How the Spirit of Religion fights the Spirit of God

Definition:by the spirit of religion we mean that group of evil spirits which inspire loyalty to religious concepts and practices in such a way as to oppose and possibly to counterfeit the true work of the Holy Spirit.

Satan knows he cannot stop people from being religious. He therefore seeks to pervert the religious instinct of mankind by deception. All religious deceptions work to draw men away from glorifying and enjoying Christ. Religious spirits work in many different ways, and with many different tactics. We may see through some of their tactics only to be completely fooled by them in another area of our attitudes and thinking. Therefore we must be humble enough to admit that we too, not having fully possessed the mind of Christ as yet, could be deceived in some areas.

It should be obvious to Christians that the power that non-Christian religions exercise over the minds of men comes from Satan. Only a supernatural power could drive men to worship rocks or rats. What power is it that keeps people away from worshipping the true God, the Creator and turning their primary affections to false gods and other vain things? It is the spirit which is now at work in the sons of disobedience (Ephesians 2:2).

However, religious spirits are at work not only outside the church of Christ, but also within it. The extent to which Christendom has been infiltrated by evil spirits is greater than it will ever be possible to calculate. It extends virtually to every local church and across every denomination to a greater or lesser extent. This fact can be demonstrated logically by considering for a moment the theological disagreements and bad relationships which exist between churches, and also within individual local churches. How can these things be so, when Jesus put so much emphasis on us loving one another (John 13:34, 35), and was so emphatic in his desire for the unity of the church to reflect the unity of the godhead? (See John 17). Obviously the spiritual power behind these problems is religious in nature.

The religious spirit will also rear its ugly head when a man or woman full of the mercy of God and the power of the Holy Spirit begins to confront religious people in churches with the truth. At these times demons get stirred up and if possible will provoke all kinds of unreasonable and malicious attacks on such servants of God. In some situations they may even be publicly cast out of those so influenced by them. This ministry is necessary, and in the last days will become more and more common.

Jesus Christ had little trouble dealing with demons provoking sickness and disease in people. However, the Lord faced greater opposition from people controlled by religious spirits. These people did not know they had religious spirits. They thought they represented the true religion of God. They did not want to be free of the spirits that made them feel important and more righteous than those around them. Because of their pride and hardness of heart, even the Son of God could not help them to come to the Father. These people were known as the Scribes and Pharisees, the chief priests and experts in the law. It was these people who hated Jesus and conspired to crucify Him. They were motivated by pride, envy and self-righteousness. They refused to humble themselves and believe in the Messiah, despite the many proofs that Jesus gave. This remained true even after they were confronted with the fact of the resurrection.

We make a serious mistake if we assume that the spirit which motivated these Jewish religious leaders can in no way influence us. In fact, those who think like that are probably the very ones who are influenced by such spirits. While these religious spirits will obviously not promote exactly the same errors now as they did in those people, there will be similarities of attitude and behaviour which will be clearly seen.

This subject is actually a vast one and we need the help of the Spirit of God to be able to get free from the influence of religious spirits.  Most people, myself included, will have an ongoing battle with these kinds of spirits.  If we are not fighting them, perhaps it is because we are happy to be securely in their grip.

The Scripture gives us many clues as to the marks of the activity of religious spirits, especially those religious spirits which are closest to the truth and therefore harder to detect.

Characteristics of the Work of Religious Spirits

Fear of not being good enough

    When we think our salvation depends all on us we will be fearful, because the Bible says that we all stumble in many ways. Until we cast ourselves at the mercy of God and truly give ourselves to Him, we go through a cycle of hearing laws, falling short, feeling guilty, trying to measure up, and repeated failure.

    People under religious spirits are carrying heavy burdens and do not have the sense of freedom that comes when we know that our sins are washed away.  The Kingdom of God is righteousness, peace and JOY in the Holy Spirit. If you are religious but you have no peace or joy, something is wrong. Condemnation and unrighteous judgment may have stolen it from you.

Fear of People

If you are asking yourself more often: "What will the people at church think?" than "What will Jesus think?" you are bound by a religious, man-pleasing spirit.

We should not offend people unnecessarily, but if we must choose between offending people and offending the Spirit of God, then let people take offense if they must. Many were offended at Jesus.

The fear of man brings a snare, but he who trusts in the Lord will be kept safe. (Pr. 29:25).

Fear of the Pharisees kept many Jews out of the Kingdom of God.

"Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God. (John 12:42,43)

When you are at church you behave in a certain way, because you are more conscious of people than conscious of God. If you really feared God more than people, you would not watch some of the garbage you watch on television. But remember that God sees all that you do.

When will you give up that garbage, confess it to God and get on with serving the Lord from a pure heart?

Performance, not grace-based.

The religious spirit seeks  to have us serve the Lord in order to gain his approval, rather than from having received our approval from the cross of Christ.

Doing works to atone for our sense of guilt, rather than trusting the blood of Jesus

Some people are driven to do good works to make up for the wrong they have done. This kind of works will never bring us God's acceptance. It is another way of rejecting the sacrifice of Jesus when we say to God, "No, let me pay for it."

Emphasis on External Things

    – food (Hebrews 13:8; 1 Tim 4:1,2)
    – marriage (fobidding to, or pushing people to marry)
    – clothes
    – external appearance (Matthew 23:5; 2 Corinthians 5:12)

"Now you Pharisees make the outside of the cup and dish clean, but your inward part is full of greed and wickedness." (Luke 11:39).

Religion can put new clothes on the man, but Christ puts a new man in the clothes.

Two extremes: carnality and legalism. Both put too much emphasis on external appearance.

False Prophecy

We no longer stone to death those whose prophecies do not come to pass, but still we must judge prophecy.
Failure to do this has given the religious spirit too much influence in the church. Just because we feel something spiritual does not mean that it was the spirit of God.

"Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies. TEST ALL THINGS; hold fast to what is good." (1 Thess. 5:19-21).

"Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others judge". (1 Corinthians 14:7). Do you let people judge what is said? This is a commandment of Scripture.

If we make people fear that they are blaspheming the Holy Spirit if they dare to question anything said in church with a "Thus sayeth the Lord" we are not letting people judge the prophecy.

If we say "The Lord has spoken" and he has not spoken, we give place to a religious spirit. This can corrupt the church, by putting fear and condemnation into people when instead they need to be built up and strengthened and shown how to overcome sin and the devil.

Emphasis on Traditions of the elders "this is the way we've always done it":

"Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashed hands?" (Mark 7:5)

If limit God to a particular way of doing things in ministry, we may grieve the Holy Spirit and He will not work as He wishes. He may even leave us alone.

If the way we do things is not working, perhaps we have not allowed the Holy Spirit to lead us to make the necessary changes.

If the way we minister healing does not work, we need to ask how much we are being led by the Spirit, and how much we are stuck in tradition.

Emphasis on ritual, special rules and regulations.

"And they have many other things which they have received and hold, like the washing of cups, pitchers, copper vessels, and couches" (Mark 7 4:)

We don't worry about the same rules, but we look too much at other things. For example, the difference between the clothing of men and women. Jesus did not wear pants. He wore a robe. Appropriate clothing will always be modest, but it depends to some extent on culture. Women should not dress like prostitutes, but neither should men be looking over every woman in church making sure they are not breaking any of "the rules". We should keep our eyes on Jesus.

The religious spirit makes outward things like clothes the major issue, and puts less emphasis on a right heart attitude of humilty, gratitude, mercy and courageous faith.

Pride in personal sacrifice.

We may have given up things to serve the Lord. We may have prayed, fasted or given. But when we want others to know we do these things, and we wish  to gain the approval and admiration of men, we are falling prey to the religious spirit.(Matthew 6)

The next step if to ask, "Why is God not blessing me, since I have sacrificed so much?"

Lack of mercy.

But if you had known what this means, 'I desire mercy and not sacrifice', you would not have condemned the guiltless. (Matthew 12:7)

Mercy is one of the "weightier matters of the law". Remember the Samaritan who helped those in trouble by the roadside, while the others went to church. Remember that Jesus healed as an expression of the mercy of God. Healing is not a reward for good behaviour, although sometimes bad things like religious spirits can stop us from receiving our healing. When Jesus heals  today it is an expression of God's mercy.

Lack of concern for the needs of people

The Pharisees would pull their ox out of the well on the Sabbath, but were upset when someone was healed. They didn't care about the needs of the people around them. They loved t

Hypocrisy – play acting

Why do some people have a special tone of voice in church?  What is this if not "play acting"? When we pretend that we have a concern for righteousness and justice but secretly hold onto certain areas of sin we are being hypocrites.

The Love of Religious Power, but rejection of the power of the Holy Spirit.

The Pharisees hated Jesus because they thought that because of him they would lose their place as religious leaders.

