by Jeannette Haley
One of the greatest characteristics of a true saint of God is their willingness to allow their frame of reference, (perspective), to be challenged. This willingness is evidence of a heart that genuinely seeks and loves the truth at any cost. The person who wisely and humbly submits to the truth revealed by God’s word is a person to whom much can be entrusted.Unfortunately, we are living in the day and age spoken of in 2 Timothy 4:3, 4, which reads: “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.”
The problem is, (and it’s a major one), the majority of church-attending believers today blindly accept as “gospel truth” anything and everything that comes forth from the pulpit. Jesus put it well when He said, “Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.” (Mark 7:9; Matthew 15:9)
Human nature has not changed over the centuries, nor have the tactics of religious leaders. While outward appearances may have changed, inwardly their motives and methods remain much the same. For example, multitudes of gullible people the world over fall victim to control through the evil twins of guilt and fear. In fact, guilt and fear are two of Satan’s most effective weapons against God’s people. Once a believer succumbs to traditions of men through the wiles of guilt and fear, he/she is then under the covering of witchcraft. It is well to remember that witchcraft is control. Manipulation falls under the same category.
What are some of the reasons people fall prey to the traditions of men? In fact, how can a person test or discern whether or not they have fallen prey to traditions of men?
There are two categories of people who become supporters of the traditions of men; namely, those who are sincere, but lack knowledge, and those who lack integrity. The former group are those who have never been properly discipled and in their ignorance and zeal become victims of man’s traditions. In other words, these are honest folk who have allowed their perceptions and beliefs to be shaped by manmade teachings rather than the truth of God’s word. The latter group is people who, because of their pride, prefer the traditions of men to the Word of God. These are the people who play the religious games without a true heart commitment to the Lord. In other words, these hypocritical people appear to be outwardly righteous, but inwardly they are full of rebellion and idolatry.
Jesus foretold of this situation when He taught the parable of the wheat and the tares. Both grow up together, but when the harvest time is come, the tares will be gathered and burned. (Matthew 13:24-30)
The second question, that is, how can a person test or discern whether or not they are under man’s covering rather than God’s is answered from scripture. Following is a list of some of the ways a person can discern the difference:
- Is there bondage or liberty? 2 Corinthians 3:17 tells us, “Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.”
- Who is being glorified? In other words, is a certain church, leader, belief or set of religious rules being exalted? The Apostle Paul stated in 1 Corinthians 2:2, “For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.”
- Is what you are being taught correspond with the clear teaching of scripture? The traditions of men become complicated and burdensome, causing confusion, fear and guilt, while God’s commandments are easy to understand. Colossians 2:8 warns, “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.” The Apostle Paul declared in Galatians 2:16, “Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.”
- Is the fruit of the Spirit evident in your church, among both the leadership and the people?
These four questions are pretty basic, but now I am really going to challenge your frame of reference concerning the “organized church.” Are you ready for this? Here goes:
- Has your church taught you that if you do not tithe, then God will not be able to bless you? Have you been encouraged to ask God where He wants you to give or have you been told that Christians must tithe only to the church? If so, you have been presented with the “fear-guilt” tactic. Nowhere in the New Testament is this “law” applied to the church. On the contrary, everything a Christian owns belongs to God. If there is a need that we can meet, then it is sin if we turn away. God’s heart is toward the poor, the fatherless and the widow. Offerings were taken in Paul’s day to be distributed to the saints. (See 2 Corinthians 8-9:1; Acts 2:44-47; 4:32-37) Consider how much money you have given to your church. If you have ever had a pressing financial need, how much money did your church organization return to you? Does your pastor “live above” the people?
- When was the last time your pastor made a house call out of love and concern for you and your family?
- Has your church leadership made a concerted effort to disciple, train and equip you for the ministry in compliance with Ephesians 4:12?
- Have you found yourself becoming increasingly caught up with signs, wonders, experiences and entertainment?
- Does the worship service glorify God or the worship itself? Is it truly anointed, or just “loud?”
- Are you challenged from the teaching and preaching to die daily to self, repentance, cross- bearing and a holy life?
- Are you growing closer to Jesus and falling more in love with Him as a result of your church?
- Are you broken over lost souls or are you too caught up with church activities to care about hell-bound sinners?
- Are the leaders of your church good stewards of God’s treasury, distributing to the needs of others, (including missionaries), or are they busy building an impressive kingdom for themselves?
- If Jesus, John the Baptist, the Apostle Paul or any of the prophets were to visit your church today, would they be welcome in the pulpit? (Ask God before you answer).
- Do you look forward to going to church because it’s “fun,” “entertaining” or “socially pleasing?” Or, do you attend church because you hear and tremble at the word of the Lord? Are you stirred up to follow Christ regardless of the cost, or are you promised “health” and “wealth?”
- Do you go to your church because you feel guilty if you don’t?
