With every beautiful thing God creates, there is always a counterfeit setup to resist. That is why it’s important to recognize when we are influenced more by a Pharisaical religion then by the Spirit of God.
Yet before you consider all the people in your life who may have this, consider it in yourself. It’s only going to help when you discern and allow God to make adjustments in your own heart first.
Here are some signs to help you realize if you have a religious spirit working in your life.
1. You are Emotionally Stiff and Rigid
Structure is helpful, but a religious spirit brings harsh rigidity, even down to someone’s personality. If you get a lot of feedback that you need to loosen up, you might have strands of the Pharisee virus working in you.
To be honest, there is not a lot of happiness and peace that comes off of you. You’re so focused on the rules and regulations you forget to simply enjoy God and those around you.
When it comes to spiritual things, you don’t feel you can just let your hair down and relax. You may have strong convictions about certain theological issues, but do you have a healthy perspective and approach towards others?
2. You are Argumentative
Religious Pharisees are way more focused with being right than engaging in loving relationship. Their emphasis is on everyone agreeing to rules, law and regulations than anything else. On top of it all, they avoid dealing with their brokenness by arguing about theology and telling others why they are wrong.
If you’re a terrible listener and you often shut people down before having a chance to hear them out, you might have a religious spirit. And you spend a lot of time arguing issues that are not that important to the life of other believers.
3. You Make Judgments Based on Outward Appearance
Instead of getting to know people and understanding their heart, you quickly make assessments and judgments by an outward appearance. This is because your perspective is based on people conforming to certain standards, with little regarding for the life of a person’s heart. With this dysfunction, you work hard on your image, rather than emphasizing the health of your heart.
4. You’re Fine with Religious Activity with Little Heart Connection
A religious spirit thrives in a performance based environment. People keep going and doing, with little time for heart connection. The rat race continues, but religious Pharisees are not concerned about the emotional and spiritual health of the people. The show must go on.
A religious spirit fosters gatherings that don’t produce much life-change and is content with programs that don’t work. As long as there is activity. People get used to doing endless “religious stuff.”
Therefore, you pray because you have to, not because you love to and you experience the power of connecting with God. You read your Bible because you’re supposed to, not because you’ve been captured by the truth and power of God’s Word.
5. You are Condemning and Judgmental
You’re first response is often to assess people by their in issues and failures. Their shortcomings blare at you. In fact you often overreact to sin in people’s lives, like kids react to cooties.
Throwing stones fairly easy for you, because you don’t see the potential in someone, you see them according to their sin issues. This causes the people you influence to become obsessed with all their own sin issues and struggles.
6. You are Stuck in the Past
If the only testimony you share is something that happened 30 years ago, then something needs to change. A new work of God is needed. What may have been a miraculous and vibrant work of God power has now turned to old statues you keep staring at. Religious Pharisees glorify the good old days of the past rather than looking for ways to manifest God’s goodness today.
7. You are Closed to Change
I am not talking about changing core values of morality. I’m talking about how taking risks into new territory to usher in the fresh ways God is touching and changing lives. A religious spirit keeps people from taking risks and stepping into new territory. It keeps people wanting to remain in comfort and the familiar. Meanwhile, the Spirit of God is always on the move.
Religious Pharisees see the way they do things as the only way to do things. They view those who don’t do things those way as wrong. They are suspicious and critical of any new thing going on in the church.
8. You Have Misdirected Zeal that Tears Down
Passion and zeal is admirable, but it can easily be used as a weapon that condemns and tears down, rather than building up the work of God in people’s lives. It seems that masses of self-proclaimed leaders are wasting a great deal of time and energy pointing out what is wrong with certain preachers or churches.
They focus on everything they are against without giving a clear sense of what they are for and being busy about that. Quite often, high level leaders are criticized by the Pharisees because of jealousy that gets covered up with religious zeal.
Those who have the religious spirit may be able to point out problems with great accuracy, but they seldom have solutions, except to tear down what has already been built.
9. You Are Stubborn and Prideful
This quote says it all:
Satan also knows that once leaven gets into the bread, it is extremely difficult to remove. Pride, by its very nature, is the most difficult stronghold to remove or correct. The religious spirit keeps us from hearing the voice of God by encouraging us to assume that we already know God’s opinion, what He is saying and what pleases Him. This delusion is the result of believing that God is just like us. It could even cause us to rationalize our need to obey Scripture, having us believe that rebukes, exhortations and words of correction are for other people, but not for us. – From Overcoming the Religious Spirit by Rick Joyner
10. You Push Perfectionistic Religion on People
When people get around your version of Christianity, they feel free pressure and an added burden. The journey to growth is filled with perfectionistic pressure that sees everything in black and white extremes. It produces Christians who can develop what I call Religious Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, where a never ending barrage of condemning thoughts. They see everything as either 100 percent right or 100 percent wrong, without seeing things in a healthy perspective.
Attempts to walk in holiness look more like self-hatred than fruitful growth. At the same time Pharisees can often flip flop, they beat themselves up, never coming to peace inside, but they appear superior in how they deal with others. The reality is they are not comfortable dealing with their brokenness. Vulnerability, failure and weakness are troublesome areas.
Problem Is: A Religious Spirit Feels Justified
The problem with all this, is most people with these kind of symptoms feel justified in how they come across. Even though they damage people’s hearts, they feel they are “doing God’s work” as they oppress, condemn and treat others with unloving contempt.
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