Matthew 5:23 Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering. 25 Make friends quickly with your opponent... (NASB)
It has been my experience that many church people hold things against you, and they don't really say what they are - somehow in the name of Christ or something like that. I think they find it easier to abdicate from resolving issues by avoiding them. I am sure that it is not every Christian, but it seems there are enough of them to provide leaven to the religious bread.
Matthew 16:12 Then they understood that He did not say to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.
It is no secret that dysfunctional churches misuse authority to gain control, or at least emulate the structure of a corporation. How religious must one be to "require" someone to be in the Sunday service and not in the lobby getting to know a wayward teen or a listen to the woes of a brother? (Some days I wonder if pastors take pastoral jobs because they are unemployable anywhere else!)
That's how is all got started. A pastor decided that I would have to be in the service in order to set an example. It sounds reasonable, until you look at the motive. It wasn't during worship, it was during the sermon. Hmmm... That ended me up in an elder's meeting to confront my bad behavior. I had already dropped out of any sort of leadership role, and tried to be a good boy for a few months. It was absolutely suffocating listening to an hour sermon from a book I already read.
I left for another church where I could at least get some good preaching.
I know that God cares about hearts, and I didn't care to rebel, or cause them any trouble. I simply said that I felt my time there was over. What angers me is that they are still talking about it three years later. Of course the "niced" me out the door with prayer and everything. They probably thought I would evaporate until we got to heaven. Of course, they never came to me.
I assure you that religion and legalism is a real problem in the church. Some times we don't think that the devil can touch our church, or our services, but it is not true. Some times it can be pretty bad.
Mark 1:23 Just then there was a man in their synagogue with an unclean spirit; and he cried out, 24 saying, “What business do we have with each other, Jesus of Nazareth? Have You come to destroy us? I know who You are—the Holy One of God!” 25 And Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be quiet, and come out of him!” 26 Throwing him into convulsions, the unclean spirit cried out with a loud voice and came out of him. 27 They were all amazed, so that they debated among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey Him.”
Jesus was in the church of the day with the people of God, and there he confronted the devil. In the book of Ephesians, Paul speaks of the the powers of the air and principalities that reign over certain regions of the earth. These too can be destructive forces which come against the church - and can entangle us. Do you think Peter knew what was going on when Jesus said "Satan, get thee behind me!" I doubt it very much. Peter was a pretty religious guy, and friend of Jesus. I don't think that his heart was purposely set on hindering the plan of God - but he sure did get all religious certain things.
My point is this: Religion and legalism are killers. Add to that gossip, and your have the perfect storm for division and offense, both of which are sin. We must constantly search our hearts to remove that which keeps us from having relationship. To put it in more biblical terms. "remove the plank from our own eyes. Part of this is just good relationship skills. If someone I know and love messes up, it usually because they are in some sort of pain, they are overtired, or they've been offended. We have all been there. Why be offended, just get on with life after a sincere "could you forgive me?" I have to tell you, i have heard that phrase very little in all the years I have been a Christian.
The religious spirit empowered by Satan who walks around like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. Whether it is you who is offended, or some else that sins against you, it doesn't matter. It is foothold for the Devil and he'd be happy to have you for lunch.
Demonic strongholds are tougher because they are the undercurrent of a region. It takes discernment and humility to beat them at their game.
I had a prophetic word about "breaking the neck of the religious spirit in my region. It is an interesting mission. It is not by power or might, but by building and maintaining relationships. there is a lot of pressure that comes against us from darkness, it is part of being in an army.
I have written about the demonic before, but not in terms of its effect on me. Here are some blogs if you have the time.
Demonic Oppression Part I
Demon Possession Part II
My Turn Part III
And of Course there is More Religious Stupidity
What do you think, are religious people just stupid, or is the devil behind it?