Discerning True & False
There are few honest people who, despite the fact they believe they have found the truth, will not admit that they have numerous unanswered questions about life, people, and religion. Throughout my life nagging questions have haunted me about all sorts of things, questions for which I could find no answers in the context of my religious or secular upbringing. These questions I either filed away in my mind hoping I might find answers to them at another time or else completed denied or suppressed them, for to consider them might have meant overturning parts of, or my entire, belief system.
There isn't a single religiously-, or even non-religiously-, minded person who does not, at sometime in his life, have to face questions whose answers seem too painful to bear. When a human being has invested the greater part of his life, energy, and passions in a particular belief structure, the last thing he wants to hear is that it might be wrong. He will fight a challenge tooth and nail.
To discover that one's whole basis of living is founded on false assumptions or premises is not unlike having invested one's entire fortune in an enterprise that is about to experience economic collapse. My parents, who spent much of their life in Malaysia, invested most of their modest earnings in Malayan tin-mines. They had worked hard, saved thriftily, and then put all their hard-earned income into an industry that was to later collapse because of fluctuating world prices. In their case, and in the thousands of other cases where wrong economic investments were made, it was too late. But is it ever too late in the moral or religious sphere?
I have met many people in my life who were deeply committed to their religion and who had invested all their life's energy in it. They were absolutely convinced that God had called them to it, or that the organisation they belonged to was God's only true organisation upon the face of the whole earth. In short, they believed that to change religion was to deny God's will and invite His severe displeasure. Their faith was built partly on conviction and partly on fear.
In my life I have passed through several religious organisations. Two of them claimed to be God's one and only true Church upon the face of the earth through whom, and through whom alone, salvation, true peace and eternal happiness could be dispensed. I have spent many years analysing the spiritual forms and structures of these organisations trying to understand what their foundation is and why so many people are attracted to them. Even more challenging was answering the question: How can these people often have powerful spiritual experiences that seem to so utterly convince them that they are in God's only true organisation or church?
Many groups, who have little or no belief in contemporary revelation, use only the scriptures in the Bible to argue their case for exclusive authority. Their claims are usually based on the claim that they have the correct doctrine, and that correct doctrine is the authority to claim exclusivity. When, after a time, they realise that their own doctrinal beliefs are wrong, they are usually forced to alter or change the basis on which they claim their authority. Typically, such groups will say that God works through fallible human beings and that enlightenment is a gradual process. Nevertheless, they are forced, because of their foundational claims to be God's exclusive representitives, to insist that they, and they alone, are God's expositors of God's Word. It is at this position that the organisation is held together not by light and truth but by a deliberate attempt to twist the scriptures to fit into a pre-conceived doctrine.
Such tinkering with the scriptures does not fool the more spiritually intelligent who are unprepared to paper over the numerous doctrinal inconsistencies and contradictions they see. Many continue to believe the organisation in faith, however, for they see no alternatives and lack the spiritual keys to unlock the web of deception that has bound them to a particular system of beliefs and practices. They are, for the most part, honest, but do not possess the tools or spiritual power to break free from the prison they increasingly find themselves to be in.
Then there is a totally different category of people who whilst believing in the Bible also either believe in more scriptures and/or in personal revelation. These people base their belief structures or testimonies not just on a network of doctrinal interpretations but on subjective feelings which are usually identified as the "Spirit" or Holy Spirit". Not infrequently, the subjective impressions carry more authority for them than the written Word itself so that when they are shown inconsistencies and contradictions in their doctrinal beliefs they immediately retreat behind a "testimony" or the "Holy Spirit". And since these phenomena are essentially beyond the realm of rational debate, it becomes impossible to discuss the merits or demerits of their position. It is their experience, they claim, which you have not had -- therefore there is no possibility for debate.
To a certain extent this position is true -- personal experience is just that -- personal. I cannot possibly enter into your realm of experience, nor you into mine. At least, that is what we are often led to believe. It is a convenient escape avenue for those who do not desire to face the truth but it is not an impregnable fortress for several reasons.
