Holy Places and Headless Women

By John David Clark, Sr. - July, 1993

We stood along the walkway leading into the courtyard of the Mosque called the Dome of the Rock, the second holiest site in Islam. Over the edge of the railing groups of Jews, men on one side and women on the other, rocked back and forth and prayed at the "western wall", which actually forms part of the foundation of the Dome of the Rock's courtyard. Originally, we are told, it served as part of the Jews' temple, now destroyed. Rebuilding the temple is a dream dear to the Jews who wail at the holy wall. Immediately behind the courtyard of this famous Mosque is a very narrow street called the Via Dolorosa, a holy site for Christians because, it is supposed, it is the very street along which Jesus carried his cross as he made his agonizing way to Golgotha to be crucified. We also find here the "Church of the Flagellation", a "holy place", we are told, because it is the very site where Jesus was beaten at the Roman whipping post. Along this "holy" road, every nook is a shop filled with cheap merchandise and souvenirs, and every effort is made to persuade the passers-by to come in and buy.

Three great world religions, Islam, Judaism, and Christianity, all opposed to the other, the tenets of each denying the messages of the other. All three crammed into an area about the size of a large city block, each with its own holy places and holy men overseeing them. In the Christian "holy place" on the Via Dolorosa a female Chinese visitor was ejected for wearing a very short-sleeved blouse. At the nearby Christian "holy place" of the Garden of Gethsemene, a man dressed in a nice suit guards the entrance, lest some tourist dare desecrate the place by wearing shorts into the garden. A short while later, I glanced over in his direction and saw him casually puffing on a cigarette as he stood watch - God's guardian over the sacred site.

Holy sites and holy men. What a sham the whole thing is. And the worst of them all, the gaudiest, cheapest, and most superstitious is Christianity. At Capernaum they have erected a monstrous building, a chapel, with a glass floor through which the pilgrim may view the stony ruins of the very house of Peter the Apostle! Now, the Bible states plainly that Peter lived in Bethsaida, a couple of miles east of Capernaum (Jn.1:44). Nevertheless, we are assured that when we look through the clear floor of the candle-adorned chapel, we are looking into the holy rubble of Peter's house. The more I saw, the more worthless it appeared. The priests in their strange "holy" garb. Or at the western wall and other places in Jerusalem, the Jewish holy men in their queer-looking clothes. Or the Muslim clerics, who also dress so as to assure their followers that they are, indeed, holy. What a farce it all is! How silly all these men look, in their "holy" garments. They all dress to deceive men, and they succeed only because men are ignorant of the truth of Jesus Christ, our Lord.

How gullible we are! How superstitious and vain! What difference can it possibly make to a man's soul to look into the ruins of an apostle's house? His very bedroom? His very kitchen area? His very toilet? What makes a place holy, anyway? Does the fact that Jesus walked on a road make that road holy? If we had the very whip that tore the flesh off his back, would it be a holy whip? something to which to make pilgrimages? Muslims pay a handsome price to make their pilgrimages to their holy sites, Mecca, Jerusalem, and others. Jews make pilgrimages to the western wall, and weep and kiss the stones. And Christians make their pilgrimages to the very spot Jesus was born, or wept, or died. How very similar to one another are the religions which men have invented - even as they despise the other's creeds! How equally worthless for obtaining eternal life are all these religions: Islam, Judaism, and Christianity!

The truth is, there is no such thing as a holy place on this cursed planet, and the only holy people that exist are those whose have been sanctified by the Holy Spirit of God. It is only God's Spirit that makes holy. And God does not give His Spirit to trees and streets and buildings. "God does not dwell in holy places made with men's hands", the Bible tells us. He dwells in the hearts of humble men (Isa.57:15). And where God dwells is holy. In this New Covenant, Israel is not a geographic place; it is a people, the people in whom is the Spirit of the living God. Outside of the person who is filled with the Spirit of God, there is no holy place on earth, because there is no place on earth where God dwells. Moreover, there are no "holy garments" on this earth, because God doesn't live in a closet.

