RELIGION vs JESUS
Christians differ from other people of the world because we consider our values to be sacred. Practices of honesty, morality, and the golden rule are not mere social rules but are methods by which we please our God. Non-Christian societies are based on whatever rules a king, chief, or other authority might dictate. Those rules are not usually designed to benefit all members equally. The authority in power establishes rules which support and protect his own position of power at the expense of the people who live to serve him, very much like our lawyers and politicians protect their private interests. So, Christians are unique in this world, and those of our European Christian tradition have an instinctive understanding that we are special. We believe that God's Spirit lives and works within our hearts and souls, consequently, we respond with honor and love toward God. Our response to God's presence in our lives prompts us to do SOMETHING to return the affection. Most people fulfill that feeling by going to church on Sundays as members of a Christian religion. Unfortunately, most people are content with the simple practices of religion and the comfort of belonging to an elite social group, not thinking very deeply about the scriptures they read or the beliefs they have adopted. Such people may live long and satisfying lives of contentment, along with respect from others for being "good Christians." Their preachers don't disturb their contentment with sermons about Jesus' commands that His followers must go beyond such religionism to search for Truth and to develop a spiritual relationship of Oneness with God on an intimate personal level. As members of a church group, most are lukewarm religionists (tho often emotionally flamboyant!) rather than genuine spiritual flames. The lukewarm masses have not realized that Jesus requires radical actions by His followers.
So, are you a religionist or a follower of Jesus? You can't be both. Religionists are church-goers who are content with following the rules their particular church teaches, even without any personal spiritual growth. Such people feel satisfied that they are saved-Christians who will go to heaven when they die simply because they have the approval and respect of fellow church members. BUT, God asks more of His children than mere religionism; He wants His children to REPRESENT Him through their daily lives, even if not as martyrs in arenas. He wants to live within His children as the Spirit which drives their lives. Through them, God wants to express Himself. It is in such representation of our Father that we glorify Him. Our lives become our praise to Him. And this is something very different from the shallow practices of church group religions, as I will explain below.
Religionists practice many values that are not biblical. First, it is important to know that Jesus did not promote or establish any religion at all. Rather, He terminated the Old Testament religion of priests and sacrifices. He set His people free from that past, and made no mention of any religious practice to replace it. After Jesus was gone, the early Christians struggled with the question of how best to worship God. The Jerusalem faction wanted to retain some of the legalistic rules of the old religion, such as circumcision. The Apostles outside Jerusalem saw more clearly the new spiritual path of an individual personal relationship with God which Jesus had defined.
Isn't it interesting that Jesus never suggested any kind of religious practice at all? The early Christians just didn't know what to do. For the first few centuries there were several factions, all who claimed Jesus as their Lord, but who had different ideas about following Him and about how to worship God. Some were attracted to the idea of organization. Others, like the Gnostics, felt that organization was contrary to Jesus' teachings, so they promoted a personal relationship with the Father as most important. Finally, at the Council of Nicea in 325 AD, the organizers won, and established what would later become the Roman Catholic Church. They as much as excommunicated any other group which would not bow to their authority, be organized under them, and accept their formal creed as the only true belief allowable for Christians. Within their organization, they set up levels of authorities to be priests, bishops, cardinals, etc., a hierarchy of priestly functions which took away from the people all the power and authority Christ had obtained for them. The Christian meal which was enjoyed by nearly three centuries of Christians was taken from the people and made into a Sacrament. The people could have a little piece of bread, but the wine was reserved for the priests. The simple communion meal of Jesus' followers became an element of organized religion, which became again a matter of rituals, offerings, laws, and disciplines. The common people became observers and financial supporters of religion, while the priests took care of all the God-stuff. As we know, that organization in later centuries became a murderous tyranny of mercenary despots. Through the middle ages the phrase "wicked as a priest" was a pejorative by which one described the worst offenders of society. It was only after Luther's Reformation that the Roman Catholic Church began to present a better face to the world by hiding their perversions and wickedness from the public. The new Protestant leaders corrected a few of the most outrageous religious practices, like indulgences and Mary-worship, but they retained most of the politically motivated theological teachings that the Roman church had developed during their years of infamy. All Protestant churches of today, including the small independent sects and the various fundamentalists, still teach most of those false teachings of the past, and practice "religion" as their Christianity rather than seeking the Truth and following Jesus. Most Christians instinctively fear any criticism of their beliefs because they don't want their Lord, their Father, or their faith to be pulled away from them. Ironically, it is only when some of the false teachings are exposed that Jesus becomes even greater, and God more real, and faith more secure. But, for those who are content with shallow religionism, it is easier to continue the same practices without questioning them.
