This is something the Holy Spirit has been slowly pointing out to me as I could understand it. I read a phrase, over two years ago now, that has stuck in my head. The gist was, “You may be gone (from religion/the institution), but you’re still playing the game.” In a way I knew this was true for me, but I had no idea how not to play. Our society seems trapped in the idea that we need man’s approval in the way we follow Jesus.
It seems we all play even after we’ve been on a new journey for some time with Jesus. Freedom is most often a long and slow process of letting go of the past ways that bound us from seeing clearly, from being fully alive in Christ. For me, I’m still learning (or unlearning) a lot on this current journey. It seems we’re often discouraged to seek such a relationship directly and instead, taught to rely on an earth-bound, human liaison to commune with God for us—and even be our Shepard in lieu of Jesus.
This leads me to a current discussion (one of many) I’ve been in with Jesus. The residual guilt has diminished over time, but was still something that bothered me often. The majority of this guilt was applied externally. Constantly, I’d been told, especially from the pulpit, that to leave the congregation would be grounds for eternal damnation. Often, this wasn’t communicated directly, but ever so subtle with phrases like, “If you aren’t under the consistent teaching of ‘the gospel’ (as we define it), then you will fall out of favor with God.” Though I’m seeing more and more how that gospel isn’t the Gospel Jesus taught, it’s a discussion that is hard to communicate to many stuck in dogma because they don’t want to hear or see. Fear rules here—the fear of questioning what has been mandated to be believed under threat of eternal torment.
Still, there was some guilt that Father has been slowly draining away over time. I wasn’t consciously trying to hold onto this guilt, but now I realize my very thought patterns had to be changed, much to religion’s dismay and undoing much of their work, in order for that guilt to be fully released. In this way, my mind has been renewed over time.
There are many steps that this process has taken. The current one was guilt over not doing more. It seems the religious regime was always pushing for more and more investment into the institution—whether it was time, money, obligation, or blind following. This step in the process slowly came to light over the past few days after I heard a phrase and researched it a little more. I know all of this is kinda vague right now, but hopefully it makes some sense at the end.
I’d heard a statement that the common life expectancy of a 1st Century Jewish person was ~40 years. After researching this a great deal online, this seems to be the general consensus based on the historical records of the time. This, of coarse, could cause arguments as there were always exceptions to the rule with a handful living until their 70’s or 80’s, but the average life expectancy seemed to be 40 (and that’s at the distant end of the spectrum). Likewise, it seemed a generation, by the Bible’s own definition, was ~40 years, the general expectation that the majority of a new populace would be in place within that time.
But why is that important?
Jesus started his public ministry when he was 30, in a society where people weren’t expected to live until the age of 40. Jesus lived a full life before he ever entered public ministry, and then his ministry was a total of three years.
Now, there are a few factors to consider based on the canon we have today.
First, at the end of Luke 2, we catch a glimpse of Jesus at age 12 in the temple courts. It appears he already had the knowledge necessary to pursue his ministry, but he doesn’t, that we know of, until age 30.
Next, we see another glimpse of what Jesus was doing during his years prior to his public ministry. At the beginning of Mark 6, he travels to his hometown. The people there seem to know him as but a carpenter and are amazed at what he could do. It’s interesting to note that, based on their reactions, he hadn’t displayed the knowledge or ability he had, in his hometown, until this point. As he says himself at the Cana wedding, “My hour has not yet come.” (John 2:4b).
Here we see Jesus purposely holding back from what he could do likely because of the Father’s plan.
Okay, so where am I going with this?
We’re taught to devote our life to religion, yet, we see the Savior himself only spending three years of ministry at what was close to the end of his life expectancy. Perhaps he lived a full life as a human, though having the power of God, to truly know what a full life as a human was. He had already demonstrated his knowledge on the temple grounds and that he had the ability at the Cana wedding though it wasn’t his time.
Crunching a few numbers, this would be the equivalent of entering “ministry” (however that might be defined) myself at the age of 60 after 3/4th of my life expectancy had passed.
Now, my point isn’t that we should be complacent and just live our lives. My point is that we often assume that a life of religion is what Father wants when this wasn’t what Jesus’ life demonstrated.
We can live our daily lives while at the same time experiencing life in Jesus. While we could be called to do something great, we often pursue changing the world through religion instead of just living for God, trusting that his plan will unfold in our lives at his timing.
