Many have wondered, “What exactly is the Religious Spirit?”
This article will discuss what the origins of the religious spirit. It will also break down the religious spirit into different categories, or aspects. This will help believers discern, and combat the spirit through prayer.
The religious spirit is demonic. A demon can influence your mind, will, and emotions.
The Pharisees, scribes, lawyers, and Sadducees were all controlled by various degrees by religious spirits.
Some were controlled by different aspects or manifestations of the spirit. In general, a person manipulated by a religious spirit appears to truly be religious on the outside, but they may have darkness and evil within. This is called hypocrisy and brings us to the first aspect of the religious spirit:
“But understand this, that in the last days dangerous times [of great stress and trouble] will come [difficult days that will be hard to bear]. For people will be lovers of self [narcissistic, self-focused], lovers of money [impelled by greed], boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy and profane, [and they will be] unloving [devoid of natural human affection, calloused and inhumane], irreconcilable, malicious gossips, devoid of self-control [intemperate, immoral], brutal, haters of good, traitors, reckless, conceited, lovers of [sensual] pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of [outward] godliness (religion), although they have denied its power [for their conduct nullifies their claim of faith]. Avoid such people and keep far away from them.” 2 Timothy 3:1-5 AMP.
Hypocrites are those who portray themselves to others as godly or religious, but are full of themselves (self-life) instead of being full of Christ.
The Holy Spirit warns that this will increase in the last days (our time). Hypocrites are people who tell you not to do something, and then they do the very same thing that they told you not to do.
They believe they are superior to you and I, and that the rules they set for others do not apply to them. It’s this group of people that Jesus rebuked the sharpest (Luke 11:37-53).
James defines ‘religious’ in a good sense, and how we are to be in purity:
“If anyone thinks himself to be religious [scrupulously observant of the rituals of his faith], and does not control his tongue but deludes his own heart, this person’s religion is worthless (futile, barren). Pure and unblemished religion [as it is expressed in outward acts] in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit and look after the fatherless and the widows in their distress, and to keep oneself uncontaminated by the [secular] world.” James 1:26-27 AMP.
So pure religion can be defined by controlling what you say, helping widows and orphans, and keeping free from worldliness.
This lifestyle demonstrates that Christ is living through you. Hypocrites who only portray they are religious to others, will be clearly discerned by their fruit.
Even though they put on a mask to hide their true nature, the fruit of their character will come out of their hearts. Jesus exposes their identity:
““Woe to you, [self-righteous] scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which look beautiful on the outside, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean. So you, also, outwardly seem to be just and upright to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” Matthew 23:27-28 AMP.
Harsh, Condemning, and Judgmental
James states that pure religion and the truly religious have their speech under the control of The Holy Spirit.
In contrast, the fake or pretend religious cannot control their mouth. The religious hypocrites are full of bitterness, and accusations. They lack the fruit of the Spirit because they have never undergone the stripping of the cross.
These people attack and bash with their rigid theology or a rigid way of thinking. Blinded to the overall vision of scripture, they only see certain points in which they choose to make a stand. They are short sighted, focusing on a point in the written word instead of the totality of the scriptures.
The Pharisees knew the scriptures, but didn’t know God (John 5:39-40). If you do not have a relationship with the God that wrote the Bible, then it is very easy to misinterpret or misapply the scriptures.
How can you understand someone’s writings if you don’t know the heart of the One who wrote it?
We must know through experience, the love, mercy, kindness, gentleness, and judgment of the Father if we are to accurately divide the word.
The religious spirit has a condemning, harsh, accusing, bitter, judgmental, and mean nature. It will seek to destroy you through words if you disagree with its doctrine, or if you preach something other than what it believes.
People under the influence of this spirit will tell you that God will judge you for teaching something other than their doctrine. They can’t help but attack you with their tongue.
Some might make arrogant or condescending comments, while others with this spirit will pick at you in order to start a verbal fight.
