I'm Sandeep, a medical doctor, Psychiatrist by specialization, now working in Karigiri Hospital, Vellore. By the way, the most remarkable thing I want to share with you from my life, is about the tremendous joy and peace that fills my heart as a result of my encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ. You can read the story of my transformation from a traditional Hindu into an ardent follower of Christ here: http://sandeeppsychiatry.blogspot.in/2007/06/about-me.html
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Addressing Some Issues in the ‘Churches’
This is a modified letter of reply which I had written to a friend of mine, addressing some issues in the ‘churches’, both the traditional as well as the ‘separated’ ones. I’m enclosing the substance of the letter below:
“My dear friend,
Jesus never founded any religion or organization. He always stood against man-made traditions and systems! Please read Mark 7: 5- 13, where Jesus tells the Pharisees that they neglect (verse 8), set aside (verse 9) and finally invalidate the word of God (verse 13) by their tradition which they had handed down. He always exposed the hollowness and hypocrisy of those who earn money, man’s honour and fame in the name of God (even in the name of Jesus)!! So it is Christ, not the religion of Christianity, that we should follow!
History tells us that Christianity degenerated into a religion around AD 300, when the Roman emperor Constantine accepted Christianity as a religion without any repentance, and the people of his empire imitated him in order to please him, thereby beginning to bring numerous nauseating traditions and rituals (in “Christian whitewash”), which are not at all found in the New Testament.
My very dear brother, please do not feel bad when I’m quoting these verses from the very Bible you and I are reading everyday:
“For there is one God, and ONE mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5).
“… If anyone sins, we have AN advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ, the righteous” (1 John 2: 1).
Dear brother, Mary was, of course, a very humble and holy woman of God, worthy to be chosen to be the mother of the Lord on this earth. But she herself said: “Whatever He (Jesus) says to you, do it” (John 2: 5). She always pointed others to Christ and not to herself.
Jesus Himself always paid more importance for spiritual relationships, rather than for physical relationships. For example, see Luke 8: 21:
“But He answered and said to them, “My mother and My brothers are these who hear the word of God and do it”.
Also in Luke 11: 27, 28, we read: “And it came about that when Jesus said these things, one of the women in the crowd raised her voice and said to Him, “Blessed is the womb that bore You, and the breasts at which You nursed”. But He said, “On the contrary, blessed are those who hear the word of God, and observe it”.
Jeremiah 7: 18 and 44: 17 refers to a heathen goddess as the ‘queen of heaven’. Then how dare one call Mary the queen of heaven? When the Almighty Creator God expects us to pray only to Him, how are rosary and mediation to innumerous saints ever justifiable?
Doctrines like mediation to Mary and other saints, rosary, idol worship, infant baptism etc. were not in the Church in the early days. They came in the later days when people began to follow this as a mere religion without having any personal relationship with the Lord Jesus!
The Word of God unambiguously exhorts us “not to be idolaters” (1 Cor. 10: 7, and to “flee from idolatry” (1 Cor. 10: 14). Apostle John, at the very end of his first epistle, says: “Little children, guard yourselves from idols” (1 John 5: 21). And do not be shocked, dear brother, when I say that 1 Cor. 10: 20 makes it crystal clear that the things that the Gentiles sacrifice to idols, they sacrifice to demons, and not to God!
It should be thought- provoking for all idolaters to see that the Word of God clearly categorizes them along with fornicators, adulterers, effeminate, homosexuals, thieves, the covetous, drunkards, revilers and swindlers in the list of those who shall not inherit the kingdom of God !(1 Cor. 6: 9, 10).
Galatians 5: 19, 20 includes idolatry along with immorality, impurity, sensuality, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness and carousing among the deeds of the flesh, and warns us that those who practice such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God!! Ephesians 5: 5 says: “For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God”!
Again Revelation 21: 8 includes idolaters along with the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, immoral persons, sorcerers and liars among those whose part is in “the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death”! And it is amazing to see this verse of warning even in the very last page of the Bible: “Outside are the dogs and the sorcerers and the immoral persons and the murderers and the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices lying”! (Rev. 22: 15).
