Narcotics and Religious Detox: A Comparison

In March 2008 I was taken to a drug and alcohol treatment facility to detox from various narcotics and alcohol. I met the Lord for the first time in that facility. But it wasn’t until May 2008 that I finally answered His call, “Come, follow Me.”

Quickly after devoting my life to my savior, my redeemer, my friend, and my sponsor (that’s AA talk), Jesus Christ, I was introduced to the world of religion and Churchianity. I was living in two parallel universes. I was in Christ who is full of life, mercy, peace, and freedom. But I was also living in religious practice and ritual which is full of death, war, strife, and legalism. Somehow I had confused these two universes. I had mixed them up, I had blended them together—or at least I tried to. They are polar opposites. And as we know, water and oil don’t mix–the repel from one another. But fortunately I didn’t stay in the religious universe for too long.

Around the end of the year in 2009 I made my final decision to leave the religious system. I made a few futile attempts to return thinking that maybe I had made a mistake. But it seemed that every time I would go back, it would be only a couple of weeks before I left again. I had realized that what I was witnessing simply wasn’t God’s intention for the church. If He required the same laws and religious rituals that Jews performed for thousands of years, then why crucify the Law on the cross of Christ? Why do away with the old just to bring about the same Law and practice? It didn’t add up.

The things I was witnessing in “church” simply didn’t reflect any of the New Testament practices. The teachings we hear every Sunday of constant strife and self-effort to please God and be “holy”, the guilt-driven teaching of evangelization, and the constant persuasion to give your money in the name of “tithing” didn’t remind me of the character of our Christ. It reminded me of the character of man.

Mankind is always on a “mission” to build, to defeat, to subdue, to conquer, and to achieve. And this character ultimately rubs off on our view of God. When a person becomes a follower of Christ and is right away brought into a system of religious, man-made practice, his/her walk with God will reflect that strife and self-effort. But the Scripture, specifically the New Testament, does not show us this type of practice.

Once I realized this I began my time of detox (which I am no doubt still in). Most people, if not everybody, will have to go through a season of intense detox once they leave the religious system.

Here I have reflected how religious detox is very similar to drug detox. Believe me, they are very similar.

The Process of Drug/Religious Detox

When coming off of narcotics there is first and definite step: withdrawal.

When the addict makes the decision that he/she has had enough, the only path to freedom is complete abstinence from drug or alcohol use. Typically, that person will be checked in to a detox and/or rehab center. Withdrawal can be a painful, dangerous, and life-threatening experience. Without the proper medical treatment, some specific narcotics’ withdrawal can be life-threatening. Heroin, alcohol, and benzodiazepines  (Valium, Xanax, etc.) are known to be some of the most painful and dangerous of all drug withdrawal. Others aren’t quite as life-threatening as these, but equally excruciating if not treated properly.

When we come to the place where we’ve decided to leave the religious system, its best to have a couple of brothers and sisters around us who are like-minded. Preferably ones that also have left the system. These people will act as our counselors. They will be the ones to assist us and give us moral support once we make that leap. Leaving some religious systems can be life-threatening too.

Many have been seriously injured spiritually and psychologically by various religious systems. Sadly, many leave these so embittered and frustrated that they leave the Lord because of it. They see the character of man’s religion and equate it to God as though it’s His character on display. This is the saddest part of all! It breaks my heart to hear such stories.

So in some instances, we may need a brother or sister there to show us who Christ truly is apart from a man-made religion. Without it, some indeed parish.

Once withdrawal is over, the real recovery begins. This brings us to the next process: unlearning.

When the drug addict finally completes his/her time of withdrawal symptoms, the treatment of mind and body must begin. The addict is typically a very habitual creature. They have learned by association that certain things lead to a good time. Because of the lifestyle that is attributed to drug use, the addict has been immersed in a life of certain unhealthy behaviors. Those behaviors need to be unlearned if the addict ever intends on staying clean and sober the rest of his/her life.

Many things for the addict are associated with drug use. Even the way he/she may sleep, eat, talk to people, carry oneself, etc., can carry with it the lifestyle of the addicted mind. Because every part of the addicts life becomes an association to drug abuse, the addict must change every part of his/her life. Certain places need to be avoided for a good time, certain music or bands that he/she used to listen to, and certain people who aided with their destructive lifestyle must be cut-off completely if treatment is to be successful. This isn’t something that has to be final, but it does need to be indefinite.

We have been taught so thoroughly how to be legalists that it takes a serious treatment of the Holy Spirit to unlearn it. We have been taught that we are to strive day and night to “be more holy”, to act more righteous, to refrain from certain practices, and to fight the devil’s schemes by resisting the urges of our flesh (I have still yet to meet someone who has ever been successful by doing such things). There then comes a season where many may actually take a break from many things like reading their Bible, attending religious activities (like prayer meetings and bible studies), and even praying depending on the level of legalism they were subjected to. But isn’t this a bad thing? Isn’t refraining from Bible reading a sin? No. It’s not. Otherwise the Christians of the 1st century would have been guilty of sin, for they didn’t have a bible yet (besides maybe a few books of the Old Testament in the local Synagogue).

Like the addict, the religious detoxee may need to spend some time away from old practices and habits. Many have associated the Bible with an instructional manual on how to live a more holy life—to keep away from sin and defilement—instead a book to find Christ, wisdom, peace, and comfort.

Also, a person may have been taught to pray a certain way. Usually, they pray how their pastor prays. They pray using old English with its “thees” and “thous”. Or, they may pray in a way that is very pious and sound ultra-spiritual. They may use certain words to summon God’s power by saying “Almighty God”, “Lord God, Jehovah”, etc. (Please note that I am not saying that these are bad ways to pray, but for some they bring about negative feelings because of their bad experience with religion). That person may need to spend some time simply not praying. Yes, I said it, not praying. The prayer of the heart is much more powerful than the outward, simply superficial prayer. With God, it’s all about the position of the heart (1 Samuel 16:7).

