Monday, July 30, 2012

Discerning the Things of the Spirit

Alleged angel on water
Sometimes I share testimonies of my own or others, which some people consider to be bizarre.  I am well aware that these testimonies may seem strange.  That should not come as a surprise, since the Scriptures tell us that God has prepared for those who love Him things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered into the heart of man. (1Co 2:9)

However, whether or not they are strange is not the indicator of their origin.  A person’s experience may or may not have come from God.  It could be a product of their imagination or could even be inspired by demons. But you cannot determine the source of their experience through logical analysis or natural, human methods.  The apostle Paul said, “…a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.” (1Co 2:14)

Two women allegedly see angel
Yet we know that God does sometimes give dreams, visions, prophecies, and even performs miraculous signs.  And we need to be careful not to despise these things.  As Peter said, “Do not quench the Spirit; do not despise prophetic utterances. But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good;” (1Th 5:19-21).  The range of things the Holy Spirit does is quite broad.  When we gather together, one should have a psalm that the Lord gave, a revelation, a prophecy, a teaching, a tongue, or an interpretation (1 Co 14:26).  These are all to be given in order and for edification. So be careful not to quench the Spirit or reject people’s experiences and testimonies without proper examination.  The only way we can know whether something is authentic is to examine it carefully. 

Most Christians understand that the Word of God is our standard used to test all things.  But even when you read the Bible, you cannot rely upon your human intellect to understand the Word.  Only the Holy Spirit can give revelation, illumination and understanding of the Word and supernatural experiences. This is why we must not make a hasty judgment of anything, but rather pray much about it and seek the help of the Holy Spirit to determine if it is genuine.  Many people spend time in the Bible and have accumulated much knowledge of it, but they do not have a deep prayer life.  They are not spiritual men.  And we know that knowledge has the ability to puff us up with pride. So we must be careful to maintain a strong and vibrant prayer life, being spiritual men and women. He who is spiritual appraises all things (1 Co 2:15).

Alleged angel on hospital security camera
So we can only know spiritual things through the Word and the Spirit.  Paul said, “For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words.” (1Co 2:10-13).  He said we have received the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God. 

This is key to understanding everything, including the Word of God and experiences recorded outside the Bible, such as modern day ones we hear today.  God’s ways are higher than our ways, and His thoughts higher than our thoughts. "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways," declares the LORD. "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isa 55:8-9) We must not expect that God’s ways or thoughts are like ours or on the same level as ours. But the Spirit of God gives us the mind of Christ, so that we may know His thoughts and His ways. 

Alleged angel by car
These things do not lie on the surface. They are revealed to those who earnestly seek the Lord in prayer.  "Thus says the LORD who made the earth, the LORD who formed it to establish it, the LORD is His name, 'Call to Me and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and mighty things, which you do not know.' (Jer 33:2-3), If you want the Lord to tell you great and mighty things, which you do not know, you must call to Him fervently and He will answer you.

