CHAPTER 6

RELIGIOUS DECEPTION

In the last chapter we looked at the concept of shallowness. Shallowness is a superficial attitude of the heart and
mind. It is more interested in image than in essence. Because the Lord tells us that He looks on the heart of the man
and not on his appearance, it is evident that God does not want us to be superficial shallow people. To do so would
be disobedience to Him.

Closely connected with shallowness is “religious” disobedience. Religious disobedience is different from standard
disobedience in that the latter always has an apparently spiritual rationale. To many people the word “religion” today
has a negative connotation. When some witness to unsaved people, they often say, “I don’t want to speak to you
about religion; I want to tell you about relationship.” We recognize that there is something negative, generally
speaking, about the term religion, particularly when compared to the term spirituality. If we heard that an individual
was spiritual, we would feel comfortable with him; but if we heard that he was religious, we would be suspicious. It is
in this sense that the term religious disobedience is used in this chapter. Of course, we are familiar with the King
James use of the word and also with other translations, which do not use the word in a negative sense, but in a
favorable sense. To quote James 1:27 “This is pure and undefiled religion in the sight of God and the Father, to visit
orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” Saul however is a man to whom
the first reference to religion applies. In looking at Scripture we can see that Saul was religiously disobedient. He
wanted to appear holy and acceptable unto God. He used religion or the outward trappings of spirituality, as a way of
covering up his shallow people-pleasing and self-pleasing heart.

A common manifestation of religious disobedience is the use of religious language for purposes other than glorifying
God. I Samuel 15:13 is a classic example of a man who is in utter rebellion but wants to sound very spiritual. “And
Samuel came to Saul, and Saul said to him, “blessed are you of the Lord! I have carried out the command of the
Lord!” Saul was actually trying to deceive Samuel with his opening religious barrage because earlier Samuel had
given Saul precise instructions on what to do with the Amalekites and their livestock and possessions: he was to
destroy everything and everyone. Saul, at the prompting of his own self-willed heart and the prompting of the people,
only obeyed part of the command that he was given. Saul willfully spared all of the best in direct violation of God’s
command. But Saul, apparently being familiar with the psychological effectiveness of sounding religious in a
questionable situation, greets the prophet with a complimentary and high sounding “blessed are you of the Lord!”
Saul tosses around the Holy Name of God as it fits his need. He immediately follows up with a not-so-humble
declaration of his obedience; apparently realizing that sometimes the best defense is a good offense. He goes on the
offensive with Samuel and says, “I have carried out the command of the Lord!” He no doubt expected Samuel to
overlook the trifling fact that he spared a small percentage of the possessions of the Amalekites and the fact that he
did not kill Agag the king. Samuel, however, was not at all impressed with Saul’s glib religious talk. In a matter of
minutes he proclaimed God’s judgment against Saul.

The Saul Church of our generation also tosses the Holy Name of God around in a frivolous religious manner. We
cover up our disobedience with such impressive phrases as: 1) “The Lord told me it was alright to marry Ken, even
though he is an unbeliever”, 2) “I prayed about buying that expensive car and the Lord gave me a peace about it”, and
3) “We need to pray about Fred because he is drinking again and they caught his son cheating in a math exam and
his wife says he is abusive.”

In the first case, when people say that the Lord told them to do something, they often are merely proclaiming their own
desire and validating it by invoking the Name of the Lord. In Charismatic circles particularly, we are guilty of invoking
the Name of Jesus when we are in the midst of justifying some personal desire. A famous example is when a former
healing evangelist was supposedly told by a very tall Jesus (I believe He was 900 feet tall) to write letters to
innumerable people soliciting donations ranging from $25.00 to $1,000.00. When many of the recipients of this letter
heard the Name of Jesus they then believed that this message had to be from God. Unfortunately, thousands of
church building programs in both Charismatic and Evangelical churches have been financed by the same invocation
of the Name of Jesus Christ or the apparent peace that the leader says that he received from the Lord regarding the
building program. The sheep have also learned well from their shepherds, so that whenever they want to purchase a
new car or a new house they religiously invoke the Name of Jesus Christ. They will say, “Jesus told me that I deserve
a new car and I should get a $20,000 loan to pay for it. Jesus said that I would be stepping out in faith, and that He
would take care of me.” People have even been able to use this ploy for the purpose of disposing of an unwanted
spouse. They will say, “Jesus told me I should leave my husband. I sense in my spirit that my time of trial is now over.
It is just too much for me to live with a man who treats me so poorly, and gives me so little attention. I know that my
next husband will be much more spiritual. In fact, I believe the Lord has even shown me who he will be.”