For some reason God has, in the last few months, sent my way several of what I call "headless women", women who have no spiritual head and who are under a delusion of having spiritual authority in the church. Marital status is irrelevant. By "headless" I mean "self-willed". They are expert in the appearance of humility, but within they are full of stubbornness and pride and the desire, as Paul said, "to usurp authority over a man". Among these "headless women" whom I have recently faced (they will not receive reproof. They are expert at acting as if they have been misunderstood and mistreated) are:

(1) a woman who came to my Monday night Bible study in my home in Lexington, persuaded that the Lord had revealed to her that she would one day be president of the United States! When she heard that I was teaching that water baptism is unnecessary, she came, with the greatest appearance of meekness, to tell me she had personally talked with Jesus and asked him if we needed to be baptized with water, "And", she explained with such a sweet, humble smile, "He said, `Yes'". Maybe when she becomes president, she'll make me be baptized with water. Until then, I'll trust in Jesus to baptize me.

(2) a headless woman in a bible study I was conducting in Burlington, N. C., who with all the appearance of humility, wanted to help me and the ones I was teaching to understand that all who believe in Christ have already received their glorified bodies (personally, I thought that she and I both were too ugly to have been glorified already). To no avail, I tried to explain to her that to be glorified means to be changed from a physical body to an eternal, glorified one. As Paul wrote, "For our conversation is in heaven, from whence also we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body" (Phip.3:20-21). But she insisted that Jesus had anointed her to teach and that he had revealed to her that we already had our glorified bodies. She also insisted to us all that symbolic ceremonies such as a communion with grape juice and crackers or bread and wine are a part of the will of God for the Church. But until she has the authority to force such a thing upon me (as Christians have so often cruelly done to heathen who would not submit to their religion), I'll trust Jesus for the communion I really need: communion with the Father through the Spirit.

Unfortunately, she was a woman of some reputation as a teacher, and having a reputation can be the very most difficult hurdle a soul has to overcome in order to humble himself to Christ. If more people would do as I am doing and tell the truth about Jesus to the church, they wouldn't have all these exalted titles and positions to overcome. The Scripture states that Jesus "became of no reputation". When I see how reputations hinder some people from humbling themselves to Christ, I see why he didn't care to have one. I am accused of every sort of evil, not because I am guilty, but because I am obeying God and refuse to deny His truth in order to have an appearance of humility. Consequently, I am unencumbered by a reputation.

(3) Another headless woman, visiting a deathly ill friend of mine when I dropped by, declared that she had been given the keys of the kingdom of God (Actually, Jesus gave them to Peter - Mt.16) and that she possessed the keys of death and of hell (Actually, Jesus holds those keys - Rev.1). Such women do not say "I have these things"; they say to those who will listen, "We have these things". That way, they avoid the appearance of having an exalted spirit, even as they try to lure you through pride to confess the same lies they are telling. This last "headless woman", before she ended her 4 or 5 hour sermon and left my sick friend, had told him that he was demon-possessed because he was sick and that he was now completely well. Both of those statements were lies. He is neither demon-possessed nor well. These are just three of a long line of "headless women" whom, for whatever reason, God has sent my way. What brought them to my mind as I wrote this BROADCASTER was the issue of "holy places" and the "headless woman" Jesus met at the well in Sychar (Jn.4). She had been married five times and none of those men had been able to live with her. She was living in fornication now with a sixth man.

Jesus was weary with a journey on foot from Jerusalem to Galilee and sat on a well as his disciples went into the village of Sychar to buy some food. When this headless woman came to draw water from the well, Jesus asked her for a little of it. This startled the Samaritan woman because Jews didn't normally have any thing to do with Samaritans. Jesus told the woman that if she knew who it was she was talking to, she would have asked him for the living water which he gave. She wanted to know then, how did he propose to get that water out of the well when he didn't even have a bucket. Jesus explained that he was speaking of spiritual water, water which would forever quench the thirsting of the soul for God. Missing the point, she asked for some of his mysterious water that makes a person never thirst again, so that she wouldn't have to keep straining to pull buckets of water out of wells. Jesus then revealed that he knew some details of her past life, and she perceived that he was a prophet. And as soon as she caught on to the fact that he was involved in the things of God, she wanted to quarrel with him concerning holy places. "Our fathers worshipped in this mountain", she said, "But you [Jews] say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship." Jesus said to her, "Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when ye shall neither in this mountain nor yet in Jerusalem worship the Father.... The hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth, for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a spirit, and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth."

