This is something that I have been meditating on for the last few months. It’s a subject that is personal to me. Now I realize that everything I’m saying may not be perfect, the Holy Spirit is still teaching me as he is teaching all God’s children. So anything I say you should go check it out in the Bible for yourself, and talk with the Lord about. This way you will learn something here – even if it’s not the same thing I am writing – the Holy Spirit will always teach us and show us things when we ask him. Just like when you listen to a sermon – it is important to check it with the plumb line of the Word yourself – as we are all humans whom the Lord is teaching and guiding, so most of the time it is hard to find someone you agree with 100%. Just because we don’t agree does not mean that he is wrong, as well just because we agree does not mean we’re both right, it is very important to measure what we hear and believe up to the plumb line of the Word by the Spirit that he gives to all of us freely. We can grow in faith by listening to the Word preached so long as we also study it ourselves and ask the Holy Spirit to guide us into all truth.
First, a little history of myself. My friends, my family and I were once knee deep in religion. We believed there was one man who had a special calling, he was “anointed” over and beyond other men. He would speak directly to Jesus and what he said was almost as weighty as the Gospel. Any question we had we could just ask him and he had the wisdom for us.
We were also zealous for the Lord and loved the Lord very much. We had our own set of traditions, much like many other church groups. There was a dress code, a certain make of automobile to drive, and many such things. This progressed into more and more bondage as the years passed. There was hypocrisy in some telling us one way and living another. But in the midst of this, we loved the Lord and felt that we were doing his will. The Lord loved us too, as he loves you and all his people. He shone a light down on our follies. He allowed us to see the light. He loves us so much he didn’t leave us in bondage, he delivered us and is still delivering us. Those of us who are both in and outside of the place have been making steps forward and we are growing together and are thankful that God is so gracious and loving that he did not leave us in the mire. So I am not writing this as an outsider, I have firsthand experience in this topic.
Second, a definition. When I refer to “religion” I am referring to a belief system or a person or an organization that one uses as their pathway to God. An intermediary or intercessor if you will. Someone or a group of people or an ideology that one seeks to gain favor with or model their life like to in order to be accepted by God and welcomed into His Kingdom.
There is a religion spoken of in the epistle of James that is perfect, and that is visiting the orphans and widows and keeping ourselves unspotted from the world. That is not the religion I’m referring to, as well as that is not what is generally thought of when one uses the word religion today.
The apostle Paul warned of religion
“Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power:” Colossians 2:8-10
We are complete in Jesus and he is the head and we don’t need anything else because he embodies the fullness of God. God the Father, Jesus the Word and the Holy Spirit in us is the full Godhead. Anything or anyone who would tell us that we also needed to follow a set of rules, traditions or a religious belief system outside of God’s commandments is a thief.
In John chapter 10 Jesus says that He is the door to the sheepfold and that anyone who enters any other way to the sheepfold is a thief and a robber. He said that He is the good shepherd and that he cares for the sheep. And that a hireling who doesn’t care for the sheep is a thief. And the thief only comes to steal and kill and destroy. He was speaking to the Pharisees who had just tried to steal the freedom and the life of the man who was blind that Jesus had healed. Jesus healed him and they tried to make the once-blind man feel condemned for it. Because his healing did not fit into their religion. Jesus wasn’t someone they approved of to be a spiritual leader so anything he did was wrong and anyone who followed him was wrong. The religious leaders of the day KNEW that this man, Jesus, was a sinner.
Jesus told those Pharisees that they were blind because they thought they could see, they had their religion all figured out and were wise and educated in the scriptures. They were using the law as rod to rule over the people, they took God’s commandments and turned them into a yoke of bondage. It is recorded in the gospels that Jesus had harsh words for them many times. They were supposed to be ministers to the people but instead they were trying to block and stop the same Lord and Savior that they claimed to know so much about.
“Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber.” John 10:1
Religion today has so many other ways to lead people other than by simply directing them to follow Jesus. They all seem to disagree with every other form of religion that is not their own brand, so many different ways of entering the sheepfold and they argue and fight over whose tradition is the right one when Jesus plainly taught “I am the door“.
