The question of guidance
How can a false guidance be distinguished from a right one, that is, how does God lead and in what way do false spirits mislead?
Do you struggle with guidance? Have you wondered how to act in different situations or how to tell the difference between God’s guidance and the wrong kind of guidance, or whether you can even tell them apart?
We are going to deal with this difficult subject on the next pages. We will look at the most common problems associated with guidance, such as the role of the word of God, prophesies, voices, dreams, and other important influences. We will try to introduce some of the areas in which people can easily make mistakes. However, it is true that mistakes made in these areas are often the best teachers. It is unfortunate that we must learn many things through mistakes.
our main emphasis will be placed on learning how to
recognize guidance that comes from the wrong sources
(demons), and how demonic guidance differs from God’s
guidance. This is important because there is always the
danger of being misled if we do not know the characteristics
of God’s guidance and how He usually acts. Jessie Penn-Lewis
and Evan Roberts tell in their book War on the Saints
what happened in the lives of many people when demon powers
ended a large revival in
THE WORD OF GOD
- (Matt 22:29) Jesus answered and said to them, You do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God.
When we are looking for guidance in our life, the most important thing to do is to turn to the Bible and learn its main principles. God has given us His word; in it we can learn His will and understand the principles upon which He wants to lead us. He does not want us to seek guidance outside His word; instead, he wants us to understand His plan and will. That being said, we must be very careful about how we approach Biblical text. It’s important to consider verses in their proper context, and to avoid randomly pulling verses out of the Bible.
In practice this means that God never leads anyone into sin or to go against His will. We come to know His will by reading the Bible. God will not lead anyone into committing adultery (Hebr 13:4) or crimes, having premarital sexual relationships (1 Cor 7:1-5), practicing homosexuality (1 Cor 6:9,10), or abortion (You shall not kill, Rom 13:9). He does not want us to harm others or ourselves (Rom 13:10: Love works no ill to his neighbor), and does not want us to act irresponsibly or break the law (Proverbs 24:21, Romans 13:1-5). These actions are repeatedly mentioned in the Bible as being harmful. He never speaks, leads, or inspires prophecies that go against His principles. Instead, He wants us to leave sin and enter into His presence.
The following quote describes what may happen if God’s principles are ignored. It describes a situation in which people divorced after hearing "prophecies," because they did not test these messages in the light of the word of God. Many errors are made this way, when guidance is not examined in the light of God’s principles and lessons:
There are also other ways to undermine the authority of the word of God. Some of my friends had a firm evangelical background and a heart, which burned for God. They started to attend a group whose members seemed to demonstrate spiritual gifts. At first, the prophesies were according to the Bible, and they loved to see how God worked in this way. However, little by little the contents of the prophesies started to differ from the normal understanding of the truth of the Bible. They, however, blindly trusted the prophesies and did not dare to question them. As a result, at least five homes were broken through divorces, by the order of the "spirit." When we talked about this with them in the light of the word of God, nobody listened. Disguised as “super spirituality,” the authority of the Bible had been displaced. It is clear that the spirit who gave the orders was not the Holy Spirit. (1)
GIVING UP OUR LIFE TO GOD. When we are looking for guidance from God, the first condition is that we have been saved and have given our life to Him. Sometimes guidance is missing because we have not turned over our life, or we may possess “idols” that prevent us from realizing His perfect will. Idols can be things like hobbies, following sports, magazines, television. These can become our idols – even though they in themselves are not wrong – because they steal away the time we might otherwise be sharing with God. Television is especially addictive; computers are the worst distractions. We can waste many precious hours with them, every day. This is what Jesus said about this:
- (Matt 16:25) For whoever will save his life shall lose it: and whoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.
- (Luke 17:32-33) Remember Lot’s wife.
33 Whoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whoever shall lose his life shall preserve it.
David Wilkerson also talked about misusing our free time in his book Näky (The Vision) 30 years ago. In this book, he wrote that the Christians who live closest to the time of Jesus’ second coming would spend the least time with Him. This description is certainly true in the life of many Christians today:
I can see that the sin of the future is misusing our free time. This does not refer to the weeks spent on holiday. It is not a question of the time you spend in Europe or in the Holy Land. It is not a question of taking a hunting or fishing trip. It is not a question of hours spent surfing, boating, water-skiing or riding. No! I believe that all these things are good. I speak about the time that has been wasted; time which we ourselves can choose how to use; time which he could use discussing with the heavenly Father.
I can see that Satan comes again to accuse the last Christians:
Look at that Christian, slave of the television! Look at him! He spends hours of his time looking at TV series, comedies, sports, but he does not have time to be with God. He has no time in his schedule for God. He hunts, fishes, travels, plays golf, tennis, and basketball. He goes to the movies and parties, but he does not have time to read the Bible or pray. Is this the Christian of the last days walking in faith? Is this the Christian whose faith conquers the world? Is this the Christian whose objective is to get ready for the last days when persecution and chaos rule the world? Are these Christians crushed by the world?
The greatest sin against God in the future will not be the abuse of one's body, nor satisfying the lusts of the flesh, not even cursing His name. The greatest sin against God will be that people do not care for Him when He clearly calls for them. I see a development, which has taken place behind closed doors. Christians in the last days, who live much closer to the coming of Christ than the first Christians, will spend the least time before Him.
IN A NATURAL WAY. When we are looking for guidance, we should note that God generally does not give us supernatural signs or visions, dreams and revelations every day. Even though He can give us detailed instructions, which the Bible also mentions in Acts (Acts 8:29 16:9,10), the biggest part of His guidance is delivered on a natural level, the level of everyday life. This means that if we first give our life to God and search for His will, we will receive guidance. It usually comes in a form that we do not always recognize. The general rule is that we first search for His will and turn to Him and pray. What is special about this kind of “natural” guidance is that we may not notice until later how God led us all the time. We might, perhaps, notice later that we have been in His plans all the time, even though we did not see any special signs:
- (Jer 31:9) They shall come with weeping, and with supplications will I lead them: I will cause them to walk by the rivers of waters in a straight way, wherein they shall not stumble: for I am a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my firstborn.
- (Matt 6:33) But seek you first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you.
Another important point about guidance is that we ought to use our common sense. We will not necessarily receive special guidance for every situation we meet in life. That is when we must act according to our better understanding and common sense. George Müller, for example, followed this principle. He first drew a line on a piece of paper; on one side of the line he wrote down the positive points and on the other side the negative. He said that "by using this method I was never misled."
We should still note that guidance that is directed through supernatural signs (some examples of this are whispers directing us where to turn or what to do) or trying to force us into action, or threatening us; or visions that do not cease. These are characteristic of activities by evil spirits. If you hear such supernatural whispers almost all the time, or even see the world of spirits constantly, then your guidance is certainly not from God.
WRONG ASSURANCE AND enthusiasm. Our own enthusiasm, imagination, and self-assurance can create some of the biggest obstacles to guidance. We may be so enthusiastic about something that we never stop to ask the will of God or show good judgment.
This is very common in matters of love and fancy. The biggest mistakes come from being blind to the imperfections of the person we love. We may not pay any attention to many everyday activities that will affect the relationship (e.g., using money, sharing the same calling, etc.). Many of the false steps taken in love and fancy might have been avoided if our own vivid imagination, enthusiasm, and self-assurance had not falsely directed us. The Proverbs also teach about this:
- (Pro 19:2) Also, that the soul be without knowledge, it is not good; and he that hastens with his feet sins.
Similarly, a vivid imagination and self-assurance can be connected to ministry. In ministry our own enthusiasm and imagination can make a mess out of everything. Signs of this are being completely sure about the plan of God in advance, declaring people to be healed prematurely, promising a miracle, failing to search for God's plan as events unfold. This kind of a person does not take into consideration the fact that Jesus never did anything the Father had not planned for His life; He only tried to do what He knew to be the plan of God in each case. He said about Himself:
- (John 5:19) Then answered Jesus and said to them, Truly, truly, I say to you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he sees the Father do: for what things soever he does, these also does the Son likewise.
The next example told by Mel Tari describes this well. It describes people who were trying to create a miracle that, ultimately, was not part of God’s plan. They confused their own enthusiasm with the will of God. The example indicates that we must first know the plan and will of God for us, or in the current circumstances; otherwise, we will go astray. This is the most important part of all spiritual work, and we must understand it if we are to succeed in serving God.
One thing is sure. After the beginning of the revival, we must have learnt that it is best not to pressure God. We cannot demand Him to do things our way, even though for us it would seem like the wisest thing to do. We must not take "steps of faith," before we are sure that it is the will of God.
Otherwise, we will create a mess. If we try to cross a river three meters deep without the Lord ordering us to do so, we will surely sink to the bottom and drown, even though our motives were spiritual, such as to testify to the Muslims who are standing by the river.
Some believers tried in faith to ask God to raise their friend from the dead, but they did not stop to ask what God thought about it. They were so enthusiastic about their idea that they repeatedly told God that if only He would do a miracle, His name would be glorified. It might also start a revival in that region.
But God does not need men to defend Himself. He does not need to do a miracle to prove that he is God. The Lord did not raise the person from the dead. He knew what would happen: instead of Him, the miracle would have got all the glory.
God also knew that my friends wanted to claim some of the fame for themselves. They were not strong enough to give all the glory to Jesus. If someone would have said to them, "How spiritual you are! Tell me the secret of your great faith", the flattery might have made them proud and destroyed them spiritually. (2)
Another more tragic example shows that you should not continue if you are not completely sure that God is involved in your activities. The example describes people who took “a leap of faith” but without God having planned it for them. The example shows how dependent on God we are and that we must be aware of his “rhema word” to make anything work.
I heard about a group of Korean young people who were going to a youth camp when their trip seemed to end before it even started. A road was cut off because a flood had destroyed a bridge. The youth decided to continue in faith and walk on water. They walked into the flooding stream together like Peter in his time. Their bodies were found downstream a couple of days later. The event caused a major commotion in Korea. A reverend discussed the reasons of the accident in public by explaining what the word “rhema” means. The youth only had “logos” and not “rhema”. Mere great faith or fancy is not enough for such a step if there is no rhema to base one's faith on.
Rhema is not necessary for everything, though. It would be completely overly spiritual to claim that our prayers should always be based on a special announcement from God. This is only rarely needed. However, in the case of serious and great steps, rhema is sometimes necessary. We cannot walk on water, raise the dead or do other powerful deeds on mere faith. If God gives you rhema, however, you should proceed in faith and the word will become true in your life. In such a case, faith means obedience and God will provide you with the necessary faith. (3)
SIGNIFICANCE OF INNER TESTIMONY. One of the most important elements of guidance is inner testimony. It means that we do not have to find guidance from the outside through others. Instead, God will give each of His followers the understanding and assurance needed to know where to go and where not to go. It is a question of whether our inner life is peaceful or troubled. If a Christian feels troubled, hesitant or restless these feelings can be considered warning signs. Hasty, fast decisions should be avoided. However, if a Christian feels inner assurance and a peaceful feeling, they are going to the right direction. We have received a “green light” from God if we feel progressively better about what we’re doing. The more we think about it, the better we feel. We find this in many Bible verses:
- (Col 3:15) And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you are called in one body; and be you thankful.
- (Phil 4:7) And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
- (Isaiah 48:17,18) Thus said the LORD, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel; I am the LORD your God which teaches you to profit, which leads you by the way that you should go.
18 O that you had listened to my commandments! then had your peace been as a river, and your righteousness as the waves of the sea:
- (Rom 8:9,16) But you are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.
16 The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:
- (1 John 5:10) He that believes on the Son of God has the witness in himself: he that believes not God has made him a liar; because he believes not the record that God gave of his Son.
- (1 Cor 3:16) Know you not that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?
- (Eph 1:13) In whom you also trusted, after that you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that you believed, you were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise,
This means that inner testimony is one of the most important facets of guidance. If guidance does not contradict the Scriptures and the person feels inner peace, they’re getting a green light. John Bevere describes his experience:
Whether the word comes from another person or whether we hear it in our hearts, the peace found through the spirit of Christ is always the determining issue. If we feel peace in our hearts, it is the Holy Spirit’s confirmation for the truth. If there is unrest or worry in our hearts, God’s Spirit has not spoken to us. (...)
