The Structure of True Religion

I have heard many who confess to follow Christ say that they are not in a religion but a relationship. In fact, I have said this in the past myself. However, as I have grown wiser and more knowledgeable through my relationship with GOD, I have come to a better understanding of the relationship between the two. Many of the negative ideas I originally held regarding the Christian religion came from its misappropriation by those being intentionally deceitful and those ignorantly following the blind which were leading them. Our heavenly Father never intended for Christian religion to operate separate from a relationship with Him. The influence of Satan, the great deceiver, is very evident in the many counterfeits being circulated today. Another example is the US has been accepted by many as a democracy however it falls short of the tenants of a pure democracy because many of the people born in the US have not been allowed to vote, and the electoral college dilutes the power of the vote represented by actual people. Tax paying people with black and brown skin, born in the US, are referred to as citizens however they have been historically denied the basic citizen right of equal protection under the law. So, this demographic has not actually been recognized as full citizens. Again, it is much like the many people condemning socialism and communism though we have never had a country on earth to operate in the pure ideals of them as expounded on by Marx and Engels. The names were misappropriated by countries like Russia and China though these countries have never employed all the key components.

These are just a few other current day examples of how people have been deceived and excepted counterfeits. Until you foster a love for truth which drives you to seek GOD’s face and study His word, Satan will continue to exploit your natural love for comfort and pleasure. The truth is disruptive to the false. Truth tears down the false to make way for a true and eternal foundation and structure to be built.

Religion is defined by Merriam Webster as a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices; a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith. We can take from this definition, in relation to Christianity, that Christian religion would be a system of attitudes, beliefs, and practices held with ardor and faith. So, by definition, there is no separation between the practices required in a religion and the relationship by faith which empowers them. The problem again is that we have seen Christianity misrepresented, resulting in misunderstandings, confusion, and denunciation.  As I mentioned earlier, the Father never intended for any actions to take place outside of a relationship with Him. When you read Christ reproving the pharisees and Sadducees, you see Him addressing religion without relationship.

“But woe unto you, Pharisees! for ye tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass over judgment and the love of God: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.” (Luke 11:42 KJV)

Christ is saying true religion is doing both. Look at this parable taught by Christ.

10 So those servants went out into the highways, and gathered together all as many as they found, both bad and good: and the wedding was furnished with guests. 11 And when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment: 12 And he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless. 13 Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness, there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 14 For many are called, but few are chosen.” (Matthew 22:10-14 KJV)

Again, both are required by Christ the King. This guest was clearly called a friend, however He failed to comply with the prescribed system or practice of preparation. We are also taught by the apostles James and Paul that it takes both to be complete. James says faith without works is dead, and a man isn’t justified by works alone or faith alone (see James chapter 2). Paul says without love, the essence of the relationship, he is nothing and none of his religious acts mean anything (See 1 Corinthians chapter 13).

At issue in the separation of faith and works is the practice of sacrifice on both sides. On the side of works oriented devotion, there is the sacrifice of effort and busyness being offered for justification and validation. On the side of faith only oriented devotion, there is the sacrificial love of GOD being used as justification without the reciprocal sacrificial love unto the laying down of personal will in obedience.

GOD is clear, He desires obedience over sacrifice. Christ did not give himself to become a common sacrifice for sins, like the old testament practice of yearly sacrificing bulls, rams, and doves. He gave Himself once to fulfill the requirements of the old testament law forever, which was ruled under the law of sin and death. He has now ushered in a new covenant which is ruled by the law of life and spirit. The resurrection life we inherit from Christ is the life of a dear and obedient son of GOD.

You man of faith, are you going before GOD reminding Him of the sins He has already remitted because you are not exercising true overcoming faith; the faith which David used to defeat Goliath, the faith Joshua used to take the promised land. Doesn’t your faith tell you that the very life of Christ is in you to do His works; to live righteously, to fill the hungry, to free the oppressed, to counsel the fatherless, to give shelter to the homeless, to please the Father. When did you go beyond yourself to demonstrate that you trusted Him? Just something to consider.

