Dr. Tony Evans is the founder and senior pastor of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas, founder and president of The Urban Alternative and author of over 100 books, booklets and Bible studies. The first African American to earn a doctorate of theology from Dallas Theological Seminary, he has been named one of the 12 Most Effective Preachers in the English-Speaking World by Baylor University. Dr. Evans holds the honor of writing and publishing the first full-Bible commentary and study Bible by an African American. His radio broadcast, The Alternative with Dr. Tony Evans, can be heard on over 1,400 radio outlets daily and in more than 130 countries. Dr. Evans’ sermons are also streamed and downloaded over 20,000,000 times annually.


this series is on american idols

one of the things that the bible makes

clear is that

when we choose competing gods we

jeopardize ourselves

our families and even our nation america

was founded

on the premise that faith in god would

have to be

a key component to the well-being of the


and only to the degree that we worshiped

the god of the bible could we experience

the freedom that this nation so

passionately desired but we have


far from that commitment

we have wondered from that faith we have


competing gods to our detriment

so i hope that this series will draw all

of us back

to the one true god so that we can have


peace and unity that our country

desperately needs at this time


paul is writing to a christian church

the church at corinth he calls them when

he opens up the book of first

corinthians saints

they’re believers even in verse 14 he


my beloved my fellow

men and women in the family of god so

he’s writing to christians

not non-christians but he’s writing

about a concern

his concern is that they get rid of


so evidently you can be a christian and

in a christian church

and still be hanging out with idols

notice the word he uses repetitively in

this passage

he uses it twice in verse 16 sharers

sharing in verse 18

sharers in verse 20

sharers the word to share

means to participate with to partner


to hold in common with

his concern was that even though they

were christians

on their way to heaven they were hanging

out with demons

they were hanging out with demons

and they were doing it in church

when he says they were partakers of the


and the cup he’s talking about the


one of the church ordinances

he goes on to say don’t you know when


sacrifice things at the altar when did

they do that

they did that as part of their worship

so they were worshiping going to church

and yet he says idols aren’t real

but the demons that flow through them


i don’t want you to be sharers of demons


because idolatry invites the demonic


so many of the issues we are facing

we are facing because the demons won’t

let us go

because we have worshiped an idol

and that idol can be sitting at the

wrong table

now he makes it clear you can’t sit at

god’s table

and the demon’s table and still have god

you have to choose but when

you try to have both you will only have


and you won’t have god because paul says

you can’t sit at both tables that is

you can’t worship simultaneously

in both environments so his concern

is about an idol that shows up in


that demons use in order to infiltrate


and so i’m calling it the idol of


religion is man’s attempt to convince

god through activity

in order to get him to be favorable to


religious people want god’s favor

one god’s blessing and so they do

religious things in order to

motivate god to give them favor

or blessing religion

church attendance saying grace

reading your bible praying all

of those are legitimate but all of those

can be demon-infected

because all of those can simply mean

you’re carrying out a religious duty

rather than pursuing a divine person

religion as in this case

can be a context where demons

converge he says in second timothy 3 5

having a form of godliness but no power

attached to it because when god shows up

his power shows up so if you aren’t


and god’s power is not working and being


you may be religious but you may be


because the religion has not


what true authentic relationship

is designed to accomplish and so he’s

warning them

that they could be hanging out with


a lot of people who jump high on sunday

don’t know how to walk right on monday

because they had a religious injection

for the time they were in the service

that didn’t stick

because they were satisfied with

religion my goal is to make you

dissatisfied with religion

as we have defined it where you come

because you’re supposed to

where you worship because it’s sunday

where you say grace because you were

taught to

because all of that religious routine

won’t get you to the true god as


as they are because they can actually

camouflage what god

is all about in your life and in my life

so ii timothy chapter four

paul again writing to timothy

warns them of demonic doctrine he says

in chapter four beginning with verse one

but the spirit expressly says that in

the latter times

some will fall away from the faith

paying attention

to deceitful spirits and doctrines of


by means of hypocrisy of liars seared in

their own conscience

as with a branding iron men who forbid

marriage advocate abstaining from foods

which god has created to be gratefully

shared in by those who believe and know

the truth

for everything god created is good and

nothing is to be rejected

if it’s received with gratitude for it

is sanctified by means of the word of


and prayer he says demons teach

doctrine is teaching he says there is a

doctrinal teaching that the demonic

realm proliferates to the mind of

christians he’s writing a christian


pastoring a christian church and he’s

warning him to warn the congregation

about demonic doctrines that will take

you from god

but be will be religious sounding

so let me tell you about some isms i’m

going to tell you about some

isms that is teachings

that are demonically inspired but

religiously camouflaged so that you

think it’s god but it’s really not god

so the demons can interject it he calls

it a doctrine of demons

and steer you away from the faith

these isms can be described as

traditionalism externalism

