James 1:27 Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.
I started going to church nine months before I was born, because my parents were evangelists that traveled all over the country ministering the gospel. The only real life I know has always revolved around church. Most would agree that I have lead a sheltered life. I have never been arrested, drunk, high (other than the stuff you get from hospitals and the dentist) lol divorced, beaten up, at a wild party, and the only children I have are with my wife of nineteen years. Now if you have experienced these things I am not condeming you I am just laying groundwork for where my real problem came from! From the time I was six years old I have been on the stage at church playing an instrument or preaching.
I grew up in the best church and home you could ever imagine. My parents exemplified the true love of Christ in every aspect of their lives. My parents grew up in an era of true conservatism in the church. The church wanted such a separation from the world in which it lived that it came up with practical commitments that were meant to help Christians show the transforming power of God in their lives. This zeal and true desire to be separated ( 2 Corinthians 6:17 Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you,) was birthed in a true heart of evangelism. It did however become the gospel for many and began to take the place of pure religion. What was a suggestion of how to live a life for God above criticism became the foundational principles on which legalism religion was built.
I remember growing up and seeing a lady in church with pants on and thinking she is going to hell! I remember watching ladies and men in the altar and thinking only the ones that looked the part were truly being blessed. If a peron came into church and got saved I expected them to show up at the next service dressed right with the right haircut. Long haired sinner men should cut that hair before they come back to church. That woman that got saved should throw away those pants when she gets home and flush that makeup down the toilet. (1 Corinthians 11:14-15 Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him? 15 But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering.; Deuteronomy 22:5 The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman’s garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the Lord thy God.; 1 Timothy 2:9 In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array) If I saw a man come into church and you could see the round circle in his pocket you knew that was dip and he needed to be saved! I remember one time a lady got up on the stage to sing and she had ear rings and I thought she needs deliverance before she can minister! I am by no means saying I was taught to exist in this mindset, but that is how it manifested itself in me.
How many people that read this can tell a testimony of how someone in a church was made to feel convicted because of what they looked like. How many could tell the stories of those so-called spiritual fathers and mothers of the church that went to that unsuspecting man or woman and explained to them that they were welcome to come back to church but they would need to get the proper attire, haircut, and outward appearance! How many times did those original suggestions of how to keep your testimony pure become the LAW? Come on people we still have some today that will quote verses from the book of Leviticus and put that law into effect today and opress the people of God with it! I have seen men that had to shave their beards, goatees, and mustaches before they could preach or teach. (Leviticus 19:27 Ye shall not round the corners of your heads, neither shalt thou mar the corners of thy beard.) Really?
Growing up we weren’t allowed to go to movies, swim with the opposite sex, or wear shorts. My sister didn’t wear pants, jewelry or makeup. I remember getting a high school ring and two men in my church came to me and told me I was setting a bad example to other young people. I remember taking it off any time I preached because these two men would eyeball me the whole time. This carried over to my early years of evangelizing after I got married. I would remove my wedding ring so I would make sure to be accepted by the people I was preaching to.
After I graduated high school I went to the most conservative college I could find. I wanted to study the Bible and cement my conservative foundation for a future ministry to those people that had fallen away from true Christianity! I could see the church slipping into its worldliness. Women and men coming to church dressed like they were unashamed of the fact that God was watching them and their decline into a lifestyle of dressing like the world. How many times did I shout when the preacher would declare that the current church is now where the world used to be thirty years ago! He would get a hearty amen from me. I would look around the congregation and pick out the ones that I wanted to see in the altar. They were easily chosen because of their appearance. I would pray for them the whole service, “God help that lady three rows up to be delivered and wipe off that makeup and throw away those ear rings. In Jesus name!” (sorry but I do have a smile on my face right now laughing at myself – LAM) I loved to preach like my heros and declare that it is time we get back to how Grandma and Grandpa served the Lord. (if you didn’t know old Christian grandparents and forefathers never did anything wrong and they knew everything there was to know about God and the Bible) “If we could just get back to the old fashioned way we could reach the lost and experience the power of God once again”, I would preach. LAM
It was while I was at Bible College that I had my first eye opening experience when it came to religion. I met a group of people more conservative than my parents and home church! Now what would I do? Agreeing with this new level of conservatism would mean that my parents needed deliverance. I would now have to be the voice of one crying in the wilderness, “Prepare the way for deliverance all my home church people, because God has sent me away to come back and share the good news of deliverance for you!” LAM (this is great stuff people) You see my parents taught me relationship with Christ before anything else, but the dean at college said it was outward appearance that told the truth of inward dedication.
