Recognizing a Religious Spirit
If you grew up in church or have any religious experiences, you probably have some religious filters that frame your thoughts. I certainly do, because as a "preacher's kid" I spent all of my childhood in church--Sunday morning, Sunday night, midweek service, youth service, and special services! Those experiences give us a religious mindset that, as Kingdom citizens, we work to change through the understanding that Jesus came to reintroduce the Kingdom of God which is the government of Heaven. That is a process through studying God's Constitution and listening and being led by the Holy Spirit, our Governor. Keep in mind, a religious spirit is a demonic spirit sent to attempt to deceive and hide the truth of God's Kingdom under religion. People may be used by this spirit out of their discouragement, frustration and disappointment over other people's lack of faith and commitment. Their self-righteousness makes them vulnerable. But how can we recognize when we, or others, are being influenced or controlled by a religious spirit and not just having a religious mindset?
A religious spirit is controlling, usurping our God given free will.
From the beginning of creation, the Lord God gave mankind the freedom to choose right or choose wrong. He could very easily have made us unable to disobey Him but He wants us to freely choose His way over the wants of our flesh and sins of this world. But the Lord God warned him, “You may freely eat the fruit of every tree in the garden—except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If you eat its fruit, you are sure to die.” Genesis 2:16-17 ~~~ Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live! You can make this choice by loving the Lord your God, obeying Him, and committing yourself firmly to Him. This is the key to your life. And if you love and obey the Lord, you will live long in the land the Lord swore to give your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Deuteronomy 30:19-20 The religious spirit wants your obedience and submission. It tells you what you should and shouldn't do, then tries to make you comply. If you don't, the religious spirit will dole out punishment--chastising, shunning, embarrassing, lecturing--for your disobedience.
A religious spirit is easily angered when people don't comply.
In my experience, a religious spirit's strongest emotion is anger, always ready to come out. You've probably seen pastors who always sound angry when they preach. A famous historical sermon by Jonathan Edwards comes to mind, "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God". A religious spirit wants to make you "holy" by submitting to their will rather than cultivating your self control, which is a fruit of the Spirit. Anger and rage are tools used to control people. And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, He has identified you as His own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you. Ephesians 4:30-32 ~~~ Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires. James 1:19-20
A religious spirit is a contrary, argumentative spirit.
A religious spirit is always ready for an argument, always ready to debate when they disagree. Apologetics is a religious concept and has no place in the Lord God's Kingdom government. Don't take the "bait". Arguments are pointless and change no one's mind. They only produce anger. What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Don’t they come from the evil desires at war within you? James 4:1 ~~~ Do not get involved in foolish discussions about spiritual pedigrees or in quarrels and fights about obedience to Jewish laws. These things are useless and a waste of time. If people are causing divisions among you, give a first and second warning. After that, have nothing more to do with them. For people like that have turned away from the truth, and their own sins condemn them. Titus 3:9-11 ~~~ Some people may contradict our teaching, but these are the wholesome teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. These teachings promote a godly life. Anyone who teaches something different is arrogant and lacks understanding. Such a person has an unhealthy desire to quibble over the meaning of words. This stirs up arguments ending in jealousy, division, slander, and evil suspicions. These people always cause trouble. Their minds are corrupt, and they have turned their backs on the truth. To them, a show of godliness is just a way to become wealthy. 1 Timothy 6:3-5
A religious spirit grows weeds of the flesh not fruits of the Spirit.
What is the fruit in the life of the person you think is being influenced by a religious spirit? But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! Galatians 5:22-23 ~~~ Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves. You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. So every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire. Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions. Matthew 7:15-20 Be aware!
Study the life and teachings of our Lord Jesus in the four Gospels. It is a blueprint for what is expected of Kingdom citizens. Jesus never told them to convince, coerce or lecture them into submission. He never told them how to control the people. Jesus sent out the twelve apostles with these instructions: “Don’t go to the Gentiles or the Samaritans, but only to the people of Israel—God’s lost sheep. Go and announce to them that the Kingdom of Heaven is near. Heal the sick, raise the dead, cure those with leprosy, and cast out demons. Give as freely as you have received!"
"Don’t take any money in your money belts—no gold, silver, or even copper coins. Don’t carry a traveler’s bag with a change of clothes and sandals or even a walking stick. Don’t hesitate to accept hospitality, because those who work deserve to be fed."
“Whenever you enter a city or village, search for a worthy person and stay in his home until you leave town. When you enter the home, give it your blessing. If it turns out to be a worthy home, let your blessing stand; if it is not, take back the blessing. If any household or town refuses to welcome you or listen to your message, shake its dust from your feet as you leave. I tell you the truth, the wicked cities of Sodom and Gomorrah will be better off than such a town on the judgment day. Matthew 10:5-15
Religion has never been a friend of Jesus. Remember, it was not the government who crucified Jesus, but the religious leaders.
Pilate went outside again and said to the people, “I am going to bring Him out to you now, but understand clearly that I find Him not guilty.” Then Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. And Pilate said, “Look, here is the man!”
When they saw Him, the leading priests and Temple guards began shouting, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!”
“Take Him yourselves and crucify Him,” Pilate said. “I find Him not guilty.”
The Jewish leaders replied, “By our law He ought to die because He called himself the Son of God.”
When Pilate heard this, he was more frightened than ever. . .Then Pilate tried to release Him, but the Jewish leaders shouted, “If you release this man, you are no ‘friend of Caesar.’ Anyone who declares himself a king is a rebel against Caesar.”
When they said this, Pilate brought Jesus out to them again. Then Pilate sat down on the judgment seat on the platform that is called the Stone Pavement (in Hebrew, Gabbatha). It was now about noon on the day of preparation for the Passover. And Pilate said to the people, “Look, here is your king!”
“Away with Him,” they yelled. “Away with Him! Crucify Him!”
“What? Crucify your king?” Pilate asked.
“We have no king but Caesar,” the leading priests shouted back.
Then Pilate turned Jesus over to them to be crucified. John 19:5-8, 12-16
So Christ has truly set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law. Galatians 5:1
All scriptures are NLT unless otherwise noted.
(Also published on kingdomcitizens.org)
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