The Spirit of Religion
The Spirit of Religion
The Spirit of Tradition
My friend Mark and I have spent numerous hours discussing our concern as to how so many people in the church pews of churches across our nation can be deceived. Denominations are man made and usually are formed by a “splitting off” due to a difference of opinion, which in turn leads to a different doctrine.
We have wondered how the early church did things, and how the present church may have moved over into a different set of beliefs. I think of the analogy where a person cuts a board two feet long, then uses the newly cut piece as the template for the next piece and so on. After they have cut themselves twelve boards using the last piece as measuring stick instead of using a tape measure each time they are ready to apply them to their project. They soon discover that each one is a bit more off than the last one. Have churches done a similar thing.
Have you ever heard the story about the young wife who made her first baked ham—cutting off the ends before baking, because she saw her mother do it? She was of the opinion that perhaps it would cook better that way. One day she asked her mother why she cut the ends off before baking it and her mother replied, “because I saw grandma do that”. When she had the chance to ask her grandmother why she cut the ends off the ham before she baked it her grandma said, “Because it would not fit in my pan.”
So I have been looking into church history to try to glean some answers. I was curious about the very first church in Jesus’ day, and how we have come to where we appear to be today. I am wondering where truth and deception come into play.
Everything good was created by God for man’s benefit. We might use the phrase “the creative process.” The opposite of good is evil; and evil is not part of the creative process. While good is said to be generative and original, evil is degenerative and counterfeit. Satan is a fake; a fraudulent being who the Bible calls the father of lies (John 8:44).
We can then say that every spirit is from Heaven or Hell. There is a Heavenly Kingdom which God uses to govern all of His creation which includes arch angels, angels, and ministering spirits etc. to bring good to the earth. Likewise Satan has his hierarchy of demonic beings that Ephesians 6:12 calls principalities, powers, and rulers of darkness to bring evil to the earth.
Two of the most dangerous spirits to Christian believers are demon spirits that use “religion” and “traditions” to get us just a bit off from the truth.
Mark Chapter 7 speaks about “traditions of men” can often be a stronger influence than God’s word:
3 For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, except they wash their hands oft, eat not, holding the tradition of the elders.
8 For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do. 9 And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition.
13 Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye.
I like to use the following analogy to help you see just how deceptive Satan is:
Rat poison is said to be 99% pure corn and 1% strychnine. So a rat finds what looks like pure corn, smells like pure corn, and tastes like pure corn in the basement of the church. He only tells his girlfriend and a couple of his buddies from his church about his new discovery. So they all ingest what appears to be the real thing—and all end up with a death sentence.
Now, in the one for whom the dose may not be lethal, it may make them sick of church in the future.
It stands to reason that when we are a little off at the beginning, we may be further off by the time we come to the end.
Hosea 4:6 says, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee…”
My intention is not to condemn any particular church body of believers, but to raise some questions that you may want to pursue more in depth for yourself. As I have already mentioned, my friend Mark and I have been pursuing these truths and issues for our selves. It is of vital importance to us.
I will put forward some key truths according to the Bible.
1. Mankind, sometimes referred to as “the world”, says “the church” (including the synagogue or temple) is a structure where believers congregate.
The Biblical truth is:
-The “church” is the body of true believers.
I Cor 12:27 Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.
-There is only one church, one body of Christ. There are true believers in many different denominations that make up the “body of Christ (The church) who will be taken up (raptured) prior to the tribulation.
Some denominations may have many, some a few, and others may have none who will be raptured—only true believers will qualify.
2. “The world” tends to believe we all serve the same God??? (Not True)
The Bible truth is:
-There is only one God, and His Son died on the cross to purchase our redemption, and ascended into Heaven; He is in fact alive, and sits at the father’s right hand. He is the God of true believers.
3. “The World” tends to believe that all good people will spend eternity in Heaven—many do not even believe in Hell.
The Bible truth is:
-Being a good man is not a qualifier for entrance into Heaven. One must believe that Jesus died, arose from the dead, and is residing with the Father in Heaven—and must accept Him as their personal savior.
