counterfeit?

©2020 michael martin | ask@lifefellowship.org

the counterfeit and the genuine

Fakes. Facsimiles. Cheap imitations.

You can see it everywhere. Something is invented or created, and the world clamors to imitate the original, hoping to cut in on some of the rewards of the original creator.

When we think of the word “counterfeit,” we might first think of counterfeit money. A genuine $100 bill represents (or used to represent) $100 of gold, and we could legally trade it with retailers for $100 worth of goods.

By contrast, a counterfeit $100 bill looks like the real thing, but it’s not worth anything.

As followers of Christ, we have the genuine treasures of God. Yet, we often settle for counterfeit facsimiles that have little or no value when compared to the original. The Apostle Paul put it this way:

2 timothy 3:5

...having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.

In this study, we will examine some of the counterfeits that we might accept in place of God’s genuine blessings for our lives.

my notes:

examples in Scripture

Throughout the Bible, we can find examples of counterfeit blessings; “blessings” which came about when humans took shortcuts instead of following God’s plan and God’s timing, resulting not in blessings, but curses. Lets look at just a few examples:

the fruit in eden

genesis 3:4-6

“You will not surely die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5 “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

6 When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.

Eve desired perceived blessings that Satan had promised to her. She believed that God was withholding good things from her. The result, of course, was the introduction of sin into the world.

the consequences

genesis 3:16-19

To the woman he said, “I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labor you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.” 17 To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’ “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life. 18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. 19 By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.”

sarai’s shortcut to abram’s promised son

genesis 16:1-4

Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian maidservant named Hagar; 2 so she said to Abram, “The Lord has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my maidservant; perhaps I can build a family through her.”

Abram agreed to what Sarai said. 3 So after Abram had been living in Canaan ten years, Sarai his wife took her Egyptian maidservant Hagar and gave her to her husband to be his wife. 4 He slept with Hagar, and she conceived.

When she knew she was pregnant, she began to despise her mistress.

Here, Sarai doubted God’s ability to deliver His promised blessing, and she tried to “help God out” by forcing things to happen outside of God’s plan. Her plan resulted in the birth of Ishmael, who not only was NOT God’s promised heir for Abram, but who would prove to become the source of numerous longtime enemies of Israel:

the consequences

genesis 16:12

He will be a wild donkey of a man; his hand will be against everyone and everyone’s hand against him, and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers. ”

my notes:

the golden calf

exodus 32:1-4

When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, “Come, make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.”

2 Aaron answered them, “Take off the gold earrings that your wives, your sons and your daughters are wearing, and bring them to me.” 3 So all the people took off their earrings and brought them to Aaron. 4 He took what they handed him and made it into an idol cast in the shape of a calf, fashioning it with a tool. Then they said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.”

Here, the people of Israel grew impatient, having quickly forgotten how God had delivered them from the Egyptians. Unwilling to wait on God’s timing, they had Aaron make them a golden calf to worship. Adding to their sin, they gave the calf God’s Name. The calf was truly a counterfeit god.

the consequences

exodus 32:19-20

When Moses approached the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, his anger burned and he threw the tablets out of his hands, breaking them to pieces at the foot of the mountain. 20 And he took the calf they had made and burned it in the fire; then he ground it to powder, scattered it on the water and made the Israelites drink it.

my notes:

exodus 32:27-28

Then he said to them, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘Each man strap a sword to his side. Go back and forth through the camp from one end to the other, each killing his brother and friend and neighbor.’ ” 28 The Levites did as Moses commanded, and that day about three thousand of the people died.

exodus 32:33-35

The Lord replied to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against me I will blot out of my book. 34 Now go, lead the people to the place I spoke of, and my angel will go before you. However, when the time comes for me to punish, I will punish them for their sin.”

35 And the Lord struck the people with a plague because of what they did with the calf Aaron had made.

There are numerous other examples in Scripture of humans taking shortcuts to try to bring about counterfeit versions of God’s blessings, but let’s talk about today.

