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Archive for March, 2016

For those of us who have left organized religion, I am finding a lot of us go through similar steps in the process.

There are months, or in our case, years of dissatisfaction and questioning. My wife and I knew for a long time something was not right within the church but kept thinking it was just us or the church we were attending. We would try different churches and find our feelings were the same.

Once we got to the point that we considered leaving church was very much a possibility, the next step was to really question ourselves. Thoughts like are we really Christians, are we backsliding, are we losing our religion? We began to feel something was wrong with us and wondered what others were going to think.

churchleftbuilding

Leaving church

Next was the decision to stop attending something we felt was way off base from what true Church should be. There were feelings to keep this to ourselves, do not tell anyone, just stop attending and keep quiet. In our case that was easy. We had been a part of a large fellowship for several few years but never got involved in other activities. We went to the Sunday morning service but did not attend small groups or any other activity. This made it much easier not having to explain our actions to anyone else because no one ever missed us. To those of you who have made this decision and were very much involved in all the activities, even pastors or leaders in the church, we applaud you for making such a decision.

Next came the ‘us vs. them’ mentality. We wanted to look at the organized church almost as an enemy. We would point out where they were wrong and why they were wrong. We wanted to associate only with those who felt the same as we did and did not want to associate with those still in the religious game. Obviously this is not the way to feel or treat people.

Acceptance of all People

The next step was realizing God loves all people not just those who attend a religious service every time the doors are open. God actually loves those outside the walls of the organized church no matter what line of thought, doctrine, religion or lifestyle they choose. Jesus came to love people and show each of us the love of God. We came to realize that we are called to love and accept everyone no matter what their beliefs just as God loves us. We no longer cared what people thought of our decision, we just wanted to love and accept each of them whether they are in church, outside the walls, or even if they are not believers at all. So many times while in religion we felt we were to love those who were believers, especially those in our own church. We now realize that God’s love is for everyone, not just Christians. We are to love and accept others just as they are, looking past the labels others put on them and seeing them as human beings.

We are sure this is not a complete list of steps, but it is as far as we are for now. We are thankful for the years we had in the church as we learned a lot and made a lot of friends. We are equally thankful for the decision we made to leave the church and focus more on the Church (ecclesia). That Church is made up of people who are saved by grace, following Christ, equally functioning parts of the body, and who touch others day by day with the love of God.

We are all on different paths in life, but we know that God is with us and leading us each step of the way. We continue to keep the faith, keep our eyes on Jesus, love others and be the Church each and every day.

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Lately I have been thinking about the way christians, gays and atheists treat each other. Certainly talking about this can easily upset a lot of people, especially christian people.

I write from a christian perspective and I have many christian friends, along with many gay and atheist friends. I do not want to sound like I am taking sides or be condemning of anyone.

What bothers me is the way many christian people have so much hatred and animosity toward atheists and the LGBT community. When speaking of christian people it seems many have feelings toward gays and atheists that are not very Christ-like. There are times I can hardly believe the words and actions of christian people toward them.

Angry christian

True christianity is not a religion, it is people who believe in and follow Jesus. As followers of Jesus we want to live like him, and he was loving and kind to all people. So many people who call themselves christian are so far from following his example, especially when it comes to gays and atheists. Rather than being known for our love, some christians seem more like the pharisees of Jesus day. Pharisees were the religious leaders who Jesus would continually reprehend because they thought they were so much better than everyone else. Many christians nowadays see gay and atheist people as their enemy, and that is certainly not the case.

The fact is God loves all of us, and as his followers we are to do the same. Just because people do not all believe the same or act the same, we all deserve to be loved and accepted as we are. God loves us as we are, even before we came to follow him. A lot of christian people tend to forget this fact.

Now I also see a lot of demeaning comments from several gay and atheist writers about christian people from time to time. Sometimes I wonder if it started because of the mean comments from christians, but I do not like to see such things from anyone. If we could just get past the labels people put on one another and see the human being, the person who wants the same things: acceptance, happiness and love, I think we could do much better at getting along even in our differences.

