Are You Genuine, or an Imitation?
~A teaching addressing the difference between true and false believers~
There is a story about a plumber who did some work for a small church, but when it came time to pay him, the church refused. To get even, the plumber put on a devil costume and hid inside the church all night, waiting for the congregation. The next morning, the preacher was preaching hard: "We are the victors! We've got the devil on the run!"
While the congregation roared in agreement, the plumber stood up from behind the choir stand, horns, tail, pitchfork and all, and glared at the congregation. Pandemonium erupted as the entire church ran out of the building, knocking over one old deacon in the process. The plumber marched out of the choir stand and stood over the deacon, glaring. The old deacon looked up pitifully and confessed, "Mr. Devil, I've been on your side for a long time now..."
This may or may not be a true story, but the point it makes is certainly true: in nearly every church, there are those who think they are true believers because they do the "right things" on Sunday mornings, only to find themselves flat on their backside in the face of adversity. Why did they fall out after so long? We ask. Beloved, the answer may be that they never fell in!
"So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall" (1 Cor. 10:12, NIV). This is the advice that the apostle Paul gave to the Church at Corinth, exhorting them to check their salvation and make sure that they were standing firm "in the faith." During his ministry, Paul saw many confessors of Christ fall away from the faith, knowing in his heart that most of them had never "fallen in" in the first place.
It was this fact that may have led Paul to make this plea to the Corinthians: "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?" (2 Cor. 13:5, NIV).
Dearest Believer, if ever there was a question you needed to ask yourself at some point in your life, it is this: Are you truly in the faith, or are you just mimicking what you see in the church? Is Christ truly alive in you, speaking, leading, correcting, ministering, and loving through you and to you, or are you just an imitation of what you see in Church? The answer to this question, Beloved, will determine whether you hear, "well done, my good and faithful servant," or "depart from me, you workers of iniquity; I never knew you!"
The Test of True Faith...
On any given Sunday, you may walk into a church and witness the great crying out, weeping, shouting, and tearful confessions of faith of many believers, a display that would surely convince the hardest of doubters that God must be doing something with them. But follow those same believers through the rest of their week, and you will see many of them cursing out their spouses, beating their children, watching the raunchiest movies, listening to the most ungodly music, and generally showing nothing of their godly side until Sunday rolls around again! So what is the mark of true faith in Christ? In 2 Cor. 13:5, Paul mentions "testing" to see if one is really in the faith. Since Paul clearly states that believers should test and examine themselves in order to verify that they are truly in a relationship with Christ, there must a standard established for believers. We find just such a "test" in Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, which tells us about our WORK, WALK, WORSHIP, and WARFARE for Christ.
Our WORK for Christ...
Eccl. 4:9 - "Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labor." The Bible teaches us quite plainly that we are called to work with Christ, to help advance the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 15:58). Beloved, God is not impressed with your praising, dancing, fasting and offerings; He is only impressed when those things are followed by the sincere work of the ministry: the feeding of the hungry, the clothing of the poor, the visiting of the sick and the imprisoned. Then, says God, shall we reap the full rewards He has promised to faithful laborers (Is. 58:1-12). If you are truly in the faith, then you will truly commit to kingdom work!
Our WALK with Christ...
Eccl. 4:10 - "For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow; but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up." When the Bible refers to our walk with Christ, it is referring to our lifestyle, the daily manner in which we live. The Lord knows that, while we live in these fleshly temples, we are still prone to fall in times of weakness and temptation. But here lies the difference between a true believer and a pretender: when a believer falls, he has the company of the Lord Jesus, who helps him to his feet, dusts him off, and leads him back to the right road again. A pretender has no such help; he is "alone," with no true relationship to turn to in his time of trouble and weakness! "Woe to him who is alone when he falls," for without a true walk with Jesus, who can stand in this evil, wicked world?
Our WORSHIP of Christ...
Eccl. 4:11- "Again, if two lie together then they have heat; but how can one be warm alone?" When the Bible speaks of worship, it is speaking of more than just words and music; it is speaking of intimacy with God, loving Him with our spirits in accordance to His Word (St. John 4:23). The very word worship means "to blow kisses to." Unless our worship is more than tradition and cold, memorized words, there will never be true fellowship; we will never experience the intimate "heat" of God's love! We must learn to press into His presence until we find ourselves embraced by Him!
Our WARFARE for Christ...
Eccl. 4:12- "And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him, and a three-fold cord is not quickly broken." When spiritual warfare is mentioned to most saints, their eyes will bulge as they have a flashback of "The Exorcist!" There are very few saints giving up their mornings for prayer and study, even though most churches are packed for afternoon worship. It's as if when God said, "warfare," they thought he said welfare, and came looking for a free lunch! Saints, this is no time for "church pew believism"; if you're going to be a true child of God, then you're going to have to pray, fight, study, and work! So let us make full proof of our faith while we can; we'll have all of eternity to rest! Praise God!
~Pastor Ron Barnes