Now at this point God laid a cornerstone in my process of surviving religion.Block # 1 – MAN’S RELIGION IS SUBJECTIVE!
I was dating a girl in college that didn’t attend the college. She came one Wednesday night to our chapel service. Now she didn’t wear pants, nut she wore a black leather jacket, makeup, and large earings. The next day I was called into the dean’s office. He began to explain to me that he was disappointed in my choice of girls. He believed me to be conservative and from a conservative family and was surprised that I would lower my standards and date such a spiritually immature girl. Of course I went on the defensive because this was personal. He explaind to me that if I compared this girl with his wife I could see the difference spiritually because of how each of them dressed. Of course his wife came out on the top side of the spiritual maturity scale. I agreed that his wife was more spiritual but not because of how she dressed but because she was over twice my age! My eyes were opened and I saw the first block clear that day – subjectiveness, because his wife obeyed according to his beliefs and my girlfriend didn’t, his wife was thus more spiritually mature. A light bulb went off and I understood that my mom was more mature than his wife because my mom didn’t wear makeup or jewelry and his wife did, so my mom must be more spiritually mature. I of course explained my new found knowledge with him and he refuted it with some lame reason why I was wrong.
Subjective has a definition of this; modified or affected by personal views, experience, or background. The religion that had me bound was totally subjective. Let me show you? Earlier I referenced Leviticus 19:19 to not round your beard. Some people,still believe that but do theybalso belive and abide by Leviticus 19:19 “Ye shall keep my statutes. Thou shalt not let thy cattle gender with a diverse kind: thou shalt not sow thy field with mingled seed: neither shall a garment mingled of linen and woollen come upon thee.” Why not? It is only a few verses befor the other one. The reason, subjectivity. One person or a group of people agree with one verse but say the other was not meant for us. Here is a little secret ……… NONE of the book of Leviticus was meant for us except as a guide to show how God established His people after they fled Egypt! Now I know you extremists out they are just nawing your fingers off and your veins are bulging. You want to tell me, “So we just throw out the Old Testament, what part will you throw out next?” with some it is an all or nothing point. I am not saying that we only take bits and pieces of the Bible, but men have done it for years and thus defiled religion with their subjectivity!
Did you know if a woman prays without her head covered she should be shaved bald? Here it is, 1 Corinthians 11:6 “For if the woman be not covered, let her also be shorn: but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered.” now I have your attention! Now you and I both know that if I preached and taught this as how you should live I would be criticized as taking one verse out of context and manipulating it to fit my religion. Notice the use of the words “I” and “my”? I thought you did, that is the number one sign of subjectivity as the basis for man’s religion. Take some time to read the entire book of 1 Corinthians, take time to study the setting, the people, the problem Paul was addressing. The difference in time and culture from then to now, the principles of God’s nature being displayed, and how those principles relate to your current Christian walk with God! I know that takes time and effort and we would rather just have someone tell us what is right and wrong. The problem with that philosophy is everything that person would tell you is according to their subjectivity.
There are Christians that used to preach and teach against certain things but now they don’t. What happened? Did God change or His Word? No, that person got to a place with God where they began to see that what they believed was subjective and not pure. If it was wrong for Cain to murder Able, it was wrong for David to murder Uzziah, and it is wrong to murder today. If it was wrong for Abraham to lie to the king of Egypt, and wrong for Ananias and Saphariah to lie to the Holy Spirit, it is still wrong for us to lie today. Murder and lying are not subjective.
I pray we can get to a p,ace where we understand practical life enhancements that are ok to be subjective and pure religion and undefield.
Can you handle more? There are other blocks to expose that lead me to freedom!
Amen, Bro. Thompson! Keep it up.
Very true… I pray I am not one of those legalistic people who run someone else out of the church doors because of my conservative mind. God keep me where you want me to be and receptive to your word and truth.
I now truly see your heart , A man just wanting people to see the true God,loved the blog
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I have had my own journey and struggle with legalism. I have come a long way, but I am sure my journey isn’t over! It took me a long time to truly understand God’s grace! Thanks so much for writing this!
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