Real or Fake?

Real or Fake?

Jan 25, 2017

By Rev. Donald Chroniger

SDB Church of Shiloh, NJ

Are you able to tell if something is real or if something is fake?

That is the question. With what is happening inour country today, can you really tell what is the truth and what is a lie — the real or the fake? In our world today we have things that are counterfeit…like clothing. I saw, not too long ago, there was a knock-off pair of Levi jeans over in Russia. It was just a copy — it wasn’t the real Levi, it was fake. We also get that with music online — you steal a copy of the music online and use it, copying it over and over again without paying the royalties for it to iTunes. How do you tell the real from the fake? Is it just a copy or the original?

The parable of the wheat and the weeds

Jesus told a parable about the wheat and the tares. Jesus said there was an owner of a field and he planted good seed into the field. It was starting to grow and someone stuck some other plants (we would call them weeds) among the wheat. The one who was watching over the crop went to the owner of the field and asked what he should do. Because quite frankly, the wheat and the weeds look alike. So, should he go through and pull up the weeds? The owner said, “Let the two grow together.” (In certain parts of the Middle East, tares or weeds really do look the same as the wheat. They look the same color, and the heads and texture make it hard to tell them apart. So you would never know if you try to take the weeds out before the harvest comes that you may be pulling the wheat out by mistake.) “When the harvest comes, we will separate the weeds from the wheat. We will gather the wheat into barns and the weeds we will burn.” Jesus said, “That will be the same as at the end of the age.” When Jesus comes there will be a separation of the real and the fake.

Matthew 7: 15-23 (NIV)

15 Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16 By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? 17 Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. 21 Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?” 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

Spiritual but not Religious

You have heard the phrase, “I am spiritual but not religious.” What do people mean when they use this phrase? Do they mean that their highest value is what they feel? Is it a rebellion — anti-big, anti-discipline, anti-everything? Their highest priority and value of what they feel — everything — becomes relative. Every truth is relative. “It is my truth: I am spiritual.” Then they go out into the world and start a smorgasbord of “spiritual ideas.” They take a little of Yoga, a little Zen, maybe some Tao, some Kabala. They take wonderful quotes, “spiritual quotes,” even quotes from the Old and New Testaments — but they never take the time to study the Scripture, or the source of the quotation, or read what is really being espoused. Why? Because it is what “I feel” that matters.

To say, “I am spiritual and not religious,” also reflects the “ME” generation and being self-absorbed. Truth becomes what I feel and how it affects me. When historic or intuitional demands on behavior are added to the observance of rules, then all of it is thrown out and replaced with absolutely nothing. It’s just how I am feeling! These are the people who ended up in the “New Age” stuff, the eastern religions, the Asian culture which came into our country, and the influence of such groups as the Beatles and the Mahtani Yogi. Paul said to Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:3 [NIV] “For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.”

As in the time of Jesus, this is happening in our culture today. People still say: “I’m a spiritual person. I only want to hear what I want to hear and what makes me feel good. I can be who I feel I am. This is who I am.”

False Christ — False Prophets

Jesus said that there will be individuals who will come like “wolves in sheep’s clothing.” Speaking of the end of time, Jesus said in Matthew 24:24 [NIV], “For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.”

Phony, not real, no basis in the reality of the God who created them: these are the false prophets who will come and point us in the wrong direction. Jesus spoke directly to the Pharisees: Matthew 23:23-29 (NIV)

23 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices — mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law — justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. 24 You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel. 25 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean. 27 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. 28 In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness. 29 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous.”

It is about putting on airs on the outside appearance but inwardly being empty and dead — the outside looks good but the inside is dirty! This is what false teachers do — they look good on the outside but the inside is one big lie. This is what we are called to look at. God forbid that we are like that — that we put on a show. We come to worship and it has nothing to do with our hearts. Jesus is saying take care of the inside and the outside will be taken care of: your behavior will change and your attitude will change when your inside relationship is clean.

Before these false prophets showed up on the scene, the Old Testament Law pointed out specific things that a false prophet will do. How do you know a false prophet is on the scene — even when doing miracles?

Are you able to tell if something is real or if something is fake?

