For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son… [Colossians 1:13]
The apostle Paul spoke of first-hand experience. He knew well what had actually happened to him out on that dusty Damascus road. He knew it was a rescue.
“But it happened that as I was on my way, approaching Damascus about noontime, a very bright light suddenly flashed from heaven all around me…” [Acts 22:6]
Think about this. Paul was apparently not seeking God. He did not appear to be on a search for truth. He had a very strong attitude about what his religion was, what it entailed, and what was required. And he was hell bent on not only performing all the rites and believing all the beliefs of his religion but would do all in his power to force others to do the same. Whoever did not believe as he did would be made to pay.
He was determined to get them. It was part of his religion to get them. They were nothing but evil heretic Jews who defied the universal synagogue as defined by the Pharisees. Other Jewish sects were recognized by the Pharisees, of course, especially the Sadducees who controlled the temple and ran Jerusalem, and who were also tied into the great wealth of this world and politically aligned with the Romans. But for any up-and-coming offshoot Jewish sect which did not abide by the dictates of the master cult, these must be stomped on and eradicated using any method possible. This was Paul’s attitude as it was with the majority of the cult, though perhaps no one of these had as strong a conviction as he did or were as willing and able and energized to do serious damage.
THE PRESENCE OF THE DEVIL
It was the work of the evil one. The cult had fought the Lord Jesus every step of the way. It was absolutely opposed to Him and never gave an inch. The Lord knew where those guys were heading. He knew their future. He knew they had already crossed a line of no return and that there was nothing He could do to stop them. They were determined to fight it out to the end and would eventually destroy themselves and their nation forever. Some of them did not know they had been terribly deceived. Most of them bought into the devil’s program because that’s exactly what they wanted and would do it a thousand times over. They were comfortable in the domain of darkness. They loved it. They loved all the sin and vileness, all the corruption and robbery, and all the power and sense of personal pride it brought them.
What the Lord had started as good, beginning with Abraham and continued later with Moses, they had transformed into something evil with the mere appearance of good. As long as no one ever challenged them they were able to maintain their exterior benevolent facade. But they obviously were not benevolent at all. It was only a front, a pretense, with an ulterior agenda. They had joined a very dark force to gain their power but never or rarely acknowledged this openly. Again, some of them were deceived. They thought they were doing right.
Some were not deceived, however, in that they had come to see the cult for what it was but were too frightened to reveal this. To protect themselves and their families, they never said a word.
I have seen this exact phenomenon in Christianity. It is obvious for all to behold once one studies Christian history. The exact pattern always emerges. Some strong personality starts a new faction or belief system, or simply reveals more spiritual truth. Some of these have been given actual spiritual light and revelation. Eventually, however, standard operating procedure takes over and transforms the new effort into an organized cult built upon a personality or specific doctrines that differ from others. A few of these manage to outlast smaller versions and grow to become official Christian denominations only because of the numbers of people involved. The large numbers are what give the denomination its perceived legitimacy.
Of course, each of these, simply because they were not Roman Catholic, were collected into the obverse pool of Christian bodies referred to as “Protestant.” These were the ones known specifically as protesters against Roman Catholicism. Why would they protest? What was there to protest against? Incidentally, regardless of any new “reforms” within Catholicism since the Protestant Reformation, Catholicism is still pretty much as it ever was. It really has not changed all that much. One might focus on a minor change here or there and perceive it as major but this is only a matter of perspective. Overall, and effectually, the Catholicism of today is essentially the same as the Catholicism of then. So whatever the Protestants protested against then they could certainly do the same today.
And the Catholics could certainly fight back. In its history, the Roman Catholic Church has had the same attitude of the ancient Pharisees in that it worked overtime to stomp out any and all dissent or mere perceived dissent. This is one of the main planks it used to gain and maintain power. They would never have become a worldwide religious monolith otherwise. It had used the same methods as its namesake to gain converts and take territory. Many if not most Catholics simply do not know this or they reject it. The Catholicism they possess in their heads is not the Catholicism of reality and history.
The same is true for Protestants. They have rewritten their histories to reflect a kinder and gentler account, both because their present members for the most part no longer believe as their progenitors did and also because they want to eliminate anything that does not reflect present cultural values. I always find it quite interesting that Christian groups refuse to acknowledge that which gave them power and put them on the map in the beginning, as if they were embarrassed about it. Perhaps they don’t feel comfortable attempting to answer the harder questions. They do not like their origins and past but insist on maintaining their organizations.