I know we are not all going to agree on things, although as christians we have the power through the spirit to love and accept all people no matter who they are or what they believe. As people of God, we are to be known for our love for one another. Many of us have a hard time loving other christians not to mention those who think differently. Showing love goes a lot further than fighting, arguing and condemning.

loveacceptance1

We know not everyone is going to change their mind and believe in God as we do. As christians, we want everyone to know and enjoy the love and acceptance of our Father, but we need to remember it is the Spirit, not us, who draws people to the Father, and it is through love rather than rule keeping and condemnation. Those who choose not to follow a christian belief still deserve our love and understanding, even when we do not agree. I think many times christian people are afraid to accept others who are not christian because they feel it is denying their faith. They feel accepting others in love is saying we are in agreement on everything, yet they think they should be pointing out what our differences are and leading them to a christian faith. My viewpoint is we should love and accept others as Christ did and leave any convicting or changing to the Holy Spirit.

Rather than condemning and avoiding those who are different than us, we should be willing to spend time getting to know, accept and understand others. We can talk and discuss our differences and learn from each other, yet without the expectation that we are going to change anyone.

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Have you ever wondered when the Old Covenant ended and the New Covenant began? We tend to forget that the Old Covenant does not end with Malachi and the New Covenant does not start with Matthew.

For 33 years Jesus walked the earth living under the Old Covenant, which required following all its rules and regulations.

The New Covenant began when Jesus was crucified. When He said ‘It is finished’, he was talking about the Law, the Old Covenant. Upon his resurrection the New Covenant began and from then on we were no longer required to live under the Old Covenant Law.

OldandNew

The old agreement was basically a tutor. A way God used to show us that we were unable to live a perfect life on our own. It was a way to show us that we needed someone to save us from our sinful nature. Once Jesus came and lived a perfect life on earth, He became the perfect sacrifice that fulfilled the Law and freed us from our sinful nature (Matthew 5:17).

Now that the Law has been fulfilled in Christ, we are no longer required to try to live by the ten commandments and the rules and regulations of the Old Covenant (Galatians 5:1-6). So often we seem to forget that we now live by faith in Christ because of grace. We are no longer slaves to sin, we are no longer just poor sinners saved by grace, although we were sinners and we are saved by grace. We are now the righteousness of God through Christ. God no longer calls us slaves, but He calls us Sons (John 15:15) and tells us we are seated in heavenly places in Christ (Ephesians 2:6). This is not to say that we should go out and do whatever we want, right or wrong (Galatians 5:13). We do have freedom in Christ to do what we choose, but of course there are consequences if we choose things that God has warned us to stay away from for our own good.

Freedom in Christ

Today we choose to live a life pleasing to God because of love (Matthew 22:37-40). Godly love is the fulfillment of the Law (Galatians 5:14, Romans 13:8 and 10, 1 John 3:23). We love God, we have been made righteous through Christ, and we are the temple of the Holy Spirit, who guides us, teaches us, and gives us strength. We do what is pleasing to God because of love for Him, not out of obligation or because we are trying to fulfill a set of rules and Old Testament laws that we could not fulfill anyway.

Enjoy your freedom in Christ, the freedom to love God and love others, but do not let your freedom become an opportunity for the flesh. (Galatians 5:13). Be guided by the love and strength of the Holy Spirit of Christ, who lives within us.

 

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Why is it we seem to enjoy pointing out the mistakes of others? Have you noticed when you see someone doing something wrong or making a mistake that you want to make sure to let them know about it? I notice when driving if I see someone make an illegal turn or run a stop sign, the first thing I want to do is blow my horn and let them know they made a mistake.

I think a lot of the time we do this because deep down it makes us feel better about ourselves. In the Christian world, many times we want to point out the sins of others just to make ourselves feel more holy. Most of the time when we act like this, it drives people further from the truth of God’s love because they feel attacked, condemned, unloved and unaccepted. They also do not understand that those of us who are saved by grace are forgiven and cleansed from our sinful nature, yet we still commit sins. So when we point out the sins of others, the first thing they see is a hypocrite who thinks they are a better person.

Jesus was Loving and Kind, Why Aren’t We?

When we read the gospels and the life of Jesus, we see him loving and accepting people that the religious people did not want to be near. Jesus was known as a friend to sinners, a rebel, a glutton and a drunkard. I think if he were here in the flesh today, most churches would not want him around. Read another article by my friend Chris Kirk on this topic at: https://notesfromthebridge.wordpress.com/2016/03/07/does-jesus-weep-3/

I have always said we should love everyone, accept them as they are, and do not judge. Then I hear other Christians say that is not the way to be. We have to tell them of their sins, let them know they are doing wrong and point them to Christ. That is our duty as believers to make sure everyone knows they are sinning and are in need of being saved.

