Heed the Yeast

While scrolling through the Bible app on my phone during church today I came across a number of passages that blew me right out of the water (and I thought I knew it all, aready?). One passage in particular totally affirmed what I’ve been struggling with these months, which has been initially doubt. Not doubting God but doubting myself and the decisions and choices I’ve made in the last 6-8 months that have brought me here, out of the religiousBecause I have to be honest; I’ve been taking opposition, and while the feeling of knowing truth is so powerful, this stuff has been wearing on me.

Anyway, I was skimming through 2 Timothy 3 and verse 5 leaped off the page at me, so I just had to go back to the beginning of the chapter and find out what was going on here:

But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! 

– 2 Timothy 3:1-5 [emphasis mine]

Did you catch that? Paul is warning Timothy (and all of us young men) about perilous times and perilous people: “For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God …” this description sounds like it came right out of his list of the fruits of the flesh over in Galatians 5; this is heavy stuff.

But do you know what kind of people he’s talking about? It isn’t the world, it’s the religious! It is the religious. He says in verse five, “[they have] a form of godliness…” Is it a reputation? A name? A claim to a church pew? These people probably appear quite godly.

Just let that sink in a little. And what is the danger?

For of this sort are those who creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.

– 2 Timothy 3:6-7

Making captives out of the gullible to lust, loading them down with sins, always chasing knowledge but never able to grasp the real substance of the knowledge of the truth. Doesn’t that sound like the religious? It sounds a lot like some of those I’ve seen and heard speaking from behind the pulpit. And I think these two verses are key, because this is what the religious is full of–church is full of this! Everyone looking for the next new piece of wisdom as though their salvation and their usefulness to the kingdom depends on how much they can learn. To the religious of his day Jesus said something to the affect of “You search the scriptures because you think knowing them will save you, but you miss completely that they’re all about me!” (John 5:39, my paraphrase). Always hearing, never understanding. Loading sin after sin onto their fellow captives, because what else can you do with a system based off works and sin-consciousness?

I think back on my recent encounters, some with peers, others with older, more respected leader figures; I’m thinking about how perfectly my experiences and the feelings I’ve gotten from some individuals fit Paul’s description perfectly. I’m thinking about the people who had reputations in my eyes as great leaders on solid foundations.

Having a form of godliness.

This sort creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins.

“Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and the Sadducees,” Jesus warned his disciples (Matthew 16:6) The infectious beliefs of those who believe no righteousness exists out of your perfect observance of the Law, and those who believe there is no resurrection life. Righteousness at the cost of death and no resurrection hope. And you can hear an awful lot of teaching and preaching in church today about what you must do to meet the requirements for salvation, in various forms and flavors. Having a form of godliness.

“Perilous times and perilous men will come,” warns Paul, “But it’s okay; you’ll know them by their fruit. They appear godly, but they bring devastation. Turn away from them!”

Turn away from them.

Now as Jannes and Jambres resisted Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, disapproved concerning the faith; but they will progress no further, for their folly will be manifest to all, as theirs also was.

– 2 Timothy 3:8-9

Are you in a dead movement? Faith in the finished work of Jesus will always promote progress. Jannes and Jambres were among the people that left Egypt; Moses delivered them. A form of godliness. What more can I say? Paul gives us the answer to remain steadfast in a time when false Christians and the religious will encroach us with doubt:

10 But you have carefully followed my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, perseverance, 11 persecutions, afflictions, which happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra—what persecutions I endured. And out of them all the Lord delivered me. 12 Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. 13 But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. [And here comes the one-two punch:] 14 But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, 15 and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.

16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

– 2 Timothy 3:10-17

But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus! Amen! How do you keep from faltering in the face of those who would question, deride and shame you for the truth of the gospel? Continue in what you know, know who you learned it from, and be confident in the Scripture where your 100-percent-faith-based salvation is found! I’m not going to stop believing in the finished work of Christ, I know I learned this gospel straight from God, and I know that I’m not only on a solid scriptural foundation, but I’m on the foundation of Christ himself! And I’ll tell you something, not only have I found confidence in the gospel by Scripture, but I’ve been able to respond to the naysayers with the truth straight out of the book itself; what better feeling than to know that you know that your foundation is Christ the Solid Rock, and all other ground is sinking sand.

