Guilty of a Religious Spirit?

I am appalled by the demonstration of a spirit that I believe is prevalent in today’s churches. This ungodly spirit has inflicted painful wounds to many individuals, and as a result, quite a few of these people have turned away from the church. The church is intended to portray the relationship between Christ and His bride. However, in many ways, our actions and attitudes are anything BUT Christlike…

Recently, I was sitting at a quaint downtown coffee shop while working on a blog. As I rose to leave the table with my Bible in hand, a gentleman sitting at the table behind me commented, “Oh, she must be a Christian.” 

I looked at him and responded, “Yes, I am! How about you – are you a Christian?”  

He said, “Yes I am, and I’m also a deacon of my church!” After a minute of conversation, I told him about the prison ministry we are involved in. Immediately, his countenance changed, and he asked, “Why in the world would you do that? I didn’t know that Christians would DO such a thing!” 

“Why not?” I asked. “These men and women have a soul and are of value to God, just like you and I are!” 

After some more discussion, this deacon emphatically declared, “These men and women are MURDERERS and have committed the unpardonable sin! When a person intentionally lays awake and plans to hurt someone, they don’t DESERVE to have another chance!” 

At that time, God gave me the boldness to share these words with him: “Only God knows when someone has committed the unpardonable sin. We are not the ones to judge. If someone does wrong, then they do need to be punished, but this doesn’t mean that they are without hope. Jesus said that if we hate someone or close off our spirit toward any individual, we are also a murderer. (Matt. 5:21-22) This sin is just as great as physically killing someone.” 

The gentleman now became very agitated, and his son quickly ushered him out the door saying, “I’m so sorry. Please don’t get him started on this!” I had just hit a very sensitive spot in this poor deacon’s heart, and his son didn’t want him to cause a scene in the quiet coffee shop.

The spirit that I first detected in this man was the spirit of religion as well as pride and bitterness. He was likely hurt by someone at some vulnerable time in his life, thus allowing a root of bitterness to influence and control him. The spirit of religion convinces him that since the other person has committed the sin, they don’t deserve to be forgiven. He blindly continues to blame and cast contempt never realizing that his sin is just as sinful. The religious spirit assures him that he is doing a pretty good job at being a good, moral person. After all, he is a reputable person in the community and a deacon of the church. He can easily justify and downsize his own sin, but has no tolerance for the sins of others. (Matt. 7:5) This gentleman didn’t realize that responding wrong to another person’s wrong never makes things right! 

We so often struggle with an accusing spirit, blaming others for our wrong doings or trying to justify our own sin by someone else’s sin. Have you noticed how someone who is living in sin likes the verse, “Judge not…?” They talk about how Christians are judgmental and discriminating when their own sin is exposed. Let’s get this straight though! It’s not us, but rather God’s word that judges them. (Matt. 7:16) However, we need to be willing to warn them of the wrath of God that will come if they continue to live in sin. We should never be intimidated to lovingly share what God’s word says about sin.

Because we will continue to struggle with this sinful nature until we get to Heaven, an unbeliever can always try to justify their own wrongs by the shortcomings they see in Christians. However, there is a big difference between the life of a true Christian and an unbeliever. A sincere Christian’s goal and desire is to live a pure and godly life. When he is made aware of his sin, he repents and turns away from it. That looks completely different from a nonbeliever who refuses to repent and looks for sin in others to justify his own sin!

A few hours after my talk at the coffee shop, our family shared at a men’s prison in the area. As we were singing our last song, entitled, “Make Something Beautiful,” the altar was filled with men worshipping and lifting their hands in surrender to the Almighty God. Many of them had tears streaming down their faces. These men were experiencing total freedom in Christ unlike what many members of our churches experience. How I wished that the deacon could see these “outcasts” of society and experience the joy and brokenness that these dear men exemplified! They knew they were sinners and didn’t deserve God’s forgiveness. They were so grateful to receive God’s undeserved mercy, whereas the deacon didn’t seem to recognize that he needed anything.

As you recall men and women of faith from the Bible, you will see a common thread in their lives. David was an adulterer and a murderer, yet God forgave him and made him a man after God’s own heart. Rahab was a harlot, yet she repented, and God used her life and put her in the royal line through which Jesus was born. Why did God use these “sinners” instead of the religious Pharisees? It was because the sinners acknowledged and repented of their sins, unlike the Pharisees who took pride in their own works and accomplishments. The spirit of religion is what drove them away from God.

Is there evidence of this religious spirit in our lives? Do we harshly judge others instead of lovingly confronting sin? Do we have the tendency to define who is a committed Christian solely by whether they are willing participants of the programs of the church? Have we believed the lie that our sin isn’t as bad as someone else’s? Do you realize that YOU are UNDESERVING of the forgiveness and grace of God? Each of us deserves what the worst criminal deserves…hell! It’s time to fall on our knees and repent of the spirit of religion.

I can fully understand why Jesus rebuked the spiritual leaders (Scribes and Pharisees) of His day and chose to minister and relate with those who were considered the outcasts of society. How much time did Jesus invest in reaching out to the religious leaders? Why are there so many incidents of Him investing in the lives of lepers, publicans, (dishonored tax collectors) sinners, and the sick? Why didn’t Jesus spend the majority of His precious time equipping and instructing the religious leaders so they could, in return, impact those under their influence? Could it be because of the spirit of religion that controlled them? If Jesus was walking on our earth today, would He be investing in our lives, or would He be turned away by this same, ugly spirit?

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5 Responses

  1. Anna says:

    Amen!..:)

  2. David Troyer says:

    Amen! I feel sorry for that Deacon, must be he never experienced the joy of seeing an “unworthy” sinner being transformed by the power of God. Evidently he feels like he deserves God’s forgiveness more than some others.

  3. Becki says:

    So true!! When we loose focus on how much we have been forgiven (undeserving) our focus becomes judgemental of others. May we always praise Him for His amazing grace!!

  4. Duane & Cindy says:

    That’s very true, Becki! I think it is the key element in avoiding becoming judgmental. Thanks for sharing that with us. God bless you! ~Cindy

  5. Duane & Cindy says:

    Yes, I feel sorry for him as well. The humility and sense of unworthiness that I saw in the men at the prison was such a stark contrast to the pride and arrogance that was in this poor deacon’s life. God help us all to see our own “un-doneness”! ~Cindy

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