Beware what you believe

In order to encourage his troops, Napoleon often told the following story. He explained that while visiting a certain province he came upon a faithful old soldier with only one arm. The proud old soldier was wearing his battered uniform displaying a medal “the Legion of Honour “. Napoleon started talking to this man and asked him in what  battle  he lost his arm. “And for that you received the “Legion of Honour?” “Yes sire” said the man “and it was but a small token to pay for such a medal”. Napoleon then said “I perceive you are the kind of man who regrets that he didn’t lose both arms for his country”. The old soldier looked up at him expectantly and asked “what then would have been my reward?” “Why then” Napoleon said “I personally would have awarded you a double Legion of Honour”. With that the proud old  fighter drew his sword and immediately cut off his other arm!

Napoleon told this story for years until one day someone who really started to reflect upon the incident asked a very profound question! “How?” How could a one armed man cut off his other arm?  The reality was that the whole story was fictitious but because most people never thought much more about the story, the incident was taken as true.

There is an important spiritual parallel to this story. In  Matthew  6 : 23  Jesus  warned “If the light in you be darkness then how great is that darkness”. In other words if the “light” or  “knowledge” someone is living by is untrue and false then how misleading and destructive it is for them .Scripture teaches that instead of blindly accepting the things people tell us we have a God given duty to think about these things and really “check them out”.

Not long ago I listened to a talk given by a woman who had been reared as an atheist. She had been brought up in the former Soviet Union and atheism had been ingrained in her from infancy. She accepted all that atheism taught without question until she went to university. Although the university promoted nothing but an atheistic world view, as she began to study the complexity of biology and chemistry  at  degree level, she (using her own phrase) “began to have doubts  about atheism”.  She began  to  feel that  the answers atheism  gave concerning  the origin of life etc were simply unrealistic. These doubts increased until she began to explore the notion of God. After further research and exploration  she finally embraced Christianity and ultimately encountered the Creator of the Universe. It was a very moving story but it would never happened  if she hadn’t questioned what she had been taught. She found  the Lord and came to faith because she really “checked things out” and thought things through to their conclusion.

Today all too many people in this country take much of  what they are told at  face value without  much  thought or reflection and this  particularly applies to  moral and spiritual matters. It seems that  so called modern living conspires to occupy every waking moment so individuals spend little time  questioning the  things they are told about  life, how they should behave or indeed  ponder  why  this once great nation has fallen into  such a ruinous condition.  The result of this lack of  thought and questioning has led  many people  to believe  in ideas and notions  which are  false and  sometimes even destructive. The Bible exhorts us to “test all things” (1 Thess 5 : 21 ) or check all things. This is something we all have a responsibility to do so as to make sure that the “light in us is not darkness” and  that we are not deceived by false ideas.
Here are  some  important examples of  what some individuals often accept without much thought or care; The prevailing opinion today is that society should be run on liberal principles. The idea of  having  relaxed laws and relaxed moral standards  has the appearance of  being  positive. But is it really true when put to the test?  If liberalism is so good why then is everything going so bad? Scripture teaches that the way to achieve a thriving society is by fostering high moral standards, duty and self-sacrifice, quite the reverse of a liberal “free for all.”

Another common thought in our time is the notion  that one “can never know for sure there is a God”. This is only ever uttered by those who have never experienced God for themselves and is a complete reverse of  the promise given by Jesus in John 14 : 21-23 that He will indeed reveal and manifest  Himself  to those who really want to know Him. Committed Christians know for sure God exists because they have personally experienced Him.

Then  again, there is  the notion that “all religions are the same” implying  that it doesn’t  matter  what religion a person follows. In reality however, all religions are clearly not the same because they contradict each other and teach totally opposing ideas. Only one can be describing God as He really is.

Or what about the  widespread belief that “the Bible is just a myth”? The reality is that Scripture contains hundreds of fulfilled  prophecies and predictions showing that the writers were indeed being directed by God rather than there own imagination.

Depending on what it is, believing the wrong thing can have profound implications for an individual. It can hinder them from seeking and finding God, it can destroy their chance of finding  personal happiness and  it can even cause the moral meltdown and ruin of an entire nation. Every individual should regularly access the things they are told  because “if the light in you is darkness  then how great is that darkness.”