There is one path that most of them do agree on, and that is that in order to be accepted into the kingdom that one must give 10% of his earnings to a religious organization or a preacher. Even though that is not found in the new testament in plain speech, they find a way to explain it by piecing it together from various passages. While they argue about all the other avenues along the broad way, that one doctrine they all agree on.
“Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” John 14:6
The idea that we can buy our way into heaven is a thief. There is only one door, and it has already been bought and paid for with the blood of Jesus.
The apostle Paul spoke to Timothy regarding money. He said “Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself. But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content. But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness. Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses.” 1 Timothy 6 5-12 As we know, money can corrupt good people, he was warning Timothy to not let it corrupt him. If the Holy Spirit directs you to give 10% to your church, then do it, but let it be because this is what you feel in your heart is pleasing to God, don’t do it because another man requires it of you for his own gain. Don’t do it because of the commonly accepted tradition of old testament tithe which was different than how it is taught today. The early church gave everything they had, not just 10%. They lived like a community that shared everything together. To provide for the needs of the whole church. Jesus spoke of giving alms – which is giving to the poor. The one time I found in the gospels that he discussed giving money to ministers was when he sent out 70 people to preach.
“After these things the Lord appointed other seventy also, and sent them two and two before his face into every city and place, whither he himself would come. Therefore said he unto them, The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest. Go your ways: behold, I send you forth as lambs among wolves. Carry neither purse, nor scrip, nor shoes: and salute no man by the way. And into whatsoever house ye enter, first say, Peace be to this house. And if the son of peace be there, your peace shall rest upon it: if not, it shall turn to you again. And in the same house remain, eating and drinking such things as they give: for the labourer is worthy of his hire. Go not from house to house. And into whatsoever city ye enter, and they receive you, eat such things as are set before you: And heal the sick that are therein, and say unto them, The kingdom of God is come nigh unto you.” Luke 10: 1-9
He told them that the people they were staying to would take care of them. He didn’t tell them to collect money from everyone they preached to. He actually instructed them not to go from house-to-house. I don’t read that and find those guys earning big salaries and getting rich from collecting money from all the people, and making that the focal point of their ministry. I see one family taking care of one or a few ministers, providing them clothing, food and a place to eat. In the bible colleges, today, a big part of the education is learning how to collect the most money from the congregation.
I realize that (to some) I have now discredited everything I have said by coming against such a sacred “truth” but I am not saying that giving money to a church or preacher is wrong to do, actually it’s quite the opposite and one can get a blessing for doing it. What is wrong is teaching it as a doctrine, and making people feel condemned for not doing it. And for a man to put a number on what another man should give is wrong. Doesn’t the Bible say to not let the right hand know what the left hand doeth? A minister of the Lord would direct people to God’s Word only. And not point them any other way. If something isn’t plainly written in the pages of the new testament as far as what we should or should not do than he would instruct them to have a conversation with the Holy Spirit within us for direction.
“But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord , I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord : for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord : for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” Jeremiah 31:33-34
God promised that he would write his law in our hearts. Also, Jesus told us that he would send us back the Holy Ghost to teach us all things. So, anything that is not black in white in the pages of God’s word is instead written in our hearts and God freely gives us his Holy Spirit to guide us into all truth. Jesus even said that it would be more profitable to them if he were to leave them and send them the Holy Spirit. He told them that he had many things to tell them, but the Holy Spirit could show them better than he could.
“I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.” John 16:12-13
Now, if the Word of God in the flesh said that the Holy Spirit would be a better guide to them than listening to Jesus Himself instructing them, how does a man think he could dictate our lives through his own knowledge of the Word? I believe that God does have his ministers, and his ministers point people to the Word. The written pages of the Bible and the Word written in our hearts. I believe this is done by humbly directing people to study the Word themselves, to pray, to get into a quiet place and seek the Lord and let the Holy Spirit show us what is written in our hearts.
