If we are false Christians, would we know it or be deceived

Nathan February 12, 2014 5

FalseChristiansAreDeceived

Sure, many of us have either been raised in churches or exposed to Christianity since we were young, but despite sometimes even life-long commitments to God, have we ever asked ourselves if we are true Christians or just been deceived into wearing the label?

…um, what?

Introduction

To get the obvious out of the way, this article will be challenging, and probably offensive to some, as very few of us like the sincerity of our faith being questioned, but it is the only way to assess the condition of it

Also, it is important to note in the Biblical examples of false Christians we will look at, they had no idea they were not true believers or that they had fallen short of salvation, which is why the concept covered in this article is so important for all of us

Even though reviewing our faith may seem uncomfortable at first, keep in mind we are told to examine ourselves to see if our faith is truly sincere, but we do not hear this message often as many pastors, authors, writers, etc… are afraid of offending people, which means they avoid teachings, and parts of the Bible, which could cause people to feel too challenged, let alone question whether they will go to heaven even if they live in ways which blatantly contradict the Bible

2 Corinthians 13:5
Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?

Despite the challenging content ahead, this article’s intention is not to serve as an epic guilt trip, it is meant to challenge each of us, including myself, to ask whether we demonstrate a sincere commitment to God through the way we live, as anyone can say they are a Christian, but it does not mean we are actually living like one or walking with God

Remember, no matter how challenging a message may seem, God’s truth scares the enemy way more than it could ever scare us, as they know only difficult messages are capable of bringing us to new levels of maturity, we just need to embrace, and apply them to our lives rather than turn away when they make us uncomfortable

Do not forget, God challenges us both to accept his love, and to obey his commands, neither of which come as second nature the moment we first believe

God’s truth will take us to uncomfortable places as responding to it almost always means leaving our comfort zones and our old ways of thinking behind

And, with that…

Newsflash: Not Every Christian Is A True Believer

(Hello!)

Okay, before anyone gets offended, explodes into confetti or both, we need to objectively ask ourselves if we live in a way which shows we are the kind of sincere believers Jesus defined as being his disciples, and not just wearing a Christian label

Just like not everyone who wears a tracksuit is actually an athlete, nor does it guarantee they are even trying to be one, it is very common for Christians to believe professing faith in Jesus without making a sincere effort to obey what he commanded is enough to qualify as one of his disciples, and to receive salvation

This will shock many, but Jesus never taught anything like this!

For example, Jesus said only those who obey his commands are his true disciples, as not everyone who calls themselves Christians really wants to pursue God’s righteousness, love, and truth by obeying what he taught

We cannot selectively embrace Jesus’ teachings and still call ourselves his disciples as we are commanded to obey all of them

John 8:31-32
If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free

(To understand the first verse fully, it is important to know the word “hold” in Greek means “not to depart, to be held or kept continually”, which shows how Jesus was saying only those who make a continuous lifestyle out of his teachings are truly his disciples, not those who selectively obey or only obey for a time before backsliding into laziness or outright sin)

Mathew 7:21-23
Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles? ’Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!

(Note how Jesus says “Not everyone who says to, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven”, as he is clearly talking about Christians who think they are his disciples, even performing miracles and having ministries no less, but it is their sin, and lifestyles outside of God’s will, which keeps them, and potentially us, from entering heaven)

Matthew 28:18-20
All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you

(Notice how Jesus says we are, “…to obey everything I have commanded you”, which shows what it really means to make disciples, as a real disciple’s life is modeled after Christ, not some awkward hybrid of worldly living combined with a slightly higher moral conscience!)

Also, did you know Jesus said he only lay his life down for those who obey his commands?

John 15:9-14
As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command

(We should think about this the next time we dismiss our sinful lifestyles, thinking everything is covered by grace in perpetuity regardless of how we act!)

John 14:21
Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them

John 14:23-24
Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me

(Note how Jesus says “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them”, as we can have occasional interactions with God, but to have his love be poured out on us intensely, to the point where he continually abides with us, is an entirely different level of relationship, and all in exchange for our obedience!)

