It has always been a curious thing to me this thing called "religion." I haven't done a study on the number of religions that exist in the world: main line religions, their various branches, sects, cults, and spin offs, but the vastness has to be mind boggling, all claiming to be the truth, lead to the truth, or be a variant of the truth. Without a doubt, we are a very religious people. Our seeking after truth, and god, is endless. This persistent search for god and truth ends up being one of the classical proofs for the real God's existence. C. S. Lewis said it something like this; desire is prophetic of its own fulfillment. Man has always desired a god, from the very beginning, as far as we can determine, and he has always been curious about the afterlife and the before-life: where he came from, where he is going, and looks for the answers in the sun, the moon, the sea, nature, idols, and anything else he can label "god." Now, this desire, where did it come from? Do we desire things that do not exist? Lewis asked, if we were creatures from another planet, who had no knowledge or need of water and food, as we know it, would we get hungry or thirsty? The answer is, no! How can we desire something that does not exist? We get thirsty because water exists to satisfy our thirst. We get hungry because food exists to satisfy that desire. And, we seek after gods because of an innate desire and hunger for God. Our desire is a kind of prophesying that a satisfaction of that desire exists, even if we are not cognizant of its fulfillment. We cannot have a desire without a corresponding potential fulfillment of that desire. So, if men have always been in search of God by all their various methods, proper reasoning should conclude that, God exists. We may not have found God, just like a man in the desert may not find water, even though he desires it, but his thirst convinces him that it is needed and that it exists. A mirage is a false prophecy, a forgery of something he knows exists, a trick of the mind that draws the believer along on a worthless journey, and possible death. Christians believe that in the beginning we were a different kind of being, spiritually united with God, having an intimate relationship and knowledge of his maker, and that through sin that relationship was terminated, but the desire or longing was left intact. And, since we are different creatures than what we were, it is necessary for us to be restored again to a proper relationship with God for us to know Him personally. Without that restored relationship man searches in vain to find the true God, and turns to trees, sky, rocks, money, sex, even demons, believing them to be God, and satisfy his desire. Although the methods and objects change it is the same desire. As a consequence we have all the wide variations of religion and the never-ending search for the truth about God and this thing that drives us. It is like taking all the fake gems of the world and putting them in a big fish bowl along with one authentic precious gem and trying to pick out the real one. It would be impossible, unless you had knowledge of gems, help from someone who knows gems, or inside information on what to look for. This is exactly what we Christians claim to have, inside information and help, from the true God Himself, the One who created the desire in the first place. This knowledge, and the answer to the riddle of religion, is not esoteric knowledge, given to only a few, this is knowledge that has been given to the whole world, and is simply a matter of accepting it and believing it, it is not a mirage. True Christians do-not have to extract this knowledge from the world, nor do they have to go into a trance, or contemplate, or meditate, or empty themselves, or walk a labyrinth, or recite a mantra, or decode ancient text, or practice Lectio Divina as a way to spawn communion with the Almighty. God Himself has made it very easy, just believe His Word, His Son, who is the final declaration of God and His will. In fact, God has made it so easy and obvious that it has become incomprehensible and ignored, when viewed along side of all the manmade beauty. A precious uncut gem, a diamond in-the-rough, is rejected for the glitter of cut glass.
Religion Does Not Satisfy Our Desires
Although we are a religious people most find that there is an unsatisfied craving for God, and an isolation from God, even of those who worship Him, even of His own people, and the ones called by His name, Israelites, and Christians. This is something well worth taking note of, this lack of satisfaction, seeing that there are so many, that have made so much of their linage, and have assumed so much, and presumed with absolute assurance that their religion will deliver them at the appointed time. A mirage of water will not satisfy your thirst, it only drives us further and intensifies our desire to be quenched. If we fail to see the significance of this we may very well perish in our deception. The deception I am speaking of is well documented in the Bible and we are warned to not allow ourselves to be tricked. Jews and Christians alike place much trust in the fact that they worship the true God, and this fact is justified by their pointing to an exclusiveness described in the Bible. But, nonetheless, the Bible is replete with stories of rejection by God when, to their surprise, they were found to be no different from all the other attempts of the pagans to fathom the deep waters of God, and ended up chasing an illusion, a mirage.