The “I prayed about it” game is even easier to play. You do not even need to refer to Jesus. The situation generally is
as follows: You pray about a certain thing, perhaps it is a new car. You don’t sense horrible conviction, no great
calamity seems imminent, and what’s more important, after you’ve prayed about it and presented your offer to the
automobile salesman, he accepts! You prayed about it, God did not stop it, and the door was Open. True, you really
could not afford it, but once again you feel it is a step of faith because you “prayed about it.” The beautiful thing about
this religious delusion is you do not even need to get a vision or a dream or a strong sense of God’s approval. All you
need to do is pray about it and if “the door is open” you can religiously assume it is God’s will. Of course, you NEVER
stop to think that the automobile salesman’s job is to sell you a car. For some unbelievable reason if he offers you the
car at a price that you both know is more than you can really afford, you assume that God has put His stamp of
approval on the deal BECAUSE YOU PRAYED ABOUT IT! The typical Saul Christian quits jobs oftentimes without
even giving proper notice, dissolves marriages, changes churches, buys things he cannot afford, and dates unsaved
people, all on the religious pretext that he PRAYED ABOUT IT and God “opened the door.” For many in the Saul
Church this religious exercise is the ultimate in God’s guidance.

One of the best ways to sound spiritual, but really disguise a treacherous heart is, in the midst of several of the
brothers and sisters in church, to request prayer for someone not in attendance who has sinned. This presents a
perfect opportunity to share (translate gossip) about the brother or sister. It usually goes something like this, “I really
have a burden for Brother Fred. I love that brother. He is really growing. But, do you know what he did to Ralph? He
borrowed $10.00 last week and hasn’t paid it back! And what’s more, I think he used the money to buy a carton of
cigarettes! And I think he was drinking beer last Thursday. At least his breath smelled weird.” Prayer is one of the
most devastating weapons we have against Satan. However, in the name of prayer, we can be used by the enemy to
either damage or assassinate a brother’s or sister’s character. We can religiously use the prayer circle as a gossip
circle.

I Samuel 15:14, “Then Saul said to Samuel, I have sinned. I have indeed transgressed the command of the Lord and
your words because I feared the people and listened to their voice.” This sounds like a very complete repentance on
the part of Saul. It sounds spiritual, but Samuel, representing the Lord, rejects it because Saul is not repenting for
sinning against the Lord. He is merely confessing or acknowledging what he has done so that Samuel will honor him
before the elders and Israel. I Samuel 15:30 says, “....I have sinned but please honor me now before the elders of my
people and before Israel, and go back with me that I may worship the Lord your God.” His repentance was an act of
religious deception. It was calculated to bring about a certain response that had nothing to do with real sorrow for sin,
a desire to be clean and pure before God, or a longing to be re-established in relationship with the Lord. It was merely
a game that Saul was playing to get Samuel to honor him before the elders and the people. It was religious deception
calculated to save face and Samuel saw right through it, and would not go back with Saul until Saul acknowledged
what was really on his heart: the desire to be honored by the elders and the people.

In the Saul Church of today we see public confessions of wrongdoing but some of them are calculated to please man
and not to please God. Even as Saul did not repent or even confess his self-willed rebellion against God, neither do
we acknowledge our real sins of lukewarmness, materialism, and rebellion. In fact, we are likely to hear confessions
from our leaders as, “Please forgive me, I failed you my people, because I was afraid to ask you for money. I have not
been faithful to the Word in asking you for tithes and offerings. I confess it was the fear of man that kept me from
doing this. God has dealt with me. I have repented so...I’m just going to share my heart with you: we are $330,000
short in our gymnasium fund and $10,000 short for the youth department’s trip to Israel. Church...God is building His
kingdom and only you can supply the money we need here at California Community Church! Please forgive me; I can
assure you I will be obedient in this area in the future.” This is a very deceptive way to take an offering. It SOUNDS
like the pastor is humbling himself before his people because of his sin, but REALLY all he is doing is exercising yet
another way to fleece the sheep.

As Saul used religious phrases to cover his divided and disobedient heart, so the Saul Church in our generation has
hypocritically used religious language to justify selfishness, rebellion, slander, and the attainment of its own financial
well being.
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