I can’t begin to tell you how important it is for you as a believer to find freedom from the religious system. What I am about to share is not just another teaching for the Body of Christ to read. It is the squeezed and pressed nectar of almost 30 years serving my King. This teaching was organically (by the Holy Spirit) produced in much fire, testing, and trials. I say this not to exalt myself as a great overcomer, but to give glory to God whose love and favor was predisposed towards me before I was in my mother’s womb. Many preachers talk about the high price they paid to come to maturity and wisdom. I would rather say like Paul that everything I lost looking back was rubbish compared to the excellency of knowing Christ. This is my journey; it doesn’t have to be yours. If in sharing these crossroads you find that there are similarities, maybe the Holy Spirit will bless you to know that you are headed in the right direction. Here are the 12 steps to finding freedom from the religious system.
1. The Lord dwells in His people not in buildings.
There is no greater idolatry in the religious system than human being’s fascination with buildings. While God is looking at the internals (a pure heart), we are busy dressing up the externals (Sunday clothes and lavish buildings). Most Sunday morning church-goers have heard that we are the temple of the Lord, but they continue to say they are going to church or the House of the Lord. They ask me all the time, “Where is your Church, and where do you go to church?” It just breaks my heart. That explains why people act totally different when they are inside a church building than in their regular life. It’s that their God lives in a building they call the church. So they act like one thing in the church building and something else when they are not “in Church.” Shamefully for many believers the masks come off even before they make it out the back door.The church The Lord Jesus is building isn’t made of brick and mortar. God is not impressed with our elaborate sanctuaries, stain glass windows, golden altars, and 30 million-dollar arenas. All the lighting, mega stages, and expensive sound systems with dry ice clouds doesn’t do anything for Him either. He is not interested in people who just come to worship Him for an hour or two on Sunday. He is looking down at a people in whom He dwells and who release His fragrance wherever they go daily in this fallen world.
2. The Church is about the people, not my Ministry goals.
This particular focus helped me take my eyes off the ministry and my personal goals and begin to understand I was there for the people; the people were not there for me. I was trained to attain goals. I used to tell people, “The few cannot affect the good of the many.” My translation to that was no one was coming between me and my goals. In my heart I thought I was doing the right thing, but many were hurt on my road to achieving the success and the values of the religious system. I had no trouble loving the many because those ideals usually lined up with my goals. It was the few I had trouble loving and being patient with especially when something they did came against my idol “the ministry.” If you messed with the ministry, you messed with me, and to my shame, I had no trouble laying hands on you. Another problem was most of my church leaders had the same sickness I did. So rarely did someone call me out concerning my sin. Even the spiritual fathers I had at the time had an agenda to keep me close, so they wouldn’t rebuke me either. I suspect that birds of a feather flock together, so we chose each other according to what was in our hearts. If I had to put the spotlight on the greatest problem in the Lord’s Church today, it is the lack of authentic,no agenda love. That is why it is so important to get freedom from the religious system. It rewards performance.and breeds a lack of love.
3. His presence (The Holy Spirit) is always with us.
I spent most of my 16 years as pastor trying to conjure up the presence of God inside of the four walls. Everything we did was about calling down His presence, whether it was with our modern worship and high praises or my “super anointed” preaching. We worked hard for it every time we met.. Today we claim to be even more “advanced” because we have digital sound systems and lights, giant screens, and dry ice to move people emotionally. In essence we teach people that we live in hell and heaven is inside our church buildings. We even tell the people that it is “in His presence” where they can get their healing. A study of the New Testament will reveal no example of a Christian gathering searching for His presence or teaching about how to get His people in His presence. The Holy Spirit is with us 24/7 and never leaves us nor forsakes us. The Holy Spirit is not some goose pimple, emotional, ecstatic feeling. He is our friend and comforter that comes alongside us to lead us to Christ.
My friend Don Nori Sr. founder of Destiny Image press says:
“The glory of ‘Union with God’ IS His presence Whose final resting place is within your heart. This is where He IS. “This is My rest forever. Here will I dwell. For the Lord has chosen Zion (you and I), He has always desired us for His ultimate habitation. (to live within us!) Worship doesn’t bring glory from the sky. Prayer does not convince glory to come. Fasting does not capture glory’s attention. Glory is Christ within. Surrender consumes the soul with His Life.”