Firstly, there most certainly are realms of common experience which many souls may enter into collectively. There are times when more than one person is able to share the same vision, the same revelation, the same feeling, and even the same identity. There are moments of oneness where souls seem to briefly converge and experience the same thoughts, feelings and physical sensations.
There are times when the actualy Holy Spirit works on a soul empowering that soul so see right into the heart and mind of another individual. Jesus Himself was perhaps the best example of such a gift in action for He could read the hearts of men and women at ease. Most Christians would not deny this but they would deny that other human beings can do the same. Yet the gift of prophecy is one such gift that is given to people to enable them to see into other people's souls for the sole object of giving them ministry or service -- to help them out of a difficult situation in life, if they will respond.
Secondly, the human soul is not a collection of isolated parts. Our mind, heart, spirit, and body (to name but four) are not independent and disconnected parts of ourselves. Even though we are mortal and will loose our physical bodies temporarily one day, we are, while we are alive down here, essentially one being. What happens to one part of us affects every other part. Sometimes one part of us is more open than others. Some have open minds but closed hearts; some, closed hearts but open minds. But whatever their inner state, if the truth can reach one part, it will eventually filter into every other part also. But it may take time, often a very long time, especially if the channels of communication are blocked or narrow. If a person's heart is closed to a certain truth because their faith is built upon feelings, it is possible to reach their heart through the mind...eventually. Because we were built by God to be an integrated whole, a divided personality, as Jesus Himself taught, cannot stand for long. Eventually there must be a crisis and a fall.
There are many forces that maintain such imballances in human beings. Some are the result of unpleasant or painful experiences that create a sense of unworth -- a lack of belief in self. Such people are very much open to manipulation by unscrupulous people who play on their weaknesses by saying: "If you believe that, you'll go to hell!" Because they are insecure, their fear gets the better of them and they are held prisoner by threats of divine retribution if they try to leave the religious system or to challenge its supposed authority.
Some forces are the result of ignorance. The Bible underlines the importance of gaining wisdom in life so that we are no longer manipulated by unscrupulous men and women or by demonic powers. There are many trusting and believing people who, failing to see the wolf in sheep's clothing, end up as various religious organisations' dinners, loosing what free agency and self-respect they once had and becoming little more than slaves of the organisation.
Some forces are the result of egotism and pride. Many people don't want to admit they are wrong for fear of loosing esteem in the eyes of others. They would rather swallow a lie and maintain their dignity than admit they have been deceived.
Some forces are the result of a lust for power. Such men and women don't care what the truth is so long as they can get control over other people. They will happily manipulate truth and falsehood, and mix them in various ways, in order to keep people bound to them. They are perhaps the most dangerous of all for they are extremely subtle in their speech and behaviour and know how to twist words to their own advantage.
There are many other forces but these are sufficient to illustrate my point. I have met people from all categories and most of them are to be found in every kind of religious organisation and system. Whoever they are, and no matter what church they are in, they are prisoners. And eventually every prisoner yearns to be free.
The only way to work with such people is to patiently and lovingly teach them until the truth sinks deep and they are forced, by internal crisis, to face the truth of their inward condition. You will find examples of such people throughout the Bible -- people with pride, people with a lust for power, people living in insecurity and fear, people who are proud -- you will find a role model in someone somewhere in the scriptures.
Collectively these are a society of people whom are best described as those who are in some kind of inner prison. They are, often without knowing it, living in an inner hell. But because they have grown accustomed to this hell, they often do not know they are in it until some light-filled soul comes into their lives and shows, by contrast, the darkness they are in. Bringing such people into the light, and teaching them to break free through the omnipotent and all-loving Light of Christ, requires a sensitive, experienced, and dedicated ministry such as the New Covenant attempts to provide.
But really there is another completely different class of people whom I principally want to talk about. The world is full of those who are spiritual slaves to forces they cannot always understand. So long as there are dedicated disciples of Christ willing to spend time with them, and so long as these people's free agency is respected, then through the grace of God millions of souls will be freed. They are being freed all the time. Though I have focused primarily on Christians and pseudo-Christians who have not found the liberating Spirit of Jesus Christ, what I have said is applicable to anyone in any religion, and even atheists, all of whom are prisoners in different sets of circumstances. But for these, as well as for deceived and enslaved Christians, there remains the promise of release if only they will trust the living Christ.
