III – The truth shall set you free

Continued from part 2

The Holy Ghost led Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted, and does that to his followers as well. Besides, gold is refined in a furnace and neither can a follower of Jesus be purified in the lap of luxury and comfort. Even as prosperity preachers and the ‘Word of Faith’ movement preach prosperity to their flocks, with their name and claim teaching, followers of Jesus have to pass through that very same school of suffering that the prophets and apostles went through which was modeled by Jesus in His own life as well.

It also makes no sense that God would give us a stake in an earthly kingdom scheduled to be destroyed by intense heat -hot enough to melt the earth. Neither does it make any sense that his followers should posses and cherish something scheduled to be destroyed. No one can take even their own body with them when they die, let alone any of their possessions including the clothes they are buried in! Everyone knows this, but it hardly ever sinks in -except when you’re at a funeral or when you’ve grown old and weak like king Solomon who finally concluded that everything was meaningless and like chasing after the wind.

The Baptism:

Like I said in part 2, I did get baptized like I felt led to. Once they made sure that I was truly regenerated and had a verifiable encounter with the Jesus of the Bible, a baptism was scheduled along with a few others who were deemed ready. It happened far away in the suburbs of Bomay, in Badlapur, which in Hindi and Marathi could either mean city of revenge or city of change. This doesn’t seem too distant now as old neighbors and friends have moved there as apartment prices have skyrocketed and some have even gone as far as Karjat which when I was in school was unthinkably far -in fact, some relatives would go there to the forests for hunting! Even Thana (Now Thane) was considered far then. This was during the time when Chhatrapati Shivaji terminus was still called Victoria Terminus or more commonly Bombay VT or just VT.

I remember standing waist deep in the Badlapur river till I was tipped in backward into the water and brought up again. The pastor baptized me in the name of the Father, in the name of the Son and in the name of the Holy Spirit (The King James Version of the Bible uses the word Holy Ghost) The going in under the water signifies death/burial and dying with Christ to the things of the flesh and that of the world. Coming up out of the water signifies being born again in the newness of the eternal life which Christ Jesus gracefully gives for free to all through His atoning sacrifice on the cross -only to those who believe and put their trust in Him though, no matter what their belief system has been (even if you were born in a Christian family)  and regardless of their past life however heinous, or their gender, race, cast etc… No unnecessary rituals, no penance, no chanting, no offering dumb stuff like coconuts, flowers, goats, fruit, booze or chickens, no going to any pompous religious authority to mediate for you, -you can meet with Him whenever and wherever you are with nobody’s intermediation.

It’s between Jesus and you. All you need to do is sincerely and wholeheartedly accept that you’re a sinner (Someone who has transgressed God’s commandments) and that He died for your sins in your place; Ask Him to forgive your sins, come into your life and give you the new life which He has promised in the Bible and commit to obey Him as outlined in the Bible.

Or, if you’re skeptical, just pray sincerely asking for the true God of the universe to reveal Himself to you and to keep you from being deceived. If your longing and hunger to know God is true and its not just an experiment, I wouldn’t be surprised as to who would reveal Himself to you.

The best part is you talk to God as you would talk to anyone else for like example to a parent or to a good friend. No bells, no ceremony, no prelude of chanting, no guttural or nasal voices, prayer postures, or offerings. The ease and simplicity will blow your mind because it goes against everything you’ve been taught to believe.

Back to my story, I was relieved and felt complete that I had obeyed the word and had got baptized.  Immediately after, the pastor decided to lay hands on us and pray for us. As he lay hands on each of us, I noticed two people standing behind the person being prayed for (like wicket keepers) and as he lay hands on each one of them and prayed, they keeled over backwards almost as if they fainted. When my turn came, the same thing happened to me. One moment I was standing, the next moment I was on the ground and there was a short period of blackness in between and I felt terribly uneasy at the short period of loss of consciousness.

We went to someone’s house close by where we had worship and prayer and then the same laying on of hands happened again. Apparently this activity was sought after fervently by the church members. On the way from the baptism site. I had asked one of the church members the reason for the blackout and he called the experience being ‘slain in the spirit’ which was (according to him) a massive outpouring and overwhelming of the Spirit of god. Somehow I was still uneasy as I had seen this happening to people in this church from whom demons were being cast out so so I asked God to protect me in case it was not from Him. When my turn came, I was praying hard and even though I could feel a strong force trying to buckle my knees, I didn’t blackout this time. The pastor kept telling me to give in, but I didn’t. Finally I was thankful it was over.

When I came back to my church, I asked everyone what ‘slaying in the spirit’ was. As expected, no one knew anything about it. Asking our liberal pastor would be akin to asking a cow for directions to the closest railway station. Besides, these sort of trends were in their infancy and had not yet taken hold of widely. I researched it as best as I could and by God’s grace rightly concluded that there was no scriptural evidence to support it. The only evidences were signs of judgement, like Eli falling backwards from his chair and breaking his neck and dying and the soldiers who came to arrest Jesus falling back.

