” And he entered again into the synagogue; and there was a man there which had a withered hand. And they watched him, whether he would heal him on the sabbath day; that they might accuse him.
And he saith unto the man which had the withered hand, Stand forth.
And he saith unto them, Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath days, or to do evil? to save life, or to kill? But they held their peace.
And when he had looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts, he saith unto the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it out: and his hand was restored whole as the other.”
This was the only record of the Lord being angry. He was never angry at those who called him ‘Belzebub ‘; or those who tried to stone him; neither was he ever angry at those who called him son of a carpenter and even dared suggest he was a bastard.
But on this occasion, especially at these religious leaders who would elevate their own interpretation of Sabbath over and above God’s love and mercy, Jesus looked at them in anger.
The religious spirit is a combination of spiritual ignorance and self-conceit.
Apostle Paul describes it aptly;
“For I bear them record that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge.
For being ignorant of God’s
righteousness, they have failed to submit to it, but instead have gone ahead to establish their own standards.”
The religious spirit is a more potent instrument in the hands of the enemy against the Church, than any other.
By it, the prophets were killed.
By it Christ was crucified, and by it, Paul and all who will preach the gospel stand accused before the unsaved and even before those among us who are ‘false brethren ‘.
But Jesus was not deterred by the religious spirit, rather, he damned the consequences and confronted the zealots head-on.
Of course they were filled with madness and rage.
The religious spirit is against love, anti mercy and very judgmental.
Knowing how to confront and contend with the religious spirit is a basic training which every believer of the grace of God must get.
The religious spirit is a seeker of signs and the miraculous. It is not satisfied with the knowledge of the truth of the risen Lord. Jesus likened it to adultery.
“A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given unto it, but the sign of Jonah the prophet”.
This is a typical scenario that plays out in so many churches today. People run from one place to the other searching for visions, prophecy or impartation, and many ‘charlatans’ have stepped up to the challenge.
In the text above, these folks came to Jesus and demanded that he authenticate himself with a sign from heaven. They even boasted in themselves and in Moses saying: “Moses gave us bread straight from heaven…….
But the Lord chided them and replied”:
What Moses gave you is not the true bread.
I am the true bread from heaven. You ate Moses’ bread but you are still hungry.
Anyone that eats the bread I offer of myself, shall not only live, but shall never die.”
Friends, don’t succumb to the pressure of the religious sign seekers. Jesus did not oblige them, neither should you.
Am I saying that the miraculous is no longer valid or important ? No.
But, we have the greatest miracle to draw from. Jesus called it “the miracle of Jonah the prophet “.
Like Jonah, the Son of Man died upon the Cross, was swallowed up by the earth, but rose again on the third day. 1 Cor 15 : 3-5.
That’s the greatest miracle to offer.
Let the sign seekers go to the streets, for there they will meet the enchanters, the sorcerers and the witch of Endor. They are all out there waiting.
The religious man or woman craves to perform. The basis for this is not far fetched. The ‘unsaved’ religious believe that the way to get the Lord’s attention and secure his mercy towards their sins is to heap up as much good works as possible, so that on “Judgement Day”, your good will outnumber your wrongs and then God will declare you “Not Guilty”.
The second but more pathetic category are those who have believed and received the grace of salvation, but still operate in religious ignorance. Apostle Paul aptly described them in Galatians 3:3-
“Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now made perfect in the flesh?”
Paul called it a foolish thing which they did: trusting Christ by faith to be saved, but afterwards switching trust to their personal efforts at doing good.Rom 10:5-
“For Moses describes the righteousness which is attained through performance of the Law, that he that doeth those things, shall live in them…”
In conclusion, I will like to help you identify some tell-tale signs to watch out for in identifying the religious spirit-:
1. Do you often feel or actually believe that Christians have a duty or responsibility to serve God? Yea, that’s ‘number-one’ indicator.
Jesus has discharged all obligations or requirements of service to God under the Law. Ours is to open up, and receive the dividends of his sacrifice, and not to make our own. To receive the unconditional love of God, and to walk in it, not performing a duty.
If you fail to understand this, you will end up always with a ‘performance anxiety’ struggling to please God, or operating on the assumption that God will bless you only as much as you do your own path.
( SEE Eph 2 : 7-9, Rom 8:7).
2. Do you sometimes get worried that we need more preaching and teaching on repentance from sin?
That’s an indicator that you are yet to understand the Cross or embrace the import of Christ’s atonement.
Sin consciousness in your mind is camouflaged as humility. You think it is prideful to call yourself holy or righteous, even when God has called you so.
You are probably more comfortable describing yourself as “a- sinner-saved-by-grace”, instead of a “saint” or a “son of God”. That’s the religious spirit at work.
3. Are you sometimes afraid that if you fail to overcome temptations or life’s trials, that Jesus could blot out your name from the book of life? This is another indicator.
Jesus says, be of good cheers, for I have overcome the world. (Jn 16:33; 1Jn 5:4-5)
The religious spirit is a tool of Satan to oppress and instill fear and insecurity.
Friends, we are not called to repeat the sacrifice of Christ. We are not even called to give our lives to Christ (even though the Church uses this term in error); we are only called to see the glorified Christ and receive him into our heart as our savior and our hope.
-BY Dr Nich Mbaezue-Daniel