Because we live in a world full of scams, it is crucial to find a dependable way to tell the difference between truth and falsehood so that we do not end up being duped. With every wind of doctrine circulating, we certainly cannot trust people’s exalted professions or their fair speeches, as many have alternative motives that are not obvious on the surface. Honesty often seems a thing of the past and it is dangerous to depend on your senses. The Bible is the only sure foundation that remains firm among a cacophony of voices.
A popular belief today is that eventually everybody in the world will be saved, but nowhere in the Bible do we find such assurance. In fact, Jesus Christ Himself taught just the opposite. He said, “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many that go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:13, 14). It appears here that Jesus knew that the majority of the world would be attracted to the broad popular road where self rules and every desire of the heart can be supplied. In a world of consumerism, people desire immediate satisfaction. Few choose the road of self denial and delayed satisfaction.
Jesus said in Luke 13:24, “Seek to enter through the narrow gate because many, I say to you, will attempt to, and will not be able” (literal translation). The reason they are not able is because they cannot take along with them all of their sins, their sinful desires and their own pleasures and ambitions. Because the gate is narrow, people are in danger of being deceived and enticed onto the broad way, thinking that it will lead to the same end as the narrow way. The temptation is always, Why make it so hard for yourself? It is so much easier on the broad way.
Knowing how hard the temptation is, immediately after Jesus gave that instruction, He gave a warning that there are people in this world who are out to deceive you.
There are teachers of falsehood who will arise and draw you away from the narrow path, away from the straight gate with false promises that you can have eternal life while you are going down the broad road. He said, Watch out!
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore, by their fruits you will know them” (Matthew 7:15–20).
Jesus said that we are not to prove whether they are a true or a false prophet by their fair speeches or their exalted professions. They are to be judged by the word of God. The word of God says, “To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them” (Isaiah 8:20). A strict warning here is given against listening to spiritualist manifestations, or spiritual apparitions, or people claiming to speak for the dead, or being spirits of the dead, or the like (verse 19).
The wise man said in Proverbs 19:27, “Cease, my son to hear the instruction that causeth to err from the words of knowledge.” What message are you listening to? Are you listening to a message that leads you to fear and reverence God? Are you listening to a message that leads you to love God by obeying Him, by being loyal to His commandments?
If we do not feel the weight of the moral law, if we make light of any of God’s precepts, if we break one of the least of His commandments, we shall be of no esteem in the sight of heaven, and it may be known that our claims to be religious teachers are without any foundation at all. Those kinds of teachings originate with the prince of darkness, the enemy of God.
Not all who profess the name of Christ, who call themselves Christians, not all who wear His badge, are actually Christ’s. The apostle Paul had some very pointed things to say on this subject. Notice what He said in 2 Corinthians 11:13–15: “For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works.”
Paul here says that there are false apostles who pretend to be teachers of righteousness, who pretend to be the apostles of Christ, but actually they are serving another master. Not all who profess His name, not all who call themselves Christians, not all who wear His badge are actually Jesus Christ’s. Jesus said there will be many people who have taught in My name, that will be found wanting at last. Notice what He said as He neared the conclusion of the Sermon on the Mount: “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ ” (Matthew 7:21–23).
These are people who call Jesus, “Lord” and call themselves “Christians.” These are not just people who come and sit in the pew at church; these are Christian workers. They say, “We have prophesied in Your name. We had the Holy Spirit. We had the gift of prophecy.” “We cast out demons in Your name.” “We worked many wonders (miracles) in Your name.”
How can that be? The Bible teaches that there is a great spiritual battle going on in this world between two supernatural forces. Christ is one, but there is another supernatural force. He has lost the battle over and over again. So, because of his defeat in the way he has operated in the past, he masquerades and appears to join the winning side, calling himself Christ.
The Biblical word, antichrist simply means somebody that stands in the place of Christ. People who are actually serving antichrist, will think that they are serving Christ. The apostle Paul is very clear on this point. He wrote to the Corinthian church, “I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he who comes preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or if you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted, you may well put up with it” (2 Corinthians 11:3, 4)!
