“This is a hard word; who is able to give heed to it?” (John 6:60).
The spirit of anti-Christ has been at work in the midst of God’s people from the beginning of the New Testament era; see, for example, 2 Thessalonians 2; Jude 4; 2 Peter 2:1+; 2 Corinthians 11:14; Mark 13:22; 1 John 2:18-19; etc. and Christianity is the fruit of this spirit of anti-Christ.
Christianity is a religion based upon selected teachings of the Bible; it is not what the Bible teaches; it is what is selected by men from the whole counsel of God’s Word. This Christianity stands in opposition to, and is to be contrasted with, the divine and apostolic command to “Abide in Christ”. This Christianity is a perversion of the truth that Satan has devised and that he uses to obscure Christ; by reducing Christ to Christianity, Satan leads believers into a false faith, a religious faith that is simply not the faith of the Bible. It satisfies the religious emotion that is in all men, but cannot satisfy God.
In this Christianity, believers abide in Church and in that Church’s religious orthodoxy; they rely upon the doctrines of men and, in so doing, deny the teaching of both Christ and the apostle John. For example, in John 14, 15 and 16, Jesus spoke of the role of the Holy Spirit who was to come; part of that role is to “teach you all things” and to speak to us of what He hears from Jesus. This mirrors the relationship between the Father and the Son during His lifetime; the Son only spoke of the things that the Father told Him.
Moreover, John taught; “But for you, the anointing that you received from Him abides in you and you have no need that anyone should teach you; rather as His anointing teaches you all things and it is true and not false, just as it taught you, abide in Him” (1 John 2:27).
“You have no need that anyone should teach you” John said; yet today, Christianity abounds with those who call themselves “teachers”, thus living in effective denial of the role of the Holy Spirit as explained by the Lord.
This Christianity produces a faith that is not Biblical faith; it is a faith that engages the mind, and may indeed engage the emotions, but does not engage the heart to the extent that the will is surrendered; whereas Biblical faith demands the absolute surrender of the will to Christ Jesus. Faith that lodges in the mind is not true faith; it is religious faith. To the one having this faith it is absolutely real and vital and they will cling to it unto death; but it is not saving faith. It is just belief, genuine heartfelt belief, but belief nevertheless. It is not true biblical faith; it is not the faith of Jesus Christ, that is, the faith that He had. The Greek word from which the English “faith” comes is pistis and is also translated as “belief”, “trust” and “conviction”; in truth, true faith is all these things and more.
So this Christianity is a shadow and a substitute of the real thing; it is a place of refuge from reality; a place where appearances are what matter; in this Christianity, you can keep your will to yourself; in this Christianity, faith does not include daily, ongoing absolute trust in Christ, but focuses instead on a belief that is held in the mind and perhaps in the emotions. It is a religious belief, that is, a belief that binds the believer (religio: Latin “things that bind”).
Religious faith is held objectively, that is, a man holds religious faith; true faith, on the other hand, is held subjectively, that is, it holds the man; religious faith is held in the mind, true faith in the heart. However real religious faith might be to the believer, it is a false faith. According to the Bible, there is no such thing as pain free faith; yet that is what is being taught as Christianity today. Christian faith was purchased by Christ at great cost and it will also cost those who truly belong to Him. The notion in religious Christianity that somehow you can sign a card, or put up your hand, or make some pledge and you are thus born again, is nonsense of a high order and demeans the sacrifice of Christ. Where there is birth, there is pain; that is what nature teaches of birth in this world and that is what God teaches of birth from above. If we don’t come to a place of conviction and pain because of our sin, we are kidding ourselves.
After all, “Blessed are those who mourn”, Jesus said.
The man whom God will use must be completely undone and remade in the image of Christ. He must break with the world and all that the world offers, and seek to go in a new way that the Holy Spirit will certainly reveal to him if he trusts Him. This necessary break with the world tends to be a turn-off for Christians which is why they have invented a doctrine of salvation that excludes the demand for self crucifixion and the death of the old man, in favour of a doctrine that allows them to keep the old man and to be friends with the world; but they will, inevitably, be disappointed, because the world cannot deliver on its promises, whereas God can and will.