Also, Jesus warned people about counting the cost of becoming his disciple before making any sort of commitment to him, as he openly said those who do not put the gospel first in their lives cannot be his disciples

Luke 14:26-33
If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple

“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish’

“Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples

This passage is quite challenging, as, at first glance, it comes across as very extreme, and it is, but not like we think

For example, Jesus is not telling us to literally hate our parents, but he *is* warning us to consider how following him means we must put God first in our lives, ahead of any earthly relationships or worldly comforts

Oh, yeah, we totally do that!

/eyeroll

I mean honestly, did anyone ever ask if this is how we were going to live our faith *before* we became Christians, probably not!

Jesus’ teaching in this area directly contradicts pretty much everyone’s approach to evangelism, as most of us try to make people feel comfortable rather than warn them about the guaranteed sacrifices which lay ahead, oops!

Okay, after reading the passages above, we agree these are not exactly insignificant statements to measure the quality of our faith against, but now what?

A Short Interlude

Let us take a short pause before we move on

While being careful to not let the enemy tell us we should just give up because we are not super Christians, we have to let the passages above sink in, as it is easy to read challenging verses like these, and, because they will inevitably lead us to make uncomfortable assessments about the way we live our faith, many of us will acknowledge Jesus’ words as general concepts, even as being true, but we will not let the emotional, intellectual or spiritual ramifications hit us fully, if at all

But why?

The simple reason, is we are either too afraid, too prideful, or both, to objectively acknowledge we may be willingly living outside of God’s truth, and, in fact, may not be the kind of sincere believers we thought we were, as doing so may lead to life changes we just do not want to make!

*gasp*

(Do not worry, I had the same reaction myself when I realized how I was living, it happens)

Which brings us to our next point

How We Respond To God’s Truth Shows How Sincere We Are About Christianity

Okay okay, we had some cold water thrown on us, but now what?

To start, we know full well it is easy to ignore when someone preaches a message which is too strong for our taste, as we can retreat into a world of cherry picked scriptures and reassuring thoughts of how our life is right before God because we “just know it is”, etc…, but when Jesus is the one speaking to us, we cannot exactly blow him off without dismissing our entire Christian identity in the process

Just because the truth is set in front of us does not mean we are going to like it, let alone follow it

To illustrate this, let us look at when Jesus spoke to the rich young ruler, as this was a young man who not only lived an upright life, but also received an invitation to personally follow Jesus as one of his disciples—only a handful of people ever received such an honor, like the Apostles for example

Mark 10:17-22
As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

“Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother’”

“Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy”

Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me”

At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth

(Look how it says “Jesus looked at him and loved him”, as Jesus loved this young man so much, he cared more about his salvation than worrying about whether the truth would hurt his feelings or not!)

Oops, that did not exactly go as expected now did it

I mean, this man, who had obviously gone to great lengths to obey God’s commands since there was only *one* thing keeping him from salvation, comes running up to Jesus asking, “What must I do to inherit eternal life”, and not only is the answer something he could do right then and there, but he is also offered the chance walk with Jesus himself, how awesome!

However, despite his initial enthusiasm, and obedience in nearly every area of his life, look at how the young man reacts, as he is so disappointed by Jesus’ answer his “face fell”, and then walks away without saying a word!

What?

But I thought this guy wanted to inherit eternal life, did we miss something?

Unfortunately, no, as Jesus, speaking by the Spirit, cut through the man’s words, and appearance of religion, to expose the *one* thing which separated him from salvation, ie: he loved money more than God

(Psst, I am pretty sure most of us have more than just one area of our lives we “lack” obedience in, which really gives us something to think about–just saying!)

This revelation of the heart is exactly what the author of Hebrews described when they said the Word of God, who is Jesus himself, will expose the true condition of our heart, regardless of what we say or naively think about ourselves

God’s Word is designed to bring us to maturity and to lead us to salvation as our claim to be Christians is only proven right by our actions and the condition of our heart, not through empty words or partial obedience

Hebrews 4:12
For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart

Also, notice how Jesus does not tell the young man:

“You are one condition of the heart away from salvation, but just believe in me, and everything will be fine, your sins are covered no matter what”

In fact, Jesus says the total opposite, and he does not even chase after the man to convince or reassure him when he walks away, can you imagine a pastor today acting like this today, people would go bananas!

