The Operation of a Religious Spirit

    by Scott McClelland

Religious spirits, unlike our Father, do not care about your heart.  They only care about your compliance.  The Father is seeking worshippers who will worship him in spirit and truth.  This "in spirit and in truth" kind of worship is worship from the heart, and the free heart more specifically.  This is what the Father is focused on.

God, give us grace to clearly understand these things.  Help us to know the influence that a religious spirit seeks, uses, has, and how to drive it from our midst.  Also, help us to present our whole heart before You.  Give us the grace of wholeheartedness.  Give us the grace of extravagance.

We have to trust the interest and direction of the Lord.  Religion will drive us past what God is calling us to.  This is to "prove ourselves" and show our will to follow the Lord.  What bondage!  If the enemy can't stop us, he will try to push us too far.  This is where religious zeal comes in.  We are taking everything beyond where God may be calling us at the time.  We are doing this often times from a foundation of insecurity before God.  We are trying to gain His acceptance and prove our sincerity, perhaps because we have come short at other times and want so much for this time to be different.  If we seek acceptance before God by any means other than the work of the cross of Jesus Christ, we are going in a dangerous and tragic direction.  This is our only security before God; the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

This is why the writers of the New Testament fought so hard.  In the years immediately following the passion of the Lord, false doctrine entered, in order to take the focus off of the Lord and His complete sacrifice.  This is extremely dangerous.  To replace trust in the Holy Spirit's work in your life with religious activity is a grave error.  This enemy is one of our greatest foes, and attacks from within and without.

However, He who is in us is far greater than a religious spirit, and He will destroy this spirit's work using a generation of whole-hearted worshippers and followers who will not focus on religious compliance, but on pursuit of the King as central to true life.

John 5:39-40 reads, "You study the Scriptures in detail because you think you have the source of eternal life in them. These Scriptures testify on my behalf. Yet, you don't want to come to me to get eternal life."

In this example, the Pharisees were substituting reading and studying the scriptures, which without Jesus can be nothing but religious activity, for true worship of God.  They had put their trust in their religious activity, thinking that in what they were doing they would find the source of eternal life.  The very scriptures that they were so zealous to study, were speaking about and attempting to direct them to Jesus, so they could find the "eternal life" that they were in truth seeking.  They were truly seeking eternal life, but they were simply looking for it in the wrong place.  The place they were looking had become an idol to them.

The scriptures are all about God's pursuit of man.  God has always pursued man, the truth of which is central to the Bible.  We have missed the larger point in an attempt to find a form we could observe.  We have believed that if we observed certain forms, that in the keeping of the forms, we would be made right before God.  Forms can't create freedom.  Freedom comes from the Spirit of God.  Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.  Very often we must follow our heart at the expense of the mind's understanding.  We want to understand things before we can go with them. 

John 7:40-43 says, "After some of the crowd heard Jesus say these words, they said, 'This man is certainly the prophet.'  Other people said, 'This man is the Messiah.'  Still other people asked, 'How can the Messiah come from Galilee?   Doesn't Scripture say that the Messiah will come from the descendants of David and from the village of Bethlehem, where David lived?'  So the people were divided because of Jesus."

We need to realize that there are many things that we don't know.  Why did the Lord leave these people in the dark about this important detail that was in fact true about Jesus.  The people were just unaware of it.  God's interest is not to convince us in our minds.  Again, he wants our hearts. 

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