Counterfeit Christianity vs Genuine Christianity a Biblical Contrast

by Mike Ratliff

1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:1-2 ESV)

Deception is our enemy’s most powerful weapon. When a person is deceived into believing a lie they are not intending to participate in something that is wrong. No, they believe they have the truth and all those who oppose what they believe are just wrong. When the lie leads people to believe that their form of ‘religion’ is true Christianity, regardless of how unbiblical it is, they are not actually intending to be evil following an evil system. They are ‘sure’ they have the truth. They are sincere. I am sure the priests of Baal whom Elijah defeated at Mount Carmel were sincere as well.

For the last several years with the advent of neo-evangelicialism, the ‘seeker-sensitive’ and church growth movements as well as the continued spread of the Word of Faith and Health, Wealth and Prosperity heresies, those whose consciences were bound to the Word of God have been raising the alarm that the ‘religion’ within these movements is not genuine Christianity. However, the spiritual forces behind them are very powerful. There are whole cities and towns in the U.S. right now where not one church remains that has not been compromised by one or more of these deceptions. Since the focus within these churches is wrong we find that solid biblical doctrine is replaced with self-improvement, self-help, entertainment, and a recreation of God in the form that man wants.

A common core of the tattered remains of much of American Evangelicalism can best be summed up in what is known as Moralistic Therapeutic Deism. This religion is based around the following five points.

  1. A God exists who created and orders the world and watches over human life on earth.
  2. God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions.
  3. The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself.
  4. God does not need to be particularly involved in one’s life except when he is needed to resolve a problem.
  5. Good people go to heaven when they die.

When I presented the gospel to my daughter when she was about 9 years old, I asked her some diagnostic questions about her understanding of salvation. These five points are pretty much what her ‘default’ religion was. She loved church. She loved Sunday school. She loved Jesus, but she had no concept of sin and hell. She understood that good people went to heaven and mean people did not. Who is responsible in this system for one’s salvation? It is each person. God is not involved. What does this do in relation to ones sanctification? Well, first, these people who believe that this ‘religion’ is equivalent to genuine Christianity will consider doctrinal words such as justification and sanctification as simply attempts by others to put them under some form of legalism. Since point 3 is what these people are all about, they react violently and vehemently against all clear Biblical teachings that teach that man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. No, they hate that one since their own form of religion is all about them.

Several years ago I wrote and posted an article titled The Horror of Sin. In it you will read about the regenerate Christian’s horror or revulsion when encountering sin. This reaction happens because genuine Christians understand that it is sin that caused their Lord to go to the cross. He suffered and died because of these sins. Notice that all professing Christians do not react to sin this way. In fact, at that time, some responded to that post negatively insisting that any call to personal holiness and walking in righteousness is wrong since there are so many ‘addicted’ to sins from which they are unable to find the victory. They insisted that bondage to these sins is the product of shame in the face of the standard of personal holiness.

Carefully consider that last paragraph my brethren. What do we find in the Bible? Is there one mention in Sacred Scripture of support groups such as AA? No, the Bible does not mess around with calling sins addictions. No, sin is sin and victory is found in repentance. John Owen understood how to find victory over besetting sins my brethren. He wrote about it a great deal. His best-known work dealing with this is The Mortification of Sin. In this little book, Owen’s thesis is that sin is a living thing within each of us. After salvation we are given the duty by God to wrestle with it and do battle with it with the goal of seeing it lying dead at our feet just before we breath our last and go to be with our Lord forever. Owen’s scriptural base for this book, actually a series of sermons, is Romans 8:13.

13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. (Romans 8:13 ESV)

Imagine that my brethren. God gives us right here in this very powerful verse why so many professing Christians are unable to find victory over their sin and why others do. What is it? Those who find themselves constantly partaking of the sin “which clings so closely” (Hebrews 12:1-2) are neglecting what is holy while pursuing what is of the flesh.

1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2 ESV)

To live according to the flesh is to not live by the Spirit. Those who live by the Spirit put to death the deeds of the flesh. Those who live according to the flesh are consumed by an overwhelming drive to satiate the desires of the flesh. The writer of Hebrews tells us that victory over that is found as we ‘lay aside every weight and sin which clings so closely.’ However, it does not stop there. Instead of being weighed down by desire, we run with endurance the race that is set before us. We must do both. If we try to run the race while being consumed by fleshly pursuits then we will fail miserably. If we try to stop sinning but neglect running the race God has set before us then we will eventually stumble right back into what our flesh wants. This passage is a picture of becoming controlled by the Holy Spirit.

The Greek word used here that is translated as ‘lay aside’ is ἀποτίθημι or apotithēmi. It means to cast off or lay aside or put away. It is in an aorist participle in middle voice. What this is describing is simple action, in other words, this is a command to do something deliberately. What are we to put away? The first thing mentioned is ‘every weight.’ The word translated as weight here is ὄγκος or ogkos. This word describes a person or beast bending or bulging under a very heavy weight. This weight impedes or hinders movement. What else are we to put away? It is sin. This is the Greek word ἁμαρτία or hamartia. It describes missing the true goal and scope of life. It is an offense in relation to God with emphasis on the resulting guilt. What is causing the heavy burden that hinders and impedes? It is the clinging to ones favorite ἁμαρτία. When our life is wrapped up in self then we are all about self-gratification. This leads to movement further and further away from submission to the control of the Holy Spirit and closer and closer to being a beast of burden to ones own self-gratification.

