We’re often labeled as ‘religious’ or carrying a ‘religious spirit’ by followers of popular evangelical leaders. They are playing the religious card, a spin-off of the ‘Pharisee Card’.
There are two uses of this card.
Use 1: The ‘religious’ card will be played on someone who supposedly always deny the existence and power of God. (It’s always those who are critical or testing what is said and done in church services or revival meetings who are quenching the Spirit of God. In this category, it is known by some as a Jezebel Spirit.)
Use 2: The ‘religious’ card will be played on someone who supposedly lives out of ‘head knowledge’ and not from a personal relationship with God. (It’s always those whose relationship is based totally on ‘head knowledge’ who have a problem with ‘tapping’ into having intimacy with the spirit of God.)
The ‘religious spirit’ is synonymous with the ‘critical spirit’. This is because, as with the Pharisee Card, they are often painted as having a pharisaical nature (because the Pharisees were religious leaders, critical of the works of Jesus). When people play this card on you, they are putting you into the category of a false teacher, as a Pharisee. It’s a slanderous tactic used to silence those who raise valid questions.
Nevertheless, the Holy Spirit is also known as the Spirit of Truth. When people are using the Religious Card on you, it is worth asking them, are they speaking from a spirit of slander rather than speaking the language of the spirit – truth.
The Christian mandate of preaching the gospel can include exposing false teachers – and we often see these same false teachers being strongly defended by their misguided followers.
However we are called to publicly defend the teachings and practices of the historic Church faith as well as publicly exposing the corruption and lies by many wolves in the Church today. Because we follow these biblical instructions, some believe that we deserve to be treated as ‘pagans or tax collectors’ by saying we operate from a ‘religious spirit’.
But we are not alone. Perhaps you’ve experienced these accusations.
The ‘religious’ card is also applied to many discerning Christians who pick up their bibles and compare what people are saying in the name of God to the Word of God. We are called to be those who cherish God’s Word, the Church’s historic Creeds, confessions and practices. The ‘Religious Card’ becomes tantamount to the condemnation of Jesus Himself. So what is happening? Where is this coming from?
When we see the Church abandoning the Christian essentials to follow ‘liars, hirelings and tares (oh my!)’, when we see anti-biblical or abusive behaviour on platforms, in pulpits or behind closed doors, we are grieved. And when we dare raise the Word of God to challenge these false teachers, we are categorized as being ‘religious’ or POSSESSING a religious spirit.
WHERE DID THIS RELIGIOUS CARD ORIGINATE FROM?
New Order of The Latter Rain / New Apostolic Reformation
The “religious card” originated from the cult of the New Order of the Latter Rain (NOLR). Its leaders and followers claimed God was restoring his church to move in power in these ‘Latter Days’. Heretics William Branham (Gospel of Power, Healing Gospel, Gospel of the Kingdom) and Franklin Hall (Atomic Power With God) played a major role in developing these teachings in the NOLR. They literally damned Christianity for operating under a “religious spirit” for:
- Not tapping into the Spirit of God.
- Not embracing the Five-fold ministry.
- Denying the existence and power of God.
- Having a relationship based totally on head knowledge.
- Not accepting their spirit-filled Apostolic/Prophetic end-times church order and governance and attempting to call out the true spirit-filled believers to be united so that the God move in full demonstration of his blessing and power.
In the eyes of the NOLR – their churches were spirit-filled and denominational churches were religious, traditional, mediocre and dead. Their language and practices were extreme against biblical Christianity. In fact, they were attempting to infiltrate churches in order to come up to their higher level of spirituality and even calling out people of Christian denominations to be part of their ‘true church’.
Nevertheless, the NOLR birthed the healing revivals of the 1950s which then had its leaders construct the Charismatic Renewal Movement (CRM). Once again, they attempted to force Christians to bend the knee to their New Apostolic order, using the ‘religious spirit’ card (among other duplicitous tactics) to ‘guilt’ Christians into embracing them as a legitimate Christian movement. When churches rejected the CRM on biblical grounds, the Apostles and Prophets of the CRM reacted with hostility and slander, likening Christian leaders and Apostles to Sauls (Saul tried to kill God’s Anointed One – David) and Jezebel (Jezebel tried to kill the God’s Prophets). (Regretably, when some of us were operating in Apostolic and Prophetic roles in the NOLR/CRM/NAR movement back in the day, we were brainwashed to believe we were Davids (Apostles) being persecuted by Saul and Elijah (Prophets) being persecuted by Jezebel.)
