Last week we discussed how the church is God’s plan to implement His purposes for this time period before Christ’s return. It should function efficiently with love and consistency with God’s word. Attendees who push their own non-biblical agendas, whether for emotional comfort or personal power, represent a danger to the church.
How do we recognize these people and what should we do about them? Let us consider the first topic over the next two weeks. We will deal with their treatment afterwards.
A bible-believing church is generally started by well-meaning Christians who, because of their lifestyle and biblical teaching, typically attract other people to the church. This makes sense; good message, nice people! Many of these new members will serve and desire to grow in Christ.
However, others may come for alternative agendas, such as seeking fulfillment of their own desire for personal power or emotional satisfaction, with no real intent to grow in their faith. They may or may not be a born-again Christian, but their effect is often the same, at a minimum slowing the church by consuming the time of effective believers, or actively damaging the church by causing dissension.
Christ himself said there would be unbelievers (tares) in church who would be impossible to detect (Matthew 13:24-30). However, as best we can, I believe we should try to uncover unbelieving or unfaithful churchgoers to prayerfully help them (as they allow) and to protect the church.
The Bible assists us in providing standards for Christians and how to recognize a faithful believer. If we know who is faithful it makes it easier to know who is not (discussed next week). Here are some key sections of scripture.
Spiritual growth process
- Basic measures (1 John 2-4) – This important book describes three major criteria that should characterize a true believer in the process of maturing (i.e., those in the fellowship of Christ, 1 John 1).
- Love – They have a biblical (agape) love. This type of love is not just an emotional feeling but is primarily based on truth and what is good for the believer, both actions and speech (Philippians 1:9; 1 John 5:2).
- Proper doctrine – This centers around Jesus and that He: came from God, is Man, is God and is the Christ (our Redeemer, 1 John 2:22; 1 John 4:2; 1 John 4:15; 1 John 5:1; 1 John 5:20).
- Obedience – A true Christian’s life is generally characterized in following the precepts of Scripture (1 John 2:4-5).
- Unity (Ephesians 4:1-7) – The apostle Paul often stresses unity which involves both proper doctrine and love for each other.
- The true disciple (1 Thessalonians 1:5-7) – A true believer is:
- Saved by faith.
- Secure in salvation.
- Accepting of the guiding principles of God’s Word in their lives.
- Imitating scriptural principles and mature believers around them.
- Influencing others to the faith.
- Believer’s growth (2 Corinthians 3:18) – In short, a true Christian changes over time to become more Christ-like, as this verse states ‘from glory to glory’.
- Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) – These are measures of a person’s maturity in the Holy Spirit and include: love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, faith, humility, and self-control.
- Qualities of an elder/deacon (1 Timothy 3:1-15) – This is a wonderful group of measures we can all use to assess ourselves and include generally: family values, personal attitudes, ability to minister and community reputation.
- Controlled by the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18) – This means we think, act and speak as the Spirit would.
These scriptures help you assess fellow believers. Importantly, assessment is not judging! Christ judges ultimately at the end of the age (John 5:22). Our job is to consider others so we can better understand them and help know how to love and help them (1 Timothy 4:16; 2 Timothy 2:25-26).
Interesting discussion! Let’s continue next week by thinking about what a Christian should be doing in the church. Thanks for joining me I’ll look forward to seeing you again next week.