Scammers abound. Anyone with a telephone or computer will be aware of that. And it is not always easy to distinguish fake messages from real ones. Deceptive calls can sound convincing or fake messages can look genuine. But it is important that we make the distinction. This need to distinguish the fake from the genuine is not new. It was an important issue in the world of the Apostle Paul. In those days people would send messages purporting to be from some respected authority but, in reality, they were fake. That is why orders or announcements were sealed with the seal of the person authorizing them. The seal proved the genuineness of the document. So, in matters of Christian faith Paul saw the need to distinguish between the genuine and the false, and he gives us a clue for today as we seek to distinguish the real Gospel from fake editions. What distinguishes the true from the false is not credal statements, the form of words used or the group belonged to, but the presence of God’s Spirit. A person may claim to be a Christian, but if the Spirit of Christ is not evident in that person’s life the genuineness of that claim can be questioned. People can say that they are saved, but do they live the joy, the peace, the love, that Christ saves us to? People can say, “I’m not racist” and believe that to be true, but the spirit of racism which opposes God’s Spirit of grace, acceptance and respect, lingers on. The genuineness of our Christian discipleship can be seen in the Spirit of Christ evident in what we do and say. Forms, rituals and customs of Christianity can be used as masks to hide behind. What we look for is the real thing. The Christlike Spirit, the forgiving heart, respect and compassion, joy and trust, worship and prayer as personal response to the presence and word of God – this is the seal that shows the genuineness of faith. This is the evidence that shows that we really are part of God’s redeemed and renewed community.
- Do you have any stories to tell about scams that were tried on you or on people that you know?
- What’s the difference between a genuine Christian and one who is Christian in name only?
- If it is the presence and power of the Holy Spirit that guarantees that a person really belongs to God’s kingdom, how is that Spirit evident?
- It is important to remember that the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of God the Creator and of God who was incarnate in Jesus. Why?