Disobeying Christ to Bless Him?

I have just started Frank Viola’s (and now George Barna’s) book “Pagan Christianity?” I have few friends who have been jacked by the “church” after spending decades there, and this book is striking a chord with them. So I thought I should read it as I am becoming increasingly convinced by holding what passes for the American Church up to scripture, that… well… it ain’t.

I got through the introduction, but on the page before the preface, Viola has placed this question from Christ to the Pharisees:

Matthew 15:3
“Why do you yourselves transgress the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? “

I don’t think that is one that I have internalized before. But it is an idea that my husband and I had gotten close to in a letter to our former pastor about the corruption there. I thought I would share that passage here:

“Over and over during our dealing with Bel Air on this problem, we ran into the same ethos. The lie that one can disobey Jesus for the sake of the ministry of Jesus and still be in a relationship with Jesus.”

In both cases, those being confronted have used service to their religion/traditions/methods/process ostensibly as justification for their sin. But as soon as religion/traditions/methods/processes oppose, ignore and trample the word of God, they no longer serve or please God.

They become just another one of man’s worldly ambitions going after his worldly goals, no different than disobeying God for the sake of ones bank account or political career or popularity. Either a process or a ministry approach or a worship method obeys and serves God or it doesn’t. Once it doesn’t any more, it does not matter in what respect it doesn’t, it just matters that it doesn’t.

To disobey Christ to serve tradition, or to serve ministry goals, or to serve the homeless, or to serve your greed, or to serve career ambitions, or to serve your moment of anger, or to serve any end, no matter how lofty or how base you may consider it, is to still to disobey Christ. Why you are doing it is irrelevant.

Chris Rock confronts such a moral dilemma much more plainly:

“You know what they say, “There’s no reason to ever hit a woman.”… There’s a reason to hit everybody. You just don’t do it… there’s a reason to kick an old man down a flight of stairs. You just don’t do it.

It doesn’t matter if you think you have a good reason to sin… just don’t do it.

You cannot disobey Him and glorify Him at the same time. You cannot rebel against Him and be in a right relationship with Him.

And I think possibly the silliest thing that professing Christians do is to justify disobedience to Christ for the sake of the Gospel. “I have to win people to Christ, so I will disobey His direct commands in order to make the gospel more appealing, and thereby win converts”.

“But if we discipline the pastor whom so many come to hear speak on his personal sin, attendance will go down, donations will go down and we won’t be able to rent insert name of massive local venue for our Easter Service and won’t be able to make our city the Greatest City for Christ in America™!”

Because God needs our help to save people?

Because the Holy Spirit is insufficient to convict people of their spiritual bankruptcy and make them long for God’s forgiveness?

Bottom line, we want to do what we want to do to satisfy our desires and ambitions, so we do it. And when we use the traditions and methods that we have invented to supposedly honor God to justify doing what we want to in Christ’s direction, we merely prove our wicked nature, and defend ourselves against having to repent and give up our will to the will of God.

Sin’s circular reasoning.

We are a creative bunch of sinners, aren’t we.

Matthew 18 gives us the clearest direction on what to do when tradition or ministry goals or personal reputation or our job or our relationships or anything causes us to sin. If something has to give, it is not obedience to God, it is the thing that we sinned for.

Matthew 18:8-9

If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; it is better for you to enter life crippled or lame, than to have two hands or two feet and be cast into the eternal fire.

If your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out and throw it from you It is better for you to enter life with one eye, than to have two eyes and be cast into the fiery hell.

A graphic word picture to be sure, but pretty clear that when the believer feels he has to sin in the service of his job, his only choice is to quit his job.

And it is an absolutely clear instruction for this in church leadership that if their ministry requires them, to disobey scripture, the “ministry” has to end.

Because it really was only a ministry to the one supposedly ‘ministering’ and not a ministry to God anyway.

Right Hand Publicity, Inc.

There is much to write about when discussing corruption in the American “church”. Big “churches” with big budgets operating like big businesses and occasionally like big mafia.

The gross sin is certainly important to expose, but usually when you attend a church, you don’t see a sign on the door that says, “Our pastor cheats on his wife with male prostitutes and has a meth problem”. What you may be able to see is that there is sin peppered all over the place, seemingly “lesser sin” that is not just tolerated, but encouraged and directed by the church leadership.

