One of the more famous stories in the Bible is the one of Cain and Able. It is taught in Sunday schools and most people are at least nominally familiar with it. The tale of two brothers where they offer their sacrifices but only the younger one’s is accepted. Cain is upset and God asks him why. The Lord says in Gen 4:5-7 “So Cain became very angry and his countenance fell. Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.” Cain then goes and tells his brother and decides to take his anger out on him and kills him.
While this is a tale of what happens with uncontrolled anger, there is a more pertinent and ominous element to this story for believers today. You see, there are Cain’s in every congregation and they are the most dangerous of all – the religious spirt. Note that Cain did offer a sacrifice. He was not rebellious in the sense that he disregarded God all together. He wasn’t one of those atheists today who dismiss the very notion of corporate worship as being foolish. He was in the church as it were, doing what was expected of him. He was praying, singing songs, reading his bible, tithing and perhaps even serving on a committee or hosting a bible study in his home. However, God judges the heart (1Sam 16:8) and Cain got called out because although he was seemingly doing what he was supposed to do, he was doing it on his terms.
Even before the Torah was written, it existed. The Shabbat, tithing and blood sacrifice were all practiced long before the constitution was given on Sinai. Adam and Eve and their sons knew full well that God expected an animal sacrifice but Cain, because he was a farmer, decided to do what was easy and offered some of his produce to God. God rejected it and Cain, instead of repenting got mad at God. YHWH was merciful to him even then and gave him a path to reconciliation – do it the right way and you’ll be accepted. Cain’s response? Complain to and then kill the guy who was doing it the right way and then giving lip to God about him not being his brother’s keeper when asked where Able was.
The religious spirit demands everyone around him accept and praise what he does and when it’s questioned or is even in the presence of a godly spirit, it will attack viciously. Why did Cain murder his brother in cold blood? Because there was no room in his heart for repentance and Able merely doing what was right and good before the Lord was an existential threat to him. What does the religious spirit do then? Eliminate the threat by any means. You’ll easily identify a religious spirit because it’s all about the rules and how we should do things but is most noticeably lacking in love and grace, the hallmarks of God’s Spirit.
Why should this be a concern for us today in the Body of Messiah? Because the churches and Messianic synagogues are full of religious spirits. A religious spirit, usually inspired and empowered by an unclean spirit is at war with the Ruach HaKodesh within all true believers and needs to get rid of us. It is hostile, angry and highly motivated to win. We see that with the radical left today and organizations like Antifa, Black Lives Matter or even political parties such as the Democrats in the U.S. or the Liberal Party of Canada. Their hallmark is utter intolerance for any opinion that differs from their own. Evil will attempt to shut down dialogue because if it is compared with the truth, its true nature will be exposed.
You may be wondering what this has to do with Christmas. Have you ever tried explaining to a Christian that Christmas is not in the Bible and if you trace its roots, it was a pagan holiday to a Roman god that contained several evil practices including human sacrifice? Their response is often either dismissive or in many cases, hostility. I have often encountered people who will say “That’s not what it means to me.” Which is fine except that what it means to us is of no consequence because we’re not the objects of worship: YHWH is and what’s important is what it means to Him, not us. God will not sanctify a holiday that was once to another god just because we slap Jesus’ name on it and poof! It’s now holy. Doesn’t work that way. Deut 12:29 says don’t take the ways of the pagans that He was driving out of the land and attempt to worship Him the same way. After Israel went into exile, the king of Assyria brought other people to live there. They worshipped their own gods and so God sent lions to kill them. After learning about the ways of God, it says they worshipped Him and their idols too. 2King 17:33 says “They feared the Lord and served their own gods according to the custom of the nations from among whom they had been carried away into exile.” Let that be a warning to us not to mix the holy and profane. God won’t accept it.
That was Cain’s problem. He wanted to approach God on his own terms, not God’s. Isn’t that how Christians do it today? Dismiss the Appointed Times of the Lord as being done away with but celebrating pagan holidays and then claiming we’re being legalistic? A religious spirit will insist that his way is right and will attempt to neutralize and eventually eliminate any opposition to it. “Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name. At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another.” (Mat 24:9-10) The religious spirit will hate us and deliver us to tribulation and death in the latter days. In fact John 16:2-3 says ” They will make you outcasts from the synagogue, but an hour is coming for everyone who kills you to think that he is offering service to God. These things they will do because they have not known the Father or Me.” They actually think killing us is in service to God? How can this be? Because they never knew Him. The religious spirit claims to know God and worship Him but are in fact hateful to the things and people of God, especially His Torah. Dr. Thom Horn wrote a book a few years ago called “Blood On The Altar: The Coming War Between Christian Vs. Christian. He details how this war in the church is coming between the Cain spirit and the Able spirit. One serves God, the other serves self and it’s going to be bloody.
As true talmudim (disciples) of Yeshua, we must guard against this spirit in our assemblies. Our lives will eventually depend on it.