I learned an interesting lesson during my recent trip to China. Its easy to see plenty of things counterfeit in China. As one walks through the markets of merchandise one is bombarded with "counterfeit". When your white Caucasian male from the United States in China, it almost seems one is attacked with people trying to sell you something counterfeit. They neither hide the fact they are selling you something counterfeit - as a matter of fact they proudly proclaim they have the "best" counterfeit goods in all of the marketplace.
Well during my last visit we went to one of the local markets - the "Ladies Market" in Hong Kong. This market is called the Ladies Market because it sells mostly clothing and handbags of all sorts. But you will find all sorts of other goods there as well. While purveying the sites and sounds I noticed several nice watches on display there. Many were Rolex and Omega and several high priced brands I had never heard of, but apparently these were of the latest fashions. On the outside the watches look impeccable - at least to an untrained eye such as mine. The face of the watch and its hands all look very authentic. However, the real difference lies beneath in the watches internal workings. Inside is a cheap copy of parts and shoddy construction and quality. One of my co-workers who lives in Hong Kong said you'll be lucky if the watch would last a month. At first the watch will work just fine, but over time as its introduced to the normal everyday stresses and wear and tear it weakens and begins to lose time and accuracy. Eventually the watch stops working all together and is worthless. Indeed the outside looks great, but its just the empty shell of a worthless Hong Kong watch parts.
The Lord really used this as an example to me as to what's occurring in our churches today. The counterfeit watch reminded me of when Jesus confronted the Pharisees and called them "White washed tombs" - full of dead men's bones in the inside (spiritual death), but appeared to be holy on their outsides. The watch analogy is much the same way. How often are people looking for a church or doctrine that has the appearance of being a fine or expensive "watch"? For all intent and purposes it looks like a church and has the appearances of being a fine reputable church. However, just as with the watch the difference comes down to cost. As with the counterfeit watch it will cost you very little to own an expensive looking watch, so is the churches of today - it will cost you very little. To own the authentic version of the counterfeit watch many of these watches can run into the thousands of dollars. But what you will get is a highly precise time piece that will probably last you a lifetime if properly taken care of (btw - I am not advocating buying expensive Rolex's here but just using this as part of my analogy!). The real watch has been made by a highly skilled and crafted watchmaker and he has taken a great deal of time and effort to put together this time piece.
Today many churches are much like the counterfeit watch. On the outside they look very impressive - with their digital surround sound, high tech light shows and wonderful music. They will have men who look just right and speak with such great skill. However, just as with the counterfeit watch we see that when we open it up and begin to examine the doctrines these churches are promoting, we see a church full of weak and broken doctrines. The church no longer desires holiness, but rather promotes a counterfeit doctrine that allows men and women to remain weak and feeble in sin. They preach a doctrine that looks like godliness, but lacks any power to truly overcome sin in their lives. Instead we hear people say "I am still a sinner and I sin in word thought and deed everyday"! Indeed, such doctrine is counterfeit - Why? Because it cost very little! Jesus has told us that when we follow him, it will come at a great cost. The world will hate us. Why? Because we will tell men to repent from their sins and turn and love God with all of their hearts. Men will rebel (even those who claim to be his followers) and will persecute and even try to kill you in order to stop you from preaching this message!
Through this analogy I have learned that anything of great value will cost you a lot - even everything you have. The authentic gospel of Jesus Christ will cost a person everything. It will cost them family, friends, money, self-interest, everything! But in return we get a gospel that that provides us with something eternally worth while, of great value! We get Jesus! We get a intimate relationship with our God and Creator! But in order to receive this authentic relationship we must be willing to forsake our sins, repent and love God from the depths of our hearts. But in the end it is truly worth it all!