On Gold, Laughter,
God is bringing a new life and vigor to many believers through revival today. He is also bringing many unsaved into His kingdom as a result of fresh outpourings of His Spirit. Apart from anything else, that IS the heart of revival: to see saints revived to life, the prodigals returning home, and sinners being saved. Though there are many other things that we might draw our attention to, revival in its basic essence is a return of the living Christ to His Church. It is the return of both the character and power of Jesus to that body of believers who call Jesus their Lord. It is a RETURN because for whatever reason-- religious tradition, pride, carnality, liberal theology, impure doctrine-- the character and power of Jesus has been absent from His Body-- the Church.
I must admit that manifestations accompanying revivals around the world and in this country are rather shocking and weird to some more conservative and reformed traditions of Christianity. Many books have been written and many denominations have aligned themselves squarely against these revival movements. They site not only the unbiblical manifestations themselves but the also the doctrinal aberrations that are accompanying these "so-called" revivals as proof that they are not of God. While I do not dispute that there are excesses of the flesh and probably real invasions of the demonic in revival movements, I do believe that blanket criticisms of revivals for these excesses are not warranted. I must of course preface everything I am about to say with the fact that I speak "in general". This goes not only for revivals themselves, but for their critics. As such, it is hard not to get backed up into a corner with the fallacy of thinking that either all revivals are not counterfeit or that all critics are honestly seeking to offer Biblical reproof that will lead to Godly correction. When critics lump things like Heaven's Gate in with "revival' movements, then it is hard to really pin down what you mean by "revivals". As well, to stereotype every critic as a "Pharisee" is not fair either.. Pharisees of the New Testament for the most part rejected Jesus of Nazareth as Messiah and were direct enemies of God (which, by the way, I do not feel justly describes every person who might offer criticism for revival movements going on today). However, there are Christians that are sincere believers who have been heavily influenced by Gnostic heresy, though I am not going to call them Gnostics. In the same way, there are many Christians who have been influenced by very real Biblical heresy of Pharisaism, though I am not going to call them Pharisees either.
There is very little middle ground in the ongoing debates about revival... words like counterfeit, heretical, apostasy, and demonic all seems to be "final" in their analysis when applied to certain revival movements and ministries (Brownsville and Toronto come to mind, but I can't really think of one contemporary revival that has not been branded with one or all of these descriptions). In the same way, words like pharisaical, judgmental, blind, and religious can seem so "final" in their analysis when used to describe anyone who offers criticism of a revival. So if I use words like that, I may or may not be talking about you... it depends on your heart. Just as there may be some need for true reproof in ongoing revival movements, you can take everything I say and attribute them to yet another person who has been deceived by these false moves of God (which be definition, relegates them to true moves of satan). Not all revivals are the same... and not all critics are the same either. So I can't speak for everything and everyone...get it?? I can only speak about what I know and what I have experienced in terms of Biblical truth. Just like an unsaved person cannot witness to the saving power of Jesus, I think it is awfully unfair for people who go to revivals as spectators and not participants to be in a position to offer true discernment. I guess that is why the word "Pharisee" is used so much in trying to address criticism... but yet at the same time I can understand how the word "counterfeit" can be used so much in trying to describe current revivals. Pharisees and scribes and Sadducees and teachers of the law "in general" all followed the ministry of Jesus as spectators and observers and not as participants or disciples. Although usually seen as negative, there were one or two good ones -- Nicodemus and Saul of Tarsus come to mind. Paul, however, readily admitted that He gave all of his religious credentials up for the surpassing worth of KNOWING Jesus. The lesson we learn from educated people that devote their life to the integrity and study of the Holy Scriptures is this: they can be just as easily deceived as those who depart from the truth and inerrancy of the Living Word of God! We do not like to think in those terms... but yet I think it is how we need to approach our own feelings toward revival movements.
Although I have visited one or two meetings that are part of one or two current revivals, I want to make it clear that I have never experienced the manifestations of the Spirit most publicized and questioned while at these meetings. I want to make it clear, as well, that I have experienced most of these manifestations of the Spirit outside of one of these current revivals or outside of involvement with churches and ministries that all seem to "operate" or "promote" these kind of manifestations. I say that not as a boast or a brag, but as someone who might offer an insight you want get from reading "Counterfeit Revival". So what do you do with an intellectually based disciple committed to following Jesus with his entire life that has real spiritual experiences similar to and associated with revival movements, yet not caused or produced from the "demonically suggested hypnotic power" of a revival setting?? As I like to tell people, I have seen the moving of the Holy Spirit more in living rooms than I ever have in the four walls of a 'church' building. That may shock some of you... but heaven forbid if we really take the Bible at its word... that God truly wants to dwell in a building not made with human hands but in the heart of a believer made righteous by the blood of Jesus. Examining revival, the pros and con that is, in my mind is how I look at the exercise of spiritual language (speaking in tongues). Are you more willing to listen to someone who knows the Word of God and can relate their real experiences with spiritual language/tongues (even showing the experience of it from the lives of people in Scripture), or would you rather listen to someone who knows the Word of God but cannot relate their doctrine to the experience of the people that are actually recorded in the Bible?? Ah... you say. You are promoting experience above doctrine...naughty, naughty. No, I promote doctrine validated by experience over doctrine contradicted by experience. If given the choice of two teachers on the subject of prayer... one who has written 12 books on the Biblical basis and understanding of prayer but who has never prayed and received answer in prayer for anything of a supernatural character (i.e., seeing God heal in response to direct prayer), and one who maybe has never written a book but has the testimony of the miraculous power of God in answer to prayer, which one would you listen to?? Give me the person who validates the doctrine of the Scriptures by their experience any day! There is obviously a balance as well... if you bring out snakes and tell me we are about to validate Paul's experience on the island of Malta, I'm gonna respond with "thou shalt not tempt the Lord your God"...
Of a truth, the American church for a long time has been puffed up by our absolute trust of the inerrant and infallible supernaturally inspired Word of God, while being calcified in our unbelief in the supernatural working of the God this Word describes. The Bible is primarily a book of experience, not of doctrinal theology. The Gospels do not give a doctrinal exposition of Jesus' teaching.. they retell his life, and as they do, the doctrinal emphasis of His teachings is seen. So in attempting to talk at all about revival, whether positive or negative, that is the back drop with which most discussions are framed in the American church (and worldwide to some degree). When the only supernatural event we are witness to (or ever have been witness to) is the salvation of a lost soul, it becomes very hard some times to find correct or even valid discernment when the real presence of God begins to also bring the real supernatural power of God in our midst. If in the vacuum of no supernatural manifestations (apart from salvation) suddenly comes supernatural manifestations that are found in false religions and the counterfeit practices of all sorts of heretical belief and spirituality, I can see very easily how the FIRST conclusion would be: "COUNTERFEIT". But, Momma always did say, "Don't jump to conclusions." She didn't say, "Don't form conclusions."... just don't "jump" to conclusions. How does one "jump" to a conclusion?? When one doesn't listen to both sides of a debate... or when they do not look at a full set of evidence. A jury will very likely jump to the wrong verdict if all they hear is the prosecution's case. Much, in the same way, if they only hear the defense's case. Yes, I indeed scratch my own head at the overwhelming case the prosecution has presented against modern revival... it is indeed a good case: sound theologically, full of sound intellectual reason, defending orthodoxy, contending for the faith once delivered to the saints, and thoroughly documented. It is a case that I am sure is without error in reasoning, judgment, or any spiritual prejudice or pride. It is a case that I am sure will promote the idea that Christianity is best fostered and understood from a natural, rational, and logical approach. It is one that downplays experience and emotion and promotes intellect and sound hermeneutical exegesis of the Scriptures. The evidence is weighty, to say the least. It is truly a case that the Judge of the Universe is proud to have His name stamped upon: "the Kingdom of Light vs. The False and Counterfeit Kingdom of Darkness that looks like Light". Hear ye, hear ye.. all rise... the court is in session.
The problem is that if you are on the side of the defense, you automatically become part of Exhibit A for the prosecution.. "See, another deceived individual." If you are on the side of the prosecution, you can become Exhibit C.. "See another Pharisee". By the way, I know a lot of name calling is done by both sides in this debate... and even though we know that it is not the nature of Jesus to retaliate in like kind, I do seem to recall that the Lord's own original disciples were guilty of something similar...remember, James and John, the "sons of Thunder": "Hey Lord, let's call thunder down on them sense they have rejected you and your supernatural ministry!!". Actually the true nature of Jesus was to not defend Himself... and so thus we are left with a dilemma. Should no defense or attempt at explanation be made by those who are in revival to those who are opposing it and vehemently criticizing it?? This is where I am reminded of Paul... he walked a fine line here. I do find that he on many, many occasions, reasoned and even spoke boldly with those were hostile to him from the scriptures.