The Charismatic Renewal Movement was very effective in targeting the Hippy Movement as they presented the Holy Spirit as being relational and not religious. The Hippy Movement was very New Age and were already embracing relationship-based spiritual entities. This is what made the NOLR/CRM/NAR movement very successful in America, Europe, New Zealand and Australia; they introduced many to a spirit that was all relational and naturally ‘anti-establishment’.
The Sonship Heresy and the New Age Movement
The New Age spirit and NOLR spirit not only have an anti-establishment/supernatural/relational collective spirit, this spirit is very experiential and subjective in nature and being satanic in nature, they elevate man above God.
One doctrine in particular that emerged from the NOLR (that under-girds the NOLR/CRM/NAR movements) was a doctrine commonly known as the Sonship doctrine. What emerged from this doctrine were alternate names for the Holy Spirit. They became known as:
- The ‘Spirit of Power’
- The ‘Spirit of Adoption’.
- The ‘Spirit of Sonship’.
True Sons vs Illegitimate Sons
It is through this NOLR Sonship teaching that God supposedly speaks to believers through the ‘still small voice’. It is taught that this is a voice speaking directly to a believer and allows believers to walk as sons in intimacy and power with God, the way Jesus did in his ministry here on earth. However, as the New Order of Apostles and Prophets are to mature these true sons of God (misusing Ephesians 4), this ‘true’ church will raise up mature these ‘true’ sons to become ‘little Gods’ in the end-times church. Back in the NOLR days, this ‘little Gods’ doctrine was known as the Manifest Sons of God heresy – a doctrine that has been repackaged multiple times. Today this NOLR sanctification heresy is still recognized as the Sonship doctrine.
The way a believer was to access the spiritual intimacy is through receiving a spiritual baptism. Those who do not go through this process are illegitimate sons of the kingdom and do not operate from their kingdom inheritance in powerful signs, wonders and miracles.
Adopted Sons VS Orphans
An alternate teaching is that because Jesus operated in faith, we too can operate in faith and assume God wants to have a personal relationship with us. Either way, heresy upon heresy has convinced many that we can have a relationship with God the same way Jesus did.
In contrast, it’s taught that Christians who do not operate from the Spirit of Adoption operate from an ‘orphan spirit’ and can be cursed or possessed by demons or Satan himself. This ‘orphan spirit’ is someone who does not have a connection with the Father as Jesus or his true ‘believers’ do. Thus they are considered ‘religious’ and treated like the older son who remained apart, in the parable of the prodigal son.
Blue Coats VS Gray Coats
In the Prophetic Apostolic Movement in the 80s and 90s, it became popular to address Christians who were spirit-filled as the blue coats who operated from blue matter (the spirit) while apparently non-spirit filled Christians from ‘dead churche’ were gray coats operating from gray matter (their carnal religious minds).
So the origins of this ‘supernatural/relational spirit’ and anti-establishment spirit should concern all Christians. No matter what form it takes, it’s always those using the ‘Religious Card’ who are unloving, by engaging in censorship and shutting down Christian who hold to the Solas of the Reformation, the Creeds and the essentials of the Christian faith and the Bible itself.
We now look exposing the two forms of this religious card nonsense.
DEALING WITH THE ‘RELATIONAL SPIRIT’:
Here’s the problem – although the Holy Spirit indwells the believer, although the believer becomes born again through the Holy Spirit as a child of God and is called a friend of God…
God the Father expects you to operate out of religious duty, not out of relationship.
To drastically paraphrase James, the brother of Jesus:
Do you have a relationship with God? You do well – even Satan himself has a closer relation to God then you
(he can speak directly to God from his throne in heaven Job 1:6-12).
Even non-believers have a relationship with God. The question then needs to be, what differentiates us with the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit? The answer?
Our confession, daily repentance and our good works.
In other words, our religious confession, rites and practices.
