ATTRIBUTES OF RELIGION
God, finds His way into the heart of people within churches who worship in more formal, liturgical ways. To the extent that the Word is taught and valued and the true worship of God is encouraged there is fruitfulness. The principle emphasis of these writings is that there is more, more, always more to be known and to be experienced. And these experiences are entirely consistent with apostolic teachings. The more freedom and liberty is given to the Holy Spirit, the more spiritual growth will be "experienced" when those believers gather together.
I will focus upon the negative attributes of the Religious paradigms which impact the faith of believers and their spiritual growth. The trappings of religion are doctrines and practices familiar to us all. These can hinder individuals from ever experiencing the Kingdom of God even the greatest gift of God, salvation.
is only after we have studied the Bible with the intent to understand
that we begin to glimpse its consistency and simplicity. It
has been called many things, such as the "The Makers users manual,"
"A love letter from God," "A book that foretells things to come."
and division in the body of Christ result from denominational boundaries
** Although Christianity is the culmination and outgrowth of Judaic roots there is too little understanding or acknowledgment of these foundations
last pained utterance from a man dying on a cross might seem to
no more than the cry of a man who has reached the end of his own
life, resigning himself to the life's end. But in the case of Yeshua
the Messiah, it was so much more than this. In fact it is probably
among the most profound single phrases in the Bible. It was the
declaration that Yeshua's, divine mission and calling were accomplished
to the very letter, despite anguish, pain and temptation. He fulfilled
the father's plan. After the careful study of Scripture we can learn
what his mission was and its meaning for all humanity. The price
had been paid. The Father's plan of redemption had been achieved.
This phrase, translated from Greek can also be read as "Paid
What understanding can we now draw from these words proclaimed from the Cross? The words were a pronouncement to heaven and earth, to the seen and unseen that this lamb had suffered and died for the sins of all of fallen humanity. It is central to our understanding to know what the spiritual climate had been for mankind prior to this moment and what it would become after the Lord's resurrection. When Yeshua cried "It is finished." the Lord became that seed that would fall to the earth to bring forth a mighty harvest. With his resurrection the way had been made and we have been the benefactors for two thousand years.
Before Jesus cryed, "It is finished, " There was no real intimacy possible between God and humanity . The life that was given upon the cross that day opened the door of relationship to every man, woman and child upon the face of the earth. The sayings of the angels in the fields near Bethlehem had come to pass, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace and good will (blessings) extended toward all men of faith." (paraphrased, Luke 2:14) If you would like to do some interesting research in the Bible look up any references which refer to "justification." Justification refers to the idea of God Almighty seeing us believers as being made perfect by substituting Jesus Christ's goodness (or right standing) for our own. One scripture to point out this application of access to God is the first verse of Romans chapter 5, "Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ."
When Jesus cried out, "It is finished," the veil of the temple was rent in two. The veil was a fabric curtain of great size and weight which separated the Holy Place from the place called the Holy of Holies, it was only within the Holy of Holies where God would manifest physically after the priests had sufficiently prepared with cleansing and with blood sacrifices. God Almighty prior to this time manifested physically in one place for one covenant people, the Jews. He was their God and the Gentiles were until that time, excluded from fellowship and from covenant. This is a scriptural reality that contradicts the beliefs of any Universalist or Deist who maintains that God is in all, for all, forever, and entirely democratic.
After Jesus' sacrificial death, he was seen by Mary of Magdalla just before he was to ascend to the throne, (John 20:17) Jesus spoke to Mary saying, "Don't touch me yet, for I have not yet ascended, but go to my brothers and tell them, I ascend unto my Father and your Father, unto my God and your God." (paraphrased.)
Do not assume in reading that the word "brothers" applied to the Lord's friends and disciples before he made a way for them to become true adopted "sons of God." Jesus spoke with such an emphasis that when Mary was to annunciate his message, it made it very clear that there was to be a brand new kind of relationship which was to known among the disciples or believers. That we could be considered family to Jesus Christ and to his Father. Christ was now our brother. God was now our Father. Now we could actually pray the prayer which Jesus taught them, saying, "Our Father, in heaven - -." Jesus is called, "- - the first born of many brethren," in Romans 8, verse 29.
Righteousness was associated with keeping the law in the old covenant which Moses brought to the house of Israel. The Ten Commandments were the principal framework for righteous living, but you will note with any casual reading of the Book of Leviticus that the laws were extensive, detailed, and covered exhaustively matters of practice for every day life ranging from food to social practices.
