Jesus vs the Spirit of Religion and the Spirit of the World.

Religion can put new clothes on the man, but Christ puts a new man in the clothes. 

The enmity between false religion and those of true faith has existed since the dawn of humanity. When the first religious sacrifices were made, the Lord accepted Abel and his offering, but not Cain’s. Cain was enraged and disheartened by this. The Lord addressed Cain’s anger, saying, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.” (Genesis 4:6-7; Hebrews 11:4).

In the New Testament, Jesus frequently clashed with the Pharisees and Sadducees, who represented the religious establishment of the time. They often opposed Jesus’ teachings and sought to undermine His ministry, ultimately leading to His crucifixion. Jesus criticized them for their hypocrisy and adherence to man-made traditions over God’s commandments (Matthew 23:1-36; Mark 7:6-8).

“Then He charged them, saying, “Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.” (Mark 8:15).

Later, Paul highlights the conflict between the son of promise, born by the Spirit, and the son of the flesh. Ishmael, born in the flesh, persecuted Isaac, who was born by the Spirit of God, and this pattern of enmity continues today (Galatians 4:29).

Ultimately, it was the religious system and government of the day that crucified Jesus, showing that the opposition between false religion and true faith is a recurring theme throughout Scripture. 

This opposition takes the form of an unholy trinity: whose ultimate goal is the PERSECUTION AND DESTRUCTION OF THE CHURCH! 

The unholy alliance is first exemplified by the Spirit of the World, which, through the dominant culture and ruling government, seeks to control or eradicate those of the Faith. The second partner in this alliance operates more covertly within the church as the false church. The third partner is the demonic spiritual realm, comprising principalities, powers, and rulers (Ephesians 6:12). We have devoted a chapter on the Spirit World, in this chapter we will only focus on the spirit of the World and the Religious Spirit.  

Herod had John the Baptist killed, and the Pharisees orchestrated Jesus’ crucifixion. The spirit of false religion and the spirit of nationalism justify condemning innocent people to death to uphold and propagate deception. They aim to position themselves as the messiah who saves and fixes everything. Throughout history, several people groups and nations have fallen under the disruptive rule of dictators, self-appointed saviours who crush others to maintain their control.

1. THE SPIRIT of the WORLD 

Nimrod and Babylon

Nimrod, was the world’s first dictator mentioned in Genesis 10:8-12, described as a mighty hunter before the Lord and a powerful leader. Traditionally believed to be the great-grandson of Noah, Nimrod is credited with founding several significant cities in Mesopotamia, including Babylon, Erech, Akkad, and Calneh in Shinar (modern-day Iraq). His reputation as a hunter and a kingdom builder has made him a symbol of human ambition and defiance. Some interpretations suggest he led the construction of the Tower of Babel, an act of pride and rebellion against God. Though the Bible provides limited details about Nimrod, his legacy is often associated with the establishment of early civilization and the complexities of human pride and divine judgement. (Gen. 10: 8). 

The Tower of Babel was the epitome of what is considered the worship of man

“And they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.” (Gen 11:4). 

The Beast coming out of the Sea.

Revelation 13 portrays the Satanic Tri-alliance most descriptively. “And I saw a beast rising up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and on his horns ten crowns, and on his heads a blasphemous name. Now the beast which I saw was like a leopard, his feet were like the feet of a bear, and his mouth like the mouth of a lion.” (Rev 13:1-2) 

The leopard, bear, and lion symbolize powerful, warring nations, each embodying specific characteristics of speed, strength, and authority. The leopard represents swift and cunning conquest, akin to the Greek Empire under Alexander the Great; the bear signifies brute strength and oppressive power, reminiscent of the Medo-Persian Empire; and the lion, with its commanding presence and regal authority, reflects the Babylonian Empire. Together, these beasts form a composite creature symbolizing a future oppressive regime or alliance of nations, highlighting the recurring biblical theme of human empires rising in power and pride, often opposing God’s sovereign rule, until divine intervention ultimately prevails.