I’ve been made to feel guilty still even though I am no longer part of the institution because I wasn’t doing enough for God. It seems this is just another guilt tactic though. “Okay, so you aren’t attending a church service regularly anymore—what are you doing for God then?” These types of questions only seek to bind us back to a religion instead of freedom of relationship with God. These questions still keep us playing the religion game. Though we may be gone from attending, we’re still trying to live up to others’ standards and expectations.
Slowly, I’m learning to live for God, with God. I’m learning from Jesus little by little. He’s teaching me to let go of the guilt and shame and just trust Father’s plan even in the mundane—especially in the everyday, mundane—minutia of life.
This life isn’t about religious crusades to force Christianity on others—it’s about bringing the love of Father, through the Son, by the Holy Spirit within us—to one heart at a time as we live out our life in him. It’s that life of love that Jesus died to give us. It’s that love that overcame the confines of Sheol forever. It’s that love that sustains us daily where religion drains us. It’s for, and by, that love that we live a full, or (as the Bible states it) everlasting/eternal life.
This is a concept I’ve been considering writing about for awhile. It can go quite a bit more in-depth than this, but I only want to focus on the basis of what I’m seeing in scripture—a plan too beautiful to ignore.
“All,” just like the word “soon,” seems to be one of those words we have to twist far out of its’ original context in order to make ourselves appear more righteous by our religious pursuits instead of relying on Father’s plan. We stretch “soon” to mean then and for unknown centuries in the future. Likewise, we attempt to contain “all” into a narrow box that only means a select few. In doing this, we deny Jesus’ very words. We’ve made a god in our image so we can justify exclusion of others that won’t conform to our doctrines of power, control, finances, politics, “justified” war and hatred, etc….
Okay, so where am I going with this?
Colossians 1:15-20 (Emphasis Mine)
The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
The above passage is so beautiful, I couldn’t just boil it down to 1 or 2 verses. Here, Paul goes into detail of God’s plan—for ALL. We can twist and bend this amazing passage, we can add or take away words, we can throw around thoughts of heresy and blasphemy, or we can just ignore this passage all together since it doesn’t conform to our preconceived notions.
However, if we can so easily throw out or manipulate such a block of scripture, there’s nothing Biblical we can enforce. In other words, if Paul could be so wrong about God’s plan for all of creation, what can we trust in the Bible?
For centuries, passages like this have been ignored or twisted to mean something other than the direct meaning that they imply. If we truly taught this, our man-made power structures would crumble. We would have to actually love and include everyone. Then, the good news would actually be good news.
How do we incorporate such a glorious message into our current system of religion? I honestly don’t think those old wine-skins can hold this new wine. For centuries it has been tried and for centuries, both have been ruined.
We’ve repeatedly tried to reform the system. While on the surface, it may seem better, we’re only treating the symptoms and not the disease—we’re only changing external features so we look more compliant from the outside while we rot away internally. We continue to push obligation, agenda, accountability, participation, mandates, politics, etc…as relationship with Father. All the while we miss out on a relationship with him ourselves because we refuse to believe and live by what he has already stated. We don’t allow people to be in a relationship of freedom with Jesus; we attempt to force them through guilt and manipulation no matter how subtle and politely we try to present it.
How do we get to that place of loving others without the structures we’ve created, whether physical or otherwise?
Perhaps we just trust that God has already succeeded with his plan and has all under control.
I write to you because there are matters of utmost concern that have come to my attention. You seem to not understand the importance of the mandates that have been prescribed.
I understand you have based your services on fellowship with one another, however, you seem to have neglected many of the other obligations that have been given to you. Fellowship is fine, but it has its place. You must focus on the aspects of the services. You can fellowship a few minutes before and after, and perhaps during an interlude, you can shake hands with a few people you haven’t spoken to yet, but you must keep the service in proper focus. Fellowship has its place, but you must strive to make the service of utmost importance.
Please remain attentive to the speaker and do not interrupt with questions. Doubts and questions are the foundations of sin. I know you have read of the apostles’ answers, but it is time you started to learn how to be reverent and respectful of the anointed ones in your meetings. Questions cause division, and you must remain in unity.
You must be in attendance every Sunday. There are no valid excuses for tardiness or absence. Do not underestimate the importance of being under the teaching of the word and correct doctrine. You will easily fall out of favor if you are not consistently sustained with the words of these leaders.
In addition, you must give your tithe to the proper authority figure for use in continued services in the future. There should be no more of this sharing among yourselves as the funding for future services is severely lacking. Submit to the leaders and they will do what is appropriate for you.
