Romance With The Ritual

by Teri R. Williams

podcast available

(All scripture taken from NIV translation unless otherwise noted). 


The year was 1903 and the Russian Czar observed a sentry posted for no apparent reason on the Kremlin grounds. Upon investigation, the Czar discovered that in 1776 “Catherine the Great had spotted on the Kremlin grounds the first flower of spring. Immediately Catherine ordered "Post a sentry here so that no one tramples that flower under foot!" That flower has since died and faded away but the tradition lived on for many, many years after.” ( 

Col. 2:8 See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ. 

    A. DEPENDS ON traditions rather than ON CHRIST; the latin root of the word religion is: to bind; but love is also a bond; what’s the difference?  


      1. Pharisee - Pharisees - a group of influential Jews active in Palestine from 2nd century BCE through 1st century CE; they advocated and adhered to strict observance of the Sabbath rest, purity rituals, tithing, and food restrictions based on the Hebrew Scriptures and on later traditions;
      2. Sadduces - another prominent group of Jews in Palestine from 2nd century BCE through 1st century CE; they were probably smaller "elite" group, but even more influential than the Pharisees; they followed the laws of the Hebrew Bible (the Torah), but rejected newer traditions.

      3. Essenes – a smaller group or "sect" that lived a communal "monastic" lifestyle at Qumram (near the Dead Sea) from 2nd century BCE through 1st century CE; the "Dead Sea Scrolls" found in this location in 1947 are usually associated with them.

      4. Zealots - one of several different "revolutionary" groups in the 1st century CE who opposed the Roman occupation of Israel.

      5. Herodians - probably a faction that supported the policies and government of the Herodian family, especially during the time of Herod Antipas, ruler over Galilee and Perea during the lifetimes of John the Baptist and of Jesus.

      6. High Priest, Chief Priests, Priests, and Levites - members of the tribe of Levi who were responsible for the temple and its sacrifices, and thus were the religious and social leaders of the Jewish people. 

    B. KEY POINT: One of the main reasons many of us have remained immature and continue to struggle in some areas even though we’ve been in the church all our lives is because we’ve mistaken practicing traditions for relationship with Jesus. 

    C. We think we are free of most of the traditions of our day because we’ve broken from so many of the practices of religion that have passed to us from Greco-Roman influences.  

    D. But nothing can replace walking in love with the Lord and with the people in your life. Relationship comes through hearing God’s voice, walking with Him in the garden, obedience to his voice: Relationship is both hearing and responding. It’s a  different kind of community and communion. 

    E. Purpose in this word of encouragement: New level of experiencing love with Jesus in our daily lives and as a result, experiencing freedom together as a local tribe and family of the Body of Christ. We do have a unique DNA. We were not called to be rebellious but revolutionary in our obedience to the Lord; to grow and move toward His love for us and for one another and for the world He’s called us to. It’s time to grow up; to be cleansed from paganistic religious practices that have given us an illusion of maturity and allowed our self-focused religion to keep us from becoming one with Him and with one another.  

      F. Saul – to  Paul  

Galatians 1:14… I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries among my countrymen, being more extremely zealous for my ancestral traditions 

Acts 26:5 They have known me for a long time and can testify, if they are willing, that according to the strictest sect of our religion, I lived as a Pharisee. 

    -Traditions, outward practices, blinded him to the Messiah. It’s easy to mistaken zeal for traditions as passion for God.  

    G.  Immaturity is one of the most evident signs that we are practicing ritual without an honest love relationship with the Lord. It will be exposed through attitudes (including):

      1. Self-centeredness and self-importance

      2.  Independence – interdependence is a relationship that grows; it’s isn’t based on one person talking all the time; it’s both listening and sharing

      3. Critical and judgmental attitude (our tongue will always tell on our hearts) when we use our hurts for excuses to stay sick. 

      1. Knowledge based relationship (always looking for new book or new revelation so we can find God through our minds 

      (Although knowledge isn’t evil, when it doesn’t lead to obedience out of love, we are just like monks who chose to live an illusion of relationship---seeming to be paying a high price but in actually while avoiding the cost) 

    1. The church has had a longtime time Romance with the Ritual.

Gal. 3:1You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. 2I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? 3Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? 4Have you suffered so much for nothing—if it really was for nothing? 5Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard? 