They were upset with Jesus for healing and casting out demons. They called it the work of the devil. (Matthew 12:44)

Jealousy and Envy

of anointed ministers of God.

They considered that if Jesus were truly from God he would recognise and honour them.

1 Corinthians 1:12 "I am of Paul, I am of Apollos".

"But they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise." (2 Cor. 10:12),.

What does it matter who God works through? We are making disciples for Jesus. If we have anything it comes from Him. Can we rejoice when God blesses someone else, or do we immediately feel bad and try to find fault with them. Remember Cain's attitude to Abel when his sacrifice was rejected, but Abel's was accepted.

Despising people

"But this crowd which does not know the law is accursed". (John 7:49)

Jesus spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others. (Luke 18:9)

The Pharisees considered themselves better than the bulk of the people because of their knowledge of the law.

We make a serious error if we consider ourselves better than others on the basis of race, education, knowledge, good looks or any such thing.

Placing more emphasis on their traditions than on the plain teachings, commandments and declarations of the Scripture

Jesus told us to preach the gospel. (Mark 16:15). People are dying out there.  Why are we fighting about what kind of clothes we should wear, and how important this or that practice should be in church life?

Blindness to the work of God.

Then the blind and the lame came to Him in the temple, and He healed them. But when the cheif priests and scribes saw the wonderful things He did, and teh children crying out in the temple and saying, "Hosanna to the Son of David!" they were indignant

They could not rejoice in the healing of the blind and lame. It had become unimportant to them. They were spiritually blind.


"So they watched Him closely, whether He would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse Him."
Mark 3:2.

They were hoping to find something to accuse Jesus with.

What do YOU think?


About Michael Fackerell

The Christian faith is about Jesus. He came to save the lost. About Jesus Christ, Bible teaching, Testimonies, Salvation, Prayer, Faith, Networking.


  1. Very good

  2. loverevolver4 says:

    This is a brilliant post, too many churches have become like a modern business or organization, too focused on procedures and money instead of God himself in my opinion. I attended a feast of tabernacles ceremony at one of my local churches and felt appalled by the lack of acceptance of God in the service, there was a heavy focus on Money and surviving the recession, do these people not understand the love of God will save them from this?

  3. Just a question, where does this terminology or belief of a “spirit of religion” come from? I continually here of “spirit of deception”, “spirit of religion” etc etc. I am not being cynical or sarcastic in any way, I genuinely want to know what scriptures you have read to come across this belief. I totally agree on these points with the church and its system being incorrect, but isn’t it from the knowledge and good intentions of man that these things have come and destroyed what the Father really has for us?

    • The terminology will not be found in the word of God , however we try to identify a spirit by its character. When it is not the spirit of God at work then it is of course against us . If you look at what we call the spirit of religion it operate in a religous form. Positions in a Church, church doctrine just like the ones we love to read about in Revelations. The spirit of religion is just the basic of what we are realy dealing with if you study concerning the Spirits in the old testemant you will find links between that of the Old and New. To sum it up it is the best way for us to describe what we are dealing with using our limited knowledge. As you grow in Christ perhaps will reveal more. Everything we do must has a foundation in the word of God. not for our personal gain but for the body of Christ. Be watchful not to find faults by way of fear but allow the Holy Spirit to reveal althings.

  4. Jesus dealt with 3 groups in his earthly ministry: Those who were lost and blind, those who were his disciples and those who were of the religious sects. If we aren’t spending at least 1/3 of our time dealing with religion in our own hearts, we are probably bound up by it and totally blind to it.

    A word on leaving churches: I have only one problem with people leaving a church because of the Spirit of religion… if everyone that is free of the Spirit of religion ends up leaving a church because all the people there are bound by the Spirit of religion, then how will the church ever get free of the Spirit of religion? Isn’t it the job of the enlightened to be salt and light to the unenlightened? Shouldn’t we be like Moses and lead by example and be “one who breaks open the way” for all those bound by the Spirit of religion? Just a thought.

    • Hey –

      Sir- do you believe that God wants you to move from Glory to Glory- faith to faith? When Jesus went into the temple and turned over the tables- He wasn’t trying to make them feel warm and fuzzy on the inside. He was overturning their system- their way of thinking. AND- if they refused to change- Jesus walked on through, dusted off his sandals and went on to the next town/to a set of believers WHO WANTED TRUTH.