These three truths were established in the first “church”—the body of believers, including the apostles and followers of Jesus the Christ.
I have a question. Do you think Jesus, His apostles and followers of this first church would have been able to support “the liberal” point of view in our current day? I won’t comment on that any further, but I think it is a valid question to ponder.
The Bible says that Jesus is the same today, yesterday, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). It is apparent that the first church cannot make such a statement. The church as we know it today has been splintered into many denominations and cults. So our concern is—has each new “additional cut” gotten as far off from its original as the boards in my analogy above.
In his book “The Eternal Church”, Dr. Bill Harmon says:
Men have drifted away from the New Testament Pattern for the church. They have misinterpreted it, perverted it, and reduced it to religious form and ritual, thus robbing it of its power and purity. Some have even mixed heathen customs, practices, and beliefs with it so that it has little resemblance to the original pattern, precepts, and manifestations that were established when Christ ushered in the Church Age.
He goes on to say, “I strongly urge each person to restudy the Book of Acts”. He continues, “If you are a teacher, or preacher, compare your teaching, your preaching, your power, and your spiritual manifestation to that of the ministers of the Book of Acts”.
The first church of true believers in Jesus Christ began on the Day of Pentecost recorded in Acts 2:4. This is the very beginning of the Christian Church as we know it today.
The Book of Acts was a “type of the Exodus” of the New Testament. It is the story of God leading a body of believers out of the bondage of religion (Judaism), into the promised land of Kingdom living in “the Church”. Kingdom living and religion are two distinctly different things. Religion is man made whereas Kingdom living is created by God through Jesus and the Holy Spirit. The Church does not exist nor operate on natural laws or religious forms. The Church was to involve a supernatural people operating in supernatural principles. Dr. Harmon says, “Take the miracles out of the Book of Acts, and there is little left”.
In Genesis, Adam was the beginning of the “natural human” race. About 2,000 years later, God called Abraham to become the head of the new “Hebrew” race. Then, in an additional 2,000 years, God sent His Son to model the beginning for the “supernatural human race”—a people born again…born of the spirit (in the Book of Acts). This new race is “the Church”.
As you can see from Adam to Abraham is about 2,000years; from Abraham to Jesus’ birth was roughly 2,000 years; it has been a bit over 2,000 years A.D. to our present time.
A little note of interest:
There were 6 dispensations (or six ages) that covered these 6,000 years. Could it be that they are a type of 6 days of a week. The next thousand years might then be the Millennial 1,000 years for completion of the “Ages”. If so, the rapture would be due at the end of about 6,000 years! It seems like we are right about there—just another thought to ponder.
Let’s get back to my main text. The “Church” I have been describing is the one that will be the resurrected and translated sons of God who will return with Christ to rule and reign with Him in the Millennium.
To believers such as this, the supernatural should become natural…it should be “expected” and become the normal not the abnormal. Are we as true believers walking in the supernatural? I know that’s where I want to walk, so it behooves me to spend time with teachers and people who walk there in their lives. They tend to be pretty hard to find, but if we want it bad enough I believe we can find them and learn from them. In sports or music, if you want to be the best you have to find “the coaches or mentors of the best”.
Everything found in the Book of Acts was not only intended for the “early Church” in Acts but for all who profess to be “true believers”. Just as they did in that early Church, we should be about preaching to the lost, healing the sick, and setting the captives free.
It was during the fall of Jerusalem in A.D.70 that there was a separation of Christian Jews and Orthodox Jews. Then between A.D. 100 and A.D. 313 the Christian religion was forbidden in the Roman Empire. Beginning in A.D. 313 during the reign of Emperor Constantine, the spiritual early Church moved into its “political prosperity” which brought about its decline and deterioration. For the next 1200 years the church became one of “structure” both physically administratively.
Constantine made Christianity the “religion” of his court while the aristocratic leaders of Rome refused to give up their pagan religions in favor of Christianity. Constantine moved to Byzantanium and renamed it Constantinople after himself. It was became a “New Rome” which caused the split into the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Western Roman Catholic Church.
