I’ve been reading some of the writings of early Pentecostals and also observing what has been going on among the present day “Charismatics”.
There are some common features.
What started out with genuine revelation from scripture (the ongoing reality and validity of Spiritual gifts) started to be accompanied by teachings and experiences that were contrary to scripture – or had no reasonable biblical precedent.
Unfortunately, it seems like people have been more interested in focusing on the problems instead of addressing those things that clearly WERE biblical and had been lacking from the church.
Their approach was to take the easy way of rejecting everything instead of searching the scriptures for themselves and practicing REAL discernment as contrasted to applying broad-brush condemnation.
Often that broad-brush approach leads to the unwise condemnation of truth along with the distracting lies. Maybe we should recognise the likelihood that Satan will try to undermine a true move of God by introducing distracting elements that will draw attention away from what God wants to do within His church and by His church.
As examples I’ll mention the gift of the Holy Spirit, (given by the Father); the gifts of the Holy Spirit, distibuted by the Holy Spirit Himself; and the empowered ministry of preaching the gospel with confirming signs. ALL of those have strong biblical foundations and all are an essential part of an effective obedient church.
Jesus told a parable about a man who sowed good seed within a field, but while everyone was sleeping an enemy sowed weeds among the wheat. When it was noticed that weeds had sprung up among the good crop, the man’s servants were told to leave the two growing together until the harvest to avoid destroying the good crop along with the bad.
He explained the parable by saying the good seed was sown by the Son of Man (Himself) and the weeds were sown by the devil.
I see this parable describes something in common with the situation I’ve observed above. What starts as something sown by God, is complicated by the devil’s attempt to sabotage the work of God by mixing bad among the good. We should therefore be cautious about tearing up the whole field and throwing it all away because we see something wrong.
Many years ago I heard a sermon based on the parable of the wheat and the weeds (tares) – in which the preacher said that “tares” resembled wheat in every way until the wheat fruited. While I don’t know how true that claim was, his point echoes what Jesus said was the way to distinguish between the true and the false: by their fruit you will known them.
While the devil might try to distract from and disrupt God’s work, we need to ensure we don’t give him the victory by us dismissing God’s good work along with those devil-inspired distracting elements.
Not long ago a friend of mine objected to some posts featuring ministry from individuals whose influences he claimed were “a mixture” of bad along with whatever good there might be. His conclusion was to avoid everything from those ministries.
However I can’t help but notice the state of the churches addressed by Jesus in the first chapters of Revelation. ALL but two were a mixture of good and bad – but Jesus didn’t condemn the whole church. He praised them for what they did right and rebuked them for their errors, encouraging their members to be overcomers.
The exceptions were Smyrna, of whom there was no condemnation and Laodicea for whom there was no praise. But even in the case of the rebuked Laodicea there was no outright rejection. He encouraged them to open the door to Him, and left open the possibility of its members being overcomers, despite the absence of good within the church when He addressed it.
In recent months I’ve observed and read about much maligned Charismatic ministries and their work. I’ve also seen some of the work of their critics, and despite seeing many questionable aspects of those Charismatic groups and people, I’ve seen more of God’s work (AS COMMISSIONED BY JESUS) being done – no matter how imperfectly – than I’ve seen among most of their critics who have relied too much on misrepresentation (lies), and false theology (cessationism) and a distinct lack of demonstrated love.
In one of my recent posts I mentioned the importance of discernment. True discernment needs far more than the kind of blanket condemnations made by many of the misnamed “discernment ministries”. True discernment needs to have a foundation of sound theology based on what scripture actually says and not according to church tradition, experience or even LACK of experience. True discernment will often challenge our own beliefs, our own theological stance, and our view of truth and falsehood, as we learn to make assessments according to the demonstrated fruit and not ingrained prejudice of tradition.
And what kind of fruit should we expect to see?
In a previous post I mentioned the fruit of the Spirit but to that I think we should add the fruit of obedience. By that I mean evidence of Jesus’ commands being obeyed, such as:
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13) NIV
And fulfilling His commission regarding taking the gospel to the world.
And doing the works HE did and greater works – something He said would happen IF we believe in Him.
An additional fruit to expect would be the reflection of Jesus in the ministry or experience being assessed. Jesus said that seeing Him was seeing the Father. Jesus also said, “As the Father has sent Me, I also send you,” so those sent in Jesus’ name should be reflections of Jesus in the same way that He was the image of the Father. When we see His disciples, we should see Jesus in their deeds and attitudes.
If there’s anything being done “in His name” that doesn’t reflect Jesus’ character, it’s probably very wise to be suspicious of it. Those things are more than likely distractions sown to choke the growth of God’s seed: God’s work.
Look back at past “moves of God” and consider what gained the most attention and ask whether they were the kinds of thing Jesus Himself would do. Then consider what MAY have arisen out of those situations if there had been better discernment exercised, and the distractions had not been allowed to become the main feature.
And most importantly, don’t judge the present by past distractions. Judge according to today’s fruit.