Performance Based Religious Works
“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12).
As we begin to express the life of Christ in our lives, we need to be aware of another set of Satan’s deceptions, namely, the religious spirit.
The religious spirit can best be defined as an agent of Satan assigned to prevent change and maintain the status quo by using religious devices and our performance. The religious spirit seeks to distort a genuine move of God’s Grace through deception, control, and manipulation. This spirit operates out of the old sin nature the Flesh (which operates in relatively righteousness), old religious structures, and attempts to maintain the status quo, favoring tradition over a genuine, intimate relationship with God. It influences believers to live the Christian life based on works instead of grace. Similar to the Greek way of thinking, the religious spirit depends on performance based human effort to acquire spiritual knowledge and favor from God.
The religious spirit attempts to nullify the importance of faith and grace that has been given to us through the work of the Cross. IF we could perform and through our own work make ourselves good to please God, Why would there be a need for the person of Christ to die on the Cross? IF works can save us why has mankind never been able to pay their own sin debt? If religion and ritual can save; why can man nor woman not keep God’s commandments? Obviously, You cannot gain acceptance from God by doing any works. Accept His unconditional love for you today.
The religious spirit breeds fear and intimidation. To those who are not religious, religion breeds rebellion. Our automatic tendency when someone says, “you have to…” is to say, “I don’t have to do anything, man. Forget that!” We are just as wrong as they, because of our attitude. We are responsible to react with character and integrity to a person bound by the religious spirit. When it looked like Jesus was dealing harsh with man who was religious, He was really dealing with the spirit behind religion. Ephesians 6 says that we wrestle not against flesh and blood. That is why Jesus, when placed on the cross by religious people, asked the Father to forgive them. He said they didn’t know what they were doing.
We need to realize that we do not wrestle with men, churches or ministries. We need to reach those that have not yet come into the river of Grace. We are not better than them. We are just free. We should never use our freedom to cause unnecessary offences. I love to dance before the Lord in worship. But if I go into a church and the pastor asks for people to not dance, I will not. If I do, then it is not freedom but rebellion.
They sought to kill Jesus because they were bound by the religious spirit, and they were working under the power of the devil. But Jesus realized that they were in bondage. That is why He said to them, “You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.” Most people who are in this type of bondage do not know that they need to be set free. We should pray that may see, so that they might be set free. Jesus knew, when the Sadducees came, that they were looking to trap Him and ultimately slay Him. But He, realizing that they were bound by the religious spirit, tried to reach them by bringing them into truth. He could have gotten an attitude with them and even exposed them and their motive publicly.
Passion vs. Obligation and Duty
Much of what we do as Christians begins with fiery passion and a motivation from the Holy Spirit. Therefore, it becomes and obligation and a duty that we perform because we know it is what we are “supposed” to do.
Religion seems to keep or seek to control. We like religion because it tells us what to do externally and when we do it; our conscience feels a whole lot better. It is nothing more than humanistic behavior modification .This takes the place of inner peace that comes from being in right relationship with God. With this religious mindset we feel like we are right with God, and yet it is the complete opposite of how Jesus walked and taught. Though some of us are not as steeped in tradition like many religions, we still have rituals of our own that we do to make us feel better. And through this process it loses the passion and becomes obligation.
The religious spirit likes to keep us from the things of the spirit. Under its influence, many times we become so law-focused, or doctrinally obsessed, that we lose the passion for power and anything that involves feelings. We also can easily walk in law instead of love. When we become more determined to punish someone for not following the letter of the law than to love them and see human need, it might be a good sign that we are operating under the influence of this religious spirit. Many times when we are giving ourselves over to this judgmental heart, we ourselves are doing the same or worse things.
The religious spirit likes to get a person stuck on one particular passage of scripture. They will war over that teaching, even at the sake of losing the character of Jesus, getting angry and raising their voice to argue the point. Even
if what the person is saying is real truth, because they get out of the character of Christ, the words are no longer spirit and life. The religious spirit loves to get a person stuck on doctrine. The religious spirit gets people into doctrinal error, actually. Remember the Sadducees who were controlled by the religious spirit? They were determined and obsessed that there was no resurrection. They were not open to anyone showing them differently from scripture. Their outward appearance when they came to Jesus tried to look teachable, when all along their motive was to get Jesus to speak what they considered blasphemous so that they could get Him in a trap.
The religious spirit has a voice. It speaks in this way, “You have to get up early in the morning and pray; You have to tithe; You have to bless your meal each time you eat, before you eat; You have to have a good outward appearance; You have to be at every prayer meeting, go to every church function or service.” These are all things that I do, have to do, should have done, must do, could have done would have done, or even have done. The religious spirit is outward counterfeit of performance the opposite of Grace taught and lived obedience which is birthed internally.
The Holy Spirit which convinces us in our mind internally, with our new birth, our mind changes to the Mind of Christ. The believer’s new integrated mind with Christ’s Mind, through Grace Births an attitude change internally and then externally our will follows with true obedience. However, I don’t want to do anything because I feel I have to. We do so many things out of obligation and duty. It is called pretense or hypocrisy when we draw near to God with our lips, but our heart is far from Him. There is nothing wrong with doing the outward things. Many of them were commanded in the Old Testament. But none of them were commanded with the intention that obedience would take place based on duty and not passion and thankfulness of heart that God gave man a way to be forgiven.
Nothing is more damaging than a religious spirit binding a life. By placing rules and expectations on people, unbelievers or new believers, it cuts them off from wanting anything to do with God. Many times we are worried about what we are going to look like than the value of a person’s soul. How quick we are to come against people’s outward sins and forget about our own inward darkness. If we value the heart of God toward His people rather than our own judgmental opinions, we will seek to guide with a gentle heart those who are bound by religion into truth.
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Book Recommendations :
More Jesus, Less Religion: Moving from Rules to Relationship (Paperback)
by Stephen Arterburn (Author), Jack Felton (Author)
Grace Plus Nothing (Paperback)
by Jeff Harkin (Author)
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