Wherever there are genuine products you will find counterfeits. It seems we can't help ourselves, we always need to make a cheaper version of anything that is genuine. The problem comes when we try to pass the copy off as the real thing. Whether it is counterfeit money, products,cultural items, we feel angry when someone successfully dupes us into spending money on something that is fake. Then again, we are not being very wise believing that we can buy a Rembrandt for $100.
There also exists a counterfeit Christianity that appears to be prevalent in the Church in these last days. Just like the inexpensive Rembrandt, this counterfeit Christianity is marked by its inexpensive faith. Like everything else counterfeit, we are attracted to it because it seems like a bargain; all the benefits without the huge expense. But faith that costs us nothing is no faith at all. You say, "But I thought salvation was by the grace of God and grace is free?" Salvation is by God's work not ours. This is true. Salvation is freely offered to us, but the faith to possess it will cost us everything we have ever know because we have to die to the rules of this world and to ourselves in order to be able to exist by faith alone.
The counterfeit Christianity starts off well, knowing that it is by faith we are saved and by faith we remain in Jesus and Jesus remains in us. The entire Christian life is contained in faith, exists by faith, grows by faith. The counterfeit starts to develop when we start believing all this is possible without it costing us faith. Instead, we can just be kind to people, pay our tithes to the church, show up occasionally, maybe sponsor a child, be friendly with a neighbour or two, and in doing all these things we are good to go. It is a pattern we fall into as we get older. We start relying on the structure of religion instead of on the requirement of faith. We begin to rely on ourselves instead of on God. It is why so many older folk end up walking away from God.
Think back to when you first accepted Jesus; what were you like? Yes, immature but totally reliant on God. You prayed about everything, confessed everything, checked the Word of God for everything. You were desperate to follow Jesus' way of doing things, afraid to step outside of the will of God. You were totally under the influence of the Holy Spirit, doing the oddest things because God told you to; talking to strangers about Jesus, trusting him for your next meal, taking on great spiritual works and projects because faith compelled you to. You felt alive and vibrant.
Now where are you in the Spirit? How reliant are you on God? How often do you consult with him before making a decision? How big a part does your faith play in a typical day of your life? What are you reliant on for your salvation?
You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh? (Galatians 3:1-3)
Counterfeit Christianity is very subtle. It creeps in without us even noticing. It slowly takes over without us even realizing what is going on. Counterfeit Christianity is when we replace faith by our works. These works can be anything but the one thing they have in common is that we start relying on them for our salvation instead of Jesus Christ. They take on all kinds of different forms. Attending church can become a work when we start thinking that by going to church we are saved. The same is true for our Bible study, prayers, our kindness, our participation in worship. It is especially dangerous for those who preach and teach, for those who sing and play instruments, for those who are involved in any level of leadership in the church. It is when our service becomes the source of our salvation.
Nothing we ever do will save us. Our salvation only comes by Jesus Christ. This we receive by faith. In other words, we receive it when we believe that what we are told is true. We receive it when we choose to believe God:
So again I ask, does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you by the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard? So also Abraham “believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” (Galatians 3:5-6)
This faith provokes things in us beyond just faith for salvation. It causes to grow in us a faith for everything God has ever promised. We have faith for provision, for good works, for sharing the Good News, for receiving eternity. We do not produce faith by good works; good works are produced by faith. Therein lies the test of authenticity of our faith: Is our faith reliant on any outside help or does it exist simply by trusting God's actions and words toward us?
This faith will cost us dearly as we leave everything that is familiar to us, all our comforts, all our opinions, all that we possess, to follow the Spirit wherever he leads, to do whatever he says, and believe whatever he promises us. There is no genuine form of faith that allows us to have two masters; we must decide who we will serve. Grace is free but faith will cost. Counterfeit Christianity is marked by its cheap faith.