If you want to know Jesus for who He really is, you are going to have to clear away the religious fog. When such powerful freedom has been made available to us in Christ, why would we entangle ourselves in a yoke of bondage that is often called a religious spirit?
We often develop a religious spirit because we are uncomfortable with relationship. We engage religious rules as a way to connect with God and develop a sense of control. Yet when God sends an invitation of relationship, it’s a response to love, not a list of rules. It also takes vulnerability and movement out of our comfort zones.
When God invited Israel to draw near, they were more content to let Moses do the interacting with God. They prefered to hear from God second hand, rather for themselves. It was more comfortable for them to hear a set of rules rather than engage the God of creation personally.
Rules In the Place of Relationship
We do the same thing today. It’s easier to follow a set of rules and regulations than it is to interact with God personally. We can check off a list of religious activities to satisfy our obligation to God, yet our hearts can still feel far from Him.
Moving out of a religious spirit involves engaging our hearts, to where we move to passionate love connection based on grace and get out of drone living that goes through the motions.
Heart connected life takes time, investment and a different pace of life. It involves facing our pain, recognizing our weakness and allowing vulnerability in our relationships. A religious spirit bucks against all of that.
How NOT to Get Free of a Religious Spirit:
Many who realize they have been infected with the virus of a religious spirit often take the wrong steps to freedom, often leading them into other problems.
Here are some ways to NOT get free of a religious spirit.
1. Swing the pendulum in the opposite direction.
In reaction to religious legalism and Pharisaical living, many wounded souls turn to other extremes, abandoning certain moral compasses or foundational values. Some become lawless. Others reject the values that are important to whole living. Instead of throwing away the counterfeit motivation of a religious spirit, they abandon the good things that a religious spirit tainted.
2. Get bitter.
A huge mistake is to carry that unresolved resentment, anger and bitterness through life, without letting God heal and redeem those wounds in your heart.
3. Shut off God.
Even though certain leaders have mis-represented God, many can see God as the problem through it all. They get angry with Him and shut Him out.
4. Become disrespectful.
I watch a lot of scenarios where people find more freedom in Christ and then shove that freedom in the faces of those bound in a religious spirit. Instead of growing in compassion and having a heart of honor, we develop a superiority; as though “we have something — they don’t.” That arrogance will land you into a whole new religious spirit.
How to Walk into Freedom:
In order to walk into more freedom from a religious spirit, here are some things to keep in mind:
1. There is always more freedom available.
One of the greatest truths I have learned is that there is always more freedom in Christ than I could ever imagine. Just when I think I am free, there is more available. I never want to think I have arrived and I never want to posture my heart as being more free than others.
2. Check yourself before checking everyone else.
The typical response to any discernment based teaching is to think of all the people you know who have that issue. It’s a way to avoid dealing with your own heart and brokenness. It’s always good to work on your heart before God and let others see the fruit before you start pontificating with them.
3. Get a revelation of the Father’s love for you.
I am not talking about learning that God loves you in your head. Get a personal revelation, where you can experience the power of His love for you in your heart. Radical transformation always begins with understanding in your heart the vast love that God possesses for you, especially as a Father. A religious spirit has more room to operate in people that lack a sense of the Father’s massive love for them.
Religious spirits create an uptight posture in people because they don’t have a revelation of the love of God. They overcompensate for their brokenness with hyper religious rigidity and rules.
4. Grace, grace, grace.
One of the lost words in the English language is the word grace. We say it so much it has become cliche and meaningless to our hearts. But to all who admit to legalism, Pharisaical postures and a religious spirit, freedom is found in the power of grace. It’s God’s posture towards us in the midst of our sin, weakness and brokenness. Grace involves His empowerment to transform our lives and impact others through our journey.
5. Get used to more heart connection.
In order to do this, you have to give more room to face pain and live more vulnerable. A religious spirit is filled with facades and fabricated fronts that produce hypocritical people. To live from an authentic heart, I have to get used to simply being myself and let go of the religious masks we wear. People need to experience my heart.