You who are busy in works, have you ever just sat with someone broken and not tried to fix them? Just sat with them and listened and only gave a solution if they asked for one, or do you feel pressed to say something or do something? Have you ever just sat and cried tears of joy because you knew in that moment, GOD’s love was perfect for you and you felt His arms around you? Have you ever sacrificed for someone and told nobody, but just praised GOD for allowing yourself to be used?

These are the manifestations of confidence in GOD’s love for you and belief in His promises. These examples are glimpses at the works of faith, the fruit of true religion.

Counterfeit Manhood

Hoodlum

Men primarily remember King David for two acts in his life. One, for slaying the giant Goliath, whom everyone else was afraid of. Two, for his adulterous relationship with the beautiful Bathsheba. Though these two events are often recalled in men’s ministries and are often highlighted in recounts of King David’s life, Christ isn’t recorded mentioning either of these two events, nor are they mentioned in any of the letters of the New Testament. Why do men glory in those aspects of David? It is because most men struggle to understand the calling of manhood, and as a result of this, they adopt the consensus view. The popular view, often adopted for the safety of the crowd, has been authored by the devil. In order to steal the glory of GOD from men, the devil offers them a counterfeit. Understand, the devil is a counterfeit dealer. This is how people get destroyed for a lack of knowledge; because they lack knowledge of what is genuine and true.

In this case, men lack knowledge of the true image of GOD. This is relevant because men were created to live in GOD’s image. A lack of knowledge is also why religious men are perplexed at the idea of King David being a man after GOD’s own heart. After all, King David committed murder and adultery. Too often, religious men don’t know the heart of GOD. This is a result of men seeking GOD’s benefits more than His laws and precepts; just like the multitudes sought the loaves of YEHSUA more than His words. GOD’s word’s, laws, and precepts reveal His heart and mind. Due to men having accepted the counterfeit manhood offered by the devil, we find ourselves in a world filled with a lust for power and external beauty. This post is not about “The Godfather” as much as it is a look at why so many men embrace what he embodied. There is also significant admiration for the character Tony Montana in the movie “Scarface”.

GODfather

If you look across the spectrum of men, to include the religious and non-religious, you will find that the majority of men view success as the accumulation of wealth, power, and external beauty. In the non-religious sector, you will see the picture of success being the billionaire maverick with his power and trappings. In the religious sector you will find the picture of success attributed to the pastor with the mega-church and large campus. Some in the religious arena have gone as far as to conform the testimony of Christ, saying He was rich with the goods of this world, and had many wives. The lies of the devil are so infused into this world that it is like a strong current sweeping all away. This is no doubt why YAHWEH sent salvation as an anchor of truth, a rock, and a firm foundation, on which we have been called to build our identities, our values, and our lives.

“Let us look at the first example of the man whose identity is tied to his money. What happens to this man when his business fails due to a change in the market? He becomes laden with insecurity as a man. A man afflicted with insecurity will often project those feeling on others by assuming that others think less of him. What will this man do to maintain his financial prowess? Almost anything! Many men have had their consciences seared in the pursuit of financial riches, or trying to maintain financial wealth. Whatever controls your identity has mastery over you.

If you derive your sense of self-worth and identity from temporal things, you will never be a sound, stable person. For a man to make a good husband or father, he must be a stable person; this means his identity and values must have a firm foundation.”

The quotation above was taken from chapter 7 of my book, “True Heritage: Recovering From Spiritual Identity Theft ” There is a chapter entitled, “The Firm Foundation.” In this chapter I write about the problems men and women face when their identities aren’t anchored in the Truth of GOD, and the benefits reaped from a life securely resting in GOD’s hands.

To obtain this salvation we must be willing to release all the false things we have come to be identified with. This step toward salvation is the one which causes so many to draw back. Some have deceived themselves into thinking they have taken this necessary step; however, it is obvious they are still adrift in the currents of the world by their fears and lust and conversation.

