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How can one identify whether a teaching, guidance or experience is of God or a lying spirit? Missteps should be avoided

 

 

Foreword

 

We can see in the Bible that there were a number of problems during the times of the first congregation. Even though they were very active and God was influencing them, they faced many troubles; the Bible tells us about them. . There were false brothers and false apostles, legalism, as well as disputes, envy and sects in the Corinth congregation. If we think congregations’ early days were trouble-free we are wrong.

   We can also make similar or different mistakes in modern congregations. Next, we will study some of the slips we may make or which others may make. Let’s start with false spirits.

 

 

1. False spirits: Teachings
2. False spirits: Guidance
3. False spirits and experiences
 

 

 

1. False spirits: Teachings

 

 - (Eph 2:2) Wherein in time past you walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now works in the children of disobedience:

 

- (2 Cor 4:4) But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost:

4 In whom the god of this world has blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine to them.

 

- (2 Cor 11:13,14) 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.

 

Many slips are caused by false spirits. Honest souls may be deceived because they fail to realize that false spirits are imitating the work of God and providing false guidance. We fail to notice that nobody fully understands God, Satan and the principles of divine guidance right after having been born again. We may also be misled because we do not know how God works and because we fail to take seriously the warnings about the ruler of the kingdom of the air, false spirits and false prophets even though we learn those warnings from the Bible.

   Sometimes it is really difficult to see which activities are of God and which are not. Are we seeing the Holy Ghost of God or false spirits that work through men? This means that the message we are hearing may sound fully Christian: the information provided may be correct and biblical, but the underlying source of the message is a false spirit. Below are some examples of such false anointment. The examples describe two trance preachers and who referred to God, Jesus and the Holy Ghost and gave supernatural information. Nevertheless, the power behind their words was evil.

 

There was one person who could not read or write: sleep-preacher Ovaskainen. People went to listen to her in great numbers. The preaching spirit entered her every day around 5 p.m. I went to listen to find out whether the activity was of God or not. When I entered her home, the room was already full of people. The young sleep-preacher stood behind a table. When the clock struck five, the power entered her. She called the number of a hymn, and people started to sing. When the song was over, it looked like the girl browsed through a large Bible. She read the text. Her voice was unnatural, like that of an old priest. The beginning of the sermon was: “The soul is a white ball that the Holy Spirit carries on His palm to the throne of the Father.”

   At this point, God intervened. The Spirit of God spoke to me and told me to say the following to stop the spirit working in the girl: “Be silent, spirit, and become sober, woman!” The girl woke from her trance and stopped talking. She usually went on for around thirty minutes, and the people wondered why she stopped short this time. I conducted a normal meeting and the people went back to their homes. The girl has spoken only a couple of times after that. She has expressed relief of being rid of the spirit. She said that it bothered her. Thus, the Lord fulfilled His promise: ”they shall cast out devils” (Mark 16:17). ”These signs shall follow them that believe.” – Later on, the young women married a widower. (1)

 

A young sleep-preacher with curly hair appeared in Rautavaara. I heard about her and went to listen. (...) I went in and sat in the second or third pew. The prophet started to become ecstatic and started to bless unsaved people with eternal life. That is when I understood that this was not of God – after all, the Bible says: “Woe to those who call ungodly righteous”. To some, it said: “You are a murderer, you have driven out your foetus”. Then, the sleep-preacher went to an elderly gentleman, almost grabbed him by the hair and said, “You practitioner of the sin of homosexuality!” The elderly man left in shame, and was not born again – neither was the abortionist. At this point, I saw even clearer that the Spirit of God will not disgrace souls or give more reason for people to gossip.

   It is true that the Spirit of God is the spirit of knowledge but He is discreet, not disgraceful. When Peter talked on Whit Sunday, he did not name people's sins: nevertheless, the Holy Spirit caused the listening people to feel a prick in their heart so that they confessed their sins themselves. This is the work of the Holy Spirit. Acts 2:36-48. (2)

 

TEACHING

 

- (Rom 16:17,18) Now I beseech you, brothers, mark them which cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which you have learned; and avoid them.

18 For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.

 

- (1 Tim 1:3,4) As I sought you to abide still at Ephesus, when I went into Macedonia, that you might charge some that they teach no other doctrine,

4 Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions, rather than godly edifying which is in faith: so do.

 

- (Acts 20:29,30) For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock.

30 Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.

 

The activities of false spirits can be devoted to distorted teachings. Correct teaching and doctrine were no small matters in the early congregation – they were not concerns one could forget just because it felt convenient.; Instead, they were highly regarded concerns. Properly understanding the Gospel was a precondition for being saved. If people rejected the Gospel, they would not know what Jesus had done for them and how they could receive grace through Him. Thus, it was important to retain the purity of the Gospel in all preaching and teaching.

   Nevertheless, there were false teachers and false apostles in the first congregation. Already then, the congregation had to fight against teachers and lessons that turned people’s minds away from God and Jesus Christ. Furthermore, Jesus and the apostles prophesied that false prophets would come and people would be misguided after the apostles stopped their activities. Some of the prophecies are especially focused on the last days.

   The next quote is about this subject. It is part of a prophecy received by Stanley Frodsham in 1965, and it is about misguidance. Many people who misguide others can at first say the right things but at some point their message becomes distorted. At that point, it becomes apparent that they are not of us (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.). We see that they are being guided by a false spirit. This spirit is trying to turn people’s minds away from God and Jesus Christ.

 

“Beware of misguiding people. Do you think that a misguiding person has invented a new false doctrine and flaunts it? They speak words of righteousness and truth, and present themselves as apostles of light and preachers. This way, they win people's hearts over. Not until they have won people’s hearts over will they give their own teachings to misguide people. Then, people will say, ‘Didn’t he say so and so? And didn’t we check that his teachings were from Scripture? This makes him a righteous reverend. Even though this teaching is not in the Scripture, it must be correct because he spoke the truth before.’

   “Do not be deceived. This is what misguiding people do: they first win over your hearts and then give you their treacherous doctrine. At first, you will not be able to tell apart people who are of Me and who are not of Me. Keep searching for Me always so that you will be assured in your heart that these people are not of Me when they start teaching their treacherous doctrine. (...)

   “This is what a righteous person is: his life proves his teachings true and only truth parts his lips instead of a mixture of truth and lies. If there is a mixing of truth and lies, you will know that you are not dealing with a righteous worker. Misguiding people first speak the truth and then misguide you to cover their sins, which they love...” (3)

 

This means that one sign of the influence of false spirits is wrong instruction. They leave out something that the Bible teaches such as the incarnation of Jesus Christ, His divinity, the virgin birth, or resurrection; or they add something to the Bible’s contents. The rise of new false “doctrine” often begins when a person receives a revelation, or sees a vision or hears a voice; they create a new doctrine based on this experience. Many Christian cults and sects that deny important fundamental doctrine have come into being in this way.

 

Instruction about God can vary, as shown in the following examples:

 

People talk about many gods even though the Bible states that there is only one God:

 

- (1 Tim 1:17) Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.

 

- (Isaiah 45:21) Tell you, and bring them near; yes, let them take counsel together: who has declared this from ancient time? who has told it from that time?  have not I the LORD? and there is no God else beside me; a just God and a Savior; there is none beside me.

