Isaiah 55:1-2 – Ho, every one who thirsts, come ye to the waters, and he who has no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend money for that which is not bread? and your labor for that which does not satisfy? listen diligently to me, and eat that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness.
PURE AND UNDEFILED RELIGION
The apostle James defines what pure and undefiled religion is:
James 1:27 – Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.
Pure and undefiled religion is not only talk, but action. It is also to keep ourselves unstained and unspotted from the world and its systems. Being stained is to bear the mark of the world. Being unspotted and unstained is to bear the mark of our Father.
James does not say that pure religion is regular church attendance, giving tithes and offerings, doing charity, reading your Bible every day, fasting and praying regularly—not that these are not important for people, but God says that pure and undefiled religion is “to visit orphans and widows in their affliction” and to keep ourselves “unstained from the world.” Compromising or neglecting any out of these two is defiled and polluted religion.
Now many do the former and visit orphans and widows in their affliction but the latter is as important, if not more than the former; and that is not to be conformed to the patterns of this world.
The Pharisees were bluntly rebuked by Jesus for being the sons of polluted defiled religion:
Matthew 23:13 – But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Because you devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. Therefore you will receive greater condemnation.
RELIGION IS A DRY PLACE
Religion is a dry place. It cannot contain the living waters of God nor can it produce it. It is a gathering of clouds with no water in them. Since it is a dry place; it is the habitation of demons and unclean spirits.
Matthew 12:43 – When the unclean spirit has gone out of a man, he walks through dry places, seeking rest, and finds none.
Being dry is also a symbol of a place void of the presence and glory of God. It is a place that does not fill the hungry with bread and the thirsty with wine, honey and milk from the Spirit. Religion cannot fill the cup, but God’s Spirit and Word fills your cup to overflowing. Religious people are dry and Jesus denounced woes against them.
Matthew 23:27 – Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and of all uncleanness.
Jesus compared religious people of His day to whitewashed tombs. Religious people are tombs or graves which are full of darkness, death, stench, worms; and this symbolizes a habitation of devils. This is even true of today. Times and ages pass but a religious spirit remains the same.
RELIGION – AN OUTWARD APPEARANCE
A religious spirit gives people an outward appearance of righteousness. It is a spirit which corrupts one internally. They have a seen side—outward show and an unseen side—inward corruption and decay. Hypocrisy is a religious attribute.
Matthew 23:28 – Thus also you outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
OLD WINE SKIN MINDSET
A religious mindset is an old wine skin mindset and cannot contain the new wine. It does not understand the New Covenant. It mixes the Old and the New according to its advantages. A religious person cannot experience or hold the new wine of the Spirit of God.
Matthew 9:17 – Nor do they put new wine into old wineskins, or else the wineskins burst, and the wine spills out, and the wineskins will be ruined. But they put new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.”
COME AND DRINK
The Prophet Isaiah calls all who are void of God and trapped in religion to come to the living waters and drink freely.
Isaiah 55:1 – Ho, every one who thirsts, come ye to the waters, and he who has no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.
This is a picture of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus preached the gospel and also was the gospel Himself. Wine is a symbol of the Spirit and milk a symbol of God’s word. Are you thirsty for God? Are you thirsty for His presence? Come to Jesus—the living waters. Jesus is the living waters which Isaiah prophesied.
John 7:37 – Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink.
The criterion is that if you are thirsty, you must “Come” and drink, and not only would you be quenched, but filled and satisfied too. Religion brings us to struggle and labor in things which do not satisfy us. It gives you counterfeit bread that fills your stomach but has no life and nourishment in it, and therefore, cannot nourish and strengthen you.
It cannot satisfy your soul. It cannot quench your thirst. You do not require money to buy from God; it is all freely available and received in Christ.
A religious spirit mixes yeast (leaven) among the pure and defiles them. People with a religious spirit are containers of this leaven called hypocrisy. It is a heart issue. Darkened, rebellious, religious, corrupted hearts—fragrant words and wonderful outward works are signs of hypocrisy. It strips your heart of singleness and integrity towards God and infuses it with its unclean nature.
Luke 12:1 – Now in the meantime, as an innumerable crowd had gathered together so that they were stepping on one another, He began to say to His disciples first of all, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.”
There are some marks to identify religion, a religious spirit and a religious mindset:
Do you obey God to be loved by Him?
If you believe that when you obey Him, He in return will love you—you are religious. Your obedience does not make you righteous; however, when you are righteous you will obey God. Out of your identity comes your obedience. Out of your being comes your doing. The Bible teaches us,
1 John 4:19 – We love him, because he first loved us.
If you are trying to earn God’s love, you are trapped in religion. You cannot earn anything from God. The only thing you can earn in your spiritual life is death, for it is the wages of sin and can be earned.