So, on one hand, the true working of the Holy Spirit really does not need to be defended by anyone... people who have been changed or transformed as a fruit of revival have within themselves the testimony of whether a revival is genuine or counterfeit... and no case presented by the prosecution will EVER be able to dissuade their testimony. On the other hand, the prosecution is NEVER going to change its mind unless the Judge provides sufficient evidence to them that their case is unfounded or without merit, or is not based on correct conclusions of the evidence. Even in normal court cases, even if the defense wins the case, the prosecution STILL believes it is right! (Just ask Marcia Clark after the O.J. verdict was rendered) No, only evidence from the SUPERNATURAL Judge in this case will change anyone's mind on the side of the prosecution. However, history tells us, that when the Judge wrapped Himself in human flesh and became man, that NO amount of evidence was able to change the prosecution's mind!! Even Him returning from the dead, just as He had predicted He would, would not change their mind!!
So why bother with a defense at all?? Well, there are some people in the jury that are still weighing the evidence... they are still undecided... and some are still open enough to hear the case out to the end. That is really about the only reason I even bother with a writing on this subject matter. I have been on the prosecution's team before.. not about revival.. but about other matter's of Biblical significance. I used the same reasoning, the same logic, and the same method of evidence gathering as they still do today. I had to be taken into the Judge's chambers and presented with evidence from the Judge's perspective. Mind you, the defense team was not there when the Judge showed me these things...in fact, I had not even started attending the trial yet. Nonetheless, I guess I can be considered part of the defense.. even though I do not attend one of these churches where revival has been going on...nor do I follow closely ministries centered around renewal or revival. My testimony is that I have been drastically affected by the fire of God... and its coming in supernatural manifestations at times... to the point that I have deep passion for God to see His kingdom come... to see people saved, healed, and delivered of all the junk this world offers them. It's the same fire of God, for the most part, that I see working in these revivals. I'll be honest... I did at one time seek AFTER manifestations themselves. I also did a lot of other stupid things that ALL immature believers do. I am sure you have never done anything of a carnal and immature nature as a believer have you?? Maturity comes in us all when we begin to seek the Manifestor and not the manifestations. In that sense, critics are deservingly correct in warning people to not seek after the manifestations. Seeking a manifestation will cause you to wind up on a mountain in Tibet worshipping the supposed incarnation of god in some guru or in some New Age yoga class meditating and fellowshipping with your spirit guide who wants to lead you into true enlightenment and fulfillment. Yet the Scriptures again give us a balance... we are to seek both the Giver and the gifts (1 Cor 12:31, 14:1, 14:39)... we are to seek both the King and His Kingdom (Matt 6:33). The balance of this is that we serve a living God who is the King of Glory. His coming among us is in both the gentle unseen wind and the roaring tempest that blows through the room with cloven tongues of fire! If He is the King of Glory, then His Glory is bound to make us uncomfortable (just ask Isaiah). The balance comes in abiding in the Truth. The prosecution would lead us to believe that the manifestations attendant with revival are evidence that Truth is not present .... I beg to differ.
In presenting an argument for the defense in this case, I want to make clear that my arguments are not flawless... they are just my own personal observations. When we believe that we cannot be wrong in anything we say Biblically, we succumb very easily to pride. James said clearly that the only perfect man is one who "does not stumble in word." Do any of you wish to compete for the title of "perfect"?? Well, neither do I... and there is only One who was ever perfect and taught flawless doctrine... and He is seated at the right hand of the Father. Even though God inspired the writings of the Bible, the writers themselves were not perfect. This applies also to many, many great men of God. Martin Luther brought profound return of the truth to the Church, but he was at the same time extremely anti-Semitic. If I use the prosecution's method of argument, Luther could be found to be false teacher because "If someone says 'I love God', and hates his brother, he is a liar..." Of course, I don't believe Luther was a false teacher.. he is one of my most admired believers of all time for his boldness to stand for the truth of the Word in the midst of severe persecution. Luther is no more a false teacher than I believe Paul is a false teacher for some of things that attended his ministry:
As I have already stated, if you believe that the only supernatural work God does today is the salvation of a lost soul, then it is hard to accept or even believe that modern day apostolic displays of power can have God as their origin. Apostolic does not mean that people today are writing or speaking with the authority of Scripture... it just means that the same power that attended the outpouring in the early church is still available and being poured out today. Not all critics of revival are in this category... many do believe in the present day supernatural working of God. Let's be honest... if we saw a believer speak with the same authority that Paul did to Elymas and cause someone to go blind, most of us would brand him a false teacher. EVEN IF someone did get saved, many believers would still be convinced that the miracle was not of God because they believe that God would never cause a dark mist to fall on someone and cause blindness. Although causing blindness to come on someone (i.e., especially someone ANTAGONISTIC to the Gospel) has not been recorded as a manifestation in current revivals, I do believe it is the MANNER of miracle that accompanies the message of the Gospel and the message of repentance that normally accompanies revival and renewal movements. If this miracle were not recorded in the Bible, you and I both know that our FIRST response to this kind of scenario would've been that Paul MUST be a false teacher... Even the fact that a miraculous manifestation is IN the Bible still is not a VALID test for whether a manifestation is of the Spirit of God. Consider the snake handling offshoots of orthodox Christianity. Although naive, they certainly trust the reliability of the word of God and its literal interpretation to the point that they are willing to test God (something that the BALANCE of the Scriptures would reveal is not wise nor Biblical!) However, there is scripture that can be used to support the fact that God indeed promises and will protect them if they pick up snakes (Luke 10:19, Mark 16:17-18). They can even cite an experience recorded in Scripture to support the doctrine (Acts 28:3-6)! The point here is that they take the Word TOO literally to the point that I would deservedly attribute the miraculous ability to handle snakes and drink poison as demonic in nature (I have given consideration that God overlooks their utter stupidity but honors their childlike faith in the Word and so allows them grace... but either way, I am not attending a snake handling meeting any time soon nor am I going to offer a defense case for them!)
So what do we use for discernment in terms of demonic origin of manifestations?? There were and always have been attempted invasions of the demonic in the ministry of Jesus while He was on earth and now as He directs the church from the right hand of God (think about Judas Iscariot for a minute, a man who shared the last supper with Jesus yet was possessed by Satan himself!)... Even Paul dealt with a spirit of divination in a little girl that was following him around proclaiming that he and the other believers were the GREAT power of God. Adam Clark once said, "Nature, along with Satan, will always mingle themselves, as far as they can, in the genuine work of the Spirit in order to discredit and destroy it. In great revivals of religion, it is almost impossible to prevent wild-fire from getting in among the true fire." Another observer has said: "Never, indeed, has there been a sowing of God on earth but it has been oversown by Satan; or a growth of Christ, which the plantings of the wicked one did not mingle with and hinder. He who sets out to find a perfect church, in which there are no unworthy elements and no disfigurations, proposes to himself a hopeless task."
Frank Bartleman in recounting the spiritual awakening of the Azusa Street revival said, "God's perfect work is wrought in human imperfection. We are creatures of the 'fall'. Then why expect a perfect manifestation in this case? We are coming back to God."
None of these statements are meant to excuse aberrant doctrine or invite demonic manifestations as "acceptable". I do not think "blind acceptance" of all spiritual phenomenon is either wise or "Biblical" in the orthodox sense of the word. However, there are two things to note here:
1) what we may consider doctrinal aberrations might really be just deviations from our own biased opinion and our own denomination's doctrinal interpretation of the Bible that denies the supernatural power of God working today-- which may or may not be truly "Biblical":
2) what we may call demonic or "unbiblical" manifestations might indeed be true manifestations of the Holy Spirit
That is indeed the question... if the source of the manifestation is the Spirit of God or not. More importantly than this, what is the purpose for the manifestation to begin with?? Paul tells us that the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good... so that in other words, what we see outwardly is not REALLY what is going on. The true work of the Spirit is always INWARD. The INWARD work of the Spirit that heals our body, heals our mind and soul, and illuminates our spirit to the saving grace of Jesus Christ is what is of most importance. These are all GOOD things to have happen to us individually and corporately! In fact, when people in large groups are RESTORED and given LIFE and FREEDOM together in the Lord Jesus Christ, it is a GOOD that benefits everyone COMMONLY.
Revivals throughout history have been birthed by people of vastly different theological traditions: Calvinists, Armenians, those who believed prophecy and healing had passed away, those who believed the gifts are still operative, those who came from a monastic order, those who were trained theologians, those who were crude coal workers, those who spoke in tongues, those who didn't speak in tongues, those who were concerned with cheap grace, those who were focused on heart piety and works, those who believed in irresistible sovereign grace, and those who championed the wrath of God.
As you begin to study revival history, it becomes apparent that many revivals were designed to actually prevent the spread of a greater heresy in the Body of Christ, though their critics most often attacked the revivals and charged them with introducing heresy and unorthodoxy themselves. The Great Awakening had a major impact in stopping the encroachment of Deism, a true heresy, though critics of the Awakening focused attention almost solely on the excesses of the public manifestations that attended the meetings of the revival time period. Azusa Street represented a true "Pentecost" in the sense that both white and black believers in Jesus worshipped TOGETHER! To see this in the early 1900's, long before the Civil Rights Movement, was more of a shock to see than the emergence of spiritual language (tongues) itself was. The revival was quenched because America was not ready for a church that did not see color... and instead, critics of Azusa Street focused almost entirely on the excesses of the public manifestations and the many people who were trying to imitate spiritual language or derive it from an effort of the flesh.
