For years I have made the mistake of quietly bashing some of the denominations I didn’t understand, and saying that my chosen form of worship was the only acceptable one. All the while decrying the people who more openly or audibly did as much.
Jesus gave us freedom, when He died on the cross. This freedom allows us to go with a particular form of worship or structure that we are most comfortable with. However, this doesn’t mean that our form is the only valid one. God gave us the church because HE knew that humans are more comfortable inside of structure. Seriously. A list of things to do and not do, a set of guidelines.. etc.. But since when have we ever been able to follow everything perfectly. He gave the children of Israel a set of laws and we see how well that worked out for them.. So often we choose the religious structures and traditions over the freedom that lies within Christ.The structures can be a good thing. The traditions can be a good thing. But when they bind us together through some poorly interpreted text and poorly given exegesis, they become a bad thing. Nothing anywhere in the Bible shows these things to supersede Jesus and the freedom He gives when we enter into relationship with Him. Nothing anywhere in the Bible, when interpreted properly, show God changing how He chooses, calls, trains, and sends, individuals. In both the Old and New testaments, we see Him choosing different ways. In the old, we see Him calling out to those whom He would choose, for Himself. Sometimes they were under another’s authority, other times, not at all. In the New Testament, we see a lot of the calls where they were summoned, discipled, and sent out. One example in particular stands out though, where He called, taught, and sent, all within the space of a few days. This one is no other, than Paul the Apostle. We see Paul’s story of his conversion in Acts 9, and in Galatians 1. Paul was called, he had a literal encounter with Christ, who took away his sight, and sent him on to Damascus. There he waited in prayer, likely involving meditation, and contemplation, though those are just speculation. Three days later, Paul received his sight back, and was then preaching almost immediately, within days, in the synagogues. All this we learn from the book of Acts. The account given in Galatians however, tells us that the gospel was taught to him by no one. No one discipled him. He specifies plainly that he learned it from Jesus directly. Elsewhere within the epistles, sometimes known as the pastoral epistles, we see the requirements of being sent out to be these, as emphasized so nicely in our traditions:
- Sent by imposition of hands
These things are kept well within the bounds of tradition, but do not actually supplant God’s decision to call, teach, and send. In 1 John we are told that we need no man to teach us, as the Holy Spirit will do this. Not everyone listens to the Holy Spirit, and even when they do, they can still get it wrong.
“Our filters aren’t perfect. We get it wrong even when it’s delivered right. We hear it wrong, see things wrong, and understand wrongly. Hey, it’s human, so get over it. You’re not God’s answer to the world. Jesus is…Just because somebody’s got the Holy Spirit all over them doesn’t mean they’re interpreting clearly. God’s working through their filters and nobody gets it perfect.” ~ Bob Holmes
In the end of each of the Gospels, we see the GC, or Great Commission. Jesus Sending them out, after sending them to Jerusalem to wait for the Holy Ghost. So the Father calls us, the Holy Spirit teaches us, and Jesus sends us. Everything you find within the scriptures appears to be threefold, and this, in my mind, links to each member of the Holy Trinity.
Where does all of this tie in to my confession? Right here.
I confess that I have done things while at the same time criticizing others for doing these very things. And now, instead, I’m going to learn from the traditions of each form of worship as found within three variations of the church. To quote Bob again..
“I live in three realms of Christian experience: Revival (Evangelical), Renewal (Charismatic), and Restoration (Incarnational). All three are valid, but no one experience has the whole picture, and yet together, they present a wholeness of Christ life and presence, bringing heaven and earth together in our lives. This is our journey as Believers, everyone counts, everything belongs, and everything is spiritual. So test everything, and prove what is good, and pure, and whole.”
I have come to see that within each tradition, God places a gem amidst the stuff people do. I also see that many discard the fullness of the traditions instead of digging into it to find the beauty that God placed there to claim for themselves. Not all.. Just many.
The kicker is that most of the ones who don’t, and go searching to combine each of the traditions, are the Mystics. You know. Those of us who, by the thinking of many people that I know, ought to have been delivered from this thing? But how can we be delivered from who God created us to be? No.. we don’t “fit the bill” of the whole church structure. We learn to sorta function within it, but we are not meant to be a part of it in general. We want more. Many, God places within a church somewhere, while having us reach out, outside the boundaries, without the local church backing or credentials. And that is okay, because if God is for us, who can be against us? Or as another brother in the faith likes to say, If God is for us, who cares who is against us?
May I succeed in my journey, a beginner every day, seeking out the immortal diamonds placed within the traditions I must navigate.