It concerned Paul that the church would be deceived and receive a different spirit instead of the Spirit that the apostles had brought to them and that the church would accept a different gospel. The New Testament gospel is a gospel that delivers a person not only from his guilt, but it delivers a person from the power of sin in his life. Jesus said, “… whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a Son abides forever. Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed” (John 8:34, 36). Notice, the gospel that Jesus taught was the gospel that would set you free from the power of sin in your life.
The apostles preached that same gospel. Paul preached it in Romans 6 and 8. The apostle John preached the same gospel and warned about the danger of having a false conception that we are followers of God when we are really not. He said, “Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, ‘I know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him” (I John 2:3, 4). The apostle John, considered so loveable and so soft-spoken, had no mincing words to say about the person who claimed to be a Christian and who was living in violation of the law of God.
The apostle James is just as clear. He said, “If you keep the whole law, and you offend in one point, you are guilty of all. For the same person that said, ‘Do not commit adultery,’ also said, ‘Do not murder.’ So if you do not commit adultery, but you do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. So speak and so do as those that will be judged by the law of liberty” (James 2:10–12, literal translation).
James teaches it. Jude teaches it. John teaches it. Paul teaches it. Peter teaches it in 2 Peter 3. The apostle John teaches it again in Revelation 14:12 and 22. The people of God in the last days are those who keep the commandments of God and have the faith of Jesus. O, friend, we are in great danger today of thinking that we are Christians while we are living in sin.
The person who lives in sin is not a New Testament Christian because New Testament Christianity gives a person victory over their besetting sins and gives the power to live a new life. If a person claims to be a Christian and continues living in sin and does not overcome his/her sins, he/she is in danger of losing eternal life. Jesus said that many will come to Him in that last day and say that He has made a mistake. They will claim to know that they are saved, to know that they should be in the kingdom of heaven because they claim to be His as Christians. “We prophesied in Your name and we cast out demons in Your name and we did many miracles in Your name.”
Then will come the sad answer, “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you’ ” (Matthew 7:23). It is difficult to take in the terrible shock that that would be. To think that you are serving Christ, when in reality you are serving another Jesus; to think that you have the Holy Spirit, but you have a different spirit; to think that you are following the gospel, but you are following a different gospel. And when Jesus comes, you claim to have prophesied in His name and to have cast out demons in His name, and done many miracles in His name, and He says, “I never knew you.” How shocking, indeed, that will be.
Does Christ know you? Jesus describes those He says He does not know in Matthew 7:23: “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ ” What is their problem? These are the people who believed that you can be a Christian and follow Jesus and yet continue to break His law.
In this world we are used to doing things half right or even partially right and still get along. In fact, we have schools that grade on the bell curve and you can get a pass with only 70%. However, that is not the way God’s law is. James 2:10–12 says, “Whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all. For He who said, ‘Do not commit adultery,’ also said, ‘Do not murder.’ Now if you do not commit adultery, but you do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. So speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty.”
You cannot be a New Testament Christian unless you commit to following Jesus all the way. Remember that Jesus said in Luke 14:33, Whoever it is that “… does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.” My friend, you are not going to take the riches of this world into the kingdom of heaven. All the material things here are going to burn up. God doesn’t need them for He is going to create a new world for His children to live in. The question is, Do you want what the Lord has prepared for the saved? Are you willing to go through the narrow gate and up the narrow way, and be obedient to the Lord Jesus and follow Him all the way and at last receive the gift of eternal life?
There are many people now, just as there were when Jesus spoke these original words, who want eternal life, but it seems that the price is too great to obey Jesus in everything because they will suffer some kind of a loss in this world. People felt that way then and people still feel that way today. So, before closing His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gave to them a most striking illustration that would predict what their future would be. This story also predicts what your future will be.
He said: “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall” (Matthew 7:24–27).