Do you know what the second one of the Ten Commandments God gave Moses in the Old Testament is? Here it is: “You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.” (Exodus 20: 4 – 7; Deut. 5: 8 – 10).
But it is literally shocking to see that some ‘churches’ conveniently omits this second commandment of Almighty God and cleverly splits up the tenth commandment into two commandments, so that there are somehow ‘ten’ commandments altogether!!! (See Exodus 20: 17). But they can deceive only those lazy, half- hearted people who never care, at least once in a blue moon, to open up their “precious” Bibles adored and adorned in the show- case!
Later in the Old Testament, the Lord used the king Hezekiah to break in pieces even the bronze serpent that Moses had made, because the sons of Israel had been burning incense to it! (2 Kings 18: 4). If you want to get a glimpse of how much the Lord abhors idolatry, just see these numerous verses in the Bible:
Some people tell that they keep idols and pictures of ‘Jesus’ only as reminders. But a truly born again person never needs such reminders because he has the Holy Spirit of God dwelling in him, “who will teach him all things and bring to his remembrance all that the Lord Jesus has told him” (John 14: 26). Anyway, there is no proof that the prevalent pictures of ‘Jesus’ are really of the Lord at all! The faces in different pictures themselves differ considerably!! Then how can they ever be genuine? A true disciple of the Lord will admit that these pictures are actually hindrances for him to come to the real Lord and behold His spiritual beauty with his inner eyes through the enlightening of the Spirit of God! (Matthew 5: 8; 2 Cor. 4: 6).
1 Peter 2: 9 clearly says to all believers that “you are a royal priesthood”. Though the priesthood was restricted to some section of the Jews in the Old Covenant, all the children of God in the new covenant are royal priests, as is evident from that verse as well as Rev. 1: 6 ! The Old Covenant (not the Old Testament) is made obsolete and is growing old and is ready to disappear, according to Hebrews 8: 7, 13! Does this not prove, dear brother, that the priesthood practised in most ‘churches’ is not at all Biblical!
Also, in Matthew 23: 9, the Lord Jesus forbids calling anyone on earth your ‘father’! The word ‘reverend’ is found only in one place in the whole Bible, where it is used to describe the Almighty God (Psalm 111: 9 KJV). The Word of God is always against using titles (even ‘pastor’ (= shepherd) which is a calling for service – Eph. 4: 11 -- and not a title) that would exalt one above others (See Matthew 23: 5 – 12). Jesus says: “… you are all brothers” (Matthew 23: 8). It is amazing that many of the Pentecostal ‘pastors’ also exalt themselves and lord over their flock just like the traditional ‘priests’! (1 Peter 5: 2, 3).
1 Timothy 4: 1-5 unequivocally says that forbidding marriage is a doctrine of the demons!! Yet marriage is forbidden to the ‘priests’ and nuns in some ‘churches’! How can this be?
When the Word of God says: “For a man ought not to have his head covered, since he is the image and glory of God…”, I wonder, dear brother, why many of these “Christian priests” take all pains to carefully cover their heads with fancy caps and crowns!!
As one said, the New Testament states only one instance of a person confessing his sins before the priests, and that is none other than Judas Iscariot, the very betrayer of our Lord Jesus!! (See Matthew 27: 3- 5). The Bible very clearly teaches us to confess our sins to God alone (1 John 1: 9). And if we have hurt anybody by our words or deeds, we need to ask their forgiveness also (Matthew 5: 21 - 24). In an exceptional occasion of sickness due to some unconfessed sin, one has to confess one’s sins to the elders of the church who are to pray for his healing (James 5: 14 – 16). Then how can the tradition of confession of sins to ‘priests’ ever be justified?
