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By Barb Kugle
Special to The PREVIEW
As a compliant child, even into my teens, I accepted the authority of all grownups. If my mom said it was true, it must be true. If my doctor said my pimples were caused from eating too much chocolate, I believed him. Not that it stopped me. These days, however, I go to one of those health clinics for an evaluation, and when the test comes back with the word “obese” capitalized, and in a larger-than-necessary font, I get a second opinion.
Today, we are naturally skeptical, or should I say confused? No one is an authority; everyone thinks he is; and when a self-proclaiming authority opposes another, we choose one over the other — otherwise, we have to accept the premise that all truth is relative.
For example, I am a conservative politically, so I seek “experts” or “authorities” who reflect my beliefs. I used to consider myself an evangelical Christian, until I read somewhere that 57 percent of self-described evangelicals believe in more than one way to heaven. But the Bible says that Jesus is the only way to heaven (John 14:6, 11:25, 10:9, Acts 4:12). For me, the Bible is the final authority.
The truth is, we don’t always want the truth, myself included. The religious “authorities” in Jesus’ time scorned truth. Jesus didn’t mince his words. He called them liars, children of the devil and wolves in sheep’s clothing. Jesus claimed to be the Christ, the Messiah, and He spoke with an authority that couldn’t be dismissed (Matthew 7:28, 29). Yet, the people were confused (John 7:25-31).
For that reason, the world is ripe for deception. Our vulnerability concerns me deeply. I fear that those I care about most may be led astray.
The information highway is right at our fingertips, but how do we know what or who to trust? We are deceived by our government, our universities, the curriculum in our schools, the news and entertainment industries and, worst of all, the authorities in our churches. We even deceive ourselves.
Christians today lack discernment. If they are told often enough by the clergy that God speaks to His people independently of the Bible, they begin to put their faith in the fallen voice within. Or when leaders put more faith in an experience than in the truth of scripture, the sheep will follow.
The following incident is just one example of how folks can be deceived by an experience presented as theological truth.
A friend had just watched a popular TV evangelist interview the author of “Heaven is for Real.” She was in complete awe of Todd Burpo’s account of his 3-year-old son’s near-death experience. Before this, she had never thought about the reality of Heaven.
It must have been by design that I had just heard a sermon warning believers against the deception this book poses. I hated to burst her bubble, but I cautioned her against getting her information about Heaven from someone’s experience, much less from an almost-4-year-old boy. The boy’s father was a pastor of a church. He said in his book that if he wanted to know more about Heaven, he would get it from his son.
Since this encounter with my friend, I’ve become more concerned for those I care about. Many are vulnerable to deception because they either don’t know what the Bible says, or because they have learned in church to put more faith in an experience than in what the Bible teaches. Burpo quoted scriptures all through his book. It is not enough to read the scriptures. Satan knows the scriptures and, in these last days, he will use miracles and wonders to deceive many.
More than ever, we who profess Christ must learn to practice discernment.
How do we do that?
Send your faith articles to firstname.lastname@example.org. Meet the faith writer’s team at bettyjslade.com/BJS/Writing_Opportunity.html. Join the faithful to pray at 8 a.m. on Thursday mornings. Wherever you are, lift up your prayer for this community and for the freedom of expressing our faith.