Okay, we covered a lot, which leads us to the final question relating to the article’s title

If We Are False Christians, Would We Know It Or Be Deceived

The short, painful answer is simply, no, we generally would not know it

Just like the rich young ruler, the vast majority of Christians who fall short of the mark have no idea they are outside of God’s will, let alone separated from salvation

Since this was an old problem which would only get worse, Jesus, and Paul warned us about the church of the last days, as the increase of wickedness will be so great around us, we will allow it to invade the church in unprecedented ways, to the point where we would lose the very identities Jesus said his disciples would have, ie: the obedient love they have for one another

John 13:34-35
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another

Matthew 24:10-13
At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved

(Note how it says, “…the love of most will grow cold”, not some, not a few, but *most*, that is really sobering, as most Christians now do not demonstrate love the way Jesus commanded us to, which says dark things about the days ahead)

2 Timothy 3:1-5
But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people

(This verse is intense, as we are not only warned about the types of false believers who will inevitably be among us, but we are commanded to have nothing to do with them! However, we should adopt the same attitude as Jesus taught, in that if someone repents, we should eagerly welcome them with open arms, not religiously condemn them!)

Look how Paul says these people have, “…a form of godliness but denying its power”, meaning, they have the appearance of religion, but God is far from them as they have no form of spiritual power, revelation or righteousness, all of which are natural characteristics of someone who is walking with God

To put these verses into perspective, this can only happen if we welcome sin into our individual lives, as the enemy cannot just waltz into churches, they can only take control one person at a time

However, if we are commanded to have nothing to do with people like these, yet are warned they will permeate the church, it says a lot about how unhealthy the church body is in general, as it means these people are not being identified, and led to the truth as they should be, not to mention people are giving way to sin in their lives to get to these states in the first place!

When talking about the same false Christians, Paul goes on to say these unknowing imposters of the faith will not only get worse, but they are deceived into thinking there is nothing wrong with their lives, and they will deceive others as well!

2 Timothy 3:12-13
In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evildoers and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived

Even further to this, many will surround themselves with teachers, and doctrine, which say exactly what their sinful natures want to hear, ie: they can inherit the kingdom of God even if they reject his commands while living on earth

Not even!

2 Timothy 4:3-4
For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths

1 Timothy 4:1-2
The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron

(Whoa, bad doctrine will be taught by deceiving spirits and demons, presented in a way where we are deceived into thinking it is true? Um, no thanks!)

This puts all those feel good, seeker friendly messages which leave room for our worldly lifestyles into perspective huh?

One other point, note how in the examples above the people who fall away from true Christianity do not leave the church, they stay, but create all sorts of problems, and live in ways which contradict the Bible, really think about this the next time you open your mouth to gossip, lead others to bend their morals for the sake of having fun or breed any sort of discord in the church

Paul also warned that even for those who do manage to study their Bibles, they will never come to the knowledge of the truth due to the disobedient way they live–remember what Jesus said, we have to obey his commands before we will know the truth, as no amount of book reading will replace the revelations which come as the result of obedience

John 8:31-32
If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free

John 14:23
Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them

2 Timothy 3:7
…always learning but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth

At this point we should ask ourselves if we are one of the people described in the passages above, as these verses could potentially describe any of us!

Remember, the people being discussed are deceived into thinking they are sincere Christians, as they either live outside the truth without even realizing it or they know their lives are not aligned with the Bible but they do not care because they are surrounded by false doctrine which says it is okay!

How Do See If We Are In Or Outside Of The Faith

In my experiences, one of the most telling signs of someone who is not sincerely living for the kingdom, apart from more obvious signs like a lack of fruit, can be seen in how frequently they make excuses for their lifestyles, especially after being confronted with passages in the Bible which show they should not be living the way they are:

“I know I keep on sinning but God knows my heart”

“I know the Bible says that, but God wants me to be happy so it is okay”

“Christianity is all about forgiveness, God loves me no matter how I act”

“The Bible was written at a different time, our culture is different now”

“We cannot believe everything the Bible says”

Most commonly, these can be heard when we try to bend the Bible to fit our worldly desires in areas such as pre-marital sex, never tithing, watching porn, homosexuality, dating non-Christians, spending ridiculous amounts of money on what we eat and wear, etc…

Ohhh, now all of a sudden it got more personal huh?

