Counterfeit piety is a variety of perfectionism. It has the superficial look and feel of devotion, but it is inwardly poisonous. The misplaced expectations of this kind of "super-spirituality" lead to crushing disappointments.
Counterfeits are designed to resemble valuables. The more they look like the real thing, the better they are in deceiving buyers. Listing all of the ways in which a counterfeit bill resembles authentic currency is a waste of time. The issue for discernment between real and phony is settled by small, telltale differences.
Imagine, for the sake of argument, a perfect counterfeiter, who could duplicate every single feature of the hundred-dollar bill, leaving no grounds at the physical level to set the phony bills apart from real currency. It would be foolish to say, "That can't harm anybody. A bill that is materially perfect produced by someone else is as good as a bill produced by the government. Money is money. If it looks perfect, it is perfect. Who cares by what authority the money was issued?"
Counterfeit currency makes real currency less valuable--it hurts everyone who relies on it. The counterfeiter becomes wealthy by stealing from those who are deceived. "Test all things; hold fast to what is good" (1 Thes 5:21).
The enemy comes to us as an Angel of Light, quoting Scripture as he did when he tempted Jesus in the desert. He introduces two related chains of thought that weaken our love for God:
- "If God loved me, I would never be confused or doubtful. I would know exactly what I was supposed to do every day of my life, and I would carry it out faithfully. But I am confused and doubtful; therefore, God does not love me. I quit!"
- "If I loved God, I would never be confused or doubtful. All it takes is faith the size of a mustard seed to cast mountains into the sea. I never get any results when I pray, not even when I pray the Infallible Prayer ('Thy will, not mine, be done'). I don't have enough faith to get what I want from God. This isn't working. I quit!"
Many believers are haunted by the idea that if they really loved God, they would never suffer. They reason that, on account of their strong faith, God will provide for all their needs, they will never experience fear, uncertainty, or doubt, and they will dwell in peace that surpasses understanding and defeats all the torments of mind, heart, body, or soul. But pain hurts. Jesus suffered. So do wel. Although Jesus was in perfect communion with the Father in the Spirit, He felt the full force of rejection by sinful humanity and the torture inflicted on Him by the Romans. It is not the good Spirit that inspires us to think that our faith can and should save us from the kind of agony that Jesus experienced. "Some enemy has done this!" (Mt 13:28).
The remedy: "I will boast of my weakness, for when I am weak, then I am strong" (2 Cor 12:10).