“Delivered” (Oh Really?)

31 03 2011
Truth Matters Newsletters – March 2011 – Vol. 16 Issue 3 – “Delivered” (Oh really?) – By Rev. Robert Liichow

Discernment Ministries International

“Delivered” (Oh Really?)

Rev. Bob Liichow

A few weeks ago I was watching the 700 Club (1) and Pat Robertson was interviewing a woman who was recounting her visit to both heaven and hell. Being a researcher of such accounts I listened intently to what she had to say. After the interview I went online to begin to do some initial research on this latest visionary by the name of Mrs. Tamara Laroux. She is supposed to serve as a pastor, but thus far I can find no church affiliation nor can I locate any information on her biblical education (or any education for that matter). This much is known, she has authored a book entitled “Delivered, A Death-Defying Journey into Heaven and Hell.” Sounds pretty exciting! DMI purchased a copy of the book (used, thankfully) and what follows is her divine revelation of heaven and hell.

The very first inkling of where she was going to take the reader was revealed in her opening prayer on page 9: “I believe and desire that all who choose to have faith in You will be set free from all that is keeping them bound, from every addiction, bad habit and root of destruction.” (2)

Members of the International Order of Heresy-Hunters (IOHH) (3) see her erroneous doctrinal stance immediately, being highly motivated heresiologists. No doubt you, our esteemed readers no doubt caught it too. “All who choose to have faith in You” is problematic because it indicates that she does not have a good grasp of the doctrine of salvation.

All that the Father giveth me shall come to me: and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. John 6:27

Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and [that] your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you. John 15:16

For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. Eph. 4:1-6

It is very clear from Genesis to the Revelation of Jesus Christ that it is God who does the choosing and not man. If it were left up to man to decide or choose to have faith in Jesus Christ then NO ONE would ever be saved.

What then? Are we better than they? Not at all. For we have previously charged both Jews and Greeks that they are all under sin. As it is written: “There is none righteous, no, not one; there is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God. They have all gone out of the way, they have together become unprofitable; there is none who does good, no, not one.” Romans 3:9-10

The lost man hates God, hates the light (John 3:20) and is spiritually dead (Eph. 2:1) and is incapable of understanding spiritual truth apart from God’s grace (1 Cor. 2:14). I could spend the entire issue on why it is God who does the electing unto salvation, but that is not the point here. What we should immediately know about Tamara is that she wrongly believes in what is called “decision theology,” as opposed to the biblical position of “sovereign grace.” (4)

This was the first alarm bell to ring as I began to read her short screed. Next I noted that some of her statement was couched in Word of Faith code words (my suspicions were confirmed on virtually every following page) “I believe and declare” the old Job 22:28 gambit “Thou shalt also decree a thing, and it shall be established unto thee: and the light shall shine upon thy ways.” As a confessional Lutheran I too “believe and confess” but that is different than believing and decreeing things into existence, which Laroux later tells us is possible.

After her opening prayer and comments she begins her tale of initial woe by telling us what a miserable teenager she was. She hated herself, no one understood her, she was depressed and suffered from a very poor self-image and had zero self-esteem. Tamara was the “victim” of a broken home, divorced parents, living with her mom and step-dad in a blended family.

Her book is written about what she experienced in 1985 as a teenager in high school. It seems that it has taken her 25 years to write about this event and begin to share it. Tamara went to church off and on her entire life (p. 14) but she really did not know anything about God. One thing that did stick in her mind was that God was a forgiving God.

On September 30, 1985 Laroux claims to have taken a 38 caliber pistol from her mother’s bedside table and went into the shower stall intending to blow her brains out:

I stepped into the shower while continuing my distressed plea. I knelt down on my knees and placed the gun to my head. Bringing my sobs under control, I took a deep breath and then calmly asked Jesus for forgiveness one last time. A still, small voice told me to remove the gun from my head and place it at my chest. I argued with this voice…the still small voice replied ever so gently and explained to me that it would be easier on my family to find me this way and that I wouldn’t miss because I knew the exact location of my heart…Cautiously, I placed the gun on the left side of my chest and pointed it straight for my heart. Gently placing my finger on the trigger, and before I pulled it, the ignited with a sudden discharge. (5)

