Line upon Line

Isaiah 28:9-10 “Whom will he teach knowledge?
And whom will he make to understand the message?
Those just weaned from milk?
Those just drawn from the breasts?
For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept,
Line upon line, line upon line,
Here a little, there a little.”

In 1965 a man by the name of Chuck Smith founded a 25 person congregation in Costa Mesa, California in what eventually became known as Calvary Chapel. Many churches at the time were very regimented in their practices and became isolated from many of the “hippies” that were growing in abundance at the time. Chuck’s visionary approach was unprecedented, holding services on the beach and baptising new converts in the Pacific Ocean was not uncommon and the welcoming format of a church that didn’t care what you looked like appealed to many. Many great teachers have arisen through the mentoring of this man, modern day contemporary christian music had its roots in this movement, and the teaching style patterned after Isaiah 28 became a mainstay for churches who wished to be associated with Calvary Chapel.

Pastor Chuck was not perfect, he would have been the first to tell you so but his methods for reaching the lost eventually spread throughout the world and the sound biblical teaching of this church helped pave the way for true gospel outreach today.

Why am I honoring this man’s legacy?

Anyone who leaves a mark in history like this man did, was doing something right.

Isaiah 28:13 “But the word of the Lord was to them,
“Precept upon precept, precept upon precept,
Line upon line, line upon line,
Here a little, there a little,”
That they might go and fall backward, and be broken
And snared and caught.”

Sure, we can find things to criticize in Chuck’s life, the vision may not have started with him but he finished the race well. Anyone in a position of prominence would have a hard time bearing the weight of scrutiny as he did. When he was ministering in California, I was attending a pentecostal church in Oregon called the Assembly of God. I remember listening to the music station on the radio called the Calvary Satellite Network. They always played music that seemed joyful, worshipful, and relevant. The teaching was always sound and I never heard the teaching going off on strange tangents of doctrine that many churches tended to do, including the one I grew up in.

What strange trends did we used to see you may ask?

The modern day church has brought many practices within its walls that has distracted from the original intent of God’s church.

The church, which was meant to be a congregation of believers began to focus on the building itself rather than on the people. People started treating the sanctuary like Solomon’s temple rather than just a place to meet. Instead of jewish phylactery which was the expectation for priests in David’s day, we see people wearing their “Sunday best”, with some congregations expecting three piece suits as a norm and priests wearing robes and sashes. If someone ran in the sanctuary, it was considered sacrilegious and a defiling of the place that was “holy”.

I went to a small christian school in my home church, it was the early days of the ACE (accelerated christian education) learning program founded in Texas in the 1970’s. I would at times wunder into the sanctuary and just stand there by myself, expecting to feel the holiness of God. I would question why that room was so holy, why God would just dwell there even if the people weren’t worshipping at the time. There were many questions I had while growing up in that church that formed who I am today. There were some really quality people there and yet there was a hypocritical component in the doctrines as well.

Snares of the Enemy

The Word of God catches false ideologies like rabbits in a snare. People will run with a concept until they are confronted with Truth and then there becomes a clash of opinions. Will they take the Bible at its Word or will they configure their doctrine to match what they want to believe?

Isaiah 28:15b “For we have made lies our refuge,
And under falsehood we have hidden ourselves.”

When the practices of men or women do not match up with the intent of God, there lies an agenda that is corrupt.

Something as innocuous as the “holy laughter” movement turns a congregation into a circus that should have been grounded in Truth. When people are running through “tunnels of fire” to receive a “greater anointing”, they falsely manipulate the work of God into a sideshow act. The further a congregation goes into striving to mimic the work of the Spirit, the further that people group goes into falsehood.

Next thing you know, the church is releasing gold dust from it’s rafters to make the people think that angels hover overhead or they are lying on graves, trying to draw the “anointing” that was lost when someone died prematurely. The Bethel church of Redding, California has done more to twist the power of God into an psychological manipulation than any church in modern day times.

As a result of this movement, our youth have been given a false understanding of what it means to walk in the power of God.

Instead of understanding what obedience to the Spirit looks like, they try and manipulate the Spirit of God for their own enjoyment. The emotional roller coaster of the event comes with a huge withdrawal of emotion later. To keep the level of intensity up, they have to raise the bar of excitability with each successive meeting. There is no precedent in God’s Word for being “slain in the Spirit”, but a multitude of congregations embrace this practice of falling down when prayed for as if showing their constituents that their prayer release a legitimate move of God.

What are we to Do?

Get back to the Word of God!

Line upon line, precept upon precept…this concept is what drives sound doctrine. When teaching from God’s Word is built from the context of the letter, relevant to the people to whom it was delivered, the Truth shines through without error.

Calvary Chapel built their foundations on this model but many other churches have followed this pattern as well. The trend away from strict denominational allegiances into a more non-denominational approach has opened the door to allow others to approach without placing so much emphasis on a particular doctrine.

Isaiah 28:16-17 “Therefore thus says the Lord God, “Behold, I lay in Zion a stone for a foundation,
A tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation;
Whoever believes will not act hastily.
Also I will make justice the measuring line,
And righteousness the plummet;
The hail will sweep away the refuge of lies,
And the waters will overflow the hiding place.

Gifts of the Spirit are good when they are exercised within the boundaries by which they were meant to be practiced. Every gift should glorify Jesus. If it glorifies a pastor or a church, it is being exercised falsely. If the church is hyper focused on the gift, they lose the purpose by which they were founded….being a light to the nations.

Weigh your practices carefully, judge a denomination off how well they practice the christianity that Jesus founded and the faith the disciples exemplified, then you will see yourself growing in your experience of modeling Jesus to the world as well.

The size of a church doesn’t signify God’s blessing. The quality of the people practicing love, who are staying true to God’s Word, and allow the gifts God He gave to each person to be exercised in obedience shows forth in a true congregation that understands the path Jesus laid before us 2000 years ago.

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