I came across this precious sisters message this morning and was not only captivated by it, I wept. It not only brought back some painful memories of my own departure from the IC, along with the reminder that leaving is just the beginning of our journey…
There is absolutely nothing I can add to her message, but to encourage all who are contemplating leaving the IC, or who have already stepped out, to read what she says here; it is a call to the BRIDE.
SO, YOU’VE COME OUT OF THE CHURCH…
“And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues” Revelation 18:4.
Over the past 50 or so years, multitudes of believers have answered the call to come out of the religious systems and follow Christ. For many it has cost them very dearly on a personal level. There is a price for bucking the system. No one is going to give you a pat on the back for going against the flow. If you are among this number, then you know exactly what the repercussions are. Shunning is still alive and well in this modern age we live in, and is used against the wayward seeker by family, friends, and those whom they formerly worshiped with. I remember well what I encountered when I left my Church home. Rumors were flying… outlandishly ridiculous accusations were made… all in an attempt to humiliate and intimidate me into complying with their way of thinking. One of the things that I was struck by, was the fact that not one person from the Church “family” I had been faithful to for so many years ever even called to ask if any of what they were hearing was true, or if I was alive or dead. It was a traumatic experience; one that I could not have weathered if not for the comforting presence of the Lord. One day when I was reading the Word, with all of these things churning around inside me, the Spirit of the LORD quickened this passage to me:
Psalms 55:4-14 My heart is grievously pained within me, and the terrors of death have fallen upon me. Fear and trembling have come upon me; horror and fright have overwhelmed me. And I say, Oh, that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest. Yes, I would wander far away, I would lodge in the wilderness. Selah [pause, and calmly think of that]! I would hasten to escape and to find a shelter from the stormy wind and tempest. Destroy [their schemes], O Lord, confuse their tongues, for I have seen violence and strife in the city. Day and night they go about on its walls; iniquity and mischief are in its midst. Violence and ruin are within it; fraud and guile do not depart from its streets and marketplaces. For it is not an enemy who reproaches and taunts me–then I might bear it; nor is it one who has hated me who insolently vaunts himself against me–then I might hide from him. But it was you, a man my equal, my companion and my familiar friend. We had sweet fellowship together and used to walk to the house of God in company. [Ampl.]
This Psalm of David expressed exactly what I was going through… what every believer encounters sometime along the way if they continue to follow Christ. We are not going to encounter anything that others before us have not faced. The Word tells us that there is nothing new under the sun. Yet when it is happening in ‘our life,’ it takes on entirely new dimensions. All these things that we suddenly find ourselves being confronted with are only happening because we stepped out of the ‘accepted’ religious comfort zone and answered the Master’s call.
According to most of today’s Shepherds, ‘Sheep’ aren’t supposed to listen to anyone but them. Conflict inevitably arises when sheep begin to develop a living relationship with the One True Shepherd of their souls… and those earthly leaders cannot keep themselves from exposing that they are in fact ‘hirelings,’ who care nothing for the welfare of the sheep. Jesus addressed this in John 10:12-13 But he that is a hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep. The hireling fleeth, because he is a hireling, and careth not for the sheep. To the hireling, the sheep are his bread and butter, they feed his ego as well as his bank account. Insubordination will not be tolerated. Any rebellious sheep will be dealt with speedily, so that the rest of the flock doesn’t get any ideas that there might be another way of doing things, outside the control of all of the religious camps.
So, now that your out… what’s next?
Well, if your expecting that the Lord is going to raise you up and send you back in to ‘set the captives free’… first there are a few things that the Spirit of God must deal with in this (His) little sheep. He does take us out to bring us closer to Himself. But the process is often times not even remotely as we imagined it would be. First of all, we must get our bearings, which includes suffering many things. Sometimes there are breakups in families over this kind of rebellion, with great pain and heartache for all concerned. Some ‘outsiders’ lose everything that they loved in this world… Home, Family, Reputation, Livelihood… all can be included in the price to follow Christ. This may sound very strange to you, if you have grown up in the ‘Prosperity – Bless Me Camp.’ In fact, this entire piece will be unintelligible to all who are comfortably satisfied with the forage provided by the Mega-Churches across the board. Don’t worry, this isn’t addressed to you folks. This is addressed to those souls who have been called to step out into the ‘Wilderness’… to leave all that is familiar behind and step out in faith much like Abraham did.
