May 28, 1996
A friend sent me an E-mail message with a grave warning. A new and extremely destructive computer virus, unlike all others, was being transferred through E-mail messages.
I believed the warning and, as instructed, sent notices to everyone on my E-mail list. The next day, two other friends, who know far more about these things than I do, kindly told me this virus is a hoax. It does not exist. Hastily, I sent retractions to everyone.
As a writer and teacher, checking sources is almost automatic, to make sure information is correct before passing it on to others. Almost automatic was not good enough this time. I simply believed my source without a second thought. Happily, no harm was done.
Gladly receiving and believing information without verifying it can make someone easy prey for unscrupulous sales gimmicks or just a hard sell. For that reason, our laws protect those who sign purchasing agreements by allowing three days to change their minds.
Some consider themselves shrewd by demanding visible proof before agreeing to anything. However, these days, visible “proof” has questionable value. For instance, computer-generated television commercials have realistic cars changing into realistic tigers and roosters gargling with mouthwash. A good graphics artist can make even the most outlandish ideas appear true.
In commercials, it may not always matter if the treatment is real or pretend, but there are situations when all information needs to be carefully verified. For instance, doctors will not prescribe drugs unless they had been thoroughly checked and rechecked. Grocers will not purchase products that claim to be food unless they are licenced and clearly labeled.
Spiritual claims also need careful examination. Some groups say, “Those who belong to us will live forever” or “Who needs Christ? Just live a good life and you will be okay.”
Unfortunately, neither statement square with what God says about eternal destiny. Since this is His habitation, His word on the matter is important.
Consider His great love: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
Consider our great need: “There is none righteous, no, not one.... For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.... the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Consider His solution: “Yet to all who received Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become the children of God.”
The good news or Gospel of the Bible is diametrically opposite to the notion that eternal life is something we can earn or deserve. Unfortunately, few understand that it is free and fewer still receive it for themselves. All could learn something from the people of ancient Berea.
When the Apostle Paul arrived there, his reputation for sound, persuasive preaching preceded him. He had successfully preached from the Scriptures in Thessalonica, “explaining and proving that the Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead.”
When he and his friends arrived in Berea, Paul began preaching in the local synagogue. The Bible says they “received the message with great eagerness....”
However, these people were not gullible victims of a slick presentation. The next line says, “the Bereans... examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.”
Even with Paul’s reputation, these people verified what he said, an attitude that is important for everyone. The gospel still sounds too good to be true — so check it out, be sure of what it says. Unlike computer viruses, God’s good news is not destructive and never a hoax.