We think we know God’s genuine blessings when we see them, but how often do we mistake counterfeits for the real thing? How often do we settle for a cheap imitation instead of the original?

In this study, we’re going to take a closer look at some of the facets of our lives that, despite appearing to be genuine, may actually be counterfeit.

my notes:

the counterfeit life

Today, much of what is culturally considered to be “the good life” is actually just a counterfeit version of the truly good life that God offers us. Let’s take a look at a few areas in which this can be seen:

wealth

the counterfeit:

ecclesiastes 5:10

Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income. This too is meaningless.

One of the big pursuits of life is the pursuit of prosperity, and in our culture, that often translates to financial wealth. Be honest. Wouldn’t you like to have more money?

After all, money is a great tool, and is necessary for functioning in our culture. Indeed, most of our waking hours are spent trying to earn more money. We have bills to pay. We have to eat. We have to clothe and shelter our families. And we’d love it if we didn’t have to work so hard or pinch our pennies to get by.

If we’re honest, most of us would like to be rich; at least a little richer than we are. But that is a counterfeit blessing, and it comes with serious dangers:

1 timothy 6:9-10

Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

matthew 6:24

“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.

hebrews 13:5

Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said,

“Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”

the genuine:

The truth is, while we might all appreciate having more money, if we are in Christ, we are already rich. Take a look at what the Scriptures say:

matthew 6:33

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

1 timothy 6:6-8

But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. 8 But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.

romans 8:32

He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?

luke 12:32

“Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.

romans 8:16

The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

As you can see, as children of God, we His heirs. Heirs! Of God!

We have everything! So of course, earn what you need in order to live, but if it’s wealth you’re looking for, money is just a counterfeit and fleeting imitation of the true wealth that is already ours in Christ Jesus!

matthew 6:19-21

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

my notes:

prestige

Isn’t it nice when people think well of you? When they compliment you? When they admire you? You might like to think that you don’t care what others think of you, but here’s a secret: Do you ever look in the mirror? You care.

Perhaps the opinions of others don’t always affect the way you live, but you’d probably still rather have people think well of you than to disapprove of you. You care. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t care at all. There is a place for caring about how others perceive you, but our reason for caring how others view us is the key. Let’s take a look at some examples of counterfeit prestige:

the counterfeit:

john 12:42-43

Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not openly acknowledge their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; 43 for they loved human praise more than praise from God.

In this passage, people were afraid that their good names and their positions would be smeared if they confessed their faith in Jesus. Their actions were driven by a desire for human praise, which comes at a great cost:

matthew 10:32-33

“Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. 33 But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.

Sometimes, the desire to simply be well-thought of isn’t enough for us, and we desire to become famous or important or powerful. Here are some examples:

isaiah 13:14-15

You said in your heart,

“I will ascend to the heavens; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of Mount Zaphon.

14 I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.”

15 But you are brought down to the realm of the dead, to the depths of the pit.

In this passage, we see the rebellion of Satan himself, as his sinful pride led him to seek prestige and position that could only belong to God. When we as humans harbor such attitudes in our hearts, we are guilty of doing the same thing:

mark 12:38-40 (and luke 20:46-47)

As he taught, Jesus said, “Watch out for the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, 39 and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets. 40 They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. These men will be punished most severely.

matthew 23:5-10

“Everything they do is done for people to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; 6 they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; 7 they love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to be called ‘Rabbi’ by others.

8 “But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers. 9 And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. 10 Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one Instructor, the Messiah.

As humans, we are fully reliant on God for every breath and every heartbeat. How absurd it is, then, when we presume to boast in ourselves! We have nothing that God didn’t give to us!

1 corinthians 4:7

For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?

For us to pursue prestige or presume that we are something when we are nothing is a counterfeit facsimile of the genuine prestige that we have in Christ. Let’s take a look.

the genuine:

philippians 2:3-4

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

Make no mistake. You are important, but your importance is not because of how impressive you are; it’s because of how God uses you for His purposes!

my notes:

titus 2:1-10

You, however, must teach what is appropriate to sound doctrine. 2 Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance.