Here’s a thought of mine, not the Word, possibly not right I don’t know, but I feel this way today anyways. If God’s law for us today is the same for everybody, as far as how much we should give to a church or man. As far as how often we should attend a church meeting. As far as how old we should be when we marry. As far as how much is too much wine. As far as our daily actions. As far as when and how we should observe the Sabbath. As far as what kind of clothes we should wear, how many tattoos we should have, how long or short our hair should be, what kind of music to listen to, what we should eat, … couldn’t he have detailed it out plainly in the gospels? After all, God’s Word did live on this earth and teach many things. The scriptures were given to us by inspiration of God. These things could have been written down for all of us just as plainly as he gave us other instructions couldn’t they have been? I believe that his law for each one of us is written on our hearts and in our minds – just like he promised.
There are some laws that are black and white that Jesus spoke and God had recorded for us after all. Like forgiving one another. He was plain about that for sure. We should forgive even if one brother offends us 490 times a day and even more. If we do not forgive than our Father in heaven will not forgive us. No need to ask the Holy Spirit about that. Jesus was plain. How about not telling a lie, how about when a divorce is lawful? It’s not like there aren’t laws of God right there in red letters. I think what is plain in red letters is for everyone, and those other things God speaks to us individually on because those laws are different for different people and that is where we have the Holy Ghost to guide is into all the truth, to see what God’s will is for us individually. A minister of the Lord would not dictate these things but would direct us to a relationship with Jesus so we could hear him. Jesus is the door. Jesus is the Word. His Word is the 66 books of Bible. And also His Word is written on our hearts. Anyone who points us any other way is a thief and a robber.
The idea that our own righteousness can make us right with God is a thief.
A religion that advocates praying to anyone other than Jesus is a thief.
The idea that any man has all the answers is a thief, and this is the type of thief Jesus was so adamant about warning all his followers against.
Here is what our Lord said:
“Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples, Saying, The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat: All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not. For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments, And love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, And greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi. But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven. Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ. But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.” Matthew 23:1-12
People who say they are ministers and try to Lord over their flocks are thieves. We have only one Lord and are to bow to only one scepter – the reed in the hand of one who died for us “And when they had platted a crown of thorns, they put it upon his head, and a reed in his right hand: and they bowed the knee before him, and mocked him, saying, Hail, King of the Jews!”
(Matthew 27:29) that is our King. And God said of Jesus “But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom. Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.” Hebrews 1: 8-9
And our King did give unto his church ministers, to be an example of how to live and to teach us, and to make disciples of all nations. But they are to teach us that the great teacher lives inside of us and will teach us all things, they are to teach us that Jesus is the only way to God’s Kingdom. Anything other than that is a thief.
Jesus told his disciples that it is expedient (profitable for them and to their advantage) that he would go away and send them the comforter which is the Spirit of truth. “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.”
I think if anyone is capable of teaching us all things and guiding us into all truth that it would be Jesus – much more so than any man for sure. But even Jesus said it would be better that He sends us the Spirit of truth. So any man who would imply that he has all the answers would in fact be claiming he is greater than even Jesus and is just as knowledgeable and on the same level as the Holy Ghost. God’s ministers point us to God’s Word. Men’s religion and men’s preachers point us to men’s false doctrine and men’s rules and traditions. How can you know the difference? God did say that He gives the church Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors and Teachers. And God gives only good gifts. How can you know if the man you listen to is a gift from God or is a product of men? Or if he was a gift from God, as all men are human, is he still preaching God’s will? God promised if we seek we shall find. So ask the Lord. He knows.
That is what the religious systems today do. They dictate people’s lives. They create doors of traditions by which a man can enter into God’s Kingdom. They “sell” a way to righteousness. This is nothing new. Jesus saw this going on in the temple. He HATED it. Why in all 4 gospels does it tell a story of Jesus going into the temple with a whip in his hand and throwing the tables of money and goods, of throwing the chairs, of driving people out of the temple? Try to picture that. What a scene he made. It’s awesome to think about! And, this was not a one time event – it is recorded in the Holy scriptures that he did it at least twice.
