Will we know Christians by their "verbal testimony" or by their living testimony?
It seems that many people put their faith in some sort of verbal "testimony" as their evidence that they are Christians. I don't believe that there is anything wrong with sharing a verbal testimony if a person feels led to do so, and it can be very helpful in some situations for a person to open up to someone else about their relationship with the Lord. But I also believe that it is important that we try to be more discerning and that we don't automatically put our faith in spoken testimonies as the absolute evidence that this person is sincerely a follower of Jesus Christ. It seems that almost everyone who claims to be a Christian has some sort of verbal "testimony". This testimony may claim/testify that the person became a Christian as evidenced when:
- he/she was confirmed into joining a certain church assembly
- he/she 'felt' a certain closeness to God and he/she evidenced it by putting religious tattoos on their body, and/or frequently wearing cross type jewelry etc.
- he/she attended a religious service where great emotion overcame him and he went to an altar and said a prayer and 'accepted Jesus'
- he/she is known in the community for doing good deeds and service projects
- he/she attended a gathering where the religious leader told the person that he/she is truly 'saved'. The religious leader said salvation was evidenced since this person now 'speaks in tongues' or performs some other form of 'sign/wonder' such as having 'visions of revelation', 'casting out demons' etc.
- he/she underwent some moral changes
- he/she has an elaborate story of his/her 'conversion'
- he/she says 'hallelujah', praise God', 'God bless you' and other religious phrases fairly frequently and/or shares some religious type messages on social media sites now and then etc.
I. Jesus was not often impressed with people's spoken 'testimonies'.
As we just read above, it is not difficult to construct some sort of verbal testimony to try and prove that a person is a Christian. However, when we read the Bible, we can easily see that the Lord Jesus Christ did not put a lot of value normally in people's claimed verbal 'testimonies'. Here are a few words that the Lord Jesus had to say about this issue:
- Matthew 15:8-9 "These people honor Me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me. They worship Me in vain, as they teach as doctrines the commands of men."
- Matthew 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 in heaven. Many will say to Me on that day 'Lord, Lord did we not prophecy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform miracles?' Then I will tell them 'I never knew you, away from Me evildoers!'"
In the above verses, we read about people who have verbal testimonies that claim that they are true followers of God and they base their verbal testimonies on such ideas as:
- 'We honor you with our lips Lord' (These people sing religious songs, pray, and attend religious groups where God is spoken about.)
- 'We prophecy'
- 'We cast out demons in Jesus' name'
- 'We performed miracles in Jesus' name'
Yet the Lord was not impressed by their spoken testimonies, but instead said they worshipped Him in vain and were evil doers.
II. Jesus was not as interested in people's testimonial claims as much as He was in people's fruits as evidence that they had true faith.
Jesus was clearly more interested in the testimony that was seen in a person's life (how they lived their lives and the fruits/actions of their lives) over testimonies that merely consisted of spoken words. Here are some scriptures that pertain to this:
- Matthew 7:15-20 - "Beware of false prophets (people who verbally claim to serve God, but their fruits/actions and false teachings prove otherwise) who come to you in sheep's clothing (looking innocent and harmless), but inwardly they are ravenous wolves (they can deceive you and ruin your soul through their deceptive ways and claims). You will know them by their fruits (their actions, behaviors, and words). Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits, you will know them."
- John 14:23-24 - "Anyone who loves Me will obey My teachings. 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 teachings." (Here we understand that Jesus does not believe people love Him merely because they SAY they love Him, but rather when people SHOW their love for Him if they OBEY Him.)
III. Words can be DECEIVING!
Many people can give some sort of verbal testimony that seeks to convince others and perhaps even themselves that they are genuine believers and followers of the Lord. They may say something like "I was saved on April 28, 1995, when I accepted the Lord and made a decision to give my life to Jesus." Then they may share various other details about their experience in their verbal testimony and it may sound very convincing to themselves as well as to their listeners. However, the Bible does not teach us that these verbal testimonies are the way to trust that someone has a true saving faith in God. INSTEAD, the Bible teaches us that we should NOT necessarily trust in what people tell us, but instead, we should be examining the testimony of their LIVES as a more accurate way to know whether or not such people may have a true saving faith in God. Here are some clear scriptures that share about this issue:
- Titus 1:16 - "They PROFESS to know God, BUT in WORKS they deny Him, being abominable, disobedient, and disqualified for every good work."
- 1 John 1:6 - "If we SAY that we have fellowship with Him, and yet we walk in darkness, we LIE and do not practice the truth."
- 1 John 2:9 - "He who SAYS he is in the light, and yet hates his brother, is in darkness until now.
- 1 John 2:4-5 - "He who SAYS 'I know Him,' and does not keep His commandments, is a LIAR, and the truth is not in him."
As we can see in the above verses very clearly, the Bible is extra careful about warning us to not necessarily trust in people's spoken testimonies that profess that 'they know God', 'fellowship with God', or 'are in the light'. Instead, the Bible teaches us to be much more discerning and instead look at the testimony of the person's life. This Christian lifestyle should be one that does not walk in darkness/sin and lives to obey God's commands. The Bible teaches us not to just ASSUME that our faith in God is a genuine saving faith because as the book of James teaches, there is a false type of faith which is only a mental type of faith in God such as even the demons have (James 2:14-26). A true genuine saving faith is not merely a mental consent to believing in God, but instead, true genuine saving faith is characterized by a brand new born again heart and lifestyle that sincerely wants to take up our cross daily. It is a faith that follows the Lord in true obedience to Him out of genuine love for our Lord and deep thankfulness for His perfect, gracious sacrifice on the cross that alone could wash away our sins! The Bible teaches us to TEST and EXAMINE OURSELVES to MAKE SURE that we are TRULY in the FAITH (2 Cor. 13:5). As we test/examine ourselves for genuine faith, the major examination will be to make sure that we've repented/turned away from sin. We will walk in newness of life that no longer demands to live as we want but instead wants to live to please and honor God.
