It seems that some who read the articles on this website think I’m being nasty and hateful, especially towards those who are involved in denominational, traditional religion. They accuse me of being "demeaning" of those who don’t accept my views. They say my writing lacks "grace". The following is not a defense of my writing, but an explanation. I have no intention of defending what I am saying here; you can either like it, or not. The choice is yours. I believe that both the Scriptures and history support what I have written (and what I will continue to write) and that these views are not "mine", but God's. And please, that’s not being hateful, either. I’m just being direct. That’s how I am. Don’t take offense at it.
The truth is, I hope you like what I’ve written. It thrills me anytime someone writes and says they enjoy it or they agree with it (it gives me hope that maybe someone out there is paying attention and actually wants to have a real relationship with God, instead of the pretense of relationship they have in religion). I guess what I’m trying to say in a nice, non-nasty way is that just because someone doesn’t like it doesn’t mean I’m going to fall all over myself in a rush to change it for them so they’ll be happy and can feel good about themselves for having successfully corrected me. Oops, it seems every time I try to be nice I get sarcastic – something else that bugs the religious crowd.
By the way, did you notice the title? I used the word "prolegomenon". Pretty neat, huh? It means, "introductory essay". I found it quite by accident, and wanted to use it in the title. I figured if people were going to think I’m such an unpleasant and hostile guy, at least they might be impressed with my vocabulary.
Well, let’s get down to business. I promised an explanation. The reason I’m so vicious and combative is simply this, I know what the enemy is. Did you notice I said "what", not "who". My attacks are directed towards religion as an institution. Those who are offended with my writing tend to take what I say personally, because they’re involved in the very thing I’m criticizing. I understand that. But I can’t change it. I don’t name names. I don’t point out individuals in any way.
So let me make myself perfectly clear. Traditional, denominational, institutional religion is wrong. It was never God’s intention that institutional religion would exist in its many and varied forms. You cannot find the blueprint for denominational religion in the Scriptures. Nowhere will you find in the words of Jesus His instruction for the formation of corporate, institutional religion. Peter was not the first Pope. And Martin Luther was not acting on instructions from God when he established Lutheranism (nothing more than a rebellious reaction to a repressive Catholicism).
In fact, what you will see is Jesus’ confrontation of institutional religion over and over again in the Gospel accounts. The Pharisees and Sadducees were nothing more than different denominations of man-made, institutional Judaism. They had absolutely nothing in common with the Levitical priesthood established by the Lord in His instructions to Moses. And the Lord knew it. After all, it was the pre-incarnate Son of God Who gave Moses this instruction. He knew the difference between the will and purpose of God and the manipulations and evil, self-serving intentions of men.
There may be those who accuse me of being difficult and mean, but how would you characterize Jesus when He contended with the religious leaders of His time? When it comes to the words of Jesus, I tend to start in the Sermon on the Mount. When you follow what He says, just about everything in Matthew 5,6 and 7 illustrates the sharp contrast that exists between man-made religion and the heart of God. Read it for yourself and see if you don’t hear Jesus refuting religion point by point. See if you don’t recognize a tendency in Jesus towards directness, maybe a little critical, perhaps lacking a little grace and (mercy me) even being sarcastic at times. And if you don’t see those things, well, we must be reading different Bibles.
But don’t stop there. Keep reading. As you make your way through the Book of Matthew, pay attention. You’ll see incident after incident of Jesus clashing with religion.
Jesus seems to peak out around Chapter 23 when He gets downright nasty with the religious crowd. And I fully realize that this will not agree with many folks’ religious concept of the meek and lowly Jesus, but in this chapter He definitely reveals a mean streak. He says the Pharisees are manipulative, overbearing, self-absorbed, deceived, corrupt and rebellious. He calls them hypocrites, blind guides, fools, liars and murderers. And He does it to their face, it's both heated and personal. This is part of a confrontation with the Sadducees and Pharisees that started in Chapter 22.
The fact is, Jesus was angry. I’ve been accused of having a negative message myself (probably the missing "grace" that some people talk about), but somebody show me the positive message in Matthew 23. Where’s the feel-good inspiration? Where’s the uplifting hope? Where, oh where, are the compassion, mercy and forgiveness?
