Church System (part 1)
By Charles Elliott Newbold, Jr.
Zion vs. Babylon
Scripturally Zion represents the kingdom of God,
the presence and authority of God. Babylon represents the kingdom of
Satan. Babylon encompasses all of Satan's deception to deceive mankind
into following him. Satan's plan has not changed since he deceived a
third of the angles to be separated from their creator.
Both cities originally had there historical
settings and have latter become symbolic representations of these two
kingdoms in conflict to this day. Zion and Babylon.
1 Peter 2:6, "Behold, I lay in Zion a chief
corner stone, elect, precious; and he who believes on Him shall
not be confounded." This corner stone in Zion, the body of Christ, is
clearly Jesus. (Rom 9:33 also)
Eph 2:20, "having been built on the foundation of
the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief
cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole building, being
joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, 22
in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling
place of God in the Spirit." NKJV
Revelation 14:8 is a good example of how Babylon
has been used in this figurative sense: "And there followed another
angel, saying, 'Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because
she made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her
Rev 17:3-6, "So he carried me away in the Spirit
into the wilderness. And I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast
which was full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten
horns. The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with
gold and precious stones and pearls, having in her hand a golden cup
full of abominations and the filthiness of her fornication. And on her
forehead a name was written: MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF
HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH. I saw the woman, drunk
with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the martyrs of
Jesus. And when I saw her, I marveled with great amazement. NKJV
Rev 18:2-4, "And he cried mightily with a loud
voice, saying, "Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and has become
a dwelling place of demons, a prison for every foul spirit, and a cage
for every unclean and hated bird! For all the nations have drunk of
the wine of the wrath of her fornication, the kings of the earth have
committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth have
become rich through the abundance of her luxury." 4 And I heard
another voice from heaven saying, "Come out of her, my people, lest
you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues." NKJV
It must be understood that Babylon represents all
that encompasses the kingdom of Satan, both religious and secular.
There is religious Babylon, of which God calls His saints to come out
of her and there is secular Babylon out of which the world conduct
Our focus is going to be on religious Babylon and
how it has infiltrated the church and has affected its doctrine and
life. Babylon represents the work of Satan to institutionalized the
body of Christ and compromise the church with the world standards and
Though the word "Church" is the wrong word
representing the Greek word ecclesia, for the time being we will use
it and then deal with the word.
However, the kind of flesh written about in this
book is in reference to that fallen nature of sin within all mankind
that came about when Adam rebelled in the garden. Paul wrote regarding
this, "Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery,
fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery [which is
witchcraft], hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath,
selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness,
revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I
also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will
not inherit the kingdom of God." Gal. 5:19-21. Flesh is capable of
committing the most vile evils without conscience even while having an
awareness of what is good and evil. Such occurred in the days of Noah.
Gen. 6:5-7. These practices are not the deeds of the physical body,
but of that fallen sin nature that resides in us.
Paul had already established in Galatians 5:17 that
"the flesh lusts [sets its desire] against the Spirit, and the Spirit
against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you
do not do the things that you wish." Romans 8:7 attests that "the
carnal mind is at enmity [hostile] against God; for it is not subject
to the law of God, nor indeed can be."
The carnal mind and the Spirit of God speak
languages that are foreign and unknown to each other. The carnal
(fleshly) mind cannot speak Spirit and the Spirit of God cannot speak
flesh. The carnal mind has no ability whatsoever to understand the
things of God which are Spirit. 1 Cor. 2:12-14. When inspired things
of God are reduced to rigid doctrines, systems of theology, reasoning
and logic, they are no longer Spirit but have become flesh. And if
flesh, then deception. The carnal mind is at total odds with the
Spirit of God; it is hostile to God.
THE DEATH SENTENCE
The sentence of death has been pronounced over the
flesh. The flesh nature of man is separated from God who is life;
therefore, the flesh is dead and all that comes from the carnal mind
Nevertheless, flesh has a life of its own. It is
earthly, sensual, self-centered, and at war with God. Its life is born
out of the seed of death. It has an inherent drive to preserve itself
at all cost. It fears annihilation. Yet, it cannot save itself because
it is destined to self-destruction. The flesh nature rules a person
until the life of God in Christ is planted within his spirit, at which
time the old seed of flesh and sin is understood to be what it already
is--dead. Unfortunately, even after we are redeemed by the blood of
the Lamb and while we remain in this life, we carry about both seeds:
the seed of flesh and death, and the seed of Spirit and life.
THE HARLOT OF SELF
The flesh loves Self. Self with the capital "S" is
the term I use throughout this book to refer to that the
self-centered, self-indulging, self-absorbed, self-willed,
self-serving nature of fallen flesh. The flesh nature of Self turns in
on itself. It is selfish, prideful, arrogant, haughty, vain,
narcissistic, manipulative, controlling, dominating, impatient,
stubborn, insensitive, resentful, angry, unteachable, rebellious,
fearful, anxious, complaining, disagreeable, judgmental, negative,
critical, cynical, indifferent, greedy, lustful, sensual, envious,
covetous, jealous, fault-finding, dishonest, and deceitful. It is
deceived and suffers from delusions of grandeur. It always asks,
"What's in it for me?"
The harlot, broadly defined, is anything for Self.
I refer to these Things we call church as the harlot church system
because they have been created out of our fleshly minds and desires
for Self. Churches as we experience them today have no basis in
scripture. They are icons of self-worship. Moreover, they are
idolatrous, deceptive, and dangerous.
A TROUBLING MESSAGE
I will hit hard on the idolatry of the church
system as we know it and experience it today. If you are not prepared
to hear this message by the Spirit, you will no doubt take serious
offense to it. The message of this book will be troubling to many of
you who are victims of the church system, but will be most troubling
to those of you who depend upon the church system for your livelihood
and who find your significance, identity, validation, recognition,
power, and security in it.
If you choose to continue reading this book, it
will take you where you may think you do not want to go. You will
journey beyond the facade of that Thing we call church and see how it
is an invention of flesh. You will discover the demons that empower
it. If you go the distance, you will hopefully find, with Abraham,
that "city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is the
Lord." Heb. 11:10. You will "come to Mount Zion, and to the city of
the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company
of angels; to the general assembly and assembly of the firstborn, who
are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirit
of just men made perfect." Heb. 12:22-23.
ZION AND BABYLON
Before I plunge forward into exposing the idolatry
of this harlot system, I want to abbreviate some comparisons between
spiritual Zion, where Jesus is the only thing there is, and spiritual
Babylon (the harlot), where the carnal mind of Self exalts itself, in
order to provide a better point of reference for what follows. Many of
the thoughts below are developed further throughout this book.
Zion refers to the true body of Christ, the bride,
the ekklesia; Babylon refers to the false church system of men's
traditions and religions. (Ekklesia is the Greek word in the New
Testament which has been mis-translated "church" in most English
versions, but it literally means "called-out-ones".)
Zion is a people--the people of God; Babylon is a
Thing--church institutions and systems.
Zion is a living organism; Babylon is characterized
by organizations, institutions, and systems.
Zion consists of people who have been born into it;
Babylon consists of people who have joined it or been voted into it.
Zion is a people who are called by the name of
Jesus; Babylon is a people who are called by many different names that
represent divisions within this Babylonian church system: Baptist,
Catholic, Charismatic, Episcopal, Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian,
Pentecostal, and all the rest.
Zion is Jesus-centered; Babylon is self-centered.
Zion is living by the Spirit; Babylon is living
after the flesh.
Zion is heavenly; Babylon is earthly.
Zion is grace; Babylon is law.
Zion is life; Babylon is death.
Zion is being; Babylon is doing.
Zion is rest; Babylon is works.
Zion is light; Babylon is darkness.
Zion is humility; Babylon is full of pride,
arrogance, and haughtiness.
Zion is liberty in Christ; Babylon is bondage to
Zion is the Kingdom of God; Babylon is the kingdoms
Zion has Jesus Christ as her head; Babylon has
elected or appointed men as their heads.
Zion is a Spirit-led people; Babylon is led by
rules and regulations of man's own making.
Zion is Spirit-sensitive; Babylon is man-pleasing.
Zion is obedience to the Holy Spirit; Babylon is
busy church work.
Zion accomplishes things in Holy Spirit power
(Zech. 4:6); Babylon tries to accomplish things in self-strength.
Zion has its authority in the Word of God; Babylon
places its authority in man-made doctrines.
Zion is one body in Christ Jesus as Lord; Babylon
is sectarian and divisive, consisting of many divisions of people.
Zion worships in spirit and in truth; Babylon
Zion preaches Christ and Him crucified; Babylon
proclaims denominations, doctrines, heritage, traditions, creeds,
personal views and opinions.
Zion is the priesthood of all believers; Babylon is
the clergy system. The clergy are those who want to make a difference
between themselves and others.
Zion answers to God as the highest authority;
Babylon answers to men and their institutions as the authority.
Zion calls forth revelation; Babylon depends upon
Zion conforms people into the image of Jesus;
Babylon conforms people into its own image.
Zion decreases that Christ may increase; Babylon
increases itself in power, position, riches, and domination.
Zion counts the cost; Babylon counts the money.
Zion lays down its life; Babylon preserves and
Zion waits upon God to raise up what God wants in
His timing; Babylon schemes, organizes, and promotes to execute its
own plan in its own way and time.
Zion seeks the Lord with a whole heart to be
possessed by Him; Babylon goes after things and people to possess
Zion is the city of God; Babylon seeks to build a
city, a tower, and a name for itself. Gen. 11:4.
Zion longs to be gathered into Jesus; Babylon
passionately seeks to gather people unto itself.
To be a disciple of Jesus Christ one must be
willing to deny Self, take up his cross, and follow Jesus. Luke 9:23.
Self-denial is the cross we bear. The old man of flesh and sin has to
be rendered dead. The laid-down life defines the New Testament concept
of agape (love).
When we live according to the flesh, we are living
for Self. Conversely, when we are living for Self, we are living
according to the flesh. When we live according the Spirit, we will
bear the fruit of agape. We have not been called to live unto
ourselves. We have been called to surrender our lives to Christ that
He might live His life of agape through us. We cannot be the bride of
Christ and at the same time live selfishly in this world. We are
either the bride or we are living the life of the harlot.
Self-centered living is making ourselves out to be
god; therefore, it is idolatry. I will show in a subsequent chapter
that idolatry is spiritual harlotry. I will also show how this Thing
we call church is an idolatrous extension of ourselves--thus,
We become spiritual prostitutes when we create
something and give our hearts to it rather than to the Lord Jesus
Christ. That is what men have done with this Thing we call church.
They have made church a substitute for Jesus. Many within these harlot
church systems are true believers who love the Lord, but are
uninformed and deceived. They have unintentionally given their hearts
to these Things we call church. God loves us all but hates our
Judge the words in this book for yourself and judge
yourself by these words. Open your heart to the Holy Spirit that He
might instruct you and point you to Jesus. I hope to reveal
Father-God's heart to you that your heart may be revealed to you; that
you may dare face your idolatries, cleanse His temple of whom you and
I are, and return to the God of your salvation. The idolatry revealed
in this book is not about "them" but about each of us.
Chapter 2 - Show The House To The House
With much fervor Brother Leonard, the visiting
preacher, began his message by asking the congregation to turn to the
gospel of John, chapter 15. He readily established that Jesus is the
true vine and we were the branches. Then he made a startling point of
saying that fruit-bearing was not the most important issue in this
passage; abiding was. "Bearing fruit is mentioned four times," he
pointed out, "while abiding is mentioned nine times." He hammered
repeatedly the phrase, "We must abide." "We must abide." I waited for
him to complete his sentence by saying, "We must abide in the vine who
is Jesus." He never did. Then I saw it coming. He had to say it. It
was the abundance of his heart. He was, after all, a church
man. He stepped back from the podium, pointed an accusatory finger at
his unsuspecting victims in the congregation, and said, "The problem
we have in society today, and especially in the church, is people
don't abide. They go from church to church and never make a commitment
to the church or to the pastor."
Did he actually believe that abiding in that system
we call church is what it means to abide in Jesus? Did he
believe that committing to a church or the pastor is the same
as committing to Jesus? His conclusion was an outrageous
misrepresentation of scripture, spoken for the benefit of that local
pastor whose church had a history of losing members. Rather
than liberating the saints to have a deeper relationship with their
Lord, he set a snare to enslave them even more to that Thing we call
He did not set out to deliberately deceive the
people. In all truthfulness, he was deceived himself. We have all been
deceived. Lied to. Beguiled. This deception has been passed through
the generations of Christians since at least the third century A.D.
Those who perpetuate this lie are equally victims of it. This
deception is so deep and cruel that we have believed it as the truth.
We minister death with this deception, thinking we are offering life.
Worse yet, people are unknowingly missing out on
their glorious union with Christ because they have been given a false
assurance of their salvation. This beguilement has puffed us up in
self-importance. It has caused many believers to forsake their first
love, Jesus. The devil has seduced us into dancing with him while
making us think we were dancing with the Lord.
This is the lie: We have been made to believe that
this Thing we call church is of God and that our membership and
participation in it is essential to our Christian walk when in fact it
is an idolatrous substitute for Jesus and quite often a hindrance to
our walk with Him.
This Thing we call church, as we have come
to experience it, is an idolatrous extension of our own Selves.
Though it exists as an entity unto itself, we are in it
and it is in us. It is an icon of self-worship that has
grown out of the traditions of men and has no basis in scripture. We
proclaim that this Thing we call church is the Kingdom of God
when in fact it has nothing to do with the Kingdom of God. Rather,
it is the modern-day Babylonian captivity of the elect of God.
We have confused our relationship with Christ by
fusing it with this Thing we call church. We are led to believe
that when we are in a proper relationship with it we are in a
proper relationship with Christ; that we have to be a member of a
church to be saved or to be a good Christian; that serving it
is serving Christ; that loving it is loving Christ; that
tithing to it is tithing to Christ.
In many instances this Thing we call church
is like a tent we have made to spread over the moves and revelations
of God in order to preserve them, touch them, contain them, maintain
them, manipulate them, own and control other people in them, and use
the people and the system for our sordid, fleshly gain. We find
comfort in the restrictions these church walls set for us. We
can hide in them and feel good in them. We widen these tent pegs just
enough to let others in who want to walk, talk, and dress as we do.
We talk about this Thing we call church in
strange ways. Where do you go to church? What is the name of
your church? How was church today? Are you building an
annex onto your church? Wow, did we ever have church at
prayer meeting last night! The pastor or priest often greets the
Sunday morning crowd, saying, "Good morning, Church." These
statements make church out to be a building, an institution
with a name, a service, a meeting, the kind of time we have together,
The word "church" as it is used in English
translations of the New Testament refers to the people of God, but we
no longer limit its meaning to people. If we really meant that people
are the "church" when we use that term, these same statements would
have to be made this way: Where do you go to you? What
is the name of you? How was you today? Are you building
an annex onto you? Wow, did we ever have us at prayer
meeting last night. We know better and insist in theory that we, the
redeemed people of God, are the church. Yet, in practice, we make no
distinction between the people and this Thing we call church.
That the word church is used interchangeably this way is not the
problem though. Much more is going on here than meets the eye.
The word church, as we use it, speaks of an
illegal, unholy mystical union which embodies buildings, institutions,
denominations, and people. These have been so fused and confused with
each other that they perpetuate the dangerous lie that this Thing we
call church (buildings, institutions, denominations, and the
people associated with them) is Christ's assembly of called-out-ones.
This Thing we call church looks good in its outward appearance,
but is often inwardly controlled by men and women ambitiously, often
unknowingly, seeking something for themselves.
SUBSTITUTE FOR JESUS
When we preach church, as we craftily do, we
thereby preach another gospel, a false gospel. We perpetuate the lie.
We are often zealous to evangelize people into our churches;
yet, we are uncomfortable calling them to deny themselves and take up
their crosses to follow Jesus. Such a command by Jesus is a foreign
concept to most Christians today. If we happen to lead someone to
Christ, we immediately impose church membership upon them,
especially hoping that they will join "our" church.
I have personally longed to be in fellowship with
other believers who were willing to be the body of Christ with
me without having to sign on to the bondage and play the games that
come with being a member of one of these institutions. I find no
satisfaction in paying my dues to church just to "shake and
howdy" with a few other believers while hiding behind our phony
If it were true that going to church is
synonymous with coming to Jesus, then we would have to ask: Which
Jesus is it? Is it the Baptist Jesus? The Church of Christ Jesus? The
Methodist Jesus? The Presbyterian Jesus? The Roman Catholic Jesus? The
Orthodox Jesus? The Protestant Jesus? The Charismatic or Pentecostal
Jesus? The Independent Jesus? There are so many to choose from. Unchurched
people look at this mix of churches they are invited to join
and wonder why anyone would want to be a part of that.
We give our hearts to these Things we call
church rather than to the Lord Jesus Christ. They are enemies of
God because they stand in place--in substitution--to what is holy, to
what is His.
SHOW THE HOUSE TO THE HOUSE
This deception is not new. The children of Israel
in Judah and Samaria were spiritually blinded by their own harlot
hearts. They refused to hear the words of the prophets to return to
the worship of their God. So, God scattered the people of Samaria to
Assyria and later exiled Judah to Babylon.
The prophet Ezekiel had been carried away with the
captives of Judah to Babylon. He had visions from God which he was
told to tell the "stiff-faced" and "hard-hearted" elders of Judah
whether they listened to him or not. God wanted them to know that a
prophet had been in their midst. Ezek. 2-3.
Twenty-five years later, God took Ezekiel by way of
a vision to the land of Israel and showed him a man whose appearance
was like brass. This man had a line of flax and a measuring reed in
his hand. He measured all around the Temple. He measured the width and
the height of the wall, the gateways, chambers, and courts.
Afterwards, he took Ezekiel to the gate that faced the east, and the
glory of the God of Israel came from the east. "His voice was like the
sound of many waters; and the earth shone with His glory." Ezek. 43:2.
The Spirit lifted Ezekiel up and took him into the inner court as the
glory of the Lord filled the Temple. Ezek. 43:5.
Then Ezekiel heard the Lord speaking to him from
out of the house and told him that this house, the temple, was the
place of His throne, the place of the soles of His feet, where He
would dwell in the midst of the children of Israel forever. It would
be the place where His holy name would dwell. Ezek. 43:7. God told
Ezekiel that the house of Israel would not defile His house any more
by their whoredoms; neither they, nor their kings, nor by the
carcasses of their kings in their high places. Ezek. 43:6-9.
Then the Lord charged Ezekiel to show the condition
of the house of the Lord to the house of Israel saying, "You son of
man, show the house to the house of Israel, that they may be
ashamed of their iniquities: and let them measure the pattern. And if
they are ashamed of all that they have done, show them the form of the
house, and the fashion thereof, and the going out thereof, and the
coming in thereof, and all the forms...ordinances...and laws
thereof...this is the law of the house: upon the top of the mountain
the whole limit thereof round about shall be most holy." Ezek.
Next, Ezekiel was shown a temple of stone. From the
New Testament perspective we believe this temple of stone represents
God's spiritual house of lively stones--the body of Christ which is
the temple of the Holy Spirit of whom we are. The condition of their
hearts reflected the condition of God's temple. Conversely, the
condition of God's temple reflected the condition of their hearts.
It still works this way.
Centuries later, the aging apostle John was given
the revelation of Jesus in which he was asked to measure the temple
again. He wrote, "There was given me a reed like a rod: and the angel
stood, saying, 'Rise, and measure the temple of God, and the altar,
and those who worship therein.'" Rev. 11:1.
Today, the Spirit of the Lord calls out for us to
show the house to the house that we might be ashamed of all
that we have done; that is, show how we have given our hearts to our
denominations, institutions, buildings, stained-glass windows,
memorialized pews, patron saints, rituals, liturgies, doctrines, rules
of order, programs, the Sunday morning service--so many, many things.
The Spirit of the Lord wants to show us how we seek after our own
agendas though they contradict the agenda of God. He calls us to keep
His pattern, not ours; His laws, not ours. For this is the law of the
house that we should be holy (separated) unto the Lord. Ezek. 43:12.
If we were asked to measure a physical house
structure, we would pull out our measuring tape and calculate numbers.
We would check the width, length, and height. Those who are in the
institutional church typically measure themselves by how many
members they have, how big their buildings are, how many buildings
they have, how tall their steeple is, how many cars can be parked in
their lot, what kind of cars are parked in their lot, how much money
they take in. They measure these Things because they give the greater
honor to those pastors and ministries who have the biggest and most.
This is a false house.
The true house of God is measured by love, faith,
mercy, grace, peace, life, light, rest, joy, hope, forgiveness,
acceptance, righteousness, praise, worship, turning the other cheek,
submitting to each other, receiving the prophet in the name of the
prophet, employing the gifts of the Spirit for the building up of the
body, having a passion for Jesus, and being excited about the things
that excite God. These are expressions that define our relationship
with Christ as His bride and with one another as the household of God.
We measure the temple of the Holy Spirit of whom we are by these
Biblical terms. If that which we are in that we call church is
characterized by such terms as dissension, backbiting, dead works,
unbelief, legalism, manipulation, and fear, then it is a harlot's
house. We have a Thing--an idolatrous extension of Self that is not of
Church: The Thing
We were few in number as we sat comfortably face to
face in the living room of a godly couple's house. I had something to
share that Wednesday night. It was the first and most significant
revelation that I had received from the Holy Spirit since my
conversion a couple of years before.
"That which we call the church is not the
church but is a Thing. "I began my personal journey in discovering the
idolatry of the church and the difference between it and
the true bride of Christ.