ritualism narcissism

and legalism those

are isms that the bible talks about

that demons use to steer

people from the faith in order that

the demonic realm can take over but they

can all be religiously camouflaged

so that you think you’re okay when


you’re being drawn from god by the idol

of religion

that has been taught by demons or their


for example ritualism

ritualism is external activity

that makes you think because you’re

doing the ritual

it brings spiritual benefit

but first timothy says when you pray

over your food

you’re not just saying grace you are to

sanctify it

why because there are things in that

food that can hurt you

so because there are things in those

foods that potentially

hurt you you want to get god to

intervene himself

as you chew on the bacon as you eat

the eggs you want supernatural


when you put that food in your mouth so

don’t just be saying that

because you’re supposed to say grace you

better get some supernatural activity

over that meal see that’s a whole

different mindset

in saying grace



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anytime anywhere

then there is traditionalism because

we’ve always done it that way colossians

2 8 says

beware of the traditions of men

matthew chapter 15 1-14 he goes in he

says your traditions

are keeping god’s word from working did

you know you can keep

god’s word from working by doing

something because you’ve always done it

mark chapter 7 1-13 he says watch out

for your traditions

because they negate the commandment

of god

what tradition does is get you into a


and when the demons see you’re in a rut

and it can’t be substantiated by the

word of god

they can steer you away from god because

you mad about the tradition

when the tradition wasn’t from god in

the first place

and then there’s legalism

another ism one day as we grow all these

isms will be wasms

here’s another legalism

legalism is the misapplication

of god’s rules let me say that again

let me put it another way legalism

is pursuing rules at the expense of a


legalism says i’ve got to do these

things which are legitimate and let’s

take it the ten commandments

the ten commandments are called the law

the bible says the ten commandments are


so when a person says i’m trying to keep

the ten commandments

that’s a good statement but the problem


trying to keep the ten commandments

can’t help you

keep the ten commandments because

there’s no power

in the commandment the law can give you

the standard

but what the law can’t do is give you

the power to keep the standard

or even when you’re keeping the standard

if you’re doing it on a leash

you’re not happy that you have to keep

it and you keep it because you don’t

want the consequences for not keeping it

okay so it’s a whole different mindset


mindset and motivation that is

restricting you

but doesn’t necessarily change you

and you want you wind up being in this

mountain of misery

while trying all you can to obey god

i have so much joy

as i keep the ten commandments

why because you feel like you’re on a


because you religiously expected the


just like the ten commandments can’t get

you to heaven by keeping them

the ten commandments can’t change you on

earth because there’s no power in the


that is why paul says in galatians

chapter 3

verses 23 and 24 that the law was a

tutor to drive you to christ

he says because because in and of itself

it does not give you the power to do

what it tells you you better do

it just tells you what you better do and

the negative consequences for not doing


so it can tell you the problem it can’t

fix the problem

so what he’s talking about is this


of religion that does not change you

and so many of us go week after week

month after month

year after year and we would never miss

church if we didn’t have to

but we haven’t been changed we’re

thinking the same way acting the same

way walking the same way

james says in james 1 27 he says

true religion when it’s operating

people don’t talk like they used to talk

if there is no change demons have


your religion in spite of how much you

go to church read the bible

say grace pray and all the religious


why because the demons have infected

you’re at two tables

something about me or you or us


or collectively as a family has walked


from authentic christianity and either

we walk totally away or we try to do two

tables which is the same

as walking away from god

so where do we go with this where do we

where do we go with this

i wanted to establish at this point that

religion can be an idol because you’re

going through the motions you’re going


legitimate activity

but without the right motivation and

therefore you have invited demons

into your situation you can’t have both


james 4 1-10 he says draw draw near unto

me he says because as long as you

hanging out over there

he says you can’t have me as long as

long as you know you’re just doing this

religious thing you cannot have me

they were praying but he says you can’t

have me

you can’t have me unless it’s about me

if it’s not about a relationship with me

then it’s faulty religion and once it’s

fallen to religion

demons can seep in why are you praising


it’s got to be about me and what will

make oak cliff

great has nothing to do with buildings

and programs

but there are thousands of people who

want to make it about him

because once you make it about him

things change

he draws near because he sees it about

him god says

is it about me or do you just want to

show up because you want something


because what a lot of people in church

want to do is

use god they don’t want a relationship

with him

and they showed up don’t want to be

changed by him

so the word says philippians 3 1-3

paul tells the philippians he says watch

out for false religion

he says watch out for the false

circumcision because he says if you’re

going to be serious about this

he says you must worship god in spirit

not just with your body

suffering is an invitation to intimacy

it’s god is inviting you because you

know when you’re suffering

he gonna get more time with you because

things are not good so you need him more

so paul says it is the fellowship of his


so when i’m going through this this

