Ain’t Nothing Like The Real Thing, Baby

  |   Words of Grace

I closed last Sunday’s sermon by talking about David Mullen’s song from 1989, “Heaven’s To Betsy”, but started the story by explaining how I went out into the garage and started digging through some boxes of older CD’s in order to find a particular CD (which I didn’t find!). That’s how I came across David’s wonderful CD called “Revival”, that ended up helping me close my sermon.

Well, not only did I find David’s CD, but I brought into the house a few more treasures that I hadn’t heard in a while. One recording that I thought was a “treasure” was a compilation CD of classic songs of the hippie sixties called “60’s Flower Power”. I had never purchased this CD – it was most certainly given to me by someone years ago.


Anyway, I’ve been putting my favorite songs in an iTunes playlist to listen to when I run, or just for my listening pleasure – so far the playlist contains 641 songs. This “60s Flower Power” double CD contained a few fun ‘oldies’ that I loved as a little kid, so I wanted to include them on my playlist: “Love Potion #9” by the Searchers; “Cherish” and “Windy” by the Association; “Wild Thing” by the Troggs; and “Devil With the Blue Dress” by Mitch Rider and the Detroit Wheels. I was a little taken back by a small print note on the front of the CD that said, “New Stereo Recordings By the Original Artists”. I thought, “Hmm, ‘new’ recordings? Well, at least the original artists recorded or re-recorded them.”

So, on my way to the church office Tuesday morning I popped the CD into the car stereo and prepared myself for some nostalgic ‘Summer of Love’ 60s classics. Boy, oh boy, was I ever catastrophically hit between the eyes – or should I say, in the ears? The versions of these songs weren’t just awful, they were awful, awful, awful! They weren’t anywhere near the originals. They were cheap covers. Now, I happen to be a person who loves good ‘cover’ songs, especially covers of Beatles songs, which I have hundreds of. In case you are unfamiliar with that term, a cover song or cover version is a song redone by another artist, and usually that artist puts a new twist to the original song, which certainly compliments the original, yet is different enough to make it fresh and exciting – hopefully. A few of my favorite covers (I’ll just stick with the Beatles for now) would be: Spooky Tooth’s and Marc Bonilla’s versions of “I Am the Walrus”; Deep Purples’ “Help”; Cheap Trick’s ‘Magical Mystery Tour’; and Harry Nilsson’s “Mother Nature’s Son”.

But these Flower Power songs of the 60s weren’t clever and innovative reinventions or reinterpretations of the originals, these were….well, my vocabulary isn’t extensive enough to describe how silly they were. So, of course, my first thought was, “What? How can these be new stereo recordings by the ORIGINAL ARTISTS? Why would the original artists want to butcher their classic song by rerecording it so poorly.”

Since it was early morning and I was driving down US19 (no stop lights) and didn’t get any red lights on East Bay (Yes, it was early!) I couldn’t read the CD case for more detailed information. I pulled into the church parking lot and put on my glasses and then read in very, very tiny small print on the very bottom of the back of the case these words, “Tracks featuring groups may not contain all of the original members.” I don’t get mad at revelations such as this, especially because I paid nothing for the CD; I usually just laugh and tell myself, “Here’s a Words of Grace or future sermon illustration!”

So, now it became all so clear to me: This CD company (Ironically called ‘Direct Source’!!) can legally put on the front of their CD “New Stereo Recordings By The Original Artists” as long as one original member – one background singer – one guy who hit the tambourine three times – one janitor whose broom handle hit the floor and wasn’t edited out of the original – was present when the song was rerecorded. And for that reason only it could legitimately (I use that word very loosely) be attributed to ‘The Original Artists’.

These ‘new recordings’ were phony, fake, a sham, bogus; cheap, cheap, cheap imitations of the real thing. Someone once said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but in the case of these recordings it was the greatest insult!

We’re all familiar with knock offs: knock offs in fashion, purses, vitamins, watches, and the like, but there’s a difference between knock offs and counterfeits. Knock offs are products that are copies which are inferior in quality, thus they are less expensive, but there usually isn’t attempt to deceive the buyer, or infringe upon brand names, patents, trademarks or copyrights. So, you can go to T.J. Maxx and buy a dress that looks like, or is similar to a well-known and more expensive brand name dress, but it will cost far less because it isn’t the brand name. T.J. Maxx makes no attempt to deceive the customer, and the customer is usually fully aware that they aren’t buying the higher-class brand name.

I immediately think of the Seinfeld (No surprise there!) called “The Merv Griffin Show”, when Kramer is ‘interviewing’ Jerry on the old set of the Merv Griffin Show set up in Kramer’s apartment that he found in the dumpster:

JERRY: So three dates and she still won’t let me play with her toys.

KRAMER: That’s interesting. You know someone mentioned to me you were not very happy with your toys growing up.

JERRY: Yeah, that was me.

KRAMER: Oh, that’s right, right, right. And uh, you mentioned that uh, you didn’t get a G.I. Joe. You had….

JERRY: …an Army Pete.

KRAMER: Right.

JERRY: He was made of wood and in the rain he would swell up and then split.

KRAMER: And we all know how painful that can be.

In this fictional case, Army Pete was a knock off of the original G.I. Joe. It was obvious that little Jerry’s heart was broken because he knew that he didn’t have an authentic G.I. Joe. Knock offs might look the same, but they don’t advertise themselves as being the same.

