The Problem With Organized Religion
The problem is "the lust of the eye, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life"
(I John 2:15-16) presented by "the world, the flesh, and the devil"
(Ephesians 6:11-12, Matthew 7:22-24).
Preface | The Sinful Nature | The Church of Your Choice | Church Splits
Most Christians know these scriptures. Much preaching has been on the lust of the eye and the lust of the flesh. They are obvious sins and easy to preach on because these things are easy to condemn. At worst, it gets the focus off of ourselves when taking to the offense and attacking others. (We tend to condemn the same things in others that we are also guilty. Others are quick to notice and call us hypocrites.)
The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life relate to our focus and attention and it is the big issue. Somehow, this big issue does not relate to a religious system of dos and don'ts - externals; but relates to the inner man. With lust defined as strong desire, bad desire or appetite, and incidentally, as desire for indulgence in sex; with such synonyms as carnal, lascivious, or lecherous, then the application of the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eye has to do with physical things that may or may not be sinful in themselves, but somehow it's got a hold of us and now it is sin. We often fool ourselves into thinking we can let go of our addictions; like the people who says they can stop smoking or drinking anytime they want. True; they can, they may want, but why do thy have such a hard time when they try?
... no I didn't forget; What about "The pride of life"? This gets very personal. We know that everybody has to deal with "pride" and we even refer to it jokingly with a slight giggle to get the guilt to bounce off of ourselves. On the other hand, "pride" has become a catch-all term to be used during interpersonal communication, when you don't have the upper hand in dealing with someone, you can accuse them of "pride" in order to put them on the defensive. Of course! When it comes to PRIDE, we are all guilty, and no one can deny it.
... no I didn't forget; Pride of WHAT? Pride OF LIFE. Of life? Now that's a broad subject. Have you every heard anyone speak or write on that before? It has been neglected because most of us really don't know what it is. We've simply called it "pride" but seem to be very naive about "life" in identifying in Adam, our susceptibilities, our motives hidden in the deep recesses of our hearts; not the overt side of Adam as in the lust of the eye and the lust of the flesh, which we do our best to cover-up and condemn in others, but the inner man, which tries to express itself, covertly. This is our first hint as to what the pride of life actually is. This leads to our considering deep-seated attitudes and motivations. Enter stage left: the Soul. God gave us a soul which has been commonly defined as our flesh with a mind, will, and emotions. God could not have been wrong in giving each of us our soul, or the real life which indwells these fleshly tabernacles. Ah ha! Choice. We can choose who or what we will serve. We make decisions based upon our value systems, either whole-heartedly, under duress, or somewhere in between. ... and I know what you are now thinking; You say you are a Christian and that sin no longer reins in your mortal body. (Yes, that is correct.) You may even be arrogant enough to say that you no longer sin! Correction please. It is necessary to digress here: We are no longer under the law since Christ fulfilled the law and took for us the place that we deserved on the cross. We still sin but, since our sins were blotted-out by the blood of Jesus Christ, our sins are no longer counted against us. This is our salvation. We escape the law of sin and death. If this didn't include our future sins, then every Christian would have lost their salvation again within a few days, hours, or minutes of Christ's crucifixion and His work would have been in vain. Under the Law given to Moses, Israel's sins were counted against them. The annual Atonement ceremony placated the issue of sin for another year and sin just wouldn't go away forever until Christ's Atonement. Under Grace, to Jews and gentiles, and only by the work of Christ, we have a gracious relationship and standing before God, whereby we do instinctively the works of the former dispensation of The Law, but now out of conviction in our hearts, or conscience, the Holy Spirit convicting, (or teaching) us who have accepted this privileged relationship. We now know right from wrong and don't want to sin. But guess what! We still sin. Some say we just "stumble". No! WE STILL SIN! If you disagree, either you or God is the liar and you don't understand salvation by grace. (Rom 4:16; 5:2; 10:1-4; Eph. 2:8)
... back to the pride of life; It is a very important topic because it is one of the three components of a most profound scripture verse (I John 2:15-16) which covers the overall problem. The "pride of life" is in fact that everybody, saved and unsaved, has the tendency, in Adam, to esteem himself highly as authority, even though he says he is, or is in fact, a Christian. He may have the "me first" attitude and think he has the answers and that things should go his way. This can go to any extreme of being obvious to everybody or of not being obvious to anybody. Such attitudes are born and maintained in the deep recesses of the heart and soul. In the worst cases, you better not disagree with these self-appointed authorities or an argument might ensue; some people tolerate and most people avoid them.
