I wish it was possible to post a disclaimer at the front of every church building: "Don't expect that every person in attendance is a disciple of Jesus Christ". I think more elders and pastors should start assuming the opposite, that most in attendance may be believers but not necessarily disciples. It is true that most of the churches are filled with believers but even demons believe. Our churches are suppose to be filled with disciples and it is a disciple who allows Jesus to shine through them. Believers believe but do pretty well whatever they feel like doing. So why doesn't God do something about it?
Seriously, why doesn't God weed out the pretenders from the true followers? I am not being unkind with the term "pretenders" because it is an accurate term. They can be referred to as pretenders, actors, or, the word the Bible uses, hypocrites, which means stage actors; ones who pretend to be what they are not. It is possible to be a pretender without knowing it. They are simply people who think that believing in Jesus means conforming to the actions of those around them, not understanding that to be a disciple, a follower of Jesus Christ is to allow ourselves to be transformed from the inside out. But I have digressed from my question: Why doesn't God weed out the pretenders?
Jesus told a parable about a farmer who planted good seed but in the night the enemy came in and sowed weeds among the good seeds. As the plants began to grow the workers reported the fact that weeds were growing in the fields. They asked the farmer if he wanted them to pull the weeds. Knowing that weeds can steal nutrients from the good plants, I find the response of the farmer interesting:
“‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’” (Matthew 13:29-30)
If there are any who doubt my words about the pretenders in the Church this parable from Jesus should be enough to settle it in your mind. Just as it is easy for the farmer to tell the weeds from the wheat it is easy for Jesus to tell the pretenders from disciples. It should be fairly easy for the disciples to tell the difference as well. We can actually smell the aroma of Jesus on each other. We also have the evidence of the fruit of the Spirit. The manifestation of the Spirit can be faked but the fruit of the Spirit demonstrated over time cannot.
So the question comes to my mind of why I am sharing this with you. Should we be turning people out from our churches, the gossips, the trouble makers, the contrary, the braggarts, the selfish? Certainly not. Jesus said there will be a day when the pretenders get separated from the disciples. There is another reason for leaving them, besides the horrible feeling it would cause by turning people out from the Church. In the Kingdom a "weed" is not forced to remain a "weed". In the Kingdom it is possible for the pretender to be transformed into a new creation. I personally believe it is a harder thing to do than to see a blind man healed. Pretenders think they are okay and the problem is with everyone else. Pretenders have very stubborn and hard hearts. Pretenders resent any attempt to get them to see the error of their perspective. It takes a real miracle to see a mere believer changed into a disciple. It's a good thing we have the great miracle worker as our Lord.
We need to keep this fact in mind as we minister in and out of the Church and not lose patience with what we experience. It is important that pastors and elders keep it in mind so they do not put such people in places of authority. Often we go with what we see and we "promote" people of talent instead of people with anointing. This is sure to end in heartache for many people as the pretenders take authority over disciples. We need to do everything we can to avoid it and it is possible when we rely on the Spirit instead of our eyes and our "feelings".
To believers and disciples of Jesus Christ I simply say, examine your hearts. You should be able to find plenty of evidence that you are a disciple. You should be able to see the fruit of the Spirit, you should be moved by the compassion of Christ, there should be a love of the lost, there should be a desire to see them saved, a desire that pushes you into action. If instead you find this, "hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies," (Galatians 5:20-21) you have yet to turn your life over to Jesus. If you have anything to do with these, "sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft", (Galatians 5:19-20) you should have no doubt at all that you are a pretender because anyone filled with the Spirit can have nothing to do with these. I would encourage you to turn to a disciple who you trust and seek their help in getting this straightened out today. This same passage contains this warning: "I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God." (Galatians 5:21)
Let us not make assumptions and let us strive everyday to do as Paul instructed Timothy:
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:15)
Let's not make the same mistake the Israelites did and consider we have the privilege of entitlement simply because we come from a Christian home, attend church and know how to sing songs of worship. We need a relationship with Jesus that changes us from the inside out. We need a relationship that is alive and vibrant every day. We need to be surrendered to the Spirit and open to instruction. We need to be disciples.