Biblical Signs,Wonders, and Oddities
Consider the following examples of things in Scripture that most Bible believing Christians accept as genuinely from God, but which natural men without the Spirit of God would consider foolish or odd.  As you read these things, think about how you would perceive or view them, if you were present when they actually happened, and had never read them in the Bible.  Or what if you heard testimonies about such things at the time that they happened?  Think about how you would judge these things:
  1. A man lying on his side, tied with ropes, for over a year (390 days), and cooking his own food there on a fire made from excrement (Ezek 4:9-12)
  2. A man going around in public stripped and barefoot for three years and saying God told him to do it (Is 20:2-3)
  3. A man offering his son up to God as a human sacrifice, and being prepared to kill him in obedience to God (Gen 21:1-9)
  4. A man building an ark that floats on water when it had never rained before (Gen 6:14-22)
  5. A donkey that talks (Num 22:28)
  6. Putting spit on someone’s tongue to heal him from muteness (Mk 7:33)
  7. Spitting into someone’s eyes to heal him from blindness (Mk 8:23)
  8. Angels with wheels within wheels that are full of eyes round about (Ezek 1:15-21)
  9. Four living creatures in front of God’s throne with eyes all over their body (Rev 4:8)
  10. The feet of Jesus being like polished brass glowing in a furnace (Rev 1:15)
  11. Jesus having a double-edged sword proceeding from His mouth (Rev 1:16)
  12. Tongues of fire appearing over each person in a prayer meeting (Ac 2:3) 
  13. People speaking in tongues (languages) that they have not learned (Ac 2:4) and which they could not understand (1 Co 14:14).
  14. A man of God taking for his wife a prostitute and saying God told him to do it (Hos 1:2).
  15. A bush that burns without being consumed (Ex 3:3)
  16. A staff that turns into a serpent (Ex 4:3)
  17. A sea parting when a man lifts his staff and his hand (Ex 14:16-21)
  18. A city shaped like a foursquare cube that is about 1,500 miles high! And its length and width are equal to its height. (Rev 21:16)
  19. Mighty walls of a city being brought down flat by men shouting (Jos 6:20)
  20. A man not being allowed by God to cry when his wife dies (Ezek 24:15-18)
  21. A shepherd boy killing a mighty giant with nothing but a sling shot and a smooth stone (1 Sam 17:49)
  22. Fire coming from the mouths of two men and killing their enemies (Rev 11:5)
  23. A man being swallowed by a big fish, remaining inside of it for three days, and living to tell about it (Jonah 1:17; 2:1)
  24. A man being thrown into a den of hungry lions, remaining their overnight, and coming out the next day without a single scratch (Dan 6:16-22)
  25. A man escaping from prison without being seen, when all the doors are locked and he is chained to guards (Act 5:5-12)
  26. A man wrestling with God (Gen 32:24-30)
  27. A man saying you must drink his blood and eat his flesh in order to have eternal life (Jn 6:53)
  28. Making man from the dust (Gen 2:7)
  29. Creating a woman out of a man’s rib (Gen 2:22)
  30. Turning water into wine (Jn 2:7-9)
  31. A river parting when a man strikes it with his cloak (2 Kin 2:8)
  32. A man rising from the dead and walking through walls and locked doors (Jn 20:26)
  33. A man walking on water (Mt 14:25)
  34. Multiplying a few fish and loaves to feed thousands of people (Mt 14:17-19)
  35. Speaking to stormy water and wind and making them calm (Mt 8:26)
  36. Jesus saying He is coming to bring a sword not peace (Mt 10:24)
  37. A man being told that he cannot go to bury his dead father if he wants to follow Jesus (Mt 8:22)
  38. Being told that you must hate your parents to follow Jesus (Lk 14:26)
  39. Drawing a city on a clay tablet and laying siege to it (Ezek 4:1-2)
  40. Making an iron axe head float (2 Kin 6:6)
  41. Laying on top of a dead boy, hand to hand, eye to eye, and mouth to mouth, and raising him from the dead (2 King 4:34)
  42. Calling down fire on soldiers (2 King 1:12)
  43. Being fed by ravens (1 King 17:6)
  44. Earth's rotation stops and time stands still (Josh 10)
  45. Making the shadow go backwards, back in time (2 King 20:9-11)
  46. Three men are bound and thrown into a blazing furnace that is so hot that the heat kills the soldiers throwing them in, but the three men walk around inside the furnace unbound and unharmed.  They come out alive without smelling like smoke, without damage to their trousers, or even a hair on their body being singed. (Dan 3:27)
  47. Being caught up into Paradise and coming back to tell about it (2 Cor 12:2-4)
  48. A man claiming that through his sufferings he is filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions (Col 1:24)
  49. Tears being stored in a bottle in heaven (Ps 56:8)
  50. A man disappearing from a desert road to Gaza outside Jerusalem and reappearing far away in Azotus without natural means of transport (Ac 8:39-40)
  51. Running faster than a chariot (1 King 18:46)
  52. Quail and flaky food called manna falling from heaven (Ex 16:4,13)
  53. Water coming out of a rock (Num 20:11)
  54. Slaughtering every man, woman, and child in a city during war (Josh 8:24-26)
  55. The Lord speaking face to face with a man (Dt 5:4)
  56. God writing something on stone tablets with his own hands, so that it can be seen, read, and touched (Dt 5:22)
  57. A human hand appearing and writing on a wall (Dan 5:5)
  58. The Lord coming to a city on earth to confirm reports about wickedness that have reached His ears in heaven (Gen 18:20-22)
  59. Striking a proconsul with blindness for interfering with the preaching of the gospel (Act 13:11)
  60. Two Christians dropping dead before the elders for lying (Acts 5:5,10)
  61. A wooden rod that suddenly sprouts and puts forth buds, blossoms, and almonds overnight (Num 17:8)
  62. An army prevailing over their enemy only while their leader’s hand is raised up, and their enemy prevailing when his hand drops down (Ex 17:11)
As you consider the implications of all these things for today, remember that God is the same God.  He hasn't changed.  He says, "I the Lord do not change." (Mal 3:6a).  The psalmist said to the Lord, "You remain the same" (Ps 102: 27a).  And "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever." (Hb 13:8). He still does supernatural things in the world today like He did in days of old. 
The Concern Over Things That Are Extra Biblical
It's very important to keep the Word of God as our sole rule of faith and our ultimate authority for judging everything outside the Bible. But does that mean we cannot trust anything extra Biblical? 

Are prophecies, dreams, visions and revelations from the Lord extrabiblical? Are testimonies of salvation, healing, deliverance, and miracles extrabiblical? Sure they are.  But we can judge these to determine if they are valid or not. Just because they are extra Biblical does not automatically mean they are unbiblical.

