Ritualism and Hypocrisy

Lords of Darkness

Neil Girrard

Scriptures Referenced in This Chapter:
          (Follow the Scripture links if you want to study the Scriptures for yourself.)
Dt. 11:19; 2nd π Dt. 15:7-8 π Psa. 127:1 π Eccl. 3:11 π Isa. 55:11 π Mt. 5:6 π Mt. 6:5 π Mt. 6:6 π Mt. 6:7 π Mt. 11:5 π Mt. 13:31-32 π Mt. 13:33 π Mt. 13:38 π Mt. 20:25-26 π Mt. 22:14 π Mt. 23:4-5 π Mt. 23:6-7 π Mt. 23:13 π Mt. 23:14 π Mt. 23:15 π Mt. 23:23-24 π Mt. 23:25 π Mt. 23:25-28 π Mt. 23:28 π Mt. 23:29-33 π Mt. 23:34 π Mt. 23:34-36 π Mt. 23:35-36 π Mt. 24:10 π Mk. 10:17-23 π Lk. 5:37-38 π Lk. 15:4 π Lk. 21:3-4 π Lk. 22:25-26 π Jn. 3:20-21 π Jn. 10:1; 2nd π Jn. 10:7 π Jn. 10:10 π Jn. 12:8 π Jn. 13:14-15 π Jn. 14:6 π Jn. 15:5 π Jn. 16:2 π Jn. 19:39 π Acts 2:1-4 π Acts 2:46 π Acts 4:34 π Acts 5:42; 2nd π Acts 7:48; 2nd; 3rd π Acts 8:26-31 π Acts 8:35 π Acts 10:2 π Acts 10:44-45 π Acts 14:3 π Acts 17:2 π Acts 17:11 π Acts 17:17 π Acts 20:7 π Rom. 2:7-10 π Rom. 8:14 π Rom. 8:28 π Rom. 14:5-6 π 1 Cor. 3:9-10 π 1 Cor. 3:12-15 π 1 Cor. 3:16 π 1 Cor. 5:7-8 π 1 Cor. 6:19-20 π 2 Cor. 3:7 π 2 Cor. 3:9 π 2 Cor. 11:4; 2nd π Gal. 2:10 π Gal. 3:24 π Phlp. 2:12-13 π Col. 2:14 π 2 Ths. 2:3 π 2 Tim. 4:3-4 π Heb. 8:10-11 π Heb. 12:29 π Jas. 2:15-16 π 1 Pet. 2:4-5 π 1 Pet. 2:21-23 π 2 Pet. 2:2 π 1 Jn. 3:17-19 π Rev. 1:10 π Rev. 17:18 π Rev. 18:24

The ruler of false religion’s first great victory in the church age (that is, after the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost – Acts 2:1-4 ) was convincing men they needed to hold regular meetings and practice rituals in the name of Christ. In the book of Acts we read that the disciples of Troas met on the first day of the week to break bread. ( Acts 20:7 ) Prior to this, there is no mention of weekly activity whatsoever among the apostles, disciples and believers (other than weekly visits to the synagogue to reason with the Jews, giving the Jews an opportunity to escape the darkness that surrounded the Jewish religion - see Acts 17:2 for example). Prior to this practice at Troas - which comes perhaps some ten to fifteen years after the initial outpouring on Pentecost - things were done daily (see Acts 2:46 ; 5:42 ; 14:3 ; 17:11 , 17 ) By around 90 A.D., when John wrote The Revelation, one day of the week was being called the Lord’s Day. ( Rev. 1:10; top )

It is interesting, in this context, that the English word church is derived from the Greek word kuriakon (English - Lord’s) that is used for the first day of the week. (Or, at least, it is generally assumed among theologians and scholars that this is a reference to the first day of the week!) From these obscure beginnings, Sunday “church” attendance has evolved. At times various factions have even punished, ostracized, exiled or even executed those who would not attend Sunday “church” “services.” Paul wrote:

