Fear is an extremely power thing. If fear is not handled properly, it is capable of destroying a person simply because of its crippling effects. There are those within this world today who live in maximal fear–sometimes for understandable reasons, other times because they have allowed fear to control their lives entirely.
What I want to progress towards discussing within this series are the terrifying ramifications of when believers succumb to fear-based religion. As an introduction, today’s focuses will be on (1) providing historical background of religion within Christendom and on (2) highlighting one of the threats some “christian” churches pose towards spiritual seekers and professing believers alike.
Strikingly, religion has almost always been wielded in such a way to instill fear into the masses through both oppressive and manipulative means so that the people can be controlled. Yes, even “Christian” religious denominations have largely been premised in fear, which can be quite certainly be linked to the establishment of the Roman Catholic Church(RCC). In fact, prominent author and apologist, Ravi Zachaaris postulates that, “Christianity is not the same as who Christ is“.
I will now digress a little here so that I can provide some reasoning for why I believe this is happening within Christianity. Increasingly what we have today even among several Protestant denominations is the integration of some practices and traditions from Catholic teaching. Notably, within Protestantism there is an expanding-divide between the laity and the clergy in which there is a greater perceived value towards the ministry work among the clergy(church leaders) within the church compared to that which God accomplishes through the laity(church members). The fact is that we are all a royal priesthood of believers under the New Covenant(1 Peter 2:9) in Christ. Therefore, no believer is seen as more or less significant before God simply because they serve in a leadership capacity at a church as opposed to being used in some other capacity in another profession. The hierarchy within the RCC has certainly been influencing and has even started to pervade some Protestant denominations. The consequence beginning to arise from this is the proliferation of Bible illiteracy because church-goers place too much weight on the pastor at the pulpit. Therefore, the spin-off from this is that there is the presumption that this pastor has authority over God’s Word. Sadly, many church adherents then follow whatever is said trusting that the pastor is always 100% accurate, frequently without taking part in their own Bible Study to test what is said against God’s Word. For those of you who know your history of the RCC, I’m sure that this sounds very familiar. In spite of this example, as well as several others unmentioned, one can quite accurately speculate that the trajectory to which we are going within Protestantism is frighteningly similar to the way things were before the Protestant Reformation.
Returning to Dr. Zachaaris’ point from earlier, I believe that his point soundly exemplifies what is transpiring today within Christianity. As human beings we have put an inordinate level of emphasis on doctrinal differences and biblical interpretations to the degree whereby they are exalted above what God Himself has told us within His Word. We have forgotten that Christianity is about modeling and living the way Christ lived where we are commanded to love our neighbors as ourselves through grace, mercy, kindness, compassion, patience, and understanding. We need to walk out our theology rather than simply intellectualizing it in order that God’s Word has it full intended impact within our hearts(breathing in through studying it and breathing out through living it). It is as though we have tried to put God into a proverbial box made out of our human preconceptions and categorical assumptions of Who we think He is. However, as you and I both hopefully know: God simply does not, and, moreover, He cannot fit into our human-made doctrinal boxes. Like apostle, Stephen quotes in Acts 7:48-50 from Mat 5:34,35 and Isa 66:1,2:
“However, the Most High does not live in houses made by men. As the prophet says: Heaven is My throne, and the earth is My footstool. What kind of house will you build for Me? says the Lord. Or where will My resting place be? Has not My hand made all these things?”
Disclaimer: Please do not misunderstand or misinterpret me at all, I do recognize that pure religion (see James 1:27) has a place and it is essential for the Christian walk of faith. However, without having a personal and dynamic relationship with God, religion is merely a set of rules, rituals and traditions which is dead in and of itself(look at the Pharisees). We need pure religion to keep us grounded while the relationship we have with God enables us to live in the liberties Christ purchased for us on Calvary. Pure religion and relationship are not opposing forces but rather they should work in harmony in a sort of symbiotic relationship.
The central result of religion without relationship is known as legalism where we frustratingly strive and strive to earn our salvation, while repeatedly falling short and being devastated at the end of our lives when we face God for judgement. What I fervently and earnestly want Christians to know about is the damning power of false (christian) religion which permeates the world today, particularly within the West. It is common knowledge that being a church-goer does not mean that you are saved because church membership cannot purchase salvation; salvation is received by grace alone through faith alone in the finished work of Christ alone. However, the church is always one of the most dangerous places you can be if you ignorantly fool yourself into thinking that you are saved when you are really not. Essentially, you have not only become a hypocrite without even realizing(or through suppressing it) but once you are within the clutches of religion, it is exceedingly difficult to escape it because the enemy has cunningly fooled you through using religion as his choice of weapon.
I cannot even begin to fathom the immeasurably high numbers of souls who have fallen victim to the clutches of false religion. I have personally experienced what this is like coming from a Roman Catholic Background myself for over 2o years of my life. I am normally not a stubborn person but God had to radically shake up my life before He captured my attention to see the destructive path which I was on. It is my prayer and hope that the true life-giving Gospel Message of unfathomable love and grace will liberate any readers who find themselves entrapped in fear-based religion.
I encourage anyone who desires to briefly share their experience of being set free from the bondage of religion to comment below.
I plan on continuing this series with a blog post entitled, “Paralyzing Power of Fear”. In this post, I intend on exploring some of the devastating ramifications of living in fear within the framework of religion.
May God Bless everyone in the weeks ahead!