Now would be a great time to remind everyone of all those fantastic statements Jesus made in the Book of John about how He only said what the Father told Him to say, He only did what the Father told Him to do and that He decided nothing on His own, but only made decisions based on the will of the Father. Read them for yourself (John 5:19, 30, 7:15-16, 28-29, 8:16, 25-29, 38, 55).
What’s my point? Jesus came into the world to reveal the Father. He is the express image of the Father in human form (II Corinthians 4:4, Colossians 1:15-17,Hebrews 1:1-3). And while He was on this earth He expressed anger and frustration. Has anyone ever bothered to wonder why? Because God is angry, that’s why! He’s been angry for a long time. I’m talking about the words of Jesus here, but go back to the Old Testament and read the words of the prophets. God’s message to them was angry as well. And so the question begs to be asked. Why is God angry? Well, I’m going to tell you why. You may not like it. It may seem negative to you. It may lack grace. I might even get a little frustrated and seemingly ridicule those who may not agree with me (if I do, I’m in pretty good company, Jesus and Paul did the same thing).
Are you ready for this? God is angry because since the beginning of time men have chosen to ignore Him and follow the way of Cain. In other words, we tend to reject the ways of God, the will and purpose of God, even the requirements of God in favor of the freedom to make up our own ways, to satisfy our own purpose and devise rules we think we can live with. And make no mistake about it, what men call freedom, God calls willful rebellion and lawlessness. The result of this rebellion and lawlessness is man-made religion. Over time it develops into traditional, denominational, institutional religion.
It doesn’t make any difference what the name is. It could be Catholic, Episcopal, Lutheran, Methodist, Baptist, non-denominational (here’s a denomination that couldn’t even come up with an original name) or any of a number of others. And let’s not forget those denominations that the older, more established denominations call cults. These groups are only distinguished by the fact that they’re a little more open about the fact that they came about as a result of the manipulation and fantasy of men (they call it special revelation, though). But that doesn’t really make them different from the rest. They’re all man-made. They’re all part of traditional religion. And, as a popular cable TV news analyst says, "tell me where I’m wrong."
I’ll tell you where I’m right. And don’t even imagine that you sense a bit of arrogance here. I take no pride in this whatsoever. What I’m about to say comes only out of a realization of Who God is, what He’s done and what His intense desire is for every one of us. And believe me that realization didn’t come easy. I used to be as religious as they come. But this is what I’m talking about – God’s will and purpose has nothing to do with religion in any form and His will and purpose can never be accomplished through involvement in religion.
I know that sounds wrong. Most everyone assumes that religion is where you go to find God. After all, that’s where they talk about God. They’re the ones who claim to represent God. It’s their buildings that have God’s name on them. They’re the ones who say God’s name in every other sentence they speak (that's their public persona, in private they have little or nothing to say about God). But before you dismiss what I’m saying and go back to your denominational church next Sunday, at least consider what I’m about to say. God’s will and purpose is to have a personal, individual, intimate relationship with you. He wants to reveal Himself to you personally, not through your pastor, priest or clergyman, but to just you. And He wants you to submit to what that revelation shows you are the differences between Who He is and who you are, so you can be changed. He wants to conform you to the image of Christ so you can spend eternity with Him, instead of without Him.
Having a personal relationship with God is not a group exercise. It’s not a mental exercise. It’s personal, individual and real. It’s not based on religious participation, but on what you do on your own, alone with God. Jesus never told the crowds to go back to their villages and join a church so they could get involved in the religious programs there. He talked about their individual responsibilities in relating and submitting to God. Nowhere, ever, will you find Him talking about the concept of a denomination being responsible for them. They were all responsible for themselves. A denomination will never get anyone to heaven.