5. Get ready to break out of your comfort zones.
This kind of bondage doesn’t break easily, so you’ll have to get used to your comfort zones being confronted. Freedom is available for you, but Jesus never said it would be comfortable. In fact, it will stretch you beyond anything you are used to. Your sense of control will be confronted and what others think of you will all be challenged in your heart.
6. Examine your practices: are they producing fruit?
Get honest. If something is not producing fruit in your life, examine it and the motivation behind what you are doing. For example, I had to adjust how I was approaching prayer and fasting. I would engage in very long, extended fasts, but was frustrating my wife and myself.
In fact, I’d come out of the prayer closet and my wife would say to me, “what’s the matter with you? You look miserable.”
My response, “I’m fasting and praying.”
“Well something ain’t right. Cause the more you are praying, the more miserable you are.”
That’s an honest wife right there. She was right. A religious spirit had trained me to be somber, sad and grieving the whole time I was in prayer and fasting. It didn’t allow me to experience the joy of intercession and connecting to God’s heart. I find many others exercise all kinds of fasting and prayer habits that are producing little fruit because it has become choked by a religious spirit.
Stop living by compulsive obligation and connect to love relationship with God. Connect to His love for you and respond with passion. If any practice you have is all obligation, then allow God to reset that habit. Start it over. Take a break from that habit and come back to it with fresh eyes.
7. You have to take action.
If you ask for freedom, God will orchestrate moments where you will need to take action. The moment will arrive and you’ll know it.
For me, it was dancing.
I never danced in church. It wasn’t encouraged. Most churches I attended growing up believed in dancing on paper, but not in practice.
Yet as God was renovating my heart and life, He was transforming my posture of worship. My composed posture was a front for my fear of looking odd. So it began in my prayer closet. God began to speak to me. “I want to teach you how to worship like never before.”
I knew religious rigidity needed to be broken off of me. If I was going to live from the heart, I was going to have to let loose and praise my God.
So each day, I would express myself more and more vulnerably. It was awkward doing this by myself, but I could feel the freedom each time.
Then one day it happened. There was a moment in a church service that I was visiting that spontaneous expression broke out. It was uncomfortable at first, but I knew this was my moment.
I broke out and danced without a care. Yet it wasn’t just that moment. Dancing before the Lord became a part of my life. For years, I would say, that’s not my personality. It was all a front to my insecurity and fears. When I got real I admitted that it was all fear-based. But when you want freedom more than you want to be comfortable, you’ll step out.
8. Stop taking yourself so seriously.
This is probably the biggest one.
Loosen up. Chill out. Joy is a fruit of the spirit and it needs expression to manifest. But you have to let go of your uptight ways to break free.
If people have told you “stop taking yourself so seriously” or “loosen up” they are probably right.
All freedom has some aspect of joy attached to it. So if you are saying that you are growing but joy is not increasing, something is missing. A religious spirit may be getting in the way.
Get out of obligation and get into authentic relationship connection. It will not only help you, it will relieve those who are burdened with you being so uptight.
9. Give understanding to others.
As you break free, keep a heart of honor to those who have not chosen that path. Don’t carry a swagger about what you have experienced. Keep a humble heart. Give patience to others that you needed people to have for you in the midst of your journey.
Understand that pursuing freedom from the religious spirit may cause you to walk new paths or engage new relationships. Don’t be divisive or act superior.
You may even have critics rise up against you. That’s no reason to be rude or disrespectful. You can maintain a heart of love towards those who are in opposition or do not carry the same freedom you do.
10. Get used to expressing joy.
It’s funny how the Bible is filled with references of joy. We mention joy in church. But we rarely let it manifest.
What does joy look like? It’s festive, celebratory and vibrant.
But let’s get real: joy is action. So get out there and start expressing the joy that is available. You may need to act in joy before you feel the engagement in your heart, but that’s ok. Often a step of faith is needed to stir up that which God says we have.
Learn to laugh a lot. Engage passion and express it.
Some people worry about getting too emotional, when they have created an opposite ditch in the process.
Get used to expression. Find gatherings where you can just let loose, be yourself and have fun. In the midst of it, give thanks to God, who is Creator of all things, especially joy.
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