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When Deeds Become Creeds – Part 2

In the last post, the question of ecclesiastical authority was raised regarding the local church. It was suggested that the doctrine of the Nicolaitans makes believers in Jesus Christ to become reliant on their pastor or priest to tell them what the Bible says so that they become dependent on a creed rather than on the Spirit of God. In so doing Christ is effectively shut out of His own church.

At the outset, let me say that the Scriptures clearly teach that there must be in each local assembly a body of elders or under-shepherds that are responsible for the welfare of the flock to nurture, feed and, when necessary, discipline. The primary role of the under-shepherd is to not only make disciples, but also to build up the saints and equip them to become disciple makers.

Revelation 2:6 was cited as a description of this position that Christ is given in many churches that rely on creeds and doctrines as authoritative above what the scripture teaches. In many churches, the pastor or priest will proclaim that the Bible ‘contains’ the Word of God. Such a declaration is a sure sign that the pastor in the pulpit expects the person in the pew to rely on him or her to tell them what part of the Bible is the Word of God. This usually means whatever part of the Bible agrees with their particular creed or doctrine.

For the person that finds themselves in that kind of a church, the Lord’s counsel is this:

“Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.” Revelation 3:20

It is often taught by well meaning Christians that this means to open the door of your heart to let Christ in for salvation. However, there is no reference here to salvation nor is there an allusion to any part of human anatomy. It means simply that wherever you go to church, if you are a believer, you can choose to take Christ with you and have His Holy Spirit instruct you through reading the Bible for yourself.

In fact, He says: “I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and [that] the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eye salve, that thou mayest see.” Revelation 3:18 KJV

That is, rather than looking to man made creeds or doctrines, Christ counsels us in very poetic language to make our investments of time in the Word of God that we may gain the true riches; Trust in the Word of God to give true assurance that Christ’s righteousness is given to us; Apply the Word of God to know true enlightenment in regards to our depravity and Christ’s sufficiency.

The typical bible lesson given from most pulpits is to encourage the listeners to follow Christ’s example of social consciousness, going against the status quo and seeking to live for the betterment of others. The New ager, will tell you that you need to be elevated to a higher ‘Christ consciousness’. They will tell you that instead of calling yourself a Christian, you should call yourself ‘Christ I am’. However, these are unbearable yokes.

This places the burden on you to settle on gaining an inferior righteousness instead of trusting Christ to give you His perfect righteousness. It will not take you long to chafe under this onerous yoke.

When I was about 14 or 15 years old, I had my first opportunity to work on a farm bailing hay. Today they have bailers that not only form the bails and tie twine around them but also snatch them up off of the ground and load them onto wagons and then from the wagons into the barns. The farmers where I lived didn’t have those machines back then so that was why I was hired along with a dozen or so other gullible young folks.

Those of you who have done it know why farmers hire strong young kids eager to earn a few dollars to do labor like that. It is back breaking, exhausting work. It didn’t help that I was a city boy that didn’t know it was a bad idea to wear shorts instead of long legged jeans. The farmer that hired me took one look at me, smirked and shook his head.

I think that my dad, who grew up on a farm tried to warn me but being a heady know it all teenager, I didn’t listen and he just shrugged his shoulders and said ‘You’ll learn’. By the middle of the first morning I could hardly stand it and found it hard to keep up with wagon. Let’s just say that I didn’t make that mistake the second day. The front of my legs were raw for weeks after that.

Similarly, farmers who used to harness their oxen together knew how important it was to have a well fitted yoke in order to keep the oxen from chafing under its pressure. It was also important that teams of oxen were well fitted to each other in order to work in tandem so that the loads were evenly distributed.

What passes as bible teaching too often just places a poorly fitted yoke on people. As motivated as we might be to ‘turn the page’ or ‘live for Jesus’, unless we have taken Jesus’ yoke upon us, we are going to chafe and find it impossible to do anything.

“Come unto me, all [ye] that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke [is] easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 KJV

The Lord’s appeal here is to come out from the labor under Religious traditions and the Mosaic law that they could not keep and find rest in Him. I am reminded of the pressure that the Jewish community is even now under after a conversation that I had with a Hassidic orthodox Jew in the little town of Postville, Iowa years ago. He said to me that Messiah cannot come until all the world comes under obedience to the Jewish law.

This is of course an impossible yoke because not even the Jews could keep the law, let alone impose it on the rest of the world. In contrast the Lord says that His yoke is easy or well-fitted and His burden is light because He takes the load. No person has anything to contribute to their salvation. As the reformers rediscovered and declared, ‘Faith alone in Christ alone according to Scripture alone.’

If we fail to recognize this and insist on gaining salvation our own way, we will not only doom our own souls but we will lead the next generation into a new dark ages. We move away from objective reality and we move toward subjective truth. That is, the Word of God is ignored and the word of men is the law of the land. This is why tyranny is the normative human experience under human government.

It is why the United States of America was unique in that it was founded upon the objective reality of man’s depravity or tendency to be corrupted. Because mankind desires to enslave each other, which requires law to be a centralized, subjective reality based on the whims of the ruler, it was necessary to establish a government that decentralizes power and this is unique in human government.

So we see that when the deeds of the Nicolaitans becomes the doctrine of the Nicolatians, it leads to centralized authority. This results in darkness where Christ intended there to be illumination. Furthermore, it leads to ignorance of God’s plan for Israel and results in an arrogance toward Israel thereby diminishing the greatness and Glory of God into being a liar like ourselves…

But that is the subject for another post.

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