When I was 14, I went on holiday to Turkey with my friend Claire and her parents. During the day, we’d mostly swim and sunbathe. Lush. In the evenings, we’d stroll through the local market, then find somewhere nice to eat. As it turned out, this particular market was filled with designer clothes and accessories at knock-down prices. When I flew home a week later, my suitcase was loaded with Calvin Klein t-shirts for all the family, myself included.
Oh, how I cringe looking back on my fourteen-year-old self. For a start, why on earth did I think my dad would like a t-shirt with Calvin Klein emblazoned across the front of it, and secondly, how did I not realise that you cannot buy a real CK t-shirt for £3? I’m sure everyone else in the market understood that they were cheap imitations, but not me it seems. I genuinely thought I was on to a winner.
Fast forward to 2020, and my eldest has bought himself a Champion jumper on Amazon. When it arrived, it occurred to me that it might not be genuine. I know what you’re thinking. I should probably have thought about that before it was ordered, or maybe have known whether Amazon is a reputable place to buy branded clothing. But amazingly, kid one made it to sixteen without really being bothered about clothes, much less branded ones, so this was new to us.
I did a bit of YouTube research and learnt that those who produce higher quality counterfeits (as opposed to the obviously-fake-to-everyone-but-me ones sold for £3 in a Turkish market) spend a lot of time and effort making them look as close to the real thing as possible. They focus on the details like stitching and colour matching. Even the care instruction labels are made to look authentic.
Why do they bother? It seems that when someone makes something good, there’s often someone else who wants to cash in on their success and so will make a knock-off. They look pretty much like the real thing but are enticingly cheap in comparison because they’re made using less expensive and, therefore, inferior materials or ingredients.
Jesus knew all about this. He is the original, the real deal, the truth. But someone else has tried to cash in on his glory, and what he’s selling is a cheap knock-off. Jesus warns us about this. He said of the devil,
He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.John 8:44
Jesus tells us as clearly as possible; he speaks the truth, and the devil speaks lies. The truth sets us free, while lies seek to steal, kill and destroy. And just like our counterfeit jumpers, the enemy’s lies often have the appearance of truth, trying to pass themselves off as the real deal. There’s so much out there trying to speak over us. So how do we know what to listen to? How can we tell what’s true?
Well, if we’re talking about branded clothing, we’re probably best off having an original to compare with. We didn’t have a Champion original, so I can’t tell for sure that kid one’s jumper the real thing. To be honest, I’m not really that bothered if it isn’t. It’s only one jumper, and he bought it with his money, was really happy with it and looks great in it, and I’m pretty sure it’s real. That’s good enough for me, I’m happy to take my chances on one jumper.
But when it comes to slightly bigger things, like what I’m going to believe about myself, about God and the world, well, that’s a whole different matter. I don’t want to settle for a fake, for lies dressed up to sound or feel true. As we all now know, I’ve been down the counterfeit road before. From afar, my CK t-shirt looked great (well, not really, but I thought it did at the time). But soon enough, the stitching came loose, the logo wore off, and I was left feeling cheated. I’ve bought into plenty of lies too because they looked so shiny and promising. But they didn’t lead down the road to freedom. So these days, I’m much pickier about what I listen to because I’m only after the real thing.
Jesus tells us where to find it. He says,
If you abide in my Word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.John 8:31-32
To the world of Champion jumpers, the Bible is like the official shop where you know you’re definitely getting the real thing. Everything that we read in it is true and genuine. It’s where we find out who God is and who we are. And Jesus tells us to abide there. To abide means to live, to stay, to dwell, to hang out, to set up home. Where? In the Word.
Next time kid one needs a jumper, if he wants a genuine branded one, he’s going to need to take the time to save up, as the real thing costs more than a fake. It’s the same for us. If we want to put on what’s true and let that shape us, we need to make an investment. It takes time to abide in the Word, to soak it up, ponder what it means, give it space to reverberate around your heart and mind. It can’t be rushed.
Want to be free? Abide in the Word, spend time in it each day, let its truth speak over you and teach you who you are and who God is.
Father, thank you for Your Word. Help us make our home in it so that your truth will sink deep into our hearts and minds and lead us into freedom. Amen.