True Christianity vs Subjective Religiosity

by Mike Ratliff

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. (Colossians 3:1-4 ESV)

There is a form of religion in the world today that calls itself by many names and in each of those forms it is seen as a type of Christianity, but is, in fact, nothing more than a man-made facsimile of true Christianity. Its foundation is not the same. True Christianity is built upon the foundations of Christ, Him Crucified, God’s Eternal Word, The Holy Trinity, and the Sovereignty of God, On the other hand, the man-made, subjective form of it has an entirely different foundation. Its foundation is accommodation, fairness, equality, the nobility of man, the rights of man, the free will of man and experientialism. Even though both true Christianity and the subjectivism reference many of the same things, the focus will be entirely different with the former being primarily being on the glory of God through the exposition of His truth from His Word with the latter being on the accommodation of man with the inclusion of people’s experiences as the primary focus and means of knowing God and His truth.

There is a “church” or “religious group” in my city that advertises quite a bit on TV. Right now they have an ad campaign going on in which they show people in a “worship service” with their arms raised (nothing wrong with that), with a lot of other busy activity going on in what they are showing. In the voice-over, we hear the narrator say, “God is here!” My first reaction to that was to ask, “Really? How do you know?” What is this based on?” “Are you saying that God is there because of all of these experiences or because people do all sorts of things like babble in strange tongues or wave their arms around or fall down on the floor, et cetera?” Is that a proof that God is there? To be honest, I could easily fake any of those things and so could any of you. This is not proof that God is there. All of these things are experiential and, therefore, subjective.

I grew up a Southern Baptist. I served as a Bible teacher and Deacon for many years in SBC churches in Oklahoma and Kansas. When God was really growing my faith and using me in ministry I found that it had little to nothing to do with anything subjective. The proof of His working in me was never anything experiential. It was always objective. What do I mean? Subjective Christianity is based in experientialism with no concrete connection to Biblical Truth. Objective Christianity is based in what God’s Word teaches as true or false and we line up our lives to live accordingly. I pray you see the difference. When God used me in ways I could not explain it was as I submitted myself by faith to His truth and obeyed Him, trusting in His grace for His will to be done. It was amazing what He did through me in that. On the other hand, there have been many times when I have blown it and gone the subjective route where I tried to both control and interpret everything subjectively according to sight rather than by faith. I looked for feelings thinking that was my direction from God.

21st Century Evangelicalism across the board is actually quite thin when it comes to being substantive enough to meet the spiritual needs of most people in our time. This is why so many are including things into their walks such as Yoga or mysticism of one form or another. This is tragic. The fault here is with the Church leadership who have so compromised their message and church environment to be subjective that they have lost the ability to be objective and for them to even show their flocks that that is actually the right way to go. Therefore, we have so many religious leaders off the rails, all over the place theologically accusing some of us for being mean-spirited, et cetera for pointing out these things to those who are ministers of subjective religiosity rather than True Christianity.

On the other hand, the Christians who have either escaped or avoided the subjective trap live and walk according to a faith that is anything but thin. It is based in a living faith that is fed by communing with the Triune God on a daily basis. It is not based on a contextualized subjective religiosity, but is based on walking by faith, not by sight. These people believe God and walk accordingly. They are not perfect. They still sin. They still find themselves having to repent and walk in repentance, but they look forward to the day when they will be with their Lord forever. This life is not the end of all things, but the life to come is the focus (see the passage I placed at the top of this post).

Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. (Colossians 3:5-8 ESV)

Here we see our responsibility in this walk. We are to walk before our Lord in this narrow path in such a way that we put to death what is earthly in us that leads to idolatry. Why? These are the very things that were the cause of God’s wrath being poured out on our Saviour on the Cross and will be the cause of the wrath to come. Yes, it is coming. We must not love this lost and dying world. We are to put these things away and not live this way.

Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all. Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3:9-17 ESV)

Is this natural? No it is not. We are being called to walk in obedience in a way that is not natural. It requires us to trust our Lord to both enable us to do this and to change us as He does it. He will also work in those around us who observe this and do a good work in them as well. This is being Christlike in the midst of a sinful world. We cannot do this on our own. It requires a spirit-filled, objective faith. We are to put on love and God will give us peace and joy and build our faith so we can do it. We may even be persecuted in the midst of doing this, but we will sing psalms and praise the Lord even in the midst of that. We will thank the Lord and praise Him in the midst of it all.