These are some of the clear new born-again changes that we will see in those who have truly become new creatures in Christ:
1. We will no longer suppress/hide God's truths or lie about God's truths - (Rom. 1:18 and 25, Mark 8:37-38) Instead we will now have a love to share God's full truths boldly out of a true care and love for others and their eternal souls.
2. We will no longer involve ourselves in any sexual immoralities to include homosexuality, fornication (sex outside of marriage), and adultery (sex with a married person) (Rom. 1:26-27, Gal. 5:19-21)
3. We will no longer take part in lewdness (lasciviousness/licentiousness/behaviors that entice sexual promiscuousness) to include lewd attire, lewd dancing, as well as lewd language, movies, music, games, promiscuous books and magazines, promiscuous and pornographic images etc. (Gal. 5:19)
4. We will no longer partake in uncleanness (anything that is not pure and could influence us to turn our minds from righteousness). (Eph. 5:5, Gal. 5:19) - Uncleanness is the opposite of purity/holiness so uncleanness could include a number of things such as the need for us to turn away from anything of a satanic nature such as horror movies or satanic music and literature. Uncleanness can also involve various other types of wickedness such as crude vile language, nasty jokes, and indecent behaviors which the Holy Spirit will cause any true child of God to repent of and thus turn away from.
5. We will no longer partake in idolatry. (Gal. 5:20) - This is not merely about worshipping 'gods' of metal or stone, but this term is much broader. Idolatry involves excessive admiration for someone or something or some obsessiveness that comes between us and God. This type of idolatry involves a love for this world that would come between us and the Lord. (1 John 2:15-17) - From the start, God made it clear that He would not stand for anything 'before' Him and that He had to be first. (Ex. 20:3-5, Lev. 26:1) God demands to be our first love and our only first love. Some of these main and more common idols would include:
a.) Love of money and work obsessions (2 Tim. 3:2 )- As Jesus said we can't love God and money both because we will either love one and hate the other as we read in Matthew 6:24. We need to work to provide for our needs, but when earning money is our obsession, then this will block our love for God and His desires.
b.) obsessive love of entertainment/pleasures (2 Tim. 3:4) - A little entertainment and diversions are fine, but when they become our life and we are obsessed with pleasures more than God then we have a problem. We can be assured we've made pleasures our idol if we find ourselves playing video games for hours and hours each day, or watching television constantly or some other form and pleasure, and love these more than spending time with God in His Word or in prayer.
c.) obsessive love of hobbies - This is when we spend so much time on various interests but seem to not make time for God or only a little time for God.
d.) obsessive love for people over God (Matt. 10:37) - We are meant to love people and especially to share the gospel with them and to help others. However, when we crave for popularity or obsess over certain people like boyfriends of even our own children more than we do about our precious Lord, then we have made an idol out of people
e.) lovers of self/ego/arrogant pride (2 Tim. 3:2) - This involves people who idolize themselves and tend to think they might be 'better', 'smarter', 'better looking', etc. We can all mess up in this area, but we need to try and recognize it and confess and ask God to help us have the right attitudes in this area. We definitely need to make sure though that we are not obsessing about self-recognition night and day which causes us to exclude God from our thoughts. If we are at that point, then we have made 'self' our idol.
6. We will no longer partake in sorcery/witchcraft (Gal. 5:20) - This involves interest in the occult, fortune-tellers, magic spells, necromancers (those who call up the dead with supposed messages), ouija boards, horoscopes, tarot cards, palm readings, and other such areas that do not seek God for truth and guidance, but instead seek mystic avenues for 'truth' and 'guidance'. The problem with all of this is that these people are not experiencing any kinds of angelic or helpful activities but rather they are experiencing demonic and deceptive activity. We must STEER CLEAR from the powers of the supernatural and RUN from them! There is NO "good magic". The magic may appear to be "good" and "honest" at first, but this is just a hook for demons who are very active on this earth to draw you in deeper and deeper. Even movies/books that sound good and tell about little children visiting heaven and talking to deceased relatives in order to try and reassure people about the after life, are actually quite dangerous and could lead us to want to trust in spiritism/mysticism instead of in God's Word. We should NEVER trust in supernatural experiences, but instead, put our trust in God and HIS WORD. God loves us and wants us to have no part in this activity that can only ruin lives. God forbids these things because they are not helpful and beneficial activities but instead cause deception and untold pain and also places us on the side of evil and separation from God because we have chosen to trust Satan's lies over God's truths. God calls all these types of activities abominations in Deut. 18:10-12 and continues to do so in the New Testament as well. For the safety of our souls and our children's souls, we should do as the people did in Acts 19:19 and have all such mystic materials destroyed.
The spirit world is something that many people crave for and refuse to repent of because they are so curious and mesmerized by its seeming excitement and its seeming power to know about the unseen world and about future events. It becomes an addiction to many people to become involved in some aspect of sorcery. It is true that if we seek after this forbidden and dangerous avenue, that we most likely will find ourselves involved in some way in the mysterious spirit world. Some people will experience manifestations and even believe that they are being visited by some type of angelic beings. Some will receive messages through spiritists that seem to know about their future. Others will experience some other type of supernatural experience and crave for it more and more.
7. We will no longer live in hatred of others which contributes to hateful attitudes such as contentions, divisiveness, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, slander, bitterness, unforgiveness, spreading of false rumors/gossip, unmerciful attitudes, cruel/rude/bullying behaviors, disobedience to parents and authority figures, and fighting/strife. (Gal. 5:20) - Instead, we will want to value and follow the Spirit's leading in our lives by practicing peace, self-control, gentleness, love, kindness, patience, meekness and the other fruits of the Spirit. We will also want to demonstrate the greatest love for others by sharing the gospel truth with them. Instead of feeling hate and hateful attitudes for others, we should instead want to pray for our enemies and show care and concern for them. We should not wish to return to them 'evil for evil', but instead seek to be patient and gentle when they behave in rude ways toward us.
