Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies. Test all things; hold fast what is good. (1 Thessalonians 5:19-21)
Look, if you are part of one of these groups where all you are allowed to do is play someone else’s videos or discuss the pastor’s sermon notes, the group leader will probably already have been given guidelines and training about how to handle scenarios that come up when people ask questions. The architects of these teaching programs realize that you still need leadership somewhere so that even these kinds of low risk groups don’t go toxic.
But if you are shooting for more than the kind of controlled scenarios mentioned above, if you are wanting a group where the gifts of the Holy Spirit might actually operate, THEN you are really going to need people with strong leadership capabilities to help these groups to stay healthy. You need people who can discern well between the voice of God and the voice of “Jezebel” – or counterfeit seductive slippery religious spirits. And these leaders need to shut down the operation of Jezebel and ideally cast it out as well.
The reason for this is that the moment you open up the floor and let people speak, potentially in the name of the Lord, in alleged prophetic things, you WILL get people coming in who will claim that God is saying things that He is NOT in fact saying. So if you don’t have a leader or a strong leadership team in your group, the devil is going to take the chair. Maria Woodworth Etter, a powerful healing evangelist of the late 19th century and early 20th century said words to this effect in one of her books, and it is the case today also.
I’m all for the liberation of believers to actually be able to minister things of a spiritual nature in church life, but not in such a way that it puts others at risk. The preferred solution today of course – even in nominally pentecostal/charismatic/full gospel churches – is to shut down or discourage all kinds of prophetic things (except perhaps when they come through trusted ministries). That alternative is better than allowing things to run rampant, but it still falls short of the revealed will of God concerning church life as given in 1 Corinthians 14.
Just last night we had a small group meeting and someone came in who was somewhat known to me. In fact he had been at our group the week before. He proceeded however to go on about how in the last week only he had been delivered of some really evil practices. He was boasting of his demonic powers he claimed he formerly used. He also kept making references to elements of what I consider to be Jewish legalism and elitism. Things like how he had now “come into Yeshua”. Paul and I could see this was not of God and in the end I rebuked this young man for elements of his false teaching. He had been wanting to take over the meeting and presumed to tell us we were all in bondage and that we could be free now if we would only listen to what he was giving us in the name of the Lord. After I rebuked him, pointing out some of the errors, he proceeded to claim that my “idols” were my family and my career/job. I emphatically denied this and he had to shut up. It was simply a crude attempt to take control of the meeting – which is what Jezebel spirits try to do. Sometimes they succeed too – some churches are virtually controlled by these kinds of unhealthy jezebelic spirits, sometimes working through the pastor’s wife or more likely some spiritual “prophetic” woman who is trying to get close to the pastor of the church.
If this was a larger group, we would not have let this go as far as it did, but it was a very useful training exercise for us. I hope this young man will be set free of the impure elements that have been at work to produce this kind of attempted ministry.
I’m sure if you have ever been in a believer’s meeting where people are allowed to speak out you will recognize with me that we MUST “test the Spirits”. We MUST “judge” prophecies. And to do that, we need ourselves to be people of the Word, who love God, and who seek God. Because these people will often mix in a lot of “true” content to gain acceptance for the deceptive elements they unwittingly seek to push.
This meeting was very interesting because Paul Ross, who was with me in this meeting, at one stage before this individual came along, interrupted things with a prophetic declaration from the Scriptures concerning the attack of the enemy coming that evening that was going to be turned around. It helps if you have people with the true gift of discernment of spirits in your leadership team, but failing that, having a spirit attuned to God and a healthy love of God’s Word will be a bulwark against these kinds of things.
Beware of the Lure of Novelty per se
Because the current church scene in the West is generally so dead and/or diseased, there are now multitudes of people out there who are looking for something new to revitalize their spiritual lives.
They want more than Churchianity and visions that centre around the accumulation of money, people and buildings for the sake of having “influence” and a good time in the name of the Lord. I’m sure that many times they don’t know exactly what they want. But they know they are not satisfied with what they have been having.
What people really need is INCREASING PERSONAL KNOWLEDGE OF JESUS CHRIST. Paul always prayed that for new Christians. But if you say “All we need is Jesus” people might think that is a cliche, or they might think if you say this that you are accusing them of having no knowledge or relationship to the Lord at all.
There are many kinds of spiritual “novelties” that are sweeping through the Body of Christ today. If they are CLEARLY rooted in Scripture, then it is a healthy thing of returning to what God showed all along was the way. But some novelties do not fall into that category.
Just because something is DIFFERENT and what we have is defective does not mean that the new thing is HEALTHY or even RIGHT.
Just as an example I would mention some elements of the whole Hebrew roots teachings. For some exponents of this, the church is all wrong because they don’t get back to the Hebrew words and Hebrew names. For these people, using the Hebrew form of Jesus’ name “Yeshua” is almost a magic bullet. People start going on about “Jah”, “Jahshua” and a whole host of other variants. Look, you can use any kind of Hebrew name you like but the moment you imply to me that you are on the inside track with God because you drop a few Hebrew names of God let me tell you brother or sister, you have already missed it.
Almighty God sovereignly chose to have the New Testament written and disseminated in the Common Koine Greek language of the day. The name of our Lord in Greek is pronounced something like YAYSOOS and trust me this has nothing to do with “Zeus”. People who talk like this remind me of the Romanian Orthodox priests who taught that the evangelicals who referred to the Lord as “Isus” and not “Iisus” (two i’s) were evil because apparently “Isus” in some obscure historical dialect refers to a donkey.
Believe me, we are saved by the person of the Lord and not by a correct phonetical understanding of how to write or say His name in various languages. But this and other forms of modern-day Judaizing have an appeal to people who are looking for a silver bullet to spice up their religious life.
Paul faced similar issues in the New Testament with Jewish legalism and I refer you to the book of Galatians. Ephesians 2:15 and to further study if you want to demystify and debunk some of this heresy that is coming out in the name of Yeshua HaMashiach. Don’t get caught up in it just because it is novel, or even because it purports to be “ancient” and original. I can tell you now, a lot of these people can’t cast out demons – but demons have been coming out when people use the name of JESUS for a long time now.
I have never heard a demon come back and say “I’m not coming out, you didn’t use the name Yeshua” or some such nonsense. They do come out, praise God, and lives are transformed when we not only SPEAK, but LIVE in the name of Jesus.