we’re going through our time

of suffering or you’re going through

your time of suffering that is the time

to draw near because the situation

demands it

and so he’s calling on you and me not to

sit at two tables not to go

through this religious thing but he’s

after something deeper

where you’re now looking at things from

god’s perspective

religious activity without the goal of

spiritual intimacy

is like putting

ben gay on a broken leg you will feel

better but

nothing has changed you can come to

church and feel better

you can be inspired encouraged in all of


but if there is no change there is no


meaning god is not operating

no matter how good the sermon or the

service or the singing was

and all of that has its place all of

that is important

but it is important toward a bigger goal

and the goal is spiritual intimacy which

always leads to spiritual transformation

one of the reasons why we can’t get

things straight in our lives

where we can’t overcome addictions why

we can’t restore relationships

while we can’t deal with all the

pressure is because we are religious

without relationship

therefore there is no power there is no


everything you do must be driven now

by my goal that i might know him

so you start with the word okay god this

is what you said

then you go to prayer prayer

invites the holy spirit in to apply the


that you just agreed with now let me

explain something

if you don’t agree with the word you can

pray all you want the holy spirit is not

going to help

because the holy spirit is the spirit of

truth so he only

agrees with what the word says so when

you talk about

i think and it disagrees with this word

and you pray

you just hit the ceiling with your words


you take a step of faith that is you

act on the truth you said you agree with

you read it you agree with it you pray

for supernatural strength to implement


then you take a step walk by faith of


once you do that you have activated the

trinitarian god

to intervene into your situation the


calling down the holy spirit in prayer

then taking a step of faith

which shows you were serious about what

you said you agreed with

now you have invited god into your


the bible says when you go to the word

don’t go like a man

don’t go like a man in the bible days

they didn’t have mirrors

didn’t have mirrors that it’s glass

mirrors they had brass mirrors

whenever you see movies you will see

them use a brass mirror if it’s back

in biblical days because they didn’t

have been invented yet glass mirrors

so what they would do is they would take


piece of brass and keep moving it

until the light hit it right so they

could see themselves through the brass

so they had to keep moving it he says

don’t be like a man who looks in the


and doesn’t work with the mirror yeah he

just look

boom go no he says

when you go to my word be like a woman

not a man james one says don’t be like a


in other words be like a woman he says

you don’t go to god’s word

like that no you go to god’s word and

twist it a little bit turn it a little


and play with it a little bit so that

the spirit of god can emerge out of the


and begin to sink down in your heart and

begin to sink down in your soul

so that you are affected by the word and

infected with the word

he says when that happens

you will be transformed he’s no longer a

theology or a thought

or a concept he’s now the living god

that you can testify for yourself

so i challenge you and me and us all of


to kick religion to the curb i’m talking


illegitimate religion i’m talking about

the religion that doesn’t change you the

religion that makes you narcissistic so

you don’t serve people who can’t do

anything for you in return james 1 27

says you come to worship selfish instead

of worship service it’s a whole


framework and if if

we could get hundreds and thousands of

people thinking like this and operating

like this

god will be free to blow our minds


as he blows your mind individually

there was a man who was driving a train


and he was coming to a drawbridge and he

looked at the flag

this is years ago because the flag would

tell him whether it’s safe to keep going

or whether he had to stop

the bridge engineer was waving the flag

the train went and fell off into

the river 18 people died true story

but the conductor lived the conductor

and the engineer connected with each


and he said why didn’t you stop

i was waving the red flag that means


i kept waving the red flag stop but you

wouldn’t stop

the train engineer said no you waved the

white flag

you waved the white flag they said no

i waved the red flag it says stop stop

he says no i saw the white flag which

means to keep going

so they went and got the flag

the flag was red but faded

so from a distance it looked white now

it was red

but the red had faded so when the

train driver saw it he thought he was

looking at white

and kept going

don’t let religion fade the red blood of

jesus christ

don’t be faded don’t just settle for


you wave the red flag he was wounded for

your transgressions

bruised for your iniquities the

chastisement of his peace

was upon him by his stripes we’re healed

the blood of jesus christ

our savior and his almighty father god

that’s your focus i want to know him

don’t let folk go into disaster because

you got a faded faith

because you’re talking red but you

you’re looking white

so people don’t know where you’re coming

from because you haven’t stood strong

for your faith i challenge us


me and you individually let’s kick

religion to the curb

and let’s make it about a relationship

with the true

and living god


this message in our series on american



of religion of using god

to create another god by leaving

him out his perspective out his desires

out his standards out but still

inculcating his name

and inculcating his rituals god does not

want to be

defined by who we say

he is or what we say he wants

he wants to be defined by who he says he


and by what he says he wants

we must always watch and keep ourselves

from being tricked

that just because we are engaged in

religious ritual

that we’re worshiping the true god we

could be worshiping a

false god and using religion

to camouflage our idolatry