Who Are God's True Followers?

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Who Are God's True Followers?

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“Those who are with Him are called, chosen, and faithful” (Revelation 17:14 Revelation 17:14These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful.
American King James Version×
).

Jesus Christ exclaimed, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven [that is, the Kingdom of God, who is in heaven], but he who does the will of My Father in heaven” (Matthew 7:21 Matthew 7:21Not every one that said to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that does the will of my Father which is in heaven.
American King James Version×
).

His warning should cause all of us to carefully consider our religious beliefs and assumptions. Why? Because many who claim to be His followers, who claim to have done great deeds in His name, will be rejected by Him. He will tell them, “I never knew you” (Matthew 7:23 Matthew 7:23And then will I profess to them, I never knew you: depart from me, you that work iniquity.
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).

Today we are faced with hundreds of religious groups, each claiming to be Christian and regarding itself as possessing that special something that gives it God’s stamp of approval.

How, then, can we distinguish the authentic disciples of Christ, who really are doing the will of the Father, from those who call Jesus “Lord” but neglect or refuse to do God’s will?

Today we are faced with hundreds of religious groups, each claiming to be Christian and regarding itself as possessing that special something that gives it God’s stamp of approval. Most groups that profess to be Christian represent themselves as having a “calling,” as being the “chosen” of the Lord. Even many non-Christian religious groups regard themselves as divinely chosen.

No matter how we look at it, the religious scene is confusing. No wonder millions are suspicious of all religion. Is it possible to sort the truth from this puzzling religious hodgepodge?

Indeed, it is—if we are willing to take an honest look at the facts and accept the truth as revealed in the Scriptures.

Jesus Christ is real. He was resurrected. He is alive. And His impact on the world has exceeded that of any other man who has ever lived!

Most people are familiar with the name Jesus Christ. But how many know what He taught? What was His mission? What makes His true followers different? Who truly represents Him?

Jesus said, “I will build My church.” The Greek word translated “church” in the Bible is ekklesia, meaning an assembly or, more precisely, “a calling out” or “called-out ones.” Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words notes that ekklesia is “from ek, ‘out of,’and klesis, ‘a calling’ ( kaleo , ‘to call’),” and “was used among the Greeks of a body of citizens ‘gathered’ to discuss the affairs of state, Acts 19:39 Acts 19:39But if you inquire any thing concerning other matters, it shall be determined in a lawful assembly.
American King James Version×
” (1985, “Assembly”).

The book of Hebrews describes this body of believers as “the general assembly and church of the firstborn” (Hebrews 12:23 Hebrews 12:23To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect,
American King James Version×
). Paul describes it as “the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15 1 Timothy 3:15But if I tarry long, that you may know how you ought to behave yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.
American King James Version×
).

Dangers of deception

Jesus warned that “narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:14 Matthew 7:14Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leads to life, and few there be that find it.
American King James Version×
).

Should we be surprised? Most people simply ignore Jesus’ words when they don’t agree with them. Nevertheless, Jesus tells those who wish to be His true disciples that they 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:
American King James Version×
).

Even if one becomes a disciple of Christ, he is still in danger of being swept back into the clutches of Satan, the archenemy of all who would be godly. The apostle Paul expressed his concern for those who had been converted to Christianity under his ministry:

“But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the Spirit you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough” (2 Corinthians 11:3-4 2 Corinthians 11:3-4 3 But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. 4 For if he that comes preaches another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if you receive another spirit, which you have not received, or another gospel, which you have not accepted, you might well bear with him.
American King James Version×
, New International Version).

Paul was amazed that people could so easily turn from his teachings to believe a fraudulent gospel, to embrace a deceptive spirit and even accept a counterfeit conversion and Messiah. Satan is the master deceiver. Far too many people are easy prey, even after they have embraced God’s truth. They are enticed by persuasive teachers hawking a counterfeit righteousness.

Paul continues: “For such people are false apostles, deceitful workers, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants also masquerade as servants of righteousness” (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.
American King James Version×
, NIV).  No wonder so many varieties of beliefs falsely labeled “Christian” are taught under the name of Jesus Christ! His name serves as a mask for religious philosophies and doctrines that didn’t originate with Him or His apostles!

Jesus warns us: “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.
American King James Version×
). The practice of lawlessness can negate all good deeds.

Disobedience is the way of man apart from God

Lawlessness is deeply ingrained in human nature. Paul wrote that “the mind-set of the flesh is hostile to God because it does not submit itself to God’s law, for it is unable to do so. Those who are in the flesh [that is, within its control] cannot please God” (Romans 8:7-8 Romans 8:7-8 7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. 8 So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.
American King James Version×
, Holman Christian Standard Bible). Our normal human inclination isn’t to obey God, but to resist Him and His way of life. As a result, alternatives to the true message of Christ have been devised to accommodate the human unwillingness to live by God’s commandments.

