by David Sisler
Whether you are a journalist writing for a newspaper, an anchor person reading the news on television, a retailer with a product to sell, a teacher with a lesson plan, a candidate with a message for the people, or a preacher with a radio ministry, there is one vital ingredient for your message – credibility. Those who listen to what you have to say must be able to place complete confidence in your words.
It was one of the Washington Post's most embarrassing moments. They hired a writer without checking her credentials. When Janet Cooke produced a heart-touching story about an 8-year-old black boy who had become addicted to heroin, the story was nominated for a Pulitzer prize.
When the Post's editors asked Janet to name her sources, she claimed confidentiality. No one seemed overly disturbed. A lot of folks were disturbed when it turned out that Janet's story – and it was a very good story – was only a piece of fiction. The newspaper whose dogged determination in investigative reporting led to the resignation of an American president was suddenly faced with a credibility gap.
Do you remember when Clifford Irving sold a major publisher the "Autobiography of Howard Hughes?" Do you remember when "Time" magazine ran Mr. Irving's picture on the front cover as "Con Man of the Year?"
It is terrible to be a sucker. No one likes to be conned or taken in. We are, nonetheless, expected to take a lot of things at face value. Does that mean you have to be stupid? If it does, how stupid do you have to be?
When Mark David Chapman plead guilty to murdering John Lennon, he claimed to hear voices from God. When a woman in Springs, Texas gave away thousands of dollars, she said it was because Jesus told her to be generous.
Paul told the Thessalonian Christians, "Prove all things. Hold fast that which is good" (1 Thessalonians 5:21). Solomon wrote, "A simple man believes anything, but a prudent man gives thought to his steps. A wise man is cautious and avoids danger; a fool plunges ahead with great confidence" (Proverbs 14:15-16).
Many people claim to hear from God. Others claim to speak for God. Every minister who walks into a pulpit makes that claim. How do you assess credibility? Who do you believe? In whom do you place your trust?
The Apostle John gave us the answer.
"My dear friends," he wrote, "many false prophets are in the world now. So do not believe every spirit. But test the spirits to see if they are from God. This is how you can know God's Spirit: One spirit says, 'I believe that Jesus is the Christ who came to earth and became a man.' That Spirit is from God. Another spirit refuses to say this about Jesus. That spirit is not from God but is the spirit of the Enemy of Christ" (1 John 4:1-3).
Anyone speaking for God must declare that Jesus is God's Son, come in the flesh. If the speaker does not measure up to that standard, do not believe him, no matter who he is, nor how loudly he talks. He is not from God.
Why is that test so vital? If Jesus was not God come in flesh, He can never be our High Priest. He can never open the way to God for us. He will never know our infirmities and our temptations. If the High Priest is not a man, he will be pointing us on a road which is impossible for us to travel.
Even more importantly, John's test is vital because to proclaim otherwise is to disqualify Jesus as our Savior. To repudiate the reality of God the Son, living and dying as a man is to deny that Jesus can ever transform us into God's children.
All around you, people are clamoring for your attention. There are a multitude of voices shouting, "I am the way. Follow me." Jesus said, "My sheep know my voice." If you are listening to any other voice, you are not one of His sheep.
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Copyright 2001 by David Sisler. All Rights Reserved.
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