The Religious Spirit

by Morris Ruddick on April 28, 2015


© Morris E. Ruddick


“Blessed is the man who has made the LORD his trust, and has not turned to the proud nor to those who lapse into falsehood.” Ps 40:4

The religious spirit has plagued the thrust of God’s people from the beginning. Since the first century HloMem519church, its counterfeit antics have perverted the household of faith’s quest for more of God. Its modus operandi is subtle, seductive and entangling.

At its root is the perversion, the misapplication of the glory and blessing. At its gates even the elect stumble trying to do the right thing for the wrong reason. Its undermining tactics are why, for so many, that the power is either anemic or it backfires.

Combined with mammon, its potential is magnified with an influence bleeding into the infrastructures of culture, economies and seats of power.

The core application of the glory and blessing was labeled by Paul as the law or the principle of Christ (Gal 6:2), which he described as “bearing one another’s burdens.” This core application should be a banner we uphold. The long-standing foundation of this dynamic is outlined in Isaiah 53:4 and Matthew 8:17: “Surely He took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows.”

Paul wrote Timothy (2 Tim 3:5) to be cautious in dealing with those who are caught up in themselves with a form of godliness, but whose lives are a denial of God’s power. The psalmist (Ps 40) describes those who have turned to the proud or lapsed into falsehood. When combined with those who are ever learning without coming to a knowledge of the truth (2 Tim 3:7), you have a snapshot of those caught in the grip of the religious spirit.

The Stumbling
The churches in Revelation 2 and 3 demonstrate how communities and institutions of believers can “get it” partially, yet still significantly be blind-sided.

Only two of the seven churches noted garnered the Lord’s approval: the persecuted churches in Philadelphia and Smyrna. Part of the church at Thyatira had kept their focus and wasn’t seduced and waylaid, like their brethren, by religious falsehoods and devices.

The rest were clearly instructed to repent, corporately.

The pathways into their spiritual slippage included: the presumption of living on past exploits, having lost their original zeal and purpose, along with being encumbered with the cares of the world and straying into becoming compromising and lukewarm. At the core of these revealing judgments against the churches missing the mark was a religious spirit, which distorts and misapplies the glory and blessing.

It illustrates the intensity of the battleground within institutions where replacement of the vibrancy and direction of the move of the Spirit has taken root. It punctuates the importance of upholding the mantle and standard that defines true biblical leadership.

It is humbling that the churches judged in Revelation were within the generation of churches birthed by those who had walked with Jesus. Since its inception, one of the most subtle deceptions operating against the church has been in accurately assessing the enemy’s actions.

Evaluating the enemy’s capabilities by using the same yardstick used to measure ourselves has been the soft-spot in the tactical underbelly for God’s people over the centuries. The lure has been in “being like everyone else.”

From the beginning God has had His own playbook for His people. In selecting leaders, Moses’ father-in-law advised him to choose from those exhibiting not only competence and the fear of God, but those who were truly trustworthy and who had a track record of avoiding covetousness (Ex 18:21). Jesus advanced the secrets from this playbook. They are the principles of the Kingdom.

On an individual basis, there are several key factors by which the religious spirit erodes one’s purity of heart. It begins with pride and fear, but simultaneous taps covetousness (greed), deceit, division and confusion.

Paul’s prescient response to this fine-line issue is a key Kingdom principle: that in our weakness, God’s strength would be manifested.

So it was with the two churches gaining the Lord’s approval in Revelation. The others in need of correction, in one way or another had aligned themselves to operate on the same basis, using the same standard and criterion, as the world around them.

The Issue Compounded
Christian groups, from churches, to ministries, to marketplace organizations seeking to overcome the world, too often measure their success — and approach their goals as an issue driven by money. In the Kingdom, that is the cart before the horse. In reality it is a matter of stewardship.

The loss of this focus leads to the influence of mammon, whereby the love or quest of money rules. Jesus said: “he who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much” (Luke 16:10). Good stewardship will prevail in its mastery over whatever resource is truly managed.

However, when the religious spirit is compounded with the love or quest of money, then the gates are opened for disorder, division, critical distrust and an array of controlling, manipulating spirits. Given free reign it digresses into sorcery and the misuse of the anointing by what some refer to as Charismatic witchcraft.

Many years ago, the Lord spoke a most unique word to me concerning the business I was operating. He instructed me that: “whatever sphere of influence you walk into, to immediately begin looking beyond it, lest it overwhelm you.” While I recognized the wisdom this pointed to in applying the dynamic of faith, this word yielded even greater insight into avoiding the breakdown of stewardship in which either mammon or a religious spirit or both could gain access.

