They are everywhere and they often look like the real thing. Quite a few are to be seen in church on a Sunday morning. A small percentage of cultural Christians do know Jesus Christ in a personal way — they are described in the Bible as spiritually reborn ones. We are both reborn and adopted into God's family when we invite Jesus ino our lives as Lord.
But, first impressions can be deceiving. For example, about a third of the people in the world (~2.6 billion) profess to be Christians. Since registering as an agnostic or an atheist is not considered the best way to make friends and influence people, most everyone wants to be thought of as religious. However parking in a garage does not turn a person into an automobile. Everyone knows there is a God but few really want to get acquainted with Him on-on-one, intimately.
Many more people have dropped out of church for one reason or another. They are not necessarily ex-Christians or apostates. Many actually know Jesus, so they truly are in the family of Jesus. Sadly, all too often, the in-group in "the church" sees them only as “backsliders.” These folks don’t “tithe” —and churches are not hospitals, sanitariums or hospices as a rule. Churches need the income to pay for their staff and infrastructure.
It is difficult for any church to please everyone. Some churches are non-intellectual, naive, simplistic. This is understandable and often quite acceptable for “ordinary” people. “Ivory Tower” Christians can be difficult to know or relate to even though their life-work may survive them and be greatly valued in subsequent generations. Proud, self righteous, self satisfied folks are slower to respond to the straightforward love Jesus offers to all of us.
Many churches focus on ethnic groups to maintain familial and national ties with a homeland. Churches usually have programs for all ages and stages, for inquirers, for recovering people, and on and on.
Friendly churches welcome, as they are supposed to do, the destitute, incarcerated prisoners, addicts, the guilt-ridden, the ashamed, the sick, the countless other failures in life. Losers embrace Jesus more readily than the rich and the famous. But how to pay the costs of helping people who have no money?
“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, And bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.’Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.
For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called.
But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence. But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God—and righteousness and sanctification and redemption— that, as it is written, “He who glories, let him glory in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:18-31)
Still others claim to know Jesus out there among the unchurched masses, keeping company with the non-religious members of our secular society. Some of these people are--some aren’t--for real. One problem for secular folks is they may not realize that all of us are incurably religious. We are easily deceived, suckers for the many pervasive lies of a decadent civilization. When we fail to know and appreciate the one, true God who brought everything into being, we default to some form of idolatry. Christians need each other, we are “members of one another,” and all connected to Jesus the Head of the Body.
Then there is the vast multitude (especially in Third World countries), who have never (yet) heard about Jesus as He is described, for example, in 1 Corinthians 15. That is, they have never heard what many consider “THE gospel.” (The gospel is a Person, by the way, not merely a doctrine about the Son of God).
Yet all people everywhere are without excuse according to Romans Chapter One, because of the evidence of a God in nature.
For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things. (Romans 1:20-23)
The “good news” is not merely preaching about Jesus. Jesus, a living human being like us, risen from the dead, is the good news. The medium is not the message but only the way-pointer.
God IS love, where there is real love, God is present. Jesus is as Personal as personal can be.
Jesus said, "I am the way and the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father but by me.” (John 14:6)
Ray Stedman once noted,
“There is only one way to God, Jesus said so, but there are many ways to come to the Messiah. Come to Jesus and He will take you the rest of the way.”
Some among us have seen Jesus in a dream or a vision, perhaps after realizing that the gods and the idols in their village are surely not representing the Highest God. Perhaps someone will give them a Bible and they will come into a personal relationship with Jesus? These people do respond to the love Jesus has for them coming from Christians they meet. Not all visions are from God, but some surely are. Knowing Jesus existentially is a good place to start!
The Bible says, “No one seeks after God.” This is quite off-putting. Many think think they are searching for God, but it is actually God seeking them, or stimulating their quest.
There are also many Secret Christians all around us. These people have many reasons for not wanting to making their true identities known. Many professionals are in this class. This may include your doctor, his staff, your stock broker, lawyer, dentist, chiropractor...
Included are people who were once outspoken in their atheism, but they changed their minds and didn't tell anyone. Some were, or are, movers and shakers, visionaries by secular definition, CEOs, professors, senators and congressmen. Outwardly all “respectable” people strive to be well-spoken of. At their funerals, even crooks and swindlers want to be eulogized. None of these persons is beyond the pale. God does not desire that anyone should perish. “All who will may come.”
Therefore, check in to this matter of knowing God before you check out of this short life, if only to ease the grief of family and friends when your time is up. It's best not to die a fake Christian.