3 Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. 4 Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, 5 to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.

6 Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled. 7 In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness 8 and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.

9 Teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them, 10 and not to steal from them, but to show that they can be fully trusted, so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive.

This passage shows us why it matters how people think of us. It’s not so they’ll think well of us, its so they’ll think well of God! That’s why genuine prestige calls for us to be humble.

matthew 23:11-12

The greatest among you will be your servant. 12 For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.

Better still, God will exalt us if we live in humility!

my notes:

matthew 18:1-4

At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”

2 He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. 3 And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

2 timothy 2:10-14

Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory.

11 Here is a trustworthy saying: If we died with him, we will also live with him;

12 if we endure, we will also reign with him. If we disown him, he will also disown us.

So, as we consider what other people think of us, our focus should be on drawing people closer to God. The genuine prestige that we have as God’s children is that God is our Father! The Creator of the universe; the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, is our Father! Now that’s genuine prestige!

comfort and safety

I like to be comfortable. I like to be safe. But many human ideas about comfort and safety are counterfeit. Consider this passage again:

the counterfeit:

john 12:42-43

Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not openly acknowledge their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; 43 for they loved human praise more than praise from God.

In this passage, concern over personal comfort and safety led people to not acknowledge their faith in Jesus.

In other cases, people have a tendency to ignore the truth, because they are more comfortable with living a lie than with dealing with the uncomfortable truth. But this is a counterfeit comfort!

2 timothy 4:3-4

For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.

jeremiah 6:13-15 (and 8:10-12)

“From the least to the greatest, all are greedy for gain; prophets and priests alike, all practice deceit.

14 They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. ‘Peace, peace,’ they say, when there is no peace.

15 Are they ashamed of their detestable conduct? No, they have no shame at all; they do not even know how to blush. So they will fall among the fallen; they will be brought down when I punish them,”

ezekiel 13:10-11

“‘Because they lead my people astray, saying, “Peace,” when there is no peace, and because, when a flimsy wall is built, they cover it with whitewash, 11 therefore tell those who cover it with whitewash that it is going to fall. Rain will come in torrents, and I will send hailstones hurtling down, and violent winds will burst forth.

my notes:

the genuine:

Genuine comfort, ironically enough, often comes from stepping out of our comfort zones for the purpose of obeying God and spreading the gospel.

matthew 28:18-20

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

To be sure, fulfilling the Great Commission and living for God are certain to bring discomfort:

2 timothy 3:12

In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.

1 peter 4:12-16

Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. 15 If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. 16 However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.

Suffering is certainly part of living for God. But of course, there will be suffering in life anyway, so why not suffer for God, who can comfort us, instead of suffering for ourselves?

my notes:

2 corinthians 1:3-4

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.

psalm 23

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.

2 He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters,

3 he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths

for his name’s sake.

4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

6 Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

philippians 4:4-9

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

The battle belongs to the Lord! So, as you strive to live for Christ, and as you experience the inevitable discomfort that comes with it, rest in the genuine comfort of the God who is above all things, and know that your light and momentary troubles will one day evaporate in the presence of the God of all comfort!

2 corinthians 4:17

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.

pleasure

Life offers many pleasures, and the fact that we are able to enjoy any pleasure at all is attributed to the way that God designed us and our world. But too often, we try to acquire the pleasure while removing God from the equation.

the counterfeit:

Very often, we try to achieve the pleasurable results we desire while bypassing God’s plan for getting there. Here are some examples:

2 timothy 3:1-5

But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. 2 People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4 treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.

proverbs 21:17

Whoever loves pleasure will become poor; whoever loves wine and olive oil will never be rich.

my notes:

ecclesiastes 2:1

I said to myself, “Come now, I will test you with pleasure to find out what is good.” But that also proved to be meaningless.

ecclesiastes 2:10-11

I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure. My heart took delight in all my labor, and this was the reward for all my toil.

