I’m sure you’ve encountered the quirky literary technique sometimes employed to drive plots in some novels and serials known as the doppelgänger. A doppelgänger is the look alike of another character. In popular fiction the doppelgänger is usually a foil for the protagonist, often as an evil twin or as a deliberate double. Examples are Twelfth Night, Tale of Two Cities, The Man in the Iron Mask, Dave, and Superman III.
At the climax of the story, a third character is often called upon to authenticate one of the two. This resolves tension in the denouement. A classic technique is to quiz both with personal questions that would stump the evil twin. Other traps include luring the doppelgänger into eating food the real character is allergic to, or challenging the doppelgänger to a task only the good guy can do.
But my favorite unveiling is in Star Trek: The Original Series in the 1969 episode “Whom Gods Destroy.” Spock encounters Captain Kirk being imitated by a shapeshifter. They get into a fight and the one Kirk orders Spock to shoot them both to prevent the imposter from escaping. Knowing that only the real Kirk would sacrifice himself for the safety of the Enterprise, Spock stuns the other one.
Psalm 1 supplies us with a tried and tested technique to discern between the righteous and the unrighteous.
TWO PORTRAITS TO COMPARE IN ORDER TO HONE OUR DISCERNMENT
THE PERSON GOD BLESSES
Notice how the righteous are described in Psalm 1:1 Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
The righteous man doesn’t imbibe the counsel of the unrighteous, nor linger in their values, nor nestle into their norms. In other words, his worldview and wisdom differ from theirs. His lifestyle and desires differ. His behavior and attitudes differ. It’s not that he doesn’t know any unbelievers….he just doesn’t make himself at home with them.
Consider yourself. Is there a marked difference between you and the unbelievers you work with? Are your closest counselors unbelievers? If the majority of your buddies are those who don’t respect God, then why do you gravitate to them? Here is a more revealing question: why do they gravitate to you?
Are you indistinguishable from unbelievers? Where is your delight?
Psalm 1:2 but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.
True children of God love to drink deeply from the wellspring of his wisdom. They constantly crave to be cleansed and vitalized and to have their parched souls sated by the nourishment in his word.
Psalm 1:3 He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.
You cannot expect to flourish as a believer, producing fruit for the kingdom, without planting yourself firmly in the word of God.
John 15:4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.
When you plant yourself in the word, you flourish like a well-irrigated crop. And the results over time are conspicuous.
THE PERSON GOD JUDGES
Psalm 1:4 The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away.
When trials come, the wicked can’t cope. Unbelievers are like chaff: dry, empty husks with no root to anchor them in times of turbulence. Any gust of temptation or anxiety or stress can unsettle and uproot them.
It is easy to look righteous in normal circumstances, but trials are the litmus test for true righteousness.
The word ‘trials’ means to test. Test what?
1 Pet 1:6-7 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, as was necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith– … may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
To reveal the identity of the ‘evil twin’ on TV a test is applied to them. In the same way hypocrites are unmasked by trials. When people ‘walk away from the faith’ it is proof they were never saved. God exposes faith in trials.
But the real denouement is, as always, only arrived at in the final scenes. It is on judgment day that no doubt is left as to whom God has saved.
Psalm 1:5-6 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; for the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.
For those of us who know and love the Lord Jesus, we don’t have to wait for assurance. We can “skip scene” to the end of days when all will be made plain at the most climactic revelation of all time…
1 John 3:2 Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.
And that is when we will become “like him,” veritable doppelgänger of his righteousness forever.