Saturday, August 7, 2010

The House that Jack Built: The Renewing of the Mind

There is a Mother Goose nursery rhyme that is very appropriate for the topic of the renewing of the mind as it concerns the final stages of involvement with a dysfunctional religious group. This stage of the one leaving a dysfunctional or hyper-authoritarian group is perhaps the most perilous of times. One in such a state may have spiritual, emotional, physical and mental trauma. This is why it is so important to gain a perspective on where one is, how they got there and what do they do now. The nursery rhyme is a good pattern to study regarding the answers those in this situation require. As the rhyme goes, the detail builds upon the initial verse. What is needed is a trace back to the original action that started all the structure that one must cope with at the final exit and the post-exit transitional stages. The idea here is that at the point in time that the person considers leaving such a group or is pondering leaving, there are so many layers of life to sort through, one can get lost in the sorting process and in the end if not done properly, the onus is always on the one who seeks to exit – that is, they usually experience a great deal of stress believing they have ultimately failed and must now shoulder all the fallout from their decision – from being shunned and up to being damned for leaving the group. This is usually the way that they are programmed to think and operate by what they have lived through. One has usually gone through several ‘verses’ of life with such a group and each one has built upon the other and depends on the other. As a result it might be a bit daunting as well as significantly destructive to a person who is in the final stage of departure or in the initial stage of exit. Believe me I know. So what must one do in order the slough off layers of weighted life experience to be truly healed and obtain a renewed mind?

The key is in the rhyme itself, we must go back to the very beginning of our own private encounter with God. This might be difficult to filter given some may have only known a relationship with God through the religious group that they were or are currently a part. But the cure is still fundamentally the same. One’s personal encounter with God is always extremely personal and so separate from anything or anyone else. This fact must be tantamount in the mind of the believer undergoing such a transition.

What underlies such a release from the stronghold - we will call the house that ‘Jack’ built. ‘Jack’ is used here to refer to the leadership of the dysfunctional religious group. The way of release is found in two main facts. One will need to permit themselves to embrace the fundamental realities that will be presented. The first elementary fact will be reviewed which will allow the acceptance of the second. These two are the crux of deliverance from a religious system and its spirit. They, taken together, will begin the healing process. They alone are enough but they will take a lot of application on one’s part to bring about a full healing and deliverance.

Before these two facts are explored. There is some groundwork that will be needed in order to fully understand the full breadth of the deliverance and the scope of what Jesus must do in order to free one from such a ‘house’.

The Swept House: The Return of the Religious Spirit

Jesus in one of his parables used the analogy of an unclean spirit (see Luke 11:14-26) that was exercised from a man and for a time it searched to find rest and in not finding rest, it returned with seven other spirits more wicked than itself. This is a very good analogy of one who leaves a dysfunctional religious group.( I use the term ‘religious spirit’ in the commentary below frequently. Please understand this may not be a spirit in the sense of a demonic spirit – it is used below to express the mindset of the person who has undergone the process of being exposed to teachings that are toxic in nature. I do not totally rule out the possibility of more malevolent force but whatever may be external to the person, make no mistake it has been in a sense ‘invited’ albeit unknowingly for the most part.)

