Copyright 1994 - 2017 Bill's Bible Basics
Authored By :
Published On :
April 2, 2000
Last Updated :
March 29, 2011
Why I Dropped Out Of Organized Religion, Spiritual Babes Or Mature Leaders, Nature Of True Church, Our Body Is A Living Temple, Christ Within Us, The Cause Of Stephen's Martyrdom, Destruction Of The Temple, Christ The True Rock, Worship In The Spirit, Being Led By The Spirit, God's Word Or Traditions Of Men, Freed By Spirit Of Truth, Finding God's Will Through Total Submission, Stand Upon Your Convictions, Fellowship And Church In The Home, Mega-Churches, Congregations Of Strangers, Going To Church For The Wrong Reasons, Shallow After-Church Chat, Cold Handshakes And Pats On The Back, Brotherly Love
Some time ago, a member of our private Christian mailing list -- EDGE -- wrote to me regarding a problem she was having in her personal life. This problem concerned the goings-on at her local church. Allow me to share her words with you, in order to help you to fully understand her dilemma. She wrote:
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I was wondering if you could give me some advice? I can't stand it anymore going to our church because of the present pastor. Since we started there, 3/4 of the people have left because of him. [My husband] is so blind to see what this pastor has done and all the people he has hurt. [My husband] said I could go somewhere else. What I was wondering is, if I would be out of God's will, us going in different directions? I know the Lord looks at a married couple as one spirit joined together. I need to be concerned about my own salvation, and work it out everyday with the Lord's help. I was wondering what your thoughts were?
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Being an avid reader of my writings, as well as a long-time member of our mailing list, this woman was already aware of my personal feelings regarding the modern church system, or churchianity, as I prefer to call it. Like other people who form a part of our online fellowship, for many years now -- decades in fact -- I have chosen to simply not participate in organized religion to any degree, due to the great deal of hypocrisy, rampant materialism, the lack of teaching sound, Bible-based doctrine, the serious, ongoing compromise with the spirit, ideas, beliefs and practices of the world, the man worship and the favoritism, etc. I explain my position in more detail in some of my other articles, so I will not belabor the point here. In short, I can truly relate to how this woman was feeling.
Based upon what I know about this particular couple, I am not certain if they are really ready yet to make this same kind of break with churchianity as I and others have done. While the wife may be ready, being as she has mentioned this same issue to me before, I have some reservations regarding her husband. His hesitancy to leave their current church is readily reflected in the above message; assuming of course that her description of his current attitude is accurate. If I am incorrect, and they both are ready to "cut the apron strings", as we say in American slang, then my suggestion to them would be to try to start their own fellowship, in their own home, with like-minded believers. I believe that I may have suggested this same possibility to them on a previous occasion as well.
Because of what this woman has shared with me regarding their activities in their current church, I do not view this couple as being spiritual babes; and some of the articles I have written on the topic of spiritual growth, such as "Are You Just A Baby Huey?" definitely apply to them. At their age, and considering their amount of personal experience in the church system, it seems to me that they should now have enough knowledge and wisdom -- not to mention at least a basic understanding of God's Word -- to know how to lead their own flock; or at least how to organize a loose association of fellow believers who get together on weekends for fellowship and reading God's Word. I offer some helpful guidelines in the article "Where Are The First Century Churches?". In other words, there comes a time when we must stop being spiritual babes, and mature in the Spirit and become leaders and fruit-bearing branches in the Lord's Church. I will be sharing more on this topic later on in this article.
As I point out in the aforementioned article, as well as in a number of other articles, the first thing that they -- and many other Christians -- need to realize, is that one does not need to attend a church building in order to "find" God, or to fellowship with the Lord, because a church building in itself is not the true house of God. As I have stated a number of times before, Jesus quite plainly taught His First Disciples the following:
"For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them."
Matthew 18:20, KJV
Nowhere in that verse does the Lord say that such gatherings have to specifically occur in a church building. In fact, as many of you will already know, church buildings did not even exist at the time that Jesus said that. Church buildings were a man-made invention which was contrived at least a few centuries after the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ, when Christianity became a legal religion -- or "religio licita" -- which was recognized by the Roman Empire, after its radical doctrines had been toned down, and become polluted, corrupted, perverted, and weakened, by those people -- that is, the early 4th Century bishops who conspired with Emperor Constantine I -- who no longer possessed the same moral and spiritual convictions as the founding Apostles of the First Century. Again, I discuss these details in other articles for those of you who possess a serious enough interest to further study my work.
