When I hold the inspired Word of God along side of what I see displayed as Christianity today I don’t see a match, that is unless I look at the Pharisees, or the Sadducees. I see something different, something contrived or manufactured to represent the original; more of a simulation or replica, but not the true thing itself. What I see today is a religious product that has been re-packaged many times as a commercialized consumer product.
One thing that “men” are continually searching for, with their fevered activity, is that “thing” which will be an all inclusive explanation, interpretation, program, or solution to our whole difficult history as the Church. But, history shows that we have taken many wrong turns, by-passes, and shortcuts, to get where we are today. These alternative, accelerated, and irregular ways to truth have not brought us enlightenment. We have only driven ourselves deep into the dark woods. Where did we go wrong? How will we ever find our way out?
Many critics of the Church and Christianity have been dismissed, by me, in the past without reason; I’ve been doing it for years. I would just grow tired of their blather when they closed their minds to reason, but I’ve changed. I still will not waste much time on a closed minded person, although I have stopped long enough to consider that a lot of their close mindedness is our fault, the Churches fault. After analyzing their arguments what many unbelievers basically dislike about Christians and Christianity is that they and it are simply irrelevant. They say that Christianity is guilty of both the sin of omission and the sin of commission, and I agree. Christian scholars have added to and taken away so much that we have lost credibility among those who have serious questions. We have become mindless followers of misguided men. Christians today and all through history have been guilty of, what one critic calls, “cherry picking” what we want to believe, then trying to convince enough people, who may be looking for that particular blend of Theology, that it is correct. It is kind of like the designer coffees, a blend to fit every taste. I can’t argue that point, it is valid to a large degree.
Some years back I worked in the plumbing business. I ran a plumbing supply house and sold plumbing supplies and cut and threaded iron pipe for customers. It was not unusual for a customer to want several pieces of pipe all the same length of a common size. For example someone might order six pieces of 3/4″ black pipe eight inches long that he could keep in a tray for combining with other common lengths using unions, couplings, or elbows. Of course when the customer pre-measured a job and laid it out on the floor, using the pieces you had previously cut, he expected them to be the exact length he ordered. If they weren’t, you soon heard about it, which I did on several occasions. It seems a new employee that had been hired a few weeks earlier had discovered a novel way to measure the pieces to be cut. The correct way to measure would be either to measure each piece individually with a tape measure, or more often, to measure and cut the first piece, then use the first piece as the measure for the rest. What he had not understood when he was trained to cut and thread pipe was that that first piece was the “standard” for all the rest; that you had to consistently and continuously go back to that first piece, if you wanted what followed to be accurate. Why? The reason is simple. If you use each subsequent piece of pipe, as the measure for the next, the pieces will grow fractionally longer and longer, till an eight inch piece of pipe could essentially become eight and a half inches or more, and not be noticed until the customer complains because his job was all out of wack, and this is precisely what happened. The customer would bring back all the pieces and lay them out on the counter, side by side, and sure enough they would, little by little, get longer and longer. It was easy to see when they were laid out in front of you; it was obvious. Here’s the clincher; the employee swore that he had methodically measured each piece as instructed and that he was not the one who had errored and that even so, the pieces were still usable and that there was no need to go back and do it over again. What is your conclusion? Should he go back and do his first works over again? Or pretend that it really doesn’t matter all that much?
Here are a few simple observations that appear to be either incompatible with the Bible or severely contorted by today’s understanding. They do not look like a product of Divine measure.
- When you read about the “simplicity that is in Christ,” why are things so complicated?
- When we read that “Christ is not divided,” and witness so much division amongst brothers, why?
- When we read that Paul and the other Apostles, although separated for fourteen years, agreed on every detail of the Gospel on their first meeting, but today, virtually no one agrees, why?
- When Paul states the absolute necessity of the unity of the Body of Christ and all we see today, and in all of Church history, is a dissected and dying Church body, why?
- When we read that Jesus “will build His Church and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it,” but in reality Satan is prevailing in all aspects of humanity, including the Church, why?
- When we read about all the manifestations that were to follow believers, but all we see is a sideshow exhibition of miracles, healings, speaking in tongues, casting out of demons, and the obvious manifestations of men, why?
On the contrary, why not? Why would we not expect and experience the massive failure of man to attempt to build something of a spiritual nature? It should be expected. What we see should not surprise us, but it does. Like the Tower of Babel, men build with the materials produced by men. Men build, and men worship, the way men do it, but God is a Spirit and if we will worship God we must worship Him in spirit and in truth.
