by Mike Ratliff
16 Then Samuel said to Saul, “Wait, and let me tell you what the Lord said to me last night.” And he said to him, “Speak!”
17 Samuel said, “Is it not true, though you were little in your own eyes, you were made the head of the tribes of Israel? And the Lord anointed you king over Israel, 18 and the Lord sent you on a mission, and said, ‘ Go and utterly destroy the sinners, the Amalekites, and fight against them until they are exterminated. ’ 19 Why then did you not obey the voice of the Lord, but rushed upon the spoil and did what was evil in the sight of the Lord?”
20 Then Saul said to Samuel, “ I did obey the voice of the Lord, and went on the mission on which the Lord sent me, and have brought back Agag the king of Amalek, and have utterly destroyed the Amalekites. (1 Samuel 15:16-20 NASB)
The Reformers and Puritans would not recognize as genuine most of what we call Christianity today. Of course one of the main thrusts of the Protestant Reformation was to make the Word of God accessible to all people. Why? It is in the Bible that we learn the truth. We learn what genuine worship is and what it isn’t. We learn that genuine Christianity will always have the requirement of obedience to God as what marks a true disciple of Christ. False versions of Christianity will always be marked by a version of the truth to obey that is not the complete truth from God’s Word. Instead, men’s rules are used.
False professions abound in false churches. Instead of complete obedience being the standard for believers, obedience to man’s version of God’s standard suffices. Just as Saul said he was obedient when he partially carried out God’s mission to destroy the Amalekites, false churches propagate this sort of thing in believer’s day-to-day obedience. It is all relative. There are no absolutes and only someone ate up with legalism would insist on complete obedience to God.
33 So He brought their days to an end in futility
And their years in sudden terror.
34 When He killed them, then they sought Him,
And returned and searched diligently for God;
35 And they remembered that God was their rock,
And the Most High God their Redeemer.
36 But they deceived Him with their mouth
And lied to Him with their tongue.
37 For their heart was not steadfast toward Him,
Nor were they faithful in His covenant. (Psalms 78:33-37 NASB)
Convenient Christianity is not genuine Christianity. If people seek God to make their lives better or to escape His wrath, but the focus of this is not to obey God for His glory, but to turn so as not to burn then the odds are pretty good that regeneration has not taken place in the heart. These people see their faith as something they did. They are Christians because they sought God and made the right decisions. This is Pelagianism. This is not genuine Christianity. It is a version of it that makes Man a god and God a helpless onlooker. When God does intervene in the lives of Christians, (real or not) Pelagians, being full of unbelief, will obey God in order to end the suffering or whatever, but as soon as the heat is turned down they revert back to self-focused religiosity. They cannot walk according the Spirit because they are flesh bound. They cannot find victory over their sin because their only weapon against it is self-will.
23 Like an earthen vessel overlaid with silver dross
Are burning lips and a wicked heart. (Proverbs 26:23 NASB)
Firemen hate false storefronts. These are facades that look great on the outside, but are only window dressing. They hide the old and ugly storefront. If a fire ever gets going in this area firemen have a huge problem fighting it because of the hidden nature of it. False Christianity is made up of false professors. These people talk a good game, but it’s only the glaze covering an earthen vessel. What does all of this mask? It masks an evil heart. That means it is not regenerate and, therefore, not genuine.
1 “ Hear this, O house of Jacob, who are named Israel
And who came forth from the loins of Judah,
Who swear by the name of the Lord
And invoke the God of Israel,
But not in truth nor in righteousness. (Isaiah 48:1 NASB)
Genuine Christians do not just confess that Jesus is Lord. They also live spirit-led lives to the extent of their maturity. On the other hand, there are untold numbers of professing Christians who do confess Jesus is Lord, but He isn’t their Lord. They may be very religious. They may be church leaders or pillars or whatever, but if God has not touched their hearts with His regenerative power, they are not His.
1 “ Cry loudly, do not hold back;
Raise your voice like a trumpet,
And declare to My people their transgression
And to the house of Jacob their sins.
2 “Yet they seek Me day by day and delight to know My ways,
As a nation that has done righteousness
And has not forsaken the ordinance of their God.
They ask Me for just decisions,
They delight in the nearness of God.
3 ‘Why have we fasted and You do not see?
Why have we humbled ourselves and You do not notice? ’
Behold, on the day of your fast you find your desire,
And drive hard all your workers.
4 “Behold, you fast for contention and strife and to strike with a wicked fist.
You do not fast like you do today to make your voice heard on high.
5 “Is it a fast like this which I choose, a day for a man to humble himself?
Is it for bowing one’s head like a reed
And for spreading out sackcloth and ashes as a bed?
Will you call this a fast, even an acceptable day to the Lord?
6 “Is this not the fast which I choose,
To loosen the bonds of wickedness,
To undo the bands of the yoke,
And to let the oppressed go free
And break every yoke?
7 “Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry
And bring the homeless poor into the house;
When you see the naked, to cover him;
And not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
8 “Then your light will break out like the dawn,
And your recovery will speedily spring forth;
And your righteousness will go before you;
The glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
9 “Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
You will cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am. ’
If you remove the yoke from your midst,
The pointing of the finger and speaking wickedness,
10 And if you give yourself to the hungry
And satisfy the desire of the afflicted,
Then your light will rise in darkness
And your gloom will become like midday.
11 “And the Lord will continually guide you,
And satisfy your desire in scorched places,
And give strength to your bones;
And you will be like a watered garden,
And like a spring of water whose waters do not fail.
12 “Those from among you will rebuild the ancient ruins;
You will raise up the age- old foundations;
And you will be called the repairer of the breach,
The restorer of the streets in which to dwell.
13 “If because of the sabbath, you turn your foot
From doing your own pleasure on My holy day,
And call the sabbath a delight, the holy day of the Lord honorable,
And honor it, desisting from your own ways,
From seeking your own pleasure
And speaking your own word,
14 Then you will take delight in the Lord,
And I will make you ride on the heights of the earth;
And I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father,
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” (Isaiah 58:1-14 NASB)
Religiosity that does not spring from regenerate heart will produce fruit that may look very good to people. In fact, I was reprimanded by a young man several years ago about an article I wrote about the Emergent Church. In it, he said that True Religion is feeding the hungry and clothing the naked. My response was that that fruit can be counterfeited, however, a genuine regenerate heart in a believer who is walking according the spirit will do good works. The works do not produce the faith. Instead, it is genuine faith working in a regenerate heart that produces much fruit. If we try to please God by our works instead of working with God as He works through us then we miss the boat. False Christianity is guilty of this big time.
15 “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? 17 So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 So then, you will know them by their fruits.
21 “ Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 22 Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles? ’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from ME, you who practice lawlessness.’ (Matthew 7:15-23 NASB)
Jesus’ words here are very succinct. Who are the ones who enter the Kingdom of Heaven? They are the ones who do the will of the Father who is in Heaven. Notice that Jesus does not equate religiosity to that. Who does the will of the Father? Only the regenerate can and do. They are the ones the Father uses to produce good fruit or works. What is it that we do that is obedience to the Father? Isn’t it to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, deny ourselves, take up our crosses and follow Him?
We must never forget that people are very good at an outward show of obedience. They may look very good to us, but God knows those who are His and those who aren’t. We must examine ourselves. Are we believers just to avoid Hell? Are we trying to simply avoid God’s wrath? Or are we doing both of those things BECAUSE we love the Lord our God and are continually dying to self in this life for His glory alone? I pray that it is the latter for you.
Soli Deo Gloria!