The point is, our gathering together can occur absolutely anywhere, and at any time. Over and over again I have told our readers that God is where we are, because our body is the true temple of the Holy Ghost, and the Spirit of Christ dwells within each one of us when we accept Him as our Lord and Saviour. Isn't that what the Apostle Paul said? Consider the following verses:
"What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's."
1 Corinthians 6:19-20, KJV
"Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord."
Colossians 3:16, KJV
Whether we are discussing Christ the Living Word, or Christ the Written Word, both must dwell within us, and not in a cold, stone building, because they are basically synonymous terms. In the Gospel of John, the Apostle wrote, and Jesus Himself said:
"And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth."
John 1:14, KJV
"It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life."
John 6:63, KJV
As you may know, it was in fact because the martyr Stephen said the very same thing in the seventh chapter of the Book of Acts, that the Jewish religious leaders stoned him to death. In so many words, Stephen said, "You don't need to go to the Temple to worship anymore, because you are each now a part of God's Living Temple, and His Spirit dwells within you". Consider some of Stephen's final words spoken right before the demon-possessed Jews stopped their ears, and brought this faithful witness's life to a bloody end:
"But Solomon built him an house. Howbeit the most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands; as saith the prophet, Heaven is my throne, and earth is my footstool: what house will ye build me? saith the Lord: or what is the place of my rest? Hath not my hand made all these things? Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye."
Acts 7:47-51, KJV
Just like many hard-hearted Christian leaders and deceived sheep today, the Jews simply did not want to hear the truth. They didn't want to be told that their glorious Temple compound -- which had been renovated and expanded by King Herod the Great himself -- and their cold, formal, mechanical religious worship, had become outdated, useless, spiritless, and was no longer even pleasing to the Lord. In fact, after they crucified our Lord and Saviour, it became even more of an abomination in God's sight. As I explain in such articles as "Once Upon A Time: A True Story", not only was the Temple veil torn in half, as a symbol of God's displeasure, and a sign of the beginning of the New Covenant, or New Testament between God and man by the Blood of Jesus Christ, but as I explain in more detail in other articles, the Temple itself was destroyed down to its very foundation stones, in 70 AD by General Titus -- the son of Emperor Vespasian -- in direct fulfillment of Jesus' own words, which He spoke at the beginning of Matthew chapter twenty-four, as we see here:
"And Jesus went out, and departed from the temple: and his disciples came to him for to shew him the buildings of the temple. And Jesus said unto them, See ye not all these things? verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down."
Matthew 24:1-2, KJV
It is because the Apostle Peter embraced this very same understanding regarding the nature of the true Temple, and true worship, that he also clarified in his first Epistle, that Jesus Christ is the true Foundation Stone -- and not himself as the Roman Catholic Church likes to insist -- and that each one of us is a Living Stone in God's Living Temple; because as Jesus said, the Spirit brings life, and not death, as in a cold, dead, hollow building made of steel and concrete. Consider Peter's words:
"If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious. To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious, Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded."
1 Peter 2:3-6, KJV
If there is one thing of which I am certain, it is that God's true Holy Spirit is consistent in what it teaches us. It is not like the spirit of confusion which has filled modern Christianity with so many different false doctrines and odd manifestations. In his first Epistle to the church at Corinth, the Apostle Paul not only prays for spiritual and doctrinal unity within the fledgling church, but he also plainly states that God is not the author of confusion. Not only that, but in full agreement with what was taught by our Lord, by Peter, by Stephen and by others, Paul also tells us that Jesus Christ is the Spiritual Rock in our lives, the Foundation Stone; and that it is not the foundation stone of some physical church building. Please consider the following verses:
"Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment."
1 Corinthians 1:10, KJV
"For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints."
1 Corinthians 14:33, KJV
"And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ."
1 Corinthians 10:4, KJV
When Jesus was speaking to the Samaritan woman at the well in the fourth chapter of the Gospel of John, did He not say the following to her concerning true worship in the Spirit?:
". . . Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth."
John 4:21b-24, KJV
Can the truth be any clearer than that? Jesus was plainly saying, "Look lady; the day is soon coming when you will no longer have to go to Jerusalem to worship in the Temple, or to any other particular place, because God will require of all of you, true worship in the Spirit". You see, just like many other Jews, she had been taught all her life that if one failed to make a yearly pilgrimage to worship in the Temple, -- and thus help to fill the Temple coffers -- he or she must not be a very devout believer; and this is precisely the same attitude which has been cultivated in millions of Christians today. Unless one goes to church, he or she must not be a very good Christian. In fact, he or she must not be one at all; or at the very least, he or she is terribly backslidden from the faith. As I have already stated, when Stephen tried to reiterate this same message, it got him killed real quick; just like it got Jesus killed real quick; and many of those who followed in His footsteps.
