PREFACE to "The Gospel Without Religion"
With respect to Christianity, what do you think it means to be a Christian? How does Christianity differ from other religious beliefs and worship practices? Are you a Christian? What is your basis for making this statement? Perhaps you are among those who has rejected Christianity because you have found the formal rituals of the institutional church empty or uninspiring. Have you searched for proof that God is real? Where will that search take you? At the end of a life will your discoveries have meaning? What will be the ultimate destiny of your soul? Does religion or church attendance impact eternity? How about other religions, will they pay the dividend of "Eternal Life?"
who has ever entered a book store knows that
there are thousands of books written to address
the questions above. Hundreds more are produced
each year adding to the already glutted archive
called RELIGION. The motivations of such writers
mostly support some traditional doctrine while
sharing a new precept or two that has arisen
through study. I believe that what I will share
here echoes some new voices who are beginning
to view the "spiritual life" as something
that can exist and flourish outside of religion.
In the pages following we will examine some of the topics below:
First let me say at the onset that traditional Christianity has been the sustaining foundation and moral backbone throughout American history. For generations the values and precepts of Christian teachings and beliefs have provided a positive moral framework and influence that elevated the United States. Do clearly, the Christian Religion, despite any detriments, has provided a social foundation for millions. Children are best nurtured in a home where traditions of Bible based life values are practiced. Unfortunately the fundamental social foundations of Christian values are rapidly dissolving through the onslaught of a secular media. We are bombarded with music, imagery and stories that omit any moral of truths of Christianity. Today, church houses are losing membership and seek new ways to attract congregants and often in so doing move further from the essentials of the Gospel. Today, tens of millions of nominal "religious" Christians are 'faithful church goers,' but how many of them are really passionately interested in God? Few seek to know God unless God personally draws them by His Spirit. (A video commentary on http://www.youtube.com) I also share about how God worked to transform my life. Knowing about God can not replace knowing God. The *power of God is transformative. Those who truly know God may testify that they have personally tasted the Grace and goodness of God through Jesus Christ the Messiah. *Romans 1:16; 1Corinthians 1:18; 1Corinthians 2:5
Many, many believers have a story of finding new life and salvation like my own. I found God or should I say, God allowed me to find Him - at a time in my life when I was experiencing a desperate need, with emotional and spiritual emptiness. It is at such times that we often make our first serious effort to seek after God. It is a true statement that human kind will give little thought to God when things are going great. But when firey trials come then we call out for some sustaining power beyond ourselves. I believe that this quickening of an inner desire to know God may be the result of another believer's prayers on our behalf. The Grace of God is set in motion by these prayers. It is this Divine Grace (an enabling gift) from God which brings us to a new human state of awakening. Once that our hearts are finally prepared, It only takes a moment for God to answer our heart's cry and bring us from darkness into light; but, in my case, it took years to prepare my soul to be ready for this to occur. Pride and idolatry seem to flourish in everyone. That is the first need to address.
God has always loved us. ("God so loved the world... "Jn.3:16) He grieves humanity's lostness, our darkened minds and our weakness. The GOSPEL is how the Almighty has made a way of rectifying this fallen and alienated state. The way is through His Son, the Messiah. It is God who also provides a necessary 'measure of faith' to help those who seek and hunger. A supernatural transformation is available for those who believe in "the Gift of God." If you believe in that gift whose name is Yeshua (Jesus), God's Son, He will open your eyes. He will speak to you. (Jn. 9) His name Yeshua means "Jehovah is salvation." The Greek version, Jesus, does not adequately communicate the meaning inherent in that name. It is through him he hears and responds to both names, He will let you partake in the gift and wonders of the eternal life to come. Through the Grace of God we experience that supernatural event, the miraculous change in our spirits called regeneration into "the new man, the regenerated spirit, or the new creation. So re-quickened by Almighty God, we are inwardly compelled to grow in the knowledge of this life giver and lover of our souls. We seize the life ring thrown to us. This is the beginning of the Spiritual life. We have opened the door of the Kingdom of heaven and begin gradually discovering our status as a saint and disciple of God.
