by Jerry Gentry
"They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate" (Titus 1:16).
Jesus warned of a specific class of people who claimed to be His followers, who even performed great works and miracles in His name.
"But he shall say, I tell you, I know you not whence ye are; depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity" (Luke 13:27).
Who are these "workers of iniquity," whom Jesus rejects so plainly?
These people certainly defend themselves: "Then shall ye begin to say, We have eaten and drunk in thy presence, and thou hast taught in our streets" (Luke 13:26). Yes, these folks claim to come in the name of the Lord Jesus, no less.
Of these, Jesus warns: "Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?" (Matt 7:22).
"And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity" (v. 23).
Yes, friend, many people claim to be Christians, but their faith is counterfeit. Many have prophesied "in the name of the LORD" (Deut. 18:22), but "they speak a vision of their own heart, and not out of the mouth of the LORD" (Jer. 23:16).
They look the part, even speak the part, often act the part, of a Christian. But their faith is not real, not genuine. Their faith is based upon feelings. By their words and actions, "They say unto every one that walketh after the imagination of his own heart, No evil shall come upon you." (v. 17). These are called "workers of iniquity." They serve God in their own self will, "every man [doing] whatsoever is right in his own eyes" (Deut. 12:8). The problem of sin remains unresolved for these counterfeit Christians, because they refuse "to do that which is right in the eyes of the LORD thy God" (Deut. 13:18).
"They profess that they know God, but in works they deny him."
Of such counterfeit Christians, Jesus said, "This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me" (Matt. 15:8).
How can we be sure we are not among these counterfeit Christians, who profess to know God, who prefer their own opinions to the Word of God? How can we be not numbered among "This evil people, which refuse to hear my words, which walk in the imagination of their heart, and walk after other gods, to serve them, and to worship them" (Jer. 13:10)?
Jesus teaches us a great lesson in the parable of the nobleman and his ten servants: "A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom, and to return" (Luk 19:12).
"And he called his ten servants, and delivered them ten pounds, and said unto them, Occupy till I come" (v. 13).
"But his citizens hated him, and sent a message after him, saying, We will not have this man to reign over us" (v. 14).
The problem of counterfeit Christians&emdash;"workers of iniquity"&emdash;is that they are simply unwilling to "have this man [Jesus Christ, and His constituted authority] to reign over us." They at first receive the word gladly. In the excitement and emotion of a religious service or in personal soul winning, they "profess that they know God." They, "when they hear, receive the word with joy. . . [but] these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away" (Luke 8:13). "They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him" (Titus 1:16), our text for this lesson. Nothing can be done for these counterfeit Christians. They "for a while believe. . . [but soon] fall away," under the heat of trials and tribulation, or through the influence of the world. "Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear" (Matt. 13:43).
"Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?" (Matt. 7:16).
Who are these, who "profess that they know God; but in works they deny him?" These are the priests of "the leaven of malice and wickedness" (1Cor. 5:8), the professors of compromise. They are the prophets and followers of falsehood, who "know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ" (2Ths. 1:8). They carry their Bibles to church. They say "Amen!" and shake the preachers hand, while "transgressing and lying against the LORD, and departing away from our God, speaking oppression and revolt, conceiving and uttering from the heart words of falsehood" (Isa. 59:13). It is hard to imagine that these are some of us. But they are, no doubt, if we are willing to believe what the Bible says. These are the unwise virgins, who find no time to buy oil for their lamps, until it is too late.
Genuine Christians are taught to "Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses" (1Tim. 6:12).
We are taught, "Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised)" (Hebr. 10:23).
Counterfeit Christians are simply unwilling to frame their lives with the Word of God. They desire the blessings, without making the sacrifice. They covet the rewards, without denying the flesh. They want the end result without submitting to the means of getting there. They refuse to "put on Christ" (Gal. 3:27).
In the end, when the nobleman Jesus Christ returns, he deals with all counterfeit Christians who are a "faithless and perverse generation" (Matt. 17:17). He gives rewards of rulership to those who faithfully serve Him, some "ten cities," and some "five cities." But the faithless, counterfeit Christian, he condemns: "Out of thine own mouth will I judge thee, thou wicked servant. Thou knewest that I was an austere man, taking up that I laid not down, and reaping that I did not sow" (v. 22).
