There is a huge difference between a real flower and a silk one, even though they may look very, very similar. Purple Iris, original watercolor by Steve Henderson.

This really shouldn’t come as a surprise to any of us, but just because somebody announces that he is a Christian, doesn’t mean that he’s telling the truth.

And yet, this maxim is obviously not getting through to the general Christian populace, because there are a lot of people out there loudly announcing their Christianity, making a bit of money along the way as they do it, and not being challenged because there are wormy apples growing on what they assure us is a healthy, vibrant peach tree.

“Watch out for false prophets,” Jesus tells us in Matthew 7:15 – 17:

“They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.”

Even if you’re an extremely urban person who thinks that fruit somehow magically appears in packaged, roll-up form, Jesus’ analogy is one that can save us a lot of angst, and money, by keeping our debit card in our wallets before we toss funds at people who say they are doing Christ’s work, but really aren’t.

Follow the Money

And come to think of it, money is one of the major elements to keep in mind when you start questioning the spiritual validity of a person’s message. Recently, a friend of mine shared about a new Exciting Christian Person she had discovered, who had this Exciting Christian Message.

From what I could tell, the central message of the Exciting Christian Person was multifold:

1) We should love and embrace ourselves.

2) We can get anything we want or need through the Power of Christ.

3) Most of us don’t know how to tap into this power.

4) By purchasing the Exciting Christian Person’s books and other resources, we can discover how to tap into this power.

Ask Yourself Questions

Is God glorified? That’s the primary question when you determine the motives of others. Opalescent Sea, original oil painting by Steve Henderson; licensed open edition print at Great Big Canvas.

Now when I evaluate a purported Christian’s message, I run it through this major filter:

Is God glorified? because if you read the Bible on even an itinerant basis, you quickly grasp that God is NOT big on glory being given to anyone else but Him. So with this in mind, let’s look at sentences 1 – 4, above:

1) While self-acceptance is an issue in this culture, it is not one of the major, or even minor, commandments: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind,” Jesus says in Matthew 22: 37. “This is the first and greatest commandment.”

I don’t mean to be a spoiler here or anything, but the second greatest commandment is not, “Focus on loving yourself.” (Accepting ourselves, by the way, is important; it’s just not achieved by placing ourselves first.)

2) God is our Father, not Big Daddy. Yes, there are verses about answers to prayer; there are also verses about hardship and pain. They go together somehow.

There Are No Secrets

3) “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” (Matthew 7: 7) Oh, and wait. God is not obligated to answer our demands in our time frame and expectation level, and anybody who tells you that he knows how to “get” or “make” God do what He’s told, isn’t paying attention to the stories of Abraham, or Job, or Moses. Jesus Himself had a pretty major prayer in Gethsemane — “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me,” which wasn’t complete without the rest of the sentence, “Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

There is no “secret” way to pray to ensure that you achieve wealth, fame, power, healing, or material blessings.

4) While it’s fine to sell books and resources, when the message of those resources is, “You need my unique, specialized knowledge to get ahead,” walk away, brew a pot of tea, and sit with the kitty for awhile. She has more spiritual insight for you than this person does.

If you’re going to spend time, and possibly money, following a person who purports to speak for Christ, then make sure that their words do, indeed, mirror those of Jesus, who came down from heaven, not to do His own will, but the will of His Father.

Thank you for joining me on Commonsense Christianity, and please feel free to leave a comment — I love hearing from you. I post articles three times a week, during the week, and I invite you to subscribe to Commonsense Christianity on the top right of the menu bar.

Posts related to this article are

Praying: How Specific Must We Be?

Christian Leadership and Ordinary People

 

 

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