There were covenant blessings resulting from keeping the Laws of Moses, but there were also curses associated with failure to keep the law even in the most minute detail. (Refer to Deuteronomy chapter 28.) Jesus, one man, fulfilled the law. It was as though we were given permission to borrow the test paper of a brilliant classmate who scored a perfect 100 on an achievement test and we were given the legal right to use his score. Where does scripture verify this statement? Read the third chapter of Galatians, especially verse 13 and 16. This chapter is foundational reading for to understand God's provision for receiving His acceptance through another's merit. It establishes the nature of God's blessings as a free gift rather than a reward for personal effort. Read it again and again and compare it to any church taught doctrines which would place us in bondage to any works oriented performance!
When Jesus declared, "It is finished." It also brought an end to the necessity of having a class of persons whose job it was to communicate with God on our behalf. The Levites were the tribe of Israel whose sole purpose it was to minister to the Lord, to prepare sacrifices, to make atonements for sin, to declare the people free and absolved from sin, to talk to God, to hear and teach His Word. If you were a Levite you were automatically a priest, not a priest plus another profession. You were supplied with provision from the "tithes" of the people. They supported the work of God by providing by the tithe of food and produce to feed the Levites supply the temple. The priests talked with God on behalf of the people of covenant. The priests were those who were trained to know the Word of God and study the texts of Holy Law.
When Jesus cried, "It is finished." it would come to pass that, " - the old things would pass away and all things became new," The old priest hood would pass away and a new priesthood would come. Jesus himself would become the high priest over a new covenant, a better covenant. It was to be an eternal, never perishing priesthood. He would sit at the right hand of the Glory of God, "ever making intercession" on the part of His children in the earth. He was appointed heir and ruler over all things. This appointed heir and king and high priest has all things at his command and all things under his feet. At the utterance of his name ever spiritual and physical knee will have to bow. (God is Great.)
The people who could not know God were joined into the vine of Israel. The people who could never enter within the veil of the Holiest Place could enter in freely, being justified and purged from an evil conscience by the blood of the Lamb. (Read Hebrews 10:2, Hebrews 10:22)
What had happened? We (any and all believers) became priests unto our God. We could enter in. We could minister to Him. We could offer up sacrifices of praise. We could hear His voice. We could proclaim the Words that He would speak to us. We could speak on His behalf. We could be an oracle of God. We were given authority to use His name, the Name Jesus which commands the Spiritual Power and authority over every name and condition. We could study His Word we could hear His voice speaking in the Scriptures, we could know the Wisdom of God.
We became Kings and Priests unto our God. We received the "Spirit of Truth who could lead us into all truth and we needed no man to teach us" about God. All of us could be Taught by God. (Read John 6:45 and Hebrews 8:10, 11) This is the covenant I will make with the House of Israel in those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their mind and write them in their hearts, and I will be to them a God and they shall be to me a people: and they shall not teach every man his neighbor, saying know the Lord, for they shall all know me, from the least to the greatest."
farther humans depart from the "Kingdom of Heaven" the closer
they come to following mundane and humanly contrived activities. The
Gospel is the "Power of God." This illuminates the fact
that God must be a continual coworker in the Spiritual world we call
Christianity. (Romans 1:16 & 1Corinthians 1:18)
I hope the topics that follow will shed light upon things which most of us have experienced that constitute "religion "or religious practices. Religion takes away from the fullness of the life of God, the "living way" by giving itself over to externals, superficial formalities and habitual practices modeled from human headship. Not only denominational churches but virtually all institutions of "Christian" worship have become encumbered with traditionalism or worldliness that depart from the simplicity and authenticity of Christianity's apostolic roots.
God, nevertheless, can and does find His way into the churches and into formalized systems of worship on occasion and into some churches more than others.
All of us whether we are "religious" or not need to evaluate our beliefs and especially our sense of really knowing God. If we are to be children of God we need more than just an assent to an idea, we need to experience. I believe that I can say with assurance that God does not favor religious institutions or traditions which substitute worldliness for spiritual fellowship or the liberating truth of God's Word for a human understanding.
Religion is Man's Idea of
People versus The People of God
If religion were only pure and good and brought forth good fruits such as personal joy, and liberty, there would be no need for the Lord to issue a rebuke or warning to religious people. When Jesus (Jeshua of Nazareth) came to minister to the people of Israel in his generation he came with signs and manifestation of God's favor and He came with the impeccable credentials of prophetic fulfillment. Jesus brought a message that was Spiritual because God is Spirit. A spiritual message is always contradictory to worldly forms of worship or to tradition for its own sake. The Kingdom of God promotes spiritual relationships, sharing, and community within the body. The agency of the Spiritual life is partaking in God's "oneness." The Messenger of the Kingdom of God, comes as Jesus came with a spiritual mission and a spiritual message. Jesus was a good man, a man sent from God, a man who was more than a man, more than an anointed prophet, he was the very Son of the Living God! Yes, he was all of these things, but in the face of this he was not received, he was not believed, he was called an imposter, the religious authorities confronted him and resisted his mission, his ministry and his message. "He came unto his own and his own did not receive him, but to as many that received him He gave the power to become the sons of God." (John 1:11,12.)There is a force of resistance other than just contrary human wills, working to hinder the making of this unified family a reality. The force is not only the human resistance itself but a spiritual force which fuels this human resistance to God's divine purpose. God has taken this force of resistance into account and given us instruction how to persevere in the its face.
says, "Take my yoke upon your shoulders"
Religion has among its attributes the tendency to establish duties or rules of conduct which are somehow supposed to please God. However, these so called righteous deeds are not able to establish our righteousness before God. The hardest thing for a religious person to unlearn is that we are free from duties to perform, from obligations and from laws of any kind to establish our goodness and acceptance by God.