Stop the press! Earlier Tamara wrote that she went to church “off and on” but did not know God. She does not at this point prior to shooting herself ever mentioning anything about Jesus Christ, knowing Him, loving Him, belonging to Him. Yet now, as she prepared to blow her brains out, she asks Jesus for forgiveness. Why would an admitted unbeliever do this? What is more incredible is that she wants the reader to believe that the Holy Spirit )the still small voice of 1 Kings 19:13) speaks gently to her advising her to not blow her brains out, just blow her heart out her back, that will be easier on her folks! The voice of the Lord does not tell her that she is loved by God, nor does it tell her that killing herself is a sin, nor does it plead with her to stop and consider her life. On the contrary, “God” tells her to simply move the gun lower. I am sorry my friend that is NOT something the God of the Bible would say. That makes as much sense as this scenario: King David—”I’m going to sleep with Bathsheba woo-woo.” Still Small Voice — “David, use a condom,” I don’t think so. Tamara goes on to tell us that she knows where her heart is, points the gun at the spot and somehow misses when the gun goes off. (6)

Breathing in my last breath, I closed my eyes as death gripped my soul. As I left my body, I began traveling faster than the speed of light and my entire being was plagued with the sensation of falling…Suddenly, an indescribable explosion of indescribable pain erupted on the inside of me…No human has ever come even close to experiencing this kind of pain; it was agony in its purest form! That terrifying burning sensation cannot be expressed in words and it was a pain so fierce that it had no earthly correlation. (7)

She said “death gripped her soul.” The Bible says it is appointed unto man ONCE to die and then the judgment (Hebrews 9:27). It may seem picky on my part, but I am so tired of these visionaries who die and get a second bite at the apple {a little legal lingo}. Especially those accounts where the visionary gets saved while on their way to or in hell, simply read Kenneth Hagin’s book I Believe In Visions where he shares his salvation account after dying THREE TIMES (3)!

Next she makes it clear that she experienced suffering and pain of the likes that “no human has ever comes even close to experiencing.” How would she know? She would have to have experienced all of humanities suffering in order to make such a grandiose claim. I hope she would acknowledge that Jesus suffered more than she did.

My agonizing cry for forgiveness turned into a hideous, violent scream as I burned with an unquenchable acidic fire that is beyond expression. It was at that exact moment that I realized I was banished completely and eternally from the presence of the one true God! I realized my soul had been transformed into a being of sin and death. I had actually become total sin and my eyes were opened to the fact that sin is a state of being, not just an act. (8)

Tamara is suffering in hell and then realizes prior to the final judgment that she is eternally damned. It is in hell when she says a lost person’s soul becomes transformed into sin. The biblical fact is that the lost on earth are sinful through and through ergo the need for a “new” heart transplants by our Heavenly Father (Exe. 36:26) at conversion. She is correct in saying that in hell she realizes that sin (sinner) is what the lost are (not become) in their being as well as in disobedient acts.

Wrenching loneliness surrounded me as I looked across the fiery pit and saw hundreds upon hundreds of souls (too many to count) just like me screaming in agony…My knowledge was made perfect. Revelation of truth and pure wisdom became part of me. I no longer had questions because infinite knowledge of life, creation, and all of existence down to the last detail was known to all. (9)

In hell according to Tamara the damned become omniscient. Her knowledge was made perfect regarding all of existence! In Luke 16:24 I guess the unknown Mr. Richman forgot he knew everything perfectly, why else would he ask Lazarus to do something he (Mr. Richman) already knew was not possible? Really, with infinite knowledge why ask Abraham anything at all? Her statements contradict what Jesus Himself has taught in the Bible.

Let’s posit what she says is true, then how does she explain Rev. 6:10 where we read of the souls crying out to God? If the damned have perfect knowledge then surely the sainted martyrs would have at least equal access into omnipotence, which the text says they do not due to their questions.

Tamara goes on to reveal how in hell everyone knows everything about everyone (no duh, didn’t she just tell us she had perfect knowledge?) —

We knew we were in this place because we were foolish and chose not to hear and do what was right according to God’s Word. We had made this choice out of deceit, yet the effect of our ignorance was eternal, never to end.