There! Now we have found the core of all our problems in the ekklesia (the called-out ones), commonly known as the Church. And you may be a part of that ekklesia, just as I am. What are we going to do about it? What haven't we done about it? What are our sins of omission? Have we been cowards for 2000 years? Do we have our heads in the sand? Are we in denial? Have we been dumbed-down by our institutions? Who's in charge here? Who was supposed to have dominion over the earth when it was created? (Genesis 1:26) Yes, Satan is the prince of the power of the air. (Eph. 2:2) The biggest question is, "What has Christ sent us (the Church) to do?" Do we even know what we are dealing with before doing anything about it? Have we done a spiritual reconnaissance on the identification and nature of our enemy and readied the weapons of our spiritual warfare?
This web site will make a best effort to deal with these problems. First, we have to identify the problems. This is the ugliest part and there is a lot of it to go around. Exposure is supposed to have the effect of defeat. We have to expose the source of the problems; identify Satan as the enemy of our souls and understand that "Satan goes to church." The perfect love of God, in Christ, casteth out all fear, therefore we should not "fear" Satan. His days are numbered. He might as well lay down and play dead but he is not going to do that; he is going to continue to wreck much havoc in the Church as he has been for the past 2000 years and long before with the Jewish people and all the way back. For the entire World, he goes around like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Still, he is our defeated foe, which is what we need to understand as we take hold of Christ, our Savior.
THE SINFUL NATURE
Liberals, humanists, and other apologists, have come up with the terminology "human nature", for fear of looking sin in the face. Some even go to "church" and call themselves "Christians".
Most people come to conclusions based upon opinion rather than facts. They defend themselves by saying that everyone has a right to their own opinion. (Which is true.) The human race fills the void of godlessness by resorting to it's own alternatives. The evidence that opinion is subjective and unreliable is in the fact there are too many conflicting opinions on the same issues. Who is right or wrong? Enter stage left (always stage left): Satan, who seizes the opportunity to persuade men and women through the pride of life to set themselves up as authority (independent of God) and what naturally follows is the desire to control an influence others. The more you oppose them or try to correct them, the more psychopathic they get [if they don't repent someday]. The sinful nature proceeds independent of God, claiming to be godly. It is the same for individuals relating one-on-one as it is for the most powerful people dominating the World in preparation for the False Prophet, the anti-Christ, the Beast, or Satan himself.
The independent spirit, avoiding any commitment or code of accountability based upon absolutes, or perhaps simply ignorant, has no choice but to protect itself with such survival mechanisms as:
All things are relative... If it works for you... There are gray areas... If you are consenting adults... If it feels good... We all travel separate paths to the same destination... All roads lead to Rome... What is truth? [good question, wrong motive!] Nobody has arrived yet... We each worship in our own way... Join the church of your choice...
All are excuses for either a lack of knowledge or rejection of knowledge often due to a moral twist that they use to justify their sin. How will they ever find truth or any right or wrong for their own personal stability with such chaotic thinking in society? The above examples sound like the worst infidels who go to "church" yet call themselves "Christians" because they were born in a so-called "Christian" nation and have "joined the club". How many of them are in your congregation and even in positions of leadership. They would be well served to receive the Lord's chastening, repent [turn around], and become a servant of God, rather than presuming to speak for God. "If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons." Hebrews 12:7-8. Poor bastards! They do not have ears to hear; never mind chastening!
So, you say that you go to a fundamentalist congregation. Have you ever wondered... how many people in your congregation are actually saved? It doesn't take long for a sincere and true Christian who is dedicated to being active in his congregation, to see that there are many problems and disappointments. You know that "A house divided against itself cannot stand," (Mat. 12:25). You've been through church battles and church splits, and you question, through all the preaching, where is the anticipated fruit of the Holy Spirit in the congregation? And, how can all these people be so resistant to the person of Christ, the Gospel of eternal life, and live joyous Christian lives bearing the fruit of the Holy Spirit? One wonders... do all men seek truth?
THE CHURCH OF YOUR CHOICE ... WHOSE CHOICE? !!!