What is the purpose of the revivals today? I believe they are a precursor to the last great harvest... the last great ingathering of souls into the kingdom of God before the return of Jesus Christ to this earth. Revivals today in my opinion are targeted at bringing the church out of lukewarmness and back to its original place of dominion (in spiritual realms) that is her God-given call. I believe that the primary "heresy" that these revivals are fighting against are the inroads of the New Age movement and Eastern philosophies into the American culture. New Age philosophy is very similar to the heresy of gnosticism which is combated vehemently all throughout the New Testament. Why has the New Age had such profound impact on our nation? Because people in America have been awakened to a deep spiritual hunger... a hunger that is readily fed and satisfied by the REAL and FALSE spiritual experiences that New Age philosophies are offering. We are seeing a return of the real supernatural to the Church because the devil has for too long peddled his wares to this generation without the Church offering any type of counter-proposal. In a similar way, we have lost this generation to MTV because there has been no "LIGHT" in the darkness of Hollywood. The same applies for spirituality. When Christianity becomes a philosophy and an intellectual religion about the man who died on the cross, it is just one of many possible contenders in the marketplace of spiritual experience. But, when the resurrected Christ visits those who call on His name with miraculous power and the outpouring of His Spirit... this causes the lost to start noticing and the religious to start criticizing. What the coming of the Spirit in our midst should do is what the Bible tells us: it should make us humble and discerning, and most of all return us to true love for Jesus and other people... we do need to test the spirits to see whether they are of God while realizing that we are as apt to spiritual blindness (shutting out and quenching the Spirit) as we are to spiritual deception (allowing falsehood and evil in). Not only are revivals dealing with the inroads of the New Age movement, they are also dealing with the inroads of a far greater and destructive New Testament heresy: pharisaism. Revivals, if for no other reason at all for existing, are confronting the American church with a long hardened attitude that has shut the God of the supernatural out of its midst. It is no wonder that the Church in America accustomed to no REAL supernatural manifestation of God goes into coronary shock and disbelief the very moment this trend is reversed.
This brings me to the whole point of this discussion... I grow tired of reading assault after assault on the validity and integrity of many current revivals. No one can deny that they are attendant with problems. Jonathan Edwards graciously admitted that the Great Awakening had serious flaws in the public manifestations of the revival-- among many other major issues that he duly pointed out in several writings. People were nervous by the bodily manifestations of that day as well-- shaking, quaking, people falling down, laughing, crying, welping, yelling, running, dancing, people in trances, people being frozen, screaming-- things that we might more easily say are "disorderly". These manifestations all offend our better religious sensibilities... especially when they seem to promote controversy, divisions, and cast Christians in a bad light. Read the book of Acts and you will soon discover that controversy and division is found everywhere the moving of the Spirit occurred... why do you think Paul was almost stoned several times?? Was it because the miraculous made everyone all comfortable or was it because it began to stir crowds and reactions in people?? And in terms of casting Christians in a bad light... there are 2000 years of Church history which has done far more to cast Christians in a bad light than ANY amount of weird manifestations of the Spirit could ever accomplish in our day. On top of that, our primary goal is not to make Christianity palatable or dignified. Jesus was not very dignified when He hung naked on a tree, bloody and beaten to a pulp. In fact, it made God look rather WEAK and FOOLISH in the eyes of men. Why should we be so concerned that God's moving today would once again make Him look WEAK and FOOLISH in the eyes of men??? Haven't you read that the wisdom of God is wiser than the wisdom of man?? Ooops... NO, it says the FOOLISHNESS of God is wiser than man... the WEAKNESS of God is stronger than man... (1 Cor 1:25). So what exactly does the FOOLISHNESS and WEAKNESS of God look like?? Well if the CROSS is the prototype, then what would it look like in the days of the outpouring of His Spirit today?? To me it would look like something offensive and without reason to the human intellect...hmmm.
The prosecution at this point is raising an objection.. "Your honor, the defense is saying that we should all just abandon our intellect and become emotional blobs that follow whatever spirit pops up and says that it is from God." Sustained... That of course is the typical response any time this line of reasoning is pursued by the defense team. As someone who has more books on theology, Christian living, and the disciplines of the faith than your local Christian book store, I know the value of study. In fact, our Jewish roots in Christianity teach us that STUDY is the highest form of worship. In this light, I have done more reading than probably a typical seminary student or even a pastor on a wide range of viewpoints and topics concerning Christian life and doctrine... as such, I would like to answer this objection. The defenders of revival are not saying that you have to abandon intellect to embrace these manifestations as being from God. The charge is levied, sometimes rightly, that people are merely stirred emotionally and left untouched spiritually. This is probably true in some cases... however, there are people in church every week (maybe even your church) that are stirred intellectually and left untouched spiritually as well!
The question is not whether we rely or appeal to intellect or even whether we rely or appeal to emotions. The point is that no (a very strong absolute word) intellectually-minded person easily embraces what can be seen in most revivals, and therefore most will have a hard time walking away with any lasting spiritual change. Likewise, every emotionally-driven person is in real danger of being consumed by the manifestations in most revivals, thus causing them to walk away with little or no lasting spiritual change. Whether we to tend to be more intellectual or more emotional, the defense suggests that neither one of these should be a proper basis for true discernment, and therefore neither is really a very strong witness in the case. Both, however, can indeed be hindrances to accepting and receiving true revival when we rely on them solely. The mind is only 1/3 our soul... emotions are only 1/3 of our soul... and both must be lead into the submission of our spirit that is under the control and direction of the Holy Spirit. If we are seeking after the manifestations (as stated earlier), we will get manifestations that we might not want, i.e., those sponsored by the kingdom of darkness. However, if we ask our Heavenly Father for the Holy Spirit, we must believe that He will not give us a snake. We are to not only expect God's outpouring but we are also to study to show ourselves approved... I consider myself a member of the intellectually-driven class (I have enough degrees to prove it). I just don't rely on my intellect like I used to. I did find my intellect to be a major hindrance in many ways to receiving and embracing the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit in my own life. But this does not mean that in the process I have now come to rely more on my emotions. My emotions have never lead me to trust God anyway.. no more than my intellect ever has either. I do acknowledge that both are carnally directed.. my emotions must be kept in check and my mind must be continually renewed. So, when the defense appeals to the FOOLISHNESS and WEAKNESS of God, it is not at the same time appealing to the removal of intellectual study and pursuit of Biblical knowledge. Far from it... the more the GLORY of God is revealed in our midst with diverse signs and wonders, the MORE we need to be engulfed with the divinely and inerrant Word of God. The Holy Spirit will use the Bible more than any other tool to speak to us! But just remember, the devil knows how to use the Bible too, and he can most likely quote it better than you and I. If then you are wondering how to discern the source, consider this: the Holy Spirit always leads us in the ministry of humility and intercession while the devil always leads us to the ministry of condemnation and pride. Both sides of the revival debate may indeed be guilty of being "accusers of the brethren", so all I am saying is that self-righteousness is a constant battle we all deal with.
The defense has already raised its own objection to the use of the the LETTER of the Law found in the Bible by the prosecution. A classic argument I have heard to prove that revival manifestations CANNOT be of God is that they CANNOT be found in the Bible. This idea is a very common approach many take in terms of Biblical discernment. It is not always the best approach though: Sunday School, alter calls for salvation, the word "Trinity", and the word "Rapture" cannot be found in the Bible either. Does that mean the doctrine of the Trinity is not found consistently through both the Older and New Testaments? Of course not... When Sunday School was introduced, many opposed it on the grounds that there was no scriptural support for it...and they were aptly correct, though the reasoning of Sunday School can be well supported from the principles found in Scripture. More importantly, even intellectual approaches to Bible study and orthodoxy disallow the use of the "argument from silence" as an argumentative proof... the fact that a particular manifestation or spiritual occurrence is not IN the Bible does not automatically mean that it did not happen. It just means that it was not recorded... did not John say the world could not contain all the books that could be written if everything Jesus did were recorded? I imagine as well that if EVERYTHING of a supernatural character were recorded from the early days of the church, you would need a couple of hundred books just for that alone.
So here we have two very good reasons why an appeal to Scripture in discerning the source of manifestations of the Spirit should be analyzed carefully:
1) There are manifestations of the Spirit FOUND in scripture along with doctrinal verses that are used to support very UNBIBLICAL beliefs and practices (consider also baptism of the dead in Mormon theology, which is based on 1 scriptural reference to it that is unclear at best in its meaning) This happens when the SUM of the truth of Scripture is not taken into account.
2) Though certain manifestations are not recorded in Scripture, (i.e. Jesus speaking in tongues, people shaking/quaking or falling on the ground under the power of the Spirit, people laughing in the Spirit, gold dust appearing, and so on and so forth), any reasonably founded intellectual argument cannot use the "argument from silence" as part of its case. On top of this, many other very "orthodox" practices and doctrines are not found DIRECTLY in Scripture.