Our Lord Jesus instituted the covenant of “breaking of bread” among His disciples, and not in the midst of the multitude! The “holy mass” in many ‘churches’ is conducted by some ‘priest’ who is most probably not born again at all (and if at all born again, disobeying many of the commandments of the Lord described above and below). And this ‘mass’ is received by multitudes of people indulging in smoking, drinking, lying, immorality etc. Then how can this ritual be of any value before God??
And how can any ritual, for that matter, conducted by such a ‘priest’ be of any value before God, say, baptism? Anyway, infant baptism has absolutely zero value before God, whosoever does it!!! Because the Greek word ‘bapto’ from which the word ‘baptism’ came, simply means ‘to immerse’, and not ‘to sprinkle’! And I have heard that the KJV translators coined the new word ‘baptism’ in English instead of using the simple English word ‘immersion’, in order that they can safely cover up the traditional infant baptism of sprinkling!
But suppose, even if an infant is immersed, it will not become the true water baptism! Because the water baptism is symbolically burying the ‘old man’ who became dead when one is born again (saved) and rising up of the ‘new man’ (Romans 6: 3 – 7). So all ‘baptisms’ before one is truly born again (whether as an infant or as an adult) are not more valuable to God than the bathroom shower we have everyday!!
Further, it is to the disciples (and not to any Tom, Dick and Harry) that Jesus gave the commandment to baptize. And one who receives baptism must be a born again child of God, who is seeking to obey all the commandments of the Lord! (See Matthew 28: 16 – 20).
And I have no words to say of those ‘believers’ involved in filing court cases against other ‘believers’ because the Word of God already uses enough words to depict their condition in 1 Cor. 6: 1 – 8 !
Jesus teaches us to fast in secret, so that whether alone or together with fellow believers, only those who are fasting need to know about it (Matthew 6: 16 – 18). And I am amazed at the public fasting of ‘believers’ after distributing even printed notices about it!!
Miracles, supernatural experiences, false visions and lying divination can be there in heathen religions too (Exodus 7: 8 – 13; Ezekiel 13: 6 – 9). One thing is sure: everything supernatural is not from God! Even the antichrist will do extraordinary miracles by Satanic power! (See Rev. 13: 11 – 15; 1 Thess. 2: 8 – 12). If anyone, no matter whichever church he or she attends, rather than seeking the Lord, goes seeking after supernatural miracles (even if they are ‘in the name of Jesus’), he or she is 100% destined to be deceived, especially in these end days! (See Matthew 7: 20 – 23; 24: 4, 11, 24).Of course, on the other hand, it is beyond doubt that the Lord also does numerous miracles even today out of concern for the needy people!
At one extreme, people call everything supernatural as the manifestation of the Holy Spirit and mistake emotional upheaval for the power of the Holy Spirit! At the other extreme, there are others who intellectually dissect the Word of God and come to the false conclusion that the gifts of the Holy Spirit do no longer exist today! But God is looking for those who adhere to the Word of God and at the same time continually seek for the genuine enduing of the power of the Holy Spirit from above (and not from any ‘gifted’ ‘pastor’ below)!! (See Luke 24: 49; John 3: 27; James 1: 17).
Any genuine disciple of the Lord will soon be disgusted with the worldliness and extreme chaos that take place supposedly in the name of the Holy Spirit in many ‘churches’! On the other hand, one will be bored with the monotony and legalistic bondage prevalent in many other churches! And I pray that the Lord will be able to see more churches in these last days with the true liberty as well as discipline of the Holy Spirit, which have the fruit as well as the gifts of the Spirit!
At one extreme, instead of exhorting the unbelievers to radically repent of their sins and trust in the Lord Jesus in order to be born again, many are just preaching methods of self improvement and reformation. (Even heathen religions teach these self-reformatory methods). At the other extreme, masses are brainwashed by a ‘health and wealth and prosperity gospel’, which is totally man-centered and ‘training’ people to be more and more covetous and greedy and selfish!! But God is looking for those who share the true gospel of “repentance (turning away from one’s sins) toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20: 21). It is this gospel which results in salvation (new birth) as a free gift from God through His grace, and not the good works or religious rituals that one has done (Eph. 2: 8 – 10).