 

- (Isaiah 46:9) Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me,

 

People talk about the presence of divinity in everything (New Age, Hinduism) even though the Bible teaches us that God is separate from His creation and He created it:

 

- (Gen 1:1) In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

 

- (Rev 4:11) You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power: for you have created all things, and for your pleasure they are and were created.

 

- (Rev 10:5,6) And the angel which I saw stand on the sea and on the earth lifted up his hand to heaven,

6 And swore by him that lives for ever and ever, who created heaven, and the things that therein are, and the earth, and the things that therein are, and the sea, and the things which are therein, that there should be time no longer

 

- (Rev 14:7) Saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters.

 

People teach wrong information about the nature of God. They say that God is only love or only a harsh judge, even though the Bible states that He is both. He is a loving and merciful Father who wants all people to turn to Him and be saved, and Got is a righteous judge who does not forgive unrepentant people:

 

- (1 John 4:8) He that loves not knows not God; for God is love.

 

- (2 Cor 1:3) Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort

 

- (Rom 1:18) For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;

 

- (1 John 1:5) This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.

 

Lessons about Jesus. Many false doctrines describe “another Jesus” (2 Cor 11:4). They deny or distort important facts about Jesus. Here are some examples:

 

Many false teachers deny the fact that Jesus atoned for our sins and that we can be saved only through Him. Their false doctrines may include that there are many roads to salvation or that salvation is only possible for those who join their cult/sect (such as Jehovah’s Witnesses). This contradicts many verses in the Bible:

 

- (John 10:9) I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.

 

- (John 14:6) Jesus said to him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man comes to the Father, but by me.

 

- (Acts 4:11,12) This is the stone which was set at nothing of you builders, which is become the head of the corner.

12 Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.

 

Many false teachers try to deny Jesus’ divinity. They refer to a cosmic Christ, reaching the awareness of Christ, or teach that Jesus was only an ordinary man who was a prophet and teacher, rather than that Jesus was God and God’s only Son who came to earth from heaven. False teachers may say that He was only one among many masters and thereby demote Him. Such instruction fails to recognize the unique significance of Jesus, His divinity and that He came from the Father, from heaven.

 

- (John 8:23,24) And he said to them, You are from beneath; I am from above: you are of this world; I am not of this world.

24 I said therefore to you, that you shall die in your sins: for if you believe not that I am he, you shall die in your sins.

 

There are two most commonly found false lessons taught about the coming of Jesus: one lesson sets a specific date when He will arrive even though the Bible denies this, and the other lesson is that He has already arrived, in secret. This also goes against what Jesus Himself taught us.

 

- (Matt 24:27-30) 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.

25 Behold, I have told you before.

26 Why if they shall say to you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not.

27 For as the lightning comes out of the east, and shines even to the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.

28 For wherever the carcass is, there will the eagles be gathered together.

29 Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken:

30 And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.

 

- (Matt 24:36,37,42) But of that day and hour knows no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.

37 But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.

42 Watch therefore: for you know not what hour your Lord does come.

 

One false activity is accepting Jesus’ atonement and redemption but then claiming that these are not enough (Acts 15:1: And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brothers, and said, Except you be circumcised after the manner of Moses, you cannot be saved.) Teachers of this false doctrine say that we need to participate in certain rituals or fully surrender ourselves. If we fail to do this God will not give us His grace and acceptance.  Our salvation depends on our own internal change.

   The testimony below of a former member of the Unification Church describes such false teachings. People who were members of the Unification Church believed that the atonement of Jesus was incomplete and that people had to act in order to be saved. Finally, the former member understood that this is impossible: a person can be forgiven for all of his sins at once through Jesus’ atonement. This is the only way for all of us, because we are all sinners and imperfect.

 

A person joining the Unification Church had to give up everything and concede that the leader of the movement, Sun Myung Moon, was the new messiah. You had to be prepared to do anything and go anywhere the leaders told you.

   You had to give up all your belongings, all your time, everything you had to the movement. If you were married, you had to get a divorce. You were not allowed to remarry or even date until Moon himself had chosen your spouse and blessed the union.

   There were specific rules about dressing: everything was clearly defined, starting from how long your sideburns could be.

   All of this was aimed at saving you, atoning your sins, reaching spiritual perfection. You had to fast, pray, give, completely surrender yourself to the movement until death, if necessary. According to the Unification Church, all of this had to be done to complete Jesus’ unsuccessful atonement.

(...) I finally realised that people are so sinful, so completely unworthy in front of God that nobody can clean himself. Moon's answer to the question of sin was doing and suffering, whereas Jesus’ answer was love. He came to earth and died for the sins of the humankind, gave Himself as ransom. When I realised this, I practically started hopping in joy and asking myself whether this was really true!

   I had risked everything to save myself only to find that it was all in vain. Then comes somebody who has already done it all for me!

   This was a huge issue for a former member of the Unification Church. (4)

 

People sometimes teach information about the death of Jesus that is different from information found in the Bible. According to the so-called JDS doctrine, Jesus’ atonement was only realised in hell. According to JDS, when Jesus died He became sinful. Then he went to hell where he was made righteous and then He defeated Satan and his troops, thus solving the problem of sin. JDS switches the focus of salvation from the cross to hell.

   There are several pieces of evidence, however, that show Jesus' atonement and defeat of Satan took place on the cross, not in hell. While on the cross, He said, “It is finished. He promised the criminal entrance to paradise on that same day. The veil of the temple was ripped showing the way to God on the day when Jesus died, not three days later or something like that. There are also other verses found in the Bible that prove that atonement took place during the sacrifice of Jesus’ body on the cross, not in hell:

 

- (John 19:30) When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.

 

- (Luke 23:42,43) And he said to Jesus, Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom.

43 And Jesus said to him, Truly I say to you, To day shall you be with me in paradise.

 

- (Mark 15:37-39) And Jesus cried with a loud voice, and gave up the ghost.

38 And the veil of the temple was rent in two from the top to the bottom.

39 And when the centurion, which stood over against him, saw that he so cried out, and gave up the ghost, he said, Truly this man was the Son of God.

 

- (Hebr 10:19,20) Having therefore, brothers, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus,

20 By a new and living way, which he has consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh;

 

- (Hebr 2:14) For as much then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil;

 

- (Col 2:13,14) And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, has he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses;

14 Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;

 

- (Col 1:19-22) For it pleased the Father that in him should all fullness dwell;

20 And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things to himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.

21 And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now has he reconciled

22 In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and blameless and unreproveable in his sight:

 

- (Eph 2:15,16) Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of two one new man, so making peace;

16 And that he might reconcile both to God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby:

 

- (1 Cor 1:17) For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.

 

False teachers describe the nature of people differently from the way people are described in the Bible. False doctrine usually stresses the inner strength of people, or even the inner divinity in people: “There is something more to you and you should see that.” Such teachings are common in Hinduism and New Age religions. They deny that people are in fact sinners and corrupt by nature and that people need salvation from the outside, i.e. through the atonement of Jesus Christ.

   Understanding that we are sinners is the first step towards salvation. When we understand that and turn to God through Jesus Christ, we connect with the God in heaven and our sins will be forgiven. The following verses describe our original sin and our condition as sinners in front of God. Nobody is perfect; we need the salvation we can only get through Jesus Christ.

