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 Enemy of the Apostolic: The religious spirit

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PostSubject: Enemy of the Apostolic: The religious spirit   Sat Feb 23, 2008 10:41 am

Enemy of the Apostolic: The religious spirit
By Jonas Clark

The religious spirit is a demonic guard that opposes God's work.

Woe unto you religious spirits! You appear righteous but are full of hypocrisy and wickedness. You shut up the Kingdom of heaven. You tithe on mint and dill and neglect justice, mercy and faithfulness. You are full of greed and self-indulgence. You make a show out of prayer. You travel over land and sea to win a single convert and then make him twice the son of hell as you are.

Jesus Christ spoke these words in true apostolic style as he confronted the religious spirit operating through the scribes and Pharisees. Not to be confused with “pure religion” described as visiting the affliction of the fatherless and widows, and keeping oneself unspotted from the world (James 1:26-27), a religious spirit is a demonic force that influences people to act pious, self-righteous or super spiritual. The religious spirit has a clear-cut agenda: to disorient one’s perception of Who Jesus is and to stand in the way of God’s effort to build His glorious Church.

Jesus, the Loving Lamb, became bold as a lion in the face of the religious spirit because this wicked power opposes efforts to take the Gospel to the uttermost parts of the earth, the most vital aspect of the apostolic mandate. And if the spirit of religion can’t keep you from pursuing God, then it will attempt to warp your perception of Who Jesus Christ is, how you see Him and everything you do for Him, so that you cannot fulfill your destiny. Keep in mind that it wasn’t the pagans that stoned and jailed Paul for spreading the Gospel. It was people who said they loved God. It was many of the religious scribes and Pharisees who were angry that Gentiles were allowed to enter the Kingdom without fleshly circumcision.

The religious spirit looks a little different today. The garments of religion are not phylacteries and long robes; they are color-coded attire with embellished titles that seek to give one a higher spiritual ranking with God than others. Despite its outward appearance, the religious spirit was an enemy of the apostolic 2,000 years ago and it’s just as much an enemy of the apostolic today.

No one is immune to the workings of the religious spirit. We have all been affected to some degree. Even Jesus’ disciples fell prey to its murderous agenda. Remember the sons of thunder? The disciples were outraged because the Samaritans were not receiving Jesus into the territory and they wanted to call down the fiery judgment of God on an entire city. Can you imagine being so self-righteous that you are willing to destroy an entire city? That’s not normal behavior. After hearing their request, Jesus responded harshly to His disciples: “You do not know what spirit you are of” (Luke 9:52-55). But Jesus knew precisely what spirit the two disciples were of – a religious spirit.

James and John were not the only disciples influenced by this demonic force. When Jesus told His disciples that  He would have to suffer many things and be killed, but would be raised up on the third day, Peter took Him aside for a private talk and began to reprimand Him. Jesus said, “Get behind me, Satan!” (Matthew 16:23) Like James and John, Peter did not know what spirit he was of that day. Jesus saw the influence of a religious spirit at work on Peter and was very specific in rebuking Satan (the spirit) and not Peter (the person). Notice also that Jesus spoke directly to Satan, not an attitude. These are but a couple of the many examples of the religious spirit at work in the Bible.

If the spirit of religion could influence Jesus’ chosen disciples, then we are all vulnerable. Knowingly or unknowingly, the spirit of religion has affected believers and unbelievers alike to some degree. Those of us who are aware of the religious spirit continuously battle its harmful effects. If we don’t resist it, then it resists us in our pursuit of a closer relationship with Christ, and we cannot grow and mature beyond our knowledge and spiritual perception of Who Jesus is. Some see Jesus only as the baby in the manger. Others see him continually hanging on the cross. Others see Him sitting in the midst of little children. Still others as a quiet gentle lamb. Yet, there are many other perceptions of who Jesus is. Yes, He is all of those things, but He is much, much more. He is the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, the Lord of Hosts, the Ancient of Days, the King of Glory, and even the Man of War.

Religious spirits are dangerous opponents to the Apostolic Movement because believers cannot be fully equipped to successfully do the work of the ministry without a deep knowledge of Who Christ is. It is deadly because it seeks to duplicate itself by making new converts adhere to and rely on vain traditions instead of progressive revelations of Who Jesus is. The religious spirit woos you to depend on lifeless customs instead of seeking God’s grace through faith for effective strategies for life and ministry.

Paul cautioned Timothy about religious spirits, calling them “traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away” (2 Timothy 3:4-5). How do you recognize a religious spirit? The fruit of the religious spirit is self-righteousness, false humility, dead religious works, ungratefulness and spiritual insensitivity. The apostolic is not only turning away from religion. It is fighting back by raising up true spiritual sons and daughters to carry on the work of building a glorious church without spot or wrinkle. The apostolic and prophetic graces will not allow religion to take us back into the Dark Ages. These graces are building, governing, ruling graces that will not bow to religious spirits but will confront them and take dominion over them so that the Great Commission can be fulfilled.
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