by Bill Rudge
We hear much about signs, wonders and miracles but very little about the need for discernment.
As a new Christian, I did not expect to uncover deception in churches and ministries such as I found in researching the realm of the occult. While I have witnessed genuine miracles and prophecies, there is often too much “flesh” and “fraud” being propagated in Jesus’ name. Consequently, as a new convert, I quickly learned the importance of discernment and integrity.
For instance, a popular evangelist who amazed young and old alike with his knowledge of Bible prophecy had a part in my coming to faith in Christ. A short time later he left his wife, ran off with his secretary, became an alcoholic and embezzled ministry funds, which resulted in prison time. Early experiences like this – that could have easily turned me back to the world – actually proved to be of profound benefit to my life and ministry. I had a crucial choice to make: Do I build my life on man or on God? I chose to build my life and ministry on Jesus Christ and His Word – and that has made all the difference.
In stark contrast, a pastor who had significantly contributed to my accepting Christ, has faithfully served Him all the days of his life. His example has been an inspiration to many.
Then there was the popular Christian singing group who performed at a large camp meeting I attended as a young believer. They sang, cried and moved many to tears with their songs and testimonies. Shortly thereafter, this same group went secular and began performing some raunchy songs. It was hard for me at that time to understand how they could sing about Jesus with such passion and so quickly turn, performing songs that led youth and adults down a path away from Him. It was not surprising to discover that even while on their Christian circuit, they had many illicit relations with girls and women who idolized them.
As a young Christian I had to make yet another important decision: Will I be influenced by surface appearance and emotionalism and use my position of leadership for personal favors or will I follow the path of wisdom and discernment? I chose to seek wisdom and discernment – and that has made all the difference.
Prior to a three-week mission to Mexico, God had impressed on Karen and me to go to Bible college. Upon our return from the mission trip, preparations were underway for our move when a so-called prophetess prophesied that we were to go back to Mexico. I said to her, “I’m still a relatively new Christian and do not know the Word very well yet, but I do know that if God told me to go to Bible college, if God told me to buy a mobile home, if God enabled us to find the very last mobile home lot on which we could put our mobile home in the city, then God wants me there. And that’s where I’m going!”
I had to decide: Do I follow the voice of someone telling me God’s will for my life, or do I follow God’s Word and what His Spirit has led me to do? I chose to follow what I knew to be the clear direction of the Lord – and that has made all the difference.
While attending Bible college, I worked at a window factory with several other students who had been Christians much longer than I. However, it didn’t take long to see the shallowness of their commitment. They mocked others, swore, used vulgar expressions and stole small items from work. So as a young Christian I had to make yet another crucial choice: Do I follow the crowd and live a compromised Christianity or do I, by God’s grace and power, live a life of integrity and discipline? I chose a life of integrity and have sought to honor the Lord in every aspect of my life – and that has made all the difference.
Many times I have reflected back on how ineffective my life and ministry could have been had I not chosen to follow the direction of the Lord during those crucial decisions. But because I obeyed God’s voice, He has produced tremendous fruit through our lives, done the impossible through our ministry and blessed us greatly.
What Then Shall We Do?
Over the years I have encountered in various “Christian” groups: false teachings, erroneous prophecies, faked healings, counterfeit miracles, financial misappropriation, lies, gossip, sexual immorality, drug and alcohol usage, and other un-Christlike behaviors. Some of this could be explained as weakness of the flesh; however, many were using the name of Jesus for personal gain while fleecing the people of God who, because of their lack of discernment and biblical knowledge, enabled them to do so. I have encountered countless people who said they rejected Christianity because of fakery and hypocrisy; for some theirs was a lame excuse, for others a true stumbling block. Turning anyone from the Gospel or hindering someone in their walk with Christ because of our example is something we must all, as believers, strive to avoid.
While I believe in the supernatural power of God and the gifts of the Spirit, I have witnessed too much imitation, manipulation, even demonic phenomena in Jesus’ name. Truly, the Church needs the power of God’s Spirit today – not the flesh or the counterfeit, but the authentic moving of God’s Spirit.
Does fakery and hypocrisy practiced in Jesus’ name mean we ought to reject Him and Christianity? To the contrary, His Word warns about such people and practices. You can be certain that those who resort to deception and manipulation will be held accountable for the Lord “will bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts; and then each man’s praise will come to him from God” (1 Corinthians 4:5).
I have spent more than two thirds of my lifetime on an amazing adventure of discovering the truth, reality and faithfulness of the God of the Bible. Scripture encourages believers to be Bereans (Acts 17:10-12) – exercising discernment and examining all things by God’s Word. Imitation and counterfeit should motivate us all the more to earnestly seek the true and the genuine. Without a doubt, only Jesus Christ and Scripture have the answers to life and eternity.
There are some who use the name of Christ for personal gain or to merchandise the Gospel, and others are as deceived as the people who follow them; but there are many more genuine followers of Christ. Countless pastors, missionaries, chaplains and believers love the Lord with all their hearts, minds and strength. Their beliefs and lifestyles – both in the public eye and behind the scenes, the fruit of their ministries and personal sacrifices validate their commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ.
In the midst of a corrupt and wicked world, an increasing number of believers desire to live committed and disciplined lives of purity and righteousness. Instead of “liberalism” they walk in obedience; rather than “legalism” they are motivated by love and a desire to honor their Lord. Not perfect in themselves, but relying on the grace of the Perfect One, they press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of them (Philippians 3:12). They will be found faithful when Christ returns and receive the crown of life (Revelation 2:10). How about you?
Finally: Each believer should choose to develop a personal and intimate relationship with Jesus Christ, know the voice of His Spirit, honor His Word, and walk before Him and the world in love, truth, discipline and integrity.