The letter of James clearly rebukes people who play the ‘Religious Card’ – who say religion is as bad as the devil himself:
“If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” James 1:26-7
The Holy Spirit himself wrote that God the Father upholds the religious practice of a believer that is pure and undefiled. This is the Holy Spirit criteria of what he wants:
- “to visit orphans and widows in their affliction,
- and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”
Where is this?
3. “Having a personal relationship with God.”
Firstly the Holy Spirit specifically stated that one who “does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.” Doesn’t this sound like those leaders and followers of the NARismatic movement who look down at other Christians for not having such an intimate relationship to God as they do? Who babble with “unbridled” tongues and promote the most craziest doctrines in the church today? Are they not the very same foolish people thrown by every wind and wave of doctrine by cunning and deceitful men (Ephesians 4)?
Last time we checked, the authority of a Christian’s faith was not their ‘personal relationship with the Trinity but what the Trinity revealed in the Word of God.
Secondly, we could say that the Holy Spirit Himself identifies as being a ‘religious spirit’ and not a ‘relational’ spirit. Oddly enough, the ‘religious believer’ is vindicated by God the Father and the Holy Spirit, rather than the empty-speaking believer who is playing the ‘religious card’ on believers.
Jesus called Christians who ‘religiously’ held to his teachings as ‘disciples and friends’.
“If you abide in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” John 8:31–32
“No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.” John 15:15
In fact, Christians who operate out of religious conviction are really following the example of Jesus, of Paul and the other Apostles (Matthew 7:15; see also Matthew 24:10–11; Mark 9:42; 2 Corinthians 15:5; 1 Thessalonians 5:21; 1 Timothy 4:16; 6:3–4; Titus 1:7–9; 2:1, 7–8; 1 John 4:1; 2 Peter 3:17). Think of all the times that the Apostle Paul called Christians to imitate him the way he imitated Christ. Doesn’t that sound religious?
DEALING WITH THE ‘SPIRIT OF POWER’:
The ‘Religious Card’ is also played in order to discredit Christians who refuse to abandon the historic practices of the Church in favor of the latest innovations, revivals or ‘powerful’ moves of God. It was the New Order of the Latter Rain who introduced the ‘New Thing’ heresy, an horrific twisting of Isaiah 43 to justify God doing in a ‘new thing’ today. (Apparently He is restoring a ‘new thing’ to his incompetent and failing church or doing a ‘new thing’ in demonstrations of power.)
Those dealing the ‘Religious Card’ know that to avoid being labeled religious, many Christians will tolerate an endless succession of nonsense just so they won’t be accused of ‘quenching the Holy Spirit’. This phrase is heavily abused in these aberrant churches to silence Christians asking valid questions about unbiblical practices they see in many churches. It is taken from 1 Thessalonians 5:19. Let’s look at it in context:
“Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.” 1Th 5:19-22
It appears the Apostle Paul is summarizing his letter to the Thessalonian churches on issues he talked about. It echoes what he talked about in chapter 4:
“For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.” 1Th 4:7-8
‘Quenching the spirit’ appears to be those who despise holiness and use the calling of God on their lives to justify sinful practices. And as Paul said above, if people disregard this , they are disregarding the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit in them. If people are skeptical of this view, they forget that Paul and the Apostles came as oracles, bringing teachings from God Himself through the person of Jesus Christ. It is easy to despise their prophetic instruction and teachings – which was fairly common in the New Testament church.
So if the church wants to quench the Spirit, all that needs to be done is to despise the prophetic teachings and instructions of Christ’s apostles. What is the solution to quenching the Holy Spirit?
“Test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.”
Many believers today forget that Jesus prophetically warned that there would be demonic signs and wonders performed by those who hate Him.
“For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you beforehand.” Matt 25:24-5
What we are trying to point out is that those who are using the ‘Religious Card’ to justify God moving in so-called ‘power’ are the very ones quenching the spirit out of ignorance of the oracles of God. If you don’t want to quench the Holy Spirit – test everything.
But if you want to quench the Holy Spirit – play the ‘Religious Card”.
The irony is that those most often called ‘religous’ in the Church today are those most concerned about the purity of the gospel that saves the lost. They are often calling for churches to remain on mission and not distracted over feel-good religion and ‘shock-jock’ power ministries that produce hype and scandal but end up accomplishing very little. The power of the ‘Pharisee Card’ is based on the mistaken idea that those unwilling to compromise in truth and practice are the modern-day counterparts of the ancient Pharisees. This concept has no basis in fact.
