Following manmade religion can result in what Jesus calls "WORTHLESS WORSHIP" of God, which may have a negative effect on your eternal life. As we encourage people to follow God, we recognize that overcoming manmade religion is a process that is not easily accomplished, like removing chewing gum from your shoe. The number one reason to overcome manmade religion is that false religions are offensive to God who said, "Worship no god but Me" or as Jesus says, "Worship Yahveh your God and serve only Him". Men make up many religions with false gods and some even have demonic influence with deceptions getting their religion started. How do you know what is false? There is only one God, the God of "Jacob" who has a "Son" named Jesus and He says His name is "Yahveh"1.
Another reason we want to over come manmade religion especially within Christianity is as Jesus shared from what God told Isaiah, "It is no use for them to worship Me, because they teach human rules as though they were My laws!". We definitely do not want to be in a position where our worship of God is "worthless". Yes, some of the religious practices God was complaining about were just memorizing words in worship and manmade worship practices like some religious groups within both Judaism and Christianity still do today. Apparently just like people didn't listen to God when He spoke through Isaiah, people still do not listen to God and do not listen to Jesus today. Unfortunately, there are many who have no desire to overcome manmade religion. Maybe that is why Jesus says "broad" is the road to destruction and only a "few" will make it to eternal life2.
Manmade religion can be dangerous and even hinder serving God. A few decades ago when I was a newborn Christian, I was on vacation and was helping praying for people at the end of a special evening service in a church I used to attend. I was trying to help a young woman who desperately needed deliverance but I could not drive out the demon. I told her to wait a minute and I went over and asked for help from the Pastor who had helped me be free from a demon a couple years earlier. He went over and verified that she needed deliverance and then handed her a card with a name and phone number. He told her to call the name on the card for further ministry. Later he privately explained to me that there was a problem a couple of months earlier and his Bishop had forbidden them to do any more deliverance ministry. I was glad that had not happen before I was set free. He was amazed that apparently it kept me from doing any deliverance in their church. A lesson to be learned is; if at all possible, do not subordinate yourself to anyone but God, no religious leader or board or anyone. Also, as a spiritual leader, do not subordinate anyone's spiritual life to yourself, rather lead him or her to God and encourage him or her to be subordinate to God only!
One time after I became a pastor, the night before I had a ministry appointment scheduled, God told me to share from a certain scripture during the appointment. When we met, the person shared some current concerns in their life, to which I responded from scriptures Jesus teaches, like usual. Finally, it seemed the appropriate time to share the words God had given to be shared and then the person asked a quick, last minute question "What do you think of Lent?" I responded with "hold that question" because I sensed from God that the scripture He gave me to share, would also respond to the question. Then I shared "God gave me last night Joshua 24:15 to share during our time together". Then I shared Joshua's words, "choose this day whom you will serve". This was difficult for the person to hear, as this person had done the ashes thing on Ash Wednesday that year and was publicly "giving up for lent" what most would consider a major sacrifice. God's timing contrasted serving Him with serving a manmade religion, including it's practices. Later I realized I had never answered the lent question. My normal response in the past would have been to say nice things about lent and described some favorable aspects of the discipline. Apparently, God would prefer us to follow Him only rather than any manmade religious practices.
Now I realize God wants us to reject all manmade religious practices, even if they have good explanations or disciplines. Being a little confused about eliminating religious practices, I asked God about Jesus celebrating Passover and God's response was that celebrating Passover was something He told all Jews to do. God was teaching me there is a difference between religious practices from Him and those made up by people. And then God pointed out that there is no record of Jesus celebrating Purim. Note: Purim is a where the Jews celebrate the story of Esther. Later, I discovered by checking it out in the bible, that the celebrating of Purim is not only manmade but the fact of being manmade is specified in the bible, as it is written "Jews took it upon themselves to establish the custom". Wow, God really knows how to give good examples. I then asked if we should celebrate Passover and He responded "no, that was instructions for the Jews to remember what I did for them". Is all manmade worship bad? No, after crossing the Red Sea and being saved from the Egyptians, Moses and the Israelites burst into song, praising and worshipping God for saving them and then Miriam and the women repeated some of the words with dancing using tambourines. This praising of God would become bad and worthless to God, if people were required to memorize or read the words and repeat them as worship. Worshipping God is beautiful and wonderful but manmade rules requiring worship makes it worthless to God.
Then I remembered how we as followers of Jesus do what He said to do when we remember Jesus with the bread and the cup. The only consistent details of the last supper are that Jesus gave thanks for the bread and cup and told us to remember Him when we did this. Mankind has made up many religious doctrines surrounding this activity and even whole religious services with details far beyond just giving thanks and remembering Jesus and mentioning the New Covenant He introduced us to. Eliminating all manmade religious traditions can be difficult and would be definitely a learning process for people who love God. Also some Christians have taken the teachings of Jesus about what to pray and made up religious rules. From the prayer we can conclude, it is to be prayed "daily" and yet some religious rules require it to be prayed more frequently or less frequently, etc3.
God can still work in environments where manmade religious practices exist. I was born in a manmade religious environment and as an adult was reborn in an environment with lots of manmade religious practices developed over hundreds of years. Although I continued in this undesirable environment for more than a decade, as it was all had ever known, God's spirit with the spirit prayer language helped me to grow closer to God. Finally God forced me out of that environment. It took a couple more decades to realize that most doctrines are manmade and are not compatible with what God and Jesus teach, so be alert when you hear the word "doctrine". Unfortunately some manmade religious practices in the Christian religion are offensive to God and specifically forbidden by God. It is good to remember Bereans' example who "examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true", and evaluate every teaching and doctrine with what God and Jesus teach, so that God will not consider our worship of Him "worthless". Although I personally would like to help everyone avoid the years of learning I had to endure, I realize as Jesus said, "You cannot come to Me, unless the Father makes you want to come". Yes, for many years I said I was just following Jesus while trying to synchronize manmade teachings with Jesus' teachings. God is continuing to help me learn and grow. Just a few weeks God helped me understand the New Agreement from God to man that I had heard about for years. Be encouraged to pray everyday for God to help you "understand" everything He wants you to understand4.
1. Mt 15:9 (TL); Ex 20:3 (TE); Mt 4:10; Mk 12:26; Jn 10:36; Is 42:8 (ET)
2. Mt 15:9 (Is 29:13) (TE); Mt 7:13-14 (NI)
3. Ex 12:14, 15:1-15, 21; Est 9:26-28; 1 Co 11:23-25; Mt 6:9-13(NI)
4. Ac 17:11 (NI); Jn 6:65; Mt 13:14 (CE)
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