The Bible is rife with figurative language and imagery. Jesus himself taught in parables much of the time. Last night, at Bible Study Fellowship, I heard three stories -- well, two "examples" and one genuine "parable" -- all of which I have heard before, but they each spoke to me again very vividly.
* When Secret Service agents are taught how to recognize counterfeit money, they do not study examples of counterfeits. They study examples of the real thing -- thoroughly and frequently. They become so familiar with the look of a real twenty-dollar bill that when a fake is presented to them, they recognize it immediately and can identify exactly what is wrong with it.
In the same way, we don't learn to recognize false teaching by studying it for its flaws. What we need to do is immerse ourselves in what we know is true -- thoroughly and frequently. Then when a falsehood is presented to us, we recognize it immediately because it doesn't jive with the truth we already know.
* There is a species of catfish that has essentially lost its eyes. It lives where there is total darkness, and scientists hypothesize that because it has no need for vision, its eyes have practically scabbed over. Now, if it were brought into the light, it wouldn't be able to see anyway.
We, in modern America, live in a very dark world. Sin is rampant and truth is mocked. If we immerse ourselves in that darkness, we are in danger of losing our eyes -- of being unable to see light when it is there. Although we can't avoid living in the world, we must not be OF the world. We must be residents of the Light, and bring that light with us into the darkness when we go there.
And my favorite parable of the evening:
* A young girl had a favorite string of fake pearls that she wore every day and loved with a passion that only little girls can have for their favorite things. One day her beloved father came to her and asked her, "Sweetheart, do you know I love you?"
"And do you love me?"
"More than anything, Daddy!"
"Then I need to ask something of you. I need you to give me those pearls."
The girl was very saddened at this request and couldn't imagine why her father would ask her to give up something she loved so much. But she took off the necklace and, after holding it in her little hands for a long time, tearfully gave it to her father and ran to her room. For two days, she mourned the loss of her favorite possession and wondered why her beloved father would take it away.
But then her father came home, pulled her aside with a smile, and pulled out of his coat pocket a string of real pearls -- far more beautiful and far more valuable than the string she had given up to him -- and fastened them around her neck.
Oh, how many fake pearls I am clinging to in my life! How many!! Christ tells us that those who lose their lives for his sake will find them -- those who willingly give up their treasured fake pearls will get the real thing. Lord, give me eyes to see the falseness of my pearls and a heart to desire what is better.
He who has ears, let him hear.