There she goes again with the decision theology. She places man’s eternal destiny squarely in the hands of man. In her mind people are faced with a decision. Either one decides for Jesus, if not, then they have chosen Satan. She forgets the biblical fact that all humanity (apart from Jesus Christ) starts off in Satan’s kingdom. No one “chooses” Satan, they already belong to him at birth! Again, God does the choosing. The point of biblical contention regarding divine election revolves around the question of “why some and not others.” One of the many things I respect about Confessional Lutheranism is that we do not attempt to answer that question. We know the bible teaches God elects, who and why are not revealed. All the Christian can do is simply bow his her head and accept one of the mysteries of our God.

I saw many different chambers; however, my movement was restricted as I tried to turn and look to see the details. Behind me was an indescribable creature with dragon-like heads upon his body, and he stood more fierce than anything the earth has ever seen. I was only allowed to see a glimpse of him and for that I am grateful–no eyes have ever seen such a terrifying sight. (11)

Again, she is giving us information not contained in the Bible. This being the case, why should she expect anyone to accept her testimony? Hell biblically is not shown as having “chambers” which contain individual damned souls. I know Betty Baxter revealed seeing these chambers in her book A Divine Revelation of Hell, but the testimony of two liars does not establish a fact.

The next new insight she describes is of some indescribable multi-headed beast, maybe like something out of Daniel 7. Again, there is nothing in the bible that says demons, fallen angels, and evil leprechauns with pitchforks or dragon-like multi-headed beasties torment the damned.

At my screams and cries continued calling out from the darkness, I looked out across the vast expanse and saw all three heavens. I also saw the universe in its entirety. We think it is so large, but it is actually very small compared to the other areas of existence. I saw a great gulf that separates the heavens and the vast deep that has no end. As I looked upon our universe and saw what we call earth, it was magnified as if it was enlarged through a magnifying glass. (12)

Tamara sees all three heavens from her chamber in hell. What is more we are supposed to accept that she also saw the ENTIRE UNIVERSE, which she enlightens us to the reality that our expanding universe of billions of stars is in fact very small. So now we know something else about the location of hell. It is somewhere outside this universe, one has the ability to view all of existence (and know everything at the same time) and somehow be able to focus in on what “we” call planet earth from hell. One would have to be God in order to observe all the vast cosmos at once.

I will readily admit that we do not know the location of hell. We know it is described in one place as outer darkness (Matthew 8:12) in another as a lake of fire (Rev. 20:15) but no hint of Omni-vision (13) or omniscience.

After I viewed all that I was allowed to see, I looked up and saw a huge massive hand that was brighter than any light you can imagine, and it reached down, scooped me up and instantly whisked me away from all torment. (14)

For some unexplained reason, like a good neighbor a giant hand comes down into hell and scoops Tamar up! Instantly she is whisked away from all torment. This super hand takes her to “the heaven where the God of all Creation dwells.” (15)

With my pain and suffering far behind me, I found myself complete and whole, instantly washed from head to toe. The glory there is too exquisite for words. I was not allowed to stay or see anything in detail; I could only travel over it for I was just passing through. (16)

Tamara is suddenly regenerated how and why is not explained to us. There is no mention of faith in Christ, His cross, blood, death or resurrection. She simply found herself washed. Not much glory given to the Savior in this account. The next sentences are some general descriptions of what one would expect of glimpsing heaven. Beautiful colors, unearthly, peace, energy, but nothing more! After a lot of type given to vividly revealing “hell” less than a paragraph on heaven! WHAT A GYP! Even the title of the book is a deception “….Journey Into Heaven and Hell” my foot!

Not given a choice, I left heaven and again watched the expanse pass by in front of me…At that moment, I knew I had a responsibility to tell all God’s people how real Hell is and yet how much our God loves us. (17)

Tamara learns what her purpose is on earth. Her job is to tell God’s people, the Church, how real Hell is and also how much God loves us. Uh, if one is a genuine bible-believing Christian (is there any other kind?) then we already know and believe that hell is real. Secondly, John 3:16 tells us how great the love of our Father is for His people?

