People have used religion to manipulate and control other people for thousands of years. Socrates was brought to trial and condemned to death for supposedly teaching his students things contrary to the gods of the popular religion of his day. His punishment was to drink a hemlock tea which causes a painful death. He believed he had the truth as a philosopher, and the people that thought he should die also thought they had the truth regarding the pantheon of gods of the third century BCE. Two groups of people thinking they both have the truth, and one group controlling and manipulating the other even to the point of determining the other must die for believing a different “truth” than them.
This makes us ask the questions, “What is truth?”, and “Where does one find ‘the truth’?”. Yeshua told the tempter that man needs to live on “every word that comes out of the mouth of God”.
Matthew 4:1–4 (LEB): 4 Then Jesus was led up into the wilderness by the Spirit to be tempted by the devil, 2 and after he had fasted forty days and forty nights, then he was hungry. 3 And the tempter approached and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, order that these stones become bread.” 4 But he answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man will not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes out of the mouth of God.’ ”
What does it mean when Christians accuse someone of “living in the flesh” or not “using their talents for God”? The implication is that in order to do these things in an acceptable manner to the accuser, one has to be performing the acts in whatever church or manner this accuser considers valid. They will then go on to say it is not for the church or for them, but it is for God. Which god are we speaking about?
This manipulation comes in forms of supposed friendships as well. “If you really loved God, you would be doing (fill in the blank)”. What these types of friends are really saying is “If you really loved God, you would do what I tell you to do!” What does the Creator of the Universe say to do? That is what I would ask.
Religion dictates many commands, and depending on which brand, there will be different commands and forms of manipulation. No one likes anyone who dares to question these beliefs, even if they are blatantly against the words of God. With so many different breeds of Christianity how do we know who is right? We all decide what we want to believe, and it is everyone’s right to do so. However, everyone with opposing views cannot all be correct. The question then becomes, “On what are you willing to base your eternal future?”. Is it what a certain preacher says, a pope, denomination, professor, parent, religious or political figure perhaps? Maybe leaning on one’s own understanding is the key to pleasing God? Doubtful.
John 12:44–50 (LEB): 44 But Jesus cried out and said, “The one who believes in me does not believe in me, but in the one who sent me, 45 and the one who sees me sees the one who sent me. 46 I have come as a light into the world, in order that everyone who believes in me will not remain in the darkness. 47 And if anyone hears my words and does not observe them, I will not judge him. For I have not come to judge the world, but to save the world. 48 The one who rejects me and does not accept my words has one who judges him; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day. 49 For I have not spoken from myself, but the Father himself who sent me has commanded me what I should say and what I should speak. 50 And I know that his commandment is eternal life. So the things that I say, just as the Father said to me, thus I say.”
Yeshua says he will not judge us because “the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day“. Why would anyone want to listen to a different word than what was spoken by Yeshua? If Yeshua is not going to judge us, but we will be judged by His words, why do we not take these words seriously? Why would we listen to words by other people leading us in different directions? Why be manipulated or controlled by someone telling us they are disappointed in us for “not doing what God would want us to do”? We have the words that Yeshua told us we would be judged by. Why not follow them?
What if doing what Yeshua told us is being a good parent or spouse instead of forsaking one’s family for the work of the church? Christianity tends to equate serving God with serving the church. This is not the eklessia or the “congregation in the wilderness”, this church I am speaking about is whatever the controller or manipulator designates to be the one that is on par with doing the works of God. Yet we are given the works of God we will be judged by in His word, and they often do not look anything like we see in the thousands of Christian denominations. Most of these denominations have come to be over disagreements. Disagreements in politics, or sometimes people not getting their own way such as with King Henry the VIII creating the Church of England so he could divorce his wife.
Is living in the flesh having a job and providing for one’s family? Do we till the land and raise animals because we are fleshly? In a sense the answer is “yes” because flesh is fallen. Unfortunately, we have to live in this lot.
Genesis 3:17–19 (LEB): 17 And to Adam he said, “Because you listened to the voice of your wife and you ate from the tree from which I forbade you to eat, the ground shall be cursed on your account. In pain you shall eat from it all the days of your life. 18 And thorns and thistles shall sprout for you, and you shall eat the plants of the field. 19 By the sweat of your brow you shall eat bread, until your return to the ground. For from it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
Since we all can and do choose what we believe, there are many different opinions about what serving God looks like. The first thing we must ask ourselves is which god or God are we serving. There is a very specific God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob that has revealed His character through Israel, and told Israel that through them the whole world would be blessed. The creator told them that He would bless them, they would disobey and serve other gods, and through this process He would provide a means of salvation for the whole world.
