I have dealt in Part 4 with the situation where you should not allow yourself to be manipulated or condemned any longer under:
- A denominational spirit; or
- A spirit of performance
In Part 5, I will continue with the fact that the Church in a large context have replaced the Law of Moses with a new set of church laws and rules and thereby nullify the redemptive work of Christ and the grace of God in our lives.
God prophesied in the Book of Hosea (Hos 4:6) that His people (Israel) are destroyed for lack of knowledge and the New Testament Church has a similar problem because there is a major lack of wisdom and insight from the Word of God regarding the true essence of God’s Righteousness and Grace for the Body of Christ. What exactly does the forgiveness of sins mean through the blood of Christ?
With the breakaway of the Protestant church from the Roman Catholic Church, it brought about the further development and introduction of different denominations. Splinter groups developed through the years because of differences in opinion regarding scripture, leadership style and specific procedures during services. Leaders from one group would place more emphasis on a particular subject than the other and then each new group tried to convince its followers that they possessed the full gospel and truth of salvation. This is nothing new because we also find this trend in the business world where a specific service provider would try to convince current and potential customers through various marketing campaigns that they have the best product and service money can buy. It is better known as the “competitive edge”.
It is through these processes that various new laws and practices were also introduced in the Church in order to be unique from everybody else. But, we were not called to be unique in differences of doctrine. We were called to be united through the Spirit of God and the Word and to let our individual uniqueness of character minister the same doctrines to all people. The prayer of Jesus confirms this:
- Joh 17:21 That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.
In fact they have isolated themselves from the Body of Christ and in the process the true meaning of Grace according to the Word got diluted or obscured behind all the church laws and regulations. Congregations keep themselves quite busy in re-circulating members from one denomination to another, while the Good News of Christ rarely goes out to the ones who have never heard it before.
The main issue I would like to address through this article is the denominational laws that were introduced ages ago in the churches of today, such as:
- Specific standards regarding clothing; hair designs, the wearing of hats for women, make-up and jewelry, etc.
- Specific clothing and colour to be used
- Men wearing beards and moustaches or not. In the one situation it is regarded as being holy and in right standing with God, but at another group this will be totally out of order and being rebellious.
- In some churches they motivate you to raise your arms in praise and worship, but is most other churches it is completely out of order and not allowed,
- Setting up of holiness standards according to these rules and regulations (no sport activities; TV; film shows; entertainment; etc. allowed)
- People have to be baptized before they could get married or before they would be allowed to play in the music team. This has nothing to do with the reason or purpose of baptism.
- Strict dietary laws in the same context as if under the Law.
- People such as the Jehovah Witnesses who believe that they “might” have a change to be saved (to be part of the 144000) if they convert a lot of other people to the same faith.
- And I believe this is not even a complete list of all the current laws still in churches.
The majority of denominations across the world still have the mindset of being under a law. The same mindset that they have to perform (keeping the strict rules of their own laws) in order to find favor with God – or even worse, that their personal salvation hangs in the balance if they do not conform to these standards. Where is the power of redemption through the blood of Christ then?
Therefore from this reasoning most Christians believe God is out there to punish them for things they have done wrong, or didn’t do today. We have set up such a high standard for people from the world to be accepted in the local church, that it is no wonder that only a small group of people give their hearts to the Lord while the converted once lose faith and hope. Both groups experience the same problem and that is they feel they will never be able to match up to the standards being laid down from the church leadership. The only standard that Christ requires from you is to be born-again through water and Spirit (John 3:5) and then allow Him to transform you to His image and glory.
People follow such strict rules and rituals in their daily lives and God forbid if they should break or even forget any one of them. I know by writing this I would be opening up a can of “spiritual worms” that contaminate the Grace of God and our lives on a daily basis. Why do you have to pray:
- Every time you start your car for a safe journey to the local shop or even to work?
- For protection every night before we go to bed – while putting on all the alarm systems in the world for in case?
- Or leaving Bibles open with specific scriptures and promises all over the house for the visitors to see?
- Or you take the medicine immediately after you have prayed for healing?
I am not trying to convince you not to pray, but I want you to examine your faith in God. Do you really believe in God? Do you really trust Him fully with your life in this world and hereafter or not? Are these types of prayers not maybe from a source of doubt or anxiety or from specific church rituals? And we all know that doubt and anxiety is not part of the seed of faith and as a matter of fact, church rules neither! Please feel free to pray as much as you want to, but check your motives and your heart in your prayers whether it is from:
- A point of insecurity;
- Obligation to some set of rules;
- From your own personal greed and not your need; or
- Even the example we follow from other major role models in our lives.