In some movements, one’s place with God is determined by how much one “feels God’s presence”. In these circles, if you can’t “feel God” then He isn’t around. They equate God’s presence to a feeling or outward manifestation. Such movements are based on emotion. The people leaving these circles must unlearn these things too. I know that I had to. They must unlearn that God is a God that only touches feelings and emotions, that He dwells not only in the soul (where our emotions dwell), but He dwells in our spirits (the part of the human that is eternal and is the most secret place of man [see 1 Corinthians 2:10-15]).

For me, there was a time where I didn’t “feel” God as much. I didn’t have the same type of worship as I did before. But with death comes resurrection; and with resurrection comes life.

Here’s where we come to the next phase: relearning.

Once the addict has unlearned many old habits, he/she must now relearn how to live life apart from drugs and/or alcohol. That means doing such basic tasks like grocery shopping, working, going to social outings, etc., sober. The addict has in fact done everything now for years under the influence of narcotics. They have found a way to live life this way—essentially worshiping emotions. Now they must learn to live a steady life without so many ups and downs.

The religious person may have spent many years on spiritual highs and lows. They have gone weeks or days on cloud-9 and then spent time in the ditches of death. For most people, this can be very traumatic. So they must learn to live a steady, balanced walk with God. So a time may come when the major ups of emotions tend to dwindle. But this isn’t a bad thing. It means you are being healed and matured.

Sometimes in order for us to see what is right, we must first see what is wrong; in order to build, first we must at times destroy. By the time we get to this phase of spiritual unlearning, we are now clear-headed enough to begin our phase of relearning. I love this part! But usually to get to this part, we must first go through the hard part.

Once we realize that the Christian life isn’t about constant strife to please God, that we aren’t to always be doing and achieving to somehow earn His love, we come to a place of rest and peace.

The first thing that came to me during this process of unlearning, was that I now had to discover ways to live the Christian life successfully. Because, after all, the bible does tell us quite clearly that we are not to sin. This is where I learned how truly rich our Lord Jesus Christ is!

You see, religion taught us that we are to be the ones in control of our desires and flesh. That we are to work and strive to please God and to refrain from sinning too much. In religion, man is the ultimate factor in spiritual growth. But in Christ, He has been made unto us “righteousness from God”.

We must begin learning the all-sufficiency of Christ. How rich and unsearchable He truly is. Not only by a mental assumption or by a doctrinal stance, but by a living experience. This means that instead of asking God for more wisdom, we ask for Christ to be our wisdom. Instead of asking God for more peace in our lives, we begin to see how Christ is our peace. Instead of asking God to make us more holy, that we are already holy because Christ is holy and He lives inside of us! (I would suggest reading Watchman Nee’s ‘The Normal Christian Life’)

This is the part where an ultimate decision had to made on my part. For me, the only way I was able to fully know Christ (like He can be fully known this side of eternity), was to be built together with other saints like me; that the portion of Christ I have in me was limited. I needed other brothers and sisters with their portion, or perspective, of Christ too! In order for me to know Him more, I must seek Him in His children. This goes way beyond Sunday service, way beyond even an Organic Church meeting. This means being molded together with heat and fire from God with other sons and daughters. This isn’t easy for the individualistic Christian.

I personally know no other way to fully learn the riches of Christ and the all-sufficiency of Christ. If there’s another way, I know it not. So I’ll simply stick to my own experience here.

To the addict, time is his/her most valuable asset.

In all the above phases there is one thing that is, above all else, the most valuable commodity in detoxing fully. That commodity is time.

It simply takes time for the addicts mind and body to recover from years of drug abuse. The brain has lost countless brain cells, has been on a roller coaster of emotions going up and down constantly. The body has had to deal with daily ingestion of poison into its system. The liver and kidneys are usually the most damaged of all the organs. So time for the addict is literally a life saver.

In proper time, the brain begins to recover (usually after about 18 months of sobriety), thinking and basic motor functions become more sharpened. Vocabulary and fluent speech become more evident. The addict with some time under his/her belt sober is able to form more complex and healthy thoughts.

The addict also begins to feel better physically without the aid of numbing drugs to assist. As the body gets healthier, eating and sleeping patterns become more consistent. In fact, one of the number one suggestions given by doctors and addiction therapists is to begin eating healthier and sleeping on a more strict schedule. The health of a person is usually in direct harmony with their eating and sleeping patterns. The addict has spent years with a completely undisciplined lifestyle which includes not eating and not sleeping. But time takes its course, and the addict gets back on a more normal lifestyle.

With the man or woman who is detoxing from religion with its man-made practices and self-effort, time is our best friend!

Most spiritual ailments that have been afflicted by religion upon our souls can usually be treated with simple time—granted that time is spent in a healthy way.

This means changing our diets. We begin to learn how to quit eating the fast food of religion. Religion is so appealing because it typically offers a quick emotional fix, satisfying our “itch” for purity. But as I’m sure many of us know, it’s short-lived.

We have to begin to learn how to eat and drink of Christ as our food and nourishment instead of rituals and methodologies. Relearning how to eat of Him, who is deeper than how we may feel at times, can take years. After 2 years completely away from the religious system, and 18 months in Organic Church, I’m still learning how to eat and drink of Him. As far as I know, this could be a life long process.

The Journey Continues

Now, I want to be quite clear that our Lord isn’t confined to these phases. These are only what I have personally experienced and witnessed in others. He is more than capable of detoxing us in a flash. He’s also capable of moving and leading His children in such movements mentioned above. I want to make it quite clear that I don’t think God can only work in Organic Church. I would never make that assumption. But I do believe (mostly because I’ve seen it) that many people are severely hurt by certain movements and religious institutions. In these movements, Christ is not Head. Instead, man is head over his own ambitions and kingdoms. There are, of course, many of these institutions that God blesses and uses to further His purpose and the leaders of these movements love God more than most. So please don’t get me wrong here.