One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it to the Lord; and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it. ( Rom. 14:5-6; top )

That men would ignore this clear instruction, violate one another’s liberties in Christ and enforce Sunday “church” attendance demonstrates the demonic source and the devilish roots of this foundational tenet of nearly every “church” in existence today - that one day a week is all God requires of us and that day should be characterized by presenting one’s self to the temple building (the “church”) and subjecting one’s self to the words of the clergy who have somehow attained to a position somewhere between the people (the laity) and God. Do not be deceived - the “church” is nothing less than a demonic lie whose primary purpose is to keep individuals from attaining to true Christlikeness.

When Jesus rebuked the Pharisees of His day, He exposed a long list of the rituals and hypocritical behaviors, behaviors that are typical of all people who are in extreme bondage to the ruler of false religion. Please keep in mind here as we examine these behaviors in today’s context that, of course, there are exceptions to the examples given. No rule of thumb ever applies completely across the board to everyone. But also remember that the exceptions do not negate the validity of the examples given - that is, the relatively few exceptions do not negate the use of the example as the common, general rule of how things occur now. As in Jesus’ day, there were those Pharisees and leaders who heard the truth and were set free (see Jn. 19:39; top ) but, from what we can see in the New Testament, the vast majority of religious leaders remained so demonically deceived that they crucified Christ and persecuted His apostles and disciples. The same is true of the “church” leaders today - and persecution of Christ’s true followers by the established sects will become even more pronounced in the end times.

We must carefully guard against the ruler of false religion’s most insidious bondage: “This is true about those people over there but could not possibly be true about me and the people around me.” This misbelief may very well be the most common “broken window” the demonic uses to gain access into individual believers, building upon that deception to bring on further blindness and ultimately death. Let us examine carefully Jesus’ rebukes of the religious hypocrites of His day and apply them to “Christian” circles today. Jesus said:

And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. ...when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words. ( Mt. 6:5 , 7; top )

Praying as a ritual - whether long and eloquent for mere public show or repeated religious chants or memorized forms of prayers - is only a symptom of either hypocrisy or ignorance. Jesus’ instructions are clear: don’t do it. Once ignorance is replaced by rebellious disobedience, long prayers, chants and memorized, lifeless speeches become an expression of hypocrisy. And hypocrisy is a wide open door for demonic deception leading to control and, ultimately, death. This is why so many hypocrites hold so many positions of power in worldly “church” structures. The ruler of false religion has carefully raised these people up so they might better do the works of the devil in the very context of where many people naively go looking for the things of God.

...[the scribes and Pharisees] bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. But all their works they do to be seen by men. They make their phylacteries [small boxes containing Scriptures worn on the forehead and arm] broad and enlarge the borders of their garments. ( Mt. 23:4-5; top )

When a “pastor” stands behind the pulpit (a furnishing which has no place in either the Old or New Testament) and preaches things he does not live out, he is laying heavy burdens on others which he himself will not even attempt to move. All his works - especially those “pastors” of mega-“churches” with television and video “ministries” - are done to be seen by men. But no one, usually not even the “church” staff (unless they are solidly confirmed sycophants, yes-men), get to know the real man behind the pulpit.

The picture of long and broad phylacteries is another way to say that these men wear the Scriptures well on the outside but they are not really written on their hearts. (see Heb. 8:10-11 ) The deceptive work of the ruler of false religion has been so successful that the average person’s idea of a good Christian is identical to their idea of a “church” “pastor” - someone who stands in front of a crowd of people looking good and telling good, entertaining stories. (see 2 Tim. 4:3-4; top ) And since the pulpit is already filled with the “pastor” and his friends (the staff), there is no real need for anyone to try to be a good “Christian” - merely listening to the eloquent words of the “good” “Christian” (the “pastor”) is enough. A deception so intricate and sublime - yet so effective!

