Over the last two weeks we have looked at the reality of evil. Is evil just a tag to describe the absence of good or does it have an intelligence and intent.
Is there a real force called the devil, which is known in Christianity generally as a fallen angel that exists to tempt humans and lead them away from God.
Then I discussed whether it was too easy to blame the 'devil' for things we need to take personal responsibility for.
For many Christians it's easy to try to look for evil outside the Church - everyone can quote names like Stalin, Hiter, Pol Pot etc. For many other Christians they see the devil behind organisations that run the world covertly. Again, many Christians see sin in the world as the main source of evil, created by the fall of man in the garden of Eden.
But for many people of other faiths and no faith, they can see many evils within the Church itself - wars against other nations in the name of God, child abuse, financial constroversies, hyprocrisy and judgemental nature.
But this week I wanted to look at evil in religion itself. In all religions. And I want to base it around the issue of Priestcraft. Not witchcraft, but priestcraft.
All religions try to bring communion between humans and the divine. To get God or the gods to provide, to answer prayer, to assure entry into the afterlife.
Read about the life of the Prince who is now revered as Buddha. The things that started him in his journey to ask questions about his world and culture. Then look at what Buddhism is today. Monks and ceremonies. Elaborate structures, endless Koans. The simplicity was lost to priestcraft and systems.
The Hindu's - talk to a Hindu about the origins of their religion - it started out as a monotheistic system. With Priestcraft came many gods, the caste system, oppression and systematic barriers between people that removed any opportunity for equality.
The Mayans, the Aztecs and the Toltec's. Human sacrifices made by priests on behalf of the people to the gods.
The Egyptians - a monotheistic culture that created a pantheon of gods and worship of the Pharaoh by priestcraft.
The first people recorded on the Jewish Torah - in the scriptures and Jewish tradition, Nimrod led a rebellion against God by building the tower of Babel, out of which come the traditions of Semiramis and Horus, and the first polytheistic religions.
The hungry tribes in Burma at the mercy of disease and famine who offer 90% of their produce to the Idol of a cat at the wishes of the witchdoctor or risk the wrath of the gods. Priestcraft.
The Jewish system in the first century - the Pharisee's, Sadducee's, scribes and temple dealers who had huge financial interest in making sure the barriers between people and God via temple sacrifice and atonement was complicated, ritualistic and commercially in their favour. Why did Jesus make a cord of whips and drive them out of the temple forecourts?
The Christian Church - the priesthood which was established as a function of all believers by Jesus Christ was reinstituted by the Roman Church to supplant Emperor worship. Did the Roman Catholic Church at the time of the reformation look like anything other than the oppression of priestcraft?
What are you saying Pastor Baz? That there is a pattern in evil creeping into the relationship between humans and God. All religions start out as either a form of communion between humans and the one God or as a humanistic endeavour to find the meaning of life.
All religions are corrupted when humans bring a form of priestcraft into the equation. All religions that start off with one God become polytheistic when priestcraft becomes involved.
Priestcraft says "Humans and God cannot commune without our mediation". Priestcraft creates warring factions. Priestcraft is about pride and control. It is about leading the people as far away from God as possible. And that, according to the bible is from one source.
Satan, which means 'adversary'.
Jesus came into the world as a man at a time when the whole earth was under the control of priestcraft, from the most primitive peoples, the the emperor worship of the Roman Empire, to the corruption of the Jewish system.
And he opposed it. He spoke about a way that was free for all humans to access God. He said the Kingdom of God was here, near and within us. He said if we abandoned complex rituals and the reliance on priestcraft and believed in Him and His way, we would have eternal life. Then the punishment of speaking out, he took the full weight of the sacrifice's that humans had been making for millennia to reach God upon Himself on a Roman cross. Then incredibly, He rose from the dead, and promised to send a helper to all humans that believed - the Holy Spirit.
During His life on earth, there are more recordings of demonic encounters than the whole previous recorded history in the Old Testament.
Because there are spiritual forces that encourage and enable priestcraft in all religions, that it's adherents may never find the truth about God.
There are intentional, evil forces at work in all religions across the world. The Chief exorcist of the Catholic Church, Father Amorth, recently said (paraphrased) "The devil has infiltrated the Church at every level".
It's a scary thought, but that comment is true. Lets not look at other religions as the realm of the devil when our own house has been broken into.
The answer is not to hate people who have different beliefs because that is to go against everything Jesus Christ taught.
The answer is not to unite all religions and to become inclusive, because that is to go against the first commandment.
But the answer is to become seekers of the one true God and to see priestcraft for what it is - another form of demonic idolatry - and let the Spirit of God guide us to the truth.
The origin of evil began when satan first started to rebel and against God, and in his own form of priestcraft created a system where the angels that followed him believed his promise - that through him they would find freedom.
Adam and Eve believed the next form of Priestcraft - the serpent.
And so on, and so on.
Next time you buy a dvd about the evils of witchcraft from your local Christian bookshop, be mindful to look out for the evil of priestcraft in your own backyard. Because it is more stealthy, insidious and destructive than just about any other evil that intended to seperate people from Gods love and freedom.
God bless you - Pastor Baz.