WARNING: Deceptions Ahead
For Christians, at this crucial time, we dare not ignore the numerous warning signs that declare that most of mankind will find that they have actually been in a league with the Devil. When Christ speaks of those who say, "Lord, Lord . . . " He is speaking of Christians. When He speaks of those, who are in the "broad" way he is addressing those who think they are in the right way, the "narrow" way. When we are told to examine our self, it is to the Christian that it is spoken. These of whom we speak were all deceived. How can we know if we are among the deceived, the rejected? Jude 11 speaks of these deceived ones when he says, "Woe to them! They have taken the way of Cain; they have rushed for profit into Balaam's error; they have been destroyed in Korah's rebellion." Those who heard these words from Jude may have been offended, and considered him rude, cutting, and unloving, but they were, and are, words that need to be heard. So, how is Christendom deceived, and how do we become undeceived? Let's start at the beginning by examining what Jude calls, " . . . the way of Cain." The simple remedy for becoming undeceived is to displace error with truth.
Is it possible to make a general statement defining or differentiating this deception? I think if there is such a statement it would have to include the concept that the deception comes about due to a wrong or misunderstood definition of spirituality, or by confusing spirituality with mysticism. First, we know that there are all kinds of ways to be religious, but God is very specific about what pleases Him and what makes followers acceptable. We can be religious and have great devotion, and appreciate the worship of others, and pray, and sing, and do mighty works, and at the same time be totally lost, while believing we are pleasing God. Secondly, we need to understand what is meant by "the way of Cain" as spoken by Jude. This understanding will give us light, as to where we are, where we might be, and on what road. The "Word of God" is sharp and able to divide asunder bone from marrow, and to distinguish between what is of the spirit and what is of the soul. Christians have much difficulty in this area, so understanding is crucial. And thirdly, it is nearly impossible for the common Christian to make the distinction between beauty, intelligence, the ascetic (characterized by the practice of severe self-discipline) and what is truly spiritual. They think there is an interrelationship between them, which would be a relationship between the world and God. In their minds they simply cannot imagine that these are two totally separate realms; two different countries, with two different kings, two different loyalties, and two different lives. Typically, When a person becomes a Christian all the burdens of the old life are hauled over into the new life and cleaned up some, and that is all. All their aspirations of making something of their "self," dreams of success, fame and fortune, are all shaken out a bit, to remove some dirt, then repackaged and brought into the Church under the guise of now being Christian. There was no death, only a slight fainting spell or feeling of remorse. Now they're Christians, trying to salvage something useful from that old life, like Achan, they bury and hide something that God has dedicated to destruction; it is hard to leave that life totally behind. The drive they had, and the enthusiasm to do something in the world, is now only redirected; now they will build something for God. Maybe they will build God a church, or save some souls for Him. This is what we see in most of the modern Churches today. All their activity is like cleaning up a harlot and her children for a Sunday Service, and today the Church is full of her offspring. This is the makings of religion, this is the "way of Cain," and this is what is nearly impossible for "Christians" to comprehend. We don't give Cain enough credit, we only remember that Cain killed his brother. Cain was no mere pagan, he was a devout man, and a sensitive man, and a craftsman, he had an altar, and he gave the Lord his best. I would bet that Cain's produce was the best there was, and that his altar out shined Abel's, and that he was meticulous in every way in his approach to God, and God rejected him. He worshiped God, then he killed his brother.
