Ok here is part 4. You will need to read the introduction, part 1, 2 & 3 first or you can just start here and then go backwards. Lol
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.
So now in my walk of life I am back to being married, working a job, working in my local church, and living for God. I am dedicated and really looking to the future of what God has for me. I am about 23 or 24 at this time of my life and I know that I am called to help those around me find the truth of God’s freedom through Jesus Christ. To get a good picture of how I viewed myself at this time you will need to read the following.
“For it is we who are the circumcision, we who serve God by his Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh— though I myself have reasons for such confidence. If others think they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.”
So that was pretty much how I viewed myself. I was raised in the Christian home in fact I was a preacher’s son, preacher’s grandson, and the nephew of a preacher. I faithfully attended church, paid my tithes, sang in the choir, and I was an outstanding preacher also. I knew there were other preachers jealous of my great talent and ability! I had never been drunk, on drugs, in jail, at a wild party, or any of that worldly stuff! I was pure and clean through and through. Or was I?
Here is the amazing thing about a religious person. They are consumed with testimony and outward appearance. Think about all the rules we have in the church. What do 90% deal with? Yep you got it! It is the outward. We are obsessed with it. We always hear these statements, “You have an obligation to have a pure testimony.” “If the world sees you looking like them then what will they think they need to change to be a Christian?” “If you walk, talk, and look like the world, they will never see the need to become a Christian.” Of course I say all of this with my most sarcastic, squeaky church lady voice! lol
We constantly bombard folks with the need to get up to a higher level. I agree that we should walk closer with the Lord but why should the measurements always be from the outside? With this constant mindset we fall into a terrible trap. We begin to think that our outward accomplishments bring us closer to the Lord. We begin to see ourselves as successful because we are living up to a standard that is accepted and praised by the church and it’s leaders. We pat ourselves on the back because we made $337.25 and out tithes check was $33.73 (we of course know that it comes out to 33.725 but we round up because we don’t want to short-change God) Now don’t get me wrong, I believe in tithing and giving but we are just so predictable when it comes to reputation!
As we continue to make sure we are putting on the right face and appearance for everyone we get deeper into the abyss. Why do I say abyss? It is because this cycle we are on is never ending. It will just go further and further no matter how good we get. We make sure if the preacher is watching we have the right stuff showing. If the leaders of the church have taken notice of us we make sure to keep up the stuff in public all week long. We continue to grow in our self-praise and our arms are hurting now from all the patting ourselves on the back that we have been doing. We are talking right, dressing right, looking right, acting right, and we are climbing that ladder of outward success at a rapid speed! We have worn a trail in the carpet at church that leads from the front door to our seat. When the singing starts we are the first to rise and make our way to the choir and everyone watches us to see when to turn the page in the hymnal!
Now comes the recognition we have been striving to receive for so long. Are you ready? One of the little old men or ladies of the church says this about you, “It just blesses my soul to see a young person like you holding up the standards of the saints of old. I know that when I am gone you will be keeping the standards alive. You keep it up and hold the standards high.” Oh wow we are in the club! I mean how much more could you ask for? I am now in the “Old Fashioned” club. The church will survive now because they have me keeping what all the old people have entrusted me with.
For a moment I would almost apologize here or try to clarify but if you don’t know where I am coming from by now you probably should stop reading so you don’t get mad.
Ok here is the problem with all of this stuff and a great time to share the next building block of how I survived religion. All of this stuff has nothing to do with a relationship with God. It is all outward and superficial. The church for years placed so much importance and praise on how good we looked and acted on the outside. It became a race to the top of the mountain to see who could praise themselves the most for what they had done! The major trap that this thinking causes is this, “I am on a level higher than others that don’t live like me!”
Which brings us to building block number four – “We Are All On Level Ground!”
I love the saying that states, “The ground is level at the foot of the cross.” Why is this such a popular saying? It is because it makes access to Christ the same for everyone. It doesn’t matter if you have lived for the Lord fifty years or two days God views you just as saved and just as righteous! When we start the measuring game someone has to lose. There will always be someone that doesn’t measure up. If you are the one holding the tape measure, well you won’t let yourself lose so you will pick someone that you think is beneath you.
Here is how the Lord taught me this lesson.
I was working in the construction business and my boss didn’t go to church. I began to invite him to my church and explain the importance of living for the Lord. He had been in church before when he was a teenager but hadn’t been in quite a few years. I knew I had been sent by God to help him get his spiritual life together because I was the perfect example. I was dedicated and blessed, why wouldn’t he want to be just like me? As time went on I eventually got him to come to church with me. As time went on he rededicated his life to God along with his wife.
My wife and I had them over for dinner several times and always talked about how we needed to be dedicated to church and faithful attenders. Can I say that at this stage of my life I wasn’t even sure of why I went to church three times a week except for the fact that I had been raised that way and I knew it was expected of me. lol So I continued to pressure him about why he only came on Sunday mornings. I explained that he would never grow or mature in God if he wasn’t a faithful attendee. Can you believe he had the nerve to ask me one day this question, he said, “Cant I read my Bible at home on Wednesday night with my wife and still draw close to God?” I of course told him the religious answer, “NO!” I told him that God wanted faithfulness and that God could only bless those that were faithful to His house. WOW! Now that is some shoutin ground right there. I mean I waxed eloquent on him and explained how I was so spiritually mature and the perfect example of a Christian because I even went to church sometimes when I was sick! Remember I thought I was just like Paul in Philippians 3!
What happened next over a few weeks changed me in this area forever! I was driving home one day from work and with the most sincere heart I was praying for my boss and asking God to help him be dedicated just like me. As sure as I am typing this right now the Holy Spirit spoke to me and said this, “Your friend is not as faithful to church as you are but do you think he looks at the same stuff on his computer as you do?” WHAT? God what are you saying? Now Lord you know I have some struggles but hey people see me at church and see me in the choir and I never miss a church function. My friend needs to be more openly dedicated. It just isn’t the same thing.
Now isn’t it funny how we have conversations with the Lord. it is like we forget He knows everything. lol
what I realized that very moment and many other moments to follow was that I had built and outward testimony that had no cracks, but my private testimony before the Lord was like Swiss cheese! Who had I been fooling? I had built a public image but was not that person by myself and alone. I was hiding sin in a dark closet and all the while making others think I was above them because my outward testimony was almost flawless!
We are all on level ground! I am not higher than you and you are not higher than me! Denominations and religion along with their man-made standard set us up for the biggest trap ever set by the enemy. We put ourselves up on a pedestal because we can obey all the stuff. Paul said it. He said he could boast more than all of us! But listen to how he comes back to say this…..
“But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.”
NOY HAVING RIGHTEOUSNESS OF MY OWN THAT COMES FROM THE LAW! Read it again! Read it again! Read it one more time so you can see it clearly. God doesn’t care how much you do, He cares how much you believe! We all exist on the same level ground. What makes the difference? It is our faith. I can believe more than you or less than you based on my faith!
Maybe you only go to church once a week and I go three times, but maybe you read your Bible every day and I only read mine three times a week. Who is better and which one of us is right and which one is wrong? Neither because we are on level ground and responsible only for ourselves and not each other! Now can I be an encouragement to you? YES! And you encourage me.
It is time we break away from this religious need to try and live above each other. The church has existed like this in America for the last two hundred plus years. It is taking a toll on us now. Others are turned off by the need to measure up, or the need to get up to the level you think you are on. Let’s show the world that we all live on the same level field and that each of us has free access to the one that can fix us all. Christ Jesus!