Many times, a person who leaves a group of such nature never does a spiritual inventory significant enough to be truly free of the religious ‘spirit’ that they have embraced for sometimes many, many years. They can go through the rest of their lives in unwitting spiritual bondage to what they were once a part. Thus the ‘spirit’ returns and brings with it guilt, condemnation, disbelief, discouragement, distrust, cynicism and self-doubt. I am sure there are many other ‘spirits’ that could be enumerated here but I have chosen these because I consider them the most destructive. Regardless of how many, the return of these characteristics after departure is the ‘fait accompli’ of the group. The people still within the group may look at those who have left and say they are shipwrecked. Many who have left the group revert to a lifestyle of self-destructive or at least faith-destructive behavior. When they are observed or encountered by people still members of the group, the ones still in the group see only the damage and believe it is judgment from God because they chose to leave the ‘chosen few’. In fact, these ‘examples of reprobate behavior’ can be used by leaders within the group to prove that their position and so teachings are canonized. In such cases, the true culprit here may be masked entirely. The reality is that, for the ones that leave and suffer ‘shipwreck’ it is because the house the ‘Jack’ built has never undergone the complete renovation that is required. Brother or Sister, one cannot live in any sense in the house that ‘Jack’ built. It must be gutted. These seven characteristics mentioned above are the ‘walls’ of the house that ‘Jack’ built. All these walls, even the supporting ones, for one’s life must be struck down. Ironically, they are very familiar to the one who has dwelt in the house that ‘Jack’ built. If one is honest with themselves, these ‘walls’ are astonishingly the same characteristics the person has allowed for years to be built in their lives. What is meant by this is that the one that has been in such a group had misunderstood all the below detailed and has legitimized all these destructive elements by believing –as they were told- that when they were experiencing these it was to reveal what needed to be changed. Yet the real form of these ‘spirits’ had never been perceived in their true and darker form as they are illustrated below:

· Guilt – in such groups, any non-compliance to the teachings of the group are a direct assault on the self-image of the person. This is not really conviction that has the resolution of repentance, it is guilt from continually never measuring up to the ideal. One is constantly reminded of how far one must go and how base one really is. The only resolution offered is harder and more stringent application of the teaching. The result is exhaustion and extreme frustration and guilt. The reality is one will never measure up. In reality, it is an artificial standard. It is a wall the ‘Jack’ built. Tear it down. As the scripture says, Rom 3:23 “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:” This is the answer: agree that you do not measure up and never will. You must depend on the grace of Christ and His work to be adequate. As long as one truly believes they must measure up, the wall of guilt will hold. The key here is to ‘work’ with the Spirit to achieve a lifestyle that bears witness with the Spirit of God within each Christian. If one seeks to justify any non-compliance, this is where the stronghold self must be struck down. Some comfort is found in the 1 John 1:5-8. This is the most realistic stance any one Christian can possess. One must never intentionally walk in darkness but being the frail stuff that we are means we need a lot of help. This is the purpose of Jesus coming in the first place.

· Condemnation – This is the end result of guilt. The final fruit of death that guilt produces. Many ‘walls’ in the house that ‘Jack’ built are walls of guilt that have calcified into condemnation. To say it another way guilt is the new wall constructed, condemnation are walls that were once guilt but have long since become condemnation. What is the real difference between guilt and condemnation? Guilt is injected. There is the sting of the pain of perceived failure. Condemnation is assimilated guilt. It fools one into thinking it is part and parcel of their very self. One actually takes ownership of the guilt and it becomes part of them – this is condemnation. It is the marred reflection of self in the mirror viewed through the teachings one has been practicing and their failure in their efforts to practice them- it is perhaps the most destructive ‘wall’. One who suffers high degrees of condemnation are the ones most likely who leave the faith entirely. Oh what accountability looms for those who have caused sheep to be so destroyed!

What is the good news? These walls are like dominos. Once guilt is dealt with, the other walls will topple. In a practical sense, deal with the guilt you sense now, and as the Lord brings up other walls of past failures and you apply the Blood of Christ to them, they will topple as well. Please keep this in mind. The longer one has lived in the house that ‘Jack’ built the more walls of condemnation there will be. Have the courage to look at each wall you encounter, don’t think it is your person. It is a wall in your house nothing more. Francis Frangipane in his Book The Three Battlegrounds puts it this way:

”Capture the thought: ‘I am a failure’ ….Even though you have failed and will fail again in the future, now because Christ is in your life you can confidently proclaim, ‘Though I was a failure, my sufficiency comes from God, not myself. He causes all things to work for my good so that nothing is impossible if I keep faith in Him…”