 

- (Rom 5:12) Why, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed on all men, for that all have sinned

 

- (1 John 1:10) If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

 

- (Rom 3:23,24) For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;

24 Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus

 

Instruction about life after death. The instruction of false spirits about life after death is different from the instruction we receive in the Bible. False doctrine ensures us that people can be saved after death, or denies damnation altogether. The Bible teaches, however, that we only have one life and we will be judged when it is over. Furthermore, the Bible teaches that if we did not receive Jesus Christ as our Saviour during our life on earth, we will end up in hell and be there forever; hell is not a place of "not being", it is a place where unrepentant sinners are punished.

 

- (Hebr 9:27) And as it is appointed to men once to die, but after this the judgment

 

- (Matt 8:11,12) And I say to you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven.

12 But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

 

- (Rev 20:12-15) And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.

13 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.

14 And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.

15 And whoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.

 

Morals. Legalistic teaching that includes a demanding and harsh god and focuses attention on how our own actions affect our salvation are also signs of false teaching. These activities do not clearly teach God’s grace through Jesus Christ.

   Another extreme and sign of the presence of false spirits is the rejection of biblical morality; followers lose their sense of right and wrong, and come to believe that evil is only an illusion. Such lessons are commonly found in Hinduism and New Age religions as well as in Christian cults. Followers may consider sinful behaviour – extramarital affairs and homosexuality, in particular – to be acceptable and reasonable as long as the people involved feel good about such behavior. Such instruction fails to separate good from evil (Isaiah 5:20 Woe to them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!). False teachers fail to teach that unrepentant sinners will be separated from God and finally end up in hell:

 

- (1 Cor 6:9,10) Know you not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God?  Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,

10 Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortionists, shall inherit the kingdom of God.

 

- (Rev 22:14,15) Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.

15 For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and fornicators, and murderers, and idolaters, and whoever loves and makes a lie.

 

- (Luke 13:1-5) There were present at that season some that told him of the Galilaeans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.

2 And Jesus answering said to them, Suppose you that these Galilaeans were sinners above all the Galilaeans, because they suffered such things?

3 I tell you, No: but, except you repent, you shall all likewise perish.

4 Or those eighteen, on whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them, think you that they were sinners above all men that dwelled in Jerusalem?

5 I tell you, No: but, except you repent, you shall all likewise perish.

 

Unlawfulness. Lack of morals is a common characteristic of groups following false spirits and teachers. Other common characteristics found in such groups are unlawfulness, anarchy and neglect of family relations. The Bible teaches a lot about these matters, however. The Bible teaches us to obey higher powers, adhere to laws and take care of one’s family; a person who fails to take care of his family has rejected his faith and is even worse than a person having no faith at all. The Bible also teaches that we must respect our king, our employer (1 Tim 6:1), our parents and the elders of our congregation (1 Tim 5:17). These are good guidelines. The only exception is a situation where a higher power asks someone to do something that the person knows is wrong. In such a case, the person must obey God rather than human beings (Acts 5:29). Fortunately, such situations only rarely occur.

 

- (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.

 

- (Pro 24:21,22) My son, fear you the LORD and the king: and meddle not with them that are given to change:

22 For their calamity shall rise suddenly; and who knows the ruin of them both?

 

- (1 Peter 2:13,14,17) Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme;

14 Or to governors, as to them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well.

17 Honor all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.

 

- (Ex 20:13) You shall not kill.

 

- (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.

 

A leader may not abuse his power. This is behavior found in many cults. A true shepherd in a congregation does not hunger for power or want to control people. Instead, a true shepherd wants to be an example to others and assist others in finding their place in spiritual service. If this is not the case, the shepherd is misled.

 

- (1 Peter 5:1-5) 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.

5 Likewise, you younger, submit yourselves to the elder. Yes, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resists the proud, and gives grace to the humble.

 

- (2 Cor 1:24) Not for that we have dominion over your faith, but are helpers of your joy: for by faith you stand.

 

The next example shows how people can be misled in activity that is biblical: leadership and respect are good but they must be held within the reasonable bounds God intended. We must use common sense to know where the boundaries are.

 

In my opinion, one movement that focused on people being disciples went awry in the congregation in the 1970s when the obedience to leaders became unbalanced. The members of the congregation asked the reverend if they could take a holiday, buy a car of a specific make, or buy something else expensive, or marry a specific person. I was not involved in the congregation at the time so I don’t know how far the problem spread but some people who were involved said that the activity finally became unbiblical. (5)

 

False lessons about success have lead many astray. People may have been told that if they turn to God, all their problems would be immediately solved: they would be healed, they would get money and they could get rid of all problems, suffering, shortages and financial difficulties by means of positive confession. They may have been told that if they were unable to do this, their faith was faulty.

   Such instruction makes lies of the Bible’s lessons and may create burdens in the same way as legalistic teaching. It is true that God may give us material blessings, cure our bodies and give us many good things. However, focusing only on material success is wrong. We must seek God – not only when we are receiving His blessings but also when we are not receiving any blessings.

   Many examples taken from the Bible and from real life show that people are not always freed from their problems. For example, Paul had to suffer a lot, lived in want, and starved (1 Cor 4:11-14, 2 Cor 11:26-30). The problems were not caused by Paul’s lack of faith; instead, God allowed these things in his life. As a result of these troubles Paul learned to live in any circumstances.

 

- (Phil 4:11-13) Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatever state I am, therewith to be content.

12 I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.

13 I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me.

 

Money or greed may be a stumbling block for many people. There is nothing wrong as such in having money and property; however, if we need a wonderful apartment, expensive cars, designer suits or a luxurious lifestyle we should ask where our treasure lies. This does not create a very positive image of us in the world, and it can easily show people that our treasure lies in this world only. The Bible says a lot about this:

 

- (Matt 19:21-23) Jesus said to him, If you will be perfect, go and sell that you have, and give to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.

22 But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.

23 Then said Jesus to his disciples, Truly I say to you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven.

 

- (Matt 6:19-21) Lay not up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust does corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:

20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust does corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:

21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

 

- (1 Tim 6:6-10) But godliness with contentment is great gain.

7 For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.

8 And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.

9 But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.

10 For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.

 

- (1 Tim 6: 17-19) Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not high minded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy;

18 That they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate;

19 Laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.

 

- (Rom 12:16) Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits.

 

 

2. False spirits: Guidance

 

False spirits may lead people astray in the area of guidance and offer false gifts which are reminiscent of the gifts of grace from God and which are difficult to tell apart from the real gifts. In this chapter, we will discuss some information about false spirits.

 

False spirits lead people to sin. When a person is under the influence of fall spirits, these spirits will lead him or her to demoralisation: the person will accept things that are wrong in the eyes of God. The Holy Spirit wants our lives to be pure but demons want the opposite. They try to lure people into rejecting their spouses “because they are not religious enough”, or deceive people into doing things that clearly go against the will of God:

 

I know married people, also Christians filled with the Spirit, who believe that God has led them to an extramarital affair. They were blinded by their love and longing, and claim that they prayed to God to lead them. At some point in their journey, they had to have listened to another voice. The Word of God is very clear and simple, and God never revises His principles. Adultery is a sin. God would never lead anybody to an act of sin. (6)

 

Many wrongful relationships have started during pastoral care: people of opposite sexes have confided in each other in a situation that does not involve other people. This has caused them to commit a sin. The Bible says, however, that as a general rule women who have marital problems should seek help from other women instead of men. If this is not possible, their discussions should take place in a room with other people present. This is what we should strive for.

