A religious spirit is rooted in pride. It’s a spirit that tells us that we know what the Lord is saying before we even ask the Lord. It’s a spirit that will judge something that the Lord brings to us by what we already know. So, if we judge new things by what we already know, then we are going to find that everything that sounds different to be wrong.
But the Lord said, I do a new thing. He said, behold I do a new thing. When Jesus appeared on the world stage, the Lord did a new thing, and the Pharisees could not believe that it was of God. The result of it was that their temple was torn down, and they are still separated from Him today.
So a religious spirit is a spirit of pride that thinks we know what God is going to do, but I don’t know what God is going to do. I have to pray about everything, and when I read something new or hear something new.
Let me tell you about an experience I had when I was still young and very prideful. I heard a doctrine that didn’t sound right to me, so I prayed and said, can that be true? I waited two weeks, and when I didn’t hear an answer I decided that the doctrine wasn’t true and ripped it to pieces. Two years later, brethren, two years later, the Lord came to me and revealed that doctrine to me.
So I know now that unless I hear a personal response from the Lord to stay away from that doctrine -- unless He talks to me personally, even though I can’t receive it in my spirit, I put it on the shelf. I know that I want truth. That’s my prayer. Lord I want your truth more then I want to be right.
A religious spirit says “I’m right.“ Now I don’t mean to hurt anybody’s feelings here, but this is what a religious spirit is. Someone might say, “I’ve been studying this Word all my life; this is what I believe; this is what I have been taught; and if it turns out that you are telling me something that might disagree with what I’ve known for all these years, it is going to wreck my being right.”
My righteousness, you see, our righteousness, is not based on being right. Our righteousness is based on Christ Jesus. He is our righteousness. So I came to the conclusion a long time ago that it doesn’t matter whether I’m right or whether I’m wrong. I just want the Lord. I want His truth. I want to understand what He wants me to do, and I want to be able to do it. And if what He tells me to do is different then what someone else is doing, or if He tells me to do something that is a new thing in my life, something that He never told me to do before, I want to do it.
I have this revelation with regard to the Jews: “They were God’s landmark people. They were the nation that the whole world was supposed to know, that if you want to know about God, you go to the Jews. They’re the ones who are His landmark people. He is resident in that nation, and you can find God there. “
That’s what Lazarus was looking to the rich man for. He was looking to find God. And then Messiah came on the stage. But the Jews could not believe that Jesus was Messiah, because they were looking for a military commander who would throw off the yoke of Rome and restore them to a powerful military nation. So when Jesus came on the stage, and was a man of peace, teaching, healing the sick, and casting out demons, they said, “oh no, this is not my concept of Messiah, and I must be right. I have believed what the Sages have taught for generations, that when the Messiah comes, He will be a military leader like all the military leaders in the book of Judges.”
You see, God did a new thing. He sent a Savior that was completely different then all the previous saviors. Every Judge in the book of Judges was raised up to be a military commander, and the deliverance that he brought was a military victory over a military foe. But Jesus was a new thing. He was a spiritual commander, and the victory that He gives us is a spiritual victory over a spiritual foe. But all of those Jews that had served God with all of their strength, couldn’t see it because they thought that they were right; and they weren’t willing to, or they couldn’t understand, that they were supposed to say “Lord, I don’t care if I’m right or not. I just want you, and if that new thing is you, I want to know it. My pride is filthy rags, worth nothing. So now that I’ve prayed this prayer, Lord, you’ve got to show me whether it’s true or not.”
You’ll never hear the truth from God if you think that you already know what His answer is going to be before you pray. So when you overcome your pride, and you want the truth (and He is the Truth) more then anything even more than being right, He’ll give you all the witnesses you need. If you’re open and have cleansed your heart of that pride that says “I have to be right,”, or “I am right and there’s no way I can be wrong; my whole ego says that I’m right because I have believed this for a hundred years.“ If that’s more important to you than getting a hold of the living Christ, then you’re going to be able to keep what you have because of your own self-righteousness. Now, He’s going to go this way, and you are going to go that way, which is what happened to the Jews: They were walking along the Lord’s path, and the Lord did a new thing. He took a turn in the road, but the Jews kept going straight, and they lost their commission as God’s landmark people.
Who are you following? Who do you desire? Who do you love more then your own life? Is it the Lord Jesus, or is it the pride of your own self-righteousness? Everybody has to ask that question for himself.
(Transcript of an exhortation given by Pastor Sheila R. Vitale)