2Ti 3:5 having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.
We have looked in this series at many real examples of counterfeits. People who, as Paul warns, have an exterior appearance of godliness but who, like the whitewashed Pharisees, do not possess Christ within. We are told to avoid such people. This means:
- We CAN identify such people (in spite of being told and told by pastors and churches and “experts” that we must not “judge” and that we cannot spot the fakes)
- We must be wise to evil (Heb 5:14 But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.)
- We CAN recognize the real thing (1Jn 2:5 but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him:)
- We are not to just blindly “go to church” assuming that most everyone there is a Christian. We are to AVOID the counterfeit and in many cases virtually entire church memberships are filled with corrupt, “christian-in-appearance-only” types.
But in addition to these things, we can be encouraged by the biblical truth that we CAN identify real godliness. That we CAN recognize Christ’s true people, even though their numbers are small and in this day of a plague of false gospels in churches, they are widely scattered. We CAN know them:
- Joh 10:4-5 When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. (5) A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.”
- Joh 10:14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me,
- 1Jn 2:10 Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling.
- Mat 7:17-20 So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. (18) A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. (19) Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. (20) Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.
Now, this means we must be able to recognize good fruit. Mostly we have been taught that fruit can be judged by its skin, but the real test involves what is inside. And THE key defining fruit of Christ’s people is LOVE. In all of the cases that we have examined in this series of articles, this is the one thing that is always lacking. Love. Love for Christ. Love for Christ’s people. A love that will not let go. A love that is not self-serving. A love that is so great that we will follow Christ wherever He leads. A loyal love – not a blind loyalty, but a loyalty that clings to Christ in truth and stands with His people in good and bad times.
Christ’s real people DO exist! Elijah, you recall, thought he alone was left. But it wasn’t true. The gates of hell will not prevail against Christ’s church and though His flock be scattered and persecuted so that they are found in caves rather than in cathedrals, we can always know that the real church exists. This of course all requires a big paradigm shift in our minds regarding what Christ looks like and what His church looks like.
Heb 11:37-38 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— (38) of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.
In all of these years that I have been a pastor, there have always been a few. People who genuinely love Christ, love His people, whose love is a persevering, loyal love that is never extinguished. It is a love that is wise. It sees evil. It refuses to walk, stand, or sit with evil. It stands with those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake. In other words, the real thing, the genuine article, walks by faith and is willing to pay the price of following Christ. THERE is the church. There is the power of godliness. Embrace such people!