Notice this verse about a gathering of the church:
But if ALL prophesy, (profess Christ), and an unbeliever or an uninformed person comes in, he is convinced by all, he is convicted by all. 25 And thus the secrets of his heart are revealed; and so, falling down on his face, he will worship God and report that God is truly among you. 1 Cor 14:24-25 NKJV
He worships because he is moved by the love, peace, and unity of the saints. Saints you don’t need to get in His presence! This isn’t Star Wars and “may the force be with you.” He hasn’t gone anywhere. If anything you have moved in your heart away from the Lord. Jesus Christ did all the work necessary for us today to constantly be in His presence. This in no way rejects a sovereign move of God or advocates for boring gatherings.
You can read more on the subject from Steve Crosby’s Book on New Testament Worship
4. The Clergy-Laity division is a worldly invention.
When I pestored (that’s not a misspelling) I didn’t know that I was teaching this lie because of “how we did Church”. The system feeds the system. I was always calling “our” people to go deeper, to be holier ,and to be more committed. They would answer me, “You’re the Pastor, and you get paid to do nothing but that. We have a job and we have a life; we just don’t have the time you do.” How did we get like this, or why does this perspective exist you ask?
As soon as the bible came into the hands of the public in the 1500’s and common people began to learn to read, the Catholic Church instituted this teaching to protect the office of the priest and the existence of the religious system. The Protestants and evangelicals also jumped on this bandwagon. They too needed to maintain the existence of a religious upper class so they could authenticate before their governments their qualification to exist apart from the Catholic Church outside the rule of the State.
What good are the Charismatic renewal and revivals if we never deal with the foundational problem that keeps Christians from seeing themselves as priests unto God? Christ is the Head of the Church, not Pastors and Priests. The church gives lip service to the Priesthood of every Believer but then denies it in practice. This article is too short to explain how the religious system twists (today we say Spin) two words to get their desired result. Suffice to say, many leaders have put on very faithfully the religious system given to us by our predecessors since we have never seen anything else. Unlike David when confronting Goliath who told the King Saul:
38 So Saul clothed David with his armor, and he put a bronze helmet on his head; he also clothed him with a coat of mail. 39 David fastened his sword to his armor and tried to walk, for he had not tested them. And David said to Saul, “I cannot walk with these, for I have not tested them.” So David took them off. 1 Sam 17:38-39 NKJV
If you have a calling from the Lord, do not compromise and don’t let them put the religious system on you!
5. Every Christian is a minister of the Gospel.
We have invented church membership even though the bible clearly outlines that we are all members of one Body. We are told that some of us are paid ministers, and the rest of us are just members. Members attend (to be counted), and they give money to support buildings and staff (professional ministers) salaries. We are challenged to share the gospel and invite others to our buildings once a week. That pretty much sums up the spiritual life of a modern Christian believer. If a believer is part of a mega church, it’s even easier to get lost among the crowd so you can enjoy all the benefits without having to be responsible or accountable. Until we begin doing things biblically and return to the Lord’s definitions, we will be fostering weak, shallow, and immature Christians.
Here is a couple of verses;
6 who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. 2 Cor 3:6 NKJV
10 As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. 1 Peter 4:10 NKJV
Imagine the power available to the Body of Christ and to each congregation if the 80% who consider themselves weekly spectators ever wake up out of this error? The problem will come when on-fire Christians outperform the paid staff. Then the question will have to be answered, “Why are we paying paid professionals to do what every Christian should be doing?” Oops, but now we will have people out of work and much more money to help the poor, widows and the orphans.
6. There is no such thing as Spiritual and Secular time.
My greatest joy as a Christian came when I realized I was a 24/7 minister of the Lord Jesus Christ. My work at my company improved because I began to do everything unto my God, not for my employer just as scripture says;
And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. Col 3:17 NKJV
This concept of dividing things into secular and spiritual is a concept right out of hell. This is probably the number one reason most Christian ride the roller coaster of ups and downs in their Christian testimony. When they are in the church building or doing “church things,” they wear their “goody-two-shoes” mask, but when they are away, they live like and act like devils. What good is it to sit in a weekly service without fail Sunday after Sunday and then whenever you get behind the wheel of your car, you fight with and curse every other driver on the road? This concept of dividing time between spiritual and secular breeds hypocrisy in God’s people. There is no such thing as secular time for those who carry the living Christ in their heart. If you want to find sick, demonized people who are in denial, there is no better place than the church. Weekly religious observance has no power over the flesh, but works great to deceive God’s people concerning their true spiritual condition. Some day we will give account for every second and every breath here on earth.
