Contending for the faith | Making Disciples | Equipping the Saints for Ministry

   by Jeannette Haley

   Curiosity about the supernatural is a normal thing for both believers and non-believers alike. Unfortunately, children and teenagers are, as a whole, most easily swayed and influenced by anything that appears paranormal. Let’s face it; on a par with the Wizard of Oz, the smashing success of Harry Potter can be directly attributed to its occult content. Some have attempted to manipulate the witchcraft in Rowling’s books into some sort of compatibility with Scripture, which is blasphemous and dangerous.

   Lamentably, for the past three or four decades, there has been a steady decline in interest among the Christian youth for good, solid, Christian fiction that contains the Gospel message. In fact, the love of reading the Scriptures, educational books, and quality literature has faded into near obscurity, even among professing Christians. Having said that, I must hasten to add that I am most definitely aware of the popularity of many books on the top seller’s list that are defended as being “Christian.” This unfounded defense merely proves my point—that people are not hungry for the truth! They can be compared to goats that will snatch up and devour any type of garbage available. Jesus is the Shepherd of the sheep, not the goats, who will be separated and sent into everlasting punishment. (Matthew 25:31-46)

   While the world will always chase after its own ungodly forms of entertainment and paranormal experiences, my concern lies with those who claim to be Christians who have no solid foundation upon which to stand. In other words, those who have never been properly discipled as commanded by our Lord Jesus. There is a vast difference between a convert and a disciple! Yet, in this day and age, there is more concern over whether or not a person is “churched” or “plugged into a church” or a member of a particular church or denomination, than if they are truly born again. Alarmingly, most church attendees, when asked how they met Jesus, will give you a “testimony” of their church, their pastor, their pious upbringing, their denomination, or some story about an emotional experience they once had that has them convinced they are on their way to heaven.

   Experience is a word that can be the subject of much debate. Some take issue with any mention of an experience that a person may have had, automatically dismissing it as irrelevant, especially if it doesn’t fit into their frame of reference, or belief system. Others interpret experience as being reality, and the ultimate and final authority to any supernatural happening, regardless of what the Bible teaches. However, there is a balance concerning experience that has its place between these two extremes.

   Those who throw up a red flag every time they hear about a believer’s experience normally equate experience with emotionalism. Neither one is valid in their book, regardless of whether or not the experience and resulting emotional response is scriptural, and of God, or not. These are the people whose confidence is in their intellect, or perceived intelligence, rather than dependency upon the Holy Spirit. Of such the Apostle Paul wrote, “Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits” Romans 12:16.

   Those who depend solely upon their intellect instead of the Holy Spirit are insensitive to the moving of the Holy Spirit, unable to understand the intent (spirit) and principles behind the literal interpretation of Scripture, and are ignorant of how the Holy Spirit works in the hearts and lives of people. The Apostle Paul warned such in 1 Thessalonians 5:19: “Quench not the Spirit.” The result is that these people lack dimension, depth, character, and life, and while they may proclaim to be knowledgeable, well-versed in Scripture and even possess “discernment,” they are extremely limited in their ability to comprehend the Person and work of the Holy Spirit. Unless they humble themselves, repent of their pride, skepticism, and judgmentalism, and determine to “lean not unto [their] own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5b) the end result is the sin of unbelief.

   It’s also just downright discouraging and depressing to note that a large percentage of the “discernment ministries” operate in this extreme. Pushed by fear, paranoia and pride, their attitude is “If you don’t agree with me and the way I believe, then you are a heretic.” Clearly, this is not biblical discernment! One alert servant of Christ recently summed it up well, and I quote:

   “They have long ago departed from the biblical definition of discernment, and have become the thought-police within the Body of Messiah!!!!!!! They JUDGE personalities, rather than the spirit that works through these people, and it’s atrocious!!!!!!!! They remind me of a lot of believers when “deliverance ministries” first came upon the scene . . . . there was a demon in every doorknob!! These ‘discerners’ want to look like the Grand Poobah in all matters, and build themselves up, so that they can THINK that the rest of us are stupid! They have their own “inner secret” lingo, buzz words and semantics, and look out if you don’t know what they’re talking about! Esoteric. Very rarely will you find someone involved in a DM [deliverance ministry] that is teachable. They are too PROUD of their self-appointed wisdom and knowledge to be able to learn. They become their own island, and are positive that NO ONE knows as much about what’s ‘really happening’ as they do! Their life and ministry is simply explained by: 2 Cor. 10:12  For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.  This is what they do. They get in their own little circle of merrymakers, and compare themselves with each other, instead of looking into the mirror of God’s Word.

   “They are not content to expose false doctrine, or immoral lifestyles . . . . NO!  They want to ruin people and ministries, and there is some kind of evil, perverted satisfaction they gain from that. (In Hebrew thought, this is called ‘soul murder.’ And, that truly does seem to be their goal . . to murder a soul!) When you try to ‘reason’ with them, they will argue Scripture to their own demise, simply because they refuse to change their way. We simply cannot reason with an Unreasonable person, eh?

   “I‘ve had my share of bouts with these ministries also, as the very things that they accuse others of . . . . they do themselves!! OH, but don’t address them on it, or they come at you with the fangs drooling for blood . . . . . all in the name of Christ.

