Here are 10 practical characteristics of religion that will help you recognize religious spirits and their demonic activity:
1. Religious spirits have no authority in Jesus Christ. Jesus hated religious spirits. Jesus was not a religious person, and He did things that shook the religious kingdoms of the earth. Acts 19:13–16 tells the story of seven sons of a man named Sceva who were “exorcists” (religious men) but had no power over unclean spirits.
2. Religion steals the youthful joy of serving Jesus. In Matthew 19:14, Jesus forbid His disciples from stopping the little children from coming to Him because everything that has breath must praise and serve the Lord (Ps. 150:6). Religion also causes the elders to become demonically old. The Bible only has one account in which a prophet is ever called “old” (see 1 Kings 13). This prophet was not necessarily old in age; he was actually washed up. He was spiritually, or demonically, old!
3. Religion is an anti-evangelism spirit. Matthew 23:15 warns the religious sects of the church that they lose more souls than they win. Their converts become doubly as hellish as them.
4. Religion is anti-Christ. It was the religious people (Pharisees and the Sadducees) who killed Jesus.
5. Religious people have no joy—and no power. Nehemiah 8:10 declares that the joy of the Lord is our strength. It denotes that the person who lives in the presence of the Lord (where there is fullness of joy) is reinforced with power.
6. Religious spirits breed bondage. It produces condemnation and blocks true liberty (see Gal. 5:1; Rom. 8:1.)
7. Religion creates only a form of godliness. This comes through regimen and repetition, not grace. We are to avoid people with forms of godliness (2 Tim. 3:5).
8. Religion corrupts and perverts. It holds up an unrealistic standard that cannot be attained because of the flesh. The laws of God are now written in our hearts and not on tablets of stone. Trying to live by the dictates of the tablets of stone alone only opens the doors to corruption and perversion through religious spirits of failure. This is why perversion and corruption are multiplied when men attempt to serve God by their own power and guidelines (see Heb. 8:7–13).
9. Religion stems from the root of spiritual schizophrenia. One minute the people cried, “Hosanna to the highest!” In another breath they yelled, “Crucify Him!”
10. Religion hinders positive relationships. It puts a bad taste for God in the mouths of unbelievers, it takes the fire out of marriages, it stops the flow of God in worship and it makes children hate serving God.
To sum it all up, it was religious spirits that nailed Jesus to the cross. Let us not religiously or repetitively serve God. Let us worship Him in Spirit and in truth.