A. W. Tozer is credited with this statement: “Religion is not transforming people, rather it is being transformed by the people. It is not raising the moral level of the society; it is descending to the society’s own level, and congratulating itself that it has scored a victory because society is smilingly accepting its surrender.”
The above statement is a truism. This is so because religion without the Spirit of Christ is empty and lacks the power to transform anyone let alone transform the society and nation. Only the Holy Spirit can transform the human heart, who will in turn transform society.
Religion can only transform lives and society when it is empowered by the power of God. The message of Jesus is the most powerful in the world. It is good news. It changes lives; it changes cities and cultures. Yet it is also a message that provokes opposition. God equips you to pass on this message by giving you the Holy Spirit.
History shows that the church started well, but with time the worship of God became a ritual void of power. This is when religion sets in. This is exactly why we constantly need to stoke the flames of revival so that hearts will be revived. Revival is the divine vitality that injects the breath of God into the dead.
Two biblical examples illustrate the emptiness of religion. When Elisha was faced with the challenge of raising the son of the Shunammite’s woman from the dead, his first step was to send Gehazi, his servant with his staff to lay it on the dead boy to raise him back to life. When Gehazi was sent to pray for the young lad, he got there and laid Elisha’s rod on the corpse but nothing happened. Though Gehazi was Elisha’s servant, he was spiritually dead so could not have resurrected a corpse. He represents what religion without Christ is. The situation was different when Elisha got there. He took the dead boy, shut the door and prayed to the LORD. As he stretched himself on the boy and persevered in prayer, the child sneezed seven times and opened his eyes.
Elijah’s encounter with the prophets of Baal at Mount Carmel also shows the emptiness of religion without the transforming power of spiritual life. Elijah challenged the prophets of Baal to choose a bull and call on their gods, while he would call on his God, “…and the God who answers by fire, He is God.” So all the people answered and said, “It is well spoken.” (I Kings 18:24 NKJV).
For hours the prophets of Baal yelled and prayed, but there was no voice; no one answered. Then they leapt about the altar which they had made. “And when midday was past, they prophesied until the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice. But there was no voice; no one answered, no one paid attention…And Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, to whom the word of the Lord had come, saying, ‘Israel shall be your name.’ Then with the stones he built an altar in the name of the Lord; and he made a trench around the altar large enough to hold two seahs of seed.” (I Kings 18:29-32 NKJV). When he called upon God, he answered by fire.
Religion is like a corpse that can only be infused with life by the supernatural power of God. The Holy Spirit breathes life into religion.