I have been asked this question more than a few times. “How do I find the true church of God?” Or the variation of the question is “How do I find the truth?” Sometimes I have to ask for clarification from the person asking one of these questions, what do you mean by “the truth” as many wouldn’t know it if they ran straight into it in broad daylight! Why is that? I’ll answer that question in just a minute.
There are groups around the world that will readily stand up and without hesitation state that they and they alone are the “True Church” or that they and they alone have the truth of God and that you need to come to them to get it. In fact they derive power from telling you what the Bible says. Does the scripture support such an attitude?
Let’s look at some scriptures and see. Let’s start here, as this is where I left off in my last article about Christ knowing all Christians.
16 You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thorn bushes or figs from thistles?
17 Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.
18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit.
19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
20 Therefore by their fruits you will know them.
So what kind of fruit would a Church of God produce? How can you know that a certain group is part of the Church that Christ talks about in the Scriptures? I refrain from using the words “The Church of God” as “The Church of God” is all encompassing of the total work that God is doing in all of the collective churches that follow Him. Having said that we just identified one of the fruits that you should be looking for.
- One of the identifying fruits of a Church of God is a church that follows God’s teachings and doesn’t just make up traditions to please themselves as many do today.
7 Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying:
8 ‘These people draw near to Me with their mouth, And honor Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me.
9 And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.'”
Man has a great imagination in coming up with counterfeit days to keep as Holy in place of the days that God said were to be Holy. Man simply offers the statement “well we just don’t look at it like that” but how does that make it right with God?
God expects us to live by the rules of His house! God is the Master Builder! God is our eternal Father and He knows how to run His household. If we are to be His children (Forever) then we need to learn the rules of the house! If we choose not to live by the rules, then we have no chance of being with God for eternity.
As Christ said in Matt 4:4 It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”
God expects us to live our lives in accordance with His ways and not by some way that we make up or think will be pleasing to God.
God allows us to be tested with various trials and watches to see how we will react. Will we choose God’s way or will we choose Satan’s way? That is what God is allowing us to learn. When we choose wrong, we pay the consequences and sometimes the consequences are rather harsh. Just as some of us are parents, we have to make our own children aware that all decisions, good or bad, have consequences.
Jesus Christ has offered all of us who will come and follow Him an undeserved pardon from all of the mistakes that we have ever made. Do you understand what was just said here? I hope that you do but it is sad to realize that there are millions of people who can’t grasp that one thought. To say that Christ just offered that to only just one Church organization is a stretch to say the least and maybe even limiting the power of God!
So how can we know if Christ is working in a group or Church other than the ones we know about?
I have taken this quote from Christ’s own words to make the point that there are other sheep that we don’t know about. Notice the scripture that I have underlined!
11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.
12 But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them.
13 The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep.
14 I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own.
15 As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep.
16 And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd.
17 Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again.
In due time there will be “ONE” flock under “ONE” Shepherd. That Shepherd being Jesus Christ of course.
Did you notice the words in verse 11 and 12 talking about what the shepherd should be willing to do to protect the sheep? True shepherds stand fast with the Word of God and are not blown about with every new wind of Doctrine that comes down the pike. When you look into most of these so called “New Truths” they are actually not new at all but they are some old argument that resurfaces when new people that are untrained in scripture discover what they think God has revealed to only them. It only appears that they are the only one’s who understands it because those who have researched it know why it is false. They usually present it in a way that is offensive and to challenge established Doctrine that has produced good fruit.
When they can no longer get someone to see their “new truth” they usually end up leaving their Church and try to take as many people with them as they can. Men have fallen for this trap over and over again and instead of following Christ they end up following a man! There is a time when a Minister should leave an established Church and that is when the Church leaders as a whole fall into error and stop teaching what has been proven to be true doctrine. That proof of that doctrine being the fruit that it produced.
This brings us to the second fruit that you should be looking for to identify God’s Churches and God’s people.
- The shepherds of God’s people are not hirelings who flee at the first sign of trouble. Instead they stand fast and protect the flock from trouble that endangers or scatters the flock.
It is sad to say but I have witnessed many ministers, some within the corporate Church’s of God and some from other denominations, who allowed teachings from scripture to be perverted; even twisted and were afraid to stand up and teach the things from scripture that have been tried, proven and tested over the years to produce good fruit.
This identifies another fruit of God’s Churches:
- God’s Churches teach from sound doctrines that have been proven to come from sound study taken from all the word of God and not just a few choice passages.
These are not Churches that just spring up overnight but are Churches lead by men who have studied and meditated for years on the Word of God and asked for God’s Spirit to guide them in preaching the Gospel to the entire world.
So how can you know what produces good fruit and what produces bad fruit? This is not an easy question to answer as we have come to understand that Satan is out to deceive the whole world and if one is deceived, they simply cannot see what God is doing today. There are false teachers and false messages even though the message that they preach is about Christ! The Apostle Paul said that they preached a different Christ.
2 Cor 11:4
4 For if he who comes preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or if you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted–you may well put up with it!
So why would God allow anyone to be deceived? That is a great question and one that simply confuses many! The answer has to do with the understanding of God’s timing to complete salvation for all mankind. Some ministers preach that if you do not accept Christ in this physical life today, then you are just lost forever. Does that agree with scripture? No it does not! Else why would Christ have needed to speak in parables?
The Apostles asked Christ why He did not speak plainly and this is what He said.
10 And the disciples came and said to Him, “Why do You speak to them in parables?”
11 He answered and said to them, “Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.
12 For whoever has, to him more will be given, and he will have abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him.
13 Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.
14 And in them the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled, which says: ‘Hearing you will hear and shall not understand, And seeing you will see and not perceive;
15 For the hearts of this people have grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, And their eyes they have closed, Lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, So that I should heal them.’
