Challenging Orthodoxy

February 13, 2011

Neosho, MO

“For he rescued us from the power of darkness, and reestablished us in the kingdom of his beloved Son” (Col. 1:13, Phillips).

This subject has been rumbling around in my heart for a few weeks now, brought into focus by the historic upheaval happening before our eyes in Egypt.  Thousands upon thousands of mostly young people gathered in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, have succeeded in obtaining the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak.  Thanks to Facebook and Twitter (I’m no fan of either of them, but I will admit in this case, they played a part in the Egyptian people being able to plan their gatherings), the protesters organized and have hung in there, voicing their outrage against the dictator’s oppression until he finally stepped down.

As I was watching it unfold, I wondered how long it took King George of England to learn that the American Colonies were in revolt against his rule.  There was no telephone, no telegraph, no Internet, no way to communicate except sailing in a wooden ship across the Atlantic to report that the colonial upstarts had dumped a whole ship load of tea into Boston Harbor.  Add to that the time it took for him to react, and you have what looks to us like a slow motion revolution compared to the one going on in Egypt right now.

God is shaking the whole world, with the purpose that only that which cannot be shaken will remain (Heb. 12:27).  Hosni Mubarak represents political orthodoxy in Egypt.  He has ruled with an iron fist for 30 years now, which is what orthodoxy always does, be it in secular or religious situations.  Revolutions therefore, follow autocratic rule like morning follows midnight.

This principle was as true in scriptural times as it is in today’s world.  Moses was a superb, though reluctant revolutionary leader, delivering the children of Israel from Pharaoh’s iron fist and leading them into the promised land. Jesus came, as prophesied, birthed in flesh and blood to overturn the finest religious system the world had ever seen.   He gave His life to accomplish the radical changes needed to bring men and women into full fellowship with God.

The Apostle Paul had the zeal and knowledge, the passion and strength to bring the “Way” to the Gentiles.  It cost him his life, as well, but thanks to the writings he penned by the power of the Spirit, we have a guide book of spiritual principles that help us navigate The Glory Road which takes us home to God.

Each of these heroes of faith went up against orthodoxy, tradition and tyrants.  Each of them had caught the larger vision of freedom from tyranny and autocratic rule, believing that escape from spiritual or political dogmatism would provide the freedom to worship God however they were led.

Our Pilgrim fathers braved the storms of the Atlantic in creaky old sailing ships to come to America where they believed they would be free to worship God as they believed He should be worshipped. Fleeing England to escape the persecution they had suffered there, they flourished in the new world, and as happens so many times, they became the very thing they had sought to escape: persecutors of those who didn’t agree with their religious ideas.

The Apostle Paul was miraculously, dramatically, and completely delivered from orthodox Judaism, from bondage to Law. He spent the rest of his life bringing the freedom he had found in Christ to a pagan world enslaved by superstition, blood thirsty gods and goddesses, and cruelty.  He paid the ultimate price for his efforts, making his advice to the Galatian brethren poignant and powerful for us today: “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand fast therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (Gal. 5:1).   For all his heroic and productive efforts, it wasn’t long before the yoke of slavery was pressed on the necks of the followers of Christ.  The Catholic Church took charge of every man’s religious beliefs and actions, torturing and burning at the stake during the Inquisition, those they considered dangerous to orthodox thought.

Martin Luther was given the Spiritual insight and the passion to become a theological revolutionary. He risked death by fire to nail his radical Ninety-Five Theses to the cathedral door in Wittenberg, October 31, 1517; it began the process of breaking the Catholic Church’s hold on the lives of its parishioners.

Protestants, as they were called (protesters to Catholic dogma) soon established their own inviolate doctrines, and as is ever the case, began to shun or disfellowship any poor soul who dared to question their authority.

Orthodoxy (authorized doctrine) depends upon maintaining the status quo, keeping things the way they were in our forefather’s time. While church fellowship is often sweet and very supportive, beware rocking the boat. Many of us have discovered that challenging religious orthodoxy carries with it a steep price.  Those of us who have dared to do it have often forfeited the emotional support of family and friends and some have paid a dearer price than that.

It is easier to “go along to get along,” than it is to question, or challenge the powers that be, whether it be government suppression that the young people of Egypt are trying to break, or church authority.  Those of us who have opened our mouths and given testimony of the hope which is in us, have felt the disdain and condemnation of our sanctimonious brethren.

When we first began the Internet ministry, we had many strong admonitions to abandon the folly of believing in God’s ultimate reconciliation of all, and I remember telling one man that for me to go back to the belief that God would punish unbelievers in an eternal burning hell, would for me, be like the dog eating his own vomit, and the washed sow returning to wallow in the mire (II Pet. 2:22).

God uses revolutions, challenges to orthodoxy, and all disasters to shake everyone on the planet. He is freeing us from our traditions, our superstitions, our fears and our oppressors.  It is exciting that the young people in Egypt are saying  to their oppressors, “Enough is enough.” One man we saw told a CNN reporter, “Give me liberty or give me death.” That quote was made famous by Patrick Henry on March 3, 1775. He was speaking to the Virginia House of Burgesses and his speech was credited with securing their participation in the upcoming war with England. Here’s the end of his address, which is both thrilling and inspiring:

“Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace; but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the North will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!” End Quote.

Is freedom worth dying for?  Jesus thought so as did Paul, and many, many other disciples as well.  Our forefathers secured our freedom from the English Crown with their own blood.  The question simply is, Who is qualified to govern our lives? To Whom do we owe our allegiance, our abilities and our future?  Only the Lord Jesus Christ meets that criteria. There is freedom in Him alone.

It helps us to endure the shaking we see everywhere around us to remember the Hebrew writer’s words:  “Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.  The words “once more” indicate the removing of what can be shaken, that is, created things, so that what cannot be shaken may remain.  Therefore, SINCE WE ARE RECEIVING A KINGDOM THAT CANNOT BE SHAKEN, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptable with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire” (Heb. 12:26b-29).

Father, we thank you for opening our eyes to see Your kingdom everywhere around us as we fellowship with the King of kings and Lord of lords. You alone have the rule and sovereignty over our lives.  Glory and honor and power and all praise be to Your name, now and forever. Amen.

Jan Antonsson

Lenny and Jan Antonsson

17178 Highway 59, Neosho, MO 64850 (Snail Mail)

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