These are the commitments and visions that have driven me since being restored to Christ back in 1972. The purpose of this web site (WayOfJesusRestored.org) is to expand your vision and to excite your passion about what God actually revealed to us in His Son Jesus. When it comes to the teachings ABOUT Jesus there may well not be much that is new to you: most Christian churches have preserved those teachings pretty well. Where most of Christendom has departed from what God has revealed in Jesus is not in the teachings ABOUT Jesus, but in the teachings OF Jesus — the teachings that pertain to such concepts as “the way of salvation,” “the kingdom of God,” “discipleship,” the experiencing of God, and “the church”.
When you decide to consecrate yourself to the understanding and the living out of the teachings of Jesus and His holy apostles ... when you decide to surrender your theology and your life to the natural, literal sense of the Spirit-inspired apostolic writings ... at some point you begin to sense that something tragic must have occurred within the history of the church, causing it to become much more comfortable in this world than God permits — a world which put its Creator to death when He “came to His own,” a world about which one of His apostles announced a devastating judgment:
You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. (James 4:4-5)
My name is Reed Merino and I was born in 1941. My wife Ann and I have been married since 1963 and we have four children. I grew up in the church -- Lutheran then Methodist – and when I was brought to faith in Jesus in 1960, while out at sea in the Merchant Marine, I felt a call to the ministry. Ever since then I have been on a quest to understand and to become part of whatever it was that came into being through Jesus and His apostles. In college I majored in history, became drawn to the ancient Christians, and entered the Episcopal Church. In seminary I concentrated in Biblical studies and early church history, and after I was ordained as an Episcopal priest in 1968 I planned to teach church history in some seminary. I went on to finish the course work for a Ph.D. in the history of religions at Fordham University.
Unfortunately, the liberal theology and “higher” criticism in Biblical studies I had learned took its toll, and I went through a three year period of great spiritual darkness and rebellion, which led to the breakup of our marriage. When God mercifully brought me back to Him I promised Him that I would never again set aside ANYthing in His Word. His wonderful ministry of reconciliation and power included the eventual restoration of our marriage after five years of divorce. Praise God! In all of this He has shown me that we can have great confidence in the clarity of every utterance of His word.
Jesus and His apostles knew how to speak very clearly -- to those who are willing to hear clearly AND to obey what they read. It is only when you receive the doctrines, commands and promises of the apostolic writings with the literalness that they deserve that you begin to see the revolutionary nature of that reality that God calls "church."
Over the years, I have come to yearn to see those whom God calls Christians enter into that unity for which Jesus prayed in John 17: unity of faith in Him, unity over what He taught, unity of experience and unity of discipline in a love-oriented body. I have also come to see that His idea of unity can only come if the disciples of Jesus who want unity are willing to live under the discipline of that grammatically natural and literal sense of the apostolic writings.
So you think you believe the Bible?
Even though you may have gone page by page from Matthew 1:1 through Revelation 22:21 many times, it is likely that you have never truly read the entire New Testament even once. By "reading" I mean receiving without resistance into your mind what the words are actually saying, using the same natural and literal sense that you are now using to read this paragraph and which you naturally use for reading any serious literature. I suspect that you never have truly read the New Testament once. And the fault is probably not yours. The fault lies in the fractured nature of Christendom, with its tragic history of unbelief, division, and the competition among the Christian fragments resulting from that division.
For example: in the days of my youth and young adulthood I was captured by the "higher criticism" theology mentioned above, a form of unbelief that disconnects the living God from the Scriptures. GOD might be infinite, so it went, but those writings had too much human input to be received simply as being authored by God and carrying His full authority in our modern and scientific age. So when we read Jesus talking about Noah's flood as if He believed that it was a historic event (Luke 17:27), we just attributed it either to His "speaking down" to His pre-scientific audience or — when that liberal poison finally captured my mind — to Him incorrectly believing what were, in fact, fables.