 

- (Tit 2:1-5) But speak you the things which become sound doctrine:

2 That the aged men be sober, grave, temperate, sound in faith, in charity, in patience.

3 The aged women likewise, that they be in behavior as becomes holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things;

4 That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children,

5 To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.

 

False spirits inflate people’s ego. They make people think that they are especially gifted; that they live at a higher level and are more advanced than others, or that they have been chosen to do an important task that nobody else can do. They make people complacent so they think that they are closer to God than others. God does exactly the opposite: He helps us see that we are nothing. He wants us to have a healthy self-esteem but still hold others in higher regard (Phil 2:3: Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.). If a person stresses his or her own greatness and infallibility, he or she has been betrayed.

 

The misguiding spirits appeal to people’s pride. The saddest moments during my service to God have been those when a leader who was truly anointed by the Spirit and used by God has suddenly changed because of a misleading spirit. Suddenly, the person was no longer humble and he became proud: this deteriorated his service to God over time. (7)

 

The underlying cause of pride is usually the fact that the proud person has not experienced sufficient failures. When we experience failures and notice that we cannot do anything alone, we are in less danger of becoming proud. We know that if we experience success and major victories in our work, it is not because of our own merits but because of the blessing of God. We see our own limits and know that success does not depend solely on us.

  However, a young Christian who has not yet experienced failure or weakness is in greater danger when he or she succeeds. Such a young Christian is unable to deal with success in the right way and may become proud. This is why Paul warned us that a new convert is not a very good shepherd (1 Tim 3:6,7: Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.). The worst falls into sin have always taken place after a major victory:

 

By saying this, Wisdom dragged me on as if saving me from something. I looked back and saw that even though I had been at the wide plain of “Book of Galatians 2:20”, I had ended up at the very edge of the plain without even noticing. I had almost fallen down from the mountain. I looked Wisdom into the eyes again, and He said to me, very seriously, “When you think you are standing, make sure that you are not falling. You can fall from any plain in this life.”

   I thought about this for a long time. I had become careless because of the great victory we were about to achieve and because of the closeness of my brothers. It was nobler to fall because of an enemy raid than because of carelessness. (8)

 

Passivity is a state of mind that false spirits need in order to act. In order to work, they need people who become like an automaton through whom they can act. Good examples of this are psychographers (automatic writers) and mediums who may be in a trance and not even understand the messages they are mediating. To reach this trance state they usually practice passive meditation, empty their minds, do breathing/relaxation exercises or listen to mystical New Age music. In this way they reach a passive state in which their mind is empty and open to the activity of false spirits.

   God never wants us to empty our minds, suppress our awareness or become like an automaton existing in a passive death-like state, which God can use to “flow” through. This goes against the way God truly does things. He wants us to actively seek Him, keep our minds vigilant and be fully present in body and mind. He never replaces our personality, tramples on us or “takes over” our bodies in such a way that makes our own will and mind powerless. When a person is filled with the Holy Spirit, the person is not passive. Instead, the person him-/herself wants, loves God, talks, makes decisions, assesses things, prays to God in heaven or speaks in tongues. It is often difficult to see what is of the person and what is of the Holy Spirit.

 

Around six months after having been saved, Ron was asked to participate in a youth revivalist camp. He went and had a great weekend. It was a good meeting except for one thing: the teachings about the fullness of the Holy Spirit were wrong. At the end of the last evening, which was full of feelings, all those who wanted to accept the Holy Spirit were called forth. Ron naturally wanted this, and so he went to the altar to be prayed upon. Unfortunately, the people who came to the altar were asked to raise their hands, shake them to relax them, let go of all control, empty their minds and give their minds and bodies over to “the Holy Spirit”. They were told that if they did this, the Holy Spirit would be free to enter them and take full control. Ron was too new a Christian to see the fallacy of such teachings and so he tried to do as told.

   Ron told that when he tried to relax his arms and empty his mind from all thoughts, he suddenly felt someone grabbing his arms. Then he felt a jolt of power going down his arms all the way to his abdomen with such force that he was flung backwards. He felt like there was a ball of fire in his belly that spread to his chest. He started to speak in tongues. He was ecstatic and returned home from the camp, thinking he had been anointed by the Holy Spirit. Unfortunately, Ron had allowed a demon to enter him by emptying his mind and relinquishing the control of his body.

   Not long after the camp somebody gave Ron a book called “How to Hear When God Talks to You?” The book taught that a Christian had to empty his mind of all thoughts and silently wait for the Lord so that the Holy Spirit could talk. This is completely wrong, naturally, but Ron accepted it as the truth because this is how he started to speak in languages at the camp. After a little practice, Ron was soon able to empty his mind. He experienced several states of ecstasy, which he interpreted as the Lord being with him. Ron received three spiritual guides during these meditations. What do you think they called themselves? They called themselves “the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit”, naturally. What else would demonic spirit guides say they were when talking to a Christian! Ron did not understand that they were actually demonic spirit guides. He thought that the Lord was speaking to him. He held long conversations with “the Lord” and the spirits gave him numerous instructions. Ron should have understood that he was not actually listening to God because the spirits wanted to cause him to sin. They told Ron that he had a “special status” and they twisted the words of the Bible to allow all kinds of sins that completely went against the orders of God. (9)

 

Increasing compulsion shows that false spirits are in action. When a person is being driven by a force that forces him or her to do things that go against his or her basic nature, we are seeing the imposition of bad spirits at work. A compulsion might be to swear, or to commit murder or suicide. False spirits may also lure people (including Christians) into doing things that have no good consequences that put the person in a bad light and falsify the person’s testimony in the eyes of others. Such actions include forced public confessions, testimonies or “prophecies” that the person feels obliged to say aloud to be freed. However, a true confession is never forced; it should be voluntary and made only to God or to those people, the person has offended. Forced confessions made in public should be avoided.

   God acts differently from the behaviours described above. He never forces people to do anything. Instead, He invites people to join Him. If a person is filled with the Holy Spirit that person is not obliged to do anything against his or her will; the person can always control his or her behaviour and speech. Whenever we feel pressured or anxious we should reject the source of that anxiety in the name of Jesus Christ:

 

- (1 Peter 5:8,9) Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walks about, seeking whom he may devour:

9 Whom resist steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brothers that are in the world.

 

Obedience to voices. People may hear voices or suggestions that they think are coming from God. They fail to consider that there is another source from which messages may come: Satan and his evil servants. These may lead us astray if we are not vigilant. The following are characteristics of voices and some suggestions we might hear from evil spirits:

 

- They make people brag about the special, direct guidance they receive, about how they are more evolved than others, how they are very close to God or at a higher spiritual level.

 

- They may accuse, devastate or threaten people so that they become desperate and judged in their relationship with God, and they may fear that they have committed an unforgivable act of sin. The sanctity of God may be a source of terror and fear for a person in this state. Such fear prevents the person from studying the source of the voices.

   Instead, God is never impatient or angry with us, His children who sincerely want to follow Him. Jesus is a good shepherd and a perfect image of the Father:

 

- (John 10:11) I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd gives his life for the sheep.