When we needed an administrative manager for our service work, I spent more than a year finding the right person. Four good men were offered to us during that time. We looked at their qualifications and interviewed two of them. Three of them were more qualified than I had even imagined. (...) Despite their great accomplishments, we only had a little or no peace in our hearts. My friends asked questions, and my understanding was purely screaming. I thought, “Have you become so religious that you cannot hire a good man when you see one?” Every time I rejected a candidate, I thought, “Will I ever get the help we need?” By the time we interviewed the third person, I convinced myself to move on. I did not have peace deep inside me, however. The unrest or sign became so powerful that I finally understood that hiring that person was surely not of God, and God was merciful.
During this period of time, my wife often said to me, “You should speak to Scott before hiring anyone.” Scott had assisted us a couple of times as a volunteer. After having interviewed the others, I asked Scott whether he was interested. He prayed to find out and said he was. The day he came to my office to meet us, God’s peace and presence flowed into my heart and that of my wife, and they filled the entire office. We glanced at each other, surprised, all through the interview. We were shocked at feeling such peace instead of the unrest we had felt during the previous interviews. We knew without a doubt that Scott was God’s choice because we felt the testimony of the Holy Spirit in our hearts. Scott was a huge blessing for our service work. All the other men were truly God-fearing men but they were not God’s choice for this position. (4)
- (2 Tim 1:7) For God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
- (Col 4:5-6) Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time.
6 Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer every man.
One important aspect of guidance is correct behaviour. It should be balanced and filled with love and peace towards our neighbours – just like Jesus’ behaviour. If we do not have love and the fruit of the Spirit (But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law, Gal 5:22,23), if we act aggressively or act as if we know everything and never admit our faults, then it will be very difficult for people to receive the Gospel – they will tend to reject it. In the same way, if people see that there is exaggeration, extremity or unfairness without the respect for God in our lives they usually are offended. Then it is also difficult for them to receive the message of the Gospel.
When doing the work of God and spreading the Gospel, a person can be overcome by religious hate without even knowing it. It is not a question of hating what is wrong or wrong behaviour; it is an attitude lacking love towards specific groups, such as homosexuals, Jehovah’s witnesses or unbelieving priests. It means that we do not have to like all the things these people and other people represent but if someone has a harsh, judgemental and reproachful attitude, the attitude will probably keep these people from entering the kingdom of God. They will move away from God instead of coming closer to Him.
Bill Hybels has written about the wrong attitudes often seen in evangelism. He states that if we have done something wrong or inept, an apology can improve the situation. We should not forget this. An apology can make right harmful attitudes and words.
Many people have asked me over the years what they should do to make right the wrong acts they have committed during evangelism. When they have pressurised people. When they have ruined the whole thing. When they have tried to help someone believe while God actually only wanted them to help the other until twenty.
My answer is always the same: “What about apologising? I don’t know your situation in detail but my non-believing friends simply love it when I apologise to them.”
(...) If you have done something wrong when telling people about Christ, go to those whom you have trespassed and beg for their forgiveness. “I tried to run faster and farther than the Spirit urged.” Or: “I tired you with my talking. I confused you. I preached. I was arrogant. Can you find it in your heart to forgive me?” No matter what you did, take responsibility and thus take the first step in making things right. (5)
Behaviour is also meaningful in a meeting. T.B. Barrat, an apostle of the Pentecostal Movement, pointed out the meaning of behaviour. He said that even the way we present our case can ruin a good thing if it is presented in an unusual way. He described people whose gestures had been uninhibited and unnatural, and many people had unnecessarily been hurt by this. What was worst was that these people claimed the Holy Spirit had made them do this.
"The issue can be good, but the way you present it can ruin it. I have often heard men and women of the revival acting in this way. Their speech has been overflowing, their gestures uninhibited and unnatural, and many people have unnecessarily been hurt by this. The worst thing is that they claim that the Holy Spirit is behind this kind of behaviour. No, no, and once again no! Undoubtedly, the Spirit of God is in them, but they do not present what the Spirit would want to say through them in the right way. Please do not understand me wrong. I do not claim that everyone should be a perfect speaker, but there is one thing everyone can learn. And it is good that it is learned." (6)
Let’s study another comment about the same subject. It is from Frank Bartleman’s book Azusa Street, which tells about the first times of the Pentecostal Movement and how some people were driven into “empty presenting”. They were not guided by the Spirit in their “presentations”, as Bartleman stated. These are good lessons to learn when we want to follow God’s guidance and want our neighbours to be saved. If our behaviour is not correctly balanced and pleasant, how could anyone become interested in God?
Occasionally, there were presentations in which there did not seem to be any guidance of the Spirit. Such presentations ended quickly. Sometimes the meetings were quite powerful. But there always seemed to be temptation toward empty presentations, just like nowadays. No cross is needed in such meetings, no turning away from selfish life. That is why ‘acting’ is always in popularity.
THE MEANING OF LOVE
- (Matt 22:36-39) Master, which is the great commandment in the law?
37 Jesus said to him, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.
38 This is the first and great commandment.
39 And the second is like to it, You shall love your neighbour as yourself.
- (1 Cor 13:1,2) Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.
2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.
As we speak about guidance, we must not forget the significance of love. As God says, in addition to Him we should love our neighbours more and more. If our life does not go in that direction and we are driven into other actions and attitudes then our life always departs from the truth and real guidance of God. Expressing a hard, quarrelsome, and loveless attitude towards others only demonstrates that our own spiritual life is not on the right course. Some examples of unacceptable behaviour include refusing to love people who have different tastes in music (Christian rock, etc.), or unrepentant people, or becoming bitter if the leaders of the church support positions that we are unable to accept.
Let’s study some more verses describing Paul and his life. Before his conversion he was hostile and cruel but when God changed him, he became a quite different and new man. He received love for people (compare Rom 5:5: …because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given to us) and worried about apostates and the fallen. He certainly did not threaten and curse others, which is one quality of false prophets, even though he warned people about going the wrong way. Instead, he tried to win them through love, giving us a pattern (Phil 3:17). Let us stay on the same track in our spiritual life, and we will certainly go in the right direction:
- (2 Cor 12:14-15) Behold, the third time I am ready to come to you; and I will not be burdensome to you: for I seek not yours but you: for the children ought not to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children.
15 And I will very gladly spend and be spent for you; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I be loved.
- (2 Cor 11:29) Who is weak, and I am not weak? who is offended, and I burn not?
- (2 Cor 2:3-4) And I wrote this same to you, lest, when I came, I should have sorrow from them of whom I ought to rejoice; having confidence in you all, that my joy is the joy of you all.
4 For out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote to you with many tears; not that you should be grieved, but that you might know the love which I have more abundantly to you.
- (Rom 9:1-3) I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost,
2 That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart.
3 For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh
- (2 Tim 3:10-11) But you have fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, long-suffering, charity, patience,
11 Persecutions, afflictions, which came to me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra; what persecutions I endured: but out of them all the Lord delivered me.
- (Phil 3:17) Brothers, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as you have us for an ensample.
Respect and honour for people and the government is addressed in several verses of the Bible. We have been encouraged to respect everyone, regardless of whether or not they think like us. Based on the instructions of the Bible, our respect should never depend on different views of others. We should honour everybody: kings, the government, our employer, our parents, our elders and all people. The Bible says:
- (1 Peter 2:17) Honor all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.
- (Rom 13:1,2) Let every soul be subject to the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.
2 Whoever therefore resists the power, resists the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.
- (1 Peter 2:18) Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the fraudulent.
- (Eph 6:2,3) Honor your father and mother; which is the first commandment with promise;
3 That it may be well with you, and you may live long on the earth.
What about the leaders of people? It is very common for people not to follow this advice. People often talk about their leaders and what they have done in a negative and derogatory tone. They point out the leaders’ mistakes and mention them in their speeches. This may be because they consider the leaders to be liberal or they consider the leaders being advocates of issues they themselves do not like. This blinds people from the fact that they should respect such leaders – including church leaders – regardless of that.
What's the use of spreading slander? If we are unable to personally influence the opinions of the leaders or discuss differences with them, what's the use of focusing on what they have done? The Bible clearly instructs us not to become the accuser but to pray and thank God for these people. The most significant point is that this advice was voiced by Paul who was repeatedly mistreated by earthly leaders.
- (1 Tim 2:1-4) I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men;
2 For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.
3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior;
4 Who will have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
John Bevere wrote about the same subject in his book. He descriped a dream related to respecting leaders of people that his wife saw. Are we people, whose own behaviour causes people to reject God?
My wife once saw a dream I’ll never forget. During the office of President Clinton, my wife woke me up one night. She seemed very upset. She said, “John, I saw a dream, and I must tell you about it.” (God often speaks to Lisa through dreams.)
She continued, “You and I were in a great big hall listening to a preacher. I don’t know who the preacher was but he was popular among the Christians. He spoke against President Clinton, degrading him. He went on and on about how bad a human being the President is. Most of the listeners eagerly shouted ‘Amen’, confirming what the preacher said. You and I felt very uncomfortable.”
Lisa continued, “Then, I saw in the dimly lit room a man standing up and walking out at the back of the great hall. I felt like I should follow him. When I reached the building’s lobby, he turned and looked at me. He was President Clinton. He was very sad; his heart had broken and then he collapsed.”
Lisa concluded by saying, “John, I knew in my dream that the President had come to the congregation for assistance and support, but the congregation disdained him because of lack of love and pity. God showed me that we hardened his heart so that he turned away from what he personally and the nation as a whole needed.” (7)
- (Eze 28:15,17) You were perfect in your ways from the day that you were created, till iniquity was found in you.
17 Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty, you have corrupted your wisdom by reason of your brightness: I will cast you to the ground, I will lay you before kings, that they may behold you.
One thing that can easily lead us astray and away from the will of God is pride - looking at ourselves. It was also the devil’s first sin. He admired himself instead of God (the verses above). Instead of turning to God and being grateful for mercy, he started to look at himself and his own loveliness, which then led to his ruin.
If we are not careful, this can also happen to us: we may forget that everything starting from salvation is a gift and God's mercy. The gifts of the Holy Spirit are such, and so are miracles. These are also things like our natural abilities, such as the gift of speech and writing. These things are not of our own making; we receive these abilities in the womb. In the end, there is very little that we have not received directly from God or in birth as a gift. Jesus said, “Without me you can do nothing” (John 15:5) and “Freely you have received, freely give” (Matt 10:8). In the same way, Paul brought out, “For who makes you to differ from another? and what have you that you did not receive? now if you did receive it, why do you glory, as if you had not received it?” (1 Cor 4:7). These words are important to remember in all spiritual work, otherwise we will go astray:
- (1 Cor 10:12) Why let him that thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.
- (Pro 18:12) Before destruction the heart of man is haughty, and before honor is humility.
- (1 John 2:19) They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.
- (Mark 9:34-35) But they held their peace: for by the way they had disputed among themselves, who should be the greatest.
35 And he sat down, and called the twelve, and said to them, If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all.
So, there is the danger of self-admiration and self-pride and it is easy to fall into these emotions when everything is going well. They usually emerge after we have won a great victory, or our popularity has risen, or we have received a lot of praise from people; winning large rewards and being praised by many others can lead us into thinking too highly of ourselves. Many people may be captured during such moments by misleading spirits. They are no longer able to see that everything comes from the grace of God; they become self-centered and can no longer see things clearly, but like through a curtain. This can happen, even though the Bible warns us very clearly about thinking too much of ourselves or seeking for praise from others:
- (Rom 12:3) For I say, through the grace given to me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God has dealt to every man the measure of faith.
- (Gal 6:3) For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.
- (John 5:44) How can you believe, which receive honor one of another, and seek not the honor that comes from God only?
- (Luke 6:26) Woe to you, when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets.
In one prophecy (Stanley Frodsham’s prophecy in 1965) there was a warning that many may fall under the domination of misleading spirits in the coming days, because they are used by God in enormous miracles and signs and they get praise from people. This happens if we do not see things realistically in the light of the previous verses, and understand that without Jesus, we can do nothing. Let’s study this prophecy that describes well how deception is possible. This can easily happen after great victories:
As I appear to My people with an enormous power of revival, I prepare them for the dark time which is coming. Along with the glory is coming great darkness, because glory will prepare My people for the darkness. I help My people to get through with the help of My Spirit’s appearing. Be careful that you do not swell with pride and think that you are already at your destination. Many will become conceited as those who received My message in the old days, but did not hold to it. Did I not anoint Jehu?