But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; they must respond to them.’ Then the rich man said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’ He replied if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’ He replied to him, ‘If they do not respond to Moses and the prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead. Luke 16:29-31

Tamara needs to realize that we have the testimony of the Scriptures, we do not need her alleged insights which either add to the Scriptures or take away from them, and actions which are strongly condemned in the Bible (see Rev. 22:18-21).

Never in my wildest dreams could I know how difficult this would be to accomplish and how hard my enemy would fight to keep me from fulfilling my one true obligation. (18)

I guess Satan has been pretty successful in keeping her from telling the Church about hell and how much God loves us. After all, it has taken her twenty-five (25) years to get this book self-published. From DMI’s research there is no record of any previous ministry on Laroux’s part according to the new blog/website which is very new and still under construction. She has one true obligation; something “special” she is called to do that seems to differ from what the rest of the Church is called to do. Obviously, until recently she has been failing to fulfill her obligation.

I knew I had been given the strength to endure the situation I was facing. I now knew the truth that Jesus is Lord and I immediately accepted Him into my heart and became born again. (19)

Stop the presses again! On page twenty she told us she had been “washed from head to toe” and was made “complete and whole” while hovering somewhere over heaven cupped inside the giant hand. Now she tells us that it was not until she was back in her severely wounded body that she came to a realization of the truth about Jesus (“I now knew the truth”).

What has she based her faith on? Obviously, not the eternal Word of God (Matt. 24:35) nor the foolishness of preaching (1 Cor. 1:21). Her belief seems to have been based on the Gnostic insights she received of hell and what little she saw of heaven. She made the right decision, she received Him into her heart and was born again!

Tamara is then found locked in the bathroom, bleeding out from a 38 caliber gunshot wound to her chest. Her mother calls out for her “In your bathroom, I calmly called out,” (20) It beggars the imagination that she would “calmly” call out anything, weakly yes maybe, painfully without a doubt, but calmly, come on!

I was told that the impact of a .38 revolver at such close range should have exploded my heart or done a lot more damage, and there was no way I should be alive much less be in such a stable physical state…it was only by a true miracle that I was alive. (21)

I have no doubt that God could and can keep someone safe from such harm. Yet there is nothing to convince the reader that she received such a miracle in life apart from her own testimony.

Folks, why should you or I believe her testimony, simply because she said this happened? I am born-again, but I was not born-again yesterday! She could be (1) outright lying, DMI has caught so many SINisters in lies. (2) She had some psychotic break with reality brought on due to the trauma of her self-inflicted wound. All suicides are due in part to some severe mental stress. (3) She is deceived by Satan into thinking she rally experienced what she did. This much is certain she did not go either to hell nor to heaven because her accounts violate the Scriptures.

She did not include one photograph showing the entrance or exit wound left by the bullet. If the wound in a location that is not proper to photograph then how about a nurse’s or doctor’s affidavit attesting to what happened.

What about the testimony of her family?  She had a mother, father, step-father and siblings, how about some statement from them of the account? All she says about reaction of the family is somewhat telling:

Years later, a family member confessed to me that they thought this presence around me was demonic, yet it wasn’t long before they discovered it was truly the presence of God and the unexplainable peace of God. (22)

Her church going family seemed to pick up on something strange about the situation; they thought it was a demonic presence and not a divine one. The desire to commit suicide is from Satan (John 10:10), he is both the Tempter and the Deceiver so they were probably correct in discerning some demonic activity around her in the hospital. As for the unexplainable peace — ever heard of morphine or dilaudid? Let me think a moment, gunshot would to the chest probably equals some very strong pain medication, medication that routinely causes people to experience and see things others do not! Bottom line–no evidence from her family.

Next, we are to believe that she cannot supply any medical records to validate her story. There would be records by the file drawer full. (1) Ambulance records, they came they gave initial treatment and transported her to the hospital. (2) Police records, every gunshot would is reported to the police who create a file on the individual. Why not show a copy of the file? (3) Hospital records. She was admitted to the ER (Emergency Room), had a team of ER staff work to save her life.

