Study to Stay Steady

How to Identify Counterfeits

Do a quick internet search for “how to identify counterfeits” and one fact becomes abundantly clear… there a lot of counterfeits out there.

  1. Money
  2. Food
  3. Textbooks
  4. Bags
  5. Watches
  6. Cameras

Counterfeits are usually a much lower quality and don’t last as long as the authentic item, and they simply do not live up to the value of the original item over the long term.

When you want to purchase an authentic item, awareness of counterfeits is important along with a good knowledge of the original. You could also learn different anti-counterfeit measures unique to each item.

All approaches for identifying counterfeits stem from the original product. In other words, the ability to identify a counterfeit is based on knowledge of the authentic.

This holds true in religion too. Counterfeits continually work to distract and pull people away from the authentic doctrine found in the Bible. I don’t know if I could tell a difference between a genuine designer bag and a knockoff, and I’m not sure I care all that much. I do know, however, that I want the truth on which I base my eternity to be authentic.

Discerning False Doctrine

Early church leaders wanted to be sure of the same thing. They wanted people to be aware of the existence of fake Gospels — of false doctrine — so they could base their lives and their eternities on the truth of the Gospel of Christ alone. As a result, the church leaders taught about the difference between counterfeits and the authentic gospel frequently.

What Paul and the other apostles taught those in the early church about false doctrine holds true for us still today. Let’s look at a few of those points to help us discern the real Gospel from any of the many fakes rampant still today. Notice that the approach stems from knowledge of the authentic Gospel of Christ as taught in the Bible.

Any teaching and any person sincerely professing true doctrine — that found in the Bible will consistently do the following:

  1. Acknowledge Jesus as Lord and Savior. (1 John 4:2)
  2. Bear good fruit. (Matthew 7:16)
  3. Have words and actions that complement each other & Scripture. (Titus 1:16)
  4. Are consistent in what they preach and practice. (1 Timothy 1:18-20)
  5. Only preach Christ crucified. (Galatians 1:8-9)

Together — along with the activity of the Holy Spirit — these points help believers know false doctrine when they see and hear it. Yet, knowing doesn’t always keep deception at bay. Without a systematic and consistent approach to studying doctrine, even the most dedicated Christian can (and has) fallen prey to false doctrine that goes against what the Bible teaches.

Study to Stay Steady

Talk to people who were once dedicated to living the Bible and the Gospel it teaches and who have since fallen away from that lifestyle and their beliefs, and you’ll find at least one consistent thread within every case… a neglect of Bible study.

Any Christian, no matter how long they’ve been a believer, must study to stay steady. They must maintain a consistent habit of Bible study throughout their lifetime in order to avoid wandering away from the true Gospel.

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)

“And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the statue of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting.” (Ephesians 4:14)

Diligence in studying Scripture is key to the maturity of faith. It’s crucial for steadiness and for staying focused on the authentic Gospel. If you think you can avoid false doctrine by willpower alone, you’re deceiving yourself. Only by knowing the authentic Gospel as taught in Scripture can a person remain steady in Godly character and growing in faith.

For more on this topic, read What is false doctrine? Found at GotQuestions.org.

Reset. Focus. Prioritize. Encourage.

Reset

When anyone’s cell phone seems to “glitch” as my oldest son calls it, my husband immediately says, “Did you turn it off and back on?” He knows that will reset the phone and usually result in a return to normal functioning.

In computer terms, a reset clears pending errors or events and brings a system to a normal or initial state condition, usually in a controlled manner. (Reset (Computing), Wikipedia)

Recently, I found myself reviewing the basics in every area of my life. A significant life trial has turned me back to the foundations of my operating system. I can’t exactly turn my whole life off and then back on again, but I can return to the basics in a way that sort of works like a system reset.

Focus

Every trial over the past 7 years has brought me back to a truth the Holy Spirit revealed to me when I entered what I call the beginning of the end of depression’s hold in my life.

“Do not remember the former things, or ponder the things of the past. Listen carefully, I am about to do a new thing, now it will spring forth; will you not be aware of it? I will even put a road in the wilderness, rivers in the desert.” (Isaiah 43:18-19)

This verse serves to refocus me on what God is doing and is going to do. Yes, we need to remember what He’s done for us, but only in a way that reminds us of what He will do for us.

Prioritize

When life gets overwhelming (busyness, concern for loved ones, hard times financially, etc.) the basics provide stability. They exist as automatic priorities that can remain consistent even when all else seems unstable and falling apart.

For me, prioritizing involves letting three simple truths keep my mindset focused on what God desires.

