Whom are you following?
Have you ever wondered why there are so many religious groups who call themselves Christians? They practice many methods of worship. All believe they are Christians. When Christ died on the cross, he prayed to our Father in heaven; "My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me" John 17:20-23.
Is it as though our Savior's prayer has failed, or is it in reality mankind who has failed to follow the will of GOD? The Old Testament is full of examples of Israel following after other gods. Jeremiah the prophet, explains GOD's complaint of his people. "My people have been lost sheep; their shepherds have led them astray and caused them to roam on the mountains. They wandered over mountain and hill and forgot their own resting place" Jeremiah 50:6.
Has mankind changed so completely since our Savior returned to heaven after his death on the cross? Paul the apostle wrote to the church in Ephesians 4:4-6; There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all, and through all, and in all.
If it is true that there is only one body of Christ, the church, then how does someone know that he is following GODís will? Perhaps the Word of GOD can tell us the true path to follow. It has not changed. It continues to call sinners to eternal life in Christ. Our Savior reminds us in Matthew 7:13-14; "Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it."
Are we listening closely to what Jesus has to say? I fear on judgement day that many people who sincerely believed they were Christians will be lost, because they listened to other sincere teachers who also paid more attention to their teachers than to Jesus Christ. Mankind has always wanted to take an easy road in his toil on this earth (myself included).
We are vunerable to taking someone else's word because he is sincere. We can be sincerely wrong as well. Our Lord continues to warn us. "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'" Matthew 7:21-23.
Peter the apostle, speaking to the Jews, reminded them of the proclamation GOD made regarding his Son in Acts 3: 22-23. For Moses said, 'The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you must listen to everything he tells you. Anyone who does not listen to him will be completely cut off from among his people.'
For some reason, man has always had a difficult time listening closely to GOD. Is not Jesus worthy of our close attention or are we also following lost shepherds?
When and how should we listen to men who teach the Word?
Paul warned the church at Corinth about following the teaching of any one apostle versus another. And yet the apostles of the first century church were inspired prophets of GOD's Word. I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought. My brothers, some from Chloe's household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. What I mean is this: One of you says, "I follow Paul"; another, "I follow Apollos"; another, "I follow Cephas"; still another, "I follow Christ." Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of Paul? 1 Corinthians 1:10-13.
Are we so different today or is this the reason for all the division in the Christian world? Paul explained what going beyond the written Word of the Bible causes in the church. 1 Corinthians 4:6; Now, brothers, I have applied these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, so that you may learn from us the meaning of the saying, "Do not go beyond what is written." Then you will not take pride in one man over against another.
Even today men follow the teachings of other men because they are leaders in the church, excellent speakers, or they are considered to be men with good hearts. No other men ever had more authority than the apostles of Christ, except Christ himself. Paul warned the church at Corinth not to choose one apostleís message versus another manís message. Paul praised the Jews at Berea because they questioned his New Testament message in Acts 17:11; Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.
Notice! The Jews at Berea returned to the Word of GOD to determine if Paul was telling them the truth. Are we so trusting (or foolish) that we will trust our eternal life to the wisdom of other men? Perhaps mankind today lacks the faith that Jesus Christ so urgently wanted us to have. If we really believed the message of Christ, we would study his Word as if our life depends on it. (It does.) We should not be so ready to take the word of other men even though we may trust them. They may have trusted others who are not so worthy of trust. We have no way of knowing. Jesus tells us by what standard we shall be measured in John 12:46-48; "I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness. As for the person who hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge him. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save it. There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; that very word which I spoke will condemn him at the last day."
Worship and revere GOD only!
People in religious groups throughout the ages have chosen to worship and pray to other men, women, their spirits and even lifeless idols. Our Savior, Jesus Christ, explained in Matthew 4:10; For it is written: 'Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.'
Even today men readily bow their knee before other men as if they were GOD. The apostle Peter would not let Cornelius bow his knee before him in reverence. As Peter entered the house, Cornelius met him and fell at his feet in reverence. But Peter made him get up. "Stand up," he said, "I am only a man myself" Acts 10:25-26.
Today as in the past, men claim spiritual titles such as Father, or Reverend. Jesus directly condemned such practices in Matthew 23: 5-12 5. "Everything they do is done for men to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have men call them 'Rabbi.' But you are not to be called 'Rabbi,' for you have only one Master and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth 'father,' for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor are you to be called 'teacher,' for you have one Teacher, the Christ. The greatest among you will be your servant. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.
Some men even believe they have the authority to change the Word of GOD. No man has ever had the authority to change the meaning of the Word of God. "The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever" Isaiah 40:8. It is as complete and unchanging as his love for us.
What about prayer? Jesus specifically teaches us how to pray in Luke 11:2; He said to them, "When you pray, say: 'Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come.'" Jesus gave no other directions to us in the Bible, and man should not assume he can change the teachings of Christ. Prayers to the spirits of dead men and women are in vain and offend GOD.
Is Man-Made Worship acceptable to GOD?
Is worship offered from a good heart acceptable to GOD, even when it is not according to GOD's Word? Jesus explained to the Jews why it was not proper to worship GOD in a way designed by man in Matthew 15: 8-9; "These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men."
Worship offered some other way than that which is taught specifically by the New Testament is worth nothing to GOD. GOD knows those who love Him. We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. The man who says, 'I know him,' but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But if anyone obeys his word, God's love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him 1 John 2:3-5.
Whom will you follow?
If we truly want to follow Jesus, we will follow the Word of GOD. After all, Jesus is the living Word of God. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning John 1:1-2. We will not be mislead by others who teach without being sure their teaching comes from the New Testament of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the only one worthy to be followed.
All references are from the New International Version of the Bible, ©1978 by New York International Bible Society.