“Jesus declared, ‘Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.’” (John 4:21-24)
We must worship God, God’s way. The sound of a hammer and chisel is not to be heard in the temple construction. I’m sure the Tower of Babel was a very “eye pleasing” thing and instilled reverence and worship in the eye of the beholder, but it was a detestable thing to God; they were surprised at God’s reaction. The truth is, according to the Bible, that man with all of his wonderful capacities, of art, and architecture, and articulate wanderings, has never even reached the outer gates of God’s acceptance. Man cannot, nor will man ever, please God, for God is a Spirit and man is flesh. So, is the cloistered life the answer, dressing all in earth tones and locking ourselves away? Life on a mountain sound good? Life in the desert maybe? It has been tried you know. All our ways are faulty! Why would we not expect failure if our methods are faulty? We can kid ourselves, but the verdict is in, the end of the age has showed the organized church to be a failure, because in truth it was not Christ’s Church we were building, it was another Tower of Babel, designed and built by man. Like the employee mentioned above, we have not been faithful in going back to the “first work,” against which all subsequent works were to be measured, but we swear we have used the exacting methods of Biblical Christianity, just like we were instructed; and that even if it isn’t all completely “right” there is no need to trash the whole thing; but the truth is, it is unacceptable to our customer, God. The Catholics, the Orthodox, and the Protestants, all say they are practicing “Biblical Christianity,” then why the conflict? Why the great difference? Are there more than one Bible; more than one Truth? And they all claim to have gotten it right.
Here are a few passages of Scripture that have been sign post and boundary markers for two thousand years, that Christians just seem to ignore.
“Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place — unless you repent.”
“Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.”
(1 Cor 3:10-13)
“By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work.”
More concisely, my point is: If the premise is faulty the conclusion will be faulty. You cannot start with the Bible plus something else; it has to be the Bible alone. If a mathematician make an error early in an equation the result will be wrong, regardless of how far the problem is carried forward. He must go all the way back to where the error occurred. Is the Church less important than a math problem? The Church has only one foundation to build on and it is, “…on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.” The premise used by the Catholics, arguing with the Anglo-Catholics, arguing with the Orthodox, arguing with the Protestants, and the Protestants all arguing amongst themselves is basically this: They all say they are The Church according to the Bible plus, books, writings, councils, creeds, movements, personalities, confessions, yada, yada, yada. They prove their claim by going back to ancient documents that are subsequent to the New Testament or documents rejected from the Cannon of Scripture. They build their “Tower of Babel” on the faulty foundations of men and traditions. If it wasn’t so sad, it could be hilarious, to read some of the justifications they use to incorporate everything from “the protector of God,” “the preservers of Truth,” purgatory, “the ever virgin Mary” (who had other children besides Jesus), Apostolic succession, Papal infallibility, and outright idol worship into their manufactured religions. Don’t think I am excluding all the phoniness of the typical megachurch worship service, which if you would care to investigate just a little bit, would find that this “post reformation” “post evangelical” “post modern” and “post Christian” sideshow is on an ecumenical road back to Rome. It has always been obvious to me that, what I call the formal religions, of the Catholics and Orthodox, were all for show and a pandering to the flesh, but the Protestant Church hid behind a more subtle approach, but even they are on a faulty foundation built around a hierarchy of men. They too use the creeds and resort to councils and utilize materials of man in their confessions and construction. All the denomination use the writings of their founders as the foundation of their belief. The arguments between the Calvinist, the Lutherans, and the Methodist is never ending.
“There’s a way that looks harmless enough;
if you look closely— it leads straight to hell.”
“Scholars are dangerous, particularly when they have a vested interest in the matter under discussion and an eye for the approval of their peers. And this is true whether the scholars work is at an academic institution or pastor a local congregation. We must remember the warning given us by the Holy Spirit:”
(1 Corinthians 1:26-29)
“For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God.”
I’m reminded of my days in the Sixties, in the Army, in Viet Nam. Philosophy was all around us in those days and we loved it. We were all intellects and pioneers on a new road of discovery, “…with a little help from our friends,” Mary Jane and Bob Dylan. Truth seemed to be transient though, it never stayed where you left it. All truth seemed to flow with the music, and poets were the modern day prophets. All their points appeared relevant but they never converged, there was no unity, except for the drugs, and they made us all one, or so we imagined. We somehow felt that if we could just talk about it enough, whatever “it” was, that just maybe someone would hit upon an idea that would make it to the light of day and cross all platforms of thought and be tagged “The Answer.” It never happened, and our generation went on to look for answers in wealth and the selfishness of the flesh, and we see that played-out even in today’s Church, but of course it has been sanitized for consumer safety.
Where Do We Start?
We need a starting point. And, concerning that starting point we must all agree. If we are the Church, then we must dispense with the pride that we have discovered “that idea that will see the light-of-day”. The whole world was looking for it in the Sixties and it never emerged; that single transforming thought never appeared. But, today, we think we have found it. We are simply on a different kind of drug; we are hallucinating. When we talk about “going back” to some former time, to start over, we get all nostalgic for some point in the past, that gave us some level of satisfaction; maybe a period when we had a lot of energy and a zest for life. We won’t find the answer in any of Calvin’s books, or Luther’s books, or Augustine’s books, or any of the Seven Ecumenical Counsels, or an infallible word from the Pope. These have all been here for a very long time. These are all books and words on how men should build the Church. All the Patriarchs, Forefathers, Desert fathers, Priest, Bishops, and Deacons, rolled together have not been able to manufacture a Church as we see it in the Book of Acts, “…built on the Apostles and the Prophets”. All we have at the end of all their trying is the Church divided to the hundredth power, and going deeper into darkness. Concerning that starting point we must all agree on at least two obvious points:
- That things in the Church, life, and world are not what they should be. Our ideas of right and wrong involve contradiction, unrest, doubt, discontent, and forces that are in constant conflict.