A few weeks after leaving the hospital, I returned to my cardiologist’s office for a follow-up visit. He told my mom and me that we didn’t owe him any fee for his service because in his mind he did not do anything for me…I believe this was his way of confessing that my healing was an undeniable miracle! (23)

(4) Her cardiologist supplied no records. It is one thing for him not to charge, but he still had a record of his work and fees for tax purposes and to legally cover himself. If he did not want to charge that is one thing, but the ambulance company, the ER, the hospital itself (she does not state how long she was hospitalized but it was at least 2 weeks for a chest wound) does not “forgive” those type of bills. She does not say they did forgive them, but then she also did not produce any proof of her tale. (5) She was mandated to visit a psychiatrist (p. 28) what about a copy of his bill?

Brothers and sisters I am reminded of when Jesus healed the leper and told the man to go show himself to the priests (Luke 1:44); my point is simply when God does something miraculous in someone’s body the results can be seen and proven.

Keep in mind even if Laroux was to show the world her chest wound and provided full documentation of this “miracle” it still would not override her more serious problem of what she says she saw. Proving that she was shot is one thing, which she fails to do. Proving her experience is biblical is another, again she fails here too. Approximately five (5) pages out of one hundred and three (103) reveal what she says she saw and experienced of hell and heaven. Over 80% of her book is about her journey to becoming more emotionally stable, it has nothing to do with her experience.

Naturally, no book on hell and heaven is complete without some encounter with demons and angels.

After my ‘out-of-body’ experience I had become very sensitive to the spiritual world. The Bible refers to it as a gift of discernment — the ability to detect good from evil…Demons came into my room and manifested themselves. I recognized them as demons because they were beings without physical bodies and emanated intense fear. They attacked me by pinning me down to the bed and choking me! I was terrified and unable to scream. I understood that these demons were trying to actually take my soul and damn me eternally before I was willing to tell the truth about my journey to Hell…He answered me by sending an angel. This angel walked into my room, took my hand and lowered his head as if to pray. Instantly all the evil spirits vanished out of the window of my room. Even in my disobedience, he sent an angel to my bedside. I knew at that very moment I could not keep my experience to myself any longer. (24)

First, there is no gift of discernment: there is the gift of discerning of spirits (1 Cor. 12:8-10). The ability of knowing the difference between good and evil comes from spiritually consuming strong meat (Heb. 5:14) and renewing your mind to God’s Word (Rom. 12:1-3). Such ability comes with spiritual maturity and development it is not simply “plopped” into us mystically.

Several demons come and attack Tamara to keep her from her sacred obligation to tell the Church and hell and God’s love. She knew they ere demons because they did not have physical bodies (neither do angels) and they emanated intense fear. These disembodied spirits held her down on the bed and began to choke her! What was their mission? To damn her eternally, stopping her from ever sharing her vital story (has the Church been enriched by her tale? I know we have not). HOLD IT! Satan and demons do not damn anyone eternally. If they had that type of power then we all would be roasting away in our little private viewing chambers in hell. Satan tempts, he lies, he kills steals and destroys (John 10:10) but in and of himself, he damns no one. We are born lost and sinful before Satan does anything personal to any of us (Psalm 51:5), call it original sin or human depravity.

In the midst of this cosmic conflict she cries out to Jesus for help and He sends an angel who comes in, takes her hand and then suddenly the demons leave via the window. I guess leaving through a wall is more difficult than going through the window. After this encounter Tamara decides to obey God and begin to tell folks about her experience. The above event described took place a couple of years after her experience. After her miracle she went back out into the world and partied down pretty much until these demons came and visited her.

Why did it take Tamara so long to tell others? “…why did it take me so long to tell them and why had I decided to walk in disobedience? They didn’t realize that my brokenness and spiritual immaturity had a lot to do with my disobedience.” (25) She does not explain why it takes another twenty plus years to get around to self-publishing this novel. Let me close with some more pearls of wisdom from lady Laroux:

If all the denominations that profess Christianity really believed that Scripture is all about unconditional love, then we wouldn’t have so man disagreements and divisions among Christians. A huge problem is that most people really don’t even know what they believe. (26)

Can’t we all just get along as Rodney King once asked? No, not until we agree on the truth of God’s Word. The Scripture is not “all about” unconditional love. What a naïve and utterly childish view of the totality of the Bible. Tamara is living proof that she, like most people, does not know what she believes. She may think she is established in the truth and has access to other spiritual data due to her “trip” to hell and skimming of heaven, but her own words condemn her as ignorant and unlearned.