When really examining the health of a church, these are often more interesting, because they are closer to the moment of the spiritual death, if you will. You see the corruption at its early stages. No church is healthy Tuesday, and Wednesday the congregation finds out that the assistant pastor has taken off with the church’s money and it’s secretary. No, the corruption began long before that, as just a little sin that was tolerated, which became bigger sin that was unaddressed, and after a time, fully blossomed into systematic corruption.

But that corruption was born when someone (usually in a power position) stepped off the path that Christ had set, and the church didn’t make him either get back on or leave.

Since leaving a “church” where corruption was fully in bloom, I have become fascinated with the anatomy of how a church becomes corrupted. It happens much the way cancer happens.

It is estimated that 90% of the population has “cancer” at any given time. Cancer is merely cells that have divided incorrectly resulting in two dysfunctional cells. In those with healthy immune systems, those errant cells are recognized and destroyed. In those with broken immune systems, the cancer cells go unrecognized and unaddressed are allowed to keep dividing until they eventually form a tumor and metastasize, killing the body.

So by the time someone is diagnosed with cancer, they have actually had it for many months or even years, but the symptoms were not seen on the surface.

So too, when a church is discovered to be corrupt, it can be traced back months and years to a time when the actual break down in the system of accountability. When confronting sin and exercising church discipline stops, the cancer starts to grow, and it is only a matter of time before the body is dead, and just becomes a social club, civic organization or entertainment arena.

So while there are endless examples out there of full blown apostasy, let’s look at a more subtle example of outright sin that gets skipped over. Usually because this kind of thing is now ubiquitous in the “church” as it has become deaf to God’s wisdom and replaced it with the wisdom of the world.

One of the most obvious phenomenons, when you start paying attention, is how “churches” are promoting themselves.

Here is Christ’s direction for believers:

Matthew 6:2-4

“So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.

“But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.

Spend an hour on you tube and see how many “churches” have disobeyed Christ in his direction to serve in secret, instead making videos of their good works and posting them on the internet for all to see. Missions trips, building projects, food drives, and on and on. Videos that serve no other purpose than to say, “Look what we did!”.

Here are two videos that inspired this post (in the interest of full disclosure, this our former “church”):

In this video the leader of a group video tapes himself going to donate blood at a drive that they held after the serious injury of a parishioner.

In this local CBS affiliate news story, the press is actually called in to video tape the Thanksgiving food drive and they have been provided with the exact dollar amount that was spent on food for the needy and how many needy it will feed.

Bel Air Presbyterian Donates $40,000 In Food
The Church is donating the food, just in time for Thanksgiving, to 115 needy families and 60 non-profit organizations. Mia Lee reports

These weren’t even videos that went out before or during the events so that others could be notified and participate, they were done after the fact, purely for publicity.

Let me be clear, in no way am I criticizing them for doing these good works, on the contrary. But they didn’t do them in secret.

In complete contradiction with “not letting the left hand know what the right hand is doing”, the right hand has become a public relations firm for it’s own good works. Right Hand Publicity, Inc.

They have chosen the way of the world, issuing press releases that show them doing things that make them look good, and turned their back on the way of Christ, to do good in secret.

And this is not a people that didn’t know any better. In the case of both of these videos, the subjects have been completely briefed on Christs “press blackout” command. The guy in the first video I have known for two decades. He grew up in a Christian home, attended bible college and been in and out of church leadership positions since he was a teenager. He has read Matthew 6. In the second case, the pastor of the church has a Ph.D. in biblical studies and teaches at Fuller Theological Seminary, so it is fair to assume that he either is ignoring Matthew 6, or is an absentee shepherd who is not teaching his staff and doesn’t know what they are doing.

This is not a case where well meaning, over enthusiastic, newbie converts just didn’t know about the right hand/left hand policy.

And as both of these were posted last year, and are still up, (along with the many dozens of others you will find on You Tube) we can see that the accountability system that God set up to teach and hold his disciples accountable is broken. None one has gone to these people and reminded them of, and held them accountable to, Matthew 6.

So if the easy sin to address, self-promotion of good works, is being practiced openly, how likely is it that they will address the difficult sins of lying, adultery, spousal abuse, drug abuse, sexual harassment and assault, fraud, stealing and the like.

If this were a church I didn’t know anything about, I would chance that their immune system is broken and say that it is a pretty safe bet that there is a serious cancer growing there. But as I have reported elsewhere, we have already been witness to the fact that the cancer there has metastasized and the corruption is in full bloom.

