Saturday, July 5, 2008

Is This the Holy Spirit?

For many, it's hard to understand how any rational, right thinking person would ever take serious, the nonsense passing for "Christian revival" that we've all recently heard about in Christian circles. Especially considering our ability to click to youtube and watch what's being filmed & broadcast, being passed off as a 'move of God'. Sadly however, a lot of Christian people do take this seriously and genuinely believe that what is taking place is the work of the Holy Spirit.

With the recent attention on this and this Todd Bentley character leading the circus, I wanted to share something I wrote in the late 90's, having only been out of the "Brownsville/Toronto blessing" mess for a couple of years myself. I was converted to Christ in a highly charismatic environment, and so all the false teaching that I learned in those early years of my walk with the Lord, took a lot of unlearning, a lot of study, and a lot of confusion, prayer, and tears. I purposely didn't write about this for a few years because I still wasn't sure what it was I believed, didn't believe, and understood (concerning the work of the Holy Spirit). Even at the time of writing this, my heart was still so heavy for so many of the folks I still knew that were so wrapped up in this, they didn't know up from down or black from white.

Only slightly edited & cleaned up:

Is This the Holy Spirit?

I remember back in highschool, an evangelist came to our school to speak to the young people. I dont recall what he spoke about, but I can guarantee you it wasnt Jesus (it was a public highschool).

Even though this man never spoke about Jesus, somehow all the kids knew he was a Christian, and found out where he would be preaching that night, and went to listen to him. There was a real presence of the Lord with this man, that even some of the adult teachers noticed, and they also showed up at the church he was preaching at that night.

This one event started a chain reaction of the saved souls of young people in my highschool. Youth group bible meetings began popping up all over town. Kids starting going to church, getting saved, and they had a brand new focus in life, that centered on the Lord Jesus Christ. I remember back then, among those kids, there seemed to be 2 separate and distinct groups:

1.) The ones who were serious about serving the Lord, and made sacrifices of their worldly desires (music, habits, bad influences) and
2.) The ones who just wanted to hang out with the ones who were serious, and have a place to go.

I went back and forth between both groups. Sometimes I was serious, and sometimes the temptations of my unsaved friends, were too alluring to resist. I wasn't truly converted yet, but I have to thank God that He allowed me to go back and forth the way I did then, so that I could see into both worlds. This was when I first witnessed true spiritual hunger. Even though my own hunger and thirst for God in my life didnt come until later, I began to understand what that hunger was like many years ago, and through the years, I've met more and more people who share that same hunger.

Its because of that hunger, that craving for God, for righteousness in Christ Jesus, that I wrote this article.

There are a lot of hungry brothers and sisters in the world, being fed a spiritual poison, and they dont even know it. They are so hungry for a true move of God in their lives, a genuine work of God, they're being blinded by deception.

I will not (and cannot) say that the revivals going on in churches around the world are all deceptions, and/or not from God, but I can say, there is much deception going on in and among many of these so-called revivals, and it's my desire that my brothers and sisters in the Lord who are involved in these things come to a solid, sound biblical understanding of what is from God, and what is not. Just as importantly, that they also come to understand that walking with God and the process of sanctification is NOT to be understood as some kind of emotional, euphoric high that they have to keep going back to get more and more of. This is one of the things that keeps folks coming back and keeps folks locked into these kinds of movements. It's a very enticing scenario, and if you've never been in it, it's hard to understand.

I've heard and read probably all of the same testimonies everyone else has. I know of people whove been to both Toronto and Brownsville during the mid to late 90's when all that was in it's heyday, and most of what they have to say isn't flattering, to say the least. There are testimonies of barking, twitching, laughing, convulsions, staggering, oinking, leap-frogging, roaring like a lion, clucking like a chicken, pounding the floor with their fists, vomiting (yes, often literal), and even delivering of spirit babies and ministries at the altar. In that last example, men and women both, would experience some sort of psuedo-labor pains and physically react as if they were actually having a baby. Yes I know how ridiculous that sounds, but that is in fact what was taking place. Each and every person who believes in these revivals, claims these manifestations are in fact, the Holy Ghost.