Men often extol King David however Christ says there has been none born of flesh greater than John the Baptist. Men do not have much affection toward living in the wilderness dressed in camel’s hair with a diet of locust and honey. The carnal mind will cause you to see those components of John’s life instead of the anointing, the holiness, and favor from GOD. Much in the same way the carnal mind misses King’s David abandon to GOD, and his soul wrenching transparency, and his burning thirst for truth. David wanted to be GOD’s man, nothing more or nothing less.

If we are ever to be fulfilled, mature, and the people we were ordained to be, we must learn to take our hunger, thirst, and questions to GOD in humility. We must be ready to center ourselves in the truth of GOD and put our faith in Him, no matter the calculated cost. No matter how we see the cost, we must also understand we do not have the mathematics or expressions to fully quantify the rewards of trusting GOD. The things of creation were never meant to totally satisfy you because they were given as trinkets to draw us unto the Creator. Creation gives moments of satisfaction however communion with the Creator Himself is everlasting peace and joy.

When the things of this world are folded up and put away, like a completed game of monopoly, only those willing to become as bankrupt to the world, living in spirit and truth to gain Christ, will be considered the true winners.

 

Faith is not required of humanitarians, but it is for Christians.

humanitarian

I attended a bible study yesterday where we dug into the book of Galatians chapter 1. One of the issues that the Apostle Paul addresses in the chapter is the act of perverting of the Gospel of Christ. As we discussed that subject in the bible study and how it is still a problem today, someone asked, “Why do churches pervert the gospel?” This is an important question because to really embrace the solution you have to understand the problem. The problem stems from people interpreting the person of Christ and His gospel through their humanistic view point. Though YESHUA did things we consider humanitarian, His reasons and objectives went far deeper than just meeting basic human needs. Unfortunately, people’s humanistic orientation stops them from seeing the full person of YESHUA. It also stops them from grasping a full understanding of His gospel. The gospel of Christ will always create a healthy sense of hopelessness to the humanitarian or carnal viewpoint, as in Matthew 19:25, when His disciples ask, “Who then can be saved?” False doctrines come from men trying to humanize the gospel so that it fines wider acceptance. This does not minister the grace of GOD, it frustrates it. The grace of GOD comes in at that point of hopelessness and says, “with me, all things are possible”, which teaches us that we have to stop relying on ourselves and have faith in GOD. When was the last time you heard a sermon end with the words “go, and sin no more”?  Probably not ever, but it was how YESHUA closed ministry in the book of John chapters 5 and 8.

The enemy of doing what is right, is doing what we think is good. Doing what is right is a matter of faith and obedience, doing what is good is a matter of our own reasoning. Humanism is the enemy of righteousness. Humanism is focused on human values and secular concerns, while righteousness is focused on godly values and heavenly concerns. There is nothing humane about what was revealed in the book of Revelations, but it details a future we all need to be preparing for. Spend some time meditating in the book of Revelations and pay attention to the letters to the Churches. Our witness of YESHUA must reflect Him as Christ the King as well as the Lamb of GOD.

The Church needs to get away from “Febreze” Christianity. Today, Christians want to spray the blood of Christ like “Febreze” over the mess of everyone’s lives so that the smell is not as awful as it really is. I think people forget it’s not the smell that kills, rather it is the rotten hearts and deeds. Salvation is the power to save lives through “Changing” lives. That is the message that has been lost. Everyone smells good in church but people are still getting divorced, still being abused, still addicted to pornography and living in sexual immorality, still in love with the world. What we tolerate tends to proliferate. There is no fear of the Lord. That is what is missing today. There is even a false doctrine for “The fear of the Lord”. The humanistic doctrine says, “It’s a reverential fear.”

