Now, to the blog. First off, I need to say I consider myself a Charismatic Christian. I fully believe the gifts of the Spirit are as active today as they were in the apostolic dispensation of the early church. However, I'd like to share with you some experiences I've had where those gifts have been misused and polluted by certain sects of what is commonly called the mainstream Pentecostal movement.
The fruit of the Spirit of God is not simply given to us. It is the result of righteous labor of love for God and humankind. If we pray for and practice the spiritual attributes of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control, it will be easier to maintain our works because the love by which we accomplish them is not our own, but rather after God's own heart. Therefore, the focus of our daily walk with the Holy Spirit is the love of Christ. (1) So, even though I may disagree with the way others worship Christ, I must agree that if they solidly believe in Him as their savior and master of their lives, and try to live according to His will, they will have eternal life.
I've always said that you can't judge a religion by the people who profess to keep it. But since childhood, I have been suspicious of certain sects of the “Pentecostal” movement. Now that I am older and wiser, I know why. I do not so much find fault with what is done in their churches as how it is done. Many of their churches tend not to teach or practice discipline or respect in the sanctuary or the deeper things of the Bible. There is little or none of the orderly manner that Paul so chastened the church of Corinth to practice in First Corinthians. (2)
These Pentecostals claim activity of all the spiritual gifts. A trademark of these churches is to wait for the Holy Ghost (Spirit) to come upon the congregation to minister to them. Proof that this has happened is when someone is given a revelation about the church through prophecy or speaking in unknown tongues or an individual that is in need of healing is "called out". This is certainly not objectionable if done in an orderly manner, but it often is not. And unfortunately some churches use their gifts as a point of pride, proof of faith or special standing with God. (3) when growth in faith can only be accomplished through humbleness and humility (4) and knowledge of all of God's ways.
True faith does not only come by seeing or performing healings or miracles. God can give Satan the authority to perform miracles. Paul distinctly said, "Faith comes by hearing (or reading) the Word of God". (5) Yet there are still those in the Pentecostal churches that believe that God magically infuses His Word in their minds by "inspiration" or "revelation" without them opening the Bible. Beware of these. Only God's Word is life and revelation, and those who neglect it have one foot in the grave. A word of prophecy in the church must be clearly based upon scriptural foundation. Some Pentecostal churches measure their holiness by the amount of acts they openly display. (Of course, not all church members are this deeply deceived, which is puzzling why they would remain in such an environment.)
There is another disturbing signature of the Pentecostal movement. There is a great imbalance of the intellectual, emotional and spiritual salvation experience. The emotional aspect is greatly magnified, even to the point that if one does not display overt emotion, that person may be viewed as insincere. During a healing things become very theatrical. There are no accounts of Jesus slapping people on the forehead and pushing them to the ground, "slaying them in the Spirit". In fact, the times that the Bible mentions people falling by the power of the Holy Spirit, it was in judgment, not blessing. (6)
Other harmful exercises usually have some sort of activity followed by "in the Spirit", such as "dancing in the Spirit", "laughing in the Spirit", etc. There is absolutely no biblical basis for them if we use the early Bible church as a reference. These are examples of why we must not underestimate the power of peer pressure and indoctrination, possibly even unintentional hypnotism. This is not to scare anyone. All we need to do is pray for God's protection.
Because these Pentecostals so heavily weigh the spontaneous Holy Ghost experience, and so lightly weigh the deeper Word of God, there is a dangerous tendency to skew doctrine to substantiate their actions. Matthew 7:21 through 23, gives us a short, but solemn parable. Some at Christ's return will come to Him saying, "Master, Master, see all the wonderful things we have done. Why, we have even cast out devils in your name". But Jesus will tell them, "Do I know you? Depart from me, you workers of iniquity"! Note five things about these verses: 1) They called Him Christ two times to emphasize that they were convinced He was their Lord. 2) They claimed to work their miracles in His name. 3) Jesus did not dispute that they had worked the miracles. 4) Jesus said He never knew them, thus they never knew Him. 5) All their works were of lawlessness and not those done according to God's Word and agenda and will be destroyed with them, even though they confessed Christ as their Savior. How can this be?
