My horizons have certainly been broadened as I have stepped away from “regular” church. I have learned that there are many others like myself out there, living out their walk with Christ in different ways. It has been refreshing and encouraging, as I have met many like-minded, truly earnest seekers of Christ. It seems incredible to me that I am broadcasting my heart across the Internet to virtual strangers, when during my days in church, while amongst “real life” brothers and sisters, I was resigned to a position of one way communication; from the pulpit on down, with me sitting mutely on the receiving end.
I shared with very few folks back then, as the form of fellowship and worship that we were taking part in necessarily restricted a true sharing of the life of Christ in us. I was also encumbered very much by fear; fear of others’ opinions, fear of being “wrong”, fear of being rejected as I shared the “real me”. Somehow sharing this way poses fewer risks; I don’t really “know” most visitors to this site, and if I ever get uncomfortable with any relationship that I am part of, I can simply no longer communicate with that person. But there is also a camaraderie that exists amongst us. There is a freedom to express and discuss without any of those fears that previously were a hindrance. In many ways, I feel “let loose”.
However, I have, from time to time, come across opinions or teachings that have both startled and disturbed me. Cruising around cyber space I have pondered some of these things and have observed a commonality that they all share. I discern a trend afoot (not intentional, perhaps) to undermine the written word of God, and to elevate human wisdom and experience.
Coming away from “religion” is a process. It is something like delicate brain surgery to remove a malignant growth. The tumor has wrapped itself around areas of brain tissue that are healthy and necessary to function as we are meant to as humans. The decision is made to take away the invasive, life threatening tissue. But in doing so, a great danger exists. That healthy, vital organ may be damaged. Parts may be cut away with the cancer, or it might otherwise become injured, making it ineffective in carrying out the functions it was designed to perform. The patient could end up living out their life with greatly reduced function. Or they may even die.
I have proceeded cautiously in my leaving the structures of organized church/religion. While moving along in my journey, I have asked God to give me wisdom. I have, from the beginning, realized the value of not “throwing out the baby with the bathwater”. Along the way I have also asked for the courage that I need to follow where He leads me. (Remember, my greatest tendency is to say and do what will make others thing well of me.) I am by nature shy, and have never been one to take up “causes”, or be outspoken. But since God saved me, I have been increasingly burdened to speak and live the Truth in my life; to honor Him in so doing, and to encourage others to do the same. That is, the Truth as written in His word, and as shown to us through Jesus Christ.
Throughout the centuries, God has inspired many men and women to expound and comment on the scriptures. Many wonderful books have been written that have inspired, instructed and comforted Believers. I have benefitted enormously from the wisdom of many authors/teachers, both living and dead as God has confirmed His word to me through their writings and teachings. However, along the way I have also given in to the tendency to elevate certain of these gifted people so that I have accepted what they have said or written without truly seeking for myself to know that it lines up with God’s written word. This is what we are all prone to do, as humans. We want a “leader”. Humankind throughout the ages has created idols to worship. The Israelites wanted a King to rule over them, and petitioned Samuel to appoint one for them. Samuel took their request to the LORD, Who responded:
“The LORD said to Samuel, “Listen to the voice of the people in regard to all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me from being king over them. Like all the deeds which they have done since the day that I brought them up from Egypt even to this day-in that they have forsaken Me and served other gods-so they are doing to you also.'” (1Samuel 8:7-8)
It has occurred to me that in this state of being out of organized church, there exists the danger of simply becoming another “denomination”, complete with commonly held beliefs, and mutually appointed “leaders”. I believe I am witnessing it now as I read and discover many authors and teaching that I have never been exposed to. I am not saying that God does not use people to clarify truth as set down in the Word. What disturbs me the amount of material that I have seen that contains barely any reference to scripture at all. It is, in many cases, largely subjective, based on personal opinion and experience.
One of the greatest revelations that I had when I left church was that there was no longer any human “authority” that I had to answer to in terms of my conscience. That in itself has been the most liberating truth to me, and has colored every aspect of my life. It has helped me enormously, as I am tempted to follow one group or another in the online community of believers that I have encountered. But I hang back. I don’t post a big list of people’s blogs that I follow. Because I understand my felt-need to “belong” to one camp or another, and recognize the folly of giving in to this longing, I tread very carefully amongst the websites, forums and blogs that I encounter, and resist the urge to just jump on one or another of the many bandwagons that are out there. I have done this too often in “real life” religion, and know how disastrous the results can be.
I don’t want to name persons, books, or websites. But I have seen certain of these being held up as “life changing” and "truth revealing." I want to state a word of caution. No matter what any person says or teaches,or if it “witnesses” with your spirit or not, everything must be held up to the written word of God, and be judged by it. If we step away from that qualifier, even one inch, we are automatically putting ourselves in danger of following deceiving spirits working through fallible human beings. They may love God, they may be sincere in what they believe, but they are only flesh and blood, and subject to deception like any one of us.
No man or woman has all the truth. And the less emphasis they place on scripture, the more likely they are to stray from truth. If we do not stick to the word of God, and keep it as our highest authority, and believe in the God that it reveals, we may as well trust in Superman to save us, and subscribe to” The Book of the Month Club” to find our “truth”.
“How can a young man keep his way pure?
By keeping it according to Your word.
With all my heart I have sought You;
Do not let me wander from Your commandments,
Your word I have treasured in my heart,
That I may not sin against You.
Blessed are you, O LORD;
Teach me Your statutes.
With my lips I have told of
All the ordinances of Your mouth.
I have rejoiced in the way of Your testimonies,
As much as in all riches.
I will meditate on Your precepts
And regard Your ways.
I shall delight in Your statutes;
I shall not forget Your word.”