8. We will no longer want to believe in destructive heresies. (2 Peter 2:1, Gal, 5:20) - Heresies are false teachings that are not in harmony with the full counsel of the Word of God. Some heresies are very destructive in nature because they can deceive us into believing lies that can turn us away from God and keep us and others on the wide road of destruction. - The Bible tells us that heresies will be rampant because men will not be able to tolerate sound doctrine/teachings, but instead men will heap up false teachers who will please men's itching ears with lies (2 Tim. 4:3). Men do not desire to hear about true repentance, true genuine saving faith, and the need to follow God, so they have heaped up teachers to tell them smooth sounding lies in order to keep them from hearing the true full gospel message. This way people feel free to continue in various forms of sinful behavior while still thinking they are safe with God.
Almost every major denomination has at least one destructive heresy and some have several. Most likely many religious leaders who are not part of a major denomination have some form of destructive heresy as well. These are soul destroying heresies if we believe and adhere to them, so it would be wise to take the Bible's advice and "Come out from among them and separate yourselves from them, and touch not the unclean thing and I will receive you." (2 Cor. 6:17)
a.) One of the major areas of destructive heresy is shared in Jude 4. Here it tells us about ungodly men who abuse the grace of God in such a way as to teach that God's grace allows for sinful behaviors. Instead, the true grace of God teaches us exactly the opposite as we read in Titus 2:11-12 since true grace that brings salvation teaches us to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts and to live sober, righteous, and godly in the present age. Any heretical teaching that turns the grace of God into a license to sin, is truly a damnable, destructive heresy, and such heresies are rampant in our day.
b.) There are other destructive heresies that deny Christ and His deity. These believe that the Lord Jesus is not part of the Godhead (1 Jn. 2:22-23).
c.) Some heresies are known for adding extra unbiblical requirements as mandatory for salvation which perverts the gospel of grace with legalistic requirements. These legalistic requirements are normally caused when men add together Old Testament laws to the gospel message or add man-made laws to the gospel message such as women must not cut their hair, television is forbidden, and other such cult-type requirements. However, the Bible shares strong words against those who pervert the gospel of grace in such a way in Galatians 5:1-6 where it tells us that these have become estranged from Christ and have fallen from grace. Galatians 1:6-9 also tells us to not pervert Christ's gospel of grace and if someone does to let him be accursed.
d.) Another common destructive heresy involves people who seek after 'signs and wonders'. These people are normally so focused on such things that they have no real genuine concern for the life changing gospel message. Jesus told us that a 'wicked and adulterous generation seeks after a sign' in Matthew 16:4.
e.) Also, beware of congregations who are obsessed with certain pet doctrines. These are people who are not open to the full counsel of God which is also normally very dangerous. Since sound doctrine is so difficult to find in our day, we must be like the Bereans in Acts 17:11 who examined any messages they heard to see if the message lined up with the scriptures to make sure that the message was true! This is very wise and it is simply mandatory that we thirst for the truths of God's Word so that we may grow and not get deceived by destructive heresies! (1 Peter 2:2)
We are commanded to put on the full armor of God each day (Eph. 6:10-20) through knowing the truths of God's Word and other great protective ways to keep us safe from the destructive heresy lies of the devil and his demons. (Eph. 6:12) If we know His Word, we can stand strong in it and we will be able to walk with wisdom in this evil time and be prepared for difficulties to protect our eternal souls. (Eph. 5:15-17) Also, we can take comfort in the fact that despite all of the destructive heresies out there, yet if we follow the leading of the Spirit, we will be led into all TRUTH! (John 16:13)
So continue to fight the good fight of faith and continue to endure in faithfully following the Lord to the end and He will guide us through all of our trials and storms! The Lord promises that "he who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God, and he shall be My son" (Rev. 21:7) Let us NO LONGER be children tossed to and fro and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but speaking the TRUTH in LOVE, may grow up in all things unto Him who is the head - Christ. (Eph. 4:14)
9. We will no longer want to be involved in any sort of stealing practice. - (Ezek. 18:10-13, Luke 19:1-10) - Stealing is about more than merely taking an item that belongs to another person. Stealing also has to do with putting too many financial burdens on the poor and causing oppression to them (Ezek. 18:2-13). Also if people are demanding an unfairly high-interest payment for money loaned to others, and demanding an unfair amount of profit in order to buy their goods or services, this is also a form of stealing. (Luke 19:1-10) - When we read about the story of Zacchaeus in Luke 19:1-10, we can understand that Zacchaeus became a true born again child of God after his time spent with the Lord Jesus, because Zacchaeus' faith was evidenced from a brand new heart that no longer desired to take unfair profits from people like he had done in the past as a rich tax collector. Zacchaeus now had a brand new heart that gave half of his goods to the poor, and all the stolen money he had taken out of selfish gain he had restored fourfold!
10. We will no longer want to be liars or deceivers. (Rev. 21:8, Rev. 22:15) - Lying is more than saying something that is not true. Lying also has to do with plotting sneaky deceptive practices (Prov. 12:22, Prov. 19:9, Psa. 53:2, Prov. 11:3, John 8:44, Deut. 25:13-16 etc.)
11. We will no longer partake in drunkenness and revelries (wild type drinking parties). See Gal. 5:21, and I Cor. 6:10) - Christians are to lead sober, godly, self-controlled, holy lives as we are taught in Titus 2:11 and throughout God's Word. Therefore, to continue to partake in wild drinking parties and drunkenness is the exact opposite of what it means to lead a Spirit filled and godly life. Drunkenness and other forms of intoxication such as from smoking marijuana or using illicit drugs, cause all types of terrible problems because we have no real control due to the fact that intoxication affects our reasoning, and other mental capacities. These types of behaviors are the exact opposite of godly behaviors so this is why the Bible teaches us to not be deceived for those who choose to continue in drunkenness and revelries have chosen against God and therefore will not inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6:10, Gal. 5:21).