The sea is often a Biblical symbol of the nations of the earth. The church is symbolic of the holy nation of God (1 Pet. 2:9) but stands opposite to the nations of the earth. In the nation of God, the Spirit of God works, but in the nations of the world the spirit of the world (dragon) works. 

The governments of these nations are opposed to the government of God: 

“Why do the nations rage, and the people plot a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, Against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying, ‘Let us break their bonds in pieces and cast away their cords from us.’” (Ps 2:1-3). 

Ten horns represent ten crowns (13:1). The beast has “complete power” (ten horns and ten crowns).  When the people of God, called for a king of their own they rejected God’s rule in their lives. 

“And the Lord said to Samuel, “Heed the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them.”  (1 Sam. 8: 7).

In Daniel 7, Daniel sees a similar face. He sees the sea in turmoil and four large animals ascend from it (Dan 7:1-3). The one like a lion, the other like a bear, the third like a leopard and the fourth beast terrible and terrifying and very strong. The beast is described with ten horns and large iron teeth: devouring, crushing and trampling the remnant with its legs. It is also different from all the beasts that were before him (v 7). 

Any form of nationalism and self-determination of one nation, at the expense of another, is violence, and an injustice to God’s creation. 

The Spirit of The World is our arch-enemy! 

Jesus’ life and ministry are in direct opposition to the world and religious government of the day: 

“For what shall it profit a man if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul?”  (Mark 8:36).

“But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.”  (Matt. 16:23).

“He was in the world, and the world came into being through Him, and the world did not know Him.” (John 1:10). 

“The world cannot hate you, but it hates Me because I testify of it, that its works are evil,” (John 7: 7).

“He who loves his life shall lose it. And he who hates his life in this world shall keep it to life eternal.” (John 12:25).

“Peace, I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (John 14:27).

“I shall no longer speak many things with you, for the ruler of this world comes, and he has nothing in Me.” (John 14:30).

“If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you.”  (John 15:18).

“I have spoken these things to you so that you might have peace in Me. In the world you shall have tribulation but be of good cheer. I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33). 

“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, to prove by you what is that good and pleasing and perfect will of God.”  (Rom 12: 2). 

“Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.”  (1 Cor 1:20, 21). 

2. THE SPIRIT of RELIGION 

Then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth, and he had two horns like a lamb and spoke like a dragon. And he exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence, and causes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed. (Rev 13:11).

Just like the first animal is part of an ecosystem rather than being an individual, so the “beast from the earth” is also a system and not an individual. He only has two horns and not ten like the dragon from the sea. This is an indication of his subordination to the beast from the sea. This dragon has limited powers. He looks like a lamb, but when he speaks, he speaks with the voice of the dragon. 

The dragon-lamb’s modus operandi and purpose are clearly spelled out: “And he exercises all the power of the first beast before his eyes, and he causes the earth and those who dwell on it to worship the first beast.” 

The dragon-lamb mainly has a religious role to play. He claims to represent the truth and is harmless, but his speech gives him away as an ambassador of Satan. In a sense, the dragon lamb is an antichrist or pseudo-christ. He pretends to be an alternative or “other” Christ.

In 95AC false religions in collaboration with imperial officials intoxicated the people. The emperor was worshiped with great ceremony under the supervision of the government officials. The dragon-lamb shakes the people’s focus from God and places it on the world system of the day. It is not uncommon to see the religiosity of governments. 