The difference is whether you choose to obey or choose not to obey, whether your life conforms to what Jesus said or whether it does not. Seven hundred years before Jesus came to the world Isaiah the prophet said, “The word of our God shall stand for ever” (Isaiah 40:8 KJV). And many years after Jesus had preached on the mountain, the apostle Peter quoted these words from Isaiah: “… this is the word by which the gospel is preached to you” (I Peter 1:25, literal translation).
This is the word. When you receive the gospel, you receive the word of God that lasts forever. In other words, the word of God is the only steadfast thing that our world really knows. It is the sure foundation. Jesus said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My word will not pass away” (Matthew 24:35, literal translation).
The great principles of the law of God, the very nature of God Himself, are enshrouded in the words of Jesus from the Mount. Whoever builds on them is building upon Christ, the Rock of Ages. In receiving His word, we receive Christ. Only those who receive His words and do them are building upon Christ. The apostle Paul said, “… other foundation can no man lay than that which is laid, Jesus Christ” (I Corinthians 3:11, literal translation).
Peter said the same thing. “… there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12 KJV). That is the only foundation upon which you can build securely. We build on Christ by obeying His word. Jesus said, “If you do these sayings of mine, you’ll be like a man who built his house on the rock and when the storm came, the house did not fall. But if you hear these sayings of Mine and you don’t do them, you’d be like a man who built his house on the sand and when the storm came, his house collapsed” (Matthew 7:26, 27, literal translation).
Holiness is not rapture. It is the result of surrendering all to God. It is doing the will of our heavenly Father. Religion consists in doing the words of Christ. It is not doing them to earn God’s favor, but because, all undeserving, we have received the gift of His love. Jesus places the salvation of man, not upon profession merely, but upon faith that is made manifest by works of righteousness. Doing, not merely saying, is required and expected of the followers of Christ. It is through action that character is built.
Do you desire to be a follower of Jesus? There are many people today who say, “I want to be a Christian. I want to be a follower of Jesus Christ, but I don’t know how to start. I don’t know how to begin. I don’t know very much about the Bible.”
You may seem to be in the dark and not know how to find the light. So here is how to get started. Simply follow what light you do understand. Whatever you understand from the word of God tell the Lord, “By Your grace, what You tell me to do I am choosing to do, to obey and follow You.” If you set your heart to obey Jesus Christ, to acknowledge Him as the Lord of your life and follow Him, then, even though you may know very little right now, as you receive His word by faith, you will receive power to obey. As you start to obey the light you have, even if it is just a small amount, you will be given more light. You will be building on God’s word and your character will be built after the similitude of the character of Christ. Remember, “The path of the just (righteous) is like a shining light that shines more and more unto the perfect day” (Proverbs 4:18, literal translation).
Jesus Christ is the sure foundation. He is the living Stone and His life is imparted to all who build upon Him, who do His words. Peter said, “… you also, as living stones, are built up a spiritual house …” (I Peter 2:5, literal translation). Paul said, “… it’s fitly framed together, growing into a holy temple in the Lord” (Ephesians 2:21, literal translation).
The living stones become one with the foundation because a common life dwells in all. And that building no tempest can overthrow. Every other building that is built on any other foundation will fall. If we build our character on human ideas, opinions, forms, and ceremonies, then our building will be destroyed. It will be knocked down by the fierce tempests of temptation. But right today, before the tempest comes that’s going to end this world’s history, the Lord says, “As I live, … I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways, for why will you die” (Ezekiel 33:11, literal translation).
O, friend, the Lord wants to save you and He will save you if you are willing to turn to Him and follow Him with all your heart.
(Unless appearing in quoted references or otherwise identified, Bible texts are from the New King James Version.)
Pastor John J. Grosboll is Director of Steps to Life and pastors the Prairie Meadows Church of Free Seventh-day Adventists in Wichita, Kansas. He may be contacted by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org, or by telephone at: 316-788-5559.