To the Editor:

A few Sundays ago, I left the church building. I left between the Bible class hour and the worship service. I left because I was sick in my heart, outraged at the worldliness of it all. I go to church to hear about my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and I get lectures on man's wisdom for solving problems.

It moved to the point that I feel it is time to speak out to people about the deception that is going on among religious men and women today. "What deception?", you may ask. A deception that teaches organized religious piety and tradition have more power to save than does a contrite heart and Godly love found in Jesus Christ. We've been blinded by a lie to the point that we have settled ourselves into a comfort zone. Now, the truth of the gospel is being lost.

Long ago, there was a simple man of humble beginnings. His name was Jesus. Jesus spoke to people about the things of God. "Sinners" loved him, but the self-righteous Pharisees loathed him. They knew what a threat he was to them and his words convicted them. For that they hated him all the more. Because of their arrogance and for the sake of their tradition, they had this beautiful man crucified. A man who was himself God and never committed a wrong. He died to give eternal life to all men, even those who crucified him.

It seems to me, and many have said it before, that history repeats itself. Because of organized religion, through the centuries, the simple story of this man, a story known as the gospel of Christ, has been lost in a shuffle of piety and tradition. Yes, we are crucifying the Son of God all over again and bringing him to public disgrace (Heb. 6:6).

Today, we as Christians have turned salvation by grace through faith into a three-ring circus. Bitter debates exist between us. Separation and division have taken the remnant that is God's people and ripped it to shreds. When the lost of the world look at us, they laugh, because they realize something about us we do not see ourselves. We are just like they are. We are no different in the way we think, talk or function in their midst. But we "go to church" and by our Pharisaical arrogance we feel somewhat separated from all those "sinners" who stay away in droves.

First, let me say, "church" is not a place where people go. It is what the people of God are all over the world. God does not dwell in a building built by the hands of men, he lives by his Spirit in those who are one with Christ. Together we become the church of which the Bible speaks (1 Tim. 3:14-15). That place where we meet on Sunday is not the "House of the Lord" as many of us think. It is not some sacred edifice where dress and action change out of reverence for God and "His House." God dwells in our midst every day, our bodies being the temple of God's Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 16:19). There is no building or day that is more sacred to God than any other building or day, this is our tradition. At work, in our homes, every day and in every way we are to honor God in word and deed. So if you dress and act one way on Sunday, it should be the same all days. Nowhere in the scripture do we find that our religious behavior, or acts of piety, if you will, has any bearing on our relationship to God. If holiness is something you desire it is not "going to church" that will bring that to you. Only by a change to a contrite heart and mind, focused on Jesus and away from ourselves, do we find true righteousness and holiness. Only by becoming one with Jesus, filled with the Spirit of God, do we begin our journey to the Land of Promise Heaven.

But for the sake of our tradition and in our arrogance in who we are, we mock Jesus and turn hundreds away from the salvation Jesus died to give all men. Jesus' message was simple: "Believe in me and you shall have eternal life" (John 3:16). We have managed to make it more complicated than that. For sake of our tradition and our arrogance, we battle one another over style of dress, musical instruments, Lord's Supper, baptism, length of hair, Bible interpretation, the list is endless. Even within the confines of our religious groups we bicker about when to meet, what to do when we meet, who can and cannot preach and teach, where to spend the money, again, an endless list.

No wonder the world is deceived. We are comical. There is no consistency in what we do and no one knows who it is that really knows the truth of the gospel. Jesus said, "All men will know you are my disciples if you love one another" (John 13:35). Haven't we become fine examples?

The time has come for us to open our minds. Let us forget all we have been taught and read and study the Bible. Find out the truth about salvation and Godliness. Let us stop wasting so much time upholding our traditions and get to know the Man who gives us eternal life Jesus Christ. Debbie Smith.