The British sing: “God save our gracious Queen, Long live our noble Queen, God save the Queen, Send her victorious, Happy and glorious, Long to reign over us, God save the Queen.”  The Russians refer to “Holy Mother Russia”. To be a Slav is to be Russian Orthodox. Being a non-Orthodox slave is seen as a betrayal of Slavic culture. In old South Africa we sang: “We will live, we will die, we for you, South Africa.” In Ireland, the war between Protestants and Catholics is deeply rooted in bitterness. The dragon-lamb painted red crosses on the shields of soldiers in the Middle Ages and supported the governments while committing the most horrific atrocities. [1] 

Warning Against Religion

The spirit of the world is easier to distinguish because it is in direct opposition to the values, methodology and working methods of the Kingdom of God. Distinguishing false religion is much more difficult because it tarnishes the desire and need that people must please and glorify God. It is terribly sad to meet beautiful believers who have fallen prey to a sect (independent religious group) that focuses on methods, rituals, rites and rules based on the Word, but without the Holy Spirit. 

Virtually the entire NT’s apostolic letters were written to warn against such deception: false Christs (Mark 13:22); false teaching (Eph 4:14), false prophets (Matt 7:15, 20; 1 John 4: 1); false apostles (2 Cor 11:13); false signs and wonders (2 Thess. 2: 9).

How Do We Keep the Course in Truth?

Foundation of Christ: 

Truth is a person!

“Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.” (2 Tim 1:13). 

The purpose of all ministries is to see Christ fulfilled in every life and everyday life (Gal 4:19; Col 1: 28-29; 2 Cor 11: 2; 1 Cor 2: 2; 2 Pet 1: 8; Eph. 4:13). 

“And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.” (Acts 2:42) 

“…contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.” (Jude 3b) 

“…remember me in all things and keep the traditions just as I delivered them to you.” (1 Cor 11:2b)

“…stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle.” (2 Thess. 2:15) 

“If you instruct the brethren in these things, you will be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished in the words of faith and of the good doctrine which you have carefully followed.” (1 Tim. 4:6) 

“holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict.”; “speak the things which are proper for sound doctrine”. (Tit. 1:9; 2:1). 

Fruit of Righteousness and the Holy Spirit: 

“For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Pet. 1:8) 

“Therefore, bear fruits worthy of repentance” (Matt. 3:8) 

“…every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.” (Matt. 7:17) 

“by their fruits you will know them.” (Matt. 7:20) 

“But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life.” (Rom. 6:22) 

“being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.” (Phil. 1:11). 

The Anatomy of an Accurate Faith Life

We are engaged in a struggle to maintain our faith: 

“Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.”     (1 Tim 6:12) 

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (2 Tim 4: 7). 

The focus of satan and the world is to make you doubt. Since the beginning, Satan asks:

“Did God really say…?” (Gen. 3:1). 

“And when he tempted Jesus, “If you are the Son of God…” (Matt. 4:6). 

Therefore, we must also constantly test ourselves whether we are: 

  • Speaking and acting in faith or not (2 Cor. 13: 5). 
  • Pleasing God for only faith can please God (Heb 11:6).
  • Resisting to sin for that which is not of faith is sin! (Rom 14:23). 

Jesus Exposes Religion

Jesus shows and proves His love for mankind: the sick; the lost; the rejected; the women; the lepers; the sinners and the tax collectors. But He shows no mercy to the religious: Matt 23:13; Matt 12:34; 15: 7-9; Mark 7: 6-8; Matt 23: 15-16,23-33; Luke 11: 42-44; 13:15; Jn 8:44. 

There are good traditions and doctrinal truths (1 Cor 11: 2; 2 Thes 2:15; 3: 6), but the enslaving traditions of men, i.e. the culture of the world and world-view of man, are dangerous (Matt 15: 2, 3, 6; Gal 1:14; Col 2: 8; Mark 7: 3, 5). 