Jesus, on the other hand, clearly left two examples which we are commanded to imitate: humble service ( Jn. 13:14-15 ) and suffering persecution. ( 1 Pet. 2:21-23; top ) No other Scriptures in the New Testament speak of any other example of Christ that we should imitate. But because humble service and suffering genuine persecution actually bring about growth of the character of Christ in a true believer, the ruler of false religion works very hard to convince believers that merely attending a “church” “service” and hearing a Bible-based story (“sermon”) given by a perhaps well-meaning but certainly deceived and therefore hypocritical speaker (the “pastor”) is all that Christ really requires. The ritual of “church” attendance is probably this ruler of darkness’ greatest accomplishment for Satan and it could not be accomplished without the puppet in the pulpit.

Enlarging the borders of one’s garments is a picture of expanding control over the lives of others. Jesus told His followers not to lord over anyone. ( Mt. 20:25-26 ; Lk. 22:25-26; top ) Today’s “pastor” lords over all those who place themselves within the realm of his control.

They love the best places at feasts, the best seats in the synagogues, greetings in the marketplaces, and to be called by men, “Rabbi, Rabbi...” But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in. ( Mt. 23:6-7 , 13; top )

Today’s “pastor” cultivates the attitudes of respect from others as did the rabbis of Jesus’ day. He wants to sit in the places of honor and he wants to hear that tone of reverence and respect one gives to a king, a president or at least a mayor. “Pastor” Smith is such a nice sounding title to them but they don’t recognize the deceptions they’ve bought into. A true pastor is a shepherd, one who truly takes care of sheep. He is not a Bible lecturer nor an administrator. He is one who loves the sheep enough to lay down his life for them - not one who uses the sheep so that he might display his aura of infallibility in front of them a few times a week and clothe himself in the best and finest this world offers. That is only the hireling who comes to steal, kill and destroy. ( Jn. 10:1 , 10; top )

The idea that a shepherd could, let alone would, feed a flock of sheep by holding one or two blades of grass out in front of the flock is ludicrous at best. This only results in fights between the sheep and bloody stumps where fingers used to be for the “shepherd.” And this is the picture presented where “pastors” try to “feed the flock” with Bible stories from the pulpit. No, a true shepherd guards the sheep and leads them into safe pastures where the sheep eat all they want all by themselves. In other words, the shepherd listens to what the sheep have learned from their experiences, their readings of the Bible and from their quiet times with the Lord, (sometimes receiving instruction, correction or reproof for himself!) and providing clarification, direction and correction for the sheep only as the Lord prompts him to do so. As godly parents are to teach their children the ways of God

...when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up... ( Dt. 11:19 ),

so too the true pastor will be with the sheep entrusted to his care. (also see Acts 5:42; top where the apostles visited every house) But again, because this personal care actually reproduces the character of Christ in other believers, the ruler of false religion works very hard to keep the “pastor” in the pulpit as being “the man through whom God speaks” in the eyes of his listeners.

Though he puts forth this aura of godliness from behind the pulpit or up on the platform, in truth the “pastor” is often no different from the religious leaders in Jesus’ day who stood in front of the door to heaven, neither going in themselves nor letting anyone else in either. The false roles they play are one of the primary tools used to keep the people passive and malnourished. Instead of leaving the ninety-nine in the fold to look for the lost hundredth sheep ( Lk. 15:4 ), these “pastors” cater to the majority or to the regular and largest tithers. This presents something other than the Person of Christ to the crowd who listens to this “pastor” and it only demonstrates that the “pastor” is a hireling who got into the fold some way other than through the Door who is Christ. (see Jn. 10:1 , 7; top )

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. Therefore you will receive greater condemnation. ( Mt. 23:14; top )

