Forced Religious Conformity: Human Graven Images (Part 1)

         Early in my walk with God, less than two years in, a friend of mine and I had a prayer meeting. I had just began to emerge from the fog of rookie training (most of it very good) and saw from a distance the great revelation that the Lord actually DID NOT want His people to be all alike—as some conformed, congealed, regimented, and watered-down mass.

         I began telling my friend that the Lord told me He was not into the business of making such mass-produced manufactured saints.

         Picture God with a big die cutter stamping out replicas like the idol-makers of the ancient world.

         Now, maybe I didn’t get the terminology exactly correct when I heard the message, but I certainly translated the gist correctly. Though the idea of the Lord standing over a copier making copies may appear obviously incorrect to the enlightened and mature among us, one must remember this was the late 1970’s when the majority of churches and preachers thought all rock music was of the devil, ministers of the Gospel were inerrant, and talking in tongues was the practice of insane crazies on the other side of the tracks.

         Though what was termed “Pentecost” had made great strides, and though some Pentecostals had even managed to buy up the tracks, the truths of Book of Acts real Christianity were still treated and reacted to not only with great disdain but great hysteria. And if one knows what hysteria really is, the actual crazies were the ones pointing their boney religious fingers not necessarily at Pentecostal excess or fakery (there’s loads of that stuff), but often the actual work of God.

         So my friend and I started praying. I was over visiting. He was renting an older house built probably 50 years before. It had big rooms and tall ceilings and I remember walking into one room praying pretty intensely and it was the first time I recalled being in the presence of angels. I’ve never seen an angel that I know of in the sense of some giant glowing apparition, but I knew they were around me that night in that room.

         And it was then I got the big idea. That was when the Lord told me He wasn’t turning out children of God the way Henry Ford turned out Model T’s.

         I already had my own bent against that direction anyway. Being raised a Catholic, I was aware of conformity from a very young age—everyone in school dressing the same, acting the same, lined up in regimented rows to go outside the classroom, girls on the left, boys on the right, like long slow moving processions of khaki-clad ducks following a giant penguin. Some of those nuns were very nice and displayed much patience with the incorrigible among us. And some of them were like crazy women with PMS on steroids.

         They say hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. And I say especially if she’s a nun in the 1960s trying to force school kids to conform to the image of God without the help of the Holy Spirit. The level of frustration is off the scale.

         But anyway, the Pentecostal church I was then attending at the time of said prayer meeting (quite the pole shift, huh?) was up to the same tricks. Conformity was the order of the day. I preferred wearing blue jeans, for example, as did several other new converts which by that time was considered barely acceptable, though never on Sundays.

         [Speaking of which, it was my senior class in my Catholic High School that first won the right to wear jeans to school. It had never been done before. Something to be proud of if you knew the times.]

         As a young adult in Spirit-filled churches I witnessed the same attempt to force new believers into religious compliance by yelling that much harder from the pulpit or shaming people into conformity. New believers, like little Catholic school kids, are pretty vulnerable to such tactics, since most want to do the right thing and won’t rock the boat. But coercion has never been God’s way. It doesn’t work. Impressionable young ones are damaged by it.

         So at that prayer meeting with Ken and me in that old house, it was no little thing to have the Lord agree with me on something I had always thought was stupid. Tongues are not of the devil, though most “Christians” apparently still think so, but religious conformity is certainly of the devil because it attempts to disregard the fact that we were each made to be conformed to God’s original design, not some other.

         The Lord Jesus is the most non-conformist Person that has ever lived. Now, He certainly conformed to the will of the Father, but not so much to the will of religious people or the fashion of this world. Which means God was not into your basic everyday Phariseeism. Especially if it’s the Christian kind. He’s just different that way.

         That’s right. God is a religious non-conformist. You’ll never figure Him out. You’ll never tie Him down. You’ll usually never guess what He will do next. (As a standard example, study the many different ways He healed the blind.) He is as unreligious and as unpredictable as can be. Though He is the ROCK and He NEVER changes, don’t try to set your watch by Him.

