The Orthodox Pride
An Open Letter To Orthodox
Christians in Ukraine, Russia, and other countries.
By Lyudmyla Thompson
“If anyone loves Me, he will obey My teaching.
will love him, and We will come to him and make our home with him”
Christ - John 14:23, NIV).
“For as many as are led by
the Spirit of God, these are sons of God” (Romans
Peace to you!
This article is addressed to
our brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ – the Orthodox Christians of all
nations, scattered around the world. It is being written with love and
sincere respect for each one of you, dear brother or sister, who are reading
these lines. I do not intend to offend anyone (even though many will
probably take offence at what they will have read herein). Nevertheless, the
truth must be spoken up plainly, without beating about the bush.
The Spirit of Jesus moves us
to speak up the truth, even when it is sad to say and unpleasant to hear!
For the Lord corrects whom He loves.
The Sign Of The End Times
Jesus warned that in the last
days the evil will so much increase in the world that even the love of most
of His followers will grow cold (Mt 24:12). One other, much sadder
prediction He gave to His followers, says:
“But when the Son of Man
comes, will he find faith on earth?” (Lk 18:8.)
The sadness of these words of
Jesus pierces the heart and makes a true believer, firstly, take a closer
look at oneself with a question, “am I in the faith?” Secondly, it makes us
carefully study and analyze the current state of the Universal Church of
Christ as a whole and its separate sectors in particular.
Let’s take a look around.
Have we not been witnessing the very processes Jesus predicted?
Christian churches of all denominations, the following
symptoms are obvious: religiousness has been increasing, but the love,
faith and faithfulness to Jesus have been growing cold and dying out!
Fastidiousness to self, practical righteousness in everyday life, desire to
know the Word and the will of God have been replaced by hypocritical
demonstrations of religious zeal through keeping rituals and traditions of
men. Few are bothered by the fact that these traditions have heathen origin
and are abominable in the eyes of God whom they thus worship! (Dt
12:31-32.) At the same time, obvious sins of the worst kind flourish in
churches – sexual immorality, addictions, pride, envy, greed, lies, hatred,
theft – every kind of transgression of God’s commandments and
of the laws of human society!
Woe To The Shepherds!
To our grievous shame and
pity we must admit that ‘shepherds of the flock’ set an example, and are the
first to lead believers astray. They are the worst offenders and enemies of
God’s will and His truth, which is plainly stated in the unequivocal words
of Scripture. Once again, Jeremiah’s prophetic words are being fulfilled,
“A horrible and shocking
thing has happened in the land: The prophets prophesy lies, the
priests rule by their own authority; and My people love it this
way. But what will you do in the end?” (Jer 5:30-31.)
The Word of God is full of
bitter rebukes and warnings of the Lord addressed to the spiritual leaders
of His people. Jesus did not restrain His righteous indignation, nor did he
choose nicer expressions speaking about their hypocrisy, pride and
wickedness. To give you examples, we list here just a few references, so you
can read them for yourselves and ponder over the words of God’s judgment of
His unfaithful priests: Ezekiel 34:2-6, 10; Matthew 3:7-10; 5:19-20;
12:24-34; 15:1-10, 12-14; 23:5-33; Lk 9:22; 11:39-44, 52; 12:1; 14:11;
The Danger Of Compromising The Truth
When we try to show from the
Bible instances of obvious apostasy in the teachings and practices of the
Orthodox Church, we often hear the same answer from many. They say: “It does
not matter; it’s just a tradition (or a custom)”. Forgive me, but to say
that the Truth does not matter is to admit your own unbelief and
unfaithfulness to the Lord who has bought you. Please understand that it is
not human teachings we are speaking about, but the teaching of
Jesus! We are speaking about the Word of God! If
keeping the purity of His Truth is of no importance to a
person, then that is no faith! Perhaps, it is religion – but a dead one, and
thus useless for our salvation!
In Scripture God vehemently
reproaches His people and His priests:
“Hear the word of the
LORD, You children of
Israel, for the LORD brings a charge against the inhabitants of
the land: There is no truth or mercy or knowledge of God in the
land” (Hos 4:1).
“My people are destroyed
for lack of knowledge [of truth]. Because you have
rejected knowledge [of truth], I
also will reject you from being priest for Me; because you have
forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children” (Hos
The truth is
important! Moreover, it is vitally important for our spiritual growth and
well-being! Jesus promised to send us His Spirit of Truth (Jn 15:26) to lead
us to the knowledge of Truth. When we learn and accept it wholeheartedly,
making the needed changes in our life, then it will free us from
the power of the evil and of sin (Jn 8:32).
of spiritual truths is of no value. Without practical incorporation in our
everyday life, it is worthless. In his epistle, James says that faith
without works is dead (Js 2:20). Indeed, it can hardly be called ‘faith’,
because a true faith is shown and confirmed by what we do.