Years later, my wife and I were living in west
Tennessee and were waiting for direction from the Lord. While there,
He led me to start a meeting on Sunday mornings and invite some people
I knew to come. Some of them came. We gathered in the name of Jesus.
We sang; I shared the revelations and teachings the Lord gave me; we
prayed, dismissed, and went our way. We were fairly close to one
another and had some contact with each other during the week. We were
beginning to be the body of Christ to one another.
Then, we bought a building, renovated it, opened
the doors, and had our gatherings there. We called the building "The
Christian Teaching Center." I did what I believed the Lord said to do
and people began to come.
We were free of men's burdensome traditions,
formalities, creeds, rules and regulations, and programs. We were
committed to following the Holy Spirit wherever He chose to take us.
His presence was powerfully felt in most of our gatherings in those
I insisted that we were not a church, that
God had not called me to start a church, and that I was not to
be the pastor of a church. I tried to make a distinction
between the building, which we had given a name, and those of us who
gathered in that building, whom I refused to name. I explained that
this was a teaching center for the body of Christ in that area.
Perhaps it was a mistake, but we held Sunday morning meetings for
those who chose not to go elsewhere. That Sunday morning meeting
became the main event of the week.
The pressure was on. Some who came there wanted it
to be a church and wanted me to be their pastor. I was
pastoring individuals, but I insisted we were not a church.
A local pastor disputed my contentions, insisting
that we were a church. He contended that there was no
scriptural precedent for the para-church ministry that we had.
He said, "If you look like a duck, walk like a duck, and quack like a
duck, you must be a duck. You look like a church, walk like a
church, and talk like a church." I did not want to hear
that then, but looking back I had to admit he was right. This Thing we
call church had weaseled its way into our work. The work at the
Teaching Center was never supposed to be a church.
Once we began to "have" church, we began
seeking something for ourselves. We created a Thing that had gone
beyond what God had called me to do. We went back to the very thing
that we had come out of. We had Sunday morning and Sunday evening
services, Sunday School, and a youth program. We took up offerings and
put them in a bank account. Our group became known by the name I had
put on the building.
I lost my vision to build up a people and began,
instead, to build up a Thing. We began to go after it instead
of going after the Lord Jesus Christ. We gathered around it
instead of the presence of the Lord. People started leaving and they
did not know why. The more they left, the more I tried to hold on to
them. I felt abandoned. But it was I who had abandoned them by
allowing the work to become a Thing. Not long after that, Ichabod was
written over our door, spiritually speaking. 1 Sam. 4:21. As with
Elijah, the brook dried up and the ravens ceased to bring their
morsels. 1 Kings 17:3-7. It was time for us to move on. It took a year
for me to muster enough courage to finally shut it down.
While most of us know that the word "church" as it
is used in scripture refers to the people of God in Christ, we
nevertheless have made a Thing of it. It is an extension of
ourselves and exists as an entity unto itself.
THE EVOLUTION OF CHURCH
How did this Thing we call church evolve?
Believers in the New Testament did not have such
baggage. At first they were simply called the followers of the way.
They gathered spontaneously in the temple and in some synagogues for a
period of time. Mostly, however, they met in private homes and went
from house to house. They were drawn together by the presence of the
Lord in their midst.
Christians did not have church buildings until
Constantine the Great, Emperor of Rome from 306 to 337 A.D., embraced
Christianity. His endorsement of the faith created a free climate for
men to erect buildings "to the glory of their God."
The earliest church buildings are believed to have
been built after the pattern of the Roman basilica--architecture that
was firmly rooted in the traditions of the Roman empire and has no
basis in scripture. Church buildings became more elaborate with the
Byzantine, Romanesque, and Gothic influences. The layout of these
cathedrals often hid the monks and choirs from the people, advancing
the idea of the separation of clergy from laity which is unfounded in
During the reformation, Protestants halted the
building of great edifices. The reformers were content with simple,
rectangular buildings. They were primarily interested in gathering the
people and having a place to preach. By the nineteenth century,
however, Protestant church architecture had likewise become elaborate
and consisted of elements from a variety of styles.
The enchantment with church buildings throughout
the centuries has contributed to the institutionalization of the
church system as we now know it.
THE ETYMOLOGY OF THE WORD "CHURCH"
With the inclination toward the construction of
buildings for the worship of God, it is little wonder that the
translators of the King James Version of the Bible chose to translate
the Greek word ekklesia by using the English word "church." A
deeper look at the etymology of the word "church" is quite revealing.
Moving backwards into time, the word "church" was
derived from the Old English word cirice which is related to
the Norwegian/Scandinavian word kirkja. These were derived from
the Germanic word kirka; which was derived from the late Greek
word Kyrite; which was derived from the Greek word kurios
which means "ruler," "lord," "master." In the Greek, Kuriake
oika means "lord's house." Thus, the word church came to mean "a
building set apart or consecrated for public worship."
Though the word "church" does not have its root in
the Greek term ekklesia; it is used to translate ekklesia.
Ekklesia is the formation of two Greek words: ek which
means "out of" and kaleo which means "to call." Combined, the
word literally means "to call out of." Ekklesia was
commonly used among the Greeks in reference to a body of citizens who
"gathered" to discuss the affairs of state. A correct and quite
appropriate translation of ekklesia is "called-out-ones"
although there are times when the context demands that "assembly" or
"gathering-of-called-out-ones" be used. The word has to do with a
people who are called-out to be gathered together.
From that time to this, the word church is
used to refer to more than people. Its use has been so adulterated
that we ought never to use it when we are referring to the body of
Christ. It is appropriate to use the word "church" when we are
actually talking about a building but not when we are talking about
the body of Christ. What we call church is a Thing. The
ekklesia is a people.
We organize this Thing. We name it,
incorporate it, elect officers to it, open bank accounts
in its name, and train and hire staff to run it. We take
up money for it. We devise campaigns to recruit more people to
join it. We track attendance to it. We love it,
get mad at it, resign from it, and leave it. If
we are particularly fond of it, we make up brochures and buy
ads to market it.
We evaluate the Thing to determine its
success or failure. "The praise service was good," we might say. "The
sermon was okay." "The offering was poor." "The attendance was down."
Ask a pastor how his church is coming along
and he may answer with such comments as: "Oh, our building program is
great." "We're getting in members left and right." "We've doubled our
membership in the last year." "We are losing people out of the back
door as fast as they come in the front." See where his heart is? He is
evaluating the thing over which he is likely the head. The
growth of his church reflects upon his success or failure as
its leader. If, on the other hand, he answers regarding the spiritual
well-being of the people, he understands more of what it means to be
the body of Christ. "Well, you know, many of them have endured some
affliction, but it has made them stronger in the Lord."
If he talks about his people in a possessive
sense, he is snared by his own conceit. They are not his
people. On the other hand, if he talks about the sheep who belong to
the good shepherd who is Jesus Christ, he may be free and more likely
to set God's people free.
FOR THE SAKE OF IT
Soon after a church is started, it
nearly always takes on an existence of its own and begins to
exist for its own sake. The people in it exist to serve
it rather than it existing to serve the people. Those
dedicated to keeping the church going expect their members to
attend it, support it, and serve it. They plan
various programs that fit the model of what they think a full service
church ought to look like.
The Conners family had been supported by their
church for eight years of difficult but faithful duty on the
mission field. After their return, they attended their church
for awhile before dropping out. The first pastoral or administrative
inquiry about them was by the church accountant. "Are the
Conners attending church?" "No," a friend of theirs answered. "Why?"
"For no particular reason." He was indignant. "After all the money
we've given them, now when they could help they're not around."
Perhaps that would have been a genuine concern under other
circumstances, but his interest in them came one and a half years
after their return. As Mrs. Conners regretfully said, "I was
frustrated by the obvious fact that no one on staff seemed to notice
we were no longer going there and when they did notice, the first
comment was about money." Had the money been spent on the Conners? No.
They were in another land to be spent by the Lord for the sake of
serving the saints there. It seems the Conners were expected to serve
the institution, but were themselves abandoned by the so-called
leadership within that institution.
Brother Billy became the pastor of West Side Church
after his father died. His father founded the church. Brother
Billy announced one Sunday that he was fulfilling his vision to have a
jail and bus ministry. "We lack these things to be a complete
church," he explained. "We need volunteers for the jail ministry
and for the bus ministry. Sign-up sheets are on the back table." Many
dear hearts who felt no calling for such service signed on to make
Brother Billy feel okay about himself and his church. They had
to serve him so he could fulfill his vision for a Thing.
People often grow weary of these works of men and
drop out. Leadership is hard to find. If the services or programs were
really meeting people's needs, people would be more likely to support
them. A lack of support may be a clear indication that the event no
longer meets a need worth supporting.
If we do not provide the expected support for the
Thing and its programs, whether we want to or not, whether we are
called to serve in a certain capacity or not, we are made to feel
guilty. Have you ever felt guilty for missing a function of the
church? Those little shame-based voices in your head whisper
"naughty, naughty." "It was my fault the program failed. I didn't give
enough of my time and money to it." You can know by those
feelings of guilt that you are serving a Thing and not the Master.
When we are asked by leadership in the church
to make a commitment to the church, we are actually being asked
to make a commitment to the Thing. Our loyalty is measured by how well
we serve this Thing. We are thought to be slothful Christians if we do
not support it; and if we do not even attend a local church,
we are assumed to be backsliders.
On the other hand, when we "do" church, we
have expectations that it ought to be a certain way. It
has to work according to our expectations, or we will feel like it
If the Thing has to work a certain way before it
is successful, then those who support it will be pressured into
performing in such a way as to make it a success. If it
is not a success, someone is to blame. It is either the people's
fault, the pastor's fault, the choir director's fault, or the
church board's fault.
What if you and I have different expectations about
how a church should work? We will have conflict. There will
always be conflict in the church because there will always be
expectations in conflict. These are man's expectations, not God's.
ADDICTED TO THE THING
Some people are clinically classified as religious
addicts. I am a recovering church-addict. Soon after my
conversion in 1978, I saw how this church Thing was an
idolatrous system of men's traditions. I despised it (not the
people in it); yet, I felt a seductive pull back into it.
I needed it. I had previously found my
identity in it. I had presence, power, and position in it.
As the pastor of it, I thought I owned at least a part of it.
My heart would secretly boast, "This is mine!" It was my source
of financial support. It was the only thing I was trained to
do. I was joined to it and it was joined to me.
We bond with that Thing we call church and
thereby get in bondage to it. We join it and it
somehow takes possession of us. We do, in fact, get addicted to it.
As Dennis Loewen wrote, "It is addictive. How do we know? One way is
that we all go through withdrawal when we leave it."
Some discerning believers who attend spiritually
stagnant churches realize they no longer need to be there. The
Holy Spirit is absent. The services are dead. The preacher is boring.
People argue over petty, irrelevant issues. They feel their tithes are
wasted on worthless salaries, programs, and mortgages. Their huge
buildings stand empty more often than not. They feel obligated to
serve on committees that serve the institution more than they serve
the people. They see the leadership trying one gimmick after another
to make the Thing relevant in order to get more people to join it
and be active in it.
These precious believers want to leave but find
that they cannot. Mother wouldn't understand. "Why, that stained glass
window was dedicated in grandpa's name. How can you even think about
leaving?" They rationalize that they have life-long friends there.
"How can I leave them?" They are made to feel like traitors,
deserters, troublemakers, or mavericks. Some people disown their own
family members who leave their "faith." Some traditions believe that a
person will go to hell if they leave their particular brand of
So, they feel stuck in the system. They put on
their Sunday morning smiles and hide their secret resentments for
feeling stuck. They shake and howdy down the aisle, pretending, "Isn't
it good to be in the house of the Lord?" They settle into their
familiar pews and begin again to fellowship with the backs of people's
Many who dare to leave one church go down
the street hoping for a better "spiritual climate" only to find the
same old whore in a brand new dress. Only the rules are slightly
different. They go from church to church looking for
that which is genuine only to find more phony religious facades; they
go looking for Spirit and truth only to find more flesh and hypocrisy.
Yet, they continue their search, because they are addicted to it.
They bob up and down on their wooden horses unable to dismount because
of the velocity of that carousel--the church system that
perpetually spins round and round, going nowhere.
A few discerning persons are able to break away
from the bondage of church, but often leave damaged and
resentful. Some of these attend anonymous groups, seeking recovery
from the religious abuses inflicted upon them by these religious
systems of men's traditions.
Church, as we have come to experience it,
permeates every aspect of our society. It is the only thing we
have seen and known that supposedly represents Christ. In going after
it, just as did Israel of old, we have played the harlot and
provoked the Lord to jealousy.
I hope you are praying for the Holy Spirit to lift
the veil from over your eyes to see how church is a counterfeit
system, to see how we have made a Thing out of who we are in Christ
and gone after it instead of Jesus.
Chapter 4 - Jealousy: Playing The Harlot
Most everyone in the small, rural church I
was serving accepted the fact that I believed that speaking in
tongues, divine healing, casting out demons, and all the gifts of the
Holy Spirit were for today, even though the officialdom of that
denomination disagreed. Nevertheless, I tried to make Jesus the only
issue that mattered. Everyone was happy with that arrangement until
the Holy Spirit spoke to my spirit requiring that I abolish the Sunday
"You're messing with my mind, Lord," I argued. "One
doesn't abolish Sunday School, especially as a pastor in this
denomination. The Sunday School belongs to the elders. You should know
that, Lord." I dismissed the thought as reckless. I had plans to build
up the Sunday School. Studies have shown that the existence of small
groups such as the Sunday School class contribute to church
growth, and at that stage in my understanding, I wanted to build up
However, after being sternly directed to abolish
the Sunday School for the third time, I knew I had to do something. I
called the men of the church together and presented my dilemma
to them. Most of them were willing to test it out to see what God
might do. "After all," many of them reasoned with me, "if it doesn't
prove profitable, we can always go back to having Sunday School."
Not every one was willing to test it out, however.
I did not know why God wanted me to take such action until I tried to
negotiate the deal with the main person of influence in the church.
Tears welled up in her eyes as she spoke with a broken, yet, certain
voice, "You're not going to take MY Sunday School away from me." Then
I knew what this was about. Sunday School was a golden calf to some of
them and I had dared to touch it.
IDOLATRY: THE EXTENSION OF SELF
Judson Cornwall aptly says, "Idolatry is
principally the response of personal adoration toward something less
than Jehovah God, whether that something is Self, an object made by
ourselves, or a concept we may have embraced. An idol is anything or
anyone, including ourselves, that is given the credit for the
abilities that only God possesses." Monty Stratton adds, "Any image we
have of ourselves that is not God's image of us is an idol, a false
We, as created human beings, make things and
accomplish things that we come to adore. We set these things before us
and pay homage to them whether they are the songs or novels we write,
the athletes we create, the gardens we plant, the businesses we build,
the trophies we win, the children we sire, the rockets we orbit, the
cures we invent, the sermons we preach, or the churches we
institute. We live vicariously through the idols we have made of movie
stars, music stars, and sports stars. We want the power that we
imagine fame and fortune would bestow upon us. We want to be god,
especially over our own lives.
Though we are greater than the images we make, we
still bow down and pay obeisance to them. We take such pride in our
works. We allow them to control our lives, our emotions, and our
relationships. We love them. We look at them, and our hearts swell
with pride. They are idolatrous extensions of ourselves.
IDOLATRY: THE WORSHIP OF SELF
All idolatry is the worship of Self. It is an
extension of ourselves: our adored opinions, speculations, plans,
programs, and projects; it is the self-exalted work of our hands and
the imaginations of our minds--all the things we do in our old man
nature of flesh and sin that causes us to esteem ourselves more highly
than we ought to. It is the attitude of the wicked stepmother in the
story of Snow White who asks, "Magic mirror on the wall, who's the
fairest one of all?" fully expecting for the mirror to answer, "You
are the fairest one of all."
Idolatrous, fallen man is self-centered by nature.
To be any different, we have to be transformed into a new creature. We
need a new nature that gives us the desire to surrender Self for a
higher good, namely, the life of Christ in us. Only Christ through His
Spirit can implant that new nature within us.
Whatever appeals to Self is not of God. Self is in
love with Self. It seeks its own. It is vain, prideful, arrogant,
self-exalting, self-indulging, self-absorbed, power-hungry, and
lustful. It strives for independence, self-reliance, and
self-management. It uses and abuses others, if necessary, to achieve
its own ambitions. It lies, steals, cheats, murders, covets, blames,
justifies, and does whatever seems necessary to save itself. It goes
to any end to protect itself. It is addicted to more. It can never be
The flesh nature of Self generally looks to its own
inventions--science, government, military, religion, education,
sports, and other human institutions and inventions--to save us, feed
us, protect us, make us happy, give us our identity, and provide us
with a better lifestyle. We create institutions to serve us, and we
get angry when they fail us.
Because Self is centered upon itself, it is a black
hole upon the space where it stands, forever suctioning itself inward
as a vacuum. Self consumes itself, is self-destructive, and has death
as its final reward. Self lives and dies for Self.
The idolatry of Self is seen in our drivenness to
accomplish things in our own strength. We see things to do, and we
must do them. We are constantly distracted by the busyness we create
for ourselves. Busyness is a distraction from intimacy with God. We
would rather be doing something for God than spending time with
Him. Yet, He did not create us to do for Him, but to be
as He is that we might have fellowship with Him and with one another
We enslave ourselves to the works we require of
ourselves. Moreover, we enslave others to our works when others allow
us to do so. We adore our accomplishments. Consequently, we have even
made idols out of our quiet time, Bible study, intercessory prayer,
street witnessing, and other works that seem "good" to us. These are
not wrong. They are wonderful when they are inspired by the Holy
Spirit. They become idolatrous to us when we use them to make
ourselves feel like we have done something for God.
IDOLATRY: THINGS THAT POSSESS US
Our idols have to do with those things that possess
our hearts. Whatever we own, owns a part of us. In the Old Testament,
Jacob served his father-in-law, Laban, for twenty years to earn his
wives, Leah and Rachel, and to earn his flock so he could return to
the land of his father. Because Laban restrained him from going, Jacob
left Laban by stealth with his wives and animals. As she went out,
Rachel stole her father's household idols to take with her. Gen. 31.
These idols may have been valuable heirlooms and that could have
played a part in her motives to carry them away, but more likely it
was because her heart had already been carried away by them.
The things we go after usually overtake us. I lived
in Nashville, Tennessee, the country music capital of the world, where
there is a saying about many of those musical hopefuls who live there
that they are "chasing the beast." This beast is an imaginary quest
for significance through the fame many of them hope "making it in
music" will bring them. It appears to me, though, that the beast is
chasing them. The beast can be any of those things we seek for Self to
possess. These things we seek often possess us. We can be possessed by
A JEALOUS GOD
God created us for Himself. He wants intimate
relationship with us. He wants us to know Him, love Him, trust Him,
depend upon Him, and obey Him. He is a loving and faithful Father to
us who believe and requires of us that we return love and faithfulness
to Him. He is profoundly jealous of anything we put between Him and
us. Allow yourself to feel God's passionate disdain for our idolatry
as you carefully read the text below. You who truly love the Lord
should be impacted forever by the quotes from scripture.
God spoke through Moses to the children of Israel,
saying: "I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of
Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods
before Me. You shall not make unto you any graven image, or any
likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth
beneath, or that is in the water under the earth." You shall not bow
down yourself to them, nor serve them." Exod. 20:1-5; Deut. 5:1-10.
Jesus answered the Pharisee saying, "You shall love
the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and
with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment." Matt.
22:37. This kind of love is agape, which has to do with surrendering
your life for the well-being of others. In this case, it has to do
with wanting only what God wants, wanting nothing for Self.
Idolatry breaks the heart of God who jealously
wants our undivided love, worship, and faithfulness. God is jealous of
our idols. He is jealous when we glory in ourselves and our
achievements rather than recognizing that "every good gift and every
perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights."
James 1:17. God said, "You shall not bow down yourself to them [other
gods], nor serve them: for I the LORD your God am a jealous God." Exod.
20:1-5. His name is Jealous. Exod. 34:14.
Moses charged the people to keep God's ordinances
and warned them not to commit idolatry saying, "The LORD your God is a
consuming fire, even a jealous God." Deut. 4:24. Joshua reaffirmed to
the people that God "is a holy God. He is a jealous God." Josh. 24:19.
Elijah expressed jealousy on God's behalf: "I have
been very jealous for the LORD God of hosts: because the children of
Israel have forsaken Your covenant, thrown down Your altars, and slain
Your prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they
seek my life, to take it away." 1 Kings 19:14. [Also read: Ezek. 8:3;
16:38-42; 23:25; 36:5-6; 38:19; 39:25.]
Asaph lamented: "How long, LORD? Will You be angry
forever? Shall Your jealousy burn like fire?" Ps. 79:5.
The prophet, Nahum, feeling the pulse of God,
declared that "God is jealous, and the LORD revenges and is furious;
the LORD will take vengeance on his adversaries, and He reserves wrath
for his enemies." Nah. 1:2.
Joel, looking to a day of renewal, prophesied,
"Then will the LORD be jealous for his land, and pity His people."
Zephaniah spoke, "Neither their silver nor their
gold shall be able to deliver them in the day of the LORD'S wrath; but
the whole land shall be devoured by the fire of His jealousy: for He
shall make even a speedy riddance of all them who dwell in the land."
Zeph. 1:18. He continued to speak for God saying, "Therefore wait upon
Me, says the LORD, until the day that I rise up to the prey: for My
determination is to gather the nations, that I may assemble the
kingdoms, to pour upon them My indignation, even all My fierce anger:
for all the earth shall be devoured with the fire of My jealousy."