The grace of GOD is nothing less than the precious and costly blood of His dear son. The Church needs to move away from the “Febreze” mentality. Here is what New Testament scripture says to debunk the false and humanistic doctrine of “reverential fear of GOD”. Hebrew 10:28-31:

He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace? For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”

Those same hands are also gentle, kind, patient, merciful, healing, and life giving. Proverbs 19:23 says, “The fear of the Lord tendeth to life: and he that hath it shall abide satisfied; he shall not be visited with evil.” Yahweh promises that if we humble ourselves, His hands will lift us out of trouble.

False Doctrine Can Be Like Cholesterol in the Body of Christ

Blocked Artery

In His zeal for His Father’s house, Christ went into the temple and made a scourge of cords, then proceeded to drive out the money changers and those that were in the temple selling sacrifices to be offered to GOD. As the account goes, Christ turned over some tables and made quite a ruckus while ridding the temple of this perversion of a sacred practice. We need to have the same zeal today regarding a lot of the perversions that go on in the church; however, we can’t approach it the same way, as the temple and the perversions are dynamically different. We are now the temple of GOD. GOD no longer dwells in a temple built by the hands of man, but in a temple made of living stones, the body of believers in Christ.

Christ promised that if any man would love Him, then He and His Father would come and make their home inside him. Christ still has the same zeal for His Father’s house, whom we are. He cleanses us by filling us with His Holy Word, and by delivering us from unclean principalities and powers. Christ comes into our souls with the light of truth, and topples belief systems built on foundations of lies, and drives out unclean spirits of lust, pride, greed, violence, and dumbness. One of the most damaging lies polluting the temple of GOD today is the belief that the Fathers children are all sinners. This lie has been received, with such wide-spread acceptance in the body of believers, that it is has become a major blocker of the arteries of the body. This lie is hindering the life of Christ from flowing into all areas of the body, hindering healing and growth. If as a born again believer, you bow down to the false principle that you are just a forgiven sinner, you leave the door open for sin to rule in your life. If you believe you are a sinner, then you will sin. GOD made us in such a way that our bodies conform to our belief. You may have heard it stated this way before, “Mind over matter”. If you accept that lie, you will always be vulnerable to the powers of lust and pride. You will remain a slave to sin. Though Pharaoh has been defeated, and his kingdom fallen, you will remain in Egypt, shackled to much of your old life.

Now for the GOODNEWS! Let us allow Truth to tear down the lie. During the early church, when the revealed gospel of Christ was first being preached, many of the Jews of that day didn’t see the superiority of the New Covenant in the blood of Christ. They were reluctant to let go of the old law of “sin and death” under Moses, to enter the new law of “spirit and life” under Christ. The law of sin and death was put in place to facilitate a life of sin, because at the time, no other life was available. However, now that the life of Christ has been made available to all that have faith in His resurrection power, there is a way to escape the life of sin in the blood line of Adam. We have to suffocate and bury the old man who was in the image of Adam, through the baptism of repentance. Then we have to take up our cross daily to make way for the resurrection life of Christ.

Everything made in creation came through the Word of GOD. When you abandon your old life in surrender to Christ, this same power calls you a new creation of GOD, made in His likeness. This same Word has created a new you, but you have to receive it. The Word of GOD is powerful, but you have to believe, so that your mind can be renewed and your transformation can take place. This part of the Gospel of Christ has been oppressed by the powers of darkness, and it is time for it to be spread throughout the body of Christ. The acceptance of this Truth can unblock the arteries in the body of Christ, so that the fullness of His life can quicken every part of the body. This will cause the glorious light of the risen Christ to break forth in the earth through His body, the church.

Here are a few scriptures people use in the wrong context to support the lie that the born again in Christ are still sinners, ruled by sin.

Romans 3:23

“For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.”

True context: Paul is declaring there is no distinction between Jews or gentiles when it comes to the need for salvation through Christ, because all “have” sinned and need redemption through the blood of Christ; whether you have been practicing Judaism, paganism, or whatever in your past, you have sinned. Pay attention to the context of past sin as he says, “all have sinned”. This is frequently used in the context of equalizing all believers as present sinners. Paul even refers to Christ in this block of scripture as the propitiation for “past” sin.