This other class of people is an interesting one indeed. They would maintain, with some justification, that they are not the prisoners of the forces I have described above and yet continue to live out their separate doctrines and practices. Though I do not believe that they may necessarily 100% delivered from all these forces, I will accept that the love of God is sufficiently developed in their souls that they are not in the same category of prison as those who have had little contact with spiritual realms.
The people I am speaking of are those who are loving, active disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. They may have had all kinds of supernatural experiences in their lives -- they may have seen angels, had visions, received visions, spoken in tongues, or had any number of God's gifts expressed through them. Indeed, they have had so many such experiences that they are convinced that they are on the right path. Such people radiate self-confidence, warmth, great faith, and dedication to their vision of the Gospel. The presence of such people on the earth should be the object of our rejoicing, and indeed we of the New Covenant praise the Lord for His work amongst such.
But there are still questions. Let me give you an apparently perplexing example to illustrate what I mean. (All the cases I give, incidentally, are historically true). Conservative Mormons and Reorganized Latter Day Saints believe that they belong to God's one and only true Church upon the face of the earth, that everyone else is wrong even though they may possess some light. There are, incidentally, many dozens of other Latter Day Saint denominations, each teaching different doctrines, who believe in the same thing. As a point of statistical interest, there are over 7 million Mormons in the world and about ¼ million Reorganized Latter Day Saints. I mention this because one of the favourite devices used by groups to establish their clain to authority and truthfulness is the successfullness of their missionary program. But we must not forget that other groups like Jehovah's Witnesses, Seventh Day Adventists, Baptists and Pentecostals are enjoying explosions of membership growth equal to, if not greater than, the Mormon Church. In numerical strength, the Catholics are the largest denomination in the world. As a final point, the Bible teaches that in the latter days the true Christians will only constitute a small remnant people.
But back to our Mormon and RLDS example. As a matter of interest, I have been a member of both these churches and know them rather well. Therefore these questions were, at one time, quite agonising for me for which there seemed to be no apparent solution.
I have read many accounts by sincere, honest people in both Churches who, through visions, angel manifestations, and burnings of the Holy Spirit, have been able to say, without any deceit in their hearts, that they knew their respective churches were true. Each have claimed to study out the doctrines and practices of their church in the light of scripture and experience and have been led, as they believe, by a supernatural process, to know they belong to the "one and only true church upon the face of the earth". Numerous confirming experiences throughout their lives have reinforced these testimonies or beliefs, like manifestations in their temples, angel help in missionary work, etc.. To challenge these testimonies would be, to them, the height of absurdity.
I have read about, and met people, with the same kinds of convictions, with the same kinds of experiences, in other Churches and groups who are not Latter Day Saint. Each of these people were bringing forth the fruits of the Gospel taught by Jesus as the means by which His disciples could be indentified1. If we are to judge by the fruits, then one is eventually forced to the conclusion that there are true Christians everywhere whether they are Mormons, Reorganized Latter Day Saints, Baptists, Penetecostals, Lutherans, Catholics, or even people with no membership in any religious denomination at all.
But even this is too simplistic an answer. How can these people, who are all teaching contradictory doctrines and practices, all possibly be right? How could a Lutheran, who believes in the sprinkling of babies, and a Mormon, who believes in baptism by immersion of those who have reached the age of accountability, both be right? And how could they both be bringing the same fruits of the Holy Spirit?
The trouble with so many of our questions is that they are the wrong questions. We have a tendency to formulate questions around our own expectations and needs. If I want to to find a "true church" then that is what I will go looking for. If I have certain fears and prejudices then I will avoid churches that challenge those fears and restructure my questions accordingly.
Let me give you an example. There is one denomination which asks its investigators: "Would you like to be led by a living prophet?" And the answer expected is either a "yes" or a "no". But is such a question valid? Does the Bible teach that Christ's New Testament Church is to be led by a prophet as, for example, ancient Israel was? Another denomination asks: "Do you believe in the Trinity?" If you answer "yes" you are "one of them"; if you answer "no" you are a heretic and bound for hell. But where in the Bible is there even a mention of a "Trinity"? Does believing in a doctrine, evolved by Christians centuries after the death of Christ, qualify or disqualify a person for heaven? Another denomination asks: "Are you willing to live the Saturday sabbath?" If you reply "yes", then you have passed an important test of faithfulness; if you reply "no", you are a profitless and faithless servant.
