The Greatest Enemy of the Gospel of Jesus Christ...The Gospel of Grace.
There is a question that begs to be answered...What does the number one enemy use as a tool against the Gospel of Jesus Christ...the Gospel of Grace?
In the bible narrative non-believers (sinners) had little or no resistance to the work finished by Jesus on the cross and the resultant birth of the Grace Gospel. However, the religious people of that time provided a great deal of resistance to the finished work of Christ on the cross...His Gospel of Grace. It was religion that persecuted Paul. But, brethren, if I still preach circumcision [as some accuse me of doing, as necessary to salvation], why am I still suffering persecution? In that case the cross has ceased to be a stumbling block and is made meaningless (done away). (Gal. 5:11)
The history of religion reveals enough evidence to confirm that "religion" itself is the number one tool the enemy uses against the Gospel of God's Grace!
My use of the word religion is referring to the practice where people strive to be in or maintain a relationship with God by keeping the law (religious rules). No mater that religion sounds good and reasonable, it nullifies the the work of the cross and the accomplishment of the blood that Christ shed for us. Religion is man's attempt to find and be made right with God, just as Ishmael was an attempt to fulfill God's promise by human efforts: Galatians 4:21-31, "Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law? For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman. But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the freewoman was by promise. Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which engendereth to bondage, which is Hagar. For this Hagar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children. But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all. For it is written, Rejoice, thou barren that bearest not; break forth and cry, thou that travailest not; for the desolate hath many more children than she which hath a husband. Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise. But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now. Nevertheless what saith the Scripture? Cast out the bondwoman and her son: for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman. So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free."
So what is the problem with religion? It denies the work of Christ and the love/grace/mercy of God in our lives! Religious action denies that Christ died for us, to live in us, so that He can work through us as the Community of the Redeemed expressing Jesus to the Community of Humanity.
Religion sets up a standard of rules for faith, conduct, doctrine, or practice that has no basis in scripture. Of course they would not be bold as to blatantly deny the supremacy of the work of Jesus on the cross, yet they subtly set up other standards by combining law based religious rules with grace thus, polluting the Gospel. Such religionists rely on tradition and man-made doctrine ("Well, we have always believed this or done this"), that is what there denominated segregated church teaches ("My pastor is bible trained and is ordained to lead me into spiritual truth"), ("That doctrine cannot possibly be true because my pastor is against it"), rather than being like the Bereans who, "searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so" (Acts 17:11). They are the 'enemies of Grace' for, "if they speak not according to this word (the law and testimony) it is because there is no light in them" (Isa. 8:20).
Religion preaches sermons which gives men any thing that they can glory in or boast of in their positional standing or their office. From the beginning to end, our salvation is all of God's grace. He has designed it, He has provided it, He initiates it, He applies it, He sustains it and maintains it. He is going to have all the glory in salvation of men and He will not share that glory. Salvation is in Him and Him alone (Acts 4:12).
Religion is absolutely devastating to our relationship with God and His eternal plan for the Community of Humanity.
Religion is often nothing more than a form of pride and self-righteousness that the devil works diligently to promote in our lives and and we are so blinded by religion's deception we believe it to be God ordained.
Religion demands justice... Grace offers mercy. If you preach that people need to pay for their wrongs by being punished, and think nothing about them receiving mercy from Jesus, then you are have a deceived religious mindset. Religion is more interested in seeing people punished and receive justice for their wrongs, than in seeing people receive grace and mercy from God. Religion likes to see people 'taught lessons' when they are wrong. Grace desires the best for others, and is truly concerned over the other person's well-being. Grace is saddened when it sees a person make wrong choices, whereas religion awaits the day when that person will get what is coming to them and pay the consequences for their actions. Jesus clearly demonstrated Grace on the cross when He said, "Father forgive them" and when He gave grace and mercy to the thief by His side.
Religion and Grace are enemies.
Religious people want nothing to do with Grace; they want to feel they are right with God because they somehow earned right standing with God by being good and 'keeping all the rules'. Grace humiliates religion, because Grace people admits to weakness and failure. Religion justifies it's actions while Grace humbly realizes the failure and accepts mercy.
The Pharisees rejected the grace of God, because the concept of grace humiliated their religious stature.
You will never be good enough for right standing with God, if you are caught up in the religious mindset. No matter how much good you do, or how much you repent of your sins, you will never really have the feeling of "knowing" that they are forgiven, because your religious mindset is actually denying the work of Christ and has made His work in your life to no effect to you.
Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace. (Galatians 5:4)
Religion and Grace does not mix, such is the enemy of the Gospel of Grace. Jesus was furious with those who promoted dead religion!
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchers, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchers of the righteous, And say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets. Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets. Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers. Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell? Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city: That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zechariah son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar. Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation. (Matthew 23:23-36)
Why was Jesus so furious with those who promoted dead religion? Because dead religion leads His children astray, getting them to deny the very work that Christ has done for them on the cross. Let's not forget, God's children are VERY dear to Him, and when you cause one of His children to stumble, He takes it personally: Then said he unto the disciples, It is impossible but that offenses will come: but woe unto him, through whom they come! It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones. Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him. And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him. (Luke 17:1-4)