However, the things according to My wishes did not come true in his life. Listen to messengers, but do not admire the person of these messengers. For many who receive from Me the enormous anointment with miracles and signs, will become proud as they get admiration from people, and they will fall aside. I will not do it with pleasure; I have prepared them for standing. I will call many to this work and prepare them for it, but remember that many will fall. They are like bright lights, about which people are glad. But the misleading spirits will captivate them so that many of My people go astray. (8)
The temporal laws and the question of armed service. Temporal laws can also be one part of God’s guidance. This mainly means that we should observe the current laws, as far as they do not clearly conflict with the will of God (Acts 4:19). The Bible indicates that we must not join the rebellious, so anarchy, violence, and breaking good laws cannot be right. In the Reformation of the 16th century this happened when some people were driven to extremes; they abandoned the law and destroyed images. They rejected both the temporal laws and God’s will because of their wrong religiousness (Acts 19 tells us about how people destroyed magic charms used in sorcery. These actions were voluntary, and they destroyed only their own objects, not those of others.):
- (Pro 24:21) My son, fear you the LORD and the king: and meddle not with them that are given to change:
- (Rom 13:1-3) Let every soul be subject to the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.
2 Whoever therefore resists the power, resists the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.
3 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Will you then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and you shall have praise of the same
What about armed service? Should we serve in our nation’s army? What does the New Testament teach about military service? Is it mentioned in the teachings of Jesus and the Apostles?
Service in the military is not directly addressed in the New Testament. We can, though, make observations about military service that are both positive and negative. We are going to study them to see if we can shed a little light on our responsibility for military service. Based on these observations, it is possible to get a general understanding about what is required of us. However, it is important that our conscience is not shackled; nobody can determine which burdens should be placed on a person’s conscience:
The positive points
- The need of authority to use the sword. Even though an individual should not draw the sword on his own, as Jesus said (Matt 26:52), it is still reasonable for authorities to use the sword when need arises, because criminals do this as well. (Rom 13:3,4: the power…bears not the sword in vain.) It is needed to maintain order and prevent crimes; otherwise, criminals could do anything they like.
On the other hand, a nation’s defense forces might act as an extension of the police. A police force repels mainly internal threats and criminality, while military defense forces protect a nation against external attacks. Guns may also be needed.
- Even though the Commandments passed to us through Moses make it quite clear that we should not kill, other laws made acceptable in some cases the death penalty for wrongdoing. (See Exodus 21:12). In it, a difference between a private person and authority was made. An individual must not do injustice to anyone, but a wrongdoer can be punished for his deeds. This rule has also been applied to armed service.
- If the authority turns another cheek and does not resist evil, it is difficult to maintain order. It leads only to tolerance for criminal actions. The wrongdoers feel they are being allowed to do their deeds in peace.
On the other hand, if we do not repel the attacks of others, the same confusion can occur. If an attacker like Hitler (generally, the attackers are similar), whose purpose is to destroy hundreds of thousands of people, is allowed to work in peace and we look away, then we act as though we accept what is wrong. The use of a gun in defense can be justified for this reason.
The negative points
- When we search for arguments against the use of guns, one of the most important reasons is certainly that man is an eternal being who either goes to Heaven or Hell. If a man happens to die ahead of his time in a war, he no longer has the possibility to change his mind, which is unfortunate. He needs to hear the message of the Gospel and receive salvation before crossing the border. In the letters to the Hebrews, we are taught that we only have this one life. It is not possible to change our mind after this life:
- (Hebr 9:27) And as it is appointed to men once to die, but after this the judgment:
- Jesus said, “Put up again your sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.” (Matt 26:52). In the same way, He advised us to love our enemies and to pray for them. These are good pieces of advice, since we meet our neighbors every day:
- (Matt 5:43-48) You have heard that it has been said, You shall love your neighbor, and hate your enemy.
44 But I say to you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which spitefully use you, and persecute you;
45 That you may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he makes his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
46 For if you love them which love you, what reward have you? do not even the publicans the same?
47 And if you salute your brothers only, what do you more than others? do not even the publicans so?
48 Be you therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.
- Another point is that any expression of anger and hatred towards other nations is certainly not following the will of God. It is not right that people and nations are hated and despised. By doing so you are exalting yourself and judging others, actions about which Jesus warned us. The right expression of love for one’s country it is not made through such animosity; we must appreciate our neighbor nations and other nationalities, not only our own nation or certain nations.
Frank Bartleman stated in his book Azusa Street (about the beginning of the Pentecostal Movement) that wars harden people and their hearts fill with hate. The description refers to the time just before the First World War when he went to Europe. He also wrote that to him, the Gospel is the same during both peace and war:
We did not want to return to America so soon, but we were forced to leave because of safety. Besides, all the efforts of the nations aimed at that people’s hearts would fill with hate and bloodthirstiness. There did not seem to be any room for the spirit of the Gospel. The Sermon on the Mount has nothing in common with the principles of “the god of war”. During a war, people are expected to do their best to hate, curse, and kill enemies, certainly not to love them. Let others do so, if they think it is suitable, but to me the Gospel is perfectly same during peace and war. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and for ever.”
(…) ”Seven fat years” in the beginning of pouring out of the Pentecost. “Seven lean years” on the eve of the World War. We prophesied it in the beginning. We could also see how churches would get highly involved in it. The religiousness hardened. What is next? Luther expected “the end of the world” in his time.
MUSIC. Continuing the list of idols in people’s lives, a very common one is so-called Christian hard rock and the worldly rock music some people like. This may bind many people so they spend several hours daily listening to it. It can be the same kind of idol as TV and movies. All of these take our time.
However, we should ask ourselves to identify the fruits from this kind of aggressive and angry music that goes completely against the nature of the Holy Spirit of God. Is it not a fact that this kind of music generally produces nothing positive? It neither makes people aware of their sins nor results in godly sorrow, genuine repentance, hunger for Christ, or respect for and worship of God. On the other hand, the more common and more peaceful and happy praise music can lead people toward God. Hard rock music completely lacks these kinds of good results.
It is quite another thing for someone to say that he has turned to God and that the Holy Spirit has exposed our condition and shown us our need for salvation. Regeneration comes from Heaven but it is possible to make decisions without the renewing work of God’s Spirit in our heart and without real repentance.
One can generally say that the harder the so-called Christian rock is, the more superficial is the faith; perhaps people have not yet experienced real salvation, and thus cannot lead others into salvation.
David Wilkerson wrote about this in his book Pasuuna soi (Set the Trumpet to the Mouth), p. 101. He stated that many people are so bound by this music that it is more difficult for them to give it up than to give up stimulants. They can cling to the music, even though the Lord has full control in other areas of their life:
One reason the Spirit of God left the Jesus awakening last decade is that they refused to reject their old music. They gave up marijuana, heroin, alcohol, wrong sex, and even their distorted life style. But their dear rock music they have not given up. "But now, after that you have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn you again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto you desire again to be in bondage?" (Gal 4:9)...
Surprising! I say that its hold is more powerful than drugs, alcohol, or tobacco. It is the largest mass affection in the world’s history. Are they going to hold on to it even before the judgment of God? Will Christ say, "I tell you that one thing is lacking from you; one idol has remained. You wandered your way head strong. The music which grieved me, you let control your life: all this for the sake of not giving everything to me!” "But you have made me to serve with your sins, you have wearied me with your iniquities." (Isa 43:24).
Prophecies can also be a source of guidance. We have to take some things into consideration so that we can use them in the correct way, because otherwise we can easily get on the wrong track. Make a note of the following points:
Not the most important thing in guidance. The most important thing in the use of prophecies is that they are not the main way guidance is given, only one of them. They have to stay in the background – not play the main role – when we are searching for guidance. Neither can they take the place of the word of God, as might easily happen.
The main rule in using prophecies should be that they usually only confirm what we already know – they rarely bring out anything new. It is unlikely that God would first speak to others about our guidance. He will most certainly always speak about it first to our own hearts before telling it to us through the prophesies of others. This should always be the order.
As to different ministries in the church, it is good to understand that if all of the ministry is led by prophecies or new revelations, we will always be led astray. Most of the heresies and false movements have their beginning in the incorrect emphasis and use of prophecies. They have begun because this gift (or perhaps an imitation of this gift) has been raised into first importance, though it should only be in a secondary position.
Donald Gee addressed this confusion when he described his experience of the first events of the Pentecost movement. He warned about wrongly emphasizing prophesies:
In my country, Wales, several Pentecostal brothers have gone astray by misusing the gift of prophecy so that all of their activity is led by prophecies. All of their churches have been established by prophets and their private lives are guided by these prophets. This is very dangerous and quite wrong and completely non-biblical. We are not allowed to mix the teaching of the Old and the New Testament like this. I am glad that the Lord has brought me here to warn you. If this misunderstanding were ever to happen here in Finland, I pray that you would firmly stand against it. (9)
Not perfect. The second thing that should be noted is that our prophecies are always imperfect (1 Cor 13:9: For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.). No-one ever gets perfect in using this gift, but imperfection is seen especially among those who have not been believers for a long time. They may present their own thoughts as prophecies and make mistakes, because they have not yet had the chance to grow in this respect.
Imperfection in prophesying is described in the next quote. Steve Thompson wrote in his book that just like musicians make many mistakes when practicing to be better players, we may have to go through the same kind of process when practicing to use the gift of prophecy. In this practice, we usually learn by the process of trial and error:
What musician could become talented without making thousands of mistakes? Not a single one. Why do we then expect those people who are just beginning to use their prophetic gifts to do everything right from the very beginning? We have to be ready to make mistakes before we can do things well. The key is that we start. The sooner we start, the sooner we can become skilful. (10)
So, even if prophecies are not always perfect, it does not necessarily mean the prophet is false: it is only imperfectly using this gift. Because of the same imperfection, it is good to make sure that we do not start to look down on this gift, but that we give it its right value. Paul taught that we must prove everything and hold fast to that which is good:
- (1 Cor 14:29) Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge.
- (1 Thess 5:19-21) Quench not the Spirit.
20 Despise not prophesyings.
21 Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.
FALSE PROPHECIES AND PROPHETS. The devil can imitate a genuine gift of prophecy and other gifts of the Holy Spirit as mentioned in 1 Cor 12. Imitating this gift is possible because many people are in connection with evil spirits. Because of this, their prophesies can occasionally come true and the information or "the message of knowledge" can be true. (Acts mentions a slave girl who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. Even a believer can sometimes be a channel for an evil spirit if he has in his past been dealing with fortune telling or occultism, and has not yet completely been released from this spirit.)
However, if we look at some of the features of false prophecies, we can see that certain characteristics can be found in all of them. The most common characteristics are described below.
Content. One characteristic of false prophecies is that they contain information that does not even belong to prophetic communication. They are more like fortune telling messages. Authentic prophecies should be only for edification, exhortation, and comfort. (1 Cor 14:3: But he that prophesies speaks to men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort.) False prophecies generally cross this line and ”foretell” quite different things. The following are typical:
- They advise donation of money to specific causes; this certainly does not belong in prophecies. These kinds of prophecies almost always come from the person himself.
I know some former rich people who have gone bankrupt because they listened to someone prophesying about how they should invest their money.
I remember a man who came to one of my meetings. I knew who he was although I didn’t know him personally. I did not know that he never made a deal without asking a so-called prophet for advice first.
I said to him, “I have a powerful urge to say this to you: you will lose all you own and go bankrupt if you continue to listen to your advisor.”
He ignored my warning. The poor man who used to be rich lost his home and all his property. I have seen this happen many times. (11)
- False prophecies reject the word of God. They often contradict the word of God and may, for example, advise a person to get a divorce and marry someone else (the reason may be "the current spouse not being spiritual enough” or “not being a believer”, for example) or to do something else, that conflicts with the word of God. The end result of these prophecies (when obeyed) is that a person often will lose faith.
- One of the clearest signs that a prophetic message is false is that it gives advice on finding a spouse or marrying someone even though the person himself does not want to do that. It is good to note that God never forces us to marry someone and does not provide guidance on important matters like this through the prophecies of others. These kinds of prophecies ought to be immediately rejected.
