Do you ever get confused about your freedom in Christ? Or wonder what exactly that means? How can people worship the same God with such different rules? Some Christians seem to live by very few rules at all while others adhere strictly to standards of behavior and appearance.
I love memoirs, and often read ones I'm not even sure I'm interested in because people's stories fascinate me. Earlier this year, I read one about a woman who had spent most of her life under strict religious rules and regulations. It was eye-opening to learn what she'd endured, all in the name of God. As an adult, the pressure became too great. She exploded like a volcano, leaving and going in the opposite direction entirely. The book made me very sad (and frankly, disgusted enough that I skipped much of the second half and won't name it here). Her conclusions about God were that if He does exist, she isn't interested in serving Him because for her that meant the total surrender of her femininity, love for music, education, and basically all joy. She likened her experience there to being brainwashed.
This book came on the heels of a disturbing documentary about Warren Jeffs, who manipulated the concept that suffering draws us closer to the Lord. Brainwashing his followers into silently accepting whatever abusive idea he had that day, he thoroughly controlled them in the name of God. Women, in particular, were subjugated to slavery in this cruel world in which men who supported Jeffs were given multiple child brides (often their first cousins or nieces). Some of the women finally asked themselves, "Are you brainwashed?", realized they were, and got out. It was very difficult, though.
Becoming Free Indeed is a Duggar memoir (19 Kids and Counting) about the extremely disturbing teachings of Bill Gothard. Gothard's teachings were everywhere in the general church culture when I was a child. He took basic Christian principles and perverted them, so people were drawn in by what sounded good at the beginning. When she asked herself, "Are you brainwashed?", the answer was yes. It's taken her years to disentangle the truth of God's words from the manipulative lies she was taught.
The perversion of some basic Christian principles by those who desire to control and manipulate others leads to all kinds of evil - in the name of God. Women in these cults are often taught to be entirely submissive to men. To disobey whatever their husband, father, or pastor says is to disobey God. Since women aren't taught to study Scripture for themselves, they might not realize what they're told to do is a violation or manipulation of Scripture. This kind of power can leave women as little more than sexual slaves whose purpose in life is to accommodate their husbands. They aren't educated or taught basic life skills like how to manage money, and they're often kept in poverty while they produce as many babies as their body can handle. Babies are the highest priority and the health of the mother is negligible beyond her ability to produce more children in the future.
As I thought about everything I read, I found myself pondering the question, "Are you brainwashed?"
I brought it to the Lord in prayer. Here's what He told me:
"In Christ, you are FREE. Free from condemnation, slavery, legalism, and eternal damnation. FREE! If you're faith gives you freedom to follow Me with your whole heart, you are not brainwashed."
As a Christian, I put on Christ as if I'm putting on a garment. In Galatians 3:27-29 we read, "And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes. There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus. And now that you belong to Christ, you are the true children of Abraham. You are his heirs, and God’s promise to Abraham belongs to you."
The entire book of Galatians reinforces this concept, especially chapter three as a whole.
Christ completely covers me. In Acts 2, quoting the Old Testament book of Joel, that says,
"No, what you see was predicted long ago by the prophet Joel:
‘In the last days,’ God says, ‘I will pour out my Spirit upon all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your young men will see visions, and your old men will dream dreams. In those days I will pour out my Spirit even on my servants—men and women alike— and they will prophesy."
Does my faith make me a slave or grant me freedom? As a woman who serves the Lord, I'm free to study, write, teach, serve, and minister the gospel to the world. I'm also free to work outside the home or in the home (or both). I'm free to have children or not, to marry or not, and to be educated or not. I'm free from bondage to sin by the power of the Holy Spirit living inside me. I have assurance of salvation that has nothing to do with my works. The laws I follow give me life! Jesus' death on the cross paid the price for all my sin - past, present, and future - and I don't live in fear.
God's love is unconditional and free, and He gives us the freedom to make choices.
I'm thankful God gave me a father who taught me to study the Bible for myself, gave me opportunities to lead in the church, and cheers me on as I minister. I'm thankful for a husband who believes so strongly in my calling that he refuses to join a church that doesn't allow women the freedom to speak as God directs them.
If you aren't living in that kind of freedom, study the book of Galatians. Compare it to the other things Paul wrote. Consider all the other rules Paul lays out in his writings, especially ones that we no longer follow in modern times. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide your thoughts and give you wisdom. I believe so strongly in this freedom that we named our oldest son Charlie, which means "free man."
For whom the Son has set free is free indeed (John 8:36).
Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage (Galatians 5:1).
But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law (Galatians 5:18-23).
If the version of Christianity you've been under doesn't give you freedom to study the Bible, pray freely to the Savior, and work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, then it isn't following the basic principle of Christ's message. If it's adding rules and regulations that aren't in Scripture, or it it's enforcing a list of cultural rules that they pick and choose from, you can ask God to convict your heart of what's important to Him. It can be hard to disentangle ourselves from the way we were taught to believe, but when we study the Bible for ourselves, God shows us His truth. That's why there's nothing more dangerous than education to those who would manipulate the truth to suit their own agenda.
Don't be brainwashed. Become dangerous.
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