   “I cannot possibly know people’s hearts, and I don’t need to know their hearts . . . . that’s God’s business.  But you can bet the bank that I WILL judge the fruit of their lives and the doctrine they teach!!! I’ve endured character assassination hurled at me by some of the best of ’em. But, they are completely unteachable, and they are a stiff-necked people. God knows how to break stiff necks. Yikes!!!”

   Those who operate in the other extreme are more visible because they are the people who never seem to “land.” They can be described as the “super spiritual” folks who flit from one experience to another. Titles, such as prophet and apostle abound within this group, along with an emphasis on gifts and callings, and an unhealthy emphasis is put on fasting, dreams and visions. Among their ranks are a plethora of long-winded “prophets” with their “prophecies,” zealots whose zeal overrules biblical principles and guidelines, and “revivalists” who, while turning a blind eye to the clear warnings in Scripture stating the opposite, are, nevertheless, foaming at the mouth to force world-wide revival, regardless of what drastic measures have to be taken.

   Everything these people hear, think or perceive is interpreted through their perverted, unreasoning and unrealistic “super spiritual” frame of reference. Their goal is to somehow live 24/7 in a supernatural realm, which is unnatural to the natural order of things as God created them to be. These people operate on a plain that is unrealistic, bizarre and not only counterproductive to real Christianity, but a downright embarrassment.

   Such people base their beliefs, goals, agendas, and conclusions upon their experiences and feelings rather than upon the Word of God and sound discernment. Sound discernment develops from, not only knowledge of the Word, and obedience to it, but an understanding of the Holy Spirit (that is, being able to recognize Him, know Who He is, how he operates, what His purpose is, and so forth.) Super-spiritualism is unable to recognize the difference between the Holy Spirit and deceiving spirits. Again, we see how destructive ignorance of the truth can be when people turn off their brains and follow after anything “supernatural.” The end result is the inability to understand and accept sound doctrine, and to discern truth from error.  There must be repentance of religious pride and the desire to be a “somebody” in the kingdom of God, denouncement of all religious and wrong spirits, and willingness to be properly instructed in the practicality of the Christian life. Otherwise, such a soul will end up in total delusion, and in some cases completely out of touch with reality. As some would say, such a person is “out of his or her mind.” We have seen many such cases, sad to say.

   While the unbelieving intellectuals that are on the opposite end of the spectrum have never been on the mountain top with Jesus, these “super spiritual” folks have never come back down into the valley in order to walk out in practical ways real Christianity. Obviously, Satan (who always operates in extremes) relishes the ineffectiveness of either extreme, and you better believe that he is the unseen promoter and participant behind each. But, it needs to be stated that the Christian life is something that is experienced as it is walked out through faith in our daily lives. If we are normal, we will have emotional responses at times. They have been given by God, and are not to be despised. After all, Jesus wept, grieved, displayed anger, displeasure and a host of other human emotions.

   This brings us to these questions: What constitutes the balanced Christian life? How does a person maintain the integrity of the life of Christ within us? What is real spirituality? To answer these questions, one must return to the source, that is, the Word of God. (Note: By the Word of God, I am referring to the Authorized Version and not to the watered-down or downright perverted “bibles” that have swept like a polluting flood through Christendom.) Therefore, concerning spiritual things, let us heed the Apostle Paul’s instructions in 1 Corinthians 2:12-16: “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man. For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.”

   To keep our feet on the ground, and our wits about us as we journey through Satan’s bizarre domain, the key is to always go back to the cross. It is at the cross of Christ that we gain God’s perspective. Everything should issue forth from the point of the cross and Jesus’ resurrection. We must not allow ourselves to drift away from the anchor of the true Gospel message. The Apostle Paul put it this way: “For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified” 1 Corinthians 2:2. Jesus Christ is the Rock upon which we must be established if we are to stand, and remain standing through every temptation, trial and yes, terror that assails us.

   Next, we must guard our hearts and minds daily through Bible study, meditation upon the Word, and prayer. Through the Word, we gain a revelation of Who Jesus is, of God’s character, His will for our lives, and how to live it out in practical terms. We discover that God isn’t asking us to sprout wings and a halo and fly around in the ether waves in order to feel good about ourselves and impress others. No, He has shown us what His will is throughout the entire Bible, and it is so simple that even a child can understand it, regardless of what smug intellectualism may want us to believe. God is not impressed with man’s degrees, education, status, or titles. Unlike us, He is no respecter of persons, and He often imparts, through the profundity of simplicity, His greatest secrets to babes.

   The Word of God is a mirror that should result in repentance as the Holy Spirit brings conviction. Jesus summed up the Christian life when He said, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me” Luke 9:23.  We have the ability to examine ourselves, and to test our fruit, to see if we are truly in the faith. The problem is not with God, but in our incessant penchant for complicating what He has so clearly shown us by His Word and by His Spirit. We can intellectualize the Word, excluding the life of the Holy Spirit who breathed it upon those who recorded it, or we can shelve the Word and fly off to a supernatural experience into a “Noo Noo Land” that is devoid of truth and substance. Either way, our flimsy excuses for not simply believing, and walking after the Spirit, is because at heart, we are all rebels, full of pride, and self-love. We want to do it our way, which, for both the intellectually minded and the super-spiritually minded usually amounts to using God to exalt self. Being a servant of all, walking in lowliness of mind, being hidden from view, pouring out one’s life at the foot of the Master is not glamorous or noteworthy among prideful man. The question all believers must ask themselves is who are we really trying to please? It all comes down to who you love the most.

   Who do you love and serve today?