Ritva heard of a Finnish couple in Australia who only married because someone prophesied that they would. They did not study whether the prophecy was real: they blindly trusted it and followed it. The marriage was so awful that they finally divorced! The fruit of true prophecy are great but the fruit of false ones are bitter. Others have started full-time Christian service work only because someone prophesied that they should, and they were miserable and restless when doing the Lord’s work. You must have the Lord’s peace – do not trust any such prophesy if you do not! (12)
- False prophecies direct people about how to take care of their business, or tell someone about the exact hour of their death. God never tells anyone in advance when they will die, which would make people unnecessarily fearful. He does not want His children to be anxious. He only wants to bring them closer and into a good relationship with Himself. A true prophecy is for edification, exhortation, and comfort (1 Cor 14:3). False prophecies do not edify, exhort, or comfort.
- False prophecies contain more predictions than words that strengthen, encourage, and comfort (the benefits of a true prophecy). Some people may really be under the influence of an evil spirit so that they continually whisper and mutter predictions to other people.
- If a prophecy is of God, it raises the atmosphere in a meeting instead of dampening it down. If a prophecy that is of a false spirit is said aloud, it is like throwing cold water on top of the gathered people. Such a prophecy does not edify, exhort and comfort (1 Cor 14:3: But he that prophesies speaks to men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort.). Instead, it suppresses and oppresses:
Years ago, I had a seven-week series of meetings in a congregation. Every evening at about the same time during the same part of the meeting – right when the offertory plates were being passed down – a woman rose and spoke in tongues. She repeated the same words every evening. After a while, I could have repeated her entire message word by word. If nobody was willing to explain her message, she did it herself. It was like somebody poured cold water on top of the audience. It oppressed the entire meeting.
The reverend asked me to teach the listeners one Sunday morning as he had to be out of town. This was unusual. I stopped before the tolling of the bell. One of the deacons asked me,
“Brother Hagin, could I ask something?”
“Of course,” I said. I thought he had something to ask about the lesson I had just given.
He said: “When a message is given in tongues in a public meeting, shouldn’t it be a blessing for the congregation? Or should it put an end to the meeting?”
The loved woman was sitting right in front of me at the time.
I said, “This question is not about the lesson. I’m not comfortable about talking about it right now.”
Others, some of the congregation’s elders, said, “Brother Hagin, we would like to hear the answer to the question.”
So I said, “If a message is of God, it raises the atmosphere in a meeting instead of dampening it down.”
The woman was smart enough to learn from this. She came to me and said, “I’m wrong, aren’t I?”
I said, “Yes, madam, you are wrong.”
She continued, “I thought that I was doing something wrong the whole time. But I wanted to be available to God. I will stop my wrong prophecies now.”
I said, “Thank you, you are a true blessing for this congregation.” (13)
- False prophecies may address controversial subjects, to control others, and as a source of answers to doctrinal questions. Prophecies that try to control or teach people (true prophecy at most sheds light on what is already written in the Bible) come from us or from the devil. It is good to note that God has given His congregation teachers and His word, so that His Gospel is spread. Prophecies are not the right tool for teaching.
- False prophecies often deal with devastation and destruction or tell the day Jesus will come back (even though Matt 24:36 clearly states that we cannot know the exact date). True prophecies can also deal with devastation and negative issues, but always address them with a loving attitude.
- Criticizing false prophets can be forbidden or punishable, even though 1 Cor , for example, teaches us to "let the other judge.”
- False prophecies may exalt the prophet himself or someone else, but not Jesus Christ, whereas true prophecy is about humility and gentleness, and exalts Jesus’ dominion and His love, not the person himself.
- False prophecies often refer to teachings that are not in the Bible. Many cults and heretical movements have their beginning in revelations of a "guru" or a false messiah or in guiding spirits and angels (Mormonism, etc.). It is characteristic for these movements that only the people in their group can be saved, meaning that they displace Jesus as the Savior. They also concentrate on the end of the world, and their members are totally submissive to the leader whom they believe to be the messiah. This leader may also make all the decisions concerning his followers’ career and private life. This goes completely against biblical leadership, which only includes encouragement, support, and being an example (1 Peter 5:3…).
Compulsive behavior is one characteristic of a false prophet. A person may be under a power so that he cannot control himself, even though 1 Cor and , among others, indicate otherwise (But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church; and let him speak to himself, and to God... And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets.). It is also possible that if someone’s prophecies come from a false source, the speaker may bring his message out with an unnatural and a high-pitched voice and his face can often be distorted.
Does not have the spirit of love. One of the clearest signs of a false prophecy is that it does not contain love or humility. All prophecies and actions should be in accordance with the fruits of the Spirit (love, joy, peace... , Gal 5:22) and the nature of Jesus, and be full of wisdom that comes from above (Jam 3:17: But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.) Prophecies that come from a false source are generally fanatic, full of hardness, hostile, accusing, and condemning.
The right prophecies can also warn us or reproach us for our sins and also be harsh sometimes, but if they come from God, the bottom line is always the love of God and the call to salvation. If this cannot be seen in a prophecy; it is certainly not from God and we ought to immediately reject it.
This is also addressed in the following text written by Steve Thompson. He says that criticism and anger, the emotional expressions of false prophets, do not belong in the true prophecies that are delivered in accordance with the example set by Jesus:
Some current models and teachings about prophetic people defend this kind of anger, but it is clear that God does not accept or defend it. We must obey those models that God has given us, in spite of our experiences. The prophets have not been called or created to be critical, harsh, and angry. These are not included in the prophetic gift. If we believe and teach this, we will create a new generation of harsh and angry prophets instead of people who are patient and forgiving just like Jesus. (14)
Furthermore, a real prophet is not hard towards hardened people, because it is never the will of God. As we look at the attitude of Jesus towards the generation of that time and Jerusalem, He wept over it (And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it, Saying, If you had known, even you, at least in this your day, the things which belong to your peace! but now they are hid from your eyes, Luke 19:41,42). Likewise, Paul did not curse his citizens but prayed to God for them, so that they might be saved (Rom 10:1: Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved.) It is the model given to us by God also now. A prophet who curses others but does not care for people is not sent by God. It is worthwhile to be careful with such persons:
”Nicky”, Dave said, “today God speaks again – audibly and clearly.”
But we all are so weary of hearing about judgment.
“Yes, there are also false prophets: mindless, immoral, half-mad, who have proclaimed themselves prophets and who also proclaim judgment”, Dave admitted. “But they have been sent by Satan to pervert the real message of sentries sent by God.” (15)
The fruit of prophecies. The fruits of false prophecies are always sour, the results always negative. True prophecies usually try to lead us into a closer relationship with God, to repentance, and toward an understanding of mercy. False prophecies do the opposite. They lead people into sin, divorce, negligence, fear, futility, oppression -- especially into the destruction of prayer and faith – all those deeds and emotions that always come from the devil.
A good example has been provided by Yonggi Cho in his book. He writes about a situation where a woman who was under the influence of a spirit (an evil spirit, compare to Acts ) told her predictions about others. The example demonstrates several characteristic features of a prophecy that comes from a false source:
Once a member of our congregation claimed that she had a miraculous gift of prophecy, and her prophecies actually came true several times.
Because of this, many weak believers were so dominated by her prophecies that they ignored their prayer life, reading the Bible, and the life of faith. These prophecies were their guide. They came in multitudes to this woman to hear the so-called message of God for their daily problems, as if they had asked advice from a fortune teller.
Because I was not able to immediately recognize whether this was from God or the devil, I observed the situation for a while. But when time passed, it became clear that the fruits of the woman’s work were not the fruits of the Holy Spirit. The attitude of her predictions was frivolous, lacking humility, love and peace like in a dove. Her words were cold, frightening, and destructive.
(...) I threw myself to the ground before God and I prayed that He would tell me the truth by giving me the gift of distinguishing between spirits. In a vision, He showed me that there was an evil spirit in the woman.
Because of this, I had the courage to put into effect disciplinary measures against this woman. The congregation was only just saved from a hurricane. Peace returned. (16)
Beware of enthusiasm and compulsive fulfilment of prophecies When people are seeking prophecies they want to hear positive messages about success, money, God’s blessings, finding a spouse, successful service work, etc. They want these things in their lives and they easily accept anything dealing with these matters they hear said through “prophecy”. This is what happens if a prophecy describes things that have happened to them in the past or that are currently happening to them in great detail.
This is a very dangerous setting: when a person has heard a prophecy he or she may start to realise it. People may be inspired by it or consider it as God’s law or God’s advice that cannot be questioned. In their enthusiasm – once having heard the prophecy – people may quit their jobs or do something else that is not included in God's plan for their lives. Or they may, obligated by the prophecy – “because God told me so” – go to work in an area for which they have not the necessary talent or to which God never summoned them. They may consider the prophecy and obedience to it more important than the internal understanding they used to have, which each Christian can experience in their relationship with God.
We should, therefore, be wary of being extremely enthusiastic about or compulsively fulfilling a prophecy. If we do so, we fail to take into account the fact that not all prophecies are from God, and that there may be false prophets within the congregation. The Scriptures repeatedly warn us about false prophets. We must keep in mind the warnings of Jesus and the Apostles.
- (Matt 7:15-17) Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.
16 You shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?
17 Even so every good tree brings forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree brings forth evil fruit.
- (Matt 24:11,24) And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many.
24 For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders; so that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.
- (2 Peter 2:1,2) But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privately shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction.
2 And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of.
- (Rev 2:20) Notwithstanding I have a few things against you, because you suffer that woman Jezebel, which calls herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed to idols.
- (1 John 4:1) Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.
- (2 Cor 11:13-15) For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ.
14 And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.
15 Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.
In his important book Thus Saith the Lord, John Bevere gave several examples of how the life of a person or an entire congregation veered off track when they held prophecies in too high regard. He gave examples (construction plans of congregations, service work, finding a spouse) that show how people lost all divine wisdom when they heard a prophecy and blindly started to make it realize without taking into account the fact that God's prophets might be wrong or that not all prophecies come from God.
The example below given by John Bevere is about how people may start realising things that are not included in God’s plan because of “prophecies”, and how the entire atmosphere within a congregation may change because of a false prophecy. It is possible when people hold the gift in too high regard, not taking into account the fact that prophecies may be from the wrong source.
After the meeting, the reverend hurriedly led me into his office. I knew we would have a serious conversation but I had no idea what he was about to say. He closed the door to his office, sat down and breathed a long sigh of relief.
(...) He said, “It all started five months ago when a renown prophet visited our congregation. As you know, we are currently doing a construction project. Well, this person stood in front of my congregation sharing some personal words and then said, ‘Thus speaks the Lord: 'You are building a church that is too small’.’ The prophet said that the Lord says we should build a church that is twice as large because He was about to do something big.”
(...) He continued, “And that's not all. The person knew that my glory group and I planned to make a CD, and he said that God wanted it to be published within six months. The group was overjoyed. In order to realise this, we had to buy twenty-five thousand dollars’ worth of recording equipment. It was truly not a wise move at the time, but I didn't want to oppose the will of God. So, we used the money and now we have the CD that has not brought us much joy.”
(...) Larger churches and popular CDs may first sound like ideas coming from God. Such prophecies make people inspired and offer them an appealing vision to base their campaign on. The only problem are the people surrounding the false prophecy who are subjected to distorted divine authority and will. Their eyes were averted from their previous direction and the leader who loyally worked among them, and they adopted the words of a person who cannot be called a devoted leader. People were unwillingly lead away from the authority of God. I wish I could say that this is the single available example of such activities, but I have unfortunately seen other similar cases, too. (17)
IMITATION MOVEMENTS. Since it is possible that there are different kinds of false prophets and false messiahs, about which Jesus warned us when He was on Earth (Matt 24:24: For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets...) it is also possible that different movements or cults are formed to follow these people. These, however, are not of God. Each group has unique features.
It is crucial to understand that these kinds of movements that spring up to follow false prophets and messiahs do exist, that some people may be led astray, and that they can be led away from the loving guidance of God if they are not careful. If you are a member of this kind of a cult or movement you should look into this and recognize that it cannot be from God. He wants to release everyone from relationships that are based upon lies.
The following characteristics, for example, are common to such cults and movements. Let’s study them and related Bible verses:
- We commonly find that unbiblical revelations from spirit guides or angels are given to the “guru” or leader of the movement. One example of such a leader is Joseph Smith, the founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
- Salvation is only possible if one joins the movement. Jehovah’s Witnesses have adopted this doctrine.