It is not really all that difficult for a “church” and its “pastor” to devour a widow’s home - even when done with the best of intentions, to build God yet another nice house. But the truth is that everyone (except the attendees) knows He doesn’t want or need a nice house (see Acts 7:48 ) and that it’s really a place for “His” people to waste their time, resources and spiritual lives away in - but that’s a whole lot more truthful than any “church” building program director will be able to readily admit! It is a truth that abandoning the pulpit, pews and the “church” building would be a good first step in liberating the people who attend there - the sad part is that there are only a few who want to be liberated. But widows who don’t know any better can drop a few pennies into the offering plate and give of their very life. Then the building fund still needs thousands of dollars so the widow, in a misplaced sense of love for God, coughs up even more money, money she really needs for rent, food or heat. (Also see Lk. 21:3-4; top ) All this while the “pastor” and staff maintain a high level of financial “respectability” before the world, eating foods, wearing clothes and driving cars the widow could never even think of affording. Then they waste yet more money buying the latest, “greatest” technology and the nicest toys for “God’s” “house” and “His” “servants” - all while the orphans, widows and the least of Christ’s brothers languish alone in their torments. And then the “church” leaders make long prayers of thanksgiving to “God” who built their building! Woe to those who are in this much bondage to the ruler of false religion!

Some people, whose minds are undoubtedly clouded by the ruler of false religion, have tried to defend the building up of “church” buildings by referring to Jesus’ statement,

The poor you have with you always. ( Jn. 12:8; top )

The callous indifference to the plight of the poor this line of thinking reveals is incredible! It is saying, in effect, “Yeah, we know there are poor people around us who are starving, cold, naked and lonely. But look at our wonderful building that cost us thousands and thousands of dollars!” John wrote,

But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. And by this we know that we are of the truth... ( 1 Jn. 3:17-19; top )

And James wrote,

If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? ( Jas. 2:15-16; top )

Those who have wasted their possessions on a “church” building and its professional staff, instead of pouring it out on their brothers’ needs, do not have the love of God abiding in them, they are not of the truth and there is no profit or gain for anyone in their “religion.” This is clear to those who walk in the light. Those content in their religious darkness won’t understand what the fuss is about and don’t even know that they are (let alone why they are) resisting the Truth. Let he who has ears hear.

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel land and sea to win one proselyte, and when he is won, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves. ( Mt. 23:15; top )

The modern evangelism thrust is no different from the Jewish proselytizing of Jesus’ day. The large scale “crusade” events boast of only a 3-5% conversion rate at best. And they base that statistic on whether the convert joins a “church” or not! No doubt some have been truly converted to Christ as a result of the evangelistic preaching done at crusades (see Rom. 8:28; top ) - and I for one am grateful for every brother and sister truly added to the body of Christ - but more harm than good is accomplished. Instead of young and immature believers being told to simply let Christ shine through them and allow Him (who alone can save) to reproduce Himself in others as He wills and as He uses those young believers to accomplish this, pressure is placed on them to bring their “unsaved friends” to hear this speaker who, like as not, is just as deceived and hypocritical as the “church” “pastor.” After all, this “evangelist” must also devour the widows’ houses so he can afford to rent that huge arena and pay for all the expenses of taking himself and his entourage of sycophants (yes-men who adoringly believe him to be “the man God is now using to speak to the lost”) to all those faraway places.

But, as Jesus said,

...without Me you can do nothing. ( Jn. 15:5; top )

How much more could be accomplished if we would allow Christ, and not the ruler of false religion, to fashion our understanding of real evangelism! Those who would want a clearer view should begin with a study of Philip, the only evangelist spotlighted in the New Testament, and end with sitting quietly at our Lord’s feet awaiting specific revelation and instruction. For anyone converted to the “Christian” religion but not converted to Christ Himself is twice the son of hell as the “evangelist” who converts him and the “church” “pastor” to whom the convert is sent for “discipleship.”

