Kimberly Daniels

B. Childress
Aug 7 2009 08:00 AM

The terms "spirit of religion" and "religious spirit" are commonly spoken from church pulpits today.  The operation of the
religious spirit cannot be categorized by a person's denomination, race or the way that person dances or is dressed in a
church service.  The truth is that the religious spirit operates in virtually every setting where the gospel is preached.  It is
a spirit that is assigned to distract people from the truth by making them think that where they are is okay.


As believers, if we are not watchful, we can easily slip into religiosity.  Religiosity can be any form of repetition.  I often
joke that I used to "religiously" go to the crack house.  I thank God for making me sensitive to the bondage of addiction.  
I needed a radical change.  Some people only go to church because they are religiously addicted.  They also need a
radical change.

In some groups "religion" has even become a bad word.  Biblically speaking, however, there is such a thing as genuine
religion.  James wrote,

    If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's
    religion is in vain.  Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and
    widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world (James 1:26-27, KJV).

This word "pure," in James 1:26, in
katharos in Greek, and it also means "clean" and "clear."  Something that is pure is
clean inside and out.  The problem with the spirit of religion is that it only focuses on the outside of a person; the inside
remains the same.  Second Timothy 3:1-5 (
KJV) describes what I am talking about perfectly.  These verses read,

    This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.  For men shall be lovers of their own selves,
    covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection,
    trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, high-minded,
    lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from
    such turn away.


The Bible says that we can recognize a tree by the fruit that it bears (see Matthew 12:33-37).  So II Timothy 3:1-5 can
help us understand how to recognize the religious spirit.  This passage lists what I believe to be 19 manifestations of the
religious spirit in the lives of people in the Church.  It would be easy to think that these manifestations occur in people
who do not profess to be followers of Christ, but I personally take the position that these manifestations occur in people
within the Church.  One reason is because these people are described as "having a form of godliness" (verse 5).  
People who are influenced by the religious spirit preach the gospel, but they do not live it.  And they deny the true
power of God, rendering their religion powerless.


I believe that the spirit of religion is responsible for taking millions of people to hell.  According to Isaiah, God's people
were destroyed (sent into captivity) because they had "no knowledge" (Isaiah 5:13).  They were deceived into believing
they could count on gods and spirits other than the true God.  Later, this passage goes on to say, "Hell hath enlarged
herself, and opened her mouth without measure" (verse 14,

There are many warnings in the Bible against the spirit of religion.  I find it very interesting that II Timothy 3:1-7 speaks
of people who are under the influence of the religious spirit and that the next verse touches on witchcraft.  This verse of
Scripture talks about Jannes and Jambres, two magicians in the court of Pharaoh (according to Jewish tradition) who
attempted to compare their power to the power of God (see Exodus 7:11).  In the New Testament, there are continual
warnings against false teachers and false religion (see II Corinthians 11:13,26; Galatians 2:4; Philippians 3:2).  The
Bible recognizes that purveyors of false religion may appear religious and may even accomplish miracles.  But if they
lead people away from the one true God, they are to be shunned (see Deuteronomy 18:9-17).

In Galatians 5:19-20, witchcraft is listed as one of the "works of the flesh" (
KJV) or "acts of the sinful nature" (NIV).  In
the New Testament, the words "witchcraft" and "sorcery" come from the Greek word
Pharmakeia, and can include the
administering of drugs, poisoning or practicing magical arts.  Witchcraft is an attempt to contact, control, or manipulate
supernatural beings or powers, or the spirits of the dead, through various incantations, spells and occult practices.  It
can appear as innocent spiritual forms and practices, or it can appear as dark and anti-God.  Either way, the spirit of
religion seeks to keep people from the knowledge of Jesus and the gospel.


Let me give you an example.  Recently a young lady came to our midweek service.  I noticed that her hair was falling out
of her head from the roots.  We prayed for her sister, and then we invited her to the altar also.  Sarcastically, she told
me that she did not need prayer.  She also told me that I needed to go to her church with her.  When she mentioned the
name of her church, my prayer team alerted me that it was a local cult.  This group sells prophecies, but they call their
organization a church.  The foundation of their ministry approach is through religious repetition.  For example, they may
tell a person to drink a glass of water out of a cup for seven days for a financial blessing.  Another popular scheme is to
wear a T-shirt backward for a week to a courtroom in order to be given a lesser sentence.  The scary part of all this is
that people are getting results.  The people would not continue to go back if it did not appear to be working.