So what can we then say about these manifestations in terms of the Scriptures?? The defense does not appeal to the LETTER of the Scriptures, but rather the PRINCIPLE found in Scripture in this regard. We have just stated 2 very good reasons why the LETTER of the LAW is not always the best defense from Scripture that one can pose. There is of course ample evidence in the Scripture of manifestations of the Holy Spirit that are by no means "normal" or "orthodox". People thought believers were drunk on the day of Pentecost because of their behavior. Even when the voice of God speaks directly from heaven, somebody is going to say that it was only thundering (John 12:27-30)... If a building were to be shaken in our day as a result of a prayer meeting, someone would blame it on cyclonic winds and not on the outpouring of the Spirit (Acts 4:31, and by the way, I don't see much difference from a building shaking and a person shaking)... The natural man and the carnally directed intellect of man can never understand God's ways nor will it ever feel comfortable when confronted with a supernatural God. The prophets of Israel did some of the most absurd things imaginable from a human stand point (one even laying naked on his side for a long time...), all from the direct command of the LORD to do so. John the Baptist was certainly not popular among the orthodox of his day, and I don't think most of us in America would want him or his kind in our church.
The truth is that God comes to us, wanting to dwell and commune with us in our very midst, and reveal His glory. How awesome to think that the sovereign God of the universe stoops and condescends to hang out with lumps of clay like us! However, when God comes in our midst, most often He comes in a package or in a way that is offensive to us. Jesus offended many because He did not come through the religious schools of the Pharisees... even pious Jews today believe that messiah will be a God fearing, pious Jew, who is both a great Torah scholar and a great leader. Jesus was God fearing and pious and all of these things, but unfortunately He came in a way that NO ONE expected: he was born in a Bethlehem stable and raised in an out of the way truck stop known as Nazareth. It boggles my mind to think that the Bread of Life was laid in the feeding trough of livestock, and even more that the prince of Life died on a Roman cross. It was even foretold that Jesus would cause MANY to stumble over Him. That is why Jesus said, "Blessed is he who is not offended..." If this be the case, consider just for a moment the things most orthodox and conservative Christians (myself included) are offended by... and consider the root of our offense. Is it so much our idea of the "unbiblical" nature of what we see or is it the fact that God is coming in a package that offends our idea of what God should and shouldn't be doing? If we really read the Bible with an open mindset, it really can speak to us of things we see today.
Why should we be offended when Rodney Howard Browne commands believers to "drink" and "be filled" with the Spirit when the Holy Spirit is likened to new wine being poured out from heaven? Why should we be offended at people running up and down an aisle after being set free of something when the lame man healed by Peter and John went about leaping and dancing and praising God right in the middle of the Temple?? Why should we be offended if people are left in trance-like states when God had to put Peter in a trance in order to melt his heart to the idea of Gentile people having the Gospel preached to them?? Why should we be offended at seeing people shake when Moses said in the presence of God that he was exceedingly afraid and trembling?? Why should we be offended at people falling down under the power of the Spirit on the ground when Jesus said "I AM!" and caused centurions to fall down at His word in the Garden of Gethsemane? (see John 18:5-6 and notice the Greek rendering egoo eimi, or I AM-- "he" is not in the Greek) Why should we wince at people laughing uncontrollably when the Bible clearly says that the joy of the Lord is our strength and that God even laughs at the foolishness of men who do not believe in Him (see also Psalms 126:1-2)? Why should we question extravagant (even wild in some people's mind) worship when Jesus clearly said that he who is forgiven much will love much and therefore worship EXTRAVAGANTLY just as the woman with alabaster ointment did (Luke 7:37-50)? Why should we think it absurd that a man blowing on people releases the presence of the Spirit on them when Jesus blew on the disciples and said "Receive the Holy Spirit" (John 20:22)? Why should we be offended when people yell or shriek or cry when James tells us clearly to cleanse our hands, purify our hearts, lament, mourn, and weep-- letting our laughter turn to mourning and our worldly joy to gloom?? Why should we take offense at radical faith and radical prayers when Jesus said that we should believe that He will do whatever we ask in His name so that His Father would be glorified??
Although I do not have a verse that directly says shaking is OR is not a manifestation that accompanies an inner work of the Spirit, I do know Scripture records that people possessed by demons have been known to shake in response to the presence of the Spirit... But, I personally think shaking (though I absolutely do not UNDERSTAND this one at all!) is very symbolic of the world literally being shaken out of and off of some people... ESPECIALLY young people. Why? Because "my" and "our" generation has been so captivated and snared by the world (especially in the American society), I think it is a vivid picture that the Holy Spirit is literally shaking them loose from their abandon to the world. Do we think it odd that Jesus said the Kingdom of God has suffered VIOLENCE?? I think the picture of VIOLENCE is apropos. Sometimes it requires VIOLENCE to rip the hold of the world, selfishness, religion, and the enemy off of us.
In all honesty, the prosecution does not like outward displays of either emotion or weirdness. Neither do I to tell you the truth. Yet, none of us want a graveyard either-- though it is very orderly. The prosecution however also does not prefer OUTWARD displays of worship EITHER. Let's be honest... the prosecution for the most part is used to a very INWARD focused, intellectual form of worship. This, however, is not the worship that the Psalms fully and in totality describe. Yet, I am not going to accuse the prosecution of being unbiblical because they do not like to raise their hands or outwardly demonstrate acts of worship by prostration or kneeling or clapping or dancing or shouting or bowing... yet I could easily make an appeal to the Biblical NORM for all of these. So in many ways, those from a very sedate, quiet style of worship to begin with are certainly far more likely to be offended by ANY outward display or manifestation of the Spirit. It is just human nature. Radical-ness is always going to offend... and the flesh will always war against those who worship in spirit and truth.
The truth is, most American churches would not welcome Jesus if He were alive today... He would offend us too deeply. If Jesus were to speak in English with the equivalent modern cultural meaning that he addressed the Jewish culture of His day, many today would pick up stones to stone Him as well. Even in His day, some people told Him in no less words, "Take your miracle ministry and leave!" (Matt 8:28-34) So moving back to my original thesis, most of us want the God of the Bible as long as He stays in heaven and does not invade our midst! But the Holy Spirit has been CALLED along side of us... and He is the Spirit of Power, the Spirit of Glory, and the Spirit of Might! We must take the package that He chooses to come in though, whether it offends us or not. If God chooses to come in WEAKNESS and FOOLISHNESS, I may not understand it, but I certainly will not criticize it. In dealing with these manifestations, the prosecution can rightly bring up that most, if not all of these manifestations that we are seeing in revivals can be found in the practices of Eastern gurus and occult spiritual practice. Laughter, speaking in tongues, shaking, and being "slain" in the spirit by someone's touch are all well documented manifestations found in the ministry of many gurus, swamis, and shamans. The appearance of gold dust and oil and even the appearance of gold teeth fillings have been some of the most recent manifestations that have occurred in certain revival and renewal settings. Even these newest manifestations (which go way beyond normal arguments of mind control and confront us with cold hard facts of something supernatural occurring) are being attributed to satan! The prosecution has made the charge that all of these signs are part of a great apostasy in the church and the falling away of many believers as a part of the end time period we are living in. They would argue that these miraculous signs and wonders are all what both the Lord Jesus and Paul spoke about:
The charges levied against modern revivals vary from counterfeit to outright demonic, from deceptive to blatant apostasy. The prosecution has even submitted evidence that it has tested the spirits of these revivals and found their doctrines to be heretical and unbiblical. Of course, on that premise alone (whether true or false is debatable), they therefore believe NOTHING that comes from these revivals is of the Spirit of God. And if it ain't from heaven, it must of course be from hell. The manifestations, which of course are unbiblical and caused by demonic mind control and powers of suggestion, support this theory... obviously because the manifestations are bizarre to say the least, this supports the original supposition that revival movements in general are NOT OF GOD. Consider just one opinion that I am sure follows very closely to the general opinion on this side of the debate:
Wow.. pretty serious charges. The defense wants to point out that Paul makes a clear statement that the miracles of the man of sin are in accord with satan and will come "with all unrighteous deception among those who perish." For any person who seriously examines current revivals, they will find people who (whether bizarre to our own mind or not) love Jesus and want more than anything to see people saved and won to Him. Satan never enjoys Jesus being exalted or made to look good. He NEVER enjoys seeing Jesus promoted or the power of God manifested or people entering into heartfelt worship. Satan NEVER wants people to be told that they MUST REPENT or that they MUST LOVE God or that they MUST FOLLOW JESUS as LORD in order to be saved... if satan can just make people settle for "being good" and mentally accepting "orthodox doctrine", that is quite all right with him. If you examine the leaders of these revivals and those who are involved in revival, you will most likely not find people who are promoting unrighteousness... in fact it is just the opposite. Revival movements if anything call us back to HOLINESS and REPENTANCE. Unrighteous deception in my mind does not have to do with the NATURE of the miracles that are occurring either. Both satan and God can perform miracles and signs and wonders. Jannes and Jambres laid down twigs that turned into snakes JUST LIKE Moses did.
