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Here’s an inconvenient truth: the more serious you are about God, the more the Church is going to get on your nerves. Now for those of you who are bristling at that statement because you are currently loving your church, remember that we’re all at different points in the journey. If you’re feeling like you’re right where God wants you and things are going great, then you’re obviously not struggling with the issues we’re going to be addressing in this post. Sometimes it’s useful to listen to advice that’s meant for someone else, sometimes it’s not. You make the call.
Now for those of you who are currently dealing with some hardcore feelings of bitter disgust and hatred towards the infamous Bride of Christ, we want to give you some things to chew on with the Holy Spirit. Every time you find yourself feeling stressed, there’s an opportunity for growth, and slogging through the kind of disillusionment you’re dealing with is a major stress.
You thought the Church was serious about pleasing God. It turns out that for the most part, she couldn’t care less about Him. You thought that all her talk about Jesus meant something. Now you’re realizing that Jesus is just the brand she markets because it’s a brand that always sells. You thought all of these holy sounding titles could be trusted. But now you’re realizing that so many of these shepherds are up to all kinds of shady, calculated games. Everywhere you look, there’s blatant hypocrisy and lies. The shepherds are manipulating the sheep and the sheep are manipulating the shepherds. Everyone’s sucking up to everyone else just to get their name out there and their time in the spotlight. You go to church on Sunday to get a break from the world, only to find that the world is right inside the building with you. It really is quite the cesspool of carnality, and here you were led to expect something better. But the Church isn’t better, she just talks about God while she chases after demons, carnal lusts, and worldly acclaim. So much for salvation morphing us into clones of Christ. So much for not selling out.
Where are the souls who really care? Doesn’t anyone really care about God anymore? Yes they do, but the closer you get to God, the less use you have for watching Him being lied to, misquoted, and bossed around. At certain stages in the journey, attending church ceases to become of any value, so many Christians simply stop. Serious devotion does not enjoy hanging out with hardcore rebellion. Maturity doesn’t look to immaturity for guidance in life. Because of her own rotten choices, the Church as a whole ends up driving serious Christians out of her midst by forcing them to choose between God’s approval and hers.
You can’t climb the ranks of Christendom without selling out. The Church puts the same price tag on fame and fortune that the world does: you have to be willing to publicly spit in God’s face before you’re going to collect. You have to stand at your pulpit spewing a bunch of rot that you know God hasn’t authorized you to say. You have to be willing to sing songs that He finds insulting, plug ministries He doesn’t like, and brainwash the young with teaching that you know is wrong in order to keep them from rocking the boat. You have to be willing to lead the flock away from God if you’re going to be warmly embraced by His Church. Well, obviously we can’t be participating in any of that rot if we’re going to stay on the path of hardcore devotion. Since the Church refuses to honor her King, we are forced to part company with her and go a different way. As long as we aren’t too vocal about our leaving, she’ll let us go without a word. But if we call her out on her shenanigans, she gets her claws out. Where does that leave you?
THE HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE
When you’re feeling badly burned by the Church, the initial stages of resentment can be very intense. You find yourself spending large amounts of time dwelling on what a two faced little whore she is—doing it with demons and the world while she openly despises the One who is so gracious to her. It’s revolting. But it’s also the way things have always been.
Since the Garden of Eden, human beings have been responding to God’s gracious overtures with rebellion and hostility. Adam and Eve strolled around in the Company of Yahweh Himself, yet instead of cherishing His Presence, they shoved Him away. Yahweh’s extreme reaction to that famous fruit sampling makes it clear that that one act was not the first time His humans had rebelled against Him (see Eden: Disturbing Revelations). It was more like the last straw. And what was the draw of tasting the fruit anyway? To get closer to God’s level, so that more independence could be gained. It wasn’t identity and communion Adam and Eve were after when they sought after Divine knowledge—it was equality and power. Consider how many Christians today are scrutinizing the Bible not to get to know God better, but to find ways to manipulate Him. The Bible is primarily viewed as some mystical contract which God is helplessly bound by. We cast spells over Him, such as that famous prayer of Jabez, in hopes that we’ll reveal some limitation in Him that we can work to our advantage. “God can’t ever contradict His own Word” we tell ourselves over and over, even though it isn’t true. It’s only in our mind that God has such limitations, yet we cling to these illusions fiercely because we want to find His limits. We’re always trying to close the gap between Him and us—not because we want to be closer to Him, but so that we can lessen His hold on us. Adam and Eve undoubtedly thought that if they reduced their blindness, they could reduce their dependency on God. Yahweh retaliated by throwing even more restrictions upon them.