16 “But blessed are your eyes for they see, and your ears for they hear;
17 for assuredly, I say to you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.
Please understand that God is not cruel! God intends for all mankind to have a chance to understand Him and to know what He expects from each one of us. But there is an order to what God is doing and where each person fits in that order.
2 Peter 3:9
9 The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.
The problem in the scripture above lies in that not many understand the timing of when everyone is to come to repentance.
Here is how God laid out the plan. [My comments are in brackets]
We will start with the chapter commonly known as “The Resurrection Chapter”.
1 Cor 15:20-26
20 But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. [Notice that Christ is the First of those who have fallen asleep or as we understand to mean, had died]
21 For since by man came death, [We know that Adam sinned and brought the death penalty to all of man] by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. [This Man is Christ]
22 For as in Adam all die [sleep], even so in Christ all shall be made alive [resurrected].
23 But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming. [This is talking about the first resurrection. Christ being the first and then those of us who belong to Christ being resurrected at His coming. Those who are not Christ’s are resurrected later as we shall see]
The order is what people have not been taught today. Would God just forget the small child that lived only a day and never learned to talk or walk? How could this human being ever have a chance to know God? I think God is bigger and more full of love and compassion than even we give Him credit for. Let’s look at the rest of the plan.
Here is the rest of the timing as it is relative to our Salvation:
5 But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. [Many Churches today do not even teach these resurrections]
6 Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection [These are the firstfruits or first born]. Over such the second death [eternal death] has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years. [This is when Christ teaches all of the first fruits how He wants us to teach and work with the rest of mankind. This is when we learn how to explain all the things in scripture that aren’t as clear as we would like today.]
So when does the rest of mankind get their chance to understand and respond?
Well we just read the scripture that tells us. After the thousand years are finished! Yes, read it again. That is what it says!
It says the “Rest” of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished. The “Saints” or the “firstfruits” are the ones God is calling now. They are like the firstborn of Israel and accordingly they also have a greater responsibility. The firstborn in scripture also had a double reward. That is why it says “blessed and Holy is he who has part in the first resurrection”. That is just the way it is! I didn’t make the rules, God did.
So if you are watching and discerning scripture then we can quickly identify another fruit of God’s People.
- They understand that the ones called now are the firstfruits or the firstborn children of God and as such have a greater responsibility in the Kingdom of God when Christ returns and sets up His government. They have a work to do!
This has been well established in the Churches of God for decades now even though it does not agree with mainstream protestant teachings. Here again, the Churches of God do not strive to please men but to obey God from His word as we said in point number one at the beginning of this article.
It is not easy to cover a topic this deep in a short article such as this for several reasons. The first being that if God isn’t calling you to understand His word then my writings probably seem like the ramblings of a fool. No offense taken if that is the way they strike you. I could imagine that Christ’s parables struck many people the same way in His day!
However, if you get meaning out of these articles then you are among those that God is calling now. Today! That makes you one of the firstfruits if you heed your calling. I must warn you though, that if you understand and do nothing it would have been better if you had never known the word of God than to reject it and go your own way. God expects those that he is calling to produce good fruit. In other words, do something with what God is giving to you. Some of you will produce 10 fold, some 5 fold and some will just sit on what you have. Please read the parable of the talents if you haven’t understood them in the past. What did Christ say to the one who just sat on his talent?
26 But his lord answered and said to him, ‘You wicked and lazy servant, you knew that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered seed.
27 So you ought to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming I would have received back my own with interest.
28 Therefore take the talent from him, and give it to him who has ten talents.
29 For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away.
30 And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
Does that get your attention?
I know that it is not easy today to do the right thing! No one said that it would be. In fact Christ said just the opposite:
13 “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it.
14 Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.
Satan does not want any of us to find the way to eternal life in Christ Jesus. If he could, Satan would deceive the whole world. God says for the elect sake he will cut time short and not allow the elect to be deceived.
Satan has also made the true words of God hard to find. It is like trying to pick out one note in a symphony or to single out one voice in a screaming crowd. It is there but it is hidden by all of the other things around it. Even those who try to do a good work and make it available on the Internet are swamped in millions of false messages and false words. Finding it is indeed like finding a pearl of great price as Christ said speaking of the Kingdom of God.
Man can’t always know what kind of fruit he is looking at in another person. All of us are subject to human nature and fall into sin even though we try our best not to. Christ said, “By their fruits you will know them”. This doesn’t mean that everyone God is working with will produce perfect fruit right now. In time and with God’s Holy Spirit they will become perfect. Each one at his or her own pace!
So as you look for the good fruit and try to identify the Churches that are preaching the word of God, be patient, don’t judge to quickly as we are all still a work in progress.
And that makes my last point:
- The Churches of God are still making progress. They are not perfect but they will admit error when God shows them from scripture that something needs to be changed.
The churches of God are not perfect and they do not have all truth at this time, as God has not revealed everything to us yet. It is simply not the time right now to understand some of the things that are spoken of in scripture. God will reveal them to us as the time comes that we need to know more about these things. How do you think Daniel felt when he was told to seal up the book that he was inspired to write because it was not time for him to understand it?
We all need to be doing a work that Christ can know us by. We need to be developing whatever talent God has given each one of us and do it to the glory of our Father in Heaven. Looking for the good works in others and not looking to advance our own interest at the expense of others. We all need to produce better fruit!
Then comes the end when Christ returns and sets things in order. This is the time that I am looking forward to. No more deception, no more competition, no more envy, no more hatred, no more killing and stealing. No more death!
1 Cor 15:24-26
24 Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power.
25 For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet.
26 The last enemy that will be destroyed is death.
Yes Lord, Thy Kingdom come!