She has failed to realize that it is more blessed to believe and have not seen (John 20:29) — I prefer to place my faith in what God’s Word teaches about heaven and hell as opposed to what I may have seen in some mystic trance. Let us pray for Tamara, that God will indeed open her eyes to His Word and may she be truly delivered from the Word of Faith cult she has embraced. ¨ 

A link to a 700 Club show clip of Tamara Laroux interview:  http://www.cbn.com/media/player/index.aspx?s=/vod/SUE220_TamaraLaroux_022111_WS

 

Copyright ©2011 Robert S. Liichow

End Notes

1. One of my unpleasant duties is to have to watch the religious channels so I can hear what the various charismatic SINisters are promoting as biblical truth.

2. Laroux, Tamara. Delivered A Death-Defying Journey into Heaven and Hell. Xulon Press, p. 9, March 02, 2011.

3. The international Order of Heresy-Hunters (IOHH) is an organization devoted to “Teaching Truth and Exposing Error.” Our membership includes people such as Dr. R.C. Sproul, Dr. H. Wayne House, Dr. Don Matzat, and other apologists. For a mere $25.00 you too can become a member, complete with certificate suitable for framing! Just make a check out to DMI, memo “IOHH membership” and we will enroll you among the ranks of the few, the humble, the heresy-hunters!

4. I am willing to admit that many people may think that “they” made the decision to receive Christ on a certain day at a certain point in time. However, the reality is this: by the time a person has rationally ‘decided’ to walk to aisle, prayed the sinners prayer or whatever, they have already been regenerated by God’s Spirit if they are genuinely children of God. Spiritually dead people cannot and do not make spirutal decisions. So in “time” one may feel they did the deciding but in reality God did it first!

5. Laroux, Tamara. Delivered A Death-Defying Journey into Heaven and Hell. Xulon Press, p. 16 March 02, 2011.

6. S as an aside, we are not told if the bullet exited her back or rattled around inside her. Nor are we given any copies of any medical records of which there would have been plenty.

7. Laroux, Tamara. Delivered A Death-Defying Journey Into Heaven and Hell. Xulon Press, p. 16-17, March 02, 2011

8. Ibid. p. 17. Bold type added for emphasis

9. Ibid. pl 18. Bold type added for emphasis.

10. Ibid. p. 18. Underlining added for emphasis.

11. Ibid. p. 19

12. Ibid. p. 19

13. Omnivision, the ability to see all things both created and uncreated.

14. Laroux, Tamara Delivered A Death-Defying Journey into Heaven and Hell. Xulon Press, p. 20, March 02, 2011

15. Ibid. p. 20

16. Ibid. p. 20

17. Ibid. p. 21

18. Ibid. p. 21

19. Ibid p. 21

20. Ibid. p. 22

21. Ibid p. 23

22. Ibid. p. 25 Double underlining added for emphasis.

23. Ibid p. 28

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Come As You Are?

7 03 2010
Truth Matters Newsletters – Aug 2009 – Vol. 14 Issue 8 – Come As You Are? – by Rev. Bob Liichow

Discernment Ministries International

Come As You Are?

By Rev. Robert S. Liichow

The large room slowly filled up. The men entered wearing “wife-beater” tee-shirts and sandals, women in shorts, sleeveless dresses and their children in a motley assortment of garments ranging from Goth-wear to skateboard attire. At first you might think I was describing a crowd entering the local movie Cineplex, but no this was the usual Sunday go-to-meeting clothes, commonly worn today in most worship services across our country.

Let me begin by stating very clearly that I am no advocate of clothesline religion i.e. what you wear determines your level of sanctification. Clothesline religion is found within fundamentalism and some branches of Pentecostalism. It entails strict law regarding what one is allowed to wear. It might include such regulations as men’s hair length (and women’s) skirt length (I am all for modesty), long sleeves on both men and women, no jewelry on women etc. Also, I certainly would agree that ultimately God is not as concerned with our outer appearance as He is with the attitude of our heart:

Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near [me] with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men: Isa. 29:13

Biblical worship is above all else a “heart” condition (see John 4:23) and not a time to parade our haute couture.

