Grace Evangelical Free Church January 11, 2014
Church Adherence by Pastor Tony Raker
The following post has been fully downloaded with reply provided by Pastor Raker, his observations in bold text; Mick Mooney’s original text in black:
Why I Choose to Live My Faith Outside of Organized Religion
By Mick Mooney
Posted: 12/17/2014 3:08 pm EST Updated: 12/17/2014 3:59 pm EST
Let me start by making my premise clear: Believing in God doesn’t mean I believe in religion, and believing in Jesus doesn’t mean I believe in the religion of Christianity. While I accept I’ll often be lumped into these groups because I believe in God and Jesus, I know that I myself don’t subscribe to any organized religion. I have in the past, and I learned my lesson.
- Disaffection with a fellowship is not uncommon, but to generalize an experience in order to rationalize an action is illegitimate as rationalization, defined, is the lowering of a standard. In this case, as we shall see, the Biblical standard is active participation in a local fellowship.
- The Biblical designation for a believer, “…in God and Jesus…” is a Christian: used three times in the New Testament (Acts 11:26; 26:28; 1 Peter 4:16). Followers of Jesus Christ were first called “Christians” in Antioch (Acts 11:26) because their behavior, activity, and speech were like Christ. The word “Christian” literally means, “belonging to the party of Christ” or a “follower of Christ.”
- It is true that Christianity is not a religion (which, defined, is man’s search for God), but a relationship with Christ and fellow believers.
- Assuming “organized religion” is a reference to a local church/fellowship, willful refusal of fellowship with believers is a violation of Hebrews 10: 24, 25 (see accompanying lesson).
While some say only one religion leads to God, and others might say all religions lead to God, I would say the opposite: That no religion leads to God. They may talk of God, point to him even, and have some relevant points, but, in my opinion, they do not, and can not (sic), lead fully to God; the various branches and denominations of Christianity are no exception.
- The equating of religion (man’s search for God) with Christianity (God’s provision for man) is incorrect;
- “…in my opinion” is a critical admission of the author in that faith is not based in opinion but the precepts and convictions of Scripture (2 Timothy 3:16);
- In fact, according to Scripture the fuller relationship with God is found in fellowship with believers (Ep. 4; Rom. 12; 1 Cor. 12) not apart from the communion of the Saints.
The very structure religion confines itself within, along with its immovable dogmas, is proof enough that it will always fail to lead anyone to the full reality of our boundless, cosmic-sized God. It’s clear to me that God is bigger than any box a religion can set up to put him in.
- The author’s confusion is based in a subjective experience vs. objective conviction;
- Objectively: 2 Peter 1:21 states, “For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit,” which has been commended to us in the form of the Old and New Testament, the objective standard by which Christians are informed of their God and live accordingly in order to be in right relationship with Him which includes a relationship with fellow believers;
- Subjectively: 2 Corinthians 2:5 is where Paul states, “…so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.”
- This is a case of speculation vs. revelation – the only sure word we have is the Scripture which allows us to reject incorrect notions related to God, our faith and subsequent conduct. Hence, recommending a spiritual walk outside the bounds of the church is rejected based upon Hebrews 10.
- Paul states specifically that within the church, not outside of it, is God’s cosmic nature begun to be comprehended, “…so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge….” Ephesians 3:17-19.
While it seems popular to think Jesus came to build an army of sorts for God, and to then organize his followers to build him an empire on earth, I personally don’t subscribe to such a concept. In fact, I think Christ came to do the opposite; I believe he came to end empire thinking and bring each of us back to a personal, individual experience of God.
- In fact, Christ came to build His church. The church is the body of Christ, of which He is the head. Ephesians 1:22-23 says, “And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.”
- The body of Christ is made up of individual believers in Jesus Christ (Acts chapter 2), hence one cannot divorce himself from the church of Christ and claim to be in right relationship with Him.
I believe it is a divine experience that is not based on us (as some kind of Christian army) conquering the world on his behalf, but rather, it is the experience of Christ himself conquering our individual heart with the victory of his love. For it is only when his love has fully overcome our hearts that we can truly be led into a divine understanding of God.
- John 15:5 Jesus states, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” which affirms the author’s relationship between God and His followers, but also undermines the author’s argument in that:
- One must be in love and thereby in submission to Christ in order to gain understanding therefore…
- Being in submission one must be a member of a fellowship of believers per the command of His Word as, “apart from Him”, we cannot know God in His fuller expression
So what does a personal relationship with God feel like? It feels personal, that’s what. It’s a relationship that you and God experience and understand. It’s not a corporate relationship. Yes, many others also have a personal relationship, and that’s a beautiful thing, just as connecting with other believers is a beautiful experience, but I don’t expect their relationship to God to be a cookie cutter of mine. Vocabulary that describes my faith and belief is — and I think should be — different. The way I connect with my divine Father naturally varies to others.
- The relationship with God is both personal and corporate as we have demonstrated.
- Salvation is not subjective, but Biblically proscriptive – Conviction: John 16:8; Contrition: Isaiah 66:2; Confession: Romans 10:9-10;
- Our ‘vocabulary’ related to faith and belief is not subjective, but also Biblically prescribed: “19 And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, 20 knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. 21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” – 2 Peter 1:19-21
The thoughts and questions that God stirs my heart with — and the answers I find — are never going to be the same as everyone else, because my relationship with God is personal.
- Hebrews 13:8 tells us, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”
- James 1:17 assures us, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.”
- Clearly God’s answers to life’s questions are right, correct and consistent just as is His Word.
- Therefore while every relationship with God is personal the revelation of God, unique in relation to competing world views, is uniquely consistent in content including vocabulary, definition and answers to life’s questions.
Contrary to this is organized religion. Religion creates a corporate identity. When we buy into religion we end up speaking, sounding, even looking like everyone else within that corporate branded identity. Same thoughts. Same beliefs. Same well-defined doctrines; and if you step out of line and have questions that don’t fit that corporate identity, chances are you might be silenced, or even booted out.
- Based upon Romans 15:5-7, this assertion could not be more incorrect: “May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, 6 that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 7 Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.”
- In fact, “we,” corporately, are to work together – proclaiming the same message as our Lord and the brethren who have come before us…
- Including the tenets of Scripture based upon 2 Timothy 3:16.
- Should a disagreement arise, the objective assertions of Scripture prove the defining factor
- Disobedience to Christ’s Word and untruthfulness are to be subject to church discipline, and administered in love (1 Corinthians 5:7-8) with the goal of restoration.
Well, you know, I don’t mind if I don’t fit the corporate identity of organized religion, nor do I seek membership. I’m happy to have a relationship that is unique with my creator, to let go of long-held religious ambitions, and simply live in the reality of everyday life. I simply want to walk freely in each day, with an open mind to learn new things and an open heart to connect authentically with the world around me.
- In fact, Scripture tells us in 1 Corinthians 2:12, “Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. “
- Paul affirms in Romans 12:2: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
In short, this last paragraph is a statement of independence instead of interdependence to which God has called us. “Walking freely” outside of God’s plan is to walk in bondage. To question God’s instruction is to repeat Satan’s appeal to Eve: “Hath God said?” (Genesis 3:1) In point of fact, yes, God hath said; and to continue in a walk contrary to God’s Word is not just “walking freely” but walking in rebellion. Our call is to submission which, in this case, is submission to Hebrews 10:24 & 25.