But if you showed up to church there on Sunday, you will not see the big tumor (you don’t really get a good look at it until you get involved in leadership and see how problems are handled behind the curtain), but you can see the smaller symptoms, the sin like this that has risen to the surface and remains unaddressed.

So learn from this. Look for the smaller sin that is going unchecked and unaddressed both in your life and in your church. See if the immune system is functioning and attacking the individual cancer cells or the tiny tumors. If not, then it is only a matter of time until the Spirit is gone and the body is dead.

Revelation 3:1-6
Message to Sardis

“To the angel of the church in Sardis write: He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars, says this: ‘I know your deeds, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead.

Wake up, and strengthen the things that remain, which were about to die; for I have not found your deeds completed in the sight of My God.

So remember what you have received and heard; and keep it, and repent Therefore if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come to you.

But you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their garments; and they will walk with Me in white, for they are worthy.

He who overcomes will thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life, and I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.

He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

And it may have already happened.

New York Gets to Decide If You Believe In God Or Not

… and who can act in accordance with their moral and religious beliefs and who can not.

Pay close attention to this story, because this is a wedge issue. Once the state gets to decide matters of religious sincerity and faith on one issue, which they have begun doing in New York, a very dangerous precedent is set and we begin to loose the right to freedom of religion in this country. These excerpts from this “religious sincerity test” interview are ones you have to see.

First some explanation of what you will be watching.

Vaccine laws vary from state to state. All states have medical exemptions so that children whose medical histories include contraindications for vaccines can opt out and still attend school. Just like antibiotics, pain relievers and any other pharmaceuticals, there are is a subset of the population who cannot properly process vaccines or certain vaccine ingredients, and sustain a vaccine injury.

Some states have philosophical exemptions, for families who choose to forgo some or all vaccines for their kids, but New York does not have such a law.

What they do have is a religious exemption.

Families may want to abstain from vaccinating for any number of religious reasons. At the top of the list of course is that some vaccines are made using human cells harvested from aborted fetal tissue, of concern to Jews and Muslims may be the fact that pork products are included in many vaccines, and the moral/religious dilemmas in vaccinating blossom out from there into myriad issues. So you can see why it is important for NY to have a religious exemption.

But here is the catch…

THEY get to decide who is “sincerely religious” and who is not.

And they have begun to use coercive and illegal methods, and repeated, harassing interrogations that last for hours, against families who try to use this exemption, and routinely declare them “not religiously sincere” so that they can deny these exemptions.

Consider the case of Rita Palma. The Palmas are a Catholic family who decided to stop vaccinating on religious grounds. After filing the appropriate paperwork, submitting all her reasoning in writing, Mrs. Palma and her husband began to be dragged into meeting after meeting with the school system to be grilled by their lawyers. Eventually they had to hire a lawyer of their own.

After being treated horribly, the Palmas decided to bring a video camera to a meeting and secretly video tape their “interview” (although the school system was recording audio, so this lawyer knows that a record is being kept of his behavior). They have made three excerpts public, but this harassment went on for an hour and a half.

As you watch, and please watch all three videos, consider what this means for Christians in this country. If a family can be subjected to this emotional battery just to keep their child in school, can you imagine where else that this may be allowed to happen?

As you watch, keep in mind that after this interview, the school district ruled that the Palma’s didn’t actually believe in God. For the second time.

Rita expounds on her experience in this column and in this interview.

The second ‘truth-test’ and it’s all about God, me and Mr. Dave. “Do you have conversations with God? Does He tell you not immunize? If God is on your side, can He be on the side of those who immunize? If God created man and man created vaccinations, how can accepting vaccines represent a mistrust in God? Have your religious beliefs changed in two years?” The video speaks for itself. Ninety minutes of harassment, outrageous questions and praying my husband (and me) would stay in his seat.

NY Bill A883 has been proposed to ban vaccine “Sincerity Testing”. It needs to pass, but not just because of the vaccine issue, but because the state has no business making judgments about the individual faith of citizens. This school system, and their very expensive lawyers, had no business questioning the Palmas like this.

The Palmas “interview” (read witch hunt), and the religious “sincerity test” are the tip of a dangerous wedge and this wedge needs to be removed stat before this kind of abuse is allowed to spread.