Romans 3:11

“As it is written, there is none righteous, no, not one”

True context: Paul is quoting scripture from the book of Isaiah in the old testament, regarding mankind before the workings of Christ. This old testament prophecy was never meant to describe the state of the resurrected church of Christ. In the same scripture it goes on to say,” there is none that understand and there is none that seek the Lord”. If the first part applies, then the second part has to be true for the church today as well…thank the Lord that it doesn’t.

Read the entire chapter of Romans 3.

1 John 1:8

“If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”

True context: We are all in the process of being healed and cleansed from the rudiments of this world. If we say we have no traces of Adam left in us, we don’t understand how far man has fallen into darkness, nor do we realize how righteous and pure GOD is, in whose image we are made. Having sin is different from sin having you. The bible says in Romans 6, “Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.” Just because you are inclined to do something doesn’t mean you have to yield to it. Confess the inclination to your Father GOD and He will cleanse you of it.

I have cited a few of the most popular verses, used out of context, to support the false belief that the salvation of Christ is in effect forgiveness without deliverance from the condition that causes sin. He who the soon makes free is free indeed. The thief comes only to kill, steal, and destroy. Let nothing or no one rob you of the victorious life promised you by Christ.

 

 

The KISS of Salvation

HersheysKiss_2

We definitely have a part in our salvation. One of the main evidences of this is that all men will not be saved. The scripture is clear that God would have all men to be saved as in the Book of 1 Timothy 2:1-6. What keeps all men from being saved is the fact that the Lord gives us a choice and some men opt out. God has ordained that we enter life (Jesus Christ) through the surrender of our will. If you think about it, it is the only way we can be saved. God is LIFE and we have to be willing to follow the ways of life in order to live. If we refuse to follow the ways of life then what is the alternative…..Death. It really is that simple. The beauty is that as we surrender our will to God He empowers us to live in His ways. He empowers us through the spirit in the word we submit too through obedience. The Lord says His word is spirit. So our part is to daily surrender our will in obedience to the leading of the spirit expressed through written word, audible word, inner witness, signs and examples through creation; however the Lord chooses to influence us toward life. When the Lord causes light to shine in your darkness it is your part to surrender to it.

 

Now some men would argue that we have no power to choose that which is good because we are totally evil or dead in sin. It is apparent that the expressions of God to us have enough power to pierce our darkness and penetrate dead ears to give us acknowledgement of truth. The reprobate mind is one that rejects truth after it has been presented several times. It cracks me up sometimes to see how the intellectual mind can perplex things due to too much contemplation and not enough doing or simply trusting. We are warned in 2 Timothy about the effects of too much dialogue through the reasoning of men versus studying word of truth.

 

2 Timothy 2: 15-26

15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

16 But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness.

17 And their word will eat as doth a canker: of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus;

18 Who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already; and overthrow the faith of some.

19 Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.

20 But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour.

21 If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work.

22 Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.

23 But foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they do gender strifes.

24 And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient,

25 In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth;

26 And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will.

 

The word of truth is the word of God. We need to be patient and temperate and allow God to give us proper understanding instead of immersing ourselves in the mental babbling of men trying to force understanding, moving ahead of the wonderful counselor. Always being able to give a reason for the hope you have to anyone that asks is not referring to being able to explain everything you believe. The reason for your hope should be that you are convinced of God’s indestructible love for you because He died for you while you were His enemy, so you know all the more now that you are seeking Him He will facilitate your salvation and redemption. God has won our hearts through Christ so we follow Him even in that which is unreasonable. The mind has to be renewed but the heart is already on fire and convinced that is if you have heard Him speak of His amazing love. What I am talking about is nicely captured in Hebrews 13.

 

Hebrew 13:9

Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines. For it is a good thing that the heart be established with grace; not with meats, which have not profited them that have been occupied therein.

 

We have to fight the natural man’s tendency of reaching for the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil or wanting to lean on our own understanding versus just trusting the Lord as dear children. By the grace of God let us K-I-S-S (Keep It Simple Saints).