      Truth- YOU will either change your circumstances (if there is ENOUGH salt to stand with you)- OR you will be changed into whats influencing you. If there aren’t – and if people aren’t capable of seeing the truth- THEN MOVE ON. SO that your walk isn’t hindered. WE ARE NOT GOD- and We can’t change a heart- ONLY GOD CAN. AND WHEN WE – choose to stay in a place where we aren’t being changed anymore- then WE have nobody to blame but ourselves. MEANING- you might be suffering from Religion. With all due respect.

      • Timothy Luke says:

        Amen Missy!

        I consider a spirit of religion to basically be on par with a spirit of murder. Its purpose is to kill relationship. Who murdered Jesus? It was the religious ones, who motivated under the guise of righteousness, carried out murder. This happens in many ways and in varying degrees when a religious spirit is involved. A spirit of religion does not tolerate relationship, but belittles it and makes it second rate to appearance and structure. A spirit of religion seeks to set up a standard for judging and condemning people, not saving them. To stay in a religious environment is to slowly die. By leaving, it gives others the courage to leave when they see your love and light shining brighter than ever!

        Here is an adaptation of 1 John 4:18. “There is no religion in love; but perfect love casts out religion: because religion has torment. He that is religious is not made perfect in love.”

        “Pure religion and undefiled is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction and keep ones self unspotted from the world.”

        Blessings and peace to you!

        • King James Version Bible in 1 John 4:18 says There is no fear in love; but perfect love cast out fear: because fear has torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love. Wow so true.

  5. charles Schenck says:

    This post has touched me and opened my eyes to things I did not know existed!! I have been speaking to my church on these things as a pastor I hope to see God do great things with this. Thank you.

  6. Dave Kreitzer says:

    The spirit of religion. is this what has affected so many churches that I have visited or been involved with over the years? Indeed, there is more emphasis upon power, position and political wrangling than upon the things of God.

    Instead of edification and building up the Body, there is an effort to keep the good brothers and sisters in their pews; they are not capable of doing ministry, it’s the domain of the power brokers and “denizens of the faith.” Yet, the ministry performed by such teams pays mere lip service toward outreach and evangelism. Efforts are more commonly focused upon internal events and programs designed to function as the “opiate of the masses.” This way the congregation can be entertained and return for a repeat performance (Numbers are very important in the corporate church.).

    As long as power can be lorded over another, the leadership teams seem content and happy in their own right. Obviously, discipleship takes a back seat to the building fund drive and the imminent expansion of the facilities.

    God help us.

    • You know Dave, I just had a personal experience with this phenomenon recently. I had been looking for an evangelistic, praying pentecostal church to invest time and energy into, which would hopefully be a base for our mission activity in the future.

      Compared to other churches, this one is actually pretty good. They get about 60-100 people to attend a Tuesday night prayer meeting. The young people go around the malls Thursday night and minister healing to the sick in Jesus’ name and lead people to Christ. Something to praise God for! And yet …

      I was told rather harshly by a team leader NEVER to speak to anyone under her care. I brought up the issue with the senior pastor who confirmed to me that yes, this was the policy of the church – never give advice to anyone on personal issues – instead, introduce them to the gifted pastor who can deal with it.

      I agreed to this as I don’t believe in being rebellious but after a couple of weeks I just felt that this is crazy – I don’t want to just shut down and only talk with people about what I’m doing in business, my family’s health, what they are doing in business, and their family’s health. I don’t want to lead people to Christ and then be forbidden to actually disciple them! So I just told the pastor I’ll be looking for another church.

      I’ve been a serious believer for almost 25 years now, have planted churches and pastored myself, but it clearly does not count! The longer I stay in these wannabe mega-churches the less qualified I become to do anything useful! The whole system works to dis-empower people, especially people who think. Functionally, people are useful for contributing money and connecting with other people to attract them and keep them in the system. Beyond that, the key to moving forward in these systems is to embrace the various forms of prepackaged Christianity and stick with the formula.

      Until then senior pastor was obviously very keen for me and others to be a bigger success in business because what a major part of what he really wants is to pay off the building and then build another one 4 times as big. But he seems very happy to let me go now because there are always going to be plenty of people who want Christianity on that level and nothing more – why risk any real discussion or thinking in church life when plastic Christianity is so much safer?

      God forgive me if I am wrong – but I suspect that the root causes for this are in the PHILOSOPHY OF MINISTRY that is being embraced today in many places, and not merely in personality differences or lack of humility.

      • I am reading more and more about Christians who are being displaced for reasons just like those you have outlined.