The foundation to your identity.
Do you find your identity based on what you do or based on who Jesus is and what he has done?
Life is roller coaster for many. Some fly high one day and fall low the other day. When you think it’s your best day, you still fall short of Gods glory; and on your worst and most ridiculous day, you find God’s mercy and grace and are so secure in Christ. We need to embed it in our hearts and minds that our identity does not change at our Father’s table.
Do you try to control God through your works?
Example: Do you think if you give offerings, donations, tithe, or do works of charity that you can now demand of God the promotion that you have been looking for?
Take a test: When you go through sufferings and trials, and then you clench your fist up at God and remind Him of all the good things you have done; you have a religious spirit. I have done the same in the past. I reminded God of what I did for him, but in reality whatever I did for Him cannot be compared of what He has already done and is presently doing for me. It has taken time and His grace to understand His love and kindness.
Do you look at people as more sinful than you are?
This is a mark of religion. A person with a religious spirit looks at people as being more sinful than he/she is, so that he/she can feel better about himself. This is righteousness by comparison. The prophet Jonah was a master at this. Instead of looking at his own heart that did not want to follow God; that rejected God and wanted to flee from Him, he looked at the Ninevites.
Their sin was obvious, however, Jonah was doing the same by disobeying God. Religious people are usually convinced in their heart, “I am not doing those filthy, rotten and sinful things and so I must be surely good.” This is the “us v/s them” lie. Many times it is all about us. Some cover up their sins better than others, however, they forget that God looks at the heart—our motives, thoughts and intents and nothing is hidden from Him.
RELIGION PUTS YOU TO SLEEP
You are asleep to two things:
1. to the glory and splendor of God, and
2. to the suffering and needs of others.
Like Jonah, we may know good doctrine intellectually, but unless our hearts are not moved and impacted by it—it is defiled, hypocritical religion. Jonah knows the truth; however, his heart is a million miles away to be moved by that truth. That is the mark of religion.
Knowledge is not to make you intelligent and superior to others; but knowledge must move your heart towards God to worship Him as He really is. A religious spirit puts you to sleep to how beautiful God is; His glory, splendor and awe. It puts you to sleep in the presence of God. God hates a religious spirit. You do not worship God because He is good but we must worship Him for who He is—GOD.
You are not only asleep to God’s beauty but you eventually become dull to the suffering of others. You no longer remember there are other people hurting that need to meet their Lover. You forget that sinners need to know Jesus before they stand in front of Him.
Like Jonah who did not care about the Ninevites, nor did he care about the people in the boat, we may become dull, deaf and blind towards others. Jonah turns inward and just looks at himself.
RELIGION IS VOID OF LIFE
There are a majority of people who inaccurately believe Jesus founded a movement, or formed a new religion. Did He? The answer is No! The world already had systems, movements and religions, and will continue to have them. He had no plan of initiating a new one.
So, what did He bring us? What did He contribute to the world? He committed Himself to us as our Life. He said the thief comes to steal, kill and destroy. His intent was greater, clear and opposite. He came as our life, to give us life and that in abundance.
John 10:10 – “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”
RELIGION IS VOID OF LOVE
A religious spirit kills love—it killed Jesus, the epitome and essence of Love. It puts a mask of love which is corrupt from within. God is Love and is intensely and passionately jealous for His bride. This is mature love, wherein, you love God plainly and with your whole heart You love Him for being your God and your Father, and not for His attributes or acts. God’s love is better than everything and anything. His loving kindness is better than life itself.
Psalms 63:3 – Because your loving kindness is better than life, my lips shall praise you.
Love is not what you do for God but love is enjoying God. It is to explore Him and be drunk in Him. This is intimacy. Love is being “one” with Him. You are in a religion when your actions are divorced from intimacy. A religious spirit gives little and expects more. Love gives all and expects nothing but love.
Charles Spurgeon, comments on this bond of love:
“The saints were from the beginning joined to Christ by bands of everlasting love. Before He took on Him their nature, or brought them into a conscious enjoyment of Himself, His heart was set upon their persons, and His soul delighted in them. Long ere the worlds were made, His prescient eye beheld His chosen, and viewed them with delight. Strong were the indissoluble bands of love which then united Jesus to the souls whom He determined to redeem. Not bars of brass, or triple steel, could have been more real and effectual bonds. True love, of all things in the universe, has the greatest cementing force, and will bear the greatest strain, and endure the heaviest pressure: who shall tell what trials the Savior’s love has borne, and how well it has sustained them? Never union more true than this.”