I was not brought up in a Christian home. My parents did not go to Church, read the Bible, or consciously teach us children Biblical truths. They accepted Christian teachings and the Ten Commandments as generally true because those things were dominant in our culture at that time; the general consensus of America was Christian so we were Christian by default. Christianity, as I knew it, was divided primarily into Catholic and Protestant and in grade school, we were sent once a week to the local United Methodist Church for Bible training, so we were categorized as Protestant and my military dog tags said Methodist.
At the age of 26, after five years of marriage, my wife and I gave our lives to Christ. Generally speaking I was Protestant but at this point, I was not protesting anything, on the contrary, my protest and rebellion had ended, and I started consuming the mysterious book which had escaped my interest for so many years. What I read there confused me from the very beginning. The pastor of the first Church we attended, a Full Gospel Church, after several meetings in his office and many questions, frankly said that I was reading too much and that I should just relax in the Spirit and follow the lead of the others, i.e. jumping, yelling, speaking in tongues, prophesying, laying hands on the sick, etc. I am not a highly emotional person so the Full Gospel venue lost its appeal. Over the next several years, and a number of denominations, the study of this book continued to trouble me, but eventually, due to mostly canned responces, the questions lessened and we began to settle into the routine of just attending Church; this stalemate lasted many years but the unease persisted.
Being from a non-religious environment my experience was unbiased and I was free to question and discover Christian truth virtually unhindered by religious indoctrination. With my initial study of the Bible I quickly picked up the deep and disturbing dissimilarities between Protestantism and Catholicism and equally disturbing was the tension between different Protestant denominations, and it was troubling that they all professed to be the Church described in the New Testament. What I also found out was that all of these groups had established beachheads to protect their own real-estate and their own belief systems. Once again trouble lifted its head. I was beginning to vocally disagree with much of what I was witnessing and had imbibed from the Protestants I associated with that contradicted what I read.
Things You Learn From Studying History
The early reformers were all Catholics who had fled the Catholic Church because they had uncovered truth that was being purposely covered up. These Catholic expatriates were the early Protestants. Now, if I find myself in disagreement with both these groups because of other clear Biblical truths that were being held back and a different organizational system being advanced instead of New Testament truth could I rightly identify myself with that Protestant movement? For that reason I no longer called myself a Protestant; I concluded that a Protestant or Catholic is only someone who has signed onto a particular religious system created and propagated by men in the 16th century and earlier that has survived into our time.
Before there ever was a Protestant or a Catholic there existed simply Christians. Before the Catholic Church drove the actual Body of Christ underground, for more than a thousand years of darkness, there existed openly small clusters of those who understood the mind and heart of Jesus, who chose to risk life, limb, and property, rather than to blindly follow the wishes of mere men, and this is the group we read about in Scriptures as “the elect of God,” or Christ’s “little flock.” These small cells went underground and were called by different names throughout history, but their common link was the fact that they desired to follow the dictates of the Bible over the mandates of men; and this commonality was also the mark and provocation that brought to their doorstep the horrendous persecutions they had to endure at the hands of the Catholics, Protestants, and the magistracy.
The Radical Reformation, so named to differentiate it from the Protestant Reformation and to focus on the extent of its goal to re-discover primitive Christianity, was the response to the gross corruption of both the Roman Catholic Church and the expanding Magisterial Protestant movement being pushed by Ulrich Zwingli, Martin Luther, John Calvin, and others. Beginning in Germany and Switzerland in the early 16th century the Radical Reformation gave birth to several drastic groups throughout Europe that had a negative impact on the movement as a whole. The group I refer to are the original peaceful Anabaptist groups that sprung from the brave founders Conrad Grebel, Felix Manz, and George Blaurock and not those who sought something other than the purity of following Christ.
In parts of Germany, Switzerland, and Austria there was much sympathy for the Radical Reformers despite intense persecution. While they were given some protection by the state they refused to align themselves with the state and to be brought under the state’s umbrella of protection and consequently, in many cases, the state turned on the Anabaptist because of their idea of separation.
While the magisterial reformers of the Protestant Reformation, Zwingli, and Luther, wanted to substitute their own learned elite for the learned elite of the Catholic Church, the radical reformers rejected the authority and elitism of the institutional church organization almost entirely as being unbiblical. It was unavoidable that as the search for original Christianity was carried forward the radicals would have to acknowledge that the tension between the church and the Roman Empire in the first centuries of Christianity was normal, that the church is not to pledge allegiance to any government, that a true church is always subject to be persecuted, and that the supposed conversion of politicians is, therefore, signs of apostasy that mark a departure from pure Christianity.
Clear prophesies from the Bible indicate that we are in the last of the last days. World events continue to point to the soon return of Christ, and there is much work to do.
Although there is the indication that some are beginning to see that there is trouble in the organized Church there is as yet no great migration or evacuation from the leading Christian institutions.
