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Rise of the Christ Followers
The adherents to the Legend of Jesus (q.v.) are a class of religious persons that have been created by false prophets, or false teachers, who have emphasized Jesus in the days of His flesh as the essence of the gospel message. In this sense they are as Christ Followers, as they refer to themselves, or “followers of Jesus,” as Rick Warren refers to them,1 no different than members of other religions. They are striving to follow the example of another person, in this case Christ in the days of His flesh, and trusting their fate to how well they adhere to that example by their own performance.
This is decidedly different from trusting in the accomplishment of the one who went before them and placing their saving faith in that finished work to merit for them what they could never have earned. That is what Jesus did and why no one is to imitate Him. He came to do what no one else could do.
Now, to become like Him is altogether different than to imitate. We are to be conformed to the image of Christ (Rom 8:29), to be more like Christ, not by our power, but by the Holy Spirit. When we are led away from the truth of the gospel, the same interrogation is to be leveled at us which Paul directed to the Galatians:
This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh? (Gal 3:2-3)
In his Epistle to the Galatians, Paul addressed the topic of those who were troubling the churches, including those who were momentarily led astray and also false brethren, under the larger subject of what happens when the truth of the gospel is perverted by adding the requirement of adhering to the “traditions” of the fathers (Gal 1:14).
These traditions were included with ceremonial laws and moral laws, and became their own ordinances, or doctrines of men (e.g. the washing of hands and utensils, Mk 7:4); and to subject the saints to these is to bring them into bondage. Paul describes this bondage as a heavy yoke that is placed over the head and rests on the shoulders whereby we may be led about in the flesh by false brethren.
If we seek to obtain again by our own efforts justification and blessedness we frustrate the grace of God, and we even become a transgressor of the law of faith (Rom 4:6, 9; Gal 2:18; Rom 3:27); or “the rule, or arrangement which proclaims that we have no merit; that we are lost sinners; and that we are to be justified only by faith.”(Barnes).
By relying on the exercise of our flesh we do not allow God to work through us by the power of His grace; which power we neutralize by adhering to the traditions of men.
Those who were troubling the churches then are still troubling the churches today, and many have been put under the yoke of bondage of performing Christianity in the flesh (Gal 5:1). The Bible tells us repeatedly that we cannot accomplish it, that we are to “have not confidence in the flesh” (Php 3:3), and that that only the power of Christ through us, by His grace, will provide and empower the new life of a believer. As Paul put it:
I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. (Gal 2:20)
Astoundingly, the growth in the number of professing Christians who have laced up their shoes and taken to the track to run programs and perform service projects in order to perfect their Christianity has outpaced every other phenomenon since the Reformation. It even appears that the end of the Reformation is in sight, having run its course, and is being absorbed back into a visible church which has a form of godliness, but denies the power thereof (2Tim 3:5).
The strategy of false teachers is to seduce the unsuspecting into a web of intricately designed human resource management programs. Thy divide them into manageable small groups and set them about running like hamsters in a wire wheel to generate power to build the false prophets’ empires. They are not running the actual race that is set before each of us by Christ and for which power is received from the Holy Spirit to finish well (2Cor 9:24; Heb 12:1).
The Followers of Jesus have been seduced into following the portrayal of a super human leader, a strong man whose strength can be imbued to those who will join his ranks and move forward in the great cause. It almost sounds Christian, and that is why it works as a substitute for real saving faith.
1. Russ Jones, “Rick Warren and 1,700 leaders launch Peace Coalition,” Chonicle, May 25, 2008.