Those of this false faith are more concerned with what the world thinks of them than what God thinks of them; and so they wear a mask, a word translated from the Greek word hupokrites, from which derives the English ”hypocrite”. This mask was traditionally worn by actors playing in Greek dramas to express different characters and roles. The mask worn by Christians is meant to conceal who they truly are from one another, allowing them to have fellowship with one another and portray themselves in the role they imagine for themselves and which is likely to produce the most favourable regard from others. This, after all, is only humanity, but it overlooks the fact that God sees through the mask; moreover, it allows us to think that all is well when, in fact, it is not, so to that extent it is a dangerous delusion. Trust in God is to throw away the mask and let people see who we really are; after all, God sees us as we are; He is not deceived by the mask. But we are fearful to do that and so go on in the dangerous game of religious self-delusion, being bound together in appearances and reality denial. This is what Jesus castigated the scribes and Pharisees for (see Matthew 23).
Religious Christianity aims to produce Christians who are righteous according to the law; not the Law of God which they generally consider to be redundant, but a new law, the law of religion or the law of the Church, a system of rules laid down by men. These rules may indeed be based upon the Word of God in some aspects but nevertheless they are rules and become a form of religious law, binding the believers together. Every religious denomination has its own rules, including denominational statements of faith, which form a body of law that binds the adherents to each other and to the denomination. In religious Christianity, adherence to these laws satisfies the requirements of righteousness and offers adequate evidence to the Church of the faith of the believer.
This ignores the fact that by no law of any kind – that is, by living according to these Christian rules, the doctrines of men or the traditions of the elders – can any man be made righteous in the eyes of God (Galatians 3:11). Rules to live by overlook the fact that we are not meant to live at all; we are meant to die to self and live, instead, in Christ Jesus. Living by these rules is to seek vindication in the eyes of man and justification in the eyes of self; worse, it is to forgo the righteousness of Christ in favour of the righteousness of the works of rules and law according to men. “Christ is the end of the law unto righteousness to all those believing” (Romans 10:4). That is, the conclusion, as well as the goal and fulfillment.
In this Christianity, Christ doesn’t really exist; the world can’t see Christ because He is not there; the only way the world can see that the Christian faith is true is if they see that Christ is alive in those people who claim allegiance to Him. In religious Christianity that can’t be seen because Christ is not the visible Head; His place has been usurped by men; His life is not manifestly present in the midst of their gatherings. In other words, they have “fallen away from the living God” (Hebrews 3:12) – that is, the One Who is can’t be seen in their midst – and, instead, they present to the world the One Who was. So naturally the world looks away and says that Christianity is a lie; and they’re right, it is; but Christ is not. Christ does not live in institutions or Churches; He only lives in hearts that are totally surrendered to Him; that is the only place that He can be seen; He doesn’t live in minds, but only in hearts; hearts of those whose wills have been surrendered to His Lordship; hearts that are emptied of self and thus, allow room for Him to fill.
But now the righteousness of God has been made known apart from the Law, being witnessed to by the Law and the Prophets, now the righteousness of God through the faith of Jesus Christ for all those having faith; since there is no difference; (Romans 3:21-22)
The righteousness of God, also described as “the faith of Jesus Christ”, is no different to the righteousness of God that was spoken of by the prophets of old; the prophets spoke of it, but Jesus lived it, and therein lies the difference. Christ Jesus modelled the faith that we must have; the “faith of Jesus Christ”.
True faith must engage the heart, and through the heart, the will; it must manifest itself in a complete alteration in the moral state of the believer, not a partial accommodation of some of the tenets of “Christianity”; the individual must be unrecognisable as the person he was. True Biblical faith is absolute trust in Jesus Christ, as He had absolute trust in the Father. Any faith that does not include this absolute trust is not saving faith; it is religious faith. Conformity to Christ, His nature and character, is absolutely fundamental to salvation!
True faith is “Looking unto Jesus, the pioneer and finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2).
“Looking” here is a present participle and the scripture is also translated as “fixing your eyes upon Jesus”. This looking is not to be a once only glance; it is a continuous and ongoing activity. “Behold the Lamb of God” cried John the Baptist; it is in the present continuous tense. True faith is not a once done act, it is a continuous gaze at God; it is directing the heart’s attention to Christ Jesus; it is lifting up the mind to “Behold the Lamb of God” and never turning away from that beholding for the rest of our days and then for eternity; it is redirecting our vision and focus from self and bringing God into focus.
True faith demands change; it is a change in the relationship between God and man; not just a judicial change, but a complete and conscious re-working of the inner nature. It is through “the Blood of His Cross” (Colossians 1:20) that this is made judicially possible, but it is only by our yielding to the Lordship of Christ that it can become a reality in our lives.