12. Besides all of the above negative ways that the Holy Spirit convicts us to repent of because we can't truly walk with God and walk in sin too, we will also start walking in some new positive ways. - These positive ways also show the new great born again change that the Lord has brought upon our lives through His life changing gospel message.
a.) A first positive change is a result of the fact that the Lord will baptize us with the Holy Spirit at the time when we come to true genuine saving faith in God. (Titus 3:5, 1 Cor. 12:13, Rom. 6:3-4, Gal. 3:27, Col. 2:12). This is the one true baptism. (Eph. 4:5) We will now want to live to please God and walk with Him in newness of life and no longer want to walk in the dark/sinful ways of the flesh as we did before our conversion. Before our conversion, we walked in the flesh instead of in the Spirit, and many of the sinful fruits of the flesh were evident in our lives as we read about in Gal. 5:19-21. But now when we walk with the Lord, we are now walking in the Spirit and the fruits of the Spirit will now shine through our lives as we read about in Galatians 5:22-23. These fruits include the positive, loving, helpful fruits/actions of love, joy, peace, patience/longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
b.) A second positive change that results because of our brand new life in Christ will be that we will no longer be 'lukewarm' or dull about the things of God. Instead, we will be truly zealous and excited to please Him and thirst for Him as we desire to know the truths of His wondrous Word in the Bible. We will, therefore, want to know the truths of God's Word and 'drink it in' as eagerly as a babe thirsts for milk. (1 Pet. 2:2) Knowing God's truths will not only edify us and strengthen us spiritually, but these truths will protect us from all of the destructive heresies out there.
c.) A third positive change is that we will now have a desire to commune with God in prayer. We will want to thank Him for all of His glorious blessings, praise Him for His loving faithfulness, and ask Him to please help guide us and others throughout our lives, but especially in our Christian walk. In our daily prayers, we should also want to examine ourselves humbly before God and seek to honestly confess to Him any shortcoming we may have noticed about ourselves such as feeling some jealousy, bitterness, or other behavior that we know in our hearts is not exactly right before God. If we don't confess these quickly, these feelings can escalate and cause our hearts to harden and even to harden our hearts against God and turn from Him. Jesus said that we need to be careful, for even those who say in anger 'you fool!' are in danger of hell fire. (Matt. 5:22) Jesus was warning us that if we don't try and amend things quickly before God and men, that the problem could quickly get more serious, so we need to listen to the Holy Spirit's convictions upon our hearts to confess such things right away. Then we can rest in the peaceful knowledge that "if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:9) However, if we continue to not confess and hold on to bitter anger and unforgiveness in the hardness of our hearts, Jesus warns that only danger can lie ahead for such people. We must always stay alerted and continue to walk in the Spirit, and determine to not quench the Spirit, for if we do, we will have made the decision to not follow after the Lord in love and obedience and we could find ourselves separated from God now and in the life to come. (Matt. 5:22)
d.) A fourth positive change is that we will experience a caring desire to share the truths of God in love. We will want others to know the wonderful hope of the gospel. Many will reject this Good News since they still love the darkness more than the light (John 3:19-21), but a rare few will come to the light and be changed by God which is a joy beyond words! We will also want to contend for the faith and contend against some of the heresies of our day that keep people from the truths and the love of God.
e.) A fifth positive change is that we will seek out fellowship with a few other true believers. It is a blessing to have fellowship with others, but the problem is that there are so many 'wolves in sheep's clothing' out there, that it is best as new believers to, first of all, try to grow in our knowledge of God's truths through the study of God's Word. This way we can grow and mature in the faith and not get deceived by so many false teachings that exist. God wants us to "study to show ourselves approved" (2 Tim. 2:15), and if we do decide to listen to any religious teachers, we need to make sure that we are diligent like the Bereans of Acts 17:11 and test these teachings we hear against what the fullness of scripture teaches.
It is not necessary to fellowship with a large group especially if that group is not truly zealous for God's full teachings, or if they are holding firmly onto false teachings. Remember, Noah only had his family to fellowship with, but that was sufficient and helped keep him on a road of faithfulness. It is so important that we be extremely wise and discerning about whom we choose to fellowship with so that our hearts won't get led astray from the truth. It is most likely that we won't want to stay in most traditional "churches" since the majority of these in our day has no strong desire to know, share, or obey God's truths. It is heartbreaking, but God warns us very clearly that false teachers who please men's ears instead of diligently seeking to share sound doctrine will abound in great heaps! (2 Tim. 4:3) However, if God in His grace and mercy might decide to lead us to a few other faithful believers who are truly zealous for Him and who live to diligently love and obey Him, then we can praise God for this and be thankful for this encouraging fellowship. The above five areas are all some of the major positive new ways that can clearly show us that we truly follow after our Lord faithfully as we take up our cross daily and walk with Him.
IV. Being a true Christian is about having a LIVING Testimony
It is not always obvious if someone is a true believer or not especially if a person only professes to be a believer. Instead, the Word of God teaches us that the ultimate validity of this profession will pass the test of continuation in the truths of God and continuation in walking with God.
As we can see, many will deceive themselves and think they are genuinely saved because they may share a verbal testimony, have religious tattoos, wear religious jewelry, share some spiritual words, attend religious gatherings, say prayers etc., and yet Jesus will say to them "Why do you call Me 'Lord, Lord' and not do what I say?" (Luke 6:46) As Jesus kept trying to get across, He was not overly impressed by people's spoken testimonies but instead, He was much more interested in people's LIVING testimonies, as seen in their daily lives.
If our hearts have truly been changed by Jesus and if our minds have truly been transformed, then it will be evident in our lives because we'll have a brand new born again heart. (Rom. 2:29) Jesus never said 'Ye must share a spoken testimony', but instead He said 'Ye must be born again' (John 3:7). A born again life is a Spirit led life and it is not a life that walks in the flesh but is a life that walks in the Spirit. If a person says "I'm born again", yet this person's heart is still unchanged and he still commits sexual immorality, he can't seem to pull away from constant video games, holds onto his 'Playboy' magazines, holds onto his Ouija Board and demonic horror movies, continues to unashamedly use vulgar language and/or enjoys vulgar music, still likes to abusively bully people around, or still enjoys wild drinking parties and other forms of wickedness etc. then such a person needs to stop and realize that the Bible teaches very clearly that we had best not be deceived for "God will not be mocked, and a man reaps what he sows. He who sows to the flesh will reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will reap eternal life." (Gal. 6:7-8)
Every example in the Bible of a brand new born again life clearly showed a brand new born again heart. A few examples include: the woman caught in adultery truly turned from her adulterous ways, Zacchaeus truly turned away from stealing from others and made it clear by returning four-fold of all that he had taken unjustly, the people from Acts 19:19 showed a born again heart when they destroyed their sorcery/magic books, and the apostle Paul showed he was born again when he no longer had a murderous hatred for Christians.
