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Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. -- James 1: 27 (ESV)
Beloved we are always in a great spiritual war. There is an enemy to our souls. The Bible is very clear on this. He is our adversary and we are called to resist. We are not called to bind, decree, or declare anything except our total dependency upon our Savior. As part of our resistance, the Bible says we should not be ignorant of the schemes used by the devil. We should never lose sight of what is at stake. It is not your best life now. It is not being destined to reign on this earth. It is not conquering seven mountains or finding your divine purpose. Once we are saved in fact, it is no longer about us. It is about those that remain on the outside looking in. That's the whole ball game. There is a hell to shun and a heaven gain. This earth is passing away and Christ is coming back. We know that few are those who will find the narrow path to life but the few still count. They still matter. That is why heaven rejoices when a single soul repents.
God has chosen a vehicle for proclaiming His Gospel to the lost. That vehicle is the church -- His Bride. Much of the New Testament is outlining how church is to be done. Who speaks when, what qualifications are needed for certain callings, and orderly expression of the gifts of the Spirit. It stands to reason then while we are individually the enemy of Satan the church is as well overall. The church has three primary responsibilities. It is to make disciples who follow Christ. It is to proclaim the Gospel for the feeding of the sheep and the supernatural salvation of the lost. It is to glorify God Almighty. One of the obvious schemes the enemy has is to make the church as impotent as possible in achieving these goals. By introducing demonic doctrines of devils into the body, Satan has been very successful in his schemes so far. Most churches pay lip service to God while they cultivate a cult of personality charismatic leader paradigm. We just saw this last week when a devastating natural disaster was followed by the largest "church" in America finding every reason in the world why it couldn't help. What was worse was the Christians who came alongside to defend the indefensible while the unbelieving world watched in renewed disbelief. There is little glory brought to God anymore by a deceived and narcissistic church. The purpose driven heresies have changed the church goals from feeding the sheep to entertaining the goats. People are no longer saved and therefore never discipled. You cannot be saved without the preached Gospel.
Behind these machinations however has been a more insidious and grander scheme. Satan has worked overtime to try and steal the next generation of Christ followers by making them hate the church. Ecclesiastes teaches us that we are not meant to be alone but that is exactly what the devil wants. Alone we are more vulnerable to his temptations and false teachings. We have less people to rely upon. We are weaker. For decades the enemy has worked on creating entire denominations that would essentially teach that church is somehow the enemy. They did it by declaring filthy a word that God Himself ordained and that word is religion. We have all heard the cries of relationship not religion. I must admit that it is often framed in a way that sounds pious and makes sense but when you peel aside the subterfuge you realize the scheme that is going on is simply to denigrate the church in favor of a personalized religiosity. A state of being where you do not have to be beholden to rules, commandments, or doctrine. A place where your wickedly deceitful heart can tell you what you want to hear and declare that it was from God Himself. At the forefront of this deception are churches such as Bethel and IHOP. One of the chief proponents of this heresy is Darren Wilson. I have written about him recently because he keeps publishing very dangerous articles that require a biblical response (latest linked above). Darren is on a mission to tear down the church so he can further his market share in the false religion he actually defends. Let us once again reason together against the schemes of the enemy:
"In episode 12 of my new series, Questions With God, I ask the question, "What is the difference between religion and a relationship with God?" This, maybe more than anything, has become my life's purpose--to show the world a God who doesn't desire their decision, but rather their heart. Of course, this is easier said than done, because a decision is easy. Relationship is hard.
Religion, as I mean it here, is the antithesis of discipleship. Jesus never asked for converts; He asked for disciples. But of course, disciples are difficult to quantify, and religion has become big business. We like things neat and tidy and properly labeled. This isn't a bad thing in most areas, but when you're dealing with real people and the messiness of faith journeys, it's a recipe for misunderstanding and disaster. I can't tell you how many people we've met or filmed around the world who think being a Christian means saying a few words of affirmation to Jesus or simply going to church." -- Darren Wilson
How pious sounding yet biblically vacuous. Now the actual answer to the difference between these two is only one is found in the Bible and it is not relationship. At least not as Wilson and his cohorts teach it. Religion on the other hand is clearly stated in the key verse. God goes out of His way to show us what worthless religion is and what pure religion is. That should end the discussion right there. Now, if you want to rail against the "decision" theology where the work of salvation is somehow transferred from God to man, I am on board but that is not what Wilson is really railing against. Secondly here, God most certainly desires repentance and last time I checked that was a decision. Discipleship is a product of religion, not a separate and opposing force. The word games Wilson engages in are childish. You cannot become a disciple of Jesus Christ if you have not first converted. Now, if Wilson is making the argument that the purpose driven models of church growth care only about the conversion and not the discipleship than again we would agree but that is not his end game here at all. He works with and promotes some of the most purpose driven churches in existence today. Disciples are not difficult to quantify at all, in fact, Jesus defines them for us: