How to Mature from Following Men to Following Christ

I have an embarrassing personal confession to make. For the first 10 years of my Christian life, I was an immature, carnal Christian… “How,” you wonder? The truth is, I followed men. What I mean is that I couldn’t think for myself. You see, I gave my devotion and mind to men, a movement, and a system. Then, I unconsciously let them do my thinking for me. I questioned nothing, following blindly.

Was it the Church of Rome, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, or the Mormons? No, believe it or not, it was a group of evangelicals who preached the gospel of Jesus Christ. Our group had many mature believers, including many divisive believers like myself, and a few hypocrites like all bodies do. However, the leaders didn’t welcome anyone to challenge their confession of faith and/or systematic theology. Unfortunately, I submitted my thinking to them because I over-esteemed them as the epitome of God's perfect counsel.

In the Bible, God has given us many descriptions of spiritual infancy vs. spiritual maturity. One of the descriptions of spiritual babes, in 1 Cor. 1:10-3:23, is dividing the Body of Christ by using labels, following men, and forming sub-groups. The Corinthians weren’t carnal in all areas of their lives. Paul said they were acting carnal only because of their divisive nature borne from the misguided choice to follow men over esteeming Christ alone.

Mature Bible teachers not only proclaim Biblical truth, they also aren’t afraid to teach others how to study the Bible for themselves. Teachers with personal agendas, control issues, will want their disciples to listen to their counsel as preeminent. We see this in religious system that demand loyalty without question. To keep individual disciples from straying into error, God has given His Spirit to direct, His counsel as revelations from Scripture, and His Church as Christ's living body.

The 8 signs of immature, carnal Christians are:

1. Reliance on an extra-biblical standard of authority such as:
  • A specific leader (author, teacher, pastor, or infallible pope)
  • An experience (emotion, feeling or alleged revelation)
  • A sectarian group, movement, or organization (denomination)
  • A tradition (selective, truncated view of church history)
  • A document (book, confession of faith, or doctrinal treaties)

2. Fear and avoidance of:

  • Talking to certain Christians who may challenge your beliefs.
  • Preaching on certain Bible texts or topics.
  • Allowing certain questions to be asked.
  • Discussing certain biblical topics.
  • Reading certain theological articles or books.

3. Unquestioned, uncritical agreement and allegiance to a human leader.
4. Unteachable and unwilling to listen to others from an open Bible.
5. Inability to think for oneself and form conclusions independent from outside influences and patterns of thinking received from others.
6. Reading a disproportionate percentage of books by one author or publisher.
7. Allowing a leader to micromanage details of their disciples’ lives which are normally areas of Christian liberty.
8. Cloning personality traits that are normally areas of Christian liberty.

Those characteristics are quite different from the Bereans whom Paul commended as “fair minded…in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11).

Please understand, there is no perfect church organization, movement, or group. All groups are made of imperfect individuals. And, since there is no individual perfection, then there is no corporate perfection. There is only one perfect God-Man. Focus your faith toward Him alone.

Ask yourself, “How much do I agree with my favorite group?” If you agree 100% without any question, beware! This could be a sign you’re following men, instead of Christ. This could also be a marker that you have been seduced by a system, leader or cult. If you suspect that you may be blindly following human leaders or a system of faith without examining the details yourself, what should you do?

First of all, realize that the Holy Spirit is the only teacher you need to understand God, although that does not mean we should despise the counsel of mature Christians. “But the anointing (Holy Spirit’s teaching: cf. Jn. 14:26; 1 Jn. 2:20) which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him.”

Second, realize that the truth can set you free. We must never be afraid to pursue truth, ask questions, dig deep into the Word. The truth will liberate you. Jesus said, “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (Jn. 8:32). “I AM…the truth…No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (Jn. 14:6)

The Truth is a Person: Jesus Christ. Trust in Him to take you to God the Father. Then, follow Him wherever He leads, whatever the cost. And finally, simply pray to God, through Jesus Christ, asking Him to show you if you have been following traditions of men, finite leaders or Christ. And, ask Him to reveal and help you correct any false beliefs you may believe. He is faithful, and He will do it.

Jesus didn’t say, “Follow Me(n)” or “Follow (men’s interpretation of) Me.” Jesus said, “Follow Me.”

Written By Greg Gibson of JesusSaidFollowMe.org, Copyright 2007. Some modifications applied for easier comprehension.