Religio Licita (Approved Religion)

Religio Licita (Approved Religion)
Robert Wurtz II


I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. (Revelation 3:15)


Religio licita is a Latin term used in ancient Christian writing to describe how Rome approved of Judaism within the Roman Empire- in contrast to Christianity that was effectively outlawed. Roman authorities, influenced by the spirit of Antichrist, violently persecuted the early Church. Christians were genuine. They repented, believed, were baptized and received the Holy Spirit. They burned for God in ways hard to imagine. Despite lethal persecution, in just one century the Gospel spread clear to Britain. Then the fire began dying down in many places. One of those was Laodicea. 

Spreading Death

G.W. North once stated that “preaching the Word without Fire is spreading death.” I think he was right. In fact, I think the enemy loves a tepid message. He loves lukewarm Christians, teachers, and preachers. Lukewarm Christianity is the Devil and the world’s “Religio licita.” They seem to approve of it all together. Nevertheless, the Lord has made clear that He will spew a lukewarm people out of His mouth. Simply stated, lukewarmness is Christianity on the fence; halting between two opinions. Our Greek word for “hot” means to boil. Jesus said, I would thou wert cold or hot. This is not “boiling” with the fire of emotionalism or some other strange fire; it is the consequence of God’s Holy Spirit being at rest in a believer. They burn and burn for Christ. 

Lukewarmness: Government Approved!

The Romans were not the only people to approve dead religion; society does it today. Liberal writers and educators love to refer to times of revival as “religious fanaticism” or some other cynical phrase. Why? The Devil and his children hate for Christians to “boil” for Christ in the Biblical sense and will provide a battery of substitutes. He works feverishly to bring the temperture down. The frenetic pace of compromising measures threatens to overwhelm the Saints. Even some highly educated Christians feel the need to tone down for the sake of appearances. Perhaps this is due in part to the wild antics of people that claimed to be having revival, but were not. In modern times, the word “revival” has been so abused and blasphemed that one is reluctant to describe anything as a “revival” lest it immediately be held in derision. The same is true for the “fire” of God.  

Romancing or Repenting?

Another enemy of a true boil is the current rage found in much of what we commonly call “evangelicalism.” This rage is based on teachings that suggest a romantic, sensual love between Christ and the Church (some call it “Bridal Paradigm”). It affects the lyrics of our songs, our concepts of God, from the radio to the satellite. It is almost certainly the consequence of unregenerate (not truly born again) people interpreting the scriptures through the only lens of love they understand; human relationships. This is why so many lyrics and sermons are anthropomorphic. If a person has never experienced Romans 5:5, they cannot write or preach about it. What do they understand? Familial and romantic love. They understand the feeling they get when they listen to their favorite love song and think about their boyfriend/girlfriend. This is what colors their understanding. Listen closely as the Christ of the book of Revelation or Isaiah 6, is profaned into one that drowns the church in grace, wraps her in His arms and gives her a sloppy wet kiss. This type profanity is so common it would be superfluous to cite more examples. Is this how they define God? Compare their definition to scripture. 

Romantic and almost sexualized concepts of worshiping Jesus are easy to accept, especially among young people, because they are longing for a sense of the romantic and sensual in their lives. People want a God like their media manufactured, idealized version of the perfect boyfriend or girlfriend; not controlling or demanding. Good looking and always making me feel good. One that will love me no matter what I do, and in my love language. One that will wait on me to find myself- for years if necessary. One that will allow me to have a night out with my friends and never judge me. 

However, burning with romance is not burning for Christ in the Biblical sense (take a look at the picture in this link). In fact, Christians and theologians of bygone eras would have labeled the thought blasphemy. Many, today, would have considered their Jesus as “an abusive husband.” Nevertheless, what we are describing at length is the “Religio Licita” of modern times and is forging the concepts of Christianity for generations to come. 

Jesus – Not a Rock Star

American Idol has single handedly made idolatry acceptable in the western world and in a large portion of evangelicalism.  In the 50s and 60s young girls would gush as “lovesick” when they attended the concerts of men like Elvis or bands like the Beatles. Some wept and screamed; some even fainted. What emotional madness was this? Young ladies by the scores used to stand outside Elvis’s mansion in Memphis shaking and holding their hands just hoping to get a glimpse of the star. This is where the guys went to “meet the girls.” 

Christian “Labels”

In modern Christianity, almost anything is OK if it has the label “Christian” attached. I sometimes wonder if there came about a “Christian marijuana” many would smoke it. Christian so-called Rock Bands enjoy nearly all of the worship that Elvis received. Parents approve and are happy that their children engage in these things because at least it is a “Christian” event. It is OK to idolize these people because they are Christians? 

