As a child, I was told not to play with the fake fruit on the bottom bookshelf, but I couldn’t resist. I was fascinated by the soft, squishy green and purple grapes that popped easily on and off of their fake plastic stems. They looked so real! The colors, the shine, and the softness of the pretend fruit made it look inviting. But eating them, I did not want to do! For, though they looked like real grapes; they lacked all the goodness of a genuine bunch of grapes from the Italian vineyard next door: sweetness, juiciness, and refreshing nutrition.
Eating fake fruit can even result in some serious consequences. Children can choke on fake fruits which get lodged in their throats, or get sick from the toxins in the paint. As little children, we learn how to play pretend when “eating” toy food, that it’s not to be put into our mouths.
Fake means Pretend.
Just as we wouldn’t feed ourselves (or our children) fake, useless food; we shouldn’t allow ourselves to be fed false information by fake people. Just as fake food is bad for our bodies, fake people and false information is toxic to our emotional well-being, and damaging to our spirits and souls. It’s in our best interests to make sure we feed ourselves with truth. If we’ve grown up surrounded by fake people, fake philosophies, fake importance, fake religion, and fake ideas; we will have great difficulty learning to recognize the difference between fake and genuine Christians, bad and good churches, and false gods and The One and Only God… The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. If you grew up like this, take heart! You’re not alone! There is only one way to find out what’s fake, and what’s genuine… in The Holy Bible.
There will always be fake people among the good and godly, pretending to be just like them. But the Bible helps us to be discerning; as we grow in wisdom, we will be able to tell when someone is not walking with Christ. Like many families, mine attended church. Lots of families go to church wearing the “right clothes” and saying the “right things.” These families may look like they have it all together on the outside; when in reality, they are crumbling to pieces on the inside. No family can make it on their own. Every family needs to place Jesus at its center in order to function as a healthy unit and please God. Only then are families able to heal, help others, and find their true purpose.
Pretending Hurts God’s Children.
One Sunday, in my college years, our family car pulled up into the church’s parking lot. We sat in the car continuing a family fight. As people began to walk toward the church, I heard the words, “Now, get out of the car, and put a smile on your face.” That was the last thing I felt like doing! The fights were a regular occurrence, in a struggling family, unhappy on the inside. Regardless of each individual’s salvation, like many families, we had started from scratch. No one had an understanding of the power of Jesus to truly change our lives and give us genuine freedom. We went to church for the sermon and Sunday school; then we headed back home for the rest of the week; where God’s commandments, promises, repentance, forgiveness, and love were quickly forgotten. As I headed into God’s House, my emotionless face felt like a dam about to burst. I felt like screaming. People were dressed in suits in ties and silky dresses. Their hair was slicked back with gel or done up in curls. They were asking “How are you today?” Did anyone really know, or even care how I was really doing?
That Sunday I was angry and sad about all the family drama. I hated covering up for everyone’s bad behavior, including my own. I hated pretending. I was especially incensed about being the family scapegoat, blamed for things in areas in which I wasn’t the one responsible. I now know that many people choose to scapegoat others as a means of denial, rather than having to admit their own weaknesses. But as Christians, we are all weak. Only in Jesus are we strong. We all need to repent of our own sins before God. That is why Jesus died on the cross for every single one of us; he took the punishment for our sins, as if they were his own, becoming a living sacrifice. If we are free in Christ, there is no need to pretend we are perfect, and therefore no need to project our mistakes onto others. Pretending we are above the capacity to sin makes no sense. The Bible says we are all guilty of sin “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23 New International Version),.
God’s NOT the Problem… Sin is.
I tended to rebel, by being a truth-teller, but I was confused and embarrassed about the family fights. I had been taught to pretend everything was fine, and at the time it seemed easier to do so. So that Sunday, when asked how I was doing, I did what I was trained to do best: I turned up the corners of my lips into a smile. I chased away the tears and coaxed a lilt into my voice, and claimed to be: “Fine!” Inside, the rage rode like red clouds behind my eyes. I wanted to rip off my Sunday Clothes and run, screaming down the aisle. For a brief moment, I thought, “What would happen if I really did that?” The humorous image of it calmed me. But this was God’s House, and it wasn’t God I was mad at… or was it?
What was the problem? Was it me, as I’d been led to believe? Was it God… for not giving me a hand in being happy? Was it my family, who pretended to be one way at church, and acted entirely different behind closed doors at home? Why was I so angry? Wasn’t church supposed to be where God helped us to be happy? Or better people? Or our best selves, or something like that?
Like Fruit, Our Growth in Christ Matures at a Different Rate from Others.