Rebellion has always been the far more popular choice among humans. Obedience will always be the road less traveled. In Noah’s time, things had gotten so ridiculous that Yahweh only found one family that He felt was worth saving, and even that family was corrupted. Noah’s son Ham was the little pervert who got off on seeing dad lying naked in his tent and chose to giggle to his brothers about it instead of rectifying the situation. We can tell by Noah’s furious reaction that Ham was trying to dishonor his father. And this was the best there was in the pre-Flood world?
Abraham grew up in a house where demonic idols were regularly worshiped. His faith in Yahweh probably wouldn’t have lasted long if Yahweh hadn’t sent him off to parts unknown. Believers have always been in the minority. Joshua and Caleb were the only two men who Yahweh found worth sparing out of whole generations of Israelites in the desert. Even Aaron and Moses ticked God off too much to be allowed entrance into the Promised Land. Out of the 41 kings who reigned over the kingdoms of Israel and Judah, there were only six who stood out as showing some regard for Yahweh (David, Asa, Jehoshaphat, Jotham, Hezekiah & Josiah), and even some of them went out on a sour note of rebellion.
The Old Testament is one long record of both leaders and rabble alike spitting in God’s face. We find descriptions of prophets shamelessly contradicting Yahweh’s messages to His people and getting quite popular in the process. Sound familiar? How many books is the Church pumping out every year that were written by people who are lying their faces off about God? Prophets, preachers, and laymen are popping up everywhere claiming to have had some Divinely assisted glimpse into Heaven or Hell. Prophecies of impending doom, strategies for attaining the blessed life—the lies all sell with equal fervor. Christians love to be lied to. They pay their leaders to snow them, just as the ancient Jews paid their leaders to tell them what they wanted to hear.
God’s people imitating demon worshiping sorcerers has also been around forever. In the Old Testament, the Jews tried to call down blessings and curses by invoking the Name of Yahweh. Today Christians invoke the Name of Jesus. Back then they had the Ark of the Covenant as the ultimate magic charm. Today we have crosses, Bibles, and holy water. Back then they got wasted at religious festivals and rolled in the sack with sacred prostitutes. Today we work ourselves up into frenzies at our worship concerts and roll around laughing and puking in the Spirit. Back then, supposed Yahweh followers openly sought the council of professional sorcerers for advice. Today we find Christians messing around with horoscopes, séances, tarot cards, numerology, and mediums. The ancient Jews were intrigued by evil spirits. So are we, with our mapping of strongholds and our naming of various demons. Demonic possession was a major problem in New Testament Israel. Today it’s like Christians can’t get possessed fast enough. Deliverance ministries promote the idea that we’re all infested with legions of demons and such ministries are ragingly popular.
In the Bible we find Jesus and Yahweh complaining of leaders using mangled Scriptures to lead people astray. Today our Bible translators keep revising and changing our sacred Scriptures to align with the current carnal agendas in the Church. Let’s not have Christ vomiting Christians out of His mouth in Revelation–change that offensive terminology to “spit” instead (see Creating a Different God: How the Bible is Being Changed to Lead You Astray). Heaven forbid we acknowledge the fact that ancient Jews were a male dominated society. Let’s change all of those masculine pronouns to gender neutral pronouns and deny the way ancient Jewish society actually operated. Hiding out from reality is always a great way to learn. Let’s call God our “Mother” and not our “Father” because some of us have daddy issues and obviously God should be adjusting to us instead of expecting us to adjust to Him. Rebellion is nothing new. You’re disgusted with Christians spitting in God’s face. Well, you ought to be. God is disgusted as well. But He’s also gracious and loving towards the little punks, and that’s the direction you’re going to need to move towards if you’re going to get more on His page.
THE INTERNAL PERSPECTIVE
The goal in life is to grow closer to God. This requires learning more about who He is and how He operates. Look around at this world and ask yourself, “Why hasn’t this planet been obliterated long before now?” When you’re in the midst of bitter disillusionment, it’s easy to get so focused on hating idiot Christians that you lose sight of the bigger picture. Idiots or not, God is choosing to sustain us all for some reason, and He’s even going to be taking a lot of these punks on to Heaven.
It’s not just the hardcore devoted who will land on the better side of eternity. This New Covenant has expanded the bounds of grace and made it possible for a lot of carnal slackers to squeak their way in as well. Certainly there are many souls today who claim to be saved when they’re really not. But we must be careful not to slip into the mentality that Heaven is reserved for the perfect among us. This is the trap that the apostle John fell into, and soon he was arrogantly claiming to be personally perfect as he declared that any real Christian was long over the desire to sin. Pride gets us nowhere. The reality is that we’re just as in need of mercy as all of these rebels around us.