From this supernatural beginning we new believers, are tender saplings that can be bent many ways: "Baby Christians" can be easily be misguided, even taken prisoner by those who preach other gospels. In the beginnings of our faith we can be snared by an incomplete "Gospel" and competing definitions of Godliness. We eventually, recognize the spirit of Christ as possessing the spirit of liberty. We need mature mentors to help us access the Word of Truth. There is a whole new Spiritual world to discover. There is a life of blessing and hope to access. (*2 Corinthians 11:3) Discernment from the Holy Spirit of Truth operates to provide discernment. Yet not all teachers have motives that are either true or honorable. *The true GOSPEL is defined by the Right Jesus; the Right Gospel; and The Right Spirit.
Judging whether a person is adhering to the RIGHT GOSPEL is not an easy thing. We were charged by the apostles of Jesus to make this judgment. Who is the Jesus that you identify? What are his credentials? Is he a teacher; a prophet; the sinless Son of God? What are the attributes of the gospel? Are they obligations of obligations of law, liberty or grace, or a combination of law and grace? The tension between Biblical authenticity and spiritual error (apostasy) has been ongoing since the days of the first apostles. The true Gospel of Grace hasn't changed but it has been dangerously distorted or in some cases lost by religious tradition. The Gospel of the Kingdom of God still remains. A king would rule and reign in righteousness upon the throne of David. Jesus (Yeshua of Nazareth) was "King of the Jews" just as Herod inscribed. He asked Jesus, "Are you a King?"Jesus answered, "You say it rightly, but now my kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my people would fight, but now it is not of this world." The King will reign in righteousness and every knee will bow in recognition of that fact. The gospel of grace extends into the present time as part of "the acceptable year of the Lord." (Isa.61)
Now I would like to continue that which was first taught to the disciples by Jesus Christ in simplicity and without any motive of gain. What does it mean to be a Christian. It is supposed to be simple. Religion tends to make it difficult and it becomes "theology." For centuries religion has made believing in Christ into theology and formalism. Such things need not be so.
The teachings I share on these pages will appear didactic, meaning that it presented as accurate and factual, not theoretical. This knowledge has not accrued from second hand accounts or through religious indoctrination, but from serious study of scripture as well and experiences that bear witness to the realities of Christ and the "Kingdom" he rules. Study of Scripture illuminate the believer as the Holy Spirit brings light and understanding.
Commentaries on these pages are not the product of religious indoctrination, nor of any denominational slant. I believe these precepts and understandings reflect the same truths revealed by the apostles who first proclaimed the True and Living Way. For my part, these writings are but a tiny glimpse into the great revelations of Truth contained in the Bible. Though incomplete, they are presented as valid. Any Spiritual experiences, that of mine or anyone else, must be validated by the Word of Truth. Belivers must contend for the faith that was first delivered to the saints. (see Jude's epistle. vs.3)
Today, we live in a new post modern world view that has grown to reject a world governed by absolutes in favor of a cornucopia of opinions. Any suggestion that truth is 'black and white' is rejected in favor of the 'nuanced' and of infinite points of view. Today as I write, we are witnessing the perilous times spoken of by Paul. In his second letter to Timothy (chapter 3) he describes the display of man's darkest nature that characterizes humanity in the last days. The demise of "truth" bears witness the belief that any view is valid and the greatest virtue is to be tolerant of people whose truth is different than our own. Christianity is viewed as the one religion that is characterized by intolerance to the degree that its followers must by surveiled and suppressed. Yet, strangely, Islam which holds that unbelieving infidels should die violently, is condoned, even given privilege by current government regimes. The question asked by Pilot of Jesus is all the more relevant today, "What is truth?"
The Gospel however, is not subject to change and updating. Its proofs are borne out by first-hand experience. According to ancient law, the truth is verified by the testimony of reliable witnesses. These witnesses remain the Holy and long-standing voices of the Word recorded in Scripture. These voices are a more sure testimony and become the litmus test of any doctrine or experience that one might promote. The truth of God is known in varying degrees by many, though shockingly too few. The masses have been victims of religious paradigms that have shaped belief over the past 17 centuries.