Once, just a few days after turning the water into wine in Canaan (which was his first miracle)
“...and saith unto him, Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now. This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him. After this he went down to Capernaum, he, and his mother, and his brethren, and his disciples: and they continued there not many days. And the Jews’ passover was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem, And found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting: And when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers’ money, and overthrew the tables; And said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father’s house an house of merchandise.” John 2:10-16
This is how Jesus felt about turning God’s house into a business. It is clearly detailed that this was at the passover time at the beginning of his ministry. Then it is recorded that He did it again 2 or 3 years later:
“And when they drew nigh unto Jerusalem, and were come to Bethphage, unto the mount of Olives, then sent Jesus two disciples, Saying unto them, Go into the village over against you, and straightway ye shall find an ass tied, and a colt with her: loose them, and bring them unto me. … And brought the ass, and the colt, and put on them their clothes, and they set him thereon. …
the multitudes that went before, and that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; … And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves, And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.”
See this is at the end of his ministry nearing the last supper, whereas the other recorded time was right at the beginning.
When Jesus says “it is written” I like to go read the passage he was referring to. Because what he is so furious about was not entirely about the money. Those passages mention much more than just money. The first time he said “make not my Father’s house a house of merchandise” but this time is was “It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves”
Let’s look at both of those
House of Prayer
“Neither let the son of the stranger, that hath joined himself to the Lord , speak, saying, The Lord hath utterly separated me from his people: neither let the eunuch say, Behold, I am a dry tree. For thus saith the Lord unto the eunuchs that keep my sabbaths, and choose the things that please me, and take hold of my covenant; Even unto them will I give in mine house and within my walls a place and a name better than of sons and of daughters: I will give them an everlasting name, that shall not be cut off. Also the sons of the stranger, that join themselves to the Lord , to serve him, and to love the name of the Lord , to be his servants, every one that keepeth the sabbath from polluting it, and taketh hold of my covenant; Even them will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer: their burnt offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted upon mine altar; for mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all people. The Lord God which gathereth the outcasts of Israel saith, Yet will I gather others to him, beside those that are gathered unto him. All ye beasts of the field, come to devour, yea, all ye beasts in the forest. His watchmen are blind: they are all ignorant, they are all dumb dogs, they cannot bark; sleeping, lying down, loving to slumber. Yea, they are greedy dogs which can never have enough, and they are shepherds that cannot understand: they all look to their own way, every one for his gain, from his quarter. Come ye, say they, I will fetch wine, and we will fill ourselves with strong drink; and to morrow shall be as this day, and much more abundant.”
God’s house was to be for anyone who wanted to seek Him. It wasn’t to be just a country club for the elite. It was to be a shining beacon of hope for the whole world. A place where the broken and needy could come find a new life and rest for their souls. A place for God to dwell with his people. But the religious leaders defiled it with their blasphemy. They turned it into a business to fatten themselves and into a place where they could rule and Lord over God’s people. Jesus was not pleased.
A Den of Thieves
“The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord , saying, Stand in the gate of the Lord’s house, and proclaim there this word, and say, Hear the word of the Lord , all ye of Judah, that enter in at these gates to worship the Lord . Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, Amend your ways and your doings, and I will cause you to dwell in this place. Trust ye not in lying words, saying, The temple of the Lord , The temple of the Lord , The temple of the Lord , are these. For if ye thoroughly amend your ways and your doings; if ye thoroughly execute judgment between a man and his neighbour; If ye oppress not the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, and shed not innocent blood in this place, neither walk after other gods to your hurt: Then will I cause you to dwell in this place, in the land that I gave to your fathers, for ever and ever. Behold, ye trust in lying words, that cannot profit. Will ye steal, murder, and commit adultery, and swear falsely, and burn incense unto Baal, and walk after other gods whom ye know not; And come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, We are delivered to do all these abominations? Is this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in your eyes? Behold, even I have seen it, saith the Lord.” Jeremiah 7:1-11
This was the plight of the temple then. It wasn’t just selling doves that Jesus hated.
This is the plight of so many religious systems today. God’s Word is being repackaged and resold my men who say one thing and do another. So many preachers today all over the world are living in sin and then getting up in the pulpit and preaching to the people. People’s hearts are growing cold to God’s Holy Word because of this hypocrisy. And others are preaching the laws and traditions of their religion as if it were God’s Word. Many of God’s people are in bondage. They want to live pleasing to the Lord but they are unknowingly worshipping in dens filled with thieves.