If, however, we live
practically, in agreement with the principles our lips proclaim, then we
remain in faith and in the Word of our Lord. Then and only then, do
we have the right to claim that we are disciples of our Lord Jesus:
“If you hold to My
teaching, you are really My disciples” (Jn
We Need Faith, Religion is Worthless!
The apostle Paul exhorted all
of us believers to test ourselves to make sure we are in the faith. For
without faith it is impossible to please God (Heb 11:6). Why, you ask?
Because it is through faith that we receive God’s gift of
mercy (grace) and are saved. And this faith is not of ourselves either, for
it too is a priceless gift of God (Eph 2:8). That is why no
believer in Christ can boast before others. For everything we have (in terms
of spiritual things) has been given to us by God undeservedly
(1 Cor 4:7).
Anyone who exchanges his/her
God-given faith for a religion with its rituals and traditions (not
founded in the Word of God), has despised God’s gift,
rejecting it in favor of things made by man. This is idolatry!
By faith, we
receive the Spirit of God and become His children.
“For as many as are led
by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God” (Rom
Unfortunately, today many are
led by religious spirits instead of the Holy Spirit. But how can we know if
a person has the Holy Spirit or a religious one? Jesus taught us to ‘judge a
tree by its fruit’.
“The fruit of the Spirit
is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
gentleness and self-control” (Gal 5:22-23, NIV).
Religiousness is not
one of them!
Let us remember that it was
the most religious caste of the Jewish society that Jesus
castigated for their hypocrisy. He accused them of showing
contempt for God’s commandments in order to hold to human traditions (Mk
7:6-9, 13). Repeating the words of Isaiah the prophet, Jesus said of such
“These people honor me
with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in
vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men” (Mk 7:6 –7, NIV).
When Jesus said that such
worship is ‘in vain’, He meant (among other things) that it is being
insincere. Therefore, it is unacceptable to God and thus worthless!
Do you understand the implication it carries for us, as worshipers
and followers of the Lord? It means that we must not worship
God the way we want to do it – according to the rules, made by
man. Scripture states that what seems good to man is abominable to God! It
also says that true worshipers must worship Him in spirit and truth (Jn
Orthodoxy - Faith Or Religion?
Many Orthodox Christians in
all sincerity believe that the Orthodox Church is the only true church,
founded by Jesus Christ Himself. For this reason, they refuse to question or
test the teachings and practices of their church.
I do not doubt that there are
some true believers of profound faith among the Orthodox Christians.
However, how can we test the veracity of such a conviction in general? We
have only one flawless yardstick of truth – the Word of God (the Holy
Scripture). So let us apply it.
Let us use the witness of
Scripture and carefully examine the major differences between a living,
saving faith in Jesus Christ on one hand, and a dead religion on the other
hand. Ponder on these differences, and make your choice wisely. May God help
If it is a living faith, then:
If it is a religion, then:
1. Church is the body of Christ -
organism; and all true believers, who are led by the indwelling Holy
Spirit, are its parts and members:
“…even though we
are many people [in whom the Spirit of God lives], we are one
body in Christ and individual parts connected to each other” (Rom
This truth is also
confirmed by the following texts in the New Testament: 1 Corinthians
12:12-14, 27; Ephesians 3:6,
“The word ‘church’
in the Greek is ekklesia meaning ‘that which is called out’,
i.e. those individuals God has called out of the world (2 Cor
6:17,18). In John 15:19, Christ explained that the Church is not of
the world but chosen out of the world. He promised to be with His
Church to the very end (Matt 28:20). Jesus assured us that He would
never leave us nor forsake us (Heb 13:5). In the book of Revelation
He is pictured as being in the midst of the Church, symbolically
represented by seven lampstands (Rev 1:13).
Also in prophecy,
the Church at the very end is depicted keeping the commandments of
God and ‘having’ the testimony of Jesus Christ (Rev 12:17). In other
words, the Church is comprised of those people who are responding
to God’s call to come out of the disobedience of this world; they
aim to be obedient to God’s commands (Matt 28:20) and listen to the
testimony of Jesus. (Print in bold – Mila T.)
What does this last
phrase mean? John recorded the angel’s words to him about the
‘testimony of Jesus’. He wrote: The testimony of Jesus is the
spirit of prophecy (Rev
Malcolm B. Heap, “God’s Church – Whose Authority?”, 2002, p.6.)
True believers can
be found in most Christian churches and in all denominations.
However, not one Christian church (organization) can make a claim of
being The True Church of God. Moreover, there is not a single church
in the world today, where all members would be true
believers! (Lk 18:8).
1. Church is a religious
a structure built,
governed and controlled by man (any such organization, including the
The Lord has
founded His Church on a flawless foundation – Himself (1 Cor 3:11).
However, Satan had his evil seed planted even in the early Apostolic
Church – the seed of his illicit, poisoning influence. The apostle
John warned about the antichrists, which were to come, and had
already (at the time) come, pretending to belong to Christ:
“…and, as you have
heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists
have come… They went out from us, but they did not really
belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have
remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged
to us” (1 Jn 2:18-19).
