THE SPIRIT OF RELIGION, THE GREAT IMPOSTER
Hank and Myrene Morris

HIS GLORY REIGNS
B. Childress
Aug 21 2009 08:00 AM

To all of us who have received Jesus as Savior, there has come an expression of the sweeping grandeur of God's love.  
He has sent the Holy Spirit to live within us and empower us to fulfill the wonderful plan that God has for our lives.

OUR SPIRITUAL IMMUNE SYSTEM

Just as our bodies have a physical immune system to combat disease, so our spirits have an immune system to combat
spiritual disease.  And just as some diseases attack and destroy the body's immune system so that it has nothing to
fight with, so our adversary, Satan, attacks us for the purpose of cutting us off from our spiritual immune system.  This
spiritual immune system is the strength and life we have in Christ under the direction and empowerment of the Holy
Spirit.  But Satan sends the spirit of religion to attack our spiritual immune system, causing us to live lives devoid of the
presence and power of God.  The spirit of religion is Satan's secret weapon.

OUR ADVERSARY'S SECRET WEAPON

The Bible refers to certain spirits by name: for example, a spirit of infirmity, a spirit named Legion, and a deaf and dumb
spirit (see Luke 13:11; Mark 5:9; 9:25).  But it does not refer to all by name.  The Bible was not intended to be a
textbook of demonology.  It was intended to reveal God's character, the plan of salvation and the pathway to holiness
and abundant life in Christ.  However, since God does not intend for us to be ignorant of the devil's strategies to hold
God's people in bondage (see Ephesians 6:11), the Bible gives us much information about the demonic realm.

The spirit of religion, or the religious spirit, is one of those spirits that are not mentioned by name in the Bible, but it was
nonetheless present and working in the events that are described there.  This spirit deceived people and trapped them
into "having a form of godliness but denying its power"  (II Timothy 3:5).  And it animated the murderous ire and wrath of
the scribes and Pharisees against Jesus.  In turn, these scribes and Pharisees were the objects of Jesus' greatest wrath
and condemnation.  He called them hypocrites who, like whitewashed tombs, "appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are
full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness"  (Matthew 23:27).  These were the men who directed the religious life of
the people, but they did not live what they taught, and they rejected truth.  The religious spirit knows that if spiritual
leaders can be corrupted, those under them will also be corrupted.  Leaders are its priority target.

Although the spirit of religion is an ancient spirit, it continues moving through the world with a vengeance today.  In the
process of destroying churches, as well as multitudes of individuals around the world, it masquerades as "true
spirituality," and in that way becomes the great imposter.  Those who are under its control are deceived into believing
that their actions are religiously correct, thus blinding their minds to the suggestion that they might not be following
God's order.

OUR SURE HOPE OF FREEDOM

The apostle Paul testified of himself that in former times "according to the strictest sect of our religion I lived a
Pharisee"  (Acts 26:5).  But as a result of his encounter with the Lord, Paul was delivered from the religious spirit, and
he became a model of one who walks in the greatest sensitivity to the leading of the Holy Spirit.  In fact, he became such
a yielded vessel that he wrote 13 of the books of the New Testament.  We believe that this is one of God's ways of
telling us that
we can also be gloriously freed from the religious spirit.

Freedom is possible because God's power is infinitely greater than Satan's, and God has given us authority to use that
power so that we can be victorious over Satan.  We receive power from the Holy Spirit, who is in us  (Acts 1:8).  This is
the same Holy Spirit by whom Jesus cast out demons  (see Matthew 12:28).  James 4:7 reads, "Resist the devil and he
will flee from you"; and John declared, "He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world"  (I John 4:4).  Believers
have authority to cast out demons in the name of Jesus (see Mark 16:17), "the weapons of our warfare are not carnal
but mighty in God"  (II Corinthians 10:4).

Before we discuss how we can use our authority to defeat the spirit of religion, we will detail how this adversary operates.

THE LIES AND DECEPTION OF OUR ADVERSARY

Lies and deception are the hallmark of the spirit of religion.  Its target is the Body of Christ, both collectively and
individually.  Its ultimate purpose is to stop the move of God and the work of the Holy Spirit by cutting the Body off from
the life and truth of God and from His Spirit.  To do so, it fosters "religious" responses to problems and situations,
responses that are devoid of the direction and power of the Holy Spirit.  If we, the body of Christ, succumb, we cannot
be in a position to partner with God in His work.  But this spirit is subtle enough to render us unaware of what is
happening, deceiving us into believing that God is directing what we do when in fact He is not.  It comes as an imposter
masquerading as the real thing.

How does the religious spirit succeed in cutting believers off from relationship with God and blocking the work of the
Holy Spirit?

    1.  It cuts believers off from receiving God's love.  The religious spirit works to prevent us from receiving God's
    love, thereby preventing us from truly loving Him or loving others.  In doing this, it blocks revelation of the most
    fundamental understanding in life, namely that God loves us.

    2.  It stops believers from knowing God and being in His presence.  When we know God and are in His presence,
    God's reality is so intense that all other considerations fade into the shadows; and our resolve to serve Him is
    strong.  The religious spirit hates this and strives to block it.

    3.  It strips believers of the direction and power of the Holy Spirit by keeping us in the flesh.  Many passages in
    God's Word describe the power and work of the Holy Spirit.  Jesus said to His disciples before His ascension, "but
    you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you"  (Acts 1:8).  If the religious spirit can get us to
    handle matters exclusively by our own resources, we will not see signs and wonders and other works of the Holy
    Spirit.

    4.  It cuts off the flow of God's truth.  Without the truth of God flooding our being, we are prey to the deception
    and lies of the adversary.  Jesus told those who believed in Him, "You shall know the truth, and the truth shall
    make you free"; but of Satan He said, "He is a liar and the father of it"  (John 8:32,44).  The religious spirit tries to
    enslave us with lies.

    5.  It blocks believers from receiving God's forgiveness so that they continue in guilt and shame.  In I John 1:9
    God promises that if we confess our sins, He will forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  Satan
    wants to keep us in torment and misery, so he constantly accuses us of sin and tells us the lie that our sins
    cannot be forgiven.  That is why some Christians repeatedly ask for God's forgiveness for a particular sinful act
    they have committed.  The religious spirit forbids them the joy of accepting the work of the cross.

STRATEGIES OF THE SPIRIT OF RELIGION

How does the spirit of religion accomplish its goals?  The Bible's descriptions of the Pharisees show what the religious
spirit looks like in people who are under its influence.  Furthermore, after having often dealt with individuals under the
influence of the religious spirit, we have seen three major strategies that it frequently employs: (1)  It opposes the entry
of spiritual vitality and fresh revelation in believers; (2) it causes believers to focus on self and on carnal things rather
than on the Holy Spirit; and (3) it fosters ideas and attitudes that separate believers from God and weaken their
relationship with Him.

Opposing the Entry of Spiritual Vitality and Fresh Revelation

Using a variety of methods, the religious spirit will oppose spiritual vitality and fresh revelation from entering followers of
Christ.  A number of these methods are as follows:

  •  The religious spirit will move believers to depend on reasoning and intellect rather than on the guidance, power,
    and revelation of the Spirit.  God's Word says, "Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own
    understanding"  (Proverbs 3:5).  For example, if I have three conflicting commitments on the same evening - a
    church leadership meeting, a friend's birthday and my child's school function - I might reason that I cannot skip
    the church meeting, my spouse could cover the school meeting, and I could attend the friend's party at the end of
    the evening.  If, however, I am moving in the Holy Spirit, I will inquire of the Lord rather than depend on my
    reasoning.  He is all-knowing and He might well lead me to a different course of action.

  •  The religious spirit pushes believers into legalism.  Legalism is defined as strict, literal or excessive conformity to
    a moral code.  But the Word says, "The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life"  (II Corinthians 3:6).  If legalism sets in,
    we find ourselves fervently doing a "religious" work without the presence of the Holy Spirit.

    Some years ago I, Myrene, felt led of the Lord to read six chapters of the Bible each day.  I was diligently meeting
    my quota and was pleased with myself because I knew that reading God's Word is a vital part of a Christian's life.  
    After a while though, I noticed that my focus shifted to finishing that day's requirement so that I could move on to
    whatever was next on my agenda.  Worse than that, I realized that I was reading the Word without owning it.  I was
    skimming over God's truth without letting it be absorbed.  Finally, God, in His graciousness, showed me that a
    religious spirit had been robbing me by prompting me to read the Bible as a routine.  When I rebuked that spirit,
    God gave me freedom, and Scripture reading became alive.  The goal was no longer quantity, but quality.  The
    Scriptures became so thrilling that I often read six chapters or more; but more important, He began to change me
    through His Word in a way that couldn't have happened while that spirit was there.

