Thursday, March 24, 2011

Strongholds in the Church: Control, religiosity, idolatry, pride

1.      Pride. This is a cunning enemy. It leads us to boast of the past, be consumed with appearances, and exalt our buildings and programs. The boastful American individualist pride has infiltrated the churches. God does not visit arrogance (Isaiah 57:15). Pride always leads us away from bowing our knees and repenting (Isaiah 55:6-7). Lack of repentance deadens our ears for hearing from God (Isaiah 6:9-10). We cannot honor pride, because He resists the proud (Proverbs 3:34).

2.      Religiosity. Religious pride was the downfall of the Pharisee who prayed to himself, “I thank you that I am not like other men” (Luke 18:11). Often our good-sounding prayers are simply a platform to puff ourselves up. Self-righteousness is religious snobbery. Having every detail of theology right is less important than a humble heart. Religious tradition, self-righteousness, and legalism are horrible masters that leave you shriveled with nothing but a critical spirit.

3.      Idolatry. Desiring to be worshiped was the downfall of Satan, and when churches or church structures or church leadership desire the worship that is God’s alone, we have a problem. Satan dresses up his most alluring temptations as worship of “good things.” We make idols of our church, our denomination, our success, our accomplishments, our past, our image, or our reputation. We might find ourselves paying homage to great programs, attendance or budget numbers, our superior theological system, our tradition, our seminary degrees, even our pastor. This is rebellion to God’s clear command to have no other gods before Me (Exodus 20:3). What does a church place its faith in? The object of a church’s faith is its god. We need to pray, “Lord, remove every sacred cow we have danced around.” Would you be so bold as to pray, “Ruin everything that is not of you”? Are you willing to let go of everything that is not of Christ Jesus?

4.      Control. Control and power by any other spirit than the Holy Spirit is serious evil, even if it wears a suit and a smiling church face. Control can hide behind a doctrine of male superiority (not male leadership), or it can be matriarchal domination. Control can be obvious and authoritarian or it can be subtle and “lovingly” manipulative. Our churches have borrowed too much from politics and advertising with persuasion and manipulation. Churches are not exempt from the corrupting lust for power. When we are unwilling to let the Lord be the Lord (i.e., in charge), we put ourselves in His place, and that is a serious offense to God (Isaiah 42:8). God does not take lightly the act of usurping his ownership, authority, glory, and praise in His church or our lives. Control leads to a spirit of separation and that leads to division and that leads to defeat.

God calls us to repent (Psalm 51:4). He wants us to love Him with everything we are (Matthew 22:37-38), with all our heart (Psalm 119:2) and nothing else to get in the way.