Tim, have you written any articles or have any links to share about the true Church of God and where/who it is?
No, but this is such an important question for every believer it is time I did.
Why So Many Churches?
Most believers probably forget (or purposely ignore) how fractured the Christian world is. To focus on it causes cognitive dissonance. How can “Jesus’ followers” be so divided? Why is Christianity, if it is Jesus’ religion, such a confusing mess?
Christian author and scholar Dr. Roy Blizzard has said that Christianity is divided into 40,000 warring denominations. Of course, the division stems mainly from doctrinal differences. For example, some denominations sprinkle for baptism, others immerse, others don’t do it at all. If you believe immersion is necessary, how can you stay with a group that denies “the truth” (as you see it) or condone them “doing it wrong?” You join or start a new group who you can agree with. This is what people have done over the centuries to produce the confusing Christian scenario that we are all too familiar with. It is a chief bad fruit of the emphasis on “right” doctrinal beliefs, instead of the emphasis on right attitude and actions that Jesus had exclusively.
Everyone naturally thinks that the church they belong to is doing things right and is the true church. From the smallest cult to the largest organization. I have had many Catholics proudly point out that their church is the true church because it is the oldest and preserved the Bible that “you Protestants use to argue against us.”
The Church Defined
But the truth is that to find the true church you do not go examining the Christian organizations or denominations out there. When Jesus said, “I will build my church” (Mt 16:18) he was not talking about Christianity, a religion that developed centuries after he died. The biblical definition of the church is actually the people, the believers. The Greek word translated church is ekklesia which literally translates to “called out ones,” not “church.”
The true ekklesia is you and I and all believers collectively. Whether you gather, assemble or meet or not, we are the church. It’s not contained in any one religion, denomination, system, or organization, but found across them allâ€”and outside them, too. If you don’t “go to church” or don’t “belong to a church” you still are the church.
Today the true church of God is actually not organized. We have no leader. The apostles are gone. We have no system; it’s confusion. Certainly we have no agreed upon beliefs or practices (see above). But that’s OK. Such things are not required to be the called out ones. You only need choose to respond to the calling by believing in the good news of the Kingdom.
What is Repentance?
An important consideration here is that even believers who do not take the calling seriously or who do not act like Jesus instructed are still the church. There is no subdivision of true believers and false believers in the body. Therefore, even the typical Christian who does nothing more than sit through a sermon every Sunday and pay his tithe is still the church. Even if the rest of the week he may act no differently than the world around him, he still qualifies.
If you doubt this, read the letters to seven churches in Revelation chapters 2 and 3. Jesus corrects most of the churches telling them to stop being lukewarm and repent. Yes, sinning, lukewarm, wicked believers are still the ekklesia. They were called out and the chose to respond, but they are not bearing the right fruit, good fruit.
What fruit? “Fruit worthy of repentance” as John the Baptist called it (Mt 3:8=Lk 3:8). If you read Luke 3, you’ll see that John helpfully illustrates what these fruits look like. Unlike what Christianity teaches, it’s not about accepting Jesus and a bunch of orthodox beliefs and creeds and maintaining membership with a local “church.” Instead it is acting with loving compassion towards others rather than acting with our natural selfishness and indifference. This requires “turning” from your normal instinctive ways, which is the meaning of repent.
By the way, Jesus makes it clear that the members of the church that do not repent will not receive eternal life (Rev 3:5; 3:16). That’s why he implores them to repent. This is again different than what Christianity teaches that once you believe you are saved just for that. Some even teach that “once saved, always saved.” If that was true, why would the church listen to Jesus’ pleading to repent?
How To Receive Eternal Life in Jesus’ Own Words
The members of the church who actually think and act differently than everyone else are not just called and chosen (Mt 22:14), but they are called chosen and faithful (Rev 17:14). They faithfully have an attitude of following (albeit not perfectly) the six commandments required for entry into the Kingdom and receive eternal life (Mt 19:16-19). Jesus told a parable illustrating what those six commandments look like in practice, which is similar to what John the Baptist described:
Matthew 25:41-46 (HCSB) â€” 41Â Then He will also say to those on the left, â€˜Depart from Me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the Devil and his angels! 42Â For I was hungry and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty and you gave Me nothing to drink; 43Â I was a stranger and you didnâ€™t take Me in; I was naked and you didnâ€™t clothe Me, sick and in prison and you didnâ€™t take care of Me.â€™ 44Â â€œThen they too will answer, â€˜Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or without clothes, or sick, or in prison, and not help You?â€™ 45Â â€œThen He will answer them, â€˜I assure you: Whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for Me either.â€™ 46Â â€œAnd they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.â€
How much thought and effort does the average Christian put into cultivating an attitude of loving others like that in themselves? Obviously, not much. I have no judgment for them, only sorrow. In their defense, they are simply not taught or trained in having that focus. The focus in churches is on having the right beliefs and getting others to believe the same way and hopefully join the church.
In conclusion, finding or being the true church is very easy. Believers are everywhere. However, finding or being the part of the church that is faithful or on the narrow path (Mt 7:14) is not so easy, although the requirements are thankfully very simple. Put in the simplest way:
Matthew 7:12 (HCSB)Â â€” Therefore, whatever you want others to do for you, do also the same for themâ€”this is the Law and the Prophets.,
If you never step foot in a church but you study the instruction of Jesus and act on it, then you will be the best example of the true church available to probably most people who know you.