“A group of Jews was traveling from town to town casting out evil spirits. They tried to use the name of the Lord Jesus in their incantation, saying, “I command you in the name of Jesus, whom Paul preaches, to come out! … But one time when they tried it, the evil spirit replied, “I know Jesus, and I know Paul, but who are you?”
~ Acts 19:13:15 (NLT)
Studies have uncovered that between 30-60% of people admit to plagiarism ranging from stealing concepts, not referencing sources, to full on copying by putting their name on another’s work. More than a little shocked when I read this, I rationalized thinking that the societal pressure on people is so heavy, they’ll do most anything to get ahead.
When I read this scripture from Acts, I found it peculiar. “Who would use the name of someone else’s god to help them get ahead?” I wondered, “…why did plagiarism it make it into the Bible?”
After some mulling, I’ve come to believe that a plagiarized God is common. How many church goers, pressed to appear like they know God, are actually attempting to solve their problems by calling out “in the name of Jesus, whom Paul preaches,” having never really allowed themselves to know Jesus intimately? I’m reminded of how easy it is to simply lift what we’ve heard others say and apply it to our lives, a formula. A classic example is an adult who has only their parent’s faith.
“I Never Knew You”
Worldly plagiarism must work…how often do you hear of people getting caught? Scripture paints a different story of consequences in the spiritual realm.
“Then the man with the evil spirit leaped on them, overpowered them, and attacked them with such violence that they fled from the house, naked and battered.”
Acts 19:16 (NLT)
This confrontation was disastrous for these Jews though I suspect in most cases, spiritual plagiarism yields nothing… an even greater tragedy when you think about it. How many toss up the godly words they’ve heard others say, as if to wave a magic wand in the air, calling on God to solve all of their problems? Believing that God’s only purpose is to relieve their troubles so they can get ahead, when they don’t get the response they want, they turn away from rather than toward intimacy with Jesus. What better tactic could the enemy employ to destroy lives?
“Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter. On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’ But I will reply, ‘I never knew you.”
Jesus Christ | Matthew 7:21-23 (NLT)
On that fateful day in front of Jesus, the reality of their plagiarized faith will hit hard when he says, “I never knew you.”
Plagiarism’s sweet spot comes at test time. Nothing like a little pressure to find out if something is legit, right? Call it God’s crucible, where the pure remains and the impure burns away.
“Fire tests the purity of silver and gold, but the Lord tests the heart.”
Proverbs 17:3 (NLT)
The Lord will test you, let there be no doubt. He doesn’t want to say those dreadful words, “I never knew you.” So, he’ll provide many chances, some small, some big, for you to prove that the love for him in your heart is genuine – when you trust the Lord’s heart fully no matter the outcome.
“Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego replied, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty. But even if he doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.’”
Daniel 3:16-18 (NLT)
Will your heart stay true under pressure as these faithful believers displayed? Will you seek to know God better regardless of a change in your circumstances?
“All these people died still believing what God had promised them. They did not receive what was promised, but they saw it all from a distance and welcomed it.”
The Apostle Paul | Hebrews 11:13 (NLT)
Of those listed in Hebrews as the most faithful, the “Faith Hall of Fame,” none saw all of God’s promises fulfilled, yet they trusted God anyway. How do you respond when your prayers are answered “no”? Will your heart test genuine?
Mobilize Your Mission
In Matthew, Jesus said “Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter.” There is nothing quite like laboring for the Kingdom hand in hand with Jesus. Likewise, there may not be a better crucible for the Lord to test your heart. Is your will aligned with the Father’s?
Perhaps no one displays greater evidence of this than one who moves from being saved by Jesus, to accepting his call to join his forces by mobilizing their Life Mission. When on mission, he’ll test you over and over, nudging you to shed less important things while pushing you to grow. At the same time, you will be confronted by the enemy’s resistance. Most of the time it will be difficult to distinguish the difference. Through it all, Jesus asks, “Are you still on board?”
Think of those Faith Hall of Famers… all of them stayed on Mission no matter the cost. Noah kept building the ark in the midst of ridicule. Abraham prepared to sacrifice his son Isaac who was to fulfill God’s promise of a great nation. Moses endured confrontations with Pharoah again and again. Paul faced adversary after adversary as he planted churches…. Think of the depth of their relationships with Jesus after enduring test after test.
“But on the judgment day, fire will reveal what kind of work each builder has done. The fire will show if a person’s work has any value. If the work survives, that builder will receive a reward. But if the work is burned up, the builder will suffer great loss. The builder will be saved, but like someone barely escaping through a wall of flames.”
The Apostle Paul | 1 Corinthians 3:13-15 (NLT)
These saints all answered Jesus’ question with a resounding “yes!” without any assurance their work would prove valuable. They simply trusted Jesus, the one they had grown to love. Their heart’s tested genuine and they ultimately did receive rewards for their work that survived the fire.
Though Jesus calls everyone he saves to mobilize their Life Mission, only some respond as the saints did with a resounding “yes!” Are you willing to pursue the unique adventure that God planned for you to test your heart as genuine? Are you interested in the ultimate reward, knowing Jesus intimately?
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