As one has pointed out, the Old Testament commandment of tithing (instead of the New Testament commandment of cheerfully giving – 2 Cor. 9: 7) is imposed by covetous ‘pastors’ on the undiscerning believers! Foreign funds are many a time misused for selfish interests by the corrupt leadership! As somebody said: “When it comes to such matters as dowry, almost all of these ‘churches’ seem to have exactly the same doctrine, because they also can receive some commission each time!”
Jesus clearly contrasted between the good shepherd who gives even his life for the flock and the “hireling” who works for his salary! (John 10: 10 – 13). The Christendom is unfortunately flooded by numerous “hirelings” who are working for their regular salary, rather than working for the Lord out of love for Him and earning their daily living as well! (Please read 1 Thess. 3: 6 – 15). Of course, genuine servants of the Lord are worthy of reward for their spiritual labour; but that should never be an excuse for the “hirelings” to cover up their covetousness! (See 1 Cor. 9: 9 – 18; Gal. 6: 6 and 1 Tim. 5: 17, 18).
The Word of God clearly commands us in 2 Timothy 3: 5 to “avoid those who hold to a form of godliness, but have denied its power”. I never wish to be a part of a ‘church’ which is led by such covetous and unrighteous persons, because, otherwise, I’ll be disobeying His Word! Jesus told many “hard” truths to people IN LOVE (Eph.4: 15) without caring whether they will get offended and leave Him. We have to follow His example.
Please don’t misunderstand me, my dear brother. I am “not judging anyone according to appearance, but I judge with righteous judgment” just as Jesus commanded us to do in John 7: 24. In 1 John 4: 1 we read: “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world”. Jesus Himself has sternly warned us to “beware of the false prophets, who come to us in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves”, and to “know them by their fruits” (and not by their gifts)!! (Matthew 7: 15, 16).
I do not despise or look down upon any human being; but I was just comparing what we see around us in Christendom ‘in the name of Jesus’, with what is written clearly in the Word of God, so that we can come to the true liberty which the truth of God alone can bring (John 8: 32). Just as Jesus did in His days, I was just trying to expose the futility of man-made traditions and interpretations, because ‘the precious name of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ is being blasphemed among the non-Christians because of the so-called Christianity today’! (Romans 2: 24).
May I just take the freedom to ask you this ‘strange’ question: Are you 100 % sure that even if you die at this very moment, you’ll reach the Lord’s presence in heaven the same moment? Are you sure, dear? If you are not sure, then repent of your sins and surrender your life to Christ Jesus so that you may be saved from the eternal wrath of God! But, if you are sure of your new birth, then you need to take these Words of God seriously:
2 Corinthians 6: 14- 18 says: “Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of God; just as God said, “I will dwell in them and walk among them; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. Therefore, come out from their midst and be separate”, saysthe Lord. “And do not touch what is unclean; and I will welcome you. And I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to Me”, says the Lord Almighty”.
Revelation 18: 4 says: “I heard another voice from heaven, saying, “Come out of Babylon (the false ‘church’), my people, that you may not participate in her sins and that you may not receive of her plagues”.
John 12: 42, 43 says: “Nevertheless many even of the rulers believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they were not confessing Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the approval of men rather than the approval of God”. So, whose approval, do you want, dear brother, -- man’s or God’s?
Read the example of the man born blind who was healed by Jesus in John 9. That poor man, unlike his diplomatic parents, did not care for the approval of the religious authorities of his time and was absolutely faithful to the light he had. And he confessed Jesus boldly before them and was put out of the synagogue. And read John 9: 35: “Jesus heard that they had put him out; and finding him, He said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”. And thus Jesus could reveal more of Himself to him, and the man worshiped Jesus (John 9: 38). So we have to pay a price to really worship Jesus in spirit and truth, dear brother!