Things like this may work but they are demonically orchestrated.  Ecclesiastes 10:8 teaches that if a hedge is broken, a
serpent will bite.  There is a thin line between darkness and light.  (Our spiritual discernment must be sharp enough not
to cross the perimeters of God).  The Hebrew word for "bite" can also be translated as "to oppress with interest on a
loan."  People may get their temporary fixes through the dark side, but there is a high interest rate in the end.  False
ministers using the power of the spirit of religion give people accurate prophecies and formulas  for every problem they
have, but the end of it all is death.

The young lady in my midweek service began to brag about her religious leaders and how they could predict things in
her life.  She bragged that her boyfriend's court case was dropped after these leaders had prophesied.  They also told
her that her boyfriend would never leave her if she read a certain psalm every day and took spiritual baths.  The Holy
Spirit led me to minister to her prophetically.  I told her that God showed me that she was prostituting for her boyfriend
and that he had beaten her many times.  I prophesied that God did not want him in her life because he was a womanizer
and cared nothing about her.  She broke down into tears, and my team began to minister deliverance to her.  We broke
the religious witchcraft off of her life!


Why am I focusing on a case like this that many believers will never consciously experience?  It is simple:  Because in
the eyes of God, all strongholds of religious form - from legalism to religious cults - are serious.  The example of
Hymenaeus and Philetus illustrate the seriousness with which God views strongholds.  Though Hymenaeus and Philetus
were in the Church, their words became like cancer when they erred concerning the truth (see II Timothy 2:17-18).  
These two men were religious leaders in the Church, but, just like Jannes and Jambres, they were on their way to hell.  
First Timothy 1:20 says that Hymenaeus and Alexander were delivered to Satan so that they would learn not to

When it comes to recognizing witchcraft, many believers do not have a clue.  As a result, religious forms of witchcraft
operate undetected in the house of the Lord.  Whether the witchcraft reveals itself in the controlling spirit of an insecure
leader or in the sorcery of a magician in a black cape, it is all the same in the eyes of God.

In the Bible, the difference between a true act of God and its counterfeit was clear.  For example, the power of God was
demonstrated as being superior to that of the Egyptians when Moses' snake swallowed the snakes of Pharaoh's
magicians (see Exodus 7:10-12).  And in I Kings 18:20-40, Elijah put the prophets of Baal to open shame in order that
the people could see the difference between God and Baal and decide whom they would follow.  Many in the Church
have never been taught the difference between witchcraft and the works of God because witchcraft is seldom
challenged in the house of the Lord.  The result is that people can end up seeing the things of the devil and saying,
"Thank You, Jesus!"  simply because what they see is religious.


Ephesians 3:20 says that with the same measure of power that works in us, God does great things.  Religion denies this
power to individual believers, leaving them bound by forms.  A generation of people who are bound by forms will
eventually become a generation who run after signs.  Such a generation Jesus called "evil and adulterous" (Matthew 12:
39). He also referred to these people as hypocrites and said that they could not "discern the signs of the times"  
(Matthew 16:3).  People who have a form of godliness and no depth or power on the inside of them will be addicted to
religious signs and will open themselves to deception.

Because of this, some people allow themselves to be led around by people whose ministry gifts only have a form of
godliness.  This word "form" is
morphosis in Greek; it is a noun meaning "appearance."  "Morphosis" comes from the
Greek verb
morphoo, which means "to fashion."  There is a religious style in the Church that can draw great crowds.  
People gather in massive numbers, but the curse is that they leave the meetings the same way that they came.  They
are stirred up in the fleshly realm only, never coming in contact with enough power to penetrate the strongholds of their
personal lives.

The stronghold of religious forms can keep people from the true power of God.  The stronghold of religious form the
true power of God.  The spirit of religion wants believers to be satisfied with form alone.  It produces counterfeit power,
preventing believers from moving into the deeper things  of God!  While it is the simplicity of the Gospel that gets us
saved, it is the deeper things of God that take us to our next level of maturity.


In Philippians 3:2 Paul gives another serious warning:  "Beware of dogs...!"  The Greek word for "dog," kuon, may be
translated either literally as "dog" or metaphorically as "a man of impure mind."  I may be stretching the point a bit, but I
believe that this could refer to people who are under the influence of the religious spirit - religious hounds.