But, on the other hand, counterfeits are deliberately copied, almost always extremely inferior fakes that are made in an attempt to fool or deceive the buyer into spending a great deal of money for something that the product isn’t. So, the $10,000 Rolex I bought for $139.99 from the twelve-year-old islander on the beach at St. Thomas – the one that stopped ticking as soon as our cruise liner left the port – is probably NOT a Rolex, but rather a counterfeit. Counterfeit black market products are made to rip off the consumer. I don’t want to overgeneralize, but a LOT of counterfeit products found on the streets or online come from China. Here are a few:


“Tids” instead of “Tide” detergent!


Notice that both “Wrigley’s” and “Doublemint” are deliberately misspelled so they wouldn’t get sued! And we all need a good “Skerpie” permanent marker for our everyday use, don’t we?


And my personal favorite:


“Specialman” may be more of a knock off than a counterfeit, but I had to show it anyway!

So, my excitement about adding some great hippie tunes from the 60s to my ‘favorites’ playlist was quickly diminished when I realized that they were more than knock off covers of the originals – they were counterfeits, since the record company deliberately tried to deceive the buyer with their borderline ‘legal’ description found in the small print. So, with all of that vital and life-changing information, why is this important for you and I as 21st-century Christians? Well, number one: There’s no shame in buying a knock off, especially if it looks good and the price is right. Number two: Be careful, look closely, don’t be fooled and waste your money on worthless counterfeit products. If the price is too good to be true, it’s probably not true!

And number three, and most importantly: The Word of God tells us a lot about counterfeits that we need to be on the lookout for.

There are false or counterfeit teachers:

2 Peter 2:1-3But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them – bringing swift destruction on themselves.  Many will follow their depraved conduct and will bring the way of truth into disrepute.  In their greed these teachers will exploit you with fabricated stories. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping.


Galatians 1:6-9I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel – which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse!   As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!


2 Corinthians 11:13-15For such people are false apostles, deceitful workers, masquerading as apostles of Christ.  And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light.  It is not surprising, then, if his servants also masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve.


There are counterfeit philosophies:

Colossians 2:8See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.


There are counterfeit spirits:

1 John 4:1Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.


And of course, related to the counterfeit spirits, would be the father of lies – the counterfeit of all counterfeits – the devil himself:

2 Corinthians 11:14And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light.


The devil and those he has influenced are deceivers or counterfeits:

2 John 1:7I say this because many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist.


Who also produces false or counterfeit supernatural signs:

2 Thessalonians 2:9-10The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with how Satan works. He will use all sorts of displays of power through signs and wonders that serve the lie, and all the ways that wickedness deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.


Exodus 7:11-12Pharaoh then summoned wise men and sorcerers, and the Egyptian magicians also did the same things by their secret arts: Each one threw down his staff and it became a snake. But Aaron’s staff swallowed up their staffs.


Mark 13:22For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.


Counterfeit conversions:

James 1:26 Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. 

2 Timothy 3:5They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. Stay away from people like that!


Then we have the case of Simon the Sorcerer, who had ‘believed’ but wasn’t truly converted. His motives were for power, not repentance:

Acts 8:9-23 – Now for some time a man named Simon had practiced sorcery in the city and amazed all the people of Samaria. He boasted that he was someone great… 12 But when the people believed Philip as he proclaimed the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.


13 Simon himself believed and was baptized. And he followed Philip everywhere, astonished by the great signs and miracles he saw….15 When Peter and John arrived, they prayed for the new believers there that they might receive the Holy Spirit, 16 because the Holy Spirit had not yet come on any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 17 Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.


18 When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money19 and said, “Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” 20 Peter answered: “May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money! 21 You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God. 22 Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord in the hope that he may forgive you for having such a thought in your heart. 23 For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin.”


And on the last day all counterfeit believers will be revealed….

Matthew 7:21-23“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of My Father who is in heaven.  Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name and in Your name drive out demons and in Your name perform many miracles?’  Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from Me, you evildoers!’


So, how do we know what’s authentic and real when it comes to our Savior and our salvation?

Those who believe that Jesus Christ has truly come in the flesh – in others words, they believe that Jesus Christ is fully man and fully God, are believing the right ‘stuff’ about the right (and only) ‘Savior.

We read in 1 John 4:2 – ‘This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God…’.

One must believe that Jesus Christ is the Only Savior. We read in Acts 4:12 – ‘Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.’

One must believe that salvation is a gift that comes from the Lord God by His grace and not by our good works, good deeds, good heritage, or good decision:

Ephesians 2:8-9 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast. 


John 1:12-13Yet to all who did receive Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.


Romans 9:16It does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy. 

As Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell sang back in 1968, there “Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing”, and Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the incarnate God Almighty, the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End, the Savior and Bishop of our souls, He and He alone is the REAL THING – the Way, the Truth and the Life – the believer’s Friend and Redeemer. There are a lot of counterfeits out there, but only one Jesus, and He is the Faithful One, who reveals Himself to His children by His Spirit, Grace, and His Word. He’s the One we need to cling to. He’s the ONLY one who will truly satisfy. As St. Augustine famously said,

You move us to delight in praising You; for You, O Lord, have formed us for Yourself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in You.





Image credit:  Flickr