Christianity today, as presented and practiced, is largely constituted and dominated by this sense of outward aesthetics and inward ascetics. In other words, when we apprehend or comprehend the "church" it is primarily received through its architecture, its rituals, its music, its adornment, its lighting, its tone, its atmosphere, its vestments, and how all of this is choreographed for maximum effect. All of this is confusing to men who initially went in search of the truth, but end up in the flesh. The Bible commands these men to be able to discern the things that differ, to be able to make a distinction between what is right and what is wrong, and good and evil. Christians have now accepted, without question or discernment, a presentation that is a false picture of the truth, and of what the Scriptures try to teach. This is all of the soul and it is the mark of spiritual death, and is what Jude calls, the way of Cain. I cannot deny that there are an intensity and emotion in worldly worship, which in many cases have translated into great organizations with resolve, dedication, commitment, and infectious influence. Great high thoughts and desires mark their devotion, but there is not a genuine long term character change. And, religion, as a whole, has this one thing in common, that repeated and changing appeals to the flesh must be maintained to insure the same quality of its adherents. With this attitude it is but a small step to a lethal dose of tolerance, contending that other religions, who appear to be just as devout and sincere in their own worship, should not be interfered with, that "truth" is not exclusive to Christianity and Christ, that some goodness and truth can be found in any of the other religions. Without a doubt, this is fatal. Religion, in the checkered history of man, has had its highs and lows, but it is the same thing that causes both, we must remember that Cain worshiped God, then he killed his brother, and was rejected by the Lord. Are you beginning to see how Satan has deceived us through religion, how the leaven has permeated the whole loaf? Religion is a mockery of the Truth, with all of it silliness and sadness, but don't be deceived, the Bible says that God is not mocked.
Religion: God's Enemy
Religion can be the greatest enemy of God, because it is Satan's greatest deception. Whether it worships in all the beauty of an outward show, like Joel Osteen, Rick Warren, or Robert Schuller, or in the inner sanctum of the soul, like the desert fathers, it makes no difference, it is all the same deception. Aren't we all aware by now how sublime thoughts of philosophy, poetry, music, art, and the stage go hand-in-hand with moral degeneracy and perversion? How very close to the truth all of this seems to come, but, ultimately reveals its roots in deception.
Mastering The Medium
Mysticism (vague or ill-defined religious or spiritual belief, especially as associated with a belief in the occult) is a great theme today and what wonderful inroads to the soul can be made by someone who is a master of the medium. But, it may all be false and of no value at all. It just ends up being an exercise of the flesh to satisfy your desire and to produce happy humans. Satan loves to put on a production, and to deliver to Christians a "likeness" or replica, a virtual Heaven on earth, and to keep them coming back for more. Cain took the bait and lost out on everything. Isn't the Bible clear that God's way is not like man's way. God's way is totally different than man's way, yet everything we see in religion looks very much like something man would make, and the way he would make it, from the materials of earth, and if it is made of earthly stuff then it is earthly, not spiritual. Why is this so hard to see? Men are duped by skillful men who are themselves duped by the Devil. They are duped and defrauded by cheats and liars, making merchandise of men's souls.
The Voice Of The Resurrected Ones
Those who have tasted of the sweet waters of this world and been brought to death's door by the affliction of it's poison see how all this is related, and being played out in the organized Church, and they understand the linage and the brotherhood of those involved. What we see as the wondrous elements of the arts: music, drama, literature, all created to arouse and stir, are the exact same elements in the explosive nature of contempt, hatred, depression, and murder. They are all the same, only on different stages with different actors, and at different times, but all crafted to stimulate the soul to move in the way of Cain: a little better music, a new program, new faces, new makeup, and new ways to worship. Wrap it up and present it to men, and tell them that God approves it as authentic and real, and the deal can be signed, sealed and delivered, without so much as a ripple being made. But, where has it gotten us, rejected. All this beauty and culture, although it may be preferred to the ugly and boring, as seen by the world, is no clue as to what and who is spiritual and knows God! Many of these individuals give the perception of being able to see deeper than most. They may be worldly wise and have an intuitive sense of what is around them or of what needs to be done. Through the use of the occult they may even be able to communicate with unseen forces. The way of Cain is complicated and very dangerous and draws the unwary out into deep waters where they are ruined mentally, morally, and physically. Jude was right, Woe, indeed.
Knowledge Of The Holy
How was Cain to know what God required? How did Abel come to know what would please God? What kind of knowledge was required to understand and to know God's will? To answer these questions is to understand the difference between Cain and Abel, and the difference between "going" to Church, and "being" the Church, and the difference between presumption and faith, which is ultimately the difference between salvation and condemnation. Abel's knowledge of the Holy was a gift from God, not any different than today. It is impossible to know the un-knowable, unless it is revealed. Cain had much knowledge and was a believer, but it was in his "self" that he believed, as did Balaam and Korah. These three examples are for us today. They were believers in "self" and their religion was "self" worship. They had great faith in their abilities, their gifts, their potential, their destiny, and presumed a relationship with God which always allowed a freedom to exercise the unholy and still call upon His name. It was all an illusion, a shell game, slight of hand, a deception. They made assumptions about the world, as they knew it, and about God as they knew Him, that were entirely false. Both Cain and Abel claimed to know God, but Cain was rejected.