Zechariah wrote, "The angel that communed with me
said unto me, You cry, saying, Thus says the LORD of hosts; I am
jealous for Jerusalem and for Zion with a great jealousy." Zech. 1:14.
And again, he wrote, "Thus says the LORD of hosts; I was jealous for
Zion with great jealousy, and I was jealous for her with great fury."
The apostle Paul asked the Corinthians, "Do we
provoke the Lord to jealousy?" 1 Cor. 10:22. As did Elijah, Paul felt
the fire of God's jealousy in his belly and wrote again later, "For I
am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to
one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ." 2
ISRAEL: CHOSEN FOR A PURPOSE
Israel was chosen by God that He might have a
people who were called by His name. Deut. 28:10; 2 Chron. 7:14; Dan.
9:19; Acts 15:14. They were to be a people through whom God would make
a name for Himself. 2 Sam. 7:23; 1 Chron. 17:21. They would be to Him
a people, a name, a praise, and a glory. Jer. 13:11.
Israel was to be a holy (separated) nation of
people unto the Lord. It was three months after they left Egypt and
were encamped in the Wilderness of Sinai that Moses went up on the
mountain to talk to God. God told Moses to tell the people "You have
seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles' wings,
and brought you unto Myself. Now, therefore, if you will obey My voice
indeed, and keep My covenant, then you shall be a peculiar treasure
unto Me above all peoples: for all the earth is Mine: And you shall be
unto Me a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation." Exod. 19:4-6.
The followers of Christ, whether Jew or Gentile,
are the fulfillment of divine expectation. Peter wrote regarding those
who believe in Jesus Christ, "But you are a chosen generation, a royal
priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people; that you should show
forth the praises of Him who has called you out of darkness into His
marvelous light." 1 Pet. 2:9.
The Lord was to be their God and they were to be
His people. They were not to have other gods before them. They were
not to call upon the name of any other god and give that god the glory
for the things that God had done for them. That would have been a
great insult to God, to His name, and to those who were called by His
name. God is zealously jealous of those things in which we put more
confidence, comfort, and pleasure than in Him.
God knew that the only way to ensure that the
Israelites would remain faithful to Him was to ban them from mingling
with the heathens of the land. He made a covenant with them while they
were in the wilderness. He told them that He would do marvels among
them by driving out the Amorite, the Canaanite, the Hittite, the
Perizzite, the Hivite, and the Jebusite from before them when they
God warned them, however, to be careful not to make
a covenant with the inhabitants of the land where they were going.
Failure to destroy the idolatrous altars of the heathens, to break
their images, and cut down their groves (places of idol worship) would
be a snare in the midst of them. The Israelites would "take their
daughters unto their sons, and their daughters [would] go a whoring
after their gods, and make their sons go a whoring after their gods."
The worship of other gods is idolatry, and idolatry
is playing the harlot so far as God is concerned. God also calls it
fornication and adultery. The King James version of the Bible
translates it "a whoring." This radical language portrays the heart of
God in the matter of idolatry. It should cause us to fall on our
faces, quickly repent of our idolatries, and turn to Him with a pure,
THE VIOLATION OF GOD'S BAN
God told Israel not to mingle with the inhabitants
of the land and go after their gods, but they did it anyway. God knew
that they would do it. He told Moses that after he died "this people
will rise up, and go a whoring after the gods of the strangers of the
land where they are going and will forsake Me, and break My covenant
which I had made with them.
Then My anger shall be kindled against them in that
day, and I will forsake them, and I will hide My face from them, and
they shall be devoured, and many evils and troubles shall befall them;
so that they will say in that day, Are not these evils come upon us,
because our God is not among us? And I will surely hide My face in
that day for all the evils which they shall have brought, in that they
are turned unto other gods." Deut. 31:16-18.
Israel's failure in the wilderness
The Israelites violated God's ban while they were
still in the wilderness. They were in a place called Shittim when they
committed whoredom with the daughters of Moab. The Moabites seduced
the Israelites to make sacrifices and bow down to their gods. Israel
joined itself to Baal-peor, the idol god of Moab, and the anger of the
LORD was kindled against Israel.
The LORD instructed Moses to take all the heads of
those who had broken the ban, "and hang them up before the LORD
against the sun, that the fierce anger of the LORD may be turned away
from Israel." Moses, in turn, commanded the judges of Israel to kill
their men who were bowing down to Baal-peor.
One of the Israelites shamelessly brought a
Midianite woman to his brothers in full view of Moses and the people.
Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, saw it,
rose up from among the people, and took a javelin in his hand.
He went after the man of Israel into the tent and
thrust both of them through. This brought an end to the plague upon
the children of Israel that day. His jealousy for God turned away
God's wrath. Twenty-four thousand people died in that plague. Num.
Deuteronomy 32:16-17, and 21 tells us that the
Israelites provoked God to jealousy with strange gods, and that these
were abominations to Him. "They sacrificed unto devils, not to God; to
gods whom they knew not"...to new gods whom their fathers had not even
feared. "They have moved Me to jealousy," God said, "with that which
is not God; they have provoked Me to anger with their vanities: and I
will move them to jealousy with those who are not a people; I will
provoke them to anger with a foolish nation."
Israel's failure during the judges
God brought Israel out of Egypt with attesting
signs and wonders. They miraculously crossed through the Red Sea on
dry ground. They were given the manna, water, and quail. They heard
God on the mountain and saw His glory on Moses' face. They wandered
for forty years, and their sandals did not wear out. They experienced
the jealousy of God at Shittim. They entered the land of God's promise
under the leadership of Joshua, miraculously crossing the Jordan river
and taking Jericho with marching, the blowing of horns, and shouting.
They were supposed to drive out all of the
inhabitants of the land lest they mingle with them and bow down to
their gods. Many of the tribes of Israel did not do that. They did not
utterly drive out the inhabitants of the land and were, thereby,
disobedient to God.
An angel of the Lord came up from Gilgal to Bochim,
and told the people of Israel, "I made you to go up out of Egypt, and
have brought you unto the land which I swore unto your fathers; and I
said, I will never break My covenant with you. And you shall make no
league with the inhabitants of this land; you shall throw down their
altars, but you have not obeyed My voice. Why have you done this?
Wherefore I also said, I will not drive them out from before you, but
they shall be as thorns in your sides and their gods shall be a snare
unto you." The people lifted up their voice and wept at the words of
the angel. Judg. 2:1-4.
Nevertheless, a new generation grew up after
Joshua, and they also did the very thing that was evil in the sight of
the Lord: they abandoned the Lord and served the idolatrous god and
goddess, Baal and Ashtoreth. Judg. 2:13.
And so it happened, over and over again. God raised
up individuals like Ehud, Deborah, Gideon, Samson, and other judges in
Israel. The Israelites would not listen to their judges but went "a
whoring" after other gods. After they fell under the oppressive hand
of their enemies in the land, they repented and cried out to God, and
He changed His mind and delivered them. (Read Judges 2:17-20.)
The period of the judges ended with this tragic
commentary: "In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did
that which was right in his own eyes." Judg. 21:25. Anarchy is the
ultimate idolatry of Self.
Israel's failure during the kings
The Israelites wanted their own king like all of
the other nations, thus rejecting God from reigning over them. So, God
told Samuel to give them what they were asking for. 1 Sam. 8:5-7. How
frightening that God might really give us what we think we need and
Nothing changed. They had harlot hearts. 1
Chronicles 5:25 reports that "they transgressed against the God of
their fathers, and went a whoring after the gods of the people of the
land, whom God destroyed before them."
The Psalmist laments: "They did not destroy the
nations, concerning whom the LORD commanded them: But were mingled
among the heathen, and learned their works. And they served their
idols: which were a snare unto them. Yes, they sacrificed their sons
and their daughters unto devils, and shed innocent blood, even the
blood of their sons and of their daughters, whom they sacrificed unto
the idols of Canaan: and the land was polluted with blood. Thus, they
were defiled with their own works, and went a whoring with their own
inventions." Ps. 106:34-39. This entire Psalm is a powerful
recantation of Israel's forgetfulness.
GODS OF THE FLESH
The Israelites set up their own high places and
made altars to Baal. They carved out Ashtoreths and bowed down to
them. They sacrificed their children to Molech by making them walk
The chronicler of 1 Kings 14:22-23 wrote, "And
Judah did evil in the sight of the LORD, and they provoked Him to
jealousy with their sins which they had committed, above all that
their fathers had done. For they also built them high places, and
images, and groves, on every high hill, and under every green tree."
Asaph, the Psalmist, lamented the sins of the
people against a jealous God singing, "For they provoked him to anger
with their high places, and moved him to jealousy with their graven
images." Ps. 78:58.
Baal means "master" or "lord" and has also been
translated "husband." Baal was the farm god believed to be responsible
for the increase of flocks, crops, and families.
"The worship of Baal, as it existed when Israel
began to filter into Canaan, was conducted by priests in fields and on
mountain 'high places' where communities brought 'taxes' to their
favorite deity, in the form of wine, oil, first fruits, and firstlings
of flocks. The cult included joyous, licentious dances and ritualistic
The Ashtoreth was the name given to the
goddess of the moon, sexuality, sensual love, and fertility. It was
also the name for the wooden female figures or poles that were set up
to represent her. Her temples were centers
of sacred prostitution. Ashtoreth is mentioned some forty times
in the Old Testament.
Molech means "king." His worship was
characterized by parents who sacrificed their children, compelling
them to walk through or into a furnace of fire. Hebrew law strictly
forbade this practice. The Lord had spoken to Moses saying, "Again,
you shall say to the children of Israel, Whosoever of the children of
Israel, or of the strangers that sojourn in Israel, who gives any of
his seed [children] unto Molech shall surely be put to death. The
people of the land shall stone him with stones. And I will set My face
against that man and will cut him off from among his people because he
has given of his seed unto Molech to defile My sanctuary and to
profane My holy name." Lev. 20:1-3. Ezekiel spoke for God: "For when
you offer your gifts, when you make your sons to pass through the
fire, you pollute yourselves with all your idols." Ezek. 20:31.
Jeremiah 3:9 laments that they committed adultery
with stones and trees. James 4:4 teaches us that friendship with the
world is adultery.
God demanded their undivided, unadulterated worship
and obedience to Him. The true worship of God requires that we lay
down the wants of our old man nature of flesh and sin--that we deny
Self in total abandonment to God.
GOD DIVORCED ISRAEL
Israel was regarded by God as His betrothed. Jer.
3:14. God was faithful to her, but she was repeatedly unfaithful to
Him. She attempted fidelity, occasionally, and there were times of
repentance and restoration. The good kings purged the temple of
idolatry, but even they did not always complete the job. They
consistently kept their high places.
Of Solomon it is written, "Solomon loved the LORD,
walking in the statutes of David his father: only he sacrificed and
burnt incense in high places." 1 Kings 3:3. Asa did what was right in
the eyes of the Lord. He banished the sodomites from the land and
removed the idols of his father; he removed his mother, Maachah, from
being queen because she had made an idol in a grove; but "the high
places were not removed." 1 Kings 15:11-14. "Jehoshaphat walked in all
the ways of Asa his father, doing that which was right in the eyes of
the LORD," but did not take away the high places. 1 Kings 22:43.
Jehoash (2 Kings 12:1-3), Amaziah (2 Kings 14:1-4), Jeroboam (2 Kings
15:1-4), Uzziah and Jotham (2 Kings 15:32-34) likewise did what was
right in the sight of the Lord except they did not take away the high
The scriptures tell us that Hezekiah and Josiah
were the only Kings who removed even the high places. Hezekiah "did
what was right in the sight of the LORD; according to all that David
his father did. He removed the high places, and broke the images, and
cut down the groves." 2 Kings 18:3-4a. The record says Josiah removed
the high places "and like unto him was there no king before him, that
turned to the LORD with all his heart, and with all his soul, and with
all his might, according to all the law of Moses; neither after him
arose there any like him." 2 Kings 23:25. But for these two, king
after king had this one thing in common: they did not remove the high
During the days that Josiah was king, the Lord
asked Jeremiah if he had seen what backsliding Israel had done. He
said that she had gone up on every high mountain and under every green
tree and played the harlot; and for all the causes for which
backsliding Israel had committed adultery, God had her put away and
given her a certificate of divorce. Jer. 3:6, 8.
Earlier in Israel's history, after Solomon's reign
as king, the Kingdom of Israel divided. The kingdom of Israel (later
called Samaria) consisted of the ten tribes to the north which split
from the kingdom after the death of Solomon during the reign of his
son Rehoboam. It was ruled by Jeroboam. The Kingdom of Judah consisted
of the two remaining tribes in the south, Judah and Benjamin.
Through the prophet Ezekiel, God portrayed these
two kingdoms as daughters of one mother. He gave these daughters the
names Aholah and Aholibah. Aholah means "her own tent" and Aholibah
means "women of the tent" or "the tent is in her." Aholah was the
older daughter, Samaria, and Aholibah was the younger daughter, Judah
(or Jerusalem). Ezekiel says, "...they committed whoredoms in Egypt;
they committed whoredoms in their youth: their breasts were pressed
there, and the teats of their virginity were bruised." Ezek. 23:3.
Though Aholah belonged to the Lord, she played the
harlot and doted on her Assyrian lovers. She committed her whoredoms
with them and defiled herself. So, God banished her into the hands of
her lovers, the Assyrians.
Her sister, Aholibah, saw all that her older sister
had done and how she had been taken away into captivity by her
Assyrian lovers; yet, she multiplied her whoredoms more than her
God sent the Babylonians to take Judah away into
captivity as a judgment against her. God said, "I will set My jealousy
against you, and they shall deal furiously with you." Ezek. 23.
Therefore, because of their idolatries and harlotries, Samaria was
scattered to the nations by the Assyrians. Judah (Jerusalem) was taken
into Babylonian captivity by the Babylonians.
The scriptures make it clear that these adulterous
acts of idolatry were abominations to God. Ezekiel 16:51-52 reveals
that Judah had committed twice the sins of her sister Samaria. She had
multiplied her abominations.
Of all the sins Israel and Judah committed,
idolatry was the most abominable to God. Their idolatry was the one
thing that led to their downfall. They forsook God for their high
places. We are no different today. We, too, have our high places and
our high places are just as much a snare to us.
Chapter 5 - Our High Places
I rarely saw Benny without hearing some piece of
profound wisdom suitable to a sage. This day was no exception. With
that typical twinkle in his eye and that wry west Tennessee grin on
his face, he asked me, "Do you know how you can tell when something is
an idol in your life?"
"No." I waited for his reply. I knew it would be
His grin widened. His words were slow but short.
"By how big a fight you put up when it's taken from you."
Many of the things we fight over are likely idols
in our lives. We get angry when something we adore is taken from us or
when we fear that it might be taken from us.
OUR HIGH PLACES
We, as with Israel of old, have our idols. Our
idols are our high places. Our high places are those things we cherish
above our consecration to God. We, too, have gone "a whoring" after
the gods of our own making. We "burn incense" to the work of our hands
and the imaginations of our minds when we take self-exalted pride in
our accomplishments. Such things as science, government, the stock
market, religion, the arts, diets, entertainment, and sports can work
for our good, but they become idolatrous when we put our trust in them
rather than in God. We make ourselves out to be God.
This was the lie in the garden of Eden: if we could
know as God knows, we would become as God. So we, in Adam, became
knowledgeable, and that knowledge became a curse to us. We play God
when we glory in our own intellectual abilities to figure things out,
reason things, understand things, invent things, and imagine even
greater achievements. We exalt that which we think we know above the
knowledge of God. It keeps us at arms-length from God and prevents us
from entering into intimacy with Father-God, our Creator. Puffed-up
knowledge is the arrogance of Self, and Self is that high mountain
upon which we build our altars.
EXTENSIONS OF SELF
Our high places are extensions of ourselves. We
stand back like a master painter and survey the canvas of our works
and sigh, "Ah! This is what I did!" Our identities are wrapped
up in our achievements. We want to be somebody, to make our mark, to
leave our fingerprint on something important. Our old man of flesh
natures are driven by the need for power, position, recognition,
possessions, and domination.
We bow the knee to those who are rich and famous,
and snub, or at best patronize, those who are poor and uncelebrated.
We, as Nimrod, have journeyed to our land of Shinar, looking to build
a tower, a city, and a name for ourselves. Gen. 11. Those who have
"Ministries" do this as well.
CHURCH AS AN EXTENSION OF SELF
This Thing we call church can be one such
extension of ourselves. It is one of those things we go after in our
hearts because we love it so. That is to say, we love the works
of our hands and the imaginations of our hearts that are expressed in
that Thing we call church. We are in church because
church is in us. It is an extension of us. Therefore, we
are serving ourselves when we serve it.
"Ah, come on," you say. "You can't be serious.
Aren't you being too hard and critical of the church? I love my
church. I have life-long relationships in my church. We
have a great choir, good preaching, souls are saved, the Holy Spirit
often moves in our services. The ritual and symbols make me feel close
to God. How do you account for the fact that God shows up in church?
How can you call church evil?"
Good Christian people go to church. In fact,
the stronger they are in their faith, the more likely they are to go
to church. They identify "going to church" with their
faith. Their faithfulness to church is often the yardstick for
measuring their faithfulness to Christ. After all, the churches
even belong to Christians, at least in name and perception. God's
presence is manifested in some of these churches on occasions,
but none of this means that these Things we call church have
been born of the Spirit. They are still idolatrous extensions of Self.
God often blessed and prospered His people in
captivity. God blessed Israel on numerous occasions even though she
was engaged in idolatry. Even when He banished Judah to Babylon, He
commanded that they build houses, plant gardens, eat the fruit of
them, and increase in families. Jer. 29:4-6. God even pronounced
severe judgment against those idolatrous Jews who tried to stay behind
in Judah. Jer. 29:16-18. "After seventy years are accomplished in
Babylon," the Lord promised Judah, "I will visit you, and perform My
good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place." Jer.
29:10. God had to visit His people in Babylon in order to deliver them
The Holy Spirit has often moved upon His people to
save, heal, and deliver them throughout the history of the
institutionalized church system. The Protestant reformation,
the great awakening of the 1800's, and the Pentecostal revival of the
1900's are major historical examples of how God sought to deliver His
people out of an old order to bring them into a new order.
A few churches have experienced what they
call renewal. God is filling the lamps of those willing to be prepared
with enough oil to go the distance when that last trumpet sounds. It
would be a tragic mistake, however, to take God's anointing upon His
people as an endorsement of their idols. If the Holy Spirit is moving
in your church, He is not present to bless your idolatries, but
to prepare a people unto Himself. God cares for His people who happen
to be in captivity to church. He is preparing His bride. He has
to go into these illegitimate places we call the church to
prepare her so He can take her out.
THE BRIDE IN HARLOTRY
Bill Shipman saw it this way. "It was almost like a
vision," he explained.
I was there in the chambers and on the streets with
them. I saw Jesus waiting in a groom's chamber. The bride was in
another chamber. He was preparing to go in to see her. While He
delayed, she was drawn to the window and became interested in the
activities in the street. The appeal of the street tugged at her
harlot heart until she wandered out there herself.
Soon after she walked out onto the streets she was
raped. Her shame deceived her into believing that she had no other
life but to become a prostitute, which she did. She was in a house of
prostitution, locked behind huge, solid-oak, medieval doors. They
looked formidable. They were bolted through with a braided kind of
thing with copper on it and different kinds of ironwork.
Jesus went looking for her. He knew where she was.
As He approached the doors, demons howled and hissed at Him and tried
to rush Him, yet were cowardly toward Him. He opened the doors and
went in. She was really a mess, and He pleaded with her to come with
Him. In her guilt and shame, she refused, and so He left.
He waited a time and visited her again. Still, she
wouldn't look Him in the face. Once again, He left her. As He was
waiting in His chamber, fires of passion and anger suddenly flashed in
His eyes. He stormed out of His chamber and strode down the street,
approaching the house where His bride in harlotry abided.
Everyone saw Him coming. They fled to get out of
His way. The demons took one look at Him and ran ahead of Him to lock
the doors, hoping to prevent Him from entering. Without hesitation or
pause in his stride, He hit those doors with the palms of His hands.
POW! They exploded. Splinters went everywhere.
He walked in and found her withered in shame. Her
face was hidden in her hands. This time was different though. This
time He didn't ask her to come with Him. This time He grasped her
hand, led her out, and took her back to the bride's chamber while she
was still in her filthy, semen-stained dress.
I could see the passion and love He had for her in
His eyes. Jesus saw her only one way. He saw her as a virgin. Yet, she
wouldn't even look at Him. He reached out, touched her gently, and
lifted her face toward His. Hesitantly, she slowly lifted her eyes to
look into His. He saw her beyond her shame and forced her beyond her
shame. The moment her eyes connected with His, they were filled with
the same passion for Him that He had for her.
I was right in there with them. I could almost see
into their faces. I backed off and saw that she had changed. She was
beautiful. She had the same radiance as did Jesus. They were one.
There was no longing or attraction for anyone or anything other than
for one another. She had eyes only for Him. She looked like Him, and
He looked like her. They were standing in one light. He was not
diminished at all, but she was increased in Him. Even though she
looked like Him and had the same fire in her eyes as He had in His,
she was still under His feet, still under His authority. That's what
made it as beautiful as it was.
I believe Bill's vision is from the Lord and
reveals perfectly how He sees His bride in harlotry and how He intends
to come for us. Indeed, even as His bride, we have played the harlot
with our substitutes for Jesus. Perhaps even now we feel the shock
waves of His footsteps coming near to rid us of our shame and dress us
in robes of righteousness.
THE HIGH PLACE OF CHURCH
To substitute church for Jesus is idolatry
in enormous proportions. We are not to lift up church and make
it the way of salvation. Jesus alone is our salvation.
