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An Active Threat to the Church...Today!

One of the main battles that Christians face in our world is the Religious Spirit, or a Spirit of Religion, yeah. It’s the same thing. It depends on what you choose to call it. Almost every Christian on the planet has to battle this spirit to one degree or another. Many churches can and do have this spirit, and it’s celebrated as being a good thing. That’s the deception it brings though. It FEELS like a good thing. It looks good too. The excitement of serving the Lord, but it’s a major trap for Christians.

A religious spirit is a type of demonic spirit that influences a person, or group of people, to replace a genuine relationship with God with works and traditions. When people operate out of a religious spirit they attempt to earn salvation. This evil spirit has established nonbiblical beliefs and customs for generations. Yet, as Believers, we shouldn’t turn a blind eye to the work of the religious spirit. It is lurking around attempting to cause judgment and destruction among Believers and in the Body of Church.

We know the enemy is an angel of light, attempting to counterfeit any of God’s good and perfect gifts, in efforts to cause chaos, confusion, shame, and guilt. He does this with the work of the religious spirit.

“For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light.”—2 Corinthians 11:13-14

This religious spirit is out to imitate the work of the Holy Spirit. We must be clear that no matter how hard Satan tries to forge the work of the Holy Spirit, he cannot. But he can cause great confusion and deception. The good news is, when you seek to be led by the Holy Spirit, you will be able to identify and deal with this bitter and hypocritical spirit.

There are a number of trademarks of the religious spirit. But the Holy Spirit has equipped us with God’s full armor. You can identify this spirit and overcome it!

How does a religious spirit manifest?

A religious spirit can manifest in different ways. It often uses a person’s history and circumstances to afflict internal whispers of judgment and pressure to perform. These infectious lies plant seeds of false righteousness and holiness.

These seeds bare bitter fruit. Eventually, the person who is operating in the religious spirit harbors resentment. This leads to a multitude of destructive thoughts and behaviors.

Let’s look at ways this spirit wages war against the grace and power of God in a Believer’s life:

  • Concerns with outside appearances of being holy and righteous— This spirit deceives those in the Church into thinking if they act like a Christian it replaces the need of Christ in their lives. These are dangerous thoughts. Pride slowly starts to creep in and puffs up the Believer thoughts and actions. This blocks the blessing of an intimate relationship with God.
“…God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”—James 4:6

  • Attempts to earn God’s love and salvation— Even though a Believer could know the truth of our Savior, this spirit suggests to the mind that they must earn God’s love with their actions. Pressure is turned on and thus builds, causing feelings of guilt, shame and doubt.
“For it is by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not by works, lest anyone should boast.”—Ephesians 2:8-9

  • Craves a position of honor in the Church— Closely related to pride, this spirit drives Believers to seek positions in the Church or ministry where they will be recognized and commended. As a result, the Believer becomes isolated, because he or she is more focused on tasks and praise than honoring God and thinking of others.
“Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.”—Philippians 2:3-4

  • Develops a harsh, judgmental attitude toward others— This spirit will skillfully mutter words of judgment toward others in a Believer’s life. This voice will become louder and louder until he or she feels completely justified to place blame and accuse their brethren. This, like the position of honor, isolates the Believer and can blind them of their own weaknesses.
“…First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”—Matthew 7:5

  • Becomes ridged and refuses change— A religious spirit rejects any revelation that calls for a change. Because of the pride that has crept in, a Believer thinks they know what is best. They are often closed off to any other ideas or thoughts of moving forward when the Holy Spirit begins to speak.
“…He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”—Romans 8:3-4
These are only a few ways the religious spirit manifests itself in a Believer. If there is bitter fruit of pride, self-righteousness, anger and resentment, the religious spirit is actively seeking more ways to cause chaos.

25 Warning Signs of a Religious Spirit

People with a religious spirit:

1. Will often see their primary mission as the tearing down of whatever they believe is wrong. Such a person's ministry will result more in division and destruction than in lasting works that are bearing fruit for the kingdom.

2. Will be unable to accept a rebuke, especially from those they judge to be less spiritual than themselves. Think back on how you responded the last few times someone tried to correct you.

3. Will have a philosophy that, "I will not listen to people, but only to God." Since God frequently speaks through people, this is an obvious delusion, revealing serious spiritual pride.

4. Will be inclined to see more of what is wrong with other people, other churches, etc., than what is right with them. From the valley John saw Babylon, but when he was carried to a high mountain, he saw the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:10). If we are only seeing Babylon, it is because of our perspective. Those who are in a place of true vision will have their attention on what God is doing, not men.

5. Will be subject to an overwhelming feeling of guilt that they can never measure up to the Lord's standards. This is a root of the religious spirit because it causes us to base our relationship with Him on our performance rather than on the cross. Jesus has already measured up for us; He is the completed work that the Father is seeking to accomplish within us. Our whole goal in life should be simply to abide in Him.

6. Will keep score on their spiritual life. This includes feeling better about ourselves because we go to more meetings, read our Bibles more, do more things for the Lord, etc. These are all noble endeavors, but the true measure of spiritual maturity is getting closer to the Lord.