Also, remember to stick with the service format and do not allow variation. Change is always bad. If you advance pass the format presented here, you will alienate each other from consistency and familiarity. Remember how good it was in the past and always strive to uphold that ideal. Ensure everyone upholds those past traditions so you remain compliant to the faith.
I have noticed that while you are more than willing to sacrifice yourselves at the hands of the political authorities, you must consider the spreading of the gospel. How do you intend to spread the word if you’re dead? Do not throw your life away by such useless sacrifice. Instead, you must strive to become a force within the political arena. Christianity will die if you do not actively involve yourselves.
There are other ways in which you can sacrifice. You can sacrifice your time and assets to build the institution so it can become a force in the world for good. I know you are eager to place your efforts into a pursuit, and I can think of nothing better to spend your time and resources on than building the church in the world so there is a shining beacon of morality in which to base your lives around.
You must submit yourselves to the authorities. They know what is best for you. You can trust that they will not mislead you. They already know all that I am writing in this letter, so submit yourselves to them so they can direct you in the word. Without leadership, you will be lost and fall into error. These leaders have been strategically placed and trained so you can be comfortable in your salvation. They are masterful at pointing out sin and will guide and encourage you by specifying the rules you must live by in order to be a good Christian. There will be many examples of worldliness they will point out along the way to show you how righteous you are in comparison. Take note of these things and be confident in your salvation because you have done what is right.
You must perform the rituals as prescribed. Every born again believer must be baptized with water as has been mandated. I will leave the methodology of this to you, but all assemblies must come to an agreement and use water in these rituals. Baptism in the Holy Spirit is not enough. How else will you recognize each other as Christians if you don’t perform the prescribed mandates regularly?
No more disagreements. You need to come to a consensus on everything so that no one falls into error. Differing views will cause division. It is important that if anyone disagrees with the majority, they must be cut off from the congregation lest they confuse and distort the message. Unity in everything done is the most important aspect of keeping your congregation healthy and active. If you follow all of these mandates, unity should not be a problem. Remember, separate yourselves from any dissenters so they cannot distract you from the path laid before you.
Remember, also, to abstain from sin. Do not allow yourself to be exposed to others. In doing so, you will cause controversy and be shown as weak and unworthy. The focus is on the worship service and not you individually. It is shameful to bring up your short-comings in such a holy place.
Remember, you are at war so everything you experience outside of proper religion should be considered an attack. There are forces that will attack you financially, politically, and morally. When you suffer lose of these things, it is a spiritual attack. Remember, anything that causes you discomfort is bad and must be upheld as such.
Additionally, the errant dissenters have already been lost so you must separate yourselves and attack them with any weapon you can forge. Wielding scripture and prayer, you can do grievous harm to these aggressors. When all else fails, just ignore them and continually repeat what you have been mandated to believe.
I know the old system continually got these things wrong, but I believe you can do them right. Do not associate with those who will not conform to your corporate worship. In the future, you would do well to construct signs outside of your buildings to let the rest of society know how wrong they are through shrewd adages. There is no need to associate personally with those outside other than this unless it is to ask them their spiritual state. In this, you may cause them to come under conviction and persuade them that attending your congregation is the way to salvation.
The time is short as you can deduce from all the evil signs around you. You must get these things in proper order as quickly as possible lest you suffer the coming judgment. Just remember, hold on and one day everything will be okay.
I applaud you in advance for your devotion to these mandates. You can know that I will always be near when needed to help guide you back onto the appropriate path.
Luci F. Er
What is sin?
The answer can be varied depending on who is asked.
Mostly, what I was taught to believe is that sin is breaking a list of rules that God has established. Again, that list can vary.
When we get down to it, it seems we uphold the Ten Commandments as the basis of our sin dichotomy. However, if we go down that list, we quickly see that much of Western Christianity is not holding up those rules, especially when we look at Jesus’ definition of righteousness by law such as Matt 5. Another example: the Sabbath is from Friday at sundown until Saturday evening. If we aren’t remembering the Sabbath and keeping it holy, we’re already breaking one of the rules. And if we break one, we break them all.
In this, we get a rather subjective list that is easily open to interpretation based on other parts of the Bible. We toss aside or change/justify what we don’t care to uphold and weaponize the rest in an attempt to beat others into submission to our standards. If we take a step back and look at this process, it’s all just comparative righteousness. We have a scale by which we weight our righteousness against others’. This is also known as self-righteousness and is prevalent in the institution we call “church” today.