It would only be a decade later that I would see further manifestations of this unchristian practice on watching TV evangelists like Benny Hinn, Morris Cerrulo, Kenneth Hagin and their likes. What kicked off my doubting was the brief moment of loss of memory of what happened. One moment you were standing and the next moment you were waking up on the ground -the Holy Spirit never causes such phenomena -blanking of the mind, loss of consciousness, emptying of the mind or thoughts. These are all demonic without exception. What confirmed my doubts though was when one lady fell and injured herself as the “catchers” failed to catch her and I knew that the Holy Spirit would do nothing of this sort, and there were some other deceiving spirits at work. God does not make mistakes.

I recently heard a pastor preach on Youtube that the filling of the Holy Spirit is not like the filling of a vessel, but rather like the filling of the sail on a boat. It is indeed an interesting way of describing this filling as the filling of the sail gives direction to the boat, unlike these fake fillings where all people wanted were the experiences. Now that I think about it, the name being slain (killed) in the spirit itself should have been the biggest clue.

Then and now

Next year it will be 29 years since I began my journey. My journey has taken me far away from Bombay which is now Mumbai. I’ve opted to live and work at the foothills of the lesser Himalayan range of mountains (The Dhauladhar range) and am happy with all the wilderness and survival experiments that I’ve been able to do. I’m just waiting for things to clarify in my mind before posting them here.

29 years is a long time -a big slice of one’s life if you will. It’s almost the same length of time that I lived in Bombay and now I’ve completed an equivalent amount of time all over my beautiful country. During this period, I’ve been to all kinds of churches and worn myself thin. I see happy people, (apparently ignorance is bliss) but then maybe I’ve been a fool to have asked God for the gift of discernment of spirits. An unusually analytical mind does not help either. I’m amazed that people will ape each other without any real concern for the truth. It is as if all are sheep who will listen to any shepherd and reinforce each others behavior and keep them in bondage. It is as if the need to belong is greater than the truth. That probably explains why seemingly genuine fellow believers were/are comfortable following a ritualized form of Christianity.

I’m still struggling with tithing, pastors wearing ridiculous attire and matching colors with the festivals (I don’t think that even after smoking pot I could ever imagine Jesus or his disciples wearing such ridiculous clothes), Celebrating the “birthday” of Jesus in imitation of other religions. (Not that we know the date. However shepherds being out with their flocks could mean spring time when the sheep would give birth) The latest avatar of nonsense seems to be the draping of the cross with a cloth (for what???) with again different colors to sync with the tones of the festivals.

Coming back to the cross (I’m assuming that it was a cross and not a cross beam on a tree which could be possible as well), Which of us would want to remember a loved one who was killed by an assault rifle by hanging replicas of assault rifles on the wall or by hanging a gold assault rifle replica around our necks? It’s ridiculous. There is no power in the cross or in any images/replicas of the cross like the Catholic church and horror movies would have us believe, (and there’s also no such thing as holy water) all power is in the sinless life and atoning death of the Jesus on the cross and that his death was just an event in his life, as in his birth, death, resurrection and ascension back into heaven (where he came from) and his glorification. This has to be seen as one event and remembered daily with gratitude instead of turning them into money guzzling festivals, but then the church might become poorer as collections will go down

The same goes for pictures of “Jesus” whom no one from the last several generations has seen and of course scripture verses hanging on the walls. Nothing wrong with scripture verses here, except that they are meant to be studied in context and meditated upon and internalized and obeyed and not just hung around as lucky talismans.

Sadly, the reformation was either a Roman Catholic inspired stunt to distract people from their atrocities and tyranny or if it was a true God ordained movement it was only partial, which was good enough for Martin Luther’s time but those who came after it followed it like a new religion -a lot of what Protestant churches follow today have their roots in the RC church… special veneration and weird costumes of pastors, order of service, non voluntary collection of money through spiritual blackmail and peer pressure, occult steeples and bells on churches, infant baptism, communion wafers, the church choir.

Looks like we’ve probably been slowly infiltrated by the Jesuits, Wiccans and satanists. The other things they have imported are “worship leaders” who stand in front which is inspired by Rock music bands which many of them idolize. They forget that when a band performs, they are the targets for the praise and adoration of the crowd. The “special numbers” which people and kids present as if at some talent show. Evangelism, instead of being led by the Spirit of God, are done using methods often copied from the business world to whom the church is supposed to be an example. Embarrassingly, I did all of this too when I didn’t know any better.

However what is hopeful is that the purity and simplicity of the New Testament Church or of the first century church will also be the pattern for the end times church. Large churches with prime land and large budgets, where church service is more like a performance for which the people pay will have to mandatorily submit to the government to continue to be in business and the government will tell them what to believe. This is where Roman Catholicism came from too! From the Roman Emperor Constantine.

The true Church as translated in the Bible is actually the body of believers and not a dead building. The unseen Church is composed of those who are no longer living with us but have gone before us and the visible Church is composed of groups of believers who meet together. The time is fast coming when large scale persecution will break out and the true Church will have to meet in secret just as the first century church met in caves and catacombs. This has been already happening in Communist and Muslim countries for some time now and is a pattern of things to come for the rest of the world. The good news is that it will separate the wheat from the chaff and weed out those for whom Christianity is just a religion or church is a kind of feel good club. Hope the Lord Jesus arrives soon as the world is getting to be a terrible place to live in. Sadly most people are busy being entertained. May his Church be found pure and Holy when he arrives and not be taken by surprise!

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