Many people have made an idol out of church
just as the Israelites made an idol out of the serpent in the
wilderness. When the people accused God and Moses of bringing them up
out of Egypt to die in the wilderness, the Lord sent fiery serpents
among them, and the serpents bit the people because of their
grumbling. Many of the Israelites died. The people repented, and God
relented. God told Moses to make a fiery serpent and set it upon a
pole. All who had been bitten could look upon it and live. Num.
That should have been the end of the story. But
notice 2 Kings 18:4! Hezekiah had become King of Judah, and the Bible
says that he did what was right in the sight of the Lord. "He removed
the high places, broke the images, cut down the groves, and broke
in pieces the brazen serpent that Moses had made: for until those days
the children of Israel burned incense to it." They took an act of
God and made an idol out of it. In this same idolatrous spirit, people
have turned the moves of God into the denominations they later adored.
That which we call church today is an
idolatrous system of men's traditions which is spiritual harlotry.
Church is what we do in addition to being who Christ has made us
to be in Him. If what we call church can be incorporated,
joined, named, referred to as it, and can be taken from us,
then it is not the real thing. The true ekklesia is a corporate
body of people who are born into it. They have taken only the name of
Jesus because they are in a relationship with Him. That relationship
cannot be taken from them.
If church is not the real thing, then it
is a counterfeit. The problem with counterfeits is that they look
deceptively like the real thing. Church, as a counterfeit, is
presented and perceived as the real thing. Strangely enough, though,
it does not even remotely look like the real thing.
Nevertheless, we have been beguiled into believing that it is.
Many people burn the incense of self-adoration to
all that is associated with this Thing we call church. They
have made idols out of their doctrines, forms of government,
heritages, programs, rituals, liturgies, buildings, Sunday morning
services, going to church, budgets, personalities, the Sunday
School, youth meetings, missionary guilds, men's meetings, annual
bazaars and events--everything associated with church. They
frolic around their corporate achievements: their cemeteries,
denominations, Bible schools, nursing homes, children's homes,
hospitals, missions, jail ministries, and prison ministries. These can
be God-appointed ministries and worthy causes, but they become
idolatrous when we operate them to make ourselves look good and feel
godly. Busyness is not godliness. These institutions are often more
about those who operate them than about the ones they seek to serve.
Many of these church Things were originally
started to meet the needs of people but soon became ends within
themselves. Many of the institutions have become profit-driven instead
of service-driven. Jesus said, "The Sabbath was made for man, and not
man for the Sabbath." Mark 2:27. We have reversed that saying. Now, it
is as though we exist for the sake of church and not church
Moreover, we may have the attitude about our
church that it has the right stuff. If possible, we competitively
build a bigger and better steeple house than the folks down the
street. We plan our services and harbor the hope that we will have the
best show in town. Some of us hype our praise and worship, our
prayers, our preaching, and even our offerings to convince even
ourselves, perhaps, that the Holy Spirit is upon us.
We may devise programs in the name of evangelism
and market ourselves in such a way so as to corral more folks--to
rope, throw, and brand them with our special mark, to clone them like
us. Yet, we want to stand out from the other churches in town.
We craft our creeds to distinguish ourselves from them. The names we
give ourselves reflect our separateness from them. We sometimes even
brag about our differences. A young man at a gathering of men sported
a T-shirt which was likely intended to communicate an innocent but
catchy phrase; nonetheless, it revealed this separatist notion. It
read, "Vineyard Church: Experience the difference."
For many deceived hearts, their church is
their plan of salvation, and we have about as many salvation plans as
we have churches. We stress the necessity of church
membership and regular attendance to church and thereby
communicate the subtle message that we are saved by these Things. We
are considered unscriptural if we do not go to church.
Many churches associate water baptism with
membership in their church. Some denominations (cults) preach
that you are lost unless you are a member their church. For
some, acceptance into their fold involves strict adherence to their
rigid code of behavior. For others, acceptance involves strict
adherence to their rigid doctrine. "We have the right doctrine. Agree
with us and be baptized into our church, and you will be
saved." How absolutely ludicrous. Is not Jesus our Savior?
We have raised up shrines for ourselves, and we
have become our own corpses within them. We have enshrined ourselves
with a grandeur we seek for ourselves. There is no life in these
shrines nor can there ever be. There is no hope of resurrection life
within them for they exist to provide something for Self. Resurrection
life comes through the denial of oneself and not to those who seek to
OUR IDOLATRY IS SPIRITUAL HARLOTRY
When the bride plays the harlot, she becomes one
with the harlot, and distinguishing between the bride and her
harlotries becomes difficult. If you play the harlot, you become the
harlot. The apostle Paul wrote, "Know you not that your bodies are the
members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ, and make
them the members of a harlot? God forbid. What? Know you not that he
who is joined to a harlot is one body? For two, says He, shall be one
flesh. But he who is joined unto the Lord is one spirit." 1 Cor.
Paul was writing to Corinthian believers who were,
with all saints in all places and in all times, the bride of Christ. A
bride is feminine in gender. A harlot is feminine in gender. I mean no
disparagement against anyone who is sexually broken, but when the
bride of Christ joins herself to the harlotry of Self, she is
operating in the perverse spirit of spiritual lesbianism and
practicing spiritual self-sex. We are more "in lust" with ourselves
than we are in sacrificial relationship with our Bridegroom, the Lord
Jesus Christ. He is jealous of that.
STRONGHOLDS OF THE MIND
These idolatries of Self are strongholds of the
mind. A spiritual stronghold is the preoccupation with an object, a
person, or an institution; with anger or fear; with a fetish, an
addiction, or a sin. A spiritual stronghold is anything that
fascinates us, dominates our minds, and causes us to behave
obsessively and compulsively. These are things that rule over us. We
seem powerless to do anything about them. Yet, we cannot deny that
these things are harmful to us or others.
A spiritual stronghold can also be the grid through
which we see things. Church is one such stronghold of the mind.
We have been brainwashed into believing that church as we know
and practice it is what we ought to do. We have never known anything
other than church as we practice it. So, when I say
church is an idol and a stronghold in your mind, you may have a
difficult time believing it. You cannot see it. Even if you see it,
you have a hard time accepting it because of your programmed mind-set.
Once you see the deception, however, receive the truth, and begin to
walk in that light, you find your mind changing. The stronghold is
being torn down.
Taking the bride of Christ out of church is
not an easy matter, because church is a stronghold in her mind.
God has to take church out of us, as well as take us out of
it. Strange language is it not? For while God is trying to take us
out of church, we are trying to get people into it. If
we try to leave the stronghold of church before it has been
taken out of us, we will simply return to it.
Christmas. Christmas is one of those
strongholds of the mind. It had not been celebrated in any form before
the third century. Alexander Hislop explains, "Long before the fourth
century, and long before the Christian era itself, a festival was
celebrated among the heathen, at that precise time of the year,
in honor of the birth of the son of the Babylonian queen of heaven;
and it may fairly be presumed that, in order to conciliate the
heathen, and to swell the number of the nominal adherents of
Christianity, the same festival was adopted by the Roman Church,
giving it only the name of Christ." They took this strictly
pagan celebration and put Jesus in the center of it.
Rome instituted a mass which was called
Christ-mass--shortened to Christmas. Christmas has always been, is
now, and ever shall be a pagan festival. It has grown over the
centuries to become the enchanting, magical, merchant-driven insult to
God that it now is. We are mesmerized by it. Hooked on it. Enslaved by
it. In debt to it. Dennis Loewen adds, "Christmas is another example
of how powerful the false living spirit of harlotry is. There
is a spirit of Christmas. It is warm; it is wonderful; it is
good...and it is not from God."
The world loves Christmas as much as Christians do.
What does that tell us? One "Christian" celebrity said on national TV
that Christmas is three things: "decorating, gift-giving, and eating."
We must know that what the world loves cannot be of God. The apostle
John exhorts us, "Love not the world, neither the things that are in
the world. If any man loves the world, the love of the Father is not
in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the
lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is
of the world." 1 John 2:15-16.
The fact that most of what people do at Christmas
has its roots in this pagan mid-winter festival should be reason
enough for Christians not to do it--the tree and lights, the candles,
the mistletoe, the exchange of gifts, the yule log in the fireplace,
the cakes, the goose, the drunkenness, and even the date of December
the 25th. The fact that this season is so merchant-driven today should
add to our disdain for it. However, the real slap-in-the-face to God
is that we love these soulish things more than obedience to Him. They
are emotional strongholds in our minds. We would lack sound judgment
to believe that we can relentlessly celebrate these days and seasons
and stay free of their captivation.
The idea of not celebrating Christmas carries such
an affront to others that most people could not give it up even if
they were convinced that it was an abomination to God. We are thought
leprous for not going along with it. We are pleasers of men rather
than of God.
I have heard the cliché once my childhood to "put
Christ back into Christmas." It is often inscribed this way: "Put
Christ back into X-mas." Even though the X probably stands for the
Greek letter chi in Christ, we tend to think of it as X-ing
out Jesus. Well, for years I have been thinking it and now I dare to
say it: Instead of putting Jesus back into a pagan festival where He
never belonged in the first place, let us take Him out of it
altogether and give it back to the world to whom it belongs. After
all, the Bible never called for this celebration, and Jesus would
never impose such crazy-making bondage upon us. Paul wrote, "It was
for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and
do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery." Gal. 5:1 NAS. This is
what we should teach our children.
Christmas is one of those "high places" that most
of us seem unwilling to tear down, even knowing how God might feel
about it. Our minds are made up. "I like Christmas," one young mother
told me. The rest of her sentence was implied, "So I'm going to do
it." We build manger scenes in our yards and erect glow-in-the-dark
Santa Clauses next to them. Buddy at the checkout counter illustrated
this mix very simply. He had a Santa Claus hat on his head and a
W.W.J.D. (what would Jesus do?) band around his neck. Buddy, Jesus
would not have worn that hat.
After I told a dear old lady why I no longer do
Christmas, she responded, "But I don't think of pagan gods when I look
at my Christmas tree. I think of Jesus." That seemed reasonable to me.
I asked God about it. He answered. "What would you think if you caught
your wife in adultery, and she answered, 'But, honey, I was thinking
of you the whole time'?"
Many people reason, "we do it for the children." If
Christmas is idolatrous for the parents, then why would the parents
want to sacrifice their children to these idols?
Easter. Easter is equally idolatrous and
chilling. Most Christians affectionately use the term Easter in
association with the precious resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ
with no regard to the fact that Easter is the English word for the
goddess Ishtar (also called Astarte and Eostre in other pagan
cultures). Ishtar was celebrated as the queen of heaven. Much of what
we do at Easter time also has its origin in paganism. The date on
which we celebrate Easter does not regularly coincide with the
resurrection of Christ, which occurred three days after Passover.
Lent, the sunrise services, the dyeing of eggs, the bunny rabbits are
all unscriptural abominations to God.
So, how did we come to do those things? Alexander
Hislop writes, "To conciliate the Pagans to nominal Christianity,
Rome, pursuing its usual policy, took measures to get the Christian
and Pagan festivals amalgamated, and, by a complicated but skillful
adjustment of the calendar, it was found no difficult matter, in
general, to get Paganism and Christianity--now far sunk in
idolatry--in this as in so many other things, to shake hands."
Dennis Loewen observes, "The harlot isn't picky
about these things. She will lay down with anything as long as it is
another Jesus. She reasons, 'Why bother with these details?' God, on
the other hand, does mind. How could anyone read the scriptures and
see Him otherwise?"
EMPOWERING OUR HIGH PLACES
We empower those things we bow down and pay homage
to. We release God's power in our lives when we bow down and worship
Him. Likewise, we empower our idols when we bow down to them whether
they are men, buildings, institutions, ideas, science, opinions,
demons, or that Thing we call church.
Patrick came to town to start a new church.
As is often the case, the Lord's anointing was present, and people
freely entered into praise and worship. Relationships were forming.
The vision seemed, at first, to be targeted toward building up the
people into Christ. There was liberty. Then came the desire for a
building, then the need for a loan, then the need for more money, and
finally a drive for membership. The people found themselves drawn back
into that which they had tried to come out of. Patrick was taking them
back into what he came out of, because what he had come out of had
never been taken out of him. Instead of building a people, he was
consumed with building a church--his church. A few
discerning people who went to his church left when they
realized that staying served only to endorse and empower his idolatry.
We empower the idolatry of church when we
attend its services.
We empower the idolatry of church when we
contribute to it.
We empower the idolatry of church when we
insist upon using the term church in reference to the body of
We empower the idolatry of church when we
ask one another where we go to church?
We empower the idolatry of church when we
measure other people's spirituality by where they go to
We have our high places; yet, we know God's heart
in such matters because He clearly told us, "You shall have no other
gods before Me." Exod. 20:3.
The Holy Spirit may lead a mature, liberated
believer to attend a church and perhaps contribute to it
for a purpose known only to God and that believer. If, however, that
believer becomes joined in his heart to that system, once again
lifting it up, he has returned to the idolatry and spiritual harlotry
of it. He is deceived. One who feels called of God to stay in
or return to one of those harlot church system situations has
to be honest with himself regarding his true motive lest he say, "God
told me to" in order to justify the harlot desires of his heart.
AUGURING OUT THE IDOLATRY
For the most part, first century believers went
from house to house which may be an ideal plan for gathering even
today. More and more believers in relationship are being drawn into
each other's living rooms for praise and worship, sharing the word,
breaking bread, prayer, and fellowship. These settings can provide
tremendous liberty in the Holy Spirit, create opportunities for each
one to use his or her gifts, draw them closer together in
relationships, and maintain support for one another in times of need.
However, we must understand that our salvation does
not depend upon meeting in home groups anymore than belonging to
church. Our salvation is in the Lord. We can make an idolatrous
thing out of home groups just as easily as we can out of church.
The problem is not in having a building or not, having regular
meetings or not, having programs or not, or having structure or not.
The problem has to do with what is in our hearts about those things.
It may be possible to have all of those things and not become joined
to them, though I doubt it. Sooner or later, without realizing it, we
make a Thing of them and begin go after the Thing rather than the
Lord. That is how our harlot hearts work. For, after all, those things
came out of our hearts. I think it is most unlikely that we can
organize ourselves as a group of believers with a building, a name, a
bank account, belief system, and such without those things sooner or
later becoming a source of pride in us as idolatrous extensions of our
fleshly need to exalt Self.
I find that there is a mix in many churches.
There is both flesh and Spirit because, until now, God has responded
to His people wherever they call upon His name. He responds in spite
of the fact that we have made these Things idols in our lives. He
responds to the Holy Spirit and His nature within us. Nevertheless, He
despises our flesh and our idolatries. I dare not touch what God is
doing in any person or church. I desire only to augur out the
idolatrous part of it all and expose our harlot hearts that we might
repent of that.
If you are in one of those Things we call church
and are truly growing in the Lord, I would not want to say leave it
physically, but abandon any idolatry of it. And beware! Phil Perry
observed that "the more the Holy Spirit seems to be moving in one of
those Things, the more deceiving it is. People see all that God is
doing, and fail to see all the things that are wrong." The "things
that are wrong" are terribly wrong. The snare is still set to trap you
and engage you as a slave to the system for life. Many groups may have
begun in the Spirit, but are continuing on in the flesh. Gal. 3:3.
We are to be a people who are led by the Holy
Spirit in all that we do, say, and are. We are to worship Him in
spirit and truth. Anything, including church, that hinders us
from doing so cannot be from God.
Our high places are our Babylonian lovers, and
church is the modern day Babylonian captivity of God's people.
Chapter 6 - Spiritual Babylon
What is spiritual Babylon today? Opinions rival one
Alexander Hislop argues that the woman in
Revelation 17 said to be "sitting on seven mountains," and having on
her forehead the name written, "Mystery, Babylon the Great," is
associated with the Roman apostasy [the Roman Catholic Church]. Others are of the opinion
that Babylon is the whole world system which is under the domain of
Satan. A friend of mine has a convincing argument from scripture that
the United States of America is modern Babylon. An internationally
recognized prophet in our time has said that New York City is modern
I say that Babylon is all of the above, yet more.
Babylon was once a city in Mesopotamia. It has been spiritualized in
the scriptures as something that is in contradiction to God. It is now
a type of something spiritual. Babylon is not the Roman Catholic
Church, but is a type of something often found in the Roman Catholic
Church. Babylon is not the United States of America, but is a type of
something in the United States of America. Babylon is not New York
City, but is a type of something in New York City. Babylon certainly
is not the body of Christ, but is a type of something in the hearts of
many in the body--something that ought not to be there.
As I defined in chapter one, Babylon is all that
the carnal mind of man devises in the exaltation of Self--the
preeminence of Self over God whether in nations, cities, politics,
government, science, technology, religion, philosophy, psychology,
sociology, commerce, education, entertainment, or church. It is
all that is in the world and of the world. It describes the spiritual
condition of the church.
THE CARNAL MIND
Spiritual Babylon is primarily characterized by the
idolatry of the carnal mind. Carnal is another word for the flesh.
"Flesh" often refers to that fallen sin nature of man that is at
enmity with God. The carnal mind is all thought, reason, logic,
imagination, opinion, and speculation that is associated with the old
Adamic mind of fallen man. We practice Babylon when we do things
according to our notion rather than God's.
The apostle Paul explained that those who do things
according to the flesh, set their minds on the things of the flesh;
but those who do according to the Spirit, set their minds on the
things of the Spirit. "For to be carnally [fleshly] minded is death;
but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal
mind is enmity against God." Rom. 8:5-7a.
The appeal in the garden was for Adam and Eve to
exercise the power of their God-given intellect to elevate themselves
in their own minds. God told Adam that he could eat from all of the
trees in the garden except one. He was not to eat from the tree of the
knowledge of good and evil. "For in the day that you eat thereof," God
warned, "you shall surely die." Gen. 2:16-17. This ban was clear and
simple. God said what He meant and meant what He said. That should
have settled it.
Satan, however, slithered onto the limb of their
intellect and reasoned, "You shall not surely die: for God knows that
in the day you eat thereof, your eyes shall be opened, and you shall
be as gods, knowing good and evil." Gen. 3:4-5. Knowing good and evil
was an appeal to the idolatry of the mind. Once they yielded to the
temptation and ate of the fruit, their minds became fleshly. They were
transformed into a nature that was different from the way God created
Genesis 3:6 tells us three things about Eve: She
saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant
to the eyes, and desirable to make one wise. This verse also tells us
that God created man with the ability to make choices, with the desire
to be like God, and with the vulnerability to be deceived. Eve was
enticed with the prospect of having knowledge and being equal to God.
So, she bit into the lie and gave it to her husband to eat of it also.
The ability to make choices is not a sin. It is a
gift from God. We sin when we make choices contrary to God's will. We
think we know better than God. Therefore, we exalt our knowledge,
logic, reasoning, opinions, imaginations, speculations, and every
other high-minded thing above the knowledge of God. 2 Cor. 10:5. We
ignore that part of God's word that does not agree with our
aspirations, expectations, theologies, and doctrines. We believe what
we want to believe. We foolishly make ourselves out to be God. We even
make up God to be the way we want Him to be. Thus, we are in rebellion
against God just as Adam and Eve were.
Paul wrote against the arrogance of knowledge
saying, "If a man thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing,
he deceives himself." Gal. 6:3. Again he wrote, "If anyone supposes
that he knows anything, he has not yet known as he ought to know." 1
Cor. 8:2 NAS.
Spiritual Babylon is characterized by deception.
Satan deceived Eve. He implied that God had lied to them. If, indeed,
they ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, Satan argued,
they would become like God, knowing good and evil.
Eve believed Satan's lies and immediately
structured her own false reality around those lies. She incorporated
those lies into her paradigm of reality. She constructed her own truth
about God and sighed, "Oh, I see now!" Rather than having her eyes
opened, however, she actually became spiritually blind.
Before they went in to possess the land of Canaan,
God warned the Israelites to guard their hearts lest they be
deceived. Deut. 11:16. Paul wrote, "Let no man deceive
himself. If any man among you seems to be wise in this world, let him
become a fool, that he may be wise." 1 Cor. 3:18. He charged his
readers several times not to be deceived. 1 Cor. 6:9; 15:33; Gal. 6:7.
To the Ephesians he wrote, "Let no man deceive you with vain
words." Eph. 5:6. To the Colossians he wrote, "Beware lest any man
spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the
traditions of men, and not after Christ." Col. 2:8. To the
Thessalonians he wrote, "Let no man deceive you by any means."
2 Thess. 2:3. We can be blinded to the truth by lust, pleasures,
malice, envy, and hate. Titus 3:3. We can be hardened by the
deceitfulness of sin. Heb. 3:13. We can deceive ourselves by being
hearers only of the word and not doers. James 1:22. We can deceive
ourselves by being religious. James 1:26; 1 John 1:8. John adds:
"Little children, let no man deceive you." 1 John 3:7. With
this battery of scriptures in mind, do you believe we can possibly be
deceived, even as believers in Christ? "For many deceivers have
entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in
the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist." 2 John 1:7.
Hosea spoke for God saying, "Hear the word of the
LORD, you children of Israel: for the LORD has a controversy with the
inhabitants of the land, because there is no truth, nor mercy, nor
knowledge of God in the land...My people are destroyed for lack of
knowledge [of God]: because you have rejected knowledge [of God]." Hos.
4:1, 6a. Spiritual Babylon--all that the carnal mind devises--is the
exaltation of what we construct as truth over what God says is truth.
Spiritual Babylon is characterized by pride. The
prideful nature of Self thinks it knows. It thinks it knows better
than God. It makes decisions all day, every day without consulting
God, without even asking for wisdom. When smitten with pride, we are
lifted up in who we think we are and what we think we know. Self is
prideful, arrogant, and haughty. "Knowledge puffs up." 1 Cor. 8:1.