· Disbelief – This is directly linked to the repeated failures and the subsequent guilt it produces. Over time with so many failures and the corresponding guilt that morphs into condemnation, one might have a tendency to doubt that the way of the teaching is impossible and the god of this way is not worth serving. This is quite common. Many times people give up on Jesus because of the house that ‘Jack’ built. What is the truth? Listen to your own conclusion: “I have begun to doubt the way of the teaching and the god behind it”…This is exactly right. Look at your experience, as C.S. Lewis said: “Experience is a hard teacher but you learn…” The reality is you have accepted a teaching that is not truth at all. It is a house that ‘Jack’ built. Moreover the god that has been presented is a poor facsimile of the real one you really serve. Allow yourself the conclusion you have reached by your own experience - that you have been wrong to follow the teachings and by allowing ‘Jack’ to build you a house – if you could call it a house at all! Here disbelief is actually a good thing and a conclusion that what you may have been doing for years is flawed. Jesus said an interesting thing: “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?” Your experience may be the only thing of truth you have been given for many years, listen to it. Bring it before the Lord and let Him sort it for you. It might be the mallet you will use to tear down all the walls in the house the ‘Jack’ built.

· Discouragement – This is the fruit of living passively. What is meant by this is that what has been imposed on the follower is a bone-crushing system of teaching. One is told that until the system has run itself successfully in the person, then any self-determining effort or action is not warranted. Unfortunately for the one implementing, there is really no verifiably concrete assessment one might personally experience as a confirmation the desired change has ‘taken’. This is usually in the hands of those that lead them. Simply put, one is not allowed to think or act or judge for themselves – without proper guidance of course!. The more one attempts to implement the system, the more discouragement is produced. This is an endless cycle of more self-abasement and surrender of one’s self to the house that ‘Jack’ built. If we wait long enough there is nothing left but the ‘walls’. There is nothing good in the house that is not overshadowed by the walls that have been constructed. How does this play out once one exits the group? Their faith in God may cease to exist. In the end, ‘Jack’ will take everything if one allows the discouragement to fester into immobilization.

What is the answer? It is to recognize the work of death that is occurring. This is the same old deception in another garb –substituting the Law for Faith. There is a confusion between the Law of Works and The Law of Faith, as Paul Said in the Epistle to the Romans 3:27-31: Where [is] boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith.

· Distrust – Well, we really don’t need help with understanding what this one is all about. To take it a step further, the end result of living in the house that ‘Jack’ built is one distrusts their very self. After so much time in such a house, one cannot think, reason or solve the issues they encounter without great difficulty and a lot of stress. Many just avoid the conclusions that they are reaching – sometimes for many years. One is not only left alone but desolate even of self….and those who remain in the group wonder why such devastation occurs! This may entrench the position of the ones that remain in the group not so much as if they really fully believe in what they are doing, it is more out of fear of experiencing what those who have left the group have suffered. What those that remain in the group may not realize it is only ‘buna soup’ – (this is worth your own research) they are given to live on. The reality is that the main purpose one in the group has is to propagate the system itself. There is no other goal. Survival of self is not the goal. In fact, in some groups, this is the ultimate achievement: the loss of whom one is in all aspects.

· Cynicism – if one continues to live in the house that ‘Jack’ built after departure from the group, there is nothing but self-destruction. Thus the person can actually come to a point that they look up at the heavens and shake their fist at the Almighty. All that appears of the faith is looked upon with disgust and even malice. What is cynicism really? Cynicism is masked un-forgiveness. Francis Frangipane comes to our aid once again:

“You can be delivered from that oppression on your soul by releasing and forgiving those who hurt you. To the degree that you truly let the incident go and forgive the offender, to the same degree God will restore your soul to a balanced, and healthy attitude toward people. As you increase the process of forgiveness, you will grow in love, and as the Scripture says “There is no love in fear…love casts out fear.

· Self Doubt – This is cynicism’s twin brother. In fact taking all the above ‘walls’ in the house that ‘Jack’ built, this is the end result. This is what paralyzes one’s future life if they are not resolved. Leaving them active in one’s life causes immobility and one becomes an easy prey for the enemy of our souls. ‘Jack’ very much has built the house so that one reaches the end conclusion – there is nothing one can do on their own. Well, that is for sure. But the real issue is ‘who’ one looks to for moving them forward. ‘Jack’ wants us look at him for the answers-that is through their teachings. We should look to ‘Jesus’. Let’s all agree with ‘Jack’ that we can’t build a house. Where we differ is that we believe Jesus has and will build us a house in which to dwell. Its walls support and bolster us: walls of Love, hope, faith, mercy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, meekness, temperance – against there is no such law. Does this sound familiar? It is the fruit of the presence of the Spirit of God (Gal 5:22-23).