I've seen some of this first hand, in my years in the AoG church from early 1994 through 1997, and I've heard and read countless testimonies in print and on the web, that describe these same things, over and over, in many places that have been touched by these revivals. It's nothing short of heartbreaking.

Too often the longer lasting affect of these "revivals" is devastating to individuals and families for numerous reasons. In one case (that is NOT rare at all) that particularly disturbed me, a husband and wife team who were leaders in a church in England, rejected these manifestations of God and refused to have any part of it. They were systematically edged out of their positions in the church, for their rejection of the "blessing" and replaced with people who were more than willing to "catch the fire". They were mocked, laughed at, humiliated in front of the church, and eventually left that church, and "the move of God". They were seen as "resisters" and treated with hostility. This is VERY common.

There are countless testimonies just like this one from all sorts of people who dared to question what was really happening in their church. (When I originally wrote this in the late 90's, search engines weren't nearly as accurate as they are now, and doing research on this sort of thing will yield far more results now than it even did then).

Then there are also numerous testimonies from people who swear their lives have changed for the better, because of these blessings. They assure people that they are closer to God now, than they have ever been, and they believe beyond all doubt, that these manifestations are indeed the Holy Ghost. It would be revealing to meet with people who once had this testimony and see where their lives are 5, 10, 15 years later; and if they still hold to that former testimony. I know I've met and spoke to just a few people who have admitted that while they may have once said that, they look back now and don't believe that it was the Holy Spirit at all, nor did it bring them closer to God the way they thought it did, at the time.

In Scripture there are many examples of what happens to people when they are filled with the Holy Ghost. Emotional, spiritual experiences are incredibly powerful, but the written word of God must be our measuring rod to determine if what we think we know, is in fact truth. Sola Scriptura isn't just a nice little saying, it actually means something.

We read in 1Corinthians 14:40, an example of how we are to display the gifts of the Holy Ghost, in public worship. We're encouraged to worship decently and in order. This is fairly self-explanatory, yet these specific words convey a specific image:

DECENTLY: decorously, seemly, conforming to accepted social standard

ORDER: regular arrangement, fixed succession

This is the way public worship is supposed to be seen, in ALL of the saints churches, according to 1 Corinthians 14. We're reminded that God is not the author of confusion (disorder, commotion, disturbance, instability), but that He is the author of peace (1Cor. 14:33).

Here are just some examples from the Scriptures of personal behavior, AFTER being filled with the Holy Ghost (See if you notice a recurring, personal character trait, with each event):

• Luke 1:15 - John the Baptist was filled before his birth, and in time came to be filled with wisdom and preached repentance
• Luke 1:67 - Zacharias was filled and he prophesied and gave God all glory
• Acts 4:8 - Peter was filled and boldly preached salvation through Jesus Christ
• Acts 7:55 - Stephen was filled and remained faithful to God in the face of death
• Acts 19:6 - the disciples of John were filled and spoke with tongues and prophesied

If you read the Scriptures surrounding these events, (and I would certainly encourage you to do that) you will see a pattern of dignified, godly boldness associated with each event. No one was roaring like a lion, or falling to the floor and convulsing with violent laughter. In fact, you can search until your eyes fall out and you will never find an example in Scripture of anyone being filled with the Holy Spirit, and then turning around and acting like a madman. Contrary to this, you will find numerous examples of such events that were accompanied by nothing but fear and reverence for God, and those filled being examples of righteousness, respect and godly authority and leadership.

So with all that said, ARE these manifestations coming from God? We can't always say YES to these kinds of things, and we cant always say NO either, but what we CAN do, is line up these events individually, with Scripture, and see if they match up.

It's obvious that in this case (that being one of outrageous commotion, disorder, violence, screeching, squealing and lack of any kind of physical self-control), they simply do not line up.

I was accused once of being dangerously close to committing the unpardonable sin, by saying that these things might NOT be coming from God (attributing to Satan, the work of God). I dont have any fear of exposing demonic spiritual activity, for exactly what it is. And I dont have any fear of being wrong in this case because I use the Holy Word of God, as my measuring rod to see if these things line up. They do not line up and I will emphatically state that they are NOT coming from God at all.