V. Why do so many people want to trust in "verbal testimonies", when the Bible over and over clearly calls for men to have Living Testimonies?
One of the massive problems we face in our day is that most religious leaders are ashamed to speak up for Christ and to tell people hard biblical truths and one of these hard truths is that sincere repentance is an absolute must before our holy God. Even though religious leaders of our day are normally afraid to speak honestly about repentance, for as the Bible warns most of them will be 'man-pleasers' instead of truth teachers (2 Tim. 4:3), yet we clearly read that the Lord Jesus Christ, and His forerunner John the Baptist, and all of Jesus' disciples fervently preached the need for all people to repent. (Matt. 3:2 and 8, Matt. 4:17, Matt. 9:13, Matt. 21:32, Mark 1:15, Mark 6:12, Luke 3:3-14, Luke 5:31-32, Luke 13:3-5, Luke 17:3, Luke 24:46-48, Acts 3:19, Acts 5:31, Acts 11:18, Acts 20:21, Rom. 2:4, 2 Cor. 7:9, 2 Peter 3:9 etc)
Repentance is a change of mind to turn from our former life which lived in dead ways that mostly focused on pleasing our own selfish desires and sins, and now instead turns our lives over to Jesus Christ so that we live for Him! To sincerely repent is an evidence of true saving faith. (James 2:14-26) The previous long list of verses about repentance that were just shared above are verses that mostly just share about repentance in a general sense. However, the Bible also shares in a very SPECIFIC sense all throughout the Bible, of SPECIFIC areas that men are commanded to repent of so that they can truly become right with God. We can read of these specific areas in scripture such as in Ezekiel 18, Romans 1:18-32, 1 Cor. 6:9-10, Gal. 5:19-21, Rev. chapters 2 and 3, Rev. 9:20-21 etc.
God is unbelievably patient and longsuffering with us and gives us MANY opportunities to come to Him in true faith and repentance (see Rom. 2:4, Jeremiah chapter 3, and 2 Peter 3:9 as clear examples of this). However, there does come a time when this long stretch of mercy ends, so we need to heed the Holy Spirit's conviction upon our hearts and get right with the Lord while there is yet time. God resists the proud who persistently refuse to repent (James 4:6) and the Bible also shares that those who don't want to retain God's truths in their knowledge will be turned over to a debased/futile mind. (Rom. 1:28) Thankfully, those who are truly humbled and truly sorry God lovingly forgives and welcomes! (Psalm 51:17)
Conclusion - God is still being patient with us and giving us a chance to accept the love of the truth and be saved!
We are saved by God's wondrous grace that we are so undeserving of, and salvation would have been impossible for any one of us apart from God sending us the most gracious gift of His only Son to suffer and die for our sins. (1 John 4:10) The Lord Jesus endured such a life of torment for the sake of sinful mankind and God even allowed His perfect Son to go to the cross where He suffered unspeakable to sacrifice His life for us in order to provide the only way to wash away our sins.
After knowing the truth about what the Lord Jesus did out of His most incredible love for us, and yet for any of us to go on and still continue living in some form of darkness gives evidence that we flatly reject God's grace and reject the Lord and His sacrifice to save us from our sin that would otherwise send us to hell. These are people who have deliberately chosen to turn their backs on the Lord and trample the precious sacrifice of Jesus underfoot since they live to do as they please instead of heeding the Lord. (Heb. 10:26-31) As we read in Rev. 20:11-15, the Lord will one day judge us as we stand before His throne. At that time of judgment, the Lord will open His books and men will be judged on the basis of the things written in the books according to what they had done.
All of the people who are not found written in the book of life (because their names were blotted out since they refused the Lord's merciful call to come to Him and walk in the light, for they preferred ways of darkness instead - Rev. 3:5, Psa. 69:28), have chosen by their own free will to be forever separated from God and have chosen the wide road to the lake of fire instead. (Rev. 20:15, Mt. 7:13-14) But if we LISTEN to the Lord and come to the light and continue to walk in the light by following the Lord daily, this is the TRUE TESTIMONY of faith that God loves and honors! This LIVING testimony of our faith in Him will shine out and reflect a brand new life that lives to truly honor God as seen through a life that sincerely obeys Him!
Whether we obey the Lord or not is the true test that shows if we truly love Him or not (John 14:23-24). Obviously we can't earn our salvation by 'becoming perfect' for only the Lord Jesus was perfect and we are righteous based on Jesus' righteousness, but if we are truly born again Christians this will be evidenced by the fact that we will be brand new creations in Christ who have turned from our former ways of darkness and have now come to walk in the light. An isolated act of sin does not necessarily deny inheritance in the kingdom of God and will still be forgiven by the Lord if the person is truly sorry and confesses as the Bible teaches (1 John 1:7-9, 1 John 2:1-2), but for us to continue in a practice of sin will exclude us from the kingdom of God for these have clearly evidenced that they have chosen to walk in darkness over walking in God's light. (1 John 2:4-5, 1 John 2:29, 1 John 3:6-11, 1 John 3:24, 1 John 5:18)
To conclude - A nutshell of my verbal testimony is simply the message of Acts 17:27 which states "...seek the Lord in the hope that we might grope for Him and find Him" because as I look back on my life I know how strongly I groped for and sought exceedingly after the Lord in a world that seemed full of endless deception. Despite all of that, the Lord faithfully and patiently led Me to the truth. My testimony also includes the message of Acts 26:20 which states "...they should repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance", and this I did out of great thankfulness to God for His most merciful salvation. In all sincerity of heart, I then turned from all ways of darkness to walk fully in God's light. Even though a spoken testimony may be of some value if it truly comes from a man or woman who has clearly been born again, it is the LIVING testimony that is of exceedingly greater value by FAR!