Jesus was speaking about these people when He said not to judge (Luke 6:37-38). For with the standard you use to measure and judge others, it will be measured to you in return.
Those influenced by the religious spirit should take note of that warning by Jesus, and consider how they are judging others. Many times they will justify their judgment to themselves. But in reality they lack the mercy and love of the Father:
“Be merciful (responsive, compassionate, tender) just as your [heavenly] Father is merciful.” Luke 6:36 AMP.
Jesus, Paul, and John the Baptist actually rebuked people controlled or influenced by the religious spirit.
The Holy Spirit will at times deal harshly with this spirit, because this spirit deals harshly with His precious people.
Believers should be able to discern the religious spirit from The Holy Spirit simply by the way someone is speaking to them. A person speaking by The Holy Spirit will be manifesting the fruit of the Spirit:
“But the fruit of the Spirit [the result of His presence within us] is love [unselfish concern for others], joy, [inner] peace, patience [not the ability to wait, but how we act while waiting], kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23 AMP.
In contrast those speaking by the religious spirit are filled with poisonous words:
“And the tongue is [in a sense] a fire, the very world of injustice and unrighteousness; the tongue is set among our members as that which contaminates the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life [the cycle of man’s existence], and is itself set on fire by hell (Gehenna). For every species of beasts and birds, of reptiles and sea creatures, is tamed and has been tamed by the human race. But no one can tame the human tongue; it is a restless evil [undisciplined, unstable], full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God. Out of the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. These things, my brothers, should not be this way [for we have a moral obligation to speak in a manner that reflects our fear of God and profound respect for His precepts]. Does a spring send out from the same opening both fresh and bitter water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, produce olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Nor can salt water produce fresh.” James 3:6-12 AMP.
Our Master, as always, puts things into perspective:
““Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or else make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for a tree is known by its fruit. Brood of vipers! How can you, being evil, speak good things? F or out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things. But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”” Matthew 12:33-37 NKJV)
Jesus reveals that the people controlled by a religious spirit speak out of the abundance of evil in their hearts. Their words are like poison.
Instead of an edifying rebuke of truth, the words of the religious spirit are dark and bitter. Their comments are like dark waves that wash over you, leaving you feeling disgusted and polluted.
The idle unsolicited words from these people will be judged, and those who persist down this path will be condemned as Jesus states.
Attacks, Rage, and Murder
Jesus was under constant attack by people controlled by the religious spirit. Jesus spoke the truth which revealed the sin in the hearts of the religious leaders.
The religious spirits controlling them were enraged, and didn’t want Jesus speaking truth. So they influenced the religious leaders to say Jesus had a demon (John 8:48-52).
This is a classic tactic of the enemy: “Accuse the messenger of God of having a demon to divert attention from oneself, the one who actually has a demon.”
The enemy still uses the same tricks today. He tries to bring condemnation through his words. Ministers of God bring life through their words. That’s how you discern the difference.
Jesus preached a powerful message at the beginning of his ministry. Instead of humbling themselves and repenting, the people controlled by the religious spirit were enraged.
They attempted to kill Jesus by throwing Him off of a cliff (Luke 4:25-30). T he religious spirit cannot stand to get rebuked. It will instantly cause people who it is influencing to become angry, and even push them into fits of rage; when it is rebuked.
It cannot tolerate true authority from God, because it wants to be the authority. In its pride, it thinks it knows the word of God better than the appointed minister. The problem is, it doesn’t know God.
Once this spirit has increased its strength in a person, it becomes angry and violent. This is the spirit that killed Stephen, killed Jesus, and tried to killed Paul by stoning him.
People controlled by a religious spirits may start out posting arrogant, condemning, condescending, spiteful, and abusive comments on social media; but if they remain unrepentant, the religious spirit in them will increase in power.
Soon they will hate other believers or ministries who preach or oppose their doctrine or way of thinking. The anger finally increases so much that they can become violent.
