Finding the Way of Truth in a Religious Maze
The big game of Africa, over the years, have established for themselves unique highways to get them from one location to another, maneuvering themselves through the thick African Bushveld.
Many of these pathways are ‘ancient’, having been used from one generation to another, and they are seldom discarded in favor of new routes, once they have been established and used over an extended period of time.
One such group of animals that love their traditional bush trails is hippos. All along Africa’s rivers, wherever big game wildlife still roams free, you will find that the hippos have opened up such paths for themselves, and if you wait near one, you are sure to see some sooner or later.
The same is true for the elephants, they too have their elephant walking trails that they follow day after day and year after year. In fact, some lodges who have been built on these walking trails, regularly find elephants passing right through their reception and lounge areas, as they continue to follow these ancient paths.
Tradition, although fascinating, is something that can also be very dangerous and problematic, and many times these very established paths are what gets these majestic animals in trouble. Hunters sometimes hide near these routes, and wait patiently for them to pass along, and so does their predators!
Mankind has his its own familiar traditions as well, and none more so that than when it comes to the practice of religious convictions.
Religion is one of the most binding traditions for mankind.
Once firmly established in the way that they have been taught, and in a tradition received, it takes a miracle for people to ever be free from their religious beliefs!
Religious traditions keep millions around the world bound to the ways in which they have been taught, carried over from generations past.
Sadly this tendency is also what gets many Christians into trouble as well! Many are also following along the spiritual paths that others before them have trodden, and do so blindsided.
They never question the paths they follow,but merely follow, because they established and because others before them have walked in them, and so they too are merely following the tradition of what has become the acceptable norm and standard of how things ought to be understood, believed and accepted.
Religion and tradition are always closely linked; it is actually a tradition that becomes the breeding ground for religious concepts and mindsets.
When people begin doing something as a habitual practice, and others begin following their example, and as more and more begin to do the same thing, it becomes a tradition and the traditional and accepted way of how that particular thing ought to be done.
This is how religion works – because others before us believed something, and has carried it over to us, we too believe it.
Not because we actually have taken the time to investigate its correctness, but because we believe those who delivered it to us, trusting that they would teach us what is right.
In that way, most of what is received as “Christian teachings”, is received as the religious traditions of men, which they in return have received from other men, and which they now pass on to the next generation of those who follow in their tradition.
Very little we have come to know or understand today, was, or is received by personal revelation or by inspiration from the Holy Spirit.
“Where there is no revelation (or prophetic vision), the people cast off restraint; but blessed is he who keeps the Law” Proverbs 29:18.
Yet Scripture teaches us that revelation is essential to our Christian growth. Without it, we lose our way! We need to have eyes to see and ears to hear what God wants to teach us and where He chooses to direct us in His will.
After all, is that not why He promised us that the Holy Spirit would come? Was that not the predominant reason why He would pour out His Spirit upon all flesh? (Joel 2:28).
Was it not so that we would receive spiritual eyes and ears in order to walk in the Spirit and to be able to hear His Living Word being given utterance and to receive Vision, so we could see into the mysteries of His Kingdom and become the very dreams He wanted to dream through us?
Yes, the Holy Spirit was given as God’s Own Life in us that would guide us, lead us and direct us! His Voice in us, His eyes, and His heart in our hearts!
He would come to flood us to walk in the full Revelation of His present will, and present Presence in our lives – We would become One with Him! (John 17).
This reality, that can only ever become a reality and a living experience, in Christ, stands in stark contrast to the traditions and the ways of the religious footpaths of our traditions!
Let us hear how Jesus describes those who would be filled with the promise of the coming Holy Spirit in His time, to Nicodemus the Pharisee (teacher of the Scriptures) –
“The wind blows where it wishes. You hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” John 3:8.
What a total contrast to what Nicodemus had learned during the years. He, being a Pharisee, had been set in the ways of his father’s, fathers, and was taught that there was no other way to follow, except that which had been imputed to him by tradition.
He was set to walk on the ancient footpaths of religious beliefs and traditions, with no other possibilities or options being available to him.
But here Jesus came, telling him something he had never heard of before – That being filled with the Spirit would mean being carried about by the ‘Wind’of God?
That a person filled with the Spirit would be directed and guided along a way that would be revealed by God as he or she followed.
That he would have to be led to follow in the present revelation of the will of the Father?
That he would not have any trodden paths to follow but would have to surrender Himself to the direct inspiration of the Holy Spirit as He revealed it in present time as the Way to follow!
God would be present and in control, and would presently guide His Own sons, leading them to the present revelation of His will!
How beautifully this truth came into being and was illustrated throughout the first 60 years of the church-life, recorded in the Book of Acts.
- Think of Peter on the roof, “seeing in a Vision” that he had to go to the Gentiles to preach the Gospel.
- Think of Ananias, “seeing in a Vision” that he had to go to pray for Paul.
- Think of Paul, “seeing in a Vision” a man beckoning him to come to Macedonia.
We can go on and on, finding one account after another, where the disciples experienced this Living leading of the Spirit of God in them, giving them present revelation (revealed insight) into the will of God and leading them to follow along in that which they had seen.
There were no trodden footpaths for them to follow – The Holy Spirit, the Spirit of the Father – God Himself, became their Living Guide, presently leading them in the revelation of His will!
How precious and how wonderful to be so United in Him, that they could live, walk and move in full harmony with His Being, being presently united in His will.
Today we are brought before the same question that Nicodemus faced, and it is a question every true man and women of God who has a heart after God needs to honestly ask and answer for ourselves –
Am I truly being led by the Spirit of God?
