A Guest Post, by; Bethany Carson
Photo Credit: Artistically Revealing the Spirit; Artist, Richmond Futch Jr. If you like the painting attached to this article, please take the time to view Richmond’s other amazing work at: http://www.artsrichmondfutchjr.com
Dear spirit of religion;
You are cruel. You create bondage. You enslave people by your demands. You inhibit freedom. You operate by heaping guilt and hesitation on people for how to be, how to act, what to say, and how to live. You bind people with chains called fear and control. You place people on the hamster wheel of “What ifs?” - that spinning wheel of death - and leave them to run incessantly, where they neither achieve, or advance. You accuse. You condemn. You seek to destroy people from the inside out.
You are an ice cold princess, spirit of religion. You seek to be right and to self-protect more than you seek to love. Your division of the church, first by denomination, then by congregation, is the calling card of your ruthless and reckless destruction. I find comfort that Jesus actually came to bring division and I trust that His sovereign hand will use your attempts to destroy, to prune that which is dying and powerless and in turn, strengthen His bride. After all, his message walked in direct opposition to religion far more than it did against the broken sinner. I choose His division, because it is what safely separates me from you. The yeast of the Pharisees is what puts the true believer on guard (Luke 12). That yeast, which you cleverly attempt to hide, destroys what Jesus wants to do and accomplish through his Bride, the church.
You certainly don’t operate with love. You place demands on people that are immobilizing and unattainable. You demand that churches have boards of leaders to establish accountability and to protect an already too-safe American church from anything that might be outside of the comfort zones you impose upon them. But the Holy Spirit of the Living God empowers churches with warrior leaders who will cover, protect, and champion an army of fellow believers into their rightful place of power and authority over the power of sin and death and darkness in a fallen, hurting world.
If perfect love casts out ALL fear, then I cannot and will not bow to you and worship you, religion, because you walk in direct contradiction to the Gospel and power of Jesus Christ. I will never bow to your religious doctrine without first bowing to the person and work of Jesus Christ. The Gospel of Jesus Christ was freely given to set captives free, to loosen the chains that bind, to unshackle people from hindrances. Jesus Christ is my doctrine. He gives us a very clear moral compass through his Word for how to live and how to filter all the circumstances we face. I trust the Holy Spirit in me and other like me, who reject your powerless splendor, to lead and guide us in all truth. My heart is fixed to honor Him and to seek Him, and God promises us that we will find Him when we seek Him with our whole heart.
While this open letter to you, spirit of religion, is from my pure, but resilient heart, I bear these words up with the good news of truth from my Father. The good news of truth that became the person of Jesus, who then poured Himself out to fulfill it, and avenge me in the process. You try to convince us that your voice is louder than the Holy Spirit’s voice. But the Word of God is my weapon and I will lift this sword confidently and courageously toward you for the rest of my life, letting the Holy Spirit’s power burst forth like water pouring forth from a cracked dam. On guard!
1 Corinthians 14:1 says, “Earnestly desire (Greek - to have strong affection towards, be ardently devoted to, to make a show of affection and devotion towards) the spiritual gifts (Greek - pertaining to the soul, as distinguished differently from what concerns the body, pertaining to the nature of spirits, pertaining or relating to the influences of the Holy Spirit, superior in process to the natural course of things, the miraculous), but especially that you may prophesy… Again, if the bugle gives an uncertain call, who will get ready for battle?”
Prophecies, in the Greek we know and trust, are a prediction of future events, a matter of divine teachings set forth by spiritual gift. Prophecy, in direct contrast to tongues, is to provide a clear battle call to believers! We are called to make a show of affection toward the influences of the Holy Spirit. The purpose of this deep desire for prophecy is to edify and strengthen people, to encourage them, and to console them. It’s to build up and strengthen the church and to cause an unbelieving world to pause and take note of our Jesus! Prophecy is an impartation of a revelation or knowledge from heaven that is meant to give strength to the believer.
1 Thessalonians 5:19-21, “Do NOT quench the Spirit. Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; then hold on to what is good and reject every kind of evil.”
You, spirit of religion, seduce people into apathy. You leave people content to have knowledge and leadership, and to be skeptical and cynical of other spiritual gifts. You treat prophecies with contempt and encourage people to quench them. The word for quench in the Greek is to hinder, extinguish, or thwart. You are the master of extinguishing any flame of awakening and revival, no matter how frail, because you fear it could become a wildfire. How foolish and cowardly of you. You continue to set the church in a backward motion and hinder the work of the one, true God.
1 Corinthians 14:12-15 tells the church to excel in those that build up the church, to pray and sing with our spirit and with our understanding (Greek - our minds/intellect). The Pharisees of Jesus’ day always demanded that He bow to intellect alone; intellect they themselves presumed to possess. Jesus always resisted their demands, demonstrating that it was the heart of a person through which their identity flowed. Jesus always included the heart. In so doing, He was constantly whispered about, muttered about, abandoned, and ultimately murdered. Spirit of religion, you were there. You looked on approvingly. But He died to set us free from you. This freedom should press us into an unwavering fear of the Lord, but its precisely the fear of the Lord ends up returning us to TRUE freedom.
We are at war and it’s not enough to know God in our heads as the Pharisees did. We must know him in our hearts. He must envelop every part of our being. He must strengthen and establish himself with power DEEP in our spirits. To evade your virulent tactics, spirit of religion, we must allow Him this access to our hearts. 1 Thessalonians 5:24 says, “The one who calls you will do it. He is SURELY faithful.” Therefore, we can confidently and continually trust the Spirit of God in us.
And we don’t have to be afraid. We don’t have to be afraid of getting it wrong, we don’t have to be afraid of wolves and their false teachings. We are to be shrewd as serpents and yet innocent as doves. This means we love people in the most pure and innocent ways, just like a child would, while maintaining a sharp radar against things that could pervert the Gospel. But we never operate in fear. We celebrate the gold in people. Though they may be different than us and though they may be lacking a complete understanding of God, like we all do in different ways, we don’t abandon
them. We are all being perfected and moving from glory to glory. We choose to rely upon each other to have a more accurate and complete picture of Jesus.
And in everything, we rejoice. We rejoice in our sufferings because of your cruel hand. These sufferings, the distressing circumstances, the distress of mind, the pressure, affliction and trials; they produce our endurance, which produces our character and thus produces our HOPE. And our hope does not disappoint us because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us (Romans 5). All of that occurs independent of you and the control you so wickedly crave.
The power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is at work. Galatians 5:1 says, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.” So, I worship the person and work of Jesus because worship is my warfare. As I worship, He works; and you, spirit of religion, become less powerful. As I fix my eyes on Jesus, you become smaller and smaller and I realize that the illusion of your power and strength, exists to stop God’s army from daring to dream and from being willing to take risks that your lies would love to keep us from taking! Hallelujah! To God be the GLORY!
Signed, A Warrior Tigress for the TRUE Gospel of Jesus Christ