- No teachings from outside the movement are allowed, and there is a powerful mindset of “us versus them”. Group members may consider themselves to be the only true followers of God.
- Members are isolated from society and their families. The apostle Paul wrote:
- (1 Tim 5:8) But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he has denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.
- Groups may emphasize sexual behaviour or completely deny it.
- Groups may have very strict rules about what to eat and wear, and may teach legalism (that they can influence their own salvation through their own actions).
- Groups may follow an authoritarian leadership model. For example, in the Unification Church the leader Sun Myung Moon decided with whom his followers could marry. Such activity goes completely against true leadership. According to the Bible, we must respect our leaders but we are completely subservient only to God. A true shepherd is not a ruling lord but is a role model:
- (1 Peter 5:1-4) The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed:
2 Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind;
3 Neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being ensamples to the flock.
4 And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, you shall receive a crown of glory that fades not away.
- Members wait for the end of the world and follow prophecies that give exact dates. Group members believe that only they will survive the future trial. According to the Bible, nobody can know the exact moment when Jesus returns to earth (Matt 24:36).
- Leaving the movement is difficult. Members do not dare to leave because of fear.
- The group demands full commitment; people are expected to give all their time and money to the group, and to go nowhere else.
- The fruits of the leaders are not good. They are not examples of humility, love and sincerity. Jesus has taught us:
- (Matt 7:15-20) Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.
16 You shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?
17 Even so every good tree brings forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree brings forth evil fruit.
18 A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.
19 Every tree that brings not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.
20 Why by their fruits you shall know them.
One important area in guidance is testing the voices, messages and dreams that we may receive. Testing them is important because there are also other channels than God from which we can receive messages, meaning the devil and the evil spirits. We may base all our decisions on some voices without testing them. We may take them as the law even though they may come from the devil, may be against our better judgment, and may go against the word of God.
Below, we are going to look at the features specific to the messages from the devil and evil spirits. If you notice the next features in the messages you have received, they are certainly not from God:
"Special guidance." First of all, it is common to messages from evil spirits that they strengthen our egos and make us arrogant as to the "direct special guidance" we have received. They make us think that we are more advanced or on a higher spiritual level than others, that we commit no more sins (even though 1 John 1:8 teaches the opposite), that we are very close to God and are led in a very special way, that we have a different road ahead of us and we might be selected for a great and special task. Everything that will happen to us is great and special, and will never happen to others.
This is described in the next example. This person was in contact with UFOs and practiced automatic writing and the use of a pendulum, the result being that she was driven to "special guidance." She was freed later:
answer him, but I thought that naturally there is no
resemblance for he didn’t know God as I did – he hadn't been
"taught heavenly matters." I, however, had a direct
connection to God and knew what it was like "in the
(...) My heart was filled with a deep sense of peace. It was as if I alone was trusted with the loveliest secret of a wonderland, which soon would be exposed to me so that I could appreciate it in all of its glory.
(...) In those deep layers which hold hidden our lust for greatness, power, and ambition, I absorbed the sweet promises, according to which I wouldn’t only get to experience great and exciting things, I would also play an important and visible part in them. I would be in the main role of a great play admired by an attentive audience. I would be ridiculed and opposed, but also admired and worshipped – which would in any case be much more exciting than my current unnoticeable life. (18)
Crushing. In the previous example the voices and messages made the person boast. It is also possible that they can weaken our trust in God. These voices can accuse and crush a person so that he is driven into despair and under condemnation in his relationship with God because he’s afraid that he has committed an unforgivable sin. (Sometimes these voices can resemble our own internal voice and tell us things such as "you have committed an unforgivable sin,” or “you are special,” or “you are always wrong,” or “God doesn’t love you,” and so on.) The holiness of God might make people in this position terrified and slavishly fearful – too afraid to even look for the source of the voices. In a deep depression, a person might even submit to the judgment and criticism of the whole world because he doesn’t want to be disobedient to the voices he believes to come from God.
An example of this kind of a wrong fear is described in the following sentences describing the life of a well-known Finnish trance preacher, Helena Konttinen. If you experience a similar kind of fear you can be sure that it does not come from God:
The beginning of the summer was like this, and I was quite angry with God. Even in trance, the presence of the Savior didn't feel comforting, but made me afraid. I would rather have escaped it. (…)
19 days after these punishments, I still didn't have peace of conscience. I felt a flame of damnation, and the judgment of God frightened me." (…) (19)
To distinguish God’s work from that of the devil it is good to know that they are quite different. God never wants His relationship with His children to be crushing; He does not lead them into despair. Neither does a right experience of God’s holiness make His children terrified. Experiencing the One True God results in healthy worship, repentance, and a voluntary desire to surrender one's life to Him. He has not given His children the spirit of slavery and fear, but rather the Spirit of adoption, in which we can confidently cry "Abba, father!” He is also the God of comfort as the Bible repeatedly teaches:
- (Rom 8:15) For you have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but you have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.
- (2 Cor 1:3- 4) Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort;
4 Who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted of God.
Compulsive behavior. Messages that come from a false source can be crushing and may contain elements of force, capricious threats, punishment, or sudden hostility. These are, indeed, always from the devil. He tries to force and drive people into all kinds of actions that seldom lead anywhere and might show them in a bad light or spoil their testimony in the eyes of other people.
This includes things like public confessions, "testimonies" or "prophecies" that one might feel forced to tell others in order to be "freed." However, we must understand that to be true a confession of sins should never be forced; it should take place voluntarily and only be offered up to God or to those whom we have wronged. Therefore, it is wise to avoid public confessions that one feels compelled to make.
To show the difference, we can say that God never forces us into anything; He only calls us. We are not forced to do something against our will, even if we have been filled with the Holy Spirit. At all times we can control our speech and our behavior.
The next two very typical cases are good examples of guidance that comes from wrong sources. They have their beginning in the use of a pendulum and automatic writing, both of which often lead people to wrong guidance:
This touched Mrs. S to tears and she continued communicating through the pendulum method all night long for months, because she felt an irresistible compulsion to do so. The spirit started to give her commands also by using internal dictation. She had to count all the churches she knew, list the roles her opera singer husband had played, and so on. The spirit was always able to cast away any doubts she had. The effect of the spirit became more and more painful and had perverse, erotic forms, which appeared as compulsive daydreams that had always been strange to Mrs. S. At nights, she had to lie for hours in bed without moving or keep her hand in cold water until it ached. The voices increased; occasionally she had to listen to a whole choir of voices. When suicidal thoughts started to control her mind, she asked for help from a spiritualist movement, so that she could be freed from the spirit that had tormented her.
A civilized artist, Mrs Bn, experienced a total change of personality as a result of her experiences in automatic writing. She raged, continually massaged her temples, and screamed, “Lord help me, Lord help me.” She might kneel on the street and pray, or refuse eating, because she would go to hell if she ate after . (20)
Inconsistency. One characteristic of messages that come from evil spirits is inconsistency. Even though such messages might be very accurate (excluding the possibility of chance), they might also be very inconsistent, imperfect, and incorrect so that the things promised either do not come true or their fulfillment is continually delayed.
The changing nature of the messages is one of the most important signs that they are from the wrong source. Therefore, if there is even a single inconsistency in the message or if the promises do not come true, then we have strong reason to doubt that the message is coming from the Spirit of God. We are right to suspect that it is coming from misleading spirits.
The next example shows what this is all about. In the example the promises did not always come true and the person tried to suppress all doubts that she had, which is very common. However, she was freed from what she had been drawn into through automatic writing and UFOs:
That was all that was needed, for me to close my eyes from clear warnings. It was strange that the fulfillment of the promises was constantly delayed. Why did He, who was from the kingdom of love, torment me so and sometimes speak to me like an insulted little child? Why was He so indecisive and ignorant of simple things – isn't God omnipotent and omniscient? I ignored all the questions, for they wouldn't have endured critical inspection. My will suppressed them. (21)
Another thing worth noting is that we should never reject help from other people in the form of guidance. If a person is certain that he is never wrong and thinks that he is directly receiving special guidance, and that he is in communication with God, then he is in great danger of being led astray. He is proving his own fallibility and living in false confidence, and does not pay attention to other’s help that could lead him in the right direction.
Smith Wigglesworth described this in one of his books. He wrote about a woman who received contradictory information but did not test it. The woman also refused other people’s help because she believed she was receiving special guidance straight from God:
On this, the information was incorrect. There was no bank open at , and research showed that the bank in question wasn’t even in this town.
How did this message affect her? The young woman listened to it. She paid so much attention to it that she did not listen to anyone else.
I tell you the danger in this: If you cannot discuss it, you are wrong. If you are right and everyone else is wrong, but you do not tolerate any examination, or if your truth does not bear to be studied under daylight, you are wrong, no matter who you are! You will be saved from many troubles if you listen to what others say. Do not say, "Naturally I know. I KNOW that I am right.” (22)
Sudden suggestions and fruitless results. Other indications that guidance is coming from the devil include sudden suggestions and fruitless results. It is possible that a compelling, demanding, and persistent voice demands impulsive actions and sometimes even uses verses from the Bible to support them. (The voice of God is never like this; it is like the peaceful voice of a good friend and produces a sense of peace. For example, in the Old Testament, young Samuel first thought that the voice he heard was priest Eli, who took care of him.) The voice might, for example, advise you to leave your family or resign from your job, "…because Christ is coming back soon. Immediately resign from your job and start to live a life of faith!”
However, the Bible says, "But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he has denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel." (1 Tim 5:8) and "For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat." (2 Thess 3:10).
When a person is under the influence of these voices that come from the wrong source, he may drift into having curious habits: he can dress in worn-out clothes "because of humility or obedience", or deny himself food and sleep, or experience "birthing pains" for souls still lost, or suffer for others. Under some misdirected sense of obedience to God a person might be afraid to make even the smallest attempt to do simple things such as going to the shop or cleaning the carpets or deciding on which coat to put on. This kind of a person does not understand that God has given us common sense and freedom of choice in such things so that we can choose how to act and when.
Listening to wrong voices will only shipwreck the person and spoil his testimony in the eyes of others. A good example of wrong guidance is seen in the next case, in which a person was dealing with UFOs but was later freed from the wrong guidance:
I calmed down again and felt, if possible, even happier and more hopeful. Why would I be afraid, since someone was supervising every step I took!
Again and again I bent my head backwards and looked at the stars in the sky. Would they come? How? When? I was ready, I wanted to go up there – into the distance – at that moment it was my only desire. I had burnt all bridges behind me, at least almost all of them. I was ready to leave my work as a teacher, as I had been informed a couple of days earlier, and my belongings would be sold as soon as possible – my scooter I had already sold for a very low price. The money I received I would give to charity, as “greetings from angels." All according to the Scripture. But I wished that they would fetch me this evening and forget to return me back on Earth, for there was nothing here that could compare to the paradise of my sisters and brothers. (23)
We have already discussed some of the issues connected with guidance coming from the wrong source. We have mentioned that one can drift into trouble when we do not test voices, dreams and prophecies.
Another way we can drift into trouble and start receiving the wrong kind of guidance is by pursuing a state of mental or physical passivity. A person can drift under the influence of the wrong kinds of spirits if he pursues this mindless state and does not know how the real guidance of God takes place. We are going to look at the passive state of our mind and body in separate sections, and consider the consequences of passivity:
Passivity of mind. It is possible that a person can drift into the wrong kind of guidance by, for example, allowing his mind to become passive while seeking the baptism of the Holy Spirit or waiting for the Holy Spirit to speak to him. A person may think that he must empty his mind and suppress his conscience and be in a passive "condition of death" so the Holy Spirit can enter and effect change. Some have even stayed awake for days when they have pursued the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Some have fasted, or repeated a sentence thousands of times to get the gift of speaking in tongues until their mind has finally become confused, exhausted, and empty. They have thought that this kind of a vacuous condition and their "weakness" is a precondition for God to act. (If you get the gift of speaking in tongues in the above-mentioned way it is probably not God's gift but an imitation of it.)
However, it is good to understand that acting to create the previously described state of passiveness, turning inward, perpetuating inner silence, giving up one's self-consciousness and mind to create a “condition of death," (perhaps by misusing Gal 2:20) or wrongly becoming “weak” are never actions that follow the will of God. He does not want our passiveness or our empty mind, but wants us to constantly be in full strength; he wants our mind, soul and body to be active. We must be careful not to wear ourselves out by staying awake too long or fasting excessively. We must take good care of our body so that we do not burden it too much.