Actually I think we can do both, we can love and accept everyone, and we can talk to them about mistakes and changes, but it is solely at the leading of the Spirit, and in love. One thing we need to remember, doing things in love does not always mean it will be easy.

Real Love in the Spirit

Most Christians today do not really know anything about real love in the Spirit. We are so busy wanting to point out the speck in the eye of another rather than deal with the beam in our own eye. This is not love. This is more selfishness and self-righteous thinking.

When we talk about loving others and accepting others, that does not mean we are saying everything goes. We are not saying there are no consequences to bad choices. Yet when we come to others in a self-righteous spirit, or even in the sense that it is our job to point out others faults, we are not coming to them in love.

SpeaktheTruth

I agree, real love for others will sometimes mean saying things that will not be popular or well received. The difference being, it is said and done in the love and power of the Holy Spirit, not in a holier-than-thou attitude. Loving others is wanting the best for them. Loving others is seeing them through the eyes of God. Sometimes people do things that are not in their own best interest. At times they need someone who sees things differently to let them know they may need to make changes or that there are other ways of doing things.

I personally feel that when we are led by the spirit to deal with people about something, most times it will not necessarily be in regard to sin in general. The word of God says the Holy Spirit will convict the world (non-believers) of sin. As believers in Christ, the sin issue has been dealt with at the cross. This means to me that dealing with non-believers and their sin issue is not our business. We are to love them and accept them, and let the Spirit do the work that needs to be done.

What Are You Against?

We are so busy pointing out the sins of non-believers and condemning them, in the hope of leading them to Christ. As Christians, we have come to be known more by what we are against, rather than showing the love of God. Due to this, people do not see the love of God, all they see is people telling them how bad they are. It is God’s love that draws them, not our guilt-ridden words. See our article What are You Against at: https://donewithreligion.com/2012/07/26/what-are-you-against/

Let the love of God flow out by the power of the Holy Spirit and stop being unloving, unaccepting, condemning and judgmental of people. The Spirit will convict the non-believer of their sin and draw them to the Father through love. We are to be listening to the Spirit within us and allow him to speak in love to others as he leads, not in our own strength or religious way of thinking.

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Here is an interesting related article from our friends at Jesus Without Baggage, which deals more with speaking the truth in love with other believers:
https://jesuswithoutbaggage.wordpress.com/2016/03/14/matthew-18-and-sin-in-the-church/

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I think that as followers of Christ, we should be able to accept and love everyone. No matter what we believe, what our faith or doctrine is, no matter our religion, nationality, sexual preference or color, we want to see each other as Jesus sees us. This is a type of love we cannot do on our own. It is only possible by the love of God within us. We want to love, accept and care for people. It’s only natural that we will not always agree, but we want to look past those areas and love each other in Christ. This seems to be the way that others will come to see the love of God, not through condemning and bashing one another. Not in trying to prove we are right and everyone else is wrong. Love doesn’t mean seeing eye-to-eye, it doesn’t mean we agree or even like some of the things people do, but it does mean we look past the differences and love each other as Christ loves us.

Labels

No matter if we are gay, straight, religious, atheist, asexual, baptist, methodist, charismatic or whatever label people put on us, the underlying fact is we are all human beings. We all deserve to be treated with respect and be accepted. Each of us should be able to live our life and make our own choices without being judged and condemned by others. We should be able to discuss our differences respectfully, and none of us should try to force our views and choices on others.

equals

If we could look past the labels and see each other as people who overall want the same things, to be happy, to be loved, be healthy, get our bills paid and enjoy life, I think things would be better even with our differences. This is not to say we are going to agree with everyone, always associate with everyone and be happy together, that just isn’t going to happen. There are too many different thoughts, ideas, beliefs, lifestyles and personalities for us to agree on everything and be totally comfortable with everyone, yet accepting each other and respecting each other in spite of our differences certainly is a possibility.

Let’s look past the labels and see each other as human beings who have feelings, who want love and friendship. Let’s be people who can get to know one another, learn from, share thoughts and ideas with and accept each other as being created in the image of God.

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