If The Bible said Jesus forgave us of our sins, why didn’t parents forgive? Why did the very people whom I counted on to love me, continuously hurt me? Why did I hurt others? I’d accepted Jesus as my Savior. I loved him. I messed up a lot. But I also tried to please God. I confessed to him when I did wrong, and asked Him to forgive me. Though I failed many times, and still do, I’ve always desired to move forward in trying to obey God and do what’s right. I assumed everyone else did too. Weren’t the people at church, including my family, all on the same path? No.
Everyone is on his or her own journey with Jesus. Some people you see on Sunday are not even Christians. They might use church as another means of getting attention, by looking good and showing off their “perfect” children as a reflection of their “wonderful parenting skills.” Some people are genuine Christians, but they are dealing with the same strongholds as everyone else. They are each walking their own individual journeys. Christians may backslide, and many Christians don’t even realize what it truly means to follow Jesus. Many receive salvation, but don’t start really seeking God until disaster strikes and their lives begin to fall apart. A fake believer will stay stagnant and revel in sin. A true Believer will struggle, yet become convicted, and slowly shed his or her sinful ways. A true Believer can be seen genuinely growing in Christ; even if it takes a long time to blossom.
Spiritual Battles are Real.
I knew nothing about the sin of self-centered narcissism, back then. It never crossed my mind that among genuine seekers of God, some people might pretend to be Christians walking with Jesus. I knew I was a sinner. I was constantly repenting, and asking God to forgive me for this or that. It never occurred to me that others might dump their sins into me too. The guilt, the anxiety, the fear… it was way too much to take! Even now, its effect is not gone. Oh Jesus, how horrific it must have been when you carried the weight of the whole world’s sins in your back! Thank you!
When we are plagued with guilt, anxiety, and fear; these are spiritual strongholds. They often come when we are targets of insults, anger, and bullying. When others try to manipulate and control our emotions, it’s emotional abuse. We can be lied to so much, that we end up internalizing and accepting the false things said to us. When people condemn others for premarital sex, affairs, cussing, stealing, alcohol and drug addictions, materialism, abuse, and self-centeredness, bitterness, and unforgiveness; yet refuse to repent, and stop committing these same sins, they are being hypocrites. God hates hypocrisy. “You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” (Matt. 7:5). We will all have troubles in this world, and Christians will also face them. Christians will also make mistakes. No one should pretend otherwise. To do so, is to lie; to others, yourself, and to God.
False or fake Christians,will hurt us by telling us lies about God, which is a form of spiritual abuse. When we believe the lies we are told about God, it hinders our walk with Him, and it warps our perception of what it means to truly walk with Jesus. Spiritual abuse can happen at home or at church. Political leaders can also use spiritual abuse to manipulate and control others into following their agendas. Anyone in authority is in a position to abuse that leadership. When authority is God-lead, it leads people to truth, joy, and freedom. When authority is abused, involving abuse, gossip, lies, and slander; it hurts us spiritually. We may not want to read our bibles, go to church, or have fellowship with other believers. Spiritual abuse hurts our relationship with God and with His children.
Spiritual abusers use the same tactics as other types of abusers, except they add a warped and twisted view of God to the equation. They abuse their positions of authority in families and in the church, twist the Bible’s scriptures in their favor, and convince others that they will be punished for not conforming to “rules and regulations.” They manipulate and control innocent people, and twist the truth to cause confusion. They do it for reputation, money, fame, attention, and selfish gain. They count on people’s loyalty and love for God, and use it to make individuals believe they are sinning if they ask questions or have a difference of opinion. They also use threats of punishment or alienation for those who do not cooperate, and they are skilled at convincing people that God is angry and unhappy with them. Many people get caught up with false prophets and cults, because they don’t read God’s Word for themselves, and make time to talk to Jesus. Knowing the truth can help us escape the clutches of spiritual abuse. God’s Word is all that matters!
Fake is False. Truth is True.
Fake smiles, fake people, fake Christians, fake churches… they are all missing that special something. They are missing out on being “genuine, good, and godly.” That’s because they are false. False is the opposite of true. Truth cannot be replaced, because the truth comes from God. It may look like truth, walk like truth, or talk like truth, but a false representation can never BE TRUTH. That is because God is The Truth, and nothing or no one can change that fact. Truth is truth. And when you know it, really know it; you are able to live it and breathe it. Guilt, anxiety, and fear begin to fade away because you realize that all God’s promises are true! It’s not what the church tells you, what your family tells you, or what you tell yourself… it’s what GOD tells you. God’s Word is The Bible, and everything in it is true. God is Love! You can try to twist it, change it, use it to blame others for your advantage, spiritually abuse it, bash others with it, use it to aid you in getting people to think you’re a Christian when you’re not one, spout it to make you look religious… you can do all these things, and still, everything The Bible says will be true.
The Silver Lining… The Bible tells the truth!