People need to remember Satan is not stupid. He's had thousands of years to practice his craft of deceiving people, and he and his demons are VERY good at what they do. They are not going to walk in the door and say "hello, I'm a demonic spirit, your soul's worst enemy, Im going to pretend that I'm a good guy, and you just go along with it, okay?" Not going to happen.

Satan is the father of lies. He comes to steal, kill and destroy, he disguises himself as an angel of light, and his demons appear as ministers of righteousness. He is cunning, he is manipulative, and he is deceptive. He has every reason to hate followers of Christ Jesus because he hates what is good and holy and righteous. He hates me and he hates you, and if he can deceive us, or anyone else, he WILL, and he DOES. It's almost unthinkable, but it's even worse when we drop our guard and unwittingly LET him and his ministers of evil deceive us.

People also need to stop assuming that Satan wont do this, or wont do that, or underestimating him in general. If he can cause you to believe he wont use ANYTHING to deceive you, he's got his foot in the door already. Children are taught to play fair, professional sports leagues have regulatory boards that govern the rules and fairness of the sport - but Satan does NOT play fair. If he can use what the majority believe is a move of God, HE WILL. He will pervert what is holy, he will lie about what is truth, and he will hook a person, draw them in, and continue to deceive them until or unless God opens their eyes and allows them to see it for what it really is. (How do I reconcile this with the sovereignty of God in the lives of His people? For me that's simple, all that the Father have given to Christ WILL come to Him and He will lose none, but that does not mean that we cannot be sidetracked and deceived on that path of sanctification. We certainly can, and every Christian will testify of it, the older they get and the more they grow in grace).

I had a conversation with someone once who believed that these manifestations were indeed, the Holy Spirit. I asked point blank: When was the last time the Holy Ghost filled you, and caused you to leap-frog around the room, laughing and vomiting at the same time? I'll ask anyone, where can I find a passage of Scripture that would support this behavior and confirm that this is an attribute of the Holy Spirit of God Almighty?

I know of a young person who did something VERY similar. He was out of control, he acted crazy, he had *severe convulsions, became stiff, and fell to the ground.

* convulse: 1. To shake or contort violently 2. Any violent agitation such as a violent laughter (Globe Modern Dictionary, page 227)

This happened to the son of man who brought the boy to Jesus, and Jesus cast out a DEMON from the boy. Scripture makes it unmistakably clear: It was a demon who was causing this boy to do all these things. (Matt. 17:14-21, Mark 9:14-29, Luke 9:37-42)

Sound familiar at all, yet?

The fact is, there is not 1 single passage of Scripture that supports any of the outrageous manifestations that are going on, in these so-called revivals. In fact, any passage of Scripture you look up where people were filled with the Holy Ghost, the result was a presence of Godly authority about the person, or people, and the witnesses gave God all glory. No one ever jerked around and fell the to floor, laughing & twitching. No one ever dropped down on all fours and began to roar like a lion. No one ever flapped their arms as to imitate a birds wings, and began to cluck like a chicken. No one ever violently convulsed and beat their hands or other body parts on the ground.

No one, except in the cases of people who did similar things who were afflicted by what Jesus called unclean spirits, or demons.

Scripture is very clear on this.

I would encourage you, if you are in a church where these things are happening, to listen very carefully to what your pastor is preaching (if in fact he is preaching from the Word of God at all), and take notes, detailed notes, and line up whatever he's preaching, with Scripture. Witness the behaviors of the people around you, and look those things up in Scripture, for yourself.

DO NOT take anyones word for these things, no matter how convincing or reliable it may sound. God has revealed to us through His word, His very attributes and the ministry of the Holy Spirit. It is there for you and I to read, to know, and to trust 100%.

Men and women in positions of authority in these movements and host-churches where these things take place, will say that this is a move of God and that if you question it, you doubt God. Thats an intimidation tactic, a form of spiritual abuse that causes people to avoid seeking Gods authority on these things, and take the word of man. It's very common. Dangerous ground my friend, don't find yourself there.

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