Spiritual Babylon is associated with the arrogance
of those who followed Nimrod to the land of Shinar (Babel). The Bible says they were
of one language and one speech and said to one another, "'Let us make
brick, and burn them thoroughly.' And they had brick for stone, and
they had slime for mortar. And they said, 'Let us build us a city and
a tower, whose tip may reach heaven; and let us make a name for
ourselves'." Gen. 11: 3-4.
Churches and ministries are snared by the
prideful temptation to gather larger numbers of people, build bigger
buildings with steeples pointing to heaven, and make names for
themselves, succumbing to the temptation to exalt Self. We name our
churches, ministries, and institutions after ourselves. We
dedicate stained-glass windows and pews in memory of men. We put our
names on things for self-glory.
What a contrast to those who follow Jesus! As Paul
exhorted, "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus
who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with
God, but made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of
a servant, and was made in the likeness of men. And being found in
fashion as a man, He humbled himself, and became obedient unto death,
even the death of the cross." Phil. 2:5-8.
Spiritual Babylon is characterized by the
exaltation of Self. The exalted Self says, "I can save, heal, deliver,
and fix myself." "I will increase my knowledge in science, my power in
politics, my performance in religion, my investments in the
marketplace, my insights into the psyche of man." "I will alter the
genetics of humans, clone humans, abort babies, and change the laws so
I will feel comfortable doing these things." "I will become an
entertainer, rock star, model, sports superstar, politician, writer,
musician, or televangelist in order to achieve fame and fortune." "I
can build a church around my revelations, my teachings, and my
programs by which I imply that others can be saved, healed, and
This is the spirit of the king of Babylon in our
hearts which Isaiah calls Lucifer (meaning "light-bearer"--the name
also given to Satan). He is the one of whom Isaiah writes: "How are
you fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How are you cut
down to the ground, which weakened the nations! For you have said in
your heart, 'I will ascend into heaven. I will exalt my
throne above the stars of God. I will sit also upon the mount
of the congregation, in the sides of the north. I will ascend
above the heights of the clouds. I will be like the most High.'
Yet you shall be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit." Isa.
14:12-15. "I," "I," "I."
The King of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar, walked in the
palace of his kingdom and said, "Is not this great Babylon, that I
have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and
for the honor of my majesty?" Dan. 4:30. We who lift ourselves up like
King Nebuchadnezzar will be brought down like King Nebuchadnezzar.
"While the word was in the king's mouth, there fell a voice from
heaven, saying, 'O King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is spoken; The
kingdom is departed from you.'" Dan. 4:31. He was driven from men to
dwell in the field with the beasts where he ate grass as oxen do,
possibly for seven years. This happened to him that he might come to
know that the most High God rules in the kingdom of men and gives
kingdoms to whomever He will. Dan. 4:32.
We have believed the lie of the serpent in the
garden; we believe that we are our own god. How pathetic! We get so
joined to this lie that it is perceived as truth and as something to
be desired. We esteem ourselves over God.
Jesus said, "Whosoever shall exalt himself shall be
abased; and he who humbles himself shall be exalted." Matt. 23:12.
Spiritual Babylon is characterized by confusion.
Babel means confusion. Gen. 11:9. The Lord saw that the settlers in
Shinar were one people and spoke one language which meant, according
to God's own words, that nothing would be held from them that they
imagined to do. Thereupon, God said, "Let us go down, and there
confound [confuse] their language, that they may not understand one
another's speech." Gen. 11:7. The Lord scattered them to all parts of
the earth so that they were not able to finish building their city.
Everything that is in the world continues to be
marked by confusion. We have confusion among nations, confusion among
ethnic groups, confusion in government, confusion in the economic
marketplace, confusion in education, confusion in science and
technology, confusion in the home, and confusion in the local
church. Because Christians have refused to follow the leading of
the Holy Spirit and have insisted upon building their own little
towers to heaven, we have great diversity, disunity, and confusion
among us. If we find ourselves in confusion, something other than or
in addition to God is talking to us. The carnal mind is in operation
and in opposition to the Spirit of God.
James says: "For where envying and strife is, there
is confusion and every evil work." James 3:16. If we have the
mind of Christ, we will be of one mind. If we are not of one mind, one
or all of us are wallowing in the slime of the carnal mind. When we,
as God's people, however, seek His will, He will not cause us to be in
confusion. God is not the author of confusion. 1 Cor. 14:33.
Spiritual Babylon is characterized by vain
imaginations. God said of those in Babel that "nothing will be
restrained from them, which they have imagined to do." Gen.
11:6. They were building unto themselves by their own hands with brick
and slime what they had imagined in their minds.
The ability to imagine, as with the ability to
reason and make choices is a God-given virtue. Imaginations are not
evil in and of themselves. They become evil when we glory in them and
glory in those things we invent as the result of them. We can
accomplish spectacular things with the work of our hands from the
imaginations of our minds. We walk the moon and put land-rovers on
Mars. We pack gigabytes of memory onto tiny computer chips. We surf
infinite miles on the information superhighway of the World Wide Web.
We dwarf the great pyramids of Egypt with our modern skyscrapers. One
person in the right place with the wrong mind-set can push a button
and annihilate large cities in minutes.
By the same powers of intellect and imagination, we
can build mega-ministries, universities, cathedrals, and circle the
globe with "Christian television" and "Christian programming." We do
what appears to be "mighty exploits for God" in the arm of
self-strength. Nothing seems impossible to us if we can only imagine
Mary said of Jesus while He was yet in her womb:
"He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts." Luke
1:51. Paul wrote regarding the unrighteous that "they glorified Him
not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their
imaginations, and their foolish hearts were darkened." Rom. 1:21.
We are to cast "down imaginations and every high
thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God," and bring
"into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ." 2 Cor.
10:5. Unless our works are inspired of God, they will not withstand
the fire of God. They are wood, hay, and stubble. 1 Cor. 3:11, 15.
Spiritual Babylon is characterized by babble.
Babble is useless chatter. "In the multitude of words sin is not
lacking, but he who restrains his lips is wise." Prov. 10:19 NKJV.
Words, words, words. Have you heard it said of some people that they
babble on and on? Their words are often senseless, boring, and toxic.
They talk when they need to be listening. They answer before they
hear. Of such, Proverbs 18:13 says, "He who answers a matter before he
hears it, it is folly and shame to him." Such people are said to have
Proverbs pictures the wordiness of Babylon in these
verses: "He who opens wide his lips shall have destruction." Prov.
13:3. "In the mouth of the foolish is a rod of pride." Prov. 14:3.
"Idle chatter leads only to poverty." Prov. 14:23 NKJV. "The mouth of
fools pours out foolishness." Prov. 15:2. "A fool's lips enter into
contention, and his mouth calls for strokes. A fool's mouth is his
destruction, and his lips are the snare of his soul. The words of a
talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of
the belly." Prov. 18:6-8. "See a man who is hasty in his words? There
is more hope for a fool than for him." Prov. 29:20.
Some people talk and never say anything. Some
people talk until they say something. Rare are those who talk only
when they have something to say. Peter wrote, "If any man speak, let
him speak as the oracles of God." 1 Pet. 4:11. Would not that be the
ACCUMULATION OF KNOWLEDGE
Spiritual Babylon is characterized by the
accumulation of knowledge. The extremely rapid increase of knowledge
in this present day is foretold in Daniel 12:4: "Conceal these words
and seal up the book until the end of time; many will go back and
forth and knowledge will increase."
The time in which we live has been classified as
The Information Age. Knowledge mushrooms. Every new piece of knowledge
multiplies what we learn. There seems to be no limit to the knowledge
we can accumulate today. There seems to be no limit to what we humans
can do with the knowledge we accumulate. Because of what we know, new
thresholds in space are constantly crossed with each succeeding
launch. Computers and computer programs are outdated by the time they
hit the market. Major surgery is performed without intrusive
incisions. High-tech wars can be won in a matter of days. Knowledge
becomes more powerful than money.
We rely upon our own abilities to research,
explore, examine, know, understand, and discover things. We have an
insatiable appetite for more knowledge, to pull things up by the roots
to see what they are made of. We have become a society of
technomaniacs. We presume that we can solve our own problems with more
Knowledge is one of our Babylons, one of our high
places, and we are the god we worship. Knowledge that leads to
self-idolatry is the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
Every year men and women graduate from seminaries by the thousands to
fill pulpits around the world. There they will apply the
higher-critical and near atheistic interpretations of the scriptures
which they learned. They are spiritually bankrupted by such
high-minded learning and are spiritually bankrupting their
parishioners. Paul would have the same fear today that he had for the
Corinthians: "But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled
Eve through his subtlety, so your minds should be corrupted from the
simplicity that is in Christ." 2 Cor. 11:3.
Spiritual Babylon is characterized by sectarianism.
After the people in the land of Shinar purposed in
their hearts to build a city, a tower, and a name for themselves, the
Lord came down and said, "Indeed the people are one and they all have
one language, and this is what they begin to do; now nothing that they
propose to do will be withheld from them. Come, let Us go down and
there confuse their language, that they may not understand one
another's speech." The place was called Babel because the Lord
confused their language and moved them to all parts of the world. Gen.
Because this Thing we call church is of the
flesh and is an aspect of spiritual Babylon, it is under this
same curse of confusion and sectarianism. It is founded on
sectarianism, even thrives on it. It promotes the disunity of
the body of Christ. Its very existence depends upon how each
church system differs one from the other. This is easily seen in
how their names billboard their differences.
Sectarianism says, "I am of Paul, I am of Apollos."
Paul accused the Corinthian believers of being "fleshly" and "mere
men" because of their sectarianism. There was jealousy and strife
among them. They put their identity in personalities (Paul, Apollos,
Cephas) rather than in the person of Jesus Christ. Apollos and Paul
were both servants of the same Jesus. One planted; the other watered;
but it was God who caused the growth. The one who plants and waters is
nothing, but God is the One who matters because He causes the growth.
When we understand that we are all fellow workers, God's field, God's
building, then sectarianism will be edged out of the way. Disunity in
the body turns into unity, oneness. There can only be one foundation,
Jesus Christ. If what we have is sectarian and contributes to the
disunity of the body, it has been built upon the wrong foundation. 1
Once we see this truth, we should have no need ever
to name ourselves in order to identify what we are about. We are all
about the Father's business, allowing the Holy Spirit who dwells in us
to build us up as the temple of the Holy Spirit. "If any man defiles
the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is
holy, which temple you are." 1 Cor. 3:17. The more we separate
ourselves within the body of Christ, the more we destroy the temple of
the Holy Spirit.
Spiritual Babylon is characterized by religion.
Even though masses of people seem to abhor religion of any kind, our
sinful nature has a bent toward it because it is under the curse of
condemnation and works. The first Adam was driven from the presence of
God (condemnation) and told that he had to till the land and eat his
bread in the sweat of his face (works). Gen. 3:19, 23. Because the
fallen man of flesh and sin is under the curse, he feels shame and
wants to do something to make himself feel okay. Pagan man made up
gods and then made up rituals (religious things to do) to try to
appease their gods. Some of them even fed infant children to these
gods of their own making.
Even though many people may be truly redeemed of
the Lord, they still bring their shame-based flesh tendencies over
into the life of the church; they know of only one way to
relate to God, that is, through religion. Religiously inclined people
love religion. It does not matter from one end of the spectrum to the
other how people choose to express themselves religiously. Religion is
They love the religious atmosphere of church
because it gives them something to do to salve the guilt of
condemnation. Many well-meaning Christians are unaware that they go to
church and do religious things out of a false sense of duty.
They go because it makes them feel good. Perhaps they have not fully
comprehended that there is "now no condemnation to them who are in
Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit."
Religion is foreign to God. He requires no
religious thing of us. We are made spiritual beings by the presence
and power of His Holy Spirit dwelling in us. His presence and power in
us causes us to be and do what the Father requires of us. There is no
way we can be righteous without it being His righteousness at work
within us. That is why it is called grace. "For by grace are you saved
through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not
of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship,
created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God has before ordained
that we should walk in them." Eph. 2:8-10. Religion stinks in the
nostrils of God because it keeps us from having intimate relationships
with Him. Our relationship is with our religion or with our church.
Flesh man deceives himself into thinking that if
his religion makes him feel good, it must be good; therefore, he goes
on doing his religious things. For such a one, church is often
the religious thing he does. Yet, at the end of the day, after all is
said and done, nothing is any different in him than it was before he
engaged in that religious activity. He is just as empty on the inside
as he was before. An abiding relationship with the Father through
Jesus Christ is the only food that fills the soul to satisfaction.
The religious systems that make up and govern that
Thing we call church characterize spiritual Babylon. Just as
Judah and Jerusalem were once in Babylonian captivity, so are God's
people today who are joined to church in their hearts. The
brick and slime are the sectarian doctrines, creeds, traditions,
festivals and celebrations, liturgies, rituals, lectionaries,
polities, heritages, and ecclesiastical calendars. These things stand
in place of or alongside a personal, living, dynamic relationship with
God. These things that govern church have little to do with the
Kingdom of God.
Most of us were born and raised in spiritual
Babylon and have never known anything else. We have never seen what
the body of Christ looks like as a pure and holy bride. Even though we
know that all is not well within what we call church, we think
that it can be fixed or at least made better, but it
THE ABOMINATION THAT MAKES DESOLATE
The rebellious carnal mind--immersed in deception,
pride, the exaltation of Self, confusion, imaginations, babble, the
accumulation of knowledge, sectarianism, religion, and its religious
systems--is in the church as well as in the world. The
abomination that makes desolate the holy place of God's temple of whom
we are as believers, is rule of the carnal mind over obedience to God.
Jesus talked about this. While picturing the signs
of the end to His disciples, He mentioned the abomination of
desolation which had been spoken of by Daniel the prophet. He told
them that when they saw the abomination of desolation standing in the
holy place they were to take various actions. (Read Matt. 24:15 and
The abomination that makes desolate is described by
Daniel for a future time. Dan. 12:9-11. Daniel was told that a vile
person shall arise, muster forces, defile the sanctuary fortress, take
away the daily sacrifices, and place there the abomination of
desolation. Dan. 11:21-31 NKJV.
Some believe Daniel's prophecy was fulfilled around
165 B.C. when Antiochus IV (Epiphanes), Greek ruler of Syria, did the
unthinkable. He sacrificed an unclean pig on the holy altar of the
Jewish Temple. Others believe it was fulfilled when the Romans
destroyed the Temple in 70 A.D. Still others suggest it will be
fulfilled when the "man of sin" takes over the Temple and forces
people to bow down to him, making himself to be like God.
All of these suggestions point to natural,
historical events. Perhaps it was or will be one of them. Perhaps it
has multiple fulfillments and includes all of them. Consider,
nonetheless, that what is generally expressed in the natural is also
fulfilled in the spiritual realm. The New Testament writers explained
that the spiritual is not first, but the natural; the spiritual
follows the natural. 1 Cor 15:46; Heb. 9:11.
Jesus placed this abomination of desolation event
in the future, even as a sign of the end times. Paul's writings agree
that it was for a time future to his. 2 Thess. 2:3-4. Matthew
indicated that the reader would need understanding. Matt. 24:15.
Consider that the body of Christ is spiritual
Israel and the temple of the Holy Spirit. Where, then, would the
abomination that makes the holy place desolate take place? It would
take place within the minds and spirits of members of the body of
Christ. We have already established from scriptures that it is
possible for believers to be deceived.
The abomination occurs when the carnal mind is
given precedence over the word of God and the mind of Christ. When we
allow that, the holy place of our spirits is made desolate. When we
bow down to those idolatrous systems of men's traditions as enshrined
in our churches, we allow the abomination into the holy place
which is our spirits. Our idolatries pollute the temple of the Holy
Spirit. The carnal mind rules.
THE FALL OF BABYLON
This Babylonian church will fall just as did
Historical Babylon was used by God to judge Judah
for her idolatries. Isa. 10:5-6. Daniel called Judah's judgment in
Babylon a time of indignation (wrath). Dan. 11:36. When that
seventy-year period of God's indignation was accomplished, God brought
judgment against Babylon. Jer. 25:12. God prophesied to Babylon
through Isaiah saying, "I was angry with My people, I profaned My
heritage, and gave them into your hand. You did not show mercy to
them." Isa. 47:6, NKJV.
God notes Babylon's pride: "Now, then hear this,
you sensual one, who dwells securely, who says in your heart, I am,
and there is no one besides me. I shall not sit as a widow, nor shall
I know loss of children." Isa. 47:8.
He predicts what is going to happen to her: "Sit
silently and go into darkness...For you will no more be called the
queen of kingdoms...These two things shall come upon you suddenly in
one day: loss of children and widowhood. They shall come on you in
full measure in spite of your many sorceries, in spite of the great
power of your spells...and destruction about which you do not know
will come on you suddenly." Isa. 47:5-11 NAS.
God's judgment upon historical Babylon foreshadows
His judgment upon spiritual Babylon. When we go to Babylon, we are
more than captives in Babylon. We run the risk of becoming
Babylonians. If we stay in Babylon and in our idolatries, we can
expect God's judgment to fall upon us. We can expect a time when God
will empty the Babylonian systems of His children, leaving them
childless and without husbands. Isaiah 47, quoted above, has as much
to do with God's impending judgment upon us in spiritual Babylon as it
did upon historical Babylon.
Revelation predicts that a time is coming when an
angel will come down out of heaven, having great authority, and will
shout with a mighty voice, saying, "Babylon the great is fallen, is
fallen, and has become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every
foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird. For all
nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, and
the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the
merchants of the earth are waxed rich through the abundance of her
delicacies." Rev. 18:2-3.
Then another voice from heaven was heard saying,
"Come out of her, My people, that you might not be partakers of her
sins, and that you not receive of her plagues." Rev. 18:4.
This speaks of the one in Revelation 17:5 who had
written upon her forehead the name, "MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE
MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH."
Coming out of spiritual Babylon is not easy. We are
comfortable there. The institutionalized church makes us feel
safe, secure, and sufficient. It gives us status, position,
reputation, security, and identity. We have become institutionalized
within the institutions of our own making.
Chapter 7 - Institutionalized
Bob and Joy, Chris and Jena, Troy, Rachel, and
Darlene felt connected to one another in the Spirit of Christ and
began meeting in each other's homes. They sang spiritual songs, shared
revelations and teachings the Lord gave them. Bob did most of the
teaching. He had the gift for it. They prayed for each other's needs.
People were free to come and go as they pleased. When word got out
that God was showing up at their meetings, more people started coming.
They soon outgrew their living rooms and decided to rent a meeting
room elsewhere. They took up a collection for the expenses. The crowd
grew and they decided Bob needed to go full time as their pastor. The
money was plentiful and in order to act responsibly, they decided to
open a bank account. The bank required a name. So they named
themselves. They continued to grow and decided to save rent expenses
by buying their own piece of property. They elected elders to oversee
the business they were growing into. Several years later, they
occupied their fine new building for which they were indebted. But
something different had happened. People no longer felt as free to
come and go as they pleased. They were expected to be there and
expected to pay their tithes there. They had a budget now. They went
from being a fellowship of believers to a church. The day they
gave themselves a name, they became a Thing. They institutionalized
Institutions seem to take on existences of their
own as if they had minds of their own. They often become greater than
the sum of the individuals who instituted them. They can take over and
consume everything and everyone around them.
Yet, these institutions are devoid of life. They
mesmerize, neutralize, ensnare, and enslave us. We become enmeshed
with them and they become our idols. It is not long before our
altruistic institutions--orphanages, nursing homes, colleges,
universities, seminaries, hospitals, cemeteries, church
edifices, and "ministries"--become more important than the people for
whom they were initiated. People exist to serve and preserve them
rather than them existing to serve the people. Their marketing
programs may claim that they are meeting personal needs, and they may
even be meeting personal needs, but the underlying motivation of their
marketing schemes is often to increase their customer base in order to
maintain or increase the institution.
Don Potter wrote in the Morning Star Journal that
he had spoken to Jim Bakker after his release from prison, and Bakker
admitted that he had questioned if God was in some of the things they
were doing in his mega TV ministry. Things were growing so fast that
no one would let him stop. Bakker couldn't imagine letting all those
people down. Don commented, "He was caught in a ministry machine that
had started running itself." This happens to
churches and ministries of all sizes.
Institutions often garner large sums of money from
the people associated with them. People feel good about giving to
them, but oftentimes come to realize that most of their time, energy,
and resources are consumed merely to fuel the system. Altruism within
the system is too frequently reduced to a token. Many TV ministries
use altruistic appeals to tug on the emotions of potential donors, but
end up using most of the money to keep their own ministry machine
It is strange enough that these institutions seem
to take on an existence of their own. It is stranger yet how our
institutions institutionalize us.
Brooks "done time" in Shawshank prison for fifty
years. He spent many of those years as the prison's librarian. Then it
happened. He was paroled. Good news? Not for Brooks. He went crazy.
They released him, and days later he was found hanging from a noose of
his own making. The newer inmates didn't understand. They sat around
on a rock waiting for Red to explain. Red had already spent most of
his life behind those walls himself. He knew the score. Red answered
philosophically. "He was institutionalized. Been in here fifty years.
This is all he knows. In here, he's an important man. He's an educated
man. But outside he's nothing. Just a used-up con with arthritis in
both hands. Probably couldn't get a library card if he tried...These
walls are funny. At first you hate 'em. Then you get used to them.
