~ A place to find answers to gnawing spiritual questions ~
Question: I am very troubled by what is happening in Pensacola, Florida with the Brownsville Revival and the Toronto Airport Blessing manifesations. Could you please inform me if these are a moving of our Holy God or is it demonic involvement with feel good and emotionalism? Many of my friends seem to beleive this new moving of the Holy Spirit but the more I read gold teeth, gold dust, the more I look to the scriptures and am reminded that in the end times many deceiving spirits will appear. If this is not God's revival, how will I know when His moving is here? I do not want to miss out on what the Lord God Almighty has promised for his faithful believers. Please answer. I am getting concerned and confused.
Answer: I appreciate your desire for the real.
First, there are two things I want to note to give balance to what I'll later share:
- There will be a mighty outpour of the Spirit in the Last Days. That we have on the authority of Scripture:"...in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit..." (Acts 2:17).Therefore, if (since) these are the last days, some of the so-called revivals (moves of God) must truly be from God. Also, note that the Bible says that there will not only be a great outpour in the last days but also a great falling away. Revival or apostasy? Both of these will be prevalent in the last days--like the two parallel tracks of a railroad, occurring at the same place in time.
- As one man said, I'm often amazed at how God blesses people that I don't agree with and even dislike. Jesus talked about this: He said that there were many widows in Israel but that Elijah was sent to a widow in Sidon. He went on to point out that there were many lepers in Israel but that only Namaan of Syria was cleansed.
Often, God's people miss out on the real moves of God because they are stuck in their formalism and traditions. Frank Bartleman, one of the leaders and chronicler at Auza Street, before that world-changing outpour, said that if the Holiness people did not want the outpour and revival, God would find another people that would.
I related all that just to say that there must be a deeper criteria of our judgment of a move of the Spirit than our partiality to our own group or background and our prejudice against those from a different group or background.
The truth of the matter is that I feel most of the so-called moves of the Spirit touted on the electronic church are nothing more than smoke and mirrors - the sensationalism produced by show biz. Let me tell you why.
Please forgive me of a vain appeal: I've read quite extensively of the awakenings (revivals) in history. I've read much about and watched tapes of the so-called modern moves of the Spirit. My conclusion is (to put it perhaps too simply) that people have always repented their way to revival and have never been entertained or sensationalized into one.
- In all true revivals, Biblical and historical, the prevailing tone of the meetings has been repentance. In the greatest revival ever, the Day of Pentecost, the message was "repent." Because the predominate message of true revivals is repentance, the dominating experience has been, not rejoicing, but conviction of sin.
There is such lightness and frivolity to so-called modern revivals. In true revival, there has been a heaviness and weight of sinfulness and unworthiness. After repentance, there often resulted rejoicing, but such rejoicing was the bubbling up from deep within the cleansed spirit of a person, not the superficial exciting of carnal emotions.
What was the audiences response on the day of greatest revival? Their hearts were pricked deeply, as the Spirit pointed to their sin and they asked with tortured consciences, "What shall we do?"
Can we not conclude that if there is not the union of the message of repentance with the heavy conviction of sin, that it is not a revival from God, but a show and sham of man?
- Although as a classical Pentecostal I believe strongly in the Holy Spirit and His moving, the Spirit has never been the focus of any true move of God. This may seem blasphemous, but I believe you will discover it Biblical. One thing that is extremely disturbing about and revealing of the new so called moves of God is the emphasis on the Spirit. All one hears is, "the Spirit, the Spirit, the Spirit." "The Spirit said...," "the Spirit told me...," "the Spirit wants us to...," "the Spirit is here," "the gifts of the Spirit....," on and on.
True revivals are evidenced by a fresh, total focus on Christ. Scripture says:"Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will show you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you" (John 16:13-14).The stronger the moving of the Spirit is in a meeting, the more emphatic the focus will be on Christ. One father of the faith, I believe A.B. Simpson, said it succinctly, "The Spirit is where Jesus is glorified." That is both an evidence and a cause. The cause of the Spirit being present is that Jesus is glorified, and the evidence that the Spirit is present is that Jesus is glorified.
You ask of manifestations: People manifesting should realize that "... the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets" (1 Cor. 14:32). Manifestations should not call attention to the person manifesting but to Christ. If Christ is not getting the glory, if the persons manifesting does not result in general praise of Christ, it is wrong - plain and simple. Anything that is immodest, projecting of the body, crude, animalistic, etc., is definitely not in the realm of the Holy Spirit. Any manifestations that do not lead to a change of life are fleshy reactions at best. As the old timers used to say of leaping, and shouting, "You better walk straight when you hit the ground." But that leads to the next point.
- The proof is in the pudding. Although the first part of His descriptive title is so often dropped today, the Third Person of the Trinity is still the HOLY Spirit. Where the Spirit is truly moving, there will be both the evidence of and the desire for personal purity. The Holy Spirit doesnt move to entertain people, but to change and empower people.
A dangerous theological error is being propagated today in Pentecost. To excuse carnal living, it is smugly proclaimed that the purpose of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit is for power to evangelize, not for purity. To say that the Baptism of the Holy Spirit is just for power to evangelize begs the question. The truth of the matter is that it is from purity that true power comes. Where is the power of my witness if there is no purity in my life? Thus the question is, concerning some of these moves of God (these revivals), are they producing pure lives?"Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven" (Matthew 7:20-21).
A love for truth will result in a discernment of the false. A love for a real move of the Spirit will result in a dissatisfaction and discernment of the false. I think it unwise to get caught up in bashing preachers and places. That gets us no closer to the real. Elijah ridiculed the false prophets of Baal for not being able to call fire from heaven. But, when it came his turn, he was able to call fire from heaven. Yes, we need to recognize the false and stand against it. But more importantly, we need the real move of God in our own hearts, homes, and churches.
I believe that it was Jonathan Edwards, of the First Great Awakening in America in the early 1700s, that said something to the effect that whenever there is a move of God, it will be one-third God, one-third flesh, and one-third devil. Whatever the mathematical proportion, there is truth to the statement. Where God is really moving, the devil often finds it more profitable to plant counterfeits than to openly oppose. Also, wherever there are people genuinely moved upon and used of the Spirit supernaturally, there will be those who in their flesh who seek to get in on the action and get some of what they perceive as glory. Remember Simon the Sorcerer in Acts 8.
Although we should be sensitive to the fact that some sincere people involved in these dubious moves of God really are touched by and moved upon by God, we should realize Gods really touching them doesnt legitimize the whole "revival" - no more, it should be noted, than someone "getting in the flesh" in a genuine revival negates it being a real move of God.
In a nutshell, besides the evident need to judge all things by the measure of the Word, I would summarize with the following questions to ask oneself:
- Is there general, heavy conviction of sin (on church folk) and preaching on repentance?
- Is Jesus (as Lord as well as Savior) the focus of all that is said and done?
- Is there the evidence of lives being made holy?
I appreciate your desire for the real. Again, a love for the real, as is chronicled in the book of Acts, will bring a dissatisfaction with anything less.
May our cry be that of the Psalmist in the 63rd Psalm:"A Psalm of David, when he was in the wilderness of Judah. O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is; To see thy power and thy glory, so as I have seen thee in the sanctuary" (verses 1 and 2).