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Boundaries

John Collins07/30/2013

Video available here: http://youtu.be/l5B1eENOx7Q

All of the people I have spoken with that have now made their exodus from a cult seem to have one thing in common:  The most difficult time in their lives was when they decided to take that first step through the invisible boundaries of their religion.

When people today hear the word “cult,” they associate it with the extreme cults.  They associate this word with religious compounds held by madmen, such as David Koresh of the Branch Davidians or the city of Jonestown where evangelist and “divine healer” Jim Jones lead his entire congregations to their death through mass suicide.

What they do not realize is that the visible boundaries of the cult extremists were not always so well defined.  There isn’t a person in this world who would walk up to a run-down, old building that looks like it once held a great battle between mafia warlords, one that is guarded by men with assault rifles, and say, “Hey!  This looks like the religion for me!  I think I can find God in there!”

The Apostle Paul spoke of the men that would come to deceive.  All through the New Testament, the Apostles speak of the false prophets that would rise, and the false teachers that would mislead.  These wolves in sheep’s clothing also have one thing in common: their ambition is to sever the Body of Christ. 

The entire book of Jude is a warning to the Church.  Get ready.  It’s coming.  These guys will sound sincere, they will seem religious, and inside they are nothing but filthy, dirty, scoundrels! 

There is nothing wrong with standing firmly in your denomination of faith.  You wouldn’t be warming that pew if you thought you were in the wrong place – you’d quickly make an exit for the door.  There are many different understandings of Scripture, and until the Lord returns to take us home, there is absolutely no way for us to have all of the answers until all things hidden are made known. 

There is a correct and just way to live your lives, and that is according to what we read in the Bible.  As Christians, we are to walk in the examples given by Christ, and are to have the love, kindness, gentleness, longsuffering, and other gifts of the Spirit.

Imagine if Jesus, our example, would have separated Himself from everyone who did not see and understand the scriptures the same way that He did.  Or the Apostle Paul, who travelled into cities with pagan temples devoted to Greek and Roman gods or demigods.  If the early Church had separated itself, there would not have been a Church today.

The Children of Israel were God’s chosen.  Under Mosaic Law, and instructed by God, they were absolutely told to separate themselves.  And while they broke this rule time and again, ultimately they were a different race of people, one that bore the Christ child.  God’s plan and purpose was to give His Gift to the world, His only Son, Jesus Christ, to die for the sins of everyone who believes in His name.

There is no other pathway that leads to salvation.  The group of people that you sit with listening to a sermon every Sunday is just that: a group of people.  The denomination of faith that you chose – even if it is one of these “non-denominational denominations” – is just that.  It is a denomination of faith.  It is a group of people who are together because they hold a common set of values. 

New denominations that spring up are usually proclaiming “all denominations are welcome, come join us!”

But after their number has grown, and after tradition has set in, they start to form boundaries.  The common theology that brought them together becomes doctrine, and that doctrine becomes law.  Any who do not conform to that law should join some other group of people, because they can’t see eye-to-eye.

What happens next is in the hand of God.  All throughout history, great men like Martin Luther began reformations that gave the Church tremendous spiritual growth.  Today, all denominations of faith are better because of the stand that Luther took against the authoritative structure of the church.  Luther broke down boundaries that once corralled the people into a very damaging way of life, and because of his example, men are not given the same level of power as before.

Luther’s reformation opened the door to fellowshipping around the Word of God with no boundaries.  Knowledge and understanding of the scripture has greatly increased because great men reasoned out the Scriptures together instead of bowed down to one man’s understanding of the text.  Many things that we now believe were not common beliefs in the early Church.

But some groups of people rise who fall into the same error that made Luther take his stand.  Because one seems to be a teacher, or one has a spiritual gift, or simply because one already has power, some religious groups will raise one man into authority over their group of people. 

If we were still under Mosaic Law, and following the Old Testament leaders as our example, this would be correct.  The Hebrews 1:1 says, “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets”

The problem is that when cults rise with authoritative figures, this verse is often quoted without focusing on the second verse in that chapter.  Nor do they focus on the “Long ago” part – it doesn’t fit their agenda.

When we read the entire chapter in context, we find that New Covenant Grace is much different than Old Covenant Law.  The Children of Israel were called to be separatists, but the New Testament Church is called to spread the Gospel to all nations.

There is no reason for us to be separatists; we are not producing the Christ child!

Reading the next few verses in Hebrews 1, we find that we have a new Leader.  That Leader is not a man:

“Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.  He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.”  -- Hebrews 1:1-4

Separation can only come through the doctrines of men.  God does not want us to sever ourselves from others who believe in His Name. 

The best example in scripture is given in 1 Corinthians 12:

“For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.  For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

 

For the body does not consist of one member but of many.  If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body.  And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body.  If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell?  But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose.  If all were a single member, where would the body be?  As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.

 

The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.”  On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.  If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.

 

Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.”

-- 1 Corinthians 12

Rather than taking the example of Christ and making new “shepherds,” these separatist cults would rather make new sheep.  And they like to keep those sheep well-sheared. 