Unrighteous deception in my mind seeks to promote MAN above GOD, while at the same time encouraging and magnifying SIN. Take the time to look... you will not find that the message or intent of these revivals is anywhere near that... they are just the opposite. Revivals are calling sinners to surrender all to Jesus and calling the saved to return to their first love. In spite of this, there are certain teachings which may not agree with our doctrine. It is doctrine we all think is essential to salvation.. but is it really?? Do they disagree that Jesus is God incarnate, or that God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, or that the blood of Jesus is the only atonement for sin, or that the Bible is the infallible word of God??? For the ones I have taken the time to investigate, absolutely NOT! They agree fully with everything that is ESSENTIAL to salvation. Of course, the prosecution has already condemned other "heretical" teachings such as those found by promoters of faith, prosperity, and healing. The defense at this point would like to point out that much of what the prosecution considers heretical and demonic in terms of doctrine are matters that are not essential to salvation and do not pervert either the gospel or the person of Jesus. However, the viewpoint of the prosecution is just the opposite...before even attacking manifestations common to revival movements, there has always been a prosecutorial case against many "doctrines" held by those of a more charismatic nature. It just so happens, most of these doctrinal differences are carried through to revival movements. So thus, the testing of the spirits from the mind of the prosecution leads us to see that leaders are teaching false and misleading doctrines. Therefore, since they are false teachers, they must of necessity be promoter of false manifestations of the spirit.
There are so many differences in this arena, it would take an entire book to try to reasonably consider the premises of the prosecution's argument in this regard and respond to it. It all goes back to roots in my mind... the prosecution tends to focus much more on the sovereignty of God while downplaying or minimizing the role of man. This has also lead to differences of how each side looks and considers the role of Jesus humanity in terms of His divinity... and in this light, many on the side of prosecution feel that the deity of Jesus is denied when His powers of deity are examined incorrectly in terms of His role as a servant here on earth. This also leads to a strong dichotomy in how each side understands the working of the Holy Spirit: those on the side of the defense (IN GENERAL) tend to view Jesus as laying ASIDE His POWERS of deity (NOTE, not HIS NATURE of DEITY) when He took on the role of a servant. Thus, as the Son of Man, Jesus made Himself completely reliant on the Holy Spirit. The prosecution (IN GENERAL) tends to view Jesus just the opposite. They see that everything He did as the Son of Man was done in His POWERS of deity, not just His NATURE of deity. So, just in this one particular viewpoint, you could easily see how charges of "heresy" and "doctrinal error" and "denying the deity of Jesus" can be levied by the prosecution without REALLY understanding the viewpoint of the opposing side. Another example that comes to mind is the idea that man is a little "god". That makes many people uncomfortable... though, I believe it is a very scriptural principle myself. It is vastly different to say that I AM God than to say that I AM made in the image of God. We were destined to be conformed to the glorious image of Jesus... so while I do understand the fear of the prosecution that man is somehow being made out to be "divine", no true believer who presents man as a little "god" is stupid enough to believe that man is or is becoming THE God of the universe. Yet here again, even though Peter clearly tells us that we are to be partakers of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4), the idea of man as a little "god" is somehow seen to be a very heretical and blasphemous doctrine. It all depends on how far you take it and how far you ignore the underlying concepts of what this statement REALLY means... Doctrinal differences LIKE THESE have compounded the problem when it comes to finding true discernment in terms of revival movements.
So, in general, the defense does not agree with what the prosecution believes to be "orthodox" truth in many cases to start with. This muddies the water a lot... mainly because the prosecution is very reliant on "orthodox" truth as the measuring stick for discernment. In some ways it is circular reasoning. It goes something like this:
However, there are HONEST differences among true believers over things that are by supposition of the prosecution false to begin with. Big deal... there are many people in the church who STILL believe tongues are of the devil and that the gifts of the Spirit are no longer in operation. They believe this IN SPITE OF the witness of scripture AND overwhelming evidence/ experience offered by thousands of born-again disciples of Jesus Christ who exercise spiritual language and operate in the gifts of the Holy Spirit! There are countless many who do not believe that there is ANY subsequent work of the Holy Spirit past salvation in our lives. They believe this IN SPITE OF the witness of scripture AND overwhelming evidence/experience of thousands upon thousands of born-again disciples of Jesus Christ who can testify to the real and genuine experience of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. We can all be prone to pride.. and if an experience does not align with a predetermined understanding of the Bible, our first natural reaction is always going to be "COUNTERFEIT." (and it is normally a predetermined understanding that DENIES the experience is either valid, available, or of God to begin with). We must be careful in this area because spiritual pride can blind us to the truth far more than UNRIGHTEOUS DECEPTION ever will... .
The prosecution at this point rises to speak: "Objection your honor, the defense is telling us now that we need to throw out all discernment and just follow every whim of emotion and fleshly exuberance. Are we to all assume barking like dogs and roaring like lions is an acceptable manifestation?? Where does the defense suggest we draw the line??" Sustained...
The fact that we are more likely to be mislead by spiritual pride than by unrighteous deception does not mean we should not exercise spiritual discernment... it just means that we realize that OUR discernment can be influenced heavily by OUR religious prejudice and doctrinal pre-conceptions. The Bible lists the discerning of Spirits as a GIFT of the Spirit.. in other words, it is not SOLELY based on our own wisdom but rather on God's voice and enlightenment. Isn't that really what we need?? We need to DISCERN whether the spirit behind certain manifestations and certain doctrines in revival movements are from the Holy Spirit, the human spirit, an angelic spirit, or a demonic spirit. THAT is what discernment is all about... "Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not ON YOUR OWN UNDERSTANDING.. In ALL your ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct your paths!!" We are to LEAN NOT on our own understanding. It doesn't say we are NOT TO HAVE our own understanding.. .it just says that we are NOT to LEAN on it. LEAN is the picture of RELIANCE.
However, if you are like most people on the side of the prosecution, you have had little or no EXPERIENCE with the Gift of Discerning of spirits... no more than you have had with the Gifts of Word of Knowledge, Word of Wisdom, Prophecy, Tongues, Interpretation of Tongues, Healing, Faith, and Miraculous Powers. Why? More than likely, you are from a background that has not taught you how to EXERCISE or OPERATE in these supernatural giftings of the Holy Spirit. "Objection your honor... the defense is now saying that the Holy Spirit is not the one who distributes these gifts as He sees fit... we cannot DECIDE which gift we get.. it is all UP TO HIM." Again, this view is very biased towards a misunderstanding of the sovereignty of God and the role that man plays in participating with God to see His will fulfilled on this earth. IF it were ALL up to the Holy Spirit, Paul would never have three times in this same portion of the letter dealing with spiritual gifts specifically admonished believers to PURSUE and EAGERLY DESIRE the best gifts. This is where the VALUE of Biblical doctrine combined with experience comes in handy! The defense would ask the prosecution at this point, "What is the SOURCE of your DISCERNMENT?" If it can be reasonably demonstrated that the prosecution has LEANED on its own understanding, the defense would well justifiably call for a mistrial... and the case to be thrown out. Has the supernatural gift of discerning of spirits been sought after and EAGERLY DESIRED as the Word of God and the Apostle Paul commanded us??? What better purpose for a spiritual gift to be used in LOVE than to have SUPERNATURAL discernment about all of these revival movements... "Your honor, the prosecution would like to know how love is supposed to fit into this absurd idea of asking God to give us the gift of discerning of spirits..." Love you see would first of all NEVER attack a brother or sister in the Lord UNJUSTLY. Even JUSTLY, LOVE would cause sincere and humble reproof and correction to be issued without casting a brother or sister in the Lord as a heretic, or apostate, or a false teacher, or a false prophet... Love would certainly be an EXCELLENT motivation in this case for EAGERLY DESIRING the gift of discernment. As the defense has tried to demonstrate up to this point... even our own understanding of the Bible is not the very best grounds for a case that certain revivals are counterfeit. The Word of God can ALWAYS be used to find PRINCIPLES in support of an argument but it is very hard to use it in the LETTER of the LAW as the basis for an argument. The LETTER was never meant to give absolute direction and guidance ANYWAY. though there is certainly enough of the LETTER to frame our walk with God in holiness and obedience to the truth. We were meant to be under the guardianship of the Spirit.... not the letter of the law. Thus, the defense appeals to the SOURCE of the prosecution's discernment. I admit my lack of ability to discern truth and error on my own, and thus I admit my desperate need for the illumination of the Spirit even on the Word of God.. but the prosecution's case seems so air tight and well documented that it would appear the evidence has been based more on THEIR understanding and THEIR discernment of the Scriptures than anything else. For many on the prosecution who have had no exposure and no real experience to the supernatural working of the Holy Spirit in this way, it would probably be more likely to assume that there is no SUPERNATURAL appeal to discernment APART from the Scriptures.
"Your honor, objection, objection! Is the defense now saying that we should just pray about this and wait until we have a good feeling about it or a 'burning' in our heart, almost like the Mormons want us to do when trying to 'discern' whether Joseph Smith is a true prophet and the Book of Mormon is a true book??"
