IS IT REAL OR ARTIFICIAL?

When I was a child, we always had real Christmas trees.  Since I lived in Chicago, we did not have forests or woods to run to so that we could chop down our tree; rather, we purchased them from tree lots in neighborhoods.  Tying the tree to the top of the car, we drove home with just the right tree, then having to cut the tree down because it was almost always too tall for the room.

aRTIFICIAL SILVER CHRISTMAS TREE

My Great Aunt and Great Uncle, however, purchased an artificial tree … it was quite costly because it was the new trend.  It was silver and came with a multicolored light wheel that turned so that the tree was any of a number of colors, including, of course, silver.  The silver tree is still sold today, as I found this picture of one for sale this week.

Now, there was no way that anyone could have been fooled into thinking that the silver tree was a real tree.  Of course, there are no totally silver metal trees in the wild!  My mother thought that the silver tree was absurd; while I thought it was unique and rather cool.  But even as a young child I knew it was not a real tree!

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Now, in our own home, we have an artificial Christmas tree (actually two artificial trees).  It is much easier to decorate and its cost is amortized over numerous years, making it a much more fixed-income friendly tree than a real tree would be.  And, the artificial trees of today look much more like the real thing than did those of yesteryear, at least as long as you don’t get too close to inspect the “needles” or the “tree’s” branches. 

From a distance it looks like the real thing, but it is not.

The same thing can be said about our spiritual lives, our relationship to the Lord Jesus Christ, our Redeemer and our Savior.  People can look good,  do nice things and can even say the right words, but their relationship with the Lord may not be the real thing … they may be an imposter, a silver tree among the green.

This is not a new phenomenon – in the Old Testament God warns about people who seem like they are believers but who, in fact, worship false gods.  Consider these words:

But my people have forgotten me; they make offerings to false gods; they made them stumble in their ways, in the ancient roads, and to walk into side roads, not the highway,

Jeremiah 18:15

For the household gods utter nonsense, and the diviners see lies; they tell false dreams and give empty consolation. Therefore the people wander like sheep; they are afflicted for lack of a shepherd.

Zechariah 10:2

Jesus spoke of false prophets, warning the people to beware of them.

Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.

Matthew 7:15

The Apostle Paul issued the same warning that Christ gave:

And what I am doing I will continue to do, in order to undermine the claim of those who would like to claim that in their boasted mission they work on the same terms as we do. 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 11:12-15

The Apostle Peter also gave a warning about false prophets and those who preach heresies rather than the true gospel.

But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.

2 Peter 2:1-3

Finally, the Apostle John also warned against false prophets who teach heresies, admonishing the people to test what people are saying to be sure that they are teaching God’s word and not a distorted message.

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.

1 John 4:1

This Christmas time be vigilant, Christian.  Test what you are hearing.  Read the Scripture and pray for wisdom and understanding.  Don’t fall prey to false teachers whose heresies sound rather like the gospel but are actually false teachings that distort and dilute the power of the Gospel of Christ. 

Don’t be fooled by artificial trees that look real, but are not!

Father, I pray that I would have wisdom to separate the truth from the falsehood; that the Holy Spirit would help me avoid the pit of heresy; that I would be granted pastors and teachers who love Your Word and who preach the truth without apology, and that I would take that truth and live it out before others, to honor and glorify You, my Lord. my Redeemer and my King.

THE SNEAKY WAY OF SIN

We all like to do things that we enjoy.  Just watch children playing together with their Playdoh.

Grandchildren at table playing (C)

 Or watch children playing in the sprinkler during the hot summer sun!

playing in sprinkler

When the children get a bit older, what could be more fun than a multi-generational game of backyard football.  No refs and no goalposts, but fun nonetheless!

USED family playing football (C)

None of these things are sinful, in and of themselves.  But sin has an insidious way of breaking into our daily routine even when what we are doing is innocuous.  Indeed, even good things can become sinful if it results in disobedience to that which we know God wants us to do.

The other evening, we had finished supper, cleaned up the dishes, and descended the stairs to the family room where we watched television.  We had been discussing, that very day, about how we needed to rethink our meals and eating habits because we need to lose weight for any number of health-related reasons. 

Following our normal course, at 9:00 we had ice cream bars, low calorie bars so in our minds they are ok to have, especially since we had no dessert for dinner. So far, so good.

But then the program we were watching focused on a family in various humorous, although troubling, life situations.  At the end of their day, the teenaged children came into the kitchen and found the Dad sitting at the table, looking haggard.  He had something in front of him that was not really identifiable for the audience.

The television Dad looked up at the children and said: “want some cheese toast?”

At that the program ended, and at the same moment, my husband and I looked at each other and simultaneously said “Cheese Toast!” 

Within moments we had retrieved the toaster oven from over the freezer and were siding bread onto the rack while the cheese was being unwrapped and made ready for melting.

Cheese toast is certainly not sinful.  But, what struck me most was how quickly our dedication to the proposition that we should lose weight fell by the boards when we heard the words “cheese toast” even though it was 11:15 p.m. 

Not a word was uttered in support of dietary restraint.  We bounded up the stairs as quickly as we could, toting the toaster oven to the kitchen and grabbing the bread and cheese almost in one smooth, coordinated, motion. 

When sin beckons me, do I really run toward it like we ran to cheese toast?  What if Satan puts something else in front of me so as to tempt me to leave the Lord that I love … will I run to it as fast as I did to cheese toast?

Our culture has done a great job of inoculating us from the actions of Satan.  We think of him as a guy in a red suit with horns and a pitchfork, certainly nothing that we would be inclined to follow!  But that is not how Scripture talks of him.

“Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”

1 Peter 5:8

I have not been in the wilds of Africa to see a lion up close and personal however I  did see a lion in the zoo!  But, when the lion prowls around, I believe that it sneaks up on its prey, saving the roaring for after the kill.

In speaking of the false teachers who were misleading the Corinthian church, Paul says this about Satan:

“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

Of course, Satan’s ultimate goal is to eliminate the Church and all that Christ accomplished through His death on the cross.

“But since we were torn away from you, brothers, for a short time, in person not in heart, we endeavored the more eagerly and with great desire to see you face to face, because we wanted to come to you–I, Paul, again and again–but Satan hindered us.”

1 Thessalonians 2:17-18

The good news is that Satan is not the victor – He has been defeated by our Lord and Savior Who is more than capable of holding on to us as His people.  Indeed, James put it this way:

“Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”

James 4:7

If we resist Satan, he will flee because he understands that the only way we have the power to resist him is through Christ, and our Savior’s power far exceeds that of Satan any day of the week.

Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever.  Amen.

Jude 1:24-25

With that benediction I end this post.  Blessings to you, Brothers and Sisters in the Lord.  Take heart – cheese toast does not win the day.  We can meet the adversary and sin has no controlling hold on us anymore.  We are still sinners, yes.  But now, through the blood of Jesus Christ, we don’t have to yield to sin – we can resist it through the poser of our Lord and Savior.

Father, I praise Your Name for the gift of salvation through belief in Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior.  I praise Your Name that I am no longer a slave to sin and that through Christ’s power I can resist Satan and claim life with Christ for eternity.  Thank You Lord.