Works and obligations are not a factor in bringing us to God nor in determining if we receive any of the kindnesses which God has promised us in His word. We can't earn any gift. Once we go to Him to become forgiven and to be cleansed, our most fruitful Spiritual efforts would best be applied to thanksgiving and gratitude for His mercies.
The works of faith are a reality but they remain less our work than His work. It is not God's intention for us to do His work with our limited abilities. Once we become a child of God and establish a life of intimacy and familiarity with our Spiritual Source and Supply we are transformed sufficiently to be able to offer the kind of witness to the world which can be of value to God.
Christians are always trying to do things for God. It is He who wishes to do things for us. (a foreign notion to religious thinking.) It is Christ in us who is to do the work though he chooses to work through us.
Jesus says, "Take my yoke upon your shoulders" --so that we can do what, be burdened? No. Because he intends to become the burden bearer. "You will find rest, for my yoke is easy and my burden is light." Jesus declares. (Matthew 11: 29:30)
One of the key features of the Gospel is the removal of any "priest" or "go between" between the individual and God. With the need for a priest class removed, God declared he would be the true over shepherd of the believer, ("The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want --"). The Old Testament scriptures declared that the time would come when Jehovah would do a new thing, no longer would man have to teach others the way of God, but the ways of God would be written upon the heart, in tablets of flesh. (Jeremiah 31:34 "-- And they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more. ALSO Ezekiel 36:25 Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. 26 A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. - - - -27 And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them."
Biblically, the word ministry is translated from (Gr. Diakonia) Greek for service. Thus ministry means service. The love of God (agapeo) which is a Love that gives and serves finds expression through ministry. However, through the process of generations of religious practice, ministry has come to mean something else, something formal and liturgical. Within the context of "church" practices ministry has been restricted to that which is done behind a pulpit and then only by a select few with "credentials."
The Scripture informs us that the kingdom of God is founded upon the Chief Apostle, Jesus Christ and his mode of transmission of the Gospel is through "discipleship." Discipleship, is only minimally taught to congregations, and never in the same context of power and intimacy that Jesus shared with his original disciples. All believers are trainees or disciples in the Kingdom of God with the expectation that they are all called to minister. "As every person has received the (free) gift, so minister the same to one another." (1Peter 4:10) The growth in the Spiritual life of God teaches and instructs us in the ways of the Lord and as we become transformed into him we can only expect to take on his attributes of service and doing kindness, (charity) through the Spirit of Love.
Unfortunately old habits and traditions die hard, and few question the role and appropriateness of trained clergypersons who in some cases do not even know God or are aware of his promises and his power, These presumptuous disciples substitute sermonettes for the power of the Spirit.
The Clergy-Laity doctrine divides the flock into two disparate halves, rather than to make it more unified and homogeneous. The good shepherd story described in John's gospel chapter 10 describes the characteristics of a good shepherd. It list among the virtues, intimacy and closeness of the shepherd to the flock. The shepherd knows each of his charges by name; he will sacrifice his personal comfort and life for the flock. Finally we are told that Jesus is this shepherd. The psalmist has written almost a thousand years before, "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want." It is unlikely that a human shepherd could duplicate the qualities of Christ Jesus the true bishop (overseer) and shepherd (pastor) of our souls."
Spiritual shepherd chosen by God is a gift to the body of fellowship.
He has the necessary compassion and wisdom to minister hope, encouragement,
wisdom and strength to the flock. While being fully aware that he
does not hold the full potentiality of certain other ministry gifts
which he must call upon as needed. (Ephesians 4) The religious tradition
of "Clergy and Laity" is not found in the Bible per se and must be
examined in the light of Scripture. The practice no doubt made inroads
into common practice through the doctrine of the five public ministry
gifts (offices) described in Ephesians chapter 4. Throughout the apostolic
letters we are told that mature men of God were to guide and direct
and to maintain purity of doctrine and practices. These were to be
overseers (Gr. presbuteros) of the local flocks of God. The
intention was to keep the faith and traditions accurate and steadfast,
holding the Apostle's teaching as the model. The original epistles
were written with the intention of providing mature guidance to less
mature believers who were being discipled in the faith.