Deuteronomy 131-5 (NIV)

1 If a prophet, or one who foretells by dreams, appears among you and announces to you a sign or wonder, 2 and if the sign or wonder spoken of takes place, and the prophet says, “Let us follow other gods” (gods you have not known) “and let us worship them,” 3 you must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer. The LORD your God is testing you to find out whether you love him with all your heart and with all your soul. 4 It is the LORD your God you must follow, and him you must revere. Keep his commands and obey him; serve him and hold fast to him. 5 That prophet or dreamer must be put to death for inciting rebellion against the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt and redeemed you from the land of slavery. That prophet or dreamer tried to turn you from the way the LORD your God commanded you to follow. You must purge the evil from among you.

• A False Prophet’s predictions will not be 100% true in fulfillment and cannot be manipulated to be true. Every prophecy of the coming of Messiah Jesus has been fulfilled and was 100% accurate. False prophets will guess, and they will try to do things to get one to believe — but they will not be 100% accurate.

• A False Prophet will say, “Go after other gods.” The Galatians had this problem and Paul writes in Galatians 1:6-9 NIV: 6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel 7 which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! 9 As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse! In other words, this prophet would try to turn the individual away from the Lord, away from Jesus and point to something else. I know sometimes that money, power, and position are being preached and in the end the individual turns away from God (who is really Jesus both in the Crucifixion and the Resurrection).

• A False Prophet will do the supernatural. He will do wonders and occult techniques in order to turn the individual to someone other then Jesus. The supernatural doesn’t necessarily have to do with a relationship with Jesus. There is also the other side (demonic) that is being used. It is all to lead someone away from God.

• A False Prophet is rebellious and unrepentant. He is teaching rebellion against God. Even if you confront false prophets about their sin of leading people away from God, they would remain unchanged. These individuals have been around since Jesus died and rose again. Throughout church history there have always been individuals who try to lead people astray using supernatural things. There is going to come a time when each individual will come and stand before God.

Matthew 7:21-23 [NIV]

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ [Look what we have done.] 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

That sounds harsh, doesn’t it? Look at all they say they did. Look at what they performed. They did miracles! They prophesied! They were great preachers! They said, “We did it! We did it in your name!” Jesus says, “I never knew you.”

The Real Relationship

These people were able to perform miracles without the character of Jesus in their lives. It’s about the relationship. That is what becomes deceptive. We recognize they are spiritual people and yet in the end, in their own hearts, there is not a relationship with Jesus. Jesus talks about a particular kind of tree and the production of a certain kind of fruit. A good tree produces good fruit and a bad tree produces bad fruit. It is not about the fruit; it is about the tree. It’s about character. There is not the character of Jesus being produced in their lives.

This is something to examine. Do you know the difference between the real and the fake? More and more these days, we better know what is real. When a person is real, his relationship with Jesus is producing the character of Jesus in him. You are born again, born from above, Jesus said. A person who is born from above is like the wind — you see what the wind is doing but you cannot see the wind. You see the change in a person that is born from above, but you can not quite figure out how the change happens. It is the Lord who changes the inside and transforms the heart so that the behavior will change. The character changes — therefore, the behavior changes . You change the heart — you change the behavior. We cannot change behavior by ourselves. We cannot do that in our hearts by ourselves. That is how we define the Grace of God. The Grace of God is the ability to live a life that we could not possibly live on our own. God gives us the ability to live differently, which we could not do on our own.

We better be aware of the real and the fake around us so that we will not be fake. I don’t want to be — and I hope you don’t want to be — like Jesus described the Pharisees: you look good on the outside but you’re dirty on the inside, like white-washed tombs. Clean the inside and then the outside will look beautiful. What are white-washed tombs? During festivals in Jerusalem, the outside of tombs would be painted so people could avoid stepping on or touching a tomb by mistake — be declared unclean. You white-wash the outside but it is dead inside. Take care of the inside, because it’s not about the white-wash. It’s the inside that needs to be cleansed. Change the heart. I believe if we move in that direction with our life with Jesus, we become more like the good tree and produce good fruit.

Finally, God has called us to be awake in our everyday life. He has called us to be aware of what messages we are taking in. Don’t put it on autopilot. Take it in and evaluate. Test the fruit and know it’s real.

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