I am not saying this to condemn anyone, but we need to be honest about our resistance to obeying God’s Word, as he accepts us where we are at when we first come to him, but once we are in a relationship with him, God commands us to pursue holiness, not stay where we are

2 Corinthians 7:1
Therefore, since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God

Also, this:

Nowhere in the Bible does God entertain excuses for willing disobedience

And do not worry, I have made some of these statements myself, but we need to recognize just how serious thinking, and subsequently acting according to them really is, as we are literally telling God:

“I know you paid for my sins, and commanded me to live according to your holy standards, but a worldly lifestyle is more appealing to me, but I still want blessings from you, even though I do not care about your feelings enough to change my behavior!”

Yeah, that does not exactly make us sound good does it, and we see how these half in, half out attitudes show we are not really Jesus’ disciples, as we are obviously putting the world first over him out of preference for it

Luke 14:26-27
If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple

Alright, we can acknowledge this, even if it is uncomfortable, but think about what it actually means for us in a practical sense

Based on the passages above, it is important to remember if we have areas of sin we refuse to let go of by willing choice, the faith we proclaim to have is worthless, along with all of our deeds, as such a faith has no power to save us–this is the same warning Jesus gave the rich young ruler, so we need to think twice before dismissing it just because the idea of not making it to heaven makes us feel uncomfortable

Hebrews 10:26-29
If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much more severely do you think someone deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace?

For many, this verse is incredibly challenging, but it is important to know the word “deliberately” in Greek means “willingly, not out of weakness”, as this verse is addressing those who call themselves believers, yet lead a lifestyle of willing disobedience, in one or many areas

To go even further, it is important to understand God views a Christian who lives a willing lifestyle of sin far differently than one where we stumble from time to time on the road to maturity, as his mercy is extended to those who humbly, and sincerely pursue holiness, but he openly opposes the types of Christians who know full well what they do is wrong, and even have the strength to stop, but they choose not to because they prefer sin over righteousness, just like how the rich young ruler rejected Jesus’ invitation to receive eternal life, even though he, just like us, could have turned away from his sin to start a new life right on the spot

Never let the enemy tell us we have sinned so greatly there is no going back, as we can turn away from our sinful lifestyles at any point to receive forgiveness, mercy and restoration because of God’s love for us

James 4:4-6
You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us? But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says:

“God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble”

(Keep in mind James is writing this to a body of believers, as he is not talking about people who are outside of the church! Also, for context, the word “friendship” in Greek means “friend of, loved as family”, while “enmity” in Greek means “hatred”, as these are the very types of people we read about in the passages above who claim to be believers, but their heart is willingly, and knowingly set on the world, not on God)

The truth, is many of us have areas of our lives Jesus would, in love, rebuke us over, but how would we respond, by laying those things down immediately or by turning away from him without saying a word?

We of course want to believe we would choose the right thing, so what is stopping us from responding to Jesus now?

Oh, you know, our desire for worldly happiness and comfort, the usual!

*cough*

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comments

  • Piper

    When you said not every Christian is a true believer, I believe what you meant to say is not every believer is a true Christian. I believed for years before I made the commitment to follow after Jesus and walk in His ways. Just want you to know I appreciate your posts and the fact that you are willing to say the hard truths of our faith when others wont. You will be blessed by God I’m sure. And hated by people. But that is ok, because in Jesus’ own words “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.”

    • http://thecountyguard.org/ countyguard

      You are right because you cannot be a true Christian if you “believe” unbiblical doctrines and practice the same…

    • http://www.godandstuff.com Nathan

      Hi Piper,

      Thank you for the encouragement!

      I am no stranger to negative responses, though God comforted me tremendously with this passage recently, as those who truly want to draw near to him have always responded positively

      Psalm 119:74
      May those who fear you rejoice when they see me, for I have put my hope in your word

  • Jim Beall

    In my opinion, if you question whether or not you are a true christian you may have some work to do. Do not try to please man. Only try to please God. If anyone tries to impede your faith, prayer, or bible study stay away from them or what they say.

    • http://www.godandstuff.com Nathan

      Hi Jim,

      We should stay away from people who seek to condemn or guilt-trip us, but Paul instructs us to examine ourselves to see if we are really in the faith or not, simply claiming to be is not enough

      2 Corinthians 13:5
      Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?