Today we can look with hindsight at the history of our ancestors who battled in the contest between religionism and personal spirituality. We can look at various writings like those of the first couple centuries in the collection called The Apostolic Fathers, to see them trying to walk hand in hand with their risen Lord in the precious freedom He obtained for them. Jesus had told them that the Sabbath was not over them. Pleasing the Father was to be no longer a matter of laws, but should be a personal journey of spiritual development. Rather than doing external acts like sacrifices and obeying rules, each one's walk was private and personal. Jesus told them to pray in a closet rather than in public. And there would be no more priests to stand between them and the Father; they had direct access, a radically new idea! Spiritual growth was the task of each person who chose to die to this world and all its material things. No longer would God be satisfied with the shallow activities of religion; rather He would live in Spirit WITHIN individuals. So, it would be there in the quiet contemplation of one's inner mind that God would speak and love and comfort and guide and enlighten. The earliest Christians understood this new concept, and it was as individuals that they claimed God as their Father. Alone many walked into an arena where wild animals would tear him or her apart. Alone each would take responsibility for his own relationship with his Father. Today we cannot imagine how radical such an idea was to those who came from an ancient culture where they had been a group held at a distance from the Holy of Holies, with priests in between. In The Apostolic Fathers, one writing is titled The Martyrdom of Polycarp. Polycarp of Smyrna was a follower of John of Ephesus who wrote the Gospel of John and Revelations. Smyrna was a town near Ephesus. Witnesses wrote about Polycarp's martyrdom, being burned at the stake in front of a large crowd. Another writing is The Teachings of the Twelve Apostles which was called by them, The Didache, meaning "the teachings." It consists of a summary of teachings which could direct Christian worshipers since there was no organized religion yet. The first two sentences of The Teachings are: "There are two ways, one of life and one of death, and there is a great difference between these two ways. Now this is the way of life: first, you shall love God who made you; second, your neighbor as yourself; and whatever you do not wish to happen to you, do not do to another." There is then some review of the commandments, along with instructions about humility and integrity and charity. Then there is a description of the way of death, with a listing of many wickedness of this world. Then comes discussion of baptism, praying, the sacred meal, and a few other suggestions.
For those early Christians, who valued fellowship in small groups, they were not yet exercising a religion, but lived individually in personal and intimate relationship with their Father, their God. They followed their Lord, Jesus, by devaluing this world and their earthly lives, ready at any moment to die for him at the hands of persecutors. It was all very REAL to them, and they lived their daily lives very differently from others in their communities. The Didache was not a rule book which required another person to conform, but it was a personal guide for a free Christian in his path toward oneship with his Father.
Today, our churches teach their members that they must obey certain rules or be cut off from the church family. The legalisms of religion make it hardly different from the oppressive religion of the Old Testament, as though Jesus never changed the program. It is easy today to be religious and to gain esteem and honor in the eyes of one's own church group. One need only follow a few social etiquette rules, most of them unrelated to the spiritual path. Each small group defines its own set of rules, permitting each group to be distinct from all others and therefore think themselves better than those others. Vanity! Many of the rules are petty and even contrary to Jesus' instruction, but no member dares question that, or to point out that Jesus said just the opposite. The difficult path of following Jesus has been replaced by a simple set of social rules, the following of which guarantees heaven. Amazingly, the blatant contradictions to Jesus' own words don't seem to bother religionists at all. The love and acceptance of the group over-rides any questions about Jesus' true teachings. The threat of loss of that love prevents any disturbing questions. That most important Christian task of seeking Truth, which Jesus demanded, has been replaced with a religion that says simply, "we have the truth, so we don= t need to seek anymore." Inexplicably, many of these groups despise any person who studies God's word in depth to become a theologian. One can only ponder their reasons. Perhaps they fear being found in error. That seems to be something they will not tolerate. Perhaps uneducated preachers feel too insecure to confront details or facts. I've pondered this scenario: A young man from such a group dedicates his life to Jesus and sets out on that search for Truth (which is Jesus Himself) and studies God's word and becomes a theologian. I wonder at what point the group shuts the door on him because he has learned too much.
For many of you who read this article, you may be upset with me because I've accused religions of contradicting clear scriptures and even Jesus' own words. It's easy to accuse, but where is the evidence? I'm going to list some of those things, and you can ponder whether they apply to you. If you are willing to consider some of the actual words which Jesus spoke, then you will find a theology that is radically different from the religions of modern churches. You will find that the Truth is radically different from what you are hearing in your churches! Some will ignore the obvious just as easily as you always have, but some of you will be disturbed and begin to think for yourself. When that happens, the Holy Spirit has a chance to work within you for, perhaps, the first time. You will quickly discover that the thrill of knowing God's Truth is far greater than the contentment of vegetating in a group of unliving religionists.
