Two weeks ago, I wrote that the Church was called to be the light of the world. In practice however, it feels sometimes that the Church is unnoticed in Europe.
Since I started following Christ, I have had the opportunity to attend various churches across Europe. I am thankful for this opportunity to know brothers and sisters from different nations. Many times, however, I have felt something present in the church that has kept us from being totally free in Christ, as if something was not enough.
After many years (and some painful experiences), God began to reveal to me what was happening. In the unseen realm, the spirit of religion aims to block the church from God. With natural eyes only, it is impossible to see it, for it may feel like it comes from God.
One day, while praying God for His wisdom to overcome it, I received an image depicting what religion tries to do in our lives and churches. Imagine that you are sitting behind a window in your living room. Outside the sun is shining. When you sit there, you feel its warmth coming on you very quickly. But since you are behind the window, your skin can’t get tanned. And as soon as you leave the window, the heat that you just felt disappears. Similarly, the spirit of religion is like a glass pane between the church and God. Although we try to live a Christian life and do church, we don’t live in God’s presence. We stay behind the pane and never see our lives changed.
The spirit of religion reminds us that we are sinners and makes us forget that we are new creatures. Since we stay focused on our flesh, we don’t sense God’s presence (1 Corinthians 15:50).
It feels like it worships God but in practice it denies God’s power and drives towards unbelief. While we are justified by faith in Christ, the spirit of religion pushes people to work out their holiness to be justified. The spirit of religion gives a feeling that we should feel condemned because we are still sinners. It avoids the fact that we are new creatures, living by the Spirit of God.
When the Spirit of God convicts us of sin, He is precise and as soon as we repent, we are free again and we know it. The spirit of religion, however, is not precise about our sins and leaves us with the feeling that we have never really repented.
Religion is an evil spirit that seeks to replace the Holy Spirit. In a church where the spirit of religion is not cast out, the thirst for the presence and guidance of the Holy Spirit is slowly replaced by the search to create a structure and follow programs. Even if these can be useful, they can’t replace the Holy Spirit. Religion creates hierarchies of ‘holiness’ in the church, in which those placed in higher positions of authority are seen as holier than everyone else. In short, religion’s first goal is to suck life out of the church.
We could think that religion is not a big issue and that the Holy Spirit is still free to move in the church. But this can’t be true. Paul stated that just a little leaven is enough to ferment the whole dough (1 Corinthians 5:6). In other words, if we don’t acknowledge it when it is at work, repent for having worshipped it and cast it out from the church, soon or later it will replace the Holy Spirit.
While you read this, you may be starting to think that the spirit of religion is perhaps present in your church. As a consequence you may start feeling angry and bitter towards those you see guided by that spirit. Before you let it grow, let me tell you that I have felt the same but have learnt that it only serves the enemy. He longs to see us criticizing people so we can stay in bondage. The battle is not against people but against spiritual dominions (Ephesians 6:12).
Next time, I will look at how we can practically win this battle. Let’s start rebuking that spirit from our lives and live with the knowledge that we are new creatures in Christ, chosen, holy and loved (Colossians 3:12). It is only with this confidence that we can experience free access to the throne of God and clearly hear His voice.