Am I living in true revelation of Him and in Union with His Being?
Am I seeing and hearing in revelation of His Spirit?
Or am I merely following the traditions of others that have come and gone before me?
Am I merely a “Christian”, or am I living in Union with the Holy Spirit?
Am I merely reading the Scriptures?
Or do I have true revelation in God?
Do I really know Him? Or do I only know about Him?
Nicodemus came to Jesus as a man of ‘authority’, and addressed Jesus with self-assured confidence –
“We know (we accredited and verify that) You are a man sent from God,” John 3:2.
He spoke as a man of authority, assured of his position, having faithfully followed in the paths laid down for him. As though it was Jesus that was in need of assurances and accreditation from him.
Jesus, in one swift move, stripped Nicodemus of all the confidence and self-assurance he ever possessed! He pointed Nicodemus away from everything he was taught, to a new Way that had been opened, which he knew nothing about, and had no knowledge of.
A way in which he had never walked before, a way distinct from anything he had ever been taught. The Way of God’s Grace, at work through His Holy Spirit.
Suddenly Nicodemus (John 3:1-21) found himself on a new playing field where all the experienced gained in the way he played the game before, was of no worth at all!
“You have to be born again! Or you won’t see (perceive or inherit) the Kingdom of God at all”.
“What is born of the earth is earthly, what is born from Heaven, Heavenly and eternal”.
Suddenly Nicodemus was brought into the realm of having to depend on God and His Grace. No works could do this for him. He could not be “born-again”on his own terms – It had to come from “Above”, it had to be a work of Grace and Grace alone!
Nothing he was taught had prepared him to hear what he heard in that moment!
So many people today rely on what they “do” in order to build a relationship with God. Some spend much time in reading and studying the Bible.
Others pray, and fast, while others sing and worship. Few, however, have come to the place of fully coming to rest in Christ!
Few are truly guided by revelation by the Holy Spirit. Few live in the place of being inactive in themselves so that Heaven can be active in and through them.
For many, this is a strange concept, yet it is the very principle whereby Jesus lived and ministered –
“(Because)My Father is working until this hour, and I am also working,” John 5:17.
“Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does,” John 5:19.
It is also the very reason why He did not (and still does) want His disciples to go and do anything for Him or His Kingdom before they have not gone to tarry in the upper room to be filled with the Holy Spirit!
“I am sending you the Holy Spirit My Father promised. As for you, stay in the city until you are empowered from on High,” Luke 24:49.
Without His guidance, without His Vision, without His Voice, we are bound to do things by our will and out of step with God’s will! We are certain to accomplish much on earth, but little in Heaven, doing what seems good in our eyes, rather than being led by the inspired will of the Father, giving us Vision into His will and desire for us, and in what He wants us to accomplish!
Again we face the question that knocked the confidence out of Nicodemus that night, and caused him to leave the Presence of Jesus a humbled man, unlike the man who came to “authorize” Him!
What do we assume that we know about God, and what do we truly know about Him by the revelation of His Spirit?
Are we depending on the very things Paul had come to dismiss in his life, once he received Vision in the Spirit and began walking, living and talking in the revelation of the reality of God?
“But whatever former things I had that might have been gains to me, I have come to consider as [[a]one combined] loss for Christ’s sake.
Yes, furthermore, I count everything as loss compared to the possession of the priceless privilege (the overwhelming preciousness, the surpassing worth, and supreme advantage) of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord and of progressively becoming more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him [of perceiving and recognizing and understanding Him more fully and clearly]. For His sake I have lost everything and consider it all to be mere rubbish (refuse, dregs), in order that I may win (gain) Christ (the Anointed One),
And that I may [actually] be found and known as in Him, not having any [self-achieved] righteousness that can be called my own, based on my obedience to the Law’s demands (ritualistic uprightness and supposed right standing with God thus acquired), but possessing that [genuine righteousness] which comes through faith in Christ (the Anointed One), the [truly] right standing with God,which comes from God by [saving] faith.
[For my determined purpose is] that I may know Him [that I may progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, perceiving and recognizing and understanding the wonders of His Person more strongly and more clearly], and that I may in that same way come to know the power outflowing from His resurrection [[bwhich it exerts over believers], and that I may so share His sufferings as to be continually transformed [in spirit into His likeness even] to His death, [in the hope]
That if possible I may attain to the [spiritual and moral] resurrection [that lifts me] out from among the dead [even while in the body]. Philippians 3: 7-11. AMPC”
He found “a more excellent Way”!
He found the Reality he always thought he had, but failed to realize was not to be found in the religious ways and traditions of men!
When he found Christ, nothing else would suffice, nothing else mattered, nothing else was of any value – He had discovered the RISEN Christ!
The Reality of His Life and he had become a living part of that Life, being led in His Presence daily, and being brought into harmony with the revelation of His will.
Where do you and I stand today?
How do we see? Are we looking through sense and reason, and with the eyes of the understanding of man’s knowledge about God, that has become our ‘religion’? Or are we gazing into the Spirit of God, and walking in the Living revelation of His Being?
“And all of us, as with unveiled face, continued to behold as in a mirror the Glory of the Lord, are constantly being transfigured into His very Own Image in ever increasing splendor and from one degree of Glory to another; from the Lord the Spirit,” 2 Corinthians 3:18.
~ Johann van der Hoven
Johann van der Hoven is in South Africa. He has been serving the Lord in ministry since 1991 and has hosted numerous apostolic revival meetings in South Africa and in South America. He also currently pioneers a organic church planting movement across South Africa. For more information about him and his ministry visit Fellowship of Believers or Revival.