Illustrating this point of stumbling within Christian organizations was a prayer initiative that was birthed when George W. Bush became president. Designed to mobilize and provide the prayer support needed for the national task of wielding righteous power in corrupt settings, it initially blossomed. The realities of supporting this effort required fund-raising. However, as the initiative evolved, the fund-raising began morphing the focus on prayer until the initiative stalled and then fizzled. The means became the end. It was clearly the right thing done in a wrong way.

Curbing the subtle power of mammon begins with the awareness of its devices, even within the context of good stewardship. The ability to make or raise money is not the answer. However, those with a true Romans 12 gift of giving hold the most potential in its mastery.

The antidote to this alliance between the religious spirit and mammon begins with unity among those over finances wrapped into a foundation of godly maturity, humility/trust and leadership.

The Maturity Factor
In His relationship with His disciples there came a time when Jesus told them that He no longer considered them servants, but friends. Jesus was raising the bar. He said that servants don’t understand what their master is doing, but that He had made known to them ALL that the Father had shown Him. With that, He extended trust and imparted the essential dividing line for Kingdom maturity.

It was the point that their calling and their lives were not about them.
“He who loves his life will lose it, but he who hates his life in this world will gain it eternally.” John 12:25

Jesus penetrated the spiritual veil (Heb 6:19-20) to embrace the pure power that scatters darkness. This is the process restored. It is the demonstration of the fullness actuated by Jesus’ victory over death. This mantle has been passed to those anointed leaders willing to pay the cost and persevere to access the veil and fulfill the law of Christ by destroying the works of the devil. Unfortunately, far too many short-circuit the process and succumb to making an idol out of the calling.

Those genuinely anointed to lead, whether as priests, prophets or modern-day Josephs will wield the glory and blessing, often walking into the face of darkness with a purity and authority that risks everything, but makes darkness flee.
“Build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit. Keep yourselves in God’s love; …be merciful to those who doubt; snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with fear–hating even the clothing stained by defiled flesh.” Jude 20-23 NIV

The Humility and Trust Factor
The anointing to lead can result in overcompensating for the enormity of the calling. Cindy Jacobs once told me that many true modern-day apostles, which include today’s Josephs, operate with a false humility. Godly humility cannot be contrived. It is forged in the fire and carries with it a recognizable authority. Godly humility is devoid of arrogance and deceit as those who recognize true authority serve as pure God-pleasers.
“Lord, I am not worthy for You to come under my roof, but just say the word and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man under authority with solders under me and I say to this one ‘go’ and he goes and to another ‘come’ and he comes.”  Matt 8:8-9

Stripped of position, Joseph the Patriarch had very little he could depend on, other than the Lord’s daily guidance and the authority that came from the mantle of God’s blessing that he wielded. Joseph was groomed in a fire of humility to where it became a part of his nature. With the brandmark of humility was the integrity of heart and trust that he could always be counted on to do what he said he would do.

With his chief advantage being the guidance and wisdom God was giving him, there was little to no room for pride or scheming. That is the combination needed for true spiritual maturity and the foundation for biblical leadership.

The Leadership Factor
Understanding the significance God had for Joseph the Patriarch lends a glimmer into understanding the long and very arduous wait-times being endured by many modern-day Josephs.

In raising the bar, Jesus described the criteria for true friendship and love, as the willingness to sacrifice for those counted as friends (John 15:13). He defined friends as those who could be trusted with the details of God’s strategies and purposes. That dynamic is the foundation for His standard for love — and with that the real foundation of humility. Without trust, the mantle falls short and is prey to the scheming and selfish ambition provoked by the religious spirit.

Weathering the devices of the enemy’s onslaughts against Christian organizations takes both maturity and leadership. Mature, godly, sacrificial leadership will have no other foundation apart from humility and trust. Against such, the enemy cannot stand.
“This is my instruction, that you love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than a man lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:12-13

The Fine Line
God’s preparation time for Joseph galvanized him against the religious spirits and sorcery that prevailed in Egypt. That inoculation gave him mastery over mammon in his role as chief administrator of resources in averting tragedy for those under his charge during the famine.

Joseph became the model of a true prophetic steward. His example is the counterpoint to those succumbing to religious spirits who have deviated from the narrow path in their time of preparation.

Entrance into entertaining religious spirits is too often triggered by short-cuts. It takes discipline and resolve to hold the course. Joseph’s path into maturity and leadership was enriched by humility and the trustworthiness he exhibited in the years of abiding in God’s presence. As it was for Joseph, there are no short-cuts.

This path into abiding with the Lord involves a fine line described in Hebrews as the “dividing asunder between soul and spirit.” Perseverance and waiting on the Lord and His established times are not options. They are in fact the crucible that weeds out the many who are called from the few who are chosen.
“The way of the righteous is level and smooth. O Upright One, make the path of the righteous straight. While following the way of your judgments, we have eagerly waited for You. At night my soul longs for You. Indeed my spirit seeks you diligently. For when the earth experiences Your judgments, the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness.” Isa 26:7-10

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