There is no one more dangerous than a misguided religious zealot, who believes he is doing God service, as he goes after those he deems the enemies of God. Saul of Tarsus was fully justified as he persecuted the followers of Jesus. His cause was God’s cause. In his mind, he was not doing evil, he was doing good. It was God Himself, the Lord of hosts, who had commissioned him to stamp out this growing “disease” which posed such a threat to the health of his people.
I can imagine Saul striding off to “battle” with scriptures like the one below backing him up:
“I have pursued mine enemies, and overtaken them: neither did I turn again till they were consumed. I have wounded them that they were not able to rise: they are fallen under my feet. For thou hast girded me with strength unto the battle: thou hast subdued under me those that rose up against me. Thou hast also given me the necks of mine enemies; that I might destroy them that hate me. They cried, but there was none to save them: even unto the LORD, but he answered them not. Then did I beat them small as the dust before the wind: I did cast them out as the dirt in the streets.” (Psalm 18:37-42)
God’s prophet Micaiah was “smote on the cheek” by Zedekiah, who had a “lying spirit” in his mouth. (2 Chron. 18:23) Jeremiah was deemed public enemy number one by a team of false prophets in his day. And Isaiah prophesied of one who was to come who would not turn back or be rebellious but would give His back to the smiters, and His cheeks to them that plucked off the hair. (Isaiah 50:6) It was the religious leaders of Christ’s day who esteemed Him “stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.” (Isaiah 53:4) As He hung dying on the cross, these ones who thought they knew, were glad to see the blasphemer getting His just deserts.
False prophets and religionists have always “seen” and declared things that the Lord has not spoken. Their “insight” causes them to make friends with God’s enemies, and make enemies with God’s friends. James says that such “confusion” and the “evil work” that follows is the product of envy and strife. “For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.” (James 3:16) So many don’t understand what motivates them and moves them. Pilate knew that envy was behind the chief priests and elders call for the death of Jesus; but they did not. (Matthew 27:18) Paul, who of all people understood the power of religious self-deception, would later say that these rulers would not have crucified the Lord of glory if they had known who He really was. (1 Cor. 2:8) Likewise, Jesus would pray: “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34)
For any person to believe they are beyond being religiously deceived is self-deception itself. James is speaking to the church when he is referring to those who are blessing God and cursing men with the same mouth. He sees the unholy warfare that goes on between brother and brother, and warns against operating in a false wisdom that has not come from above. Devilish “wisdom” typically masquerades as Spirit knowledge. We are so sure of our hasty judgments, but are so ignorant of the underlying corruption that heats our spirits. “Holy men of God” in old times were not moved by their own minds and emotions, but they spoke as they were “moved by the Holy Ghost.” (2 Peter 1:21) Many modern day Holy Ghost people think they are likewise moved in their judgments and pronouncements, but too often are moving in their own agitated spirit or worse.
When we think we have reached a realm in the Holy Ghost where whatever we feel, and whatever we see, is what God is feeling and seeing in us and through us, we are on dangerous ground indeed. Although he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him, this does not mean we cannot still walk in the flesh. The only way that we can truly discern whether a tree is good or corrupt is by looking at its fruit. The fruit of the Spirit and the works of the flesh are evident as good or evil.
Be humble enough to examine yourself to see whether you are in the faith. What are the fruits of your life? Are you blessing those who curse you or are you cursing those you should be blessing? Are you fighting the good fight of faith or are you on a misguided religious crusade? Is it the Lord’s cause you are championing or are you carrying a personal vendetta? Are you subduing the enemies of the Lord or are you persecuting the Lord Himself? Are you really righteous or more religious than you think?
A little blindness might help.
“Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be. Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter? Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries? either a vine, figs? so can no fountain both yield salt water and fresh. Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom. But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth.” (James 3:10-14)