We live in a world filled with spiritual beings, normally invisible to the natural eye, which nonetheless have a great influence on our thoughts and emotions. The majority of these spirits CANNOT be trusted, because they are from the evil one (1). Their agenda is to seduce, enslave and torment. They are deceptive and can gain power in the lives not only of unbelievers and people of various religions, but also of Christians who disregard God’s Word in certain respects.
We don’t fully understand these things scientifically, but the fact remains that these spirits, which are possibly extra-dimensional beings, CAN and do interact with our neural chemistry to trigger patterns of thought and emotions that can be either pleasurable or tormenting. It follows that Christians who are being disobedient to God’s Word can have spiritual encounters that cause them pleasure – and yet, rather than truly getting closer to a Holy God, they are actually being led away by evil spirits.
God has not left us defenseless against spiritual powers that work to impersonate the Holy Spirit and leave us in bondage and frustration. There are certain things God has given us which will help us to know if some kind of “revival” movement is genuinely endorsed by the HOLY Spirit. Here are some questions to ask:
(1) Do the spiritual encounters people are having leave them unrepentant concerning the sins that are in their lives, or do they cause people to realize that something is wrong and inspire a desire to change?
John 16:7 Nevertheless I speak the truth to you. It is profitable for you that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you.
John 16:8 And when He comes, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:
The “Helper” Jesus referred to here in John 16 is none other than the Holy Spirit (2). The Bible teaches that when He comes, He convicts the world of sin, righteousness and judgment.
Therefore if a spiritual encounter does not convict you of sin, or of the righteousness of God, or gives you a concern for the Judgment to come, it is highly DOUBTFUL if that encounter actually comes from the Holy Spirit. Because the Holy Spirit is first of all the Spirit of HOLINESS, and if He comes upon you in POWER there MUST be a movement towards holiness. When Isaiah saw the Lord he said, “Woe is me! For I am a man of unclean lips!” (3). When John saw the resurrected Christ he fell as one dead (4). If all that happens is that your feelings are stirred up or you get puffed up by some kind of vision, then I think you should seriously question the origin of your experience. But if you are proud, you will not want to do that. You will want to use that spiritual experience as a kind of proof that you are better and more spiritual than other people. Be wary of that. When people really meet the Lord they don’t abide in a spirit of self-commendation.
(2) Is the Word of God really honored? Is time given to reading, explaining and OBEYING the Word of God in this revival?
Its easy enough to use isolated Scripture verses as a pretext for any kind of message or behavior. But in a true revival, the Scriptures are given a strong place. They are preached, they are expounded, and the application is discussed.
Any practice that is contrary to the Word of God yet tolerated in meetings is EVIDENCE but not final proof that something is not right. If CHANGE is not happening in the direction of submission to the authority of God’s Word, then I believe we have every right to question the source of the power at work.
If the Word of God is being honored, then Jesus Christ is being honored. If the Word of God is not honored, and no time is given to consider it, then JESUS is not being honored, no matter how loudly or often people shout His name.
(3) Are men becoming the focus?
God says that He will not share His glory with another. God will honor men, and it is also right for us to honor men and women of God, but there is a difference between this and glorifying men. Some of the danger signs include:
– The putting of the minister’s name up in lights everywhere, on every brochure, on every book. Excessive branding based on a person’s name is a sign that men are becoming the focus, and Jesus is no longer being seen.
– The naming of the ministry after the founder – e.g. Benny Hinn Ministries, Kenneth Copeland ministries. While this is not necessarily wrong, it is suspect.
– The followers of the movement talking more about the leading minister than they do about Jesus.
– The personal experiences of the minister becoming the main content of the message. It is alright and good to refer to one’s personal experience as the ILLUSTRATION for the truth, but the line is crossed when it appears that the personal experience of the minister IS the truth that is being preached.
(4) Is the attitude towards Money healthy?
When the raising of money is given TOO MUCH prominence in a revival, something is wrong. When the leaders in a ministry feel that offerings are given in part so that they might live lives of unspeakable luxury, and interpret this as “God’s blessing” or “God’s approval” of them, then things are already on the wrong track. When prophecies are given about how much money individual people should give, or how much money God will give back to the givers, that is almost always wrong. When it is implied that giving money will cause you to inherit spiritual power or anointing, things are off track. Peter sternly rebuked Simon Magus for offering money so that he could have an anointed ministry (Acts 8:18-22). When it is implied that giving money will release the blessings of Christ’s atonement, something is sick. Jesus is not trading with us. He calls for us to lay down our whole lives before Him, just as He has for us.
I am not saying that people should not be invited to give. Inviting people to give financially is biblical. King David did it, Paul did it and Moses did it.
I am not saying that people should be tightwads and keep money to themselves. Its not right when Christians start to look at all fund raising efforts with suspicion. Certain things do need money, and it is a privilege to give to God’s work. There are some people who are so turned off by the prosperity preachers, that they go to the other extreme and just hoard for themslves. I believe we should generously give to God’s work, when it is being done in truth and love for God. Something is wrong with our hearts when we don’t want to give.
From the beginning of the church, however, there have always been false prophets and teachers who have come in and made merchandise of the people of God, taking advantage of the people’s hopes and fears for their own personal gain.
So when MONEY becomes the major emphasis, and everyone is being encouraged to live extravagantly on the earth just like the preacher; and when manipulative and dishonest tactics are employed to get people to hand over the cash, it is a sign that a movement is not actually of the Holy Spirit. At the very least, it shows that a departure from the truth has already begun.
(1) 1 John 5:19
(2) John 16:13
(3) Isaiah 6:5
(4) Revelation 1:17 “And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as if dead. But He put His right hand on me, saying, “Do not fear; I am the First and the Last.”