Here again, the defense is cast in the light that we are to rely on something emotional or something on the order of a feeling to discern a true move or true manifestation of God. This is not what the defense is saying. In things like determining whether the Book of Mormon is true or not, I do not need the "witness" of a burning bosom because the Word of God already bears witness concerning the spirit of error and the Spirit of Truth. Mormon theology has (at least until recently) consistently denied the full equality of the Lord Jesus and the Holy Spirit as being fully divine and co-equal with the Father. The denial of the Trinity within the doctrine is the first thing that is readily apparent... and the books of Mormon faith can be directly found to contradict what has already been revealed in the Bible concerning man, God, satan, and the afterlife. There is ample evidence to support the fact that Joseph Smith is a false prophet as well.
As the defense has previously stated, the Bible does not (in any way that I can find) directly command us to base discernment of something on the NATURE of a manifestation. It does not command us to look at a manifestation and judge it by whether or not it can be found in false religions or pagan practices. The only test of discernment given by Jesus (when there is no direct Scriptural argument ONE WAY or the OTHER) is the FRUIT test. There are direct Scriptural evidences that directly contradict every false religion and cult in existence. They are Scriptural evidences that both the prosecution and defense would agree upon. That is why we are told to JUDGE prophecy, to KEEP what is GOOD, and to focus on the fruit to discern what kind of ROOT a tree has.
If you notice, the fruit test appears all the time throughout Scripture. John tells us clearly that he who DOES what is evil is of the devil. He who continues to sin is not born of God. He who does not love his brother whom he does see cannot love God whom he cannot see. For the revivals that I have taken the time to study, people are not being lead to believe in a Mormon Jesus or an Islamic Jesus or a New Age Jesus or the Hindu Jesus or the Buddhist Jesus.... they are pointed to the Jesus who shed holy blood on a Roman cross to atone for sin and who rose from the dead to secure our justification before God. They point people toward Jesus who was the Son of Man, but who is also the divine Son of God. They point people back to love and devotion and purity to the Son of God. They also point people toward the Son of God who sits in heaven and POURS OUT the Holy Spirit on His Body, the Church. They point people toward the Son of God who can set us free of sin, anxiety, fear, unbelief, hatred, depression, bigotry, pride, and lust by His Holy Spirit. They point us toward the Son of God who was manifested to destroy every work of the enemy in our life. These are all things that stale, lifeless religion cannot accomplish. These are all things, that in a very real sense, cannot be accomplished until our life and our experience of the Son of God is shaken down to the foundations. Whether we like it or not, having and knowing and studying and exalting the infallible Word of God is not ENOUGH to reach a culture that has been so captivated and so grabbed by the spirit of this world. We need the Word of God AND the Spirit of God in order to loose people from the ruler of this present evil world. When the Spirit of God comes, we cannot see Him, but we can see the effects of His coming (just like the wind).
The manifestations are the visible effect He appears to have on our human bodies... and it is very weird some times (I can't and don't expect to be able to explain them). The inner working that is being accomplished is something that we cannot see. We cannot see a person's heart being changed and we cannot visibly see depression leaving someone (and most times, we can't visibly see a person being set free from a demon). We do SEE the physical reaction to something that is happening in the spiritual realm. We are to APPROVE what is excellent and KEEP what is good... that is the ultimate goal of discernment. Not everything that happens around revivals is good... admittedly. Not everyone walks away with a sterling testimony of God's amazing power. Not everyone that appears to have outward manifestations evidences lasting fruit. The same could be said for half the people that will walk down an aisle next week in churches all across the country to pray the sinners pray... many of them will not evidence lasting fruit either. Not everyone in strict conservative bastions of orthodoxy walk away with sterling testimonies of God's power either. The defense would point out that the same arguments used by the prosecution could easily be levied against many churches where revival nor manifestations of the Spirit are not present.
I have learned from experience as well that the fruit that develops from real supernatural experiences still require a walk of discipleship.. otherwise, the supernatural work that is accomplished will be overturned by our flesh. If a person thrives and lives for emotionalism and the rush of the manifestations, that will wind up being their fruit. Supernatural workings of the Holy Spirit do not replace the normal walk of obedience and development that all believers are expected to pursue as followers of Jesus Christ. Revival is meant to bring back LIFE to all those disciplines that we all KNOW our flesh is incapable of walking in but that we all KNOW we need in order to stay spiritually healthy!
Isn't the REAL reason that most modern revivals are being criticized (more than any other) are the manner of MANIFESTATIONS in signs and wonders? (it is the same reason that most past revivals have been criticized as well) Here the defense wishes to bring up a very important concept: God is a creator and satan is an imitator and a corruptor. Understand this my friends... satan does NOTHING original. He copies and imitates. His imitation is ALWAYS a perversion of the original as well. Just think about the job he has done on God's wonderful gift of sex... look at how satan has perverted, cheapened, and degraded it. Take any common spiritual manifestation in occult practice or Eastern mysticism or New Age experience as well. They are all IMITATIONS of things that the Spirit of God does. New Age channeling is the perversion of being filled with Holy Spirit and operating in the fullness of the true revelatory gifts such as prophecy, word of knowledge, or word of wisdom. New Age healing is a perversion of the genuine gift of healing that comes by the power of the Holy Spirit in response to the prayer of faith. Eastern gurus can touch people and have them fall down under their power because in the Bible we see the true and genuine practice of laying on of hands by believers when praying for people to be healed, to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and to commission believers into the ministry. Satan enables people in eastern religions to speak in tongues and to experience laughter because these are both real spiritual experiences that can be enjoyed in TRUTH from the Spirit of God.
It is funny that I have experienced most of the phenomenon of these revival movements before ever (and even never in some cases) having attended a Brownsville or Binny Hinn crusade or Toronto or Rodney Howard Browne meeting! It really begins to strip away all this nonsense about mind control when in the middle of a living room the Holy Spirit comes upon you in response to prayer and you fall on the floor laughing uncontrollably without Rodney Howard Browne or the Toronto Airport Fellowship being anywhere near! More incredibly is getting up after that and knowing that you have just been set free from months of depression and repressed anger towards God... all things that can happen to earnest believers in Jesus. What's more, having this laughter continue on after that at times while driving in your car or walking around your house or listening to a praise and worship tape. And every singe time it comes, you feel a great refreshing in your spirit and a desire to love God and serve Him all the more! All without the power of suggestion from anyone...all without hypnotic mind control... but, ALL with the very REAL power and presence of the Spirit of God. It is hard for people who do not operate in spiritual language to understand laughter... the source for both is the same. It is the river of living water that Jesus spoke would FLOW OUT from our INNERMOST parts by the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Why some don't experience this aspect of the Spirit's ministry has nothing to do with maturity or righteousness.. it does have everything to do with hunger and openness. I don't have to understand everything God does... and He allows me to have the right to reject His ministry as well! The question is what do you do when you are confronted with valid evidence that contradicts your discernment and understanding of what is "Biblical" and "orthodox"?? You have a choice of whether to BELIEVE or to continue on in UNBELIEF... The same thing happens to us when we get saved... we are confronted with our lack of standing before a holy and righteous God and we realize our need for a savior. We have the choice of whether to BELIEVE and TRUST in Jesus or continue on in PRIDE and UNBELIEF.
Jesus got to a point in His ministry when He told those that STILL PERSISTED in UNBELIEF IN SPITE of OVERWHELMING EVIDENCE, "Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father in Me, or else believe Me for the sake of the works themselves." John 14:11 (NKJ) I think Jesus is saying the same thing today....
I personally think that we are coming to the focal point today with manifestations... the appearance of both gold and oil is I think not only symbolic of deeper spiritual truths the Lord is trying to communicate, but I believe we are coming to the point where "Jannes and Jambres" are NO LONGER going to be able to KEEP UP!
I myself had questions about all this gold stuff, and I was even more amazed to see the number of questions it was causing among believer's! Come on people... you do the physics. I know satan is powerful and I know we can expect to see GREAT SIGNS and WONDERS that will if possible deceive the VERY ELECT. But I think BEFORE we see that, we are going to FIRST see GREAT SIGNS and WONDERS that ONLY GOD can do! I understand that "gold dust" has been common in some paranormal activities and within some "Mary" worship type settings. So obviously, satan has some ability to manifest this kind of phenomenon. However, I have NEVER heard, any where, at any time, of a person's tooth filling being turned into GOLD! You can't (and I believe won't) hear about that from gurus in India or from New Age circles. I believe we are seeing the end of the road where satan has the ability to imitate the real and genuine working of the Holy Spirit...I believe that Jannes and Jambres are soon to be no longer able to work their enchantments.
Friends, is the reaction of Pharaoh
to the words of Jannes and Jambres a picture of your heart? Even when
they told Pharaoh plainly, "THIS IS THE FINGER OF GOD", Pharaoh
hardened his heart. Do not be deceived into thinking that as
Christians we cannot harden our hearts toward God... otherwise why would we
have the admonition, "Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God;
but exhort one another daily, while it is called "Today," lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.