In order to understand the real work of an evangelist, we must first recognize the conditions a person must fulfill in order to receive eternal life. Paul wrote:

[God will give] eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality...who are [not] self-seeking and...[who] obey the truth [and]...righteousness... [And He will give] glory, honor, and peace to everyone who works what is good... ( Rom. 2:7-10; top )

We must not separate out one of these characteristics and pin our hopes on our attaining to one of these as if that were salvation. No, the whole picture is salvation. Let’s review that list:

- patient endurance,

- doing good,

- others oriented,

- obeying truth, and

- living righteously.

These five characteristics are the elements of genuine salvation.

The work of an evangelist then is to assist another into a greater and clearer expression of truly living in closer harmony with God. It is not a confrontational encounter where by the evangelist convinces sinners to forsake the road to hell (though there are some elements of truth in that idea and occasionally under rare circumstances that might occur). The primary role of an evangelist is to come alongside a person and both explain and display a fuller picture of the way to attain to eternal life, glory, honor and peace with God. Few indeed are able to truly do this.

This is exactly the picture we see in the book of Acts. Luke records:

Now an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip, saying, “Arise and go toward the south along the road which goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is desert. So he arose and went.

And behold, a man of Ethiopia, a eunuch of great authority under Candace the queen of the Ethiopians, who had charge of all her treasury, and had come to Jerusalem to worship, was returning. And sitting in his chariot, he was reading Isaiah the prophet.

Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go near and overtake this chariot.”

So Philip ran to him, and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah, and said, “Do you understand what you are reading?”

And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he asked Philip to come up and sit with him...

Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at [the] Scripture [where the eunuch was reading], preached Jesus to him. ( Acts 8:26-31 , 35; top )

The eunuch was a man already seeking God when Philip provided a clearer picture of the way of Christ. We find a similar picture when Peter preaches the gospel to Cornelius. Luke records that Cornelius was

...a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, who gave alms generously to the people, and prayed to God always. ( Acts 10:2; top )

Peter did not even get to finish his preaching before the Spirit came upon Cornelius and his household just as He had come upon the waiting disciples in the upper room - an event that presented a broader application of Christ’s sacrifice than even Peter and those of the circumcision were eager to make. ( Acts 10:44-45; top )

It is in this light that Jesus’ words,

For many are called, but few are chosen. ( Mt. 22:14; top ),

finally make sense. The many who are called are those who have eternity in their hearts. (see Eccl. 3:11 ) The few who are chosen are those who have pursued, found and obeyed that eternity, those who have worked out their salvation with fear and trembling. ( Phlp. 2:12-13; top ) Again,

...those who hunger and thirst for righteousness...shall be filled. ( Mt. 5:6; top )


...everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God. ( Jn. 3:20-21; top )


For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. ( Rom. 8:14; top )

Let he who has ears hear.

Don’t be fooled, though. Manufacturing sons of hell is not just done at evangelistic crusades. Large scale factories, called seminaries, are set up in nearly every denomination. Most denominational “churches” have begun as a breakaway from some older, more established sect or denomination. Quite often, one of the complaints about the older sect is that their seminaries, the schools whereby they educate their preachers, “pastors” and leaders in their peculiar doctrines and creeds, produce only lifeless sermonizers - the source of the derogatory jokes about the seminary really being the cemetery! Yet, not many years down the road, the new sect is establishing schools that produce yet more lifeless sermonizers. This is evidence that the ruler of false religion is more in control at denominational headquarters than most will admit to. Seminaries remain the most efficient way for the “churches” to produce and promote more sons of hell (tares – Mt. 13:38; top ) that run the “church” so that the wheat continues to receive regular inoculations of “truth” so that everyone so inoculated will remain quiet and passive in their pews.

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone. Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel! ( Mt. 23:23-24; top )

The notion of tithing, an element of the law, is one that has been taken up by “churches,” “pastors,” “prophets” and “apostles” all because it is a sure-fire means of funding whatever work these “men of God” want to do in the name of Christ. We have been freed from the law and its requirements by Christ’s death on the cross ( Col. 2:14; top ) - except for the tithe (or so these deceived men teach). Bringing believers subtly back under legalistic requirements is another one of the ruler of false religion’s most successful strategies and we will address it in detail in the next section. Suffice it to say that the notion of tithing, giving a set percentage of one’s increase or income to a particular class of people (most often clergy), is totally absent from the New Testament.

