The pastor of the independent fundamental Baptist church we attended back in the 80s had a story about counterfeit money that he must have thought was quite clever because he trotted it out about three or four times a year. It went something like this:
A pastor happened to meet a Secret Service agent who specialized in counterfeit currency. The pastor asked him how much time he spent studying counterfeit money in order to be prepared to spot a fake bill. To his surprise the agent replied that he didn’t spend any time studying phony bills. He devoted all his time studying the characteristics of genuine bills so that the imperfections of fake money would be immediately apparent.
Likewise, the pastor said, Christians needn’t waste their time and energy learning about the details of cults and apostate churches. Just study the Word diligently, he said, and you’ll be able to spot counterfeit Christianity immediately. Everyone in attendance always shook their heads in agreement with a few hearty “Amens” thrown in for good measure. Good advice?
I’ve heard this “counterfeit” analogy many times since those old days. In fact, I heard it just this morning from a very popular Evangelical pastor on a Christian radio show. To be honest, I think it’s REALLY DUMB advice. Fifty years ago the great majority of Evangelical pastors KNEW the difference between the Gospel of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone versus Roman Catholicism’s gospel of salvation by sacramental grace and by “perfect obedience” to the Ten Commandments. I’m sure Evangelical pastors have been studying God’s Word diligently the last fifty years but, somehow, the majority now believes Catholicism is Christian. How did that happen? What changed? Today’s accommodators say, “Well, Catholics also believe in God, sin, and Jesus. Close enough!” Really? So are people saved by accepting Christ by faith or by “perfectly obeying” the Ten Commandments as the Roman church teaches? Only one way is right.
Maybe if pastors had spent JUST A LITTLE time studying the distinctives of Roman Catholicism over the years there would now be a lot less inclination to embrace it. Instead of warning their flocks to be watchful for the ravenous wolves in sheep’s clothing, Evangelical pastors gave out fleshly advice that appealed to itching ears. “Just keep your eyes on Jesus. No need to be concerned about all those unusual looking sheep approaching from the distance.”
“This past week I preached in the great Catholic Cathedral a funeral sermon for a close friend of mine who was a Catholic, and they had several Bishops and Archbishops to participate, and as I sat there going through the funeral Mass that was a very beautiful thing, and certainly straight and clear in the gospel. There was a wonderful little priest that would tell me when to stand and when to kneel and what to do.” – Billy Graham, 1993.
“Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.” – Matthew 7:15