“And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.” (Rev 18:4 KJV)
I read the related article (partly, at least) and then went back to a chapter before which deals with “The Cross and Deception”. Even yesterday I had a talk with one woman who is still church bound, a fact that turns out to be a burden for her at times, and another woman who seems to love Jesus, too, yet who is still seeking for a place or a group where she feels spiritually at home. The only thing I can do for these two women is to pray that God gives them a hideaway where they cannot only rest before Him, but together with fellow believers IN Him also since it is so important that we “[b]ear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” (Gal 6:2 KJV). On our own, it is so much harder to keep walking uprightly before God, isn’t it? So, here is TAS with his apposite deliberations on the dangers of a mere outward religious life.
Deceived by religiousness. What more can be expected than the recognition of the fact of God and the giving to God of reverence, acknowledgment, and recognition: of taking active interest in things which relate to God, attending religious services, and being very busy in religious activities and interests, and finding your chief interest in religious things and the religious realm? What more can be expected? What is the matter with that? Be patient, bear with me if I say with very great emphasis: that may be one colossal delusion. So often that very thing obscures one fundamental thing, a true and living relationship with God. “Ye must be born again”, and religion very often obscures that issue. Oh, religion is no argument for salvation. Religion can be found in the darkest places of the earth. Universally there is religion; depraved and very low in many places, but universally there is the consciousness of standing in relationship to some supreme object of worship, demanding worship; and then men’s minds or imaginations get to work to give some kind of expression to that consciousness, of that supreme object of worship, and the imagination produces that sometimes out of a tree, a stone, or in the heavenly bodies; somehow it is expressed, but it is the thing that is there, behind all the forms of expression which is universal. All the highly civilised forms of that brought into the realm of Christendom are only the same thing developed. It does not say that Christendom’s more intelligent, civilised, educated interpretation of God, even though it gets its ideas from the Bible, is salvation. It may be a mighty delusion and very often is.
I have asked people if they have been born again, and they have said “It is not necessary; I have been confirmed.” Such may be an extreme case, and I do not take it up for criticism but by way of illustration. You may take on religion because you have got a religious temperament and that does not mean that you are saved. The devil may be holding you just as firmly, tightly, in the grip of an unsaved state by your religion as he does the worldly by his pleasures. He does not mind how he holds you. By the most aesthetic religious activities, self-denials and such like, so long as he can keep you from the main thing. Now one could pursue that for a long time, there is so much more, but it is merely indicated. It is the deception that we are getting at. There is a vast difference, beloved, between vital union with God in Jesus Christ and religious formalism, and as we said at the outset, there is a very great need for a ministry by which deception, even amongst religious people, shall be shattered and broken and the fact of an essential, vital union with God by new birth shall be brought home to religious people. Along that line the enemy is destroying the whole testimony of the Church by packing it full of active, energetic, unconverted people. That is where he is sapping the strength of the Testimony of God.
“Woman Praying” (Erich Heckel 1915) – German National Museum, Nürnberg
All images © 2017/2018 Susanne and Sarah Schuberth