Search This Blog

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Are You Really A True Follower Of Christ or Simply "Religious"?

You may have met a woman like her; or you may be related to her; or possibly, you could even be her!

You know the type:

- She goes to church every Sunday, or even every day.
- She prays the rosary daily (if Catholic).
- She reads the Bible daily (if non-Catholic ;) ).
- She does charitable and outreach works.
- She tithes her earnings.
- She serves the church in whatever capacity, regularly.
- She is active in religious ministries.
- etc...

From the outset - Very "religious".Very "godly". Very "Christian"!

And yet, despite her numerous religious activities and acts of piety, she and her life are still untransformed, in the amazing way somebody touched by Jesus' Love and Mercy should be. She is still sad, worried, bitter, judgmental, easily frustrated... and her face and countenance depict what is in her heart despite what she professes otherwise.

She looks quite forlorn, as though this God that she served did nothing but make her joyless and defeated,
 instead of joyful and saved! 

From the inside looking out, maybe "something" really is missing...

Maybe the problem is at the very heart of the matter. Maybe the problem is that amidst all the religious stuff, Christ Himself is not there. Maybe she has become so busy with the celebration, she has forgotten the Celebrant. Maybe she  has forgotten why or what she was celebrating in the first place!

I know about her, because for many years of my life, I was her.
I write on this topic, still because of the very controversial book of Debi Pearl, entitled: 
"Created to Be His Help Meet". (It's that type of book. You cannot not have an opinion on it!)

A few days back I wrote about the THREE TYPES OF MEN, as per Ms. Debi Pearl's very wise categorization: Mr. Command Man, Mr. Visionary Man and Mr. Steady Man. I found out that my husband was a Mr. Steady through and through with a dash of Mr. Visionary for good measure. :)

Then, I wrote a Book Review on this highly controversial book written by its even more controversial author, and gave out my recommendations on whether or not to buy or to peruse the book.

Today, I will delve on a highly debatable matter discussed in her book, that stirred quite a discussion in my mentor's, April Cassidy's The Peaceful Wife's blog, when she featured my review yesterday (Note: Wednesdays are usually Peacefulwife Philippines days in Peaceful Wife, unless otherwise bumped off for more pertinent posts.) 

The topic involved not going to church in order to witness to
 an unbelieving husband.

This was the highly contested Q & A portion between Ms. Pearl and a letter-sender. 
It can be found on page 208, in the CTBHHM book.


My Husband Doesn ’t Want Me to Go to Church

Dear Debi,
 My husband says I can ’t go to church in the evening any more. I feel if I do not have this sweet time of fellowship , I will not be able to continue to walk faithfully before God. God s’ Word says not to forsake the assembling of yourselves together, so it would be direct violation of Gods’ Word to not go. My husband told me to write and ask you. 
Her answer was:
Dear Carla,

It is common for unsaved or discouraged husbands to forbid their wives from going to church. In almost all cases, the husband’s objections are not based on a desire to prevent her from worshiping God. Rather, he views her affiliation with the church as a second lover, maybe the preferred lover, and himself as a jilted spouse. He is jealous. He is unfulfilled as a husband and believes that the church is somehow getting your first love. Now, a wife with no wisdom might take satisfaction in his jealousy, thinking of herself as putting God first, but true worship of God is never neglectful of relationships. Loving God and serving him should make you a more attentive wife, a better lover to your husband.The bottom line is that, if your husband does not want you to go to church, then stay home and paint the house with him. Go fishing or shopping, whatever he wants to do, and make sure you are having fun. To obey him with disappointment and reluctance is not obedience; it is revenge.

* * * * * * * * *
Most of the reactions in the netosphere and blogosphere considered this bit of advice by Ms. Pearl as 'heretic', 'unChristian', and outright 'unbiblical'!

But, when it was discussed within the Peaceful Wife community, I got (pleasantly) surprised and despite myself, enlightened, by the different perspectives of those who considered this contestable bit of advice by Ms. Pearl, not only as "not heretical", "not unChristian" and "not unbiblical", but even worthy of being followed.

