HOW TO HAVE POWERFUL PRAYERS Did you know that there was a disciple named…
11. Counterfeit Christ
12. Nothing Wasted
29. Know Your Enemy
Have you ever heard of the book of Jude? Jude is a small book in the back of the Bible near the book of Revelation. Not only is this book an essential letter to the Church, but it also has an important author. Jude was the younger brother of Jesus. From what we know, Jude did not grow up believing that Jesus was the Messiah. But after Jesus was resurrected from the dead, he believed. If there is anyone that knows Jesus better than the disciples, it would be Jude.
Dear friends, I had been eagerly planning to write to you about the salvation we all share. But now I find that I must write about something else, urging you to defend the faith that God has entrusted once for all time to his holy people. I say this because some ungodly people have wormed their way into your churches, saying that God’s marvelous grace allows us to live immoral lives.
Jude wants the church to understand that some counterfeit Christians are worshipping a counterfeit God in the churches. If there is a counterfeit God, then that makes them counterfeit disciples. God wants to do nothing short of change your life. He wants to do nothing short of change other people’s lives through your life. If we live immoral lives, we’ll rob ourselves of the power God wants to do through us.
When I talk about the word counterfeit, I think of counterfeit money and counterfeit items. I was in Mexico a couple of years ago for vacation, and I found some counterfeit sunglasses, but the problem was that when I took off the glasses, the paint melted onto my face. You might think, “What’s the big deal if things are counterfeit?” Jude says it is a big deal, not just because you’re going to be left looking silly, but you’re going to be left looking completely different.
You resemble what you revere,
either for ruin or restoration.
-We Become What We Worship, by Greg Beale
I’ll say it this way; if you have the wrong picture of God in your mind, you’ll worship Him wrong. That’s going to make you a completely different disciple. You can worship idols in your life, success, money, and all the other things that the world elevates. You get your attention and affection going towards those things and making sacrifices for them; you’ll notice that it will start changing you. That’s why Jude says this is such a big deal because counterfeit Christians have wormed their way in. When we get our sights on the wrong god, we become the wrong kind of image bearers.
There are three different types of counterfeit gods that have wormed their way into churches. Let’s go through some red flags because maybe you don’t understand that this has wormed its way into your heart, but it can happen so quickly.
Red Flag #1: Because I am blessed, I am good.
Example: Santa Claus
We all love Santa Claus. We love the history of St. Nick and how he helped so many people. But we often begin to look at God like he’s Santa Claus. Has God ever felt far away, like he only visits once a year? Maybe you feel like God’s keeping a list of naughty or nice, and you’re trying to figure out which one you’re on. Have you ever thought that only when you’re getting presents that it means that God is happy with you? We can wind up thinking that the blessings in our life are evidence that we’re in the will of God or not. It’s possible for good things to still be happening in our lives and to mistake those good things for favor even when we aren’t living a life that would honor God.
For the Kingdom of Heaven is like the landowner who went out early one morning to hire workers for his vineyard. He agreed to pay the normal daily wage and sent them out to work.
At nine o’clock in the morning, he was passing through the marketplace and saw some people standing around doing nothing. So he hired them, telling them he would pay them whatever was right at the end of the day. So they went to work in the vineyard. At noon and again at three o’clock, he did the same thing.
At five o’clock that afternoon, he was in town again and saw some more people standing around. He asked them, “Why haven’t you been working today?”
They replied, “Because no one hired us.”
The landowner told them, “Then go out there and join the others in my vineyard.”
That evening he told the foreman to call the workers in and pay them, beginning with the last workers. When those hired at five o’clock were paid, each received a full day’s wage. When those hired first came to get their pay, they assumed they would receive more. But they, too, were paid a day’s wage. When they received their compensation, they protested to the owner, “Those people worked only one hour, and yet you paid them just as much as you paid us who worked all day in the scorching heat.”
He answered them, “Friend, I haven’t been unfair! Didn’t you agree to work all day for the usual wage? Take your money and go. I wanted to pay this last worker the same as you. Is it against the law for me to do what I want with my money? Should you be jealous because I’m kind to others?”