         “The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” [John 3:8]

         He’s always doing things in such a way that it leaves His enemies perplexed and dumbfounded, especially dumbfounded—God’s enemies are DUMB. He messes with ‘em every chance He gets, or it sure seems that way. Read the Gospels in light of what I’m saying here and see if it isn’t true.

         But our churches? Predictable. Dead, dull, and boring. Rote and ritual. This Sunday the same as last Sunday. All the people lined up in neat rows. Quiet and torqued down. Scared to break convention. Somehow needing a man-made structure and format that works against a move of God and against the very thing their hearts scream for.

         And then we picture the Lord out in the countryside with His men like a flock of sheep, following YES, but as organic and free flowing as leaves on a breeze. And an impetuous Simon Peter routinely blurting something forth, often good and sometimes not so good, whom the Lord never censored. (Try speaking forth like Peter in your church.)

         We also have the incredible spiritual phenomenon of Pentecost described so wonderfully by Luke, a travelling companion of Paul, and quite possibly a disciple of the Lord. How could Luke not have been there that glorious day when the Spirit of God returned to His people? The indwelling of the Holy Spirit is still fought against with great gusto to this day, especially by the majority of “Christian” adherents, which should tell us very clearly how the devil works.

         Regarding religious man’s false conformity, the natural world tells us what God is like (a Living Stone, unprofaned):

         And coming to Him as to a living stone which has been rejected by men, but is choice and precious in the sight of God, you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. [1 Peter 2:4-5]  

         Our church buildings (and inhabitants) tell us what He is not like (every brick the same):

         “If you make an altar of stone for Me, you shall not build it of cut stones, for if you wield your tool on it, you will profane it.” [Exodus 20:25]   

         There is an insistence, if you get my drift, on right angles and plumb walls and straight rows and the linear and broad flat surfaces and steeply pitched roofs and cathedral ceilings and stained glass windows and steeples. (Shades of Babel.)

         Religious man, like the great slave master Nimrod, must have CONTROL. He must wield his stone-cutting tools. He must force compliance.

         But God has built a natural world that is forever in a state of flux, some landscapes changing at a moment’s notice and some gradually over time. Mankind cannot control the natural world though mankind screws it up in the attempt, and in time the natural world simply and patiently takes over again and repairs the damage. And unregenerate mankind certainly cannot control the spiritual world since mankind is fallen in sin and under the authority of the devil:

         We know that we are of God, and that the whole world lies in the power of the evil one. [1 John 5:19]  

         The wind moves upon the surface of the sea and roils it up, making today’s water different from yesterday’s. And look at the clouds. Are they ever the same? Sunsets and snowflakes and trees and landscapes are always different and distinct.

         But what about God’s people? Should not each person be totally unique? Where then does all this conformist nonsense come from? It doesn’t come from God. Not on your life. It actually comes from one who has a contrary agenda. He is the one who treats human beings as slaves. And there are no slaves deceptively ensconced in greater slavery than those in religious slavery.

         Never forget that it was all them good Christian boys who distorted Scripture to back up their support for black slavery in the good old USA not all that long ago.

         And it was all them good Christians who had people burned at the stake during the Great Reformation. They were both Catholic and Protestant. They were not interested in doing God’s will but their own. They built and guarded their own religious kingdoms, put their fat posteriors on thrones, dressed up like religious potentates, and killed off and enslaved whoever did not agree.

         Today’s fake Christians in the West merely run off such real Christians and gossip about them. It’s how they protect themselves and their silly little establishments. Yet, if they could kill…

         Considering that, it should cause us all to consider the origins of any and all religious conformity. The more the conformist big boys buy into this false concept and the false doctrines that go with it, the more they distance themselves and their regimented pew sitters from the heart of the Lord, and the more they create an anti-community, one in which people may be close geographically every Sunday morning but a million miles apart otherwise.

         That night long ago in the midst of a two man prayer meeting confirmed something for both of us, and I have never forgotten the lesson:

         A strong and vibrant Church means strong and vibrant individuals.