Yet, I believe there is a remnant today who are awakening a desire to return to the roots of Christendom. The paradigm of religious formalism is now being challenged by many. For these, there is a hunger for true spiritual fellowship, more liberty, more simplicity, more understanding and more power. Traditions are being replaced experiencing the living presence of God. Simply being a spectator in a church service (program) is being replaced by the desire to participate directly as a disciple following the life of God. This creature, religion, is tenacious and change is always met with resistance. This is a creature of deeply invested interests. What I write here will be challenged by religious leaders, experts, theologians. academicians, and others who profit from their doctrines and dogma. But Truth is the final arbiter and it is upon that basis that each of us will be judged for what we have done and said.
How do we Awaken to Faith and Belief?
Who is God? Is God an interesting subject? Do questions about the reality of God affect us or impact our lives? Yes, absolutely and eternally! Is the subject one that we should resolve within ourselves? Yes, without a doubt!
Religion abounds in the societies of the world. It is inextricable in the cultures of every nation. It is a full time concern to many who see religion as a life style or a career path. My definition of religion is a codified belief system. It is the platform from which debates and disagreements are launched often with the result of becoming vehement, and even leading to genocide.
Thousands of books continue to be written about God in an attempt to offer spiritual answers to those who are seeking a spiritual life. Subjects might range from World Religions, Comparative Theology, Biblical Study or Analysis, and of course prescribed pathways to enlightenment by self promoting gurus. This is not a book about theology. I am not a theologian, I have none of the required credentials, nor do I have any desire to become one, to seek certification or to be validated or approved by theologians. I am, therefore, one tiny voice in the marketplace of ideas.. another voice, crying out in the wilderness, So now I give thanks to God the Father for allowing me to experience His living presence and guiding hand. This is a testimony of God's interaction with the human race we call 'grace.' Moreover, his love and grace have empowered me both to seek him and to know him and draw wisdom from His Word. Moreover, I believe that this message can encourage and aid those thousands who, like myself, were never given answers to deep spiritual questions but who remain hungry, asking, "Is there is a God, and if He is, how can I get Him to notice me."
Dead Religious Tradition
My questions and spiritual curiosity were not answered by denominational churches that I attended from my youth through my adulthood. The services or ceremonies that were offered on meeting days revealed nothing of God's reality or demonstrated his 'presumed' love and power. It was however, God whom I ultimately met and who impacted my life, outside of religion, personally and powerfully. I hope sharing these experiences bring hope and assurance to others.
Who Will Receive This Message?
Those who read might have various responses: Some who are perfectly happy with who they are what they believe may register mere disinterest, indifference; Others who have established their own theological conclusions, particularly through formal theological training may register disdain (such persons believing that what I say here is un-scholarly, presumptuous, misleading or even dangerous); But there may be some who have been looking for a spiritual life without the flimflam of religion who will receive this account with gratitude.
Inevitable criticism may result from this writing, and it will no doubt be harsher from those ensconced in institutional religion or institutional Christianity than from any other quarter. And of course, there is always that population of unbelieving secularists (most political quarters) who are disinclined to read anything of this topic in the first place. The heart of this Jesus Gospel (good news) has always been predicated on being gentle and peaceable, but none the less, it always meets with resistance and "offense" because of its spiritual nature.
Ingrained in human nature is the instinct to fight to defend one's own beliefs. People have been fighting and dying over what they consider to be "right and true" for thousands of years. Opposing belief systems do not give up without a fight. Our highly charged human egos are born and nurtured within the domain of materialism, worldliness, and self-serving, within the status-quo of its institutions. Religious institutions today, are imbued with most attributes of worldliness, worldly power, worldly recognition, earthly rewards. The world's religious systems have their own vested interests. To be blunt, religion as we know it represents a significant economic and political power. Christian theology today is becoming increasingly a repudiation of Apostolic doctrine. Emergent Christianity blends other faiths with Christian traditions and is quickly departing from affirming Biblical inerrancy.