Lack of Authority
True ministers of God have authority to bring correction and rebukes. Some believers and unbelievers influenced by the religious spirit think that they have authority to bring correction and rebukes to various ministries or ministers.
They are deceived and they do not have the authority. Paul did rebuke Peter publicly because Peter was an elder and did sin publicly (Galatians 2:11-14, 1 Timothy 5:19-20).
However Paul had the right and authority to do so as an apostle. He was influenced to do so by The Holy Spirit.
Many with the religious spirit want to bring correction and rebuke so they take it upon themselves to do so. They are not messengers of God or under His hand. They are bound up in their own delusion, and have taken a call and position unto themselves; when not called by God to do so (Hebrews 5:4).
The religious spirit will argue that it has the right to bring correction. The spirit is influencing the person to such a degree, that the person can hardly control it.
They really believe that it is their responsibility to rebuke and correct. The more they do this, the further deceived they become. Only realizing the truth, humbling oneself before God, and repentance; will set the person free.
“Woe to you Pharisees, because you love the best seats in the synagogues and to be respectfully greeted in the market places.” Luke 11:43 AMP.
Some believers are trapped in religious pride, which can be a religious spirit. They desire to be seen before others in The Church. Their hearts crave being exalted among God’s people.
They enjoy the spotlight of being on stage and leading worship. The religious spirit craves recognition. It enjoys when others compliment and flatter it.
Also, religious spirits love to promote others who are under the influence of the same spirit. Spirits in different believers connect to one another and in doing so their power is force multiplied.
This is why the Pharisees had such a stronghold or heavy influence over the people.
Leaders controlled by the religious spirit then attempt to form a hiarchy in leadership. Their exclusive group will only communicate with one another.
They will exclude believers or ministers who they feel are beneath them. The prideful leader does not have time to talk with “little” minsters or “normal” believers.
Those exalted ministers have their circle of friends (other well-known ministers) that they associate with. The same is true for worship leaders.
Many pastors or worship leaders don’t make their cut because they are not influential enough in The Church.
If you do not have a huge following, then you do not qualify to be their friend. Sound like the pride of life, and the popularity of the world system to you?
If another well-known minister reached out to communicate with one of these exalted ones, they would respond and gladly get in contact with them.
If an unknown pastor of believer attempted to contact one of these well-known ministers, the well-known minister wouldn’t “waste their time” trying to communicate.
Obviously we cannot respond to every person or communication attempt. But if a leader is lead by The Holy Spirit, they will listen and allow contact with the ones whom The LORD sends.
Leaders exalted in pride do not make time for the “nobodies” in their eyes. Is this how Jesus operated His ministry? I think not.
Some arrogant spiritual leaders and worship leaders only view other leaders and believers as their followers.
We should discern these people and stay away from them. We can learn from leaders but we are only to be followers of Jesus.
We all need to remember that we were nothing before Christ, nothing without Christ, and can do nothing unless He does it through us.
Ananias and Sapphira were struck dead by The Holy Spirit because of spiritual pride. Influenced by the religious spirit, they desired to be held in high esteem among God’s people like Barnabas.
So they made it appear to The Church that they were giving all of the money they got from selling their land as an offering, when in reality, they were only giving some of the money (Acts 5:1-11).
Yes they lied, but their main sin was desiring to appear exalted in front of the entire church because of what they gave financially.
Power, Control, and Manipulation
Those bound by the religious spirit lust after power and control. The Pharisees and other religious leaders wanted to be in authority:
“saying: “The scribes and Pharisees have seated themselves in Moses’ chair [of authority as teachers of the Law],:” Matthew 23:2 AMP.
If those controlled by the religious spirit could gain access to the seats of authority when Jesus was on the earth, they can certainly do it now. Almost anyone can ascend the ranks of the religious system in America.
They can choose to go to Seminary and get a degree. If they are smart and charismatic, the top seats of authority will be open to them.
