This phrase popped up in my head and now I can’t shake it. If you consider what makes something bootleg, it’s a knock off of the original. The bootleg coach purse may look like a real one but it wasn’t produced by the authorized agent. It’s a copy meant to mimic.
Contrary to how I see the term “anointing” use as a kind of special gifting of some Christians, Scripture informs us that anointing simply is in reference to the indwelt Spirit. If one has been regenerated by the Holy Spirit, they have the anointing and what I believe John is referencing here;
But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you have all knowledge. (1 Jn. 2:20)
Put together, the bootleg anointing is one designed to look like regeneration of the Holy Spirit. It copies the real thing rendering a person immersed into Christianity and Christian activity, reads the Bible, may even teach the Bible, engaged in discipleship, maybe even gone to seminary and pastors. The bootleg anointing will have you faithful to church and engaged with the saints. It truly looks legitimate.
But the reality is Scripture also informs us that those without the regeneration of the Holy Spirit cannot truly submit to the Lord because they are of the flesh and opposed to the Spirit.
For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law, indeed, it cannot. (Rom. 8:7)
Commentators have differed over the contrast that Paul is making between those of the flesh vs. those of the Spirit in vv. 5-8. Some believe this is in reference to Christians. I am of the opinion that Paul is drawing a contrast between those who are born from above and those who are not. The lack of submission to God’s law will be telling in time and testing, particularly when cultural factors erupt such as what we are seeing today. As I wrote a few years ago in So You Think You’re a Christian,
When God’s infallible word hits the unrepentant heart it hardens it and provokes a fight. The enemy of God will resist God’s character and commands and find clever ways to repudiate it even while seemingly upholding a love for the Bible. This moves beyond just diverse interpretations of doctrinal positions that have plagued Christianity for centuries, but an abject disapproval of God’s triune character and work.
I believe it is possible for one to have been so immersed in Christianity that we can be fooled. Jesus himself said this would be so;
Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day, many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord’ did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many might works in your name? And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me you works of lawlessness. (Matt. 7:21-23)
Lord, Lord, did we not go to seminary in your name
Lord, Lord, did we not thoroughly learn the Bible in your name
Lord, Lord, did we not actively engage in Christian ministry in your name
Lord, Lord did we not start our podcasts and YouTube channels in your name
A very sobering reality. Note the theme of a lack of submission to God’s law, that is what he has laid out in his word and fully expressed in the atoning work of Christ. True submission leads to a gospel-driven love of God’s moral law and submission to his rule. Rejection of it will be telling.
Now that doesn’t mean we go about nitpicking according to our narrow agendas and disagreement about disputable matters. There are many issues in which genuine Christians can disagree that doesn’t disrupt the foundation of the Christian faith on which they stand. Who do they say Jesus is? Let’s start there. We should be cautious about declaring professing Christians as not in the household of God considering the calling of the Father for belief in the Son that unites us to him by the work of the Holy Spirit. That’s nothing to be trifled with.
It’s also possible that our lenses can get distorted because of the cultural influences of our day and sinful dispositions from within. But there is a world of difference between distorted lenses vs. seeing through a different lens entirely because the ability to see correctly was never there through regeneration in the first place. We must be prayerfully discerning in all humility.
And the bottom line would be to start with ourselves before pointing fingers elsewhere, heeding Paul’s words to examine ourselves to see if we are in the faith (2 Cor. 13:5). Not through a debilitating morbid introspection but awareness of our affection for the things of God and submission to him and his word.