11 Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun.

Humans love pleasure, and why not? It is God who enables us to enjoy it. It is one of God’s good creations. But too often, we take shortcuts to the pleasure while ignoring God. This is counterfeit pleasure.

examples of counterfeit pleasure

Sex outside of God’s design (counterfeit intimacy)

Drunkenness or getting high (counterfeit joy)

Enjoying power over other people (counterfeit prestige)

Laziness (counterfeit comfort)

When we follow God’s design and God’s purpose, we can enjoy His pleasures in their correct and genuine context, and we can enjoy them all the more!

the genuine:

Genuine pleasure comes from living for God, who is the author and giver of pleasure.

psalm 16:11

You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

1 peter 1:8-9

Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9 for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

revelation 21:3-4

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

psalm 5:11

But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you.

morality

the counterfeit:

Man often wants to be moral, but he doesn’t want to have that morality defined for him. Instead, man wants to define his own morality and be his own judge. This results in a counterfeit morality that makes for a poor substitute for the absolute, objective righteousness of the One True Judge.

isaiah 5:20

Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.

proverbs 14:12 (and 16:25)

There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.

proverbs 26:12

Do you see a person wise in their own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for them.

isaiah 5:21

Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight.

examples of counterfeit morality

Climate change

Environmentalism

LGBTQ, gender identity, etc

Abortion

Feminism

Socialism or capitalism

Gun rights or gun control

Closed borders or open borders, etc.

Self-righteousness

Whatever positions we hold on these or any other issues, these things in and of themselves only represent the morality of man. It is God alone who determines what the right positions are, as defined by His Word and His Spirit. If our position on a particular issue is informed and determined by Scripture, then it is genuine morality. Apart from God, it is only a counterfeit attempt at morality.

colossians 2:8

See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.

the genuine:

Genuine morality is defined by God, and it all boils down to the simplest of concepts:

matthew 22:36-40

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

john 14:15

“If you love me, keep my commands.”

righteousness

As we’ve seen, the genuine rules and morality by which we live are defined by God. But our obedience to that morality is also often counterfeit. Let’s take a look:

the counterfeit:

In Scripture, we see numerous examples of people who pretended to be obedient, but whose hearts were far from it:

my notes:

matthew 23:23-27

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. 24 You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.

25 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.

27 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. 28 In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.

To simply “do the rules” is to miss the point. There is a reason for God’s commands, and if we don’t obey the spirit of those commands, it does little good:

1 corinthians 13:1-3

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

As you can see, without love, both for God and for our fellow man, our righteousness is counterfeit.

my notes:

the genuine:

Genuine righteousness is, for us, something that can only be credited to us by God, despite the fact that we could never earn it. To put it simply, genuine righteousness is Jesus. Praise God! So rather than attempting to create the counterfeit illusion of righteousness, let’s rejoice in the genuine righteousness that is credited to us as we love and obey the God of all righteousness!

1 corinthians 1:30

It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.

romans 3:21-24

But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

repentance

Genuine righteousness calls for us to acknowledge our unrighteousness, or to repent (turn away from) our sin. But very often, our human tendency is to avoid true repentance and to offer up a counterfeit facsimile instead.

the counterfeit:

A prime example of false repentance is found in First Samuel chapter 15. Here, King Saul is commanded by God to completely destroy the Amalekites, along with all of their livestock. Saul only partially complied with this command, sparing King Agag and the best of the livestock. This angered God, who sent Samuel to confront Saul on the issue. When confronted with his disobedience, this was Saul’s reply:

1 samuel 15:20-21

“But I did obey the Lord,” Saul said. “I went on the mission the Lord assigned me. I completely destroyed the Amalekites and brought back Agag their king. 21 The soldiers took sheep and cattle from the plunder, the best of what was devoted to God, in order to sacrifice them to the Lord your God at Gilgal.”

