Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in My Name, claiming I am the Christ, and will deceive many. (Matthew 24:4,5 NIV)
A word about the religious, for the same thing holds good here adapted by the Deceiver to the realm in which he is working, the type of people with whom he is dealing, the religious. Yes, religiously deceived, to put it in another way, deceived by their very religiousness, and that is a strong and a mighty delusion. There is power in that delusion that seems so often to defy every kind of attempt to deal with it. Deceived by religiousness. What more can be expected than the recognition of the fact of God and the giving to God of reverence, acknowledgment, and recognition: of taking active interest in things which relate to God, attending religious services, and being very busy in religious activities and interests, and finding your chief interest in religious things and the religious realm? What more can be expected? What is the matter with that?
Be patient, bear with me if I say with very great emphasis: that may be one colossal delusion. So often that very thing obscures one fundamental thing, a true and living relationship with God. “Ye must be born again,” and religion very often obscures that issue. Oh, religion is no argument for salvation. Religion can be found in the darkest places of the earth. Universally there is religion; depraved and very low in many places, but universally there is the consciousness of standing in relationship to some supreme object of worship, demanding worship; and then men's minds or imaginations get to work to give some kind of expression to that consciousness, of that supreme object of worship, and the imagination produces that sometimes out of a tree, a stone, or in the heavenly bodies; somehow it is expressed, but it is the thing that is there, behind all the forms of expression which is universal. All the highly civilized forms of that brought into the realm of Christendom are only the same thing developed. It does not say that Christendom’s more intelligent, civilized, educated interpretation of God, even though it gets its ideas from the Bible, is salvation. It may be a mighty delusion and very often is.
By T. Austin-Sparks