We are to cast aside or put away our pursuit of self-gratification. We are to deny self, turn to God then run with endurance the race He has set before us. The word translated as ‘run’ is a present subjunctive verb in active voice. What this means is that we are to run this race God has set before us continuously. Present subjunctive suggests that the action described is subject to some condition. Notice that we are to continually run this race with ‘endurance.’ The Greek word translated as ‘endurance’ is ὑπομονή or hupomonē. This word is made up of two other words that are translated as ‘under’ and ‘abide.’ It describes patience and endurance as to things or circumstances. That is one of the conditions that will enable us to run this race correctly. There is another. In v2 we see that we are to run the race looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith.  The Greek word translated as ‘looking’ is ἀφοράω or aphoraō. This present active participle describes continuously looking attentively unto Jesus. Present active participles express continuous or repeated action. The context is determined by the main verb, which is ‘run.’

The mortification of sin is not something we can do by will power. We cannot will ourselves to stop sinning and be successful. No, we succeed at mortifying our sin when we repent with joy. We do this by forsaking our sin by laying it aside or putting it away as we turn to Christ the founder and perfecter of our faith, obey God by continually running the race He has set before us with our eyes firmly fixed on our Saviour. This involves prayer, devotion, and worship. It requires time taken away from the flesh and given to God. When tempted by an old besetting sin that clings closely, move into worship and prayer. Open the Bible and study it. Do not lightly read it. Study it. Pray about everything. Keep your eyes firmly fixed on the Saviour. Worship Him and pray for others, especially your enemies. Do not give your flesh an opportunity. This is how we run this race. Endurance or patience is required, and those come to those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit.

Carefully read the following passage.

17 Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. 18 They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. 19 They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. 20 But that is not the way you learned Christ! — 21 assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, 22 to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. (Ephesians 4:17-24 ESV)

Paul used the same word here that the writer of Hebrews did in exhorting us to ‘put off’ the burden our sin has placed us under. Here Paul says to ‘put off ‘ our old self. In place of it we are to be ‘renewed in the spirit of our minds, and put on the new self, created after the likeness of God.’ So, is running the race set before us by God, looking intently at Christ, the same thing as being ‘renewed in the spirit of our minds and putting on the new self?’ The Greek word Paul used here for ‘renewed’ is ἀνανεόω or ananēoō. This is a different form of the word he used in Romans 12:2 that is translated as ‘renewal.’ This word means ‘to renovate.’ Both usages are present tense verbs, which describe continuous or repeated action. Therefore, I submit that  running the race God has set before us with our eyes firmly fixed on Christ and putting on the new self, created in the likeness of God is accomplished in our lives by applying Romans 12:1-2

1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:1-2 ESV)

The way we mortify the sin, which clings so closely, is to become living sacrifices. This means, total self-denial as an act of continual worship of God. We are to turn from being conformed to the world by putting away or laying aside anything that smacks of flesh fulfillment. If that means turning the TV off then do it. If that means staying off the Internet then do it. If it means not being around certain people then so be it. Whatever it takes, turn from what is hindering you in the race AS AN ACT OF WORSHIP. Put what you formerly worshiped on the altar and ask God to destroy it. DO NOT stop there. Now pursue the Lord in the race God has set before you by continually being transformed through mind renewal. That means immersing yourself in the Word of God. Read it. Study it. Listen to godly preaching. Read godly books. Never stop learning about God and this walk. God will work a miracle in the heart of all who do devote themselves to this. This is mind renewal. This is putting on the new self, created after the likeness of God. Then you will know what is the will of God.

13 But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, 14 for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” 15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. (Ephesians 5:13-21 ESV)

We are able to run the race with endurance, become living sacrifices, put away what hinders us, and walk in repentance with joy because we become filled with the Spirit. This passage describes repentance with joy much better than I can do it. Putting away sin and walking before the face of God in victory and deliverance is akin to awaking from a dead sleep. It is as if God pours cold water over our heads. We awaken from our slumber and self-imposed darkness caused by the pursuit of self-gratification in  a way so jarring that it is as if we have arisen from the dead. It is critical at this point to not fall back into the sin that had made us stumble. We do this by turning completely from it to devotion to our Lord. We rejoice in Him. We joyfully worship Him and understand that our standing before Him is based on His work in redeeming us, not in anything we have done. Then, with hearts full of thanksgiving, we submit to everyone out of reverence for Christ. This is the time we get into the Word and worship Him through our pursuit of Him.

This is how genuine Christians become spirit-filled. This is how they find victory over the sins that cling so close. They learn to mortify them. Counterfeit Christianity applies the wisdom of the world to the problem and is all wrapped up in man-made religion. Genuine Christians know that their walk before the face of God is based in their relationship with Him not in what church they go to or what denomination they are part of. Victory over sin is not accomplished through religiosity. No, only those who learn how to repent with joy are able to mortify their sin and run the race with endurance that God has set before them. Then they can serve Him in any capacity He desires.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Suggested Reading – What is Joy?

3 thoughts on “Counterfeit Christianity vs Genuine Christianity a Biblical Contrast

  1. You know? Your insistence upon speaking Truth is, in it self, a needed ministry! This piece is holding up a mirror to the reader that will clearly display their Spiritual Condition, if they will only look! I’m afraid that not all who read will see themselves reflected. We cannot ease off, we MUST maintain the pressure! We must almost stand on roof tops and scream, “Look! Look at what you are missing! Look at what you have thrown away. Look at what you have done to the Heart of God! It is breaking because, after everything He has done for you, you ignore and belittle Him!

    We wouldn’t stand for such from our children so why do we do it to Him?

    Pax

  2. The Book,”The Enemy Within; Straight Talk About the Power and Defeat of Sin” by Chris Lundgaard relates to your post. Based on John Ownen’s, “Mortification of Sin” and “…Remainders of Indwelling Sin..”

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