If you’re a Christian, you already know that your opinion about life and how your life should go will often run into a conflict with the Word of God. God’s word is not designed to make us comfortable, but it challenges us spiritually to be more like Christ. I write so much about spiritual awareness because I was so UN-aware of my religious surroundings most of my life. I write from a place of learning. Learning about Christ means learning more about me and understanding my journey to the present. I didn’t realize how wrapped up in religion I was until one day I realized that I had only been studying the Bible with the voices of other people’s religious opinions in my head.
Let me explain.
I would read scripture and already decide what it meant because I figured had already been taught that by my church (no need to explore further because the preacher said “thus”) or I would ignore any other meaning. It was as if I had become a spiritual zombie. Dead from the neck up. Oh, I had a lot of company in zombie-town
An example of this, this will be my first time in 35 years putting up Christmas decorations. It’s a long story about obeying my teaching. And no, we weren’t Jehovah’s Witnesses. I’ll tell you more about this confusion later this week.
There was a part of my spiritual life where I didn’t read scriptures to discover what God was saying. I might do it in personal meditation time, but when it came to doctrine, I would read and study with the mindset of confirming what I already BELIEVED. I did this even when there were times that what I was taught was not matching with reality. We had to support our practices. They were called “standards,” but very few could you find in the bible. But, internal standards of love, mercy, truth, and justice, etc. seemed to take a back seat to traditions and the name of the church.
I stayed in zombie mode.
Admit it! This is about the only place you can find, bible discussion, pictures of zombies and talks about Christmas decorations in the same blog post!
But what if some of the things you already practice are not based on careful study of the Bible in the first place? As a pew sitter, you just not your head if you know better and keep it moving. But teaching it is a whole other ball game.
I was studying with blinders on. There was honesty there because I wouldn’t allow God (can you imagine?) to talk to me about anything different from what my religion taught!
If we read to understand the will of God for our lives, we have to read the Bible in a way that we fully understand God’s meaning. Going to church with the blind leading the blind is horrible. I know, because I was one of them. At one point many years ago, when I was in seekers mode, I would listen to my preacher and just enjoy the show, not really planning on changing anything that would be painful to change. Once I got out of that mode of low-level living and made a serious commitment to live right, I discovered a whole new world of understanding. It was wonderful.
However, it seemed I was falling back into a spiritual mentality that I had left many years ago. The mindset of not really concentrating on Jesus and me and just accepting what was becoming the status quo. But this time in a different way. I equated disobeying man-made rules with falling away from God. To me, there was no difference. Yet, in the bible, there is a difference. I can’t believe I’m writing this, but while I taught against man-made religions, I also was following a lot of personal rules manacled to my testimony of salvation.
Paul continually talks about ignoring man-made rules and focusing on Christ. But I couldn’t see how I wasn’t focusing on Christ. I was DOING so much.
For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. 29 But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God. (NASB) Romans 2
However, as I began to see significant conflicts, that I knew were not godly, it made me stop and think. Believe me, I talked to my leaders but with no added clarity. It only made it worse.
As I began to focus on my relationship with Christ and not assume I was saved because I was with a particular religious group, I decided to get back to the Bible– plainly as it was written. God called me to re-connect with Him for myself, which is something I think God wants all of us to do.
One thing I discovered was that I was beginning to accept things were not biblical. My church always taught that saved people don’t have to join a denomination to be saved. They merely must connect with Christ. “God didn’t call people to join a church. He told them to repent of sin and be saved, be connected to the true vine, Jesus Christ.” That’s so true. I loved that truth. I still believe that, but I saw that our churches overall had changed in practice. I noticed that people began to say “well, they’re saved, but they’re not Church of God.” How can that be if salvation makes you a member?
In practice, one became required to agree to not only general rules but the rules of particular leaders and their wives to be right with God and avoid prosecution or persecution.
Those 11 Herbs and Spices
Some churches require that you believe in Jesus, but you ALSO must include their 11 herbs and spices and special sauce to be a Christian TRULY.
This is no different than the Pharisees and Jewish religious leaders who had adjusted the law of Moses and the Levitical ceremonial laws until it became their religion and not God’s. Jesus had considerable problems with the religious leaders of his day because they began to serve themselves and change not only the laws of Moses but the emphasis of what was important in those laws. ( See Matthew 23).
In practice, one became required to agree not only to general rules but the rules of particular leaders and their wives to be right with God and avoid prosecution or persecution.
I began to accept wrongdoing in our religious group as typical. If you internally start to recognize something as commonplace, then you will begin to excuse it. No Christian should accept wrongdoing privately. If I became too disturbed because nothing was done or said about it, it was just too stressful. So I would ignore it for sanity sake and move on to other things. The problem was, I found myself ignoring stuff –a lot. We may not always be able to do something about wrong but to accept it as just part of the Christian landscape kind of diminishes the whole purpose of coming out of darkness into light. Don’t you think?
3But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. 4 Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. 5 For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a person is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.[a] 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. 7 Therefore do not be partners with them. (NIV), Ephesians 5