From “Growing in the character of a disciple”: Chapter 2 – A closer look at how God develops us as disciples
Let us know; let us press on to know the Lord;…….Hosea 6:3(a) (ESV)
6 Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, 7 rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. 8 See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.Colossians 2:6-8 (ESV)
Take heed lest your heart be deceived, and you turn aside and serve other gods and worship them,Deuteronomy 11:16 (RSV)
And he did evil, because he did not prepare his heart to seek the Lord.2 Chronicles 12:14 (NKJV)
then take heed lest you forget the Lord, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.Deuteronomy 6:12(a) (RSV)Deuteronomy 6:12(a) (RSV)
23 And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. 25 For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? 26 For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.Luke 9:23-26 (ESV)
21 When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, 22 strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.Acts 14:21-22 (ESV)
1I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all lowliness and meekness, with patience, forbearing one another in love,Ephesians 4:1-2 (RSV)
He who has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me; and he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.”John 14:21 (RSV)
8 For we do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, of the affliction we experienced in Asia; for we were so utterly, unbearably crushed that we despaired of life itself. 9 Why, we felt that we had received the sentence of death; but that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead;2 Corinthians 1:8-9 (RSV)
And I am sure that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.Philippians 1:6 (RSV)
Of all those who claim to be Christians, not everyone is genuine. We are not all real disciples.
Another point about which we need to become realistic is the fact that not everybody who claims to be a Christian really is one. Many people are false. Many are deceivers and even more are deceived. So, we cannot safely assume that everybody who goes to church, or even all those who lead churches, are real Christians. Many are not and it is your personal responsibility to identify those who are false and to avoid coming under their influence. One day Jesus will put the question beyond doubt by identifying all such false people. Then they will be publicly rejected by Him:
21 “Not everyone 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. 22 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 mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you evildoers.’ 24 “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house upon the rock; 25 and the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat upon that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house upon the sand; 27 and the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell; and great was the fall of it.”Matthew 7:21-27 (RSV)
There are many people who appear to be real, and who even say a lot of right things. But they are not genuine. They may say the right things, but they do not truly believe it themselves:
Hear this, O house of Jacob,Isaiah 48:1 (ESV)
who are called by the name of Israel,
and who came from the waters of Judah,
who swear by the name of the LORD
and confess the God of Israel,
but not in truth or right.
Of the people who claim to be Christians, they are not all real disciples. Many people in churches are false and you are expected to try to learn how to identify them. You are to do so primarily by examining their fruit. You are also meant to learn how to identify their false teaching, by constantly comparing what they say with what the Bible says.
There is literally no church member or leader, however eminent, upon whom you can safely and uncritically rely. Whoever they may be, you are meant to check their teaching against the Bible. Moreover, if they don’t like the fact that you are doing that, then that in itself tells you something very important about them. It would probably be your cue to leave that church and go elsewhere.
Consider also this very sobering passage from Luke, in which Jesus speaks of the need to enter by the narrow door and warns us against being complacent:
22 He went on his way through towns and villages, teaching and journeying toward Jerusalem. 23 And someone said to him, “Lord, will those who are saved be few?” And he said to them, 24 “Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. 25 When once the master of the house has risen and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, open to us,’ then he will answer you, ‘I do not know where you come from.’ 26 Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets.’ 27 But he will say, ‘I tell you, I do not know where you come from. Depart from me, all you workers of evil!’ 28 In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God but you yourselves cast out. 29 And people will come from east and west, and from north and south, and recline at table in the kingdom of God. 30 And behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.”Luke 13:22-30 (ESV)
We see from the above passage that many who assume themselves to be Christians, and thus to be saved, will one day discover that they are not, or even that they never were. They will hear Jesus tell them to depart, because He does not know where they come from. In other words, they do not belong to Him.