Says one godly husband whose points of view, we looked up to:

"I’m just going to speak to the example that was given about not going to church.
As a husband, I have asked my wife not to go to church. Whether it was a particular church or a particular bible study. 
Did I not want my wife to worship God? No way. Of course, I wanted her worshiping God. 
But worshiping God does not equal going to a certain service.

This lady does not tell us how many other services she attended throughout the week, nor does she even tell us why her husband doesn’t want her going. It seems to me we are missing about 90% of the story and yet giving the woman the benefit of the doubt and doing the opposite to the husband. And why do we do that? Because she says she wants to go to church. 

But please understand some women make church their idol. Not Christ, but church.

I’ll go out on a limb here and say that I would not want my wife attending about 75% of the churches in our country and then I would not want her attending more than Sunday morning service with the family and at the most one more service throughout the week (and bible studies count).
This husband was not requiring his wife to not worship God by the information we have. Maybe there is more information that would prove that scenario but it is not given in those paragraphs."

A gracious sister in Christ "seconded" this by saying that:

"I so agree with you. 
I have seen too many women neglect their husbands by doing too much in church. I am almost always criticized for speaking out on this.
One example was a woman who complained that she was too tired to have sex with her husband and he should understand. She was on every church committee available and spent most of her time at the church. Other ladies took her side. I did not. 
I think that God requires wives to put their husband’s needs 2nd in their life only to God and church work is not God…in my humble opinion."

April Cassidy, my mentor, "thirded" that opinion with this remark:
'"I have to say that Debi’s advice on this issue is very similar to what I have given to wives. I know that there are absolutely times when a woman can put church before her husband in an unhealthy way – or Christian ministry.
I also have seen wives follow I Peter 3:1-6 and honor their husband about not going to church for a time, or going only when he decides it is best – and the husbands many times have become much more open to hearing God’s voice because of the wife’s willingness to honor the husband’s leadership.

I don’t want any wife to sacrifice her walk with Christ. But – I do think there is room to worship Christ and honor our husbands – even an unbelieving husband – many times. And I have seen God lead believing wives through unbelieving husbands as well as through husbands who are not “close” to God at the time. God is able to direct a husband’s heart to accomplish His will as a wife trusts His sovereignty. If he were asking her to blatantly sin – to have an abortion, to join a cult, to be an accomplice in a crime… then I believe a wife would have to respectfully refuse. 

The example sounded like it was primarily Sunday evening services. not all services that the husband asked the wife to stop attending.
I would personally counsel a wife in this situation, given the information we have in these paragraphs, to cooperate with her husband’s leadership and honor his request and pray for God to give her husband His wisdom about the situation. But then I believe the wife can trust God to lead her through her husband and to work through this situation for His ultimate glory and her and her husband’s ultimate good.

I believe the human heart is capable of making ANYTHING an idol. An idol is something we set our hearts on and put in the place of Christ. I have seen women who make being a godly wife into their idol, or who make respect or submission into an idol, or into something that is legalistic and a measure of “their worth” in God’s sight – which is also not honoring to God. We can absolutely make Christian ministry, church, a Sunday School teacher, a pastor… almost anything, into something we set our hearts on and seek to find our worth, identity and contentment/happiness in instead of Christ."

This particular discussion led me into thinking, (although I do go into introspection a lot on my true motives all the time, since my conversion in September 1, 2013.) just how much of my own service to God was really for God, and how much of it was really for me? 

Do I go to Mass because I am afraid of committing a sin (as the Catholic Church teaches)? Do I go simply out of obligation? Or do I go because I want to pray among my fellow Catholic Christians, who consider the Mass as the highest form of prayer?
Do I blog about God's Design for Marriage to propagate this rich gospel, or to highlight my own life?
Do I serve in the music ministry to glorify God or to showcase my singing prowess?

And so on and so forth...

If it were the old Nikka, a LOT of my religious acts would be just that -- acts. Good things that I could add onto myself to make me appear "holier" than I really was, but which would have still made me feel empty.  

If it were the old me, the pious practices that I did in the past, may have been done, to somehow "buy" God or add  "pogi" points (brownie points) to myself, so that He would have mercy on me or show His Favor on me.

After my conviction though, and knowing now my God-given place in our family, including my list of priorities, even my religious activities move around my ultimate ministry right now -- our home.