Can you honestly say you are succeeding at treating God the way He deserves to be treated? Of course not—you’re miles from that. Why? Because that kind of righteousness just isn’t in you. You’re selfish to the core—we all are. You’ve done your share of trying to manipulate and control God. You’ve done your share of giving to get, and by now you’ve tossed up a lot of insincere praise. So as much as we want to embrace a mentality of “us against them,” the truth is that we’re all pretty sorry messes of carnality. The fact that God is extending salvation to rats like us says volumes about how good He is. No one deserves mercy. No one deserves Heaven. No one is succeeding at giving God the caliber of devotion, love, honor, and service that He deserves. We all grumble and gripe. We all have times when we intentionally tune out what the Holy Spirit is telling us. Hardcore Christians are not perfect people—they’re just people who desperately want to please God in the face of being horribly flawed. We’re all dragging around major anchors of depravity and pride and our devotion to God is fickle at best. Some of us dream of being perfect, but none of us ever come close to reaching that star. The important point for you is to realize that the difference between you and these Christians who you’re so disgusted with isn’t as vast as you’d like to believe. We all rebel—we just express it in different ways. Maybe you’re not promoting yourself as some anointed fathead on the internet. But how much arrogance is stirred into all of this stewing about what carnal slackers everyone else is?
THE PURPOSE OF ILLUMINATION
It’s vital to remember that spiritual illumination is a gift which we can take no credit for receiving. Until the Holy Spirit opened your eyes, you weren’t able to see the reeking carnality that’s been right in front of you this whole time. The question now becomes: why is God suddenly helping you get a more accurate view of how corrupt the Church really is? So that you can hate her guts? No, that is not His goal. God doesn’t want us to spend our energy despising our fellow humans, He wants us focusing on Him and pursuing deeper communion with His glorious, complex Self.
Now God is many things, but in many parts of the Church you only hear about His more positive traits. The topics of God’s jealousy, wrath, and delight in revenge are usually avoided altogether or else they’re twisted into some legalistic fear fest. If you’re going to progress in your own walk with God, you need to grow in your understanding of both His light and dark sides. Christians don’t like to think of God having a “dark side”, but let’s get real: there’s nothing sunny to us about God chucking us into Hell, flooding the world, or inciting wars and terrorism. God says both the good and the evil originate from Him, because He is the Creator of all things, not just some things. When you focus too much on God’s light side—His love, grace, and compassion—you end up thinking He’s some inept Santa Claus who is up in Heaven fretting about evil running amuck. When you focus too much on God’s dark side—His wrath, His jealousy, and His love of vengeance—you end up concluding He’s some terrifying Monster who delights in beating on you. But the reality is that God’s dark and light traits are like the rails of a train track: they run right alongside each other and coexist with a strange kind of harmony.
God doesn’t only love His Church. He also despises the way she treats Him. He doesn’t just rain mercy down on her head, He also pours down buckets of discipline. God is not a Pushover. When we defy Him, He retaliates in very calculated ways. But when we repent, He delights in showing mercy. God isn’t just love, and He isn’t just hate. He’s both at the same time. He’s simultaneously invested and indifferent. When we sincerely seek Him, He rushes to meet us. But when we try to manipulate Him, He scoffs at our stupidity. He delights in our sincere worship, but He is indifferent to our insults. He doesn’t need us to like Him, nor does He care one iota about our approval. He creates the rules for how we are to approach Him. If we align with His program, He delights in rewarding us. If we rebel against Him, He is swift to discipline us. He appears to give us endless chances, when in reality those chances are limited in number and always changing in scope. And while there are eternal consequences for defying God too long and hard on this earth, not all of the Christians you see around you are defying Him in the way that you believe. Spiritual illumination is a gift. The more you receive, the more you recognize errors that you never saw before. But those who do not yet have your level of insights do not recognize the error in much of what they do, so they are not guilty of defying God on the level that you would be were you to do the same as them.
Hatred is a sign that judgment has already been cast. When you find yourself despising other Christians and writing them off as inexcusable rebels, you are making many assumptions about those souls which you have no grounds to make. Just because a Catholic priest fervently works his way through a rosary does not mean the man is trying to commit idolatry in his heart by praying to Mary more than he does to Christ. Just because he sits in a confessional hearing the sins of his people doesn’t mean he is trying to ignore the fact that Yahweh has thrown out the need for intercession in the current Covenant. Deception abounds in the Church, and God has intentionally set up many sincere souls to become bogged down in delusions by teachers who were effectively deceived by those who taught them. Every Sunday, there are countless lies being put out from the pulpits of men who are really trying to be truthful. Illumination is a gift. It should not be used as a sword to strike down those who do not have it, nor should it be viewed as a license for us to condemn our brothers and sisters in the Lord.