You must look at your life and understand major demolition and reconstruction must be done. It is the only way to be truly free. If we demolish the house we are living in and then move into the one that Jesus will build for us, then, when the religious ‘spirit’ returns, it will not find the repose where it once did. The only thing that is the same is the address. This is the goal you must be after.

The Two Toolsets of Demolition and Reconstruction.

Step One: Killing the ‘Rat’: Dealing With the Religious Spirit.

Before the cure can be applied to the House that Jack built, we have to exterminate the ‘rat’. What does this amount to or what action is required? We have to understand that the power of the religious spirit is spiritual pride. In essence, one has to admit that a mistake has been made. The armor of the religious spirit is that it cannot accept any doubt regarding its position. As a result, when a person is steeped in the house that ‘Jack’ built, there has been no place for any doubt regarding the religious system they have lived under for perhaps many years. It is quite common that the one that has departed or is considering it, has already tested the mettle of the teachings they have been following and have repeatedly repressed the thought that what they are practicing is error. In fact, it might be so ingrained in them to the point they may not even perceive this truth. That is, the thought of practicing error has been conditioned out of them by a very long and brutal process of self-denial and thought repression. It is the silent killer of the believing soul of the one that has departed – this is the real stark truth.

One in such a state must humble themselves and admit that they have been wrong in what they have practiced. It must be understood that this is not allowing doubt into one’s life but humbly accepting the leadership of the Holy Spirit to re-teach one concerning the faith. This is critical. Because if one cannot admit the mistakes made, no matter whom has brought them, they have accepted the house that ‘Jack’ built and so are liable for the result. In reality, there are no real pure victims. In part there are only accomplices. One must shoulder their part in the process. If not, they will continue to live as victims and so resolution is impossible because they look outside of themselves and the Lord for it. One must ‘see’ the religious spirit as an outside force seeking entry. If they see only themselves – that is the religious ‘spirit’ is perceived as their own thoughts, they will make accommodations available for it.

By taking personal responsibility and being accountable, the returning ‘religious spirit’ is made impotent and it is disarmed from its chief weapon against those who were under its power: THEIR OWN THOUGHTS. One must agree with this ‘spirit’ that they are ‘wrong’ but not in the sense that one would once again begin reconstruction of the house that ‘Jack’ built. One must agree that they were wrong before any renovation is done. The demolition must be complete: every wall, the layout of every room must be utterly removed. What does the amount to? One must review all that is known concerning one’s Faith. If the major tenets of the house that ‘Jack’ built rest on certain teachings, each one must be systematically brought under scrutiny. Each stone examined before laid down as something to be built upon. This is the foot-soldier in the battle of Spiritual Warfare. What is our help? It is the very Word of God and His Holy Spirit. One must allow God to work His word in them to the point that they see the flaws clearly in the house that ‘Jack’ built. This is the demolition work that must be done first so that all remnants of the house that ‘Jack’ built are gone. How is this done?

Step Two: The Cornerstone Re-laid

There is a verse in the Gospel of Luke 20:17-18. This is the key to freedom. One must return to the font of Salvation and Deliverance. That is the very stone that has been laid by only One - The Lord Himself. In a sense, the Cornerstone as been ‘rejected’ - That is, more than likely He has been reduced in His fundamental and essential role by the teachings practiced. How is this done? By stressing things as being fundamental in the life of the believer that have equal footing with the sacrifice of Christ. A good example is the emphasis of Water Baptism as a requirement to be ‘Born Again.’ This in essence fundamentally reduces the potency of the work of Christ on the Cross. How? At a minimum, to delays the efficacy of the blood of Jesus until some event has transpired. This can never be so. There are many other examples that could be listed. But the principle to apply here is that if anything supplements the redemptive work of Jesus on the Cross as being necessary to the establishment of the believer into God’s Kingdom, it must be torn down. Christ alone is our hope; not water or spirit baptism as some would label it. If these are seen as essential, the religious spirit has not yet been cauterized from our house. It will return, count on it, with many minions that are bent on living in the house that ‘Jack’ built.