As I began with, this passage just totally blew me out of the water, affirmed my whole understanding and put such a peace-enabling reassurance over me–I know I’m on the right track, I don’t need to be intimidated or put off by anyone regardless of who they are or what their reputation or standing is, and the danger in the religious culture is real, and it’s alive and well.

16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

– 2 Timothy 3:16-17

I’ll end off with this: I’ve thought for a long time that I had to be learned to be able to carry any authority in the Christian culture. Now I realize, Christianity shouldn’t even be defined in a culture. All the so-called Christian Culture is, I think, is modernized religion. So I don’t need to be educated to be completely equipped, I just need to allow the Word of God to be alive in me–that’s all you need in order to be able to stand up to religious bullies–I don’t need to be learned, I just need to be listening to the voice of Jesus in me.

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More Than Reputation

I’m recalling a dream I had some years ago. It came to mind recently because of an encounter I had the other day that opened my eyes a good deal wider than they had been. It was a short and very revealing discourse that took place over a couple hours on facebook between someone and myself about grace, works and our responsibility as Christians. I’ll begin by describing the dream:

I don’t recall the details now (they are probably stored away in some old journal) but the main points I remember vividly. I was at the Adventist church back in Hazelton. I’d had this dream while still a part of that congregation. I don’t remember having been inside the building at all, only outside where it was very dark in the parking lot, and a particular pastor–the person I had my discussion on facebook with–(not associated with the Adventist church) was there with a worship band. They seemed to be playing on a stage in the middle of the parking lot, although it wasn’t clear what they were up on because all around them was a fire burning which did little to display the darkness, and if anything only added to it with black smoke. As I got closer I was compelled to get into the fire–although I don’t know why. I somehow got into the flames and rolled through it. There were other people on the ground burning in the fire; all I saw were charred, black bodies. I didn’t feel any pain from the burning, and got out of the fire without being harmed. I would describe this entire scene now–the band, the fire around them, the darkness, the smoke, and the literal heap of burned bodies on the ground–as wholly demonic, though this view isn’t entirely necessary; suffice it to say, something was seriously wrong with the goings-ons.

I left the parking lot and walked over to the lawn where I found a lot of people who seemed to be just milling around. It wasn’t dark on the lawn–in fact it seemed to be broad daylight. And then an angel showed up–bam–or maybe it was Jesus, but I don’t think so, because he talked like a messenger, although I don’t remember what he said–just that he was dressed in white and he was definitely heavenly.  He handed me a blowtorch, and when I took it I began running through the crowd catching people on fire. But this wasn’t a burning like what had been happening in the parking lot–in fact, I don’t remember seeing a flame on anyone. This was different; more real, more holy. I don’t know how to describe it–those don’t really come close to the feeling that came over me in that moment.

Of course, I’m relating this with the bias of new understanding. I’ve since found my place to be well outside of the Adventist church–well outside of any religion, really. But this pastor? There has in years since passed been a reputation of being alive surrounding his church and ministry. It’s where I got some of my very first tastes of Christianity outside the religious box.

This isn’t a personal thing, my focus isn’t even really on this particular person–although I’ve had a lot to think about over the last couple days–but I will say that I saw some deep cracks going through his foundation, and I was surprised at the opposition and downright scorn I received for my stance on grace. I was surprised because of the reputation I had grown to be familiar with over the years.

You’re probably wondering by now where the heck I’m going with this, because I’m having a little trouble getting around to the point in a way that feels right. (I just don’t have the words). What I’m realizing is that God has his own plans for me–not within the religious, not within circles of people who have reputations of being alive but aren’t. His plans? His plans don’t have anything to do with human organization be it religious or otherwise. His plans involve me seeing Him–not just angels–face to face so that I would be like him. His plans? His plans are so much better than anything I could ever contrive or hope to bring about by associating with the ‘right people’. Because I’ll be honest, I’ve thought many times that if I could just find the right people to associate with–if I could just find that perfect life-coach-slash-mentor-slash-father-figure-slash-saint to raise me up to conquer my fears and failures and do great things for God–

It’s a bunny trail.

And I think far too many young Christians like me are on it, and it won’t ever work for them. I had to leave the church building, leave behind everyone and every circle of people I thought were good images of living Christianity… Because the only person that God wants us to be like? Is Himself. And the only person I can look to to be like God, is Christ. And Christ’s work was perfected in me at the cross and when I am in Christ and he is in me…

All the Father sees in me, is Christ perfected.