In addition, it is good to know that an empty mind and a passive physical state are among the most important prerequisites for evil spirits to function. The wrong kind of anointment always requires passivity. That is why mediums, spirit healers, and the users of a crystal ball, for example, try to achieve this state of passivity through Oriental meditation, breathing and concentration exercises, visualization or other comparable methods; they lead people to fall under the influence of evil spirits.
Passiveness of body. Another view is that a person must be like a passive machine so God can flow through him. A person must be passive so God can use him and affect him. People have thought that a person must give his body "to the Holy Spirit" and that God will then move him, affect his or her desires and even speak through him. It has also been thought that the Holy Spirit will come and occupy a person in such a way that he cannot control himself or know what to do.
However, this view is also wrong. God never displaces our personality or walks over us. Neither does He move people around like passive pawns in a chess game. Such activity is commonly found among, for example, mediums and automatic writers who are occupied by strange spirits who speak and write through them. God always wants a person’s soul and body to be fully functioning and in his own control. And if a person is filled with the Holy Spirit, it is not a matter of his being passive, but the person himself is wanting, loving, speaking, making decisions, testing everything, praying to God who is in Heaven, and speaking in tongues. Often when the Holy Spirit affects people, it is difficult to see what is from Him and what comes from the person himself.
This was well illustrated by the excellent examples of Jessie Penn-Lewis. She described how a person might easily sink into the wrong kind of passivity by waiting for God to start to move him and work in him:
Below, we will list some of the misconceptions and wrong conclusions that lead a believer into a passive state of mind:
(1) "Christ lives in me", so I no longer live myself.
(2) "Christ lives in me", meaning that I have lost my personality because Christ in person lives in me (a wrong conclusion from Gal ).
(3) "God acts in me", so I do not need to do anything, only surrender and obey (Phil ).
(4) "God wants for me", meaning that I cannot use my own will at all.
(5) "God alone is the judge", meaning that I cannot use my own judgment.
(6) "I have the mind of Christ", meaning that I cannot have any opinions of my own (1 Cor ).
(7) "God speaks to me", and so I cannot "think" or "make conclusions", only "obey" what He says.
(8) "I am waiting for God" and "I cannot go anywhere before He moves me”.
(9) "God reveals His will in a revelation to me", and so I do not need to decide or use my intelligence and conscience.
(10) "I have been crucified with Christ", therefore "I am dead," and I have to "practice" death, which I imagine to be the passiveness of my feelings and thoughts. (24)
What are the results of passivity? This kind of passivity always results in changes, which are not good in the long term. Whenever a person pursues mental and physical passivity, he is exposed to evil spirits who can bring about negative changes.
Such things as being prevented from praying and reading the Bible, forming a distorted view of God (often that He is threatening, as found in the lives of many trance preachers), falling into sin because of the command of voices, an increase of compulsive behavior, gaps in consciousness and memory, constant awareness of the spiritual world, distorted gifts and sensing things in one's body can be possible.
Jessie Penn-Lewis described these in her book "War on the Saints." She wrote about how evil spirits can give these problems and imitate the presence of God. These may be things like shivers, touches, “glow” in different parts of the body, experiencing cold, shudders, pains that seem to be like participating in the sufferings of Christ, or "a breath of air" that a person can deem the presence of God that he has longed for. These experiences, which can very easily be regarded as a sign of "God occupying the body," usually arise from being passive and praying to someone other than God and Christ who are in Heaven.
Another possible effect of passivity of the mind and body can be unnecessary and unexplainable suffering that leads nowhere. In addition to the evil spirits causing common anxiety, pressure, a heavy feeling, and a feeling of an iron band binding you, they can also cause unnecessary suffering that will only harden a person and will not lead him into a renewed relationship with God. These can be, for example, "vicarious suffering on behalf of others," and "participating in the sufferings of Christ", which are in fact only attacks from the spiritual world.
Other signs of these sorts of imposed sufferings are hostile harshness, fear of God, and feeling a slavish kind of fear that drives a person to do all kinds of things that go against his will and understanding. If you experience these kinds of things you should know that they are not from God and that you can be freed from them. This can be done by turning to Christ who is in Heaven and resisting the devil in the name of Jesus.
Jessie Penn-Lewis wrote about this. She wrote that this kind of suffering that comes from the evil spiritual world does not generally lead to anything good and does not result in spiritual growth:
Suffering caused by evil spirits can be distinguished from suffering that comes from the real following of Christ in that it does in no way result in fruit, victory or spiritual growth. Suffering caused by evil spirits is completely purposeless. On the other hand, God does not do anything without a clear goal. He does not enjoy causing suffering only because of suffering, but the devil does. Suffering caused by evil spirits is often sudden and hostile and the person has no inner assurance of the Spirit that his sufferings are from God. A sharp-eyed observer can easily recognize that they come from evil spirits, just as a skilful doctor can distinguish a physical illness from a mental one.
Suffering caused by evil spirits can be (1) spiritual, causing sudden pain or repulsive and painful "feelings" in one's spirit; (2) mental, such as a sudden lack of understanding, confusion, chaos, and terror, and intensely strong pains resembling pricks of a knife in the heart or other internal organs, or (3) physical, feeling pain in other parts of the body.
The origins of this kind of suffering can be traced back to the time when the believer, believing to have given his life completely to God, took the "way of the cross" and voluntarily accepted sufferings he believed to be given by God. He unconsciously made space for the enemy when he accepted sufferings, that he thought were being given by God; in fact they came from evil spirits. This is one of the misunderstandings that lead to God’s being perceived as a malicious God. Deceitful spirits do their best to raise a rebellion against God through their own actions. (25)
If we continue to list the things that can take us away from the guidance of God and lead us to subordinate ourselves to the wrong spirits, among them are guiding spirits that some people might have. Some people really think that we have an angel or guiding spirit who leads us by holding our hand and constantly teaching that we must obey without question or refusal. This kind of notion is very common in spiritualist and New Age circles, for example. They have other names for these guiding spirits such as inner advisor, the higher self, risen masters, and so forth.
However, it is good to understand that if a person experiences contact from this kind of guiding spirit, they are surely and clearly being deceived. If an angel or a guiding spirit constantly presses into someone’s life, it is always a spirit who wants to mislead people and lead them away from God. We should note that the same guiding spirits can also pretend to be the angels of God; they can appear to be Jesus or the Holy Spirit. A good illustration of this kind of activity is described in a book written by Bob Mumford. He described a person who mistakenly believed that an evil spirit was the Holy Spirit. He was freed from this delusion:
A young man came to me in the university where I was teaching and told me, “You know what, I am being led in a very miraculous way. There is always someone close to me. Whenever I ask something, I will immediately receive an answer.”
I immediately became suspicious and started to ask this young man questions. He was clearly dealing with the ‘familiar spirit’, about which the Bible also speaks. This quite simply means that he had formed a close relationship with a spirit from the supernatural world. As it often happens, this spirit presented himself as the Holy Spirit.
I thought about this and prayed to God that I could distinguish the spirits from one another. After two days, when the young man came to my office again, I bluntly asked him, “Have you ever been dealing with fortune telling or mind reading?”
A curious expression came to his eyes, like he had seen through me and he said, “How did you guess? Ever since I was a child, my mother has taken me to fortune tellers.”
(…) As I was speaking, I powerfully felt the presence of the Holy Spirit in the room and the man begun to understand. So I told him, “People use these wrong ways of guidance to find out hidden information, future events, secret wisdom, and supernatural powers. But do you understand that all of this and more can be found with the help of the Holy Spirit? Are you ready to give up this false guidance and follow the truthful and biblical guidance?”
He nodded and said that he wanted to be freed. We prayed for his release on the basis of the Covenant, which the blood of Jesus Christ has made possible for us. When he left my office, he was a new a person. Nowadays, he works for the Lord.” (26)
HOW DO THE ANGELS OF GOD ACT? It is good to understand the way God’s angels act so that we are not misled in this respect. There are definite features by which they can always be recognized. If these certain features that are listed below, are not seen, then the spirits in question are not angels serving God Almighty:
- Angels sent by God do not constantly guide people, and they do not deliver some new divine revelation, because we have already been given the Bible and heard the word of God.
heresies are begun by means of some angel or guiding spirit
appearing to people (cf. Gal 1:8: “But
though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel
to you than that which we have preached to you, let him be
accursed.”). Some examples of such activity
include various Japanese religious movements, and the Mormon
- Angels serving God always glorify Jesus and never raise anyone above Him or lower Him to the level of people. They confess His divinity and proclaim Him to be the Christ, the Messiah, who came in the flesh and is God’s one and only Son. We are taught in 1 John how to recognize a spirit’s source. If an angel does not confess Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, then immediately, completely reject it:
- (1 John 4:1-3) Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.
2 Hereby know you the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God:
3 And every spirit that confesses not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof you have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.
- God’s angelic servants always glorify Jesus Christ, God’s one and only Son in flesh. They do not want to attract any worship to themselves, but always direct worship to God. If angels have special names or provide very detailed descriptions about themselves, you can be certain that they are not angels sent by God. They never want attention for themselves. A good example of this is a description in the Revelation:
- (Rev 22:8-9) And I John saw these things, and heard them. And when I had heard and seen, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel which showed me these things.
9 Then said he to me, See you do it not: for I am your fellow servant, and of your brothers the prophets, and of them which keep the sayings of this book: worship God.
- Since the angels serving God never appear as guiding spirits, clearly they will never appear at the command or by the invitation of humans. Instead, they generally appear only during emergencies, and only when God sends them. We should therefore always turn to God who is in Heaven, not to angels; by turning to angels we might easily be mislead.
TURN TO GOD WHO IS IN HEAVEN! Falling under the influence of evil spirits very often is caused by a person’s not searching for and praying to God who is in Heaven, but instead turning toward some other source of guidance. Being falsely directed or concentrating on angelic or spirit guides was addressed above in the material about guiding spirits.
Misguidance can also result if a person does not approach with care his abandonment to God, or spiritual warfare, or pastoral care -- all of which might attract the wrong emphasis. We will, therefore, study these matters separately.
Giving oneself to God. A person giving himself totally to the Holy Spirit creates a dangerous environment. When a person gives himself to the "blind obedience" of the Holy Spirit, he may not stay alert for the possibility that other spirits pretending to be the Holy Spirit may try to appear. He might fall under the same delusion as those who are dealing with guiding spirits.
Persons giving themselves to God must understand that they surrender themselves to the God who is in Heaven and turn to Him. He has already sent us the Holy Spirit, who gives us the power to do this. But our mind and prayers should always be directed towards Christ and God who are in Heaven; otherwise we will be in danger of being misled.
Jessie Penn-Lewis addressed this. She wrote that an attitude that looks very biblical can actually be dangerous and bring about a perfect shipwreck if it is not understood how the guidance of God works:
When we take a look at church history and the different "heresies" and deceptions, we can see that these deceitful periods often start from a crisis where a person totally and unreservedly gives himself to the Holy Spirit. In doing this, he opens himself to the supernatural powers of the invisible world.
The danger comes from this: up until the crisis, the believer used his common sense to differentiate the right from the wrong and obeyed what he believed to be the will of God in principle, but after giving himself to the Holy Spirit started to obey an invisible force and blindly submitted himself and his reasoning to something he now believes to be from God. He has surrendered his will to doing the will of God, and has been captured by the powers of the invisible world. This kind of a believer naturally only wants to obey the powers of God, but does not understand that there are also other powers around and that all that is "supernatural" is not from God. They do not see that giving oneself totally to invisible powers without knowing how to distinguish the powers of God from the powers of Satan creates a great danger for an inexperienced believer.
It is curious that the attitude, which is very biblical, can be so terribly dangerous and result in a perfect shipwreck. (27)
Jessie Penn-Lewis also wrote about "waiting meetings" for the Holy Spirit. In these meetings, people wait for the Holy Spirit to appear in a very specific way. She wrote that this can also encourage evil spirits, because it gets people to pray and trust in the spirits who are around us instead of turning to God who is in Heaven. She also wrote that this kind of method is not in accordance with the word of God. This is because the Holy Spirit is a gift our Father has given us, and it can be received immediately from Christ. After God’s sending us the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, waiting is unnecessary and is not in accordance with His Word.
