Have you ever been in desperate need for some serious answers for your life? Spiritual or otherwise? You went to someone you knew, someone you trusted because you thought they were a very “spiritual” person and would surely have the answers you needed. You may have said to yourself, “After all, this person goes to church all the time, they give their money to the church and they even keep the Ten Commandments and other rules.”
Instead of leaving with your need being met, you’re left with guilt, condemnation, and possibly a feeling of worthlessness. You may even have been told you had to clean up your act first. That’s what was implied to me at one time. Or perhaps you were given a list of rules that had to be strictly adhered to first and then maybe; God would be willing to move on your behalf. You may even have been told to go somewhere else because you don’t belong our group.
As a result, you came away deeply wounded—turned off on religion and the church in general. Now you want nothing to do with any church or the religious hypocrites that go there.
Because of this experience you now look at all “so-called Christians” through a magnifying glass and your whole perspective on life is contaminated. I don’t blame you at all for feeling and thinking that way, I was there myself almost forty years ago.
The Exclusive Religious Order
In Mark 3:1-6, once again Jesus confronted the hateful, manipulative attitudes of the religious order (the Pharisees) of His day as He’d done many times before.
This particular passage describes a scene in the synagogue where Jesus noticed a man with a paralyzed hand. Verse two says that the Pharisees were watching Jesus closely to see if He would heal this man on the Sabbath.
In the Greek language of this scripture, closely means they were watching Him scrupulously. In other words, they were watching Jesus very intently for the expressed purpose of entrapping Him for “breaking their rules”. This attitude says so much about these men, as well as the evil spirit that operates undetected and motivates most unbiblical religious acts, then and now.
In verse three in the NKJV of this passage, after Jesus spotted the man with the withered hand, He said, “Step forward!” This doesn’t mean just move ahead a little bit. Jesus called him out and away, from where he was sitting among the other men. He brought him into plain view on purpose “in front of” the very men who hated Him and would later have Him killed. Even if you don’t believe in Jesus or agree that He is God’s son, you have to admire and respect His courage, boldness, and fearlessness in the face of caustic and noxious religious hatred towards Him.
This is awesome because Jesus fully intended to offend their self-righteous, calloused minds to reveal the true condition of their hearts. And He will do that to us as well when necessary. However, He only does that because He is against anything that interferes with the unconditional love of God toward us.
These religious leaders could have cared less about this man with the withered hand that Jesus was about to heal. They were so full of themselves and their exalted opinions that most likely they only had their minds on one thing. Jesus was not afraid of them, nor was He going to be manipulated or controlled by them and they hated Him all the more for it.
Jesus said to the man, “Stretch out your hand”, and when he did, it was immediately restored like new. Verse six says the Pharisees went out immediately and plotted how to destroy (kill) Jesus; and all because they could not put Jesus “in their little religious box!”
Influenced by the Demonic
The root of a religious spirit operating in someone is actually demonic in origin and its characteristics prove that to be true. Satan and his demons’ ultimate goal is to gain total control and manipulate their hosts at will, finally destroying an otherwise valuable life. This is why they try so hard not to be recognized and exposed. They work tirelessly to remain hidden through the use of lies and deception. Webster’s dictionary actually says that the word occult means to become hidden or shut off from view.
Many people under this influence probably don’t even realize it because it’s a very subtle, but effective type of deception. It makes people think their way of believing and walking out the bible in their denomination or particular persuasion is the only way it should be done. They may not ever admit to it intellectually or verbally but it’s implied many times without their knowledge that this message is being sent.
Remember, Satan and his demons love to influence through coercion, manipulation, and control. And they will get their way if they go unrecognized…even in God’s house, especially in God’s house! I personally believe that their most valuable targets are God’s children, His leaders and His house, especially if Christians are damaging his kingdom already. After all, do you remember the temptation in the wilderness? Thank God Jesus knew how to use the written word.
Punished Into Purity…
In many churches today as in days gone by, there is still a misunderstanding of grace, which is also part of the nature of our heavenly Father.
I was raised in a very harsh, legalistic, religious environment where it was ok for people that were unbelievers to come to church just as they were. In other words, if they smoked, drank, did drugs, lived together unmarried or anything else, they were more than welcomed to attend as long they wanted to. However, if they decided to accept Jesus as Savior, be born again, or however you want to refer to it, then things needed to change immediately from the church’s perspective.
The church members in charge of helping new converts would immediately begin a process of telling these new Christians how they needed to cut their hair if they were guys with long hair, they needed to quit smoking, quit drinking, quit partying, quit living together unmarried, start wearing different clothes, change your style of music…and the list goes on and on.
That is NOT grace!
It’s just another manifestation of a religious spirit that is full of rules and works that have to be performed after the person comes to the Lord. Again, without the knowledge of the person or the leadership that this kind of spirit is operating in, what is actually being implied is that the power and grace of Jesus was not enough to complete what Jesus did at Calvary. In other words, when Jesus said on the cross, “It is finished,” He was lying.
The implication is that the person who desires to accept Jesus as Savior must clean-up on the outside first and fulfill a list of rules before he is accepted. That may be true in some particular churches, but it’s not true according to the desire of Father God’s heart. It’s actually a well-crafted lie from Satan himself.
They have not understood that they are trying to do the work that ONLY the precious Holy Spirit can do in the heart of an individual. Only God through the Holy Spirit can and will draw someone to Himself and reveal their need of Him. Only He can change the desires of their heart when they cooperate with Him. He is patient and willing to wait to start changing their outside…when and if He wants to. He may be OK with exactly how they look at the time.
If we’re not sensitive to the Lord in this matter, a new believer can be turned away from God permanently because we’re trying to play Holy Ghost Jr.
Received by Love
Jesus, through the presence and influence of the Holy Spirit and by God’s specific direction, will draw men and women to Himself if He knows they will respond to Him. Once they accept Him, He will begin to gently and lovingly deal with them about changes that need to be made in their lives and He’ll do it in His timing if we’ll take our hands off the situation.
Only then should we be involved in helping to make changes in someone’s life, and only at the Lord’s direction. Our responsibility is to be sensitive to His leadership in what we are supposed to say to people, when we’re to say it, and when we’re to stop saying it.
God loves them more than we ever could and He knows them better than we ever will. That’s why He sent the most priceless gift to earth that He had—Jesus. Everyone one on this planet wants to be loved, respected, and treated with dignity and honor. And most people that are running from God or don’t know Him at all, would respond to a genuine act or word of unconditional love.
So let’s each do our part in the particular realm of influence the Lord has given us. If we do it with the right motive and the right spirit, we’ll be amazed at how God moves in situations.
Do you need healing in your body, mind, or emotions as a result of what we talked about today? Maybe it’s the result of the pressures of life in general or something that you’re not able to share with anyone. I encourage you to check out this link for the truth that will begin to make you whole and restore hope for a bright future, regardless of outside circumstances.
Serving You Truth,