      • Paul said we are to use our liberty in Christ Jesus to serve one another by love. To me that sums it up quite well. We are totally at liberty – and from that position of liberty, we volunteer to serve, by love.

        So we serve men, but we are not the servants of men.

        It’s up to each of us individually to be praised by our own conscience that we are contributing to the Body of Christ in the way we believe the Holy Spirit wills for us to.

      • I was born and raised up in a religious cage for the better part of my life. I was made to feel guilty both inwardly and outwardly for wanting out. I am at the point to where I don’t want to be involved in any organized churches.

        I would get that “to question was the sin of rebellion” vibe. I am very spiritually sensitive and can sense when something doesn’t feel right. If I’m in church or a Christian organization where the spirit feels off and is completely contradictory to what is said I feel I am being taken for an idiot.

        I love God and Jesus and desire His will for my life but I don’t want to deal with people who are just a “brood of vipers” telling me what they think God’s will is for me when they really do have a clue. It is really a matter of trust towards the body of Christ.

        I believe it is one thing to have a group of people overcoming individual imperfections and another to have a body running off of faulty foundations. As Paul said in Galatians any gospel that is different from the gospel he preaches is really no gospel at all. Allowing lies to intermingle with truth no matter how well meaning is not submissive but passive. So I say don’t apologize for being right, it is that kind of second guessing that Satan uses to keep us bound in plausible deniability.

        -In His love

  7. Taryn Leigh says:

    Thanks, ive learnt a lot from this page !!!!
    We need to keep ourselves close to Christ, so we are able to detect such spirits.

  8. Faheem Qaiser says:

    Dear Brother,

    I am Fahim Qaiser from Pakistan. I have studied your web site, and I found it the most wonderful site to get right to the True Word of God. My suggestion for you is to create your material in my language of Urdu and Punjabi also. It will bring lots of blessings of the Word of God for the Pakistani and Indian Urdu and Punjabi speaking people. For that purpose I as a translator will bring your material into Urdu languages and into Punjabi language as well. Although it will take your low expenses as well, as fund for the Word of God to reach out to the deserving people. I my self, work on a local radio station also. Many times it becomes difficult for us to keep doing this because of being minorities and because of the lack of the financial resources. I will wait for your response.


    Fahim Qaiser ( Pakistan ).

    • Hi Fahim,

      If you are serious about this and can provide independent referees to verify who you say you are, please use the contact form to get in touch with me.


  9. I sincerely hope you’re not going to break out into the old “relationship not religion” mantra soon! Biblically there is nothing wrong with “religion” – the cult of Christ is described as a religion and irreligiosity is condemned. So is “having the form of religion but denying the power thereof”.

    • I’m 38 and until 2007, I was religious and I thought nothing of it, until my heart opened and I understood the CHrist died on the cross and HE forgave my sins and that HE is my GOD all the time and not only on Sunday. I now understand the BIBLE, I get being washed in the BLOOD, I get worship and the HOLY SPIRIT flows all the time. It’s not about the “priest/music/ministers/alter servers/candles/incense/clothes/baptism/confirmation” I am GOD’S alter/minister/light and I understand that I fellowship with my brothers and sisters and that GOD has chosen a shepherd to lead HIS flock and HE will breath HIS word into HIS shepherd to give HIS flock. GOD’s plan, not man’s

    • Lisa Radice says:

      Seems the term “false religious spirit” would be better to use than “religious spirit”. Sgeir makes a good point as the Bible never speaks of religion or being religious as a bad thing. Things like this need to be cleared up so that people new in the faith do not get mixed up.

  10. Terry Clark says:

    Are the religious E-Mails we receive dealing with some prayer and then ending with “Send this to 10 people in the next hour and receive some great expectation” a religious spirit? Or what is behind this ignorance?

    • warrior daughter says:

      When I receive a email that states to send to others, not to break the chain,money is coming your way ect,ect, ect …..I read them and then I delete the email….I feel that they are no more than a chain letter and God is in control of all parts of my life and a email is not going to cause me to become improvished, sick, abandoned whatever the email states will happen if I do not forward it….I would think that the email is more like a letter to make one become fearful and fear is one of the big tools Satan uses against all people Christian and nonChristian….Incidently these emails are a way of getting people’s email addresses so that you receive more unwanted emails….
      Also the emails that want you to add your name to a list and then after the list is full send to Whitehouse or whomever are another way of getting your address…The Whitehouse does not read this type of email…

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