"Don’t take any wooden nickels!" That’s the way they used to say it in the old days, when some people did actually make wooden imitations of nickels to pass as counterfeit money, thus the saying, which today if used at all, simply means: “don’t be fooled.” The Scriptures say: “Be not deceived,” and if you think about it, the obvious implication is that we CAN be deceived and we need to be on our guard. Each of us needs to remember this, because it has ever been the strategy of Satan to produce counterfeits of the true faith and counterfeits of the true servants of the Lord. Our Lord Jesus said that he is “a liar and the father of lies,” and a counterfeit is just that, be it money or people or doctrines; it is a lie pretending to be the real thing.
Today more than ever we need to obey the exhortation to “prove all things, hold fast that which is good” (I Thess. 5:21). Yet many who call themselves Christians have never put anything they believe or do to the test. They follow tradition, sentiment, others, but not the Word. Let us not forget that Satan, in his determination to corrupt and ruin what is good, is the master of subtlety and deception. He is not a blundering novice, but a seasoned professional, and inveterate enemy of truth. As many who profess to be Christians follow the course of the age, the wisdom of the world, becoming less discerning and more susceptible to his wiles. In our times there is increased emphasis on personal liberty, individualism, pleasure, worldly comfort and success, and a corresponding loss of interest in spiritual things. One of the dangerous results is reduced skill and discernment in personal Bible study. Beware, this plays right into the enemy’s hands! Friend, you could be deceived! Yes, simple people like ourselves, in simple Christ-honoring New Testament assemblies, can be deceived if we are not careful. Just think of the way the Bible speaks of false things:
False gods: Isaiah 44:9-20
False Christs: Matt.24:23-24; 1 John 2:18
False Apostles: 2 Cor. 11:13; Rev. 2:2
False Prophets: Deut. 13:1-5; Is. 8:19-20, 30:10; Jer. 23:9-40; Ezek. 13:16-23; Matt. 7:15; 24:11,24; 2 Peter 2:1-3; 1 John 4:1, Rev. 2:20
False Evangelists: Acts 15:1; 2 Cor. 11:4; Gal. 1:6-9
False Workers: Matt. 7:21-23; 2 Cor.11:13-15;
False Teachers: 1 Tim. 4:1-5; 6:3-5; 2 Peter 2:1; Jude 4; Rev. 2:14-15
False Pastors: Ezek. 34:1-10
False Elders: Acts 20:30
False Brethren: 2 Cor. 11:26; Gal. 2:4
False Doctrine: Rom. 16:17; Eph. 4:14; 2 Tim. 4:3-4; 2 Jn. 9-10
False Professions: Matt. 7:21-23; Titus 1:16; 1 Jn. 2:3-6; 4:20
What an array of deception! As we reach the end of the age and lawlessness abounds more and more, we also see the prophetic word of the Apostle Paul coming to us with freshness and power, for he warned us as he wrote to Timothy: “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of demons” (1 Tim. 4:1), and again, “This know also, that In the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous boasters, proud, blasphemers..having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away” (2 Tim. 3:1-5) and again, “the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables” (2 Tim. 4:3-4). These are serious warnings, that should cause is to watch and pray. Trouble is, many traditional church-goers have difficulty thinking THEY could be deceived, which is what makes them prime targets!
Alas! The trouble with us is, apparently many of us don’t seem to think that any such thing could happen in OUR congregation. Well, for that very reason it CAN happen, and it IS happening in many places. We are increasingly unlike the Bereans who searched the Scriptures daily to see if those things were so (Acts 17:11). Many are more conversant in news and sports than in the things of God. Many have fallen for the idea of “being accepting”, or “tolerant”, as if it were a virtue instead of obeying the apostolic exhortation, “PROVE all things, hold fast that which is GOOD.” So, friend, could you prove from the Scriptures your religious beliefs and practices, or is your best defense: “we’ve always been members of this church”?
That’s God’s criteria, clearly stated in the Scriptures. What’s yours? Do you study your Bible daily? Do you spend more time watching TV or listening to the radio than you do reading the Bible each day? Do you know CNN better than the minor prophets? Do you prove all things, and do you even know how to do so using the Bible? Do you know WHY you believe that things are true? Can you give sound Scriptural explanations, or are you one of those who says, “I have my own personal convictions”. We are not called to have personal, individualistic convictions, but to BELIEVE GOD! Yes, we should be personally convicted by His Word, but not have “custom” or “tailor-made” beliefs. The Scriptures tell us to “be of one mind,” and God’s Word defines what that one mind is, not a creed or confession, but: “we have the mind of Christ”. Nothing is said about reciting the creed each Sunday, as if that made people orthodox! Creeds were made by men, but “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect, completely furnished for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17). Are you one of those who takes refuge in saying, “In my church we do this,” or “The preacher says so-and-so,” or do you know what the Scriptures say? We should be taught by the gifted men the Lord gives the Church (Eph. 4:11-12), however, our part is not just to attend meetings, but rather to follow attentively along, take notes, come and ask questions, go home and search out the references in the Bible and study them and KNOW what is good and therefore KNOW what to hold fast to!
Ours is an age full of deceit and of shallow reasoning that uses orthodox words without going any deeper than the words themselves. Things are not going to get better, but worse. “In the last days evil men and seducers [lit. “wizards”] shall wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived” (2 Tim. 3:13). Don’t be a shallow head nodder. Don’t be so easily satisfied by what sounds more or less correct, dear reader, nor should you be offended because of this exhortation! Listen carefully to what is taught. Search the Scriptures, look up the texts and read them carefully. Read the Bible through on your own, cover to cover [4 chapters a day, 2 in the morning and 2 in the evening, will get you through in less than a year]. Turn off the T.V. and the VCR and open the Bible. Read, meditate, study God’s Word. Get down on your knees and pray, asking the Lord for wisdom and discernment (Prov. 2). Don’t let yourself be impressed by men’s theological titles, position, name or fame. Be a person of the BOOK! Pray, search the Scriptures, think them through, believe them implicitly. Don’t take any wooden nickels!