Truth is, we are all learning, relearning, and unlearning. Even for someone like myself who didn’t grow up in the church, I’ve still had to go through some religious detox. Even with the limited time I spent in that system, I was still exposed to enough to have to unlearn quite a bit. I have yet to meet a person who is completely immune from having to go through the detox phase. Perhaps if an individual was brought to the Lord without any prior assumptions about Him into a non-religious group of believers, than maybe he/she would be immune. But religion, believe it or not, is saturated in our culture. We can draw simple conclusions about God from movies and books.

I hope this article helps someone who may be going through religious detox and be encouraged that the Lord is with you. That He is fully invested in you and loves you. He won’t give up on us even when we may give up on Him. But sometimes it takes trust and yielding to be brought to where He wants us to be.

Amen.

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55 thoughts on “Narcotics and Religious Detox: A Comparison

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  1. Thanks Michael. When I read this article, I thought of the experiences my wife andI just went through in looking at our nation’s history concerning slavery and what humanity will tolerate and suffer in the pursuit of freedom from all kinds of bondage. It is beautiful knowing that true freedom comes from our relationship with Christ who lives in and through us. Thanks for the reminder brother.

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  2. The last 2 days I have been pondering over this very same subject – physical and spiritual detox.
    Someone close to my heart is experiencing the physical, and I the spiritual. I’m in the relearning “phase”/season. I just finished reading S. McKnight’s “The King Jesus Gospel”, and have begun N.T. Wright”s “Simply Jesus”. Both are quite the mind expanders for one who was so steeped in the Law.
    Thank you Michael, for sharing your heart – and soul.

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  3. The church tells the unbeliever “come as you are, God’s grace is sufficient.”. Then immediately the tables are turned, and the precious new believer is told “start working for God now and clean yourself up so that you are acceptable to God.”. No wonder Christans burn out. Thank you Jesus for reminding us YOUR yoke is easy and your burden is light because God made us righteous, in You alone. Thank you Michael.

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  4. Wow. A friend sent me the link to your blog, and to this article, and I am so grateful that she did! I, too, went to rehab in 2008 and came out in 2009 full of Christ and life and liberty… that was so quickly cut short by my entrance into the church. I lasted two years before leaving.. two of the most life sucking years I can remember. By the end of it I was no longer sure who I was, who God was or why I’d ever gotten sober in the first place!

    Just this morning I was driving to work thinking…”I don’t know, maybe it’s time to go back to church, it’s been six months”… and feeling the steeling of nerves that must accompany such a return. And then I read this and remembered that, no, I made the right decision 6 months ago when I chose to walk with Christ in His way and not in the way of man, when I chose to live apart from the competition, the pretending… and to choose authenticity in all aspects of my life.

    Thank you for writing this! I keep a blog that I’d be thrilled to have you check out. I think you’ll find we’re thinking very much the same thing!

    Best of blessings to you. I can’t wait to read more!!

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    1. Congrats! Yes, it sounds like our journeys are very similar. I hope you come in contact with some believers in your area that only wish to seek Christ as Head. That is, if you haven’t already.

      I’ll check out your blog. Thanks for commenting 🙂

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  5. Bless you, dear Michael, truth spoken in love! No wonder God said in Hebrews 12:27 (The Message): One more time—“a thorough housecleaning, getting rid of the historical and religious junk” down to the “unshakable essentials”—the only things that are going to sustain His children in the coming days! And, they are enough.
    Thank you for sharing your heart. You are dearly loved!

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  6. Michael, I become more and more concerned about your blog posts with each passing issue. It is apparent that you have a low view of scripture when Jesus, Himself, did not, and God the Father or the Holy Spirit certainly do not.

    Your disdain for God’s Word is further demonstrated by your failure to use the Word of God in your humanistic blogs which are filled with “man’s” wisdom, not God’s.

    I happen to agree with you about the unbiblical nature of most churches, but one of the reasons they have become so is because of the failure of those sitting in the pews to be Biblically literate.

    This started around the 3rd century with the rise of the Roman Catholic Church which prevented the Christian from having access to the Word of God, in order to maintain their control over the people.

    2 Ti 3:16. “All scripture” in the time frame the New Testament letters were being written included the Old Testament. It is correct that many of the new believers came from pagan backgrounds, not Jewish, but certainly many of the 3,000 who were saved at Pentecost were Jewish because many were likely there for the Jewish festival.

    The New Testament believers did not have the “bible” as we know it but they did have the APOSTLES there, and Timothy, and Luke, and by the end of the 1st century A.D. they did have the written canon. They did, however, have the O.T. with its countless scriptures extolling and emphasizing the importance of God’s law (notice the small “l” because God’s Word is not referring in those places to the Mosaic Law of the Pharisees) and the absolute dependence of the man or woman of God on God’s words (Ps 19:7-14, Ps 119, etc.).

    Your suggestion that those coming out of the church rely on brothers and sisters is another example of your low view of God’s Word. Luke 6:39 asks the questions, “can the blind lead the blind?” Of course not, or they will both fall into the ditch. If those others you recommend counsel the one coming out of the church are as Biblically illiterate at they, themselves, likely are, then that is what will likely happen to them…they will fall into a spiritual ditch.

    In Genesis 3, the very first question recorded in God’s Word is the serpent’s question to Eve: “Indeed has God said, “You shall not eat from any tree in the garden?” The first question in the Bible questioned the Word of God. That deception continues to this day and you, Michael, are perpetuating that deception. You are leading folks right past the the narrow gate (Matt. 7:13) and straight to the wide gate that leads to the broad way of destruction. You are a pied piper saying nice things for people who have itching ears and no time for God or His Word.