15 Differences Between true and false Religion:

  1. Framework: Religion lives from the framework of a photographic image of God. While in relationship, I live in a reality of present revealed truth.  “For this reason I will not be negligent to remind you always of these things, though you know and are established in the present truth.” (2 Pet 1:12)
  2. Works: Religion tries to do things to get to God, while relationship lives from the reality that I am already with Him, and He is in me.  The Gift of His Righteousness is the means by which me live and have all things. (Mat 6:33; Rom 14:17; 2 Cor 5:21) 
  3. Orientation: Religion is human-oriented; relationship is God-directed
  4. Drive: In religion, the rules drive you; in relationship love drives you. 
  5. Boundaries: Religion keeps the rules out of guilt and fear; relationship keeps the rules spontaneouslyand out of obedient self-surrendered love
  6. Discipline: Religion is powerless against the flesh: people who: “have a form of godliness but have denied its power. Also turn away from these people” (2 Tim 3: 5).  “These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh. (Col. 2:23).
  7. Obedience: Religion focuses on small commands, to avoid doing the big commands: You let go of the commandment of God and cling to the minor, handed down rules of people. “For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men—the washing of pitchers and cups, and many other such things you do.” He said to them, “All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition. For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.’ But you say, ‘If a man says to his father or mother, “Whatever profit you might have received from me is Corban”—’ (that is, a gift to God), then you no longer let him do anything for his father or his mother, making the word of God of no effect through your tradition which you have handed down. And many such things you do.” (Mark 7:8-13). 
  8. Rules: Religion is more concerned with keeping the rules but relationship with God is more concerned about really helping people. Religion shows more love for their rules than for the poor. “So they watched Him closely, whether He would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse Him.” (Mark 3:2). 
  9. Conflict: Religion argues, questions and wastes time to distract people from being obedient to the Holy Spirit. “Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.” (Col 2:8). 
  10. Magical Objects: Religion focuses on the magical power of objects: “knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you.” (1 Pet 1:18-20). 
  11. Control: They are always opposed to any form of emotion and religion that does not take place according to their own rules and methods, e.g., Mary worships Jesus extravagantly (Matt 26: 6-13; Mark 14: 3-9; Luke 7: 36-39; John 11: 2). 
  12. Focus: In essence, false religion is human-centred and therefore there is always competition, comparisons, rivalries, carnal displays, and fear of people. “The fear of man brings a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord shall be safe.” (Prov. 29:25). “Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue, for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.” (John 12:42, 43). “But all their works they do to be seen by men. They make their phylacteries broad and enlarge the borders of their garments.” (Matt. 23: 5). Focus on the outward appearance as evidence of divine power: Religion can put new clothes on the man, but Christ puts a new man in the clothes. “Then the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees make the outside of the cup and dish clean, but your inward part is full of greed and wickedness.” (Luke 11:39). 
  13. DeceptionDo not be carried about with various and strange doctrines. For it is good that the heart be established by grace, not with foods which have not profited those who have been occupied with them.” (Heb. 13:9). “Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron” (1 Tim. 4:1, 2). 
  14. Methods, methods, and more methods: “So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ.  Let no one cheat you of your reward, taking delight in false humility and worship of angels, intruding into those things which he has not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom all the body, nourished and knit together by joints and ligaments, grows with the increase that is from God. Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations— “Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle,” which all concern things which perish with the using—according to the commandments and doctrines of men?  These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh.” (Col. 2: 16-23). 
  15. Pride: For the sake of people who were sure that their own case was right with God and who looked down on others, Jesus told this parable (Luke 18: 9). This self-righteousness eventually leads to pride and isolation.

Read Luke 11:37-54 with this commentary: 

  • v 13 – they themselves have no close relationship with the Lord (Luke 11:42) but disregard the righteousness and love of God. 
  • v 16 – Duplicate standards 
  • v 23-24 – Focus on small points of contention and methods and rituals, but do not live in obedience and accompanying fruit. 
  • v 25-26 – Focuses on outward things but can do nothing to the heart. 
  • v 28 – Hypocrite, false, ingenuine (Luke 12: 1). Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is their hypocrisy. 
  • v 28 – “Contempt for the law. . .”;  “the heart and the depth of the law. . .” – like Jesus who understands and preaches the true meaning of the law. 
  • v 43 – Love, the prestige of people. 
  • v 46 – placing unbearable burdens (rules) on people but does not fulfil those same rules. 
  • v 52: “Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge. You did not enter in yourselves, and those who were entering in you hindered.”. 
  • Exclusivity, elitism: Luke 11:37-42; 45-53; 12:1-2; Matt 10:26-33.