Our lives should be a life of prayer and thanksgiving, but most of all one of faith and trust in the Lord – even in those times when you don’t get the time to pray today. We are still secure in Christ through faith:
- 2Co 1:20-22 For all God’s promises are “Yes” in him. And so through him we can say “Amen,” to the glory of God. Now the one who makes us-and you as well-secure in union with Christ and has anointed us is God, who has placed his seal on us and has given us the Spirit in our hearts as a down payment.
- If we are secure in Christ and we have the “yes” and “amen” in all promises, why do we need to fear? Hebr 12:2 says that Jesus is the author and finisher of our faith. He has taken full responsibility for your life!
- We don’t lose our security in Christ just because we didn’t pray this morning.
This is absurd to even think you can find more favor from God by abiding to some set of self applied rules, because you then nullify the complete and eternal redemption power of Jesus Christ on the cross.
- Rom 3:24 By his grace they are justified freely through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,
- Eph 2:8-9 For by such grace you have been saved through faith. This does not come from you; it is the gift of God and not the result of works, lest anyone boast.
- See also Hebr 9:12
In my experience in the ministry, I have found people who would fully accept the previous scripture that they have been saved through grace and it being a gift from God. But then they would try to “maintain” or even “boost” this gift and salvation through various laws and rituals. Philip Yancey writes in his book “What’s so amazing about Grace?” that people would hear sermons on Grace nearly every Sunday, sing about the love of Jesus Christ and the joy they have received from the Gospel, but would then continue throughout the week to try and earn God’s favor with their own devoutness and renunciations. He writes about people (mostly leaders in the church) in the early centuries, that would deny themselves the ordinary comfort and pleasures in this life, such as:
- The one priest decided that he would never smell a flower, never drink when parched with thirst, never would drive away a fly, never show disgust before a repugnant object, never complain of personal discomfort and never sit down.
- The mystic St John of the Cross advised believers to destroy all joy and hope, to turn not to what pleases, but to what disgusts and to despise yourself and wish that others should also despise you!
- St Bernard usually covered his eyes to avoid seeing the beauty of Swiss lakes.
- And they have done it all in order to find favor and grace from God!
- What are you doing on a daily basis in order to find favor with God – and then miss all the joy that He has planned for you?
- He has already given you the grace and favor through the Cross of Jesus Christ! Accept it and live in this wonderfull grace of God!
- Stop condemming yourself and trust God to transform and guide you!
Paul writes for “those of you who are trying to be justified by the law have been cut off from Christ. You have fallen away from grace (Gal 5:4), and I know he refers to the Law of Moses, but it also applies to any other law that we might replace it with. Do you want to find more favor with God? Then follow the Word. In Luke 2:52 scripture says that Jesus kept on growing in wisdom and maturity and in favor with God and his fellow man. In other words;
- Grow in wisdom:
- Study His Word
- Pray and develop a relationship with Jesus Christ
- Allow the Word and the Holy Spirit to guide you
- Do not be conformed to this world, but continually be transformed by the renewing of your minds so that you may be able to determine what God’s will is-what is proper, pleasing, and perfect (Rom 12:2)
- That doesn’t mean that we have to deprive ourselves from happiness, laughter, comfort, good food and beauty. Everything was created by God and for His glory and we can still acknowledge His power in all we see and experience.
- Grow in maturity
- Those whose minds are trained by practice to distinguish good from evil (Heb 5:14).
- Seek a church who teaches the Word of God in truth and in Spirit
- Attend regular Bible studies and seek truth and revelation in the Word
- Develop your personal ministry and gifts of the Spirit through your spiritual leaders and the Word of God
- Live it out in the Body of Christ under authority. Christ has set us free so that we may enjoy the benefits of freedom (Gal 5:1) but we still have to accept the authority of the Body of Christ.
Stay connected for the next portion on this subject which will follow in due course. Please give us some feedback on this topic in regard with any questions or concerns you may have in this regard.
Eric Heath is the Senior Pastor of End Time Pentecostal Ministries in Danville, South Africa and also the President of Galilee International Ministries (SA) and he is available to minister on this subject as well as other major subjects concerning our life in Christ. He can be contacted through this website by completing the box as provided below.