As a former member of FCC, I recall feeling trapped in a maze of seemingly right sounding church rules and behavior, but knowing inwardly that I would NEVER be able to be good enough unless I was willing to surrender my personality and free will in order to be accepted by “the leadership.” Somehow I knew…and you know too, that this is not the way Jesus intended the church to be.
One of the most liberating truths that I have ever received is the pure difference between Religion and true Christianity. Religion is; at its very root a very dangerous system to bring us into conformity with a belief about who God is and his guidelines for what are right and wrong ways of living. True Christianity on the other hand at its very root, is a lifestyle that has come to peace with the fact that our acceptance of the finished work of Jesus Christ is what brings us into right relationship with God. There is a world of difference between these two things.
If one wonders what causes the joy and wonder of our Christian experience to fade while a member at FCC, it is the wrong expectation that our performance of doing “right” things will produce a greater measure of favor with God. Whenever one must perform in order to be accepted or favored by God, there comes with it the fear- based dread that somehow, we must continue to jump through the “performance” hoops and, that we may do something, or fail to do something that will displease God ( or the leadership) and remove his covenant of blessing from over our lives. This flies in the face of Biblical Christianity.
Religion says, “I obey God and therefore, I am accepted by Him” True Christianity says, “I am accepted by God and therefore, I obey Him.” The drudgery of “works based righteousness” within the FCC system of religion forces a person to continually seek to “do” the right things and in “doing” we are righteous before God. But this becomes the basis for a person’s salvation. If you don’t do right things continually, you lose your standing as a “blessed” person. This is Phariseeism at its finest. The Pharisees were a strict sect of Jews who sought to keep every portion of the law. Jesus was at odds with their religious “self salvation” because it removed grace and substituted works as the basis for right standing with God.
One of the reasons that FCC separates a member of the congregation from his or her family is sadly due to the fact that if an objective person could see the works based Phariseeism at work within the organization, they would immediately identify it for the fear based fraud that it is…and that is simply something that a Pharisee cannot have…objective observation of its self salvation works project.
As a member of FCC you need only ask yourself the following questions.
1. Why do you serve God? If your answer has anything to do with fear of losing ones “blessing” or salvation, your service to God is done out of fear and not love. In fact, love based service to Jesus has NOTHING to do with fear at all! “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.” I John 4:17-19. Fear of punishment is not the same as the Fear of the Lord.
2. Do you feel yourself tense up when you must meet with a leader or elder? Do you feel yourself with restless anticipation or sleeplessness when there is a meeting scheduled with one of these people? Do you fear rebuke, censure or worst of all, that you could be “disfellowshipped if you do not conform to FCC rules? If so you are serving out of fear of man, and not the love of God.
3. Do you feel that if you left FCC, you would be outside of God’s will for your life…or put another way, does your confident salvation walk with Jesus Christ depend upon remaining within FCC? If so, you have substituted FCC for Christ. The overwhelming characteristic of Jesus is that he gives LIBERTY. Liberty is our ability to choose among many options. If your choices have been limited by a Pharisaical devotion to rules or “right” behavior within FCC, then you do not have liberty. God does not EVER call us to a particular CHURCH…he calls us to relationship with HIM. He gives each and every believer the freedom and the Liberty to choose where he or she will have fellowship. Phariseeism demands that “Our church is where God called you, and he will tell the leadership if you are to leave and go elsewhere.” This spiritual piracy has taken your liberty captive. It is insidious and it is NOT Biblical.
Ask yourself another question…Is there any other reason you should serve Christ other than fear of displeasing Him or being out from under his “blessing.” Can you imagine serving Jesus out of simply pure devotion to Him, because he is worthy and gave EVERYTHING for you and NOT because if you break a rule he will stomp you? Those of us who are now outside of the FCC stranglehold have discovered that Jesus actually likes us. He looks at our lives and the Holy Spirit wants to set us free from fears and worries and works. He wants you to discover that there is a life free of buzzwords and false spirituality. Freedom in Christ is far easier than FCC would have you believe.
Timothy Keller in his book, “The Prodigal God” says, “The story of Jesus tells us that our root problem is not just failing in our obediance to God [not being good enough…] but in RELYING on our obedience [being really, really good] to save us. Therefore, the gospel is a ‘third way’– neither religion NOR irreligion. The religious person may say, “I am doing the right things that God commands” and the irreligious person may say, “I decide what is right and wrong for myself.” But both ways reject Jesus as Savior (though they may revere Him as ‘Example’ or ‘Helper’). Both ways are strategies for self-salvation– both actually keep control of their own lives.”
The bottom line dear friend at FCC is simply this. It is not the hidden dark sins that FCC leadership needs salvation from; rather, it is salvation from their damnable good works in which they trust. True repentance is not merely turning away from doing bad things, as important as that is…but it is also repenting for the pride of doing all the right things for the wrong reasons.
“It is only when you see the desire to be your own Savior and Lord -lying beneath both your sins and your moral goodness- that you are on the verge of understanding the gospel and becoming a Christian indeed. When you realize that the antidote to being bad is not just being good, you are on the brink. If you follow through, it will change everything: how you relate to God, self, others, the world, your work, your sins, and your virtue. It’s called the new birth because it’s so radical. (p. 78) Jesus Christ, who had all the power in the world, saw us enslaved by the very things we thought would free us. So he emptied himself of his glory and became a servant. He laid aside the infinities and immensities of his being and, at the cost of his life, paid the debt for our sins, purchasing us the only place our hearts can rest, in his Father’s house… Knowing this will transform us from the inside out… Why wouldn’t you want to offer yourself to someone like this? Selfless love destroys the mistrust in our hearts toward God that makes us either younger brothers or elder brothers… We will never stop being younger brothers of elder brothers until we acknowledge our need, rest by faith, and gaze in wonder at the work of our true elder brother, Jesus Christ.” (p. 87-89 The Prodigal God)
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