Matthew 13:14-15 In them indeed is the process of fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah, which says: You shall indeed hear and hear but never grasp and understand; and you shall indeed look and look but never see and perceive. For this nation's heart has grown gross (fat and dull), and their ears heavy and difficult of hearing, and their eyes they have tightly closed, lest they see and perceive with their eyes, and hear and comprehend the sense with their ears, and grasp and understand with their heart, and turn and I should heal them. (Quick Amplified Bible)
Religion in my opinion is probably one of the deadliest, divisive, and most destructive things ever developed by man. The world bleeds like an open wound with religion. It has been since Adam fell in the Garden of Eden. Satan is the Author and the Father of religion. Wars have started over religion and the wars have taken the lives of countless well-intentioned human beings from the earth.
Today we see millions of radical Muslims willing to strap explosives to their own bodies in order that they might kill as many innocent people who they perceive to be their enemies because they will not believe and worship, as they desire. Someone said of religion a long time ago that religion is what sinful man tries to do to approach and get to a Holy God. This is a very true statement.
Man has defined religion in this way: 1) A strong belief in a supernatural power or powers that control human destiny. 2) Religion is an institution to express belief in a divine power. The biggest problem is that religion is an institution just that and nothing more. These definitions are good. However, they do not pin point the actual supernatural power or divine power to believe in.
Here is where man has veered off on so many tangents that have seen men and women (of all generations) doing all types of violent and immoral things in the name of worshiping a divine power or God. In the above scriptures, the Lord Jesus Christ quoted the words that He had given to Isaiah. These words were for the children of Israel. He is saying that the people (of the generation of His first coming) were so busy and consumed by their religion (their religious activities) that they were blind, deaf, and dumb to the fact that the one and only God of all eternity had become a man and He was standing right in their midst.
Today we see huge buildings that house thousands of people at one time. There is nothing wrong with that at all. Unfortunately, in many of these so called mega churches, there are many committees and activities that the members can get involved with for the growth and prosperity (spiritual and natural) of themselves and the church.
Sadly, in many of these huge mega churches there is no structured process of accountability for the leaders of the church as well as for the members. This neglect will more times than not allow slowly an infiltration of leaven into the church until the leaven has corrupted the whole lump. This is not just a problem for mega churches but for any church no matter the size when it takes it eyes or focuses from Christ and begins to compromise His Word by substituting or bringing along isms and trying to use them along with the Word of God.
Matthew 16:6-12 Jesus said to them, Be careful and on your guard against the leaven (ferment) of the Pharisees and Sadducees. And they reasoned among themselves about it, saying, It is because we did not bring any bread. But Jesus, aware of this, asked, Why are you discussing among yourselves the fact that you have no bread? O you [men, how little trust you have in Me, how] little faith! Do you not yet discern (perceive and understand)? Do you not remember the five loaves of the five thousand, and how many [small hand] baskets you gathered? Nor the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many [large provision] baskets you took up? How is it that you fail to understand that I was not talking to you about bread? But beware of the leaven (ferment) of the Pharisees and Sadducees. Then they discerned that He did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees. (Quick Amplified Bible)
We can be caught up with programs and procedures and forget that the Lord Jesus wants a purified church presented to Himself as a bride. The most important thing in any church and in any heart of a true believer should be the Word of God. The Word and nothing else, no matter the consequences, must govern all structure and activities. Why did Paul say that, “All who live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution?” Why did Paul not just write all in Christ Jesus? I will not answer these questions myself, but rather I will use an explanation given by one of the Lord Jesus Christ servants who lived in the 1800's.
Albert Barnes (1798-1870) said this of those who would live godly in the Lord Jesus Christ, “It is undoubtedly true at all times, and will ever be, that they who are devoted Christians - who live as the Savior did - and who carry out his principles always, will experience some form of persecution. The “essence” of persecution consists in “subjecting a person to injury or disadvantage on account of his opinions.” It is something more than meeting his opinions by argument, which is always right and proper; it is inflicting some injury on him; depriving him of some privilege, or right; subjecting him to some disadvantage, or placing him in less favorable circumstances, on account of his sentiments.
This may be either an injury done to his feelings, his family, his reputation, his property, his liberty, his influence; it may be by depriving him of an office which he held, or preventing him from obtaining one to which he is eligible; it may be by subjecting him to fine or imprisonment, to banishment, torture, or death. If, in any manner, or in any way, he is subjected to disadvantage because of his religious opinions, and deprived of any immunities and rights to which he would be otherwise entitled, this is persecution.