  •  The religious spirit influences believers to engage in and pursue matters of faith through formulas, rituals and
    traditional acts.  Our flesh likes the ease of copying, rather than seeking, the Holy Spirit's input and anointing.  
    We sometimes find it easier to replicate what seems to be effective - another's phraseology, style or gestures -
    rather than seeking the Lord as to how He would have us proceed.  Whether we are asking God to bless our
    food, saying "God bless you" when someone sneezes or laying hands on and praying for someone, everything
    must be done in partnership with the Holy Spirit.  His fresh touch brings life.  He will also help us to protect our
    worship.  God desires that from our hearts we express our love to Him, instead of performing a perfunctory duty.  
    When you sense that a religious spirit is trying to influence your worship, oppose it and ask the Holy Spirit to give
    you a spirit of praise.

  •  The religious spirit causes people to pervert and twist the truth.  First Timothy 4:1 reads, "Some will depart from
    the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons."  The religious spirit does not want the truth of
    God to be declared, so it will cause a perversion of the truth to be presented as the real thing.  At first glance,
    Satan's quotes of Scripture in Luke 4:1-13 sound convincing, but Jesus exposed Satan's distorted use of them.

  •  The religious spirit blinds people to the truth.  The legalistic Pharisees opposed Jesus, who is the truth (see
    John 14:6).  Jesus called the Pharisees "blind guides"  (Matthew 23:24).  This spirit particularly blinds people to
    the truth about the work of the Holy Spirit.

  •  The religious spirit will make people unteachable.  James 1:22 instructs believers to "be doers of the word, and
    not hearers only, deceiving yourselves."  But those who are deceived by the religious spirit, though they hear the
    truth, will not do it.  As a couple, we frequently and fervently pray, "Dear God, help us to be teachable.  Continue
    to change us."  As long as the Holy Spirit has the freedom to work in our lives, we will be changing more and more
    into the image of Christ.

  •  The religious spirit will induce believers to read God's Word only with their minds, without involving their hearts
    and spirits and without inquiring of the Holy Spirit.  When we read God's Word, the assistance of the Holy Spirit is
    vitally important because "no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God"  (I Corinthians 2:11).  The
    Holy Spirit reveals what God wants to say to us through His Word.  If our minds wander during Scripture reading
    and our hearts feel untouched by the Word, we should stop and pray, "Forgive me, Lord, for not reading Your
    Word in the Spirit.  Religious spirit, I break your power over me in Jesus' name.  Holy Spirit, help me read the
    Word under Your anointing so that I might be changed as the Word enters my heart."

  •  The religious spirit will press believers to pray with their minds, rather than by the moving of the Spirit.  When we
    pray in the flesh, we can be concerned about the form or structure of the prayer, rather than following the Holy
    Spirit.  Such prayers are stiff and lifeless.

  •  The religious spirit will cause people to be hypocritical.  Hypocritical people teach the truth but do not do it; they
    are outwardly pious but inwardly corrupt.  Jesus indicted the Pharisees for being hypocrites  (see Matthews 23:
    25).

  •  The religious spirit will cause people to be unable to discern the work or move of the Spirit.  The Pharisees
    thought that Jesus cast out demons by Beelzebub, the ruler of demons, instead of by the Holy Spirit  (see
    Matthews 12:24).

Focusing on Self and on Carnal Things

Another strategy of the spirit of religion is to entice its victims to focus on themselves and on carnal things, rather than
spiritual things.  The following are some examples of this strategy:

  •  The religious spirit will cause believers to worship and pray with carnal motives.  This spirit will entice us to focus
    on ourselves rather than on God, to worry about whether we are "doing it right" and to want to impress others by
    how good we sound.  Jesus accused the Pharisees of praying ostentatiously, to be seen by the crowd  (see
    Matthew 6:5).  Instead, we need to be focusing on God and submitting to the direction of the Holy Spirit.

  •  The religious spirit will cause people to engage in dead works (see Hebrews 6:1).  Dead works are, among other
    things, works of ministry implemented for soulish reasons.  Of the Pharisees, Jesus said, "All their works they do
    to be seen by men"  (Matthew 23:5).  Some examples of soulish motives are a desire for praise or recognition, a
    desire to please certain people and a desire for the advancement of personal gain or interest.  But when the work
    is by the Spirit, He initiates it, He anoints us for it, and the work is fulfilling and brings life and fruit that remain.  
    When we are working with the Holy Spirit, we will be like a toaster making toast, doing exactly what we are
    designed to do.