“God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son so that all those having faith in Him might not be lost, but might have eternal life” (John 3:16).
Despite this all encompassing love of God, He will make no concessions on His demand for absolute surrender; if just one soul is admitted into the kingdom by compromise then that kingdom is no longer secure; Christ will be Lord or He will be judge. The rebellion of Satan was the last one that will ever take place in God’s kingdom.
The deception of those called to be “in Christ” and their being turned instead into religious Christianity is the work of the Great Deceiver. Paul writes that he does this by manifesting as an angel of light, and his servants appearing as “ministers of righteousness” (2 Corinthians 11:14-15). “If the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!” Jesus said (Matthew 6:23). This darkness is not what we think of as darkness; it is not the absence of light, but the absence of true light. Darkness is the work of Satan, the prince of darkness, who manifests as Lucifer, the angel of light, which was what he was meant to be. In this manifestation, Satan deceives the people of God by replacing the true light with his own false light, which is darkness.
Every move of the Spirit throughout the Church age has been aimed at restoring to men that vital and organic connection to Christ that, alone, will equip them inwardly to take up their place in the priesthood of all believers; and every move of the Spirit of God has been closely followed by the Great Deceiver, who rises up to rob believers of their priesthood by replacing their faith with religious faith. Whereas the Holy Spirit seeks to establish and invigorate the priesthood of all believers and to destroy sacerdotalism – religious priestcraft – men seek to destroy the priesthood of the individual and to restore the professional priesthood. In this way, Satan is able to rob God’s people of “the key of knowledge” (Luke 11:52), just as the Scribes and Pharisees did.
This is the work of the Nicolaitans, who Jesus hated (Revelation 2:6). The word “Nicolaitans” is a compound noun that comes from the Greek nikos, meaning “victory” or “conquer” or “prevail” and laos, meaning “people”. Its use by Jesus in the Revelation to John is to describe those who have overcome the priesthood of His people. He goes on to warn His people to hold fast to that which they have – their priesthood – so that no-one may take their crowns (Revelation 3:11), a symbolic reference to their royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:9). It is Satan’s masterstroke to deceive God’s people into surrendering their crowns and giving up their priesthood to men.
The professional priesthood of religious Christianity feeds God’s people “the refuse of the wheat” (Amos 8:6), and the focus is on “making the shekel great”; as a consequence, the “ephah is small” (Amos 8:5). This term used by Amos speaks of the religious chaff which the people are fed in their meeting places; their consciences are burdened with innumerable and irrelevant responsibilities relating to the Church, each of which is represented as being divinely sanctioned. Appearances are elevated to the same rank as the moral and, as a result, the latter is soon lost. Like the ancient scribes and Pharisees, their modern counterparts learn how to use arbitrary and casuistical exegesis to explain away the weightiest moral obligations and make up for their neglect of them by multiplying ritualistic observances and external adornment. This is priestcraft at its most destructive and the Christianity it produces is a grotesque caricature of Christ.
A true priest is called to offer sacrifices and offerings (Hebrews 5:1 and 8:3); this is the work of Christ Jesus, our Great High Priest, who offered Himself as a once and for all sacrifice for the sins of mankind, “having been designated by God a High Priest according to the order of Melchisedec” (Hebrews 5:10). In the priesthood of all believers, the sacrifice to be offered by the believer is “the sacrifice of righteousness” which is to “trust in the Lord” (Psalm 4:5). This amounts to an offering of our lives, as Jesus offered His; the old man being crucified and dying; he must be put off completely so that the new man, “the one being created according to God in righteousness and holiness of the truth” (Ephesians 4:24), is able to live. That is what each believer is called to.
It was prophesied of the parousia of Jesus, that “the people, those dwelling in darkness, saw a great light and to those being in the land and shadow of death a light dawned upon them” (Isaiah 9:2, fulfilled at Matthew 4:16). In the same way, in these days foreshadowing the parousia of the false Christ, the people of God are dwelling in the darkness of false faith and religious Christianity. Upon them, too, a light will dawn, but it is destined to be a false light, the light of the prince of darkness coming to fulfill the prophecies of God pertaining to the end times. Paul has already warned us of the dangers to be faced;
“The coming (0f the lawless one) is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs and false wonders and in all deception of unrighteousness in those perishing, because they did not take hold of the love of the truth so as to be saved; and because of this, God will send to them a working of delusion so as to believe the lie” (2 Thessalonians 2:9-11).