Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure. (1 John 3:2,3)
What glory, and priveledge to be a child of God! Have you hope for the ressurrection? Have you washed your garments, and been made clean in the blood of the lamb? Have you obtained citizenship in New Jerusalem, the bride of Christ?
Loads of Christians are praying for revival in our time. We have miracle movements cropping up all over, and prayers going up for the nation… and nations. As the world grows darker, and the antichrist spirit rises, how we need a revival… revivalS! Yet I can’t help but wonder, in our seeking for a move of God, if we have come to a place in which it we are unwitting inhibiters of the work which God would do.
What is our end-goal? Let me preface before I go on much further, for those who might be reading who don’t know me well; I’m Pentecostal: I believe in salvation through Christ, the baptism of the Holy Spirit (including) the activation of spiritual gifts; divine healing; revival, etc. For the record, this I believe:
Yet, I have seen people inhibit the miraculous through erroneous theology, and some of what I see excercised in the church makes me wonder if we on the whole have allowed weeds in our theology, and experience. I mean, frankly, even GOOD experience (or experiences that we would consider good).
I don’t know if I heard it somewhere, but I’ll sometimes adomish myself and others after seeing some answered prayer: “That’s great, but let’s not let one victory stop us.”
Of course, you can probably easily fathom what I’m trying to say; sometimes when we make a little progress its easy to stop seeking the Lord – who has answered our prayer – for further assistance. Its easy to see an answer to prayer, then suddenly lose our vision… or alter our vision.
There have been some revivals (genuine moves of God which I don’t want to nay-say), and many ministries that were birthed out of those revivals such that now when we pray for revival, we hold our expectation to the previous move of God. This expectation is (from my perspective) the orirgin of the ‘signs and wonders’ movement. Call it the NAR, or the Bethel church movement if its more identifiable that way I guess, but the ‘signs and wonders movement’ is larger than those networks and organizations. The signs and wonders movement, is a mentality whose basis is largely developed from historic revivals.
Yet, having done some historical research, I see a fundamental dichotomy between the mentality that existed at the commencement of many historic revivals, and the mentality of the signs and wonders movement, and I believe that fundamental difference makes all the difference in the world in terms of the results.
Just in a quick nutshell, early revivals occurred out of the basis of people seeking sanctification; the chief aim was seeking the Lord for a deeper, cleansing work in the soul.
From my vantage point, it seems that what we are seeking today (the signs and wonders movement) is the miraculous… I mean, we call it the ‘signs and wonders’ movement for a reason.
Historically, the Pentecostal movement developed primarily out of Wesleyan/ Methodist (Arminian) theology; John Wesley believed, and taught that it is possible (through the work of the Holy Spirit, alone) to be entirely sanctified -i.e. as without sin in this world as though fully redeemed from original sin. (Years before Wesley, George Fox, the founder of the Quaker movement asked the rather purtenent question (my paraphrase): ‘If you don’t believe that you can come to the sinless state of Adam in this life, how shall you ever have faith to become the righteousness of God in Christ?’)
The early Methodists sought the Holy Spirit for entire sanctification and began having miraculous manifestations, revivals with the awesome power of God on display, eventually culminating in the re-discovery doctrine of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit with signs following, and the Pentecostal movement was born. The whole point of Methodism to begin with was to organize small groups of dedicated Christians who held eachother accountable in righteousness – at the time they were disdained as ‘holy clubs’ in fact people started calling them ‘Method-ists’ because of their methodical approach to righteousness. Today, many of the ‘signs and wonders’ people would label them ‘religious,’ and exclude them.
Their chief purpose, and primary reason for seeking the Holy Spirit was sanctification; when they sought revival it was that their communities would be revived in righteousness. (I pin-point the Methodists, but similar thinking prevailed in the revivals of Puritans, Baptists, Presbeterians, etc., they were seeking a return to biblical righteousness, and that all men might know and believe the Gospel.)
Histically it was believed that the Holy Spirit’s chief work was to sanctify the believer, and convict the sinner. In the modern signs and wonders mentality, we see the chief work of the Holy Spirit to be doing really cool supernatural things.
Because of the fact that the endgame of early revivals was these two things, namely: 1) sanctification, and 2) the preaching of the Word – the miraculous happened as a result of these.
Always through history, there have been nay-sayers to the work of God who called anything that smacked of deepeer spirituality, ‘fanaticism.’ Fanaticism is not (in my opinion) people affected physically by the power of God, nor is it allowing or participating in supernatural things. Fanatacism is abandoning truth for spiritual experience (is that a reasonable definition?). The danger of fanaticism is that we abandon the first principles of the faith, and wander into doctrines based on experience (or the supernatural) rather than on God’s Word.
This puts us in a situation that we operate under our spiritual senses, percceptions and feelings without (or with very little) check-and-balance of the Word.
In our day, we have developed a theological resistence to the message of sanctification, but a wholesale acceptance of the miraculous/ visionary/ prophetic. In my experience, I have found there is also a resistence to much biblical teaching [in much of the signs and wonders movement] on the basis of ‘avoiding theological controversy.’
One of the things that has been prophesied (from the time of scripture) is that there would be a falling away from right believing in the last days. Ministers are prophesying this same thing today – somewhat implying, I think, that the development of evangelical charismatic theology and doctrines up to the most recent movement can be relied on, but any theology which seems to deviate, or be unrecognizable to the currently developed movement is error to be avoided.
