Before retiring a few years ago, I was an auditor and analyst. A successful auditor requires a well developed nose for error, i.e., we’re a suspicious lot, but hopefully not to the point of paranoia. Likewise, a good analyst is all about the facts and data. So I suppose it was only natural that my suspicions together with my need for fact-based truth, would compel me to sit down with a large stack of church bulletins spanning several years of worship services, to inventory and analyze the many scriptures that were read for the sermon. My “gut” strongly suspected us pew-warmers were not getting the whole story and so I set out to confirm my suspicions.
It was quickly apparent that the same scriptures were read year after year in the weeks preceding Passover, Easter, Pentecost and Christmas, while entire books and chapters of scripture were never read at all. The first time I attempted such an investigation back in the early 80’s, I discovered that the pastor read just 10 verses of scripture on average, before giving his sermon. A few minutes of number crunching demonstrated it would take almost 60 years** to preach through the Bible at that rate, assuming no scriptures were ever repeated. Yeah, I know what you’re thinking; “how anal” and I don’t deny that. It’s just one of those things us analyst and auditor types do for fun when we’re not digging through the freezer to sort TV dinners in order of the “best used by” date. Suffice it to say, the exercise showed me IF I wanted to know what was in the Bible, I would have to read it for myself.
Among the scriptures I’ve never heard preached, much less read from the pulpit, are some real doozies that lurk like unexploded mines beyond the safe and shallow harbors of institutionalized churchianity. Such scriptures strike fear into the heart’s of ministers and when asked about them, prompt such dismissive replies as “it doesn’t mean what it says”, or “that was for a different time” or “well will you look at that, I’m late for parish bingo!” In my view, there is no more telling scripture about the games churches play than the universal avoidance of 1 John 2:27.
Christ has poured out his Spirit on you. As long as his Spirit remains in you, YOU DO NOT NEED ANYONE TO TEACH YOU. For his Spirit teaches you about everything, and what he teaches is true, not false. Obey the Spirit’s teaching, then, and remain in union with Christ. (1 John 2:27 GNB)
The implications of 1 John 2:27 are “Yuuge!” Why, if church-goers ever got a hold of that one, what would become of church services, the focus of which is the pastor’s sermon? Or how about Bible studies? Can you even imagine a body of believers taught by the Holy Spirit and in unity with one another in Christ?
What to me is eye-opening about that particular scripture, is the way in which it contrasts the teaching of men and the Holy Spirit as the difference between teaching falsehood and truth. When the Lord first called me out of man’s traditional church to follow Him alone, the Holy Spirit specifically told me “do not read books”. I didn’t so much ask the Holy Spirit “why” as I simply pondered His command and understood that it had to do with avoiding the yeast of men.
Not long before that I had read a series of books about the gifts of the Holy Spirit, which seemed to line up with the scriptures, that is until I read a few sections wherein the author wrote about his views of churches that were not affiliated with those over which he presided as ‘apostle’. Helpful as the books seemed to be, they were a mixture of truth and the author’s opinions which left me with a “sick-in-the-gut” feeling that I’ve come to associate with the gift of discernment. That “sick in the gut” feeling is simply the Lord’s way of saying “bad bread”. Sermons almost always leave me with that same feeling when scripture is twisted to guilt the congregation into “serving mother church.”
Lest you think I’m making this up, consider a few of the lies perpetuated by man’s traditional church. Scripture says “God does NOT live (abide) in temples made by hands (men)” (Acts 7:48 and 17:24) and yet, every Sunday, believers are called to come to a temple made by men to worship God WHO IS NOT THERE! Likewise, Jesus said to the woman at the well “you will neither worship on this mountain nor in Jerusalem” (John 4:21) which Bible commentaries say marks the end of location-based worship. Yet that doesn’t stop ministers from twisting Hebrews 10:25 “forsake not the assembling of the saints” to turn it into a commandment to “go to church” every Sunday. So from one side of their mouths, they preach freedom from location-based worship, while from the other side of their mouths, they command location-specific worship. And they presume to judge and condemn (scold) those who do NOT come to worship in a building at the appointed time to worship God who is not there, as back-slidden, forsaking the assembly, etc.