There are thousands and thousands of such questions Christians and non-Christians are asked by various groups. Each and every one of these questions is designed to steer a man or woman along a particular road or track that leads to a system of belief. According to the many sects, it is only by accepting and living the correct "collection" of doctrines and beliefs, or "system", that a person can be saved.
In the end, we find ourselves with a variation of Phariseeism. The Pharisees in Jesus' day invented a whole codex of laws, obedience to which made a man a true Jew. These laws and regulations, most of which were the inventions of men, were codified in a book called the Talmud. Jesus rejected this whole system of religion, accusing the Pharisees of placing burdens upon the people too great to bear2.
Throughout His life Jesus simplified the Law rather than try to make it more complex. Yet the surprising thing was that He did not dilute the Law by any means -- he went as far as to say that not one full-stop in the Law would pass away3 until all prophecy had been fulfilled and God has established His New Heaven and New Earth. He even reduced the foundation-stone of the Law -- the 10 Commandments -- to a mere Two Commandments4.
I don't think that people realise just what He did when He taught this revolutionary doctrine. His purpose in condensing the Law, as it were, was to get people to ask questions in a totally different way. He took the Ten Commandments and reduced them to: Love the Lord with your might, mind and strength. And then He said there was another law like the first one -- Love your neighbour as you would yourself.
Do you see what He did in this one masterly stroke? He totally redefined the way in which believers are to ask questions. No longer are we to measure a person's faithfulness in terms of obedience to thousands of commandments, great and small, but in terms of two things only: our love for God, and our love for each other.
This astonishing teaching is, in fact, also designed to show us how God judges us. God does not judge you as to your faithfulness in following a living prophet, baptising in the correct way, observing a Saturday sabbath, or any other outer rule or regulation, BUT ON HOW YOU LOVE YOUR CREATOR AND HIS CHILDREN. The questions we therefore ought to be asking ourselves are these: Does following a living prophet make me more loving toward God and His children? Does baptising by immersion make me more loving toward God and His children? Does observing the Saturday Sabbath make me more loving toward God and my fellow man? If your answer is NO, and you continue to follow this belief, then you are sinning against God and yourself!!
Now this is a revolutionary doctrine indeed but if you look carefully at the teachings of Paul you will find that this is just what the Christian Gospel is. Turn with me for a moment to the fourteenth chapter of Paul's letter to the Romans to see a very interesting teaching indeed. Here Paul is talking about the advisability of eating meat or of being a vegetarian. He writes: "But the man who has doubts is condemned by what he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and EVERYTHING THAT DOES NOT COME FROM FAITH IS SIN"5
Wow! Do you understand the implications of this teaching? If eating meet leads to an agony of conscience and someone forces you to eat meat because God says we can eat whatever we want, then you are commiting sin! (And that person is sinning against you). You will not be able to live in peace with your soul and will not, in consequence, be able to love to the fullness. A man or woman can only love if they are at peace in their soul.
Now before I go on I wish to stress emphatically that I am not teaching that you can go and believe and do whatever you want to. All the commandments that have ever been given remain true. God has not abrogated them. He occasionally brings them to a higher level of light but He does not abolish them, unless they have been fulfilled in some way. The moral laws of the Gospel, the ethical principles, the true teachings about God and man remain eternally fixed. Nevertheless, there is not a single living soul upon the earth who knows all of them. Indeed, the Bible teaches that there is not a single man who lives in a state of sinlessness. All, we are told, have sinned, and all have fallen short of the glory of the Lord6. So if you're trying to be perfect through your own efforts, you are going to be permanently frustrated. You can't. And that is not the law of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Throughout the New Testament we are told that we are made right with God through our faith7. Our faith is the ultimate basis upon which we must build our spiritual life. And the ultimate justification of our faith is the love that we bring forth toward God and our fellow man8. In his masterful discourse in the Thirteenth Chapter of the Book of First Corinthians, Paul explains that all that matters in the end is love. It's the only thing, apart from wisdom and the accumulated experiences of life on earth, that we can take to heaven with us. Without it, nothing else matters.
