In my last post, I was talking about the Azusa Now event the recently occurred down in southern California and the acquaintance/friend of mine that spoke favorably of it. In this person’s estimation it was an exciting testimony to the widespread anticipated explosion of revival that many believe is soon about to occur in America. That all sounds wonderful and just might give you goosebumps, except for the detail that the folks leading this “movement” are literally willing to disregard the doctrine of Scripture for the sake of unity among different religions; namely Roman Catholic and Protestant (though my friend who attended also indicated that “all faiths” were represented there). I mentioned in my last post how one of the leaders at this event publicly told the 100,000 people in attendance that Jesus doesn’t care that Christians and Catholics disagree on doctrine! They may call it Azusa now, but I would dare call it Apostasy Now!
I also talked about how both Roman Catholicism and Protestantism are really part of the same religious bloodline (as are virtually every Christian denomination in existence today because they all hail from a “protesting” ideology. Like Luther, they reject some of the legalism and doctrine of Mother Rome, but they have held on to much of the rest and merely “Christianized” its elements for the Christ-follower’s consumption. This is NOT how true followers of Jesus identify themselves. The identity of a true Believer is found in Christ Jesus alone and has no concern for trying to fit within the legalistic boundaries that other religions sets forth as essential, by re-labeling or adjusting those practices so that they appear “Christian”. Neither does the Gospel of Jesus afford that the doctrine of Christ is secondary to a so-called “vision of unity” among all faiths. This is a grand deception, but one that has been at work for many long years and we are now starting to see it emerge more publicly and more widespread than every before.
There is this image in many Christians’ minds that there has been this huge divide between Protestants and Catholics. Now we are seeing famous religious leaders proclaim that God is restoring unity between the two camps. But those who are not ignorant of the origin of the Protestant movement, understand that the two have always been related to each other (and in fact one literally was produced from the other). When you understand this fact, it becomes easy to see that this proclaimed “unity” (or re-uniting) is nothing more than a smoke screen to a devious delusion that has been in the works from the very beginning. Many Christians who do not describe themselves as “Catholic” have long thought their religious identification was perhaps best described by the term “Protestant”. In other words, if you’re not a Catholic, you’re a Protestant. But there is a massive problem with this concept, namely that does not come from Christ and cannot be found anywhere in Scripture. Nor is it the least bit representative of true Christianity.
Recently, I read an article posted online that sought to appeal graciously to non-churchgoers with an attempt to woo them back into the fold. You can read the article yourself if you’re interested by clicking here. The following is my personal response to the post, which I also shared on the author’s website. Feel free to add your own comments or, better yet, visit this author’s website and share your heart there as well. I believe the author’s intention was positive, although it’s apparent that he is positively influenced by churchianic mindsets (as so many of us have been). My desire to share my thoughts with him and his readers was not to offend anyone but rather to provoke study of God’s Word and encourage a thirst for genuine Gospel liberty and deeper relationship with Christ. I sincerely would love it if this brother discovered what so many of us have also been discovering over the last several months and years concerning this wonderful life in Jesus Christ, unfettered by the chains of religion. So now, without further adieu-dieu, here is the response I shared with the author of the “Letter To A Non-Churchgoer”…
Wow, where to begin with this one… I guess let me start by saying, I was a deeply-involved church boy for 30+ years of my life. I’ve now been out of that environment for over 15. I am still a follower of Jesus and a member of the Family of God (which, in truth, is the only “church” referenced in Scripture). I appreciate the humble tones of this letter and it appears the author is manifesting good intentions; however, he fundamentally misunderstands the non-church goer on so many levels. I’m not sure I can blame his ignorance entirely. I’ve walked in those shoes too. I meant well when I did. The author’s understanding of church has likely been drilled into him by his environment… not by the Holy Spirit, unfortunately.
To his comment:
“But, except possibly for a wedding or a funeral, we never share in the enterprise I call church.”
The author may not even realize how accurately he indirectly described the reason why what he calls church is not what the Bible calls Church when he says, “the enterprise I call church.” The Church of Scripture is NOT an enterprise. It’s not a business. It’s not even a social club. Yet that is everything that today’s church program is… but, if someone cares about what the Bible presents, then “enterprise” is NOT it. According to Scripture, the Church is the body of Christ (the Family of God, the Spiritual nation of the Kingdom of God, the very PEOPLE who are born again and who live in Christ – regardless of whether or not they attend some man-made program we label as “church”).