Seventy years later Emperor Theodosius made Christianity compulsory and the state religion, forcing all Roman Empire subjects that wanted to maintain citizenship, hold office, and do business—to Christianity. The Church had become a political organization, and its outward splendor resembled heathen temples. In 476 A.D., the Goths, Vandals, and Huns overthrew the Roman Empire which led to more pagan practices, religious paraphernalia and idol worship. The sun worshippers observed December 25 as the birthday of the Sun-god…Christ’s birth was substituted. The weekly meeting of the Christians was called “the venerable day of the Sun” (Sunday). The worship of Artemis (the universal mother) was transferred to Mary. Pagan converts who had worshipped the goddess, Isis—who was addressed as the “Great Virgin” and “Mother of the God”, naturally became Mary. Isis holding her child Horus looked like the Madonnas. The “Dark Ages” brought into the Church pagan customs and ceremonial religion. The use of the term “Father” and the concept of papal reign reached its prominent use in the middle of the Dark Ages.
Needless to say, we must follow God not Man.
Apostasy and idolatry marked the church for most of the next 1,000 years to 1453 A.D. It was in this vacuum that Mohammed came out of Syria, had a vision at age 40 and said that God wanted him to lead the Arabs in a new religion called Islam. He originally intended to lead mankind away from the idolatry found in the church. Good intentions, however, won't necessarily lead to the truth. He ended up with his own form of deception. The birth of Muslim followers and Islam was 622 A.D. Mohammed died in 632 A.D.
Isn’t it amazing that the church’s corruption and absence of God’s truth during this time, would birth a cult with a leader who in only 10 years time could give rise to the present Christian Church’s greatest enemy.
Of the three world religions that accept the Old Testament which includes Christianity, Judaism, and Islam—only Christianity holds to the belief that Jesus is the Son of God. Rejecting Jesus as the savior of the world reduces all others to being “religions”, and therefore eliminates them from being a part of the “restored Church” and the Church that will be “taken up” (raptured) at the end of the Age.
Beware of the “isms” that have been created by men, who were influenced by demonic spirits that appear on the earth as The Spirit of Religion and the spirit of tradition. Some examples are: Atheism, Buddhism, Gnosticism, Hinduism, Mohammedanism, Mormonism, Paganism, Satanism, Shintoism, and Spiritism.
While I am on a roll here regarding the Spirit of Religion I am compelled to list some other dangerous sects and cults. At the top of my list is Free Masonry. Many innocent people are sucked into this demonic cult and are sitting in churches and in high offices all over the nation. You can research the internet if you desire to know more. Others to beware of include Jehovah Witness, New Age, Yoga, Astrology, Divination, Fortune Telling, Christian Science, Transcendental Meditation, and Martial Arts (based on Buddhist doctrine).
I will end this part of the conversation by telling you some of the names of people and movements that I personally brushed up against thinking there was some good in them. While there may have been some good in them, I have come to find out ever so recently that they are demonic in nature. They all have that sinister element of falsehood—the strychnine wrapped with an element of truth that will kill you just like the rat poison I spoke of earlier. Here is my list: Tony Alamo, Roy Masters, William Branham, A Course in Miracles, Esalen Institute, Biofeedback, Silva International, and Theosophy. These are just the tip of the iceberg. I only really became aware that I had innocently come into contact or embraced some in my list when I got my copy of Larson’s “Book of World Religions and Alternative Spirituality”.
I must admit that most if not all of my interest in “my list” came from a spirit of pride that cleverly used my University degrees and my desire to be endowed with wisdom and power to do good on the earth. However well-meaning, I was being manipulated by a demonic force and never had a clue about it. My most recent such encounter came on my way to church when I turned on my car radio to a “talk station”. I was hearing a man that was sounding extraordinarily profound as he counseled his callers. I actually became intrigued enough to tell my accountability partner Mark about the program. In fact, I was so interested that I very nearly decided to miss the church service and finish listening to the program host, Roy Masters. He was saying some awesome things. I continued to catch the talk show for the next couple of Sundays on my way to church. I even pulled up his web site to learn more about him (FHU.com).