The religious system in America operates on intellectualism and gifting, not calling and character.
Believers influenced by the religious spirit will be upset by your freedom in The LORD and your walk of integrity before The LORD.
They will seek to be your leader in an effort to control you and bring you under the bondage of the religious spirit. They will offer you unwanted advice and counsel.
They will tell you how much wiser they are than you, in an attempt to gain control. These people will get involved in your life, even when you haven’t asked them to or given them permission. They are trying to take a seat of authority that has not rightfully been given them.
The religious spirit will try to manipulate your actions. If it can get you to yield to its manipulation, it will rejoice at its success to control you and your actions.
You must not give one inch to the manipulation from this spirit. There could be a lot of warfare when you resist the will of another person.
But it will be worth it because you do not want to come under it’s control by trying to appease it that the warfare might stop. Stand firm against it.
Denies the Power of God
The Religious Spirit hates the power of God and does not want it to manifest. It will use any excuse of reasoning to prevent God’s power from being displayed.
This spirit has even injected a doctrine into the modern church that states The LORD no longer heals, delivers, world miracles, or operates in the gifts of the spirit.
Now the Bible never states any of these things, but the religious spirit has decreed it. Therefore many believers who are under the influence of various religious spirits, either minimize The LORD’s power or teach it as history.
The religious spirit manifested numerous times and in different ways during the ministry of Jesus. It did not want the power of God revealed:
“But the leader of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, began saying to the crowd in response, “There are six days in which work ought to be done; so come on those days and be healed, and not on the Sabbath day.”” Luke 13:14 AMP.
The leader controlled by a religious spirit will use any excuse he can to deny the power of God from coming forth.
Some leaders are so deceived, that they are writings books against the manifestation of God’s power.
Therefore they are writing against God and against His Word. These leaders are actually preaching against and opposing the working of The Holy Spirit.
This is scary. Some of the motivation to deny the power of God comes from jealousy. Some leaders are jealous that God is using others in power, but not them.
“For he was aware that the chief priests had turned Jesus over to him because of envy and resentment.” Mark 15:10 AMP.
Those controlled by a religious spirit are jealous of those who The LORD calls. The religious spirit wants to destroy their ministries.
The religious leaders were filled with envy for Jesus. The power of The LORD was being released and The Holy Spirit was moving when Jesus had meetings.
This was opposite of the established religious leadership. Massive crowds were following after Jesus, and that enraged the leaders of Israel. The religious leaders wanted the influence and attention for themselves.
Many influenced by a religious spirit are caught up in the False Grace message. This message is a perversion of God’s Love, Grace, and Mercy.
It teaches that we do not have to be separated from the world, and that a worldly lifestyle is acceptable.
It teaches we can live how we want to, because Daddy God loves us no matter what.
This doctrine allows for unrepentant sexual sin in The Church, drug use (including drunkenness), and abortion.
This aspect of the religious spirit is very unique. It will accuse and condemn you if you preach on holiness and righteousness.
It will call you a religious spirit if you adhere for God’s righteous standard. This aspect of the religious spirit hates preaching on the judgment of God.
It will oppose the reality of God’s judgment and you, if you are called to that type of ministry. Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Elijah, John the Baptist, Jesus, and John the apostle all preached or prophesied about the judgment of God.
The religious spirit opposed them for it. It desires to keep God’s people trapped in the deception that God doesn’t judge.
If it can do this successfully, it can keep believers from repenting and living holy and effective lives for The LORD.
Also, it perverts the scriptures and the full revelation of who God is, as this evil spirit denies The LORD’s very nature as the righteous Judge.
So far, I have faced more opposition from this aspect of the religious spirit than any other aspect. It really desires to trap believers into a worldly lifestyle so that they forfeit their high calling of becoming the bride and being overcomers.
It resists the messengers who are called to make a people ready for The LORD. This spirit has a strong hold in Northwestern Montana where I lived for over 11 years.