    Your foundation is built on sand because although you profess to be a Christian and to be teaching others about Christ, the christ you are teaching is not the Christ, or God or Holy Spirit or Word of the Bible. You are a false teacher and unless you repent you will stand at the judgment and give account for all those you led away from God and God’s Word.

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    1. Cheryl,

      I suppose I’m just not quite sure where you’re coming from here. You say that I don’t use God’s Word in any of my posts. This just proves that you obviously aren’t reading most of my posts. Also, you say that I am “leading people away from the narrow way”. Interesting. What is the narrow way, Cheryl? Jesus Christ IS the narrow way. Not our moral behavior or our adherence to laws and rules. This is NOT the Gospel of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

      I think that you may be misunderstanding me in some pretty major ways. Where have you ever gotten the assumption that I don’t agree, use, and profess the bible and God’s Word? I read my bible every day, Cheryl. I’ve shared many times on certain biblical passages. In this post, I simply make a recommendation based on experience. If we use the bible as an instructional manual, instead of a place to find Christ, comfort and peace (just as I describe above), we are forgetting the very purpose of His Word. All Scripture points to Jesus Christ. David was a shadow or picture of Him. Adam was too. Samuel the prophet and judge of Israel is as well. Solomon and his wisdom, a picture of Christ. All the major prophets, minor prophets, Ruth, and Moses too. They all point to Him and that’s my goal in life….to point people to Jesus Christ. HE IS SUFFICIENT. He is beyond our little rules and regulations. He is above and beyond “do not handle, do not taste, do not touch”. As Paul puts it, He is unsearchable.

      If I get called a “false teacher” because I point people to Christ and attempt to steer them away from legalism and human effort, than I am more than happy to accept that title in the name of my Lord, my Savior, and my Friend, Jesus Christ.

      People have ears that have been filled with the stench and noise of legalism and self-effort to please God. People’s ears are simply dying to hear some truth..which is Christ.

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  7. Wow Cheryl! Calling a brother in the Lord a false teacher is a heavy responsibility, I hope you are ready to stand before the Lord on this. It seems that your main reason for labeling Michael as a false teacher and one who is “a pied piper” leading others to destruction is that you claim that he has replaced the true foundation with a false one.You claim that God’s Word is the foundation that he has neglected and replaced with something that is humanistic and for that he will stand at the judgement and account for what he has done. First of all, Paul had taught in the new testament that Christ in you the hope of Glory is the foundation, in that He IS the WORD of GOD dwelling in the heart of a believer. No where, in the new testament history is there a record of believers living from reading the bible, like you correctly stated, they did not have one. Many did not even keep writings of the torah, instead they had them memorized mainly. They were taught like David to hide them in their hearts, and live by them, under the old covenant, and then under the new covenant with greater promises they lived by the indwelling of Christ Himself. Your claims that a believer is to be bibically literate has no mentions in either testament. If you are referring to the inward revelation of the person of Jesus Christ, than I would tend to agree with you. But, you speak of a literacy in an intellectual way, in an intellectual way of knowing the scriptures. This is not the message of the new testament, where Paul urged others to know Christ, who lives within the believer’s heart. The detox that Michael is living, and explaining here is the life a believers lives relying on the indwelling Lord Jesus Christ, who is the WORD, and to live this with others in spiritual community together in authentic body life with one’s brothers and sisters in the body of Christ. Your implications of never needing to be freed of institutionalized religion but to simply becoming biblically literate, knowing the scriptures has one fatal flaw, This is that a person can still sit in a pew and hear sermons with an intellectual assessment about Christ and live His abundant life. This according to Paul’s life and work, is impossible. Paul’s ministry, in which his letters of his life and work fill the new testament, began when God revealed His SON in him, not when he heard the Word from the apostles. Paul began to preach immediately from the revelation he had concerning the indwelling of Christ. Paul’s testimony of his own life that he had zeal for God, though years of the best education concerning the torah and the written word of God, but his zeal was without knowledge, concerning Christ. His road to conversion came when God chose to reveal His Son in Him.
    Michael speaks of the same conversion here in his blog about detox that Paul had experienced in counting his outward intellectual assessment about God as dung, that he could know Christ, and Him crucified. When Michael speaks of relying on brothers and sisters, he is referring to really relying on Christ in them, and not in a humanistic way where one trusts in a person’s emotions, will and mind. And, also, he is not implying that one no longer needs the bible, the Word of God, but is more able now to understand it, not as an intellectual book of knowledge, but as a flesh and blood person, and indwelling Lord who Jesus Christ is in His Reality. Michael is not telling people to live the church, but to BE the church. And in doing so, he is humbly encouraging believers to leave institutionalized religion,in order to live by the indwelling of Christ, and to share His life together. Paul taught a simular message when he preached in the synagouge when he urged people to come to Christ and leave behind traditions of men, the aesthetic of living by the law outwardly with no inward change of the heart, and pagan practices. Paul was not playing a pipe then to lead others astray, and neither is any believer who urges other to know Christ in His centrality and His supremacy.

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    1. I absolutely am ready to stand before the Lord on this. I understand where Michael is coming from with regard to leaving the institutional church, and I agree with him.

      Jesus is the living Word of God, the Scriptures are the written Word of God. You cannot separate them. I’m not saying that the written Word of God is over the Living Word, they are the same. I have heard all of this before and it is a false teaching. It dismisses the Word of God (written) in favor of the Living Word of God, which is NEVER done by God.

      I agree with what you say about Paul. But the problem is, Paul also wrote a large percentage of the New Testament, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, so you cannot just ignore the rest of the Scriptures.

      We are able, because of the indwelling Holy Spirit, IF we have been truly born again, to understand the written Word of God. What kind of God would give us a written revelation of Himself that we couldn’t understand? I’m not talking about being under the Mosaic Law. I’m not saying to live by the traditions of men. I’m saying live by every word that proceeds from the Mouth of God….His Word.

