Today, many claim to be God's people but are not sincerely serving Him. These live much according to the old man instead of the new. Having quenched the Spirit, they have not become a "new creation" in Christ. This is a distressing result due to their lack of understanding of God's word. This could be caused by their own disinterest, or possibly, to being led astray by those they trust to teach them. One should wonder what God's judgment will be on either negligence.

First, we must understand who are the people of God. Originally, only the Israelites were His people. To be His people, they entered into a covenant relationship with Him. They were to acknowledge Him as the only God and love Him with all their heart, with all their soul, and with all their might (De. 6:5). They were to be obedient to His commandments. If they transgressed His commandments, they could receive atonement through sacrifices and offerings. In turn, He would be their God, bless their crops and herds, protect them from all their enemies, and raise them up to their inheritance on the Last Day. As a sign of their agreement to this covenant, they circumcised all males. However, Israel did not keep their part of the covenant, breaking it by not fully loving and serving God. They twisted His truths, broke His commandments, and served other gods even while still coming to the temple of God. Their sacrifices, offerings, and worship were no longer acceptable and became "filthy rags" to God (Is. 64:6). He turned His face away from the Israelites and allowed destruction to come upon them.

In due time, God made a new and better covenant with man (Heb. 8:6,7). He still offers blessings and eternal life with Him. He still requires we obey His commandments and love Him with all our heart, soul, and might. Yet now, we all can be God's people. We, the Gentiles, were grafted in among the Israelites (Rom. 11:17). Baptism became the sign of our agreement to the new covenant. Forgiveness now comes through Jesus, who became the final offering and sacrifice (Heb. 9:22,23,28). And, circumcision is of our hearts with God's Spirit available to help us remove the sin and darkness (Rom. 2:29). Not only can we be called God's people but also His children. When the Spirit leads us, who led Jesus into total obedience to God, we become sons of God (Rom. 8:14).

Today, we have God's written word - the Bible, readily available to most professing Christians. It contains the commandments of God and specific instructions for godly living. Yet, even today some have broken covenant with God, following the practice of Israel. A term that describes this practice is false pretense.

False pretense exists when someone claims a distinction or purpose but has false or insincere intentions (Jer. 3:10). In the spiritual context, it would apply to a person who professes God but maintains a lifestyle contrary to His principles. Of these, some are aware of their pretense, and some are not. The latter think they are in God's will. Those who are aware of their pretense may attend a church and worship God, but they only do so to look respectable before man. They are hypocritical and are lost. Those who think they are in God's will are, unknowingly, not serving Him as He requires. This results from their lack of diligence or desire to understand and verify God's word on their own. Instead, they have become complacent and feel safe in trusting others with their man-made doctrines of salvation. Not understanding the righteousness God requires from them, they think Sunday worship and occasional Bible reading satisfies Him. Some have developed the "feel good" syndrome that comes from their dependence on regular church attendance. Compelled to appear, they arrive and listen to the singing and preaching. They feel righteous before the church and assume they have forgiveness before God. However, many are like the seed sown among the thorns (Lk. 8:7,14). The cares of the world and self-will diverts God's word from their hearts and minds. They leave the church with no other thought of God. Others are like the seed sown on rocky ground (Lk. 8:6,13). They attend and enjoy the services but do not seek to mature spiritually. No root exists from their heart to the word of God for the spiritual food needed to mature and for enduring tribulation - they stumble and fall quickly. God will judge their hollowness and half-heartedness because they are lukewarm (Re. 3:16). These people do not understand that the real church consists of those who seek to become one with God - those seeking and striving to live by His ways.

Many live in pretense because of what others are teaching them. Today, there are many dangerous doctrines among various churches, created to make church and salvation a comfortable and secure environment. Many think they are in God's will but actually are being misled by their teachers. Instead of being led by the Spirit, some leaders have trusted only in what their predecessors have passed down or what "seminary" has taught them. Others have distorted or ignored the truth because of selfish intentions. They tell their followers what is good to their ears (2 Tim. 4:3), while seeking profit and position (Jude 11) for themselves. They are afraid to dismay the consciences of their congregation for fear of losing their position or financial benefit. Insincere leaders were prominent in Israel's day, but we have surpassed them in our day. God's judgment, though, has not changed. The only difference today is that we are not destroyed right away. Jesus is the grace from God that allows us to live. We have the chance to get right with God. God's judgment is coming when Jesus returns, "taking vengeance on those who did not seek to know Him (God) and on those who did not obey the gospel of Jesus" (2 Thes. 1:8).

Righteousness that God rewards with eternal life is not assured because of habitual Sabbath attendance, nor is it confirmed by an emotional event. Many have based their salvation on an emotional event at an altar in a church building. However, this is only an expression of conviction of their sinful life. It is only the beginning of their faith and their desire to serve God - not the completion! For God's word says this: "For with the heart, one believes unto righteousness" (Ro. 10:10) and "You must endure in doing the will of God so that you may receive the promise" (He. 10:36; Mt 10:22; 24:13). God's word tells us that our faith should reflect a changed heart that must endure until the day we die. We must become a different person than we were before (Ep. 4:17-24). This is how we are born again (Jn. 3:3,6) - pursuing a holy and righteous life in God.

The choices we make throughout life determine righteousness. We can either choose goodness for life or evil for death. To enter the kingdom of heaven, our decisions must be those of goodness, righteousness, and truth. Increasing in knowledge of God will help us make "Godly" choices. Jesus said eternal life was to know God and the Son (Jn 17:3). Paul exhorted us to find out the acceptable and perfect will of God (Ro. 12:2). Peter said to be diligent to make your call and election sure (2 Pe. 1:10) by adding to your faith and virtue - knowledge (2 Pe. 1:5). These verses are telling us we must know what God expects of us. The more we know and apply to our lives, the closer we will follow God's will. Our source for knowledge is God's word - the Bible. The Old Testament describes God's nature and His judgments on sin. The New Testament is an instruction book on godly living, with the gospel of forgiveness (the new covenant) interlaced throughout. We should read God's word seriously, seeking understanding and revelations of God's perfect will. "If we search for under-standing as if we are looking for hidden treasure, we will know the fear of the Lord and find knowledge of God" (Pr. 2:3-5). God reveals truths to those who are diligent in asking, seeking, and knocking. Once we receive understanding and knowledge of God's ways, we must apply them to our life. Of the knowledge and understanding we do have, we must walk in it (Php. 3:16). Otherwise, we will have dead faith (Ja. 2:17).

God has not left us helpless in understanding and applying His righteousness to our lives. He has given us His Holy Spirit. This is God inside us. He can guide us into all goodness, righteousness, and truth. He brings the word we have received into remembrance (Jn. 14:26; 16:13) to prod our conscience in recognizing the good or the bad (Ro. 9:1). As we grow in knowledge of God's word and mature spiritually, we will become wise in the ways of God and increasingly aware of His voice. Our duty is to obey Him. We are acceptable to God by being obedient to Him (Isa. 1:19) and by honoring His Son. We honor Jesus not only through believing in His life, His suffering, and His death, but also by making Him our Lord. We do this through following and obeying His teachings. By this, we will glorify God (Php. 2:11-13). In essence, through our own diligent study of God's word, guided by the Holy Spirit, we can clearly know the will of God. Then, by obeying God's will and heeding to the teachings of righteousness, we will become one with Him and the Son, avoiding a life of false pretense.

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