They prophesy this, understanding by the winds of the world that the last days have begun – though not, by and large, underestanding that the beast has risen from the sea, nor discerning who it is, for they are already under the delusion predicted, which deception has wrought its way into the Church over the last 200 or so years, not the last 20 (really, tares have grown up with the Truth from the begining; and plenty of error began to creep in at the reformation right along with the seed of scripture 500+ years ago).
Recently I went to a healing service (a ‘pray for healing’ focused-meeting for any unfamiliar with charismatic meetings) put on by an old acquaintence of mine; the style of the meeting was very much in line with the signs and wonders movement. By the end of the meeting it struck me how little substance there seemed to have been in the meeting; we prayed for a number of people with various maladies, two or three of them seemed to be helped, and the minister shared a number of testimonies… but it struck me that the service would have been far more substantial if God’s Word had been central.
As mentioned, the style of meeting was very much in line with the signs and wonders movement insofar as my experience goes: lots more testimony than bible is shared. The type of meeting that has developed seems to be a meeting to showcase the Holy Spirit. I am not opposed to the idea exactly, but the problem with the thinking is that the Holy Spirit’s function is not to display Himself, but to display Christ. That is: the Holy Ghost wants to put Jesus on display, not Himself. His work is to testify to the Truth. I left the meeting the other day with the sense that it would have been more effective in demonstration of the Power of God if the Word was on display (are you trying to build faith in your hearers? Faith cometh by hearing…the word of God (Rom 10:17)).
In the signs and wonders movement, God’s Word takes a backseat to the power and demonstration of the work of the Holy Spirit in miraculous demonstration (which is ironic because as a person who identifies more ‘classic Pentecostal’ I believe that the power of God is first and foremost in His Word (I am not ashamed of the Gospel… for IT is the POWER OF GOD UNTO SALVATION (Rom 1:16)) – the the ministering vessel (preacher) is baptized in the Spirit chiefly to be enabled to preach the Word (Matt 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-20; Luke 4:18&19, Acts 1:8, etc.), and that the Spirit’s most demonstrative work is to quicken (make alive) the Word in the hearts of those who hear (Mark 16:20).).
Elevating the signs above the preaching of the Word puts the cart before the horse, and from my experience (interacting with those of the signs and wonders movement) weakens the genuine power of the ministry (which then makes it more about showmanship than the power of the Spirit). Not only so, but it leads us to the very deception that the bible predicts will come in the last days, whererin people will follow miracles rather than Truth. (I’ve had people try to convince me of unbiblical doctrine by pointing to apparent miraculous occurences, despite their conclusions being clear contradiction of plain statement scriptures.)
2 Thess 2:7,9-12
7 For the mystery of iniquity doth already work… 9 Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with ALL POWER AND SIGNS AND LYING WONDERS, 10 And with all decievableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; BECAUSE THEY RECEIVED NOT THE LOVE OF TRUTH… 11 And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they all might be damned who believed not the Truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.
Please bear in mind I am NOT saying that the ‘signs and wonders’ movement is the last days deception… although I AM saying that unchecked, the mentality that has developed to esteem the miraculous above holiness (is He not called the HOLY Spirit?) is the very mentality above described, AND that the signs and wonders movement, and its leaders are CURRENTLY falling under the great delusion of the last days (…I am saying that).
Now just as Jesus declared the parable of the wheat and tares – teaching that when God’s Word is sown, the devil comes to plant error along with the right (Matt 13:24-30), so whenever there is a right move of God, we must also be on guard for the error. Right around the time when revivalism was solidly taking root, and biblical doctrines that had been absent from practice in the church (such as the Baptism of the Holy Spirit) so also were strange doctrines being developed.
While Charles Finney was preaching sanctification, and leading revivals along the East coast, John Darby was popularizing dispensationalism, and planting the seeds of the rapture doctrine (by ‘rapture’ I, here, speak of the doctrine that the ‘rapture’ is a seperate event from the resurrection of the dead – which was never before believed in the church – and unlike the revelation of sanctification and the Holy Spirit baptism un-supportable scripturally). Dispensationalism, and the rapture are clear, and outright set up for the last days deception… but so ingrained in evangelical theology for the last 150 years that my saying so is likely to make me more suspect to most Western Christian readers than anything I’ve said heretofore. (Dispensationalism (is the belief that God changes the way He deals with man through the course of history – scripturally dispensations have only changed on the basis of God’s current covenant with man: (see also: The Basis of Christianity parts 1 & 2, and The Year of the Lord’s Favor)), and the rapture are primary foundations for Christian Zionism.) Nevertheless, these ‘doctrines’ which became accepted in mainline Christianity through the widespread bible commentaries of C.I. Scofield were never believed in Christianity prior (because the bible doesn’t teach them).
Although dispensationalism is anti-Pentecostal (laying the foundation of concrete cessationism (the belief that the age of miracles is over)), the early Pentecostals took the belief in the rapture as doctrine. Why? Because of the verse I started with: 1 John 3:2 & 3. The early Pentecostals believed in entire sanctification; they believed the outpouring of the Spirit was so that they could purify themselves for the coming of the Lord. The idea of an ‘imminent’ rapture that could happen at any momment may have had the positive effect of causing some to seek sanctification… but it also establishes the idea that the elect would be removed from the earth in the last days, which implies someone other than those who put their faith in Christ will fulfill the prophecies concerning the elect in the last days. Tares were sown with the wheat; ministers of the Gospel are supposed to ‘RIGHTLY DIVIDE the Word of Truth’ (2 Tim 2:15).
In fact, the whole verse is pertinent: ‘STUDY [God’s Word] to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not be ashamed, RIGHTLY DIVIDING the WORD of Truth.’
The minister of God should primarily master in the Word. The signs should follow.