      If you are suggesting that we get direct, special revelation, direct to us, apart from the Word of God then you are back into paganism and that is not the teaching of the written Word of God and that is NOT revelation from the same Jesus Christ of the Bible.

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  8. I’m fairly new to this site, and this is my first time commenting, so forgive me if linking to something I once wrote comes across as spammy. I only know the author through Google Plus, therefore I don’t know any of you personally to make assumptions about your salvation, view of Scriptures, etc…

    I have read very Scripture-rich posts on this site, but yet of course when I was reading this one I had a lump in my throat when I read the line about not reading the Bible. But I thought as I continued to read it in context he was saying to not read it exclusively as an instruction manual.

    Cheryl, let me ask you this. Through salvation in Christ, was God’s promise to us: a written a book, or the Holy Spirit? Are we to have a personal relationship with God, do we obtain than only from reading a book, or personally interacting with him?

    In the meantime, before you assume I’m denigrating reading the Scriptures, I encourage a quick read of these two posts, but specifically just the first one.

    http://www.fireonyourhead.org/2011/07/07/what-is-the-word-of-god/
    http://www.fireonyourhead.org/2008/10/20/the-spirit-of-truth/

    Otherwise, I thought this was a very refreshing and good post!

    Blessings and fire on your head,

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    1. Thanks for the comment, brother.

      I had a funny filling some were going to gasp a little when I said that about refraining from bible reading (if needed) for a time. 🙂

      Thanks for sharing the links

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  9. Cheryl, it seems that you are seeing things through a filter here. I shared with you in length concerning Christ in you the hope of glory, and how we have to first have the Living Word to understand and know the written Word of God. You agreed, and I know that Michael would too agree with this, since I do know him and understand where he is coming from, how he is living and practically walking out his salvation with fear and trembling.
    About your most recent comments about why God would give us a written word that we cannot understand, then I might urge you to read Paul’s letter to the Colossians in it’s entirety. Paul here is unveiling the mystery of Christ, who was hidden in types and shadows of the old testament and its law, and then revealed through the person of Jesus Christ. Paul shared about Christ in a way many who lived among Jesus did not know Him. He did not get this from a book, but from the Holy Spirit. And yes, he wrote most of the new testament, not as an instruction manual alone, but his words pointed towards knowing the indwelling Christ. I did not say that we needed extra bibical revelation outside of the Word, but that the written Word, the logos, was never itself the only way to learn of and know Christ, if it was then the new covenant would have never been needed to be established where God had put His law in the heart, and not the old testament law, but Christ who is the law of liberty, the law of eternal life in Himself.
    What you are sharing seems to come from a perception where we need the written Word only and any mentioning of knowing the person of Christ inwardly, is some form of paganism. Let us remember that Gideon, in the o.t., had done many things right, but he did one thing that caused God’s people to be carried away in religious idolatry and that was to construct a golden ephod in which all people could worship. Today, that worship still goes on, when we turn to a teacher to give us the word, when it is the Holy Spirit who teaches us all things, and where Christ said to call no one teacher. This is not to count out the gift of teaching (Eph. 4:11-12) that is such a blessing in the body, it is to say that we no longer need to turn to a man who will give us a word, and no longer need to worship the bible and man’s own interpretations of it, always resulting from a system of clergy/laity where man assumes a title to teach the illiterate, and immature. If we still think this, then we are lined up at the golden ephod waiting for the man to use the two stones to summon up a word for us when we need to learn to live by the indwelling of Christ, who is the Teacher, and learn to live by the Holy Spirit with understanding and knowledge that comes from Him. It is He who teaches us as we follow Him. A truly Spiritual community that lives by the indwelling of Christ and which shares His Life together clings to the written word, and the Living Word within. Michael lives in such a community, and I encourage you to ask him about it or to visit it to see for yourself before you judge it that they are a people who do not follow the written word, just because the religious system is not in place, and the golden ephod has been torn down.

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  10. Wonderful post Brother! As one who has detoxed in every sense of the word, I agree with the similarities. As each cell is being stripped of the toxins stored within, each facet of my being is dying as Christ within is revealed.
    Also, reguarding reading the Word(which I do everyday, by the way) I am reminded of Milt Rodriguez when he talked about the amusement park… A family gets ready to go to Disney World. They plan for it, save for it, and finally the day arrives and they pack up the car and begin the drive. After a day in the car, stopping at rest stops, talking about all the things they are going to do and see at Disney, they see a billboard. The billboard says “Disney World in 25 miles.” The family pulls over gets out and celebrates getting to Disney World at the sign that pointed to the actual park.
    The sign was important. Signs get us places, but they are not the destination, they point us to the destination. The Bible is one way for us to know Christ, but the Bible is a book. Christ actually lives in us and in others. He is living and His home is in us, not in a book.
    Thanks or the insightful pos!

    Like

  11. In Response to Cheryl,
    John 5:39″You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me,”
    Question? : Can you know your Lord apart from brothers and sisters?
    You said “Your suggestion that those coming out of the church rely on brothers and sisters is another example of your low view of God’s Word.” -Interesting thought. In my opinion the word is Jesus Christ, he is the head right? So the body (brothers and sisters) cannot be seperate from the head correct?
    -You also made the point of being biblically literate. Are we saved by knowledge? Ofcourse every believer is called to function. And the bible is the largest compass pointing to Christ. literate is the term that gets me. He chose unedjucated fisherman. You obviously know alot of scripture, but are you aware of the context? You said you agreed with Michael about the instituional church, to agree on one term than not on the other seems if you will, “itchy of the ear” to me. You are my sister regardless please take these matters to prayer before our Lord.

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    1. Nathan.

      The John 5:39 passage you quote was part of a passage where Jesus was rebuking the Pharisees and other hypocritical Jewish leaders who put much stock on their knowledge of the scriptures, TO THE EXCLUSION of having a personal relationship and ultimately refusing to recognize that Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah. It was a condemnation of their pride in their knowledge which instead of leading them to Christ kept them from coming to them.