One truth I have learned over the years from my own spiritual journey is that spiritual BALANCE seems to be one of the most difficult things to achieve in this fallen world. We as people seem to lean one way or another; the pendulum swings to the far left or to the far right. For example, we have congregations that are doctrinally dead-on, but with little spiritual passion or exuberance. Then again, we have congregations whose members are ignited by the fire of the Spirit, passionate about others coming to know Jesus Christ as Savior, unrestrained in their worship and yet an inch deep doctrinally. It seems almost impossible to find any group that is equally balanced with Spirit & Truth.

Over the last twenty years I have seen a subtle change in dress and attitude on the part of the people of God in America. As a child in the late 1950’s and 60’s I grew up going to church having to wear what we called “my Sunday best.” As a young boy this meant my best trousers, my shine able shoes, a button-down shirt and at least a clip-on-tie, possibly a sport coat or a suit. These clothes were set aside specifically for church. Why wear such a uniform? It was because my parents were trying to instill within my young skull the reality that we, as a family, were coming to worship the transcendent and yet personal God who was totally holy. There was nothing blasé about attending church and approaching the altar of God.

Why Change?

The decline of church attendance, especially within the mainline Protestant churches gave birth to what we know today as the “Church Growth Gurus” of whom many of the most prominent were (and are) charismatic sign/gift enthusiasts such as Dr. C. Peter Wagner and the late John Wimber who started the Vineyard churches. The operative philosophy behind the Church Growth Movement (CGM) was to try to remove anything that would offend the non-churched visitor or seeker. (1) This meant removing crosses and crucifixes from sancturaries because such symbols point to God’s bloody sacrifices for our sins. The use of the hymnals went out the door as well; they hymns are old, traditional and unfamiliar lyrically and musically to the seekers. Pastors were encouraged to stop wearing any form of vestments or clerical garb because one does not want to present any distinction between the seeker and the pastor. (2) The congregants themselves were encouraged to dress casually so as to help create a more “homey” and easy-going atmosphere. Naturally the pews had to go as well. Pews not only point to traditional worship, but they also tend to somewhat force people to sit together and if not padded can be uncomfortable. The CGM gurus did studies, took polls and tried to determine what would make the un-churched visitor most comfortable if/when they felt led to attend a service.

Within the seeker-sensitive mentality one of the gravest of sins is to offend the lost person’s sensibilities. So the CGM collated their data and sold its programs to desperate pastors and denominations. Presto! Now we have congregations that no longer have any form of the cross in their buildings, sing no hymns, have no pews, and dress like attending a picnic versus coming into the presence of the Ancient of Days. To be sure these are outward actions, yet like all “leaven” it spreads.

Once the outer changes had been made then the CGM gurus began to proclaim the need to change the message being presented. They realized that just changing the furniture around was not going to entice and keep any potential sheep. Oh sure, now a pastor might get some visitors to come, enjoy the comfortable stadium seats with cup-holders for the gourmet java distributed I the narthex (oops I meant “the welcome center”), but what if they are offended by the preaching? Naturally, once you got the seeker in the seat you want them to fully enjoy the “show.” The show consists of having engaging music performed by professional musicians and dancers, (3) moving PowerPoint presentations and then a short message on how to be the best one can be using biblical references.

Words such as “sin, sinner, hell, damnation, and depravity” have been erased from the vocabulary of any successful seeker-sensitive pastors, such as Joel Osteen and Robert Schuller and all their clones. These words can offend the hearer, after all, who wants to hear that they are a miserable sinner from the pulpit, let alone get down on their knees and confess such a reality openly to God and others? (4) Obviously such changes in vocabulary point to significant changes in the messages presented. Jesus ceases to be the Savior of sinners, instead He becomes more of a “life coach” pointing all of us onwards and upwards towards unending success in this life. The people cease to be sinners in need of a Savior. This is a huge departure from the message the Apostle Paul shared when he said:

This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners: of whom I am chief. 1 Tim. 1:15

Paul would not be welcome to preach in any of the mega-churches in America today. He is too old-school and most certainly off message for today’s seeker. Sadly, the Biblical Jesus would not be welcomed either.

