The Herald Weekly Vol XVII : 29

Concern for those who claim to be followers of Christ

At recent prayer meetings, some have shared about their concerns over colleagues who are not setting good examples in their work place. How do fellow-Christians respond to un-Christian behaviour exhibited by those who claim to be Christians?

Indeed, this is nothing new. The Apostle Paul, in 2 Timothy 3:1-9, warns us that “in the last days perilous times shall come.” He talks not only of persecution of the Church from outside the Church, but also of corruption of the Church from within. Men prefer to gratify their own lusts, more so than to please God and do their duty as followers of Christ. When even Christians become eager for what they can gain, and are anxious to keep what they have, this makes them even more dangerous to other believers.

In fact, the Apostle Paul warns us of certain characters who will appear in the last days, and they will appear in greater numbers as we see the day of Christ approaching. He spoke of men who “shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, truce breaker, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, high-minded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God”, he was not referring to people outside the Church. In fact, he was referring to people who were in the Church! The Apostle Paul is not a smooth-tongued preacher speaking to please his listeners. He spoke very clearly against followers of Christ who are “having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof” (vs 5).

Spurgeon spoke once on True religion:

“True religion is a spiritual thing but it necessarily embodies itself in a form. Man is a spiritual creature but the human spirit needs a body in which to enshrine itself. And thus, by this need, we become allied to materialism. And if not “half dust, half Deity,” as one has said, we are certainly both matter and soul. In each of us there is the form or body and the soul or power. It is so with religion – it is essentially a spiritual thing but it requires a form in which to embody and manifest itself. Christian people fall into a certain outward method of procedure, a peculiar outward mode of uttering their faith, which becomes to true godliness what the body is to the soul. The form is useful, the form is necessary, the form ought to be vitalized – just as the body is useful and is necessary and is vitalized by the soul. If you get both the form, as modeled in the Word of God and the power, as bestowed by the Spirit of God, you do well and are living Christians. If you get the power alone, without the ordained form, you somewhat maim yourself. But if you get the form without the power, then, you dwell in spiritual death” (Sermon on Form of Godliness without the Power).

Indeed, the body, without the spirit is dead. Thus, a Christian who goes around without the true power of the Holy Spirit will soon face decay in his spirit, and this leads to corruption and decomposition in his character. Judas Iscariot was one of Christ’s 12 apostles; He followed the Master, and was given charge of the treasury. He must have claimed to be one of Christ’s men, following a form of being with Christ, eating and drinking with Him. But he lacked the power which Christ promised to His followers. Before Christ ascended into heaven, He promised His followers that “ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be ye witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 1:8). Peter, one of Christ’s closest followers, was rebuked by the Master. Peter was warned that he would deny Christ thrice before the cock crew, and then Christ led to the judgement hall of Caiaphas, and later to die on the cross at Golgotha. But this same man experienced the power of Christ when he and the others in the upper room were filled with the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. And soon, Peter stood up to preach his famous sermon to a great multitude, and “the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls” (Acts 2:41). The Holy Spirit changed Peter, and from a fisherman, he became transformed into a fisher of men!

Forms of godliness

What was the Apostle Paul referring to when he mentioned “the form of godliness” or “holiness”? It is the attention to the ordinance of religion, referring specifically to Baptism, the Lord’s Supper. Those who follow Christ will obey Him with regard to these two ordinances, and in so doing exhibit in their bodies the form of godliness. Even non-believers know and are afraid when someone in their own family wishes to obey Christ with regards to these two ordinances. But neither Baptism nor the Lord’s Supper will secure one’s salvation in Christ. This means that being part of a godly or holy activity does not make the participants godly or holy. Going to church regularly does not ensure one of eternal life in Christ. Spurgeon said, “Where there is not the life of God in the soul, neither holiness or godliness follow upon the ordinances.”

Thus, it is sad for many who eagerly get baptized, and then move from one church to another, participating in different ways of commemorating the Lord’s Supper. These are guilty of presumption, falsehood, sacrilege and blasphemy. And some do it every Sunday!

What are other forms of godliness? It includes also attending worship service with God’s people, joining in prayer and praise. It includes listening to the preachers of God’s Word, to the testimonies of God’s people, the gathering of Christians for fellowship and for mutual help and support. These are forms of godliness. And for some, they follow in herd behaviour, like sheep without a shepherd, the aimless sheep following another aimless sheep, searching for greener pastures.

Some even go further than attending worship service. They also use a great deal of religious talk. They lead , and insist that others who follow them must do exactly what they do and say. They decorate their speech with godly phrases when they want to impress, and are full of self when others praise them for their forms of spirituality.

Are we sometimes guilty of following these forms of godliness? Do we also go to church and sit at worship service, following the crowd, and sometimes participate in activities which we do not necessarily understand or meaningfully follow? Sadly, all these are of no value without the power of the Holy Spirit.

Beloved, let us examine ourselves as we gather before God every Sunday. Are we just going through the motions, following the forms of godliness, but denying the power that only the Holy Spirit can give? We may be like Martha, busying ourselves with the ministry that we sometimes hold fast as our niche ministry in the Church. Yet when faced with so-called unsurmountable troubles at home or at work, we have no claim to the power that Jesus Christ promised to those who follow Him.

If you are one of those who are simply following a form of godliness, examine your heart today, and ask God for the power of the Holy Spirit that can change your life, your attitude, your desires and dreams. And as Christ tells Martha: “One thing is needful…” Let us sit at the feet of the Master, and learn just as Mary did. Let us do what we have been assigned to do diligently, and then let us sit quietly and listen to our Lord, and derive power from being in His Holy Presence, before we embark into another hectic week of trails and challenges. Pray also for friends or colleagues who claim to be followers of Christ; that God’s Holy Spirit will do a mighty work of change in their live so that other may see their good works and praised our Heavenly Father instead of them.

Pastor Bob
(1st printing 6 June 2010)

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