Most people who accept these lawless precepts are no doubt sincere. They have accepted and believed a fraudulent message that has been pawned off on humanity for centuries.

This delusion is incredibly powerful. Paul foretold the effect it would have near the time of the end: “The coming of the lawless one [a great false religious leader] is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this reason God will send them a strong delusion, that they should believe the lie” (2 Thessalonians 2:9-11 2 Thessalonians 2:9-11 9 Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, 10 And with all delusion of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. 11 And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie:
American King James Version×
).

Under the influence of Satan, “the god of this age,” mankind has been thoroughly blinded (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.
American King James Version×
). The devil’s unseen power so dominates humanity 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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). Many people have accepted a counterfeit gospel and a corrupted idea of what conversion is all about.

Now, back to our original question: What sets apart Jesus’ authentic disciples from those who may think they are His true followers but in reality have fallen victim to Satan’s deceptions?

Called and chosen

The idea that one must be “called” and “chosen” originated with Jesus Himself, who told His disciples that “many are called, but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:14 Matthew 22:14For many are called, but few are chosen.
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). The concepts of being called and being chosen are both biblically legitimate, but they are rarely understood and routinely misused. Let’s be sure to get them straight.

“Many are called, but few are chosen.” That’s what Jesus said. But what does it mean? God’s desire is to give salvation—eternal life—to all mankind. “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved” (John 3:17 John 3:17For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.
American King James Version×
). The key, however, is that not all are being saved at this time, in this age (Romans 11:7-8 Romans 11:7-8 7 What then? Israel has not obtained that which he seeks for; but the election has obtained it, and the rest were blinded. 8 (According as it is written, God has given them the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear;) to this day.
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; Romans 11:25-26 Romans 11:25-26 25 For I would not, brothers, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in. 26 And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob:
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; Ephesians 1:7-10 Ephesians 1:7-10 7 In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace; 8 Wherein he has abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence; 9 Having made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he has purposed in himself: 10 That in the dispensation of the fullness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him:
American King James Version×
).

The truth, Jesus explained, is what God reveals through His Word, the Bible (John 17:17 John 17:17Sanctify them through your truth: your word is truth.
American King James Version×
). To become acceptable to God, all must recognize and accept God’s Word as the source of truth. Our Creator “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:1-4 1 Timothy 2:1-4 1 I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; 2 For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. 3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior; 4 Who will have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
American King James Version×
).
God chooses a person to receive eternal life only when that person learns and accepts the truth, repents in faith and is baptized. But how can one distinguish truth from error?

All must repent

After learning the fundamentals of God’s truth, one must repent. “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9 2 Peter 3:9The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is long-suffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.
American King James Version×
, NIV). There are no exceptions. God wants everyone to repent.

An accurate understanding of the gospel of Jesus the Messiah helps us to comprehend God’s plan for us and why we must repent. That understanding of the future God has in store for us helps us to see why we need to surrender to God and transform our lives with His help.

But how can one gain this understanding? Paul’s answer: “How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent?” (Romans 10:14-15 Romans 10:14-15 14 How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? 15 And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!
American King James Version×
).

Paul says we must be taught by those who are truly sent by God, His faithful servants who do not teach lawlessness, who are faithful to God’s Word, who teach obedience to God and that repentance is to cease from sin—to quit transgressing God’s laws (1 John 3:4 1 John 3:4Whoever commits sin transgresses also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.
American King James Version×
).

Let’s consider the difference between called and chosen. Paul wrote, “But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth, to which He called you by our gospel, for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thessalonians 2:13-14 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14 13 But we are bound to give thanks always to God for you, brothers beloved of the Lord, because God has from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth: 14 Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
American King James Version×
).

Here we see that people are called (invited) by the preaching of the gospel (the good news of the Kingdom of God). They receive the knowledge that they need to repent of their sins.

Those who respond positively to that calling, that invitation, are chosen for salvation. How? They are sanctified—set apart—through believing the truth and receiving and being led by the Holy Spirit .

Only those drawn by God will understand

The process of God’s calling and choosing us is a sorting that begins with a miracle from God. Jesus says, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him” (John 6:44 John 6:44No man can come to me, except the Father which has sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.
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). He adds, “Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father” (John 6:65 John 6:65And he said, Therefore said I to you, that no man can come to me, except it were given to him of my Father.
American King James Version×
). It is a remarkable testimony to the mighty power of God that He can still reach us in spite of Satan’s influence, our flawed human nature and the pulls of this present evil world.