I can hear Billy Graham exhorting people to "join the church of your choice." The Lord only has one Church, or called-out ones, consisting of all those who belong to Him. The problem is sectarianism, or the choosy spirit. The Lord chose to lay out a program for His church. Our only valid choice about joining a church is in joining the Lord's Church, not man-made denominations. Christ's Church is not divided into denominations named after Paul or Apollos or Cephas. (1 Cor. 1:12) The Lord Jesus Christ prayed in the garden, on the night that He was betrayed, that his disciples would be united as one. (John 17:21) In scripture Christian disciples are referred to as being members of the assembly of whatever community they are a resident. They didn't have four "church" buildings at the four corners of an intersection. This is the product of the choosy spirit. I've heard Jews and others say, "Look at you Christians; you can't even get together." What a shame! The condition must be admitted. Common sense, even without the scriptures, tells you that there has to be something wrong with denominationalism. As was the custom of the Jews, I do not see the early Christians going more than a Sabbath day's journey to meetings and crossing each others path along the way, going their separate ways. Christ and the apostles would not have given us the mandate of endeavoring to keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace (Eph. 4:3) if they didn't mean it.
The inevitable results of the pride of life, the Adamic nature, or the choosy spirit, is going to present problems proportional enough to lead to "church" splits. Let us digress here to remind ourselves that Christ's Church is not divided and can not be divided. The Church that Christ is building is not some architectural marvel; not a physical building. "... the Most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands." Acts 7:48. There is nothing holy or sacrosanct about buildings that men call "churches". They could all fall down and the Church which is Christ's Body would go on completely intact. Such purging would make it flourish! The institutions are like "the tail wagging the dog." Encumbering it with fiscal responsibility, budgets, fund raising, missionary pledges, hiring and firing preachers, power struggles, and all manner of ungodliness. Sometimes the congregation seems worst than the World. It is a very, very sad tragedy that some of the people involved in this are genuine Christians and trying to hold onto the man-made institution which they think is the "Church".
Supposedly, there are those who watch for your spiritual welfare. They are called the "leadership". What do you do when the whole house is corrupt? The leadership is not blessed because the sin of sectarianism has them in a position of illegitimate power. Often, the sincere Christians with fairly right ideas and motives are attacked and vilified and put on such a defensive, that they can achieve nothing. Often, they are demonized for upsetting the status quo of the founding fathers or being disloyal to the "leadership." Once burned, they learn to remain silent. The long-term silent ones are just observers who know what happens to those who "get out of line". They've been around town and have been through church splits before and it's no different any place else. Plus, they won't depart from the small fortune their families have "invested" in the "church" for decades as well as their entangled alliances with relatives and business associates in the congregation whose relationships hang in the balance.
This writer has been through three "church" splits over a period of 25 years. It was thought, in the first instance that both sides were wrong. Then it could be seen that there was an element that both sides were right. The problem was that both sides were right but wrong in their estimates of each other. In an attempt at mediation, it was noted that when the charges were presented from each side to the other, the opposite side would deny that the charges represented their beliefs and intentions. This was the situation on both sides. They built straw horses, got extremely defensive, and wouldn't budge.
In all three splits it was the reformers vs. the old guard. In all three splits the reformers lacked the tact required to establish communication decently and in order and the old guard usually lacked the grace to compensate the reformers for their lack of ability in communication to proceed decently and in order. (1 Cor. 14:40) Of course, the old guard dug-in their heals and took a defensive self-protecting posture. The reformers felt they weren't being heard (whether real or imagined) and the old guard wanted discipline first. Splits always start with a few personalities, people's feelings get hurt, there are no apologies, sympathies are evoked by the simple-minded who take up an offense on the behalf of others, and it becomes one big mess. With so many secondary issues to muddy the waters and people insisting the issues all be handled, it all seems like the original issues don't get clarified. It just becomes, "He said..." and "She said...", and you hear everybody playing-back all the misquotes. If you've been around for a while, doesn't this mess all sound familiar? It's happened all over town! [To understand better the dynamics of what the Old Guard and the Reformers achieve and don't achieve, you might read The Prince by Machiavelli.]
It would seem that if one side was pure, they would be spiritually strong (Rom. 15:1-7) and with much care and wisdom, be able to resolve the conflict. In the first split, the reformers were conservatives in the minority. The second split was charismatic reformers in the majority. The third split was 50/50 and the leadership stuck together in one faction; the result being an impasse.