Here are some other things that are extrabiblical that are commonly accepted by many preachers:
  • The Works of Flavius Josephus, the first century Jewish historian who wrote Antiquities of the Jews, which refers to Jesus in books 18 and 20.
  • Foxe's Book of Martyrs, which affirms that the apostle John "was cast into a cauldron of boiling oil. He escaped by miracle, without injury." 
  • Various Bible commentaries
  • Greek dictionaries and lexicons
  • Bible dictionaries
  • Bible Encyclopedias
  • Various Christian books, including testimonies of salvation, healing, deliverance, and miracles
  • Christian hymns, poems, and songs
  • Christian art forms of all kinds, including paintings, videos, drama, dance, etc.
Quoting from these sources does not generally receive any backlash, since it is understood that the Bible is the final authority, not these.  And quoting these sources or mentioning them does not constitute agreement with everything they say, nor does it mean we consider them infallible.
Putting it All Together
You cannot put God in a box.  His ways are higher than our ways, and his thoughts higher than ours. Man needs to go to God’s level of thinking and acting, instead of God coming down to man’s level. The Lord has revealed these things to little children, not to the wise and learned. We must have childlike faith to enter the kingdom of God. 

Don’t forget that it was the learned elders who knew the Scriptures well that rejected Jesus and said he did miracles by the power of satan.  They also rejected the message of the cross that the apostles preached.  The cross is a stumbling block to Jews, who cannot fathom their true Messiah dying such a shameful death.  And it’s foolishness to the Greeks, who think that anyone who believes in a God that died on a cross is a fool.  The Lord chose a very unlikely way to save the world through the cross.

And the Lord will often use vessels that we consider unlikely. He may reveal deep things to the uneducated, the simple-minded, the outcast or the poor.  He could even reveal things to someone who is not accepted by the mainstream church. So watch out not to toss out something from one of these people whom you think could not be used by God.  With that said, it does help to know the life and character of the vessel, and whether they are living a life of devotion to the Lord without compromise.  It’s also important to humble yourself and double-check your own life as well.  If there is some hidden sin in your life that you don’t see, this could definitely impair your ability to correctly judge the things of the Spirit.

Prophecies, miracles, healings, dreams, visions and revelations from the Lord did not stop after the first century.  The dead are still raised. Believers still speak with new tongues and cast out demons. The apostle Paul was not the last or only person to be caught up into Paradise. These things still happen today.  And they may seem foolish, bizarre, or strange to us initially. So be careful not to quench the Spirit or despise the supernatural things the Lord chooses to do in His own wisdom and love for His people.  Be very careful not to reject a supernatural phenomenon as though it is from the devil, unless you are certain.  Doing so could be blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, if the manifestation is in fact a work of the Holy Spirit. 

If some manifestation or experience does not agree with your theology, first consider the possibility that your theology could be wrong.  Examine these things carefully. Test them with much prayer and the Word. Search the Scriptures. And with the help of the Holy Spirit, determine whether they are from the Lord.  If they are from the Lord, then they are meant for the edification of the Body, even though they will not become part of the Bible.  Therefore, it's appropriate to share them in any format that will be effective, so that others can benefit from it, knowing that there will always be those who will consider these things to be bizarre.

Attribution notice: Most Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.

Author's note Also see A Warning to the Nay Sayers, Testing the Spirits of False Prophets, Judging Revelations, Visions, and Prophecies, Exposing Heresy, Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, and Eternal Destinations.  You may also like the other posts in this blog available through the Main Directory for this blog, such as Baptized with the Spirit, Holy Fire Baptism, The Holy Spirit Speaks, The Holy Trinity, and The Spirit without Limit. Now I'd like to ask a very important question.

Do You Want to Know Him?
If you want to know Jesus personally, you can. It all begins when you repent and believe in Jesus.  Do you know what God's Word, the Bible says?

“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mar 1:14b-15).  He preached that we must repent and believe.

Please see my explanation of this in my post called "Do You Want to Know Jesus?"
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Photo Credits: 
 "Angel on hospital security camera" from Heavenly Angel visits dying girl, Angel caught on video!
"Two Women Seeing Angel" and "Angel by Car" from Angels and Demons Captured on Film
"Angel on the Water" from Real Angels Caught on Tape.
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Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International.  He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission. www.dmiworld.org.

2 comments:

  1. Thanks Bro. Len for this expository writing. Is it possible that God in this day could still ask a man to marry a prostitute as with Hosea?

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    Replies
    1. You're welcome, Bro Deji. In the case of Hosea, there was a very specific purpose why God did that, which was symbolic of His relationship with adulterous Israel. Anything is possible with God, as long as it is consistent with His character. But before anyone claims that God is telling them to do so, they had better be sure it is really the Lord and not the flesh. They should have plenty of confirmations, ensure it aligns with the Word, and be accountable to their elders before they take any action on that.

      The Word tells us not to be unequally yoked with non-believers. For what fellowship has darkness with light? I hope that helps.

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