Sharon Liu had a fun family day planned at the zoo. She wanted to show her son all of the amusing and unique animals, especially the different sounds they make. They had approached a cage labeled “African Lion” when Liu’s son astutely pointed out that this “Lion” was barking. It turns out this “Lion” was actually a Tibetan mastiff, a very large and longhaired dog (Pictured Above). Apparently the zoo had been trying to deceive people, and this wasn’t the first time they had done this.
It usually isn’t hard to tell something is fake when we know what the genuine article looks like. Sometimes the difference is so glaring that even a child can tell the difference. The same is true in the church. Today there is a lot of religious confusion. There are massive amounts of literature and influential people out there who to muddy the waters, but it still isn’t too difficult to figure out what truth looks like in religion. Even though it is a little lengthy, Jesus provided some awesome information about how to distinguish true religion and true Christians:
“Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will know them by their fruits. Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness’” (Matthew 7:15-23).
So, in our pursuit for true religion, the true church, and true Christians, how will we be able to tell them apart?
First, we look at their fruits. Are they unifying or dividing the church? Are they consistent or two faced in their lives? Do they engage in sinful practices? Do they teach things not found in the Bible? Certainly there are many other ways to tell a “wolf in sheep’s clothing,” but the fruits they produce will tell us a lot about them.
Second, we check if they are doing the “will of the Father in heaven.” To put this another way, we compare their lives and teachings with Scripture. Jesus just clearly stated that not all religious people (those who say “Lord, Lord”) are going to heaven, but rather those who are doing God’s will. Therefore, are their teachings consistent with the Bible? Are they trying to loosen up on commands in Scripture? Do they fit the mold of the New Testament church in regard to its leadership, worship, name, and teachings on salvation (1 Timothy 3; Romans 16:16; Acts 2:38ff, etc)?
To put it bluntly, if any congregation or anyone does not follow the mold in Scripture then they simply aren’t a part of the true church. Jesus even calls them, “wolves in sheep’s clothing.” This statement isn’t meant to be harsh, just truthful.
It is going to take some work and some study to figure out the religious fakes, but we don’t have to do it alone. Together we can sit down and figure out strictly what the Bible says. If there is any way we can help you in this pursuit, don’t hesitate to ask. We can guarantee that the answers will come straight from Scripture and not from opinion. After all, in this life it is not about who is right, but what is right (God’s Word).
The true church and true Christians are out there. Let’s not be deceived by a barking lion or a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Let’s identify the truth and stick with it.