Serious Apple Polishing
Over the course of a good year, I have been drawn to Colossians chapter 2. In there, Paul uses phrases like "in Him", "in Christ", "with Him" ten times. And he also says things like "lest any man should beguile you" four times. After leaving that abusive church that I was in for 12 years, I read that chapter, and this is what jumped out at me. And I periodically re-read it just as a warning to stay "in Him."
It was the phrase "when we pursue the honor of men" in an online article (link below) that began to open my eyes to the way we were all beguiled into giving ourselves to that system for so long. We were pursuing the honor of the leadership, not the honor of God. And we didn't even see it. It wasn't until I was out from under the influence of those seducing spirits that it all began to come into focus for me.
Paul is working at getting the church at Colossae to look to Jesus and not to men. He is saying that it is in Him that we are complete, it is in Him that all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge dwell, not in some man. We are to be rooted and built up in Him, not in our "covering" apostle or prophet.
It is such a deception to think that we are complete in some leader. Paul states that this is the very reason he is writing to them- "And this I say lest any man should beguile you with enticing words" (v. 4). Again in verse 8- "Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ." The whole spiritual covering concept is truly vain, arrogant deceit and a deadly tradition of men.
Verse 16- "Let no man judge you." But in those kinds of churches, we allow the leaders to judge us in absolutely everything in order to have our loyalty proven. And it honestly didn't register with me just how perverted all that was until I got out. People who are drawn into this kind of deception spend all their time currying favor. Apple-polishing becomes the modus operandi.
Verse 18-" Let no man beguile you of your reward." Amplified uses the word "defraud"- "Let no man defraud you by acting as an umpire and declaring you unworthy and disqualifying you for the prize..." How apt. These churches are run by people that set their standards of conduct for you, and if you don't measure up you are criticized, often from the pulpit. And to think I sat through so many of those kinds of beratings and chose to ignore that still, small voice telling me it was so very wrong.
Finally, in verses 20-23, Paul asks why they would allow themselves to be "subject to ordinances... after the commandments and doctrines of men?" And I love the Amplified version of the last verse of the chapter-
Such [practices] have indeed the outward appearance [that popularly passes] for wisdom, in promoting self-imposed rigor of the body, but they are of no value in checking the indulgence of the flesh (the lower nature). [Instead, they do not honor God but serve only to indulge the flesh.]Indeed, they serve to indulge the flesh of the leadership that demands loyalty and complete submission to their rules and regulations. It indulges the drive for the honor of men, it indulges the drive for acceptance by others, it indulges the drive for power and control. And on the other hand, it indulges the drive in those that choose to play by those rules as well, the drive for acceptance and "belongingness". It is a sick system that plays on the weaknesses of both leaders and followers with each pulling on the other for affirmation and acceptance out of some psychological need. Some have likened these systems to pits of codependency.
If you have had the spiritual covering doctrine hung over your head, please read my post The Spiritual Covering Doctrine to find out why this teaching is heresy, plain and simple. They will tell you that you will be cursed if you leave their covering. Don't allow this mess to hold you in their system. Jesus is your covering, not some church leader.
We are not complete in leaders, we are complete in Him, in Christ alone. This is a dangerous set-up that pulls people into idolatry. If you find yourself in this situation, I encourage you to quietly leave and never go back. Get out, get out, get out. And be not entangled again with a yoke of bondage. (Gal. 5:1)
And not holding fast to the Head, from Whom the entire body, supplied and knit together by means of its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God. (Col. 2:19 Amp.)
If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. (Col. 3:1-2)Apple is free clip art from clker.com.
A great site to check out:
Warning Signs of Spiritual Abuse by Mike Fehlauer. This is a 3-part article that does a wonderful job of summing up just what to look for to identify an abusive church. It is taken from his book, Exposing Spiritual Abuse.
Red Flag ChurchesRed Flag Churches
Be Not Deceived- Learn to Test the Spirits
What Does a Wolf Look Like?
Making the Decision to Leave an Abusive Church
The Spiritual Covering Doctrine
Spiritual Abuse Is Not Obvious
To Tithe or Not to Tithe
The Dechurched and the Next Move of GodRighteous Judgment
The Dechurched, the Wilderness Experience and the Next Move of God
Liquid Church- The Shape of Church to Come
Church and Spiritual Abuse
Clergy- Invitation to Idolatry?
Church- Consider Your Ways
Faith, Grace and the Promises of God
Quill pen is free clip art from Wikimedia Commons.