Before physical boundaries are visible, cult leaders will build invisible barriers against all other Christian groups that are not in full agreement with their own denomination of faith.  Sometimes those barriers are established before the denomination itself is established. 

These invisible boundaries are intended to keep the sheep on the inside, which greatly hinders the spreading of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  It doesn’t take very long before salvation is no longer preached to those outside of the barriers.  Once the boundaries are established, and those on the inside are considered to be “saved,” “salvation” is preached only to the “saved.”

And more often than not, that “salvation” has very little to do with Jesus Christ.  Instead, it has more to do with those boundaries that have been established.

This creates an “us verses them” mentality.  Those on the inside are your dearest and closest friends.  Those on the outside are lost and dying.  You would love to reach out and help them.  Your heart is bleeding for them.  But they won’t accept your boundaries, and so they are doomed to hell.

Your fellow sheep then become closer to you than ever before.  Doctrinal boundaries then become lined with emotional boundaries.  As humans, we draw closer to those with common interests and ambitions.

But this is unhealthy for spiritual growth.  If Martin Luther had never broken down these barriers, open discussion of the Bible would never have been permitted.  We would all still be under the authority of the small group of men of the church instead of under the authority of Christ our Leader. 

And it is unhealthy for relationships.  Most cults will not admit to pre-arranged marriages, but at the same time, you won’t find too many people marrying outside of the cult.  What once was a wide world of “fish in the sea” becomes a small number of “goldfish in the fish bowl.”

But the unhealthiest aspect by far has nothing to do with our human lives.  Our flesh and bone mean absolutely nothing to God, it is the soul that He is concerned with.  We are supposed to be sheep, following the Great Shepherd.  But as His sheep, we are supposed to be warriors for the Faith.  We are not designed to be contained in a corral so that some vicious wolf can walk around cracking whips or devouring our flesh, we are designed for one purpose:  To lead other souls to Christ.

The longer we remain under these boundaries the more our swords become dull.  Our minds lose focus on the skills necessary to lead others to Christ.  They aren’t needed!  Those that will make it are already in the corral!

This is the greatest power that Satan has in his grasp.  Satan was defeated, he is no longer in power.  He can no longer control us.  After the resurrection of Christ, there is only ONE thing that Satan has the power to do:  great signs and wonders that will deceive many.

His hands are tied!  He can no longer fight!  We hold a sword in our hands, the Bible, and we stand against an enemy whose hands are tied behind his back!

The only thing that Satan can do is to deceive the army of the Lord into making their weapons dull.  He has no power to strengthen his own forces, and so he causes large groups of Christians to bundle themselves into corrals and stop fighting.  He has no power to stop the spreading of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, so he causes us to stop spreading it OURSELVES!

Like I said, the most difficult time in the lives of any who have fled a cult was trying to tear through those boundaries.  Some faced religious boundaries, fearing certain death if they even questioned their faith.  Others faced emotional boundaries, struggling to let go of the friends they once held dear within the invisible compound – because they knew that once they set foot into the sunlight, those left behind would soon forget their name.

Some even faced financial boundaries.  Living under a highly modified version of the Old Testament tithing system, many men have made small fortunes at the expense of shearing their sheep.  This money is often used to help those inside the walls of the invisible compound, seldom used outside the perimeter, and many grow dependent upon this financial aid.

To tear a hole through these boundaries was to tear a gaping hole into your own heart.  No person in their right mind wants to leave friends and family behind.  No person sets out with an ambition of ripping their own heart out from their chest and throwing it to the wolves!

But many who have been brave and paved the way before you will tell you this:

Their swords had grown dull.  Their desire to learn the scriptures was almost non-existent.  Their passion towards spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ was more of a part-time hobby that rarely got attention.  Their eyes had grown dim from the darkness inside the walls of the spiritual compound.

It hurt as they tore through the barriers.  The sunlight brought intense pain into their eyes.  The voice of millions of other Christians crying out for them to come to Christ was deafening.  Their fingers cracked and bled from the digging through the scriptures as they breached the defensive walls.

But after their eyes adjusted to the light, they realized how much sweeter life can be walking through life hand-in-hand with Jesus.  No longer were invisible walls separating them from other Christians.  No longer did that smiling face in the restaurant look like “seed of the serpent,” and much greater was the reward for holding that door for the elderly couple or lending a hand to the poor.

Most that have learned about the Love of Christ have a burning desire to blow larger holes in those invisible boundaries of the religious compounds.  Many have setup tunnels or “underground railroads” leading to freedom, helping as many friends or family as will reach out to grasp their outstretched hand.

They have found their purpose in life.  They realize their calling.  It isn’t for fame or fortune that leads their soul astray; they have found true meaning in life by telling others that God loved them enough to send His only Son, Jesus Christ to die for their sin.  Christ came and lived the perfect life, suffered and died on the cross, was buried and rose again.  When He rose, that sin stayed buried. 

The boundaries were broken, over two thousand years ago!