The world has a problem with counterfeits. Technological advances have allowed deceptive copies to become increasingly sophisticated and difficult to detect. Widespread growth of internet sales exposes these fake copies to potential buyers who might not be as sophisticated as larger entities. Fake goods can wreak havoc with a company and with unsuspecting buyers. Forged currencies can wreak havoc with an economy and impoverish its citizens.
In a Harvard Business Review article, Chen, Yue and Zhao presented eight tactics to fight counterfeits in China. Quoting from a U. S. Chamber of Commerce study, China and Hong Kong are estimated to produce 86 percent of the world's counterfeit goods worth $397 billion. In 2016, counterfeit merchandise accounted for an estimated 12.5 percent of China's total exports. China also has a significant domestic problem with fake merchandise. Some buyer's knowingly purchase the fake to have an item that looks expensive at a fraction of the cost.
Counterfeiting money can be and has been used as a weapon. Fraud Fighter presents some of history's examples. Yemeni money was counterfeited in an attempt to destabilize Yemen and fund Iran's Revolutionary Guard. Britain tried to destabilize the Continental economy by counterfeiting their currency. Samuel Upham, the Nazis and France counterfeited Confederate banknotes, British pounds and the Guinean currency, respectively, to cause economic turmoil. Even the CIA has reportedly resorted to counterfeiting the currency of other governments.
U.S. paper currency has a number of security features to help prevent counterfeiting. For example, our paper money is printed on a special paper which is composed of 25 percent linen and 75 percent cotton and has small red and blue fibers randomly embedded throughout the paper. Our currency also makes use of watermarks, color-shifting ink, security threads (except $1 and $2 denominations), 3-D security ribbons ($100 denomination), and serial numbers among other things. Even with the enhanced security features, law enforcement must remain vigilant, as North Korea and other countries will sometimes print what is called the super-dollar (counterfeits which are very good).
The adjective "counterfeit" can be defined as something not genuine which imitates something superior. Counterfeit goods and currencies are important, but in the church, counterfeits can have eternal consequences. Since its earliest beginnings, the church has had issues with counterfeits. Today's church is no different. We have a problem.
Too many current churchgoers have beliefs that are not consistent with the letter or the spirit of the Bible. Some don't believe the Bible is the Word of God. Others don't believe the Old Testament is relevant today. Still others don't believe that Jesus is divine, that He was born of the virgin Mary, that He was crucified for our sins, that He rose from the dead and/or that He is now sitting at the right hand of the Father. Others believe their good works will cause the Lord to love them more or assure their salvation. As believers, we have a responsibility to help correct these counterfeit beliefs.
The Ephesian church was chastised for leaving its first love, but was commended for not tolerating evil men, for testing counterfeit apostles and for hating the deeds of the Nicolaitans (Rev. 2:1-11). The church at Pergamum was commended for not denying the faith when facing severe persecution but was chastised for accepting the teachings of Balaam and the Nicolaitans and tolerating sin (Rev. 2:12-17). Our response to counterfeits is important to the Lord.
Paul clearly warned Timothy that the time will come when people will not endure sound doctrine, will find teachers in accord with their own desires, will turn their ears from the truth and will turn to myths (2 Tim. 4:3-4). Some of today's ministers and churches appear to be enabling the ungodly attitudes and behaviors predicted by Paul. By not teaching the whole gospel, by selectively using some scriptural references and ignoring others, unbiblical societal norms are often justified from our pulpits. Could it be to increase attendance? Is this a counterfeit gospel dictated by societal norms? Does not this strategy risk moving hearers from scriptural norms (with its blessings) to societal norms (with its risks)?
The Holy Spirit came to empower disciples and the church. Peter's first sermon post-Pentecost resulted in the first mega-church. Early church believers were able to endure the most severe persecution, maintain their peace and joy, and still evangelize the world. Healings, deliverances and signs and wonders were relatively common in the early church and still occur today.
The church and individuals desperately need a move of the Holy Spirit today, but discernment is necessary. The Holy Spirit stirs emotions, but emotions are not a substitute for the Holy Spirt. Hearing the word of God through prophecy is empowering, life-changing and often the vehicle the Lord uses for warnings and breakthroughs. But false (counterfeit) prophecy destroys faith and can lead to distracting or even dangerous guidance. Today's world is seeing the Bible's miracles regularly. However, there are counterfeits which need to be tested.
A person is often unaware when buying a counterfeit. Similarly, spiritual sheep may be unaware when fed components of a counterfeit gospel. The risks from this counterfeit might not be fully realized. One of the goals of the fivefold ministry is to equip the saints. However, counterfeit armor has spots that are weak. When the armor is severely tested in times of war, the counterfeit armor can result in death.
Let us honor the Lord and our sheep by presenting and modeling the entire gospel. Let us rout out all counterfeits. Let us accept no less than the pure, undiluted, glorious good news which our Lord promised and sealed with His blood.
"The last great delusion is soon to open before us. Antichrist is to perform his marvelous works in our sight, so closely will the counterfeit resemble the true that it will be impossible to distinguish between them except by the Holy Scriptures," Ellen G. White
Dr. James Russell is a professor of economics at Oral Roberts University.
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