Sometimes Jesus will bless people, even though they don’t deserve it. All of us can relate to being blessed when we don’t deserve it. But at the end of the day, our focus shouldn’t be on our blessing. It should be on the One doing the blessing. He blesses you because he loves you, not because you deserve it. God blesses you because he wants you to know him like a father.
If you think you are receiving blessings because you are doing good, then you are worshipping a Santa Claus, a counterfeit God. Because once upon a time, there was a list of naughty and nice, and Jesus chose to die for the entire list. Everybody that has faith in Him entered the good list.
Green flag #1: Because I am blessed, I know God is good.
The only reason you have what you have is because Jesus came and lived the life we couldn’t live. I don’t know if you understand this, but we are the ones who are supposed to die on the cross because we’re the sinners, not Jesus. Jesus gave His life for us. Then he rose again, proving that everything the Old Testament had said was trustworthy and that Jesus is God. He gave his life freely so we may have eternal life through Him. If God never again blessed you, you already have everything you need in Christ. The fact that I could even want more almost seems ungrateful. But there’s a Heavenly Father who says there is more. You can’t just look at all the good things you have and think that means you’re in God’s will. God still blesses you, not because you’re good, but because He’s a Good Father.
Red Flag #2: God helps those that help themselves.
When I was a kid, MTV was the first to come out with reality TV shows. They had shows like Real World, Pimp My Ride, and MTV Cribs. MTV Cribs would go into the homes and film the lavish lifestyles of wealthy people. Before social media, nobody knew what the life of the rich was like. During each episode, celebrities would have all their cars showcased, impressive collections of comics, aquariums, and even what they had to eat in their refrigerator. The whole thing was set up to give us an idea of what the world says our goals should be. It also gave us a firsthand glimpse of what greed could look like. If that became your goal, you could wind up worshipping an MTV Cribs-style counterfeit God.
As Jesus was starting out on his way to Jerusalem, a man came running up to him, knelt down, and asked, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
“Why do you call me good?” Jesus asked. “Only God is truly good. But to answer your question, you know the commandments: ‘You must not murder. You must not commit adultery. You must not steal. You must not testify falsely. You must not cheat anyone. Honor your father and mother.’”
“Teacher,” the man replied, “I’ve obeyed all these commandments since I was young.”
Looking at the man, Jesus felt genuine love for him. “There is still one thing you haven’t done,” he told him. “Go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
At this the man’s face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.
The rich young ruler would have for sure been on MTV Cribs. Why? Because he’s got all three things that the world admires. He’s rich, he’s young, and he rules. He’s a successful young entrepreneur. He’s wise beyond his years. And yet he’s left feeling empty. He comes humbly to Jesus and says, “I’ve done everything according to the Bible since I was young. I have all the stuff in my life to show success. Yet, I’m left with this void. Good Teacher, can you tell me how to inherit eternal life?” Eternal life in Judaism means life more abundant now and forever with God. Jesus says, “Well, first, you got to figure out who I am. Because that’s going to change the way that you feel about this answer or not.” Only God is good. If the young man is calling him good, then is he really calling him God teacher? If it’s God teacher, that is different than just a person with wise advice.
Then Jesus looked at him with love and felt sorry for him. Jesus’s look tells him, “What I’m about to say is coming from a place of love and compassion.” He says, “You still haven’t done one thing. Go sell all your possessions. Give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.” Then the most important thing is he said, “Come follow me.” When Jesus chose each of his disciples, he asked them to leave everything and follow him. What you’re reading right here is nothing short of Jesus inviting the rich young ruler to be his disciple. Can you imagine if God showed up in your life and said, “I want you to come and be with me, all you have to do is let go of everything that you’re holding on to, and then you can have more of me.”