 

- (Hebr 1:3) Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high:

 

- Voices may encourage people to do sinful acts such as have an extramarital affair, become homosexual or harm themselves or others close to them. These clearly show that it is Satan talking because Satan is a murderer (John 8:44) who has come to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10: The thief comes not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.). The voices may even quote Scripture to mislead people and cause them to do things that go against the will of God. We must always take into account everything the Bible says instead of single verses.

 

- Incongruity. Messages from the world of evil spirits may sometimes be very specific and planned. However, if the message seems incongruous in any way or if something that was promised does not happen, we should be alert because it is likely that we are dealing with a misguiding spirit.

 

- The voices may tempt, pressure or hurry a person into doing something before considering it: “Quit your job now,” “Start living on faith,” “Do this or do that now.” Taking such actions is always unprofitable, however.

 

- The voices try to debase people. They may lure a person into wearing worn out clothes “to show humility or obedience”, interfere with a person’s eating or sleeping habits, make the person feel “pains of birth” for souls or make the person “a substitute sufferer” for others. They may try to make the person fear making even the simplest decisions such as when to go to the grocery store, when to vacuum or which coat to wear, due to a strong desire to obey God. Such a person fails to understand that God gave us common sense and free choice in such matters. We can choose when to do them and how.

 

The devil can quote Scripture, talk about spiritual things and look like a very religious being.

   I talked with a woman who had been influenced by a false spirit. Voices told her to fast and pray, stay awake and wear long black dresses. They told her not to read newspapers or listen to music. She was influenced by major spiritual coercion. She had to see things in a new light to see that even “spiritual” guidance may come from the devil.

   We can distinguish the voice of God from that of the devil by the serenity we feel: God’s voice speaks of peace but a compelling voice comes from the devil or from the person’s own mind. God leads and the devil forces.

   A compelling voice says, “Resign now. Don’t wait until tomorrow. If you wait, you are not obedient.” If we follow such advise we will get in trouble. God does not speak that way, unless it is an emergency. (10)

 

- Advice from others. Usually, people receiving messages think that they are coming from God. They try to obey the voices – to be “obedient to God” – failing to suspect that they could be dealing with deception. They may reject the good advice of others because they have “a direct and special relationship with God”.

   Asking for advice from others is sometimes wise, however. God has given His congregations shepherds and teachers (Eph 4:11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers), who may have more experience and knowledge than us. Asking for advice from others is an act of humility and wisdom. If you are receiving messages, do not hesitate to ask others about their opinion.

 

There is another example from our immediate circle of acquaintances. It may help in freeing a person. There were girls who had the spirit but who were unaware of it. They were eager to turn to God. They were eager to follow Him. They started to follow the spirit, thinking that it was Jesus. They used to talk about their guidance. The people around them were startled and knew that the guidance was not of God after all. He does not lead people in this way. It was difficult to pinpoint the problem exactly, but it was clear that it was not Jesus.

   Finally, the situation escalated to a point where the girls’ guidance went more and more awry. Because of some mishaps, the elders of the congregation approached these girls. The elders, around nine men, agreed that some of the guidance of these girls was not of God. The girls were unable to see this because they were blinded. Their reason had been stolen from them.

   ... The girls had to walk this way, and finally they said something to the effect of “We are obedient to you because we chose to be”. In this situation, the girls could only hear the voice of Jesus. They sometimes heard what Jesus was saying, but at other times they were listening to another spirit. In any case, they allowed the men to drive out the spirit of fornication from them. When the spirit was gone, they could understand. It was like a veil was removed from their eyes. First, some of the girls understood, “Well, what you did was not of God.” Then another said, “Your actions were not of God either.” They first saw it in each other and finally they were able to see it in themselves. When the spirit had left, they got their sense back – when the spirit was in them, however, they were unable to understand that they were being betrayed. This is a common feature of spirits. (11) 

 

Wrong ideas about guidance may lead people towards false spirits. Especially vulnerable are people who give their entire heart to the Holy Spirit. This is because a person who gives him- or herself up to “blind obedience” to the Holy Spirit fails to see that there are also other spirits around that can pretend to be the Holy Spirit in order to lead us astray. They may be lost because they follow a spirit they think is the Holy Spirit, Jesus or an angel of God but that it is actually a false spirit.

   One thing about guidance we should understand is that if there is a spiritual guide or angel with us at all times, or if we always see into the world of spirits, then we are being deceived by the archfiend. God never leads us in this way. He may talk to us through His Holy Spirit but the constant presence of a guide – even if the guide says it is Jesus, an angel of God or the Holy Spirit – is always a sign of the presence of false spirits. Paul warns us about people who are taken by humility or worshipping of angels, or who brag about their visions. We are talking about the same thing here:

 

- (Col 2:18) Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he has not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind,

 

When we give ourselves to God we must understand that we are turning to the God in heaven. The Holy Spirit may provide us with the strength we need but our minds and prayers should always be directed to God and Jesus Christ in heaven; if this is not the case, then there is a danger of being led astray.

 

- (Matt 6:9) After this manner therefore pray you: Our Father which are in heaven, Hallowed be your name.

 

False spirits prevent prayer. If a person has difficulty praying or even becomes unconscious while praying, there are false spirits present and active. False spirits try to prevent people from genuinely praying. They also try to prevent people from reading and understanding the Bible. This is common among people who turn from occultism to God. False spirits may also cause people to pray to the wrong entity or in the wrong way. Below are some examples.

 

- People start to pray to a god in the atmosphere or inside them – a god they can always see as an inner vision. This will inevitably lead to praying to bad spirits.

 

- People may direct the prayers to the person for whom they are praying. Such a “prayer” is magic/hypnosis; it is a practice showing that people are being misguided by bad spirits. Genuine prayers are only directed to God and Jesus Christ in heaven.

 

- Visualisation is one way of being misled. This means that people create an image in their head and then talk to that image. They may visualize Jesus, for example, or may visualize a healing event such as healthy cells attacking and killing cancer cells. In both of these cases, the person is not praying to God in heaven and trusting His word. In fact, they are turning away from God. Any such activities – for example in inner healing – are not inspired by God. They lead people away from God and towards false spirits. We must always pray to God in heaven and trust His promises as recorded in the Bible. If we fail to do this, we are practicing magic.

 

- Devil-centeredness is also a danger. It means a person starting a spiritual war with the devil and forgetting about true prayer. It may include "warfare tongues," using praise as a weapon against the devil (focusing on the weapon-like quality instead of praising God) and spending hours talking with the enemy. Such war will cause the person to be filled with darkness because the approach is devil-centred instead of God-centred. It is alright to resist the devil when the devil is around, but resisting is not necessary at other times. Devil-centeredness will always lead to worshipping false gods because it focuses too much on the enemy. Michael Howard has received great answers to sustainable prayers. He teaches the following:

 

The very idea that an intercessor attacks the devil to fight scores of demons by hand is simply not biblical. As intercessors, we speak to the Lord, and it is the Lord who gives the orders and it is His angels that fight the forces of darkness. My task is breaking through with God and seeing how He conducts His mighty salvage. God’s forceful actions can never be reached without lengthy praying. (...)

