You may be surprised to learn that much of what Jesus Christ taught is either ignored or blatantly rejected by modern Christianity.
This article is the first in a series that will challenge many common assumptions about the teachings of Jesus Christ.
The most popular religion in the world today is Christianity—nearly a third of the world’s population (some 2.1 billion people) professes to follow Jesus Christ.
Though it’s the world’s largest religion, it is arguably the most divided. The hundreds of denominations and smaller sects of Christianity have varying doctrinal beliefs; though, for the most part, they all claim to base their doctrine on the same book—the Bible. And they all claim to worship and believe in Jesus Christ.
But now let’s consider: How is it possible for churches with such a wide variety of teachings (some with seemingly opposite doctrines) and with such diverse worship practices to all come from the same source? Can Jesus Christ truly be the source and leader of all these churches?
Can they all be right?
In short, the answer is no. It is impossible for all of the competing sects and denominations of Christianity to be equally valid and to truly represent Jesus Christ. In fact, you may be shocked to learn that many of their fundamental teachings directly contradict Jesus Christ. This truly is the reason for the divided state of Christianity.
If you believe in Jesus Christ, you will not want to miss any of the “Christ vs. Christianity” series of articles planned for future issues of Discern magazine. They will make clear the startling difference between the teachings of Jesus Christ and “Christianity”—the religion that bears His name. You’ll see from Jesus’ own words, as well as from other scriptures, that His teachings are distinct from many of the teachings of the churches that claim to represent Him, and you’ll see that many of the popular doctrines of modern Christianity did not even originate in the Bible. In fact, you may be surprised to find that many of them have their roots in ancient pagan religions and myths.
Is false Christianity possible?
A church, a religious leader or an individual can profess the name of Jesus Christ, prophesy (teach) in Jesus’ name and even perform miracles in the name of Christ—and still not be considered a “Christian” by God. Why?We must begin with a fundamental teaching of Jesus Christ that serves as the premise of this entire series. He taught that in order to be a genuine follower of Him (a Christian), one must believe and practice exactly what He taught.
Matthew 7 records many powerful statements of Jesus Christ that stand in stark contrast to modern Christianity. This chapter is a part of the famous Sermon on the Mount.
Notice what Jesus said in Matthew 7:21: “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.”
Consider what Jesus Christ is saying. The implications are powerful. He is saying that not everyone who professes to serve Him—who calls himself or herself a Christian—will be part of the Kingdom of God.
What is expected of one who claims to be a follower of Jesus? Belief and obedience to the will of God the Father! Jesus revealed elsewhere that He faithfully taught the words of the Father (John 14:10, 24).
Jesus continued, “Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’” (Matthew 7:22-23).
A church, a religious leader or an individual can profess the name of Jesus Christ, prophesy (teach) in Jesus’ name and even perform miracles in the name of Christ—and still not be considered a “Christian” by God. Why? Because the church or individual does not teach or practice what Jesus Christ taught and practiced. Jesus specifically calls this “lawlessness.” The Greek word translated “lawlessness” is anomia, which means “being without law.”
Jesus Christ is clearly referring to the law of God—summarized in the 10 Commandments. Though the 10 Commandments are often displayed and given lip service by Christians, several of them are compromised or completely rejected by mainstream Christianity.
Throughout this series, we will expose many examples of lawlessness in Christianity today. We will not mince words. Our goal will be to help you distinguish false Christianity from genuine Christianity based on the original teachings of Jesus Christ in the Bible.
False vs. true Christianity
Jesus Christ specifically warned that we must be on the lookout for “false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves” (Matthew 7:15). Some will be intentionally trying to deceive, but many others are undoubtedly sincere (verse 22). However, it is possible for preachers to be sincerely deceived by widespread traditional teachings that contradict the Bible. We must examine Christian teachers’ fruits (verse 20) and teachings (verses 21, 23) to determine whether or not they truly represent Christ. False Christianity will offer a “wide” path (verse 13)—an easy and popular religion.
Christ even included a warning about false Christianity in the Olivet Prophecy—His longest discourse on end-time prophecy, which is found in Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21. Christ identified religious deception as one of the first signs of His second coming (Matthew 24:4). After His general warning about deception, He got specific: “For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many” (verse 5, King James Version).
Pay close attention to how such people would present themselves: in Jesus’ name saying He is the Christ! In other words, they would falsely present themselves as representatives of Christ. Christ also warned that some would even claim to be Christ—the Messiah (verse 24).
Let’s list the specific characteristics of false Christianity that the above scriptures have identified. False Christianity:
- Would not teach the full truth of the Bible—“the will of the Father.”
- Would teach “lawlessness”—a belief system that would reject portions of the law revealed in the Bible.
- Would operate under the banner of Christ’s name, even proclaiming that He is the Christ.
- Would represent a large religion with many adherents.
Do the above characteristics describe the popular versions of Christianity we see today?
Rather than an easy and popular religion with the above characteristics, Jesus taught that His way would be “narrow” and “difficult” with “few” finding it (Matthew 7:14). He referred to His true followers as a “little flock” (Luke 12:32), a comparatively small group of people who live by the teachings of the entire Bible (Matthew 4:4)—in particular, keeping the commandments of God and worshipping the true God (Matthew 19:17; John 14:21; 1 John 5:3; Revelation 12:17; 14:12).
This introductory article has shown that, not only is it possible for a false version of Christianity to exist, but that Christ specifically said it would exist. This series of “Christ vs. Christianity” articles will demonstrate that many areas of popular Christianity today directly contradict the teachings of Jesus Christ.
Keep reading and discerning.