What is Religion?
& why it can never work!
“We have all sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God” Romans 3:23.
Man without God is ‘beastly’, at least in some way of another.
No matter how educated, how finely dressed, or how raw and unpolished – a Man without the Spirit of God controlling his soul (humanity: his character, nature and personality), is a man that will bear little in resemblance to his Creator, and much resemblance to the carnal flesh (the human nature void of the influence of God’s Nature).
Such a man is but half alive, though he may have the outer appearance of being so!
There is not a human soul without Christ, who does not, in some way or another, display the heartless nature of the world that surrounds him, and who has not been influenced, led and guided by the ways of this world.
It is in Jesus Christ, and through Him Alone, that we become partakers of the Character, the Nature and the Personality of the Father’s heart, and in Him we are remade as His workmanship, to become all that God has dreams us to be as His children.
The Holy Spirit teaches us that all men have sinned and fallen short of the Glory in which God has once created them – His very Own Glory, His very Own Person that He breathed into man as the Spirit of Life, that would control and guide Him throughout his days upon the earth.
For this very reason, worship without God, and void from the Life of His Spirit, ‘breathing’ worship forth to the Father from a soul, saturated with His Presence and His very Spirit-Life, is not worship at all!
“Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth,” John 4:23-24.
What is religion?
How do we define it?
There are so many things we have attached to religion by definition. Yet religion is no single thing at all!
It can never be titled or named, because it is not ‘a thing’, but rather a condition of the heart. It is man’s own attempt at worshiping God, by whichever means he has set out in his heart to do.
Religion is any practice of worship that is void from the direct inspiration of the Spirit of God. It is man attempting to reach God, rather than man being surrendered to be reached by God.
It is man lifting up offerings from the cauldrons of a heart of ice.
Religious worship can come in many ways and in many forms; it carries a “form of godliness” than can be adapted to suit any condition or audience.
Whether it be the old and stuffy kind of “religion”, or whether it may present itself in the most modern of auditoriums, with smoke machines, flashing lasers, upbeat music and the latest on the charts of ‘gospel tunes’.
It makes no difference. Whether people are hardly lifting their hands at the sound of an old organ, or whether youngsters are swept into an emotional frenzy, with tears rolling down their cheeks as they sway to the rhythms of some lyrics – Whatever does not carry the Fragrance of the Spirit of God, and what is not directly Inspired by His Spirit-Life, is nothing more than man’s own attempts of worshiping God, without truly honoring Him, or following Him, and without being fully submitted to His Spirit and being led in His Ways.
True worship demands to be inspired from a true Spirit filled life! The Holy Spirit brings us into worship, and leads us to walk in His Presence.
For as long as humanity has existed, there has been two ways of worship. One of these ways, namely religious worship, has provided mankind with many forms and rituals, and many divisions among themselves as to what would be the correct way wherein to worship God.
In fact one of the key things that proves to us that we are in fact part of a religious practice in our worship to God, is division among ourselves, and others, in what we believe, and in how we perform our worship to God.
“All the believers were one in heart and mind,” Acts 4:32.
Where the Spirit of the Lord is, division is never found. There we find perfect harmony among believers, because there is perfect harmony between every believer and God!
All are in harmony, being filled with the same Spirit, and being in harmony with Him, we find ourselves also being in harmony with each other.
The reason why division never can exist where true worshipers are gathered, is because true worshipers have no opinions, nothing more to argue about, and nothing to be disagreeable about.
They have laid their lives down upon the cross in order to be crucified with Christ, so that the Spirit-Life of Christ may come and indwell them, control them, and take full possession of them.
Having the Spirit of God within them, and receiving the Inspired Mind of Christ, they no longer have any opinions of their own, and neither have they anything of themselves, that they have not willingly yielded to the Holy Spirit, to be fully controlled by Him.
Religion is born from the flesh, and is filled with man’s personal convictions, and how he chooses to worship God, in whatever way is best suited to him.
It reeks of the pride of the flesh!
Cain offered his sacrifice to God and so did Abel. One was pleasantly accepted, the other rejected, one may ask why?
The very response coming from Cain’s heart in murdering his brother should give us the answer!
Cain was full of himself, he had offered to God the way he had purposed in heart and what he wanted.
He was offering, but not worshiping, he was bent down, but not bowed down, he was on his knees, but his heart was standing up on the inside of him.
Abel came to worship, he followed God’s way of sacrifice, he brought his offering in the spirit of being humbled in God’s will, and he was accepted of God.
“Must you forever resist the Holy Spirit? That’s what your ancestors did, and so do you! Name one prophet your ancestors didn’t persecute! They even killed the ones who predicted the coming of the Righteous One — the Messiah whom you betrayed and murdered.” Acts 7:51-52.
It is interesting to note that religious worship is always persecuting those who worship in the Spirit of Truth. As far back as we may look, up to this very day and age, religion and true relationship with God, is set against another, as day and night.
Jesus, when speaking to the religious, reminds them that the blood of those who truly worshiped God in innocence, has been on their hands since the days of Cain and Abel, all the way through the prophets.
As we today know, it has never ended, and a steady stream of the blood of the martyrs still flows today, whether they are slaughtered by the mouths of their accusers, or whether they are hated from the heart, they steadily follow along the same Via de la Rosa to meet their Saviour’s cross!
There is no other way to worship, except when our worship comes from the very Breath of God’s Spirit within!
“Believe me, dear woman, the time is coming when it will no longer matter whether you worship the Father on this mountain or in Jerusalem,” John 4:21.
Jesus, speaking to a woman from Samaria, assures her that there is no right or wrong worship when it comes to man’s own attempts of worshipping God. He moves her away from the details over which men argue who have no inclination of Who they truly worship, and brings her into a different arena.
The Arena of the very Life of God, the realm of the Spirit! He tells her that it is, “neither this mountain, or that one”, that matters, but a heart soaked in His Father’s Spirit and Life – A Life that truly lives to worship!
A heart giving itself to daily be led, yielding itself to be flooded with the reality and the Life of God’s Spirit-Breath!
That, He says, is true worship!
Touching God in the domain of His Spirit-sphere and being in harmony with His Life and His will.
The best religion can hope to offer, is the best man can hope to bring before God without losing his composure and falling into the arms of Everlasting Love!
It is the Spirit that leads us into worship, all others attempts are futile. He leads us past the act of worship and ushers us into a life of true worship.
True, because it is His Life in us. True, because we live in adoration of a God we can see, touch, feel and experience – A God Who loves to reveal or unveil Himself to us, and Who allows to us to gaze into His Beauty and His Glorious Being!
A God Who is more real in bringing us into experience of Himself, than the air we breathe into our lungs.
Religion may cause us to experience flashes of such worship, leaving us ecstatic at times.
True worship alone can change us!
We may have all the religious fun we can stand to have, and still walk away with a hole as large as the Grand Canyon in our hearts, void of the Living Presence of God within us! Filled with man-made joy, and man-made peace, while the ‘show goes on’, but finding ourselves full of emptiness in the morning.
At the end it is the sweetness of God’s Life produced in the life of a man or a woman that heals them from the ailment of the loneliness in their heart. Without that, we may clap our hands, but we will never truly be able to do so from an overflowing heart.
The Love of God is the essence of every man’s soul, it is what we have been created for, and how we have been made to function, and we are only ever truly complete in our humanity, once we are reunited in His Love!
That is why religious worship can never be acceptable to God.
It is offered from our hands, and not from our hearts, it is sacrificed from a stubborn will, rather than a broken will, and it serves our pride, rather than to celebrate His Lordship.
~ 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.