It happened that as we were going to the place of prayer, a certain slave-girl having a spirit of divination met us, who was bringing her masters much profit by fortune-telling. Following after Paul and us, she kept crying out, saying, "These men are bond-servants of the Most High God, who are proclaiming to you the way of salvation." She continued doing this for many days. But Paul was greatly annoyed, and turned and said to the spirit, "I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her!" And it came out at that very moment. - ACTS 16:16-18
The heart characterized by a religious spirit is vulnerable to “toxic faith.” That was the sad case of the young woman Paul ran into at Philippi. She seemed to be supporting Paul and his associates in their efforts to preach. Why would Paul be “annoyed” or troubled by her? The Apostle could see the young woman’s heart and could see that the devil was working a subtle plot through her.
Satan loves to hide in religion. In fact, religion is the devil’s invention. He disguises himself as an angel of light so he can worm his way into a person’s confidence. (2 CORINTHIANS 11:14) Ultimately the devil wants to take over and uses religion itself to gain a foothold in people’s hearts.
The religious spirit robs true faith of its credibility and misrepresents Christ and His Gospel of grace. The adversary can mimic religious speech and counterfeit spiritual gifts. However, the devil can never produce spiritual fruit because the religious spirit poisons the very root of spiritual vitality.
Ask for discernment to see when your own heart is manifesting a religious spirit rather than the Holy Spirit, as well as the ability to recognize it in others.