HOW TO RECOGNIZE THOSE WHO TRULY FOLLOW JESUS CHRIST
In a world of religious confusion, how does one recognize those who practice true Christianity?
Is there something that one could observe that would indicate that an organization is practicing God's ways or that a person is a true child of God? The answer is yes! The elect of God can be identified and separated from those who are not the elect.
In the following few paragraphs, some major behavioral traits to look for when deciding if people are guided by the spirit of God will be reviewed.
Love For God's People
A major sign of God's people is their love and concern for one another:
"By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if we have love one to another" (Jn.13:35 Para.).
While this would not seem to be a major sign of God's people, it stands out in a world torn with strife, war, divorce, murder, anger, hatred, and violence. Love and true concern for another human being is rare indeed and it is truly a sign of the people who follow God the Father and his son Jesus Christ who loved humanity enough to give his life, so they could have salvation.
The Law of God
One indication that someone is following God's way of life is that they will understand and be practicing all of the ten commandments as well as many other laws of God.
The Elect of God recognize that God has set in motion laws that will bring every good thing and an abundant and full life if these laws are obeyed. God's people will boldly proclaim that his laws have not been destroyed, but have been expanded by Jesus Christ to cover every aspect of human activity (Isa.42:21; Matt.chp.5).
Jesus says, "If you love me, keep my commandments" (Jn.14:15 Para.).
The apostle John has a stinging rebuke for those who say that they follow God, but do not practice his law:
"He that says, I know him, and does not keep his commandments, is a liar, and has no truth in him" (1.Jn.2:4 Para.).
The people of God recognize that God's law is one of his greatest gifts to mankind and they believe what king David said: "Your word is as a lamp before my feet, and lights my path" (Psa.119:105 Para.).
They Love God and His Law
"This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God, and keeping his commandments. This is love for God: that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not burdensome" (1.Jn.5:2-3 Para.).
The Sabbath and Annual Observances
Another mark of God's people is that they observe God's commanded observances. Moreover, people who follow God's ways observe his weekly Sabbath, which is the fourth commandment:
"Speak you also to the children of Israel, saying, Truly my sabbaths you shall keep; for it is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I am the Lord who does sanctify you . . . Six days may work be done; but in the seventh is the sabbath of rest, holy to the Lord: whosoever does any work in the sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death . . . Wherefore the children of Israel shall keep the sabbath [Heb. Shabbat. The weekly sabbath], to observe the sabbath throughout their generations, for a perpetual covenant. It is a sign between me and the children of Israel forever . . . " (Ex.31:13-17 KJV).
A Perpetual Covenant
The requirement to observe the Sabbath and the festival days was not a temporary command and it has not been canceled. The people of God observe these days, which are holy to him and a perpetual covenant and sign between God and his people forever. See also Isa.56:1-6; 58:13; 66:22-23.
The prophet Ezekiel was inspired to write that the commanded festival days are a sign of a true follower of God:
"Moreover, I also gave them my Sabbaths [Heb.shabbaton. The festivals], to be a sign between me and them, that they might know that I am the Lord that sanctifies them . . . And hallow my Sabbaths; and they shall be a sign between me and you, that you may know that I am the Lord your God" (Ezk.20:12,20 Para).
A Sign of Obedience
A person can keep nine of the Ten Commandments of God almost in complete secrecy, and no one will be the wiser. Someone may even keep the royal law of love in relative secrecy. Even though the practice of these laws shows a Godly attitude and is extremely important in maintaining Godly character, it does not impact the lives of people in the same way that practicing the weekly Sabbath and the annual observances does.
It is almost impossible for others not to notice a person who keeps God's special observances. The first thing that is noticed is that they do not perform their normal work or business on the Sabbath or annual festival days. If all of these observances fell on a weekend or on days when a person did not have to go to work or do business, they could go by relatively unnoticed. But, these observances fall on different days throughout the year, which makes it impossible to hide the fact that a person is observing them.
When people voluntarily honor and practice the observance of these days, a very profound statement is being made. Their actions show that they believe this is the way to please and worship God. Their actions also indicate that they believe that those who are not observing these days are not worshipping God correctly. One of the reasons the world hates God's children is that God's children practice the same worship system that Jesus did. See Jn.15:12,17; Lk.17:14; Matt.24:9.
Jesus sums up the general attitude of people, while speaking to Nicodemus:
"He that believes not is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone that does evil hates the light, neither comes to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that does truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God" (Jn.3:18-21 Para).
Human nature is the opposite of God's nature, therefore, it results in the hatred of the things of God. The vast majority of people today do not love truth; they love evil. This fact is evidenced by their disobedience of God's laws, statutes, and judgments. This is why the people of God are hated. Jesus was hated because he truly observed and practiced all of God's law.
