We are all too familiar with deception in the world today. Opportunists prey on the vulnerable and are always looking for their next target. Because of phishing scams we have learned to be cautious of phone calls, text messages, and emails. We even have to be wary when the message appears to be from a reputable organizations. Scammers have learned that they are more likely to gain people’s trust by posing as a reputable source. Being deceived provides them access to personal information that they exploit to their benefit. It has become increasingly difficult to distinguish what’s legitimate versus fraudulent. Exploitation and manipulation for personal gain continues to increase our skepticism of others. This strategy isn’t new, religion has been used in this same way for ages. Posing as spiritual leaders, these opportunists use their position to obtain personal wealth and power over their followers. Sadly, this has lead to a decline in the acceptance of organized religion.
For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.2 Corinthians 11:13-15
There are numerous documentaries exposing this pattern within churches whose leaders have developed a cult-like following, but this only scratches the surface. False teaching isn’t only being found in these fringe religions. Unbiblical teaching has worked its way into many Christian churches. The result has been increased religious skepticism and a nation that has largely turned its back on God.
For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect.Matthew 24:24
Jesus warned of false teaching that would lead many astray. During the early formation of the church, even the apostles found themselves competing with false teachers. People desperately want to believe that God’s will is to give them what they ask for in prayer. False religious leaders know exactly what people want to hear and so they exploit that to their benefit.
For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.2 Timothy 4:3-4
Knowledge of religious exploitation has driven many away from God. People are skeptical of the message of redemption as a gift. Past experiences have made people suspicious and wary of being manipulated. This is exactly what the Deceiver wants to accomplish. But these wolves in sheep’s clothing don’t represent or negate the truth of God. The path to salvation doesn’t lie in monetary contributions, religious leaders, or rigid doctrine. It lies in Jesus Christ alone. So how can you distinguish legitimate Christianity from counterfeit versions? God provides these answers through scripture if we are willing to look.
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.Matthew 7:7-8
Over the next through entries I will be looking at some of these false claims and comparing them to God’s truth.