When I was drawn back to Christ in 1972, and was cured of my anti-supernaturalism, I promised God that I would never again play those "games" with the Scriptures that we were trained to play in college, seminary and graduate school. I now trusted that the God who could design the universe and the human body was intelligent and insightful enough to make sure that the very words He wanted to be recorded did actually get recorded. So, I committed myself to believe whatever the actual texts said, regardless of what church or tradition was proven right or wrong.
If you are a practicing evangelical Christian, you are probably in full agreement with me at this point, and believe that you share in that same commitment.
Yet, what do you do when you come upon these two passages: "…this is my body" (Matthew 26:26, referring to the bread), "Is not the bread which we break a sharing in the body of Christ?" (1 Corinthians 10:16). What most of you Protestants actually do is refuse to believe what the text actually says, by saying that you believe it to be some sort of poetic expression, like when Jesus says "I am the door" (John 10:9). If that is the way your mind is working you are not believing what the text actually says. What you are actually believing is your denominational filter that has been laid on top of the text. And so your disbelief kills the wonderful promise and experience of Christ's presence, the promise and experience into which the original Christians entered, and into which I eventually entered by throwing away my denominational filter.
And what do you do when you come upon a passage such as this: "Now I wish that you all spoke in tongues, but even more that you would prophesy" (1 Corinthians 14:5)? Do you believe that God - speaking through Paul - wants YOU to "speak in tongues," whatever that may turn out to mean? And do you believe that He wants even more that you should prophesy (after the fashion of 1 Corinthians 14:24-25)? I realize that just because you do start believing Paul’s passage it does not mean you can produce tongues and prophecy on your own. But if you do NOT start to believe that passage you can be pretty sure that you will never receive GOD's version of tongues and prophecy. Are you a believer or an unbeliever of God's word?
Yet again, what happens within you when you come upon various commands like THIS one: "But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also" (Matthew 5:39). If you play the unbelieving denominational games with these kind of passages you will likely come up with something like: “He is only talking about what happens to me as an individual, but when my country is invaded I will go and resist the (supposedly) evil person, and blow a hole in his head before he gets a chance to blow a hole in mine.” Furthermore, very few of you are actually committed to taking Him literally at the individual level, either: have you in fact surrendered yourself to literally turn the other cheek when being physically assaulted? Does your church/denomination insist that you do not engage in the institutionalized violence of this world?
Then again, consider those teachings about the sharing of our possessions. What do you think that the cumulative impact of the following teachings implies?
Luke 6:30 "Give to everyone who asks of you, and whoever takes away what is yours, do not demand it back".
Luke 12:33 "Sell your possessions and give to charity; make yourselves money belts which do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near nor moth destroys".
Luke 14:33 "So then, none of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions".
Acts 2:44 "And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common."
Acts 4:32 "And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul; and not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own, but all things were common property to them…. 34 For there was not a needy person among them, for all who were owners of land or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales"
2 Corinthians 8:13 "For this is not for the ease of others and for your affliction, but by way of EQUALITY - 14 at this present time your abundance being a supply for their need, so that their abundance also may become a supply for your need, that there may be EQUALITY; 15 as it is written, 'He who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little had no lack'."
If I assume that Jesus and Paul taught very clearly what they intended to communicate, and if I believe that God's judgment about whether I am saved will include His assessment of how I have lived out those teachings, my wallet starts to burn my skin, so to speak. Do you still say that you are a Bible-believing Christian?
Or what happens within your mind when you read passages like these: "…the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul" (Acts 16:14), "…and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified" (Romans 8:30). More likely than not, you do what I grew up doing: when you read these texts you do not really believe the texts - what you actually believe is a MAN-made denominational "free-will" filtered out version of them. What you really believe is what is left over of the Scriptures after they have been filtered out; you are not believing what is actually being said. On the other hand, if you have grown up as a Calvinist, you probably read THOSE scriptures properly, but when you read a text that says God "desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth," you play the same game, but with the other side of the equation. Like the Arminian, you refuse to believe what the text says; rather, you apply the Calvinistic filter which converts "all men" into "some men." In both cases you refuse to live under the mystery of the TWO sets of revealed writings until God stretches you into an understanding which grows out of taking ALL of them literally. Instead of patiently enduring, you select some scriptures and throw away the ones that don't make it through your filter.