The apostle Peter
also warned about false teachers, who would introduce destructive
heresies in the doctrines of the Church, even denying the sovereign
Lord who had bought them. According to that prophecy, many were to
accept those shameful teachings, bringing the way of truth into
disrepute (2 Pt 2:1-3). And they did just that!
The apostle Paul,
in his farewell speech to the elders of the church of Ephesus, by
the Holy Spirit forewarned them about the grievous changes that were
to take place in the Church:
“I know that after
I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the
flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the
truth in order to draw away disciples after them” (Acts
2. The Lord rules, through the Holy
“…Christ is the
head of the church, His body, of which He is the Savior” (Eph 5:23,
In chapters 12-14
of 1 Corinthians and Ephesians 4:11-16, the apostle Paul gives a
detailed explanation of how practically the rule of God works
in His Church.
It works, firstly,
through active use of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Each believer
receives spiritual gifts according to the wisdom and will of the
Lord, for the edification of all in the Body (1 Cor 12:4-26).
All believers have
the right and an obligation before the Lord to use their spiritual
gifts in the meetings for the benefit of others. Meetings of the
Early Church were quite different from the services that take place
in the Orthodox Church today! As we read Paul’s letter to
Corinthians, we understand that he reproaches them for excessive
enthusiasm and the wrong motivation (pride and boasting)
in practicing the gifts of the Spirit in their meetings. It led to
disorder, diminishing the benefits the believers were meant to
receive. Paul exhorted to desire and use the gifts, but to do
it in love and respect of others, giving each individual a chance to
speak in turn, so that everyone could receive a maximum benefit.
Meetings of the
were not once-for- all set procedures; nor were they unchangeable
rituals, as they are in the Orthodox Church today. Try to imagine
for a moment that you are at a worship service in your church, and
the Holy Spirit has just given you a word of prophecy. Would you be
allowed to interrupt the strict order of the service, to let the
brethren receive the blessing of God’s prophetic message? Such a
thing cannot be imagined even in your wildest thoughts! To say
nothing about practicing some other spiritual gifts Paul lists,
which are anathema to even mention in the Orthodox Church.
Secondly, the Lord
exercises His government in His Church through the offices
(ministries), for which He (not higher ranking
church officials) appoints those whom He
“It was He who gave
some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists,
and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for
works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until
we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of
God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the
fullness of Christ” (Eph 4:11-13, NIV).
In the quoted
passage above, the apostle Paul lists these functions of Church
government in the order of their significance for the Church. This
does not elevate the performer of the function above other
believers, nor does it give him authority to dominate over others.
Of course, when such a person does his divinely appointed work,
other believers must respect it and obey the will of God, made known
to them through this person.
A similar listing
of the offices in the Church is found in another Paul’s letter (1
Cor 12:28). Having compared the two passages, we notice that the
functions of a pastor and an administrator are not
among those of first importance for the Church (from the Lord’s
point of view, expressed by Paul).
of a believer to serve in a certain function for the benefit of the
Church is always confirmed by the Lord through prophetic messages
and other signs, given to this person and to other believers. A man
(or woman) can properly do such a work only in the power of the
Spirit, having completely submitted his/her will to the guidance of
the Spirit. For it is said:
“Not by [human]
might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the LORD Almighty” (Zec
is vain and self-willed. That is why many ministers, who once
started as true servants of Christ, eventually became conceited; and
through pride, they turned false.
2. Man illicitly takes the place of
the Lord and rules over the flock.
At the inception,
the founding of churches (almost always) is inspired by the Work of
the Holy Spirit. However, after they have been established, their
leaders subtly misappropriate the authority to rule in the church
and begin to dominate over the flock. Such position and
authority belong exclusively to the Lord. For this reason,
God’s Spirit is being pushed out of churches, and they turn into
spiritually dead religious organizations.
Nowhere has Jesus
left us instructions as to any strict organizational structure of
His Church. The only instructions found in NT in that regard state
that we must:
a) follow His
guidance, obeying His commands (teaching) given us in the Holy Writ
(Jn 14:21,23-24) and by the Wonderful Counselor – the Spirit of
Truth (ibid. V.15-17,26);
b) love and serve
each other in meekness and humility;
c) what we
must never do! We must not seek power and
elevation over other believers. We must not bow down to or
worship any man!
During the last
evening before His passion, Jesus gave His disciples some most
important commands. But first, He gave all of us a personal example
of humbly serving others. Our teacher and Lord took off His outer
clothes, wrapped Himself with a towel and, like a humble servant,
began washing His disciples’ feet, including the feet of His future
traitor, Judas! (Jn 13.) Having done that He said:
“Now that I, your
Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one
another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I
have done for you. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than
his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.
Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them”
Lord Jesus taught
“You know that the
rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials
exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever
wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever
wants to be first must be your slave – just as the Son of Man did
not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a
ransom for many” (Mt 20:25-28).
pronouncing God’s judgment over the religious elite of the Jews
because of their hypocrisy, arrogance and betrayal of God’s decrees,
“They love the
place of honor at banquets and the chief seats in the synagogues,
greetings in the market places, and being called Rabbi by men.