Many people do seek the God of mercy and grace as they are dying! Many discover that it is Jesus they will give account to when the leave this present life. But no one gets into Paradise on a merit basis. Reincarnation is not an option.
In one way or another we must all come to the end of ourselves if we are to know the true God. Those inclined to keep their core beliefs private often cite the hypocrisy and phoniness of fundamentalism or the hypocrisy of their childhood Sunday School classes which were “Micky-Mouse,” or worse. Obviously many would lose their jobs and good name if someone were to link them to any archaic, dying religious tradition. Scorn and ridicule are common today for all radicals, religious or political. A few members of the intelligentsia can be outspoken in boasting of their quest for God, or the meaning of life, or the quest all by itself, as if arriving at a goal didn’t matter much. Many of these charges against professing Christians have merit! But God...
Externals are all important to most of us! Reputations are usually a very big deal. But God is not much impressed with looks, the clothes we wear, the mask we wear. His vision in infinitely better than Superman’s “x-ray” vision, or even a mother’s intuition.
“It is appointed for man but once to die, and after that, the judgment.” (Hebrews 9:27)
“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, And bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.’“Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age?
Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called.
But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence. But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God—and righteousness and sanctification and redemption— that, as it is written, ‘He who glories, let him glory in the Lord.’” (1 Corinthians 1:18-31)
“...the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)
“Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.” (John 7:24)
Nevertheless the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: “The Lord knows those who are His,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity.” (2 Timothy 2:19)
Neither are we the good, moral righteous people we think we are. Many people are “self-made,” and tend to “worship their creator,” (that is, themselves). King Ego leads many of us to think we are the most important person in our generation!
As it is written: “There is none righteous, no, not one; There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; They have together become unprofitable; There is none who does good, no, not one.” “Their throat is an open tomb; With their tongues they have practiced deceit”; “The poison of asps is under their lips”; “Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness.” “Their feet are swift to shed blood; Destruction and misery are in their ways; And the way of peace they have not known.” “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” (Romans 3:10-18)
God is active in seeking all who are willing to know Him. With patience and long suffering, Jesus has always sought for people (young or old) who are willing to be rescued from sin and destruction—in every age since Adam and Eve. Jesus knows us far better than we know ourselves.
“The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us,
not wishing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9)
To say that man is “fallen” is to acknowledge that everyone of us is fatally flawed. From errors in our genome, to our self-exhalation and pride, to our capacity to deceive and to be deceived—none of us is what we ought to be. The world we live in is also very treacherous—full of deception and the counterfeit. A small fraction, a remnant only, of professing Christians know Jesus and walk daily with Him!
“The foundation of the Lord stands sure, having this seal, ‘the Lord knows those who are His,’ and ‘Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.’ In a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and of earthenware, and some to honor, and some to dishonor.
If a man purges himself from that which is dishonorable, then he will be a vessel for noble use, consecrated and useful to the master of the house, ready for any good work.” (2 Timothy 2:19-21)
The Light brought into the world by Jesus of Nazareth is now shining more brightly than ever, available to any and all, rich or poor, old or young. The “historical Jesus” is the same “yesterday and today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8)
Glimpsing Jesus as He is now, brings awe and wonder and true worship. What lies just ahead in world history is the soon return of Jesus to our planet. He will not be returning in disguise.
“For none of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord's. For to this end Christ died and rose and lived again, that He might be Lord of both the dead and the living. But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written:‘As I live, says the Lord, Every knee shall bow to Me, And every tongue shall confess to God.’ So then each of us shall give account of himself to God. Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother's way.” (Romans 3:7-14)
For sure, Jesus will not be coming back to us in the same lifestyle He lived out the first time. Not, as some assume, harmless, weak and soft spoken.
“Grace to you and peace from Him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne, and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth. To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen.‘I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End,’ says the Lord, ‘who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.’l (Revelation 1:4-8)
You and I have nothing inherent in us that qualifies us to live forever. But we are all loved by God, unconditionally. We need only to be humbled and open to be forgiven freed and made new, to the greatest adventure in the universe.
But finally, there are apostates. These are individuals, usually men, but not always. They have heard all about Jesus for years but never allowed Him into their hearts and lives. Jude the brother of James mentions them. They are true counterfeit Christians. If the devil knocked on the door with forked tail, horns and the smell of sulfur, we’d shut him out at once. Counterfeit currency is meticulously crafted to look as much like the real thing as possible. So also fake paintings and such.
