After the captivity in Babylon the Jews (the remnant of God’s chosen people) returned to Israel. It was by turning back to God that the people were set free. The leaders realised that the people needed to know more about God and to bring Him back into their lives so they got the people to meet together in small groups in their homes to learn more of the laws and ways of God.
These groups started to get together in the local community hall, called the synagogue, and the priests started to lead them taking control of them and teaching them.
Over time the leaders of these synagogues would differ on their understanding of the scriptures and when Jesus came we find that the synagogues had split into different sects each with their own beliefs.
After Jesus had been tempted in the wilderness he went to a synagogue and opened the scriptures and made a statement:
Luk 4:16 And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read.
Luk 4:17 And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written,
Luk 4:18 The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised,
Luk 4:19 To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.
Luk 4:20 And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him.
Luk 4:21 And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.
Luk 4:22 And all bare him witness, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth.
Jesus went to the synagogue because that was the custom of the people, that is where they had placed God.
When we look at V18 we tend to see the physical, the broken hearted, the captives, the blind and the injured, but if we look at it spiritually we see that the people were all suffering from religion.
- The poor were poor in spirit.
- They were broken hearted because they did not have a personal relationship with God.
- They were captives because they were trapped by the religious beliefs of the leaders.
- They were blind because they believed what they were told; they did not seek God for themselves.
- They were bruised because when they did seek a personal relationship with God they were pushed back.
The religion of the leaders was keeping them away from the fullness of God.
Religion is man’s way to appease God; it is not God’s way.
When Jesus died on the cross He set us free from sin and death, He also set us free from religion.
The early Christians had a freedom in God. They gathered in small groups to pray and speak about God, out in the open or in their homes. There was no organisation; they were the organic church, the church that God was building for Himself. They were all followers, but not followers of man and religion, they were followers of Jesus.
As is with man, slowly some of the stronger started to control some of the weaker and the leaders started to separate themselves and put themselves above the rest of the people and slowly they went back to the system that had been developed by the Jews, the central place of assembly or synagogue system. They no longer called them synagogues but as they were part of the Church of Jesus Christ that was being built they became the assembly place of the church, or just churches.
(I am of the personal belief that the separation of the people, the laity, from the leadership is what God calls in revelation the deeds of the Nicolations.)
The more that man took control of Christianity the more the church buildings became prominent.
The concept that developed from this was that God was only present in these buildings, so if you wanted to meet with God that is where you had to go, and there you had to follow the religious systems that had been set up.
Man again had been made captive, and trapped in the system.
God was not happy with this so He picked on individuals to give them revelation of what He wanted.
One of the first was Martin Luther with the revelation that “the just shall live by faith”. This revelation was the foundation of what became known as the Reformation. A rrenewing of the church. We see new churches forming with the new concept, but they took the new concept back into the old system.
Similarly, as God gave new revelations to others, salvation, baptism, baptism of the Holy Spirit, they opened new movements but they still put them back into the man made system. Instead of asking God what to do they put the new revelation into what they had.
God sees each one of us as an individual; He desires a one on one relationship with each one of us.
There are times to get together in twos and threes for teaching one another and also for prayer, the prayers of agreement have strength.
Mat 18:19 Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven.
Mat 18:20 For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.
Unity gives strength but there is no unity in mass assembly. We are part of the family of God and when we gather together it should be as a family and not as a congregation.
How should we worship?
Rom 12:1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.( or worship)
As born again believers we are told ‘To put on Christ”. If we have put on Christ we are one with Him and we should be walking a holy acceptable life. We worship God by the way we live.
Gal_3:27 For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.
Col 3:15 And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.
Col 3:16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.
Col 3:17 And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.
When we visit an organised church for worship they follow a basic pattern,
- They sing songs to God (or at God),
- They bow down, close eyes and put hands together while somebody prays (or speaks to God).
- Somebody stands at the front and tells them how they think that God wants us to live.
Can we imagine what would happen if we visited our physical father and acted in that way?
- We sing songs to him,
- We talk to him bowed down with our eyes closed,
- And then someone tells us what our father wants us to do,
And then we go home.
Our physical father would not be impressed by us.
So why should we treat our heavenly father in this way.
We worship our parents by the life that we live and make them proud with our personal accomplishments.
God desires the same kind of relationship.
When we are alone with Him we should be talking to Him and when we are with others we should be talking about Him; we praise someone when we talk about how good that they are.
We should be worshipping God with our lives and praising Him with our speech.
Worshipping God is a full time occurrence not an hour on a Sunday in a fancy building.
What is Religion?
As said earlier, religion is man’s way to appease God.
It is often an imitation of the real thing. The imitation allows man to live how he likes the most of the time as long as he is pious when in church.
2Ti 3:1 This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.
2Ti 3:2 For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,
2Ti 3:3 Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good,
2Ti 3:4 Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God;
2Ti 3:5 Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.
2Ti 3:6 For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts,
2Ti 3:7 Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.
There is a lot of great teaching in the church but how much of it encourages the people to live a righteous life, how much of it encourages the people to build a living relationship with the Father through the Son, Jesus Christ. How much of it encourages the people to live the life of Christ.
There is teaching on faith, but the teaching is more towards the fruit of faith rather than the root of faith. Jesus talks about faith being like a mustard seed that grows into a tree, the tree grows by watering the roots not by watering the fruit. Faith comes from God and the word of God.
Rom_10:17 So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
Gal_3:2 This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?
Gal_3:5 He therefore that ministereth to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles among you, doeth he it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?
Jesus said go to the root not the fruit;
Mat 6:33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
One test of what you are being taught is “ are you coming to the knowledge of the Truth “ and is the power of God in that truth.
Most religions have their own sets of laws, some biblical and some man made, and the people are encouraged to keep those laws. At salvation we were set free from the law, this does not mean we can do as we please, we were made one with Christ by the Holy Spirit. We should be encouraged to live by the Spirit as one in Christ.
2Co_3:6 Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.