As you journey along, ‘loneliness’ may well seem like your stalwart companion. The WORD may be your only source of comfort and guidance, pointing the way where there seems to be none. Your beliefs and attitudes will be tested, tried, and brought into conformity with the ‘will of God’… whether you like it particularly, or not. You had a choice when you were still part of the dutiful flock. You could have refused the call of the Shepherd, and remained where all appeared to be comfortable and secure. But there comes a point in this walk that you no longer have a choice. Your love for the Shepherd is so all consuming that it supersedes and overrides all else. Your own will, wants and desires are gradually shaped, molded, transformed even, until you don’t even recognize yourself anymore.
There will be battles, in all shapes and sizes, on a regular basis. But if you continue along the path set before you, (we each have our own path you know), you will discover that the greatest battles are within… in our own heart, mind and soul. There are things inside of us that we don’t even know about. But God sees them, and He knows exactly how to bring them to the surface, and get them out in the open, so we are forced to deal with them. Anger, jealousy, bitterness, strife, unforgiveness, covetousness, pride, vanity, selfishness, the list can go on and on. Yes, even at this stage of our walk, these seeds can be buried deep down inside of us. But never fear, nothing that is there is a surprise to God. He loves us in spite of them, but He is not content to allow them to remain. As we travel along this strange new pathway, we learn pretty quickly that there is no such thing as coincidence or chance. God is in absolute control of everything that happens. And yes, He allows some pretty painful, unpleasant things to happen in our lives.
Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered” Hebrews 5:8. Jesus is our only example. Suffering is part of ‘taking up our cross and following Christ.’ What for centuries has been common knowledge among believers, has been nearly obliterated from the Christian mindset in this generation. The struggles those being called-out today face have a great deal to do with letting go of everything we have been taught… all we thought we knew. Its one thing to come out of the Church, now the struggle is to get all the bad attitudes, false teachings, and self-righteousness out of us, and only the Holy Spirit of God can accomplish this task in us. We soon learn that we can do nothing of ourselves or in our own strength. No indeed, we are dependent upon the LORD for each step we take. There are many pitfalls and snares awaiting those who step out in faith and obedience. Just conquering the initial obstacle of breaking out seemed monumental! Not caving in to the peer pressure, the loving admonitions that “God wouldn’t do that.” “If you leave this Church you are going to hell.” “Touch not God’s anointed,” (that would be in reference to disagreeing with those leader shepherds who would stand in your way and block your progress). You may have already been there and done that, and though you may have acquired a few battle scars, your inner man has grown. You are being fed from the Word and recognizing the Spirit’s witness in a wonderfully new way. But this was just the first leg of the journey dear friend. There is more to be overcome.
While back in the comfort zone of religion, you talked amongst yourselves about the sons of God, the overcomers, all the interpretations regarding the last days, and developed some pretty darn good theories and opinions. We called them beliefs. It is one thing to be opinionated about something, such as ‘what is going to happen’ and ‘what does God require of us?’ … While it is quite another thing to actually live and experience first hand the provision and the chastening of the Almighty. We had grown very adept at pleasing men. Now we are learning how to be pleasing in God’s sight. It has become a personal issue. We can no longer be content with some one else’s assessment of our spirituality. The opinions of others cannot hold a candle to the raging fire that is God’s all consuming love… and we must hear it from Him and Him alone, no other voice will satisfy our longing.
Some of the snares and pitfalls…
Just as the seasons change in the natural world, there are seasons that we walk through spiritually. Highs and lows, journeying forward alternated with times of resting in the Lord. Being outside the camp has taken some adjusting. Initially we may experience a momentary high… that we stood our ground and obeyed what the Lord was telling us against great resistance. But soon loneliness seems to be our closest companion; often his buddies despair, fear and nagging doubt try to join in. ‘How can this be of God?’ …we ask ourselves. The ‘joy of the Lord is my strength,’ so where is my joy? How can I be strong when I am struggling to simply survive? Then there is this longing for the fellowship, the singing and times of worship that we once shared with our brothers and sisters in the Lord. It may not have been perfect, but wasn’t it better than this isolation? ‘How can this be of God?’ What about, Hebrews 10:25 Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching. And so the battle rages, between our reasoning mind and our inner witness.
