False Colors

Bill Brinkworth

Friend or foe wondered the crew? Through the wandering wisps of pea-soup fog, the approaching vessel could only wonder.

Closer and closer they came to the many-masted vessel. Not all of her sails were unfurled as she also poked her way through the mist.

The clanging of her ship’s bell rudely broke the silence. Soon mumbles of shouted orders could be vaguely heard. A question still puzzled most of the approaching crew. Was this heavily, cannoned ship, they were getting closer to, a friend or foe?

As the English vessel inched to the starboard of the unknown ship, a mate called out that he thought he saw enemy insignia on the jib as it fluttered into the unclear mists.

Another quickly countered the alarm by stating, “She’s English. See her banner!” Soon many leaned over the rail, and saw the same insignia.

Quickly, the captain got the word. “She’s friend,” he bellowed. Great relief went through the crew. The ship’s whistle called the alarm off. Cannon’s were pulled back off the rail. There was no need for alarm, as the approaching vessel was a friend. They thought.

Soon they were along side this strange vessel. The crew lined the rail to wave and shout welcomes.

What a terrifying retort the approached ship replied with as her double-decks of cannons flashed their unwelcome reply. It was an enemy ship. As the tricked vessel was ravished by a close range barrage of cannon shot, her decks and rigging were soon destroyed. Rigging and mastings came crashing down and claimed more lives. It wasn’t long until she started taking on water and started lisping to her starboard. She was going down.

“But she was a Britt,” gasped a confused, wounded sailor. Through the fog he got a closer picture. The vessel had lowered her English banner and now running up the mast, was a new banner. It was the pirate skull and bones. Pirates had ambushed them.

The false banner of one who claims to be a Christian or of the same stripe has fooled many a preacher, youth minister, Christian schoolteacher and church member. It is soon discovered that they were not or were of different standards and beliefs then they led others to believe.

In a ministry, they do get in. Some deliberately force their doctrine on an unknowing, undiscerning membership. Sometimes there is no motive or intention. They may not even know that they’re not the same as others. Sometimes they’re not Christians, and just think they know better then the pastor and others. No matter how or why they infiltrated the lines, they can do a lot of destruction to members and a church. Too many churches have learned this truth, as a church split devastated the work of the Lord.

How can one discern that all that claim to be of Christ are not? There are biblical guidelines to help one discern, but before they are put under that scrutiny, it is best to wait.

Many ministries have a weakness in this area. The need for helpers and workers in a work is so great that the first willing, warm body through the door gets utilized for a ministry opening. Little consideration to the volunteer’s spiritual soundness and maturity are evaluated before handing them a ministry position. They are moved into position so quickly that steady church attendance, doctrinal agreement, and spiritual growth have not had adequate time to be verified.

Soon they are involved: excited, fervent and eager, but only for a short time. Some cannot maintain the pace required of them. They miss a week here or there. They may even whisper disapproval to others about their labors. These workers had had no time to spiritually prepare and be strengthened.

Although the admonition is applied to the qualifications of a preacher, 1 Timothy 3:6 gives good advice about one getting into the ministry: “Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil.” One should be grounded, strengthened, and trained before stepping onto the battlefield. Too many go into the battle unprotected, unpracticed, and unprepared. As a result, they get wounded and are out of service before they can really begin.

After I first got saved, the Lord made it clear that He wanted me to teach. I couldn’t wait to teach. I quickly bounded over to the preacher for my first assignment. His wise words were, “Wait. Start attending every church service. Study your Bible and learn what He has for you. Then if you still feel that’s what the Lord wants you to do, come see me in one year!”

“One year!” I was shocked and discouraged. I wanted it now; however, I did as he said. It was a very, long wait. One year later, I was at his door and received my first church ministry. I didn’t like the wait. To be honest, I got a little mad at him. Now I appreciate his discernment of my spiritual immaturity and his deep respect for having the ministry occupied by the right leader. My waiting showed him how serious I was for the position, and I was better prepared when it was offered.

The Bible clearly advises us to discern if one is what he says he is. Their “fruits” must be observed. “Fruits,” in this context, is referring to is what is spiritually produced. A Godly man will be righteous and do things approved of by his Father.

When one is truly saved, the evidence is not hard to discover. Church attendance, Bible reading and an interest in the things of God will be natural. All these are some of the fruits that can be expected from a Christian. Attitudes, convictions, and involvements in the right things, and uninvolvements of the wrong things will be fruit that can easily observed.

Here in Florida we have a good example of how hard it is to discern “fruit.” During the killing frosts of the 1980’s, many orange trees died. The top of the tree died off almost immediately; but the graft, close to the root, soon sprouted up another orange tree. Within years it was producing fruit. The leaves were the same. The fruit certainly looked liked a juicy orange. When the fruit was sliced open and tasted, it was quickly known that it was sour and unfit for consumption. Looks are deceiving; but when the fruit was closely inspected, not just the tree, its true character was revealed.

“Well, all this talk about discerning another’s fruits is just judgmental, and I’ll have no part of it,” some may mutter. Matthew 7:1, “Judge not, that ye be not judged,” usually gets some nervous about discerning one’s testimony. If you will read the verses toward the end of that chapter, you will find three things we are to judge. They include false messages (verse 15), false fruits (verse 16), and false hopes for heaven (verse 21). We are to know if things are righteous, of God, and His will for our lives. How can that be accomplished without discerning?

Of the 15 times “fruits” is used in the New Testament, 11 of those are clearly about observing another’s spiritual testimony. When one’s spirituality is viewed and valued, it will be easier to get the right person in the right position. Wait; closely observe; and one’s banner will clearly be revealed. Waiting may save time and heartache for the Christian, as well as the ministry.


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