The stage lights danced off the curved amber instrument. Held firmly but gently in his powerful hands, the artist brushed his thumb along the strings, filling the concert hall with mellifluous strains. In those few seconds, my life was forever changed. It was the first time I watched Wes Montgomery, the great jazz guitarist. Everything about the man and his music resonated with me. Like countless numbers of other jazz guitarists, I listened to every recording of his, attempted to copy his solo improvisations, and sought to emulate his distinctive picking technique, using only his thumb. But one thing was missing, I did not have the same type of guitar that he played. Several years ago, on my fortieth birthday, my wish was fulfilled and my wife surprised me with a Gibson L5 jazz guitar. In fact, it was the special “Wes Montgomery” edition, with his name engraved upon the metal tailpiece. As I played it for the first time, I thought I was channeling the great master guitarist.
Just like Wes!
Well, not quite. I may play an exact replica of my idol’s guitar; I may play the same compositions and play an exact note for note transcription of one of his songs, but it is not Wes. The subtle tonal nuances, the almost imperceptible rhythmic displacements of the beat-all of these combine to create a product that may sound like the real thing, but upon closer inspection, will not hold up under scrutiny.
And Jesus answered them, “See that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray. And Jesus answered them, “See that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray.”
Matthew 24:4-5 (ESV)
The number of false prophets and churches claiming to represent mainstream Christianity have been increasing at an alarming rate. Attending one or even several services may not reveal the deceptive teachings. The same Bible translation may be used. Familiar hymns and worship songs may be sung. Even the liturgical traditions of the Church such as the taking of communion and baptism may be observed. The current heresy focuses upon the teaching. There are subtle denials of the divinity of Jesus Christ, dismissal of the inerrancy of the Bible, and the overlooking of hell and eternal separation from God for those who do not accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.
No matter how sincere the pastor or the teachers of the church may appear to be, we must always be on guard and be as wise as serpents and innocent as doves to test what we hear by holding it up to the only irrefutable and absolute source of Truth of the Bible (Matthew 10:16).
Just like God!
Well, not quite. Like emulating Wes, I would never fool a trained musician. All believing Christians must train themselves to be discerning listeners and learners of God’s Word and not be fooled by clever imitations.
Love and trust the Lord; seek His will in your life.