Presumption And Ignorance: Friends Unto Death
The sin of presumption has a death sentence attached to it because assuming you're a Christian is not the same as having faith in God. All three of the Characters mentioned by Jude in verse eleven, Cain, Balaam, and Korah assumed something about God and their religion that wasn't true, and presumed upon a liberty that did not exist. We may present our beliefs with the beauty of Cain, the religiosity of Balaam, or the bravado of Korah, and be technically correct, and eloquently on cue, and end up in Hell. All the things that these gentlemen said or done may have been true and correct and receive great applaud, from their fans, creating large followings, with the end result, REJECTION, because you allowed yourself to be deceived. Presumption and ignorance are deadly enemies of the believer, and are the foundation stones of all deception, and nearly all that has come to be called the Church. Those who presume too much, as Korah, and those who ignorantly followed him were all destroyed. The Bible does not command you to try and find someone you like, who you feel is telling the truth, and then follow him. You are commanded to "know" the truth, for yourself, and to prove it by the only test you have been given, obedience, then you are to enter into fellowship with those who have done the same. The "Church" is then, for the sake of purity, to cast out those who rebel and cause division, like Korah, and to get rid of the Balaam's and their soulish worship of greed, and not to tolerate Cain and his vanity and pride, but to separate yourself unto God. These men and their progeny have diseased minds and hearts, much like a mentally ill person who believes a preposterous lie and cannot be convinced otherwise. You cannot reason with them, nor show proofs or documentation. To try and reason with them is useless and frustrating, and at a point even cruel. What these diseased people need, is not reasoning or apologetics, but a physician; they need to be healed. As an end, and a positive conclusion, I want Psalm 107 to have the final word. In His service, Steve Blackwell
Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever. Let the redeemed of the LORD say this – those he redeemed from the hand of the foe, those he gathered from the lands, from east and west, from north and south. Some wandered in desert wastelands, finding no way to a city where they could settle. They were hungry and thirsty, and their lives ebbed away. Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. He led them by a straight way to a city where they could settle. Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for men, for he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things. Some sat in darkness and the deepest gloom, prisoners suffering in iron chains, for they had rebelled against the words of God and despised the counsel of the Most High. So he subjected them to bitter labor; they stumbled, and there was no one to help. Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress. He brought them out of darkness and the deepest gloom and broke away their chains. Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for men, for he breaks down gates of bronze and cuts through bars of iron. Some became fools through their rebellious ways and suffered affliction because of their iniquities. They loathed all food and drew near the gates of death. Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress. He sent forth his word and healed them; he rescued them from the grave. Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for men. Let them sacrifice thank offerings and tell of his works with songs of joy. Others went out on the sea in ships; they were merchants on the mighty waters. They saw the works of the LORD, his wonderful deeds in the deep. For he spoke and stirred up a tempest that lifted high the waves. They mounted up to the heavens and went down to the depths; in their peril their courage melted away. They reeled and staggered like drunken men; they were at their wits' end. Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble, and he brought them out of their distress. He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed. They were glad when it grew calm, and he guided them to their desired haven. Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for men. Let them exalt him in the assembly of the people and praise him in the council of the elders. He turned rivers into a desert, flowing springs into thirsty ground, and fruitful land into a salt waste, because of the wickedness of those who lived there. He turned the desert into pools of water and the parched ground into flowing springs; there he brought the hungry to live, and they founded a city where they could settle. They sowed fields and planted vineyards that yielded a fruitful harvest; he blessed them, and their numbers greatly increased, and he did not let their herds diminish. Then their numbers decreased, and they were humbled by oppression, calamity and sorrow; he who pours contempt on nobles made them wander in a trackless waste. But he lifted the needy out of their affliction and increased their families like flocks. The upright see and rejoice, but all the wicked shut their mouths. Whoever is wise, let him heed these things and consider the great love of the LORD.