I have been a pastor and theologian for more than two decades, and during that time have both observed and participated in many ‘revivals’ and ‘moves of God’. Often I have felt ill at ease in my spirit, but I was always reticent to speak out because I did not want to gainsay any possible genuine activity of the Holy Spirit.
But now the level of disease has reached the point where I can no longer remain silent! Men are brazenly asking for large donations and claiming that ‘God told them’ that the first few hundred to respond would become millionaires! Another ‘man of God’ kicks an elderly woman in the face because, once again, ’God told him to’! As he recounts the details of this outrageously brutal act, the audience applauds and laughs! An angel with a sinister Buddhist names reportedly appears to him, gold dust materialises, the man on the platform laughs maniacally, and the children of God scream for more! Dear God, what have we come to! What are we doing! Are we crazy!
The moment anyone sounds the warning you can be sure that many will howl; “Don’t touch the Lord’s anointed!”, and “judge not lest you be judged!” O please! Who do we think planted those deceptive seeds into the soil of our minds? Why the very false teachers we should be judging! The reference to the Lord’s anointed comes from 1 Chronicles 16:22 (Psalm 105:15) and refers to the warning God gave to king Abimelech not to touch Abraham or his wife (Genesis 20:6-7). Jesus certainly did tell us not to judge lest we be judged (Matthew 7:1). He seems to be referring only to hypocritical criticism of each other, because there are numerous scriptures that instruct us to judge a man’s ministry to determine if he is a true or a false prophet – here is one; ‘Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.’ (1 John 4:1)
How are we to ‘test’ a supposed work of God? The usual answer is ‘by the fruit’ (Matthew 7:16). But the ‘fruit’ to which Jesus was referring in His analogy is not the product of a person’s ministry – the number of people who apparently responded in some way to an altar call, or the number of supposed healings and miraculous signs. The ‘fruit’ are identified in Galatians 5:22-23 as the evidences of character and lifestyle. Judge that fruit.
Signs and wonders are not valid criteria either. Jesus said that ‘false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect — if that were possible’ (Matthew 24:24-25). I suspect that most of the healings performed by these ‘super prophets’ aren’t real. Most are probably the temporary results of psycho-suggestion and trickery – Simon the sorcerer is a fine biblical example of this (Acts 8:9-11). But, even if some of the signs and wonders are real, that still does not mean that they are of God (Refer Matthew 24 again).
Neither is preaching in Jesus’ name a true criterion, because Jesus Himself said that “Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!‘ (Matthew 7:22-23). Not even the preaching of the ‘gospel’ is a valid criterion because Paul observed that many will preach a gospel that isn’t The Gospel (Galatians 1:6-9). Interestingly, he added ‘…even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!’
So what then are valid criteria? I have already mentioned the ‘fruit’ test, but here are some others:
- Who is ‘lifted up’ (John 12:32), the man, his ministry… or Jesus? Where does the man direct his audiences’ attention? To himself, his calling, his angelic visitations, his anointing… or Jesus?
- Is the ministry dependent on methods and techniques, or on the Holy Spirit? Much of what I have observed is simple psychic technique. Cold-calling, so favoured by psychics, masquerading as ‘words of knowledge’, mass suggestion, sensory overload, and so on. God doesn’t need psychological techniques.
- Does the man, and his method of ministry, present the nature and character of God? God does not degrade His people. God does not brutalise, bamboozle, or bully. Look for grace and truth, for these are evidences of the presence of God (John 1:17).
- The most telling test of all is, ‘would Jesus do and say this?’ Jesus is the full presentation of the Godhead to humanity (Colossians 1:15-19). Would Jesus create gold teeth in a rich man’s mouth, or would He feed the poor? Would He kick an elderly woman in the face and laugh about it? Would Jesus repeatedly bang a person’s injured legs on the stage as though they were baseball bats, and then brag about it? No. No. No!
I do not want to stir up controversy with this article, but I desperately want to warn everyone – beware, there are wolves in sheep’s clothing around and they are feeding off the flock! We are called to be people of faith, not gullible and gormless sheep to the slaughter. I cannot say it better than Paul when he asked the Galatians; ‘You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? (Galatians 3:1). My plea is that we wake up, rub the gold dust from our eyes, and exercise godly and biblical judgement. Would Jesus say or do this? If the answer is ‘no’ then walk away… fast!