- That there is only one place to go for enlightenment and explanation, The Holy Bible. We can go back as far as we like, but until we go all the way back to The Word, we have not gone back far enough. We must refuse human philosophy because it has never given light only darkness; it has never given answers. We must disregard and ignore the wisdom of men as a means of solving problems. The Bible alone gives the answer, and provides light.
When we read the following verse: “Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.” KJV (Rev 2:5) do we really understand what it is that Jesus is demanding. If we study history we will find out very easily that (as if the customer was laying all the pieces on the counter) His demands were never met and that Ephesus, today, is a ghost town, not a single Christian exist there, or anywhere around it, or even in the region. The Ephesus Church, compared to the Church today, was very much alive, but Jesus demanded more, He demanded they go back and “do the first works.” What we hear today is that those “first works” had something to do with a courtship kind of love that had disappeared and had been replaced with a worn-out kind of love. Most of the commentaries and nearly all the Bible translations stress this view. It is wrong. It had nothing to do with returning to some kind of gooshy, slobbery, first love relationship. In the original language the word “the” in the above verse is the Greek word tá pronounced hay. It is a definite article in the accusative case: ACCUSATIVE Definition: The Accusative Case focuses the verbal action’s goal, direction, or extent, thereby limiting the action to or by the Accusative substantive. In other words, Jesus is not speaking of different kinds of experiences or emotions encountered at conversion that have somehow gone bye bye. Jesus is talking about at least two things (since this article is plural “the first works”) that are universal for any Church, even today. I believe, from Scripture, that those works are “repentance” and real “faith” as exhibited in the early Church.
When we look at the failure of our nation: 50,000,000 babies sacrificed on the altar of sexual freedom, 50% divorce rate (inside the Church), rampant immorality, including pornography, homosexuality, and adultery (inside the Church), drug use, teen suicide, alcohol abuse, and unethical business practices, we think it is a failure of policy, of the current administration. That is not true. It has always been and will always be a failure of the Church. It is a spiritual shortcoming of our understanding and living-out of what God has clearly communicated to us, His people. It is the result of polluting and prostituting the Living Word of God. The Bible is clear that it is God Himself who will turn things around when we get our part right. When we see our country failing we need to take a long look in the mirror, at ourselves, and not go stomping off to Washington in protest. We should immediately acknowledge a defect in the Church, not in the Government. It is God who raises up nations and brings nations low. God never ever blinked at Israel’s disloyalty and He will not blink at ours. Only the blind still see our country as blessed, and those who do confess that we are now under a curse, stumble on in the same old ways, trying to prop up a corpse. The New Age Church has recognized a problem and they think that by simply doing church differently is the answer; it appears to be succeeding, but it is only an illusion. We must discover where the boundary markers were moved and go back, not forward, back to the first works and start all over. Israel has been our example many times. The foundation was cleared and the work was started over, again and again.
There is a great work that lies ahead for the true Church, a work of repentance and faith, a work that is out of the league of man, a work of the Spirit in the midst of the Bride. The Spirit says:
“The LORD has been very angry with your fathers. Therefore say to them, Thus says the LORD of hosts: Return to Me, says the LORD of hosts, and I will return to you, says the LORD of hosts. Do not be like your fathers, to whom the former prophets preached, saying, Thus says the LORD of hosts: Turn now from your evil ways and your evil deeds. But they did not hear nor heed Me, says the LORD. Your fathers, where are they? And the prophets, do they live forever? Yet surely My words and My statutes, which I commanded My servants the prophets, did they not overtake your fathers? So they returned and said: Just as the LORD of hosts determined to do to us,
according to our ways and according to our deeds, so He has dealt with us.”
“Up, up! Flee from the land of the north,” says the LORD; “for I have spread you abroad like the four winds of heaven,” says the LORD. “Up, Zion! Escape, you who dwell with the daughter of Babylon.” For thus says the LORD of hosts: “He sent Me after glory, to the nations which plunder you; for he who touches you touches the apple of His eye. For surely I will shake My hand against them, and they shall become spoil for their servants. Then you will know that the LORD of hosts has sent Me. “Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion! For behold, I am coming and I will dwell in your midst,” says the LORD. “Many nations shall be joined to the LORD in that day, and they shall become My people. And I will dwell in your midst. Then you will know that the LORD of hosts has sent Me to you. And the LORD will take possession of Judah as His inheritance in the Holy Land, and will again choose Jerusalem. Be silent, all flesh, before the LORD, for He is aroused from His holy habitation!”
“This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’
says the LORD of hosts. ‘Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain! And he shall bring forth the capstone with shouts of “Grace, grace to it!”’” Moreover the word of the LORD came to me, saying: “The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of
this temple; his hands shall also finish it. Then you will know that the LORD of hosts has sent Me to you.
For who has despised the day of small beginnings?”