Idolatry is committed, not merely by setting up false gods, but also by setting up false devils." – G.K. Chesterton
A brother called me this week about the article on Biblical, Godly authority. I mentioned that many church folks do not understand this topic because of idolatry. What do they idolize? The very system which enslaved them.
People mistakenly think that you can only idolize that which you adore, want to be like, or desire to attain. However, you can also idolize that which you hate or fear. How do you know something has become an idol to you? It begins to take a place in your life that only God should have. You begin to be molded by IT (either your attraction to it or your repulsion from it) instead of by the Lord.
A young girl might say, "I don't want to be anything like my mother when I grow up." So she spends her whole life trying not to be like her mother. Guess what? Her mother is her idol. Everything she does or says is calculated to "not be like her mother"; as a result, she remains bound. She is not free to be conformed to the image of Christ because the image of her mother is the standard by which she measures herself. This is what people have done with the church.
The world is full of all kinds of religion - even within what is called 'Christianity' - where man does good works to become a better person or to be accepted by God. Yet, the problem is that such is impossible. Good works do not change who you are on the inside. No amount of feeding the poor is going to make you stop wanting to fornicate. No matter how much time you spend caring for the elderly, it won't remove the urge to lie. We are only changed inwardly as we abide in relationship with Jesus Christ.
The thing to remember is this: Religion concentrates on the external (outward performance). but relationship with God deals with what is internal (inward transformation) (I Samuel 16:7; Matthew 23:27; John 7:24). However, there are plenty of people who are willing to let you try to work up your redemption in servitude to them (their opinions, rules, etc.). You will often find such persons in a place around the corner called "church". This is why abuse - emotional, sexual, financial, spiritual, etc. - abounds in many "church" settings. Until we are ready for God to deal with who we are on the inside (not just how we appear before men), we will stumble around circling in that wilderness of religion, trying to be pleasers & worshipers of men.
In coming out of such situations, it is not uncommon for folks to focus on what they think was wrong with the "church". Yet, the truth which many fail to realize is this: You were never in the church of God. Such was not "the church", nor was it the "institutional church"...it was simply Babylon.
The issue is not that church has become a business, that wolves are abusing authority, or that men are trying to bind people to themselves. The issue is that people falsely believe that Babylon is the church.
Let's Come Out of Babylon & Get Babylon Out of Us!
A frequent cry of some who fight against the IC is that 'The church is not a building.' or "I am the church." Yet these assertions are not completely accurate. The word translated "church" in the New Testament refers primarily to those whom God has called out of the world unto Himself; the ekklēsia or "called out ones".
ekklēsia: a gathering of citizens called out from their homes into some public place, an assembly of Christians gathered for worship in a religious meeting; the whole body of Christians scattered throughout the earth; those who anywhere, in a city, village, constitute such a company and are united into one body.The word "church" is a corporate word. While our bodies are each individually the temple of the Lord, the "church" is a gathering of those bodies; an assembly or company of the saints united into one body. One person is not the "church", but is a part of the church. The church as a whole is the Body of Christ, and we are all members of that Body; but no one member constitutes the Body of Christ by itself (Romans 12:4-5; I Corinthians 12:12-27; Ephesians 5:23, 30; Colossians 1:18, 24).
The "church" is not only those whom God has called out, it is also a reference to the "place" where these "called out ones" fellowship, gather, assemble, and meet. So we see that whether such gatherings occur in a building or not is a non-issue. In fact, those who focus on how the "church is not a building", are still often trapped in the very realm of religion (Babylon) that they claim to fight against.
If "going TO a building" does not make one a member of the church of God, then how does "coming OUT of a building" make one a member of the church of God? Do we not see how ludicrous that is?
When God commands us to come out of Babylon, He is speaking of turning away from all false religion (including our false ideals about it) to experience life in Him through relationship with Jesus. Fellowship within buildings does not make you a Christian any more than staying away from fellowships in buildings makes you a Christian (both external works), but being born again by the Spirit of the Living God (an internal work).
