All that has been said thus far fairly screams the question: How do we tell the difference between those who are sent of God and those who represent religion? What yardstick can we use?
There is no human yardstick, no human barometer that will do. Yesterday’s religion always blinds men to the present tense voice of God. Signs, wonders, experiences, feelings — these, too, are no gauge of anything. A strong emphasis on adhering to the letter of the word is insufficient as well. The Jews had that to no avail (John 5:39-40). Do you truly understand the scriptures? Whose interpretation is the right one? Scholars who’ve devoted a lifetime of study to the scriptures, delving into the Greek, the Hebrew and the Aramaic differ greatly as to its meaning.
Jesus Himself gives us the key in John 7:16-17: “My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me. If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.”
The true servant of God gives out truth, not handed down by religion, not dug out by human study and reasoning, but revealed to him by God. Of course, revealed truth is not something apart from the scriptures but is a proper understanding and application of them. Flee from any who claim they have gone beyond the Bible and beyond the church.
Revealed truth, however, will only be recognized and appreciated by a certain kind of hearer — the one whose will is surrendered to God, the one who desires God’s will in his life above his own.
Our natural wills are totally contrary to God. Multitudes are blind and deaf to God because of “their” religion, “their” church, “their” ideas, “their” family, “their” interests, “their” lusts and desires, “their” plans and ambitions, “their” friends — in short — “their” life. They hold the reins of their own life and have no desire for anything that threatens that.
The very things men cling to in rejecting God are but chains that bind them to a world marked for destruction and make them easy prey for the devil and his demons. What men call liberty is the very thing that makes them slaves to sin and death. Only surrender to God brings freedom.
Abraham is a beautiful type. He was called to leave his family, friends and country for a land he had never seen. Gen. 12:1-3. I have no doubt he loved his family and friends and was happy and comfortable right where he was. Nevertheless when God’s command — and promise — came he obeyed. His obedience was an act of faith in the One who had spoken.
In the course of time, Abraham was called upon numerous times to believe, or to place his trust in God, and God counted Abraham’s faith as righteousness. Gen. 15:6. In reality, faith and obedience are all we can offer God. We certainly cannot produce any righteousness in ourselves that He will accept. Praise God! He has provided all we need in Christ!
The commitment of will necessary in order to know is not a halfway thing. It is a commitment to walk in that knowledge even as Abraham did. Anything less is unbelief. We cannot expect God to reveal Himself to us only to satisfy our curiosity. We cannot say, “Thank you for the interesting revelation of truth, God,” and then go on unchanged to live our own lives. If that is your approach, I strongly question the source of any “revelation” you have supposedly received. There is no substitute for a will surrendered to do His will — before we know what that will is! That is faith!
It may seem strange to emphasize our wills after what we have said about God’s sovereignty in salvation. However, God does not trample upon our wills. We are not puppets dancing on a string. God works with our wills. If He didn’t we could never will to do His will.
God’s sovereignty does not relieve us of our responsibility to repent and believe, to exercise our wills to cooperate with Him. In fact His sovereignty is what makes that possible!
I love the illustration I’ve heard Brother Thomas use on many occasions. He said that salvation is like a man who walks up to a door upon which there is a sign that reads, “Whosoever Will.” The man responds, “That means me,” and goes through the door. After passing through he turns and looks back and on the inside of the door are the words: “Chosen in him before the foundation of the world”!
Jesus gave a wonderful promise in John 7:17 to one who wills to do his will. He said, “he shall know.” Know what? The issue was the source of the message. Was Jesus just expressing his own ideas or was he giving out God’s message? That’s the same issue we face today. Is the preaching we hear living water from above or is it something else — a clever substitute? The promise still applies! We can know!
How can we know? How does this knowledge come? The same way Peter knew that Jesus was the Christ — God’s anointed. Matt. 16:16-17. It was revealed to him by the Father. That truth has never changed. The only way we can recognize and distinguish those God sends is by revelation. This revelation is not some great experience or feeling. It is a God-given inward knowledge and conviction. It is hearing a man speak and having God witness to your heart, “This is My word.”
Are you a candidate? Is God and His will and truth more important to you personally than “your” church, “your” ideas, all the things enumerated above: “your” life? Are you willing to leave all and follow Him? Jesus said, “So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.” Luke 14:33.
You can know, but it will cost you your life. That seems a small price to pay, however when it dawns upon you that what you are asked to give up is something you can’t keep anyway! Jesus said, “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.” Matt. 16:25.
Giving up your life is like a man who gives up a small leaky row boat, tossed about in a tempest with no destination and no hope, for a mighty ship on a sure course for a safe harbor. Christ Himself is the captain of that mighty ship! He has all the resources of heaven at his disposal to bring every one of God’s elect safely home!
The revelation of one to whom God has committed a true ministry of His word is but the first step. That is why Jesus said, “If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” John 8:31-32.
A disciple is a “learner.” The truth God would impart to us is not something that we can receive all at once. It is an ongoing process. It always involves a good deal of “unlearning” of things we thought we knew — especially for those exposed to much religion. This is where many stumble. Some aspect of their religion is so deeply rooted that they become unwilling to change. Though God mightily anoints someone with truth to help and deliver them from their religious captivity they simply cannot let go of their ideas.
Hosea 6:3 says, “Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the Lord …” Following on is a process, not a passing fancy. It is a persistence that is not deterred from its course. It is the focus of one’s life. It is the unswerving pursuit of a worthy goal: “Then shall we know.”
Following on involves a continued recognition that we do not presently know all that God in His infinite love desires to share with us as we wait upon His teaching. Yet we follow on in faith that God “is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” Heb. 11:6.
“Seeking him” implies an effort put forth toward God. It means positive action in response to the promise: “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock and it shall be opened unto you.” Matt. 7:7.
“Diligence” means never giving up. It means giving our seeking a priority over other things in our lives. It is an effort that is deadly serious and persistent rather than casual and occasional.
Paul gave up everything “for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord.” Phil. 3:8. In verse 14 he said, “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”
Of course, God’s calling involves a transformation from what we are to what He has purposed that we become: “conformed to the image of his Son.” Rom. 8:29. A growing knowledge of truth is a necessary ingredient in that transformation. How can we become a glorious church without spot, wrinkle or blemish apart from the washing of water by the word? Eph. 5:26-27. Where, in our present sea of religious confusion is the word that can accomplish that? It simply cannot be found in religion.
The voice of religion serves merely to preserve itself and to extend its influence. God has not forgotten His remnant, however. His voice is in the earth today to accomplish what He has promised. His faithfulness will prevail to finish the job in them that are His!