Rather, we have been totally and eternally bought at a precious price (the life and blood of Christ – 1 Cor. 6:19-20 ) Everything we have and are is His. If He tells us to sell all that we have and give it away, that is His right as our Lord. If we refuse to do that or anything else He might command us, then, just as He did with the rich young ruler, He will watch us walk away and He will do nothing to stop us or to get us to come back on any other terms than our complete and total obedience to Him. (see Mk. 10:17-23; top )

The ruler of false religion has worked long and hard to re-install the tithe because it allows us to wrongfully think of the other, larger percentage as our own to dispose of as we wish. The tithe is the temptation and opportunity to practice lawlessness, doing what is right in our own eyes, with the resources God has graciously allowed us to steward. The tithe also allows us to feel like we have done our religious duty - after all, we have given what we believe is required of us to support our own notions of “God’s work.” But the orphans, widows and least of Christ’s brothers are still in need and we have personally done nothing to help them. Justice, mercy and faith are neglected as we obey a law the ruler of false religion has deceived men into believing is still part of the gospel of Christ.

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like white-washed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. ( Mt. 23:25-28; top )

There are some words here that Jesus uses to characterize the works of the Jewish leaders under extreme bondage to the ruler of false religion. They are extortion and self-indulgence ( Mt. 23:25 ) and hypocrisy and lawlessness. ( Mt. 23:28; top ) Hypocrisy is proclaiming one thing while practicing its opposite. Lawlessness, as we have already seen repeatedly, is doing what is right in one’s own eyes, pursuing one’s own agendas. When we combine this latter pair of words with the former pair, we find a rather ugly picture. The religious leaders preached one thing but practiced another. They preached obedience to God, even with threats of judgment (extortion), but practiced, in their own private thoughts and lives, all manner of self-serving, truly wicked acts (lawlessness). Today’s “church” with its exalted clergy and passive crowds, is producing the same kinds of people - only on a larger scale. So long as one makes his appearance at the weekly “church” “service,” that one is a good “Christian” - no matter where he goes or what he does or how he behaves the rest of the week! What a lie!

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Because you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, and say, “If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.” Therefore you are witnesses against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers’ guilt. Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell? ( Mt. 23:29-33; top )

The modern “church” system also builds its versions of “tombs of the prophets” and adorns its versions of “monuments to the righteous” - the “church” building. What was the result of the Jews’ tombs and monuments? They looked backward upon a religion that only brought death and condemnation ( 2 Cor. 3:7 , 9; top ) and failed to be able to look forward and receive Christ, their Messiah, when He arrived. In the same way, those building up “churches” but not the body of Christ are not going to be ready to receive Christ when He returns. The past is never more important than the present and certainly never more important than our ongoing relationship with God. The tombs and monuments allowed the Jews to sink vast amounts of time, money and resources into buildings (thus stroking their religious egos) but the orphans, the widows and the poor were still unattended to. In the same way, we can invest our time and resources into buildings and programs that stroke our religious egos or we can, by the Spirit of Christ, attend to the poor, the orphans, widows and least of Christ’s brothers.

It is significant that one of the signs Jesus pointed to when reassuring John the Baptist that He was the Christ was that the good news was being preached to the poor. ( Mt. 11:5 ) When the Spirit of Christ is truly in control of the people of God, the poor have their needs met. (see Dt. 15:7-8 ; Acts 4:34 ; Gal. 2:10 ) When the ruler of false religion is successful in deceiving people, time, money and vast amounts of resources are diverted into buildings and programs that, in the end, don’t matter at all. The people of Christ have forgotten too many times that God does not live in temples made by human hands ( Acts 7:48 ) and that we, the people of Christ, are His temple ( 1 Cor. 3:16 ), a temple built with living stones. ( 1 Pet. 2:4-5; top ) The temples - “churches” - built by the machinations of the ruler of false religion only heap up judgment for their builders.

