Fake News by Larry W Peebles January 26, 2018 18.02
There is much said these days about fake news. Without going into the political arena, there is a spiritual point to be made concerning this topic. Fake news is opinion, bias, and half-truth reported as fact. Its headline may be slanted or sensational, in some cases not even supported by the body of the content. While media bias has been around for a long time, I am convinced it has become more refined and widespread by our continual use of social media to receive information. The use of print media is on the decline, and it has been forced to utilize social media as well to keep its message in front of the consumer.
There are truthful and integrity-filled news writers on print and social media, just as there are readers who critically analyze and filter what they read in search of the truth. The problem is reputable news articles and biased opinion articles are intermingled. Articles are written so that the difference is subtle. Discernment is often required to separate the two. Furthermore, some writers for social media are obscure or “phantom” writers. They are usually paid in whole or in part by the number of “hits” or views on their article. The more articles they can write, and the more attention they can attract by the headline, the more views and pay the writer can receive. Careful, time-consuming research can be a thing of the past. With the writer’s identity hidden, there is no need for creditability and reputation. Those adept at using social media can move fast, and often do not finish the article, much less pay attention to who wrote it. Discernment requires time to think. The trick in the fake news business is to catch the reader’s attention, if only for a brief moment, and trigger a view.
Those wanting to hear, process and retain the truth must discipline themselves to search and discern. They must avoid the constant bombardment of fake news, false reports, and misleading headlines, or else they begin to believe it.
The spiritual connection is this—the devil is in the fake news business. It’s in his character. He is a liar who cannot even occasionally tell the truth, because there is no truth in him at all. Jesus said in John 8:44- “He (the devil) was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native tongue, for he is a liar, and the father of lies.” He doesn’t just lie– he lies continually, repeatedly, fluently, proficiently, naturally, and easily. He loves it, just like a person who speaks more than one language loves to find someone to converse with who speaks their native tongue. When he gets into our head with his fake news, it takes discipline and discernment to tune him out and turn him off. The first fake news story in the Bible involved Adam and Eve. The misleading headline was “Did God Really Say?” (Genesis 3:1-13).
The Holy Spirit is the spirit of truth, according to John 15:26 and 16:13. When Jesus’ time had come to be crucified, He told his disciples He would give them an “advantage”. When He was gone, He would send His Holy Spirit to be with them (and us) on the earth. This is a powerful and profound statement. What more advantage could we ask for than to have Jesus, the all-powerful Son of God on our side. He was the long –awaited Messiah, King and Savior of the world. Heaven and earth would adore Him. All creation would bow before Him. Yet He said it is to our advantage that He go away (be crucified, resurrected from the dead, and ascend into heaven), so that He could send us a Helper, His Holy Spirit (John 16:7). Today, we have Holy Spirit help, the Spirit of Truth, when dealing with fake news. Unlike the devil, who can only tell lies, the Spirit of Truth can only tell the truth. We can depend on Him for help.
Let’s examine a sampling of fake news reports we have all heard or may be hearing at the moment.
- We (you and I) can’t do this. “This” can be anything that stands as a challenge to overcome. The devil tells us our limitations are so great it is not possible to do what is before us. We will not succeed. Examples include getting an education, getting a job, paying the bills, being a good husband, father or employee. Maybe “this” is speaking before a crowd, or witnessing our faith to a friend or neighbor. The limitation might be that we are timid, or private, or nervous. Maybe we don’t have the money, education or intellect. Perhaps we have tried “this” before, and the result was a totally embarrassing failure. The number one tool of the devil is discouragement, and if he can use something from our past to discourage us, even if the remembrance is twisted with age and lies, he will do it. Why—because there is nothing we can do to change the past. He loves to use our past against us.
The truth is we have a Helper in the person of the Holy Spirit. God said in His word (Philippians 4:13) – “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Maybe I can’t do this. But Jesus sent me His Spirit to help me do this. Together we can do this. Jesus said in Matthew 21:21- “if you have faith and do not doubt…and also if you say to this mountain, be ye removed and be cast into the sea, it will be done.” Psalm 103:12 says our sins are removed from us as far as the east is from the west. God remembers them no more when they are covered by the blood of Jesus. Our past is just that—the past. Past failures make us stronger and better prepared for the current challenge. We can do this.
- We (you and I) are unimportant. The devil tells us we are not significant in position, stature, power or resources. What we do and say has little meaning. In the overall scheme of things, our lives are insignificant. We cannot make a difference in anything, so why try?
The truth is contained in God’s word, which says God desires that all would come to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 3:9). All includes you and me. The Bible also gives the illustration of a man with one hundred sheep who, when he discovers one is missing, leaves the ninety-nine to go look for the one. (Matthew 18:12). You and I are that one when Jesus misses us. The Bible says that one can put a thousand of the enemy to flight, and two can put ten thousand to flight. (Deuteronomy 32:30). Can we do that on our own? No, but we can with the Holy Spirit on our side.
- No one cares. The devil tells us we are not loved, appreciated, needed, or even necessary. Friends come and go, few are dependable. There is no one we can trust. No one seems to care what we need or are going through. We are isolated, abandoned, and rejected.
The truth is God loves us so much He sent His innocent Son into the world to die that we might be forgiven and reconciled back to our loving Father. (John 3:16). When Jesus died on the cross, He had us (you and me) on His mind. After our lives on this earth are done, He wants us to spend eternity with Him in heaven. He cares about everyone, and wants us to care about everyone around us. His word says that His very nature is love. (1 John 4:8). His word requires us to love Him, and to love our neighbor. (Mark 12: 30-31). To properly love God, our neighbor and ourselves requires the help of the Holy Spirit. When we are functioning with Him, the love will flow back and forth in all directions.
- There is something we should fear. The devil loves to try to intimidate us with fear. Fear can accompany any of the fake news messages. Examples include fear of failure, fear of defeat, fear of rejection, fear of being alone, and fear of being betrayed. Fear can stop us from taking action, moving forward, making decisions, and even rob us of sleep and peace. Even though they may be too young to describe their fears, children adopted into loving families can take years to sleep peacefully through the night. Fears of loneliness and abandonment can torment their sleep. Love and prayer eventually wins out.
The truth is we have nothing to fear. Consider Isaiah 43: 1-4- “But now, thus says the Lord, who created you O Jacob, and He who formed you, O Israel: ‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; You are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame scorch you. For I AM the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior….you were precious in my sight, you have been honored, and I love you.”’
The Bible is full of examples where God tells us not to be afraid. Joshua was told this a number of times when the Israelites were ready to move into the Promised Land and conquer the inhabitants. The women who came to Jesus’ tomb were told not to be afraid. After Jesus’ death and resurrection, He appeared to the disciples and said “Peace be with you.” There is no need to worry or be afraid. The Eternal One, the one who conquered death, is on our side. In the Old Testament, He is the “Commander of the Armies of the Lord” (Joshua 5:13-15). He is powerful and fearless, yet He is the Prince of Peace. He goes before us in every storm and battle. Before he was anointed king, David wrote in Psalm 27:1- “The Lord is my light and my salvation –of whom shall I be afraid?”
Isaiah 41:10 says- “Fear not, for I am with you: Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes I will help you. I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
The Holy Spirit will give us the wisdom to discern the fake news from the devil if we will ask for it. He will then also give us the power and strength to overcome and defeat its message from spreading into our lives. If we hear the fake news message enough, we begin to believe it. It must be recognized and stopped quickly, so we can believe and act on our God-given potential and destiny. My prayer is we will ask the Holy Spirit to help us in this area today.