I choose to believe this Creator God, and that He gave us enough information to prove that His means of salvation would come through Yeshua the Messiah from the tribe of Judah. Yeshua also said that he only did what he saw his father do and he only says what he hears his father say, and that His commandment is eternal life. I cannot put my eternal future in the words of pastors, popes, denominations, teachers and politicians, especially if what they are saying or presenting is something different than what the Eternal Creator God of the Universe has told us. The following is the way God told Israel to deal with those who try to lead them astray to serve other gods:
Deuteronomy 12:29–13:10 (LEB): 29 “When Yahweh your God has cut off the nations whom you are about to go to to dispossess them before you, and you have dispossessed them, and you live in their land, 30 take care so that you are not ensnared into imitating them after their being destroyed from before you, and so that you not enquire concerning their gods, saying, ‘How did these nations serve their gods, and thus I myself want to do also.’ 31 You must not do so toward Yahweh your God, because of every detestable thing they have done for their gods Yahweh hates, for even their sons and their daughters they would burn in the fire to their gods. 32 All of the things that I am commanding you, you must diligently observe; you shall not add to it, and you shall not take away from it.”
13 “If a prophet stands up in your midst or a dreamer of dreams and he gives to you a sign or wonder, 2 and the sign or the wonder comes about that he spoke to you, saying, ‘Let us go after other gods (those whom you have not known), and let us serve them,’ 3 you must not listen to the words of that prophet or to that dreamer, for Yahweh your God is testing you to know whether you love Yahweh your God with all of your heart and with all of your inner self. 4 You shall go after Yahweh your God, and him you shall revere, and his commandment you shall keep, and to his voice you shall listen, and him you shall serve, and to him you shall hold fast. 5 But that prophet or the dreamer of that dream shall be executed, for he spoke falsely about Yahweh your God, the one bringing you out from the land of Egypt and the one redeeming you from the house of slavery, in order to seduce you from the way that Yahweh your God commanded you to go in it; so in this way you shall purge the evil from your midst.
6 “If your brother, the son of your mother or your son or your daughter or your wife whom you embrace or your intimate friend in secrecy says, ‘Let us go and let us serve other gods!’ gods that you and your ancestors have not known, 7 from among the gods of the people who are around you, those near you or those far from you, from one end of the earth and up to the other end of the earth, 8 you must not give in to him, and you shall not listen to him, and your eye shall not take pity on him, and you shall not have compassion, and you shall not cover up for him. 9 But you shall certainly kill him; your hand shall be first against him to kill him and next the hand of all of the people. 10 And you shall stone him with stones and let him die, for he tried to seduce you from Yahweh your God, the one bringing you from the land of Egypt, from the house of slavery.
This is serious business. Thank goodness we are no longer stoning people that try to lead us astray from what God told us to do. This is sacrificial law where people died without mercy by two or three witnesses. There was no way to reconcile their sin with God. This is the high handed sin of wilful disobedience where the only means of salvation would come through the sacrifice of Yeshua. This does not mean we should tolerate people trying to lead us astray through control, manipulation or any other means. This simply means that there is a sacrifice for their sin now if they repent, where the only option under the law was stoning.
Matthew 7:15–23 (LEB): 15 “Beware of false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inside are ravenous wolves. 16 You will recognize them by their fruits: they do not gather grapes from thorn bushes or figs from thistles, do they? 17 In the same way, every good tree produces good fruit, but a bad tree produces bad fruit. 18 A good tree is not able to produce bad fruit, nor a bad tree to produce good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not produce good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 As a result, you will recognize them by their fruits.
21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter into the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and expel demons in your name, and perform many miracles in your name?’ 23 And then I will say to them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you who practice lawlessness!’
Choose which god you serve wisely. Do not try to control and manipulate people with false gods made up in your own imagination. Do not let yourself be controlled or manipulated by anyone. The false gods can easily be seen when compared to “every word that comes out of the mouth of God”. Remember:
Matthew 11:27–30 (LEB): 27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wants to reveal him. 28 Come to me, all of you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke on you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy to carry and my burden is light.”
Photo by Sivani Bandaru on Unsplash.
Please check out my first book on Amazon titled, Finding God in Organized Religion. It is the story of my life focusing on my involvement with three major denominations, from my childhood to present, describing the good and bad, and what I learned during the process.
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