What is a living stone? Hot flowing magma is probably the easiest comparison to make, especially in contrast to blocks and bricks which have had the life baked out of them in some kiln and which are then cooled into a lump useful only for things like building a wall to keep things on one side or the other or for being a stumbling block for someone to trip over. If we really think about it, what substance other than magma would make a fitting house for our God who is a consuming fire? ( Heb. 12:29 ) Those who would build God a house with wood, hay or straw will find first that He will not move into the house they have built for Him ( Acts 7:48 ) and then, one day, to complete the waste and futility, all their work will be destroyed by His fiery presence. ( 1 Cor. 3:12-15 ; also see 1 Cor. 3:9-10 ; Psa. 127:1; top )

Most people are ignorant of the origins of the “church” building and its accompanying rituals. It has no place in the New Testament but is rather a descendant of the Jewish synagogue. It is not a coincidence, in light of the fact that one of the ruler of false religion’s names is Babylon the Great, that the synagogue (which has no place in the Old Testament either) was a by-product of Israel’s Babylonian captivity. Jewish men, trying to preserve God’s law and the Jewish traditions, built schools where they could teach what they knew to the younger generations. In contrast to God’s command to parents to teach His ways to their children ( Dt. 11:19; top ), children were now sent to these “public schools” to be taught by the professional teachers, the rabbis. The rabbis then produced the various, often contradictory traditions about the law of Moses. By Jesus’ time, as the Gospels clearly attest, the traditions had become of more importance than the word of God. In fact, the traditions of the rabbis and elders were considered a “hedge” around the law - something which “protected” the law from being broken. The fallacy of such a notion is quite obvious to one who knows the strength of God’s word. The LORD said to Isaiah,

...My word...that goes forth from My mouth...shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it. ( Isa. 55:11; top )

The primary purpose of the law was to bring people to Christ. ( Gal. 3:24 ) By building a “hedge” around the law, the ruler of false religion has been able to divert many from that primary purpose. (see also Mt. 13:31-32; top )

The first “church” building that we know of was in use around 200 A.D. It was originally someone’s home (possibly willed to the people of Christ in that area after the original owner died but that is not certain.) At any rate, the “church” building was used to house the growing use of liturgies and more “church” buildings sprang up. In the third century, under Constantine who brought “Christianity” under the auspices of the Roman empire, many gaudy “churches” were built throughout the empire. These “churches” incorporated sections that separated the laity (the people, the disciples) from the clergy (the “bishops,” “elders” and “deacons”). The platform (which visibly demonstrated the elevation of the clergy between the god of the temple and the people, the laity) and the “ambo” (the lectern from which the words of the god of the temple were proclaimed, the pulpit) were borrowed from the pagan temples and made a part of the “church” building. This gave orators a place to practice Greek eloquence and the “pastor”/“bishop”/orator took his place on the elevated platform so as to speak down to men and be seen as a “superior” example of Christian knowledge and living - a new development in church history - and replaced the prophets, apostles and elders as the ones speaking God’s messages for that time and season to the less mature, less vocally gifted people. This has lead to the mistaken notions that we must have a “sanctified” building in which to meet, that God only speaks to His people through the clergy, and that the words of the clergy are above challenge and above reproach. Advances in architectural techniques later enabled the “church” building, with its vaulted domes, arches and pointed steeples, to give forth the idea that God dwelt in unreachable heights when, in truth, He meets with us in the secret place ( Mt. 6:6; top ) deep in our innermost being. All of these things combine together to rob us of our close, personal relationship with Christ - and there is too consistent a pattern of malicious deception for this all to be just a quirk of human history.

