I hope you like my photos of our local marshmallow fields. I never knew they grew here until my husband pointed it out. The conversation went something like this.
Kelly: “Oh, look, they’ve just harvested the marshmallows.
Me: “Hmm, aren’t marshmallows much smaller than that? And wasn’t that field green? Marshmallows aren’t green.”
“They cut them into smaller pieces at the factory. And, marshmallows are green when they’re growing, but they turn white in the sun. They have to dry out a while before they take them to the factory.”
“And I suppose they remove the seeds there too so we don’t get them in our teeth?”
“No, actually, this is a special seedless variety.”
And on it went. The first of many conversations we’ve had about the “marshmallow fields” by our home. We make it up as we go.
But what if I’d believed him? He’s lived here for years; surely he would know what they grow. What if, instead of a twinkle in his eye, he insisted it was true and got angry if I challenged his story? What if I didn’t have access to the dictionary which says marshmallows are, “a soft spongy candy made from sugar syrup, egg whites, and flavoring” - not an agricultural product. Would I believe the lie because I trust the messenger?
It happens all the time. Our parents, teachers, and pastors are authority figures and we want to believe what they tell us. The husband/wife relationship is built on trust and we want to believe our spouse. And when our sports hero or favorite movie star tells us how wonderful a special diet or product is we want to believe it’s true.
Admittedly, I could spend my lifetime believing marshmallows grow in the fields by our house and it wouldn’t affect my eternal destiny. But I would get laughed at. I could waste a lot of money buying worthless products advertised by stars, bankrupt our budget and anger my husband, but it still wouldn’t affect my eternal destiny. However, there are lies that can bankrupt our souls.
Three questions we do need the absolute correct answer to are:
· Who is Jesus Christ?
· How do I get to heaven?
· What am I supposed to do until I get there?
Jesus asked His disciples the first question and Peter got an A for his answer, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God” (Matt. 16:13). About himself Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).
We don’t get to heaven by following rules, but when you “declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Rom. 10:9).
And once we’ve said He’s Lord, we spend the rest of our lives living as if it’s true, making “disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28:19) and keeping His commands (John 14:15).
Any answers other than that are an automatic out.
As for other teachings, it takes discernment. Sometimes even those with the best intentions get it wrong. John, the beloved disciple gave a big clue when he said, “Whoever says, ‘I know him,’ (Jesus Christ) but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person” (1 John 2:4).
Even worse, some people lie on purpose. Look at what happened in the Middle Ages. The average person couldn’t know what the truth was from scripture because it was written in Latin, which they couldn’t read. And even if they could have, Bibles were chained to church pulpits to prevent any stealthy studying.
Then John Huss, William Tyndale, and Martin Luther got the bright idea to translate the Bible into the language of the people. Church leaders didn’t agree. Andy Stanley says in his book Deep and Wide, ‘This shift led to an era of church history that can only be described as horrific. The atrocities carried out in the name of the church would be considered terrorism by modern standards. Cruelty wore a cross around its neck. Hypocrisy draped itself in priestly robes…Why were they so vehemently opposed to people having their own copies of the Scriptures? In a word, control.”
That’s when it gets scary; when people don’t want you to know the truth so they can control what you think and do. They do this because they’re power hungry, sexually depraved, or greedy (Acts 20:29-31 and 2 Peter 2:1-3).
So what do we do? Look carefully at both the message and the messenger. How does his message line up with what the Bible says? How does his life line up with what the Bible says? If you trust a liar, you will someday find that what you believed were fluffy, sweet marshmallows were actually bales of fermenting animal fodder. Or worse.