God issues the invitation. He draws our hearts toward Him. He grants us the desire to learn His ways, to submit our wills to Him. But our inclination is to resist submitting to His laws (Romans 8:7 Romans 8:7Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.
American King James Version×
). Yielding our will to God is truly a miracle: “For it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13 Philippians 2:13For it is God which works in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.
American King James Version×
).

Jesus uses the parable of the sower and the seed to illustrate people’s varied responses to the gospel. In the parable all hear the truth of God’s Word preached. But only those whom God calls grasp the truth and understand it. People respond differently to the message. You can read the parable of the sower and the seed in Matthew 13, where Jesus not only tells the story but explains what it means.

First Jesus explains the response of those who are not yet being called. They do not grasp what they hear. “When anyone hears the word of the kingdom, and does not understand it, then the wicked one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is he who received seed by the wayside” (Matthew 13:19 Matthew 13:19When any one hears the word of the kingdom, and understands it not, then comes the wicked one, and catches away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side.
American King James Version×
). Such people never comprehend the message and its significance.

Different responses of those who understand

Next He explains three different responses from those who do understand. God has opened their minds; they grasp the meaning. But they respond differently and for different reasons.

“But he who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles” (Matthew 13:20-21 Matthew 13:20-21 20 But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that hears the word, and immediately with joy receives it; 21 Yet has he not root in himself, but endures for a while: for when tribulation or persecution rises because of the word, by and by he is offended.
American King James Version×
).

This person’s first response is joyful acceptance, but he quickly retreats. Why? He backs off because of pressure from other people who do not understand. He cares more about what people think than what God thinks. He is afraid to rock the boat. Conforming to those around him is more important. The tribulation, or persecution, he experiences from trying to live God’s way of life makes him stumble. He rejects the calling from God.

“Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful” (Matthew 13:22 Matthew 13:22He also that received seed among the thorns is he that hears the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful.
American King James Version×
).

This person is not as concerned about the opinions of his peers. But he has another problem— selfishness. Maintaining his status and acquiring possessions consume his interest, time and energy. He has no time for God. He is too busy serving himself. Material things are more important than spiritual matters. He, too, rejects God’s calling.

“But he who received seed on the good ground is he who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty” (Matthew 13:23 Matthew 13:23But he that received seed into the good ground is he that hears the word, and understands it; which also bears fruit, and brings forth, some an hundred times, some sixty, some thirty.
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).

This person understands God’s Word and takes it seriously. He puts it into practice. He changes his life! This person was chosen for salvation. He put God first in his life.

Many are called. Many receive the opportunity for God to work in them “to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13 Philippians 2:13For it is God which works in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.
American King James Version×
). But only a few respond. Those few truly repent and surrender their will to God, making a commitment to obey His commandments. Those who respond to God’s calling are chosen by God because they choose to serve and obey Him and put Him first!

They must remain faithful

When God offers them an opportunity to serve Him, the choice is theirs. And that choice is not merely a one-time decision. They must commit themselves to that choice and persevere to the end (Matthew 24:13 Matthew 24:13But he that shall endure to the end, the same shall be saved.
American King James Version×
).

God has explained who His real disciples are. They are first called to repentance by having their minds opened to accurately understand the teachings of the Scriptures.

At the end of this age, resistant rulers of this world “will make war with the Lamb [the returning Jesus Christ], and the Lamb will overcome them, for He is Lord of lords and King of kings; and those who are with Him are called, chosen, and faithful” (Revelation 17:12-14 Revelation 17:12-14 12 And the ten horns which you saw are ten kings, which have received no kingdom as yet; but receive power as kings one hour with the beast. 13 These have one mind, and shall give their power and strength to the beast. 14 These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful.
American King James Version×
).

Notice that those who are with Christ are not just called and chosen; they are also faithful. Being called and chosen is not the end of the story. We must remain faithful to our calling to be saved.

At times we may be called upon to prove our faithfulness by enduring trials and overcoming obstacles to our faith as evidence of our continued commitment to serving God. His truly converted people are designated in the Scriptures as “the body of Christ” (1 Corinthians 12:27 1 Corinthians 12:27Now you are the body of Christ, and members in particular.
American King James Version×
) and “the church of the living God” (1 Timothy 3:15 1 Timothy 3:15But if I tarry long, that you may know how you ought to behave yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.
American King James Version×
).

God has explained who His real disciples are. They are first called to repentance by having their minds opened to accurately understand the teachings of the Scriptures.

If they respond by choosing to surrender their will to God so His Spirit can guide both their hearts and their conduct, they are chosen for salvation—to have a part in His eternal Kingdom. Then all who remain loyally obedient to Him are the true “called, chosen and faithful” people of God!

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