      The knowledge of scripture that I am referring to is that which is the spiritual food we need for our spiritual health, that gives us discernment so that we aren’t led astray by those who would seek to draw us away from the One True God. This is not to be confused with the scriptures that exhort us to read, memorize, and meditate on scripture.

      I’m not sure what it has to do with your question.

      I’m sorry, but the analogy about Jesus being the Word (which I agree with but also the Bible/Scriptures are the that there is a written word (2 Tim. 3:16…what about that scripture?) wasn’t making sense but on closer look are you referring to the “Body” of Christ actually being the “Church,” not the buildings or the institutional settings that we commonly associate with being church? If that is what you mean, then I absolutely agree.

      I’m sorry my point wasn’t clear. There are many false religions and false teachers teaching heresies these days. Many of them are false because they have gotten totally away from the doctrines taught in the Scriptures. The Scriptures contain God’s Truth. Jesus prayed to His Father, in John 17:17 “Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.” Do you take issue with what Jesus said?

      He was not speaking of Himself in the third person in 17:17 He says in 17:19 that “I sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth.” He is speak here in the first person. It doesn’t make any sense that he would be speaking of himself as “truth” in 17:17. He is speaking of the Scriptures, those divinely inspired by God.

      If what a brother or sister says is biblical, then fine. But, if it is not, then that is when you might have the blind leading the blind. Jesus, Himself, speaking to Satan who was tempting Jesus after He had been fasting for 40 days, that “MAN SHALL NOT LIVE ON BREAD ALONE, BUT ON EVERY WORD THAT PROCEEDS OUT OF THE MOUTH OF GOD.” I believe it was in all caps in my NASB version because Jesus was quoting from the Old Testament. Deuteronomy 8:3.

      Jesus being the Head therefore he is the only Word of God simply isn’t logical. Is there a scripture that supports that?

      We are not saved by our biblical knowledge. We are saved by God through Jesus Christ. But, the bible clearly teaches we are to meditate daily on the Word, it is our spiritual bread, it is a light to our path, etc., etc., I have quoted many scriptures in the other posts that suggest the value of the Word of God, the written Word of God. One of the key indicators of heresy and cultic teaching is that the authority of God’s Word is questioned and even diminished as I see here.

      I’m not sure which context you are referring to, regarding which scripture I quoted that you had a question about whether I knew the context. I try to not proof-text, recognizing the propensity for many to simply quote what they believe supports their position, as I believe you did with the John 5:39 scripture because it has nothing to do with what believers’ relationship to God’s Word should be.

      I fail to see the contradiction. I believe the biblical model for the way the church gathers to be the most scriptural way. The fact that I do not follow the current heresy that denies the authority of the Scriptures has nothing to do with the biblical model of N.T. gatherings.

      In fact, it seems to me to be hypocrisy when folks pick and choose what they want out of the Scriptures but then, on the basis of something else, not sure what, they deny the authority of the Scriptures for the rest that they don’t want to follow. Christ in me, the hope of Glory, does not mean that Jesus Christ lives in me in any form but by His Holy Spirit.

      Many want to insist that believers make up the Body of Christ, with Jesus as the Head, but feel free to deny many other parts of Scripture. You can’t have it both ways…or actually you can…it’s called heresy.

      Like

      1. Cheryl,
        I see where you are coming from and I see your passion. I share your passion and your concern for what we are seeing today. (I am not going to elaborate because you have done that already). There are times that we have such deep concern especially when seeing trends that we read our concerns into what is being written even if that is not the intention of the author.
        I would have preferred you requested fuller explanation of your deep felt concerns rather than be quick to throw a fellow member of Christ under the bus and accusing him of being something you are simply perceiving based on your current reading of what was written. I personally know Michael and if you sat down with him and heard his heart and see where he is standing you would find that there is an agreement between you. I know we certainly don’t find the attitude and accusatory nature that was displayed as a reaction to this post in your original comment in the scriptures. However, I want to give you the benefit by trying to see where your heart is in all this and realize you are not trying to set yourself up above another brother accusing him of something you may very well have misunderstood by reading your concern into what he wrote based on current trends you see.

        Saying all that I am a lover of scripture (not an idolizer) because it shows me and points me to Christ. In fact unless the spirit inspires it or makes it alive to me then it will remain a dead letter. I have gone through the almost identical experience described in this blog post. For me I did stop reading the scripture (although daily in my heart and mind) for a period of time not because I no longer needed it but because the Lord was dealing with a few things in me. One was the legalistic approach I took in reading my bible and how I felt more closer to God, more righteous when I did read it. Subtly this was putting some trust in my own effort and actions rather than the Lord. Also, in approaching the scriptures I had several filters I was reading it through that was keeping me from seeing the full intent and heart of the Lord while reading it. This is all to common depending on what our filter is when we read the scripture we see through that. The hope in taking a break and what happened for me as well as others I know is that as I began to see Christ in all things that He became my filter and now when I approach the scriptures it is to know Him in a deeper way instead of trying to find out how I can be more like Him although He shows me that too. It is a very subtle difference and if you would have asked me prior I would not have agreed with myself now. I would of thought that I was trusting the Lord fully. But the Lord has a gracious way of peeling back the layers of self effort and self righteousness for the sole purpose of clearing a path for us to know Him fully, truly without ourselves getting in the way as much. I mean our hearts desire is to know Him right? and the Lord is continually clearing the path for us to know Him more fully.

        Since I know Michael I have more of an advantage in knowing exactly where he is coming from in writing this post. I happen to know his desire is to clear a path for others to know the Lord more deeply. You never know he may have already had a post in his que on ways to know the Lord more deeply through scripture. 🙂

        Love in Christ,
        Seth

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      2. Michael,

        after reading Cheryl’s comment here, I would like to offer you this encouragement that was said by a great brother in the Lord. Here is what he said:

        “I am fully convinced in the things the Lord has shown me and I refuse to compromise in order to satisfy someone else’s religiosity.”