As God reminds me of the power I am yet to see Him display, I return to these truths knowing they are guiding principles to give my life stability. All the details of my life flow through these basics.

Encourage

Let the basics guide and direct you. They provide a foundation on which you can build and move forward, and they can encourage you when you feel defeated. The basics provide a system reset that might not erase the trials you need to endure, but they will allow you to operate from a place of stability.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)

Even though I don’t fully understand why these basics serve to encourage me so much, especially during really tough trials, I choose to trust in the future God has planned.

Because he has faithfully brought me through so many trials already, I know he will do so again. Because he has done the impossible over and over again in my life, I wait for the impossible to spring forth again.

Judging Others

5-23-13 fingers

Recently, an exchange student staying with a family in my church asked if he could speak in front of our adult Sunday school class as part of a requirement for his exchange program. At first, I hesitated because this student is a Muslim.

As we further discussed the possibility, he explained that his requirement was to talk about how he would make the world a better place, and he chose to speak about judging others. He wanted to talk about how people too often judge others based on one small group rather than by getting to know individuals. For example, most Americans – including many Christians – judge Muslims based on what they have seen on television, and this provides not only a very limited picture but a significantly inaccurate one too.

This student from Azerbaijan was absolutely right. The way many of us judge others results in disunity not only between individuals but also between religions and cultures.

Unfortunately, what many people think of when the opportunity to judge another or to be judged comes up is that we aren’t supposed to do it. At all. In fact, many people – Christians and non-Christians alike – use Matthew 7:1 to say that we should avoid judging others altogether.

“Do not judge so that you will not be judged.” (Matthew 7:1)

But a closer look at not only at that scripture but also at the many others that address this topic shows that the Bible does not say that we are NEVER to judge.

What does it mean to pass judgment or to judge something or someone?

To judge means to go through a process of evaluation, to hear evidence, in order to form an opinion. Judging should be evidence of seeking truth. When we make a judgment, we are making a careful guess that hopefully leads to a logical conclusion based on as much fact as possible. Judgment, really, ends up just being a careful guess, since rarely can 100% of the facts be fully known.  In scripture, judgment takes the form of discernment, examination, evaluation and admonishing.

Common sense tells us that judging must be a part of human civilization. Think what civilization would be like if it lacked judgment of criminals in courts, tests in schools and winners in competitions. Common sense also tells us that the context of the situation is crucial. Take the judgment of murder in court where the situation or context determines the type of judgment such as premeditated or accidental.

We know from Scripture that God is the Judge of all (Genesis 18:25; Judges 11:27; I Samuel 2:10Psalms 50:6; Psalms 96:13; Psalms 98:9; Isaiah 3:13; Isaiah 33:22; Jeremiah 11:20; Ezekiel 18:30; Ezekiel 33:20; Hebrews 12:23; I Peter 1:17; Matthew 12:27). We also know that God is set in position as our Judge because He is all-knowing, He is Truth, and His judgments are righteous and true (John 8:26; Romans 11:33; Revelation 16:7; Revelation 19:2).

But even though God IS the Judge of ALL, that doesn’t mean we never judge. In fact, scripture is filled with instructions on how WE are to judge.5-23-13 gavel

THE PROBLEM comes when we base judgments on fears, pride, ignorance and stereotypes instead of on truth. For example, when we judge a whole group of people based solely on one individual or even small group. Even worse, when we judge based on extreme positions of a small number of people from a group.

What does the Bible says about passing judgment? While it says a lot more than this, here are some of the main ideas we must know before we even consider passing a judgment.

  1. Don’t be hypocritical. (Matthew 7)
  2. Don’t be legalistic. (Mathew 7)
  3. Don’t judge by appearances. (1 Samuel 16:7; John 7:24)
  4. Judge based on truth. (2 Timothy 3:16-17; John 17:17)
  5. Judge yourself first. (1 Corinthians 11:32-32; 2 Corinthians 13:5; 1 Timothy 4:16)

Until we know what scripture says about these and other areas, we have no business evaluating another person. If we fail to apply God’s truth when we do pass judgment, we become a part of the problem.

Finally, and most importantly, the command to “do everything in love” must dominate all of our judgments.

“Above all, love each other deeply because love covers over a multitude of sin.” (1 Peter 4:8)

“Be on guard. Stand true to what you believe. Be courageous. Be strong. And everything you do must be done with love.” (1 Corinthians 16:13-14)

When we love each other deeply, perhaps we will judge less because more sin is “covered.” Maybe if we know what we believe and WHY we believe it, we will find that all of what we do will be done more naturally in love.

DISCUSSION: What is your response to people when they quote Mathew 7:1 out of context?

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