We all believe (well, most of us) that Jesus Christ is God, and that God came to the earth again to provide redemption for a people that were horribly lost. I Timothy 3:16 declares that the God who created all was manifest in the flesh. John 1 shows us that this God was made flesh and dwelt among us. Just think about that! The Almighty, Jehovah, Yahweh, Creator, and Savior, came down to where we were…
And then what do we do? We make a nice quiet room in the back for Him to stay in and move on with life, our way.
I wonder where this practice began. At around the age of 25, I traveled to California quite a bit for work, which was a strain as a single father, but it worked out with great friends that would care for my son as I was away.
On one of my last business trips to the L.A. area for the company I worked for, I drove past an enormous Catholic cathedral of beautiful architecture. As a study of medieval and gothic history, I love walking through these buildings and seeing the amazing work that went into creating these temples. But what really caught my eye was the name of the church, Apostolic Pentecostal Church.
Now, I was a Oneness Apostolic Pentecostal (Think United Pentecostal Church International, but broken away and on steroids) at the time, and I KNEW Catholics were NOT what I was. In fact, Catholics were all heretics to Pentecostals. So my level of intrigue shot up to irresistible levels, I had to visit this place.
I made an initial circle of the outside of the building, snapping pictures on my $8 Polaroid disposable camera of the high walls, towers, cemetery, etc.
Once satisfied, I made my way inside, snapping pictures as I went. Great foyers with marble floors and great stone stairwells leading up to the spires. Massive wooden doors that must have been hundreds of years old opened into the enormous sanctuary that seemed longer than a football field.
Long and narrow with great stone pillars running down both sides of the sanctuary leading to the great raised platform where the priests performed their duties. In awe of the grandiose, my attention was pulled first to the sides of the sanctuary where about every 20 feet an alcove in the stone walls held statues or paintings of Saints where people knelt to pray to.
As a good tourist, I walked by each, taking pictures as I went, even when people knelt in prayers. Eventually, on the left side (facing in) a much larger side room opened up to a statue of Mary, at least 10′-12′ tall, surrounded by wooden railings and hundreds and hundreds of burning candles with people kneeling, crossing themselves and praying.
Amazed, I continued to trek around the primary altar, or dais, or platform, whatever it is called. Great paintings, the imagery of naked babies, saints, Jesus and Mary, and more candles, all the trappings of a Catholic altar with padded kneeling benches, etc.
As I looked around, snapping more pictures on my disposable camera that was nearly spent, the statue of Christ caught my eye through the small view window in the camera. In a smaller room, or antechamber behind the altar was a 6′ statue of Christ. In the back room.
This is not an article about Catholicism, just an inspiration that this memory of nearly 15 years ago helps me to illustrate.
Christ in the Back Room
Before anyone ever laid eyes on Jesus at this cathedral, they had to pray and pass dozens of saints and spend time praying to Mary and even then, and only if you went behind the altar would you find the place of reverence to God himself.
Now, in my studies of Scripture, I stand on the belief that creating statues of men and women and then bowing to them in a posture of worship and submission is forbidden, but that is not my topic. My topic, however, is applicable to this thought process.
When did Christians begin placing other things, people, traditions, and commandments of Men before Christ? And why do we, like lemmings carry on the tradition?
As a side note, that I at the time thought was a sign from God… none of the photographs I took on the inside of the California cathedral developed from my $8 disposable Polaroid camera, only the dozen or so pictures I took on the outside…
“But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” – Matthew 6:33, KJV
In my background of Pentecostalism, it was more like Did you ask the Pastor first?, or Did the Pastor OK that?, or Did Pastor approve that vacation? Did Pastor tell you that job was good for you?
When I bought my first home, my pastor at the time berated me for not talking to him first. What?
We once were taught to be led by the Spirit, to seek God, pray for wisdom, seek his answers. And yet now, I see evangelical churches throwing Christ into the back room like the Catholic cathedral did and instead, deify the pastor and their traditions.
Just look at this picture from the United Pentecostal Church International, General Conference of 2017. Preachers and their kids now walk the red carpet with the Hollywood style background and post for pictures when attending the conference.
I can tell you this, Jesus is in the back room and this is not the Christianity we were called to defend, live for and to spread!
Pull Jesus out of the back room and put Him (not man) First!