In glancing at the Scriptures, we can see that the church is:
- Those people who have been called out of the world in reconciliation to God through His Son Jesus Christ (Acts 2:47; Ephesians 2:19-20)
- The place where such people gather, assemble, and meet for worship (Acts 11:22; Romans 16:1,5; I Corinthians 1:2, 4:7, 11:18-22, 14:19, 16:19; Colossians 4:15, 16; I Timothy 3:15; Hebrews 12:23)
- One Body with many members and one head, namely Christ Jesus (Ephesians 1:22, 5:23; Colossians 1:18, 24)
- Endowed with patriarchal authority from God to serve as leadership in providing order and oversight (I Timothy 3:5; Acts 14:23; Acts 20:28; Hebrews 13:7,17; I Corinthians 12:18, 14:35, 15:16-17; I Thessalonians 5:12,17; )
- Given spiritual power to trample over the enemy (Satan), spoil his kingdom, and set his captives free (Matthew 16:18-19; Mark 16:16-18)
- Purposed with perfecting the individual saints so that they in turn can do the works of the ministry (Ephesians 4:11-12)
We must stop trying to reform Babylon and calling it "church". Babylon has been a harlot from the beginning and will continue to be until it is judged by God. The answer to Babylon is to be transformed into the image of Christ so that YOU can then do the works of the ministry as a living member of His Body.
Stand Up & Reclaim Your Anointing
And consider as well, the problem was not Delilah; the problem was with Samson! Delilah's immorality should have been apparent to Samson because he was fornicating with her and she had repeatedly tried to abuse him. If he had not been filled and drawn away with his own diverse lusts, Delilah wouldn't have been appealing to him (James 1:14). This teaches us an important lesson. When we are attracted to the harlot, the problem is never outside of us, but within. Likewise, the solution to the problem is never outside of us, but within.
BUT, Samson's hair eventually grew back and his anointing returned; although not because he kept focusing on Delilah and what she had done to him. Samson's anointing returned when he turned his whole heart to God. No longer driven by his carnal lusts, he didn't even care about his own life in this world. It was then that he could stand in the midst of the Philistine's pagan temple and be a channel of God's power to demolish it.
Why am I harping on this? Because too many church folk are being deceived thinking that ascribing to something that doesn't look like the "IC" equates to freedom in Christ. It doesn't! Since folks don't want to deal with what is wrong within themselves, it easier to simply blame the harlot. Yet the harlot did exactly what she was supposed to do: hunt for unstable souls (Proverbs 6:26, 7:10-15, 23:28; II Peter 2:14). Folks are saying they are "free from religion" but are still very much religious because they base their freedom on what they do or don't do (external works).
Many times, church folks are being led out of the "IC" and into the same bondage of religious performance because their souls have not been made whole. Unless the pattern we have for defining the church is based on the whole counsel of Scripture, then even our answer for addressing perceived ills is in error. If what we wind up with once we have left the "IC" is at odds with Scripture, then we are still in Babylon.
Do you have to attend a local fellowship to be a Christian? No. However, if you are born again, you will have a desire for fellowship with the saints. Further, you will understand that such is a mechanism chosen by God to grow you up so that you in turn can then go forth and preach the Gospel yourself.
Some assert that every Christian has to attend local fellowships or else they are rebellious, lazy, proud, and not a believer. This perspective is just as skewed as those who fight against joining local fellowships. While it is true that those who reject the Biblical outline & benefits of church fellowship are in error, we must set our sights higher folks!
The purpose of "church" is not to offer us a place where we can socialize from week to week for years on end as some 'proof' that we are Christians. The purpose of church is to be a training ground & source of edification for the saints while representing the Kingdom of Heaven to those around us who are lost. In other words, the church is to be about the Father's business.
When Jesus came, He did not run around trying to fight the Pharisees & Sadduccees. While He dealt with these religious leaders when they approached him, they were not the focus of His ministry. Why? Because He was about the Father's business (Luke 2:49; John 4:34, 5:17, 6:38, 8:29, 9:4) and what is the chaff to the wheat? This is our answer as well. We need to be about the Father's business, and we cannot do that while trying to protect & defend these idols we have about "church" (whether positive or negative).
To be completely whole, we must do more than know & talk about that which is wrong; we must be conformed to that which is right. The true sign that you belong to Christ - and thereby His church - is that the life of Jesus is flowing through you and being imparted to others to draw them into the faith. Such must be our goal.
"And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come." Matthew 24:14
For an example of how some are endeavoring to uphold the biblical pattern of church to reach the lost, see the following video about Omega Church & Ministries Center's global evangelical outreach.