When I first read this woman's question, I realized how serious of a matter it was. As such, I dared not to take it lightly by just offering her a weak, fleshly answer that was based upon my human wisdom; so I said a prayer and asked the Lord for His Wisdom and Spiritual Guidance, and the above Scriptural answer is the result. As I have said many times before, I don't have all of the answers, and I don't pretend to have all of the answers. The only thing that I know how to do, is to draw upon my knowledge of God's Word, and trust that God's Spirit will bring the right Scriptures into my mind, in order to provide the right answer that people need to hear, and which will help them to discover the truth for themselves. This is what Jesus said would happen, so I have to simply trust that my answers are of Him. As Jesus said:
"But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you."
John 14:26, KJV
I am not a Prophet, and I don't claim to be a Prophet; so all I can do is share what I believe I receive from the Lord, and leave it at that. All I can do is trust that the Word that I share will speak to people's hearts; at least the part that really applies to them and their personal situation. As the Prophet Isaiah was inspired to write:
"For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it."
Isaiah 55:10-11, KJV
As is my custom, in responding to this woman, I have not tried to mix in any kind of personal interpretation. All I have done is link verses together to show a common thread, a common belief which was shared by all of these First Century writers. It is obvious to me that Jesus, Matthew, Stephen, Peter, Paul, and all the rest were in complete agreement regarding what they viewed as the True Church; and it most certainly was not -- and is not -- a cold, stone building down the street, where people just go through the motions of being Christians on the weekends.
Now, in spite of the fact that I have shared the straight Word of God, I daresay that if one were to take this message to his or her pastor, priest or minister, or to anyone who is heavily involved in organized religion, that person would undoubtedly tell you that I have spoken a terrible lie, and that I have perverted and twisted the true meaning of the Scriptures; but have I? Or are they just afraid of losing their control over people's lives by having them exposed to the truth of God's Word, which tells them that they don't need their priest or church system with its hierarchical control system? The Jewish Elders who killed Jesus were afraid of the very same thing. Now, please think about this. If God didn't require or need a temple two thousand years ago, why are so many people convinced that He needs church buildings today? There is no difference.
During the time of His Earthly Ministry, Jesus's message was not just about being freed from the pangs of both physical and spiritual death which result from sin; it was also about being freed from the bondage of man-made traditions, false practices and erroneous doctrines. It was about being freed from spiritual and doctrinal blindness, which often stifles spiritual growth. It is for this reason that during the early part of His Ministry, we find the Lord saying such things as the following. He was in fact quoting from the Old Testament Prophets:
"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord."
Luke 4:18-19, KJV
". . . If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free . . . If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed."
John 8:31b-32,36, KJV
If you are one who feels trapped and dissatisfied within organized religion, let me tell you that God desires to set you free from the enslaving, spiritless control system within which you currently find yourself; but you must be willing to take the step of faith. No one can do that for you. I can only share the truth of the Scriptures with you, but I cannot force you to believe it, or to accept it, or to live it; for as the Apostle Paul also wrote, we must each be convinced for our own selves. Consider these verses:
"I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God."
Romans 12:1-2, KJV
". . . Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind."
Romans 14:5b, KJV
In other words, before you can truly discover what God's Will is for your life, you must be willing to give up your own will, and what you want to do, or what you think you ought to do, and allow God to renew you, and to give you the mind of Christ. As I explain in such articles as "What Is God's Will For My Life?" and "So You Really Think You Are So Humble?", this means that you must have a totally humble spirit which is submitted to God; just as Jesus did. Once you are convinced of what God's Will is for your life, then as Paul states in the above verse, you need to stick to it, no matter what anyone says. You need to have conviction about your beliefs, because God will judge you by your own words and actions, and not by those of another, or by what they tell you to do, think or believe.
As I stated a moment ago, if you were to share this message with your church elder, or with one of his loyal underlings, I don't doubt that he would immediately accuse me of being some kind of an evil heretic. He might even tell you that I am instructing you to go against God's Word by breaking off fellowship; and he would probably share the following verse with you, because this is one of the favorite ones which they like to use in such cases, in order to keep you under their control:
"Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching."
Hebrews 10:25, KJV
Now let's clarify some of my previous statements. Have I told the woman in question to stop fellowshipping? No! What I have plainly said is that if she is truly not happy with her current fellowship at her current church because of the pastor there, then given their age, experience and long background in the church system, maybe it is time for this couple to exercise their own faith, spread their spiritual wings, and start their own home fellowship. As I explain in "Where Are The First Century Churches?", this is the true organizational pattern of the First Century Church. The New Testament quite plainly states that the Church was in the house of the believers, and they fellowshipped from house to house. Allow me to share some of those verses again from that article:
"As for Saul, he made havock of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison."
