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Are You Just Following the Crowd?

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In my youth it seemed like my father was always instructing my brothers and sisters and me on matters of character and decision-making. Especially as we entered our teenage years, he frequently told us to not just “follow the crowd.”

He would often voice this when we fretted about what “all our friends” got to do and we couldn't. Maybe they could stay out until 1:00 a.m., go to unchaperoned parties or have fun at other “popular” activities. Dad always told us, “Just because others do something doesn't mean you should too!”

As a self-employed businessman, my father often challenged conventional wisdom. He taught us to analyze what we read, heard and thought about doing. We didn't always appreciate his advice, but as we grew older its value became clear. In fact it helped me to examine my thinking about religion.

Comparing beliefs with the Bible

Like many people, I grew up attending a mainstream church. As a boy I simply assumed that what I was being taught was right. I never questioned that church's teachings. However, in my early 20s I was challenged to compare my beliefs with what the Bible actually taught.

I began studying such subjects as the seventh-day Sabbath, the immortal soul, heaven and hell, the Trinity, and traditional Christian holidays such as Christmas and Easter. While examining what the Bible says about these and many other topics, I discovered glaring conflicts with my church's long-established doctrines and traditions.

In addition, I learned that God holds each individual accountable for his or her spiritual decisions and actions. In other words, a person can't justify bad or unwise choices and behavior with the excuse that his religious organization believes or acts a certain way. God doesn't look on people as members of groups, but as unique individuals who are responsible for our own choices.

In fact I learned that God, as the One who created us, knows intimately and unquestionably what's best for each of His children (Isaiah 29:16 Isaiah 29:16Surely your turning of things upside down shall be esteemed as the potter’s clay: for shall the work say of him that made it, He made me not? or shall the thing framed say of him that framed it, He had no understanding?
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). He wants us to live joyful, abundant lives (John 10:10 John 10:10The thief comes not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.
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). 

Our first parents, Adam and Eve, refused to follow their Father's instructions. They wanted to decide for themselves what was good and evil. The tragic result of their choice was suffering and their ultimate deaths (Genesis 2:16-17 Genesis 2:16-17 16 And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat: 17 But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, you shall not eat of it: for in the day that you eat thereof you shall surely die.
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).

Life and death, blessing and cursing

Later, God gave each person in ancient Israel the same choice (Deuteronomy 30:19 Deuteronomy 30:19I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both you and your seed may live:
American King James Version×
). He told them to “choose life” by obeying His laws. They rejected His counsel. The result was enormous suffering and heartache. They preferred to “follow the crowd” of the surrounding nations that lived by their own rules (see 2 Kings 17:15 2 Kings 17:15And they rejected his statutes, and his covenant that he made with their fathers, and his testimonies which he testified against them; and they followed vanity, and became vain, and went after the heathen that were round about them, concerning whom the LORD had charged them, that they should not do like them.
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).

God repeatedly warned His people to not make that fateful mistake (Deuteronomy 18:9 Deuteronomy 18:9When you are come into the land which the LORD your God gives you, you shall not learn to do after the abominations of those nations.
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). Through Moses He said: “Don't do something just because everyone else is doing it. If you see a group of people doing wrong, don't join them. You must not let them persuade you to do wrong things—you must do what is right and fair” (Exodus 23:2 Exodus 23:2You shall not follow a multitude to do evil; neither shall you speak in a cause to decline after many to wrest judgment:
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, Easy-to-Read Version).

Besides learning this, I came to see that little has changed since the days of ancient Israel. Nearly all people have made this same decision to decide for themselves what is good and evil. Humanity's tragic, painful history demonstrates that this approach just doesn't work. I discovered that lying in wait to take advantage of our disastrous choices is Satan the devil. He's the original defiant sinner and hater of God (1 John 3:8 1 John 3:8He that commits sin is of the devil; for the devil sins from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.
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). By choosing to ignore God's perfect way of life, people have set themselves up to be deceived and manipulated by this great “dragon” (2 Corinthians 4:4 2 Corinthians 4:4In whom the god of this world has blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine to them.
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; Revelation 12:9 Revelation 12:9And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceives the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.
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).

The whole world enticed by the devil

I learned just how pervasive the devil's influence is. It's so overwhelming that the Bible says that “ the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one” (1 John 5:19 1 John 5:19And we know that we are of God, and the whole world lies in wickedness.
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, emphasis added throughout).

And what's the world like as a result? In the battle between good and evil throughout the centuries, it's not hard to see that evil has been winning (Isaiah 59:4 Isaiah 59:4None calls for justice, nor any pleads for truth: they trust in vanity, and speak lies; they conceive mischief, and bring forth iniquity.
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, Isaiah 59:7-8 Isaiah 59:7-8 7 Their feet run to evil, and they make haste to shed innocent blood: their thoughts are thoughts of iniquity; wasting and destruction are in their paths. 8 The way of peace they know not; and there is no judgment in their goings: they have made them crooked paths: whoever goes therein shall not know peace.
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).

To make matters worse, the Bible plainly reveals that since the whole world has been deceived by the devil, this also includes Christian churches and those who profess Christianity.

