By Ernest O'Neill

Religion Can Replace the Holy Spirit?

By Rev. Ernest O'Neill

During this past week, I had the responsibility of taking the IBM computer apart and trying to put a phone modem in it that will connect up with the telephone wires.

At one point in the week, an expert came along and said, "That modem is dead, it's dead", and I said, "It's not. It's alive, I put it in it." And he said, "Yes, but the computer can't find it." And so for the past week, I've been typing in percent Q, pulling out memory boards, and putting them in again. At last, it's solved. I've got through. But I just thought many of us find ourselves in that situation with God.

We send all the right signals, we do all the things that people tell us we're supposed to do, but we don't get any response back from God. We're doing everything we're supposed to do. We're saying the right prayers, we're reading the right part of the Bible, we're going to church and we're sending the signals but somehow we're not getting anything back from Him to tell us that He is alive and that He is responding to us.

Now some of us are in the position that we once did get responses. Some of us have been born of God in past years or have even been baptized with the Holy Spirit and there was a time when we were getting responses and when we were having some sense of aliveness in our spirits and we could tell there is somebody out there. There is someone out there who is feeding back signals to me. But that ceased some years ago and since then, we have never had any signals back from God to tell us that He is alive and we have joined another group of people who call themselves Christians (and there are thousands of them in this dear land of ours).

They are Christians who run their own spiritual experience totally and completely by their own will power. They have a spiritual experience that they control themselves and actually it wouldn't make much difference to them where there was a Holy Spirit or where there wasn't a Holy Spirit. It doesn't make much difference to them whether there is a God or there isn't a God. They do the things that they're supposed to do and they do them very religiously and very faithfully and very obediently but they have never any sense of God's Spirit feeding back to them.

They are often very faithful in their duties and responsibilities. But the chief mark of their life is a lack of the fragrance of the Holy Spirit and a certain coldness and a certain deadness that pervades all their religious duties, all their church-going, all their Bible study, and all their praying. It lacks the liveliness of the Spirit of God coming back to them. They never really have any encouragement from God out there. They just keep on doing what they're doing.

Now in some ways, it's good for a short time, because it delivers you from introspection and from being preoccupied with feelings and being concerned with "is God present in my life or is He not." So, to a certain extent, it's good not to be always looking in and introspecting to see if God is feeding back to you. But in some ways after a period of time, it becomes a dead Old Testament kind of religion.

In other words, it lacks the chief mark of the New Covenant. Here is the chief mark of the New Covenant loved ones, if you look at it in Acts 2:38, it was stated very plainly by Peter in the first truly Christian sermon that was ever preached. That is the first sermon that was preached after Jesus rose and ascended to the right hand of God and poured out the Holy Spirit.

Acts 2:37-38: "Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, 'Brethren, what shall we do?' And Peter said to them, 'Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins'; (and here's the chief mark of the New Covenant) and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.'" (And that they had no experience of.)

They have no experience of a new dynamic in their lives that gives them an awareness of a whole new spiritual world that they never knew existed before. They had no sense of the rising of springs of living water within them, a whole fragrance in their life that seems to come from beyond. They don't have that experience. Their religion is primarily a human-initiated and human disciplined experience. It has nothing of the freshness of God's Spirit. It has nothing of a sense of Him feeding back to them responses.

Loved ones, the mark of that kind of religion is outlined in the Bible here and it describes so much of religion here in our dear nation, it's in 2 Timothy 3:5. Such people are "holding the form of religion but denying the power of it."

It's the kind of religion that enables a nation like ours to be filled with church-going, right alongside gross immorality and widespread immorality. It's a religion with a lot of outward form and a lot of people doing religious things but without the power of God's Spirit moving mightily. It's a religion without a Christ-like love, with a lot of sense of responsibility and duty, a lot of sense of what God wants from us but little sense of the fragrance and the gentleness of Jesus' love in a Spirit rising within.

Brothers and sisters, God has told us what to do if we ever get into that position as a nation or if we ever get into that position as individuals. If we ever get into the place in our own Christian experience where we can't sense God feeding back to us, we can't sense that his spirit is alive and within us, and we don't feel that we're getting signals back, God has told us what to do. So will you turn to 2 Chronicles 7:13? The Father describes that state exactly to us in verse 13.

2 Chronicles 7:13, "When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land or send pestilence among my people," now that's the situation. "When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain." That's when you sense there is no rain coming from God into your life. When there is no coming of the Spirit of life into you from God. When you're not sensing that He's alive out there. He doesn't seem to be responding to you when He commands the locust to devour the land as our land is.