Many within the Protestant Church see the Catholic Church as the Harlot who rides the Beast in chapters 17 and 18 of the book of Revelations, I am more inclined to see that Harlot as the mixture, ecumenism, or unification, of both the Catholic and Protestant Churches, and possibly all religions. After all, the Harlot is called the “mother of harlots” and the Protestant Church was birthed from the Catholic Church, was she not? If that is the case then we need to heed the instructions of Christ to “Come out of her, my people,’ so that you will not share in her sins, so that you will not receive any of her plagues.” Revelation 18:4. The Anabaptist radicals who were the true reformers were rejected, property and goods taken away, and hunted down and killed just as the New Testament said it would be. The Church is in a miserable condition and we need, again, a movement of radicals who will stand on Biblical truth, live pure and holy lives, be unafraid to confront the darkness that plagues those trapped in the institutional quagmire of Americanized Christianity, and to suffer persecution.
There are many who have declared that they know the truth and that except this truth be interpreted or explained by them it cannot be understood. It is not true! The truth was delivered to us in the form of a person. Jesus, says of Himself, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” John 14:6. That truth is available to every living person and understood through the revelation of the Spirit to the heart of man. John 7:17; Hebrews 1:1; 2 Timothy 3:16; John 8:32, et al. When a person or group makes the declaration that the Bible cannot be understood apart from their secret fallaciousness or esoteric obscurities you can be assured you are being conned. The Holy Spirit is the key to making all the pieces of the spiritual puzzle fit.
Human weakness is such that to have access to someone or something with the claim of inside information, through mysticism, esoteric knowledge, new age spirit guide, or the like, gives a sense of personal power and inclusion into the secrets of life. It is this weakness that is exploited by all kinds of men seeking power. To harvest this crop of the need for inclusiveness and personal power is the goal of every marketer, salesman, conman, Hollywood director, and religious organization built by men. The minds and hearts of men are the true trophies of those seeking power, fame, and money. Every salesman (and most priest and pastors) know that the true value of their product means little or nothing; it is the perceived value they focus on. It is the emotional commitment to their product that is important and not the true value.
Lost in the Deep Dark Woods
True truth in a world saturated with lies, subterfuge, stratagem, innuendos, insinuations, ploys, schemes, and fifty shades of gray is harder to find than a needle in a hay stack. Is it any wonder that all men are declared to be blind and deaf and in need of a savior? Most of us have felt it at one time or another, lost in the deep dark woods of life where evil lurks around every corner, vulnerable, alone, weak, and facedown against misfortune. All the positive thinking and mysticism in the world cannot save us; we are hopeless. With these varieties of typical life experiences, people become, for the religious huckster, marketer, or the salesman, targets of opportunity. People want to be helped, they are predisposed to deception, they only want to add to their life the perception of safety or salvation. It is the feeling that many get by owning a gun or having their house wired with cameras and alarms. The military gives the nation this sense of security. Neighborhoods get angry because they feel they have no safety from the police while the other side is angry because that perception is discredited and weakened.
When Truth stepped onto the stage there were no bells, no whistles, no flowing gowns and revered titles, no steeples or stained-glass windows, no bands or beautiful voices, no glossy covers or bill-boards, no far-out promises of big buildings and assurances of wealth. Truth says simply, Follow Me. Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Many things like this Jesus has spoken, but we listen to salesmen instead with their worldly wares offering the safety of organizations, systems, governments, denominations, parties, machines, weapons, alarms, gases, etc. All the devises offered by the world, including the religious world, are but the wares and merchandise of men buying and selling the souls of men.
This is why truth is so hard to find.
This is why the old lies of the Roman Catholic Church and the Protestant Church need to be exposed.
This is why the wizard behind the curtain of deception who uses all of his ancient tricks of vanity, pride, and filthiness needs to be brought into the daylight.
And, this is why Christ, the Apostles, the Martyrs of antiquity, the Donatist, the Waldenses, the Anabaptist, and sheep from every period of Church history were persecuted, because they were the,
“City on a hill that cannot be hidden.”
Dead to this World but Alive in the Next
Finding Christ in Christianity was like finding a great treasure hidden in plain sight or like stumbling over a box of precious jewels. I think we will all have a similar experience where “truth” flashes upon us and we get a momentary glance behind the veil. For me, it was a light that revealed a narrow path in a world of highways and personal struggles encouraging me to step across a threshold, guarded on the one side by sirens and devils and on the other by angels with flaming swords spinning. In the midst of the clamoring devils, all of them threatening and warning of foulness and a tyrannical Prince, and the temptress with her seductive lures, the bright preciousness of the Treasure compelled me to cross over. With Satan’s last warning still ringing in my ears the bond was severed and I embraced death.
Just as religion was the great deceiver of the Jews when Jesus arrived so it is today that religion is again deceiving those who seek only to experience religion. Christianity is still a little flock. It is the Christian professionals who dictate what it is that Christ demands, the same as it has always been, but, it is the few who find Christ, or rather are found by Him doing the work of the Kingdom, serving in the trenches, binding up the wounded soul, feeding the hungry, forgiving, showing mercy, and choosing to die rather than doing harm.
Finding Christ in Christianity is the new birth, it is seeing persecution where others see peace and safety, it is a sorrowing heart when others sing loudly, and it is embracing death when the others beg for their lives. The question is, “Do you really want to find Christ?” then you need to look outside what Christianity has become. Christ is still the great Treasure hidden in plain sight.