Heb 3:12-13 (NKJ)
Do you notice that it is an EVIL heart of UNBELIEF?? Unbelief leads us to DEPART from the LIVING God. What does it mean to depart from the living God?? The last time I checked, someone that is LIVING is also someone who SPEAKS and who HEARS. When we relegate God and His supernatural working to a distant point in the Biblical past, we really do not have a "LIVING" God... we have a God who "USED" to do miracles, who "USED" to perform signs, who "USED" to speak in dreams and visions, who "USED" to bestow spiritual gifts on His children, who "USED" to heal the sick, and who "USED" to display great power through His people. When we no longer hear God speak, sin easily occupies and enslaves us. I don't want to believe in a DEAD, BLIND, and MUTE God. I believe in the LIVING God that speaks, hears, and wants to come in our very midst today.. humbly. Yet the humility of God wanting to fellowship and demonstrate His glory in human flesh will ALWAYS be OFFENSIVE to our unredeemed carnal nature (the OLD man). We are told to put on the NEW man. We are told to PREPARE the way of the Lord in our life, so that He can come as the King of Glory and have His way in our life!
So why gold and oil?? I was amazed to
read one Jewish commentary on the significance of gold and its use in the
construction of the tabernacle... Gold is symbolic of Divinity.
It is fitting that it represents the One who is the most cherished,
precious, enduring, and beautiful person in the universe! Gold is the
"BEST" metal there is, and it reminds us that we are to give God
our very "BEST".. we are to make Him preeminent in our
lives. Who and what we are originates in God... God takes the junk of
our life and turns it into gold! What a great symbol. Is there a
REAL super-spiritual reason as to why God would be turning people's fillings
into gold?? Sure. There is as much spiritual reason for this as there was
for the very first miracle Jesus ever performed.. turning water into wine at
a wedding in Cana. Notice, that the gospel was not presented during
this miracle (i.e., the preaching of the word was not the PRIMARY motivation
for this miracle). None of the contemporary orthodox reasons for why
God does miracles applies to this miracle. Only this
I think God is manifesting His glory
today in ways and in packages that are offensive to our religious
natures. I think gold is fitting because even satan himself has a hard
time conjuring up THAT kind of miracle. God is going to make it harder
and harder for many who have fallen prey to the heresy of pharisaism to deny "THIS IS THE FINGER OF GOD". Instead,
their hearts will become HARDENED instead. Why is God doing this??
Because when the coming of the lawless one DOES come with GREAT SIGNS and
WONDERS deceiving many ... God is going to harden many who
have fallen prey to the heresy of GNOSTICISM to become hardened in their
hearts as well. In fact, the entire world evidently will fall prey and
even the VERY elect will almost be deceived.
Saul of Tarsus HAD to be STRUCK BLIND in order for him to be able to see that he was persecuting GOD.. Jesus Himself.. by persecuting and killing believers of that day. He was FULL OF ZEAL and FULL of HOLY INDIGNATION against the cult of the Nazarenes (that would be us today), who he felt were spreading unorthodox and heretical teachings contrary to sound doctrine and the faith of the fathers. Saul KNEW the Bible better than most of you, and yet his knowledge of the Bible did not lead him to a correct conclusion to the source or nature of the miraculous ministry that the early church in Jerusalem and Samaria and Judea were having. He vehemently was trying to defend the faith and the belief that was once for all delivered to Moses (or so he thought)....his discernment disallowed the fact that God would have had ANYTHING to do with Jesus of Nazareth. Because of his incorrect discernment, Saul was found to be persecuting the God and the Truth that he so dearly and desperately was trying to promote and defend. God had to STRIKE him BLIND. Think about that... if people were to be struck blind today, and then begin to declare they had accepted Jesus as Lord as a result, many believers would still say "it must be of the devil, because God would NEVER strike someone blind." Friends, we are at the door in the church when the only conclusion we are going to be left with is "THIS MUST BE THE FINGER OF GOD!".
Suppose that the critics are right.... suppose these revivals are counterfeit... suppose Brownsville and Toronto are promoting New Age mysticism and spreading a false gospel and doing mass hypnotism on believers. Suppose it is all mind control.. suppose the source and root of these is of the devil and the kingdom of darkness. Suppose they are the beginnings of the mass apostasy of the end times.
Now suppose that there is evidence of good fruit to be found from these revivals. Real fruit.. the fruit of the Holy Spirit. Suppose just ONE person has recommitted their life to Jesus or decided to pursue full-time ministry or left a lifestyle of drugs/alcohol or been delivered from homosexuality or had their marriage restored or no longer need to be on anti-depressant drugs or had a disease physically healed. Do not we always say that Jesus would have died on the cross if their were just ONE person alive that was lost?? Remember all the parables Jesus gave of the value of ONE person? (i.e. leaving the 99, and going for the one) So what if their is JUST ONE lost person who has been saved as a result of a revival meeting or a crusade. What if their is more than JUST ONE... what if in actuality there are countless testimonies of a true work of the Holy Spirit, in spite of what is seen as the outward manifestations. Suppose that the critics are confronted with the evidence of this fruit.
You are then left with only two choices as a believer:
1) continue to persecute and malign these revivals, believing that even this "so-called" fruit is of the devil as well
2) allow room for the fact that you MIGHT, just possibly, have incorrect and or even only PARTIALLY correct discernment .. and give enough grace to the leaders and participants of these revivals by not placing them as enemies of the Gospel, but rather as brothers and sisters in the Lord Jesus Christ
Whether the fruit is exaggerated or not, most churches if asked to provide evidence that they are truly Christian (i.e., people being saved, people repenting from sin, marriages being healed, kids being delivered from drugs or sexual addiction, and so on), they would be found wanting. Look at your own church... look at your own Christian witness. When is the last time someone was saved... delivered of a bondage or addiction... healed... set apart for and called in to full-time ministry... sent overseas as a missionary... supported during a painful process of life choice... What fruit could your own church or your own life evidence if you were put on the witness stand?? This is a good principle of discernment to follow. It keeps us from judging unjustly. The defense does not contend that it should keep us from judging... rather, it keeps us from judging unjustly. It is the same principle Jesus gave when he taught on the speck of dust in our brother's eye and the beam in our own eye.
The defense would also like to point out that every ministry and every minister and every participant of revival movements should take an honest look at the criticism. I am by no means justifying the majority of the criticism that I have read or heard. I think much of the prosecution's case is based primarily on a vast difference in understanding the ministry of the Holy Spirit. The criticism can be very hard to take as well... I would personally be very hurt if I truly loved Jesus and was desiring His kingdom more than anything else and you come up as a brother and sister in the Lord and say that I am false or of the devil! Ouch... that would seriously hurt! But, reading the criticism of others might reveal some area of correction that truly needs to be taken. That is my admonition to those in revival... consider what our brothers and sisters on the side of the prosecution have to say. You may indeed see something that you can't see from your perspective of being "in the middle" of a revival.
Having said that, there is indeed a holy anger that rises up within me when I begin to consider HOW the prosecution has presented its case. The prosecution has already rendered a verdict in the case. Because of that, the prosecution has presented its case not to those who would truly benefit from the reproof or correction of sincere Biblical admonition. Instead, the prosecution has presented its case to the entire Body of Christ and to the world. Because of this, many sincere and open believers who are desperate for the real living touch of the real living God are going to be KEPT AWAY because of fear of being deceived by a counterfeit move of God. That is what causes me to have the same kind of anger that drove Jesus to overturn tables and chairs of the moneychangers in the temple. When we drag our own brothers and sisters that sincerely love Jesus and are absolutely committed to Him and His Word through the mud and bring and call into question their hearts and question their motives... this angers and hurts me deeply. I am more grieved than angered... but I understand from whence comes the venom. It really makes me just want to shake some people and say, "Wait till God puts you in anguish of travail for souls... and then see how easy it is for you to see the moving of the Spirit birthed and deal with all of its imperfections... see how well YOU would handle all of the bias and the criticism of those that are members of your own family... see how well you handle balancing real displays of the flesh and demonic while fostering the dynamite (dunamis) release of the Holy Spirit in peoples lives." Family relationships and even business etiquette teaches us that we should discipline in private and praise in public. Yet the prosecution has wounded and slandered in public, while not seeking for their own private interaction. Many on the side of the defense have reacted at times, and not responded. This of course gives MORE AMMUNITION to the prosecution... "See, they really DON'T have the love of God after all!" I'll be honest... the idea of getting on a cross voluntarily and having someone pound stakes into my wrist and feet does not appeal to me. I KNOW that I could have never done it. But I also know that Jesus calls me to take up His cross and follow Him... if any of you can say that you do that perfectly every day, please step forward... "Objection, objection! Your honor the defense is saying once again that we can't judge other Christians... how are we ever going to expose false teachings if we do not judge teachers and preachers and prophets??" Sustained... The defense has never insinuated that revival movements and revival leaders are above the point where they need accountability or reproof or correction... the defense maintains that there is such a thing as unjust judgment, incorrect discernment, and the effect of blindness that spiritual pride causes us all to have. Judgment has been rendered based on two primary factors: 1) the assumption of incorrect and heretical doctrines and 2) the presence of unbiblical manifestations. Having tried to address the problem of trying to discern the spiritual source of something SOLELY from the manner of the manifestations, the defense has also stated how the doctrinal distinctions between those on the prosecution in general differ greatly (drastically) from those of the defense, yet they can be readily defended as not being ESSENTIAL to salvation or the Gospel just as easily as they can be found to be representing a false gospel or a false message of salvation.