When it comes to discerning the true intentions of another soul, things are often not at all as they appear to be from the outside. It is a good exercise to remember that there was a time when you yourself sat in those pews oblivious to what was wrong around you and fully believing that the pastor was wise and the congregation was earnest in their search for truth. You have to leave room for the fact that many are still where you once were: projecting the best of intentions onto everyone and seeing only what they want to be true. Is it an improvement to move to a position where you now project the worst onto everyone and see willful defiance lurking behind every immature bumbling? No, you’ve swung from one extreme to the other and neither place is where you want to permanently camp. The goal is to settle down in a balanced middle: a position in which you understand the reality of the defiance which you used to be blind to, yet you also respect the reality of ignorance. There are many spiritual infants in our midst who are bumbling along not even realizing what they don’t understand. We certainly don’t want to be kicking them in the head with condemnation because we’re frustrated with those who really are guilty of rebellion. You’re not where you need to be yet, but you’re well on your way. Getting majorly disillusioned by the Church is a good thing, but you need to let the Holy Spirit complete the process and be willing for Him to temper your fury with the grace and mercy that we all temporarily lose sight of when we go through this kind of adjustment.
It’s normal to feel defensive, angry, and uptight in your current place. The reality is that you’re dealing with a lot of pain and hurt. The Church has sorely disappointed you. You thought you could count on her, and now you realize you can’t. While this certainly feels devastating at first, if you stay close to God, He’s going to show you that losing the support of the Church just isn’t the terrible thing you think it is. The plain truth is that you don’t need the Church when you have God. He is more than enough. He has everything you need and He delights in taking care of you. So while it’s easy to feel kicked aside by the Church, in reality, God is kicking the Church out of the middle of His dynamic with you because He is done with her being such a distraction. Right now you’re reeling from the shock of what feels like a huge loss. But as time passes, you’ll see that that loss really isn’t so huge at all—in fact, it’s really a plus.
Cutting ties with the Church is like sawing through a rope that’s keeping some heavy anchor attached to your leg. You end up gaining more freedom and making much more progress in your relationship with God because you’re no longer listening to Christians who are trying to discourage you from following the Holy Spirit’s leading in your life. It’s hard to get a grip on new, life changing truths when the Church keeps telling you you’re being deluded by demons. It’s hard to gain confidence in God’s leading when the Church keeps scoffing at the idea that God would speak to you directly and not just through your pastor or the Bible.
Righteous indignation is another trap we can fall into. While we don’t want to admit how much we depended on the Church for security in life, we try to tell ourselves that we’re really only mad at her for God’s sake. But are we? Isn’t God big enough to handle His own battles? Is God really stressed by the Church’s snarky attitude? Not hardly, and if He’s not stressed, you don’t need to be either.
No one ever trumps God. No one ever surprises Him or wounds Him or breaks His heart. God is not the least bit threatened by the shenanigans of His Church. He has the situation well under control and He’s quite satisfied with His discipline program. A big challenge in aligning with God is learning to accept His way of doing things. When we see someone spitting in God’s face, we think the proper response is to want the lightning bolts to strike. We start railing at God to tear His enemies apart or else we’re volunteering to do it for Him. But what’s really driving all of this zeal is a desire to control the way God fights His battles. We want God to attack on our schedule. We want Him to explode when we’re exploding. We want to witness the carnage and mock those who He is tearing apart. Here is where we could use some work in the area of submission. God is the General. He calls the shots. It’s not our place to criticize His battle plans and tell Him when He needs to step up His game. God says He’s always getting His way in this world. The big challenge for us is to stop trying to choose God’s preferences for Him.
As we said earlier, this experience you’re going through is fraught with opportunities for personal growth. There are new insights to be gained about how God balances His love of mercy with His love of revenge. There are new challenges to submit to Him even further by accepting His way of doing things. There are opportunities to practice compassion and patience with those who do not know better than to do what they’re doing. There are chances to practice humility by remembering you’ve done nothing to earn the privilege of greater spiritual illumination. God is putting you through this experience to give you the chance to move closer to Him. That is the goal you want to stay focused on. Ask the Holy Spirit to teach you everything He wants you to learn through this and He will.
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