The distinguishing mark of every “religion” is that, if Christ had never come into the world and there was, therefore, no cross and there was no resurrection and no empty tomb and Christ was not coming again to judge the earth, the “religion” would continue to function without interruption.
This, in fact, is basically a functional definition of any “religion”: Any system of man-made practices and rituals intended to provide a worldview that intentionally operates or can operate without any meaningful reference to Christ. The point I am trying to make is that this is not an incidental product of the religious system but is completely intentional and is the very reason that the religion was created and exists. As we consider some examples of “religions,” it will be apparent that these systems are deliberately antichrist.
A COMMON AUTHOR AND INVENTOR
All religions are invented and crafted by the chief antichrist himself, Satan, and are therefore designed to exclude all references to and reliance upon the finished work of the Lord Jesus, to deny His glorious resurrection, and to omit and ignore the fact that He will return one day to judge the earth. Although religions come in a wide variety of guises, their primary purpose is to prevent the religious slave from seeing their own sinfulness, and from “seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God (2 Cor. 4:4).”
Satan invents religions and then passes them on to wicked men who then propagate the lies of the religion so that religious devotees will never encounter our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, they will not become aware they are sinners, and they will become ensnared in useless rituals and works and ideas which profit them nothing. Religions are Satan’s primary means for obscuring Jesus. They avoid the biblical Jesus, they distort biblical teaching, and they twist the meaning of biblical words and ideas, and they do so intentionally and actively. Again, the reason they all have common characteristics is that they are invented by the same person, Satan, and they have the same purpose.
Religions exalt the devotee by appealing to the “works” that the religious person does to merit their “salvation.” The works and the efforts involved vary from religion to religion, but all religions base the achievement of the end goal (purgatory, nirvana, paradise, oblivion, heaven, your own planet, etc.) on the meritorious efforts of the followers. If the follower works hard enough and long enough, and they are good enough, they might get in. Oddly, this results in strengthening the chains of slavery that bind them to the religion by appealing to their fleshly pride and encouraging them to rely on his own efforts to please God.
HOW TO IDENTIFY A RELIGION
There is a marked and easily detected difference between true biblical faith and practice, and “religions.” Here is a series of questions that will help make this distinction:
- Regarding SIN – Is sin clearly defined and presented as a major issue and as the guarantee of condemnation to an eternity in hell, or is sin undefined or vaguely defined and seldom or never addressed?
- Regarding man – Is man portrayed as a sinner in need of rescue, or is man presented as basically good and possibly in need of a little help from above? Is man declared to be wretched and rebellious, or is he “better than most” and “doing the best that he can?”
- Regarding the centrality of Christ – Is Christ the center of the worship and the preaching of this group and, therefore, mentioned often, or is Christ off to the side somewhere and seldom mentioned? Is Christ central or is He expendable?
- Regarding salvation – Is man’s need for salvation made clear and then is Christ presented as the only means of that salvation, or is man’s need for salvation vague or unknown and Christ’s role in salvation likewise unclear?
- Regarding the cross of Christ – Is the cross of Christ preached from the pulpit and exalted by all, or is the power of the cross and the purpose of the cross unknown? Does this group proclaim what Jesus accomplished on the cross or is this group ignorant of what Jesus accomplished on the cross?
- Regarding the resurrection of Christ from the dead – Is the resurrection of Christ from the dead regularly preached from the pulpit without apology or nuance, or is the resurrection not mentioned at all or is it ignored as unimportant or explained away by natural means?
- Regarding the return of Christ at the end of the age – Is the return of Christ something that is anticipated with excitement and that is proclaimed loudly by pastors from the pulpit, or is the return of Christ effectively unknown?
BE ALERT AND BE WARNED; THERE ARE FALSE RELIGIONS OUT THERE
In his short epistle, Jude says, “Have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh (Jude 22-24).” The last verse is addressed at false religions. Be wary and be warned! They are dangerous.
There are many antichrists (false christs, false prophets, and false teachers) who have gone out into the world (1 John 2:18), and so the church is to be warned that there are deceivers and liars all over.
What should we do in light of these things?
Know your Bible as if your life depended on it. Be able to recognize false doctrine instantly by being intimately familiar with true doctrine.
Find a solid fellowship in which you can trust the pastors and elders of the church to teach the word of God faithfully and truthfully. You must be able to trust that you are not the only one defending yourself from false teaching. You must know that your pastors and elders are guarding the flock from any false teaching and from false teachers. They are watching for wolves who would destroy the flock (Acts 20:24??). This trust in the pastors and elders must be implicit, and their vigilance must be intentional, not just incidental. The church must be serious about guarding itself from false teaching.
SDG rmb 12/17/2020