Enough time passes, you get so you depend on them. That's
BECOMING LIKE THEM
The longer we stay in our institutions, the more we
become like them. A few years ago I awakened from a dream in which
someone said to me, "Be careful you don't become like the club you
join." This saying had a twist of humor to it when I heard it in the
dream. On the one hand, it sounded like a warning not to become what I
join. On the other hand, it was suggesting I already was like the club
I joined. Why else would I join it? A club is made up of people. Once
you join the club, you are the club. Once you join a church,
you are that church.
Something in us draws us to the things we join.
Soon after we join those things, they seem to have a way of possessing
us. They become us and we become them. We find our identity in them.
We boast, "I am Presbyterian." "I am Southern Baptist." "I am
Methodist." "I am Roman Catholic." "I am Pentecostal." Then, we cannot
resist asking others, "What are you?"
Jesus told us that we were in Him and He was in us,
just as He was in the Father and the Father was in Him. That was not
my experience growing up in the institutional church. I felt
more joined to it than to Christ. I was in it and it
was in me. I was programmed to be one with it and to bring
others into that illegal, unholy, mystical union with it. We
are either in Christ or in the harlot.
BELIEVING WHAT THEY BELIEVE
To truly belong to one of these institutions, we
are somewhat required to believe what we are told to believe by those
who rule within them. We often do not know what we believe ourselves
apart from the doctrines of our church. Jerry Wilson recounts,
"While studying for the ministry a fellow student began asking me
questions about what I believed. I answered each one by telling him
what the Baptists believe. I continued on for a while. Then he smiled
and asked, 'Don't you believe anything?'"
We are to believe in Jesus. Our faith in God
through Jesus Christ is how we are brought into the Kingdom. "For by
grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves; it is
the gift of God." Eph. 2:8. Believing what our institution says to
believe will not save us. Yet, we tend to think it does.
BECOMING DEPENDENT UPON THEM
Just as Brooks became dependent upon those walls at
Shawshank prison, so we become dependent upon our institutions. We
trust in them to take care of us. In a similar way, our institutions
need us. The authorities within them need for us to be dependent upon
them and the institution in order to perpetuate their existence and
that of the institution.
Bill Shipman noticed this dependency principle when
he worked at a developmental center for young offenders. Rather than
encouraging them to become productive citizens, the authorities did
things that made the inmates more dependent. If one of the inmates
showed any individuality, they were prescribed more Valium. Those in
charge wanted to conform them rather than reform them because they
needed the inmates to be dependent upon them.
On several occasions Bill tried to get some of the
inmates out of institutional dependency but was undercut by other
staff members. They used fear to keep their young men feeling
inadequate about themselves. "You better not listen to Bill," they
would say. "You'll get out there and it'll just be a matter of time
before you're back in here again."
"I saw things in this institution," Bill related,
"that looked just like what I'd seen in the church by
heavy-handed leaders with selfish ambition. It's okay when you're
bettering the institution or bettering their positions, but when you
try to better the clients--the people in need--you're booed down."
"This same thing happened in Haiti," Bill
remembered. "The priests first came to Haiti with a mission to truly
help the people. Under the influence of the government, the
politically-minded superiors in the church persuaded the
priests to do otherwise. They were told to teach the slaves that they
were second-class citizens in the Kingdom of God and the only way that
they could get in the Kingdom was by serving the whites. The black
Haitians came to believe that about themselves. It is still difficult
for them to break out of that thinking. That idea is institutionalized
in their thinking."
You cannot preserve the institution and, at the
same time, work to put yourself out of business. Institutions may
start out to do good, but by their very nature, almost always end up
PREEMINENCE OF THE INSTITUTION
Our institutions often become more important than
the people for whom they were intended. Here is a case in point. The
year was 1750.
Jesuit missions were located around the border
lands of Argentina, Paraguay, and Brazil. The Portuguese wanted to
take possession of that territory and required the mission to transfer
their territory to them. War was waged against the mission and many of
the natives lost their lives in the ensuing battle. In the movie
The Mission, about this true story, Father Gabriel was puzzled by
the decision of his superiors to sacrifice the lives of the natives in
order to comply with the Portuguese demands.
Señor Hatar, trying to make Father Gabriel
understand, asked what he thought was at issue here.
"I think the work of God is at issue here," Father
Gabriel naively answered.
"No," answered Señor Hatar. "What is at issue here
is the very existence of the Jesuit order both here and in Europe."
To save the order, Señor Hatar did what he thought
he had to do. He allowed the slaughter of many natives and the
destruction of the mission. His rationale: "If the Jesuits resist the
Portuguese, then the Jesuit order will be expelled from Portugal--and
if Portugal and Spain, perhaps Italy, who knows. If your [Jesuit]
order is to survive at all, Father, the mission here must be
sacrificed." The preservation of the
institution--in this case the Jesuit order--was a greater cause than
the lives of the people they came to save.
When we see the truth and attempt to speak against
the abuses of institutionalization, we are viewed as the enemy. We are
of no use to the institution. When we cease to be of use to the
institution, the institution seeks ways to expel us.
THE CORPORATION CHURCH
Many church organizations have chosen to
incorporate themselves according the laws of the states, primarily to
receive tax breaks and to offer tax deductions for donors. Churches
ordinarily have this tax status without having to legally incorporate.
Nevertheless, whether they have officially incorporated or not, most
have structured themselves according to the principles and policies of
corporations. They turn who they are as a fellowship of believers into
a business and give this business the power to control the activities
of their members.
The corporation church, like corporations in
the world, have distinct characteristics. They are typically
human-initiated and governed, management-based, profit-oriented,
success-driven, client-friendly, product-focused (programs and
services), and image-conscious.
A distinction must be made between the corporations
of men from the body of Christ. We are not necessarily serving God and
contributing to His causes just because we serve and contribute to
these corporations. The ministry of Christ is accomplished in and
through the members of the body of Christ as they serve each other,
not through legal documents in filing cabinets. God's building is not
made with hands, but is eternal in the heavens. 2 Cor. 5:1.
This corporation church mentality is a
modern invention of the western world which is completely foreign to
the New Testament expression of what it means to be the body of
Christ. Yet, missionary boards and Christian zealots peddle the
principles and policies of the corporation church mentality
around the world. This worldly concept is promoted as the only way to
do church. Believers who dare to stand outside of this system
are thought to have backslidden. Bob Hughey says, "What began as a
movement in Israel became a philosophy in Greece, became an
institution in Rome, became a culture in Europe, and became a big rich
enterprise in America."
All institutions whether governmental, educational,
social, scientific, or religious have some form of hierarchical
power-positions structured into them. These are the old guard, so to
speak, those who not only have vested authority but exercise strict
control. Very little, if anything, is allowed to happen without their
say-so. It is no less true in the churches.
This hierarchy is often tiered as in the Roman
Catholic, Anglican, or Eastern Orthodox traditions. The highest
position within the Roman church is the Pope who is given
extraordinary authority and esteem. The college of Cardinals are
tiered under the Pope, having been appointed by the Pope to assist
him. Bishops in the Roman Catholic, Anglican, or Eastern Orthodox
traditions are clergymen who rank above a priest and have authority to
ordain and confirm, and usually govern a diocese. In these traditions,
Priests are clergymen who rank below a bishop and are authorized to
perform the sacred rites of their churches. Deacons in these
traditions are clerics who rank next below a priest. In most other
traditions of Christian churches, deacons are laymen who are
elected to perform various functions in worship, pastoral care, or
Less liturgical traditions, such as we have in most
Protestant churches, have their own form of hierarchy. Nearly
all church groups have some form of high court in their general
assemblies, conventions, or conferences to which officers are elected
and given limited powers. People rarely stay in office long enough to
build a political machine.
However, control in these traditions is more likely
to come through certain individuals of influence who are sometimes
hidden within the system. Hugh was one of those men. He quietly
influenced much of his denomination's social policies. For more than
four decades from his hired, bureaucratic position at his
denomination's headquarters, he remolded the theology of this
church from conservative to liberal.
Some associations have been formed to cluster
independent churches of like nature. These associations are
generally headed by a charismatic personality who in turn has an inner
circle of drones to help fulfill his agenda--a variation on the Pope
and Cardinal scenario. Local assemblies, likewise, have positions of
hierarchical authority within them--pastors, elders, deacons, and
boards. Many Pentecostal traditions have bishops who are given greater
esteem than others. These hierarchies within the churches are
the traditions of men and have no basis in scripture, but appear
necessary for the perpetuation of institutions.
INSTITUTIONAL RULES AND REGULATIONS
Many things have been started in the Spirit and
founded upon solid scriptural principles, but were later
institutionalized. The process is quite simple, natural, and common.
Once the activity has begun, men tend to want to organize it. They
wish to put some kind of structure around it in order to control it or
at least maintain control within it. Institutional structure is
generally made of rigid rules and regulations. Once set in place,
these rules are hard to change. They become the authority over even
those who made them. Even the people who make them bind themselves to
the rules and, thereby, elevate the rules as the higher authority.
Organization requires rules. Once we institute
rules and regulations to govern our relationships with one another, we
have almost always institutionalized ourselves. We restrict the
Holy Spirit's liberty to lead us. Control is one of the greatest
enemies to our liberty in the Spirit. The rules men make to control
church life are likely to become unhealthy boundaries. We often
become slaves to these rules.
Nevertheless, good rules provide healthy boundaries
and are necessary even for our participation in one another's lives in
the body of Christ. These rules are generally in the category of "love
one another." The word of God is the law of God and serves the
well-being of those who keep it. We have the ability to keep God's law
by the power of the Holy Spirit at work within us.
All too often, however, the rules of the
institution supersede the word and Spirit of God. Such was the case
when I believed the Holy Spirit wanted to abolish the Sunday School.
The rules of the organization did not allow that. "We don't do that
here" is the common excuse. Church rules confine the activities
of the Holy Spirit.
We need to distinguish between God's law which sets
us free in Christ and church laws which impose restrictions
upon us and bind us to men.
The institution of church is one among many
of our Babylonian inventions and is perpetuated by those in THE
Chapter 8 - THE Ministry
While driving home one drizzling winter day after
sharing with some believers in Georgia, I kept hearing the words
rumbling around inside of me: "Quit the Ministry." That word was most
troubling because I thought I had already done that. Still, there it
was, relentlessly hounding me: "Quit the Ministry." Then I noticed the
emphasis on the article: "Quit THE Ministry." I knew it was a refining
word of God at work within me. THE Ministry, with the emphasis on the
article "THE" and a capital "M," was a stronghold inside of me that
had been passed down to me through the generations of religious
tradition. This stronghold is what we call being in THE Ministry.
"What does it mean to quit THE Ministry?" I asked
my wife, Nancy. As usual, with keen perception, knowing it had to do
with me in particular, she thoughtfully answered. "It means not
feeling responsible for the people in the little groups we minister
to, making a syllabus or a book of everything that comes to you,
systematizing everything into a formal teaching with the idea you have
to teach it, starting a ministry school, putting out newsletters, nor
pastoring anyone. It means to just be."
"I understand that," I told her, "but I don't know
how to quit. How do I quit what has been programmed into me since
From that beginning, the Holy Spirit opened my eyes
to see some things about THE Ministry and began to set me free from
the false expectations that go with being in THE Ministry.
IDOLATROUS EXTENSION OF SELF
On the outside, THE Ministry appears to be a noble
life devoted to the sacrifice of Self; but when the inside is exposed,
it is found to be a life of self-centeredness and self-exaltation.
Just as it is with that Thing we call church, so is it with THE
Ministry. It, too, is an idolatrous extension of Self, a Thing that
exists outside of and in addition to the one in ministry. It is a
mantle we put on ourselves that God has not woven for us.
We make a Thing out of being in ministry when we
surmise, "I am in ministry, therefore, I have a
ministry." Many well-meaning saints have started Ministries on the
basis of an unusual testimony or an unusual gifting. It is good to
have a testimony. It is good to share our testimonies. That is
probably why we have them, but we do not have to go into THE Ministry
just because we have a testimony. We do not have to go into THE
Ministry just because we have a gifting to evangelize, prophesy, heal,
teach, sing, or even preach. We do not have to go into THE Ministry
just because we feel God's call to serve. God has called us all to
minister. We are to do the ministry of the saints.
Paul, the apostle, illustrated how we are all
members of the body of Christ and each has a different function. These
functions are gifts and services to one another in the body. Paul said
that if we have the gift of prophecy, then we are to prophesy
according to the proportion of our faith. If we have the gift to
ministry, then we are to minister. If teaching, then teach. If
exhortation, then exhort. If giving, then give with simplicity. If
ruling, then do it with diligence, If you show mercy, then do it with
cheerfulness. Rom. 12:6-8. Nowhere does he remotely suggest that we
are to get a private, non-profit corporation, name it, and solicit
funds for it so we can be who we are in the body of Christ. Just do
according to who you are.
When we start out in THE Ministry, we start
something God has not started because we are wanting something for
Self. We get possessive of this thing we call Ministry. We refer to it
as "MY Ministry," or "THIS Ministry." We even make a business out of
it. We name it, incorporate it, build a database for it, solicit funds
for it, and traffic our giftings like five-and-dime store merchandise.
OBLIGATIONS OF THE MINISTRY
When one chooses to enter THE Ministry as a career,
profession, or mind-set, he needlessly adopts a system of false
obligations he feels inside of himself that enslaves him to that Thing
we call THE Ministry. Here are some of those false obligations:
The one in THE Ministry feels obligated to think of
himself, behave himself, and perform his duties in a certain way in
order to live up to the expectations that go with his ministerial
position. He feels obligated to produce sermons, perform rituals,
conduct services, visit parishioners, develop programs, print
bulletins, mail out newsletters, increase numerical growth, boost the
finances, write books, sell tapes, be on television and radio, dress
the code, and in some circles heal the sick and work miracles. These
are the kinds of things that falsely attest to his success.
The one in THE Ministry feels obligated to set up
the playground in which we can play church, so that he can lead
the rest of us in playing church. Playing church is
doing anything religious that is not inspired and empowered by the
Holy Spirit. It is faithfully doing all of those things we do at
church that make us feel like we have done our religious duty. We
play church by the way we dress up to go there, by the
pretentious ways we greet each other, by the programs and rituals we
follow, by the way we line up in pews, and by the way we do things
at each other without ever having a sense of involvement with
each other. We more accurately express what it means to be the
body of Christ when we do things with and for one
another. Our gathering together should be "to consider one another to
provoke unto love and to good works.exhorting one another: and so much
the more, as you see the day approaching." Heb. 10:24-25. We
accomplish these things by being sensitive to the Holy Spirit who
alone knows how to minister to our individual needs. We minister to
one another by the Spirit with the gifts of the Spirit named in 1
The one in THE Ministry feels obligated to justify
his ministry. He relies upon phony outward proofs of his success by
counting noses, increasing the budget, multiplying his salary,
building bigger buildings, making more visitations, keeping longer
hours in the office, counseling more people, increasing the number of
programs, acquiring more invitations to minister, scheduling more TV
appearances, engaging a wider listening audience, and selling more
books and tapes. Could this be the driving force for those who post
the attendance and offering records on the church wall each
Sunday with a comparison to "this time last year?"
The one in THE Ministry feels obligated to present
himself in a certain way to his public that will impress them so they
will approve of him. It may be in the way he dresses, the way he
grooms his hair, or the way he talks; it may be in the kind of car he
drives and house he lives in.
The one in THE Ministry feels obligated to be pious
and religious, pretending to be more spiritual than he truly is. He
becomes hypocritical as he puts on his phony religious mask. Piety and
religion have nothing to do with the simplicity of following Jesus in
honesty and brokenness and allowing His Holy Spirit to change us from
the inside out.
The one in THE Ministry feels obligated to stay
somewhat aloof from other saints. As a result, those in THE Ministry
often form exclusive fraternities as evidenced in the existence of
ministerial associations, the holding of clergy conferences, and other
gatherings that bolster the unscriptural existence of clergy and
The one in THE Ministry today more frequently feels
obligated to establish a legal corporation to provide tax exemptions
for their contributors. Often, however, this paper entity becomes more
than a tax provision. It becomes the name and image of "his" ministry.
He presents himself as the president and founder of it. He speaks of
"this Ministry" in the third person as though it was the source from
which the ministry of Christ flows. In so doing, he makes himself
appear bigger than God has made him to be.
The one in THE Ministry feels obligated to start
something--anything. He cannot present himself as idle. He organizes,
institutionalizes, formalizes, establishes, and systematizes things.
He, with deep heartfelt concerns, starts things in his own strength
and has to keep those things going in his own strength. When he stops
working his plan, his plans stop working for him. But what God starts
in Holy Spirit power, God finishes in Holy Spirit power.
The one in THE Ministry feels obligated to build
his reputation and to market his talents, gifts, and wares.
Consequently, he has to have his own public relations program to
promote himself. He proudly puts his name and his face on the work
that he believes God has called him to do. Whereas James wrote, "God
resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.Humble yourselves in
the sight of the Lord, and He shall lift you up." James 4:6, 10.
The one in THE Ministry feels obligated to know
more about the Bible and religion than those he ministers to. Thus, he
is obligated to achieve academic prowess which often opens him up to
pride and intellectualism. He is not content for people to just know.
He has a need for people to know that he knows. He feels
obligated to compete with other ministers to know as much or more as
they and to be as good or better than they. He sometimes feels it is
necessary to keep those he ministers to ignorant; thus dependent upon
The one in THE Ministry feels obligated to solicit
support for his ministry whether from his "partners" or from a
salaried position. When he receives a salary for his so-called
leadership role in the body of Christ, he makes a distinction between
himself and the sheep. He ignores the fact that he, too, is a sheep
and that all sheep are in ministry. The one in THE Ministry lacks
faith in God's ability to use him in season and provide for him
without having to manipulate others into supporting "his" ministry.
The one in THE Ministry feels obligated to have a
title for himself--Pastor, Reverend, Bishop, Apostle, Doctor. The more
prestigious the title, the better. Bob Hughey says, "Titles divide;
function unifies. A testimony is more important than a title."
The one in THE Ministry feels obligated to clone
others to be like him or his kind of church. He needs to clone
them in order to own them. If he does not own them, he fears losing
The one in THE Ministry feels obligated to be set
apart from the "laity" by being ordained. Many church
traditions ordain their clergy through what the historical church
calls "apostolic succession." Apostolic succession is the perpetuation
of spiritual authority by the successive ordination of clergy from the
time of the apostles. One must be ordained in apostolic succession in
the Roman Catholic, Anglican, and Eastern Orthodox traditions in order
to administer the sacraments and orders. While Barnabas and Paul were
confirmed as apostles by the prophets and teachers in Antioch (Acts
13:1-3) and elders were to be appointed in every city (Titus 1:5), the
common tradition of ordination as it is practiced in western
Christianity is not found in the New Testament. Barnabas and Paul were
not set apart by the twelve apostles but by certain teachers and
prophets in Antioch. Acts 13:1-3. The anointing for ministry comes
from God and not from men. Eph. 4:11.
The one in THE Ministry feels obligated to
perpetuate the industry of THE Ministry. THE Ministry is big business.
It drives the economy of seminaries and Bible colleges, churches
with their staff positions, new church construction, church
furnishings, Ministries, publishing houses, recording companies, book
stores, conferences, and radio and television shows. It is a web of
economic support in which the Minister himself becomes entangled and
from which he cannot easily break away. Those in THE Ministry live
compromised lives under the influences of man-pleasing spirits. The
merchants who peddle their wares to those in THE Ministry and those
who are in THE Ministry are dependent upon each other for their
existence. This mutual dependency for existence is another reason why
this whole system is a stronghold not easily pulled down.
The one in THE Ministry feels obligated to
perpetuate the institution of THE Ministry as well as the institution
of church. THE Ministry is an institution within the
institution of church and is the singular most powerful force that
perpetuates the institution of church. If we were to remove this
erroneous notion of THE Ministry from the equation of church,
this Thing we call church would fall apart. Similarly, without
the church system, THE Minister would have no context in which
to practice his craft. Church is sustained by money. Once the
money ends, the church institution folds. Likewise, when the
money ends, THE Ministry ends because those in THE Ministry depend
upon the money and the system.
The one in THE Ministry feels obligated to build a
database in order to maintain visibility with his supposed supporters.
He lives under the fearful code: "out of sight, out of mind." He may
keep a record of the baptisms, weddings, and funerals he has
performed, as well as the number of attendees to his meetings and new
members he takes in as though they were notches in his spiritual gun
He who owns a database for the purpose of
increasing himself in ministry wants to broaden his sphere of
He tends to think he owns the people on his
He tends to think that he has a responsibility
toward the people listed on his database--that he needs to answer to
He tends to think the people on his database owe
him support for "his ministry."
He tends to measure his success in THE Ministry by
the size of his database. Names are like trophies. The more he has,
the more he wants and the better he thinks he is. He may periodically,
with pride, inventory the numbers just to see how many are on his
He can become obligated to his database even if
those names are no more than a short fax or e-mail list. The database
can own a part of him and put him in bondage to it. He has not quit
THE Ministry until he has trashed his self-serving databases.
Inability to trash his self-serving database may indicate that it is
an idol in his life.
The key word here for those in THE ministry is
"self-serving." Most of the "newsletters" I have seen read like a
brochure promoting the one in THE Ministry who sent it out, most of
whom are seeking financial support for themselves.
We must honestly evaluate: Does our database exist
to increase ourselves or Jesus? John the Baptist caught a glimpse of
the Kingdom of God when he said, "He [Jesus] must increase, but I must
decrease. John 3:30. THE Ministry is a ministry of the increase of
Self, while true "ministry" is the ministry of the increase of Christ
The one in THE Ministry often seeks it as a
full-time career or occupation in the hope that it might provide an
income for him. Such was the case with John and Sue. Ellie wrote about
It had been some time since I had heard from Sue. I
was happy to hear from her but felt the same emotions I feel when
friendly telemarketers call. Uncertain about my perception, I
continued a friendly conversation. Both of our families were free not
to be a part of a local church and had independently decided to
stay home on Sunday mornings. Since then, however, Sue and her
husband, John, had started a church of their own.