    1. Pharisees – their blindness was a result of a romance with the ritual.
    2. 19th and early 20th c. songs are held onto as “hymns” of the faith --- faithfully sung with nostalgia, with longing for something in the past. Not denying there wasn’t powerful things that happened in the past--- But these songs were the stories of their day –
      1. According to David, The kind of worship God inhabits is the spontaneous song.
    3. Not calling for rebellion – but for a revelation of the reason Jesus was crucified—for RELATIONSHIP. The law of Moses was always meant to be a shadow and symbol of the covenant of love that was to come
      1. The law was given to show us our need and the laws inability to fulfill that need

Gal. 3:19 What, then, was the purpose of the law? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come… 

      1. There are 8 references to religious traditions of men from Jesus; 5 from Paul (Col.2:8; Gal.1:14); 1 from Peter (1 Pt.1:18).

Mt. 15:2-3  “Why do Your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread.”  He answered and said to them, “Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition?”  

    1. When Religion is used to speak of manmade traditions in the Word, it is referring to ceremonial acts: the Greek root of the word religion is pronounced: thra-ska'-ä
      1. When used, it is speaking of the external ceremonies performed out of “fear of the gods”;
      2. The Greeks created Mythology for the same reason—out of fear of the unknown as a way to explain the unexplainable (creation, etc.) (according to Edith Hamilton, an American educator and author, who was “recognized as the greatest woman Classicist”; wrote Mythology, tales of Greek gods and heroes 1942) –
      3. Man-made religion –is our attempt to feel in control of the unknown and invisible God.
    1. How do we know the difference between dead religious practices and pure religion?  

        By the fruit: doing the church thing might make us feel better, but it’s a mental feeling;

      1. Pure religion leads to growing in relationship – not perfection - and dead religious practices only enable a need to keep sucking on the bottle.

James 1:26 If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man's religion is worthless. 27Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world. 

      1. Funny thing about our hearts --- our tongues will always tell whats in there– Maybe we think we’re just speaking the truth to someone by blasting them; if we can’t control how we talk to each other, it’s an indication of a heart problem with the Spirit of God
      2. Wisdom comes from maturing, growing in knowledge. We learn where to speak and to whom to speak and when to speak. We’re not this explosive time bomb waiting to say what we think about someone or just to display our thoughts.
    1. Is pure religion works? What does Pure and undefiled religion mean – It means doing something without guilt; you do out of love, not fear of punishment;

“Love comes when manipulation stops; when you think more about the other person than about his or her reactions to you. When you dare to reveal yourself fully. When you dare to be vulnerable.” Joyce Brothers  (

      1. Pure religion comes out of relationship: he loves us, we love him: 1st commandment – leads to 2nd commandment
    1. When we’re in relationship with God, we listen to His Voice
      1. Adam and Eve walked with God everyday. They heard his voice. This is how they were supposed to mature and grow in relationship with God.
      2. The maturing would come as they obeyed the voice they heard. That’s how we grow up.

Romans 2: 3 for it is not the hearers of the Law who are just before God, but the doers of the Law will be justified. 

    1. A relationship out of love with the Lord will result in works: We live by faith---by believing in a Voice we learn to hear in our Spirits.

Gal. 3:11 Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for, "THE RIGHTEOUS MAN SHALL LIVE BY FAITH." 

      1. Our relationship is based on faith. It’s seeing by the Spirit – not with the mind. And it’s ACTING on what we see and hear through our relationship with the Lord by the Spirit.  

Matt. 7:21"Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 

    1. It’s not enough to hear the Word. To do the Word, we have to walk out what we hear. This is how we grow in that process of love.

      J. Jesus offended the Pharisees and their traditions they had added to the commandments and interpretations  

      1. Jesus didn’t seem to care that he was offending the religious;

      2. a religious spirit will interpret the word that says not to cause a little one to stumble as meaning not to offend the religious person.

      3. Jesus didn’t give them a 2nd thought in what he did or said. They called him a drunk and a heathen (a friend once said to me in so many words – better to be called a heathen than a pagan) 

    1. Going Right to the Roots of the Tree
    1. The focus is on self – How can I serve the Lord? And the mind---roots in garden, in the fall.
      1. It’s a substitute for the heart - relationship with God; we’ve centered our relationship on ourselves.
      2. We don’t have to ask how to serve the Lord when we are in relationship with Him. It’s a natural result of relationship in our lives – not some separate thing we have to go perform to please him.
      3. Be like Clint asking me how he could be my husband? We are as we love.
    1. True relationship with the Lord brings peace. Relationship with religion brings fear. I hate that – but it’s true.
      1. The rituals can represent good things but only Love cast out fear.

Phil 4:6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 8Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. 9The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. 

Romans 8:38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. 