Needless to say, this transition, which spanned generations, being the subtle work of the ruler of false religion, has resulted in many people never attaining to the full measure of Christ and has resulted in many people who hunger for truth turning away from the “church” because of its many lies. (see 2 Pet. 2:2 ) This is also why church history is filled with reformers and martyrs who broke away from hardened wineskins ( Lk. 5:37-38; top ) seeking purer expressions of the body of Christ. But only a tiny handful have been able to completely break away from the “church” paradigm with its attending clergy. At times, the ruler of false religion has even revealed the truth about the “church,” in whole or in part, to bizarre extremists and false cults so as to keep the truth in reproach. The ruler of false religion is very good at what it does, keeping the followers of Christ away from the truth of Christ, and the “church” has become the modern day “hedge” around the gospel of Christ which keeps many people from being reconciled to God and from remaining obedient to Him.

The “church” in the last days, will be (and in many ways already is) the vehicle for the apostasy, the great falling away from the faith. ( Mt. 24:10 ; 2 Ths. 2:3 ) People will be (and even already are) able to attend “sermons” filled with jokes, anecdotes and fables (some even about God and Jesus), feel like they’ve done their religious duty for the week and feel smugly superior because they are so tolerant of other people’s religion - after all, there are no substantive differences between their version of “Christianity” and Judaism, Islam, Hindu, Buddhism or New Age philosophy. Everybody just needs to get along with each other and be “good” or “nice” to each other. The only thing intolerable will be those Christians who insist that Jesus alone - not another “Jesus,” not another gospel and not another spirit - is the only way, the only truth, the only life, the exclusive way to attain to reconciliation with God. ( Jn. 14:6 ; 2 Cor. 11:4 ) These “narrow minded” people will be so intolerable that these “good” “church” folk will persecute and even kill these true Christians supposing they are doing service for God. ( Mt. 23:34 ; Jn. 16:2; top ) That is powerful deception.

Therefore, indeed, I send you prophets, wise men, and scribes: some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city, that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. Assuredly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation. ( Mt. 23:34-36; top )

Those who have attempted to lay all the blame for deception and persecution on one sect (i.e., Catholic, Orthodox, etc.) as the sole repository of Babylon the Great’s religious influence have failed to grasp the vast scope of her work. The Jews would bear the guilt of blood spilled from Abel to Zechariah. ( Mt. 23:35-36; top ) Babylon the Great will bear the guilt

...of all who were slain on the earth. ( Rev. 18:24; top - emphasis added)

She is

...that great city which reigns over the kings of the earth. ( Rev. 17:18; top )

These kings are the principalities that have ruled or will rule the earth in their turn - and the text can be interpreted as meaning either human or demonic beings. In addition to her religious propaganda work, this spirit may exercise authority over other demonic beings, particularly the principalities. This is a powerful being indeed. This is a much larger picture than what is presented by limiting her influence or presence to only one “Christian” sect.

Jesus said,

The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal till it was all leavened. ( Mt. 13:33; top )

The ruler of false religion has mixed the leaven of hypocrisy into the dispensing of God’s word in every organized (and disorganized) “church” that exists or has existed to this day. Anyone who has ever submitted to such a “church” is tainted by this ruler’s machinations to one degree or another and needs to repent and seek God’s complete deprogramming. Those who refuse to recognize this truth will be further enmeshed in this ruler’s darkness, perhaps irretrievably so.

Since most “Christians” are more familiar with the spirit of false religion through their “church” background than they are familiar with the Spirit of Christ, they either don’t know how to (or even to!) discern the spirits or else they fail to recognize the true Spirit of Christ when He manifests in some way that contradicts their preconceived notions about “Him.” Thus one truly walking in the Spirit of Christ (however imperfectly) is of a totally different spirit (the Spirit of God!) than the majority of people who claim to follow Christ. (see 2 Cor. 11:4; top )

Paul commanded us,

Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. ( 1 Cor. 5:7-8; top )

These words are spirit and they are life. Let he who has ears hear.

False Religion π Legalism and Tradition
Lords of Darkness

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