What if Jesus extended the same invitation to us today? Are the things you’re holding onto in life the things that, if you would simply let go, you could have more of him? The young man could have been a disciple of Jesus, but he was trying to reconcile the fact that his MTV Cribs God allowed him to have everything in the world and still have more of Jesus. He’d been living one foot in faith and one foot in his desires. Jude warns us that there are people who will live like that, and they will worm their way into the church. They will say it’s okay to live a life of greed, not to help other people, and still call yourself a worshipper of our God. I’ve got to tell you with an urgency that will rob you of a relationship with Him and rob the world of an extension of his love through your life.
Let’s talk about greed. I’ve gotta share about my own greed if we are on the subject. In my house, we not only have one refrigerator, but we have one in the garage, too. In my house, I use an extra room as an office. I could use it to house someone in need, but instead, I study there. I have more shoes than needed. I tell you stories about myself because I know you can relate. We are all a work in progress. The Bible talks more about money and helping others financially than any other subject in the Bible. Jesus shares with us in Matthew 6:24 that the greatest competitor of our hearts will always be money. Money is the thing that gives us security and power and will always be the greatest idol in our life.
You’re not going to find a God who simply dumps food in people’s laps. No one is going to walk home, and all of a sudden have groceries in their pantry. No, you will find God stirring his people to extend love and help others. God is a personal God who has chosen you to love the people he loves. In Corinthians, it says that he’s generous with us so that we can be generous with others. God uses you so that you can tell them about Him. This way, others can see an authentic faith and not the counterfeits that the world offers.
Green Flag #2: God helps those who help the poor.
God doesn’t help those who help themselves. God helps those who help the poor. We need the kind of people who will keep our hearts open to helping people. We need to be open to the Holy Spirit to give us opportunities to give to others. We all need to aim for Jesus instead of what the world tells us to aim for. Do you want to be more like Him? Then let go. God’s inviting rich young rulers of today to join him. I’m one of them.
Red Flag #3: “Life isn’t fair . . . why do bad things happen to good people?”
If you think your God is a referee, then you believe your life is supposed to be fair. So when your life is not fair, you start blaming God. You think that God is the one who’s supposed to be standing there with a whistle, calling out of bounds, and making sure that everything is fair according to your will. “Well, this isn’t going the way that I wanted. Life isn’t fair!” Dude, if you’re looking at the field as evidence of the character of God, you will be disappointed. The absolute best example for us is Jesus. Were things fair for Jesus? Was the field fair for Him?
2 Corinthians 5:21
For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.
Does that sound fair to you? Does it sound fair that the perfect, sinless Son of God would give his life for us, the dirty, nasty sinners who hurt people? We’re here hurting ourselves and others, yet Jesus comes in and saves us not because of what we do but simply because he’s good. He knew that if we were left alone, we would destroy ourselves and be destined for eternal hell. But God, in His goodness and love for us, makes a plan to rescue us. Jesus says I’ll go down there, and I’ll do everything to make it right. This is the gospel that God is with you even though the world is unfair.
Green flag # 3: Life isn’t fair.
God is not fair. Do you even want God to be fair? Do you want to get what you deserve? I do not want what I deserve. I want to stand before God, and right before he hits me at the throne of judgment of everything I deserve, I want Jesus to step in and be like, “He may deserve it, but I don’t.” I want God to cover me. Actually, I don’t even want to wait until I stand before the throne of judgment. I want to relationship with God right now. Because God is not fair, He’s just. We want a God who says even when life’s not fair; I can still fix it. Even when eternity is not fair, I can still save you. It would take you a million years to pay off our debt. But God has come to your rescue and delivered you by giving you His perfect, spotless son in exchange for all your crap. It’s not because you deserve it, but because Jesus deserves it.
I don’t know what God you worship: Santa Claus, the MTV lifestyle, a referee. But I can tell you this much; there is one true God.
Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.”
He wants to save you and unleash you on a new future. He wrote a plan for you long ago that he’s including you in. But you must say, “Yes, I want a Savior.” He isn’t saving people who don’t want to be saved. You know there are areas in your life that need to change, but you won’t have to do it alone. God’s gonna be with you and will help you. He will give you the power to do the things you could never do alone.