Jude, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, To those who are called, sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ:
Mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you. Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ. But I want to remind you, though you once knew this, that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe. And the angels who did not keep their proper domain, but left their own abode, He has reserved in everlasting chains under darkness for the judgment of the great day; as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities around them in a similar manner to these, having given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire. Likewise also these dreamers defile the flesh, reject authority, and speak evil of dignitaries. Yet Michael the archangel, in contending with the devil, when he disputed about the body of Moses, dared not bring against him a reviling accusation, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!” But these speak evil of whatever they do not know; and whatever they know naturally, like brute beasts, in these things they corrupt themselves. Woe to them! For they have gone in the way of Cain, have run greedily in the error of Balaam for profit, and perished in the rebellion of Korah. These are spots in your love feasts, while they feast with you without fear, serving only themselves. They are clouds without water, carried about by the winds; late autumn trees without fruit, twice dead, pulled up by the roots; raging waves of the sea, foaming up their own shame; wandering stars for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever. Now Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men also, saying, “Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints, to execute judgment on all, to convict all who are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have committed in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.” These are grumblers, complainers, walking according to their own lusts; and they mouth great swelling words, flattering people to gain advantage. But you, beloved, remember the words which were spoken before by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ: how they told you that there would be mockers in the last time who would walk according to their own ungodly lusts. These are sensual persons, who cause divisions, not having the Spirit.
Knowing the enemies of Jesus would “sneak in through a side door” after he was gone, the Apostle Paul met with the elders from the church of Ephesus warn them of what lay ahead:
For Paul had decided to sail past Ephesus, so that he would not have to spend time in Asia; for he was hurrying to be at Jerusalem, if possible, on the Day of Pentecost. From Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called for the elders of the church. And when they had come to him, he said to them: “You know, from the first day that I came to Asia, in what manner I always lived among you, serving the Lord with all humility, with many tears and trials which happened to me by the plotting of the Jews; how I kept back nothing that was helpful, but proclaimed it to you, and taught you publicly and from house to house, testifying to Jews, and also to Greeks, repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ. And see, now I go bound in the spirit to Jerusalem, not knowing the things that will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies in every city, saying that chains and tribulations await me. But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. “And indeed, now I know that you all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, will see my face no more. Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God. Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves. Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears. “So now, brethren, I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified. I have coveted no one’s silver or gold or apparel. Yes, you yourselves know that these hands have provided for my necessities, and for those who were with me. I have shown you in every way, by laboring like this, that you must support the weak. And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ” And when he had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all. Then they all wept freely, and fell on Paul’s neck and kissed him, sorrowing most of all for the words which he spoke, that they would see his face no more. And they accompanied him to the ship. (Acts 20:16-38)
Finally the most serious issue of all, I believe, is today’s Biblical Illiteracy. Fifty years ago most homes in America could boast of having a Bible on their shelves somewhere. A good many of us inherited an old family Bible from our parents or grandparents. Some family Bibles, full of handwritten notes, are generations deep. Owning a Bible is not enough. It must be read. When I was a new Christian, (1962) many older people in my church read through their Bibles straight through once or twice (or three times) a year.
Jesus answered and said, “It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’” (Matthew 4:4, Deuteronomy 8:3)
Convinced or not please don’t marginalize or ignore Jesus. Churches today are full of cultural Christians! Well informed pastors will tell you the real work of their churches is done by only 10 or 20 percent of their members! The rest are going along for the ride?
Many around us who live outwardly moral lives will note see over time what are called the works (plural) of the flesh:
Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
People who are actually trusting God regularly will experience, on the other hand the
fruit (singular) of the Holy Spirit:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another. (Galatians 5:19-26)
What a person believes is very important!
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, But fools despise wisdom and instruction. (Proverbs 1:7)
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:15)
Every Christian begins his journey as a “new-born one.” Over time we should grow into the spiritual adolescence called “young men” and from there into “fathers” (1 John 2:12-14). It is possible to suffer arrested development (aed) of course and many adult males fall far short of being model fathers in the real world.
“...till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with 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 into Him who is the head—Christ— from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.” (Ephesians 4:13-16)
The follower of Jesus Christ has three enemies. They are the flesh, the world and the devil. Deception is everyone to persuade the Christian that taking Jesus seriously in this present life optional. Nothing could be more dangerous!
Please see other classes of marginalized persons:
Compromised Christians | Closeted Christians | The Excluded Ones | The Left Behind | On Everlasting Destruction
The Church Papers
Notes by Lambert Dolphin
Lambert Dolphin's Place (Home Page)
Lambert Dolphin's Original Web Site (1995)
Lambert's Personal Testimony
Newsletters by Lambert
Recent Articles (since 2018)
December 14, 2021. Tuned up January 13, 2022.
Originated November 26, 2019.