I’ve challenged many with this in the past, now I’ll put it out here where everyone who reads this can see it. The challenge is this. Show me a traditional religious institution that understands what the real purpose of God is. Show me a denominational church with leadership that talks of nothing but the will and purpose of God and then demonstrates a practical understanding of that purpose by being an example of it for the rest of the people in the church to follow. Show me a man in institutional religion that can honestly say what Paul said when he told others to imitate him and actually understand what the hell he’s talking about. The purpose of religious institutions is to perpetuate the institution and further the careers of the leaders. It has nothing to do with the purpose of God. They only put God’s name on it to give it validity.
I’m kind of, fairly, more or less confident that no one will perhaps, probably ever, maybe never, even come close to meeting this challenge. In other words, I want to be wrong, but so far I haven’t been. Everyone I know that is really serious about submitting to and following God and His purpose has done so only after leaving denominational religion. The two cannot coexist. In Matthew 6:24 Jesus makes the statement that man cannot serve both God and mammon. The meaning of mammon is commonly misunderstood to be riches. However, the Aramaic mamonas has a wider range of meaning and is used here by Jesus to represent anything, either tangible (wealth) or intangible (religion) that men might rely on for safety either for this life or the next. Real safety is only found in God and in His purpose. Traditional religion is man-made. Its end is to avoid God’s purpose by redefining it. That’s why Jesus clashed with religious leaders.
I’ve got news for you folks, if Jesus came to earth today He wouldn’t get along with the leaders of Christianity any more than He got along with the leaders of Judaism two thousand years ago. Self-professing Christians today vary from indifferent to passionate, from the extremes of self-righteousness to the extremes of worldliness. But like the religious crowd of Jesus’ day, if they came face to face with the Son of God they would be shocked by the fierceness of His anger and the sharpness of His words. And like those of Jesus’ day, they would reject the idea that He could be the Son of God at all. He just wouldn’t fit their religious concept of what God should be like.
So, that should just about cover it. If you react to what I have to say, at least consider the possibility that it might be because I’m trying to show you the mind and heart of God and that doesn’t line up with what religion has taught you. If you don’t want to accept the fact that God is angry, that man’s continual rebellion is what makes the message necessarily negative, that religion’s positive, uplifting, materialistic, inspirational gobbledygook (hey, it’s a real word, I looked it up) is false and that if you prefer man’s religion over God’s reality, you’re headed straight for God’s judgment and an eternity in Hell, then you’re in denial. And all I can say is, I'm sorry, I tried to warn you.
Now when you read the articles that follow, maybe you’ll understand why I’m so nasty and hateful. This is nasty, hateful business. This is the difference between God’s truth and man’s deceit. It’s the difference between true spirituality and man-made morality. This is spiritual and it is a war. The enemies of the Cross, both on the earth and in the spirit realm, are alive and well (for the time being). And don’t be confused. I’m not talking about the silly games religious people play that they call spiritual warfare. You will never overcome anything in the spirit realm by yelling and screaming at it, by taking "authority" over it that you don’t rightfully have or by making whatever declarations against it, that might come to mind. The only way to overcome anything in the spirit realm is to do the same thing Jesus did, submit to God, Who in His sovereignty will decide what will happen. And as Jesus, Paul and anyone else who ever submitted to God knew, sometimes He delivers, sometimes He doesn’t. Even Jesus suffered at the hands of evil when it was used to fulfill the purpose of God. What would ever make us think we could devise means to avoid what the Son of God couldn’t? Well now I’ve gone to preaching.
Just know that in the midst of my distressing, contemptible and offensive message I’m just a guy who’s trying to be obedient to God and speak the message He’s given me. I take no pleasure from it. I certainly see no advantage in it from a worldly point of view; it has made me neither rich nor famous (the fame I could do without, the part about being rich I’d like to try some time, but God knows best). Obviously, I’m not doing this to please men. The pleasure of God is what I seek. And my love for God and my submission to Him has given me a love for people I never had before, a love religion could never show me. And on that note, when you’re reading something in these papers and your first inclination is to be offended, stop right there and realize that the Lord has just used sarcasm or criticism or maybe on the rare occasion, even humor to get you to stop and think. If there’s one thing I know it’s that none of us know it all. And sometimes God uses irritating guys like me to teach truth (I Corinthians 1:18-31).