We may discover that there are ‘things’ we can do, that offer us sweet, if temporary, relief. Opportunities may present themselves to ‘minister to others’ in some way. Many are taken in by these apparent ‘answers to prayer.’ We are in the process of beginning to discover how deeply ‘doing the work of the Lord’ has been ingrained in our psyche. We have yet to fully grasp that:
…what we do follows after what we are, not the other way around.
… How little all of our knowledge about Him amounts to, when compared to being in Christ and walking by His Spirit, in this darkened world.
We may be outside of organized religion per se, yet we inevitably fall into the trap of trying to do something… ‘Street ministry,’ setting up a ‘mission’ or ‘feeding the homeless.’ We fail to recognize that although these things are ‘good’ and ‘needful,’ they are distractions, even hindrances… from our pursuit of knowing God. Stepping up to the plate and engaging in some kind of productive activity is something that our flesh sorely needs, even craves. We may think that we have a lot to offer, we have been through the fire and survived. Now that we are outside, we see the errors of our former ways we think that we are ready to spread the ‘good news’… isn’t that what we are supposed to do? Fulfill the ‘Great Commission?’ Mark 16:15 And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. Isn’t that where it’s at, isn’t that what we are supposed to be doing?
What we must come to understand is simply this… there is a work that must be brought about in the heart and mind of the believer before we can ‘go forth.’ Religion has taken the LIFE out of the Word of God. They freely use Jesus’ name, even while denying His Person and refusing to keep His commandments. Jesus said,”For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers”Matthew 23:4. The new life in Christ is relegated to an ineffectual back seat.
Focusing instead on their interpretations, according to their doctrines and beliefs, as they have been handed down by the traditions of men. God has no use for the ‘traditions of men.’ Our first and foremost priority must remain what it was from the beginning… to hear and obey God. Matthew 22:37-39 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. All the wonderful ‘works’ we could ever accomplish by our most diligent efforts will always fall short of the mark. Ministry is not the solution. Fulfilling the greatest commandment is the solution. Putting God first and foremost, above everything else is the requirement for ‘genuine sonship.’
We have ample evidence before us everywhere we turn that going into a ‘ministry’ is a very dangerous thing. You discover that in the process of ministering to others, there are subtle rewards. It feels good to give, it feels good to share, and before you know it others are coming to you for direction and help and answers (we are to be signposts pointing to Christ. He alone is the door). It is amazing how quickly little seeds of pride and self-worth can spring up in our hearts. The very thing that we thought we had crucified and put to death still has roots, and with the first little drops of acceptance and approval from others, the “I am worthy” weed springs back to life. If this ‘weed of self’ is not immediately recognized and ripped out, it will grow with amazing speed. That is how all of these BIG NAMES came into being. It’s all about feeding ‘their ministry’… lifting up ‘their name’… outdoing one another with their ‘great works and exploits.’ But it all started with good intentions, don’t you know? You, who were once outside the camp with loneliness as your companion, now find yourself engaging in meaningful discourse with seekers. Beware my friend, that you do not become overly comfortable with this new role, and leave off following after knowing God. It is ironic that becoming entrenched in the ‘doing’ can stop our forward progress of growing up in Christ… dead in its tracks.
The call to ‘come out’ is continually going forth, and with each move of God in this generation, there have been those who heard the call and responded. Many did come out, only to spiritually die in the wilderness. We face the same requirements of God as the Israelite’s of old. We face the same struggles as the Israelite’s who were brought forth out of Egypt… with ‘great signs and wonders’… only to perish during the forty years they journeyed through the wilderness. Today many ‘spiritual Jews’ are perishing in the wilderness, after having been delivered from their taskmasters by God’s mighty hand. The wilderness is not our destination! It is not acceptable to set up camp and start our own little ‘work of the Lord.’ It feels good to our flesh, our flesh thrives on activities. We can point to it and say, “see what God has done… this is why I had to come out.” What we fail to understand is that we are settling for another version of what God brought us out of in the first place. Only this time it is one of our own making. And if we settle down there, we will fall short of what God desires to bring us in to, missing the mark completely. It is one thing to come out from under the systems of men (organized religion), and it is quite another to get the Religious Attitudes we acquired along the way out of us. Man can only judge outwardly, by appearances, speech, conduct, all outward manifestations… while God alone judges each man’s heart condition. That would be OUR heart condition… for ours is the only one that we can do anything about.