Something was however, bothering me and I was a tad uncomfortable with little bits and pieces of his approach. The “something” that was bothering me was the Holy Spirit—praise God! But I only became aware that it was the Holy Spirit when the strychnine of his message became more evident. I still could not figure out how so much wisdom seemed to come from this person who seemed to speak about God and the Bible but always avoid Jesus. I did come to the conclusion on my own that some thing was amiss (obviously, with help from the Holy Spirit…let’s give credit where credit is due).
It was while I was writing this piece that I decided to give you a list of “isims” and other cults that I happened across confirmation of the error of Roy Masters. I was going through the index of Bob Larson’s Book that I happened to Roy Master’s name in small print under the title “Foundation of Human Understanding” (as in FHU.com above). Wow! Another Holy Spirit moment wouldn’t you say?
Here are some excerpts from Larson’s book starting on page 203:
APPEAL: Masters’ meditation philosophy and lifestyle appeal to emotionally susceptible or victimized people who have lost control of their lives. Foundation of Human Understanding participants venerate Masters as a perfected person who can save them from social disintegration. Masters likens the controversy surrounding his teachings to the persecution suffered by Jesus Christ. .
OVERVIEW: He reportedly once declared, “every religion in America is a cult. Only the Foundation is the true church.” He claims America is a hypo-critical country and that “preachers use the Bible as a fixation point of hypnosis.” He considers himself a Christian mystic who can lead each person to perfection.
He claims he can save people by teaching them self-sufficiency meditation hypnosis. In the early 1960’s the American Medical Association incriminated Masters for practicing medicine without a license.
In Foundation of Human Understanding, Masters employs meditation exercises based on yoga, hypnotism, and Eastern concepts to help devotees obtain inner direction.
A Mixed Message: Masters often combines Christian terminology with gnostic beliefs. He claims, one of the biggest curses in Christendom is the false idea that Jesus is God.”
If I was so easily attracted to his message at first, how many thousands are listening to him on a regular basis? If I wasn’t walking as I am (in the spirit of God), I would have probably still been tuning in and absorbing his combination of wisdom and strychnine. He definitely says many wise and intelligent things—but how do the rats eat the true corn without ingesting the poison? You are absolutely right, they can’t!
Beware of the Spirit of Religion.
Enough for the detour and back on the main road, huh?
This commentary is an attempt to look at how the very first Church manifested God’s Spirit on the earth and progressing to “who the Church is that will be taken up” (raptured) at the end of the Age. Here is another excerpt from Dr Bill Harmon:
The Rapture is not Back Door Escapism. When Jesus comes to translate His Church, it will not be God’s heavenly helicopter coming to air lift the saints out before they all backslide or before the devil has overrun their camp. When Jesus comes it will not be because the battle is too great for the Army of the Lord; neither will it be to jerk the Church out before the antichrist system devours it. Nor is the rapture a retreat or an emergency measure to preserve the Church from extinction. It is not “back door” escapism before the devil kicks down the front door.
Jesus Cannot Be Intimidated. God is not motivated by fear nor is He forced into action because of situations. Jesus has predestinated His Church to be perfect in purity and maturity, conformed to His image and likeness by the time He returns. All the devils in hell or human rebels on earth cannot stop Him from working on His building. He will not be threatened or intimidated by the “accuser of the brethren” to catching away His Church before He has put every living stone in place and has completed the building to His satisfaction. He will not literally come for the Church until it has gone through the “times of restoration.”