Article by F. A. Butler
The Barner Research Group said that 62% of Americans claim to have a relationship with Jesus Christ that is meaningful to them. Yet compare this statement with the following statements from the book "The Day America Told the Truth" which tells us:
1. 91% of Americans claim to lie regularly at home or work.
2. 86% lie regularly to parents.
3. 75% lie regularly to friends.
4. 92% own a Bible, but only 11% read it regularly.
5. According to another poll, 61% believe that premarital sex is not morally wrong.
6. A more recent Barner poll tells us that 1 out of 10 'born-again Christians' believes in reincarnation.
It doesn't sound like many of these people who claim to be born-again Christians know how to be born-again, so if a person doesn't know HOW to be born-again, can they really be born-again themselves?
If there's anything to show how the nation of America has gone down the drain morally and spiritually it is seen in programming such as MTV which is full of disgusting sexually immoral and blasphemous things. A Barner poll showed that 42% of 'Evangelical Christian teens' watch MTV, while only 33% of teens who were not Christians watched it. Out of this 42% of 'Evangelical Christians'....... 65% said they prayed daily, 72% said they believed the Bible, 55% had sex, 55% had cheated on exams, and 20% had gotten drunk or had used illegal drugs!
WHERE is the CHANGE? Where is the difference between the church and the world? Is there a difference anymore?
Listen to what James 4:4 says - "Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God." The people in these statistics sure make it seem like they are friends of the world to me and definitely don't act like Christians.
We must remember in this day and age that just because someone CLAIMS to be a Christian and professes it, doesn't mean that they really are a Christian. We can't take people at their word anymore when they say they are Christians. And people aren't Christians because they have a cross around their neck, or a 'Jesus' bumper sticker on their car, share a verbal testimony, or because they got baptized in water.
II. THE TWO MAJOR PURPOSES FOR THE EXTREME NEED OF THE MESSAGE OF 'COUNTERFEIT CHRISTIANITY' :
1. To expose those who THINK they are Christians but show that according to God's Word that they are not.
This is done so that each counterfeit Christian can come to the knowledge of the TRUTH, and TRULY become a GENUINE Christian once and for all! Modern Christianity says this: "Pray this little prayer just once, and you're a Christian. That's all God requires of you!" Yet the BIBLE says something altogether DIFFERENT.
2 Corinthians 13:5 says this ... "TEST yourselves to SEE if you're in the faith. EXAMINE yourselves or do you not recognize this about yourselves that Jesus Christ is in you unless indeed you fail the test."
So we need to EXAMINE ourselves and listen to the BIBLE'S truths to see if we are really leading Christian lives! Even if people think you APPEAR to live a Christian life outwardly, that STILL doesn't show what you do in SECRET, or what goes on in your MIND ---- only you and God know that concerning what you do and think about when no one else is around. So you need to EXAMINE yourself.
2.) The second purpose is this: For those who really ARE saved and want to share the Gospel with lost sinners, it helps to CLARIFY what the Gospel truly is!
Every Christian should have a desire to share the Gospel. If you have the gift of eternal life which is the GREATEST gift one could EVER receive, yet you don't have the desire to share it with OTHERS, how selfish is that? Could you really be a TRUE Christian if you don't have a desire to share the TRUE Gospel?
Plus if we share the TRUE Gospel, it will help to keep us from producing more counterfeit Christians in the world which this world does not need more of! There's WAY too many counterfeit Christians the way it is, and they're giving Christianity and Jesus Christ a bad name, and giving the church a bad name.
Plus clarifying the TRUE Gospel message will help us to NOT SEND MORE PEOPLE TO HELL WHO THINK THEY'RE ON THEIR WAY TO HEAVEN!
III. LET'S TAKE A LOOK AT VARIOUS FALSE GOSPELS THAT PRODUCE COUNTERFEIT CHRISTIANS:
The first thing we must ask ourselves is WHY IS THERE SO MUCH COUNTERFEIT CHRISTIANITY?
Doesn't the Bible make is CLEAR that Christians are supposed to be DIFFERENT, and SEPARATE from the world like James 4:4 says? Of COURSE, it does! BUT IS THIS WHAT IS PREACHED IN THE CHURCHES OF AMERICA TODAY FOR THE MOST PART? We would have to say NO!
The main reasons and main causes for counterfeit Christianity are the fact that UNBIBLICAL GOSPELS are being preached! People aren't being told the TRUTH about what people must do in order for them to become a Christian and they aren't told the TRUTH about what a Christian life looks like or what is EXPECTED of someone who calls themselves a Christian.
The true Gospel is rarely if EVER preached in America. The "gospels" shared in most church buildings are nearly nothing like the Gospel that Jesus, Paul, Peter and the rest of the apostles preached. So let's take a look at some of these 'gospels' that really aren't even gospels at all. Because Gospel means 'Good News', and when people think they are on their way to heaven but are actually on their way to hell, this is not good news.
SO LET'S TAKE A LOOK AT SOME OF THESE FALSE GOSPELS BEING PREACHED TODAY.
1. The first major false gospel is called "The hellfire and brimstone gospel":
This false gospel comes from those who shout "Turn or burn!! You wicked evil people....you're going to hell!" And this is ALL that's preached - that's it! Now, don't get me wrong, these statements are true, and this should be PART of the true Gospel message. But these types of people that ONLY talk about hell alone are void of the LOVE of God and void of the GRACE of God.
These preachers seem to be VOID of the love of God themselves and they almost seem like they WANT the people they're preaching to go to hell. This is NOT the heart of God, but rather the heart of God is that EVERYONE become saved and that ALL come to true repentance. Christ died for ALL people and not just some.