This book is written principally for unbelievers. However, I am aware that there is a world of "tares" who populate churches. There are unbelievers both in and outside of the church experience. Too many do not realize to what extent they have been blinded by orthodoxy. For unbelief is the enemy of church people as much as for 'unbelievers.' For church house Christians, both laity and clergy it is a terrible thing to know only religion and not God! For the Lord has declared, "Many will say in that day, Lord, Lord -, but I will say, "Depart from me I do not know you." Matt. 25
Among all the billions of people upon the face of the earth, it is ultimately a matter of knowing God. Everyone will eventually be confronted by this reality as every knee will bow before Him, the Lord of all life¯ but for millions this knowledge will come too late and the door of life will have been closed. Part of the purview of this book is to point out the difference between knowing about God and knowing God.
Confusing Disparities of Christian Religion
The world of religion, What a world! Almost everyone is in their own particular place regarding a search for a personal belief system. How would we graph our place as a believer or an unbeliever? Do you know what you believe? Do you know why you hold these beliefs? Some have a belief in a God of some description, others may not. Some pray, some believe in an afterlife, while others have no faith in any God nor any life following this one. There are so many religions inside and outside of Christianity. There are so many named Gods and paths to appeasing them. Within these myriad forms of belief or worship some have developed a set of moral values in accord with these beliefs. Indeed many of these values promote peace and brotherhood toward the greater community. Meanwhile, other religious beliefs may generate hatred and intolerance toward those outside of that faith. Now some religions compel its followers to convert the world to their viewpoint and to, in a word, cause the whole world to believe according to that religion.
Religion may be an intellectual study for some, a mandatory career indoctrination for others. From an anthropologist's point of view, religion simply revolves around the belief in "spirits" as defined by Margaret Mead. Religions lead to wars and conflict The crusades were a demonstration of wrong Christian beliefs. The inhumanities done were executed through a form of religion and not in conformity to the Gospel of Christ. The crusades and the inquisition were chapters in Catholicism that further demonstrated an abuse of power that is presumed when the rule of God on earth is already manifest in a political church on earth.
Christianity in the age of grace presents a message of love, acceptance and forgiveness. There is no violence or reprisal allowed in the practice of Christianity. Destruction and judgment against unbelievers has never been a part of the true Gospel. Where this has occurred was not a conformity to Bible teaching. In the Gospel of Grace, there is an invitation to come freely and receive. We partake in the power of Jesus' love, and forgiveness. There is no sword to convert the unbeliever, but rather the demonstration of the supernatural power of God motivated by Love. It is this power that converts the heart and persuades each that there is a loving God in heaven. This is the loving Father who desires that no one dies under condemnation. "God so loved the world - - ," John 3:16 is the often quoted basic text.
Discernment reveals those who we can pray for. Condemnation never comes from the hand of a believer who is commanded to walk in the same love and forgiveness that Jesus modeled to all.
There is still great ignorance and confusion about Christianity. Christianity is something that has come to be viewed within the limiting frame of institutional religion not its true spiritual aspect which is both simple and profound. The world knows Christianity as a system of belief but more than that as traditions and lifestyles which surround particular churches. America was founded as a Christian nation as our founding fathers made clear testimony. The United States has a history of goodness founded on the belief in, and standards of, Biblical truth. But at the present time, if the truth were known, I believe that we would have far fewer who would qualify as Christians than census documentation reveals. Those who are called Christians in polls and surveys most often reflect an involvement with church organizations through membership and activities. This, I assert, is quite irrelevant to the nature of being or not being a Christian. Among those who profess to believe in Christianity I denote three distinct breeds:
Kinds of Christians
Political Christians: This category designates to distinguish them from other ethnic or cultural sects. We see these referred to frequently in the media to designate the sects within countries or political regions. Most of the time these are contrasted with contrary ideologies; often at war, or embroiled in strife with other groups. Typical of political religious rivalry such as that of the conflict in the former Yugoslavia, which dates back to the factional disputes of the 15th century. Here are three ethnic factions, Muslims, Serbs and Croats, religious- political groups seemingly without any knowledge of a spiritual life and peace. In Ireland divisions remain after generations of religious and political strife, Irish Catholics in hatred and strife continue to war against Irish Protestants and Protestants against Catholics. In the decade prior to World War 2, so-called German Christians began to commit outrages against German Jews in the name of racial purity. For over 2 centuries 'Christian' crusaders waged Holy Wars against the Muslim Turks in the Holy Land and at the same time thought it was pleasing to God to torture and destroy any called Jews.
