First, let me remind you to send me your family holiday photos along with 50 words or less telling me why you love the shot. A funny picture, a sentimental or nostalgic picture, excited children or Christmas morning chaos. It’s the “mug shot contest” because the top five photo entries will win Digging Deep travel mugs filled with Christmas candy. You know you want that!
So send me your entries, along with name and address to firstname.lastname@example.org by December 14th.
Next, I’ve been thinking a lot about scam artists since last Thursday when an evil man or group of people somehow infected my computer, compromising my security and attempting unsuccessfully to extort money from the accounts connected to my laptop. I hope you never have to go through an afternoon like the one I put in trying to undo what the hackers were doing. It’s frustrating at best and the worst case scenario, of course, is, in some ways, irreparable. I’m thankful my experience was in the “frustrating” category. But as I thought about what this man was attempting, it occurred to me that certain of the ploys that are used by these scammers are very similar to those of men who attempt to deceive Christians by coming into faithful churches and drawing men away to “another gospel” (Gal.1:6,7).
First, the hacker planted an aggravating situation into my internet usage. Pop-ups prevented me from even seeing the things I needed to view that day. (That man was, in the words of Dr. Seuss, a “bad banana with a greasy black peel”.) Have you ever noticed that those who lead people away from faithful doctrine often begin by causing dissonance within a congregation? They like to criticize the leadership, planting doubts within the minds of people about men who are faithful and about the doctrines from God’s Word that they’ve understood for years. This “infection injection” results in dissonance and doubt…the inability to see what was clear before the false teachers came in. Just as I became irritated with my computer last Thursday, people become discontent in congregations where the viruses of doubt and dissent are planted.
Next, everything about this hacker looked exactly as if he was legitimately from the Apple company. Even the representatives of the Apple company admitted that these Apple enemies (hackers) are getting better and better at masquerading as Apple technicians and it is extremely hard to keep customers protected from them. The message I received about my computer being infected and needing immediate attention looked as if it was legit. Jesus said that false prophets are wolves in sheep’s clothing (Matt. 7:15). They often seem to be some of the kindest, most dedicated people in your congregation. Jesus said false teachers know how to masquerade and deceive.
The next thing I noticed about the man who was trying to get me to “buy into” his offer to help me protect my at-risk information was that he seemed very smart; savvy about the product and the technology—way above my head. I was tempted to trust him because he surely sounded like he knew so much about how to solve my problem. We have to be careful about doctrines that seem “above our heads”. There are lots of very intelligent preachers and teachers who are sincerely and diligently searching the scriptures. But there are also those who are educated but are “ever learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (II Tim. 3:7). Remember, the foundational principles of the gospel are simple enough for the common man. It was the common men who heard Jesus gladly (Mark 12:37).
This man then pushed me to change my method of protecting my computer. He pressured me to invest in his recommended method and insisted that, while I waited, bad things could be happening to my personal and banking information. He told me how reliable his system was and how many people had been “saved” from disaster by his plan of protection. He even told me I was tech savvy and smart enough to work my way through this problem and have a clean computer once again. False teachers are often pushy. They want to make their way into influential positions in congregations. They sometimes want you to think that the “smart” people are the ones who have come to “understand and know Jesus the way they do.” They want to impress you with how change will protect the future of your congregation and, sometimes this “change” is nothing short of forsaking that which is real and genuine and authorized, for that which is accepted—even popular— among denominationalists, but unauthorized by the Lord.
Finally, I told this man who wanted my money that I’d just take my infected computer to the manufacturer—to the Apple store. “They can tell me what’s wrong with it.” He did not like the fact that I wanted to go straight to the manufacturer…AT ALL…because he knew that was the place of truth. If you want to know something about a problem with a Macbook Pro, you go to tech support at the Apple Store.
False teachers—those who are attempting to pull people away from sound doctrine– are often critical of a dependence on and searching out of the Scriptures. “You think it’s important to know book, chapter and verse….I think it’s important to just know Jesus.” One man even told my husband that you do not put faith in your children by having them memorize verses. “You put faith in kids by telling them stories about family members who had good characters.” God is the manufacturer. He made you and me. He devised the scheme for our redemption. He paid the price for it . He owns the “patent” for salvation. We have a big problem and the Word of God has the answer. In fact, the Word—it’s books, chapters and verses—is the only possible way to know Jesus, our Lord. It is by hearing the word of God that we grow our faith (Romans 10:17). That word, when hidden in our hearts, is protection against the debilitating and damning infection of sin (Psalm 119:11). Don’t let a spiritual hacker have access to your heart!