Also, those that preach this message seem to forget that they too were once wicked evil sinners themselves and in need of a Savior. They normally never mention the cross, and have forgotten that 'Gospel' means 'Good News'. They never get to the Good News, and therefore have not truly preached the True Gospel.
There is nothing wrong with preaching the bad new, and it is absolutely necessary that people know that hell is real and that Judgment Day is coming. This is ESSENTIAL to share, and if we don't share this, then we only have a 'half-gospel'. Yet, if we NEVER get to the Good News of Jesus Christ, then we have not preached the true Gospel.
2. The second major false gospel that is VERY prevalent here in America is the gospel where people 'Ask Jesus into their heart.'
This is not even taught in the Bible, and the problem with this false gospel is that people get the false misconception, because they think they have 'asked Jesus into their hearts' and that they're on their way to heaven. This gospel usually never clearly mentions repentance, or confession, or forsaking of sin, and there is usually no mention of hell or Judgement Day. There is normally no clear message of Christians being holy, and no mention of a holy and just God who we will have to give an account to for our every thought, word, and deed.
This gospel is usually ONLY a grace and love only gospel, and is the opposite extreme of the 'hellfire and brimstone' gospel. It's just as wrong to swing to the other side of the pendulum from the hellfire and brimstone gospel, for the grace that allows 'license to sin' is no grace at all friends. For the grace of God CHANGES people, and for those who abuse the grace of God and use it as a license to sin is to reveal those people's true selves, and that they don't have the grace of God themselves. Titus 2:11-14 describes the TRUE grace of God which tells us "For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly and righteously and godly in this present age looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ who gave Himself for us that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people who are zealous for good works."
Ask yourself....Does the 'just ask Jesus into your heart' gospel produce:
1. People, who live soberly, righteously, and godly and deny ungodliness and worldly lusts?
2. People, who are zealous for good works and looking forward to Jesus Christ coming back?
3. People who are being purified by Jesus Christ?
No, this gospel does not produce this! And this gospel makes no mention
of what's found in Mark 8:34-38 which teaches we must DENY ourselves, take up our cross and FOLLOW CHRIST!
"For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Christ and for the gospel will save it, for what good is it for a man to gain the whole world yet lose his soul? If anyone is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His Father's glory with the holy angels."
The above passage is Christianity in a nutshell for it tells the conditions of Christianity which are:
1. Deny yourself
2. Take up your cross daily and follow Him (this is what a Christian WILL do, not might do, and how Christians WILL live.)
3. True Christians will NOT be ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
4. They want to sacrifice ALL for Jesus and for the Gospel.
Jesus gave it all for us, and we must want to be willing to give it ALL to Him as well! Let's say Christianity became outlawed in America and people were forced to become Muslims. If someone came and knocked on your door and said 'You must forsake Christ or die', would you be willing to die for Christ? Or can you do something that's harder which is to LIVE for Christ each and every moment of the day? Are you willing to give your all for Christ alone and make Him the pearl of great price? The center of all your affections, and not the world as the center of your affections?
This false gospel of 'ask Jesus into your heart' gives people a great disservice, and leads them to believe that just because they ask Jesus in their heart, that they're on their way to heaven and is giving them a false hope. Also, where in the Bible does it teach this? It does not mean that all who have 'asked Jesus into their heart' are not saved, but if they are saved it's not because they have asked Jesus into their heart, but rather because they have sincerely repented, trusted in Jesus Christ, follow Him daily, and have truly been born-again. They live differently now because of what Christ did inside of them.
Folks, we MUST be careful how we share the Gospel, for men's eternal souls are at stake! One man said this about becoming a Christian - "This change is RADICAL! It gives us new natures and makes us love what we hated and hate what we loved. It sets us on a new road and makes our habits and thoughts different. It makes us different in private and in public."
One of the main fruits of counterfeit Christianity is that they've changed in public, but in private they're the same. They have a mask on and only live the Christian life in front of the people who they want to believe they're a Christian. This is what most of American Christianity has come down to these days and it's a farce! It's merely a mask that people hide their lives behind. This is called hypocrisy friends, and the Bible tells us that hypocrites don't know God. They go to church etc with a mask on, and are on their way to hell, for their private secret lives are not the same as their public lives.
3. The third major false gospel is called the 'incentive gospel'.
This false gospel goes something like this: "Come to Jesus and He will give you joy, peace, happiness, purpose, and fulfillment in life." Or sometimes they say - "God has a wonderful plan for your life. Won't you come to Him so He can fulfill that wonderful plan in your life?"
Jesus and the apostles NEVER shared this type of gospel, but rather they shared the Gospel of repentance and faith. Many times preachers use this false gospel as a drawing card to get someone 'saved.' Many people think that when they hear the preacher say that God has a 'wonderful plan for their lives', that it means things like they will now have lots of money, a perfect spouse, a big house, be totally healthy and always be happy. Yet this is NOT what is taught in the Bible, and all of the apostles except for John were all martyred for their faith, and it was attempted toward John many times.
BUT YET TRUE CHRISTIAN LIVING IS ACTUALLY A WONDERFUL LIFE, FOR ALL THESE MEN OF GOD, WENT TO HEAVEN AND LIVED FOR THE GLORY OF GOD WHILE HERE ON EARTH! THEY DIED FOR A TRUE CAUSE!
This false gospel message gives listeners the idea that God is some sort of 'exalted Santa' to give us all our heart's desire. It completely gives people the entirely wrong idea of God and the entirely wrong idea of the true mission of God.
4. The fourth major false gospel says 'Pray this little prayer after me...."
This is not found in the Bible either, and is known as the 'sinner's prayer'. We can't get saved by repeating a few words and then 'abracadabra' we're saved! The vast majority of the time when these prayers are prayed, they are not coming from a sorrowful heart over one's sins and a repentant heart that never wants to commit sinful acts ever again; instead, they are normally just words parroted with no true heartfelt meaning.
God is not looking for someone who repeats words, for this is only 'words.' Rather, if we do pray to God, it must come from a sorrowful repentant heart, and from a person with a sincere willingness to yield their whole life to Him no matter what the cost to themselves.