It is best to make sure that we do not start concentrating more on the Holy Spirit, miracles, or the gifts of the Holy Spirit than we concentrate on Christ and God who are in Heaven. The Holy Spirit never wants attention to be drawn to himself and never wants our worship. Instead, the Holy Spirit wants our attention to be always directed to Christ and God who are in Heaven. The Holy Spirit never speaks about himself or brings glory to himself, but always testifies about Christ and brings glory to Him, as the next verses demonstrate:
- (John 15:26) But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send to you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceeds from the Father, he shall testify of me
- (John -14) However, when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will show you things to come.
14 He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall show it to you.
Where is prayer directed to? It is also good to make sure that we direct our prayers to the right source. Prayers should always be directed to God who is in Heaven because He, His throne, and Christ are in Heaven. Any other kind of prayer is not genuine.
If someone starts to pray to a god somewhere around or in us – a god the person can always see as an internal vision – it will, sooner or later, become evident that the person is praying to evil spirits. This happens because we try to project the character of God into our innermost being or around us, and do not understand that the God to whom we pray is in Heaven on His throne. It is important to understand this difference.
Another fault is that the prayer is not directed straight to God who is in Heaven but to the person for whom one prays for. Sometimes even "Christian books" offer instruction on prayer and visualization through which one might be healed, by, for example, imagining that the healthy white cells or little men attack cancerous cells to destroy them. However, it should be noted that use of these methods is never required by God. Genuine prayer and God's answers to prayers always go through Heaven because God and Christ are in Heaven. The previous methods belong to the same area as hypnotism and magic, activities, in which people are misled by lying spirits.
The next Bible verses refer to this. They clearly teach us that we must pray to the Father (or Christ) in Heaven because He and His throne are there:
- (Matt 6:9) After this manner therefore pray you: Our Father which are in heaven, Hallowed be your name.
- (Rev 5:7-8) And he came and took the book out of the right hand of him that sat on the throne.
8 And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odors, which are the prayers of saints.
Concentrating on the devil. As stated above, a prayer can be directed to the wrong recipient. Another mistake is to concentrate more on the devil than on God. This may occur in spiritual warfare during which people speak more about the devil and to the devil than about God and to God. It can happen, for instance, in the following ways:
- Worship songs that emphasize them being a weapon against evil spirits and not concentrating on glorifying God.
- So-called "warfare tongues" that are aggressive and loud, "because Satan is especially afraid of them." By doing this one abandons the usual understanding of the verse, “For he that speaks in an unknown tongue speaks not to men, but to God: for no man understands him; however, in the spirit he speaks mysteries.” (1 Cor 14:2) That is prayer to God.
- Abandoning ordinary prayer is one outcome of spiritual warfare. All problems are seen as caused by Satan. It is also believed that salvation of people depends on Satan. That is why some people use prayer more as a weapon and to show authority; some people may spend hours talking to the devil.
By doing this, one abandons the conventions of prayer and stops pleading for help from God; prayer takes on a whole other form, and the focus is placed more on the enemy than on God.
- One outcome of spiritual warfare is that it characterizes the enemy as being huge and threatening while God is seen as being miniscule and helpless, or as having difficulties in keeping the enemy under control. Even though this kind of spiritual warfare might contain praise and even laughter (meetings in which Satan is “laughed out”), it can only reinforce the image of a great enemy and small God, because faith has been focused upon Satan and the evil spirits. It is only when people are freed from this kind of wrong warfare that the situation can improve.
Therefore, we should understand that the above-mentioned warfare is not God’s will for anyone’s life. He does not want us to concentrate on the enemy or constantly think about him; He wants us to direct our attention to Himself. Many great soul winners in the world have not focused on the devil, but have instead prayed to God, spent time with Him, and acted with the fullness of the Holy Spirit. That has been the secret of their power.
In large revivals people have not concentrated on the enemy but on God. When people prayed to God, He destroyed the forces of the enemy and people were saved. This should also be the main rule nowadays.
It is difficult to find in the Bible any instruction that we should spend hours every day talking to the enemy, or that we should bind the evil spirits above cities. At least, Jesus and the Apostles did not teach anything like that. Instead, Jesus advised us to pray to the Father in Heaven (Matt 6:9). Paul also prayed to God for the salvation of people:
- (Matt ) Pray you therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth laborers into his harvest.
Brothers, my heart’s desire and
prayer to God for
- (Ezra 8:23) So we fasted and sought our God for this: and he was entreated of us.
- (Acts 12:5) Peter therefore was kept in prison: but prayer was made without ceasing of the church to God for him.
Another thing worth noting is that if we start to fight for evil spirits by ourselves, if we end up in a one man war against them or if we become arrogant towards them (for example, 2 Peter ,11 and Jude 8,9 warn about slandering the spirits), the shelter that we would otherwise possess will disappear. God wants to protect us from all evil but if we wander into the wrong areas or stick our noses into things that do not belong to us, this protection will disappear. The result can only be anxiety and depression. These evil powers should, therefore, be resisted only when God indicates their presence and when it is in His plan. As we are instructed in Eph 6:13: "Wherefore take unto you the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.” So it is not necessary even every day. In any other instances, it is not worth our while to pay any attention to them.
The next excerpt from a book by Judson Cornwall explains what this is all about. He wrote that paying too much attention to evil spirits only increased their effect. But when people concentrated on God the situation immediately improved:
I regret to
remember my life some time ago when I was a preacher in a
(…) But the Lord said, "You do not lead your people to worship me before you lead them to worship the evil spirits.”
"Oh no Lord,” I shouted, ”Let it be far from me that I would bend my knee to any demons or say anything that would lead the congregation into such worship.”
He continued, "In every meeting you stand before your people and ask them to bow their heads before the demons present and to close their eyes because of respect for them. And then you start to speak to evil spirits. They take it as worship. Evil spirits from near and far come to your meetings because they have heard that they will be worshipped if they come.”
You can imagine how this broke my heart. In terror, I thought that I had led saints to worshipping demons. After crying and repenting I asked the Lord what I should do.
He said, "Do not pay any attention to the presence of evil spirits. Praise and worship me. You are my people; this house has been dedicated to serving me. Concentrate on praising me and I will take care of the evil spirits."
(…) Since that day, and until I left the congregation, we never publicly admitted the presence of the evil spirits. We started each meeting with praise and the Lord Jesus broke all possible obstacles. When the evil spirits noticed that we no longer worshipped them or paid any attention to them, they left. Nor did they return. The answer to the cleanliness of worship is the same now as it was in the days of Moses. (…) (28)
Pastoral care. All of the above-mentioned problems can sometimes be detected during pastoral counseling sessions. Sometimes someone can explain that all problems, temptations, sins, depression, and difficulties are caused by evil spirits. People sometimes casually tell others that they harbor an evil spirit within themselves, or that evil spirits are always the cause of their illnesses and problems. Some people have been greatly frightened (the fear of evil spirits), or despaired for their lives. Some have even had to go to the hospital as a result of such exaggerated statements.
However, it is good to understand that most of our problems come simply from our own flesh and heart, not from the influence of any evil spirits. Being possessed by an evil spirit so that it controls and owns a person is quite rare; if we live in faith and do not keep our heart hardened, we cannot be possessed by evil spirits. It is more common that a person experiences disturbances from the devil, but it takes place outside the person. It is similar to what Jesus experienced in the desert (Matt 4:1-11).
Many verses in the Bible teach us about the actions that arise from our sinful nature. It is good to note that one must repent our actions; they cannot be driven out:
- (Mark -23) And he said, That which comes out of the man, that defiles the man.
21 For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders,
22 Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness:
23 All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.
- (Gal 5:19-21) Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness,
20 Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, jealousies, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies,
21 Contentions, murders, drunkenness, revelings, and such
like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told
you in time past, that they which do such things shall not
As to the possibility of evil spirits being the cause of our problems, it is important that we do not concentrate too much on the spirits or driving them out.
Instead, what is more important is to determine whether or not the person himself is ready for repentance and willing to give up his sins – whether he feels a godly sorrow. If a person really feels godly sorrow and genuinely wants to repent for his sins, driving out demons may not be needed at all. They will disappear because the ground has been taken away from under them.
It is more important to first repair our relationship with God and see to it that we are ready to repent. (The most common signs of trouble are probably bitterness and refusing to forgive, self-hatred, passivity, following occult practices, and so on.) Repairing our relationship with God will make most of these problems disappear. Even the Apostles always first spoke about repentance and advised that people should have a change of mind regarding sin. This was always the first thing they spoke about:
- (Mark ) And they went out, and preached that men should repent.
- (Acts ) Repent you therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord.
- (1 John 1:9) If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
One important thing about guidance is that we wouldn't seek it from the wrong sources. Many people may seek guidance from spirits that are not from God but belong to the kingdom of darkness. Generally, the hope of something better, finding a spouse, or some similar desire may drive people into these areas.
The wrong source of guidance is seen in things like
- Fortune telling from cards or palm-reading;
- Visits to a fortune teller or a clairvoyant;
- Psychometrics is the act of predicting and passing information through physical objects or belongings.
- Predictions made while looking into a mirror or a crystal ball;
- Using a ouija board to communicate with the spirit world; commonly used in spiritualism. Many well-known mediums have started with ouija boards.
- A pendulum and a divining rod are also methods that have led people astray. People may have regarded them as normal scientific methods thinking that they have nothing to do with the powers of darkness. They have been commonly used, especially in searching for water, fortune telling, searching for lost people or determining medical care.
If you have been involved in either of these methods (pendulum or divining rod), it is good for you to understand that they are not neutral. Everything used in spiritualism or other activity that answers questions by means of movement – whether pendulum, divining rod or ouija board -- is always from the devil and not from God.
Using these methods does not lead to God’s guidance; they will only mislead you. They can bind a person spiritually and lead his life into a shipwreck, which is a common end to involvement in spiritualism. In his book Between Christ and Satan Kurt Koch shared several examples of how these practices have negatively impacted people's spiritual life.
example provided by Ingerlise Provstgaard describes similar
activity. In her book Kauko-ohjattu [Med
Based on my own experiences and observations of other people, I am convinced that everything that is based on the pendulum principle belongs to occultism and comes from the darkness. These might be a pendulum defining diseases or giving instructions on their treatment, a willow branch showing the place of a well, or a steel wire predicting ground radiation or veins of water or any such thing that gives answers to questions through movement, not forgetting the glass above a circle of letters.
They do answer the question, but the answers come from evil spirits. From liars and seducers.
That is why I have never been able to be happy about people’s stories of getting meaning to their lives or health after having visited occultist supermarkets. How could I be happy about God’s enemy giving meaning to their lives when I believe that his only purpose is to steal their life? How could I be happy about God’s enemy giving them a diagnosis and told what sort of treatment they should get, when I am convinced that he only waits for the day when he can give them the bill. He does not do anything for free. He wants to own their souls – it is his goal.”
Seeking predictions from dark sources can also cause emotional injury: depression and despair about the future can result, especially if the person sees parts of the predictions coming true. A prediction may become a curse that deeply affects a person, changes the direction of his life, and heavily burdens his mind. Many have fallen into self-realizing the predictions they’ve received, meaning that they themselves have started to make the predictions come true.
If you are bound by these predictions that come from demonic or satanic sources, you can be freed. When you give your life to Jesus Christ and confess this sin to God, you will be freed. As a believer born again in Christ, you can also command -- in the name of Jesus -- the evil powers that are trying to direct your life to leave; they must do so.
You should also take into consideration the next verses, which teach us about guidance from God. When you have given your life to Him, you are under His guidance and not under the influence of dark forces or their predictions. Trust the truth in the next verses; do not doubt them:
- (Ps 37:5) Commit your way to the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.
- (Ps 55:22) Cast your burden on the LORD, and he shall sustain you: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved.
- (Jer 31:9)
They shall come with weeping,
and with supplications will I lead them: I will cause
them to walk by the rivers of waters in a straight way,
wherein they shall not stumble: for I am a father to
- (Phil 1:6) Being confident of this very thing, that he which has begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:
The idea to write this chapter arose when reading a book called Jumalan kenraalit by Roberts Liardon. It is an interesting book about the biographies of such persons as John Alexander Dowie, Maria Woodworth-Etter, Evan Roberts, Charles F. Parham, William J. Seymour, John G. Lake, Smith Wigglesworth, Aimee Semple McPherson, Kathryn Kuhlman, William Branham, Jack Coe and A.A. Allen. It presents their strengths and shortcomings, teachings, and the miracles that took place through them.
