The Warning Signs of Toxic Religion

By J. Lee Grady
Charisma Magazine

All of us would like to enjoy a healthy spiritual life. But the sad truth is that many of us, and many churches today, are barren because of hazardous additives. We have believed a different gospel—one laced with legalism, performance-based religion and salvation by works—when Christ alone is our only source of life.

Jesus Himself referred to these toxins as “the leaven of the Pharisees” (Luke 12:1). He told us that the Pharisees’ brand of religion, which looked good on the outside, was deadly—and contagious.

Avoid toxic at all cost

Have you been infected? You can take your own pH test by examining these eight characteristics of a religious spirit.

  1. A religious spirit views God as a cold, harsh, distant taskmaster rather than an approachable, loving Father. When we base our relationship with God on our ability to perform spiritual duties, we deny the power of grace. God does not love us because we pray, read our Bibles, attend church or witness, yet millions of Christians think God is mad if they don’t perform these and other duties perfectly. As a result they struggle to find true intimacy with Jesus.
  2. A religious spirit places emphasis on doing outward things to show others that God accepts him. We deceive ourselves into believing that we can win God’s approval through a religious dress code, certain spiritual disciplines, particular music styles or even doctrinal positions.
  3. A religious spirit develops traditions and formulas to accomplish spiritual goals. We trust in our liturgies, denominational policies or man-made programs to obtain results that only God alone can give.
  4. A religious spirit becomes joyless, cynical and hypercritical. This can turn a home or a church completely sour. Then, whenever genuine joy and love are expressed, this becomes a threat to those who have lost the simplicity of true faith.
  5. A religious spirit becomes prideful and isolated, thinking that his righteousness is special and that he cannot associate with other believers who have different standards. Churches that allow these attitudes become elitist—and dangerously vulnerable to deception or cult-like practices.
  6. A religious spirit develops a harsh, judgmental attitude toward sinners, yet those who ingest this poison typically struggle with sinful habits that they cannot admit to anyone else. Religious people rarely interact with nonbelievers because they don’t want their own superior morals to be tainted by them.
  7. A religious spirit rejects progressive revelation and refuses to embrace change. This is why many churches become irrelevant to society. They become so focused on what God did 50 years ago that they become stuck in a time warp—and cannot move forward when the Holy Spirit begins to speak in new ways. When religious groups refuse to shift with God’s new directives, they become “old wineskins” and God must find more flexible vessels that are willing to implement His changes.
  8. A religious spirit persecutes those who disagree with his self-righteous views and becomes angry whenever the message of grace threatens to undermine his religiosity. An angry religious person will use gossip and slander to assassinate other peoples’ character and may even use violence to prove his point. Jesus, in fact, warned His disciples: “There will even come a time when anyone who kills you will think he’s doing God a favor” (John 16:2, The Message).

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5 thoughts on “The Warning Signs of Toxic Religion

  1. Wow. That was a good article to warn us of the toxic we could have in our walk with God.

    Isn’t it true that we can be easily caught up with one of those 8 characteristics if we are not careful? Therefore, We need to regularly detox ourselves man, checking our spirit regularly against such and repent. 🙂

  2. In John 8, There are the children of Abraham and children of Devil. Like their father, children quotes verse to misled people like Pharisees.
    They say to Jesus, if you really the Messiah to do this, do that. In the desert, their father – the devil say to Jesus, if you really the chosen one turn the stone into bread.

    Remember Jesus did not fall into devil’s trap, that do not he mean he can’t turn stone into bread, instead he turn water into wine.
    Children of Abraham live by faith, while children of devil dwell on lies.
    Lead out your life, and let your light within shine.
    Jesus say, In this life, I will be the light of the world.
    Jesus say, you are the light of the world……
    You don’t need to judge people’s ugliness, let your light shine and their ugliness will turn into shadow of the past.

  3. Haha… I like the picture abt not jumping into toxic waste! Nice one…

    On a more sober note, I have to say amen to these points, they are very true. I remember my younger days, when i had a religious spirit. It poisoned my relationship with God and people badly.

    But hee… tk God so much for my dear CLs and shepherds who kept reminding me of the basic truth that what really counts before God is a heart that loves Him and loves others. Not the things we do, but the heart behind what we do, that pleases Him.

    😀 and i learn that life’s really so much sweeter when you realize that you’re spiritually bankrupt before God. ‘cos only then is it possible for your heart to accept the sweet transforming grace of God’s love that He is even now offering.

    oops, very long… just wanted to share. keep on sharing more articles bro!

    God bless!

  4. Sometime, things are hard to say.
    I know that man don’t evolve from monkey, but some pig evolve into human. Strange, they really talk like one. I have meet one recently. He alway push blame on other people. If you are wrong, you are wrong.
    People like them will say, I thought you know – shift blame on other. To get out some situation to may affect their pride.
    My mentor told me this type of people cann’t succeed in their life – in term of spiritual, mental, emotion, physical. They are too much a easy prey from the evil one and their dark angel.
    To me, that don’t matter.
    One thing I learn, get rid of this type of people in your life – they are like virus. They will pull down your standard.
    They are as stupid as a pig, as poisonous as a viper. They are like a easy prey to the wolves of the world. They can cause their shepherd to vomit blood.
    One thing I see on them, they try to do some time in order to reach some stages in their life.
    To me, the moment they try, they already fail……..
    After all, the Bible have teach them nothing. Not to put the Word into blame. The word is sent out, yet one can not project light in their live. They have themselves to be blame…….

  5. To clear future mis-understand, get rid – what I mean don’t associate with them.
    Don’t wrestle with pig, it get your hand dirty and it annoy the pig.

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