Religious Christians are actively involved with some form of institutional Christianity. Within this group are tens of millions of churchgoers who fill the pews in myriads of church congregations each week. Each of these religious 'churches' or denominations follows long-held traditions of their respective denomination. Christian denominations have extensive power and interests both social and economic. The business of religion founded in an orthodoxy that is morally well founded and righteous. These traditions are rarely questioned within the established tradition.
The clergy, religious leadership, has long been esteemed has a high and noble calling, although an occasional skeleton may turn up in the closet of some clergy person now and then. The lands and real estate assets of churches are immense. Each denomination builds great buildings as centers of worship and strictly supervise and train their clergy to act as priests or overseers of the faith. The sad reality is that the denominations of today are little different from any ancient priesthood, the Scribes, and Pharisees of Jesus' day, of whom the Lord Jesus had little good to say.
Today I believe that traditional forms of religious Christianity may be the single greatest hindrance to effectively experiencing God. In this nation as well as in all the nations Christianity that is mostly formalistic has been exported. Let us not be confused to believe that the Gospel is a philosophy or an intellectual concept. It is discovering that the Gospel demonstrates the Power of God that will impact our lives at the deepest possible level. In its true operation it has the power to transform us into an adopted son or daughter of God. Church is not only a place where Christianity is practiced shared and administered by priests. Jesus called believers to become disciples who grow through shared life experiences with others (Ministry through the edification by/of the body.)
Religion: a metaphor: It seems as though religious Christians have been injected with something, call it religious formalism, which seems to make them immune to experiencing the authentic Spiritual Life of the Kingdom of God. Let me hasten to say however, that there are believers among the denominations, these men, women and children have received the knowledge of God through the Lord Jesus Christ in a profound and intimate way, not because of their religious affiliations necessarily, but in spite of that affiliation. The kingdom and the power of God are not the privy to any brand of religion but work around and through it.
Third Category: Authentic Christians,
What is A Christian? Are we born Christians, Are we Christians because we were not born Buddhist or Muslim? Are we Christians because our parents were Christians? Are we Christians because of a religious rite? The Bible reveals that we become Christians not by a religious rite, but by a spiritual encounter with God. God receives us in "friendship" and extends fellowship to us. This fellowship is granted in the name of the only begotten son of God, Jesus, Yeshua of Nazareth. This
knowledge is one thing but the actualizing power of Grace is quite another. The Gospel is a gospel not only conceptual fact but actualized in power. It is a life-changing, spirit-renewing power, that sets on fire the love and life of God within a believer. This life-changing encounter is central to what I hope to present in this writing, and I will cover it broadly if the following pages. A believer, in actuality, has no religious rites or obligations or rules to follow in order to win God's approval. A believer's job is to believe. Faith is choked by unbelief! Through faith we gain access to the scriptural promises of God. These promises are awesome and spectacular and when apprehended can lead us to experiencing the kindnesses of God and entering into our divine inheritance. That is the long and the short of it. Religion in any of its many aspects has entered in obtrusively to complicate or confound the simple way and truth that Christ has declared and made known for all; that each man, woman, and child can know God and experience wholeness through Him.