Jesus said, "I came not except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." Christian evangelicals preach that He came for EVERYONE in the whole world: universal Gospel! But please consider this. If you understand why Jesus really came, then you understand how nonsensical it is to claim He will "redeem" anyone in the world. The simple truth is that Jesus came as "repairer of the breach," to repair Israel= s breach-of-contract because they had violated their covenant/contract of Mt. Sinai, and had earned death as a penalty. God made that Old Covenant with Israel, and ONLY Israel, as it clearly states in the Bible. The Ten Commandments were for Israel alone, and no other group or race in the world can ever be accused of violating that contract to which they were not a party. This is childishly simple, that one can't be guilty of breaking a contract he has no part in. Because Israel broke the contract, it was Israel alone who needed a Redeemer. It was hardly necessary for Jesus to make His clear statement about whom He came for; the disciples knew it very well. Only later when the tyranny of Roman Catholicism (the word "catholic" means universal) sought political control of all peoples and thence applied the guilt to all of breaking the Ten Commandments have Christians bought the lie. Today, evangelical outreach is perhaps the primary and most important goal of Christianity. Who dares to question their error? What puzzles me is how so many millions of intelligent people can avoid seeing the simplicity of what Jesus said and what He did.
Note to the above paragraph: The European white race Christians insist on universal-gospel because they think they are outsiders from Israel, namely "gentiles." The truth is that the 8th century BC dispersion of the ten northern tribes of Israel saw them migrate into northern Europe. Their tribal symbols have flown on European flags and other emblems since that time, and still do identify those nations as the true Israelites. European white race peoples ARE the lost sheep of the house of Israel for whom Jesus came, and there is plenty of historical evidence to support this fact. The Christian church should be faulted for refusing to look at the historical evidence and for failing to teach our children who we really are. Today the fact of God's racial preference of Israel through the entire Bible is politically incorrect, so preachers turn their heads from the facts and find it easier to slip in the back door as "gentiles." You might also find it of interest that the Greek word, translated into English as "gentile," is ethnos, which is the root word for "ethnic." To the Greeks, it meant race, tribes, or ethnic group. Most often in the Bible, ethnos is used to refer to the tribes of Israel. Modern Christianity has twisted the meaning to be "non-Jews," a meaning directly opposite of what it meant to our Israelite ancestors of Bible times.
Jesus admitted that He drank alcohol and that He was accused by some of being a drunkard. See Matthew 11:19 or Luke 7:24 to check that out. Jesus began His ministry at Cana by making several hundred gallons of wine at a wedding party. He ended His ministry by blessing the wine and asking His friends to think of Him when they drink. The entire Bible is loaded with God's favor toward wine and winepresses, it being a blessed gift for His children of Israel. Wine and beer were drunk by ancient Israelites, perhaps more than water. Today, in some churches, there are people who reject and curse what Jesus blessed. Certainly, no one suggests that overdrinking is Godly! It is not. It is harmful. Like the nuclear energy which operates in every atom, harnessing its power can bring blessings to common homes, but abusing its power can destroy a city in an instant. God's great blessing and gift can be used by a spiritual person wonderfully, but for a non-spiritual person alcohol is better avoided. It is truly a curse for non-spiritual souls. Apparently, it is easier for simple churches to reject God's blessing than to deal responsibly with it. So, they make a rule against "drinking" and are quick to judge and even condemn any member who does it.
Because jewelry and makeup can be a vanity, even an offensive display of one's wealth, some churches condemn the wearing of ANY simple jewelry or makeup. Clothes and cars and houses can equally serve as shows of vanity, and you might just take a look at those items which belong to the loudest critics of jewelry or makeup. In their own way, they have the abundance of this world's "good life," while maintaining their religious "holier than thou" attitude toward any Christian who wants to enhance her looks a little. There is a big difference between vain showiness and simple makeup, but some Christians make a religion out of judging others rather than working their own spiritual paths.
Some churches make their KJV Bibles into idols, nearly worshiping an English dialect of late 18th century. They care not that the Bible original was in Greek, or that Jesus spoke Greek. They aren't interested in what Jesus might have meant in the Greek language. They are not concerned with the many failures in translation, nor do they seek to know just what Jesus meant with certain teachings. How did His disciples understand His words? Most of those who idolize the KJV care not that they have an updated version from that original 1611 edition which they couldn't understand today if they had it. They have simply adopted one English version as their idol. That wouldn't be so bad if they actually read it for what it says, but they don't. They merely scorn and despise any other versions of the Bible, and that gives them some feeling of being better than others. Such religion is satisfying to a judgmental and unthinking mind.
