Romans 5:5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
One of Satan’s most deceptive attacks is to pervert the love of God and the expression of the kingdom of God that has been sown in our hearts. One of the ways he does this is through religious spirits.
A religious spirit holds to form, tradition, and the letter of the law, instead of embracing the spirit of the law. We see clear examples of this in the Pharisees and Sadducees. A religious spirit renders the Church weak and powerless by quenching the Holy Spirit’s ministry through believers and replacing it with a works mentality. It promotes a slave/servant mentality instead of a son/daughter mentality. It causes us to serve God FOR approval instead of serving Him from a place OF approval.
Unfortunately, most of the Church is in some form of bondage to these religious spirits.
Knowing God and understanding who we are in Him hinges on our understanding of love.
By twisting our beliefs and perverting our ideas of who and what love is, the devil keeps us from truly knowing God and therefore prevents us from understanding who we are in Him. Satan consistently attacks our identity as sons and daughters of God through attacking our revelation and understanding of who and what Love is. The devil attacks us on this front through religious spirits.
A religious spirit is manifest in many ways, but one of the most obvious is to substitute religious activity for the demonstration of the kingdom of God and the true power of the Holy Spirit. A religious spirit finds its expression in “the leaven” of false teachings and doctrines of devils.
Matthew 16:6 Jesus said to them, “Watch and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”
Jesus called their teaching “leaven” because it adds no substance, life, or value to the church. Instead, their teachings were puffed up with religious pride, promoting traditions of men and focusing on works and religious activity. It holds to a form of godliness but denies the power of the Holy Spirit. (2 Timothy 3:1-7)
Many times, a religious spirit will attach itself to us even though we love God and are zealous for God and His kingdom. Look at what Paul said about his Jewish brothers.
Romans 10:2-4 For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. 3 For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. 4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.
Just because someone has a religious spirit does not mean they don’t love God. The Jewish people prayed, fasted, and read the scriptures more than anyone. They were zealous for God and the coming Messiah, yet they were so deceived by religious spirits that they did not recognize Jesus when He came. They opposed Him in His ministry and eventually killed him. This gives us an idea of how blinding and deceptive a religious spirit can be.
Notice in the above passage that their “zeal was not according to knowledge,” and they were ignorant (no knowledge) of the righteousness of God. Ignorance is easily fixed in most cases, but a religious spirit resists any doctrine that challenges them and calls for change and repentance. Those bound by religious spirits are easily offended and quick to defend their doctrinal positions.
Our imputed righteousness is one of the foundational truths that solidifies our identity in Christ. Without an understanding of righteousness, we will not submit to it. Without submission to righteousness our identity as sons and daughters will never become clear. Satan fights desperately to keep us from this truth. He knows that if we ever find out who we are, we will destroy his works just like Jesus did. (1 John 3:8)
2 Corinthians 5:21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
We must BECOME the righteousness of God while being patient with those afflicted with religious spirits, giving them time to gain understanding and repent. This does not mean we should endorse, support, or tolerate their ministry while we are being patient with them. The Lord even gave Jezebel “time to repent” (Revelation 2:20-21) yet He still rebuked the church for tolerating her.
Here are some of the signs that expose a religious spirit:
- A belief that our ministry is to expose others and their “false doctrines.”
- Pride in our spiritual maturity or our giftings.
- Living in condemnation and shame, believing we will never measure up to God’s standards.
- A mechanical prayer life or devotional time that goes through the motions without being intimate with Him.
- Glorying in what God has done in the past more than what He is doing now.
- Doing things so people will notice.
- Overreacting to those who are immature in the Lord.
- Overreacting to carnality in the church.
- Engaging in emotionalism and calling it the Holy Spirit.
- Inability to take correction from peers or leaders.
- A tendency to reject any manifestation of the Holy Spirit we don’t understand.
- Knowing a lot about God, but not knowing Him intimately.
I must confess, I have been guilty of all 12 items on this list. I am grateful the Lord is patient with me, giving me time to repent. It was not until I really humbled myself and sought intimacy with the Lord that freedom came. Intimacy will transform us quicker than anything.
Without intimacy with God, it can be difficult to break free from a religious spirit and impossible to stay free. A lifestyle of intimacy with Him is the best first step I believe.
We don’t reproduce without intimacy. If we are not intimate with our Lord, we won’t reproduce the fruit of who He is in our lives. Let us make sure we are cultivating an intimate relationship with God first so we can lead others to do the same.
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