Now, the subjective religionist may try to emulate this, but their “feelings” can only keep this up for a little while and they will eventually give in to their emotions and fail. However, the Objective Christian walking by faith can do all things through Christ who strengthens them no matter the pressure from the world or the enemy. He or she can be content in a world that demands that they be fleshly. Does this make sense my brethren?

Right now I see attacks on the visible Church from every side. I see Reformed and non-Reformed church leaders falling into subjectivity on every side. It is quite tragic. I have just fought a long battle in this myself and am by no means through it all yet. I was beginning to wonder what the battle was really all about then the pieces all began falling into place today. This is a battle we must fight each day all day my brethren. To give in to subjectivity is to walk by sight instead of by faith and we cannot do that and remain obedient to our Lord. The emotional stuff out there that pretends to be spiritual is simply a counterfeit of the real deal. Real objective Christianity is not like that. It will not have its foundation in emotion, but in God’s truth.

Soli Deo Gloria!

18 thoughts on “True Christianity vs Subjective Religiosity

  1. Mike, this quote:

    “In the voice-over, we hear the narrator say, “God is here!”

    from the ‘commercial’ for the business, err um ‘church’ made me think of this:

    Matthew 24:25-26 (Amplified Bible)
    25See, I have warned you beforehand.
    26So if they say to you, Behold, He is in the wilderness (desert)–do not go out there; if they tell you, Behold, He is in the secret places or inner rooms–do not believe it.

    As always… man wants to set up a religious gathering for money and ‘experience’.
    Paul said this about the greek ‘temples’ and men’s so called worship and ‘men’s hands':

    Acts 17:24-25 (Amplified Bible)
    24The God Who produced and formed the world and all things in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in handmade shrines.
    25Neither is He served by human hands, as though He lacked anything, for it is He Himself Who gives life and breath and all things to all [people].(A)

    I’m sick of men who profit from the one’s attending ( The reason for the commercials ) and defining ‘worship’ however they choose ( Loud music, canned colored lights and the ‘vain repetitions’ and wrote prayers of the 3 ‘services’ every Sunday ) instead of the following of the Lord as Paul discribed true worship (Belief and obedience to the Lord ) not loud noises and temples and works:

    Acts 24:14 (Amplified Bible)
    14But this I confess to you, however, that in accordance with the Way [of the Lord], which they call a [heretical, division-producing] sect, I worship (serve) the God of our fathers, still persuaded of the truth of and believing in and placing full confidence in everything laid down in the Law [of Moses] or written in the prophets

  2. I couldn’t help but think of this verse when I read your article:
    Galatians 5:1 (NASB)
    1 It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.
    It makes me sick how people think they need to go beyond (or add anything) to His Word in order to know Him.

    He offers true freedom – and I can say that once I was blind, but now I see..by His grace and mercy, He set me free…

  3. Dear Mike,
    Thanks for focusing us on the importance of the objective Truth of God’s Holy Word. If anyone really wants to be blessed read Psalm 119. “Your word is very pure, therefore Your servant loves it. I am small and despised, Yet I do not forget Your precepts. Your righteousness is an everlasting righeousnsness, and Your law is truth. Trouble and anguish have come upon me, yet Your commandments are my delight. Your testimonies are righteous forever; Give me understanding that I may live.” Psalm 119:140-144 Good News! God LOVES the small and despised! “He who is holy, who is true, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, and who shuts and no one opens, says this: ‘I know your deeds. Behold, I have put before you an open door which no one can shut, because you have a LITTLE power, and HAVE KEPT MY WORD, and have not denied My name…Because you have kept the word of My perseverance, I also will keep you from the hour of testing, that hour which is about to come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.'” Rev.3:7b-8,10 We of little power have ALL power through the Sword of the Spirit, God’s word. Grace and peace in Christ Jesus

  4. What I see is the true church and the false church becoming more polarized, Mike. True believers will not compromise with the Word of God. All others will fall prey to easy believism, experientialism, pragmatism, and ecumenism. We have been forewarned, but need reminders.

    Thank you for reminding us of the Truth!