If someone is truly looking for a prayer to pray if that person truly has a broken and contrite heart, you might want to suggest for him to read Psalm 51 which is a prayer of deep remorse over sin.
The true Gospel is very simple - it is simply to sincerely repent of sin, and turn in faith to Jesus Christ as the only Person who can save you.
5. The fifth major false gospel is called 'Accept Christ'.
Think about the words "Accept Christ". It almost sounds like the person is burdened to do it and like Christ is some sort of poor beggar just waiting for someone to accept Him. Friends, He accepts us, we don't accept Him. This is all backward. This type of 'conversion' is often mechanical and spiritless and creates people who are not hungry and thirsty after Christ.
This is not all of the false gospels, but these are some of the most popular and major false gospels.
Folks, do you see how these 'gospels' are just false gospels that are no gospel at all and leave people with a false hope. These gospels are not good news at all because where will these people BE one day if they haven't truly repented and placed their faith in Jesus Christ? They will be in hell even though they think they're on their way to heaven.
IV. MATTHEW 7:22-23 TESTIFIES TO COUNTERFEIT CHRISTIANITY:
Matthew 7:22-23 - "Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?' And then I will declare to them 'I never knew you, depart from Me ye who practice lawlessness!'
This is possibly the scariest portion of Scripture found in the whole Bible for the people spoken of here aren't atheists, pagans, Jews, Muslims, or Hindus but rather these people THOUGHT they were Christians and they even call Jesus 'Lord.' These people even prophesied in Jesus' name, cast out demons, and even claimed to perform miracles (such as false prophets like Benny Hinn.) So the point is, just because people do religious things in the name of Jesus whether it be prophesying, casting out demons, or 'healing people' supposedly in Jesus' name, it doesn't mean that they're going to heaven or that they're born-again.
Doing things like saying a little prayer, 'accepting Jesus', getting baptized, or going to church doesn't make you a Christian according to the Bible. Now if you ARE a Christian, you WILL pray, you WILL fellowship with other believers, and you WILL read your Bible, but doing these things in and of themselves don't make a person a Christian.
So what did Jesus say to these people who THOUGHT they were a part of His fold:
1. First He said He never knew them: The word 'knew' is translated from the Greek word which means to know someone intimately as opposed to mere book knowledge. Instead, these people from Matthew 7 were merely religious people who did a lot of works in His name and figured they belonged to Him but don't. They have a misunderstanding about how a person is born again.
2. Secondly, Jesus said these people practice lawlessness: What is lawlessness? It is the breaking of God's law and going against what God commands. It is living, thinking, and sinning contrary to how God would have them live. Simply put, it's living in sin and practicing sin.
Let's see what John 3:9 says. It says "Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin because he is born of God." This verse makes it clear that someone who is truly born again and born from above or who is truly saved CAN'T PRACTICE SIN. It is IMPOSSIBLE for them to do this....Why?.... Not because they've lost their free will, but because God's seed (the Holy Spirit) abides and dwells in them. The Holy Spirit comes to live inside every believer the day they repent of their sins and place their faith in Jesus Christ. Romans 8:16 tells us 'The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.' And a person who is born of God cannot continue in sin because the Spirit of God convicts them and gives them a desire to live a holy life.
Dr. D. James Kennedy once said "The vast majority of Christians who are members of churches in America today are NOT Christians. Based on empirical evidence of 24 years of examining thousands of people."
This is scary friends. If you examine your life since becoming a Christian, has there been a dramatic change? Is there a moving toward holiness and purity? Is there a hunger for the Word of God and prayer? Is there more of a desire for God and less of you? (I must decrease and He must increase.) Do you have the Fruits of the Spirit? Do you have a desire to see the lost get saved? ...........If we don't have these desires, then friends, we must examine our lives because there must be something wrong. In the end, the Bible makes it very clear that those who truly are His are changed permanently.
1 Corinthians 5:17 says this "Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things have become new."
There are two Old Testament passages that really give us an idea of what a born again experience is supposed to be like......
Ezekiel 36:26-27 - "A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them."
Jeremiah 32:38-40 - "And they shall be my people, and I will be their God: And I will give them one heart, and one way, that they may fear me forever, for the good of them, and of their children after them: And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; but I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me."
If this is not enough to convince you then read the whole book of 1 John if you want the full confidence of your salvation. In fact the verse of 1 John 5:13 tells us WHY 1 John was written: "These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God."
You see friends God WANTS us to know if we have eternal life. He does NOT want us to be self-deceived or self-deluded. He wants to see us in the truth.
Remember, this message requires a response from you and has three purposes in mind:
1. The first purpose is to expose those people who THINK they are Christians but really aren't. - Ask yourself, are you really a Christian according to the Word of God? Not according to what you've heard or what you've been taught, but according to the Word of God? Don't let your pride stand in the way of becoming a Christian. Today is the day of Salvation, so repent of your sins completely and put your faith in Jesus Christ and He'll make you born again with a new heart and new desires to do what He wants instead of what you want. Do this today friends - you may not have tomorrow.
2. The second purpose is to give those who truly are saved more assurance that they are saved. - If you see that you ARE a true Christian by the Bible's standards and description then PRAISE GOD and KEEP on loving Him and loving the lost. For as we know, only those who endure to the END in following Christ are the saved.
3. The third purpose is that for those who are saved and want more clarification of what the true Gospel message is, so they can help reach more of the lost with the truth. - Please friends, compare the way that most people are preaching concerning salvation today (sinner's prayer, 'accepting Christ', etc etc) and compare this to the way Jesus and the disciples preached, and all throughout the Bible, which centered around true repentance and faith and followed by a life of good works toward God, self denial, taking up our cross etc. These things don't save us but show that we ARE saved and truly DO have the Spirit of God inside of us.
Friends, we must get the Gospel right or else we're in big trouble. The last thing we want to do as Christians is giving those who aren't Christians a false hope that they're on their way to heaven and thinking they're Christians when they really aren't, and we don't want to preach a message that is not Biblical either.
Article by K. Skelley
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