“But do not be
called Rabbi; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers.
“Do not call anyone
on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven.
“Do not be called
leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ.
“But the greatest
among you shall be your servant.
himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be
exalted” (Mt 23:6-12).
It is too sad that
in the majority of Christian churches, ministers in the function of
‘pastors’ and ‘administrators’ have misappropriated the authority
over the flock and rule in place of the Lord. They have
forgotten that they were put there to serve, take care, and
spiritually ‘feed His sheep’ with the good food of the pure Word!
Leaders of the
Orthodox Church are much guiltier of this sin than most of the
others! Of course, they claim to have received this authority from
God Himself. If that is true, why then don’t they teach people the
pure Truth of God’s Word? Why do they continue to teach as doctrines
‘but rules taught by men’? (Mk 7:7.)
3. God’s Law of love and mercy
rule-book and practical guide to everyday living in this world,
because the Holy Spirit engraves His Commandments on our hearts and
in our minds (Jer 31:33; Ezek 11:19).
“The law is holy,
and the commandment is holy, righteous and good” (Rom 7:12).
So important were
ALL the Ten Commandments to God, that He thundered them to
the congregation of all the people of Israel out of a dark
cloud, which descended on the Mount Sinai (Ex 20:18-19). After that,
God burned these commandments out on two stone tablets with His own
fiery finger – as a symbol of their eternal immutability! Who are we
- insignificant mortals, to change or abrogate the immutable decrees
“Do not think that
I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to
abolish them but to fulfil them. I tell you the truth, until
heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least
stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until
everything is accomplished” (Mt 5:17-18).
We become God’s
true children, in His spiritual image and likeness, when we practice
His Law of love and mercy (ALL His Commandments!)
“If you call the Sabbath a delight… then you will find your joy in
the Lord” (Isa 58:13,14).
When we live by
faith, in harmony with the pure teaching of the Holy Scripture, the
Spirit reveals to us the truth about God’s holy days and festivals,
established by God Himself forever. Then we begin to understand the
importance of obedience to God as an expression of our faith and
love for Him.
perspective, we can see the blessing of the true Lord’s Sabbath (the
Fourth Commandment). Sanctified by God and granted to man from the
time of Creation of the world (Gen 2:3), the Sabbath was reinstated
in the Ten Commandments, given to the people of
after their deliverance from the cruel Egyptian slavery (Ex 20).
Besides, let us not
forget that Jesus called Himself the Lord of the Sabbath! (Mt
12:8; Mk 2:28; Lk 6:5.)
days and festivals of God
Next, we should
consider the whole complex of the true holy festivals, which were
also established by God and recorded in Scripture. Full information
about them can be found, repeated, in the books of Exodus (chapters
12,13,23), Leviticus (16,23), Numbers (28,29), and Deuteronomy (16).
If anybody tells you that they have been abolished by the New
Covenant, do not believe them! They deceive you! (Read carefully
Jesus’ words, recorded for us in Mt 5:17-20 again. Prayerfully
ponder on them.)
the holy days, given in the Law of Moses. His followers celebrated
these days. In the evening (at the beginning) of the Passover day,
Jesus had the last supper with His disciple and gave them the new
symbols of Passover of the New Covenant, sealed in His
blood. Jesus is our Passover Lamb! (1 Cor 5:7.)
The Early Apostolic
Church celebrated the same holy days. Any unbiassed reader can see
it while reading the book of Acts, which was written by Luke - a
doctor and follower of Jesus, converted from heathens. From the
first chapter of the book to the last one, Luke uses these holy days
as time pointers.
The apostle Paul
mentions Passover in his letter to the church in Corinth, which
predominantly consisted of Gentile believers (1 Cor 5:7-8,
11:17-34). At the end of this letter, he also mentions another holy
day – Pentecost (1 Cor 16:8).
Just as everything
else in the Holy Writ, these days too contain a very important
spiritual lesson for us. They are memorials and signs for
believers, symbolizing the major stages of God’s Plan of Salvation
for humanity. When we observe them with acts of spiritual worship of
our God, He blesses us for it.
(A list of MM
publications that give a deep and detailed study of all the issues
we tackle in this article are in the appendix.)
Tradition and a set of strict regulations, established by man,
rule instead of God’s Law of love.
As has been earlier
stated, with references to Scripture, such substitution is
abominable in the eyes of God. Those who teach to follow rules that
contradict the will of God expressed in His clear commandments, make
believers commit the sin of disobedience. However, as is evident
from Jeremiah 5:31, it is not done without believers’ consent, and
God is not going to leave it unpunished. Fear the righteous wrath of
Speaking of the
rules and traditions established by man, we mean the customs, which
were adopted from heathens and idol worshipers:
Sunday for the Lord’s Day;
Many believers are
sincerely deceived to think that they honor their Savior by
celebrating such festivals, borrowed by the Romish Church from the
heathen nations of the Great Roman Empire.