My hope and prayer is - - that those seeking truth, both religious and non religious, Christian and non Christian, continue in the Word which will open the door to the Kingdom of God, with its power and glory of Eternal Life. May the God of all creation reveal Himself to you, draw you into His family, and bring forth His kingdom, love, and liberty in your life. (Luke 4:18)
Reconstruction of the Human Spirit, the New Creation
Spiritual Christians are created in no other way than by Divine will and action. Those who constitute the membership of the Kingdom of God, without regard to any earthly institutional affiliation. The true church is not a building or a piece of real estate. It is a spiritual body, it is called the "Body of Christ. " This body is universal, apart from any designation of race, creed or nationality, it is without any denominational label and without sectarian or geographical boundaries. The Bible reveals that we become Christians not by a religious rite, but by a Spiritual encounter with the person of God. God receives us in "friendship" and extends the fellowship of his family to us. This fellowship is granted in the name of the only begotten Son of God, namely Jesus, Yeshua of Nazareth. He is the Messiah of Israel who is coming again to rule over the world.
Mentally acknowledging this doctrine is one thing, but receiving the transformative power of it is quite another. The Gospel is a gospel not only of historical fact but of power. It is a life changing, spirit-renewing power, that sets on fire the life of God within a believer. Those who are born from above are transformed in an undeniable way. It does not have to happen in a church through a human mediator although this occurs often enough. One must believe and knows he believes and then ask for that gift from God. That is how it works. No one can force us to believe. It is a process that God guides within us.
Religion is an admixture of some of God's gospel and some that are human overlays and augmentations. This mixture serves to confound the simplicity and freedom that is in Christ. Jesus Christ by taking on the sins of all humanity on the cross, has made the way for each man, woman, and child to come to God and experience a new state of being in Him. Jesus does not force us to believe. It is a choice to be made. We can continue to bear our own sins and grief. Or we can bring them to the One who promises to bear our burdens. An exchange awaits to be made, hope for hopelessness, freedom from bondage, peace, joy and liberty in God's presence. My hope and prayer is that those seeking truth, both Christian and non Christian will continue in the life giving word which opens the door to the Kingdom of God. May the God of all creation reveal Himself to you in order for you to continue to bring forth His kingdom.
Highways and Byways in the Quest Some of us, in our individual quest for truth, look for a religion that will accommodate our own world view or moral viewpoint, though in our natural state we are all morally distorted and unregenerate in nature. Some others search for a religious form which promises personal power and influence over others. This power quest has one end; corruption of the soul. Personal aggrandizement leads toward corruption and pride, the domain of the enemy of God, Lucifer. Power to control or influence others, power to get wealth for its own sake is as witchcraft, a rebellious snare. Some search for a religious program which accommodates fame, personal notoriety, adulation or self-worship. Self enhancement is acquired at the expense of coming under God's dominion.
For others the search is to find personal healing or inner contentment to salve the aching of their souls. In Him we find solace, peace, love and wholeness. There are numerous motivations which lend themselves to religious choices. While we say we search for God are we really sincere or insincere? In the final analysis it is we who must conform to God's book and acknowledge His rules and plan for ourselves and not visa-versa.
Beginning a Spiritual Search
While we are shopping this smorgasbord of religion there are many choices. How will you choose? What are your resources and criteria to make these choices? Can we choose using our own intellectual equipment? Those who are proud of their intellectual achievements will probably choose wrongly; since they will choose to remain in control of their own lives through the exalted faculty of reason. The wise of this world say, "Only a fool denies reason."
religions make no demands upon us to give up
anything, idolatries, pride, sin, hatred, etc.
When we are well satisfied with who we are;
when we are pleased with ourselves, with our
name, rank, and achievements; When we are puffed
up with our own sense of superiority, looks,
talents or strengths; How can we choose to
believe something which asks us to, "deny
yourself, take up a cross and follow me?"
How do we choose a belief system which states,
"In myself, I can do nothing;"
or " - unless a seed falls and
dies it abides alone, but if dies it brings
forth much?" Is there any beauty in
sacrificing our selves? How can we as 20th,
soon to be 21st Century beings, choose to decrease
to ourselves and choose that which is meek
and lowly of heart, not arrayed the outward
trappings of finery; not displaying intellectual
cleverness, nor personal flamboyance. "He
had no beauty that we should desire Him."