The world revolves around God, the creator. It is His time, His place, and His will that supersedes all else on the earth. Man says History is the record of mankind and their accomplishments. What a deception! History is based on God’s time and plan. Is not time recorded as B.C. and A.D.? Man either forgets or is ignorant to the truth that all past events (called history) were under God’s Plan for Man. Look at the fields of medicine and psychology as a good example. God endues men and women with brilliant minds and the steadiest hands in order to help human habitation. They in turn begin to think “they are the healers”; most even begin to act as “little gods”. They become enamored with themselves, their egos swell, and they become indignant when their patients “bother them” with questions or want another opinion. A “Born Again” doctor or counselor knows who the Kingdom’s Chief Surgeon, and Master Counselor is—and knows who to give credit for their great exploits.
Here is a snippet of “the real history”. Israel was in “physical” bondage due to their rebellion. The Church has been in “spiritual bondage” for most of the last 1500 years due to deception. But praise God, we can become part of the “last days” restoration”!
It is obvious that the “spirit of deception” and the “spirit of tradition” overcame the church during the Dark Ages. The Renaissance period awakened the Europeans to a desire to depart from ignorance, superstition, and the traditions of “religious domination”. The “Spirit of Truth” began to rise during the great Reformation. So again we see world history was revolving around God’s plan for “The Church”.
Prior to the printing press, the cost of a Bible was equal to a years wages for a working man. Gutenberg’s invention in 1456 was responsible for the first book ever copied en mass. You guessed it. His first book printed was the Bible. Would we venture to say that the Holy Spirit was stepping into the fray? The Protestant Movement was spawned by Scripture being translated in many languages and circulated widely. Those who read the New Testament saw the inconsistencies of the papal church. “Penance” had replaced “repentance”; and they questioned indulgences and purgatory.
The “political and religious church” of that day persecuted the likes of John Wycliffe who translated the Bible from Latin (Vulgate) into English—calling him a heretic. A priest by the name of John Huss was burned at the stake when he defined the Church as the “Body of Christ”.
In 1453 the fall of Constantinople to Mohammed it appeared to many that Islam would take over the world. Those of us that believe the scripture know that God, not Mohammed or anyone else will take over at the end of the Age.
Dr. Hammon uses this analogy:
The Church flirted with the world and paganism as Samson did with Delilah. Samson’s secret strength was discovered and taken away. His eyes were put out and he was put into prison. Blinded and chained to the grinding mill, he went in circles until his seven locks of hair began to grow. When Samson’s hair was fully restored, God gave him back his ministry of destroying the enemy and delivering God’s people. More was accomplished after Samson’s restoration than had been accomplished in all his former years. In like manner, the eyes of the Church were put out. The Body of Christ was bound at the grinding mill of doing penance and trying to earn peace with God by good works. It went in circles for 1,000 years. But its locks of hair began to grow, and will continue to grow until the last-century Church will accomplish more in its generation than all that was done in former years.
When I started this commentary I had some preconceived ideas that I believed to be the truth. In the process of working on this piece I began to see “my truth” in a little different “light”. I believe that “different light” is the Holy Spirit gently correcting “my truth” to “His truth”. That is not to say that He will not need to continue the process in me. Spiritual correction is often like putting braces on crooked teeth; the pressure of correction is gradually applied until the teeth are where they should be.
At any rate, I have been blessed to have my effort in this writing bring my belief system to a higher level of understanding. For all I know, this article may have been more for me and my “revelation knowledge” than for any other reader.
As I bring this to a close, I want to share with you what I was struggling with when I first started this article:
1. I wondered how people who had “revelation knowledge” could stay in a denomination that was in error.
2. What hope was there for those who were not being taught “all the truth”?
I must begin by saying that “faith” and “truth” go hand in hand. Romans 12:3 says that, “God has dealt to every man a measure of faith”. Therefore, everybody also has a measure of truth. It then behooves all of us to build on our faith and the truth that we have. It does not, however, fall out of the sky—but we must pursue the revelation that God wants to impart to us. Lazy people and worldly people do not and will not make that a high priority.