  •  The religious spirit entices believers to be judgmental of others and unforgiving of their failures.  The religious
    spirit will lead us to compare ourselves with others, deceptively causing us to be judgmental.  We are often
    judgmental of others in order to exalt ourselves.  In Luke 18:11, the Pharisee thanked God that he was not like
    other men:  extortioners, unjust, adulterers or tax collectors.  Such judging may take the form of gossip, slander
    or bitter criticisms against church members.  God instead asks us to forgive the failures of others (see, for
    example, Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 3:13).  The religious spirit encourages judgment and unforgiveness
    because it knows that they can destroy the environment of God's love and peace within the Church.

  •  The religious spirit will influence believers to be loveless, merciless, and compassionless.  The religious spirit
    influences us to be loveless, merciless and compassionless by enticing us to focus on ourselves, ignoring the
    woes and pains of others, causing us to respond in anger rather than love.  Yet God calls us to be loving,
    merciful, and compassionate; and if we move in the Spirit, we will be, for He gives us a spirit of love  (see II
    Timothy 1:7).

  •  The religious spirit will entice some to be prideful, self-righteous, and arrogant.  Pride, self-righteousness, and
    arrogance cause us to focus on ourselves rather than on God.  Focusing on God opens the way for the work of
    the Spirit.  Focusing on self closes it.  Prideful people come to believe that they don't need God or that they have
    a direct line to God and are never wrong.  Others may develop a martyr mentality, thinking, No one suffers like
    me.

  •  The religious spirit will cause believers to have negative attitudes about themselves.  When we have negative
    attitudes about ourselves, our focus is on our own plight and worthlessness and not on God's love and plan for
    provision and redemption.  This is often accompanied by self-hatred and self-condemnation.  Satan will lie to us
    that our transgressions are so deep that God cannot forgive them or redeem us.  The Word says, however, that
    everything is possible with God and that He will forgive us and cleanse us of all unrighteousness  (see Matthew
    19:26; I John 1:9).

  •  The religious spirit may implant a desire to be in control.  We may become afraid if we feel we are not in control.  
    When we are in control, the Holy Spirit isn't; and the Word says that we are to be led by the Spirit  (see Galatians
    5:18).  Being led by the Spirit means submitting all our decisions, both large and small, to the Lord.

Fostering Harmful Ideas and Attitudes

You may be wondering whether the religious spirit has an inroad into your life.  Here is a simple checklist that you can
use to evaluate whether you have ideas and attitudes that separate you from God.

  •  Do I see God as unloving, harsh, and judgmental?  God is not unloving, harsh, and judgmental.  The truth is
    that "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son" and "God is love"  (John 3:16; I John 4:8).

  •  Do I see God as distant and detached?  Distance and detachment stifle communion with God.  A love
    relationship involves closeness and intimacy.

  •  Do I think that I can't have fellowship with God or hear His voice?  Jesus said, "My sheep hear My voice, and I
    know them, and they follow Me"  (John 10:27).  Beware that the religious spirit may whisper a lie that we are not
    worthy of hearing God.

  •  Do I have hardness of heart and dullness toward the things of God?  Jesus said that the Pharisees honored Him
    with their lips, but their hearts were far from him  (see Matthew 15:8).  When our hearts feel hard, let us kneel
    before Him and ask Him to soften them.

  •  Do I hate spiritual correction?  Proverbs 3:11 instructs us, "Do not despise the chastening of the LORD."  The
    Pharisees hated spiritual correction.  They plotted to kill Jesus in response  (see Matthew 26:4).

  •  Do I avoid real repentance for sin through godly sorrow?  Sometimes when children are commanded to say that
    they are sorry, they pout and grudgingly say, "Sorry."  We are called to express godly sorrow, which leads to
    repentance  (see II Corinthians 7:10).  God will give us the gift of repentance when we ask Him for it.

  •  Do I love the world and compromise with truth?  The Word of God says, "Do not love the world or the things in
    the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him"  (I John 2:15).  Whenever a Christian
    compromises with the world's system, whether it's with unsavory movies or television, coarse humor or sexual
    impropriety, it dilutes his or her witness, and the flow of God's blessing is weakened.