The CGM has radically transformed the face and substance of Biblical Christianity in America, South America and Europe. Church now is almost totally man centered. Everything that can be changed has been changed to facilitate the comfort of man both physically, esthetically and spiritually. Attending church is now about having an “enjoyable worship experience” as opposed to coming to worship the God who saved you and who has something to say directly to you via His Word and Sacrament.

Come As You Are ?

After that short romp through the history of the CGM we arrive back at our topic regarding the blasé manner in which people come to worship the Lord of Hosts. Seeing all that has changed regarding much of our worship format it is easy to see how the un-churched were never taught to treat coming to church as a privilege. The un-churched or lapsed visitor looks around sees how everyone else is dressed and follows suit. Obviously, I do not expect the un-churched to know how or why to properly dress when they initially begin to come to church. The old adage is very true — “you have to catch the fish before you can clean it.” The point is they are to be taught, instructed, discipled if you will, regarding their daily walk with Christ and then how to comport themselves in the house of God during a worship service. Shocking as it may seem dear friends worship is all about God and not about us. We come passively to receive the free and good gifts of God and then we can respond with our sacrifice of praise. (see Heb. 13:15).

The priests in the Old Testament wore special clothing (see Ex. 28:2-4; 29:5, 21; Lev. 6:11) that they took off when they were not serving the Lord specifically. They had a format of worship, a liturgy which they followed. No one worshipped the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob wearing whatever they wanted and however they wanted.

Today, all of the Church is considered by God in the following manner:

Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ…9 But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light: 10 Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy. (1 Peter 2:5,9,10).

If you were invited to the Whitehouse to see the President, how would you dress? Naturally, most of us would wear our best clothing out of respect for the office if not the office holder. Even today upscale restaurants require men to wear ties and some even jackets when dining! How much more then should we attire ourselves in our best clothing when we approach the Living God to whom we owe our every breath?

Church is not a fashion show. Nor are congregations to show any favoritism to those who are obviously wealthy as James warns us:

For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there comes in also a poor man in vile raiment; And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool: Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts? (James 2:2-4).

What I am talking about is reestablishing a sense of decorum and modesty within our worship services. Modesty seems to be another word which has fallen out of favor within the people of God. During the hot summer months we are subjected to a wide range of immodest attire on the part of both men and women. Skintight jeans, shorts, no bras and sleeveless tee-shirts do not help any of us focus on Christ Jesus. Yes we are “free” in Christ, but that freedom is given so that we can now obey Him from our heart and we are surely not to use our freedom as a license to sin (see Rom 6:18-23).

In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with braided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; But (which becometh women professing godliness) with god works. (1 Tim. 2:9,10).

Again, we see church worship is not a fashion show, but a sacred time that is carved out of our day, set aside (sanctified) to be devoted to our loving God.

Ask yourself a simple question, why not dress up in your Sunday best for church? If you don’t is it because no one else does in your congregation? If this is the case, so what, worship is ultimately between you and God (while not ignoring the important corporate aspect). Start a trend! Or perhaps you have the attitude that “God knows my heart, what I wear is not important.” Well I might give the opinion that if ones heart is truly set on Zion then ones dress will be appropriate. Studies have shown that even in secular schools when the children all wear similar uniforms that behavior and grades both improve. Dressing nicely also works on ones self-esteem (that ought to be enough of a draw today). Personally, when I am dressed nicely I feel better about myself in a way. Dressing for church reminds me that I am going to a sacred place and spending sacred time communing around the altar of God with both the saints on earth and all the saints in heaven!

Copyright 2009 Robert S. Liichow

End Notes

1. Congregations who bought into the CGM ministry philosophy have become known as “seeker-sensitive” churches. There is legitimate theological debate whether or not any lost person genuinely seeks after God.

2. Let me simply say here that there is no difference in value before our God, He loves all His people equally. However, there is a distinction in function within the Church and its worship service regarding the pastor and the congregation.

3. Naturally I want “professional” musicians in any church setting, but I am really referring to professional entertainers.

4. No worries for the seeker, their churches are not equipped with any for of “kneelers” because they are not going to kneel for anything during their services.