The Amish make the wearing of black part of their religion, along with a certain style of hat and a certain style of beard. Not Biblical, but it is a symbol of being separate from all other people. Mormons make a law about tithing, checking each member's tax form to make sure they get every dime. Jesus nullified all those Old Testament ordinances, but the Mormon church has gotten obscenely wealthy from the practice anyway. Roman Catholics made a rule that one shouldn't eat meat on Fridays. Small cultish groups like to call fellow members "brother" and "sister" just because they come to the same church, while ignoring Jesus' words that His true brothers and sisters were those who do the will of the Father. For Jesus that didn't necessarily include His own brothers and sisters or even His mother.
A few other conflicts: Jesus called Himself the Son of Man. The church doesn't like to look at Jesus' humanity, preferring to see Him only as the Son of God.
Jesus said the kingdom of Heaven is within you. The church says it is someplace you go after you die. No scriptural support for that concept, but it serves the church as a carrot on a stick by which to lead the non-thinking masses to the offering plates.
The Bible shows the lineage of Jesus through Joseph as His father, back to King David. The church says Joseph isn't Jesus' earthly father. I'm not denying the virgin birth, but merely pointing out that the church doesn't deal with this conflict of information.
The Bible says Jesus had four brothers, James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas, plus some sisters. (Mat. 12:47; 13:55f, John 2:12) The church presents Jesus as Mary's only child.
Jesus said to hate your mother, father, sisters, brothers, and spouse, and your own life, too. The church preaches just the opposite. Of course, Jesus didn't hate His mother. But the church refuses to confront the spiritual lesson of Jesus words here.
Jesus said He couldn't speak clearly lest people "understand, repent, and be forgiven." The church touts Him as the greatest teacher ever, and yet refuses to ponder the deeper meanings of His teachings. Most just accept His metaphors as literal and deny there is any deeper meaning.
Jesus said, "don't make my Father's house a house of merchandise." (Jn. 2:16) The church operates like a business offering salvation for sale.
Jesus said that God the Father judges no one (Jn 5:22), and that He, Jesus, judges no one (Jn 8:15; 12:47). The church teaches that God judges everyone and makes a religion of passing judgments; condemnation is served as a church commodity.
Jesus said, "do not labor for food" or worry about supplying your daily needs. (Jn 6:27; Mat. 6:25) The church teaches the Christian "work-ethic" and despises those who don't gain wealth and contribute to the church coffers. Most preachers and elders revel in the company of the wealthy and influential.
Jesus said, "neither do I condemn you" to the adultress who had expressed no repentance and received no moral lecture. The church actually makes it a central part of its religion to judge and condemn most sexual activity.
Jesus said some people are "of God" and some people are " not of God." (Jn 8:44-47) The church says ALL people are God's children.
Jesus said that the prince of this world (Jn 14:30) and the god of this world (2 Cor 4:4) is NOT Him or His Father. (cf. Jn 16:11) The church teaches that Jesus is the LORD of this world.
In conclusion of this article, I want to say that I've not written this to condemn fellow Christians for their false teachings. I understand that God has blinded most of His children until the end-times are completed. Then their minds and spirits will be awakened to see and understand what they read in the Bible. When that time comes, there will be materials like this available to help Christians to correct their errors and find the Truth, which is the Christ. None of God's children will be lost because the Spirit of God lives within them and cannot die. But it IS necessary for them to be blinded until this kingdom of World comes to its end, after which God's family of Israel (European white race tribes of Israel, the only true Israel) will arise to inherit the vineyard and to function knowingly as members of the body of the Christ. It disturbs me personally to see sincere Christians judging and condemning fellow Christians while nearly drowning in false beliefs themselves. They would do well to listen to Jesus' warning to remove the logs from their own eyes before picking at splinters in a brother or sister.
Remember that the subject of this article regards the difference between religion and spirituality. Religionism, which is not something condoned by Jesus, permits one to feel smug and content while merely following a few social rules of the church. Spirituality is a most difficult path of searching for Truth, along with the development of a personal relationship with the Father. This is all done in the quietness of oneself, where no one pats you on the back, and is a lifelong struggle that gets ever more difficult. God's training program is not easy. Part of the program includes a dying to this world and to all its values of wealth, power, and pride. Such a seeker-of-God is a solitaire, on a lonely path which has no guideposts except one's homesickness. Religionists usually drive such a holy one from their midst because they don't understand his path. Perhaps it is best that it works this way, because it is easier for a truly spiritual person when he is separate from such critics. Actually, Jesus indicates that unless one becomes separate from all such people, including his own family members, he cannot be Jesus' disciple. Like I said at the beginning of the article, you can't be both a religionist and a follower of Jesus. God bless you on your own path to God!
by Roger Hathaway, June 2004
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