HOW TO DEAL WITH THE RELIGIOUS SPIRIT

The Bible says not to "give place to the devil"  (Ephesians 4:27).  Demons can enter if they are given a place through
sin.  Sin puts us on common ground with the devil and gives him (and his demon spirits) a place from which to operate.  
"He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning"  (I John 3:8).  Some ways that demons enter
are through the embracing of false beliefs about God, unforgiveness, spiritual compromise, hypocrisy, fear, pride or
inferiority.  Generational sin can also provide a place of entry.

The good news is that the spirit of religion, like any other spirit, must yield to the power of God.  Through years of
deliverance ministry, we have seen many demons expelled in a moment, never to return.  However, we have observed
that the religious spirit often requires more time and ministry to cast out than some of the others, because it permeates
so many facets of life and it has gained strength through years of its victims' yielding to its influence, usually without
knowing they are being affected.

If you become concerned that you might be under the oppression of a religious spirit, you need to take action.  In some
cases, you yourself might be able to take authority and command it to leave.  In other cases, however, you would be
wise to seek out an experienced deliverance minister.  Since Jesus, our deliverer, is the master strategist, it is important
to inquire of Him which approach He chooses.

After you pray, you may be uncertain as to the presence of a religious spirit or your authority to cast out the spirit, or
you may have no revelation as to what might have provided an opening for the spirit to enter.  In any such case, the
help of a mature and experienced member of the Body of Christ is invaluable.  He or she needs to be gifted to receive
revelation as to what might have provided an opening for the religious spirit to enter.  After you close that door or doors
and yield to the Holy Spirit, the religious spirit's grip will weaken.  Then, in the name of Jesus, it can be commanded to
leave.

When you seek deliverance from a religious spirit alone, begin by asking God to give you a revelation of how the
religious spirit is manifesting.  Since we want to be truly repentant for our sin of yielding to a religious spirit rather than
God's Holy Spirit, asking Him to give us the gift of repentance and godly sorrow  (see II Corinthians 7:9-10) will help us
to have God's heart and perspective concerning our cooperation with that spirit.

After you have repented in detail from your heart for the various ways you have obeyed the religious spirit, you may be
led to take authority over the spirit and speak directly to it.  Mark 16:17 says that we have authority in Jesus' name to
cast out demon spirits.  Acts 16:18 shows us that this is done by speaking directly to the spirit.  Paul said to the spirit, "I
command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her."  We therefore might say something like this:

    You religious spirit, I have repented from yielding to you, and now I come against you in the name of Jesus.  I
    forbid you to influence me.  I take back all I have relinquished to you.  I break your control over me, and I
    command you to release me in Jesus' name.  Lord Jesus, fill me afresh with Your Holy Spirit.  Help me be a
    person who walks in the Spirit and not under the control of a religious spirit.  I ask You to dismantle every
    component of the false religious system in me.

It is important to note that we should not use this same prayer as a formula.  The Holy Spirit must be the one leading the
prayer time, or else our time of prayer becomes another manifestation of the religious spirit!  And we must be sure that
we are waging spiritual warfare under the power of the Holy Spirit and not from the flesh.  So before you begin, call out
to the Lord for an anointing of power, and move in faith, believing that God has anointed you.  Actively adopt a posture
of submission to the direction of the Holy Spirit.  When you do so, you invite the power of the Holy Spirit to work against
the enemy.

We know a man who loved God, but who was under the strong control of the religious spirit.  We invited him for prayer.  
We asked the Lord for His anointing and that He would give this man revelation about the spirit's hold on him.  Once the
man received that revelation, he cried out for rescue.  When we commanded the spirit to come out, the man shouted
that his neck was paralyzed and that he could not move (much later we remembered Acts 7:51, where Stephen called
the Jewish religious leaders "stiffnecked").  As we continued to come against the spirit, the man, who had been
standing, suddenly emitted a loud sound and folded in half, his head almost touching the floor.  When he stood up, we
saw that his countenance had changed, and he had new freedom in the Holy Spirit.  As time has passed since that day,
he has come to know God more intimately, and he can receive God's love and give it to others more than ever before.

It is God's desire that the works and devices of that great imposter, the religious spirit, be vanquished and that we have
freedom to know the true and living God and be led by the Holy Spirit to live out the plan and purpose of God for our
lives.



Source:

FREEDOM FROM THE RELIGIOUS SPIRIT, C. Peter Wagner, Copyright 2005, Regal Books.
2010 - HIS GLORY REIGNS
LIFE IN JESUS-MINISTRIES