These should be sobering verses for all Christians and reemphasize the need to always work our salvation out with fear and trembling. Beloved, these people who stand before the Lord are fully "churched" people. They saw miracles! They cast out demons! Yet Jesus never knew them! I know that people who follow Joseph Prince believe they are saved but I would have serious reservations as such. Same for adherents of Joel Osteen who never hear the Gospel message. Same for Bethel worshippers who hear a smorgasbord of false teachings every week. This same phenomenon can easily occur at the local level. Test yourself. Jesus warns us when we have convinced ourselves that our darkness is light -- how deep is that darkness! Being in church did not save me. Repeating a prayer did not save me. Having saving faith in Christ did and there was a marked change in who I was post-salvation. Perfect? Far from it but different for sure.
Second, is to realize you are not alone and God does not intend for you to be alone. Just look at the key verses from Paul's farewell to the leaders at the Ephesian church. He is not guessing here beloved. He KNOWS that after he leaves savage wolves will invade the flock and not spare any. Men speaking twisted things like usurping the power of God by speaking things into existence or usurping the Holy Spirit by pretending you can teach His gifts. Twisted things like worshipping pastors, churches or political parties. Drawing followers unto themselves and away from the Gospel. It is a sad and yet amazing thing to engage with people who are disciples of man and not God. Paul warned us about it:
What I mean is that each one of you says, "I follow Paul," or "I follow Apollos," or "I follow Cephas," or "I follow Christ." Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? -- 1Corinthians 1:12-13 (ESV)
So it goes today. Many say they follow Bill Johnson. I follow Mike Bickle. I follow Joseph Prince. Don't believe me? Try having any constructive conversation with them about their idol. I recently had a discussion with someone defending Mark Driscoll! Yes the same Mark Driscoll that stole 200K in tithe monies to cheat the NY Times best seller list! Yet there was no backing him down or getting him to see how he was worshipping man and not God. So from the days of Paul and the Ephesian Church we have seen this dynamic play out which means we are never alone beloved. There are other folks just like us, going through the same pain. This is important because I have met many church hurt people who have chosen a road of isolation and that is not biblical either. We are one body and we cannot tell other parts of the body we do not need them. Only the devil wants us alone because as Ecclesiastes teaches us, alone we have no one to help us when we fall. We need people of like faith beloved.
This brings us to point number three. We must discern better now that we have seen the truth. Not everyone who sits in a church is our brethren. Narrow is the way and few are those who find it. We need to seek out discernment based ministries to better sift through the various teachings out there. We need to find brothers and sisters who share this desire to be Bereans and never be fooled again. That includes finding a church that does likewise. A church that exposits the Word of God. A church where the sermons are about Christ and not about me. A church that does not follow the purpose driven models of growth. A church that caters to the sheep and not the goats, as is the design of God. At first this may seem like trying to find the Ark of the Covenant but they are still out there. If you are still having trouble consider starting a small bible study of people who just want the truth. You just need a solid leader and a reliable host. The most fruitful time I have had is when I ran my once per week bible study with just a small handful of friends. Everybody participated and everybody grew.
The fourth and final point is to avoid the trap of hating the bride of Christ. I remember I joined a couple of Facebook groups that were sold as discernment based but were really just groups of church hurt people who liked to stand around and cast stones and the bride of my Savior. Good luck with that strategy! God still loves His bride and we need to stop confusing the apostate church we see all around us with the remnant that is our true brethren. People who worship false teachers always ask why I don't just pray for them. My answer is simple. They are not my brethren. They are a wolf devouring my brethren. The bible does not command me to pray for them, beg them to stop being false, pet them, coddle them or anything other than expose them, mark them, and rebuke them.
Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. -- Ephesians 5: 11 (ESV)
Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them -- Romans 16: 17 (KJV)