Wednesday, August 15, 2007



Before continuing on with the "Myth of Religion vs. Relationship" I want clarify and expand on something I said yesterday. I referenced how amazed and shocked we have become at what we've been simply accepting as the "truth" throughout the years without question or any further thinking about it.

I mentioned that we have been so bent on "going to heaven" that we may be missing the point that the Creator-God wants to get down here and dwell among us. There is something about continuing with what He created here on the earth that He finds special. He is even planning on creating a new heaven and new earth, so that He can dwell down here among us.

Another one of the Christian "rumors" that has been taught falsely is about Paul. I've heard all my life that "Saul was his Jewish name before he became a Christian and Paul was his Christian name." It's just not true. If that were true, then Paul ought to be called Paul throughout the rest of the book of Acts. But he is not. Saul and Paul are used interchangeably throughout. I think this devilish little mis-truth is one of many little ways to keep us off message. Saul was the Jewish way of saying Paul and Paul was his Roman name. Paul (Saul) was still Jewish, after bowing his heart to Jesus. Jesus doesn't change your cultural background, when He enters your life. He transforms you inside out with all your cultural quirks and nooks and crannies.

One more quick "Christian rumor" of the many that we are discovering is that Paul is the author of I Thessalonians. Because it is written in by the translator/editor of a given publication (King James, NIV, etc.), everyone believes that Paul is the author. But that is not what the Scriptures say. It is clear in the very first verse of the letter that Paul, Silvanus (Silas) and Timothy were the authors. This seems a little picky until you realize that these three men in fellowship with one another had amazing results in this city. The attraction was not the mighty giftedness of one man, Paul, but it was the power of Jesus showing up among the three men as they walked together in the name of Jesus. He always promises to show up. That's a revolutionary message for us today. Instead of operating as "Lone Rangers", be careful to walk with a few. Where two or three are gathered together in the name of Jesus, He will show up in their midst.

The result of these "Christian rumors" is to be practicing a man-made twisting of what was intended in the first place. This distracts us into putting our emphases and focus on a series of "add-ons" that really don't matter. As Paul says, "I'm afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, that your minds may be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ" (II Corinthians 11). The best way to avoid these man-made add-ons is to focus on simply Jesus.

Christianity as well as many other religions have become man-made religious systems stocked with do's and don'ts. Within the religious system of Christianity every flavor of Christianity has its set of beliefs that distinguish one from the other. Unfortunately, it's difficult for Christians to see that their religious systems have become like the early, 1st century Jewish religious system with layer upon layer of man-made beliefs that make one more right than the other. And, each belief system has a built-in fear, anger and guilt that accompanies it. The fear comes in all sizes-"Am I ready?" "Have I done all the right things in order to get into heaven?" "Have I believed the right things?" "Am I missing something crucial?" "Do I need to know more?"

The anger emerges from people who are not doing the right things that you have come to believe they must do to be right before God. You may not be doing them perfectly either, but it's so much easier to point out others flaws and sins than to face up to your own. This is why you'll note a preacher or bible teacher who seems to always be slamming certain sins harder than others is then is caught committing those very sins. Many times the truth of the matter is they suffer from not facing that particular sin in their own lives and are filled with anger at the wrong person. So, ministers who vehemently preach against prostitutes are caught with a prostitute. Or, a leader who angrily stands against the homosexual movement is discovered to secretly be homosexual.

The guilt manifests itself in the knowledge that you know you are not good enough to make it to heaven or to face up to the God of gods or even keep your own commandments and standards. You know all too well your short-comings and spend much of your time covering them up, rationalizing them away and comparing your performance with others. This underlying guilt leaves an unsettled feeling that you are inadequate in your gut and fuels even more fears of whether or not you are right with God.

Do you see the deadly cycle? I FEAR that I may not make it to heaven and will surely end up in hell. Instead of dealing with my deepest fears of inadequacy, I look for a "sacrificial lamb" who has been caught or who is worse than I am. Then I can spew out my ANGER against them and their failures, somehow believing if I keep taking a stand against these things that are part of me I will in some way atone for my sins by pointing out theirs and punishing them. However, this anger swirls inside you progressively making you sicker and more empty in your own soul. There comes a time when your anger is so ugly that you cannot stand your own behavior and this makes you feel a heavy load of GUILT. With this guilt, now I know my fears are justified regarding ever getting into heaven!

FEAR-ANGER-GUILT. This deadly religious trinity then leaves an indelible residue on your person-on your soul. That residue is SHAME.

Continuing down this religious track, shame sets you up for religious leaders to talk down to you and to offer more and more lists and sets of beliefs for you to embrace in order to get cleaned up enough to be ready to face your Creator. Now, take this cycle of religious insanity based in a man-made religiosity and think in terms of exporting it. Call it anything you want and try to convert the world to your cultural way of thinking. You are still only offering to exchange your cultural, religious system for theirs.

The reality for us to embrace is that Jesus isn't interested in limiting Himself to any specific religious system. In fact, He offers freedom from the deadly religious cycles that entangle us when He says, "All who are weakened and burdened down come unto Me and I will give you rest." The good news is that Jesus came to release us from all negative, stressful, religious cycles and give us rest from it all. He is adamant that we are to follow Him, doing the will of the Father. With Jesus, it's not a religious matter, but a very personal one. He is the unique and irresistible I AM and He wants us to personally relate, trust and follow Him. It's truly Jesus plus nothing.