Finally, she got around to asking where we were
going to church. I told her we felt we were not to be in a
church at this time. She sighed and made a comment about how much
time they were spending in prayer. "When you start a work you need to
spend a lot of time in prayer" she said. "In fact," she added, "we
still don't really know if." Her voice and vocabulary failed her. I
could tell she was sad to think their work might not continue to
provide them with a livelihood. In an attempt to encourage her I said,
"No matter what happens, the growth you are seeing and the
relationship you are developing with these other people is eternal and
above The Ministry and A Work."
Sue replied in all sincerity, "We really feel
called to the ministry, and if the ministry is going to be our
livelihood, then at some point it has to be viable and more than just
a couple of families meeting in a living room."
Ministry in the Holy Spirit comes out of who we are
in Jesus and is not a position to attain to in the world. When we need
to have a congregation in order to provide an income for ourselves, we
have a harlot condition in our hearts. We are seeking something for
Self. If we are truly called to be elders who shepherd God's sheep, we
are to feed His sheep. God forbid that we would seek to feed off them.
THE SEDAN CHAIR
"It was supposedly a time of celebration," Bill
Shipman recalled. "We were sending some leaders from our church to
Chicago to start a new church. We showered them with expensive gifts
while ignoring the needs of others in our midst. One couple," he
remembered, "needed a refrigerator. They were having to buy ice. It
was an imbalance."
Bill, sharing a vision he had from the Holy Spirit
about this, saw these men being lifted up on very ornate and gaudy
The chairs were gilded and had curly swirls and
fancy tapestries hanging down with tassels on the top. The sedan
chairs looked heavy. These men were being lifted up and carried by the
little ones in the church. The little ones were glad to try to carry
them as they started out across a desert.
The Holy Spirit spoke a word of warning to those
leaders being sent out saying, "You are going out, but you're going
out on your own will. You're not going in My will."
Soon after they went out, I saw that those who were
carrying the leaders became weak and the sedan chairs tottered. The
people kept trying to hold them up financially, praying for them,
interceding for them, but everyone kept getting more weary. Finally,
out of exhaustion, everyone had to let go. The sedan chairs fell and
"These brothers and sisters in Chicago were having
a hard time financially," Bill said. "They sold their homes before
they left. They did not make the best use of God's resources the way
it was done. It was done in self-centeredness. People began to leave.
They could not hold them up any longer. The leadership felt abandoned,
but it wasn't abandonment. The children should never have been made to
carry the fathers; the fathers are made to carry the children."
FALSE FLOW CHARTS
"False leaders still want to dust off those sedan
chairs and get the people under them," Bill observed. "This is
happening around the world. The leaders of this Haitian mission
proudly displayed their organizational flow chart. The name of the
main leader in the mission was positioned at the top of the pyramid.
Next in line were other leaders with the people forming the base line.
They asked me, 'What do you think about this?'
"'Do you really want to know?' I asked in return.
"'Sure, Brother Bill.'
"If Jesus walked in right now, He'd rip it off the
wall and turn it upside down, and say, 'Now, that's a flow chart.'"
Bill concluded. "True leaders put the people in the
place of honor and carry them in sedan chairs that are graced with
tender care and mercy. If the minister does not see himself as one
among the bride of Christ, he will rape the bride by using her to
The Babylonian Minister views himself as not only
having been set apart but having been set above the
"laity." He is the "professional." He takes on titles for himself in
his personal ambition to build for himself a city, a tower, and a
name. Reputation is very important to him. Though he calls himself
their servant, more often than not the flock is called upon to serve
him, his plans, and programs. Yet, he is forever busy doing the work
of the church in the place of the people--church work,
not kingdom of God work.
Tradition has obligated this one-man-show ministry
to fulfill many functions that are not within his gifting. Many in THE
Ministry enter into pride when they try to take on responsibilities
that do not pertain to their giftings. Such pride and ambition often
leads to frustration and burnout.
Whether we say we are "in THE Ministry" or "have
a Ministry," we assume something that is foreign to the idea of
ministry in the New Testament. THE Ministry with the upper case "M" is
a Babylonian concept whereas the idea of ministers with the lower case
"m" is quite New Testament. We do not have "a" Ministry. We are all
the ministry of Christ. THE Ministry, as it has come to be
conceptualized, is a hindrance to true New Testament ministry, because
it stifles the saints from fulfilling their ministries. THE Ministry
is in direct opposition to true New Testament ministry.
The word "ministry" in the New Testament is
translated from several Greek words. Doulos (slave) and
diakonos (servant) are two of the terms that have been translated
"minister." All saints are ministers/servants according to the pattern
set forth in the New Testament. While there are some the Lord Jesus
appoints to be apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds (elders),
and teachers, they are given to the body to equip the other saints for
the work of service (ministry). Eph. 4:11-12. Those equipping servants
(apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers) are not
clergy positions within the church. They are not offices. The
term office is not a Greek New Testament word. Servant appointments are
functions within the body of Christ. Those who exalt themselves as
apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers are spots in
our love feasts and clouds without water. Jude 12.
Those who have the mantle of a true elder do not
use their giftings to lord it over the saints. They see themselves as
being equal among the flock. Paul warned the elders from Ephesus when
they were together with him at Miletus to "be on guard for yourselves
and for all the flock, among whom the Holy Spirit has made you
overseers to shepherd the called-out-ones of God which He purchased
with His own blood." Acts 20:28. Elders are among the sheep and
not positioned piously over the sheep.
Paul warned them to keep watch over their own
hearts because, after his departure, he knew that savage wolves would
enter in among them, attacking the flock. Some among them would gain
prominence, distort the truth, and draw away disciples to follow them.
Acts. 20:29-30. Ministers of churches today are just as
territorial. They chase off anyone they perceive might steal "their"
sheep. They seem to forget that the saints of God are not their sheep!
They are His sheep!
The servant does not seek to exalt himself--to
increase himself in power, position, riches, and domination. He is
content to remain nameless and faceless in order to serve when, where,
and how the Holy Spirit leads. He does this without expecting anything
I called Bill Shipman to tell him I had quit THE
Ministry. After pondering my announcement for a moment, he answered
with glee in his voice, "I thought we were just supposed to follow
Quitting THE Ministry does not mean inactivity. We
have a walk to walk. We are to follow Jesus wherever He goes, and we
do not have to turn it into a business, put a name on it, or put a
title on ourselves.
Each of us has a gifting--a ministry--with a little
'm,' whether large or small, that we are responsible to steward. We
have a responsibility to respond to the Holy Spirit when He prompts us
to operate in that gift or ministry for the edification of the body,
that we might build one another up into a spiritual dwelling as the
household of God. Eph. 2:19-22. These are functions and not positions.
THE Ministry implies that some among us are big
shots and the rest of us are inconsequential. It implies a one-up,
one-down relationship between those who are especially gifted from all
the rest of us. If ever there were big shots in the Kingdom of God,
the chosen twelve apostles would certainly qualify. Nevertheless,
Jesus told His twelve that they were not to be like the princes of the
Gentiles who lorded their authority over the people. Matt. 20:25-26.
With the twelve then, and even so for us today, "whoever will be great
among you, let him be your minister [diakonos which literally
translates "servant"] and whoever will be chief among you, let him be
your servant [doulos which literally translates "slave"]; even
as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister [diokonesai
which literally translates "to serve"], and to give His life a ransom
for many." Matt. 20:27-28.
The five equipping servants of Ephesians 4:8 have
the anointings to equip the rest of the body of Christ for the work of
service, but this does not make them greater than the rest of the body
of Christ. Those with the apostolic anointing are at best
under-rowers. Recounting his conversion experience before Agrippa,
Paul quoted the Lord as having said to him, "But arise, and stand upon
your feet for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to make you a
minister." Acts 26:16. The word for minister used here comes
from the root huperetes which literally means "under-rower."
This nautical term generally denotes any subordinate who works under
the direction of another. Apostles are subservient to the authority of
Christ who sets them apart and sends them out. In 1 Corinthians
3:21-4:1 Paul includes Apollos and Cephas as under-rowers: "Let a man
so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ." This term was
also used in reference to John Mark in Act 13:5.
I find that when I try to do ministry--that
is, when I try to make it happen in my own strength, the anointing
evades me. When I rest in being who I am without trying to do
ministry, the anointing compels me. I am far more productive for the
Kingdom when I maintain resignation from THE Ministry than when I
actively pursue it. When I pursue THE Ministry, I miss the Kingdom.
When I pursue the Kingdom, ministry (not THE Ministry) pursues me.
True ministry is the measure of Jesus that He desires to pour out
Many individuals who are in this Thing we call THE
Ministry are Nicolaitans and have a Nicolaitan spirit.
The King James Version uses the word
"office" in several passages, but is translated from various Greek
words that mean different things. In Luke 1:8, in reference to
Zacharias who was performing his Old Testament priesthood, the word
"office" means "to serve as priest" and in Luke 1:9, it simply refers
to the priesthood. In Romans 11:3, the word "office" has been derived
from diakonian which means "service." This phrase literally
translates, "I magnify my serving." In Romans 12:4, the word office
comes from a Greek word that means "action." In 1 Timothy 3:1, no word
exists at all in the Greek text where the word "office" has been
implied. In 1 Timothy 3:10, again, the word is from the root word
diakonas (service) and should not read, "Let them use the office
of a deacon", but should read, "Let them minister (or serve)." In 1
Timothy 3:13, the word used there, bathmon, speaks of a manner
in which one walks with dignity, rank, and standing
Chapter 9 - The Nicolaitans
Nicolaitans? Who were the Nicolaitans? They are
mentioned only twice in the scriptures and both times with contempt.
The first mention of them is in Revelation 2:6. The glorified Jesus
told the old apostle John to write to the angel (messenger) of the
called-out-ones in Ephesus. In this letter, Jesus praised the
Ephesians for their works, labor, patience, and for the fact that they
could not bear those who were evil. They had, furthermore, tested
those who said they were apostles but were not, and had found them to
be liars. The Lord severely admonished them, however, for having left
their first love. Perhaps they had all the right doctrines and were
doing the good works of a Christian, but were showing more affection
for the things of the gospel than for the person of the
gospel. Whatever the Ephesians were doing that caused them to leave
their first love, it was severe enough for the Lord to call them to
repentance. If they did not repent, He would remove their candlestick
from them. He would remove the power, presence, and the light of His
Holy Spirit. Then the Lord praised them saying, "But this you have,
that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate."
The only other reference to the Nicolaitans is in
Revelation 2:15. The called-out-ones in Pergamos had those among them
who held to the doctrine (teachings) of the Nicolaitans. Regarding
them Jesus said, "So you also have those who hold the doctrine of the
Nicolaitans, which thing I hate." He hated what they were teaching.
From these two references, we know that the Lord
hated their "deeds" and their "doctrines" (teachings). It appears that
we are left to speculate about who they were, what their deeds were,
and what they taught. Not so! The evidence of what they did and what
they taught is revealed in scripture. We learn who they were by what
they did and what they taught. By this, we learn who they are in the
The first clue as to who they were can be found in
what they were called--Nicolaitans. The word Nicolaitan comes from two
Greek words: nike and laios. Nike means "to
conquer," "subdue," "overcome," and laos refers to a body of
people, the common people. Nikos is the equivalent to nike
and has been translated "victory." When combined, these two terms
translate "conqueror [or subduer] of the common people."
These "conquerors of the people" were among the
assembly of called-out-ones in Ephesus and Pergamos. They obviously
had some major influence among the saints.
(Some scholars say they were followers of Nicolas
who was one of the deacons in Acts 6:5. They speculate that Nicolas
went into deception and led some of the believers away from the faith.
This is impossible to document.)
Their name represents who the Nicolaitans were and
what they taught. They were those who positioned themselves above the
"common" people as having some authority over them and taught that
this was the way things were supposed to be. I believe this was the
beginning of the clergy system that came into prominence in the
historical, institutional church system.
The clergy refers to persons who are ordained for
religious service such as ministers, priests, and rabbis. The word
cleric is sometimes used in relation to a clergy person. Clericalism
is the "political influence or power of the clergy, or a policy or
principles favoring this: generally a derogatory term." The clergy system in the
churches advocates the elevation of the "professional"
ministers above common believers.
ASSOCIATED WITH BALAAM
The second clue as to who the Nicolaitans were is
found in the association of their name with Balaam. In Revelation
2:15, the King James Version translation reads, "So you also
have those who hold to the doctrine of the Nicolaitans..." The word
"also" comes from the Greek word kai which can be translated
"and," "also," or "even" depending upon the context in which it is
used. The Greek text has, in addition to kai, the word
omoios which means "likewise." Some of the translations dropped
omoios and missed an important aspect of interpretation. The New
American Standard kept it and translated it, "in the same way." It
reads, "Thus, you also have some who in the same way
hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans."
We ask, "in the same way" as who? The answer to
that question is found in the previous verses. In Revelation 2:14-15,
the Lord said, "But I have a few things against you, because you have
there those who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to cast
a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things
sacrificed to idols, and to commit fornication. Thus, you also
have some who in the same way hold the teaching of the
Nicolaitans." I suggest, therefore, that this reference to Balaam is
the antecedent of the phrase "in the same way." "The doctrine of
Balaam" (v. 14) and "the doctrine of the Nicolaitans" (v.15) is
referring to the same thing or things.
If, therefore, "the doctrine of Balaam" is that to
which the phrase "in the same way" refers, then it is necessary to
find out more about Balaam in order to find out more about the
SAY, DO, AND BE
First, however, consider these three virtues of
God's true ministers: they will say what God says, do
what God says do, and be what God wants them to be. They cannot
do otherwise. They are unlike Balaam in the Old Testament as told
about in Numbers 22-24. Balaam could not be what he was not.
Balak was the King of the Moabites at the time the
Israelites pitched their tents in the land of Moab. Balak was fearful
of what the Israelites might do to his people because he saw that they
had struck the Amorites and taken their cities. So he sent messengers
to hire Balaam to come and speak a curse against these Israelites who
had come out of Egypt. Balaam was a non-Israelite prophet.
Balaam was certainly enticed by the price they
offered him, but warned Balak that he was bound to say the
words that God put in His mouth. Balaam did just that. He spoke four
prophecies favoring Israel, and one opposing Balak. Why then was
Balaam looked upon with such disdain in both the Old and the New
Remember, it takes all three virtues to be a true
minister of God: say what God says to say, do what God
says to do, and be what God would have one to be. Balaam fell
miserably short when it came to this third virtue to be. Here
is how we know.
THE MATTER AT PEOR
Later on in Numbers 31, we read where God told
Moses to take vengeance on the Midianites for the sons of Israel. He
had sent his captains and warriors from every tribe and the priests
with the holy vessels and the trumpets of alarm. They killed every
male and the kings of Midian. They burned the cities and took the
spoil, but they captured the women and brought them back with them.
Moses and others went out to meet his returning
army and saw what they had done. He was angry with the officers and
asked them why they had spared the women. It would seem like the noble
thing to do, would it not? Moses explained his anger in verse 16:
"Behold, these caused the children of Israel, through the counsel of
Balaam, to commit trespass against the LORD in the matter of Peor."
So, what happened at Peor and what did Balaam have
to do with that? Apparently everything! We see in Numbers 25 that
Israel played the harlot with the daughters of Moab: "They called the
people to the sacrifices of their gods: and the people ate and bowed
down to their gods. And Israel joined himself to Baal-peor: and the
anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel." Num. 25:2-3. Remember,
God had made it emphatically clear that the Israelites were not to
mingle with the people of the land. Deut. 7:1-6.
No reference is made whatsoever to Balaam in
Numbers 25, but Numbers 31:16 informs us that this "sin" at Peor was
due to the counsel of Balaam. In Numbers 22-24 we read how Balak
offered both money and prestige to Balaam to get him to pronounce a
curse against the Israelites. Balaam was not about to miss his
opportunity for fortune and prominence.
Balaam must have known about this ban that God had
set forth as recorded in Deuteronomy 7 and used it to defeat the
Israelites. He "taught Balak to cast a stumbling block before the
children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit
fornication." Rev. 2:13. In other words, Balaam counseled Balak to
entice the Israelite sons and daughters to mix with the sons and
daughters of Moab. This way, Balaam did not have to speak the curse,
but he ensured that Israel would place themselves under a curse.
Israel did just that. They played the harlot and brought the curse of
a plague upon themselves that killed twenty-four thousand of their
own. Num. 25:9.
Balaam collected his blood money and prepared to
live lavishly among the kings of Midian. His life, however, was
short-lived after that. Numbers 31:8 tells us that he was killed with
the sword when Israel took vengeance on the Midianites. He was a false
prophet. He was bound to say what God wanted him to say. He was
forced even by his jackass (donkey) to do what God wanted, but
it was not in him to be what God would have him to be. He was
greedy and sought to increase himself in power, position, riches, and
domination. He put Himself above the concerns of God and God's people.
We are much like Balaam when we ask God to bless our flesh rather than
denying our flesh to obey God.
BALAAM'S NAME AND REPUTATION
Another connection between Balaam and the
Nicolaitans is embedded in his name. Balaam's name is the combination
of two words from the Hebrew: beli and haam. Beli
means "conqueror" and, haam means "the people." Put them
together and we get "conqueror of the people." Balaam's name,
therefore, translates the same as Nicolaitan. Is this not strong
evidence that the reference to Balaam is the antecedent of the phrase
"in the same way"?
Balaam is also mentioned in 2 Peter 2:15 in the
context of false teachers. The false teachers were those "who have
forsaken the right way, and have gone astray, following the way of
Balaam the son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness; but
was rebuked for his iniquity; the dumb ass speaking with man's voice
forbade the madness of the prophet."
He is mentioned with disdain in Jude, verse 11:
"Woe to them," Jude writes, "for they...ran greedily after the error
of Balaam for reward." These three New Testament witnesses against
Balaam are harsh to say the least. Each of them speak of greed.
Nicolaitans cause God's people to commit spiritual fornication by
joining them to their idolatrous church systems.
Having looked into who Balaam was, we come back to
our original question: Who, then, were the Nicolaitans? They were
leaders within the Christian community who were false prophets "in the
same way" as was Balaam. They were ministers among the assembly of
called-out-ones who were motivated by greed and
self-aggrandizement--the need to increase themselves in power,
position, riches, and domination. They had managed to exalt themselves
in leadership roles above those "common" called-out-ones.
The New Testament mentions Diotrephes, who
possessed this Nicolaitan spirit. The end of the first century A.D.
was nearing when the aged apostle John wrote his third epistle. He
wrote to the well beloved Gaius and addressed his grief over one who
was known as Diotrephes. It appears from the letter that Diotrephes
had positioned himself in an uncommon place of authority among an
assembly of called-out-ones. He loved to have preeminence among them.
3 John 1:9. He not only refused to welcome the apostle John and others
of the brethren, but removed from the assembly those who did dare to
welcome them. 3 John 1:10-11.
The desire for preeminence is a characteristic of
the Nicolaitan spirit. Nicolaitans are those who seek to elevate
themselves above the so-called laity. I say they are "so-called"
because no such distinctions are made in the New Testament between
professional clergy and laity. Such distinctions smack insults at the
doctrine of the priesthood of all believers. The clerical exercise of
such authority over the called-out-ones sprang up throughout all
Christendom soon after the turn of the first century. This reference
to Diotrephes in 3 John is clear evidence that it had already taken
root. Nicolaitans are like goats. They like high places.
THE NICOLAITAN IN ME
I was raised in institutional Christianity. The
Nicolaitan (clergy) spirit was programmed into me from childhood by
those who had it programmed into them. It's generational. It was all I
had ever seen or known. I had no way of knowing that ministry could be
anything other than what my experiences and education taught me. So, I
pursued the normal course of ministry that was expected of me.
I answered the call to ministry when I was about
twelve years of age and enrolled immediately out of high school in the
denominational college that trained me for ministry. Years later I
finished with a Masters of Divinity degree from seminary.
I had taken the usual run of classes in Bible and
religion that trained me to perpetuate the system I was in. I had been
trained by the clergy system to be one of their own. I was hired by
the elders of a local church to be their pastor. I was the
chief administrator and, for all practical purposes, was the
professional hired to lead the work of the church.
After twelve years behind the pulpit, I turned away
from God and left the ministry. Following my conversion years later,
God pinned me down in what I call my wilderness experience. It lasted
for many years. God put me through His school of the Holy Spirit. This
was a time of learning the word of God for myself, of receiving
revelations, and of being purged of many spots and wrinkles.
One particular day on my wilderness journey, I was
in prayer with the Lord when I saw in my mind's eye a miniature image
of a man standing upon a high cliff, arms folded, chest puffed out,
head cocked back, full of arrogance and pride. After doing a
double-take, I said, "Lord, that looks like me!"
I knew that I was seeing a "spirit" of preeminence.
I knew that it was the Nicolaitan spirit that had been implanted in me
since early childhood. This was that clergy spirit of
self-aggrandizement. As soon as I saw this, I renounced it and asked
the Lord to separate it from me. It has taken years for that to
THE RISE OF BISHOPS
This Nicolaitan spirit is deceptive and deadly. It
is deeply entrenched in most of the men and women who have been
trained and nurtured to minister in the church system.
Nicolaitan personalities have ruled in the churches since the
first century A.D.