I suppose it might seem like an odd title for a post written by a guy that neither has kids of his own, nor has much of a high opinion about “church” as most folks know it. Well, recently I was reading an article on another website (which I first viewed through a friend’s Facebook post). The article was called “I Won’t Force My Kids To Go To Church.” While I would agree with that title, the article was actually suggesting the opposite. If you’d like to read it yourself to have a clue what I’m talking about, here’s the link, but I’m not endorsing the article or the website (just FYI). I’m not really putting the author down either because I don’t know them and I have no idea what the rest of their website features. I’m sure they’re nice people and have good intentions, despite the terrible advice in the article being referenced. All I know is that this article got my dander up just a bit and so I first attempted to post a comment to the author’s website… The author, however, didn’t seem interested in including my post, so I figured I’d just talk about it here. Maybe a few of you will be interested to add some conversation to the comments on the other site, or here.
For those of you too sleepy to bother with reading the above mentioned article in preface to my own response to it, I’ll just summarize that the article’s point was essentially to shame parents for not forcing their kids to go to church. The author even insisted that to neglect doing so was a matter of life and death and eternity! After I read that statement, I had to respond. So, following, are my remarks in response…
Would it surprise or shock you if I dared tell you that neither Jesus, nor His apostles ever told anyone to build a church, attend a church, or call others to go to church? Would it offend you if I dared suggest that when Jesus said in Matthew 16:18, “Upon this rock I will build My Church…” He never actually used the word church at all (but that this word was added hundreds of years later)? Would it bother you to discover that the word “church” NEVER appears anywhere in the entire New Testament?
As astounding as these claims may sound, they are absolutely true. Some of you, at this point, will be saying, “How can you say that Jesus and His apostles never used the word ‘church’ in the entire New Testament, when anyone can open a Bible and see it present, page after page?” The first response I have to this concern is to remind you that the Bible was not written in English. In fact the first hand-written English language Bible manuscripts were produced in the 1380’s (over 1,200 years after the last apostle had died)!!!! That having been said, it’s important to understand that the word “church”, or at least its derivative, is older than the English language… However, it still was never used by Jesus or His apostles!
“Those of you who try to earn God’s approval by obeying his laws
have been cut off from Christ. You have fallen out of God’s favor.“
That opening verse is quite a strong statement isn’t it? Yet, week after week, Christians all over the world buy into the traditional teaching that paying monetary tithes to a religious organization will earn them points with God.
Most have been taught that this is an ordinance of Scripture (yet often without really knowing exactly what Scripture fully teaches regarding the tithe). Christians are often taught that if they will faithfully tithe money (bringing it into the “storehouse” of the church), this will guarantee them favor with God, blessing, provision, protection and prosperity. The main problem with this logic (aside from the lie which suggests that God’s favor and His gifts can be purchased with money – Acts 8:20-22) is that all of these things (favor, blessing, provision, anointing, etc.) are already promised to every believer by God’s grace and to each who makes Christ his Lord. Nothing further is required. Let me put this very plainly another way: Even if you never tithe a cent of your money throughout your entire life as a Christian, it will not change God’s promise to watch over you, love you, protect you, bless you, lead you, provide for you or take you to heaven when this life is through! God does NOT want or need your “tithe” and there is nothing on earth you can do to buy His favor or blessing!
Jesus said that ALL of our provisions will be met on the basis of two things. One, that God loves us – PERIOD. Even the little flowers of the field who do not work or gather into storehouses, Jesus said the Father clothes them with beauty beyond even the splendor of Solomon – so of how much more value are we who are His dear children? Two, that as we seek only His kingdom and His righteousness, everything we have need of in this life will be provided for according to His own purpose. (Matthew 6:24-34; 7:7-11; Luke 12:15-34)
NOTE: The following article is taken from Chapter 11 of Peter Whyte’s book “The King and His Kingdom”, written in 1979.
The disciples were first called Christians at Antioch (Acts 11:26). The name “Christian” means an adherent of Christ.
Today we have such muddled terminology that we apply the term to any church member, regardless of whether he or she is a dedicated follower, a disciple, of Christ.