   We started to bombard heaven with our cries for the Lord’s complete guidance and the fulfilment of the Lord’s will, for our nation and for the Gospel to be spread most powerfully. (...) We can no longer talk about intercession without also talking about long periods of praying and fasting. We have fasted for countless of days to touch His throne as Esther touched the golden sceptre. I have been an intercessor for years, and intercession meetings took place at Yei in the mornings, afternoons and evenings. (...) Even if we had other work to do, we gave priority to intercession. We were anointing the nation. We were petitioning for souls. We were reaching for a strong awakening of the Holy Spirit to light a fire amongst the slaved nation. (...) Intercession is not about fighting against the devil – it is about touching the heart of God, asking Him to take action. (12)

 

- Work of freeing may also be devil-centred. This means an approach of seeking for bad spirits instead of focusing on people and their relationship with God. The problem is that nobody can be truly freed if they don’t want to forgive or break their connection with the spirit world, or relinquish their occult abilities. We must first admit that these activities are sinful and renounce them. This is the only way to be permanently freed.

   The next quote is about how congregations require divine intervention and wisdom in order to know when and how to pray. We are often too hasty. If we pray for people to be filled with the Holy Spirit before they have given their lives to Christ, given up their bitterness and other sins, and confessed their negative attitudes to God, then we may cause them more harm; they may be attacked more strongly by the enemy.

 

A woman once came to me and asked me to pray for the anointment of the Holy Spirit for her. I asked Jesus what He wanted me to do. He said, “Don’t pray for her, she is not ready.” So, I explained to the woman that I could not pray for her. Later that day, the woman asked other people to pray for her and they did. The woman had to be admitted to a mental hospital the same night. She was not obedient to Jesus and it is possible that she was not born again either. We later heard that she had had a history of mental illness and when somebody prayed for the Holy Spirit to anoint her, the demons in her reared and took over her to prevent the Holy Spirit from coming. Jesus knew this. He also knows what to do with such people: we must take it slowly to prevent Satan from getting in charge. What should have been done is first teach her and let her pray to be freed from bitterness, etc. I was very grateful to Jesus for me having listened and obeyed Him. You should listen! (13)

 

False spirits may prevent prayer. God wants us to pray in a sustained manner. We should not neglect prayer; we should reserve time to pray. Only prayer can break down spiritual walls and defeat the lies in people’s minds. If we forget to pray and only use other means, our work is usually fruitless. We need sustained prayer, as taught by the Bible:

                   

- (James 4:2) You lust, and have not: you kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: you fight and war, yet you have not, because you ask not.

 

- (Matt 7:7,8) Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you:

8 For every one that asks receives; and he that seeks finds; and to him that knocks it shall be opened.

 

- (Luke 18:1-7) And he spoke a parable to them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint;

2 Saying, There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man:

3 And there was a widow in that city; and she came to him, saying, Avenge me of my adversary.

4 And he would not for a while: but afterward he said within himself, Though I fear not God, nor regard man;

5 Yet because this widow troubles me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.

6 And the Lord said, Hear what the unjust judge said.

7 And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night to him, though he bear long with them?

 

- (Luke 11:5-8) And he said to them, Which of you shall have a friend, and shall go to him at midnight, and say to him, Friend, lend me three loaves;

6 For a friend of my in his journey is come to me, and I have nothing to set before him?

7 And he from within shall answer and say, Trouble me not: the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give you.

8 I say to you, Though he will not rise and give him, because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him as many as he needs.

 

- (Luke 2:36,37) And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser: she was of a great age, and had lived with an husband seven years from her virginity;

37 And she was a widow of about fourscore and four years, which departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day.

 

- (John 14:13,14) And whatever you shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.

14 If you shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.

 

- (Col 4:2-4) Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving;

3 With praying also for us, that God would open to us a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in bonds:

4 That I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak.

 

If you have problems with remaining persistent in prayer it may help to create a prayer list in which you note all the important things that come into your mind. The list may include such things as the salvation of your relatives, neighbours, colleagues, friends, and leaders of the nation and your city; you may include the media, missionary work, or your personal needs. List whatever comes into your mind. When you have written your list you might not even need to look at the paper because you will remember what to pray for, even without looking at it. If you go through your list several times each day you will pray for a couple of hours.

   Let’s look at a quote about how Yonggi Cho encouraged the shepherds of his congregation to pray at least three hours each day. This is also a good guideline for Western congregations in which the significance of prayer is often overlooked. We do not pray enough.

                                                               

Only through prayer can you touch your neighbours and friends. (...) I usually notice that people do not know how to pray for longer than an hour to reach their goal. I ask the members of my congregation to pray more than an hour a day. I call such praying “Gethsemane praying”. In Gethsemane, Jesus scolded His disciples because they were not able to pray even for an hour. If you started to pray for more than an hour a day, something would surely happen in your life. People have all kinds of excuses. They have to be here or there. Jesus accepted no excuses. I have 746 full-time assistant reverends working under me. They have their hands full in taking care of 700,000 souls but I still encourage them to spend at least three hours in prayer each day. I tell this even though they feel that they cannot give advice to people: they must spend three hours praying before going to the people in need of salvation.

   Many of them have heard what God has done in our congregation for the prayer life of those who believe. They are powerful in the company of God and also amongst people. (14)

 

False spirits may give demonic gifts that can be easily confused with the gifts of God. People fail to understand that many bound people and occultists may speak in tongues, have supernatural information or do spirit healing that comes from bad spirits. These are similar to the gifts of God but it is hard to identify them without the gift of discerning of spirits.

   Problems occur when bound people come to the congregation. Rebecca Brown tells about a couple of cases where a bound person came to the congregation, fell down and started to talk in a demonic language – it was not a gift from God because time showed that these people were still bound. Others assumed that they had been freed and saved because they experienced such things but that was not the case. They did not even fully understand the Gospel because they had not been taught.

   The description below tells about demonic imitation. Nicky Cruz described how both of his parents were spiritual healers, mediated supernatural information and talked in tongues. This quote is about talking in foreign languages:

 

My mother never spoke a word of English but when I came home from school a couple of minutes after my brother Salvador, I found him shaking with laughter. “Listen to mom!” he whispered to me.

   My mother was in the living room, saying something in a language that at first sounded like gibberish. I was able to understand her, however, when Salvador interpreted it to me.

   We had studied English in school, and now our mother was talking English exactly like a well-educated Englishman. I cannot recall exactly what she said but I do remember that Salvador was so dumbfounded about it that he turned pale and fainted. I also remember that my father first thought Salvador had also been possessed by the spirit.

   When our mother returned from her trance, Salvador asked her in English, “Hi mom, what’s for dinner?”

   Our mother looked at him bewildered and said in Spanish, “Why don’t you talk so that I could understand too?”

   She had no idea that she had been talking in English a minute ago. (15)

 

 

3. False spirits and experiences

 

False spirits can provide feelings and experiences. Most revivals seem to be followed by the same problems: religious zeal and fanaticism. This means that people are eager, judgemental, and talk a lot about their experiences, but the fruit of their life is not good in the long term. Many of them are not even born again. Such stray souls may visit a congregation, speak about their experiences and feelings, but they also do extreme things. Since there is no humility and balance in their lives, they cause division and confusion and turn many people away from God. This is a common result because it is not always easy for people to distinguish genuine activity from false. 

   The quote below about Orivesi Revival in Finland in the 18th century describes well how people can be led astray. The revival was genuinely of God but the enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat (Matt 13:25: But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way.). Some people were misled by false spirits.