An interesting and educational activity is to read these and other biographies and learn about their attitudes towards criticism and persecution, how they responded to success and great victories, and whether they believed anyone else was as anointed as them. Often these are the areas in which we are weakest:
”Try to be approved by God, not by people”, he answered as he walked back to the lines. Before going away he turned and by smiling a little he gave the last piece of advice, “And do not follow me”.
In this first multitude I also saw many other men and women of God, both from my own time and history. I stopped to talk with many others. I was shocked over and over again about the fact that so many whom I thought to be in the highest positions had the lowest status in the kingdom. Many had the same story – all of them had fallen into the deadly sin of pride after their great victories, or they had fallen into envy when others were as anointed as them. Yet others had fallen into lust at the end of their life or into bitterness or given up, and they had to be taken out before they crossed the border of damnation. They all warned me about the same issue: the higher the spiritual authority in which you live, the farther you can fall if you do not have love and humility. (29)
Praises and criticism. Kenneth E. Hagin presented in his book Kuinka kasvaa hengellisesti (Growing Up, Spiritually) those features that are connected with spiritual childhood and adulthood. With childhood he associated such issues as unnecessarily speaking about oneself and unessential matters, and talking about faults and failings of absent persons. He claimed that these kinds of things indicate that a person has not yet grown in his spiritual life. He associated an interesting feature with adulthood, however: the ability to ignore praises and criticism. He says: “Paul had growth in grace to the extent that his only judge was the Lord. He was not impressed by the opinions of others and neither did he take care about what people thought about him. He was not bound by anyone. This was not unspiritual independence but holy dignity. The law of love guided Paul. He did not become proud easily and neither did he easily become irritated or angry (…) Immature believers are easily hurt and easily become proud. If they are criticized or if they believe in their minds that they are criticised, they can easily become restless, irritable and feel self-pity. On the other hand, if they are valued and they receive attention, they can easily become proud and feel important.” (p. 37).
The statement above is probably true for most of us. After all, very few can bear continuous praise, let alone criticism, if it continues for years. This may cause a person to flaunt himself due to his special status or to give up and turn bitter. Both reactions are possible, because most people are highly dependent upon the opinions of others.
Good pieces of advice in this area are the next words written by Paul. He described his own spiritual life but also adressed real humility, which considers others better than ourselves. If a person forgets this and becomes too wrapped up in himself or in the opinions of others, then he is in grave danger of going astray.
- (1 Cor 4:3) But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man’s judgment: yes, I judge not my own self.
- (Phil 2:3) Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.
This happened to Evan Roberts when he forgot to rest. In the beginning of the revival he slept only two or three hours a night and ate very little. When this had been going on for some time, Evan Roberts burned out and was forced to stop his work. He did not remember that we must obey the laws prescribed by God so that we are able to work. We cannot go against these laws for long.
Thus, taking care of one’s body and health is necessary. As important as fasting, prayer and spiritual work are, they should not override sleep and resting. We must be strong spiritually, mentally and physically. Only then will the work be better:
- (Exo ,18) And Moses’ father-in-law said to him, The thing that you do is not good.
18 You will surely wear away, both you, and this people that is with you: for this thing is too heavy for you; you are not able to perform it yourself alone.
- (Luke 8:22,23) Now it came to pass on a certain day, that he went into a ship with his disciples: and he said to them, Let us go over to the other side of the lake. And they launched forth.
23 But as they sailed he fell asleep: and there came down a storm of wind on the lake; and they were filled with water, and were in jeopardy.
Brother Yun describes his troubles with prioritizing matters in his book Taivaallinen mies (The Heavenly Man):
I think that my second period of captivity was a turning point in our marriage. The Lord warned me that if I did not repent and change the order of importance in my life, I would lose my family. I changed my habits and I have never regretted it. (…) I started to put my love of God first, my love of my family second and my love of the work of the Lord third. (…)
I taught that the congregation should not succumb to the plot of the Pharaoh where he tried to persuade Moses and Aaron to leave their wives and children behind as they went to serve God (Exo 10:10-11). I encouraged leaders to take their family along to do the work of the Lord and even take their wives and children with them whenever possible. I stressed the point that even the apostles had the same problem and therefore Paul asked, “Have we not power to lead about a sister, a wife, as well as other apostles, and as the brothers of the Lord, and Cephas?” (1 Cor 9:5) (30)
The next verses also refer to the same subject. They indicate that we must reserve time for our beloved family and take care of them in order to have the right foundation for our spiritual work. Naturally, we must also take care of our social duties:
- (1 Tim 5:8) But if any provide not for his own, and especially for those of his own house, he has denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.
- (1 Tim 3:2-5) A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;
3 Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous;
4 One that rules well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity;
5 For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?
- (Eph 5:25) Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;
One of the most interesting Christian biographies is that of John Alexander Dowie. His biography reveals how a person can stray from God’s plan for our lives (a similar case is the life of William Branham). He was obviously a servant of God who led thousands of people to receive salvation and healing; but in the latter part of his life Dowie’s activities were not so focused on serving the will of God. He strayed from the path.
Building an earthly kingdom. One of the most obvious mistakes made by Dowie was that he did not stick with his original calling. One example of this is the city of Zion, which he began to build in the latter part of his life. He began to build an earthly kingdom instead of concentrating on his original calling: salvation and healing. Before that, he was for a brief period of time active in politics.
Political and construction activities are not themselves wrong. It is good that there exist politicians who have Christian values and who address issues from a Christian perspective. It is also good that meeting places and buildings meant for spiritual use are built as long as such construction fits God’s plan and purpose and is not too expensive. In many cases, though, such buildings have regrettably become the most important subject while the most important need – to serve the people -- has been forgotten.
Dowie’s mistake was that when he began to build an earthly kingdom, his spiritual work died down. He did not remember that we have been called to spread the Gospel, not to found the kingdom of God on the Earth too early. Jesus gave an order to go into all the world (Mark 16:15), not to build political systems and cities, in which Dowie was involved. He and many other workers of the Gospel have forgotten this, and it has been their fate.
illusions about himself.
made by Dowie did not end with his attempt to build an
earthly kingdom. In addition to the building, he began to
imagine that he was Elijah. This took place when some people
talked to him about the subject. He dismissed the idea at
first, just as he was supposed to do, but then it stuck in
his mind and developed further until he finally accepted it,
received it and proclaimed it truth. Later on he also
proclaimed himself as the first apostle, which is a perfect
example of strayed thinking. A similar thing happened to
William Branham, who decades later also imagined that he was
Elijah and the first angel of the church in
Similarities between these two men, especially during the latter part of their lives, are obvious. Their experiences illustrate the truth in Niilo Yli-Vainio’s statement that it is easier for a person to bear winning in the lottery than being used by God: “This is why many become impossible and many fall…” (Mauno Saari, Saarnaaja, p. 273).
Criticizing others. One of Dowie’s faults in the latter part of his life was that he began to criticize other servants of God. He began to attack them and his sermons became mere criticisms of his enemies. He was especially hostile towards Maria Woodworth-Etter, through whom thousands of people had been saved and healed. He preached against Etter whenever he had the opportunity, even though he had supported her before and said that her actions were from God.
There are probably three reasons for Dowie’s behaviour and his criticism of others, a pattern of behaviour into which many others have lapsed.
Jealousy is probably one reason why some begin to criticize others. It is difficult for them to accept that others are as anointed as they are, and so they begin to look for faults in them. They do not understand that spiritual work should be teamwork and not competition with others. If we do not remember that we are on the same side, on God’s team, and instead begin to compete to gain prestige, then we will stray from our real calling. At the same time we lose our position in eternity. We should also remember what Jesus said about this issue. The greatest one is not he who attracts the largest crowds, but he who serves others:
- (Matt 23:11) But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant.
12 And whoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.
The wrong gift of distinguishing between spirits is the second reason why some begin criticizing others. Here, a person may sincerely think that some actions are not from God. He can deem himself ‘perceptive’, even though he is in fact overpowered by such blindness that he cannot see the work of God in others. He cannot see what God does to help other people, but he sees only their faults, not what is right.
We should indeed take into account the fact that nobody fully understands, and that anyone can make a mistake in spiritual evaluation. When we were saved, we certainly did not receive perfect knowledge regarding every issue. The apostle James also said: “For in many things we offend all” (James 3:2) and this is certainly true. In some and several evaluations we can, naturally, be right, but if someone thinks that he is always right, it is the first huge mistake. We will not receive that kind of understanding until in heaven.
The lack of
simply a lack of love. The atmosphere towards those who
think outside the box and towards official Christianity is
always critical and judgmental in places where there is a
lack of love. In these cases, attention is paid to
unessential issues and differences between people, but
appreciation of people is forgotten. William J. Seymour from
the revival of
The next quote refers to the same subject. It indicates how we may fight for some service work but forget and reject the people that God has sent to us. We do not love our fellowmen but our own service work and the satisfaction we get from it. This danger is very real; we may have the wrong order of importance:
When he spoke, his words hit me deep. I was also guilty of everything he mentioned. I remembered many young men and women whom I had swept away thinking that they were not important enough to take my time. I desperately wanted to return back and bring them together! I began to grieve so heavily that it was worse than the feeling I had when I understood I had wasted time. I had wasted people! Now many of them were prisoners of the enemy, since they had been wounded and been taken prisoners during the fight on the mountain. This whole fight was about people, and still people were often deemed as the most unimportant. We fight more for truths than for people to whom they are given. We fight for some service work but at the same time we tread on the people who are in it.
‘And many people deem me a spiritual leader! I am really the least of God’s people’, I thought aloud. (32)
1. Timothy M. Warner, (Spiritual Warware) Taistelurukous, p. 124
3. Tapani Suonto: Valmistu Jumalan käyttöön, p. 127,128
4. John Bevere: Näinkö sanoo Herra? (Thus saith the Lord?), p. 206,207
5. Bill Hybels: Vain muutama askel (Just Walk Across the Room), p. 148, 149
6. Martin Ski: "T.B. Barratt - helluntaiapostoli", p. 192
7. John Bevere: Kunnioitus palkitaan (Honors’s Reward), p. 80
9. Donald Gee, Hengen lahjoista, p. 56
10. Steve Thompson, (YOU MAY ALL PROPHESY) Tunnista Jumalan ääni, p. 95
11. Kenneth Hagin: Miten vaellat Jumalan Hengen johdatuksessa (How You Can Be Led By The Spirit Of God), p. 103
12. Ritva ja Kristian Sand: Löydä elämäntehtäväsi, p. 128
13. Kenneth Hagin: Miten vaellat Jumalan Hengen johdatuksessa (How You Can Be Led By The Spirit Of God), p. 105,106
14. Steve Thompson, (YOU MAY ALL PROPHESY) Tunnista Jumalan ääni, p. 126
15. Nicky Cruz: David Wilkersonin viimeinen varoitus, p.115
16. Yonggi Cho, Pyhä Henki ja sinä, p. 124
17. John Bevere: Näinkö sanoo Herra? (Thus Saith the Lord?), p 156-160
18. Ingerlise Provstgaard, (Med fort hånd) Kauko-ohjattu, p. 13,16,58
19. K.K. Sa
20. Irma Weisen, Vieraita unen takaa, p. 111,116
21. Ingerlise Provstgaard, (Med fort hånd) Kauko-ohjattu, p. 58,59
22. Smith Wigglesworth, (CRY OF THE SPIRIT) Hengen huuto, p. 55
23. Ingerlise Provstgaard, (Med fort hånd) Kauko-ohjattu, p. 16
26. Bob Mumford, (TAKE ANOTHER LOOK AT GUIDANCE) Suunnitelma sinua varten, p. 17,18
28. Judson Cornwall, (LET US PRAISE) On aika ylistää, p. 74-76
30. Veli Yun and Paul Hattaway: Taivaallinen mies (THE HEAVENLY MAN), p.196,197
31. Apostolic Faith, January 1907 (citation from the book of Roberts Liardon: “Jumalan kenraalit”, p. 148)
Jesus is the way, the truth and the life
Grap to eternal life!