It contended with me for the majority of that time through leaders and believers in The Church.
Rigid Traditions of Men
Finally we will mention the “classic religious spirit.”
This is the spirit that Paul battled throughout his ministry. Specifically it worked in Jewish believers who still wanted to keep all of the law. They tried to force Paul and other believers to keep all of the ordinances and ceremonial observances.
“The scribes and Pharisees tie up heavy loads [that are hard to bear] and place them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves will not lift a finger [to make them lighter].” Matthew 23:4 AMP.
Believers influenced by this aspect of the religious spirit will say things like, “Women can’t wear pants, makeup, or fix their hair. You can only worship God in public meetings on Saturday. You can only eat certain meats. You can never watch a movie. You can’t own a vehicle or use electricity.”
Here is what The Holy Spirit has to say:
“If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were still living in the world, do you submit to rules and regulations, such as, “Do not handle [this], do not taste [that], do not [even] touch!”? (these things all perish with use) — in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men. These practices indeed have the appearance [that popularly passes as that] of wisdom in self-made religion and mock humility and severe treatment of the body (asceticism), but are of no value against sinful indulgence [because they do not honor God].” Colossians 2:20-23 AMP.
External traditions are self-made, and only have some appearance of holiness. But this appearance is only a fraud, because it comes from the self-life.
It is self-abasement which is: “humiliation of oneself, especially as a result of guilt, shame, or the like.”
Anything that comes from our self-life does not offer any value against sin or worldliness. Only the Jesus living in us is of value, and the solution.
The Pharisees obeyed all sorts of external rules, but inwardly they were still wicked. They lusted in their hearts for power and position, and they were consumed with anger and envy.
These inward sins resulted in them murdering Jesus. The scriptures warn of a resurgence of this unholy spirit in the last days:
“But the [Holy] Spirit explicitly and unmistakably declares that in later times some will turn away from the faith, paying attention instead to deceitful and seductive spirits and doctrines of demons, [misled] by the hypocrisy of liars whose consciences are seared as with a branding iron [leaving them incapable of ethical functioning], who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from [certain kinds of] foods which God has created to be gratefully shared by those who believe and have [a clear] knowledge of the truth. For everything God has created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude; for it is sanctified [set apart, dedicated to God] by means of the word of God and prayer.” 1 Timothy 4:1-5 AMP.
According to The Holy Spirit, all foods can be eaten now.
The Spirit says that marriage should not be forbidden, as in the case with Catholic priests.
The scriptures show that The Church met daily to worship, pray, and preach (Acts 5:42). So we know that anything that proclaims The Church can only meet on Saturday is a religious spirit.
The Holy Spirit always shines the truth on false doctrine that is released by the religious spirit.
The religious spirit has a stronghold in many believers.
A believer may only have one aspect of the religious spirit working in them.
Some believers or leaders could have many or all aspects of the religious spirit working in them. It’s time we pray for The LORD to drive the religious spirit from His Church.
If we are going to come into the fullness of The LORD, this evil spirit must be dealt with. It is standing in the way of The Church from entering into her promised land. That promised land is Christ, and an intimate relationship with Him.
The religious spirit is attempting to cut off the presence and power of God from the end- time church. We must go into spiritual warfare with these demons, so The LORD can have The Church He wants.
This starts with the revelation of what the religious spirit actually is, and how it works.
With understanding, we can go forth in the leading of The Holy Spirit. We can now be made free from the religious spirit, and set others free.
May The LORD keep this evil spirit out of His house, in Jesus’ Name.
Ty Unruh is a messenger of The LORD. He is longing is to walk with The LORD inwardly, and to be in the secret place of His presence. He desires to impart an inward burning for Jesus to others. Ty’s burden from The LORD is to see the bride made ready, disciples raised up, and to release a revelation of Jesus as the coming King and Judge. He also carries a call to see The Church restored to The LORD’s original design found in the scriptures. Ty founded Generation Chosen in 2015.