A friend of mine was hoping to catch some bait minnows the other day. He crept slowly up to the bank of a stream so as not to scare them away. He stepped on a patch of what looked like benign wet sand, and got a rude awakening. Suddenly, his foot sank six inches in muck that held him like wet cement. QUICKSAND. He managed to get his other foot on ground that was solid enough to support him as he struggled to free himself.
He immediately sensed a Clear and Present Danger. He could understand how quickly (and hopelessly) people get trapped and sucked into something they are powerless to escape. He almost needed to call for reinforcements, of the kind he had seen only in adventure movies (i.e., sturdy ropes held by sturdier muscle-bound rescuers). But finally, much to his great relief, he got free.
Who would have ever imagined he would stumble into quicksand so close to home?
What about spiritual quicksand, Lord? Is it really any different? Something that seems benign on the surface quickly traps people and sucks them into what they are powerless to escape (or to even want to escape)?
I had no idea when You directed my steps this morning that I would end up where I am tonight. But here I am! Watching Scriptures come alive before my very eyes. Watching spiritual quicksand shockingly suck people into its deadly grip.
“As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately. ‘Tell us, they said, ‘when will this happen, and what will be the sign of Your coming and of the end of the age?’ Jesus answered, ‘Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many… At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Messiah! or, ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you ahead of time.” (Matthew 24:3-5,23-25)
There’s so much more in that passage, Lord, that describes the very days we are in. But I was shocked to discover the number of people there are right now who are claiming to be You, Jesus — the literal Second Coming of the Messiah. I stopped my research tonight at nine such masqueraders, but I focused in particular on one because he is right here in Florida.
Why does it not surprise me, Lord, that there would be one such deceiver here in this State, where You have been preparing to unleash Your Presence in a society-transforming way?! I won’t go into most of what I learned, but a few highlights reveal Your enemy — the Adversary — so transparently!
This 60-year-old man leads a “church” called “Growing in Grace.” He boldly asserts he is You, Jesus — You, the Resurrected Christ. He is headquartered in Miami and has 300 churches worldwide (including at least ten elsewhere in the U.S.). His messages should raise the warning antennae on anyone with any spiritual discernment.
In a video clip, I saw him make the following assertions: “Sin no longer exists.” “Hell doesn’t exist.” “Satan is a Hollywood character… made up.” “Prayer is a waste of time.” (???!!!)
He indulges in a lavish lifestyle (e.g., Rolex watch, expensive sports cars and estates)… all paid for by the funds he takes in from followers. He says, “Everybody should be rich.” (???!!!)
He says leaders of all other “Christian” churches — Catholic, Protestant, Evangelical — are all “liars” because only he preaches “the truth.” He even asks (encourages) his followers to tattoo the number “666” on their wrists because it is “his” number — “the number of wisdom.” (???!!!)
They gladly comply. They love him. They worship him. He has over 1 million followers.
“You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (John 8:44)
“This calls for wisdom. Let the person who has insight calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man. That number is 666.” (Revelation 13:18)
Oh, Lord… What a treasure Your written Word is! This Source of Truth You have left us by which to better understand You and the world around us!
“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.” (2 Timothy 3:16)
How precious that You have captured, in Your very own words, the way we will recognize the Real You when You do return!
“So if anyone tells you, ‘There he is, out in the wilderness,’ do not go out; or, ‘Here he is, in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.” (Matthew 24:26-27)
But how many people — how many Christians — actually read and believe Your Bible, Lord?
According to a 2012 LifeWay study, only 19% of Christians read their Bible every day. Virtually the same number (18%) “rarely or never” do. A quarter (25%) claim to read it a few times a week; 14% once a week, and 22% “once a month” or “a few times a month.” (http://www.lifeway.com/Article/research-survey-bible-engagement-churchgoers) (???!!!)
“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. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations…” (2 Timothy 4:3-5a)
Holding fast, Lord, to You and Your Word…
Knowing You are invincible…