         And in order to have such strong and vibrant people, they must be allowed to develop. They must be allowed to speak forth. They must be allowed to answer their callings and do their jobs. They must be fed the best spiritual food and given the best spiritual drink. We were put here in part to take on very powerful spiritual entities who have existed for eons. They know their way around. To beat them in battle means we have no other choice than to be like the Mighty Man from Galilee who silenced the Pharisees and calmed the stormy seas.

         But if God must depend on the average pew warmer and pinhead preacher we’re all sunk. Therefore, we must all get off our tuffets if it’s on a tuffet we sit, and get in a spiritual gym, and become more like Him, and stand up and speak forth and do what He put us here to do instead of playing church every blasted Sunday morning of the year.

         The only things we must ever conform to are His will, His Word, His nature, and His way of doing things. The enemy’s greatest fear is millions of the Lord’s children roaming the earth doing exactly as He did. That Christians in general are NOT doing that means most are getting their marching orders and instructions from someone else.

         Wonder who that could be?

         “Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God.

         “Those beside the road are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their heart, so that they will not believe and be saved.

         “Those on the rocky soil are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no firm root; they believe for a while, and in time of temptation fall away.

         “The seed which fell among the thorns, these are the ones who have heard, and as they go on their way they are choked with worries and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to maturity.

         “But the seed in the good soil, these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance. [Luke 8:11-15] [1]

         © 2013 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved.


[1] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

Posted on December 9, 2013, in Real Christianity and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 14 Comments.

  1. How often have fellowships tried to stuff me into their Christianity box that defined who they thought they were! It is so terribly unfortunate that most fellowships out there are as you describe. Where is the fire for God expressed in a uniquely individual way? Why are there not more signs and wonders and healings occurring in fellowships today? Why is it that when I testified yesterday of God restoring my hearing I received only warm, polite applause when those Hallelujahs should have made the walls ring? Do we believers take God for granted and insist on, as you so well chronicle, being cookie cutter molds of “acceptable” behavior as opposed to authentic, genuine lovers and appreciators of God?

    Being uniquely and fervently God’s indeed varies with personality and background, but God wants us to transcend those things and freely, authentically acknowledge Him, His love, His presence and we need to be on fire to be and do what he has for us to be and do. This entails not only transcending emotional and cultural comfort zones but spiritual ones as well.

    Boy, did you set off a spark in me, RJ! May reading this reply set off a spiritual spark that ignites big time in all and initiate a personal revival that’s contagious.

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    • I really believe most things are the way they are because Christians and especially Christian “leaders” refuse to allow the Lord Jesus absolute full control.

      Jesus is God. He created the universe. He said ALL power was given to Him. Yet, so many Christians refuse to acknowledge Him as such. Control is so very important to those who will not allow Him control because they are vested in their doctrines, money, authority, and prestige. Plus, living for God correctly is not easy so most will take the easiest possible route, which is often provided as a result of such control issues.

      Signs and wonders and miracles are a result of the Lord’s authority, our belief and submission to His authority, and our willingness to be used for Him as a vessel. The Lord must work through us. If He does not it is simply because we don’t want Him to. It is also a result of spiritual laziness.

      Praise God He restored your hearing! Please pray for my hearing! May your miracle be multiplied!

      Thank you for an incredible comment, Sharon, and may your comment indeed set off a great awakening among all in your vicinity and whoever may read this!

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      • You make a good point regarding some Christians not acknowledging Jesus for who He is, but I am convinced that spiritual complacency and refusal to venture outside comfort zones are contributing factors as well. Over the years, I have noticed that fellowships tend to mirror the society and customs around them and resist the changes (however positive they can be) that God leads them to make. It takes guts to truly follow Jesus because God changes us so that the world does not recognize us as their own.

        Regarding your hearing, I pray God restores your hearing according to His will and timing. I have been living with hearing loss since age three and a half, when I had a 20 decibel loss. About 14 years ago, I had another infection which increased my loss to 60 decibels. Doctors have said that nerve deafness can’t be medically restored. Ha! They are well-intentioned but limited, and God is surely not.

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        • Right you are. And thanks for praying!