“Rock and worship” is the new mass and the singers are the new priesthood. Singing about a made-up Jesus in an ocean of earthly phrases. I believe it is one of the most effective strategies to infiltrate and influence the churches that the Enemy has employed to date. Why? He learned how to tap into the closet, sensual, desires of people who were itching to give themselves over to the culture of American Idol(atry). Nevertheless, Jesus is not Justin Beiber. We do not come together to be “passionately ravished” by Him as if He were a lover. God is holy and is expected to be reverenced. At the risk of being tarred and feathered, I wonder if this is why the concert model of worship has come into vogue? The same types of emotionalism and passion that were heaped on Elvis many are trying to heap on Jesus- and in the same type of ways. 

Consider these lyrics:

Your love is extravagant
Your friendship, it is intimate
I feel like moving to the rhythm of Your grace
Your fragrance is intoxicating in our secret place
Your love is extravagant

Spread wide in the arms of Christ is the love that covers sin
No greater love have I ever known 
You considered me a friend
Capture my heart again

Compare this to:

He left His Father’s throne above
So free, so infinite His grace-
Emptied Himself of all but love,
And bled for Adam’s helpless race:
‘Tis mercy all, immense and free,
For O my God, it found out me!
‘Tis mercy all, immense and free,
For O my God, it found out me!

Long my imprisoned spirit lay,
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray-
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.

Both songs speak of Christ’s love. The one is clearly earthly and sensual- the other is biblical. As one writer commented on the former song, you could take the “t” off of Christ and almost have a secular song. Try it and see. 

Religio Licita in the Kingdom of God 
   
Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.(Ephesians 5:25-27)

The Bride and Bridegroom motif in scripture is certainly valid; however, in its extreme and sensual construction it is subverted. Approved religion in the Kingdom of God is a very different thing than what can be achieved by a “romantic relationship” with Jesus. In fact, a cursory look at history, as contrasted with modern history, will demonstrate a preoccupation with romance today that was virtually unknown in the main stream in centuries past. Hollywood has dramatically effected how people think of relationships. It is false enough in a marriage, much less in our relationship to Christ. If we carry this ideology into our religious expression we are doomed. 

So how did we arrive at a merger between the secular and sensual love (radio and TV idealized) – romance crazed culture of the 50s,60s,70s,80s, etc., with the Visible Church (or more narrowly evangelicalism)? How did these things we have discussed corrupt our faith? Simply stated, it is Religio licita (approved religion). The people have been given what they wanted. Like Israel when she wanted a king- a generation wanted a way to have both Jesus and their popular culture. A generation was never told in their evangelistic message that they must choose one or the other; they were allowed to keep both. What happened? They mingled them together and this is what we have. With each passing day there are fewer people on earth that even see what has happened and even less that care enough to challenge.

I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. (Revelation 3:15)

Dropping the Torch

Dropping the Torch
Robert Wurtz II

And also all that generation were gathered unto their fathers: and there arose another generation after them, which knew not the LORD, nor yet the works which he had done for Israel. (Judges 2:10)


Our passage is a sobering look at a generation that came along after the generation of Joshua and they knew not God nor the things He had done for Israel. Something had gone terribly wrong. One generation walks with God in righteousness and holiness, and the next one comes along and is as indifferent and unconcerned as anything. It’s almost as if the two generations were from different planets. The one generation longs to serve the Lord and pass that heritage down to continue on in what God had started, but the next generation seems to care less. They wanted to do their own thing and make a clean break with the past. We read the chilling words in Judges 2:11, 12; And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD, and served Baalim: And they forsook the LORD God of their fathers, which brought them out of the land of Egypt, and followed other gods, of the gods of the people that were round about them, and bowed themselves unto them, and provoked the LORD to anger. 


A Mixture

You will notice that the new generation was “exposed” to be Godless once the elder generation that loved God had passed on. Joshua died in verse 8 and the rest were dead by verse 10. It is a sad thing to consider, but this left no one to keep the rebellious people in check. Undoubtedly these young people were a thorn in the side of the elders until they all grew old and the elders finally died. It was not as if they woke up one day and were backslid, these people were kicking against the goads all their life. What were they doing? Verse 12 is instructive, and [they] followed other gods, of the gods of the people that were round about them, and bowed themselves unto them. This is a sure sign of backsliding: wanting to be like “the people that were round about them.” There was no desire to be wholly sanctified unto the Lord. No desire to maintain continuity with the God of their fathers. They wanted a novel change. This is important to consider because God has called His people out of this present evil, Satan-inspired world. Soon the lust for worldliness led to the people worshipping Baal and God at the same time. As the people got used to this “compromise” it became no big deal to keep doing it. Over time it was almost impossible to reverse the trend. This is why the resistance has to be strongest when the compromise begins. The compromisers needed to be rebuked and stopped. Not as the failure Eli that “rebuked” his sons and then passively allowed their madness to continue until God’s presence left.