"And he said unto them that stood by, Take from him the pound, and give it to him that hath ten pounds" (v. 24).
"But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me" (v. 27).
Yes, friend, these counterfeit Christians are unprofitable servants, who are cast "into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth" (Matt. 25:30). "Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them" (Matt. 7:20).
Yes, brother and sister, there is a class of "unwise virgins" within the church of God today, who are counterfeit Christians. "They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him." There is nothing you or I can say or do that will turn these people and move them off the path of their own self will and destruction. Through their works, they "deny me before men." Of these, Jesus says, "him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven" (Matt. 10:33). These are not the same as genuine Christians, who sometimes backslide into sin, and whom God will restore through chastisement and further conversion.
Exposed and identified, how can we be certain we are not among these "workers of iniquity," who will be cast "into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels" (Matt. 25:41)?
The proof is in the fruits, which no counterfeit Christian is able to bear.
"Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit" (Matt. 7:17).
What are the fruits of a genuine Christian life, in contrast with counterfeit Christians?
"For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth" (Eph. 5:9). "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith; meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts" (v. 22-24).
"If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit" (v. 25).
And how does the genuine Christian "walk in the Spirit?"
On a personal basis today, Jesus promises us: "A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh" (Eze 36:26).
"And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them" (v. 27).
Are you today walking in the statutes and judgments of the LORD our God? If so, you are walking in the Spirit. By any other road, you are walking in the flesh. "Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness" (Gal 5:19).
"Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies" (v. 20).
"Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God" (v. 21).
"This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh" (v. 16).
Do you maintain a "walk in the Spirit" every day, sensitive to sin, repenting when you stumble? Or are you one of those counterfeit Christians, who "walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness, and despise government. Presumptuous are they, self-willed, they are not afraid to speak evil of dignities" (2Pet. 2:10)?
Christian, are you making efforts to come under headship? If not, then you "despise government." You are "selfwilled." You join those who say with your life message that "we will not have this man rule over us."
And in the judgment "will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity" (Matt. 7:23).
Friend, are you living today in your own self will, independent of headship? Do you neglect the call to genuine salvation? Are you saved, but resisting discipleship and conversion of your life? Then learn the lesson today that genuine salvation leads to headship and conversion of your life. Personal acts of self will and rebellion on the part of genuine Christians will be traced back to their origins and repented of. If Jesus is not your Lord, then who is your lord? If your profession of faith in God is real, others will confirm it. "How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him" (Hebr. 2:3).
The Lord will lose none whom the father has given him. He will conquer all that belong to him. He will through chastening draw all backslidden ones and bring them into obedience.
Do you profess to know God, and His Son Jesus Christ? Then you will be busy finding out and doing His will. Ignorance is no excuse.
"For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass" (James 1:23).
"For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was" (v. 24).
"But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed" (v. 25).
Every genuine Christian will "look. . . into the perfect law of liberty, and continue. . . therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work." Every genuine Christian will "confess. . . [his] faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much" (James 5:16).
And every genuine Christian will look upon counterfeit Christians, as the psalmist writes: "Depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity; for the LORD hath heard the voice of my weeping" (Ps. 6:8). Genuine Christians are not drawn to the counterfeit, just as sweet waters do not mix with bitter. Counterfeit Christians prefer relationships which do not require accountability. Hear the Bible warning today, to all who will be genuine Christians: "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him" (1John 2:15). He challenges: "why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?" (Luke 6:46).
If you are a genuine Christian, then you will invite your Lord to work changes in your life. "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them" (Eph 2:10). You will submit your life for His greater purposes. You will not deny Him with your works. Instead, you will "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven" (Matt 5:16). If you will call him Lord, then you owe Him your submission. When you feel the pain of chastening, you will agree with Jesus, who said: "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me" (Luke 9:23). With Jesus, you too will experience the rejection of worldly friends, for "He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not" (Isa. 53:3).
Your profession of faith will be backed up by your works. You will not only profess to know God. You will not "deny him" with your works. On the contrary, you will do the things which please Him.