Jesus, when confronted with the charge that His ministry was of a demonic nature, in my own paraphrase, He said... "If I drive out demons by the power of the devil, then you are absolutely right to condemn and question it... yet your own sons drive out demons and they believe and teach the same truth of the Torah as I do!! However, if I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then the Kingdom of God has come upon you!!" Matt 12:27-28 Jesus also SPECIFICALLY used the FRUIT test as a means for spiritual discernment in analyzing false teachers and false prophets and false moves of God.
Friends, we need to have discernment... Jesus also said clearly that even people who cast out demons in His name do not necessarily and automatically INTIMATELY KNOW HIM! So here we have the balanced view of Scripture... have discernment but allow for the fact that our discernment can be wrong! Especially, when our discernment disallows or blocks out the illumination of the Holy Spirit on our reading and understanding of the Bible. Could I be wrong in my discernment?? ABSOLUTELY! If I am, I WELCOME correction by the Holy Spirit... knowing this, I am very careful to make blanket criticism like, "These people are performing signs and wonders by the power of Beelzebub!" Why?? Because if I AM WRONG, then "These people are performing signs and wonders by the power of the Holy Spirit." I am not talking about people who are preaching a false gospel... who are leading people away from faith in Jesus Christ as the lamb that takes away the sin of the world. I am not talking about people who are promoting the idea that all paths lead to God or that you do not need to trust in Jesus in order to be saved. I am not talking about people who deny the Trinity or deny that Jesus Christ came in the flesh (which is by the way, the BIBLICAL test of the spirit of error). I am talking about people who LOVE GOD and call Jesus the Son of God their LORD! I am talking about people who manifest the love of Jesus and fruit of the Holy Spirit. What is the Scriptural balance?? "Not everyone who says to me 'Lord, Lord' will enter the kingdom of heaven" and "No one says 'Jesus is Lord' EXCEPT by the Holy Spirit". That is the balance.
Are we approaching a time in this last outpouring of the Holy Spirit when even the unbelieving church will be forced to say "THIS MUST BE THE FINGER OF GOD"?? I think we are... I think God saves the BEST WINE for last... and I think we are soon to see miracles of such a nature that even skeptics will be forced into hardness of heart as a result. Do not be surprised if we begin to see people being struck blind and receiving spiritual sight, tongues of fire resting on people visibly, the shekinah glory of God visibly manifest, the Holy Spirit visibly descending upon people like a dove, people being translated from one city to another, people being raised from the dead more often, the handwriting of God appearing on the wall...
What on earth will be the purpose of these signs and wonders?? What the purpose has always been: God is going to confirm His word and manifest His glory. Many of Jesus' disciples will see this glory and put their FAITH in Him! Put their faith in Him for what?? If they are a disciple, wouldn't they already be saved and of necessity have faith in Him?? Yes.. But they will put their FAITH in Him not just that He is going to get them into heaven... they will put their faith in Him to BELIEVE that God wants to bring His glory to this earth and meet people at their point of need... whether at a wedding, in the workplace, in our homes, or on the streets. How did Paul say that he had FULLY preached the Gospel???
For I will not dare to speak of any of those things which Christ has not accomplished through me, in word and deed, to make the Gentiles obedient-- in mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God, so that from Jerusalem and round about to Illyricum I have fully preached the gospel of Christ. Rom 15:18-19 (NKJ)
Signs and wonders, the awe of the glory of God in our very midst, evidently is linked to bringing about obedience among Gentiles and fully presenting the gospel. Unless you are of Jewish descent, that means YOU and I, Gentiles, need to experience the power of the Spirit of God along with the message and ministry of the gospel! If the Gentiles needed to be made obedient in Paul's day by the manifest presence of the glory of God confirming the message of the Gospel, then do we believe our 20th century technology has changed that requirement in our modern time?? If the last great harvest of souls will also see the full and complete restoration of Israel and the Jewish people to Messiah, then how will, as Paul puts it, the Gentiles provoke the Jews to jealousy?? I will suggest to you how... when a Jewish person begins to see miracles that only the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob can perform and they begin to see the manifest glory of Jehovah ... that stirs a jealousy and a longing for the God of Elijah. I believe that is PART of the reason we are seeing the return of diverse signs and wonders accompanying the message of repentance and salvation and healing attendant with major revival movements world wide. Greeks seek wisdom, but Jews demand a what?? A sign... And I believe that as part of the end time events preceding the return of Jesus, many Jews are going to be given the chance to accept the REAL Messiah before they are given the FALSE messiah (the anti-Christ) as he is given full release of his own form of GREAT SIGNS and WONDERS.
So to conclude, here are a few things to consider in explaining the WHY of all the offensiveness and even disunity centered around manifestations that accompany revival:
1) Modern revivals are countering inroads of two major New Testament heresies that have re-appeared in the end times:
2) Modern revivals are fostering the return of the manifestation of the glory of God in the midst of the church of Jesus Christ... the glory of God and the attendant signs and wonders that follow will provoke the Jewish people to jealousy as part of the final harvest of souls before the revealing of the man of sin who will deceive the ENTIRE world (not just the church) with his own diverse signs and wonders
3) Manifestations of the Spirit of God are a side-issue... the deeper work of the Spirit being done in people's lives is the primary issue and the true measure of fruit and discernment. If you are wrong in your discernment that these revivals are counterfeit, "The Kingdom of God has come upon you!" If you are right in your discernment that these revivals are of the kingdom of darkness, you must attribute ALL the good fruit that can be readily documented to the devil. (Didn't Jesus say a bad tree could not bear good fruit??)
4) In my own opinion, the Lord is about to perform miraculous wonders that Jannes and Jambres will not be able to reproduce, copy, or mimic. Up until now, the manifestations of the Spirit attendant in all historical revivals could also be readily found as tarnished copies in the practices of eastern religions or as part of occult worship. I believe this comparison will end soon. The only conclusion that I believe God is moving His church to see is, "THIS IS THE FINGER OF GOD!"
If Jannes and Jambres, two pagan magicians, were wise enough and discerning enough to make this statement, then shouldn't those born of the Spirit of God be able to come to the same conclusion in the face of overwhelming evidence and fruit?? We can be like Pharaoh who hardened his heart KNOWING that "his gods" could in no way could do what the God of the Hebrews was doing... Will we allow for the possibility that our discernment (even as Christians) can be tainted by our own spiritual pride and our own understanding of the Bible and our own prejudices towards or against the supernatural??
If we sow discord among brothers, will we not reap the absence of the blessing and peace of God in our own lives?? Let's follow the Biblical mandate to test the spirits: keep what is GOOD and reject what is BAD. That is the goal. Revivals are not perfect... they offend us and confront our spiritual prejudices. Yet, there is no other way sometimes for our hearts to be softened toward God when we have shut out His glory from His church and from our midst for years and years. Reproof and rebuke and spiritual correction may be sorely needed in many revival movements... but are they not needed also in your own church and in your own life?? How open are you to being reproved or rebuked?? To be honest, I know I am not that crazy about the idea myself. But, I KNOW I need it at times. None of us take rebuke easily... and it is a true spiritual principle that the one who gives rebuke and correction must guard against spiritual pride themselves (Gal 6:1). There is a drastic difference between true reproof and character assassination, unjust criticism, and hardened disbelief in the face of overwhelming evidence.
Here is I think a good spiritual principle the Lord might want us all to follow. You can offer biting harsh criticism and correction to revival movements and people like Benny Hinn or Rodney Howard Browne when you start having meetings as big as theirs and see salvations, healings, miracles, and testimonies of the saving power of Jesus on the scale that they do! Until I see people in my own ministry or church being changed and influenced for the kingdom of God on the scale of Brownsville and Toronto, however, I think I will reserve my criticism to myself. There are people who are indeed on that scale of ministry, and I personally think they are in probably the best position to offer true spiritual correction and reproof. If our primary ministry is finding faults in other people's doctrine, then I think we have left the focus of what ministry is all about. I do not believe that God needs self-appointed defenders of orthodoxy. I believe the Word of God and the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives together can sufficiently keep us on the right course in our walk with the Lord. We put far more faith in satan to deceive us than we do in the Holy Spirit to lead us... yet God's word PROMISES and states that those who are LEAD by the Spirit of God are sons of God.
We need to be noble Bereans while avoiding the trap of being a scornful Pharisee. But the trap is a real snare nonetheless for many believers who hold the truth of God's Word very dear.
If you come to the conclusion, as I think we all in the church will have to soon, that "THIS MUST BE THE FINGER OF GOD", then we are left with the same choice that Pharaoh had. Hardness of heart or the extension of grace. He chose hardness.... and we see what that seed reaped eventually in the end. He was found to be fighting against God Almighty.. just like Saul of Tarsus... and possibly, even maybe, just like you and I do sometimes when we are calcified in our discernment and our doctrinal viewpoints of orthodoxy.
Lord, give us all a child-like heart to believe and yet keen wisdom to discern the good and bad of spiritual experiences. Keep us from spiritual deception, but most of all keep us from spiritual pride.