True Godliness: Separating Regenerate Christianity from Counterfeit Christianity

by Mike Ratliff

34 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. 36 And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. 37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 10:34-39 ESV)

For those of you reading this who have also read my series on the Counterfeit Church, I pray you will also read this post. It springs from a conversation I had with a coworker today as well as a continual perplexity on my part about why it has been so difficult for my wife and I to find a new church. God is sovereign. I believe God is a Covenant God who has not relinquished any of His sovereignty nor has He left His people’s eternal status up to their fickle, fallen natures.

However, those God saves are truly saved. Their hearts are regenerate. They are eternally His. None of eternal security is in their hands. Instead, they are held in His capable and omnipotent hands.

31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:31-39 ESV)

22 At that time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem. It was winter, 23 and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the colonnade of Solomon. 24 So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” 25 Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not part of my flock. 27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.” (John 10:22-30 ESV)

Now, with these two passages firmly in our understanding, look at the passage I placed at the top of this post. What did Jesus say would mark His disciples? Here’s the passage again.

34 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. 36 And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. 37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 10:34-39 ESV)

Not only are God’s people eternally His, they are changed eternally as well. They love God above all. They put God first in everything. They do and say things that will incur the wrath of this lost and dying world, but that does not deter them at all. They serve God as Lord — naturally. They keep His Law naturally. They die to self and live for Him alone. Of course this is a process and will increase in their character over time as God sanctifies them. They will find true life in their death to self. This is true godliness. This is genuine Christianity that is born from a regenerate heart.

What is Counterfeit Christianity then? All we have to do is look at the passages we have already read here and look at the contrasts. A counterfeit Christian is one who is not regenerate. God has not made them a new creation. They have not been reborn as genuine Christians have. (2 Corinthians 5:17) If this is the case then how do people become deceived into believing that they are Christians when they aren’t? The answer is quite simple. Christian leaders (so-called) tell them lies based upon a false theology that is found nowhere in scripture. This false theology says that people are saved by doing religious things such as praying a sinner’s prayer. When doubt falls heavily upon them, and it will because of their lack of spiritual growth, their Christian leaders (so-called) tell them to trust in “their decsion” that was sealed by their sinner’s prayer. Since these people are incapable of true godliness that lines up with Christ’s standards in the above scriptures, their Christian leaders (so-called) have created a new form of godliness that any religious person can do, regenerate or not.

This new form of godliness does not include suffering for Christ’s sake. It does not include denying self, at least not much. It does not include living for God and His glory above all else. Instead the bar is set very low. It includes things such as faithfulness in Church attendance, daily Bible reading, daily devotions, and of course, financial support of their local church. When asked to serve in church, those who agree to do so are looked at as “godly” while those who don’t are looked down on by those who do. Is this the form of godliness that Jesus was talking about? These are good works, but anyone could do them, regenerate or not.

Genuine godliness exists consistently as a marker in the lives of God’s regenerate believers. They may be religious, but their relationship with God and their resultant obedience to all of His commands will mark them as “not of this world.” They will deny self, take up their crosses, as they do and say things that most “religious Christians” would never do or say because that would get them in hot water and mark them as troublemakers. They will obey God no matter the cost because they have counted the cost and know that the eternal is what really matters, not the temporal. Lastly, I believe the following passage describes those Christian leaders (so-called) that are leading masses of religious people to destruction with their false doctrines.

1 But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. 2 For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, 4 treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. 6 For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, 7 always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth. 8 Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men corrupted in mind and disqualified regarding the faith. 9 But they will not get very far, for their folly will be plain to all, as was that of those two men. (2 Timothy 3:1-9 ESV)

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11 thoughts on “True Godliness: Separating Regenerate Christianity from Counterfeit Christianity

  1. Mike, I too grieve as I look around at the “Christians” in my midst. I have several friends and extended family members who have had some sort of religious experience, prayed a prayer, or attend church, etc., but do not have any marks of being truly born again. They have nothing scriptural or spiritually edifying to share. they have little or no Bible knowledge or desire to learn and grow. Most of them don’t ever mention Jesus Christ, but sometimes they can talk about church or some Christian concerns of a peripheral nature. Most are very worldly and some are in bondage to alcohol or worse. So, I do fit in with them on a deep level. They do not accept me because they know that I don’t want to live as they do, but I desire to live a Christ-like life. (The family members who don’t know the Lord at all are the ones who don’t seem to mind my company!)

    Consequently, I have felt very lonely at times. Some of those who shun me are my own children. It is painful, even though I know that the Lord did come to bring a sword of division. We Christians need to comfort and encourage one another daily, as the Bible tells us. Don’t assume that the Christians around you have solid Christian friendships or regular Christian fellowship. The Christian who is without a church family is even more lonely these days. I feel for you in your search as I have been there a couple of times. Don’t give up — sometimes it seems like the Lord wants us to be able to actually see and experience the apostasy and shallowness of Christianity in these days before He brings us to a solid church.

