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Drop the Religious Spirit

By Scott, Delve Christian Ministries
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What is the religious spirit? Does it sound like something good? Something that is respectable, or helpful, or holy? It is often found throughout much of the Church today, but is that a good thing? I’ll say it now: it is not. The religious spirit is dangerous, deadly, and demonic. Now, that’s saying a lot, so let me begin to unpack that.

Let me begin by describing what the religious spirit is. It is the thing that causes people to work for their salvation. It is the source of all self-righteousness, and a key factor behind pride and arrogance in Christians. It is the thing that makes Christians separate themselves from the world to protect their own holiness - separation from them, those “sinners”. It focuses on religiosity, respectability, and ritual. It looks at outward behaviour and appearances. It is devoid of grace, instead calling for immediate judgement. There is no love in it - only hate. Does it sound familiar? It should, because it is a common struggle of the Church today, and it is exactly what Jesus criticized the Pharisees for.

So where do we see the religious spirit in the Church today? We see it when people put more focus on the style of worship than on the purpose of worship. We see it when people are expected to dress up for Church, to the point where someone coming in from the street is shunned for their attire. We see it when churches hunker down, preaching hellfire for sinners, hiding behind their walls instead of reaching out to the lost. We see it when more of an emphasis is placed on respectable behaviour than on actual heart transformation. When offerings are thrown into the plate on Sundays out of obligation or fear, instead of thanksgiving and joy. When going to church on Sunday morning is something done in order to appear good, rather than because they want to spend time connecting to God and his people. It is seen when God is treated as a slavemaster or cruel judge, instead of a perfect, good, loving Father.

Ultimately, the religious spirit comes from the enemy. Satan loves religion - he hates sincere relationships with God. He does everything he can to stagnate the Church, fill it with ritual, cut out the love, and make it cold. It is exactly the problem that the Ephesian church had. Jesus says to them, “I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.” Revelation 2:4-5. The danger is clear - if a church does not have love, it will die. Satan is many cases completely ignores churches that are full of religion but lose Jesus, letting them fail. These churches age over time, scaring away young members and blocking out new members. The religious spirit kills churches, and Satan loves it.

On a personal level, the religious spirit is equally deadly. It can fill a Christian will pride and self-righteousness. The “holiness” that results is purely outwards, designed to impress men. It creates the idea that works and good deeds bring salvation - not faith in Jesus, salvation through grace alone. It builds walls between people, cutting off love and fellowship. Or, the religious spirit can work in another way. It can fill a Christian with fear. In churches filled with religion instead of love, Christians can get the idea that God is angry with them. That he desires punishment for them, and is very displeased with them. They get filled with guilt, depressed, and worried. They can doubt their salvation. The enemy uses this as an opportunity to fill them with lies. Ultimately, they may leave the church because they don’t connect with their Father, and the body of Christ around them is filled with judgement and condescension.

So what can be done to combat the religious spirit? What can replace it? The Holy Spirit. To get rid of an evil spirit, one must be filled with God’s Spirit. Prayer is of utmost importance here. We must be constantly communicating with our Father. The Holy Spirit in us - and he does dwell in us if we believe in Christ - helps us to do this. We must ask for the Holy Spirit to work in us each day, removing our pride, cutting out our fear, filling us with love and boldness. The Holy Spirit is the perfect remedy for the evil of the religious spirit. And we know that God is far more powerful than anything in the world, so we can have faith that God will fill us with faith and love if we ask him.

God desires to have fellowship with his people, not religion. He is a Father, not a slavemaster. He wants us to be filled with love, not ritual and self-righteousness. The Holy Spirit works in us to make us more like Jesus, who himself forcefully opposed the religious spirit he found in the Pharisees of his day. God does not want fear and punishment to be what we focus on. We need to focus on Jesus, and the love that God has for his children. The religious spirit is a disease in the Church today, but God is a healer, and a fighter. This is a fight that can be won, a plague that can be cured. So pray. Pray hard. Pray with sincerity, with love for your Father in heaven. He hears you. Don’t be filled with the religious spirit, but the Holy Spirit.

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This is an awesome word.Thank you for sharing this.I look forward to more posts from you.God bless you.
8/9/2013 2:55:45 PM - bets, Member of Delve into Jesus since 8/9/2013

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