Here is something to think about - All disciples of Jesus are believers, but not all believers are disciples. A disciple is by definition, a 'learner' and is rooted in 'discipline'. A believer requires no growth, no learning, but allows a person to remain in spiritual neutral.
Does that make sense? Yes, if you understand what Jesus taught when He said, "Not everyone who says to me Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven."
Many will say to me, Lord, Lord - so many misunderstand Jesus here
"Not everyone who says to me, Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven; but he that does the will of the Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in your name? And in your name cast out demons? And in your name done many wonderful works? And then I will profess to them, I never knew you: Depart from me you who work iniquity." (Matthew 7:21-23)
Many Christians tremble at Jesus' words, not realizing the subject is false brothers, not them. Jesus' teaching actually starts in v15: "Beware of "false ones who speak openly" (translated prophets in most English Bibles) who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. And after explaining how grape vines don't produce thorns, nor do figs produce thistles, He repeats, "You will know them by their fruits."
THEN He says, still speaking of them, "Not everyone who says to me, Lord, Lord will enter heaven." Jesus says He will confess to them: "I never knew you! Depart from me you who work iniquity!" Unfortunately many pastors and people believe what these false believers say to the Lord rather than what the Lord says.
Now I ask you - if Jesus said He NEVER knew them, is He telling the truth? Of course. These people were never born again, they continued in their sin, so He will admit to them, "I never knew you."
So relax disciples, He isn't talking about you. If He said He never knew them, then He never did nor did they.
But He does give us guidelines how to judge believers who call Jesus Lord and make claims of doing things in His name, yet still live in sinfulness. We are not to judge the heart, that is God's realm, but we are to judge the fruit of a person's life.
These people called Jesus, Lord. They claim to have prophesied, cast out demons, and done many wonderful things in His name. The truth is as Jesus said, they are workers of iniquity and He never knew them. The word 'iniquity' involves more than mere sin. In the Greek, 'anomia' means 'lawlessness' (nomos = law) and unrighteousness. Meaning their lifestyle is that of the unrighteous and sinners, thus thorns where fruit should be.
We shouldn't judge their heart, but we can't ignore the fruit of their lives. Judge that and use common sense to avoid such people, or withdraw from such.
Paul's experience with false brethren
Acts 15:1-2 says this: "And certain men who came down from Judea taught the brethren saying, Except you be circumcised according to the law of Moses, you cannot be saved. When therefore Paul and Barnabus had no small argument and debate with them, they determined Paul and Barnabus and certain others should go to the apostles and elders about this question."
This is in keeping with how Jesus said relationship based faith (house church) should be done, out of Matthew 18:15-20. One person goes to another they think is in sin, then if they won't receive them they take 1 or 2 others, and if still not received take it to leaders. This is what happened with Paul, who wouldn't repent of what the others called sin by not requiring circumcision, so off to the leadership in Jerusalem they went.
Of course Paul was found to be correct and these men from Judea were found to be wrong, but later Paul would write of this experience and say: "Then 14 years later I went again to Jerusalem with Barnabus and Titus, and I went up by revelation and shared with them the gospel I preach among the Gentiles, but did so privately at first with leaders, lest by some means I was in error."
"But neither did Titus who was with me, being Greek, feel compelled (of the Lord) to be circumcised. But because false brethren secretly slipped in who came to spy out the freedom we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage..." Galatians 2:1-10
Paul called them false brethren in Galatians, but in Acts 15:1 they came up from Judea, and went willingly and eagerly to the apostles to settle who was right, them or Paul. They were false brethren!
So that person sitting next to you in church...
These men were sitting with everyone else listening to Paul in every home meeting. They were in the homes with the disciples, eating with them, hanging around, talking to people, but with a hidden agenda - Paul said they came in secretly, the term is that of a spy, a traitor.
Anyone who has been around house church awhile can attest to the fact sometimes people will visit with a secret agenda. They may have a pet doctrine and think they have a captive audience, or they want to start their own 'group' and are looking to see who they can pick off to be their disciples, or worse. But that doesn't make them false brothers.
Paul calls these men who accused him false brethren, never false believers. The men who accused Paul and went to the apostles to see if they were right or him, mentally believed in Jesus, but were living a lifestyle Paul described as spies and traitors. As Jesus pointed out, people like them call Him Lord - they no doubt know the Holy Spirit, but He isn't in them. How are we to find these false brothers and sisters in our day and age? Obey Jesus and judge the fruit of their lives!
The works of the flesh are clearly stated in Galatians 5:19-21 and include (as one example) sexual sins ranging from promiscuity and adultery to sexual perversion. So based on Jesus' definition, can a person be a disciple, one who knows the Lord yet lives and intends to continue living a perverted sexual lifestyle? No.
That doesn't mean someone coming out of sin, making progress out of sin with stops and starts as they grow in Christ. We are all in a process of cleaning up our act and becoming more Christ like. But some who are mental believers have no intention of growing in Christ. They boldly proclaim they are a _____ Christian and have no intention of changing.
Based on what Jesus said, and what I'll show you more next week, these people may have had an experience with the Holy Spirit, maybe felt Him, maybe know Him, maybe hang around where He is moving - but that doesn't mean they are truly born again, Spirit filled disciples of Christ who know Jesus.
Remember what Jesus said back in Matthew 7 - many will call Jesus Lord, but live a lifestyle of unrighteousness. Remember what I said in part 1, the Gnostic spirit tells people as long as they are spiritual they can live how they like for the body is evil anyway. They are self-deceived. So listen to their words, but do what Jesus said - look at their lifestyle, the fruit of their lives. Do you see grapes and figs or thorns? Jesus used thorns as an example because if you get too close to a thorn it hurts. Stay away!
There are believers, and there are disciples. Not all believers are disciples. But all disciples are believers. More next week as we renew our mind to what Jesus and the Word actually says, and away from popular church culture. We will know them by the fruit of their lives. So if the mouth says one thing but the fruit of their lives is the flesh, run don't walk to the nearest exit! More next week, until then, blessings,