Only with God-given discernment can we tell apart the good and evil influences that surround us. We often come up against "demonic influences". This influence is a spiritual force that twists and taints and pollutes God's ways. It is like a spider web, and people get stuck -- writhing in their captivity, they act out of a "web mentality".
Religious spirits endeavor to interfere with the free flow of the Holy Spirit in the lives of Believers. They can be hard to discern precisely because they are religious; they are pious, even hyper-spiritual. Their influence can pervade a person's life and church -- like yeast pervades a lump of dough. That's why Jesus said, "Watch out and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees" (Matthew 16:6).
In New Testament times, the Pharisees were the watchdogs of religious purity, chastising any Jewish person who transgressed even slightly, promoting the perfectionistic performance of their strict interpretation of the requirements of the law of Moses. They held to "a form of godliness, although they...denied its power" (2 Timothy 3:5).
JESUS HAS SECURED OUR ACCEPTANCE
Generally, the religious spirit promotes a works-based or performance-based lifestyle. Although the Cross of Jesus has made performance-based religion a thing of the past, the religious spirit likes to keep it alive so that people will labor under a triple burden of guilt, fear, and pride. Every person on earth rightfully seeks a sense of acceptance, but the religious spirit keeps the ultimate acceptance—God's—just out of reach.
The motivation of a religious spirit demands that we need to earn God's approval. By His death and resurrection, Christ Jesus has secured our acceptance with the Father once and for all as we place our faith in Him.
Yet when we live and breathe in an environment tainted by the religious spirit, it is difficult for us to discern that we're being affected by that demonic influence. It can be easier to spot the religious spirit in someone else, and to judge them, than it is to recognize it in ourselves.
We need to discern and look out for FIVE TELLTALE ATTITUDES:
1) Legalism, 2) Criticism, 3) Debate, 4) Opinion, and 5) Judgment.
Let's apply that measure to ourselves and take the log out of our own eyes instead of pointing out the splinters in others' eyes. (Matthew 7:4-5.)
Watch out for the big THREE EARMARKS OF THE RELIGIOUS SPIRIT :
1) Guilt, 2) Fear, and 3) Pride.
A proud demeanor often masks the fearful, insecure soul of someone who is trying desperately to make the grade. Yet looking for security within oneself just perpetuates the anxiety, because self-centered security is such a poor substitute for God-centered security.
In contrast, God's grace shines where His Word is made real to our spirit. That will make more of an impact for the Kingdom than perfectionism ever would, and will empower us to equip the body of Christ in their Christ identity, their right standing with God, and walking in the Spirit.
THE HOLY SPIRIT -- OUR HELPER IN DISCERNING THE RELIGIOUS SPIRIT
As passionate Believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, we are each called to be "Worshippers of God and Deliverers of Men." As we worship God and surrender ourselves to Him, He meets us with a revelation of our calling in Christ. As we ask the Holy Spirit to cast His light on the hindrances that keep us from receiving and discerning His revelation and acting upon it, He answers our prayers and sets us free, and we are inspired and spiritually driven to give away what we have received.
ALBERT FINCH MINISTRY