Updated: Mar 27, 2021
One of the distinguishing marks of a Christian is the God-given ability to smell a rat. Granted, this spiritual ability takes time to nurture but its potential is resident within all true believers. Paul showcased it well when he spoke of those who were mature “who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use (practice or experience) have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” (Hebrews 5:14) The ability to smell a rat was problematic as a young Christian who didn’t know the apostles from the epistles. What I saw represented as Christianity on “Christian” television turned me off. If it wasn’t the plastic smiles, saccharin platitudes, or “religious airs”, it was sanctimonious posturing and false humility which stunk to high heaven with all of its religious phoniness. make-up, outrageous hairdo’s and plastic smiles). Much of what has been happening in the contemporary church has only added to bad taste in my mouth and a rotten stench in my nostrils. When many of my fellow believers would be hyperventilating over some “flash in the pan” fad I’d often have a “wait just a minute” reaction that wouldn’t go away. It left me with the uneasy feeling that there might be something wrong with my spirituality - like I was some kind of rebellious non-conformist who just couldn’t get with the latest program. There was a season when I wondered if I had some fundamental character flaw or was showing a lack of Christlike character. But it gradually dawned on me that what I was experiencing was not a weakness of the flesh but strength in the Spirit. I since come to recognize that it wasn’t due to a critical spirit, a judgmental spirit or a negative spirit. It was the result of a normal, healthy functioning spirit of discernment. What I was experiencing was a valid “check in the Spirit”. Over the last 52 years, my spiritual olfactory glands have become incredibly discerning when it comes to smelling a rat. I’ve gradually developed an internal early warning system that kicks in when I discern the slightest trace of “spiritual B.S.”, “ear-tickling” or hype-filled heresy. Whether it’s from the country church down the road or the megachurch pastor who’s smiling all the way to the bank. The warning sirens go off the minute I smell the rat of self‑promotion, the stench of ego-driven ministry, youthful ambition, the lust for name recognition, spiritual con artists, "get rich quick" snake oil salesmen or self‑serving agendas. The red lights start flashing when I’m told I need a “must-have” experience, a “must follow” celebrity guru, a “must-do” program, a must-read book or a “must-have” formula for Christian success. My ability to discern the behind-the-scenes interplay and cunning devices of the enemy at work has also matured. And, with all of this has come a heightened sensitivity to man‑made nonsense versus the outworking of authentic Christianity. It doesn’t take long to discern when someone is speaking the truth or blowing hot air out of their mouth. What I am referring to is a normal function of healthy believers. I believe this is all in keeping with God’s exhortations to “prove all things” and to “try the spirits”. Now I’m comfortable with the knowledge that the ingratiating smile on the bestselling dust-cover doesn’t necessarily translate into sound doctrine or the spiritual well-being of the body of Christ. I guess you could say that I come to a place where I no longer think of smelling a rat as a “bad thing” but a “God thing”.