April 16, 1996
Modern pirates are not sailing the high seas in search of booty, instead they are filling their treasure chests with profits from the sale of plastic disks full of stolen information.
Pirated computer software is big business. Copyright laws have not prevented hackers from reproducing codes off entire commercial product lines. Then they crank out millions of authentic-looking copies and sell them all over the world as if they were originals.
Quality has always invited duplication. Swiss watches are the cliché imitation but copyists mimic every product that sells well, from soft drinks to mink coats. As for religion, for generations, the teaching and teachers of the Bible have been imitated.
In Old Testament times, false prophets sometimes outnumbered true men of God. Elijah was so disgusted with phony prophets that he challenged 850 of them to a contest. This led to a spectacular demonstration of the power of God. To show who was real and who was fake, God ignored the false prophets, but sent fire from heaven that consumed the water-soaked sacrifice offered by Elijah.
In the New Testament, Jesus warned His disciples that many would come claiming to be Christ. He called them wolves in sheep’s clothing. True to His warning, the first Century church discovered imitators in their midst. Since then, Christians have been warned to be alert to fakes but also alert to our own faith. We need to be certain we ourselves are genuine.
The Apostle John gave some guidelines to identify true believers. For one thing, authentic faith produces an authentic change in lifestyle. He writes, “If we claim to have fellowship with Him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, His Son, purifies us from all sin.”
Whatever faith one claims to have, the biblical test is “walking in light” or being obedient to God’s will. People who trust God are willing to do what He says. A renewed attitude toward God and disgust with sin produces a like-mindedness with other believers. We enjoy being together in spiritual fellowship. John says phonies may join us but will not stay with us. They do not think the same way.
Biblical faith and walking in light are not the same as being perfect. Even genuine Christians make mistakes. However, as we confess our sin and strive to be obedient, God produces increasing purity. John says, if none of this is happening, we ought to question if we really are Christians. “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
Fakes cannot produce godliness because only Christ can produce Christlikeness. That is why John says, “God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may KNOW that you have eternal life.”
Phonies may duplicate the classic look of the real thing but like pirated software or a fake Swiss watch, they look good only on the outside. The true test of authenticity is not labels or claims but rather a lifetime change of mind and performance.