These two great keys -- faith and love -- unlock every mystery in the Bible. These are the only lenses that God looks down at us through. If you are a Mormon and believe, in faith, that you belong to the "one and only true church", and are bringing forth the fruits of love to God and your fellow man, then you are justified in His eyes and God will work miracles through you. If you are a Pentecostal who believes that a man is not born again until he speaks in tongues, and are bringing forth the fruits of love of God and your fellow man, then you are justified in His eyes and God will work miracles through you.
Do you see? But, alas, that is not the end of the story. It would be too simple if it were so, for it would mean that we could go and do whatever we liked. The last great key in this puzzle of church denominations, beliefs, and practices is to be found in the Book of Acts, seventeeth chapter where Paul says: "In the past GOD OVERLOOKED SUCH IGNORANCE, but now He commands ALL PEOPLE EVERYWHERE TO REPENT"9. Here is it, the third key, that will not allow us to escape from doctrinal truth -- in the days of our ignorance, God justifies our faith. But once He gives us more light and truth, HE EXPECTS US TO ACT UPON IT. WE ARE NO LONGER JUSTIFIED IN IGNORING IT.
Brethren and sisters, friends and visitors, do not be deceived. Do not exploit God's grace to you. In the days of your ignorance He blessed you with signs and miracles, but now, in the days of your knowledge, you can no longer resist the greater truth that He is giving you. It is one thing to act in faith, out of ignorance, but another to try to continue along the wrong path knowing that you are wrong. To do so will never give you peace. To resist the truth is deny the grace and love of God. Once you have denied it, you can never have the same kind of love back again that you had before10. You can never have the same kind of supernatural experiences that the Lord blessed you with in the days of your faith and ignorance....unless you respond to the Light and adjust your way of living.
If someone shows you by "many infallible proofs"11 from the scriptures that something you believe in is false -- something that you have believed on in faith -- then if you deny the greater light you have been given, you deny the God who gives it and are no longer justified by faith. It doesn't matter if what you have been taught is uncomfortable to you for God does not justify a man or woman on the basis of whether a doctrine or practice is "confortable" or not -- He justifies us according to our faith in His Word on our particular level of knowledge. So don't get upset with the Lord if you resist a truth and no longer live with a peaceful conscience, and no longer enjoy the same fruits of the Holy Spirit which you enjoyed in the days of your ignorance -- but "repent, and turn away from all your offenses; then sin will not be your downfall", says the Lord through His servant Ezekiel12. "Repent," says Jesus, "for the Kingdom of God is near"13.
Friends, if the Kingdom of God -- which is the presence of God in your life14 -- is far away, or not as close as it used to be, it is because you have not adequately repented of your transgressions based on the knowledge of the truth that you have. Has perhaps someone challenged you in a pet doctrinal belief that you cannot support from the scriptures? Well, now is the time to re-examine that belief privately with the Lord without fear of what an organisation tells you is right or wrong. You must, as Paul challenges the Thessalonians, "test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil"15. Have you not acted on a commandment when you knew it was right? Act on it immediately. Don't delay. If you do, then how can God justify you? How can you live a life of faith? Paul said: "Without faith it is impossible to please God"16.
The Christian life is based on faith. Without it, a Christian (if that is what he still is) is dead. It is this marvelous gift called faith that brings forth so many beautiful fruits of the Holy Spirit in so many different churches. But that faith must always be rooted in the knowledge a person has at any one time. Once a greater light or knowledge comes, then the former faith is no longer sufficient, for faith is only sustained by the knowledge of truth that we have at any one particular time.
It is my testimony that these principles are true. I know that I could never return to my former beliefs today because God has blessed me, through His grace, with a greater Light. Everybody who has been through this New Covenant will tell you the same thing. And those who have fallen out of it and searched for churches with equal or greater light, have never been able to find it. That is not to say that we are perfect -- it is not to say that we, in the New Covenant, are the "only true church upon the face of the earth -- for we are neither of these things. But all of us who are here have been gathered by God because we were willing to accept the challenge of a greater revelation of Jesus Christ. And none of us, despite the struggles of adjusting to new truth, would ever regret it.