It happened in the
third century AD, during the reign of Emperor Constantine, who had
made Christianity the state religion of his empire. The largest
churches of organized Christianity – Roman-Catholic and Orthodox –
are the daughters of the Romish Church of the times of Constantine.
To make their
transfer to Christianity easier and more attractive for the pagans
of the Empire,
Constantine ordered to ‘christianize’ a number of most important heathen
rituals of worship. One of them was a weekly day of worship of the
Sun-god. (In English, its very name confirms its origin!)
Besides, two other
great heathen festivals were adopted: Saturnalia (the festival of
Sol Invictus – ‘the Invincible Sun’), which was celebrated in
winter; and Easter (the festival of Fertility goddess; Ishtar was
one of her many names), which was held in spring.
Both festivals were
celebrated with orgies and debauchery, characteristic of idol
worship. Revelry continued for days, and at times even for weeks.
During the days of Saturnalia, people used to decorate their houses
and streets with symbols of the Sun (glittering balls and spheres),
as well as evergreen garlands and wreaths, which symbolized male and
female sexual organs. They also exchanged gifts with similar
symbolism. During the days of Easter, the symbolism was even more
licentious, as was the behavior of the exultant crowds.
exceedingly ugly festivals are at the root of the holidays, which
many sincere Christian believers celebrate each year as Christmas
and Easter (Orthodox ‘Resurrection of Christ’)! Do you really think
that this does not matter to God? If you do, then think about the
meaning of these words:
“… and after they
[these peoples] have been destroyed before you, be careful not
to be ensnared by inquiring about their gods, saying, ‘How do these
nations serve their gods? We will do the same.’ You must not
worship the Lord your God in their way, because in worshiping their
gods, they do all kinds of detestable things the Lord hates… See
that you do all I command you; do not add to it or take away from
it.” (Dt 12:30-32).
4. Worship in spirit and truth
“… Yet a time is
coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the
Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the
Father seeks. God is spirit, and His worshipers must worship in
spirit and in truth” (Jn
- Requires guidance
of the Holy Spirit in public and personal worship – the way it was
done in the times of the Early Apostolic Church. This guidance of
the Spirit rules out any strict pre-planning of meetings by
man, allowing only for minimal use of rituals.
- Calls for the use
of the gifts of the Spirit in worship for edification of all
- Implies active
but orderly participation of all believers present in a worship
meeting (as the Spirit moves them, not as a human leader has ordered
It is the aspects
of worshiping in spirit that 1 Corinthians 12-14 discusses.
To worship ‘in
sincerity of one’s heart;
to learn the truth and keep Jesus’ teaching pure - not
compromised by heresies and false teachings.
4. Magnificent rites and rituals
Both the Orthodox
and the Roman-Catholic churches are known for the splendor of
priestly garments and decoration of their churches, and for the
grandeur of their rites and rituals. What a pity this entire
splendor does not evidence the presence of the Holy
Spirit! Moreover, the rule of priests, who have usurped the place of
the Lord in His Church, has pushed out the Spirit of God.
God is not in
rituals; nor is He found in buildings, erected by men. Scripture
“But who is able to
build a temple for Him, since the heavens, even the highest heavens,
cannot contain Him?” (2 Ch 2:6.)
That is why, as
magnificent as all those things may look, from the point of view of
our salvation they are but worthless tinsel.
There is a good
reason why the Lord allowed the only Temple of His Name on earth to
be destroyed. That temple had been built in accordance with His
explicit layout and detailed directions revealed through His
prophets! To this day, of all its magnificent structure, there
remains only the so-called ‘wall of weeping’ in Jerusalem. A mosque
rises boastfully, dominating the
Scripture makes it
quite clear that
remains the chosen city of God, that both Judah and Israel will be
forgiven and saved in the end. However, through the destruction of
the physical Temple of His Name, the Lord wants to teach us a very
important lesson. He shows us that we should not place our
hopes in man or man-made structures and things. When we do, we
commit an act of spiritual adultery, transferring our worship from
the Creator to created things, which can be destroyed.
5. A living faith seeks to develop
a close, personal relationship with the Living God in Jesus Christ.
Jesus promised all
His followers (that includes you and me) that He would be
always with them (through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit)
- to the very end! (Mt 28:20, Jn 14:15-19). Of course,
for that to be possible, we must remain in Him, by keeping His
commands (Jn 14:21, 23; 15:1-8).
No one can accuse
God of unfaithfulness, of not holding to His word! Today, He
continues to be with us and to speak to us. He desires to lead us to
holiness and fulness of knowledge of His Truth, preparing the Bride
for His imminent coming.
One of the biblical
names of God is Logos, which, when translated from Greek
means ‘Word’ (Jn 1:1 – 18). A God with such a name will not keep
silent! He wants us to learn and understand His will and His perfect
plan for us.
continues to speak with us in different ways. They are all recorded
in the Bible and thus do not contradict, but uphold the Word of God.