For centuries, there had been a controversy between the Jews and the Samaritans over the right place to worship. The Jews had been right to say that the temple in Jerusalem was the only acceptable place to worship the Father. In Jerusalem was the legitimate ministry, the truly anointed of God. The Samaritans never received that truth, contending that if Abraham and Isaac and Jacob worshipped in the hills of Canaan, then it was acceptable to God for their descendants to do the same. This "headless woman" was defending that doctrine to Jesus. He was not impressed with her biblical knowledge. What Jesus was suggesting to this woman was that in order for a place to be acceptable as a place of worship, it must be holy. That is, it must have the sanctifying presence of God there. When Solomon dedicated the temple in Jerusalem, the presence of God so filled the temple that not even the priests could enter in for a while. It was overpowering. God made it a place acceptable for worship by honoring that building with His holy presence. Jesus was implying to the woman that God's sanctifying presence would shortly be taken away from Jerusalem's temple (as it had long ago departed from the high places where Abraham worshipped), thus making her controversy over holy places altogether irrelevant to anything in the kingdom of God. The only place, Jesus said, which would in this New Covenant be holy and acceptable for worship would be within people's hearts. In other words, God would indwell and sanctify individual people, making the bodies of men His temple. "Know ye not", asked Paul, "that YE are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?" "As God hath said, `I will dwell in them, and walk in them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.'"

Worship of God is the most common thing on earth. God is worshipped by the most sophisticated of mankind and by barbarians in even the most remote corners of the globe, but it is all unacceptable if it is not sanctified by the Spirit of God, through Christ Jesus. Paul said his mission in life was to make the worship of the Gentiles acceptable with God "being sanctified by the Holy Ghost" (Rom.15:16). Without the Holy Ghost, all the glorious houses of worship which men build, all their beautiful hymns, all their gorgeously decorated robes, all their meaningful ceremonies, and all their intricate theological works are as filthy in God's sight as the bloody rags which are discarded by women after their menstruation periods (Isa.64:6). And when God opens our eyes to see the vain, lovely styles of worship which men have invented as God sees them, we will reject every manner of worship which omits the Spirit of God, or relegates it to a secondary position, as women discard their filthy rags (Isa.30:21-22). Those who truly know God, know that He is supremely unimpressed with man, his works, his words, and his thoughts. What we often fail to grasp, however, is that as a part of this, God is also utterly unimpressed with man's worship. Without the Holy Ghost leading, praise of God is just as dead a work as is digging a ditch. God is a spirit, Jesus said, and they who worship Him MUST worship him in spirit and in truth. Otherwise, they worship Him in vain. So superstitious are we that, in general, we seem to think that any worship of God is acceptable with Him, that any praise is good, that any hymn is holy. But God is not a beggar, taking in anything sent His way. He is not the father of Christianity, Judaism, Islam, or any other of man's religions men. Theirs is the spirit of whoredom, receiving into their numbers anything or anyone that will increase their coffers or submit to their ungodly tenets. God is not a whore. God is holy, and it is a privilege for people to be sanctified by His Spirit, so that their worship may be accepted by Him.

There is none holy but God, Jesus said. Because that is true, there is no place holy except where God's Spirit dwells. Christians have decreed that Capernaum on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee is a holy place. They will not even allow pilgrims to enter its "hallow" grounds if that pilgrim is dressed in shorts, as if doing so will desecrate that holy dirt. But when Jesus himself was here, he didn't think so highly of the place. He cursed it, and consigned its inhabitants to hell (Mt.11:23). As I walked around the place recently, I thought about Jesus' words and learned anew the reality of the fear of God. The inhabitants there are still cursed with bondage to the same self-willed, over-religious demons that caused Israel long ago to reject the only hope of eternal life that the nation ever had, the One who loved her as no other ever has or ever will. Muslims, Jews, and Christians - all men on this miserable, sin-sick planet, need desperately to cease these futile efforts to appear holy, and to submit to the only source of true holiness there is now or ever will be: Jesus Christ of Nazareth, the Son of the living God.


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