 

1. Lord the Christ has an enemy, the prince of darkness, who cunningly lets people believe that they are building the Lord’s congregation. Henrik Erkinpoika Eerola was a medium of evil.

2. A power that cannot be seen from the outside encourages people, teases them, corrupts their minds, sometimes speaks like Lord the Christ or an angel and sometimes entices them as the father of darkness.

3. Christians burning in spirit are rare. The external signs are usually expressions of natural man, not of faith. If they are tested, it can be seen that they are products of humans or caused by mental illness.

4. If a revival is strong, the awakened souls will be distraught and may fall into the temptation of ecstasy. Teachers of a congregation need to be careful to be able to help such people. If a revival turns into ecstasy, the teacher of the congregation is in trouble. The teacher should be like a burn-beater, using fire to make the ground fertile. Sometimes the fire gets out of hand and races into the forest. This is because a dangerous outside fire has spread to burn more than was intended. This is what happened to me. I rejoiced in the beginning of the revival but not at the end. The damage would not have occurred if my fellow priest had been careful.

5. When the fervour dies down, you are left with people whose souls and bodies are hurt – particularly the people who are easily ignited in mind and soul, and whose feelings quickly change from anger to sorrow to joy to fear to hope, falter between the spiritual and the carnal. Utter’s supporters thought that once having received the Spirit of God, a person was no longer in his own control – this meant that everything was good, even if it was madness. Certain fervour may be good, provided that the person keeps it in reign, it comes from the word of God, it listens to reason and it follows the right path.

6. There are many broken hearts and humble Christians who fear God and love His word among those who were heart by the Word. There are many who are much worse than before, who are full of spiritual pride, who think that they are gods in human form and who think that they have the right to do anything they like in the name of spirituality. This causes some of them to do coarse and visible acts of the flesh. When their fervour ends, they become liberal, atheist even. If a person makes himself a god, what else could you call it than atheism?

7. When a revival is influencing people, nothing is as bad as disputes among teachers. They should be the persons who keep the newly awakened in check when one among them wants to rule others and others claim that some people have not turned to God. With such accusations, people who consider themselves most pious can crush the holiest and humblest. People are divided into two groups: the bad and the good. This is not the way to build a congregation of God; in such a situation, godlessness will win. I hoped that I would never have to experience such dispersion – but that was what happened. I have already noted that if the dangerous fire had not been kept in check, it would have led to major madness. (16)

 

HAS ANY CHANGE OCCURRED? People misled by false spirits may fervently talk about their experiences. They may talk about their visions, about how Christ came to them and about their religious feelings. All of these may be good experiences as such if they truly are of God, but it is also possible that the experiences came from Satan. Jonathan Edwards wrote in his book The Experience that Counts that this was what happened during the great revival in the 18th century.

   Next, we will study some points that need to be considered when assessing all spiritual activities. Let’s start with teachings.

 

Are the lessons correct? Lessons must be evaluated. Are the things being taught in line with the Bible and do they focus on Jesus Christ and not people? If the lessons are of God, they will lead people to freedom in Christ and cause them to seek God and His will.

 

Fruits

 

- (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.

 

Another way to assess people is to look at the spiritual fruits that are being produced. There are no verses telling us that visions of Christ, fervour, state of rapture, talking about spiritual things or religious experiences are sure signs of conversion. We can deduce something about the quality of the fruits being produced, however. If a fruit is good and a person continuously changes for the better, that is a good sign. It proves the presence of a living faith much more surely than experiences, visions, boisterous fervour or descriptions of one’s spirituality.

   Self-satisfied thinking (a deceived person may make a huge fuss over his or her own humility, sinfulness, love of Christ or closeness to God) or selfish, envious, quarrelling and angry spirit clearly prove that the person is not influenced by God.  These are sins we may all commit but the question is, into which direction are we changing?

   Wisdom coming from above is pure, peaceable, gentle, full of mercy and it produces good fruits; if no change into this direction is evident even after years have passed, then we should ask ourselves whether the person has actually been saved. If there is seen no Christian humility, peace and love and the person brags about his or her spiritual experiences, then we should question his experiences.

 

- (James 3:14-17) But if you have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth.

15 This wisdom descends not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish.

16 For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.

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.

 

- (Gal 5:22,23) But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,

23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.

 

Yonggi Cho wrote about this same thing. If a person is bitter, fiery and judgmental or if the person boasts about him/herself or his/her spirituality, God has probably not yet touched the person’s life.

 

If a person who claims to have received the gift of the Holy Spirit does nothing other than threaten and blackmail others, if the person curses and uses insulting language without hesitation, we must be careful.

   A sister who claimed that she had received the Holy Spirit travelled in a cloud of horror instead of love and peace. If someone corrected her, she cursed. How could God's Holy Spirit, a humble and gentle spirit, live in a person who uses such words?

   How could a person (who claims to speak for the Holy Spirit and claims that she has received a special blessing) knock on the doors of people who believe, whisper slander about other members of the congregation into their ears and unscrupulously demand payment in return for silence? (17)

 

Testing spirits

 

- (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.

 

One way to see whether or not some action is or is not from God is to test the spirits. This is a lesson we rarely apply. Only a few of us have experience in testing spirits. However, the Bible teaches us about testing spirits. Sometimes doctrine may seem right and you cannot draw major conclusions about the person’s fruit right away. Anyone can test the spirits thought to be influencing an activity, however. We can ask "Is Jesus Christ (the Messiah), who came in the flesh, who is God Almighty, who died on the cross and rose from the tomb on the third day and now sits on the right side of the Father God, is this Jesus Christ their Lord?" If the answer we receive is “no” or the answer is vague, it is a bad spirit.

   Donald Gee described his experiences during the early stages of the Pentecostal Movement:

 

There is a way to test it. I have seen it time and time again. When phenomena of the spirit have come forth through a person and we have asked whether or not the phenomena are of God, we have turned to the person while the person was influenced by the outside force and said to the spirit, “Has Jesus Christ become flesh?” Sometimes the answer given by the person is remarkable. A bad spirit never gives a clear answer to this question. Even though I believe that this is the right way to test a spirit, I want to point out that we must be very careful in this procedure. (18)

 

Advice from others. One way to avoid mistakes is accept advice from others. If a person does not want to listen to what others have to say, then they will soon make mistakes. .

   Many people who have been influenced by false spirits are completely sure that they are right; they believe that God came to them and that they have a special direct connection to Him, even though others can plainly see the conflicts in their lives. They are not ready to listen to others, which leads them astray.

   The following description of a meeting illustrates this. All phenomena observed in meetings are not of God; they may be from humans or the devil and they should not be allowed. For example, Kathryn Kuhlman removed all fanatical activities and disturbing phenomena from her meetings. Yet, the Holy Spirit powerfully influenced in those meetings.

