"Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world."1
A Daily Encounter reader asks, "How can you tell if a preacher is a fake-healer, or if a Christian is not for real?
Les Nixon shares how "at one time there was a Charlie Chaplin look-a-like contest being held and, always the practical joker, the real Chaplin decided he would enter. After deliberating long and hard, the judges unwittingly awarded Chaplin the third prize behind two impostors." So you often can't tell the fake from the real by outward appearances.
Pharisees were the religious elite of Jesus' day. They knew the Bible cover to cover; that is, the Law and the Prophets (the Old Testament) as the New Testament hadn't been written then. They knew their doctrinal teachings by heart. They had all the outward trappings of religiosity . . . but for many of them it was an outward show. Furthermore, they loved their doctrines more than they loved people and used them to control people. Jesus not only knew the same Scriptures, but he was real and saw through these religious play-actors—and didn't mince words with them regarding their phoniness.
Sad to say, there is no shortage today of play-acting teachers, phony religious leaders, counterfeit Christians, and those who love their religion more than they love people—and use their religion to control people. In some countries some even use their religion to force people to convert to their religion and torture or kill those who fail to convert.
So how can we tell the false from the real?
Mary Jackson-Medrek, another Daily Encounter reader, said, "I work in a bank and one time I was reading about counterfeit bills (notes). The story said that FBI agents don't study counterfeit bills to learn how to spot one. They study real bills and know them so well that they can spot a phony a mile away. That's what we should do as Christians. Study God's word so that if we hear something that isn't right we can spot it immediately!"
Like Jesus, we also need to be real ourselves, know the Scriptures, and know what a real Christian is so well that we will also be able to spot a phony a mile away.
"Beware of false prophets,' Jesus warned, "who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves."2
Suggested prayer: "Dear God, please give me a love for and an understanding of Your Word so that I will learn and always know Your Truth. Also, please help me to be real and so like Jesus that I will be able to 'spot a phony a mile away'—and never become one. Thank You for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus' name, amen."
1. 1 John 4:1 (NIV).
2. Matthew 7:15 (NKJV).