Now, it is doubtless as true as it ever was, that a man who will live as the Savior did, will, like him, be subjected to some such injury or disadvantage. On account of his opinions, he may be held up to ridicule, or treated with neglect, or excluded from society to which his attainments and manners would otherwise introduce him, or shunned by those who might otherwise value his friendship. These things may be expected in the best times, and under the most favorable circumstances; and it is known that a large part of the history of the world, in its relation to the church, is nothing more than a history of persecution. It follows from this:
(1) that they who make a profession of religion, should come prepared to be persecuted. It should be considered as one of the proper qualifications for membership in the church, to be willing to bear persecution, and to resolve not to shrink from any duty in order to avoid it.
(2) they who are persecuted for their opinions, should consider that this may be one evidence that they have the spirit of Christ, and are his true friends. They should remember that, in this respect, they are treated as the Master was, and are in the goodly company of the prophets, apostles, and martyrs; for they were all persecuted.
(3) Yet, if we are persecuted, we should carefully inquire, before we avail ourselves of this consolation, whether we are persecuted because we “live godly in Christ Jesus,” or for some other reason. A man may embrace some absurd opinion, and call it religion; he may adopt some mode of dress irresistibly ludicrous, from the mere love of singularity, and may call it “conscience;” or he may be boorish in his manners, and uncivil in his deportment, outraging all the laws of social life, and may call this “deadness to the world;” and for these, and similar things, he may be contemned, ridiculed, and despised. But let him not infer, “therefore,” that he is to be enrolled among the martyrs, and that he is certainly a real Christian. That persecution which will properly furnish any evidence that we are the friends of Christ, must be only that which is “for righteousness sake” Matthew 5:10, and must be brought upon us in an honest effort to obey the commands of God.
(4) let those who have never been persecuted in any way, inquire whether it is not an evidence that they have no religion. If they had been more faithful, and more like their Master, would they have always escaped? And may not their freedom from it prove that they have surrendered the principles of their religion, where they should have stood firm, though the world were arrayed against them? It is easy for a professed Christian to avoid persecution, if he yields every point in which religion is opposed to the world. But let not a man who will do this, suppose that he has any claim to be numbered among the martyrs, or even entitled to the Christian name.”
Now you might understand a little better why we chose the title we did for this work. You see there is an extreme danger for me and for you to believe that we are a Christian just by some ceremony, ritual, or practice in our particular church and denomination that has made us a Christian without the Holy Spirit having actually circumcised our hearts.
Romans 2:28-29 For he is not a [real] Jew who is only one outwardly and publicly, nor is [true] circumcision something external and physical. But he is a Jew who is one inwardly, and [true] circumcision is of the heart, a spiritual and not a literal [matter]. His praise is not from men but from God. (Quick Amplified Bible)
In these two text just substitute the word Christian every place Jew is written and apply these words to your heart. Has this happened to you? Do you love the Lord Jesus Christ with all your heart? Are you able to love men and women that you perhaps dislike? Is the Word of God the Authority for everything in your life? Do you hunger and thirst to spend many hours feeding from the never ending well of the Word of God? If you can answer yes truthfully to all of these questions, then I believe that your heart has been made right, not perfect yet, but right.
When the Lord Jesus began His earthly ministry, He began with these words, “Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” Notice the Lord did come from Heaven and say, “Repent for the Religion of Heaven is at hand.” You might ask what difference it makes. Oh, there is a huge difference. One carries with it the power of Almighty God (to save, heal, and set free) and the other has procedure, ritual, rules, regulations, and absolutely no power.
Therefore, I want to ask all of you this question, Has your heart truly turned to Christ? A young boy grows up in the Church. He attends Sunday School regularly, is Baptized, and attends Vacation Bible School during the summer months. He excels in academics and athletics from little league to High School. He is respected and admired in his community by young and old.
He is voted Most Likely to Succeed by his graduating High School Class, and he has one of the most beautiful and popular girls in school in love with him. What could possibly go wrong to prevent and destroy his future happiness and success? That young boy was I and he only had religion and not a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. I went from all of the above to become very addicted to pornography, drugs, and alcohol. Those in the Church and even Clergy are not immune to these results if religion is their only possession.
King David in his psalms is talking to someone very real to him. He is not talking at someone. God is not some far off unapproachable diety to him. God's presence in the heart of David was as real to him as his hands, feet, or any other part of his physical body. David was not just speaking and writing words, he was actually caring on a conversation with a person standing or sitting right in his midst.
Religion cannot produce this in the heart of any man or woman. Some religions have certain chants, physical apparatus, prayers, etc. but none of these things or any other manufactured thing that man tries to do can ever bring him into the presence of a Holy God as King David demonstrates for us in all of his many Psalms that he wrote. Christ has come suffered bled and died for the sins of the whole world and only through faith in Him can any man or woman ever be able to speak and write as King David did to the Father. Can you do likewise?
Sincerely in Christ,
Clifford D. Tate, Sr.
Author, Silent Assassins of the Soul (not yet published; coming soon)