   Michael Howard described how he addressed such a situation and the person’s humble reaction to his advice:

 

If people refuse to be taught and corrected in the spirit of humility, they should be reprimanded. (...) Once in a conference, I looked in horror at what a woman did. She rose and started to squirm in a very sensuous way, like an Egyptian belly dancer. Each and every one of her movements was demonic and an abomination to the Lord and the service in progress. I expected one of the congregation’s leaders to rectify her actions, which were clearly inappropriate, but the rectification never came. Finally, I marched to the young woman and told her, “Stop that stupid wiggling right away and sit down.” She shook her head. She was clearly in a demonic ecstasy. However, when she was spoken to, she immediately returned to the here and now and humbly sat down. Everybody was extremely relieved about my actions. Unfortunately, the leaders are more ready to eliminate entire procedures than reprimanding a single person for fear of hurting the person in question. If such a person is hurt because somebody tells them what they should do as told by the Bible, it is bad because such a reprimand is fully justified and in line with God’s order. (19)

 

What about feelings? Spiritual meetings might drift into two extremes. One is tinder-dry: preachers speak in a monotone voice and people criticize all expression of emotion and spiritual phenomena. In such meetings, usually no gifts are used, people are not cured from their ailments, and many times people are not even saved.

   The other extreme is fanaticism where feelings (if God touches a person, feelings are naturally quite a different matter), crying and all kinds of weird actions overpower everything else. In such meetings, undisciplined phenomena are not interrupted. There is plenty of energy, pretension, self-assertion, and emotional fervour but no signs of godly love and goodness.

   The following description, taken from the biography of T. B. Barrat, describes such activity. Barrat himself was “the apostle of Northern Europe’s Pentecostal Movement” and had received a powerful baptism of the Holy Spirit including talking in tongues right before this experience.

 

During the first meetings in New York, he paid attention to some special “cries” and the behaviour of some people, which he deemed inconceivable. Only a couple of days after the wondrous day of November 15th, 1906 – with its crown of fire, tongue of fire and speaking in tongues – he participated in a meeting in New York. “A foreign spirit crept into the meeting which I attended in Monday evening as someone was giving his testimony. It was a complete opposite of the Spirit God gave me. I cannot participate in the carnal noise some people make neither the wild jumps, as if on a playground. I left the meeting with my sister who – due to a strange coincidence – was also there. I rejoice and can cry hallelujah with other happy souls in Zion but wild crying is a completely different thing. I do not judge anyone but I do not have to work side by side with people who allow their flesh to rule instead of the Spirit, unless I can lift them higher or provide their hearts with greater light of the Holy Spirit. When I laid my head on my pillow at home, an unspeakable peace came over me. God wants to protect me with His grace.” (20)

 

What is the biblical model, then? Naturally, it includes feelings because dead people are the only people without feelings. It is a mistake to believe that when God touches people it does not influence their inner being in some way. It may cause crying or other emotional reactions simply because that is how God created us. We react with emotion to many things because they touch us. If somebody does not have any reaction towards hearing the gospel, it is only because the Word has not deeply touched the person.

    We can see this in the life of Paul. Before being converted, he was hostile and cruel but he changed into another man when God’s love touched him. He learned to love others and often preached with tears in his eyes. George Whitefield, a well-known and powerful preacher of the 18th century, also often cried when preaching about the cross.

 

- (Acts 20:19,31) Serving the LORD with all humility of mind, and with many tears, and temptations, which befell me by the lying in wait of the Jews:

31 Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears.

 

- (Phil 3:1) Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you, to me indeed is not grievous, but for you it is safe.

 

What is stressed? A person ruled by false spirits is always driven to extremes. Such a person may harm himself or others, flaunt his spirituality, or believe that visions, phenomena and ecstasy are the most important things in Christianity. Such a person pays attention to matters that the Bible does not stress, and activities that may occur without having any connection to God.

   The Bible places great significance upon one’s actions. The greatest person is not he or she who has had wondrous experiences but is that person who serves others (Matt 23:11,12: But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.). Jesus said ”If you love me, keep my commandments.” (John 14:15), and this is a guide for spiritual life. It means that a person who does not live by the will of God and Christ in his or her everyday life is far from perfect. Nobody can do this alone but if we do not even strive for it, we surely have not been saved. Many verses teach us about the significance of our actions:

 

- (James 1:22) But be you doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.

 

- (Matt 7:22,23) Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in your name? and in your name have cast out devils? and in your name done many wonderful works?

23 And then will I profess to them, I never knew you: depart from me, you that work iniquity.

 

- (Tit 3:14) And let our's also learn to maintain good works for necessary uses, that they be not unfruitful.

 

- (2 Tim 2:20,21) But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honor, and some to dishonor.

21 If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel to honor, sanctified, and meet for the master's use, and prepared to every good work.

 

- (Tit 2:7,8) In all things showing yourself a pattern of good works: in doctrine showing soundness, gravity, sincerity,

8 Sound speech, that cannot be condemned; that he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of you.

 

 

 

REFERENCES:

 

1. Viljam Kuosmanen: Jumalan ihmeitä, p. 13

2. Viljam Kuosmanen: Jumalan ihmeitä, p. 15

3. Mary K. Baxter: Näkyjä tulevasta, p. 222

4. Paavo Hiltunen / Leo Meller: Eksyttäjät, p. 183,184

5. John Bevere: Turvapaikka (Under Cover), p. 242

6. Bob Mumford: Suunnitelma sinua varten (Take another look at guidance), p. 91

7. Colin Qrquhart: Eksytys (Explaining Deception), p. 74

8. Rick Joyner: Petos, taistelu, voitto (Final Quest), p. 29

9. Rebecca Brown: Astiaksi jaloon käyttöön (Becoming a Vessel of Honor), p. 223,224

10. Bob Mumford: Suunnitelma sinua varten (Take another look at guidance), p. 91

11. Gordon & Emily Binning: Olkaa Jumalalle alamaiset (Submit... to God. Resist the Devil and He Will Flee from You), p. 109,110

12. Michael Howard: Pelasta kansakunta (To Save a Nation) p. 133-135,275

13. Gordon & Emily Binning: Olkaa Jumalalle alamaiset (Submit... to God. Resist the Devil and He Will Flee from You), p. 14

14. David Yonggi Cho: Kokemuksiani rukouksesta (DR. CHO’S PATTERNS OF PRAYER), p. 39-41

15. Nicky Cruz: Juokse henkesi edestä (Devil on the Run), p. 27

16. Oriveden seurakunta 450 vuotta: Juhlakirja 1990. Oriveden seurakunta 1990 (Quote from ”Väkevä eksytys”, Jouni Forsström)

17. Yonggi Cho: Pyhä henki ja sinä, p. 106

18. Donald Gee: Hengen lahjoista, p. 78

19. Michael Howard: Ylistä ja palvo (Praise and Worship), p. 117

20. Martin Ski: T.B. Barratt – helluntaiapostoli (T.B. Barratt – Dopt I Ånd Og Ild), p. 149,150

 

 

More on this topic:

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?

Which power influences you? It is possible that man thinks he is acting in the power of God, but he is not. What are the characteristics of such lubrication from the wrong source?

Horoscopes. Horoscopes, Zodiac signs, astrology. Why not believe the astrological view that zodiac stars affect our destiny?

How to find a suitable spouse? How to find a suitable spouse and partner? What things to consider when looking for a spouse?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jesus is the way, the truth and the life

 

 

  

 

Grap to eternal life!

 

More on this topic:

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?

Which power influences you? It is possible that man thinks he is acting in the power of God, but he is not. What are the characteristics of such lubrication from the wrong source?

Horoscopes. Horoscopes, Zodiac signs, astrology. Why not believe the astrological view that zodiac stars affect our destiny?

How to find a suitable spouse? How to find a suitable spouse and partner? What things to consider when looking for a spouse?