GOD NEVER PROMISED US A PLATFORM THRONE
Both Catholics and Protestants killed a lot of people only because they differed in beliefs and mostly because those killed believed in the real Gospel and were determined to serve the Lord Jesus rather than whatever faux lord was thrust upon them. I have thought, for example, about the ridiculous level of hubris and arrogance it took for some dumb human obsessed with self importance to sit his fat backside on a religious throne and accept completely undeserved honor as some kind of religious potentate. We see this, obviously, with Catholic popes, but we also see it just as obviously with Protestant leaders, though their thrones are not as ornate or evident. We also see it, strangely enough, in the Pentecostal, Charismatic, and Nondenominational world.
I don’t know who first invented these ubiquitous large and often ornate chairs or platform thrones but whoever it was needs to be spanked. First of all, there should not be a platform (a stage). If the platform was not there then the platform throne would not be there. Yet we still see to this day some religious pride guy and his minions squatted in giant chairs up on high to make sure everyone on the premises knows full well who is in charge. If you want to check this against spiritual reality, just imagine the Lord Jesus insisting on His disciples carrying around a very large and decorated throne chair that He could sit in all the time everywhere He taught and preached (and maybe be carried around in.)
His great humility and example thus destroys all these stupid unrepentant religious lamebrains and all their prideful and arrogant attitudes. The tables will turn one day. They will get theirs. The first will be last. These ever-present departures into darkness, whether it is the tendency to kill rather than discuss or the desire to indulge one’s flesh instead of crucifying it, will be dealt with by the Lord in His way and in His time. He is very patient that we come to our senses. He intercedes for us. He does His best. He even gave His life. But it is apparent that His perfect example and attitude have not been accepted or emulated by most of what is termed Christianity.
As it was with the false Jewish sects of the first century which refused the Lord and eventually killed Him, the same has happened among great numbers of supposed Christian believers. The LIGHT has come but most still prefer the domain of darkness.
Like Paul, many Christians need to be rescued.
© 2018 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved.
 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.
Many years ago I was working as the lead carpenter on a residential job in a relatively upscale section of a large city. The homeowners were a respected middle-aged couple. He was a professor at a local university. She was from England. The state governor lived nearby.
The professor was a good guy, relatively happy, and bookish. Because of his job he was rarely home and I never talked to him much. She had a strong English accent, a proper manner, and was well educated. It was one of the reasons we had good conversations. I was relatively well-read and knowledgeable of the classics.
Due to the way I was motivated as a witness for the Lord, I had slowly begun to talk to her during breaks about spiritual things and we eventually had some limited conversations about Christianity. They were Christians, of the Protestant variety. I had an idea to invite them to church like I did with so many people I witnessed to, but I figured it would be a difficult thing to accomplish in their case.
I was going to a large Spirit-filled church at that time. It was known by one visiting teacher who spoke there on occasion as “The Church of What’s Happening Now.” It had gone through a big growth phase a few years earlier and had been transformed from a small old-school Pentecostal church to an innovative and wonderful place due to a large influx of newly born again university students and younger people. Many of these were set free to use their youthful expertise to make some powerful positive changes. It was a great place to be.
The day came when I suggested we get to know each other’s Christian traditions better by actually attending each other’s churches. She was open to the idea. It took a long time to get to this point. I was always one to move slowly because I knew how the enemy could disrupt a good plan at a moment’s notice. She asked her husband about it. And what a joy it was when she told me they were agreeable. I was just a young carpenter on a job site and they were up there in the social ranks. I could not help but see the hand of God.
We agreed to go to their church first. My wife and I met them there. I cannot remember the denomination, but it was one of those upscale places where everything was relatively quiet and low key amidst high-end adornment and a very traditional setting. The place was very tastefully decorated.
The service was somewhat monotonous compared to what I preferred and was used to. There was certainly no moving of the Spirit of God. It was intellectually-based. But my wife and I were thoroughly polite. The older couple liked us. Afterwards, as I recall, we shared a small meal on site and got to know each other a little better. There were smiles all around. I appreciated their wonderful attitude and the way they embraced a young couple interested in finding common Christian ground.
It might have been the next week when they were to reciprocate and visit our church. My wife was in the choir so it would be just me in the pew. It turned out her husband the professor couldn’t make it. Maybe he didn’t want to. This was, as everyone knew, a large Spirit-filled Pentecostal church pretty much on the very opposite end of the spectrum from their much more traditional format. I’m sure it must have invoked some difficulty for them.
