable concepts which have clear values and "tastes" to promote their own, often secret agenda - and often their own livelihood. This is as true of false leaders as it is of the makers of counterfeit watches.
In relation to watches and Parma Ham, there are legal actions that companies take against imitators. In relation, to those who imitate being authentic and respectable, there is the final "uncovering" (literally "The Apocalypse"). But can one can sense counterfeits before that?
Christ teaches: "By their fruits shall ye know them". He talked about "wolves in sheep's clothing" and "actors" (hypocrites). Wolves are usually pack predators. They overpower using numbers. They drink the blood and eat the flesh. They do not sustain, feed or serve their fellow creatures. They hunt down and devour the harmless. They do not respect ethics - and they will, without conscience, and frequently in wolfpacks, pursue the innocent, faithful and authentic - particularly those with the knowledge and insight to reveal their true nature. Actors are those who can give "the performance of their life" to twist perceptions to pretend honesty or competence or that black is white.
Of course, when all "cooked books" are opened, all secret Swiss bank revealed, all broken hearts and ruined lives are discovered - if not before a House of Commons Committee, or after an Election - then on The Last Day, all thefts and frauds will be revealed.
All misdeeds will be transmitted by megaphone from every rooftop: there will be no hiding place from the Light of Revelation. Then will all false claims be silenced and all false reputations fall to dust. Often this happens earlier because hypocrites often "over-reach" themselves, through pride and arrogance - and all is suddenly revealed.
But I would also ask: how can one tell whether someone is "from Christ" or a counterfeit? Lots of people claim they are followers of "Christ". But the New Testament says many are "goats" - in the story of the separation of the sheep and goats. To many of those who claimed His name, Jesus says "I never knew you".
First, look at the doctrine. Does someone's faith looks as if it is "fit for purpose", for reality and the test of suffering. Does it reflect the whole teaching of Scripture - or has it watered it down?
God tests authenticity too - through trials and suffering. Would this faith have the substance to stand the unbearable shocks and stresses of life and carry on through - and through it, help others? One thinks of a true Rolex watch which has strength and durability compared to the £10 counterfeit that fails to deliver.
Can this faith operate in the dark when God seems to have abandoned someone - like Job in the Bible - without rebellion and demands for relief? If so, it is not a "bargaining faith". A "bargaining faith", which is about personal gain, not love for God, says "If I follow you then you must bless me - or I will not believe in you". The bargaining heart is a hard heart which refuses godly discipline: it needs to repent to be saved.
If a faith stands in the "test", it means that faith is based on reason (theology) not emotions (feelings). Equally, if someone's faith would not provide them "solid food" for times when everything positive falls away and they could not produce some of the fruit (listed below) in the dark, it is not "from Christ".
Second, look at behaviours. Is there hard work for God, purity, reverence, rationality, respect for all others equally, warmth and care for others, honesty with money, compassion, kindness, self-discipline, self-control, courtesy, knowledge, openness, generosity, willingness to learn from Scripture, humility, repentance, admission of error, faithfulness, truth, peace, joy and devotion?
Instead, is there instability, irresponsibility, intolerance, staged conflict, emotionalism, intolerance, hardness of heart, pride and arrogance, secret bullying, covert agendas, liking for money and/or power, controlling behaviours, rudeness, perversions, favouritism, a sense of "we are superior to others", lack of generosity, poor judgment, signs of "in" and "out" people - and dubious friends and contacts?
Clearly, one must take into account the effects of illness and disability which can affect people's visible "fruits" without damaging their status with God. Also we are all sinners : we all need to amend our ways and characters. We are told not to judge others but to leave all retribution to God (apart from the Justice of the State), against whom sins are committed. We are particularly not to surmise someone's fate on the Last Day as there is such as thing as repentance. We are also taught to be as "wise as serpents": not to be naive about the reality of evil.
On the whole, if the first set of traits is not apparent, on closer inspection this person will not prove to be someone fit to lead any kind of body or organisation. Under their command, that body will start to fall apart.
If they do not repent in time, they will not belong to Christ on the Last Day.