THE REAL ‘RELIGIOUS’ PEOPLE?
Who are the real religious people today? We can all show a form of godliness but deny the power of his Spirit in our lives. We can all quench the Holy Spirit by ignoring what He says in His Word.
The ‘Bad’ Religious
However, when you look at how the word ‘religious’ is used against people, it is associated with not only the unbelieving Pharisees (who were false teachers) but also to Jezebel (a pagan queen who ruthlessly murdered God’s prophets); that is, they are critical, controlling and godless.
Who actually fulfills this stereotype of the ‘Religious Card’?
Interestingly, Jesus observed the Pharisees were those who had a close ‘relationship’ with God with their showy and lengthy prayers on street corners and in the extravagant gifts they gave the needy in places of worship (Matt 6:2,5).
More specifically, observe how Jesus portrayed the Pharisee in this parable:
“The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” Luke 18: .11-14
Christianity has always been a level playing field – no one is higher or lower. That all changed when the NOLR/CRM/NAR came along.
It is THEY who thank God they are ‘not like other men’. They received a greater baptism and received a special spiritual gift of speaking in spiritual tongues (unlike those horrible ‘religious’ people). They honestly think they are above any form of Godly criticism and are often the one’s trying to prove that what they are apart of is BETTER than what the historic Christian faith has to offer. Their leaders are often the ones trying to convince the visible church or the public that God is truly there in power and intimacy in their meetings by showcasing AMAZING heart-felt worship music, devout prayers and great acts of charity in the community.
However, this divine ‘relationship’ they say is key to a successful ministry (like their own), is more often than not a notorious works treadmill-like relationship. In these deep intimate ‘relationships’ they expect God and his power to show up when they:
- Activate their faith
- Speak in unknown tongues
- Give ten per cent of their money (or otherwise God curses them)
- Speak positively at all times (otherwise you will not obtain the promises of God)
- Submit to the house of God (or otherwise be open to curses and demonic attack because they are not submitting to their leaders)
* The above list is a general statement – but clearly articulates what’s seen in these types of spiritual relationships.
What kind of relationship is this? If anything, their close ‘relationship’ with their god sounds more religious (and foreign) than the historic Christian faith. This god sounds similar to the abusive Baal, whose false prophets who cut themselves in their attempt to force Baal to do things on their behalf. They were prepared to sacrifice themselves to bend to the ‘will’ of Baal.
On the topic of false prophets, if people claim they have a relationship with God and claim to move in demonstrations of His power at the expense of those warning them, they need to be very careful. Jesus gave a specific criteria in a warning to his followers on how to recognize those that are not of Him. While Jesus was talking about the false leaders in his day, this same criteria can be applied today:
“Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles? Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!” Matt 7:22
You will notice:
- That they claimed to prophesy and perform “many miracles” in His name.
- They claimed that they had a relationship with Him (otherwise how could they speak on His behalf?)
These were the “religious” people who Jesus Himself despised – those who claim to know Him personally and operate in supernatural powers on His behalf, without knowing Him at all.
The ‘Good’ Religious
If you want to call discerning believers ‘religious’ because they speak out, so be it. At least they profess their beliefs to be worthy before a holy Trinity. At least they can profess they are not quenching the Holy Spirit because they are testing prophetic utterances. At least they can profess they are not quenching the Holy Spirit because they do not despise scripture.
They are worthy to be called ‘religious’ for loving and defending pure doctrine, as this is what pleases God. They are worthy of being called ‘religious’ for resisting the ill-conceived innovations and compromising changes in the Church. They are worthy to be called ‘religious’ for demanding that the Gospel they preach to the lost be pure.
Those who play the ‘Religious Card’ are the ones truly deceived. They don’t care for honest dialogue, they are not willing to deal with the biblically substantive arguments of those who are actually not quenching the power of the Holy Spirit. In fact, more often than not, those who cry ‘judge not’ quench what the Holy Spirit is saying – by showing contempt what Jesus is actually saying in Matthew 7.
In the end, it’s the equivalent of a school bully who doesn’t have a good reason to bully you so instead blows a raspberry. And, like the Pharisee Card, the Religious Card is always the sign of a losing hand.
Email all comments and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org