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Marketing experts expect U.S. companies to spend over 200 BILLION dollars on advertising and marketing this year. While TV advertising is still number one in marketing dollars, online ads are gaining ground, with the mobile ads now appearing on the phone screens of Americans gaining the most ground.

And do you know why American companies will spend this much money on advertising? Because it works! In fact, something horrible happens when you don’t advertise – NOTHING.

Full disclosure requires that I remind you of my previous time spent in advertising and marketing for non-profits. This is something that I have seen firsthand. The power of telling a story in a compelling way is essential if you want to perpetuate your message. That’s why I am so convinced that we Orthodox can’t ignore good storytelling if we hope to keep our faithful AND share this faith with others!

But, there is also the reality of “false” advertising! Even the ancient Romans had this wisdom in saying “caveat emptor” Let the Buyer Beware! So, it isn’t that today is that different from yesterday, but it’s happening to us! We have to be wise enough to spot the “wolf” in “sheep’s clothing!” No amount of slick marketing is going to ultimately overcome the weaknesses in a product. Eventually, the flaw is found out either through customer experience or simply not being able to deliver what was promised. The ancient admonition of “caveat emptor” (buyer beware) is still true today!

But how do we develop our discernment so that the false is as obvious as the truth? Discernment is a spiritual discipline that needs direction, training, and exercising IF it’s going to help you spot the wolves!

Look at our lesson today in Matthew 7:15-21:

The Lord said, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles? So, every sound tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears evil fruit. A sound tree cannot bear evil fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will know them by their fruits. Not every one who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”

We live in such an age as the Lord described. Wolves in sheep’s clothing say the smoothest things and bewitch so many today. But the best way to avoid this delusion is to do as the Lord declares: BEWARE! Be aware of the truth. Be a student of the timeless faith.

But this awareness doesn’t happen by accident. If you want to be able to tell the “good fruit” from the “bad fruit” you have to be diligent in the life of prayer, the rhythm of liturgy, and the active participation in embracing your faith. Read the lives of the saints! The “good fruit” of their lives will equip you with the clear vision to spot the “bad fruit” a mile away. Plus, your faithfulness becomes the “good fruit” left for those around you to avoid the traps of slick marketing that hides the poison of “false prophets” that lead to nowhere!

By the way, when I was a police officer, we were trained in spotting counterfeit $20 bills by committing to memory what a real $20 looked like. Once we knew the authentic, the false stood out like a sore thumb! That is why the Church repeats Herself in the liturgy so much! Driving deep within us the unmistakable “image” of the True makes the False obvious. BUT, if you are ignorant of that which is True, you make it easy for the Deceiver to trick you into believing the False. That’s how the “wolf” gets the “sheep!”

Being a spiritual “fruit inspector” comes from the serious and focused work internally on your own spiritual growth. By doing this instead of judging others, you provide a living example of being a “tree” that bears “good fruit” instead of a barren tree or a tree that actually poisons others with “bad” fruit!

Today are you able to spot the “false” in the multitude of messages bombarding your life? Have you so internalized the words of timeless prayer, examples of the saints, and the power of Orthodox liturgy to hone your sense of truth to the point that you avoid the rotten fruit of falsehood, and can you help others who are also being bombarded with these false messages? Your diligence in prayer, faithful presence in liturgy, and both scripture study AND the biographies of the saints will make you immune to the deception that rots your life. This Purposeful Orthodoxy is your best defense and your finest legacy no matter what comes your way!

P.S. O Lord, You are the “expressed image” of the Father. You are bringing us to the Father by Your iconic embodying of the Truth! So, knowing You, Lord Jesus means growing in my ability to discern the true from the false. My daily prayers, reading the lives of Your saints, regular worship, and love of the Holy Scriptures all are meant to equip me with the gift of discernment so I won’t become the prey of the Evil One. Grant me the attentiveness to hunger to so know You, the deceiver can’t con me into believing a lie! Amen

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