          The clash of kingdoms can only result in one victor at any given time. The Lord working through His people are together supposed to change the sinful culture of rebellious man by changing hearts through the power and love of God, not the other way around. In many instances the devil wins because Christians won’t fight, can’t fight, and don’t know to fight. Those filled with the Spirit of God have the hearts of warriors because God is a Warrior. Deciding on comfort and complacency is deciding to lose. We all see this in other areas. Why don’t we see it where it matters most? Simply because a false Christianity has been put forth teaching the opposite of what the Lord taught.

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  2. I was raised Catholic, too, and educated from Kindergarten to Senior High School by Belgian nuns. I was tied up in knots with all kinds of regulations and rules of behavior to conform to, but when I heard the truth of the Gospel, I realized, as your post declares, that “The only things we must ever conform to are His will, His Word, His nature, and His way of doing things”… and in so doing, I found the utmost liberty.

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    • Amen to that!

      “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” [2 Corinthians 3:17]

      Thank you for writing. I do appreciate it. Be abundantly blessed and free in the Lord.

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  3. “But the seed in the good soil, these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance.” [Luke 8:15]

    Great post… Amen… I love your ending quote from the Gospel of Luke and all the other supporting scriptures in Thessalonians and Hebrews [hold fast, stand firm, hold on to what is good, etc.]

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  4. I’m behind, as always, working to catch up. This article certainly gets the mind thinking. I grew up in a fundamentalist environment, and still attend a church that is identified as such. My church welcomes all comers, no matter how they are dressed or how they may behave (withing reason, of course). My dad was a pastor, and he was a bit of a rebel, so my life was perhaps a bit different than it would have been in some of the staid churches you’re describing here. I did, however, attend a Bible college in which we were all expected to conform. I had a little trouble with that, but did manage to graduate 🙂 I have to say, however, that the preaching and teaching I’ve always been exposed to has been biblically sound, and remains so. I don’t remember anyone preaching against tongues, for instance. There were sermons that emphasized how tongues were to be used in the church according to I Corinthians 14.

    No particular point here, I guess, except that it seems to me that when we spend a lot of time castigating other believers for the way they live out their faith, or don’t live it out, we’re certainly missing the point. I’ve always loved the passage in Mark 9:38-41. The disciples were upset because someone else was casting out devils in His Name, but the man was not one of them. Jesus told His disciples to leave the man alone because anyone who performed miracles in His Name couldn’t easily speak evil of Him. In other words, He told them to mind their own business.

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    • Thanks for the comment and for reading, Linda. I do appreciate it. One point, though. The Lord we serve made it an ongoing point to castigate (and much more) certain people living out their faith incorrectly on purpose, and with a faux faith that disagreed with God’s Word. And He certainly castigated those who castigated His own followers who were giving it their all, though often imperfectly. I believe we completely agree here.

      I decided many years ago that I would never name names. Some people have jumped my case for this and demanded that I must. Yet, the Lord never named names but did name groups. I don’t even do that. Because of this, however, misconceptions will inevitably arise. But I look at as a shoe fits or doesn’t fit scenario. If the religious people the Lord was castigating did not understand He was castigating them, they thought He must be castigating someone else. And because there are no perfect Christians or perfect churches, all Christians and all churches have at least some room for improvement.

      My contention is that most who refer to themselves as “Christians” and most “churches” often need vast improvement, not because they are somehow intrinsically evil but simply because they absolutely refuse to follow the Lord’s pure teachings and instead make up their own.

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      • You are right. I do not mean to imply that we should never recognize or name sin. It seems to me, though, that some Christians spend way too much time pointing out the wrongs that other Christians are doing, and not enough time pointing others to Christ. Satan will always muddy the waters, won’t he? Heaven is looking better all the time!

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        • I agree completely. And again, thank you Linda. You are right on here in that Christians in general spend too much time pointing out the tiny splinters or twigs in the eyes of others without seeing the tree trunks in their own eyeballs. Having pulled enough trees out of my own eyes I can relate. That’s why long ago in the beginning of my walk I began to concentrate on knowing His original teachings and trying to live by them instead of the corrupted teachings of others who often prefer a nice forest of giant redwoods where their eyes should be. Humility is a door. I thank the Lord for His patience.

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