Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Rethinking 'Church'

When God started to make things clear to me (or when I finally started to listen to Him) about His unconditional love and grace, my first reaction was over-reaction. I was angry at the religion. I wanted to ask those who deceive the people with legalism, why they do that? I wanted to fight the heresy they teach. I was annoyed by the processed sermons they preach. I became intolerant towards legalism. I wanted to be in the middle of it and fight it. I tried, tried and tried. I was treated as someone deceived by a ‘bad theology’. I was told that ‘grace alone’ is dangerous. I was asked to read the ‘what we believe’ page of their website. I was a subject of their prayer, so that God’s wrath won’t fall up on me. I was told that the New Covenant is a continuation of Old Covenant. Finally it came to a point where either they will excommunicate me, or I should stop fighting. Then finally I left by my own.

Like Aida said in her blog, grace really is disruptive . It made my life upside down. It made disruption in my own life and in the life of the ones around me. It is so very difficult to hide the grace of God.

Sure enough, I wasn’t mature enough to take it lightly about fighting legalism with my own energy. I felt deceived for many years. I was seeing church as an entity where people workout in a spiritual gymnasium. I thought, without such a place to ‘work out’ we become nonspiritual. I couldn't think of a spiritual life without it. There I have seen people who think the church-potatoes are more spiritual. People who think skipping a meeting is a sin. Everybody operating on the basis of fear while struggling to put up a peace smile on their faces. People who fear demons, pastors, unbelievers and pretty much everything other than the ones in their own ‘sect’. Sorry if it sounds like a cult. It's not intentional.

The question is should we fight it? I think there is a difference in fighting legalism and opposing legalism. Fighting can produce reformation but ultimately the result could be just another system. We don’t want to replace one system for another. I respect the historical reformations but at the same time wondering if it just erupted another system. Instead of Cathedrals, now we have churches (assemblies, chapel, etc). I am tempted to fight it but it could also mean that it is still controlling me. Fighting could be a sign that I am still in it. Shouldn't we just rest in the all sufficiency of His grace? And if legalism come in our way, just oppose it? I don't mean being inactive. In fact I have never seen a person who is walking in grace being inactive.

'Systems' are generated from fear and it tries to give people a false sense of security. But if there is a bit of fear, the love is not perfected. We can’t perfect in love, unless we see the One who loved us while we were yet sinners.

Systems/Organizations miss the majors and they end up concentrating on the minors. One of the most wonderful Bible study advice I have ever received is – majoring in majors as opposed to majoring in minors. Minors such as building, music, dress, programs, meetings, committees as opposed to the majors such as Jesus, Grace, Faith, Love, Hope, Forgiveness, Acceptance, Discipleship.

Is it time to rethink church? Is it time to rethink community? Is it time to rethink fellowship? Does it have to be organized? Does it have to be planned? Does it have to be formal?

In a hard way I am learning that we can be spiritual without the organ playing and lights dim. I was so used to it and it required a lot of unlearning. I am still in the process of unlearning. Religion has such a power to bind us. It never ever ever can set us free. Music don’t set us free, programs don’t set us free, miracles don't set us free,... But it is THE truth that truly set us free!

I am no more bound in the four walls of religion. Thank you Jesus! I am in a risky ocean of Grace. Yes it is risky, disruptive, dangerous but it is worth taking that risk. Not that I was courageous to take such a risk, but it was Him doing it, it was Him who showed me His radical grace, it was Him who loved me perfectly while I was still a sinner. There is a lot more to explore in this great ocean, there is excitement, there are wonders and miracles. (Warning:There is also pain involved in the process of walking by faith). But it is sweet, it is so freeing, it is so securing in His love. Are you ready to dive in, leaving the securities of your religion?


Anonymous said...


How dare you question the established authority of the church! ;) LOL

You've made some great comments here and posed some great questions. I think all of us have probably over-reacted in one way or another when we've come out of the bondage of religion and into the freedom of the truth. Actually, some of it may be very well justified and some of it may be zeal without a whole lot of understanding. That's what it was in my case, anyway. I knew I had been set free but I didn't know how to talk to others about it and so I was overly critical and judgmental against legalism. I was a grace Pharisee.

The thing that I now keep in mind is that grace is a Person, not a doctrine. I mean, yes we have grace doctrine and we teach grace doctrine, but really what we want people to see is Jesus. I think Jesus responded to different people in different ways.

To true Pharisees who purposely kept people in bondage, He was harsh and He confronted them in some very strong ways. And perhaps we should do the same. But I think there are many people today who teach legalism simply because they've known no other way. They seriously think they're preaching the truth of Christianity. It's difficult to get them to see the truth, and it may perhaps take a lot of time and many words, but I don't necessarily think that being harsh with them is the answer.

What I'm saying is that everyone is in a different place, and I think we shouldn't have one blanket answer as far as how to deal with legalists and legalism. I think we should pray and listen to the Spirit and watch what Jesus will do and say in and through us.

I had a fairly long season in my life in which I strongly felt the call to be involved in a fairly large church, and I believe God did some things that He wanted to do, in and through me as I waited on Him and rested in Him. Looking back, I can't believe I said and did some of the things that I did, but all I can say is that I believe it was God who did it through me. It now seems as if that season has ended in my life, at least for the time being, and I'm simply resting and looking to see what Christ will do in me day by day.

In my heart I've definitely moved far away from wanting to be involved in the dead religion of 'church activity.' I still love all the people dearly, but I've had to step away from the system and I've really, really had a tremendous time of personal growth!

lydia joy said...

It's funny, I was just thinking about writing a similar post on how I felt coming out of legalism and how everything, literally everything was different for me in grace, and I had to chuck off everything I learned so I could relearn for myself through grace.....I want to fight legalism but I know I must walk the Spirit in it or my flesh will flare up - and you are so right about the fear, my friend kept saying that for years are you doing xyz out of fear, or out of love......but how can we really love until we have a total heart revelation of grace!
I love the risky ocean of Grace....that's a good way to put it!
Thanks for your thoughts today!

lydia joy said...

You have no idea how helpful your comment was to me just now. I have been wrestling with anger toward legalism and the church we are coming out of and I have zeal no doubt but not full understanding of how to harness and/or unleash that zeal!
yes everyone is in a different place, I am struggling to be patient, with some it's easier than others...I especially struggle when people defend the legalists and when they say thing there are different personalities and different personalities work in different churches, sort of missing the point that no one should find themselves "fitting"
in a legalistic church...but there I go again....sigh....anyway, thanks for your thoughts and insight ....

Todd said...

The ministry of the letter, in all of it's glory, brought death, and has now faded away. How much more now does the ministry of the never mind all that, I'll just paste the real thing right here. I sure agree with you here brother.

2Co 3:7 But if the ministry of death, in letters engraved on stones, came with glory, so that the sons of Israel could not look intently at the face of Moses because of the glory of his face, fading as it was, how will the ministry of the Spirit fail to be even more with glory? For if the ministry of condemnation has glory, much more does the ministry of righteousness abound in glory.

Regards, Todd

Bino B. Manjasseril said...


Thank you for visiting and leaving your comments. I love that verse which you quoted. Isn't that funny that we fight for the public display of '10 commandments' and bash people when they break one and totally forget the significance of new covenant? I thank God that He revealed the glorious ministry of righteousness to me!

Todd said...

Yeah Bino, I agree. The fight for '10 commandments' display is a good example. It surely has it's place but only in the right context connected to the new covenant that truly saves the soul. Christ's gift of righteousness, not our own righteousness.