We need to become disciples of the King and His Kingdom, and church membership can sometimes be a hindrance rather than a help. Loyalty to a man-made church will usually prevent total loyalty to the Kingdom of God. The claims of the organization usually take priority over the claims of the Kingdom when any conflict of interest arises. You cannot serve two masters.
- Becoming a disciple involves first AN ACT OF MY WILL.
I WILL TO DO THE WILL OF GOD.
I WILL to be a disciple of King Jesus and His Kingdom.
Becoming a disciple means I STOP TALKING AND START DOING.
It may not be difficult for us to see the truth of the Gospel of the Kingdom, but we are an unholy nation of scribes and Pharisees. Our normal reaction, if we accept the truth, is to agree with it Then we study it for ourselves in the Bible, read books and hear teachings on the King and His Kingdom.
We then make the fatal error of talking about it, and NEVER become TOTALLY COMMITTED TO DOING IT PERSONALLY.
When I first made my exodus from organized religion, I remember talking with someone online about aspects of the Christian faith and the term “orthodoxy” came up. Now, up until that time I had always presumed I held to orthodox Christianity, because my understanding of orthodoxy was with regard to the doctrine established by Jesus Christ and His apostles in the first century. I still hold to that ideal; However, as I began to re-examine the actual definition of the term orthodox, I found that embracing this concept was not as simplistic as I once presumed.
Here is this literal definition of orthodox from Webster’s Dictionary:
1. accepted as true or correct by most people : supporting or believing what most people think is true.
2. accepting and closely following the traditional beliefs and customs of a religion.
This is the dictionary definition of “orthodox” and was a bit of a shocker to re-read… “Accepted as true or correct by most people…” What? I could care less about what “most people” think with regard to the Christian life. What the Lord Jesus says is true is the only truth I desire to accept! Orthodox refers to “supporting or believing what most people think is true…” What they THINK is true? Since when has the Lord Jesus called anyone to support and accept what most people THINK is true? If you don’t mind me saying, that’s likely one of the major reasons why we have so many church organizations today that are all over the place with doctrine. It’s not that there is a problem with doctrine; The problem is that they are basing their doctrine on orthodoxy – what most people think is true… rather that drawing the truth from out of the Scriptures as plainly as Jesus spoke. We have pastors and teachers everywhere, giving their twist on doctrine and these become divisions apart from the sound doctrine once delivered to the saints, as we read about in Scripture.
Hebrews 10:25 (William Tyndale’s Translation, 1526)
The following was taken from a letter I wrote to someone a long while back about the subject of “not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together” (Hebrews 10:25), which is a common verse cited by many Christians who believe that if you’re not attending weekly religious meetings of some sort or plugged in to a church organization that you are somehow out of sync with Scripture and, for all practical purposes, “backsliding”. Some refer to the “out-of-church” crowd as isolationists, rebels, or walking wounded and this verse is often given as the prescription. But is “attending church” really what the author of Hebrews had in mind here? I don’t think so. For those interested, I thought I’d share my (not so) little rant.
P.S. Much of the information in this letter is drawn from other articles I have written as well as books and resources from other researchers and friends who have written on this topic.
My desire is to embrace God’s truth (not just for truth’s sake, but because I love Him and desire to grow evermore close to Him) and I, quite honestly, do not care if the traditions of men (even my own) are offended by His truth. If a person is honest, they will have to admit that when flesh is confronted by the Spirit of the Living God and the truth of Scripture it often resists submission and humility. But my response to that conviction of Christ and His Word must be to repent and yield, otherwise I only end up hardening my heart and increasing in stubbornness as well as blindness. I want to see clearly with spiritual eyes and walk full in the grace and liberty of Jesus Christ whose precious blood was shed for me.
We Christians tend to throw around a lot of terminologies as well as operate under a lot of religious mindsets that are, quite honestly, the primary product of human tradition and not biblical design. This is not to suggest that all organization is “evil” but sometimes it is counterproductive to true and essential spiritual growth. Sometimes our traditions can make God’s Word to seemingly have no affect and can even move us to actually reject His commands. Jesus Himself noted this reality. Just as we read in Mark 7:5, so are there “Pharisees” today who are asking the question of those who refuse to follow erroneous traditions at the expense of biblical truth: “Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders?” You know well, I’m sure, Jesus’ bold reply:
Mark 7:6-9 – He told them, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites. As it is written, ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is empty, because they teach human rules as doctrines.’ You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition.” Then he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to keep your own tradition!”