Worship God Despises

The Lord accepted Abel and his sacrifice, but not that of Cain. Cain was very angry and discouraged about this. 

“So the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.” (Gen. 4:4-7; Heb. 11: 4). 

The Israelites were reprimanded by the prophet Amos about thanksgiving offering of leavened bread. That they felt free to brag openly about their voluntary sacrifices for they loved to do this (Amos 4:4-5). 

“I will not accept your burnt offerings and grain offerings. I won’t even notice all your choice peace offerings. Away with your noisy hymns of praise! I will not listen to the music of your harps. Instead, I want to see a mighty flood of justice, an endless river of righteous living” (Amos 5:22-24 NLT). 

“You sing trivial songs to the sound of the harp and fancy yourselves to be great musicians like David.”(Amos 6:5 NLT). 

“What makes you think I want all your sacrifices?” says the Lord. “I am sick of your burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fattened cattle. I get no pleasure from the blood of bulls and lambs and goats. 

When you come to worship me, who asked you to parade through my courts with all your ceremony. Stop bringing me your meaningless gifts; the incense of your offerings disgusts me! As for your celebrations of the new moon and the Sabbath and your special days for fasting— they are all sinful and false. I want no more of your pious meetings. I hate your new moon celebrations and your annual festivals. They are a burden to me. I cannot stand them!

When you lift up your hands in prayer, I will not look. Though you offer many prayers, I will not listen, for your hands are covered with the blood of innocent victims.” (Isa. 1:11–15 NLT). 

“They furnish wine and lovely music at their grand parties— lyre and harp, tambourine and flute— but they never think about the Lord or notice what he is doing.” (Isa. 5:12). 

“And so the Lord says, “These people say they are mine. They honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. And their worship of me is nothing but man-made rules learned by rote.” (Isa. 29:13; Matt. 15:9). 

Worship Pleasing God

“But there is something I’m looking for: a person simple and plain, reverently responsive to what I say. Your acts of worship are acts of sin: Your sacrificial slaughter of the ox is no different from murder the neighbour; Your offerings for worship, no different from dumping pig’s blood on the altar; your presentation of memorial gifts, no different from honouring a no-god idol. You choose self-serving worship; you delight in self-centred worship — disgusting! Well, I choose to expose your nonsense and let you realize your worst fears, because when I invited you, you ignored me; when I spoke to you, you brushed me off. You did the very things I exposed as evil, you chose what I hate.” (Isa 66:1-2 and Ps 51:17, 19 – Message). 

“No, this is the kind of fasting I want: Free those who are wrongly imprisoned; lighten the burden of those who work for you. Let the oppressed go free, and remove the chains that bind people. Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless. Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help.” (Isa. 58:6-7 – NLT). 

“For I desire and delight in [steadfast] loyalty [faithfulness in the covenant relationship], rather than sacrifice, And in the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.” (Hos 6:6; Matt 9:13; 12:7 – Amp.). 

“God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:24). 

“For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh,” (Phil 3:3).

Dealing With The Spirit of Religion?

“To whom we did not yield submission even for an hour, that the truth of the gospel might continue with you.” (Gal. 2:5).

The age-old strategy of the enemy is to infiltrate the church with the falsehoods, human-oriented wisdom, that sounds right… but is not understood or respected for the spirit, system, and mode of operation of the kingdom-government of God. On the contrary, they mock and ridicule what is holy. 

Only the Holy Spirit can reveal the True Jesus and lead us to follow Him on a daily journey of self-denial, self-crucifixion and resurrection in Christ Jesus, our Lord and Saviour!

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