  2. Julie,

    Thanks my sister. Yes, this time is quite lonely and puzzling. I think you are right. God is using this time for His purpose. If we are dedicated to losing our lives in Him then we must walk with Him and experience ourlives that He has setup for us. I see you “get” that. The Apostasy all around is troubling and heartbreaking, but God is still sovereign and we are His servants so we must obey Him and not give into the despair and all that goes with it.

    Thanks for the encouragment and great comment!

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  3. Hi Mike,
    Good thoughts. My parents both say they are christians but I feel in my heart they are not. They are very giving and kind hearted but I know when I bring up certain things they get a little upset about what they feel as the hardness of my words, like folks going to hell. They see God as a loving God that would not allow that to happpen and other things too. My older sister believes that I have my beliefs and she has hers and all ways lead someone to heaven and my youngest sister I believe may be a christian and my brother is not. They know my stand and it has not divided us to the point of not speaking to one another but it has divided us..truth divdes, but I will not back down because of it because they need to know the truth and I just continue to pray and take what ever moment the Lord gives me to present the truth. It just shows me though, that it is Jesus who draws a person, awakens the dead heart becsuse the Gospel is very clear and simple and yet they still do not believe

    As for the many leaders out there that are watering down the Gospel, shame on them. They are leading folks down that path of destruction and I believe they will pay mightly for it in the end. Thankyou for your boldness, always.


  4. Cristina,

    As I read your comment I kept “seeing” people all around me who are claiming to be Christians whose evidence is simply religious activity. There is no Christ-likeness in them. They are more concerned about sports or shopping or world peace or whatever than they are the Gospel. I rejoice that you are standing firm. Never sever those relationships. God will do that in His timing if it is His will. Your determination to keep those relationships going is the right way to go.

    As far as the Apostate, Counterfeit “Christian” leaders plaguing us at this time, we must speak the truth. That is what we are called to do. Never obnoxiously, but always as Christ would.

    Great comment and thanks for the encouragment.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  5. Thanks for the encouraging post. It helps when family in Christ talk about what is being experienced and do so through the scriptures.

    This past Sunday I listened to a sermon at a worhip service on forgiveness from the book of Philemon. One thing that has stayed on my mind is the descriptiona of Philemon given by Paul in the first few verses of the book; how the feet (living out) of Philemon’s faith had reached Paul’s ears all the way in prison, as did Philemon’s great love for all the saints. It was so comforting to be reminded of what Christian family interacting looks like.

  6. Kim,

    Philemon’s faith was genuine because he was a genuine Christian. What a great example for us all. Thanks for sharing that and thanks for your encouragement.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  7. Mike,

    I was born again in 1973 and at that time was a serious Catholic. Within a year the Lord dealt with my heart about Catholicism and leaving the Catholic Church. I made the decision to be obedient but dreaded having to tell my father who was devoted to the Catholic Church. It broke his heart when I told him and he accused me of doing this to punish him for not being a good father. It was the first time I ever saw my father cry. He told me he wanted nothing more to do with me and treated me as if I did not exist for the first year or two after that incident. But when I poured my heart out to the Lord about making my father feel so bad He told if I would be willing and obedient to leave the Church He would restore the relationship with my father and it would be better than it ever had been in my life. Well 14 years went by and my father was still cold and distant to me but I continued to love him with the love of Christ and trust in what the Lord had promised. In 1987 I moved my family to Louisiana from Oklahoma and shortly thereafter I received a phone call from my father. He was in tears again with a broken voice but this time he told me the Lord had dealt with his heart and told him he had been wrong in his attitude and treatment of me and needed to seek my forgiveness. He asked for my forgiveness and if we could start over. We both rejoiced and thank the Lord over the phone for what He was doing and would do in the years to come. I tell you truly the relationship with my father these past 19 years has exceeded what I imagined the Lord would do. Yes, Jesus brought a sword to the relationship with my father but in the end He has brought healing and wholeness. There were times during that 14 years of a wilderness relationship with my father that I sought the Lord about when was He going to keep His promised. His only response would be “trust Me.” I surely know it is always best for us in His time and in His way. May the Lord be glorified in all things.


  8. Loddie,

    Thanks for sharing this. God’s ways are not our ways. He is in control and we must trust Him and, yes, May the Lord be glorified in all things!

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  9. While we are on the subject of this, does anyone know of a good resource to pass along to friends
    and family members who might think they are Christians but whose salvation is in doubt?

    I have seen a few things that almost would work. Jim Elliff wrote a good pamphlet on unregenerate
    members in the Southern Baptist denomination that touched on these issues, but I can see someone
    who is SBC being offended at that and not really buying Jim’s point. Or someone else who is non-SBC
    thinking well, that doesn’t apply to me. I have also read some good Puritan writings that touched on this
    subject, but sometimes the Puritans are too hard to read for the average person. So…any ideas?

  10. this was a great article,thank you,,
    i see so many who htink they are saved and live just like the evidence
    of the renewing of there mind

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