This is the church in captivity to the law of legalism. A negative gospel of "no" and "don't." In my youth in Scotland, and subsequent early years here in the USA, this was my church experience. No radio, TV, movies, or rock and roll. Certainly no smoking, chewin', or cussin'. No going out on Sunday to play, but only to attend three Sunday church services. Not to mention Tuesday and Thursday prayer meetings. Women never wore makeup. And although the intent was good the result was a church of legalism.
Pet Theology and Mind Set
This church attempts to have people adhere to manmade rules of what you can't do. The results are bondage, unhappiness and religious self righteousness. If we could pull this off it would negate the need for Christ. But of course the flip side, doing whatever feels good, is equally wrong. Recognizing that Jesus came not to abolish the law, but fulfill it, and set you free at the same time is a God paradox.
Then as I gazed and saw, I also began to hear the Voice and the Message.
Plumb Line* of Truth
*(A standard of measurement. True according to a plumb line. - Webster's Dictionary)
"Let me put this question to you: How did your new life begin? Was it by working your heads off to please God? Or was it by responding to God's message to you? Are you going to continue this craziness? For only crazy people would think they could complete by their own efforts what was begun by God. If you weren't smart enough or strong enough to begin it how do you suppose you could perfect it? How can you possibly subject yourselves again to those paper tigers? For that is exactly what you do when you are intimidated into scrupulously observing all the traditions, taboos, and superstitions associated with special days and seasons and years. We are all able to receive God's life, His Spirit, in and with us just by believing." (Galatians 3:2-4; 4:9-10 - The Message)
I recognized that these were more than just rhetorical questions. They needed some real answers.
"Where do we find precepts in the Gospel, requiring...Convocations, Councils, Decrees, Creeds, Confession, Oaths, Subscriptions and whole Cartloads of other trumpery, that we find religion encumbered with in these days?" (John Adams, Future President of the United States - 1756)
"Woe to you Pharisees...." (Who me?!)
"You don't practice what you preach. You tie up heavy loads and put them on men's shoulders, but you yourselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them." (Jesus in Matthew 23)
I read the whole chapter and almost tore it out of my Bible! But then this:
"Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them." (Jesus Christ - Matthew 5:17)
"You will know the truth (Jesus) and the truth (Jesus) will set you free. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed." (John 8:32 & 36)
Freedom is what I need - we all need. But not a freedom, as the Apostle Peter said, "To do evil."
It's balance. A word that would keep coming up over and over again.
Then closely akin to the Church in Captivity...
The Fightin' Fundys:
Pet Theology and Mind Set
The pet theology and mind set goes something like this: "There is no point in discussing it -- we have the truth. In terms of churches, we have the biggest in the United States. As a nation, we have the largest economy, and the most powerful military. Obviously, this denotes God is blessing us. The bottom line is, we are Americans, and He is on our side; we just need to get this country back to its Christian roots where it all started. If you don't see it our way, you are a heathen and infidel and outside the inner circle."
I remember once asking a fightin' fundy church I was speaking in: "Does returning to our American Christian foundations include slavery and second class citizenship for people of color?" What about Native Americans? Weren't they standing on the shore when the white folks arrived?
For some reason I was never invited back to speak at that church.
As a matter of fact sometime later, when Martin Luther King Jr. was shot, I prayed for him on the Christian airwaves and a fundy pastor, who in the name of defending the faith, threatened to shoot me. All for the glory of God of course.
Plumb Line of Truth
Reality: "A chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a special people," is not the United States of America. What if the choice came down to "God or country," instead of, "God and country?" (1 Peter 2:9)
Although the following pertains to Israel, I think America needs to take note.
"It was not because you were greater in numbers than any other nation that the Lord fastened His affection upon you and chose you; for you were the least of all peoples. No, it was because the Lord loved you."(Deuteronomy 7:7-8)
"From one blood He made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth." (Acts17:26)
"I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb." (Revelation 7:9)
There is a difference between the American church and the Church in America.
Kingdom Cops Church
Pet Theology and Mind Set
An extension of the "Fightin' Fundy's." This group is called of God to straighten everyone and everything out. Like Kingdom Kops. You must see it their way or bear the consequences; i.e., the fire will fall and burn you to a potato chip.
"Lord, don't you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?" (Luke 9:53-54)
Or by sending their enemies on to see Jesus:
"Then Simon Peter, who had a sword (or a .357 Magnum), drew it and struck the high priest's servant, cutting off his right ear." (Luke 22:50)
Should have blown him away!
"Teacher, we saw a man driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us." (Mark 9:.38)
Ultimately if you don't do it their way:
"They will put you out of your church. In fact, a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God and doing Him a favor." (John 16:2)
Plumb Line of Truth
We can attempt to set people right in a wrong way. Many of us need an attitude adjustment.
"If someone falls into a sin, forgivingly restore him, saving your critical comments for yourself. You might be needing forgiveness before the day's out Don't be impressed with yourself." (Galatians 6:1-3)
"You do not know what kind of spirit you are of, for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them." (Luke 9:55-56)
God is "kind to the ungrateful" and "loving to all he has made" (Luke 6:35; Psalm 145:13).
"For whoever is not against us is for us." Jesus Christ (Mark 9:40)
"Welcome with open arms fellow believers who don't see things the way you do. And don't jump all over them every time they do or say something you don't agree with Remember, they have their own history to deal with. Treat them gently if there are corrections to be made or manners to be learned, God can handle that without your help. Jesus set us free from the petty tyrannies of each other. So tend to your knitting. You've got your hands full just taking care of your own life before God.
Cultivate your own relationship with God, but don't impose it on others." (Romans 14 - various. The Message)
"He was a man of ruthless temper, rigid, unforgiving, and a hard shell Christian more excited by the damnation of the wicked than the eternal grace of the saved." (Scott Turow, The Laws of Our Fathers).
Read the next segment of this chapter.
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