Counterfeit Christ/Counterfeit Christianity - 2011-05-15

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    Counterfeit ChristianityMay 15, 2011

    John 20:19-31 Acts 2:14a, 22-32 1 Peter 1:3-9

    There is a well-known saying that reminds us that you get what you pay for. Most often what this means isthat if something seems too inexpensive, then there is probably a good reason that it costs less than youwould 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 youend 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 lookalmost exactly like a higher quality one. When this happens, we often refer to these cheap goods as

    counterfeits or knock-offs. 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 producecounterfeit 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 10:1-10, Jesus warns that there are otherswho will masquerade as something that they are not

    1 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. 2 The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 Thegatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and

    leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him

    because they know his voice. 5 But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from himbecause they do not recognize a strangers voice. 6 Jesus used this figure of speech, but the Pharisees did

    not understand what he was telling them.

    7 Therefore Jesus said again, Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. 8 All who have come before

    me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. 9 I am the gate; whoever enters throughme will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10 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 Israeland 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 neverdescribe 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 wemust 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

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    offer salvation and rescue but none of them were real, only cheap knock-offs and counterfeits. Genuinesheep 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 wordsregarding 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 arelikely 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 Acts2:42-47, we hear this description of genuine sheep

    42 They devoted themselves to the apostles teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to

    prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the

    believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give toanyone who had need. 46Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in

    their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47praising 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, tospending 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 (1 Peter 2:13-25)

    13 Submit yourselves for the Lords sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme

    authority, 14 or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those whodo right. 15 For it is Gods will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. 16

    Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as Gods slaves. 17 Show proper

    respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.

    18 Slaves, in reverent fear of God submit yourselves to your masters, not only to those who are good andconsiderate, but also to those who are harsh. 19 For it is commendable if someone bears up under the pain of

    unjust suffering because they are conscious of God. 20 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 beforeGod. 21 To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should

    follow in his steps.

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

    23 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. 24 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. 25 For you were like

    sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

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    Peter calls upon the followers of Jesus to be obedient, not only to the church and scripture and to theteachings of Jesus, but also to those in authority over us in all levels of government. This obedience is all a

    part ofdoing 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 demonstrationsthat 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 peopleof 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 sufferunjustly. Peter says that this sort of behavior is commendable befor

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