II. THE RELIGIOUS SYSTEM
A. The Source of Religion
he hath made everything beautiful in its time, also he hath set eternity in their heart ... (Eccles. 3:11).
There is a hunger put in all men to cause them to yearn for the living God. God Himself has put this desire in man to the intent that men will not be satisfied with the things of the physical universe and would seek Him instead.
God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth. (John 4:24 NASB)
with all prayer and supplication praying at all seasons in the Spirit ... (Eph. 6:18).
For God is my witness, whom I serve in my spirit ... (Rom. 1:9)
As we have seen and as I again emphasize here: true worship of, true fellowship with, and true service to God can only take place in and through our human spirit. But what happens when men, responding to their inner spiritual need, attempt to assuage this function of their conscience by trying to serve and worship God religiously with their natural strength â€‘ with the faculties of the human soul?
Now the natural (soulish) man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. (1 Cor. 2:14 Intl. Greek)
This I say therefore, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles (unbelievers) also walk, in the futility of their mind ... (Eph. 4:17 NASB)
Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these: ...strife,
jealousies, wraths, factions, divisions, parties, (Gal. 5:19â€‘20).
The Jews therefore strove one with another. â€¦ (John 6:52)
The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. (Luke 18:11-12)
But he (the lawyer) desiring to justify himself. (Luke 10:29).
But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth. This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic (James 3:14â€‘15 NASB)
Thou blind Pharisees, cleanse first the inside of the cup and of the platter, that the outside thereof may become clean also. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but inwardly ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity. (Matt. 23:26, 28)
The source of all religion is the natural self of man â€‘ the expression of the fallen nature of the flesh exercising dominion over the soul. As evidenced by these verses and by the history of all the religions of the world, the result of this source is always division and confusion. God is not the author of confusion. Who is?
They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the hour cometh that whosoever killeth you shall think that he offereth service unto God. (John 16:2)
What god does religion serve?
What keeps so many followers of Christ bound up? What is it that encases and limits the working of the resurrection life inside so many regenerated Christians? Sin, or religion? The flesh; or the natural untransformed soul?
Jesus saith unto her, Go, call thy husband, and come hither. The woman answered and said unto him I have no husband. Jesus saith unto her, Thou saidest well, I have no husband: for thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: this hast thou said truly. The woman saith unto him, Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet. Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship. (John 7, 9â€‘14, 16â€‘20)
Notice how, when the Lord exposed something of the Samaritan woman's behavior, she reacts immediately by changing the subject to religious matters. It is a hard thing to deal with the living Godâ€‘ you must deal with Him on His terms, denying the self. How many times, in response to a functioning of our conscience, do we resort to religious effort? But what is the Lord's response to this?
Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when neither in this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, shall ye worship the Father. Ye worship that which ye know not: we worship that which we know; for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth: for such doth the Father seek to be his worshippers. God is spirit: and they that worship him must worship in spirit and truth. (John 4:21â€‘24)
Today, it is not a matter of outward religious things; it is entirely a matter of God's Spirit in our spirit.
Now the feast of the Jews, the feast of tabernacles, was at hand.... Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink. (John 7:2,37)
This was the ultimate festivity of the Jewish religion; yet at the end of the feast see what the Lord proclaims. Religion can never satisfy man, only the living Christ can satisfy.
If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the universe, why do you live as if you still belonged to the world? Why do you submit to regulations, Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch (referring to things which all perish as they are used), according to human precepts and doctrines. These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting rigor of devotion and selfâ€‘abasement and severity to the body, but they are of no value in checking the indulgence of the flesh. (Col. 2:20 RS V)
It is clear from this verse that for the believer to try to follow Christ in the way of religious ordinances will result in their still belonging to the world. A believer who is fooled into trying to lead "a good Christian life" is deceiving himself. The only person on this earth to successfully lead a good Christian life was Christ. The only way that a person can lead "a good Christian life" is to allow Christ to live His life out fully in them.
We will soon see why a believer who tries to follow Christ in the way of religion, in so doing, will still be a part of and belong to the world system.