First, Saul flatly lied, claiming he had obeyed God. Additionally, he shifted blame to his soldiers. As the two men talked, Saul offered a halfhearted apology:

1 samuel 15:30

Saul replied, “I have sinned. But please honor me before the elders of my people and before Israel; come back with me, so that I may worship the Lord your God.”

Saul’s so-called repentance here was accompanied by a request to be honored by Samuel in the presence of his men. Saul was hoping to brush the issue under the rug with a few words of apology, but otherwise showed no concern for his sin and no willingness to accept the consequences of his sin.

Saul’s repentance was counterfeit. and Samuel knew it.

How often do we behave in the same way? In our embarrassment or pride, we stop short of genuine repentance, instead offering excuses, shifting blame, or making light of our sin, wanting to put the matter behind us instead of dealing with the issue. This is counterfeit repentance.

Counterfeit repentance does not bring restoration or reconciliation. Instead, it divides further.

my notes:

the genuine:

By contrast, genuine repentance is unconditional surrender. The surrendering party doesn’t try to set the terms of his surrender or his position thereafter. And while those whom have been sinned against are clearly called to forgive, the genuinely repentant party is willing to accept whatever consequences his sin has brought about.

2 corinthians 7:10-11

Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. 11 See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done. At every point you have proved yourselves to be innocent in this matter.

luke 15:17-20

“When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father.

These two passages are examples of genuine repentance, and both resulted in joyous restoration and reconciliation. That’s the beauty of genuine repentance. It doesn’t reduce us. It strengthens us!

questions to ponder:

Q. When I’m wrong, do I own up to it, or do I excuse it?

Q. Do I shift blame for my sin?

Q. Do I expect immediate restoration to my previous standing after I’ve apologized, or am I willing to accept the consequences of my sin?

worship

As we’ve already seen, the motives and condition of our hearts are the determining difference between the counterfeit and the genuine. This holds true for our worship as well.

the counterfeit:

Only God knows our hearts. The rest of us can only guess, based upon the fruit of our lives, about the condition of our hearts. With a little work, sometimes we can fool people into thinking of us what isn’t true. We can fool others, and even ourselves, into believing that we are worshiping God.

If we dress the right way, talk the right way, drop a few bucks into the offering plate and help with the Sunday School classes every now and then, we’ve done all the things that will make God happy, right? But if it isn’t rooted in the truth of God’s Word and motivated by selfless love, it is counterfeit worship.

matthew 15:8-9

“‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.

9 They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.’

my notes:

malachi 1:10-14

“Oh, that one of you would shut the temple doors, so that you would not light useless fires on my altar! I am not pleased with you,” says the Lord Almighty, “and I will accept no offering from your hands. 11 My name will be great among the nations, from where the sun rises to where it sets. In every place incense and pure offerings will be brought to me, because my name will be great among the nations,” says the Lord Almighty.

12 “But you profane it by saying, ‘The Lord’s table is defiled,’ and, ‘Its food is contemptible.’ 13 And you say, ‘What a burden!’ and you sniff at it contemptuously,” says the Lord Almighty.

“When you bring injured, lame or diseased animals and offer them as sacrifices, should I accept them from your hands?” says the Lord. 14 “Cursed is the cheat who has an acceptable male in his flock and vows to give it, but then sacrifices a blemished animal to the Lord. For I am a great king,” says the Lord Almighty, “and my name is to be feared among the nations.

1 john 4:8

Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.

Worship is not about “doing the right things” so that God or other observers will think we are “good people.” It is about loving God and loving others. It is about actively pursuing God while being honest about our great need for Him.

my notes:

the genuine:

romans 12:1-2

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

In other words, our bodies and our lives now belong to God. Our lives are for His use and for the benefit of others. We are to live by the truth of His Word and His Spirit, and we are to love Him with all our hearts and love others as ourselves. This overarching way of life is genuine worship.

john 4:23-24

Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”

colossians 3:16-17

Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

1 john 4:7

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.

our place in the universe

the counterfeit:

romans 1:25

They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.