7. We congregate whenever 2 or 3 are gathered not once a week.
When the Lord began to wake me up to get out of religious system, I began to read revival books. Having almost no examples around me, I feasted on the stories and biographies of great men. I remember reading about John Wesley keeping a record of His daily sermons which had numbers like “67 sermons today” in his diary, and I would wonder what is he talking about? In those days I traveled much to the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico, and the most sermons I ever preached in one day was 6, and by the last one I was dying. The more I read the more the emphasis on daily instead of weekly came alive to me. Also these men considered any meeting anywhere if two or three saints gathered to be a gathering of the church. I hear you saying yes, but that is not a service. Who says and where do you find it in the New Covenant that God requires services? Do you know why Christian pastors and priests do not consider you to be congregating if you are not in their weekly services? Do I have to spell it out for you? The religious system must come down hard against anyone or anything that is subversive to the continual existence of the status-quo.
I could run a congregation of thousands today if I would just play the religious systems games. I could do just like many of my peers who live a very fat, happy, and prosperous life. The problem will come on judgment day when I face my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. On that day many mini-kingdoms will go up in smoke and only that which was really built upon Christ will stand. Real Christian leaders know they will give an account, and they walk with a Holy fear of the Lord.
8. Christianity is a daily lifestyle and was never a Weekly Observance.
Christianity today is such a far cry from what Christianity was in the first century. Today the church is in the world, and the world is in the church. Every religion that exists compels their followers to worship a deity in a building or sacred place. Every religion that exists demands that rituals be done to maintain in good standing with that deity. Only Christianity passes the believer from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of Light by faith in the once-for-all work of Jesus on the cross. Scripture says we are pilgrims and strangers just passing through this world on our way to Eternity. That means nothing in this world controls us, and we don’t live for anything permanent down here. Check your life and see if it reflects a just-passing-through lifestyle. If Christ is your life and you have a daily growing relationship with Him ,most likely your heart is focused on pleasing Him. If your Christianity is a “punch the clock” once a week observance or service, you probably have your heart focused on self and your desires. You only attend the slotted time because you think it keeps God happy. This is not confessional time, but Christianity as you have found out doesn’t work weekly. Either Christ is Lord of all, or He is not Lord at all.
9. Christians are to feed daily on His Rhema not on Bible verses and Sermons.
Are you aware that more than 95% of people in the 1st century could not read or write? Are you aware that books (including the Bible) did not get into a commoners hands till after the 1500’s. So if people could not read and write and most of the church including its leaders were poor and at the bottom of society, how did the church exist without Bible verses to quote? There were no seminaries until the Catholic Church built the first one in 1567. How were leaders trained for the first 1500 years of the Church? Let me just quote one Bible verse that has been misquoted for years and has mislead many to prove what I am about to say. Millions of tracts and Bibles have been printed and distributed based on just this one verse;
17 So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
Rom 10:17 NKJV
As a normal every week modern church goer if you were asked “What is the word of God in this verse?” you would respond “the Bible.” Well, guess what – it isn’t the Bible! It’s the Greek word RHEMA which means a fresh word from God. RHEMA is what the Lord is saying to us through the Holy Spirit. This word RHEMA is what guides and directs His children daily. This daily communication is the basis of our intimate relationship with God. It’s what kept the church going for the first 1500 years and what allows true Christians to walk with God today. The Greek word used for the Scripture/the Bible is only found twice in the entire New Testament. Today when people talk about a “Word from God,” they are talking about a sermon or a Bible verse. The early saints had a personal 24/7 relationship with Christ the LOGOS, so when they heard a RHEMA in their Spirit, they obeyed it. The religious system has created a Christianity that cannot exist without the system. If Christians are taught to relate to God themselves instead of getting their truth through a mediator once a week, the religious system of men would come tumbling down and Christian maturity would multiply.
Want another Bible verse that has been misquoted? Believe me there are many. You heard said that as Christians we are to put on the full armor of God from Ephesians 6:
17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; Eph 6:17 NKJV
You can die saying the Sword of the Spirit is the Bible, but you would be wrong. It’s RHEMA! Memorize all the Bible verses you want, but if you haven’t received a fresh word from the Lord, you don’t have your full armor on. In the Spanish world they leave an open Bible in the house to ward off evil spirits. The devil laughs at goofiness like that. My brother’s house is full of wooden crosses in the design, and the floor planks are lined underneath with pages from the Bible so the preacher who built it could “walk on the word”. None of that helped him when he got caught in adultery with his secretary and lost his home, wife, family, and his ministry. You say the number one need of the Church today is we need disciples. Make them the way the Church did for the first 1500 years. You don’t make them pointing them to a book; you make them pointing them to a relationship with Christ their Lord and Savior.