    1. Our purpose, calling, gifts, are something we should know as we grow in the Lord. We shouldn’t be confused or clueless. These things come as a result of relationship with the Lord---not the other way around
      1. We don’t discover or get our purpose for relationship with him through our gifts and callings.
    1. It’s our spiritual bent. He will raise his children in their particular bent.
    1. Meditation that turns us inward will result in seclusion.
      1. Noah was telling me that for a while he was into Thomas Merton – but that he became aware that for him, it had become a self-focused pursuit about the self having peace etc.
    1. He saw how Monks have mistaken solitude from life conflicts as peace with God. But being with God and focus on Him is about the Kingdom of God on the Earth…
      1. I believe mediation is important; principles of meditation are about having a disciplined focus but a romance with meditation as a ritual can open oneself up to –not only self-centeredness—but also deception and demonic encounters
      2. We’re not the Center –we need to the center our Spirit in the Lord; the 3rd eye – the light inside of us – I see Jesus; Jewish practice of praying the name Yahweh – inhale and exhale.
      3. If we come out of prayer and meditation turned inward, we’ve only spent time with ourselves; doesn’t make meditation wrong---it means we need to change our focus.
      4. We can tell what we’re focused on by whether we’re anxious and fearful …or see according to the age to come…

    G. When we read the Word, it’s so hard not to “see” it through the eyes of our culture but that’s what I’m asking for---(even God and Jesus have robes on and look like portraits I’ve been raised seeing in stained glass windows and pictures in Sunday school rooms). 

Ephesians 1: 17 I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. 18I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, 20which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. 22And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, 23which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way. 

3:8 Although I am less than the least of all God's people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. 10His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, 11according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. 12In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. 13I ask you, therefore, not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you, which are your glory.14For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15from whom his whole family[h] in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. 20Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! 

III. The Purpose for Symbols and Shadows   

    A. God has always wanted a relationship with us. He’s always wanted us to know Him; not just know more about Him. 

    B. So why does he use symbols and shadows?

      1. Focus merely on symbols has resulted in substitutes for relationship with the Lord–numerology, astrology, iconic worship, liturgical , and man-made religion

      2. Focus on symbols can be so dangerous beThis is a stronghold because and comes from the same root 

    C. Importance of Communion –communion in the 1st church was not the Eucharist. It was done at meals.

      1.  Elements represent something much greater – they are REMINDERS of what we’re committing to but they don’t take the place of daily relationship, growing together, experiencing communion  

      D. This was about REMEMBERING the covenant 

      E. What does “unworthy manner” mean? And “ Judge or discern the body rightly”?

    Why were there many weak, sick and a number sleep? What does it mean to discern the Lord’s body? 

      1. It’s drinking judgment to ourselves to think the ritual fulfills our obligation to have communion. That’s how we take it in an unworthy manner.
      2. If we think eating some bread and drinking wine fulfills the obligation we’re deceived.
      3. No-we’re called to have a common – union / with the Lord and with his people. It’s the body and the blood. The body – is the local church family we’re called to be in communion with and the blood is the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

      F. For this reason – many weak, sick and have died prematurely?

      . 1. We can’t be properly joined to the head without being properly joined to the body. When we do some ceremonial thing and think that is growing up into one body. 

1 John 1:7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. 

      4.That’s not something that can be forced but it’s something we chose  

      5. We all stumble in lots of ways (as James says). No one is going to be perfect. Only Jesus is perfect. But there’s a cleansing that goes on– through fellowship - corninea – is a part of how that cleasning happens. 

      6. We need all the irritations and frustrations of relationship to make it –we need challenges to grow up and mature. THE REASON WHY WE REMAIN IMMATURE IN AREAS IS BECAUSE OF LACK OF RELATIONSHIP with Jesus and one another. (I’m not talking about relationship that helps to enable our self-focus). 

      7. Growing in this kind of knowledge (Ephes.) is growing in an encounter with Jesus.  

    G. The Lord continually has to deal with our IDEALISM which is one of the most effective fruits of religion.

      1. “We want everything way up here right now in the way we think it ought to look but we don’t see practically the process that will allow us to fit together right. 

      2. But staying out of relationship until people get it together will keep you from going thru the process everyone else has had to walk through  

      3. Many have a vision for what church ought to be that is really delusional idealism without the roots of relationship that is necessary for growing together into the Lord’s purposes and callings.   

      4. Commitment in any form takes- Faithfulness love, patience, love,  and hard work; forgiveness; accountability; love  

IV. The language of the Spirit

      A. Why does the Lord use symbols and shadows if they can be such a diversion?

      1. When the Lord uses the spiritual language of dreams and visions, it’s more than to convey concepts—It’s to speak to the heart and the soul – not JUST THE MIND!

