“Five times in Matthew 24, Jesus warned against deception in the last days (vv. 4, 5, 11, 23–24, 26). If we are not at least somewhat troubled by those warnings, it is only because we are guarding our ignorance with arrogance, presuming that our thoughts must be right simply because we think them. … Subconsciously, we may actually want a dead religion so we do not have to change.”
Our experience of Christianity must go beyond just being another interpretation of the Bible; it must expand until our faith in Jesus and our love for Him becomes a lightning rod for His presence.
Prove All Things
“But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good” (1 Thess. 5:21). Would you buy a car without driving it? Would you purchase a house sight unseen? Of course not! Yet, many of us accept various “plans of salvation” that do not really save us from the distresses of hell. In spite of the fact that Jesus came to give us abundant life, we remain sinful and selfish. A car may look nice, but if it will not drive across town we should not trust it to take us across the country.
Likewise, if our Christianity does not work in this life where we can test it, it is foolhardy to hope it will successfully transport us into eternity where, if we fail the test, we suffer eternal separation from God.
I do not wish to imply, however, that unless we get every doctrine right and every interpretation perfect we will be refused entrance into heaven. Christianity is more a matter of the heart than the head; it is a maturing of love more than knowledge. The test of truth is not an intellectual pursuit but whether you are drawing closer, week by week, to knowing and loving Jesus Christ.
At the same time, we should not be afraid to test what we believe. Paul says, “Test yourselves . . . examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you—unless indeed you fail the test?” (2 Cor. 13:5).
The power and person of Jesus Christ is in us; to believe in Him is to progressively become like Him. As it is written, “as He is, so also are we in this world” (1 John 4:17). However, if we have been indoctrinated to believe that the kingdom of God, and Christianity itself, does not really have to work, or if the absence of holiness and power fails to trouble us, something is seriously wrong with our concept of truth.
We should seek answers to three very important questions. First: is my faith effective? Do not gloss over that question. Honestly ask yourself if your prayers are being answered and if your life is becoming godly.
Second: if my doctrines do not work, then why not? Perhaps your theology is fine but you are lazy. Perhaps you need to turn off the television set and dedicate that time to seek the Lord instead. Or maybe you are very earnest but you have been taught wrong. Either way, you must seek to find out why things are not working for you.
And third: if I do see the fruit and power of the Holy Spirit revealed in another’s life, how did he (or she) receive such grace from God? Do not be afraid to sit as a disciple under the anointing of another’s ministry. The Word tells us, “He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward” (Matt. 10:41). God gives “rewards” of impartation, knowledge and other spiritual gifts to His servants. Learn from those whose faith is working.
The final test of any set of doctrines is seen in the kind of life they produce. As it is written, “By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked” (1 John 2:5–6). Continual, persistent walking with Christ will produce a life like Christ’s. We will walk even as He did walk with holiness and power.
The fact is, however, that if the “god” of some of our Christian religions died, most members of those churches would be either too spiritually dead or too physically busy to notice his absence. All too often, Christians accept teachings “by faith”—not faith in the Living God but faith that their church doctrines are correct. We unconsciously hope that whoever is teaching us has not made a mistake.
Jesus said, “See to it no one misleads you” (Matt. 24:4). Remaining free from deception is a responsibility each of us must assume as individuals. Without becoming suspicious or mistrusting, in humility let us re-examine what we have been taught. The virtue of any teaching is in its ability to either equip you to do God’s will or empower you to find God’s heart. If either objective is missing, that teaching will be of lesser value.
The Power of a Godly Life
This lesson is not addressed to “bad people” or sinners; it is for all of us “good people” who have thought being nice was of the same essence as knowing the truth. It is not. We can thank our parents that we are nice, but to know the truth, we must seek God and be willing to obey Him.
Five times in Matthew 24, Jesus warned against deception in the last days (vv. 4, 5, 11, 23–24, 26). If we are not at least somewhat troubled by those warnings, it is only because we are guarding our ignorance with arrogance, presuming that our thoughts must be right simply because we think them. There are areas in all of our lives that need to be corrected. And unless we can be corrected, unless we are seeking God for an unfolding revelation of His Son, our so-called “faith” may be, in reality, just a lazy indifference, a deception concerning the things of God. Subconsciously, we may actually want a dead religion so we do not have to change.
Yes, we should accept many things by faith. But faith is not blindly sticking our hand out to be led by another blind man. It is not an excuse to justify impotent doctrines. True faith is freighted with the power of God.
The Power in Holiness
“This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be . . . having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof” (2 Tim. 3:1–5 KJV). Holiness is powerful. Have you ever met a truly holy man or woman? There is a power in their godliness. If, however, one has never known a Christlike soul, it becomes very easy to fake Christianity. Remember this always: being false is natural to the human heart; it is with much effort that we become true. Unless we are reaching for spiritual maturity, our immaturity shapes our perceptions of God. We point to the Almighty and say, “He stopped requiring godliness,” when in reality, we have compromised the standards of His kingdom. Know for certain that the moment we stop obeying God, we start faking Christianity.
And as we mature, we begin to realize that the Spirit of Christ is actually within us. The cross emerges off the printed page, it stands upright before us, confronting us with our own Gethsemanes, our own Golgothas—but also our own resurrections through which we ascend spiritually into the true presence of the Lord.
With Paul we say,
I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me. —Galatians 2:20
Do not let yourself be misled! Place upon your theology the demand that it work—your eternal salvation depends upon it! If Christ is within us, we should be living holy, powerful lives. No excuses. If we are not holy or if there is not the power of godliness in our lives, let us not blame God. As it is written, “Let God be found true, though every man be found a liar” (Rom. 3:4). Let us persevere in seeking God until we find Him, until we discover “what [we are] still lacking” (Matt. 19:20). Let us press on until we “lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:12).
How long should we continue to seek Him? If we spent all our lives and all our energies for three minutes of genuine Christlikeness, we would have spent our lives well. We will say like Simeon of old, “Now Lord, You are releasing Your bond-servant to depart in peace, according to Your word; for my eyes have seen Your salvation” (Luke 2:29–30). We do not want to just give mental assent to Christian doctrine; we want to see, have contact with and live in the experienced reality of Christ’s actual presence. The moment we settle for anything less, we begin faking Christianity.
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The preceding article came from Pastor Frangipane’s first book, Holiness, Truth and the Presence of God that can be ordered at www.arrowbookstore.com
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