In spite of those exceptions like Diotrephes,
simplicity seemed to have characterized the life of the
called-out-ones that we know about from the New Testament until after
the death of John. Little is known about the activities of the
called-out-ones for those few years between the death of John and the
turn of the century.
When the pages of church history began to
flip again into the beginning of the second century, an interesting
thing had occurred. Certain ones bore the title of bishop, such as
Polycarp of Smyrna, Clement of Rome, Ignatius of Antioch, Polybius of
Tralles, and Onesimus of Ephesus. These were godly men, defenders of
the faith, some of whom were martyrs for Jesus, but were nonetheless
caught up in the power and position of the bishopric.
Justo Gonzalez points out in his Story of
Christianity that James, the brother of Jesus, was erroneously
given the title of "bishop" of Jerusalem by church
leaders in later years. Gonzalez explains that
"the emphasis on the authority of bishops and on apostolic succession
was a part of the response of the church to the challenge of heresies
in the late second and early third centuries. As the church became
increasingly Gentile, the danger of heresies was greater, and this in
turn led to a greater stress on episcopal [bishop] authority."
By the time of the monastic movement in the late
third and early fourth centuries, bishops lived in great cities and
enjoyed great power and prestige. Moreover, the bishopric had become
an office to be filled rather than a calling by God upon a man. The
story is told of a man named Martin, born in 335 A.D., who lived the
monastic life and was elected to the office of bishop of Tours by
popular demand. Gonzalez wrote, "When the bishopric of Tours became
vacant, the populace wanted to elect Martin to that position. The
story goes that some of the bishops present at the election opposed
such an idea, arguing that Martin was unusually dirty, dressed in
rags, and disheveled, and that his election would damage the prestige
of the office of bishop." This story tells us that
the bishopric of Tours had become a position or office to which men
could be elected. What was once a calling of God upon individual men
has since become an institution of men.
Many churches in the Presbyterian tradition have
elected men, women, and young people as elders to fill a certain
number of positions for limited terms. Where is any of this in the
According to New Testament records, elders were
appointed in every city and they existed in plurality. No man was
given that responsibility alone. Elders were not called bishop nor
pastor. They were elders who shepherded the flock of God among whom
the Holy Spirit had made them overseers (which is the Greek word
episcopous, also translated "bishop"). Acts 20:20 NKJV. The terms
elder, shepherd, and overseer refer to the same person. Elder has to
do with who they were. Shepherd has to do with what they
did. Overseer has to do with how they did what they did. An
elder is one who is called of God to perform a function in the body of
Christ and was never intended to be a position, office, title, or
institution in the Kingdom of God.
This unscriptural "office" of bishop was the
seedbed in which the hierarchical system of clergymen took root and
flourished in the eventual rise of the Roman Catholic Church. The
power of the office of bishop was such that simony became an issue in
the church. Simony is the buying and selling of ecclesiastical
(church) positions. Similarly, nobles, kings, and emperors were
known to have appointed and investitured bishops and abbots in order
to have political control of the church.
The veneration that is bestowed upon popes,
cardinals, bishops, and priests has to be most revolting to the Holy
Spirit of God; especially that the Pope, a man, should be called, Holy
Father. The word cardinal when used as an adjective means "of foremost
Jesus exhorted His followers regarding this need
for veneration: "But you are not to be called Rabbi: for one is your
Master, Christ; and all you are brethren. And call no man your father
upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven. Neither
are you to be called masters: for one is your Master, Christ. But he
who is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whosoever shall
exalt himself shall be abased; and he who humbles himself shall be
exalted." Matt. 23:8-12.
In spite of the Reformation and other spiritual
awakenings, the influence of the clergy system abounds in every
denomination and independent church. Any challenge to a
person's exalted position as "Pastor" (or whatever title they go by)
are fighting words to most.
Nevertheless, I boldly declare that the Nicolaitans
today are all those who promote the clergy system, which separates the
so-called "professional" ministry from the so-called laity. They are
those who seek to increase themselves in power, position, riches, and
domination and generally do so at the expense of the saints. This
"clergy system" is the work of the harlot spirit in the churches.
EAT THE SHEEP
The Nicolaitans are those shepherds of Ezekiel 34
whom God prophesied against for feeding themselves when they should
have fed the flock. They ate the fat and clothed themselves with wool,
killed those who were fed, did not strengthen the diseased, did not
heal those who were sick, did not bind up those who were broken, did
not bring back those who had been driven away, did not seek those who
were lost, and ruled over the ones they did have with force and with
cruelty. Their flocks were scattered and became meat to all the beasts
of the field.
The Lord was against those shepherds. He said He
would require His flock at their hands and cause them to cease from
feeding the flock. They would no longer be able to feed themselves off
of the flock because He promised to deliver His sheep from their
mouths. His sheep would no longer be meat for them. Ezek. 34:2-5, 10.
Dennis Loewen notes, "Balaam did great damage by
advising Balak to entice the Israelites through whoredoms to
ultimately serve foreign gods. The modern-day Nicolaitans exact the
same final effect when they wed the people of God to a foreign god--to
another Jesus." Nicolaitans take advantage of the sheep to advance
themselves. They eat the sheep to fatten themselves.
The time is coming, however, when God Himself will
take these sheep from the false shepherds. He will search for His
sheep and seek them out Himself. He will feed, tend, lead, and heal
them Himself. Ezek. 34:11-16.
Chapter 10 - The Marks Of The Pharisees
Ministers who are smitten with the need for
preeminence, power, position, riches, and domination have embraced the
false teachings of the Nicolaitans and are likely to perpetuate both
the teachings and the deeds of the Nicolaitans. They have the same
marks that characterized the Pharisees in Jesus' day.
In Matthew 23:33, Jesus called the Pharisees
"serpents" and a "generation of vipers." The Greek word for
"generation" also translates "offspring." Here, Jesus is calling the
Pharisees snakes and the offspring of snakes. He continues in verse
33, "How can you escape the damnation of hell?" The Bible identifies
Satan as a serpent. Gen. 3:1-5; Rev. 12:9; 20:2. The association
between Satan and the Pharisees is without dispute. Why did Jesus call
the Pharisees snakes? What objection did He have to them? After all,
they were devoutly religious and zealous to keep the law.
The scathing litany of woes spoken by Jesus in
Matthew 23 define some of what were the detestable marks of the
Pharisees. Though the differences between some of these marks of the
Pharisees are little, they are important distinctions to make--not so
much to judge others, but to judge the Pharisee in us all.
ABUSIVE USE OF AUTHORITY
Jesus hated the way the Pharisees misused and
abused authority. Jesus said to the multitude and to His disciples,
"The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat." Matt.
23:1-2. The Pharisees assumed the position of authority over people's
lives. They considered themselves experts on the law. Therefore, they
presumed to tell everyone else how to live.
The present-day Nicolaitan attitude is seen in that
air of self-importance that wants to sit at the head of the table, to
be elected to positions of authority, or to be hired to some
prestigious office. Nicolaitans typically politic for higher positions
of preeminence and authority within the church systems. They
flatter themselves and seek the flattery of others. Moreover, they
pass gavels of authority to designate someone among them as the head
over them. Only Jesus is the head of His body, the ekklesia. 1 Cor.
11:3; Eph. 1:22; 5:23; Col. 1:18.
Jesus hated the hypocrisy of the Pharisees. "All
therefore whatsoever they bid you to observe, that observe and do; but
do not do after their works, for they say and do not." Matt.
Hypocrisy is pretending something on the outside
that does not exist on the inside. It is the pretense of virtues,
principles, or beliefs that are not genuine. Jesus said the Pharisees
were like whitewashed tombs which appear beautiful on the outside, but
inside are full of dead men's bones and of all uncleanness. Matt.
23:27 NAS. He called them hypocrites. "Even so you also outwardly
appear righteous unto men, but within you are full of hypocrisy and
iniquity." Matt. 23:28. Again He accused them saying, "Woe unto you,
scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!" Matt. 23:14. What they said
in keeping with the law of Moses was okay, but their failure to do
what they expected others to do was not okay.
So it is in "THE Ministry" today. The pulpiteers
may cry out for everyone else to be sexually pure, while pretending
themselves to be pure when they are not. They may preach against
smoking, drinking, cussin', and dancing, while pretending themselves
to be holy when they are not. They may call for others to confess sins
while they hide their own sins for fear of what others may think. They
may condemn politicians for wrong doing while they continue to do what
is most abominable to God--practicing their manipulations (witchcraft)
upon "their" people.
The whole climate of church is clouded with
hypocrisy. The church should be the one place we can go and
feel safe enough to be ourselves, but it is not. We put on our masks
and hide behind our Sunday morning smiles long enough to fulfill our
obligations to God, feel good about doing it, and get to the cafeteria
before the Methodists let out. Sunday morning church has little
to do with how we live the rest of the week.
Jesus hated the mean legalism of the Pharisees.
"They bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on
men's shoulders, but they themselves will not move them with one
of their fingers." Matt. 23:4. Jesus hated their heavy-handedness over
the people and how they imposed their laws upon everyone else.
Legalists in churches still bind people to
church systems and orders, church buildings, church
services and rituals, church giving, and church
work--things that have nothing to do with Jesus or the Kingdom of God.
People are made to feel guilty and unspiritual if they do not go to
Keeping the Sabbath was one such issue between
Jesus and the Pharisees. Some legalists still make an issue of keeping
the Sabbath day holy according to how they think it ought to be
observed. They want to make Sunday (sometimes erroneously called "the
Sabbath") the day of rest even though for them it is far from a day of
rest--it is their high day of church works.
We do not keep the Sabbath by going to church
on Sunday or by napping all day Sunday. We keep God's law by entering
into Jesus through faith. Jesus is our Sabbath rest. Heb. 4. He is our
righteousness. Jesus is not looking for a people who will keep the
Sabbath day holy. He is looking for a people who will keep themselves
holy (separated). Keeping the Sabbath day is not how we keep ourselves
Holiness is the work of God's Holy Spirit in us,
separating us from the love of the world. Holiness is a change of
nature from within us as the result of God's work in us. It is not
what we do outwardly, but who we are inwardly that matters to God. We
are as phony as the Pharisees if we think our righteousness could ever
depend upon what we do outwardly--the clothes we wear, the way we fix
our hair, the food we eat or don't eat, the way we worship, or going
to church. We live, move, and have our being in Jesus every
moment of every day. (See the chapter on Legalism.)
Jesus hated the Pharisees' desire for recognition
and how they pursued admiration for themselves. "But all their
works they do to be seen of men. They make broad their
phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments." Matt. 23:5.
(Phylacteries were small leather boxes that the Pharisees strapped on
their foreheads containing quotations from the first five books of the
The Nicolaitans in many church traditions
today are enticed by their own lusts for self-importance to wear
clerical collars, vestments, robes with academic stripes on their
sleeves, and other such appointments to distinguish themselves from
"the laity." A cardinal in the Roman Catholic church is
addressed by saying, "His Eminence" or "Your Eminence." Such
veneration of men smacks insult to God. Jesus called His disciples to
Him and said to them as He would say today, "If any man desires to be
first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all." Mark 9:35.
Jesus hated the self-inflated desire of the
Pharisees to be above others. They "love the uppermost rooms at
feasts" (the inner circle), "and the chief seats in the
synagogues" (sitting on the platform). Matt. 23:6.
Preeminence is that air of self-importance within
the present-day Nicolaitans that makes them want to be top dog in the
system. They want to sit on the platform in bishop's chairs, making a
difference between them and the people. Pastors give other pastors
these places of prominence, because they love it for themselves.
It is that air of self-importance within them that
causes them to gloat in their plans, programs, methods, organizations,
building projects, heritage, traditions, statistics, and doctrines in
order that they might be honored and recognized.
It is that air of self-importance within them to
draw up organizational charts, pyramiding themselves at the top.
It is that air of self-importance within them that
wants the bigger church and better salaries. They spare no
politics to obtain them.
It is that air of self-importance within them that
causes them to "sermonize" and wax eloquent from their pulpits in
order to be highly esteemed of men.
It is that air of self-importance within them that
wants to acquire knowledge, write books out of their own intellect,
and achieve great things in order to be acclaimed of men. They hold
their educated professionalism over the heads of the "laity," making
themselves out to be one of the indisputable authorities in biblical
and ecclesiastical matters. This is the tyranny of the clergy.
It is that air of self-importance within them that
focuses upon the externals rather than upon the internals. They are
preoccupied with building a kingdom for Self rather than building the
Kingdom of God. They build church systems and church
buildings rather than people. Worse yet, they confuse the one for the
It is that air of self-importance within them that
compels them to pack their bags and run when the wolves of dissension
nip at the heels of the flock. They are hirelings.
It is that air of self-importance within them that
causes them to forget that they, too, are sheep under the staff of the
Good Shepherd. Such pride and haughtiness makes them think more highly
of themselves than they ought to think.
Jesus hated their desire for position. They love
"greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi."
Jesus continued to exhort them saying, "but do not be called Rabbi,
for one is your Master, even Christ; and all you are brothers. And do
not call man your father upon the earth, for one is your Father who is
in heaven. Neither be called masters, for one is your Master, even
Christ." Matt. 23:7-10.
The present-day Nicolaitan attitude is seen in that
air of self-importance within them that wants to be called Pope, Your
Eminence, Cardinal, Bishop, Father, Reverend, Reverend Mr., Pastor,
and Minister with a capital M. The competition for recognition is so
fierce today that many clergy persons want to be called "Doctor." Some
of them have earned doctoral degrees and some have honorary degrees,
but some have purchased phony degrees. They bestow titles upon each
other within the system. They politic for places of authority and seek
to be hired by the largest congregation within their reach.
Insecure people in ministry get their strokes from
being in the ministry. There they gain power, position, recognition,
security, financial income, and their sense of significance. Mature
believers find that Jesus alone is their all in all.
No such "one-up, one-down" positioning exists in
the Kingdom of God. Jesus made it clear that true leaders were
servants. True leaders do not exalt themselves.
REBELLION AND STUBBORNNESS
Jesus hated the rebellion and stubbornness of the
Pharisees. "But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites,
for you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men, for you neither go
in yourselves neither suffer them who are entering to go in."
Many of the Pharisees had to have known from their
thorough knowledge of the scriptures that Jesus was Messiah. Too many
coincidences existed between Old Testament prophecies and the events
of Jesus' life and death for those to be ignored. They knew! But did
not want to believe. (See John 9:39-41.) They had compromised with the
world system in order to gain power, position, riches, and dominance.
While many Pharisees believed and turned to Jesus, most of them did
not. Those who did not believe hardened their hearts against the
truth. They refused to enter in and hindered others from entering in
Many leaders in the church system today
should know that "their" membership is held hostage by the rigidity of
their belief systems and governmental systems, but they refuse to set
them free. They teach and preach church, church works, and
church membership as "the way." They need commitment from their
membership in order to build a kingdom for themselves.
People are stuck in those places. Those who run the
churches invite us to stay put in their place forever and shame
us for going from place to place. Those who remain in these places are
served up the same day-old, worm-infested manna. Spiritual growth is
minimal, if at all. Any growth one might experience is most likely
experienced outside of and in spite of that place.
Spiritual growth is, in reality, a spiritual
journey. It is a journey that answers the call of Jesus, "Come, follow
Me." "But Lord, let me first go bury my father." To which He still
replies, "Let the dead bury the dead." Luke 9:59-60. If you find
yourself in a dead place, get up and follow the Way, Jesus. Jesus is
the Way, not a place. If we are to follow Jesus, we must not get stuck
in a place. Church as we know it today is a roadblock to Jesus.
Jesus hated the way the Pharisees took advantage of
widows. "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you
devour widows' houses, and for a pretense make long prayers;
therefore, you shall receive the greater damnation." Matt. 23:14.
Pharisees are takers, not givers, though they pretend to be giving
something in return for offerings and donations.
This practice occurs everyday on so-called
"Christian" television and radio. Great promises are made by
televangelists to their fleeceable viewers who send them
contributions. "Send me a donation of $50 and I will send you this
anointing oil from Israel." The "Jesus" junk they offer is ridiculous.
Bracelets, special study Bibles, books, healing cloths. Some will
promise to pray for you or send you a book if you send them a
donation. What if you do not? Are they still willing to pray for you
and send the book? These gimmicks are used to increase their data and
Kathleen was the widow of a benevolent man. After
his death, she felt obligated to continue his level of generosity
though she could not afford to do so. Knowing her vulnerability, the
president of a seminary persuaded her to give an extraordinary
contribution to his institution. It was a feather in his hat. She was
a devout believer and assumed that her contribution was advancing the
cause of Christ. Little did she know that this school was corrupting
the faith of young men and women with their liberal, anti-Christ
curriculum. He devoured her house.
Rather than devouring widow's houses, we should set
our hearts upon devouring Jesus. Jesus said, "Except you eat the flesh
of the Son of man, and drink His blood, you have no life in you...He
who eats My flesh and drinks My blood dwells in Me, and I in him.."
John 6:53, 56. He alone has the words of eternal life. John 6:67-68.
Jesus hated how the Pharisees proselytized converts
to Judaism. "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for
you compass sea and land to make one proselyte [convert to Judaism],
and when he is made, you make him twofold more the child of hell than
yourselves." Matt. 23:15.
A proselyte is a person who has been converted from
their religion, faith, sect, or party to that of the one proselytizing
them. The Pharisees were not doing others a favor by converting them
to Judaism. Rather than bringing others to a faith in and relationship
with Yahweh (God), they brought them to their religious observances of
traditions, days, and rituals; thus implying, "This is the way, walk
in it." In so doing, they put others under bondage to their law. Their
motivation was to increase their own sphere of influence.
As with the Pharisees in Jesus' time, present-day
Nicolaitans lead their converts to believe that salvation is assured
by being associated with their form of religion. In so doing, they
preach "another Jesus" and make their converts twice the children of
hell as themselves.
Jesus came to set men free. Binding others to our
religious practices is an offense to Him. We are to join people to
Jesus in order to set them free. "If the Son therefore shall make you
free, you shall be free indeed." John 8:36.
Jesus hated the snobbish self-righteousness of the
Pharisees. "Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, for you
pay tithes of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the
weightier matters of the law: judgment, mercy, and faith. These
you ought to have done and not left the other undone." Matt. 23:23.
They kept the letter of the law: tithing "mint and anise and cummin,"
but knew nothing of the spirit of the law: "judgment, mercy, and
faith." They thought by keeping the letter of the law, they would
attain righteousness by the works of Self.
Self-righteousness is thinking that our
righteousness has something to do with how well we perform. It
suggests that we can appease God by being good or doing good works, by
keeping the law, or such foolish things as fulfilling our Sunday
morning obligation. The Pharisees kept the law in order to be saved by
the law. Paul expressly stated that "the letter kills, but the Spirit
gives life." 2 Cor. 3:6. They knew the law, but did not know the
Spirit of the law.
Self-righteous persons can be legalistic, prideful,
arrogant, haughty, religious, pious, hateful, restrictive, judgmental,
critical, rude, preachy, mean, dangerous, and lacking in mercy,
compassion, kindness, and generosity. By contrast, the fruit of the
Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness,
faith, meekness, and self-control. Gal. 5:22-23.
Our righteousness is not God's righteousness.
"Ours." "His." See the difference?! His righteousness can be ours only
through faith in Christ, but our attempts at righteousness can never
be His. Jesus is the righteousness of God. He alone fulfilled all the
law and the prophets. Matt. 5:7. Philippians 3:9 reminds us that we
are to be found in Christ, not having our own righteousness, which is
of the law, but that which is through faith in Christ.
We are the righteousness of God in Christ. 2 Cor.
5:21. It does not say we "will be," "we should be," or "we almost
are," it says "we are." It has to do with being and not with
doing. We are because Jesus made us to be who we are in Him
through His own finished work on the cross. There is nothing in
fallen, sinful man that has the potential to save himself or to be
good enough for God to put his saving stamp of approval upon him.
Jesus hated the murderous hearts of the Pharisees.
"Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you build the
tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchers of the righteous and
say, 'If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have
been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.' Wherefore you
are witnesses unto yourselves, that you are the children of them
who killed the prophets." Matt. 23:29-31. Moreover, Jesus
predicted that they would kill and crucify some of the prophets, wise
men, and scribes that He would be sending. "And some of them you shall
scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city; that
upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon earth." Matt.
Jesus said to the unbelieving Jews in John 8:44,
"You are of your father the devil, and the lusts [desires] of your
father you will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode
not in the truth, because there is no truth in him." If Jesus said
that the devil was a murderer and that the unbelieving Jews were his
sons, the implication was that they, too, were murderers. Jesus had
previously established that they sought to kill Him. John 8:31.
If they could, the unrepentant Pharisees in the
church system today would kill those who threaten to dethrone them
from their little empires. They are the tares that have grown up among
the wheat. In Matthew 13:24-30, Jesus said it would be that way.
Nicolaitans today spiritually slaughter the sheep
of God when they use them for their personal and sordid gain.
I went to a seminary as a young man in the
ministry. I was taught that the miracles were not real and that much
of what was told in the Old Testament were myths. I was taught
religion, but religion had no life. I was young, impressionable, and
ungrounded in the word and Spirit. Rather than being built up in
faith, I became spiritually bankrupt. Eventually, I became a professed
atheist until my radical conversion years later.
We are instructed in the scriptures to turn away
from those who have the form of godliness, but deny its power. 2 Tim.
These present-day Nicolaitans, who bear the marks
of the Pharisees, are the doorkeepers in spiritual Babylon. Babylon is
the Great Mother of Harlots. Rev. 17:5. Her other name is Jezebel. She
is the puppeteer behind the stage that pulls the strings of the
Nicolaitans in the churches today.
Church System (part 2) >>
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