Today there are probably as many believers ‘out-of-church’ as there are still within. Many of them have gone on, many are pressing in to be conformed to the image of Christ. Many others have been snared and taken captive by false teachings convincingly presented as truth and light. Many have become discouraged and bitter, and given up the fight. We are continually challenged as long as we are in these fleshly bodies. The battle will not end until we are changed from the corruptible to the incorruptible. We should not think that just because we are no longer controlled by a man or organization that we have somehow arrived, or that we are somehow further along than those still being ruled by denominational doctrines and creeds.
The sad truth is that although we may have left the building, we have taken much of what we learned there with us. It is all too common to see and hear very ‘religious’ statements of belief coming out of the mouths of individuals who left the tutelage of men long ago. Despite all the lessons they have learned, there are still areas that have not yet been dealt with. Remember that our being conformed to the image of Christ does not happen in the twinkling of an eye. We must grow up into Christ… and at each step of our growth, a little more of self is crucified and put under. There are always things (beliefs, understandings) that we have held for so long… that we are honestly unaware of them. They are as natural to us as breathing. We have never pulled them out into the light of God and held them up for inspection. Oh, we may have debated them with other believers, but we have never gone to the Father and asked Him if what we are so confident of is in fact truth. How can we know if we have such an area in our life? Listen to what comes out of our mouth. When we make statements regarding the person and nature of God, The “I AM,” we had better be beyond sure… we had better have the witness of the Spirit validating our words.
It is possible to receive revelation in one area of Biblical truth, and be gifted to share it with others to the benefit of all, while in other areas we are still infants in our understanding. Unconsciously we fall back on predigested teachings that are so deeply rooted within our beliefs that we would never consciously question them. One indicator could be statements that connect “I” with “believe” and “God would or wouldn’t.” The entire premise of ‘religion’ is man’s attempt to explain and represent GOD. This process requires extensive study, interpretation, rules, explanations, and of course the all important rituals and traditions. Our words expose us for all to see. Just because we have received light in one area of our understanding, does not mean that we are now full of light. We can still harbor prejudices and misconceptions regarding Who GOD Is, and what is or is not pleasing in His sight.
The problems that trip us up are seldom the major issues, although they can also be sources of contention. We usually are in proper alignment when it comes to the basic tenets of the Gospel of Christ. Our weaknesses and errors usually involve the seemingly small, trivial points of our walk. Especially when it comes to applying our convictions to other people, passing judgment, and declaring what God would or would not do.
Too often we fail to seek the Lord’s guidance on the small stuff; the little things that we assume we can handle on our own. These are the things that can trip us up, and cause us to stumble and even grieve the Holy Spirit. Until we are completely emptied and can openly acknowledge that ‘there is no good thing in me,’and’I can do nothing of myself,’we will continue to stumble and be a stumbling block to others. There is a very simple reason for this … man has always had it backwards. Man views God as the supplier of all of’our’needs and wants. The Salvation message is often presented aswhat God wants to do for you. When the reality of the situation is actually the exact opposite; what can we do for God is more to the point. And all we can do that is pleasing is believe and obey. We see Revelation 4:11 Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.
God created all things for HIS PLEASURE. That puts a whole new spin on things now, doesn’t it? It makes an enormous difference whether we are God centered or man centered.
At our very best, our best could never be good enough to be an acceptable offering to a Righteous, Holy God. 1 Corinthians 3:19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness. God does not desire our wisdom or our good works. What God desires is our obedience. “Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” 2 Corinthians 10:5.
“Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” John 14:6. And again in John 6:44 “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.”
It is ALL GOD. He calls us out to draw us unto HIMSELF. That we may know Him as He Is, not just as we imagine Him to be.
“That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you” Philippians 3:10-15.
“But he that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord. For not he that commendeth himself is approved, but whom the Lord commendeth” 2 Corinthians 10:17-18.
This is the ‘what’ and the ‘why’ of all the things we are suffer and don’t understand. That we may be commended, not by mere mortals, but by our heavenly Father.
That we may hear Him say, “Well done my good and faithful servant.”
Be encouraged! You are never alone! He that has called you out Is Faithful!…and He Will bring you unto Himself. This is all just part of being made pure and spotless, that we may be presented before a Holy and Righteous God and not be consumed.
August 10, 2008