Early into my respect and submission journey, I shared with you through three interviews with my husband (1, 2, 3), how my disrespect and controlling behavior led him to almost lose his faith in God.:( I do believe he has regained some of that lost faith, but until I am positively sure, I am still "Petering" him (1 Peter 3:1-5) as my "prescription" for the "unbelieving" husband. I still am very wary not to "turn him off" with my "religiosity" or "newfound faith". Like Debi Pearl's letter sender, I too like going to church. Though I am little by little becoming active again in religious activities, at this point in my life, they are not my priority. I still consider our marriage as my Number 1 ministry right now. But unlike the husband in question, Dong for his part, has never asked me to stop any of the ministries I am engaged in at the moment which involves this blogging ministry for wives and my new music ministry at church. He is very supportive of both.

But, what if it comes to the point that my ministries already get in the way of our marriage? What should I do?  Allow me to share with you an excerpt of April Cassidy's post on:

It is easy for us to put SERVICE to God above actual relationship with God.  Service can never take the place of relationship.  Service blossoms out of our relationship to God, and MUST be accompanied by total obedience to Christ as Lord and to God’s Word – that is the only way for our service to be powered by God’s Spirit and to be effective in His kingdom.

I believe that the Bible teaches our greatest human ministry is to our husbands.  We are to be their helpmeets.  Our husbands are the God-given authority and leaders – even if they aren’t believers.  Our lives are to be oriented towards our husbands.

  • What does HE need?
  • What is HIS calling?
  • What is HIS ministry?
  • What can I do to support HIS vision, HIS priorities, HIS dreams, HIS goals?
  • What is HIS opinion about what is best or what is important?
  • What are HIS feelings about our marriage, our family, our direction and our priorities?
  • What can I do to make sure HE feels respected?  (Not – do I think I am being “respectful enough” by my definition.  Men usually have a MUCH broader view of what respect means than women!)
  • Am I cooperating with his leadership?
  • Am I listening to what he tells me?
  • Am I open to hearing his concerns?
  • Am I a safe place for my husband to share his heart about ANYTHING?
  • Am I making time for my husband and saving enough energy for him to be joyfully available for him emotionally, spiritually, mentally, sexually?
  • Am I off doing my own thing and ignoring my husband’s feelings and needs?

 If your husband is not a believer yet (or he is living in disobedience to God’s Word) – then your biggest ministry and mission in the world is to focus on I Peter 3:1-6 so that God can draw your husband to Himself and your husband might find Christ.  So your respect and cooperation with his leadership will be even MORE critical because if you are disrespectful and controlling, you will help to repel your husband from God and yourself.
God wants you to be His partner – but it has to be His way and on His terms.
That might mean you have to give up some things you really want and like in order to reach your husband.  That is ok!  It’s worth it!  If your husband doesn’t want you at church 20 hours/week or ministering to your hurting girlfriends every night and wants you with your family  -then please hear his heart and leadership and be home with him, ministering respect and submission to him.  THAT is where your power is to influence your husband and to amplify God’s voice for him!

If my husband feels beaten down by me, disrespected, stripped of his leadership position, afraid to tell me his real thoughts about important things, rejected by me (sexually/emotionally/spiritually/mentally), judged by me, condemned by me –  then I am failing as a wife in the eyes of God and of my husband.  I need to do whatever it takes to get this stuff right for the two people who matter most – Jesus first, and my husband second.  No one else’s opinions, goals or plans should come anywhere close to my commitment to God and then to my husband.

If I neglect my husband, and we end up divorcing or there are affairs/infidelity/pornography/addictions/idolatry, bitterness, anger, dysfunction – how can I minister effectively to others?
If I am teaching dozens, hundreds or thousands of women or children – but my husband is in great pain in my marriage, feeling disrespected, unimportant and steamrolled – what real good am I doing in God’s kingdom?  
 Sometimes we count doing lots of ministry as evidence that we are close to God –  or we think God will love us more if we DO lots of things for him.  
Ministry doesn’t necessarily = intimacy with Christ.  
 Serving should be part of being close to God.  But if we are feverishly spending tons of time in ministry and neglecting our RELATIONSHIP with God and with our husbands – we are missing out on what is most important!
And we won’t be operating under God’s power – so all that work we are doing is not effective for God’s kingdom when we do it in our own strength or to try to earn God’s love.  We CAN’T earn God’s love!  He gives it freely as a gift through Jesus!  THANK GOD for that!
If my husband feels beaten down by me, disrespected, stripped of his leadership position, afraid to tell me his real thoughts about important things, rejected by me (sexually/emotionally/spiritually/mentally), judged by me, condemned by me –  then I am failing as a wife in the eyes of God and of my husband.
 I need to do whatever it takes to get this stuff right for the two people who matter most – Jesus first, and my husband second.  No one else’s opinions, goals or plans should come anywhere close to my commitment to God and then to my husband.