How about the messages preached around the passage “therefore the Sons are FREE!” (Matthew 17:26) which in context of the passage, means that the sons of God do not have to pay taxes for maintaining a man-made temple nor pay for the religious services conducted therein. Promptly upon conclusion of the sermon, an offering it taken up to pay for the church building (in which God does NOT live) and for a preacher (teacher) that scripture says we DO NOT need! How in the world can anyone preach “the Sons are FREE” and then turn right around and hit up the congregation to pay what amounts to temple taxes?
The truth is, man’s traditional church is built upon lies and is sustained through the perpetuation of lies. Some are the deliberate twisting of the word, some are monkey see monkey do (teachers copping the teachings of other teachers without proving them); still others are lies by omission, such as never reading or teaching from scriptures that if known, would set men free. First John 2:27 is just one such example.
The ONLY way to get the Truth, which by the way is the very person of Jesus Christ (John 14:6), is to get Him and His Word through the Holy Spirit, our teacher, and the one whom Jesus says will ONLY speak what He hears.
The Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and make you remember all that I have told you. (John 14:26 GNB)
When, however, the Spirit comes, who reveals the truth about God, he will lead you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own authority, but he will speak of what he hears and will tell you of things to come. He will give me glory, because he will take what I say and tell it to you. All that my Father has is mine; that is why I said that the Spirit will take what I give him and tell it to you. (John 16:13-15 GNB)
With regard to men who covet the disciples of Christ for themselves and feed them lies to keep them in religious bondage, I’ll leave it for you to decide who is speaking through them. This is what scripture has to say about the difference between Christ through the Holy Spirit our teacher, and men:
The festival was nearly half over when Jesus went to the Temple and began teaching. The Jewish authorities were greatly surprised and said, “How does this man know so much when he has never been to school?” Jesus answered, “What I teach is not my own teaching, but it comes from God, who sent me. Whoever is willing to do what God wants will know whether what I teach comes from God or whether I speak on my own authority. Those who speak on their own authority are trying to gain glory for themselves. But he who wants glory for the one who sent him is honest, and there is nothing false in him. (John 7:14-18 GNB)
As for me, I hate being lied to and for that reason, have left man’s traditional church for good. It is the Holy Spirit I want to teach me and my wife and who keeps us in unity with the Lord and one another. Only the teaching of the Holy Spirit is always and in every way, truthful.
Certainly I have met a few pastors who have a good heart and love the Lord, whose message is consistently ‘give your life to and follow Christ’. One such man led me to Christ as a boy; another married my wife and I. Men like that labor to make Christ visible within a religious system that often seems hell-bent on obscuring Christ. Sadly, it’s been my experience that such men are few and far between. Most that I have encountered, when push comes to shove, preach and teach to maintain the status-quo, or to appease the big donors and manage the church accordingly. Truth is sacrificed for false peace or profit; God is sacrificed for the rule of man or mammon. Remember, Revelation 3:20 paints the picture of Jesus on the outside looking in, knocking on the door of the church at Laodicea, looking for any man willing to open the door and give Jesus entry. If Truth is a person (Jesus) and He is on the outside looking in on the church at Laodicea, how can there be Truth therein?
Truth, like the sharp double-edged sword that it is, will separate us from falsehood and the men who tell lies to lure the children of God into religious bondage. The ONLY way to get truth consistently, is to make the Holy Spirit our exclusive teacher.
Christ has poured out his Spirit on you. As long as his Spirit remains in you, you do not need anyone to teach you. For his Spirit teaches you about everything, and what he teaches is true, not false. Obey the Spirit’s teaching, then, and remain in union with Christ. (1 John 2:27 GNB)