When it comes to answering the fundamental question, “where did we come from?,” our world has composed an elaborate web of counterfeit science in order to put forth the idea of Darwinism. With God removed from consideration, we are to accept that our existence here is simply the result of a long series of happy and unlikely evolutionary accidents. We are simply bags of cells, and our consciousness is merely the result of chemical reactions. We are, in other words, of no consequence and without purpose.

The creation in which we live is what drives us and what we are to worship. Mother Earth, and “almighty” evolution holds the answer to everything. This worldview has led to the devaluation of life, eugenics, and genocide. All of this is meant to “free” us from the bonds of “religion,” so that we need not acknowledge or submit to God.

And it is counterfeit, both scientifically and of course, Biblically. Acknowledging and submitting to a higher power who created everything is not enslavement, as our world supposes. Instead, it is freeing and comforting to accept the truth about our place in the universe:

the genuine:

exodus 20:11

For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

romans 1:20

For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

While we could spend a great deal of time on this point, it is not within the scope of this particular study. The point is, God’s Word clearly tells us that the pre-existing and all-powerful God created everything in six days. Upon accepting that, we will easily see the evidence of it throughout the world around us. And then, we will better understand our genuine place in the universe.

psalm 139:13-16

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

15 My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.

16 Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

luke 12:6-7

Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. 7 Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

my notes:

our pursuits

the counterfeit:

james 1:13-17

Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” 14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15 Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil. 17 If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.

There are many pursuits in life that are culturally accepted and even expected in order to “have a good life.” And, while these pursuits are not bad in and of themselves, there is no Biblical mandate for them. These pursuits may include:

examples of cultural pursuits

Sports, band, and other extracurricular activities

College

A white-collar job

High salary, big house, nice car, etc.

A “perfect” body or appearance

Pursuing these things just because they are culturally expected amounts to counterfeit pursuits. Their value will be fleeting, not eternal. And if our pursuits actually hinder our relationship with God, they are especially counterfeit. Whatever our pursuits are, they should be aligned with and defined by pursuit of an ever-deepening walk with God.

my notes:

the genuine:

matthew 6:33

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

It’s not wrong to pursue things that you want, provided that your pursuits don’t hinder your pursuit of God. But when you seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness, God will ensure that you have what you need, if not always what you want. This is a genuine pursuit!

psalm 37:4-6

Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. 5 Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this: 6 He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun.

When our primary pursuit is God, He will give us the desires of our hearts. That’s not to say that He will give us everything we desire, but rather that He will give us the actual desires to do His will! The beauty of that is that we will desire to do God’s will and will be deeply blessed by it.

my notes:

knowing the difference

With so many counterfeit versions of God’s blessings, how are we to know the difference? Well, as with money, one doesn’t learn to identify fakes just by studying the fakes. Instead, we must continuously study and become intimately familiar with the genuine article. We must know God and His Word.

hebrews 5:14

But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.

deuteronomy 6:5-9

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

1 john 4:1-6

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. 2 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, 3 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.

4 You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. 5 They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them. 6 We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood.

every good and perfect gift...

It might be tempting to take the shortcuts the world offers us for acquiring perceived blessings. But the world can offer us nothing that we don’t already have. Consider this prime example from when Satan tempted Jesus in the desert:

matthew 4:8-10

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. 9 “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” 10 Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’”

The irony of this exchange between Satan and Jesus is that Satan was unable to offer Jesus anything that wasn’t already His. All the kingdoms of the world already belonged to Jesus. Satan was only offering a shortcut.

The same is true for us. In Christ, all things are ours already. There’s nothing that Satan (or the world) can tempt us with that isn’t ours already, because of Jesus. The genuine truth is that every good and perfect gift is from above...

james 1:13-17

When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.

16 Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. 17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

Don’t settle for counterfeits. They may come faster, and they may seem easier, but they are only empty, hollow, cheap imitations of the genuine blessings that God has for you.

Counterfeits are worthless. But God’s blessings?

Those last forever.