Acts 8:3, KJV
"Likewise greet the church that is in their house. Salute my wellbeloved Epaenetus, who is the firstfruits of Achaia unto Christ."
Romans 16:5, KJV
"The churches of Asia salute you. Aquila and Priscilla salute you much in the Lord, with the church that is in their house."
1 Corinthians 16:19, KJV
"Salute the brethren which are in Laodicea, and Nymphas, and the church which is in his house."
Colossians 4:15, KJV
"And to our beloved Apphia, and Archippus our fellowsoldier, and to the church in thy house:"
Philemon 1:2, KJV
When God's Word speaks plainly regarding a certain issue, as these verses do, I prefer to believe it. What about you? We are told that before his miraculous conversion, Saul, later to be known as Paul, went into the homes of the believers, and dragged them off to prison, because that is where their fellowships were being held; and not in some huge building down the block. Unless you believe that all of these folks had extremely large homes, capable of holding hundreds, or even thousands of new converts, then these verses seem to indicate that the First Century Christians had small, home-based fellowships where everyone knew each other on a very personal level. There was a real, genuine, spiritual unity, intimacy and fellowship at work there.
Contrary to what is described in the previous verses, some modern churches have such huge congregations -- so-called "mega-churches" with literally thousands of members -- that it is virtually impossible for everyone to know each other on a personal level; not that they would want to anyway. They have become cold and formal institutions; and in some instances, sins and problems cannot be properly addressed due to the sheer size of the congregation; that is, when the church leader is even willing to delve into such sensitive matters. Nowadays, it seems that following the inspiration leader, and making a lot of noise, and having all kinds of strange manifestations, is more important than sharing and following the Word, and keeping personal lives in order, and honorable before the Lord; but again, this is something I discuss in detail in other articles for those of you who are interested.
Furthermore, in such large congregations, quite a few of the members are there, not because they really want to be there in their hearts, but simply because they have bowed to peer pressure, community pressure, political correctness, because mom and dad say they have to go, or because they got tired of the spouse nagging them all of the time. Some of them simply are not there for the right reasons, and would much prefer being at home sleeping in, or watching the football game, or maybe out with the buddies on that fishing trip. If you doubt my words, then listen to some of the conversations which are held immediately following the church service.
In many cases, after-church chat immediately turns to worldly themes, as if those involved want to try to quickly forget any words of conviction which may have been spoken by the well-meaning church leader. They feel embarrassed by the pastor's words, so they try to simply ignore them by talking about other things which they do have in common. It is all so shallow and fake. They don't know how to communicate with each other on a deeper spiritual level, because they have no spiritual depth. Now tell me; is that really true fellowship of the Spirit? I think not. I am reminded once again of the Lord's sad description concerning his Jewish enemies. Jesus said:
"This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me."
Matthew 15:8, KJV
In some churches, they have the customary greeting and handshake, where upon being cued by the elder, everyone is supposed to turn to their neighbor in the pew, and greet them and give them a handshake. It is possible that this modern-day custom may have evolved from the original, heartfelt expressions of love manifested by the First Century Apostles and Disciples, as they were instructed to do by the Lord Himself. Consider the following verses:
"A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another."
John 13:34-35, KJV
"This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you . . . These things I command you, that ye love one another."
John 15:12, 17, KJV
"Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law."
Romans 13:8, KJV
"Salute one another with an holy kiss. The churches of Christ salute you."
Romans 16:16, KJV
"All the brethren greet you. Greet ye one another with an holy kiss."
1 Corinthians 16:20, KJV
"Greet one another with an holy kiss."
2 Corinthians 13:12, KJV
"But as touching brotherly love ye need not that I write unto you: for ye yourselves are taught of God to love one another."
1 Thessalonians 4:9, KJV
"Greet all the brethren with an holy kiss."
1 Thessalonians 5:26, KJV
"Let brotherly love continue."
Hebrews 13:1, KJV
"If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well:"
James 2:8, KJV
"Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently:"
1 Peter 1:22, KJV
"And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins."
1 Peter 4:8, KJV
"For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another . . . And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment."
1 John 3:11, 23, KJV
"Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God . . . Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us."
1 John 4:7, 11-12, KJV
"And now I beseech thee, lady, not as though I wrote a new commandment unto thee, but that which we had from the beginning, that we love one another."
2 John 1:5, KJV
Please go to part two for the continuation of this series.
⇒ Go To The Next Part . . .