Progressive compromise


Israel broke ranks with their fathers and followed the patterns of the people around them until they wanted a king like the rest of the nations. This would have horrified previous generations, but this new generation cares-less. It is their day now. What was happening? They were abandoning their uniqueness one step at a time. This is key. There is something terribly wrong when folk that are called by the name of Christ want to be like the world rather than being what God calls us to be, separate and holy. If we allow this in the churches of God it is only a matter of time until we have totally lost Christianity.


Discouragement

Some people in Israel probably got discouraged when they were challenged or they found out that folks didn’t quite agree with how things were going. Any resistance was seen as a personal attack. Likewise today, leaders are often clueless to the fact that we are not talking about personal convictions and preferences here; we are talking about the very soul of the Church and what it means to be a Christian. Further, what these folks don’t realize is that had the resistance to the change been what it needed to be it would probably have caused a revolt. But because the ones resisting were depicted as “trouble-makers” or “influenced of the Devil”, the compromise is allowed to come in and leaven the whole lump. This is where we are today. Resistance has been all stomped out and the people that resisted are hated and despised. 

Out of Church Christians?


Others simply discouraged and simply quit church all together. In retail sales we have a saying, “Most people don’t complain. They just don’t come back.” They don’t have a voice or their voice is not heard. They have tried everything and still we seem to be snow-balling towards hell. If they do dare speak they get blackballed. Talk about discouragement? 



But none to fear, God is watching. I’m reminded of a passage in Ezekiel:

And the LORD said unto him, Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof. And to the others he said in mine hearing, Go ye after him through the city, and smite: let not your eye spare, neither have ye pity: Slay utterly old and young, both maids, and little children, and women: but come not near any man upon whom is the mark; and begin at my sanctuary. Then they began at the ancient men which were before the house. (Ezekiel 9:4-6)


What we need in this adulterous generation is a people that will get discouraged when the glory of God is being challenged and His churches are trying to take up the ways of the people of the land. Where are the people that have a zeal for God? Where are the people that will get discouraged when they look on Facebook New Years Eve and can’t tell the church houses from the party houses because of the similar black tones and colored lights? Who will weep for a generation that would decorate the temple of God like the Temple of Dagon as if it were a light thing? Where are the people that will sigh and cry because they see a generation establishing precedence for what Christianity is supposed to be and yet it looks like the corner bar dealing death in the name of freedom. Who will weep for a generation that loves darkness and the feel and ambiance of a worldly sin den as a place of worship? The elders are all almost dead now and there are none to restrain them. The philosophy of the youth-group in the former generation has become the philosophy of church in our generation. What some of us resisted and fought against is now here and there is nothing left to do but weep and pray for God to mark our foreheads.
  
It’s all legalism?

There is a generation that wants to know freedom but inquires not of the holiness of God. There was a time when Christian men and women would go out of their way to keep from offending God or identifying with this present evil world. Not today. It’s been said that the difference between many Christians and the world is only about 6 months. That sounds like a harsh thing to say, but look around. I remember a time when people came to church and poured their heart out to God in songs and prayers of great substance. Prayer was with unction. They truly meant what they sang. If they didn’t- you could tell it. They didn’t care how they looked doing it. No need to impress the judges. Nobody was watching them anyhow because they were caught up in the moving of the Spirit in such a way that they were utterly worshipping God themselves. The reason they didn’t go to places other people went, or dress like other people dressed, was because they didn’t want to offend God or identify with the world. They did not want to compromise the fact that they were temples of the Holy Spirit. It’s all legalism now. People do what they want and there is no difference. 

Fading Away

Perhaps by now you are good and upset wondering who this guy thinks he is. I would provoke you to love God and hate this evil world if I could. Maybe you already do. But anymore it’s as if we are just fading away. Folk don’t even care anymore. Those that are left are growing tired of fighting the system. The old-timers are dying off and there are few now left that even remember what Christianity ought to look like. 

Lukewarm is room temperature. Its what everything else is. When the Spiritual vitality of a church or a Christian is such that they are just like the world, they are lukewarm. But God is calling us out of that lethargy. He is calling us out of pretense and fakery. He is calling us to a depth of walk that is deeper than skin deep. No more going through the motions. No more working at being like the world. We are supposed to hate the world and abhor evil. Two things that are missing in this crisis hour. 


     

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