From the many testimonies of our brothers and sisters around the
globe, as well as from our own personal experience, I can confirm
that the Lord does indeed speak with His disciples by ‘words of
wisdom’ and ‘words of knowledge’, as well as through visions and
His ‘small voice’
answers you from within when you address Him about important issues,
asking Him for guidance, clarification, comfort or confirmation.
That is why it is so vital for us to devote time daily to communing
with the Lord in prayer, as well as in reading and meditation over
When man truly
believes, his communication with God, having begun, knows no end.
Prayer becomes a joyous necessity (not an obligation) to meet and
talk his heart out with a wise and faithful Friend (Jn 15:12-15).
Perhaps, all this
is new to you. But believe me, a true prayer really is a
communication of two, not a one-sided address. I cannot recall a
single instance when we needed help, support or clarification in any
question we considered important, that Jesus would leave us without
His answer or help. Praise the Lord for His faithfulness! We can
always rely on Him.
“Blessed is the man
who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in Him” (Jer 17:7).
As is the case with
any personal relationship, either the relationship between a
believer and the Lord grows stronger and deeper, or his love grows
cold. When the latter occurs, it greatly saddens Jesus. There is
nothing more cruel and mean than the betrayal of a pure and faithful
love! Man cannot quite conceive the boundless love of God, poured
out on us in Christ. Jesus tried to explain it to us in these words:
“Greater love has
no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends” (Jn
Having said these
words, He then fulfilled them. Sinless, He died for me, for you –
for all of us! Who has ever loved you more than that? When has
anyone in this world shown you greater love? Doesn’t a love, as
great as this, deserve to be reciprocated? Do you really think that
some traditions and rules, made up by men, should be trusted and
respected more than His words?!
When the believers
began quarrelling about whom they should be following, Paul wrote to
them with a bitter reproach:
“Is Christ divided?
Was Paul crucified for you?” (1 Cor 1:13).
As members of
Christ’s body, we must put no one above the Lord. He alone must
fully possess our heart, all of our mind, and all of our soul, for
it is written:
“Love the Lord your
God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your
strength and with all your mind” (k 12:30; Lk 10:27, Dt 6:5).
Only then we can
remain in Him, and He will remain in us! Otherwise, giving the
central place in our life to someone else, we push away the Spirit
of Jesus. The Lord will never share this central place in your life
with another! It rightfully belongs to Him as your Maker and Savior.
Either He is everything to you, or you serve another master. Just as
He has warned us, no one can serve two masters!
5. Religion inevitably turns into
Instead of God,
religious people slowly but surely begin to worship:
pastors or other church leaders,
than that – dead people (even their semi-decayed remains)!
All this is
abominable to the living God who desires our love and attention.
On the stone
tablets received by Moses on the Mount Sinai, God burned out with
His own finger:
“I am the Lord you
God… You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not
make for yourself an idol [image]
in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or
in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship
them…” (Ex 20:2-5).
We have already
discussed the subtle form of worship given by church members to
pastors and leaders, who have illicitly taken the place of the Lord
in churches and lord over the flock. Now let us address the issue of
worshiping man-made images (icons) and ‘saints’, which are clearly
forbidden by God in the above quoted first two Commandments.
If the testimony of
the plain and clear Second Commandment of the Almighty God is not
enough to persuade you, here is the second witness, given by Him
through the apostle Paul, who wrote down these Spirit inspired
God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful. But they
became vain in their reasonings, and their undiscerning heart
was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became foolish and
changed the glory of the incorruptible God into a likeness of an
image of corruptible man… Because of this, God gave them up to
impurity in the lusts of their hearts, their bodies to be dishonored
among themselves, who changed the truth of God into the lie, and
worshiped and served the created thing more than the Creator,
who is blessed forever. Amen” (Rom 1:21-25).
stubbornly continued to worship idols: living and dead people, all
sorts of creatures, heavenly lights and man-made images, God gave
them up to the power of sin (Rom
1:26-32). Read the chapter to the end, and you will see for
yourself how devastating were the results of this human obstinacy.
These results can be traced throughout the history of mankind, and
have dramatically increased in these end times.
Even the very first
acquaintance with New Testament leaves no doubt that the word
‘saint’ was then, and should be applied today, to all true
believers in the Lord Jesus. Here are just a few references
(only from two NT books) that prove this truth: Acts: 9:13, 9:32,
9:41; 26:10; Romans: 1:7; 8:27, 12:13, 15:25-26; 15:31; 16:2, 16:15.
They do not exhaust the list!
sanctifies us by
the name of Christ and by His Holy Spirit which He sends to dwell in
us (2 Cor 1:21-22). Anyone who does not have the Holy Spirit, that
person does not belong to Christ! Having accepted His sacrifice, you
are no longer the sinful human being you used to be (at least you
should not be, if your repentance was genuine). “The old has gone,
the new has come” (2 Cor
5:17) – as Paul has written by the Spirit.