Many deceived by lawless pretenders

When Jesus' disciples asked Him about the signs of His second coming, the very first thing He cautioned them about was to “take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying [that] I am Christ; and shall deceive many” (Matthew 24:4-5 Matthew 24:4-5 4 And Jesus answered and said to them, Take heed that no man deceive you. 5 For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.
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, King James Version).

Jesus warned His disciples about bogus ministers who would present themselves as Christian. He said they would be figuratively dressed “in sheep's clothing.” These treacherous individuals would covertly be as “ravenous wolves,” who would exploit people for their own purposes (Matthew 7:15 Matthew 7:15Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.
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).

The apostle Paul said that even though these crafty people would appear caring and virtuous, they would actually be lawless pretenders. He wrote: “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” (2 Corinthians 11:13-15 2 Corinthians 11:13-15 13 For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. 14 And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. 15 Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.
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).

Can all the churches be right?

It's stunning to realize just how deep the deception is. According to the Center for the Study of Global Christianity (CSGC) at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, there are 41,000 Christian denominations and organizations around the globe. Each teaches its own version of the truth. It's just not logical to think that all of them could be correct!

Should there be any question that the many biblical warnings and prophecies about counterfeit Christianity have come to pass?

Not only was I astounded by this concept, but God opened my eyes to another vitally important truth. Jesus referred to people who would pretend to have the truth: “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 7:22-23 Matthew 7:22-23 22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in your name? and in your name have cast out devils? and in your name done many wonderful works? 23 And then will I profess to them, I never knew you: depart from me, you that work iniquity.
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).

Worshipping in vain

Jesus said of religious practitioners in His day, “In vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men” (Matthew 15:9 Matthew 15:9But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.
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). Worshipping God apart from doing what He says to do is a vain exercise. Most who profess Christianity today don't realize that in large part they're out-of-sync with biblical teachings. In fact, they are really conforming to humanly devised religious ideas, beliefs and practices.

The apostle John explained that unless a person obeys God he can't understand genuine truth: “He who says, 'I know Him,' and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him” (1 John 2:4 1 John 2:4He that said, I know him, and keeps not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.
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).

So how can someone really know Jesus Christ? It's through His words that are carefully revealed in the pages of the Bible (Hebrews 4:12 Hebrews 4:12For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
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). In referring to Himself as the One who saves us, Jesus said, “The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life” (John 6:63 John 6:63It is the spirit that vivifies; the flesh profits nothing: the words that I speak to you, they are spirit, and they are life.
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).

Jesus was the impeccable example of one who zealously “chose life” by diligently carrying out His Father's will in everything (Matthew 26:39 Matthew 26:39And he went a little farther, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as you will.
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). Christ said that He is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6 John 14:6Jesus said to him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man comes to the Father, but by me.
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).

And what was this “way” He talked about? His mission was to encourage people to repent of sin while announcing the government or Kingdom of God. He said He will establish the Kingdom on earth at His second coming (Mark 1:14-15 Mark 1:14-15 14 Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, 15 And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent you, and believe the gospel.
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). He carried out His duty not only in what He said but in what He did. He lived “the way” of the Kingdom Himself. Specifically, He lived in complete obedience to the very laws He'll enforce in His coming global administration (John 15:10 John 15:10If you keep my commandments, you shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.
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).

Living by every word of God

Unlike today's world of lawlessness and selfishness, the Kingdom of God will be a shining example of true righteousness. The Bible defines righteousness as keeping God's commandments (Psalms 119:172 Psalms 119:172My tongue shall speak of your word: for all your commandments are righteousness.
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). Jesus Christ's way of life guarantees abundant peace and prosperity for everyone.

Most excitingly, you and I don't have to wait until Christ's return to live the way of the Kingdom. We can do it now by repenting of our sins, accepting Jesus Christ as our Savior and striving to live by every word of God (1 John 3:4 1 John 3:4Whoever commits sin transgresses also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.
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; Luke 4:4 Luke 4:4And Jesus answered him, saying, It is written, That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.
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). If we do, we'll be just as innovative and unconventional as Jesus was when He walked the earth.

After I had been introduced to all of this amazing knowledge, I was challenged by another critical question: Would I be willing to act on what God showed me? The apostle James wrote that we must be “doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving” ourselves (James 1:22 James 1:22But be you doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.
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).

Real faith and courage needed

So there I stood at a spiritual crossroads. I could have decided to remain in my “comfort zone” and simply ignored what I learned. But if I had, I wouldn't have been true to myself. Most importantly, I wouldn't have been true to my Maker and Judge.

Recalling my father's advice, I decided that following the crowd wasn't an option. Instead, I chose to follow and obey Jesus Christ with all my heart, soul and mind (Luke 10:27 Luke 10:27And he answering said, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.
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). Doing so liberated me from false ways that have no biblical foundation (John 8:32 John 8:32And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.
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). Jesus said that those who desire eternal life must “enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it” (Matthew 7:13 Matthew 7:13Enter you in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leads to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat:
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).

So what about you? If you've been reading The Good News or watching the Beyond Today television program, you may recognize that what you read and hear comes from the Bible. These teachings are often very different from traditional Christian doctrines, customs and practices.

In the same way that I took up the challenge many years ago, are you willing to examine your thinking and beliefs in comparison to what the Bible actually says? Are you prepared to make changes in your life to reflect what it really teaches? It takes genuine faith and courage from God to not “follow the crowd.” What choice will you make?