The first point I would like to bring out about this group of religious people whom Paul called "dogs" is that they were in
no way in submission to the Master.  Though they may have been religious and did things in His name, they were not
truly led by Jesus.  Jesus told the religious Pharisees that they were of their father, the devil (see John 8:44).  So this
means that there can be religious people in the Church who have been fathered by the devil.

We are in a time in the history of the Church when apostolic government is being restored.  The religious spirit
attempting to counteract the apostolic is apostasy.  There is a line that is being drawn in the Spirit that will separate the
wheat from the tares (see Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43).  God's people will be sharp to discern the difference between the
"sent ones" of the apostolic and the "fallen away ones" of the apostasy.  The ones who have actually fallen away and
who frequently persist in hanging around the Church might possibly be the dogs that Paul referred to.

I would also like to suggest that there are those who purport to be Christian leaders but who, like stray dogs, wander
around feeding on whatever they can find.  They are religiously ambitious and are determined to achieve their goals by
any means necessary.  Whatever they have to do to get finances or to get fame, they will do!  Paul warned the Church
in biblical times, and I do the same today, to beware of the religious dogs!  They are religious hounds that sniff out and
prey on the weak or the spiritually ignorant in order to get whatever they can get out of them.

Furthermore, in the Bible, the word "dogs" can also refer to something that is unclean (see Matthew 7:6; Mark 7:27;
Luke 16:21), which includes the religious spirit.  The dogs that Paul referred to are people who are influenced by the
religious spirit.  They do not look evil.  They do not associate with the occult or wear black capes and carry pitchforks.  
Rather, they look exactly like people who sincerely serve the Master.


There is a saying that one bad apple spoils the whole barrel.  If bad fruit continues to hide out in the midst of good fruit,
the whole barrel will be affected.  In order to prevent bad fruit from causing good fruit to rot, the true nature of the bad
fruit must be exposed, and the bad fruit must be separated out from the good fruit.  Similarly, I believe that God is about
to expose those in authority who have allow themselves to be influenced by the spirit of religion and to lead them to
repentance or separate them from the life of the Church so that they cannot deceive others.  

One aspect of the deception that these leaders have taught is participating in religious practices without involving one's
heart.  Prayer can be done using vain repetitions, which Jesus said is the way heathens pray (see Matthew 6:7).  The
Greek word for "vain repetitions" is
battologeo, which literally means "to stutter" or "to prate tediously."  Immediately
after Jesus warned against praying in this way, He gave the Lord's Prayer as our model for prayer (see verses 9-13).

Unfortunately, the spirit of religion has succeeded in causing people to pray with vain repetitions when they pray the
Lord's Prayer (I used to pray it that way).  Jesus meant for the Lord's Prayer to be a guideline for prayer and not a
memorized chant.  Jesus said that though many people honor God with their mouth, their hearts are far from Him (see
Matthew 16:8).

I would like to bring out two other points about fruit that relate to the fruit of "religion."  First of all, fruit is the ripened
ovary of a seed-bearing plant.  The continual reproduction of seed-bearing fruit is similar to that of the fruit of the spirit
of religion.  If the Church does not deal with this spirit's fruit, this fruit will continue to reproduce itself.  The fruit that this
spirit bears is empty things intended to lead people astray.  In Jeremiah 10:3 the prophet talked about how the customs
of the people were "vain"  (
KJV).  The word "vain" is hebel, meaning "emptiness" and "unsatisfactory."  "Hebel" comes
from another Hebrew word,
habal, which means "to lead astray."  To protect the unity of the faith, which is one of
Christ's goals for His Body (see Ephesians 4:13), we must be watchful for the growth of this fruit that could potentially
lead others astray.

Second, fruit is the edible part of the plant.  The most dangerous thing about the fruit of the spirit of religion is that
people tend to swallow it.  The Bible tells us to taste and see that the Lord is good.  God is so good that when we taste
of His goodness, we always come out better.  However, the taste of the fruit of the spirit of religion is bitter, and it makes
those who eat it bitter, not better.  When people eat this fruit, they end up empty and unsatisfied.


No matter how strong the grip of the spirit of religion on the Church appears to be, there is hope, for a new generation
has arisen, one that will not swallow what this spirit has presented over the years.  The people of this generation will
walk in the anointing of the Father as they join themselves with this endtime move of the Holy Spirit.  They will reject
what God rejects, spitting anything out of their mouths that is not of His Spirit.  Will you, too, choose to be part of this


FREEDOM FROM THE RELIGIOUS SPIRIT, C. Peter Wagner, Copyright 2005, Regal Books.