      2. It was never meant to replace the relationship---the experience that happens in the heart.


    B. But what happens when we become infatuated with the symbols and the shadows?—the form or reflection?  With the language? (ever hear people talk who have become disconnected from the world through religious language? It’s not “godly”; it’s a romance with the past, with the sound – like with the Voice) 

      1. It would be like coming home every night and cleaning our wedding ring; starring at it. Etc. and ignoring the person we’re married to. 

John 6:63 “the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.”  

    C. We have to rely on the Lord for the interpretation of what He shows us or speaks to us. It’s not independent from walking with Him and listening…It is basic to prophetic ministry. There’s always more to it than human language portrays 

      1. Like Sarah and Hagar, represent the Old and New Covenants (Gal 4)


      1. symbolism of the Tabernacle of Moses was to reveal the Holy Place – where God wants to be with us. (religion continues its romance with form and ritual; people die for it --- greatest conflict in the world…)
      1. Symbols and shadows were only meant to expand our experience with spiritual understanding. Like metaphors and picture language (Eric couldn’t speak without “seeing” a metaphor; I think it was prophetic). Art and music.

Matthew 11:13 For all the Prophets and the law prophesied until John 

      1. Names of people and places where events took place

    C. But the symbol is not the source. We’ve got to get revelation through relationship with God or we will be in a romance with the wrong thing. (focus)

      Symbol of marriage ring: is not the marriage. 

      D. Romance with symbolism often does the opposite of what its purpose.

      Symbols represent a cultish relationship with objects and form. 

    E. We’ve inherited a Greek mindset that wants to remove the relationship and replace it with knowledge. Give us a sermon with 3 points on how to be free. We’d rather know how to be free than get free, than to experience freedom 

V. Growing up in Wisdom 

    A. Walking with God in the Garden was where Adam and Eve would have gained the knowledge that leads to wisdom.  

    B. God wants us to be in relationship with Him and with each other; none of us have everything – we know in part. Wisdom comes through relationship with God and one another. It’s a vulnerability to be known. 

    C. Understanding without wisdom can appear contradictory (Prov 26:4-5). Those with wisdom know what to do in the timing of the Lord - they know which way to go.

      1. there are many who have great mental knowledge and even reasoning ---understanding, but who consistently do the wrong thing.  

      2. WE NEED GOD and one another for wisdom! It’s about more than information or even understanding  

James 1:5 (NIV) If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. 

    D. when we pray for wisdom, God calls us into fellowship with Him and with one another --- We experience this in Worship, the Word, and in relationships of spiritual and natural friendships.

    E. Tree in the Garden

      1. Knowledge is not evil; there is a knowledge that comes form the tree of Life that leads to maturity –Walking with God

      2. relationship with God and one another – this is how we grow into maturity 

      F. Jesus stands at the door and knocks. He wants to come in!  

    G. The garden – a process of relationship that is experiences that lead to maturity (development and wisdom) 

    H. The Bible is written by those who heard His voice. Saul the great studier was a Pharisee. He became Paul the great listener

      1. Moses heard Gods voice continually, Joshua was there when Moses brought down the ten commandments but relied on God’s Voice rather than tablets of stone for direction, etc. when God told him to “covet the land of milk and honey, kill it inhabitants and steal the land.”  

1 Samuel 15:22"Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in OBEYING THE VOICE OF THE LORD? To Obey is better than sacrifices and to heed is better than the fat of rams."  

Rev. 3:20 "Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone HEARS MY VOICE and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me."  

      1. Eastern symbol of friendship: to share a meal. This is how Jesus speaks to us – This is talking about a life style –

      2. We have to stay connected to him. There’s not even 2 days alike – One time Jesus sent out His disciples and told them to take no provision for themselves. Later He told them to take provision, Luke 22: 35-36. 

    I. Let no one despise your youth – MATURITY IS ABOUT MORE THAN AGE!!!

      1. Being immature doesn’t mean being rebellious. It just means your not growing. Don’t excuse stupid choices with being young –  

      1. Heart of David was after the heart of God IN HIS YOUTH. He functioned like a mature warrior because He was focused on a relationship with the Lord in Worship – Not a relationship with his cool music or etc.

    J. Lifestyle cultivated praying w/o ceasing; never have to disconnect; God can give revelation or vision during any part of your day; don’t have to get out of life and into Spirit; in Spirit in life.

Teri R. Williams, 2/23/2010