Saturday, July 6, 2013

The Real Deal

Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.

-- Psalm 37:4    

For many tourists in New York City, buying a fake Rolex watch or Gucci handbag from a street vendor is as big a part of their trip as visiting the Empire State Building or taking the Staten Island Ferry. After all, getting a bargain is always fun. And who knows? Your friends just might glance at your bling and think you paid for the real deal.

But you usually get what you pay for. And it turns out that buying counterfeit goods is hardly a harmless diversion. The International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) reports that 2.5 million jobs have been lost to fake products. In developing countries alone, counterfeits account for $125 billion in lost tax revenue and additional welfare spending. What's more, the University of Florida estimates that fakes account for about 25 percent of the pesticides sold in some European countries. Even some parts used in our nation's warplanes are cheap knock-offs manufactured in China. 

There's also a huge problem with inexpensive counterfeit pharmaceuticals--like anti-malaria drugs--that have actually proven to be lethal. Malaria is curable. But the medications for treating it must be real, trustworthy and effective. As the Bible tells us in Proverbs, "There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death."
Let's now consider the parallels between dangerous counterfeit goods and God's warnings about idolatry. When it comes to buying clothing, jewelry, pesticides, medicine--and even aircraft parts--we're often quick to look the other way and settle for cheap imitations. The truth is that we idolize expensive luxury goods. But we'd rather not pay the true price for the real thing.

This comparison is no exaggeration. After all, an idol doesn't have to be a literal golden calf like the Israelites worshiped in Old Testament times. Instead, it's anything that means more to us than following God and His true ways. It can also mean settling for the illicit rather than the real deal. For example, pleasure is one of God's gifts that we can easily idolize. For more than 40 years, the entertainment industry's message has been that if it feels good, it's OK to do it. And society has largely taken the bait. Watch almost any popular TV show or movie these days and you'll see destructive behaviors and lifestyles that God expressly condemns. Adultery and other prohibited relationships are no longer considered scandalous. We're told that they're "private" situations where no one really gets hurt. But if Christ-followers dare to say otherwise, they're likely to be scolded as being intolerant, bigoted or narrow-minded. After all, the advocates of "progressive" open-mindedness ask, what does the Bible have to do with life in 21st Century America?

As it turns out, quite a bit. 

In fact, God's Word shows us that things haven't changed when it comes to illicit relationships and the destruction they render. Just as our ancestors did centuries ago, we'll often look the other way to accept and justify our behaviors and those we fear to offend. We might claim that we want God in our lives. But the fact is that we also want Him to make room and share the throne of our heart with what's cheap and second-rate.

This approach is totally unacceptable to God. He holds a jealous love for each of His children and wants only the best for us. Therefore, sharing us isn't an option. To fully acknowledge His love, we must turn away from the false idols--the things, attitudes, behaviors or people--that hold us back from worshiping Him. It's when we change our priorities and focus on God that we find true pleasure--one that's both lasting and the Real Deal.

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