Summary: Because Christ is in believers, we must not believe everything we hear.
Figuring Out Falsehood
Rev. Brian Bill
Have you picked up on the growing number of scams taking place in our society today? Just this week WGN-TV reported that a group of three men have been posing as police officers, complete with badges and walkie-talkies, and robbing homes on the northwest side of Chicago.
Earlier this week a warning was issued about a fake email being circulated that looks like it comes from Apple about individual iTunes accounts. This is actually an attempt at “phishing,” which is a relatively new word that refers to a scam by which an e-mail user is duped into revealing personal or confidential information on a fake website which the scammer can then use illicitly. These emails and websites look legitimate and the messages are often urgent and very believable.
Other times, these hoaxes are easy to spot. Early Friday morning I received this email from someone whose name I know but obviously did not come from him. I’m going to leave the grammar as it was: “Hello Friend. I remembered hearing about a quick and easy solution this caught my eye right away im headed straight for the top try it for yourself.”
One of the most common frauds involves an email from Nigeria where you are asked to help access a large sum of money in a foreign bank account. For your efforts, you are promised a percentage of the funds. Once a dialogue is established, you will eventually be asked for advance fees and personal account information. By the way, I read that the second most lucrative industry in Nigeria is scamming foolish Americans out of their money.
While I was working on this message on Thursday, I received a status update from the U.S. Army Base in Fort Benning with this warning: “Social Media Scammers Impersonate Service Members.” I was afraid to even click the link because I wasn’t sure if this warning about a scam was a scam itself.
One of the easiest ways to spot a hoax in an email is a line that says: “Send this email to everyone in your address book” because scammers and spammers want their material to spread as far and as fast as possible. Another clue is when “over-the-top” language is used with words like “Urgent,” “Danger” and so on. And when words are typed in ALL CAPITAL LETTERS, something is fishy.
While the phony phishing schemes on the Internet are dangerous, there are insidious spiritual scams taking place all the time, which are even more perilous.
I’ve gotten to know an individual who occasionally attends PBC with a friend of hers. After learning more about her story, I asked her to type it out so we could learn from her experience: “Around age ten I realized I was a sinner who needed the Savior, and I became a spirit-born child of God by trusting in Jesus…Through most of my life I continued to study the Bible and attended various churches while growing in my knowledge and understanding of God’s holiness and grace. However, ten years ago after the 9/11 attack I was unknowingly in a spiritually weak state when I joined a Bible study at the home of a trusted friend and fellow believer. There I was introduced to a group of people who seemed more loving and dedicated to the Lord than other Christians I knew…
“I foolishly believed I could not be deceived because all of this group’s teachings were clearly based on God’s Word which I already trusted, and my friend and I thought we were reading the Bible in context. In addition, I was reassured when the group’s leader claimed that Jesus is deity…I believed she meant what is understood by other believers. However, it was not long before I found I had been stripped of all previous assurance of my faith, and I was then being manipulated by the use of fear and guilt and transformed into a different personality.
“Although we were encouraged to ask questions in this group, we were often accused of ‘resisting the authority God had placed over us’… and I quit asking questions. The group’s leader allowed herself to be promoted as God’s only prophetess for today’s remnant of true believers, and she claimed that any questioning of her teachings was ‘persecution’ from those who just did not want to do God’s will. She also claimed that her teachings were confirmed by the obvious ‘fruits’ and many mystical ‘signs’ we were all experiencing.
“Eventually, this very authoritative group dictated which translation of the Bible we could trust, which authors and speakers we could trust, and which people we could trust. In this way the group controlled what information we were exposed to and kept us busy doing God’s will as determined by the leader, and thus the group controlled our thinking as well as our behavior. The group’s leader taught that those outside of her group, as well as those within her group who disagreed with her and then left, would all suffer God’s wrath. Although my family and relationships with others became strained and even my marriage was threatened, I became thoroughly convinced that I would suffer God’s wrath for eternity if I left this group.