Those who have fallen away and come back will testify that this is true. And those who have fallen away, and who are now alone because they cannot find an equal or greater light, would say the same thing if only they were honest with themselves and repented. Now I say this not because of any special righteousness that we have as a people, for we know that we are like all human flesh everywhere -- weak and sinful. We are not an especially righteous people even though we desire to be. But we have what we have through the infinite love and grace of God the Father who has responded to our need because of our faith.
So, be slow in your judgment of other people whom God is blessing because of their faith and love. Rejoice in what they have. Do not judge them on the basis of the churches or organisations to which they belong, or the doctrine they believe. So many people only have a token belief in doctrines, and anyway -- what they hunger and thirst for is the righteousness of God in their lives. To judge them wrongly is folly indeed.
Do not put boundaries on God and tell Him who, or who not, to bless. Do not make blanket condemnations of people because they belong to a certain church -- remember that you too once belonged to these churches and God blessed you when you were in them according to the purity and faith of your heart. Rather, identify with their needs, sympathise with their dilemmas, and lead them gently in the Light that you have. For you too will yet have struggles, and face dilemmas, and not know how to answer questions that haunt you. Time and experience will provide the answers, through God's grace. Don't try to force God's hand -- act in faith until He reveals to you what you need. And remember, He won't necessarily reveal everything -- we are supposed to walk in faith in this life. We are not supposed to have a perfect knowledge here in all things. Equally, we should not remain deliberately ignorant for this is a great sin against the light.
It is my prayer that you have been challenged to be more honest with yourselves in your search for the truth. Be faithful to what you have but don't fail to respond when the Lord brings you a greater light. The truth, like the pearl of great price, must not be missed. As Jesus taught in the parable, when a greater pearl -- a great truth -- comes along our way, we must be prepared to sell everything that we have to get it17. God reveals His Kingdom to us in proportion to our willingness to receive it. To some He gives a little, so some He gives more18, depending on their faith. You who are in this New Covenant are here because of your great faith; and thus the Lord has rewarded you with much light and enabled you to multiply the Light of Christ in your lives. And not so many have shown forth this faith. So be thankful and don't misplace the trust the Lord has put in you.
What we have here in the New Covenant is free because it is given by the grace of God. But you must pay a heavy price. Nothing that is worth anything comes easily. It means enormous readjustments in your lives, great dedication to the Lord, and a consuming love for the Lord Jesus Christ. This Gospel is not for the half-hearted but for those who are committed, obedient, loyal, and loving disciples. It demands that you give up everything that is false in your lives but at the same time invites you to bring along everything that was good from your past experience in other churches and in life in general. Your wisdom, your experiences from the past, are a part of our collective treasure, and are valued.
Brethren and sisters, these are the end times. There are so many signs that the truth should be evident to any serious student of scripture. We have much to do. I invite you to join togther with me in this great task of Restoration and take the message of Christ into all the world without delay. May His holy Name be praised, is my prayer in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
- 1. Matthew 7:16,20
- 2. Matthew 23:4
- 3. Matthew 5:18
- 4. Mark 12:30-32
- 5. Romans 14:23, NIV
- 6. Romans 3:23; 5:12
- 7. Romans 3:28; 5:1; Galatians 3:24
- 8. John 13:34; 15:12,17; Romans 13:8; 1 Thessalonians 4:9; 1 Peter 1:22; 1 John 3:11,23; 4:7,11-12; 2 John 1:5
- 9. Acts 17:30, NIV
- 10. Hebrews 6:6
- 11. Acts 1:3, AV
- 12. Ezekiel 14:6, NIV
- 13. Mark 3:2
- 14. Luke 7:21
- 15. 1 Thessalonians 5:21, NIV
- 16. Hebrews 11:6, AV
- 17. Matthew 13:46
- 18. Matthew 25:14-30
This page was created on 31 December 1997
Updated on 21 February 1998
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