I met her out in the vestibule and she was polite and smiling, and somewhat upbeat. I believe she really was interested even though the place was never something she would choose on her own. Again, she was from England, was used to a high church format, and moved in some high circles. It was so cool that this was actually happening.
Though I greatly appreciated Spirit-filled gatherings, I confess that I had also developed an embarrassment of Pentecostal excess. This was the early 1980s. I was still connected to some very old school Pentecostal people and traditions, some of which were really silly, and some even a tad dark. There was a thread of redneckism to be dealt with. There was also an anti-intellectual element. It is certainly true that many Pentecostals came from the other side of the tracks and were not necessarily very well educated. But I can also honestly say that I had never met more warm, fun, and engaging people. Most were open to the Lord and were willing to do whatever He required, reputations be damned.
So there we were, standing in the pews while the choir sang. It was a tremendous choir. So much about this place was so far ahead of the curve. It set the tone for many churches across the country. Long before the word “progressive” was appropriated and used for other purposes, I used to refer to this place as “Progressive Pentecost.” Many great things happened there. There was an openness to many fields of study. It was composed of all ages and races, a truly open and colorblind church.
I can’t remember exactly what happened next. It seems it was still in the early part of the service. We were all standing. I remember I had worked so hard to get this lady to visit. She trusted me. I had always shown her the grace of God. I was certainly concerned that some excessive thing might happen that would turn her off but was never prepared for what did happen. I was trying so hard to be low-key and normal, maybe a hard thing to do in a full blown Pentecostal service among many hundreds of people. To affect this attitude in my attempt to be cool and not a religious redneck, I happened to have my hands in my slacks pockets as I stood there. I was really hoping that she would be touched by the Spirit of God and had been silently praying.
In the midst of a little commotion on the platform the preacher suddenly grabbed a microphone and started speaking to the crowd. There was a move of the Spirit and I think he was trying to get everyone’s mind on God and to pay attention. Of course, I would think everyone WAS paying attention. We could all feel the Spirit of God. Everyone was respectful and obeying protocol. But rather than let the Lord wash over us and bless us with some peace and His presence, the preacher, as he was wont to do, had to take over.
Completely messing up a good thing, he actually started to berate people. He’s walking quickly across the platform and pointing out individuals and then back to the other side, his eyes going from those closest to those toward the back. Everyone was on eggshells. This happened way too much but because of our respect for the proceedings we all thought it was God, that God was anointing him to go off like that. I learned later that was not the case. I got older. I grew spiritually. I eventually figured out that this anointed man of God who did so many wonderful things had a tendency to turn into a complete nutcase on occasion.
Now, most of us do this. Sometimes we are very tired. We do not get enough sleep. The pressures of life can be very strong. We lose our tempers. We prove our humanity. But in the course of a church service when people really need the Lord, it should never happen or should at least be rare.
As he was raising his voice and pointing people out I began to get seriously embarrassed for my visitor. I was afraid this would happen. But I never expected what did happen. Why? –Because I had obeyed the Lord and was guided by Him to bring this classy friend of mine to church in hopes of her growing in the Lord, being introduced to something new and great, and possibly getting filled with the Holy Spirit!
The preacher’s crazy eyes fell on me. He pounced. I couldn’t believe it. “Get your hands out of your pockets!” Wait. What? He had no clue whatsoever what the Lord was up to with my visitor or what I was attempting to accomplish.
Right away she told me she had to leave. She saw him looking at her also and was shaken. She wasn’t waiting around. She had to get out of there. Still smiling, she began to exit the pew. I followed her out. We talked briefly at the doors but it did no good. She was leaving.
The entire witness was ruined. All the prayer, effort, and work was wasted. A wonderful opportunity went right down the drain. Right at the finish line.
There are so many stories like this. The lack of accountability among the preacher ranks has always been the chief reason why such things happen. It is why the Lord always appointed several elders in the early churches and NEVER a single “pastor.” And such sordid behavior is certainly not contained to Pentecostal churches. It happens everywhere, in all denominations, and is continually reinforced and rarely challenged. There are far too many blowhards who do and say whatever they feel like and next to no one in the churches has the guts to speak correctively. Everyone knows what will happen if they do.
Perhaps we are now in a time when that can change.
© 2016 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved.
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] 
© 2013 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved.
 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.