Testing the Sweetness
Robert Wurtz II
Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world (1 John 4:1).
In our previous entry entitled, “I’ve Been to the Mountain” we discussed the importance of going on with God through a process of “walking”. We employed the Ark of the Covenant motif as our illustration. The Ark was to be carried on the shoulders of four priests and not on a cart. We said that a “cart” represents the machinery of our times that men employ to simulate a move of God and the presence of the Holy Spirit. Bear in mind that the Holy Spirit is not a tingle or a mystical feeling, but a person with a character. A false presence of God cannot provide the people with love, joy, peace or unity among the brethren. When the sensation lifts there will be strife and confusion. This is how we know it is false. It is an impotent spirit. The true Holy Spirit cannot come lest He bring His fruit with Him. In this entry I wish to take this phenomena to its next faze and examine the dangers of such practices.
The spirit of the meeting
There is a spirit that when manifest dispels the sweetness of the Holy Spirit and leaves in its wake confusion and division. This spirit will seek to strong-arm God’s people by utilizing the dreadfulness employed by the Old Testament Prophets, upon New Covenant Christians. What did James say? “But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere” (James 3:17 ESV). These are eight things we can use to test the spirits of the prophets under the New Covenant. This dreadful Old Testament attitude that has no place under the New Covenant, sought to infiltrate the Disciples as they ministered in Samaria. What happened? When the people did not respond to Jesus, they desired to “call fire down from Heaven.” This can be both literal and figurative; for James had already said in the preceding verses; “And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell” (James 3:6 ESV). The “fire of hell” sometimes imitates “fire from heaven.” It is an impostor. There is a spirit that imitates the Old Testament Prophets, lacking the gentleness, mercy and good fruits associated with the dispensation of the Grace of God (Ephesians 3:2). It is the spirit that drove the Disciples when Jesus told them, “You know not what manor (sort) of spirit you are of.” They were moving in a destructive spirit. If this spirit ever gets a foothold in the churches of God we are doomed.
The character of the Holy Spirit
When Paul left Ephesus he commended the church to God and to the Word of His grace. Paul had absolutely no confidence in those that were converted under his ministry. In fact, he warned the leaders day and night with tears that after he left, chaos and destruction would move in. He wrote; For I know this, that savage wolves will come in after my departure, not sparing the flock. Also from among you yourselves will arise men speaking things having been distorted, in order to draw away the disciples after them (Acts 20:29-30 ESV). Notice he said “savage wolves” that would not spare the flock. This is the antithesis of the role of a pastor/shepherd. Ambitious men will come in and exert their will at the expense of the blood-bought flock of God. The flock would diminish as the shepherd pursued their own aims. Paul continues, “They will speak ‘distorted things'”. The solution? Paul commended them to God and to the Word of His grace.
The Holy Spirit is a gentle Spirit that moves in the sweetness of love, joy, peace, gentleness, temperance, meekness, etc. of a shepherd watching over the flock. He convicts of sin, righteousness and judgment to come and sometimes goads; but when a person stops resisting Him He pours in love and joy (Romans 5:5). But there is another spirit that seeks to control the people rather than allowing the Holy Spirit to do His work. Returning briefly to our last several entries, we are not at liberty to “put our hands on the Ark of God.” What does that mean? People have to learn to be led of the Spirit so they can follow God on their own- independent spiritually of others that would be their spiritual counsel.
I recall hearing the story of a woman that had turned her life to Christ, but she was a smoker. The elders of her assembly, wanting her to learn to hear from God herself, trusted God. One day she came to them and said, “The Lord told me it is OK to smoke.” They did not correct her. They did not give her a “directive prophesy”. They simply trusted God to lead her. A number of months later she came back and said, “I’ve been talking to the Lord and He said it is time to stop smoking.” The attitude of those elders is exemplary. We need to allow God to establish His authority in a person’s life. If she had been subject to controlling people she would have never learned to be led of the Spirit. It’s a bitter pill, but we need to swallow it in this crisis hour. The sheep need to learn to be taught of the Shepherd. We can touch that Ark in a person and wound them for life if we are not careful.
Modern day destroyers
Like the church at Ephesus, the churches of God have suffered a great many fads over the last 100 years. This is largely due to some specific errors that the enemy has employed to disable the churches warning systems. One of those is a general attitude that we should not judge (discern) manifestations or ministers. Add to that Psalm 105:15 (touch not the Lord’s anointed and do my prophets no harm) and you have a recipe for total devastation. Although Jesus commended the Ephesians in Revelation 2:2 for testing the false apostles Paul warned them about in Acts 20; finding them to be liars, there came a generation in he 1990’s that made exposing false prophets and teachings a damnable sin – worthy of the judgment of God. These fads, false teachers and falsehoods left carnage of immense proportions. Why? People like to chase some new thing. The stories are a dime a dozen. Some of these falsehoods and fads get picked up and recycled from time to time when folk don’t know the history or they are looking for something novel. From the so-called “Holy Ghost Bartender” to the would-be healing ministry of a man that boasted of kicking a woman in the face with his biker boot at the Lord’s direction, we have seen it all in the last 25 years. One common denominator: there was an evil spirit that dispelled the sweetness of the Holy Spirit from the room and all that was left was to manufacture a sense of presence of God that fooled the masses. And fool many they did. One thing I noticed, it always divided the churches.