10. Unity in the Body is based on Agape Love, not Doctrinal Conformity.
In Seminary I was trained to teach people doctrine so they could get into right standing with God. The problem came when I began to teach what had been taught to me by the religious system. I found that believers were full of Bible verses and head knowledge about what was right, but somehow it didn’t always translate into their daily life and character. First, the truth without love is not the truth. It doesn’t matter how much truth (Bible verses you can recite) you think you know if you don’t have the character to obey them you, will fail time after time. I confess to you it is a strong deception, and I was blind to it for a very long time. No more, I am free and getting freer every day.
When I saw the division created by denominations, race, language, and people coming from so many varied backgrounds and levels of maturity, I asked the Lord how could we ever come into agreement? He revealed to me that it was the bonds of His love that keep His people together and not our uniformity and conformity to a set doctrine. Everything improved when I taught what the Lord had revealed to me. The Bible speaks of only one test for true Christianity
35 By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:35 NKJV
I love the words of this old gospel song:
I come to the garden alone
While the dew is still on the roses
And the voice I hear falling on my ear
The son of God discloses.
And he walks with me and he talks with me
And he tells me I am his own
And the joy we share as we tarry there
None other has ever known.
For the record; I am back in the garden! JLB
11. Mature and Tested Relationships are the backbone of the Church.
I have always been impressed by the testimony of the first disciples. The example of how they cared for one another, how they shared their belongings, how they cared for the poor and the widows among them is truly extraordinary
32 Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common. Acts 4:32 NKJV
How can we do those things today with the shallowness of relationships of so-called Christians today? How do you go from looking at the back of someone’s head to knowing what is in their refrigerator?
I have watched hundreds of leaders and diverse Christian groups working together over the years. I observed them in their highs and lows. I watched how they operated, what kept them together and what caused them to blow up. Sometimes I see myself as a Christian Church sociologist because I love to dig deep and see what causes things to work as they do. Real relationships are formed by the Love of Christ. Relationships can’t be hurried or legislated from a pulpit. The best a leader can do to help others is to model the power and strength of true relationships before those who watch them. I can tell you this, only those that see the church as a family and actually make time to allow life to create mature and tested relationships will be able to stay together in the days to come.
It is not easy but today I maintain new covenant relationships with a handful of men and women. I am convinced that at the drop of a hat we would move heaven and hell to come to each others aid. This is not an “apostolic” network, or a religious society. This is family, the foundation of the New Testament church.
12. Jesus Christ performed the last service unto God the Father 2000+ years ago.
No more services are needed nor required. We don’t come together for Christian maintenance. We cannot add anything to the final work of Christ on the Cross. We are justified based on His final work and purified by His blood shed once for all. No amount of man-made rituals can improve your position before God. The Lord is not impressed with your weekly attendance or the amount of money you give. Jesus Christ did all the work necessary for us today to immediately and constantly be in His presence. See below;
19 Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, Heb 10:19-21 NKJV
The idea of services is a copy and leftover of the Protestants who protested against the Catholic idea of working for salvation and performing rituals weekly to be found right with God. Every seminary spin of the present biblical record in scripture for the existence of services is a lie and a twisting of the truth to maintain the religious system.
So you say you come to worship Him. Don’t you know that you began to worship him the moment your feet hit the ground this morning. You worship as you care for your family or work hard in your business. Washing dishes with a glad and thankful heart is worship. Real worship doesn’t need one of those professional celebrity christian cheerleaders. The greatest worship comes from simple thankful believers who raise their song to heaven in the midst of loneliness, suffering, and persecution just like in the first century.
The New Testament reason to gather is for Agape. Agape feasts were for the establishing of relationships and the caring of one another as they were moved by the compassion and the love of Christ. These were not scheduled or calendared, and certainly were not weekly. So what would happen this Sunday if the only reason people could attend would be as described above? No performances, no entertainment, no showing off, no business networking, no getting the word from the preacher, no rituals ,and no self-anything. I think we would have a lot of almost empty buildings.
Freedom from the Religious System
You have a chance to be a pillar in the coming revolution of the Church as she breaks free from the bondage of the current religious system of men. Simply speaking, what is coming will bring Christianity to its knees and only that which is His will remain. Already the exodus has begun and we have only been feeling the early tremors. No man can lead it since the Head of the Church is just taking back what belongs to Him. The greatest days of the Church are ahead of us, but for many it will not look like anything they have seen before. No, the church is not leaving earth like a wounded puppy with its tail between its legs whom the Lord had to pull out of the fire. The Kingdom of God reigns and King Jesus is preparing His Bride to shine like the stars in the sky. Her brilliance will come from her being purified in the fire like Gold. She will have the fragrance of the King upon her which will dwarf the incense of men. And she will be draped in such a Cloud of His Glory and Splendor that no dry ice machines or digital light shows will able to to imitate it.
Be a pillar in the coming revolution!
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