A few years ago, in response to a visiting ministers message, I began to earnestly pray that God would take any religious spirit out of me that was not of him. The results have been astonishing.
And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you. And he said unto the disciples, The days will come, when ye shall desire to see one of the days of the Son of man, and ye shall not see it. And they shall say to you, See here; or, see there: go not after them, nor follow them.
Christ is teaching us two very important and key things here;
1. The Kingdom of God is within
2. Do not follow after ones that come to you and say, “Come here or go there to find Christ.”
Yet these very two vital points have been overlooked even I must confess, by myself. I spent almost 20 years serving a religion that had told me I was to find Christ within their system alone, and yet I became further and further away from him and more and more religious and pharisaic and blind until God was able to send a spiritual earthquake into the very core of my soul and I realized as was taught in Revelations:
Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. Revelations 3:17-19
Believing I had purchased for myself quite a lofty place in the heavenly realm, I had laid aside the outward garments and jewels, movies and taken on every rule this system had required of me- teaching me to diligently obey whether or not I understood and that I would be rewarded for my obedience. I was like Saul of old before he became the apostle Paul, zealous of my nation and all its laws, a Pharisee of the Pharisees.
But Christ arrested me one day and stripped me of all my self-righteousness and opened my eyes to the hurting, hungry and bleeding souls all around me that were being trampled beneath the feet of the self-righteous. I repented and fled that state.
When I was younger and looking for an honest “church” to worship with, I was studying my Bible and not wanting to be “deceived.” And yet, I still feel I fell victim to just another religious system and the reason is simple- I quit looking within and followed those that said, “low he is here” or “low he is there.” I did not trust myself. Part of that was because of the preaching. Truth was definitely mingled in the message that was preached. But the message was also heavily inundated with fear and threat. I was taught right away that I must always be there to listen to every message- systematic brainwashing. Then I was taught I should never leave and if I did, I would be better off to go back into sin than to ever go somewhere else looking for God. If I tried to look for God elsewhere, I would be self-deceived.
These messages locked me into their system and their rules and their leadership which was never to be questioned or criticized. When people left it was because there was something wrong with them and their connection with God. But one day I read somewhere that when a church has a long list of spiritual fatalities, that really is a bad reflection on them, not on the people who left. That was a pivotal, awakening moment for me. Christ said, “Look at the FRUIT Liz. LOOK! Open your eyes!” I began to see things as they really were. This was not God’s special people in all the earth. These rules and regulations were dividing and hurting people and causing prejudices and harm.
One day, God told me it was time to leave. It was very difficult and has not been easy. But I have been blessed and helped all along the way and I have had my faith renewed. My God is within and always has been. I do not have to “go” somewhere to find him. I can “gather” with just one other believer and there he is in the midst of us. “Church” does not have to happen between four designated walls.
“Men choose a religion, but a Christian is chosen by Jesus Christ.” Iranian martyr Mehdi Dibaj
“Religion can never reform mankind because religion is slavery.” Robert Ingersoll
“All religions are the same: religion is basically guilt, with different holidays.” Cathy Ladman
“The more I study religions the more I am convinced that man never worshipped anything but himself.” Richard Francis Burton
“The Institutional Church (ecclesia) has killed only two kinds of people: Those who do not believe in the teachings of Jesus Christ, and those who do.” Will Durant
“Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it with religious conviction.” Blaise Pascal
Since I left the religious sect I was so long tied up in, if I ever had any inclination to return, it has been completely sucked out of me by the treatment of those who were once my allies and friends. Shunning is not fun nor right, especially when one has done no wrong. I have spoken to others who left before me. One woman said she didn’t stop crying for a month because of the way she was shunned by the “church” and another woman said she felt like she had leprosy or something- she felt like she was a disease. Even now, over a year later people from the “church” that run into her act like they do not know how to act around her.
I was so surprised that after almost 20 years of faithful, consistent service, not one person, not even my closest friends, would even call to see how we were doing. It just solidified the message Christ gave to me from Revelations about lukewarmness and indifference. I was once a part of that and have had to contact other souls I affected and apologize if ever hurt them by my actions.
Today I am free- free to live for Christ according as he leads me on the throne of my heart. That is true freedom- having him back as my Lord and Savior- knowing he will never leave me nor forsake me.
Many religious people read Matt 24 like this,
Enter in thou good and faithful servant
for you went to church four times a week
you paid your tithes of all that you had
you always wore a skirt and you never wore jewelry
You never questioned the pastor and always obeyed him
Instead of what he really said,
For I was hungry, and you fed me
I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink
I was a stranger and you took me in
I was naked and you clothed me
I was sick and you visited me
I was in prison and you came to me
Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one
of the least of these my brethren,
ye have done it unto me.