Some of God’s people are having their lifeblood sucked right out of them by religious rulers. They aren’t being taught to pick up their cross and follow Jesus. (Which means to submit fully to Jesus and to Jesus only). They are being shown another way not being directed to the door – to His Word written on the pages of the Bible and on our hearts.
I believe that this great religious system, comprised of all denominations, is what God refers to in Revelation as “Babylon”
“And there came one of the seven angels which had the seven vials, and talked with me, saying unto me, Come hither; I will shew unto thee the judgment of the great whore that sitteth upon many waters: With whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication. So he carried me away in the spirit into the wilderness: and I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet coloured beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns. And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication: And upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.” Revelation 17:1-5
And God is calling his people “Come out of her my people”. God is calling out of a heart of love. He wants to free his people from bondage. He would that none perish. If your own church group is being called out of Babylon as God through his abundant mercy and Amazing Grace called us, know that he is calling all of us. Pray for all your brethren as God is calling them too. Peradventure he saves all and you can continue to worship together.
But at the same time heed his call yourself.
I’m gonna close with this chapter in Revelation where God calls his people out of Babylon and tells of it’s great judgment to come.
“And after these things I saw another angel come down from heaven, having great power; and the earth was lightened with his glory. And he cried mightily with a strong voice, saying, Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird. For all nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, and the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth are waxed rich through the abundance of her delicacies. And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues. For her sins have reached unto heaven, and God hath remembered her iniquities. Reward her even as she rewarded you, and double unto her double according to her works: in the cup which she hath filled fill to her double. How much she hath glorified herself, and lived deliciously, so much torment and sorrow give her: for she saith in her heart, I sit a queen, and am no widow, and shall see no sorrow. Therefore shall her plagues come in one day, death, and mourning, and famine; and she shall be utterly burned with fire: for strong is the Lord God who judgeth her. And the kings of the earth, who have committed fornication and lived deliciously with her, shall bewail her, and lament for her, when they shall see the smoke of her burning, Standing afar off for the fear of her torment, saying, Alas, alas, that great city Babylon, that mighty city! for in one hour is thy judgment come. And the merchants of the earth shall weep and mourn over her; for no man buyeth their merchandise any more: The merchandise of gold, and silver, and precious stones, and of pearls, and fine linen, and purple, and silk, and scarlet, and all thyine wood, and all manner vessels of ivory, and all manner vessels of most precious wood, and of brass, and iron, and marble, And cinnamon, and odours, and ointments, and frankincense, and wine, and oil, and fine flour, and wheat, and beasts, and sheep, and horses, and chariots, and slaves, and souls of men. And the fruits that thy soul lusted after are departed from thee, and all things which were dainty and goodly are departed from thee, and thou shalt find them no more at all. The merchants of these things, which were made rich by her, shall stand afar off for the fear of her torment, weeping and wailing, And saying, Alas, alas, that great city, that was clothed in fine linen, and purple, and scarlet, and decked with gold, and precious stones, and pearls! For in one hour so great riches is come to nought. And every shipmaster, and all the company in ships, and sailors, and as many as trade by sea, stood afar off, And cried when they saw the smoke of her burning, saying, What city is like unto this great city! And they cast dust on their heads, and cried, weeping and wailing, saying, Alas, alas, that great city, wherein were made rich all that had ships in the sea by reason of her costliness! for in one hour is she made desolate. Rejoice over her, thou heaven, and ye holy apostles and prophets; for God hath avenged you on her. And a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone, and cast it into the sea, saying, Thus with violence shall that great city Babylon be thrown down, and shall be found no more at all. And the voice of harpers, and musicians, and of pipers, and trumpeters, shall be heard no more at all in thee; and no craftsman, of whatsoever craft he be, shall be found any more in thee; and the sound of a millstone shall be heard no more at all in thee; And the light of a candle shall shine no more at all in thee; and the voice of the bridegroom and of the bride shall be heard no more at all in thee: for thy merchants were the great men of the earth; for by thy sorceries were all nations deceived. And in her was found the blood of prophets, and of saints, and of all that were slain upon the earth.”