New truth is like new wine. It cannot be contained in the old wineskin of “religion”. God’s truth and the world’s truth are askew (the thesaurus uses—crooked, cockeyed, and out of kilter). We all believe that the best system of government is democracy and majority rule. The government that true believers are looking for is a theocratic Kingdom that will be made up of those who follow the “minority report”. The bible says, “narrow is the way…and few there be that find it” (Matthew 7:14). We are a “chosen generation…a peculiar people” (I Peter 2:9).
Before Christ came there were “religious” groups that ranged from Judaism (one true God) to pagan religions and temples (false gods). The first Church was the first “body of believers” in Christ Jesus. Jesus called the twelve disciples to be apostles which gave rise to Apostolic Church Body (not church building).
In A.D. 70 the Orthodox Jews separated themselves from the Christian Jews and followers of Jesus. The first state church was brought into existence in A.D. 313 by Constantine in Rome. We might say that it was the first Christian denomination. Around A.D. 1500, Martin Luther saw some error mixed with the prevailing truth and was forced to find a new wineskin to hold his new wine—the Protestant Movement which soon became three denominations: Lutheran, Episcopalian, and Presbyterian. Some of the next denominations were called the “Holiness movement and included the likes of: Baptists, Methodists, Alliance, Church of God, and included “Evangelicals”. The “Pentecostal Movement” gave birth to denominations such as: Assembly of God, Foursquare, and numerous other “Pentecostal churches”. Finally we see the rise of the “Charismatic Movement”.
Each “Movement” received new revelation and when they were not embraced, it cased them to start a new denomination. What I found fascinating was that at each stage of development, those who became the “persecuted” for their new insights—then most often became the “persecutors” of the next wave of truth. Another point of interest is that the last movement, the “Charismatic Movement” did not foster more denominations; instead, it cut across most every denomination including Catholic, Lutheran, Episcopalian, Methodists, etc. Instead of more denominations we find new “Fellowships”, “Ministerial Associations”, “Evangelical Associations”, and “Non-Denominational” places of worship.
It also appears to me that in regard to spiritual things, that the “majority” was more often then right when having to confront new truth or as we say “new wine”. They were content to stay with their old wineskins—rather than have the new wine become fructuous to the status quo. As Bill Harmon says:
“Any supposedly new truth that deletes, belittles, or does away with an old truth is not a truth at all, but a lying deception and a counterfeit from Satan. New truth may delete the traditions of men that were tacked on to a restored truth, but it will not change the basic truth. Jesus did not come to destroy the truths of the Old Testament but to demonstrate them and fulfill all the types and shadows contained in them”.
Harmon classifies Charismatics into two categories:
1. Denominational—“Basic” Charasmatics.
2. Non-denominational—“Present-Truth” Charasmatics.
He goes on to say:
The basic Charismatics will eventually become full-fledged, fruitful, present-truth Charismatics or they will wither on the vine. They will eventually have to make a decision between staying with their denomination, which may join the antichrist world church system, or going all the way with the anointed Body of Christ. Before Jesus returns, every Christian will have to make a decision between being identified with the humanistic, denominational, structured church system or the spiritual, present-truth restored Church.
I am sharing his point of view for you to ponder, but I am unsure for myself just yet if I can entirely agree with him on this last point. It is very interesting non-the-less.
Lastly, It is interesting to me to consider the events that took place in or around the year 1948. 1947 is considered the year when “Deliverance Evangelism” was birthed. May 14, 1948 was the day that Israel was established as a self-governing state. The world Council of Churches came into being in 1948, and promoted religious modernism, and liberal theology in numerous seminaries. This also seemed to give rise to Madalyn Murray O’Hair (an atheist), to beguile the Supreme Court to take prayer out of public schools. Dr. Harmon says that 1948 was the year when the “Latter rain” began, and was also considered the year of the “Restorational Movement”—referring to a time for restoring the Church to the first Apostolic Church of Jesus and His disciples. I’ll have to leave you to be the judge.
I would highly recommend that any of you that are interested in a more in-depth study of Church history, that you read “The Eternal Church” by Dr. Bill Harmon. The excerpts that used in this commentary are at best a brief book report on this book along with my own point of view.