Because Jesus faithfully practiced God's law, his behavior became a condemnation of those who professed to keep it, but in reality, they did not. This same hatred will be directed toward anyone who truly follows God's way of worship.
Practicing the law of God, which includes the observance of the weekly Sabbath and annual observances, is a sign of those who are truly the children of God. See Ex.13:9; Isa.56:1-6; 58:13; 66:22-23.
Separate From False Religions
In a letter to the elect at Corinth, the apostle Paul exhorts them to avoid mixing the truth of God with paganism. He also tells them to separate themselves from the religions of that day:
"Wherefore come out from among them, and be you separate, says the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you" (2.Cor.6:17 Para.). See also verses 14-16.
A child of God must neither participate in nor be a part of this world's religions. Participation in this worlds religions is spiritual adultery, because the elect of God are the spiritual Bride of Christ and are his ambassadors to this world. Therefore, they must accurately represent God and his way of life. See 2.Cor.5:20; 6:14-16; Rev.19:7-9.
The Preaching of the Kingdom
After being crucified and resurrected from the dead, Jesus instructed his disciples as to what he wanted his followers to do:
"Go you therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy spirit: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the world" (Matt.28:19-20 Para.).
Notice, Jesus told his disciples to teach the things he had commanded. Christ was not referring only to the things he had taught during his earthly ministry in human form; he also meant for them to teach the things he had taught Israel before he became flesh. Please read Jn.1:1-11; Eph.3:9; 2.Tim.3:16 and our study papers concerning who God is.
The Government of God
"Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent you, and believe the gospel" (Mk.1:14-15 Para.).
This is the same gospel that the elect of God will be preaching (Matt.24:14; 28:19-20).
"But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than that which we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel to you than that you have received, let him be accursed" (Gal.1:8-9 KJV).
These are strong words! However, they do show how important it is to God that his people preach the right message: No other message is acceptable.
The Elect of God will be doing the work Jesus instructed them to do in preaching the gospel (good news) of the soon-coming Kingdom of God. The true gospel of the Kingdom of God is much different from what is popularly taught today. It is a gospel so dynamic, so powerful, so diametrically opposed to what is popularly taught that the vast majority of people reject it when they hear it. Surprising as it is, Jesus Christ did not come to make this world a better place in which to live under its present leadership:
"I have given them your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of this world. I pray not that you should take them out of the world, but that you should keep them from the evil. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world" (Jn.17:14-16 Para.). See Matt.10:34-35; ch.24; Mk.chp.13; Rev.5:9-10; 11:15; 20:4-6.
To Become an Immortal Being
God the Father and Jesus Christ have a plan by which mankind may be born into the very Family of God. This plan involves repentance, forgiveness of sin, baptism, full redemption, and salvation (See Acts 2:38; 3:19). No other people but the elect of God truly understand that human beings have the opportunity to become immortal beings in the Family of God.
The Apostle John writes, "Beloved, now we are the sons of God, and it does not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is" (1 Jn.3:2 Para.).
Jesus himself was criticized for saying he was the son of God, but he answered this criticism by stating,
"Is it not written in your law, I said, "You are gods?" If he called them gods, to whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken" (Jn.10:34-35 Para.).
The Elect are destined to be born into the Family of God! Almost no one understands the profound nature of this vital teaching. Jesus said that this is another earmark of those whom God has called out of this world:
"It is given to you to know the mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven" (Matt.13:11 Para.).
The Fruit of the Spirit
Because it is the possession of God's spirit that makes one a member of the body of Christ, those who are the elect of God must bear unmistakable evidence of those fruits. Jesus tells us how to tell the difference between those who are his followers and those who are not:
"Beware of false prophets, which come in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. You shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree brings forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree brings forth evil fruit" (Matt.7:15-17 Para.).
Look at the fruit (i.e., results) of this world's religious and political systems: crime, hunger, poverty, religious bigotry, hatred, broken homes, permissiveness, promiscuity, and war.
This is the pathetic situation in which we see the professing Christian nations today. This is the result of a false Christianity taught by counterfeit ministers of Christ and practiced by false Christians.
If this statement were not true, the fruits of their teachings and practices would be far different; their fruit would be good and not evil. However, the evidence shows, without a doubt, the error of their ways:
"But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law" (Gal.5:22-23 Para.).
Yes, true Christians can be identified and separated from those who are not true Christians. Those who truly follow God the Father and Jesus Christ will live their lives in accordance with what is written in the word of God.
By B. L. Cocherell, file b5w76