Before I can answer the question of what I believe Hebrews 10:25 specifically has in mind concerning “assembling”, I feel it is important to look closer at what “assembly” is all about in the body of Christ as Scripture presents it. Too many Christians have been raised with a traditionally-inspired definition of some of these terms and this has served to make them embrace many Biblically-inaccurate concepts. First I would like to look closer at the popular concept of the word “church”as it is understood today in comparison and contrast with the biblical meaning.
The following article was written by me a few years after I left the organized church system in late 2001. I had just come out of a church that strongly, manipulatively and even oppressively (at times) emphasized the unbiblical doctrine of monetary tithing (and I had become aware of how widespread this same mentality was among so many churches all over). It won’t be too difficult to recognize my zeal concerning this matter and, while I may have softened my approach slightly since then (because of God’s work of love and grace in my heart), this is still very much the conviction of my heart and I do believe the Lord was revealing His truth to me in these things. I do not suppose I am any person’s judge where matters of money may interchange with Gospel work so I hope I will not be misunderstood here, but I think it’s good for us to “check ourselves” and invite the Holy Spirit to weigh our motives and direct whatever change He may desire in our hearts and lives. For some, this will present a difficult view to consider and some may even find this offensive. So long as it is man’s religious inventions that circumvent truth that are offended, then I say GOOD if those notions be offended. They have no place among the Family of God and ought to be discarded. I also understand that some will simply feel that my conclusions are perhaps over-zealous in their application. I always encourage every believer to weigh everything against the study of Scripture and the voice of the Spirit of God, who is the One that guides us into all Truth. I pray that this will challenge and provoke people to righteousness, not anger or offense. My sincere desire is that Christians flee religious captivity and error and embrace the full Gospel of Jesus Christ and all which He has purposed for the Family of God to walk in. If you don’t agree with me, I hope you will still love and pray for me… and, by all means, feel free to share your comments in response. God bless! -Dave
Matthew 21:10-13 (NIV) – When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?” The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.” Jesus entered the temple area and drove out all who were BUYING and SELLING there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it a ‘den of robbers.'”
Revelation 13:16-17 (NIV) – He (the anti-Christ) also forced everyone, small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on his right hand or on his forehead, so that no one could buy or sell UNLESS he had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of his name.
These two passages are curious aren’t they? The first one describes Jesus entering into the “holy place” and casting out all who bought and sold. This “holy place” had been turned into a marketplace. The business of religion was in full swing and money was the primary concern of the events transpiring here. In fact, regardless of all the other “legal” activities going on here, Jesus is at once consumed with this one thing that has literally ruined every other aspect of this place’s intended purpose! He does not softly speak about preserving the good and giving a little bit of advice about the rest… This is no minor detail to Jesus! John’s account of this event (2:5) says that Jesus fashioned a whip and drove the moneychangers (BOTH BUYERS AND SELLERS) out! He turned over their tables and scattered their money all over the place!
NOTE: The following post is an article I wrote back in 2008 (modified and updated). It contains some of my personal opinions on fasting and my own experience. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. If you attempt to follow any of the activities described in this article, it is recommended that you first consult a physician for medical advice.
Most Christians who are familiar with the topic of fasting are basically trained to believe it has some kind of supernatural element attached to the activity. How often (during my church-attending days) I have sat in services where the congregation was encouraged to fast and pray so that the hand of God would “move” in their situation. The activity of fasting was virtually implied as some kind of “magical” formula to entice God to do certain things. If you really wanted something from God, you added fasting to your prayer.
For years I believed in “the power of fasting” (I still do) but I never really understood why. For the most part I was just aware that the Bible referred to it, Jesus did it, several of the patriarchs did it and called others to do it, etc. I heard preachers say things like, “If you really want to see the hand of God move in your life, start fasting.” So it did seem to be some kind of mysterious formula that, apparently, God really liked. On occasion I did add fasting along with prayer to my daily routine and, I must confess, I experienced things I did not experience otherwise. For example, a greater clarity of thought and ability to focus on spiritual things. It also seemed to add a kind of euphoria while praying. I felt closer to God and equally more energized, alert and focused. So it appeared, based on my own experience, that fasting worked. But why? More on that in a moment.