  5. The descriptions in that first paragraph are very good….. It is so easy to “stick to the letter of the law” or even good, orthodox doctrine, when dealing with others, but rationalize something away when we are dealing with our own feelings, thoughts, emotions. I am watching a fellowship I am familiar with self-destruct by this very thing. The problem did not initially come in through error in doctrine, but in two or three of the leaders lifting up their “feelings” on certain issues…… ” the accomodation of man) of course now it is all starting to pour downhill………
    So many times, it seems, I see examples of people, churches, leaders, who speak sound doctrine…….but they do not live it………. They will say every man including themselves is totally depraved, but they will never acknowledge, deal with, confess, repent of, any of that depravity. And if you would happen to go to them with something you are automatically labeled judgmental. I know you have talked about this many times in your articles and you teach from the Word that true Christianity changes our behaviour by the power of the Holy Spirit. Lord, help me not to be a Calvinist in speech and Arminian in actions. ALL the scriptures in the comments were so encouraging…….

  6. Something I heard once applies here: “Man must conform to God, not the other way around”

  7. “Here we see our responsibility in this walk. We are to walk before our Lord in this narrow path in such a way that we put to death what is earthly in us that leads to idolatry.”

    The fellowship that I was just forced to leave would deem this statement as “legalism”.
    That their are things/issues/mandates in the Bible that are of personal interpretation. What I would say was a command of God, they would say was personal preference. Which is just the tip of the iceberg of “man-centered” theology. I fear that below the surface there is a huge mountain of hypocrisy, humanism and false doctrine. APOSTASY!
    There is an old saying “God said it, I believe it, and that settles it for me.” I would change it to :
    “God said it, that settles it, whether I believe it or not”.

    Praise God for the Word, which encourages, feeds and cuts like a knife, all in preparing us for our eternal Home!

    Thanks for this post, I am going to pass it on to some others.

  8. Berean Gal, yes, that is right; This idol is so strong in the visible church right now that I found the spiritual battle to “go this direction” very difficult. It still is. There are other sacred cows in the visible church, but this is one of the most covert. Let us be strong and totally obedient to the Word and our Lord in this.

  9. Thank you so much, Brother, for being a willing “pen” in the hand of the Father. I cannot tell you how much this (and other articles) ministers to me. I’ve seen that very thing about which you’ve written happen in my community and in the lives of some of my friends.

    We, too, left a church because of its propensity to elevate emotionalism and experientialism over God’s Word, which is forever settled in heaven. Yes, we EXPERIENCE God; we have emotions that are moved–I know that personally, I am quite moved emotionally sometimes during prayer. But as you stated, we are “called to walk in obedience in a way that is not natural. It requires us to trust our Lord to both enable us to do this and to change us as He does it.” Emotions and feelings can be so fickle and subjective, but the Word of God stands firm.

    So many things are on my heart right now as I write this. While I am pleased that the Lord is speaking to His people and warning us of the things that are attacking the Church today, I am grieved that so many are falling to the wayside, heeding the voice of man and/or feelings/ et cetera, rather than loving and abiding in the Word. One of your readers suggested us to read Psalm 119. I just read that yesterday, and was deeply ministered to. I was also deeply convicted for not spending more time in His Word. Praise God for strengthening us!

    Thanks again, Brother. May we continue to pray for the Body of Christ, for discernment, for truth, for strength in these days, and for the love of Christ to knit us all together as we stand firm.

    Blessings to you and your family!

  10. Thank you for the post Mike.
    You said,
    “…Even though both true Christianity and the subjectivism reference many of the same things, the focus will be entirely different with the former being primarily being on the glory of God through the exposition of His truth from His Word with the latter being on the accommodation of man with the inclusion of people’s experiences as the primary focus and means of knowing God and His truth.”

    As I see it, the accommodation of man made by man is rooted in humanism, and cannot lead to the glory of God, whereas Christ made all necessary accommodation for man with His own arm, as it says in Isaiah 63:5:

    “I looked, but there was no one to help, I was appalled that no one gave support; so my own arm worked salvation for me, and my own wrath sustained me.”

    He is the Alpha and Omega. Everything begins with Him, everything must point to Him, everything ends in Him!

    God bless your work in the Lord!

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