SPIRIT OF RELIGION
When we mention the word spirit, various connotations come to mind. For some, they will think of demons, exorcism, and power struggle. Others will brush it off as fake, an overreaction, and not worth a second thought. Neither of these extremes is healthy, helpful, or Biblical.
Throughout scripture, we see the reality that there are spiritual beings. God, Himself is Spirit (John 4:24). There are angels, and there are demons. These angels have met with humans since the Old Testament and during the New Testament. Furthermore, Jesus and His disciples consistently cast out demons.
The Apostle Paul explains, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12).
We think of witchcraft as a demonically infested sin and it is most certainly that, however, it is important to note that witchcraft begins not as a sin of the spirit but as a sin of the flesh and religion is very appealing to our flesh. A religious spirit is the “leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees” (Matthew 16:6) of which the Lord warned His disciples to beware.
When a religious spirit is influencing us we replace religious activity for the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives. In fact, the religious spirit is Satan’s answer for the Holy Spirit. The religious spirit so closely mimics the Holy Spirit that many sincere believers think the Holy Spirit is leading them when in fact it is really a religious spirit.
Religion allows us to stay in control therefore it feels safe to our flesh because it tells us what to do externally and when we do it, our conscience is deceived by feelings of doing right. This replaces the inner peace of the Holy Spirit that comes from being in right relationship with the Lord. We become focused on doing instead of being Spirit led; doing replaces our relationship with God, we no longer are abiding in Christ nor can we walk in love. The ultimate goal of the religious spirit is to cut us off from a real and vital relationship with the Lord Himself.
Religion allures us with the false promise that we can be spiritual, but in the end it leaves you tired and burned out. Anytime I start giving in to the temptation of being in control and playing it safe it is not long before my spiritual life and ministry start feeling stagnant, lifeless and burdensome. I am deceived into thinking that the things of the Spirit are heavy and intense and I start acting and ministering from heaviness instead of the heavenly. I stop serving the Lord with gladness (Deut 28:47).
One of the ways we overcome the religious spirit is to make our flesh our slaves (1 Cor 9:27) and that includes our minds. It has been said that the mind is a great servant, but a terrible master. If we allow our minds to rule us, a religious spirit will influence us.
What Jesus Had to Say About It ?
While living on earth, Jesus addressed crowds that included the general population, Pharisees and teachers of the Law. During His famous teaching, the Sermon on the Mount, in Matthew 5-7, He corrects several misunderstandings. Mainly, this involves the statement, “Unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the Kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20).
Jesus desires righteousness that goes down deep to the heart. He wants righteousness to begin inward and reflect outward. Good actions and abstaining from sin are the fruit of a purified heart that is holy to the Lord. Keyword: it is the fruit. Meaning, good deeds, and actions are the results of the tree of life being cultivated within an individual.