        I think this statement applies here. Keep pressing on brother!

        Like

  12. Thanks Michael for the post. You experiences are an encouragement to those who are going through the same things. 🙂

    I wanted share my thoughts with the ongoing discussion in the comments. The Scriptures and our experiences are both important. Some emphasize the Scriptures, others emphasize their experiences. Neither view is wrong. We all have a portion of Christ and together we have the mind of Christ. We shouldn’t try to make other Christians like ourselves, but we should appreciate them for who they are in Christ. So we see things differently…who cares? We love the same Christ. This is not an issue that should divide us, but should lead us to come together so that we can see the fullness of Christ.

    On another note, we should also understand that each of us is in a different place and we should encourage each other, rather than tearing each other down. My beliefs surely aren’t the same as they were a few years ago, and it is likely that none of yours are either.

    Let’s bear one another in love.

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  13. great post brother, Christ dwells richly in you brother, may the Living Word of God continue to express Himself through you to the building up of the His body.

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  14. Thanks for this write-up, Brother. What you’re trying to do is palce legalism against simple faith in Christ. But you’ve got to realize two things. First, it takes a very mature mind to understand what you’re saying. On the other hand is that person who can identify by past experience. I’ll say you need to explain your points more for people who do not fall into any of the two categories to grasp your message. Of course, some never will… Doesn’t mean you should give up because I assure you, some are benefitting!!!

    Like

    1. Thank you for the kind words.

      I’ll be the first to admit, that I don’t always explain my points too thoroughly. I’m usually trying to keep my posts short enough to read in one sitting without losing the main points. But sometimes that’s hard to do.

      Like

  15. Great post Michael! Having been through detox of both types myself also, I can totally relate. I am amazed at the wisdom and knowing of Christ you have for one so young and in Christ for such a short period of time. It’s as if your soul and spirit just soaked it all in in the wink of an eye! I know you are still on your journey, as we all are, but you do impress with your understanding and wisdom, which I know is from Father and not yourself! Keep it up! You did not deserve in any way that attack. I stand with you brother!

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  16. Michael, my brother, superbly written! Thank you so much for sharing Christ in you with all of us. May the Word of God Himself continue to speak in and through you, Michael. I look forward to your next post!

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  17. Hi

    I too was an addict many years ago. I was not in a rehab, and I think I paid dearly for that over the years (ha ha ha).
    Good analogy, and good post….. I think we are all in the relearning phase…

    Like

    1. Oh, I feel for ya. Rehab has it’s goods and bads, so you didn’t miss out on too much lol.

      And yes, so true. We are always learning and having to relearn. This never ends and if we think it has ended, we need to reavaluate our walk with Christ.

      Thanks for the comment.

      Like

  18. Brother, WOW! You hit the nail on the head. You needed to write this article. That’s all I can say. I pray that all who are on the journey out of the institutional system (and even those who are gathering out of the ‘system’) will read what you have written here!

    I love you greatly bro!!! (For real!)

    Like

    1. Love the feel and the texture of your writing. Your an awesome writer. I can tell that you intent is pure and that you love God. I def. understand where you are coming from even though I do not agree with everything that was written I appreciate your stance. BUT..See here is the thing.. I read the initial post and all of the subsequent replies. This lead to Cheryl’s post and all the defense for Michael..the talk about not knowing him or the community that he is a part of or his heart. I haven’t read any other blog besides this one and I do not know one person that has posted here nor do you know me. That is where things get tricky. This blog isn’t private, it is open to the entire world to read (cause I def. don’t know any of you) so right now, in this blog at the moment it is being read, Michael you are indeed operating in the role of teacher and with that comes responsibility. I guess I am piggy backing on what Femi said, I encourage you to be thorough (while still keeping in the spirit of a blog) as possible. Considering the audience it does seem to me to suggest that cutting off prayer (simply communicating with your Heavenly Father) so that one may detox is dangerous..again considering the audience, without further explanation.

      As for Cheryl’s responses… she made some EXTREMELY biblically sound points that definitely should be a part of ongoing discussions as believers make the journey from the institutional church into the world. While I am not in agreement with the statement made in reference to Michael being a false teacher ect. This statement sort of sums it up “Many want to insist that believers make up the Body of Christ, with Jesus as the Head, but feel free to deny many other parts of Scripture. You can’t have it both ways…or actually you can…it’s called heresy.” – Cheryl Caster. While, I know it has already been well established that was not Michael’s intent. It IS a symptom that is running rampant in people withdrawing from the institutional church. Many of us begin to “throw the baby out with the bath water”. Everything becomes about not being like the place that we are leaving..shedding all the “dead weight”, healing from “church” hurt, not being like them…with such a focus on the importance of getting back to the original “model”, that we leave chunks of the Word behind. Sometimes when one is detoxing from one form of legalism they just fall into another form that is just as toxic…leaving them just as bound. Again this is another discussion entirely but most of the post regarding Cheryl’s post where about her misunderstanding Michael. I think what she said is something that really really needs to be considered within the Body…I do. The institutional church does it..that is obvious..but it is running rampant on the other side as well. Using the Word as if it were a buffet..take this leave that..it is an issue..to our detriment.

      Love you all! Great discussion. Glad I stumbled across it.

      Like

      1. Nicole,

        I agree with you. There certainly is a common thread moving throughout the body of Christ right now. It’s two major things really. One is the complete disregard to Scripture. This is dangerous because we know that all Scripture is God-breathed and useful. BUT, it’s not to replace God. The other which is equally as dangerous, if not more, is denying the Triune nature of God. Basically some groups begin to make Jesus out to be just a man or a prophet…not God incarnate.

        Thanks for your comments.