In another place,
Paul states that our body is the temple of God (2 Cor 6:16). He
asks: “What agreement is there
From all the above
it should be clear that worship of ‘the saints’ is nothing but
worship of the dead who, though having been faithful servants of God
in their life time, still remain just deceased human beings! How
much more abominable in the eyes of God should be the worship of
their dry bones (relic of a ‘saint’s body), things and images!
Worship of the
mother of Jesus, in essence, is no different from the discussed case
of worship of the ‘saints’. This is proven by the words of our Lord
Jesus Himself. It is for a very good reason that in two separate
instances He quite plainly expressed that any believer, who does the
will of God, is a mother, brother or sister to Him,
and that such a believer is blessed by God no less then the blessed
Mary. Do read these accounts for yourself and believe the
words of Him whom you worship as your Savior: Mt 12:46-50; Lk
We should not deify
Mary, but rather follow the example of her faith and obedience to
the word of the Lord!
The apostle John,
in finishing a letter, dedicated to the love God has for us and to
His love in us (which proves that we belong to Christ), seemingly
without any logical connection writes:
keep yourselves from idols” (1 Jn 5:21).
Shouldn’t we heed?
6. Living faith humbles the heart,
teaching us to love:
above all (as has already been shown above);
Neighbor – as yourself (Mk 12:31; Lk 10:27, Lev 19:18);
brothers and sisters in Christ – as He has loved us, i.e. more than
yourself (Jn 13:34, 35);
enemies – despite all the evil they have done to you (Mt 5:43-48).
When Jesus was
giving this command, He concluded His teaching with the following
therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt 5:48).
They who have not
learned to forgive and show mercy for their persecutors, praying for
God’s forgiveness and salvation for them, should not think they have
6. Dead religion cools off our love
for God. It generates:
Selfish motivations for worshiping God;
Pride; exclusivism through affiliation or membership in ‘the only
true’ church; false confidence that ‘our’ church’s dogma cannot be
wrong or contain error.
priesthood of Jesus’ time, the Pharisees and Sadducees, teachers of
the Law and scribes provided perfect examples of the above listed
fruit of a shallow, spiritually emasculated religion. Because of
such characteristics, they rejected the Messiah. John the Baptist
called them ‘brood of vipers’. Jesus named them ‘blind leaders of
the blind’. He also compared them to whitewashed graves – having a
semblance of being spiritually righteous and zealous for God, but
inwardly filled with all kinds of impurities. Jesus exposed their
self-righteousness and ostentatious religiousness as hypocrisy and
betrayal of God for the sake of human tradition and teachings.
Prejudice, contempt and hatred for other Christians, who profess a
doctrine that differs from ours (those who do not belong to our
denomination, church affiliation or religious organization).
Christians believe that the Orthodox Church is the only true church,
founded by Jesus Himself! This gives them a false feeling that they
are spiritually superior to others, better and dearer than other
Christian believers in theeyes of the Lord. They do not accept other
Christians as their spiritual family in Christ. Such an attitude
contradicts the main principle of Jesus’ teaching and the new
command, given us all by the Lord.
James writes in his
“My brothers, as
believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don’t show
favoritism” (Jas 2:1). “But if you show favoritism, you sin and
are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. (v.9).
“Who is wise and
understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds
done in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you harbor
bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about
it or deny the truth. Such ‘wisdom’ does not come down from heaven
but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. For where you have
envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil
practice. But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of
all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy
and good fruit, impartial and sincere” (Jas 3:13-17).
7. Faith makes one a follower of
Jesus who desires to live for and bring salvation to others (guided
by Christ, and working in the power of His Spirit).
Jesus taught that
His disciples would follow in His footsteps. During His time on
earth, Christ brought humanity the good news about the gift of God –
Salvation (through His sacrifice), and about the nearness of the
coming Kingdom. Before returning to the Father’s Throne, the Lord
gave His disciples this command:
“Go into all the
world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and
is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be
condemned” (Mk 16:15-16).
The Lord fills the
hearts of His disciples with His love for mankind. This love makes
us concerned about the fate of other people, living on earth. This
same love also makes us willing to serve His Church – the body of
Christ, - performing in a function, which He appoints to each of us.
Such work cannot be done without using His gifts of the Spirit for
the benefit of the Church.
In this selfless
ministry, done out of the love we all ‘owe one another’, we have a
duty to show our brothers and sisters in Christ when the Spirit
reveals to us their error, deception or failure (Jas 5:19-20; 1 Cor
5:12-13). At the same time, we all must accept humbly and thankfully
an exhortation or correction from others in the
Church of Christ if we have slipped (regardless of their denominational
No matter what sort
of ministry we have, our first and foremost obligation always
remains the same: seeking to do the will of God; learning to hear
and obey His direct guidance through the Spirit; learning to test
and discern spiritual influences (1 Jn 4:1).
