When I was a little girl, my non-Christian (yet moral) parents sent me to a private Episcopalian school for my education, and I graduated from there. The Episcopal church was my first taste of God, and I learned quite a bit, Episcopalian-style. I was required to go to a 30-minute chapel service every day that was very structured: stand up, sing, sit down, kneel, stand up, recite the Apostle’s creed, repeat prayers, etc. I did this every weekday, minus summers, nearly all my childhood up until I was 18 years old. I learned to have a very intellectual relationship with God, who was far, far away. I learned to past tests about my knowledge of the Bible, but I really didn’t hide the Word in my heart. (Psalm 119:11)
When I was a teenager, my mother became a born-again Christian and started taking me to Pentecostal, spirit-filled churches that welcomed the spontaneity of the Holy Spirit. I struggled horribly with this. I was unnerved. I thought my mother had lost her mind. I thought the things that went on in these churches were scary and not Godly because this is not what I had been taught through the Episcopalian church. I tried to understand and eventually got some understanding, but I was still bound to most of the religious doctrines I had been taught.
Later, I went to a Baptist college and started dating a Baptist and was seeped in the Baptist doctrines, taking tests again on my Bible knowledge to pass college classes. Even later I married a Methodist and went to the Methodist church.
I was a mess of doctrines and teachings and confusion. Deep inside of me I had a feeling that the Holy Spirit-directed kind of churches, no matter how bizarre to me, hit the mark more closely than anything else. Yet, I could not, no matter how I tried, raise my hands up to God comfortably as is the custom in the churches we were visiting, (see Nehemiah 8:6; Psalm 28:2, 63:4, 134:2, 141:2; Lamentations 3:41; I Timothy 2:8). I could not speak in other tongues, I certainly would never allow myself to be “slain in the Spirit”!
I was torn between two worlds. I would try going to the denominational churches and I would leave unsatisfied. I would be bored with the teaching. I would not feel the presence of God in those types of churches (sorry, no offense). Yet when I went to the charismatic churches, I was uncomfortable there too. I felt like a fish out of water. In my mind, I knew that Jesus said in Mark 16:
17 And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; 18 they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.
I knew what happened to the believers when the Holy Spirit came upon them in Acts 2:
4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
I knew the writings of Paul about the gifts of the Spirit in I Corinthians 12:
1 Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be ignorant: 2 You know that you were Gentiles, carried away to these dumb idols, however you were led. 3 Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God calls Jesus accursed, and no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit. 4 There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. 6 And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. 7 But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: 8 for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills.
But all these scriptures were never taught to me at my school. I couldn’t reconcile the scriptures with my well-entrenched religious paradigms. I struggled with this until my mid 30s.
In my mid to late 30s, events started happening in my life that caused me to start waking up out of my spirit of stupor (Romans 11:8) to start seeking God more earnestly. As I started reading my Bible (for the first time not just to pass a test), I found this very telling scripture, where Jesus quoted Isaiah in both Matthew and Mark (so this is mentioned three times in the Bible – pay attention!)
8 These people draw near to Me with their mouth, And honor Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me. 9 And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.
Jesus says the commandments of men, the doctrines of men are useless in worshipping Him and having intimacy with Him. So, had I been taught wrongly? Yes!
Because of all the well-meaning teachings of the schools I went to, I had developed strongholds in my mind of the way God and “religion” should be. I had put God in this neat little package and any deviance from that was unacceptable. (See our Paradigms article.) I even remember this very Jezebellic voice in my head telling me when my mother had become a Christian, “What does SHE know? YOU have been going to church ALL your life!” I remember being split about this – on one hand, I thought, “That’s right!” On the other hand, I thought, “She’s my mother and a good one – what do I know?!?” At the time, I did not know that was a demon trying to sow discord between me and my mother.
The religious strongholds I had created had allowed demons to enter me who would not let me have my freedom in the Lord. They would not let me worship God with all my heart and all my soul and all my strength. It was a huge internal battle I faced for many years, until the stronghold started weakening through seeking and study and prayer and understanding.
One day I was reading my Bible and I came across this scripture in Matthew 6:
7 And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words. 8 “Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him. 9 In this manner, therefore, pray: (What is known as The Lord’s prayer follows).
I felt impressed that the vain repetitions (such as reciting the Lord’s prayer, as I did day after day at Episcopalian chapel) may cause religious spirits to enter you. Because Jesus said, “Do NOT use vain repetitions,” and when you do something that Jesus said NOT to do, the demons have a legal right to enter you. You see, the Lord’s Prayer became a vain repetition to me. I could say it backward, forward, sideways because I had said it without meaning day after day for a decade. I could say it while thinking about something else. It didn’t mean anything to me any more. And, Jesus gave what we call “The Lord’s prayer” as a model. He said to pray “in this manner”, not “these exact words over and over again”.
When I finally understood with my mind, I could have the religious spirits cast out of me. And then what freedom came to me! I had tremendous joy! I could go to a spirit-filled church, raise my hands, sing at the top of my lungs, dance if I wanted to and just generally be a fool for God! One of my favorite scriptures, from someone who had no religiosity was from II Samuel 6:
21 So David said to Michal, It was before the LORD, who chose me instead of your father and all his house, to appoint me ruler over the people of the LORD, over Israel. Therefore I will play music before the LORD. 22 And I will be even more undignified than this, and will be humble in my own sight.
So, are you having trouble achieving the level of intimacy that you want with God? Do you want to hear His voice but can’t? Do you want to move in the supernatural (God’s world) but feel that something is holding you back? Maybe you need to deal with religious spirits and strongholds.
Warning signs that you might have a religious spirit (not an exhaustive list):
- You drop names of all the TV evangelists like they’re your personal friends.
- You’re jealous of someone else’s spiritual gifts.
- You cop a holier than thou attitude.
- You find yourself being critical of the Christian things that your Christian friends say or do.
- You ask everyone to pray for you about the slightest little distresses.
- You feel compelled to tell everyone about your latest mission trip.
- Your mind is closed to any new teachings/revelations about the God/Jesus/The Holy Spirit/The Kingdom of Heaven, etc.
- You preach the gospel to people who you know are already saved, baptized and filled with the Spirit.
- You question and argue over any testimony or any revelation another Christian had.
- You say “I have to pray about that” without really meaning it, and for any inconsequential thing, such as a friend inviting you to lunch.
- You have thoughts or you say things like these:
– “I’ve heard ALL the teachings.”
– “I know what my Bible says better than anyone.”
– “You can’t tell me something I don’t already know.”
– “I went to Bible College.”
– “I never missed a Sunday school class all my years growing up.”
– “I watch Christian television 24/7.”
– “I’m special. My parents (grandparents, etc.) were missionaries.”
– “I’m one of the ‘chosen’” (if you’re Jewish).