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Control.

I think pretty much everyone hates being controlled.  Well okay, I shouldn’t say everyone.  I hate being controlled.  Ask me for a favor, okay.  Tell me what to do….. we have problems.

By problems I mean I’ll probably just take it and then talk bad about you behind your back :)  But that’s another subject :)  lol.

Anyway, looking at the extremes always seems to be an easy way to look for characteristics of the Enemy.  Nazi Germany, Cults, Communism, Islam…  Control is an easy trait to see.  It is fascinating to see how people gain so much power and control over so many.

Churches have their own form of control called legalism.  And this is a problem because they are using the Bible as a rule book to justify their rules.  But just like the Pharisees, we see where people start feeling superior or like they are a better Christian – that they are more righteous than the others – because they follow these church rules.

And this is such an easy trap to fall into.  Especially for me.  See I like knowing the boundaries.  To be a Good Christian do this, this, and this and don’t do that.  It’s easy to think I’m a good Christian because I go to church every Sunday and help hand out Bibles on Wednesday.  (I don’t really do that…  I’m not that good of a Christian… lol…  it’s just an example :)…) It’s easy to keep busy doing church activities and dressing the “right” way and following the letter of the law.

But the Pharisees knew the scriptures backwards and forward, and they couldn’t even recognize the Messiah when He was right in front of them.

A few characteristics to watch out for…

1.  Do you excel only in the visible acts of righteousness (go to church on Sunday, but don’t exactly love your neighbor as yourself)

2.  Do you tend to focus on the easier commands of God (I don’t drink, smoke, or cuss so it doesn’t matter that I lie frequently or gossip about everyone)

3.  Do you follow the letter of the law but forget the spirit of the law (you can tell everyone every religious debate you got into and how you said this and you said that, but you didn’t care to find out if your neighbor was going through a tough time, you didn’t care to give your neighbor food, clothes, friendship).

4.  Do you neglect the more important morals (you judge the pagans for drinking beer, but you slander someone’s character behind their back).

5.  Do you have a distorted view of others due to legalism (I go to church every Sunday, so I am such a better Christian than that Jackie – she doesn’t even go to church….  :)  hehe.)

Anyway you get the idea.  I’ve pretty much done all of these, and it is so easy to do.  Ugh.  But I have learned this lesson recently.  And it hit me pretty hard.

Peeps, as the Body of Christ, we have the huge responsibility to look at our actions and see that our actions point to Christ.  When people look at you or your church do they see the above list?  (Sadly for me this answer is yes.)  Or do they see what we are told in Galatians 5:22-23 ….  love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

I know this part is going to be hard for some to hear, but coming from a non church background, I got to see what people think of “Christians”..  A common phrase amongst those I knew is “Church People”  They will go to church on Sunday and screw you on Monday.

The Bible tells us to examine ourselves in the faith!  We need to do this sistas and brothas.  You do not want your name blotted out of the Book of Life.  I know it’s hard but be honest with yourself.  Do you exhibit ALL of the fruits of the spirit listed above?  Are you in the Bible finding out what God wants you to be as a wife, as a husband, as a child, as an elder, etc…  (Hint hint…  it’s different than the world…)  And if you can’t be honest with yourself…  Ask God.  He’ll tell you if you’re a Pharisee.  That way you can repent :)  hehe.

I love the analogy Francis Chan had.  He tells his daughter to go clean her room.  She comes back and says “Okay dad, I memorized what you told me.  I got a bunch of friends together and we studied what you said..”  He says, “Hey…  Just go clean your room!”

Well we are told to go make disciples.  And so we really need to stay connected to the vine of Jesus Christ.  (Note that I said the vine of Jesus Christ…  not whatever church you go to.  Only Jesus is the true vine and it is SOOO easy to misplace your loyalty.  One way to tell, do you defend your church more than Christ.  Do you talk about your church more than the Word of God..)  We do not want to be showing characteristics of the enemy – and one huge trait of the enemy is Control.  If you are controlling, you need to look at the example of Jesus Christ.

God never forces Himself on anyone.  He is not a rapist.  God is a gentleman.  He provided a way for us that if we want to have a relationship with Him, we can.

And then He leaves the choice up to us.