Imposters Among Us

When my daughter was about five or six, she accepted Jesus Christ. We didn’t see her do it. If I remember correctly, she prayed to become a follower of Jesus at Vacation Bible School and informed us on the way home.

My son, four years older than she, was riding with her in the back seat and insisted that she accept Jesus again in front of him to be sure she did it right.

“No.” My daughter crossed her arms and shook her head. “I don’t have to do it AGAIN. I did it once and that’s what counts with God.”

My son was equally stubborn, however, and continued to press the issue. “If you did it once, you shouldn’t mind doing it in front of me so I can be sure it was the RIGHT prayer that you prayed.”

His heart was in the right place but I supported my daughter’s decision to not repeat her prayer for her brother’s benefit. I told Zack that I knew his intention was pure – he certainly understood the importance of such a life changing decision – but he must stop pressuring her.

“But, Mom.” He whined. “If I don’t hear exactly what she said, how will I know if she’s become a real Christian or a fake one?”

My husband’s family is Dutch and so my husband is a regular Fodor’s Guide to Netherland’s trivia. He loves to tell how the name of the seaside town of Scheveningen became a kind of password during WWII. It was such a difficult name to pronounce that Hollanders would use it to ferret out the enemy in their midst. I know a lot of Christians who wish we had a Scheveningen for believers.

And it’s true, we are at war – in a very intense spiritual battle – and it’s true there are imposters among us.

Jesus warns us of this in Matthew 7: 15- 23, “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 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. Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!

Scary, scary words.

So, we devise our own Scheveningen tests for people. Now that I’ve attended a couple of new churches as an adult, I notice that many initial conversations with brothers and sisters already in attendance are a type of quiz to test the sincerity of my faith and to explore the particular flavor of faith to which I adhere.

What translation of the Bible do I carry? What preachers/teachers do I read? Do I speak in tongues? Was I sprinkled or immersed? Is there beer in my frig? Did I vote in the last election? What is the role of women in the church? How are my children educated and do they dress up for Halloween? Are they allowed to play violent video games? Do I believe in election or free will? If I travel overseas, is it to spread the gospel or just to offer someone cold a warm blanket?

Of course, no one asks these questions outright. They are carefully, tactfully woven into casual conversation, encoded with buzz words to reveal my familiarity with certain controversies, my comfort with the debatable issues of our day.

This used to make me very nervous. I was eager to prove myself, eager to repeat my salvation prayer for my pressing older brother. But I have since learned the lesson my daughter knew from the start. I know the truth of my relationship with Christ and that is what matters. The rest will show itself in time.

I’ve spent all of my forty-eight years deep inside the church. I love God’s church. I’ve seen its best and I’ve seen a lot of its worst. Dear Christian friends with whom I worshipped in the nineties, had they met me in the seventies, would have doubted my salvation because I had not yet learned the complicated code language of the modern evangelical. But I was a Christian then.

It’s real that there are wolves lurking among us sheep but quite often, in our haste, immaturity and fear, we pull great hunks of wool off the backs of little lambs in our efforts to expose them as spies when all along they were our younger siblings just trying to find their way.

I calmed my son’s fears about my daughter’s conversion in the car that day. I assured him that we would know the truth of her salvation the same way we know our own – by the fruit of our lives – and that is only proven over time.

Once again, I am reminded that God has no love of shortcuts. We must get to know one another, be involved in each other’s lives and go deeper – not only with Jesus – but also with those who claim to love Him. There is no Scheveningen for Christians – just the resulting fruit of a life lived out in the Spirit of Jesus Christ.


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9 Comments

    The Conversation

  1. Andrea says:

    AMEN….I was just talking to my 16 year old the other day about the importance of living our faith rather than telling others we have it.

    Blessings and prayers, andrea

  2. Mike W. says:

    I’m so glad I put down my copy of C.S Lewis’ “Mere Christianity” and turned down my stereo, which has CDs of Casting Crowns, John Michael Talbot, Point of Grace, and Phil Keaggy playing continuously, so that I could read your latest blog! Now, to get to my mp3 downloads of Charles Swindoll while I finish fasting…

  3. Andrea, it’s a lesson I’m still trying to learn every day!

  4. Very funny, Michael! I’m looking forward to reading YOUR blog! Barrington is where I first encountered this phenomenon. I was used to reading my Bible every day, sometimes for hours, but then some kid my Freshman year told me he doubted my faith because I didn’t have “devotions”. I bought a devotional but it seemed so short, I figured I must be doing it wrong so I bought three more and used them all. 🙂 Aaaah, live and learn.

  5. Cheri says:

    “God has no love of shortcuts. We must get to know one another, be involved in each other’s lives and go deeper – not only with Jesus – but also with those who claim to love Him.”

    I love this thought. It is so true. We must always remember that every single one of us is a work in progress, that God is about the business of finishing the good work He began in each of us. That means that there are times we may not look “right” on the outside, but if we truly know one another, we will know if God is at work on the inside of us, getting to the heart of the matter.

    Thanks for a great post!

    Hugs,
    Cheri

  6. Yes, yes, yes! Such a joy to read this! There are no magic words we can repeat to be saved! Salvation is a miraculous work of the Spirit of God, and it shows itself because He shows Himself!
    I’ve been tweeting and linking merrily since finding your blog. I want others to enjoy your insights, too!

  7. Anonymous says:

    Thank you. “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.” Matt. 7:15

  8. It’s the Invasion of the End Time Wolves. There are Predators in Our Pulpits …. God bless you and thank you.

  9. Anonymous says:

    I was convicted when you said: “It’s real that there are wolves lurking among us sheep but quite often, in our haste, immaturity and fear, we pull great hunks of wool off the backs of little lambs in our efforts to expose them as spies when all along they were our younger siblings just trying to find their way.” I am confident God just spoke to my heart through you in those words. This has been my thinking and I’ve been having doubts, but now I see. THANK YOU for this post. God bless you.