Religion wears a mask, well a lot of masks. I use to think it was easy to see. Oh, the churches that have the most rituals. It's more than that. It is hard to pinpoint and can easily be confused as Holy. But beware, it is anything BUT Holy, and it is sanctioned by Satan himself, the father of Lies. It's in most well-meaning Churches but it goes fully against what Jesus teaches. Jesus spoke against religious systems. Religion masked by bondage. Religion masked by Holy Scribes, faithful followers of the Torah. Religion is what killed Jesus. Religion killed God. Think about that for a minute. How evil that is. Well Religion and Empire but I'll hopefully get more on that on another blog. First I want to expose this Lie that has so closely made itself look Holy a lot of times we think these are sanctioned by God. Here some ways you can decipher the differences between Holy and Unholy.
1.) The Holy Spirit will NEVER be the Accuser. If you are sitting in a church and the preacher is preaching an "Us verses Them" mentality. It is evil. It might feel Holy or anointed but I can assure you its anointed just not of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit will never put an accusation on others. That's what Satan does he is the Accuser (Rev 12:10) and the Holy Spirit is the Advocator (John 14:26). The Holy Spirit will always Advocate, especially for the oppressed. Jesus was also the advocator for the oppressed. Religion feeds on Pride. If it can make you feel better about yourself above others then it's doing its job and its causing you to sin. Pride was the sin that condemned Satan, himself. (Isaiah 14:13)
2.) Religion is Self-serving. Religion loves pride and it is all about self. Putting Self above others. Now, this is a sin that is so engrained in us that we do it most the time without realizing it. Religion doesn't welcome everyone because well everyone might make us feel a little uncomfortable. Religion always has its own agenda. Too feel better about itself. To make you feel somewhat supreme above others. That's why the bible says "Your righteousness is as filthy rags before the Lord." Salvation and Grace are not earned. They are given to anyone that will receive it. That's one of the key points that separates Christianity from Religion. We don't have to follow rules to receive Grace, it is given to us as a free gift with no strings attached. I'm even going to go as far as saying your Preacher shouldn't feel above you. We are all Christ followers made for different works of the body but just as important none the less. It's like the parable of the workers in the field. Some worked all day and others worked one hour but they all got paid the same. (Mat 20:1-16)
4.) Religion is Fear-based. The opposite of Love is Fear. Perfect Love Cast out ALL Fear. Not some fears, or just the "healthy" ones but ALL Fear. Fear of enemies, fear of THE greatest Enemy. Going back to the "Us vs. Them" concept, it's fear based. I once heard a Christian Magazine say that they should just deport all the Muslims and then we wouldn't have to worry about ISIS anymore. That saddens me that people are so fearful and ready to fight back another religion/ another people. Fighting back will do nothing but bring destruction to one or both sides. Love frees people from bondage. Jesus calls us to "Turn the other cheek and not eye for an eye." True Faith in Jesus is believing everything he says and letting God handle Justice. This is a tall order but if we really believe in Jesus and his example we believe in laying down our own lives for one another.
Religion Thinks it has the Right to Judge. Why do we look at Pharaisees in the bible as these one sided almost cartoonish characters? They were actually good religious people. They were high respected in the Jewish community and the Isrealites looked up to them. They based EVERYTHING off the Torah and when Jesus came along he really got under their skin when he didn't follow the rules of the Jewish bible. Sound familiar? A lot of Christians do this as thinking it is right. They see another Christian not looking or acting a certain way and they get all angry because someone is not following Jesus exactly the way they seem fit. "Well, I love them, so I will tell them what they are doing wrong." Again it is letting Pride seep into your heart and opening the door to sin in your own life. That's why Jesus says to look at the plank in your own eye before you get the speck out of someone else's eyes. In other words, look at your own sins and you will find you are more imperfect than that person's little sins. I cringe when people say "Love the sinner, hate the sin." Because you need to Love people like Christ Loves them. He didn't look at the sinners any less than the scribes and Pharaisees. In fact, because they were willing to at least let him in, in their imperfect condition (understanding they were sinners), and weren't putting on a show Jesus would rather find company with them than the religious elite of the time. God did not make us all the same and the road to Salvation is not all the same. The rules do not get you to heaven and why is heaven your main concern. What about the here and now? Jesus calls us to help the oppressed, sick, poor and the least of these. The love you show for one another is how others will know you are of Christ. Not rules, get over that.
Religion is more concerned with what is on the outside then what is in the heart. Or just has you focused on the non-sense things rather than the heart of the matter. There is a dying, oppressed world out there and we Christians get so fixated on ourselves and imperfectness of the church. We need to take care of the world; that is what we are called to do. We are to be a light unto this dark world. Being a light does not mean carrying your bible around and listening to only gospel music and making sure you keep your eyes pure. Those things are good and might help some but that is not what it means when the bible says make yourself separate from the world. Those actions benefit you, but not your fellow man. Again it isn't about doing certain things to LOOK like good little Christians it is important about what is in the inside. I believe the more a believer learns about Grace and God's Love, the more that person is willing to please a God they love anyways. Jesus said you will be known by your love for one another like He loves Us. This is not a worldly love. Worldly Love will always want something in return or feel it has be justified in forgiving someone. It seeks self and self-loving pleasures first. Even sinners love people that love them but to love someone that hates you thats a different kind of love. A love thats not of this world…
Religion is more concerned with separation than with Love. I keep going back to love because that is always going to be the main way to know if someone is a wolf or a sheep. You will be known by the fruit you bear not from how separate you are from the world. We are called to be in the world but not of it. The fruit of the spirit is Love, Joy, Peace, Forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control (Gal 5:22-23). Again these are the fruits that are manifested by the Holy Spirit.
Religion hates Peace. Religion and Peace do not go together. This is one of the main differences between the Holy Spirit and a Religious Spirit. Jesus is the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6). Not just of inner Peace but Peace on Earth. He promotes Peace. Not War. We get those mixed up and we think they go hand in hand. Jesus will never promote war. This is one I just learned recently. But reading over the bible that is part of why the crowd crucified him because they wanted him to rise up against the Roman Empire. They wanted war. After his sermon on the Mount of Peace, even his own brothers didn't believe he was the Son of God because his stance on Peace and not War. The Israelites were justified in wanting to rise up against the Roman Empire because they oppressed them but Jesus called them to a way of new living as a New Kingdom. The old Kingdom was one thirsty for blood and violence. Jesus' new kingdom was one of promoting Peace and laying down your life for your brother. This is one that is so engrained in us and our churches we almost think they go hand and hand and that God promotes war because he is for Us and not them. It is easy to associate God as having the same enemies but do not be deceived by that lie.
I say these things because I still wrestle with being religious and being a Jesus-follower. There is a difference. It is easy to fall into one or all of these categories and I have been guilty of all of these at one time or another. That's why its so important to be humble and always search our own hearts. I heard a preacher once say something that has always stuck in my head "Love the sinner, hate my OWN sin." I think we should start saying that one instead!