7. Will believe that they have been appointed to fix everyone else. These persons become the self-appointed watchmen, or sheriffs, in God's kingdom. They are seldom involved in building, but serve only to keep the church in a state of annoyance and agitation, if not causing serious divisions.

8. Will have a leadership style which is bossy, overbearing and intolerant of the weakness or failure of others. James said: "But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace" (James 3:17-18).

9. Will have a sense that they are closer to God than other people, or that their lives or ministries are more pleasing to Him. This is a symptom of the profound delusion that we draw closer to God because of who we are, rather than through Jesus.

10. Will take pride in their spiritual maturity and discipline, especially as compared to others. True spiritual maturity involves growing up into Christ. When we begin to compare ourselves to others, it is obvious that we have lost sight of the true goal—Jesus.

11. Will believe that they are on the "cutting edge" of what God is doing. This includes thinking that we are involved in the most important thing that God is doing.

12. Will have a mechanical prayer life. When we start feeling relief when our prayer time is over or we have prayed through our prayer list, we should consider our condition. We will never feel relief when our conversations are over with the one we love.

13. Will do things in order to be noticed by people. This is a symptom of the idolatry of fearing people more than we fear God, which results in a religion that serves men instead of God.

14. Will be overly repulsed by emotionalism. When people who are subject to a religious spirit encounter the true life of God, it will usually appear to them to be excessive, emotional and carnal. True passion for God is often emotional and demonstrative, such as David exemplified when he brought the ark of God into Jerusalem (see II Samuel 6:14-16).

15. Will use emotionalism as a substitute for the work of the Holy Spirit. This seems contradictory to the previous point, but the religious spirit will often take contradictory positions in its drive for self-preservation and exaltation. This use of emotionalism would include such things as requiring weeping and wailing as evidence of repentance, or "falling under the power" as evidence that one has been touched by God. Both of these can be evidences of the true work of the Holy Spirit; it is when we require these manifestations that we are beginning to move in another spirit.

During the First Great Awakening, Jonathan Edwards' meetings would often have some of the toughest, most rebellious men falling to the ground and staying there for up to 24 hours. They got up changed, and such strange manifestations of the Holy Spirit fueled the Great Awakenings. Even so, Edwards stated that people faking the manifestations did more to bring an end to the Great Awakening than the enemies of the revival!

16. Will be encouraged when their ministries look better than others. We could include in this being discouraged when it seems that others are looking better or growing faster than we are.

17. Will glory more in what God did in the past than in what He is doing in the present.God has not changed; He is the same yesterday, today and forever. The veil has been removed, and we can be as close to God today as anyone ever has been in the past. A religious spirit will always seek to focus our attention on works and on making comparisons, rather than on simply drawing closer to the Lord.

18. Will tend to be suspicious of, or to oppose, new movements, churches, etc. This is an obvious symptom of jealousy, a primary fruit of the religious spirit, or the pride that asserts that God would not do anything new without doing it through us. Of course, those with such a mentality are seldom used by the Lord to birth new works.

19. Will tend to reject spiritual manifestations that they do not understand. This is a symptom of the pride and arrogance of presuming that our opinions are the same as God's. True humility keeps us teachable and open, patiently waiting for fruit before making judgments. True discernment enables us to look for and hope for the best, not the worst. For this reason, we are exhorted to "examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good [not what is bad]" (I Thessalonians 5:21).

20. Will overreact to carnality in the church. The truth is, there is probably far more carnality in the church, and a lot less of the Holy Spirit, than even the most critical person has guessed. It is important that we learn to discern between them in order to be delivered from our carnality and grow in our submission to the Holy Spirit. But the critical person will annihilate those who may still be 60% carnal, but were 95% carnal last year. Instead, we need to recognize that people are making progress, and do what we can to help them along the way.

21. Will overreact to immaturity in the church. There is an immaturity that is acceptable to the Lord. My two-year-old is immature when compared to my nine- year-old, but that is to be expected. In fact, he may be very mature for a two-year-old. The idealistic religious spirit only sees the immaturity, without considering the other important factors.

22. Will be overly prone to view supernatural manifestations as evidence of God's approval.This is just another form of keeping score and comparing ourselves with others. Some of Jesus' greatest miracles, such as walking on water, were seen by only a few. He was doing His works to glorify the Father, not Himself. Those who use the evidence of miracles to promote and build their own ministries and reputations have made a serious departure from the path of life.

23. Will be unable to join anything that they do not deem perfect or nearly perfect. The Lord joined, and even gave His life for, the fallen human race. Such is the nature of those who abide in Him.

24. Will be overly paranoid of the religious spirit. We do not get free of something by fearing it, but by overcoming it with faith in Christ Jesus.

25. Will have the tendency to glory in anything but the cross of Jesus, what He has accomplished, and who He is. If we are building our lives, ministries or churches on anything but these, we are building on a shaky foundation that will not stand.

We are probably all subject to the religious spirit to at least some degree. Paul exhorted: "Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith" (II Corinthians 13:5). First, He did not say to "test your neighbor" or to "test your pastor," but to test "yourselves." Using this test to measure others can be a symptom that we have a serious problem.

Yup. This is a cut and paste from two sources, except for the first paragraph.

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