Bubbling up the bubbly
I recall once waking up in the middle of the night having fallen asleep on the couch. The TV had been playing on a popular Christian network. On the screen were people lying on their backs as if dead, all over the floor of a church auditorium. The speaker was walking around mumbling things that I cannot recall. A fear seized me; not a holy or Godly fear, but a fear similar to if I had woke up and an evil horror movie had been playing. I knew that God has not given us a spirit of fear, but one of power, love and a sound mind. This man was a very popular speaker at the time in Charismatic circles and I may have had one of his books. I can’t recall as it has been almost 18 years ago. But at that moment, I knew something was amiss. There was an evil there that should not have been. And when someone shows you who they are, you should believe them. Many people just pretended it was not happening and warned not to touch the Lord’s anointed. I have written along this line in the past, but Derek Prince once said that Charismatics are particularly vulnerable to demonic spirits because they think that everything that happens supernatural is of God. It is not. The problem is that it is impossible for some people to acknowledge that something is not of God once they have been involved in it. But evil spirits have been known to fool even the very elect of God’s people.
I’m gonna fire somebody!
On a different occasion I was attending a large meeting of another popular healing evangelist. I had followed this person’s ministry very closely and attended many crusades even traveling out-of-state. In the middle of the meeting, just after the worship service, something happened that changed my perspective forever. Over the platform there was a little light that kept going off and the people in the sound booth would press a button and it would come back on. I had a unique view of it from where I was sitting. It was obviously a technical problem. Suddenly the popular evangelist stepped to the front and said in a mean spirited voice, “I’m gonna fire someone if they don’t get that fixed! Because Je-sus deserves our best…” I was taken aback and in total disbelief. Here was a man that was leading the people in worship and yet “just-like-that” he turned on a dime into this “person” that was anything but Christlike; and all over a little light bulb. He showed me who he was and I believed him. Needless to say, that that was the beginning of the end for that as far as I was concerned. What happens? People live double lives. They are “the nice guy” on the stage and are ruthless in private. I wondered after that what his employees must suffer? Talk to people that have worked with him in ministry behind the scenes and see what kind of reputation he/she has. Talk to unbelievers and see what the report is (1 Timothy 3:7 ESV). If we would do that, we would stop a lot of trouble at the gates before it ever became a problem.
The outcome of their life
There is a passage in Hebrews that is insightful; “Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith” (Hebrews 13:7). Notice the phrase, consider the outcome of their life. Watch and see what happens. I have known on many occasions for Christians to be in disagreement and even split-up friendships because the one saw the error and the other did not; but when the “minister” in question was caught in scandal we were able to apply this Hebrews 13:7. What does it say? “Consider the outcome of their life.” This is tremendous wisdom. I have personally sat under ministers in meetings that were very questionable. The elders would even question their actions. Some have backslidden and are no longer a minister at all. How did they get under the radar? Sometimes it is due to friendships or relationships. People are often blindest to those that are closest to them. It’s not until they get angry at them that they take off their blinders and spill the beans. Some of the time people are duped because they were performing miracles, prophesying and a host of other things; but there was a serious problem all along in these situations. There was something in the inner man of certain leaders that was shouting, NO! No! No! This is all wrong. Their warnings went unheeded. What does the scripture teach? In the multitude of counselors there is safety. When the deck is stacked to run a person through the ropes disaster is looming.
Acknowledging the signs
How could a host of people fall for a Todd Bentley? He dressed himself like the Hell’s Angels biker gang and nobody thought anything of it. Unlike the days of old when men would get saved and try to cover the evidences of their past sinful life with long sleeve shirts, this person flaunted it. That is how deeply they desired to distance themselves from a sinful identity. They were ashamed of their old life. What did the followers say about Bentley? “Don’t judge!” Why? Because in Charismatic circles miracles trump everything else. I tremble to say it, but I am persuaded to believe that a person could dress like the Devil himself: red suit, horns and all and some people would say, “Don’t judge!” If you give a word that is “on” you are considered legit. My advice? If you would not trust the person to watch your children you probably should not trust them to speak into your life. Would it surprise you to know that William Branham was said to have never once given a false prophesy? We know how that ended. Some people were so duped that they believed God would raise him from the dead after he died. Derek Prince in his book, “Protection from Deception” described the situation well. But that is the danger. Warning sign after warning sign and they are overlooked one by one. Before it is over with a person has to totally rearrange their belief system to accommodate the person. The attitude becomes, “If they make mean spirited comments? No problem. Kick a woman in the face with your biker boot? No problem”. And to think that well intentioned Christians divide over whether these type people are legit. It is a simple thing to say, but if you have to abandon your common sense when you come to the meeting, that is usually a good sign something is amiss. Better to obey God and discern rightly in these things than it is to become a statistic.
What about the sweetness?
One of the first signs towards Jesus Christ was that the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove descended upon Him. The Holy Spirit was at His ear. And when the Holy Spirit is truly at work there will be a holy sweetness to His ministry; the fruit of love, joy and peace will permeate all that He does. Christ-likeness will be manifest. But are these the criteria in our times? When was the last time you heard of a meeting being promoted on the basis of the love, joy and peace that is manifest in the meeting? When was the last time you heard a testimony, “Oh, how they love one another!” as in the book of Acts? I said in the beginning; “There is a spirit that when manifest dispels the sweetness of the Holy Spirit and leaves in its wake confusion and division.” It is the spirit that sought to infiltrate the Disciples and Jesus rebuked. Something is wrong when the “spirit” we are of does not promote the unity of the Brethren. If discord and confusion are the fruit, we know God is not the author. Selah.