There is no
self-interest in God. He is absolutely free of any selfishness. That
is why, while transforming us into His spiritual image, He calls us
to get rid of these ugly traits of a former fleshly man. He teaches
us to live not for gratifying the Self, not for satisfying “the lust
of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of this life” (1
Jn 2:16). Instead, we receive a new sense and a new joy, living and
working selflessly for the salvation and the good of others.
7. Oftentimes, a religious person
tries to ‘buy’ God’s blessings with words of empty, insincere praise
and with monetary gifts to a church.
I will give you
just one example from life. I once came across an acquaintance of
mine, - a married man of significant social status (an Orthodox
Christian, a successful businessman, a District Rada Deputy). He
began to proudly ‘report’ his achievements to me, finishing his
speech with the following phrases, which are very telling. He said:
‘Every Sunday I go to church. I gave money for the new bell tower.
And boy, do I love women!”
At this, he smiled with great self-satisfaction.
He is NOT even
ashamed of his sinful lust! Poor man! Does he really believe that
God’s righteous judgment can be bribed by weekly church visits, or
by monetary contributions?! Yet, many religious people seem to think
8. Faith arouses in us hunger and
love of His Truth.
Love for God
arouses an insatiable hunger and thirst for the Word. Through it, we
begin to better know the beauty of the Lord, of His spiritual
image, in which He desires to change us - His children. The
Word of God for our spiritual life is what mother’s milk is for a
baby. In order to comprehend wonderful mysteries of the spiritual
world, reading of The Word is just as vital, as the knowledge of the
alphabet is for anyone who wants to learn to read.
Faith causes us to
thirst for the knowledge of His Truth, desire to follow His
righteousness, willingness to live by faith and change according to
the new pieces of Truth as He gradually reveals them to us. This
gives a believer the feeling of sincere gratitude to the Lord our
8. Religion makes one
self-satisfied and spiritually lazy.
self-assurance will gradually lead anyone to spiritual dormancy.
Such a person becomes disinterested in further learning of God’s
Truth, much less in making attempts to live by it.
9. The indwelling of the Holy
Spirit fills the life of a believer with inexpressible joy and
peace, which do not depend on the circumstances of this life.
Our peace is a gift
given to us by the Lord Jesus. And His gifts are irrevocable! (Jn
14:27; Rom 11:29.) The Lord has never promised us that we would be
without trouble and problems in this world. On the contrary, He
plainly stated that problems, persecutions, possible poverty and
even martyrdom await every true follower of His in this evil world.
However, Jesus has
assured us that He will be with us in all our troubles, even to the
very end. He will make possible the things which otherwise can never
be possible for us to do or to persevere. And all those in whom the
Spirit of Jesus dwells will produce His good fruit in their lives:
“For as many as are
led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God” (Rom 8:14, NKJV).
And “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience,
kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Gal
9. Religion throws man back to his
sinful nature, which he denied when he had accepted Christ.
This opens the door
for many doubts and unbelief to enter. It gets worse, and strong
demonic influences enter. Having grabbed the opportunity, evil
spirits begin to oppress the man, afflicting him with many sins,
perversions and ailments.
His life becomes
devoid of joy and happiness. The devil receives power over him. Now
he can steal away from that person the irrevocable gifts of God –
joy, peace, hope, even the most important one – his salvation! (1
10. Finally, the most important
point: it is through faith that we receive our salvation!
Faith is the
mechanism through which God enacts and fulfils His Plan of Salvation
in each individual who will be saved:
“For it is by grace
you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves,
it is the gift of God”! (Eph 2:8.)
10. Religion does not save anyone
from spiritual death!
If that were not
so, then the religion of the Jews, once founded on the Law given by
God, would have guaranteed their salvation. In that case, as pointed
out by Paul, Jesus would have suffered and died for nothing! (Gal
Therefore, dear brothers and sisters:
“Examine yourselves to see
whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that
Christ Jesus is in you – unless, of course, you fail the test?” (2 Cor
Remember that faith is
tested and confirmed by deeds (Jas
18-19). But without deeds – it is just empty words:
“As the body without the
spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead” (Jas 2:26).
No man is perfect and
without fault. But the Lord, in His amazing mercy, judges us by the
motivations of our heart. If our motivations are pure and good, we will be
seeking to know His truth and to keep His commandments – His Law of Love.
For, as Jesus said:
“If anyone loves Me, he
will obey My teaching” (Jn 14:23).
Do not boast before others
that you belong to the Orthodox Church, but know that there is no favoritism
in the Lord. He does not categorize His children into ‘elite’ and ‘second
rate’. If you do not show love for everyone in whom the Spirit of God
dwells, you commit a sin of prejudice against your family in the Lord.
Seek the Lord, His will and
His Truth. Love the Truth, so that it doesn’t happen to you, what Paul
“But for those who are
self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be
wrath and anger” (Rom 2:8).
May the Lord bless all your
deeds of love, done in humility. Amen.
Midnight In America
In the USA, Central & South
Midnight In America
PO Box 8493,
Warner Robins, GA 31095-8493, USA