And how many of you are in a fellowship that is even attempting to live out the following: "Obey your leaders [N.B. plural] and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account" (Hebrews 13:17); "Wives, be subject to your husbands…" (Colossians 3:18)?
We could go on and on and on, from topic to topic. That is why I say that I am rather confident that you have never really read and received ALL of the New Testament writings. It is natural enough that denominational compromised traditions have come into being for various historical reasons; but the fact that they continue in their compromised existence is the result of dozens and dozens of these various filters. The particular group of texts that get victimized by those filters vary from denomination to denomination, but the filtering principle is the same: we just refuse to believe all the texts of the inspired literature in the same grammatically natural and literal sense. We usually have no problem reading other literature that way, but the consequences of reading the New Testament that way are too dangerous to the flesh's existence and the flesh's ego. Furthermore, Satan's demons could care less whether you take a biography of Napoleon or the teachings of Chairman Mao in their grammatically natural and literal sense; but if you commit yourself to the apostolic writings in that same sense you become a mortal danger to him -- and his whisperings in your ear begin to get frantic.
If you are still playing these denominational games with His Word, you might as well face facts: you do not yet trust Him or believe Him in the way taught in the New Testament, nor have you yet surrendered to the authority of Jesus over your life. And you are justifying yourself by listening to the demonic whispering "He does not mean what His words are saying" (a variant of the Satan’s "Has God INDEED said...?" [Genesis 3:1]). When you play this kind of theological game you are tearing apart God's clear and unqualified command, and making a hole in it big enough for a tank — or a whisperer. And in doing so, you have separated yourself from Christ's authority and from the separated Way of the original Christians. Furthermore, rather than entering into the kingdom of God that Jesus brought, you have chosen to identify yourself with the adulterated post-Constantinian worldly reality called "Christendom." You cannot believe His promises literally because of what you are doing to His commands.
Does that describe you?
But what if you were to become converted not only to the God of your tradition, but to the God who has spoken dangerously clear in the Scriptures about many, many things - commands that strengthen, promises that satisfy, teachings that clarify? What if you were to read the New Testament - really read it without denominational filters - read it over and over again. And then what if you were to organize your attempts at such unfiltered reading by subject matter? Well that is what happened to me, and this is what I have attempted to do in this "Blueprint for a Revolution."
What follows is a sort of catechism of my understanding of apostolic Christianity. It is a body of teaching that flows out of taking ALL of the New Testament texts in a grammatically natural and literal sense: the way we instinctively read all serious literature. I also present testimony from the earliest Christians, demonstrating that what they taught and lived out was typically identical to what you get when you take the New Testament doctrines, commands and promises literally and consistently.
Wouldn't you delight in being able to find fellowship within a body of disciples who received and sought to fulfill ALL the New Testament writings -- great and small -- in their literal sense? Wouldn't you sacrifice everything you possessed if you could be with disciples who had childlike confidence that Jesus and His apostles actually spoke very plainly and very clearly, and sounded so revolutionary because the church they were creating was an incarnation of a revolutionary society called the “kingdom of God?” I would.
Please read on, and feel free to contact me via e-mail (RMERINO@VERIZON.NET), telephone (215-896-4599) or by U.S. Mail (Reed Merino, 1114 West James Street, Norristown, PA 19401-3265). And if you find anything in error here – whether grammar, fact or theology – PLEASE feel free to inform me.
May our Savior bring His people together into His promised fullness, anointing, caring and unity!
Your fellow pilgrim,
"I am a companion of all those who fear You,
And of those who keep Your precepts"
(Psalm 119:63, NASB)