Here is a study that you need to do in order to waylay the Religious Spirit that dogs your every step. Here is where I get personal so forgive me for invading your space if I use personal pronouns. Unfortunately this is not an objective exercise. We are dealing with as A.W. Tozer put it ‘quivering stuff’ - that is where one can feel pain touching the very heart of any Christian – how one has practiced their Love for the Savior.


1> It is okay to admit you have been practicing in error. This was the sin of the mighty church at Ephesus. While they did many spiritual feats, the Lord charged them that they had left their first Love: Jesus. What is the error for the most part? It was ‘Majoring in the Minors.’ This was also the mistake of the Galatian Church that started out so well and ended up in compromise with the Religious Spirit of the Judaizers. What was their sin? They added to the pure gospel the practices of circumcision. This is akin to any who would add to the sacrifice of Christ any subsequent act no matter how ‘scriptural’ or not. After all, the Judiazers professed that the fulfillment of the Mosaic Law by the believer was essential. To wit, Paul vehemently opposed. See Galatians Chapter 3.
2> We have all fallen short. None of us deserves to be called Righteous in any sense. See Romans 3:21-27. The crux of this scripture is to one event, the work of Christ on the Cross. When is the power applied? When the Blood is. This is the contextually accurate application. When is it appropriated? When it is applied. The blood , the Blood, the Blood. Is our only hope of cleansing and freedom. It is the font of our new creation.
3> We have a way made into the Holiest Place. It is the trail of Blood blazed by our Savior. See Hebrews Chapter 9 in its entirety.

Our Armor:

The religious spirit is very adept at hurling fiery darts at us. We have been perhaps an unwitting victim for years – it knows us well. It will hit us where we are most vulnerable.
Ephesians the fifth chapter details the armor we must have on to fight and protect ourselves effectively. What has been detailed above is the greatest truth. You are saved by the Blood of Jesus. That is the Helmet of Salvation. It is the crowning achievement of His Glory – the Blood of Christ.

Secondly- the Breastplate of Righteousness: Whose righteousness? Our own? No, Romans 3:21-27 clearly makes this known – it is His Righteousness.

Third- the Shield of Faith – In what we have practiced up until now? No, Faith in our Savior – His person.

Fourth – The undergirding of Truth. What is the truth? You may have been following a system not the Savior. You must repent and go back to the Savior and see Him as your all in all.

Fifth – Having your feet shod with the gospel. This is how you are to walk. Not in some system but in the fundamental truth that you are saved by grace through faith in One alone. This allows you to walk into the future unfettered.

Sixth – You actively wield the Word of God. You go back to the book and re-evaluate all the ground you have trod over the years and cut and divide between the scriptures and secondary practices and traditions. There is no easy way you must become a student of the word and allow God to recover the true meaning of the scriptures.

Closing Remarks

For those of us who have lived in houses that ‘Jack’ built. We must allow the Lord to lay again the Cornerstone. Let Him break that which would overlay on Him additional ‘steps’ and let Him crush to powder those whom He falls upon. We must again offer ourselves as a living sacrifice to God and allow our minds to be renewed in the light of the true gospel of our Lord and Savior. It is only then that we can walk delivered into the will of God having discerned that which is good, acceptable and perfect. This is a journey not a destination. Scars will remain but may you see the Lord’s deliverance and let them be a reminder to what He has set you free from serving.

Is it a battle? Yes. It is a battle with our own thoughts. We must take them captive (2 Cor 10:3-5). We can give no foothold to the Religious ‘Spirit’ we have lived with so long. Let it be cast out and bound. For whom the Son has freed, he is freed indeed.

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