So we seek. We shop and we look and we ask about. During this time we continue to have as much power and self control, self satisfaction, and personal liberty as any other human seeker. When does the seeking come to an end? Is their a priceless pearl to be found? What is the nature of this pearl which beyond price? How do I begin my quest for God?
Scripture asks this question, "What does a profit someone to gain the whole world but lose his or her soul?" There is a risk associated with a search thwarted or the search incomplete. There is a risk associated with substituting the true with the counterfeit and the living with something tainted with corruption and death. There is indeed a true Gospel, having the right Jesus, the right Gospel and the right Spirit. (2Cor 11:3) There is also a counterfeit gospel, awaiting any who choose an alternative to the previous 3 criteria. Among these alternatives lies the way to deception or possible destruction.
In this process of seeking, some who hear the message, come to believe in the Lord Jesus, Yeshua of Nazareth called the Messiah or Christ.) The Word of God declares, "Those who seek will find." Those who seek and continue seeking, will find that pearl of inestimable value. It remains hidden to those who are lost. Great hunger is rewarded with satisfying 'manna' from God and great thirst is rewarded with a satisfying drink that Jesus called 'living water.'
Many others never come to believe in or profess biblical Christianity but another belief system. The way of the Christian life once discovered provides a feast for the body, soul and spirit, a feast that brings eternal satisfaction, the knowledge of the friendship of Jesus is thirst satisfying indeed.
The Way, however, remains a narrow one, it is self limiting. It does not accommodate those who wish to take their own intellectual baggage in, this burden of extraneous stuff must be unloaded. Who among the seekers is willing to do this? Who are really sincere and not looking on a superficial curiosity level. Jesus has counseled to walk the crucified life. Daily carrying our cross, dying to self, turning from the raucous cries that would distract us in this world.
I am reminded of the interview which King Herod of Judea attempted to have with Jesus on the occasion of Jesus' trial and Pilate's disposition of this matter of legality. What possible need or interest could this powerful, worldly, self indulgent, sensuous monarch have in questioning Jesus, the Messiah of the Jews? Herod had indeed heard of Jesus. He had heard of his influence upon the people and heard of the signs and wonders worked by his hand. Herod probably was reminded of John the Baptist whose head was the price paid for his stepdaughter Salome's sensuous dance performance. Vain curiosity was probably the motivating factor. Herod may have had some guilt or even fears associated with destroying the non conformist, unyielding, cooperative prophet, John the Baptist.
interviews Jesus: The world against the spirit
A doorway opens unto repentance
In my case, I had reached a crossroad in my middle years that brought me to 'an end of myself:' When my need was greatest I was reduced to desperation. I finally was willing to take the next step to cry out, "Jesus, have mercy on me!" So? Where the inquiry will take you. Will it be into the wilderness (outside of the distractions of worldly distractions, where intimacy with God is finally revealed? Or will you be lured into the another wilderness imbued with worldly values having no intimacy with God, having no power to fulfill Christ's hope and calling.
Contained in "The Gospel Without Religion" is a series of commentaries compiled from this believer's study of the "Word of God" and his personal spiritual insights and experiences thereafter. I was not always a believer. What was I before I became a believer, before becoming a Christian? I was the same as many of you are. Before becoming a believer I practiced a form of Godliness; I too was religious. I was actively involved in institutional forms of Christianity with its many traditions, forms, and flavors and yet without knowing Christ. Before becoming believers, we called ourselves by any of hundreds of denominational names, not realizing that Christ is One and can not be divided. If this state, we had no true witness of the reality of God; we had no true witness of our own spiritual nature and destiny. We may not have known that God is real or that He rewards those who seek him with wonderful gifts. Before becoming a partakers in the "gift of God", we called ourselves Christians.
Meantime, not knowing that being a Christian meant more than just attending church, more than learning a catechism, more than going through a rite of membership. Being a Christian is not an intellectual assent to a doctrine or belief where you can say, "Yes that sounds like it might be true, I guess I join up and become one of those. "You don't join an institution or a church to become a Christian, rather, you are "translated" into becoming a son or daughter of God. You are translated into a different kingdom and a different reality; You become a new order of being. You are translated from death into life, from darkness into light. We who once cared nothing for the life and properties of God now share in that life and are consumed by it. It is a work that God does in us and not one that we do on our own.