So if the list is so undefinable, what is sin? If we don’t know what sin is–if there is no list that won’t contain holes—how do we avoid it? Is this even the appropriate question we should ask? Perhaps what we’ve been asking is the wrong starting point.
So let’s look at “original sin.” What was Adam and Eve’s sin? Looking at Genesis 3, it seems they wanted to know what good and evil was by their definition instead of trusting in God. This is how the serpent deceived—trust in self instead of God. Again, righteousness by human means instead of relationship with Father.
Perhaps this is the root of all sin—our trust that our way is right because of our insistence that it is, even when we state the Bible backs our conclusion. This same methodology was used all throughout the Old Testament, yet, we see constant failure by man to avoid the sin condition. Interestingly enough, it seems that even if we’re “right” about our statements, we can still be in sin because of our self-righteous attitude about it.
So far it doesn’t seem quite clear what sin is and how we avoid it.
How I’ve come to see it is, sin is anything that separates us from being in relationship with Father. Jesus came to end that separation:
“The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”—Mark 1:15.
In effect, it seems Jesus was trying to get people to stop attempting a relationship with Father by rules.
If fear separates us from God, it is sin—even fear of hell.
If we believe that our rule-following justifies us, we no longer trust in Jesus as bridging that separation, or if we add addendum to Jesus’ completed work, we in turn nullify the effect of his accomplishment in our personal life.
If we try to force mandates, accountability, obligation, etc…on others, we are only propping up man made agenda and become separated from Father.
If we use intimidation, fear, guilt, shame, etc…to try to force others into a “love” relationship (what sense does that make?) we are separated from a relationship with Father.
If we’re trying to summon the Holy Spirit into our meetings by long-winded/extravagant prayer, rituals, speeches, music, etc…we deny that the Holy Spirit has been given to live in us and in turn are separated from Father.
If we trust in politics, power, finances, military might, etc…we in turn are separated from Father.
If we refuse to engage others because we consider ourselves “right” and consider them as “wrong,” we are separated from Father.
If we insist that our behavior justifies us/causes God to act—negatively or positively, we in turn are separate from Father. Example: I’m a good person so why is God punishing me with this?
None of this is Father separating us from him, but, like Adam and Eve, it is our insistence that our ways are right, and we remove ourselves from relationship with Father. Thereby, we justify ourselves because of our doings and not the completed work of Jesus. We trust in our own knowledge of good and evil and not in Life itself, which is Jesus.
In conclusion, my view of sin is anything that inhibits our relationship with Father—whether we label these things as secular or sacred. In addition, what inhibits my relationship may not inhibit another’s. Attempting to force a standardized list of religious mandates and obligations can in turn separate us from relationship with Father because of our insistence in our own righteousness by what we achieve. Jesus never forced—he invited any who would come, into a relationship with Father. This, too, is our calling as Christians—not obligation, fear, shame, hatred, accountability, religion, manipulation, mandates, etc….but just a simple invitation for others to come to know our Father through Jesus and by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
If this were a prize fight, organized Christianity wouldn’t quite be knocked out yet, but it would certainly be on the ropes and we’d be way behind on points coming to the bell.
It’s no secret that people are leaving the Church in record numbers and although they may not all be rejecting Jesus, they are surely saying no to the faith that bears his name—and for many good reasons.
I spend a great deal of my time each day listening to many of these good folks and they educate me. Based on what I see from where I am and what I’ve learned from nearly two decades in church ministry, here are some ways we Christians are obscuring Jesus and hurting people, and severely damaging our testimony in the world in the process:
1) Vilifying non-Christians.
In the face of attrition and growing public ambivalence, too many Christians and Christian leaders lazily lean back on attack language…
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Here’s a post I wrote for Church Set Free. Please have a look-see. Note: the site is still under construction.
How do we see the Bible? Is it a love letter, historical record, rule book—all of these?
Why do we strive to prove our view of the Bible as “right?”
Are we really in love with Father, or are we just paying fire insurance premiums by our rituals and traditions?
Love or Fear?
First, it’s beneficial to consider—Are we viewing the Bible from the perspective of God’s love for us or our fear of him?
If we’re afraid of God, we may see the Bible as a rule book, full of threats if we don’t comply. If we choose to fall ever more deeply in love with God, we may see the Bible as a companion guide through which the Holy Spirit can guide us in growing spiritually.
Digging a little deeper into this, in a church service during my teenage days, the pastor asked the congregation a question—Are we serving God to avoid hell or because…
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