The Silver Lining is that God has left His Word to help us identify the difference between genuine Christians, who are struggling, yet growing and changing; versus those simply masquerading as Believers. The Bible gives us signs; God tells us secrets! But God doesn’t play favorites… The secrets are available to anyone willing to look for them! Everything the Bible says is true; whether it’s about you, me, or other people. The Book of Proverbs provides an excellent example of how well God knows us as people. Reading a chapter a day is actually quite fascinating in how much truth applies to the very people you know in your own life. These truths will protect you and help you to identify God’s children (those of us saved by grace through giving our lives to His Son, Jesus) from those wolves who falsely claim Him as their Father. We need real, genuine Christians to look to as teachers, role models, counselors, encouragers, and truth-tellers of the Bible.
Finding out the Truth for Ourselves…
If we really want the truth, we need to read the Bible for ourselves and ask The Holy Spirit to guide, direct, and help us in understanding it. “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world” (1 Jn. 4:1-3).
Christians Sin Too.
Those of us who have grown up in unhealthy or dysfunctional families need to be especially diligent in searching the scriptures, for we have been given a skewed example of what godly behavior truly is. However, even when we’ve grown up in Christian families with a solid foundation, there are hurdles to overcome. Therefore, reading the Bible is still so important in helping us to recognize truth for what it is. After all, Christians are sinners too; and many Christians have their salvation secured through Jesus Christ, yet turn away from him to live selfish, self-centered lives. This is not okay with God! God commands us to seek Him and walk with Jesus. A true Christian is one who has received salvation through Jesus Christ and is repenting of sin, while growing to become more like Jesus. Mature Christians understand we are to be truthful witnesses, telling the world about Jesus! If Christians are true Believers, we shouldn’t be comfortable about shutting off our eyes and ears to the rest of the unsaved world. Eternal lives are at stake!
On the opposite spectrum, a “fake Christian” will stubbornly cling to old patterns, remain unrepentant in sin, refuse to forgive others, spread hate, and live selfishly only for self. Sometimes it takes a child of God a long time to give up the old and embrace the new. However, with discernment and wisdom; one can see the difference between love and hate, good and evil; just as one sees the difference between a dead fruit tree bearing no fruit, and a living fruit tree providing plentiful fruit. “Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them” (Matt. 7:17-20).
Why Search the Bible on Your Own?
Why is it so important to search on your own? Because your world may actually be topsy-turvy from what you thought it was! You may have been living a hellish lie, all in the name of false religion! Perhaps, you were taught that you were selfish when you took care of yourself instead of catering to the whims of others who were projecting their self-centeredness onto you. You may have been scapegoated; told you were the source of the family’s problems, when it was actually how others chose to escape responsibility for their own issues. Maybe you were led to believe God was angry with you; when in fact, He was waiting for you with open arms, wanting to hold you and dry your tears! Perhaps you were told that you should be loyal to your family no matter what, when the Bible actually commands tells to follow Jesus first, and foremost; even if it means no one wants to come with you. Were you told that Jesus was just a great teacher; causing you confusion about where Jesus stands? The Bible tells us Jesus is The One and Only Way to get to God!
Jesus is God! Jesus is God in human form. God is great because He is One in Three Persons: God, Jesus, and The Holy Spirit… Did you know you could pray to any one of These? That’s because they are all part of God, kind if the way you refer to yourself as me, myself, and I… but on a whole different holy and spiritual realm! This means we can pray to Jesus, because he is able to intercede for us and bring our prayers directly to God! The Bible is how God speaks to us. God’s Word is for you, personally; God has something to say to you, as a unique individual. God wants us to explore in the Bible and ask Him questions; that’s what it means to have a relationship with Him!
Jesus is the Real Fruit.
It’s been years since I’ve been forced to experience the pain of pretending things are perfect at home and at church. It took a long time for me to realize that I don’t have to be perfect; that being genuine is the way we drown out falsity and walk towards truth. I remain thankful to Jesus for dying for me, since there is no way I can live up to life’s expectations. Pretending is too exhausting. How refreshing that we can follow Christ, grow by imitating him, knowing God will still love us when we fall… which we will. I’m glad I’m not a piece of fake fruit. But he know my place… I’m a seed, meant to carry on good works. Jesus is the real fruit. Jesus is the real Christ. Jesus is what’s true!
” ‘I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love” (Jn. 15:5-9).
Prayer for getting rid of lies and false religion:
“Dear God, I renounce the lies of the enemy. I renounce the teachings of false prophets, fake religion, and the spirit of antichrist; in the name of Your Son, Jesus. Fill me with Your Holy Spirit. Show me the truth; show me the beautiful, pure, clear blue truth lying beneath the cloudy filter of lies. Remove anything which separates me from you. Guide me, and give me wisdom. May Your will be done, in Jesus’ name. Amen.”
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