Some people call themselves "Christian" but don't really follow the Lord Jesus Christ. Sadly, these people, loved as they are by God, fail to represent the very Lord they profess to follow. Because of this, many unbelievers and believers alike would rather stay away from the church.
We find such people in the Bible. They speak and dress religiously, but their hearts are away from God. The Lord Jesus Himself spoke strongly against them and what they do:
"But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in." (Matthew 23:13)
These leaders are known as workers in the temple. They teach the law of Moses, but they themselves do not allow anybody to know God the way they should. Why? It's because they don't know God themselves.
So how do we know a false follower of Christ? How can we distinguish a true disciple from a false disciple of Christ?
"You will know them by their fruits." (see Matthew 7:16)
Here are a few characteristics we all need to watch out for.
1) They prioritize human ideas instead of God's word
False followers have an appearance and sound of religiosity complete with the "Christianese" language that uses spiritual jargon, but they actually disobey and disregard God's word!
When a Christian minister, leader, or church member starts to give more weight to his ideas or to human traditions, be very careful. Jesus spoke strongly against this:
"Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition?" (see Matthew 15:3)
2) Compromising lifestyle
This is probably the easiest to spot. Christians who say they follow Christ but live a life of sin and compromise aren't really following Him. Why? Jesus said it Himself:
"If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it." (Matthew 16:24-25)
Any Christian who truly follows Christ will have to let go of all the things that Christ hates or dislikes. The process may take a long time, but the real disciple will surely bear fruit in keeping with repentance (see Matthew 3:8; Luke 3:8).
3) Selfishness and self-exaltation
When a Christian leader or minister starts talking grandiosely about himself and his "calling" in the Lord, be careful. Christ Jesus made Himself of no reputation, so why should His followers exalt themselves?
False disciples of Christ long to be honored for "being such a good servant." They desire to be recognized for their service and ministry. In fact, they may not say it outwardly, but in their hearts they want to be famous and exalted by others.
Jesus described such people this way: "They love the best places at feasts, the best seats in the synagogues, greetings in the marketplaces, and to be called by men, 'Rabbi, Rabbi.'" (see Matthew 23:6-7).
True disciples of Christ will always deny their selfish desires and desire to see Christ exalted instead (see Matthew 16:24; John 3:30)