Discerning the True Gospel, 3 factors determine its authenticity:
right Jesus: Jesus the Messiah is not an
angel, not a mere prophet; not a great man,
not merely a teacher of moral excellence; Not
a highly evolved illuminate; but The
only begotten Son of God, the Jewish Messiah.
The kingdom of darkness has this agenda; to steal, to kill and to destroy, especially a believer. The spirit of the world is a spirit of self exaltation and pride. Of course modern thought and psychology discredits belief in spirits as a primitive and obsolete belief system. However, it is to be noted that Jesus the Messiah came to "destroy the works of the devil," Satan, the ruler of all fallen beings. It is God's ultimate purpose to restore the proper line of earthly rule under the dominion of Jesus Christ. In due time, nations will recognize him as the Holy One of God, appointed Lord of all things. Evil or wrong spirits include, pride, rebellion, witchcraft, defilement, sensuality, gluttony, drunkenness, etc.
A common Secular Argument: One god Equals Any Other?
The broad-minded, ecumenical world would like to assert that any God is essentially on a par with any other. They declare that there are many paths and they all eventually lead us to the sublime higher One. Today, I am a Christian believer, but was not always so. Disillusioned by religion, sensing its superficiality, the hypocrisies, and lacking any proof in the God of the Bible I went on searching and doubting, and trusting that I was good enough not to fall into condemnation in if and when I came face to face with my Creator. I had heard the term "Good News" referring the Gospel of the Messiah Yeshua (Jesus). But my experience in Christianity was valued only in a sentimental way. I had memories of church experiences with my family in youth. During these days I yearned to touch and experience something that was real, powerful and persuasive. This, I believe, is exactly where so many seeking people are at today. Hopeful, wanting to believe, but without proof that God is real or reachable. My religious experience offered no proof of God's reality. Any Gospel expressed as the Power of God able to transform human life, was outside of my religious experience.
The Gospel, is denoted as the power of God, (1Corinthians 1;2.5) powerfully persuades us to believe, in a God of love and a God who can impact human lives in remarkable life-changing ways that exist out of the realm of church life. This Gospel is not a shallow, tradition-ruled religion. Rather it teaches knowing God who reveals himself as Savior and sovereign of the universe. Even more amazingly, the Bible proves itself to be entirely believable and consistent in spite of its progressive detractors. Theologians who work continuously to discredit any belief in Biblical accuracy or consistency. Today when I hear of a God who walked with man in a spiritually perfect world, called Eden. I believe it; when I hear of a God who did wonders in the days of Moses or the prophets I do not doubt that fact for one moment; when I read the infallible prophecies of appointed men of God who declare the end from the beginning I have no doubt in the veracity of any of those words.
God spoke through prophets with inerrant accuracy to declare the Messiah and his mission to redeem fallen humanity and all these prophecies came to pass. Jesus as the lamb of God came to close the divide between God and humanity. The resurrection of Yeshua, as irrational scientifically unsound it sounds on the surface, remains the foundation of Christianity. Resurrection establishes the "Power of the Gospel" and enables any believer to partake in His divine nature.
Religions of the world may vary in name and beliefs but all seek to establish a worldly kingdom. They aspire to have a launching pad to promulgate those beliefs and in many cases, beliefs that are contrary to the Gospel. Christian religions sects, including, Catholicism, LDS Mormonism, Jehovah's Witnesses, and most of the protestant denominations distort the simple Gospel. They bring forth errant doctrines, formalism, and human authority. (See the characteristics of Religion in book two; "The attributes of Religion."
Think about religion. What usually comes to mind? Churches, temples, mosques, buildings and their congregations have something in common; formal ceremony and ritual are practiced. It is here that we learn obligations or extraneous formalities that are thought to be necessary to worship and believe properly. Most of this is contrary to the original Gospel, e.g. the Apostolic epistles found in the New Testament.
Understanding Home Fellowships