 If our husbands ask us to cut back or they are not supportive (or are downright hostile) of our ministry efforts – then I believe we need to STOP and listen to our husbands.  God CAN and WILL speak to us through our husband’s leadership.  If God is calling us to do something, He will give our husbands a heart for it.  If our husbands want us to stop something – it is very likely God closing the door on something that is not His will for us right then.
 If God is calling our husbands to a certain ministry – then He is calling us to support our husbands in their ministry.  Our husband’s calling is primary!  Our  calling must always be in support and secondary, I believe, to our husbands’ calling.
If my ministry interferes with my relationship with God, my marriage, my willingness to follow my husband’s leadership, or if it interferes with my husband’s calling or violates my husband’s conscience,  I may need to cut back or cut out my ministry – and really focus on obeying God and cooperating with my husband.
If my husband is asking me to SIN – (i.e: watch pornography, have a three-some, join a cult, steal, lie, cheat, commit idolatry, commit blasphemy, hurt someone) – THEN I must resist him.
But if he is not asking me to sin, I need to willingly, joyfully cooperate with his leadership if I want to honor God and experience God’s full power  and His greatest glory in my life.

 Marriage is to be a living parable of the very great mystery between Christ and His church.  If I mess up my part of the marriage by  disobeying God’s Word- I have no power of God.  I have no testimony.  If I cannot portray a beautiful picture of the church’s reverence, submission, adoration and love for Christ in my relationship with my husband, especially if I am rebelling against his leadership – I am destroying God’s design for marriage, I am destroying my husband and even worse  I am maligning the gospel of Jesus Christ (Titus 2:5).
 In my view – if I don’t have respect and biblical submission right in God’s sight by His Spirit working in me – I am doing more damage to God’s kingdom by trying to teach and lead others than if I were totally silent and stopped all of my ministry efforts.
God does not NEED my efforts in ministry.  He may use me.  But he doesn’t need ME. 

 I need HIM.
When I end this short journey called life, I would want to have been a real follower of Christ, my religious activities aside. I want to have known God, not just known ABOUT God. I too, do not belittle the importance of communing in Church. I believe that it pleases God, although I also believe that it is not only in church that we can "find" God. I pray that in everything I do, may I do it with God in mind, alone. May my actions be propelled by love, not by fear. May my behavior be inspired by my desire to please God, not simply to please others, or to be esteemed by others. May I make our home my humble ministry, one wherein I can be a living witness to the goodness of God, day in and day out, starting with my husband, and then to our children, and to other members of our household...

I pray too that I be able to witness to my husband by being there for him, helping him and encouraging him in his own journey. I am blessed to have a husband who does go to church and who encourages my own walk with Christ. I will continue to practice 1 Peter 3:1-5, as he restores his own relationship with God.
I am a very joyful follower of Christ at this season in my life. :) I pray that I will never lose sight of the Reason for this season (and my other future seasons!) -- Jesus. 
Lord, never let go of my hand, please. I want to serve you all the days of my life. 
I love You.

Psalm 23:16
Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, 
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever. 

Post Script: As with any blog post I write, always do weigh what I say against Scripture. Although I do my best to write with God's Word in mind, what I write is still not infallible. I encourage you to never just take my word for it, or anybody's word for it for that matter, without discerning with the Holy Spirit if what you read does apply to you and your life. Again, all mistakes and imperfections are mine, all wisdom and inspiration are God's. Through it all, may the Name of the Lord be praised!

May we all be richly blessed! :)

No comments:

Post a Comment

Feel free to comment. I would love to discuss things with you. :)