What are the chances of saving such situations. With Christ, all things are possible. Was Martin Luther on a fool's errand? Have the reformers really done anything of total consequence? Is it too sacrosanct for congregations to open themselves to self-examination and ask what overall might be wrong with the system? Obviously, Christ is out of the picture. Can congregations take the knife to themselves and first purge themselves of the non-scriptural traditions of men that cause the sin of sectarianism on all levels? Then, without the compromise of sectarianism, which hinders the power of the Holy Spirit, you can have the power to deal with the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life.
Generally speaking, in a fight, there is seldom a guiltless party, just as in a divorce. When the stronger party handles the weaker party, there is usually no divorce. If there is a strong party to nurture the weaker party, a situation is not likely to develop, or if it develops, it can be cured. Moreover, the stronger has the burden and thus accountable to bear the responsibility as in Romans, Chapters 14 & 15. This can be accomplished if you are not quenching the Holy Spirit by the sin of sectarianism.
The old guard tends to be conservative in wanting to maintain the status quo. Even if to a fault, this is preferable due to the need for stability. We need to proceed orderly. Often, the old guard feels threatened at the slightest suggestion of anything less than the status quo. They may even be absolutely correct about not moving the ancient landmarks that are indisputable in honoring the Lord Jesus Christ. With Christ as the head of the Church and the fact that the gates of hell shall not prevail against it, where is our confidence to not feel threatened. (Mat. 16:18) What can we lose! Any adversary will not be able to gainsay. (Luke 21:15) We are all brethren! We are all on the same side (in Christ). We want God's best for each other. We want to show forth the Lord through our lives. Perfect love casteth out fear! (1 John 4:18) Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty [and vice versa]. (2 Cor. 3:17) The answers are very simple but it is so hard to achieve results! But these results can only be genuine and honoring the Lord if you are loyal to Christ and reject sectarianism, or denominationalism, which are all man-made religion. Don't misunderstand; this is not promoting universal Unitarianism, nor a one-world church. Assemblies should be autonomous with indigenous leadership of elders [older brethren] and bishops [overseers] who qualify according to scripture and seldom salaried. This can be accomplished if you are not quenching the Holy Spirit by the sin of sectarianism.
In a court of law, you can possibly find the finest example of everything being done decently and in order. To use a cliché, everybody gets their day in court. The structure of the proceedings is such that each side negotiates with the judge as to how much time they will need, each side presents their charges and opening statements, the attorneys examine and cross examine the plaintiff and the defendant, they can re-direct and re-cross, and give closing statements. Each party can make their statements, right or wrong, eloquent or clumsy, inspiring or hopeless, and be heard [tolerated] without being suppressed, or shouted down by a [purely democratic] lynch mob. When all the facts of the case have been presented, due process has been served, and righteous judgment administered. This can be accomplished if you are not quenching the Holy Spirit by the sin of sectarianism.
One wonders if the court system got it's standards and procedures from Biblical principals. This is a good analogy of how due process is to follow in the Church. If the World's court system is orderly according to law, Christians should be better in this and in all things. We have Biblical principals on the order in which we are to approach each other with a complaint. We have saints with the gift of exhortation for personal counselors and the gift of administrations for orderliness, as well as other gifts that need to be recognized. Do we know who they are and how to incorporate every joint [every Christian] to supply it's [their] ministering gift? (Eph. 4:16) Christians should conduct themselves better than the World's court system. With love, under grace, we "reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering...", 2 Tim. 4:2. We are to give none offense by which we might give the slightest occasion to be accused of popery or lording ourselves over others. We don't demand that people knuckle-under and come with hat-in-hand before being heard. One good technique of communication is to repeat back to the accuser what you hear and understand as to the charges and ask if you are hearing them correctly. Seldom are well intentioned Christians completely wrong. We can do the wrong thing with the right motive, or the right thing with the wrong motive. We can all be helped. We should also end counseling meetings with a summary and conclusion or we can follow-up in a timely manner so that people know their standing or judgment, to not walk out of the meeting confused or bewildered. This can be accomplished if you are not quenching the Holy Spirit by a sin of sectarianism.
One final thought: Even though you may have done the right thing in coming out of sectarianism, or have been part of a split and gone on to another man-made non-profit corporation, which got it's papers from "Caesar", what was your attitude of heart then and now? Did you come out for the right reason? Were you part of the problem? Do you need to confess a sin to God, through Christ, and ask for and forgiveness?
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