        Like

  19. Another user (Jamal Jivanjee, author of The Illuminate Blog) on Google+ shared this post and that’s how I arrived at your blog.

    I thought I would share how much I resonated with the ideas and journey you expressed here. Without going into too much detail, my husband and I were heavily involved in Christian apologetics, until we read the book ‘Kingdom Triangle’ by one of our favorite modern-day Christian thinkers, J.P. Moreland. In Moreland’s book, he introduced us to the more “charismatic” realm of Christianity. That was in 2008, and since that time we’ve come full circle on so many things… Initially you couldn’t get us out of an institutionalized church fast enough. For various reasons we had become bitter towards “the system”, and left with some friends to begin an organic church. But I am now in agreement with you, that God is still using the institutionalized church in many ways. So rather than demonizing fellow brothers and sisters, we love them where they’re at. We’re all on a journey of growing with Jesus together, and it’s none of my concern to judge them on what God may have not revealed to their heart.

    We have recently moved to a new location where there it is difficult to find organic churches, so for the time we’re plugging into a “regular” church… We wouldn’t have even entertained that thought two years ago, but as I said, we’ve come full circle and realized that God’s grace is more than sufficient in all things. This is just a season, or maybe not. Everything is an adventure with God!

    Also, I wanted to thank you for taking the time to point out that our spiritual health and relationship with God is not dependent on an emotion or feeling. I think your personal experience with substance abuse is an incredibly relevant example to use in that regard. Unfortunately, sometimes when we move on from one teaching to another, we throw the baby out with the bath water… So not neglecting one of the more helpful concepts we learned while studying Christian philosophy and apologetics: When something is true that means it is absolute, universal and concrete. Jesus called himself the Truth. He said that he would never leave us or forsake us. He said he would come to live inside of us and that if we abided in him, he would abide in us. That’s truth – it’s true in all instances at all times, independent of our preferences, feelings or opinions. Thank you Jesus!! Truth is good!!! Haha. I feel like in Braveheart when Mel Gibson yells: “”Freeeeeeedoooommmmmm!!!”

    (And by the way, I don’t consider emotions to be bad – haha, I am a woman afterall. But I do know what it feels like to be in subjection to them and I would much rather Jesus be Lord over me than my emotions.)

    Lastly, if anyone else reads this comment, I also HIGHLY recommend reading ‘The Normal Christian Life’ by Watchman Nee. I consider it one of the most influential books I have read on healthy spiritual identity within Christ and His Body. I’d also make an additional recommendation for the book ‘The Lost Virtue of Happiness’ by J.P. Moreland & Klaus Issler’. It’s phenomenal reading for how to think about happiness and contentment in the midst of a instant gratification culture (might be good for those of us fighting to rule our emotions rather than having our emotions rule us.)

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    1. Ashley,

      Thanks for your Braveheart comment :).

      Yes, many leave the IC and throw out EVERYTHING including the foundations of our faith. I do not endorse such behavior, nor do I even suggest that no one should ever read their Bibles. But in SOME circumstances, it is needed in order to get to know God better instead of just reading about Him.

      The Normal Christian Life is my all-time favorite book. Thanks for commenting

      Like

  20. Michael,

    after reading some of the comments here on this thread, I would like to offer you this encouragement that was said by a great brother in the Lord. Here is what he said:

    “I am fully convinced in the things the Lord has shown me and I refuse to compromise in order to satisfy someone else’s religiosity.”

    I think this statement applies here. Keep pressing on brother!

    Like

  21. I know I am confused at times. I have suffered a great deal at the hands of the church. When I was a kid, my father became a mormon and … Later I went through drugs and sleeping around. I was hurt countless times. When I met Jesus and became a Christian, it took only few weeks for the other Christians to reject me because I had demons and needed help but no one would come close… I finally found some good samaritains in another church who cared enough to help me fast and pray… Over the years, as I was very different from the crowd, I got rejected and ignored again and again. I kept on crying over the years because I wanted the church of the book of Acts, not the present one. I was seen as a strange bird with no ness…. I have been in many churches, looking for that true fellowship and spirit sharing. I wanted to die to myself but was told that I was too hard on myself and condamning others at the same time. I needed guidance and acceptance, which I never had since I was born. No where to be found… I think that in the church in general there is no love. I don’t know how to find it, how to receive it, how to give it, how to indentify it. Humans are good at promising love but are forgetting who they promised,,, if you see what I mean. I have recently decided to get out of the church. I am broken and tired. I want to know who Jesus is for real. I want his voice, not the pastor’s. I know I have a great deal of guilt because I don’t evangelize, I live for myself, I don’t talk to my neighboors about The Lord…… and the list goes on. But I know I have not yet discovered my true saviour, the One who lives in me. I still have difficulty fantoming that He would live in such a thing as me. I think all this past rejection has made me more ugly in my own eyes than I really am. But I know that Christ is merciful and forgives me for my lack of light and understanding. Please may someone pray for me as I feel so very little and unable. I want this guilt to leave me and never come back as I want to walk in the peace garden of my Lord and Lover. I know I need a big detox and I trust He will do it. Since I got saved some twenty three years ago, He delivered me from few demons. He healed me from tobacco, cancer of thyroid, healed me from a grave showlder injury, healed me from co-dependancy and on top of everything, He loves me. That is alot!

    Thank you Brother for telling your story, I can see myself in it and know there is hope and light at the end of this dark tunnel. Blessings to you. I know you thank God for all the great things He gave you after you went through so much. God bless you more and more.

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  22. Sister,

    I can testify that their is love in the Body of Christ. It breaks my heart to hear that. But please know, even though I disagree with the IC’s practice, that not ALL IC’s are like that. I’ve seen some good ones full of love.

    Can I email you?

    Like

  23. Cheryl, u mad bro?

    Sick read Youngster, I look forward to scouring your blog for more juicy nuggets over the next couple months. Keep the love flowing!

    Like

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