I feel sorry for the multitudes of religious folks out there. I really do. Take for example those Ephesian worshippers of “the great goddess Diana, and the image that fell down from Jupiter” (Acts 19:35). You can almost see the genesis of their religious dogma. Imagine a people who had already been worshipping the goddess Diana for hundreds of years when one day a meteorite probably fell from the sky behind their temple. No doubt the temple priest ran out to see what was going on, saw the smoking rock, and like any good pagan, decided it came from the gods. Maybe his motives were sincere and maybe not. But either way, he was in a position to then instruct the people about what the “gods” wanted and voilá, new religion.
In such a case, what are the people to do? Can they question the priest? Certainly he knows all about what “that great goddess Diana” wanted them to do, right? Certainly if they weren’t instructed in the ways of the gods as taught by the seminaries of the day, they couldn’t know for themselves, could they?
Like all religious systems invented by man, the followers were without a standard and thus, they were at the mercy of the priests and religious leaders. Universally, this will lead eventually to their own exploitation. In the story from Acts 19:23ff, when Paul preached the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, it was the silver craftsmen who made the idols of Diana, who saw their profits diminishing, which set in motion the mob that day to rid the city of Paul and the other Gospel preachers. Their motives had nothing to do with truth. They cared only about the money they made through their exploitation of a fearful and religious people.
So what about us? When learned evangelical “spiritual” men say it is God’s will that we recognize same-sex marriage do we agree because they’re famous? Or when they claim the Holy Spirit told them to raise $1,000,000? Must we believe they speak for God and send them our money? Can we doubt someone claiming insight from “the Holy Spirit?” How about when a “priest” in a big church says he speaks for God, instructing us to do something we don’t want to do? Must we believe him just because of his position and our fear?
We do indeed have a standard by which to measure the words a man speaks, especially when he speaks of spiritual things and misuses the Scriptures to do it. “… I would not have you ignorant. Ye know that ye were Gentiles, carried away unto these dumb idols, even as ye were led. Wherefore I give you to understand that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is Lord, but by the Holy Ghost” (1 Cor. 12:1-3).
We’re not talking just words here. It’s deeper than that. A parrot can say, “Jesus is Lord; Jesus is Lord; Bacaww,” and it would mean nothing more than if it asked for a cracker. We’re talking about the whole meaning behind an individual’s words and actions. Do they glorify Jesus Christ, showing Him to be the Lord of glory? Do they point to Him and His written Word? Do they back up their claims and instructions with Scripture as it’s written (rather than pulling verses out of their context)? Or do they peddle some religion, minimizing the person and work of the Lord Jesus, seeking to bring you back into bondage with them while they subtly glory in men and probably take your money in the process?
We must recognize the difference through a true knowledge of His written Word and the ability to “rightly divide it” (2 Tim 2:15). We don’t need to trust in a man to inform us what God has said. Be encouraged that God has NOT hidden Himself from the common man. Just pick up the Bible and read His Word. You’ll find freedom from religion, confidence in the face of religious dogma, and true peace through what He has written in His book for us.
1 John 2:18-27
“Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time.
They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us. But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things.
I have not written unto you because ye know not the truth, but because ye know it, and that no lie is of the truth. Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son. Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father: (but) he that acknowledgeth the Son hath the Father also.
Let that therefore abide in you, which ye have heard from the beginning. If that which ye have heard from the beginning shall remain in you, ye also shall continue in the Son, and in the Father. And this is the promise that he hath promised us, even eternal life.
These things have I written unto you concerning them that seduce you. But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him.”