Counterfeit Christ/Counterfeit Christianity - 2011-05-15 Counterfeit ChristianityMay

Counterfeit Christianity

May , John Acts a, Peter

There is a wellknown saying that reminds us that you get what you pay for. Most often what this means is that if something seems too inexpensive, then there is probably a good reason that it costs less than you would typically expect. Often unexpectedly inexpensive goods are cheap because they are, well cheap. Bargain priced goodies often are less expensive because they are cheaply made using inferior materials. You pay less in the short run but because they break or wear out sooner than expected, if they work at all, and you end up paying more in the long run. You find this sort of thing everywhere. You can get cheap tools at places like Harbor Freight and they last for a while, but if you use them regularly, even daily as a part of your job, then it makes much more sense to buy top quality tools that will hold up to that kind of wear and tear. Where the trouble starts is when unscrupulous manufacturers and dealers produce cheap products that look almost exactly like a higher quality one. When this happens, we often refer to these cheap goods as counterfeits or knockoffs. The U.S. Trade Commission spends millions of dollars each year to prevent counterfeit goods from entering our country. We find knockoffs everywhere there are folks that produce counterfeit designer purses, fake tools, counterfeit Christmas lights, appliances, cell phones, televisions, shoes, cameras, millions of CDs , DVDs and many more. An even bigger danger is when we put our trust in leaders who claim to be something that they are not. In John , Jesus warns that there are others who will masquerade as something that they are not

Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a strangers voice. Jesus used this figure of speech, but the Pharisees did not understand what he was telling them. Therefore Jesus said again, Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. I am the gate whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. Simply put, sheep know their shepherd. Jesus is telling the Pharisees, and warning the rest of us, that there are many who would try to take the place of the real shepherd. Obviously, anyone who climbs over the fence instead of coming through the gate is a fraud but real sheep know shepherd to which they belong. In Israel and in the Middle East it is still common for sheep from several flocks to be kept together at night. In the morning the gate is opened and a shepherd will call to his sheep and only those that belong to him will follow him. Patti and I owned two sheep for nearly a year until they were killed by coyotes. While I would never describe myself as a real shepherd, each evening Patti or I would open the barn door and call them and they would run to their stall for the night. If anyone else called them, they would stay in the pasture or perhaps move farther away. They knew very well the voices of the ones who cared for them. Jesus goes on to say that he is not only the good shepherd, but that he is the gate, the path through which we must pass, in order to enter into Gods eternal kingdom. What is worse, Jesus tell us, is that there have been others who have claimed to be the redeemer of Gods people. There have been others who have claimed to

offer salvation and rescue but none of them were real, only cheap knockoffs and counterfeits. Genuine sheep follow the genuine shepherd. For each of us who believe that we belong to Jesus Christ, we need to learn as much as we can about him so that we are not fooled by cheap imitations. Throughout history there have been charismatic leaders who have attempted to lead Gods sheep astray. We find evidence of this in the Old Testament, in Jesus words regarding the Pharisees and in the history of the church from then until now. Our best defense is to know Jesus and the sound of his voice so well, that we will not be confused by people who are attempting to create a counterfeit Jesus. If we use a counterfeit tool, or waste out money on a cheap knockoff tennis shoe, we are likely to get hurt or end up paying more in the long run. If we follow a counterfeit Jesus, we will ourselves become counterfeit Christians that no longer look and act the way that genuine followers should. In Acts , we hear this description of genuine sheep They devoted themselves to the apostles teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. In this passage we hear several characteristics that we can model in our own lives. These followers of Jesus Christ have devoted themselves to the teaching of Jesus and the apostles, they are devoted to fellowship, to spending time together with the people of God, to sharing meals together and they are devoted to prayer. In addition, they are known for sharing with one another and for their compassion for those in need. In his letter to the churches in Asia, Peter also reminds us of two more important characteristics of genuine sheep Peter

Submit yourselves for the Lords sake to every human authority whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is Gods will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a coverup for evil live as Gods slaves. Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor. Slaves, in reverent fear of God submit yourselves to your masters, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh. For it is commendable if someone bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because they are conscious of God. But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.

He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.

When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness by his wounds you have been healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

Peter calls upon the followers of Jesus to be obedient, not only to the church and scripture and to the teachings of Jesus, but also to those in authority over us in all levels of government. This obedience is all a part of doing good and Peter tells us that it is Gods will that by doing good Gods people will stop the spread of rumors by those who would seek to do us harm. Have you seen or heard about the demonstrations that are staged by the Westboro Baptist Church Members of this church travel around the country staging patently offensive protests against homosexuals and against our government at parades and during military funerals for fallen service members. Frankly, these folks are an embarrassment to themselves, to the people of God and to Jesus Christ. This is obviously an extreme case, but Gods people should not be known for stirring up trouble or being agents of hatred and mistrust. Instead, we should submit ourselves to authority wherever that authority does not command us to violate our faith so that the people of God are known for doing good and for seeking justice. This principle of submission in order to do good is so important, that Peter goes on to say that even slaves who serve harsh and inconsiderate masters should reverently submit to them and bear up under the suffering that they cause. Our consciousness of God will, or should, cause us to do good even when we suffer unjustly. Peter says that this sort of behavior is commendable before God, that we have been called to do this because Jesus Christ suffered for us and as an example to us. Jesus own words tell us that thieves and robbers will try to lead his sheep astray but that they can only enter into heaven through him. There have been and there will be pastors and church leaders who will try to transform Jesus into someone that he is not and say things that he never said. As his followers, we must do all that we can to know his voice, to read and study the word of God so that we cannot be tricked into listening to a false shepherd. It is said that the men and women in our Treasury Department who are experts at identifying forgeries and counterfeits do not study ways that money can be forged and counterfeited but instead spend their time studying every detail of what is genuine so that they can quickly notice when something is in error. This is how we must be, constantly studying every detail of the genuine words of Jesus and of scripture so that we will not be led astray by thieves and robbers who seek to profit themselves at our expense, who wish to do harm to the church, or who simply wish to reshape the church into a form that suits them rather than into the form that is taught in the word of God. This is how we must be so that we will not be fooled and led astray by cheap knockoffs who are selling a counterfeit Christianity. It is only by knowing and following the genuine shepherd that we will become genuine sheep. Today, and every day, we must ask ourselves How am I learning to recognize the voice of the one true shepherd

You have been reading a message presented at Barnesville First United Methodist Church on the date noted at the top of the first page. Rev. John Partridge is the pastor of Barnesville First. Duplication of this message is a part of our Media ministry, if you have received a blessing in this way, we would love to hear from you. Letters and donations in support of the Media ministry or any of our other projects may be sent to Barnesville First UMC at W. Church St., Barnesville, OH . These messages are available to any interested persons regardless of membership. You may subscribe to these messages, in print or electronic formats, by writing to the address noted, or by contacting us at subscribebarnesvillefirst.com. If you have questions, you can ask them in our discussion forum on Facebook search for Pastor John Online. These messages can also be found online at http//www.scribd.com/Pastor John Partridge and audio podcasts at http//www.sermoncloud.com/ type the church name in the search box. All Scripture references are from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.

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