- Does your pastor share the pulpit with evangelists and other speakers who challenge the flock?
- Does your pastor not only preach against sin and pride, but also deal with it within members of the congregation? Or, does your pastor boast, brag and praise himself much of the time?
- Do all of the members of your congregation love and submit to one another? Is there humility and genuine burden-bearing?
- Is your church separate from the world, or is it worldly? (Ask the Lord!)
- Does your church exalt Christ or itself? In other words, if Jesus called you to work outside of the church, or to attend another fellowship, how would your church respond?
- Are you consistently taught the precepts of the Bible so you could stand alone if the time ever came when you would have to?
- Does your church preach and practice helping one another as well as the community in practical, everyday ways? Or, is it self-serving? Is your pastor a respecter of persons?
- Is your church preparing you to stand in times of persecution; preparing you for death and judgment? In other words, are you maturing as a Christian because of your involvement in your church?
- Is your church a praying church or a playing church?
- Does your pastor receive his messages from God? Are they anointed? Do you believe his word over the word of God? Think about it.
- Could you confidently bring an unbeliever to your church knowing the gospel would be preached and an altar call given?
- Does your pastor welcome and respect true prophets of God, or does he pander to the prideful, popular, pillow prophets of today? (Remember, true prophets of God do not tickle ears nor are they usually very popular.)
- Are your pastor and leadership truly laboring in the vast harvest field, or is the emphasis in your church the church itself? In other words, are souls more important than the building?
- Is your church truly identified with Christ? By this I mean the people, from the top down are committed to holiness and separation from the world? If so, is they full of self-righteous, religious pride?
- Does your church teach that they are the “only way”—that they are the only ones going to heaven? (If so, flee; you are in a cult). (Note: Any form of control through fear and guilt is a cult.)
- Would you say the people in your church are full of the love of God; that is, willing to go the extra mile, willing to care for and love the unlovely and eager to bless and pray for their enemies?
- Are you encouraged by your leadership to search the scriptures for yourself, or are you led to believe only the “educated” and “elite” can understand scripture?
- Are you fed fresh manna from the word of God, or are the messages you hear “regurgitated” milk?
- Can you truly “be yourself” in your church or do you have to put on a religious mask to fit in?
- Does your church take a firm, biblical stand against abortion, homosexuality, fornication, adultery, perversion, pornography, gossip, slander, unforgiveness, undisciplined children, etc.?
- Does your pastor avoid confrontation when the situation calls for it?
- Does he preach to please man or does he preach to please God?
- Is he covetous and easily influenced by money, power and position? Bottom line, who is exalted, Jesus, or the pastor and the church? (Train your ears to hear what is being said!)
Friends, if you have never learned how to study scripture for yourself, begin to do it now! Don’t leave your eternal well being in the hands of another. If you have never studied the subject of the Laws of Moses, (such as tithing), do so! If you have never researched, for yourself, the many controversies surrounding the role of women in the body of Christ, do it now! If you have doubts about the reality of hell, search it out. If you have never studied the two ordinances Jesus gave to His followers, that is, baptism and communion, then it’s time for you to learn about it.
Some of the resources we use here at GSM are as follows:
- Thomson Chain- Reference Study Bible (KJV)
- Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance
- Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words
- Smith’s Bible Dictionary
- Jewish Faith and the New Covenant by Jewish Professor, Ruth Lascelle
- God’s Word to Women by Professor Katherine Bushnell
- Haley’s Bible Handbook
- Lectures in Systematic Theology by Henry C. Thiessen
- My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers
Jesus said He would establish His church and the gates of hell would not prevail against it. Just what is “Jesus’ church?” His church is the universal body of believers who have come to Him in faith, repented of their sins and believe He is God Incarnate. Jesus’ church is made up of people who are born again, (born from above), and who have accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior, (Redeemer). Those in the body of Christ love Him with all their heart, soul, mind and might and believe in His death, burial and resurrection, (the gospel).
It is obvious Jesus Christ did not, is not, and never will establish a man-exalting organized church system that lacks true love, humility, fear of God and holiness.
We have nothing to lose and everything to gain by allowing the Holy Spirit to challenge our perspectives, beliefs, motivations, attitudes, actions and religious activities. We must allow the truth to determine our frame of reference rather than define truth according to our own perceptions. If our frame of reference is based upon the organized church system, you can be sure your perceptions, like the Pharisees in Jesus day, are based on the traditions of men and not the word of God. If this is the case, then our natural tendency is to be critical of others who do not share our beliefs. Therefore, our identification will be our church, denomination, creed and/or man-made doctrines and traditions rather than with the Person of Jesus Christ.
It is critical that we humble ourselves and love the truth, for there is heaven to gain and hell to avoid. None of us wants to hear these words from the lips of the King of kings, “I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” (Matthew 7:23)