First of all, God does not take back a gift He gives. Though these people were doing wonderful works, they were not done according to His will and plan and for His glory. Secondly, these Pentecostals set themselves up for a fall by placing too much emphasis on the wonderful things they have done rather than being motivated by the love of Christ and His compassion for humankind. Then the true power of Christ could supply them with the discernment of truth so they would not slip into the enemy's camp without realizing it. (It is true there is perhaps some of this Pentecostal aspect in all churches.) Pride has always been one of Satan's most successful trappings of. All the while, he is anxiously awaiting that day when he is given authority to produce the really amazing wonders, (7) and untold millions will fall prey simply because of them. Thirdly, there are many who will believe that antichrist is Jesus. They will be given his authority to work wonders. All the while, they will truly believe they are working for Christ.
Since When is Jesus Not Enough? One answer to this question is simply that some tend to believe with their eyes instead of their hearts and souls. Also, it is natural for the ego to want to belong to an exclusive club, especially one that makes them feel more special than others. Imagine how these people look to the secular world! It is true the Bible says that Christians are to be a non-worldly, peculiar people, but as Paul wrote, we are not to appear to be unapproachable barbarians (off-putting). He also wrote that he became all things to all people in hopes of saving souls. We must consider these things if we are going to witness effectively to someone who may have an image of the average Christian being a fanatical Pentecostal.
So what more can be said about Pentecostal movement? They are the people in the parable of the sower that received the Word, but did not grasp its true essence and only experienced it on an emotional level. (8) This sets the groundwork for Satan to come in and plant his seed of deceptive doctrine, etc.
I need to mention that we should be very careful in judging the validity of others' gifts. Jesus told His disciples that if someone is not working against His cause, they are working for it. (9) I will say again that we must constantly pray for discernment of the intentions with which someone comes. After Jesus cast a devil out of a man, the holier-than-thou Pharisees (high priests) accused Jesus of being the Prince of the Devils. This was blasphemy against the Holy Spirit to attribute His godly works to Satan. This sin is forever unforgivable. Though we should test a spirit using the Bible as the judge, I do believe God gives some a spiritual intuition. This Holy Spirit gift is mentioned only once in Paul's writings, and was mainly used to discern words of prophecy in the church. There is no reason to believe this same gift cannot be used to "read" church leaders (pastors, deacons, etc. So the advice is, unless you know for a fact you are led by the Bible and the Spirit to condemn someone's work, it is best to remain silent - even in your mind. If we continue to try to live a clean life, we can't help but be aligned with the will of God. We will automatically know the truth in these matters.
Some anti-Pentecostals believe that healings are simply a matter of Satan releasing the infirmity he placed upon the person to begin with. First off, Satan has no authority to afflict anyone without God's consent. In Matthew 12:26 Jesus said, "And if Satan drives out Satan, how will his kingdom stand"? However, at this late date, the devil knows he has but a short time to do his work. It is not beyond him to deceive in any way he can, even if he must work against himself for fewer souls. When one is healed in a church that does not teach doctrinal truth, it is due to that individual's faith. Remember, Jesus said so often, "Your faith has made you whole". God will honor someone's faith in the midst of a church full of ignorance. However, once the Holy Spirit reveals Himself, that person is fully accountable to God.
If you have never witnessed a healing, chances are great that you do not believe they still exist. God works in His own way and in His own time with each individual. The question for some still remains, "Now that Jesus has come, and we have God's Word, does He require us to engage in such supernatural activities as those going on in the Pentecostal churches? Well, no good Christian would ever tell God how to do His work. The final test for anything is if it was done for the glory of God. Ultimately, it is between the person and God. We have the Bible as a guide to tell us what God expects from the church. We have no reason to believe His expectations have changed. Whether we believe or do not believe that modern day spiritual gifts exist, Paul emphatically tells us there must be holy order and discipline in religious assemblies. Given the percentage of Pentecostal churches that do not conduct themselves accordingly, one must question if the Pentecostal form of praise inherently brings the flesh out of a person rather than the Spirit. And if the spiritual gifts do still exist, then we must consider all the denominations and churches that are missing the other half of church life.
One of Paul's most important messages was that of unity among believers. (10) There is an incredibly strong polarization among denominations, most of which disagree on doctrinal points that have nothing to do with their salvation. Though we may worship anywhere or any way we choose, it's time to love all who love Jesus, whether they are weak, wayward or righteous.
(1) II Timothy 1:7
(2) I Cor Chapters 12-14
(3) Proverbs 16:18
(4) II Thess 1:3; Luke 14:11
(5) Romans 10:14-17
(6) I Kings 18:17-39: John 18:1-6: Acts 5:1-10
7) Rev 13:11-15; Mark 13:22
8) Matt 13:3-9,18-23
9) Mark 9:38-40; Numbers 11:27-29
10) Phil 2:2; Rom 14:1-18