Matthew 16:6 (ESV) Jesus said to them, “Watch and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”
Jesus called their teaching “leaven” because it added no substance, life, or value to the church. Instead, it was puffed up with religious pride, promoting the 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 (ESV) 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 but were bound by religious spirits and 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 religious spirits 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 religious spirits resist any doctrine that challenges them and calls for change and repentance. Those bound by religious spirits are easily offended and quick to defend their theological positions.
Our imputed righteousness is one of the foundational truths that solidify 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 particular truth because it is the foundational message of the gospel. He knows that if we ever find out who we are, we will destroy his works just like Jesus did. (1 John 3:8)
Here are some of the tell-tale signs of 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 that goes through the motions without being intimate with the Father.
- 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 that I have been guilty of all 12 items on this list, and I am sure there are other indicators of which I am unaware. I am grateful the Lord has been patient with me, giving me time to repent. It was not until I humbled myself and sought intimacy with the Lord that freedom came. Intimacy with the Lord will transform us quicker than anything.
Without intimacy with God, breaking free from a religious spirit can be challenging and virtually impossible to stay free. A lifestyle of intimacy with Him is the best first step toward freedom in any area.
We don’t reproduce without intimacy. If we are not intimate with our Lord, we won’t produce the fruit of who He is in our lives. Let us ensure we cultivate a close relationship with God first, so we can lead others to do the same.
Intimacy with the Father is a motive purifier and an identity clarifier, our best protection against the deceptions of religious spirits.
Quoted from the book, The Spiritual Warfare Manifesto
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