See what Peter and John, the uneducated and untrained fishermen, said before the religious authorities who asked them not to preach the gospel anymore: “But Peter and John answered and said to them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge; for we cannot stop speaking what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4: 19, 20). Again in Acts 5: 29, we read: “But Peter and the apostles answered and said, “We must obey God rather than men”.
So what’s the solution? Is it to leave the false ‘churches’ and to attend no church? Never. I have heard some people saying that they do not need any fellowship, but will obey the Bible on their own. But the very Word of God which they profess to follow, also exhorts us “not to forsake our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but to encourage one another; and all the more, as you see the day drawing near” (Hebrews 10: 25). Just a few verses before the commandment in 2 Timothy 3: 5 to “avoid those who hold to a form of godliness, but have denied its power”, we are also commanded in 2 Timothy 2: 22 to “flee from youthful lusts, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart”, (and not with the unbelievers or ‘compromising, worldly and half-hearted believers’ of our “precious” age-old denomination, whichever it may be, the traditional or the so-called ‘separated’ ones)!! So the Lord’s perfect will for any born again child of God is that he/she should be built together in close fellowship and love with other whole-hearted children of God of his/her locality, “into a dwelling of God in the Spirit” (Ephesians 2: 19 – 22).
Throughout the epistles, we see many local expressions of the Body of Christ in various localities like Rome, Galatia, Ephesus, Philippi, Colossae, Thessalonica etc. Likewise the Lord is building His true churches, though few in number, here and there, which seeks to obey and teach the whole counsel of God as revealed in His Word (Acts 20: 27). There the children of God will be strongly united as members of one Body, encouraging and correcting one another, with fervent love for each other, irrespective of their financial status, educational qualifications, occupation, culture, caste or colour or gender or whatever! (See John 13: 34, 35; 1 Cor. 12: 13; Eph. 4: 16; Col. 2: 18, 19).
Of course, they would not be perfect churches because no human being is perfect. But a true church of God will have an uncorrupted leadership, which is “rooted and grounded in love” (Eph. 3: 17), and which is living before the face of God, and which is able to steer the church in the right direction of the Holy Spirit! They are the “shepherds after God’s own heart” who will help their flock to ‘know Him and understand His ways’. It is such true shepherds that the Lord has promised for those who come to Zion, the true church of God! (Jeremiah 3: 14, 15).
As someone said, the God who helped the wise men from the east, the shepherds, the righteous and devout Simeon, and the old, pious widow, Anna to find the first and physical Body of Christ, will also help the genuine seekers even today to find the second and spiritual Body of Christ, the Church, near their locality. As is evident from the four types of above – mentioned people who found His earthly Body, God never shows partiality to anyone based on their wisdom, education, richness, occupation, knowledge of Scriptures, age or even gender; but He is looking for people with an honest and humble heart to stand for Him uncompromisingly in this land and in this generation! Just as everyone understood whom God was like through the first and physical Body of Christ, which walked through Israel about 2000 years ago (John 1: 18), it is through this second and spiritual Body of Christ, the Church, that the Lord wants to demonstrate to this world today whom the real Jesus of the Bible is like! (1 John 4: 12). And, dear brother, are you willing to be a part of that Body?
My dear brother, I'm saying these not for any argument at all. But I'm saying the truth only in sincere love for you (Ephesians 4: 15). And dear brother, God Himself has given you freedom to disagree and throw away these truths! Because He never compels anybody!
I’m neither a ‘Catholic’, nor a ‘Pentecostal’, nor a ‘Jacobite’, nor a ‘Brethren’, nor a ‘Baptist’, nor a ‘Marthomite’, nor a ‘CSIite’ and so on….. I belong to Jesus and attend church fellowships consisting of brothers who diligently seek to follow the Lord Jesus in everything. And I pray that the Lord may raise up true local churches – the genuine expressions of the Body of Christ – having the pure testimony of the Lord Jesus, in every part of the world so that the Lord’s name might be mightily exalted everywhere in these last days!
Hope you’ve not been offended by this loving brother! I’ll pray for you, dear! May the Lord Jesus richly bless you and guide you in all things!