The Spirit of Truth and the Spirit of Error
Part 1. The Wisdom of Solomon
July 24, 2008
Today, lines are being drawn in the sand. On one side are places like Toronto and Lakeland, people like Bob Jones, Todd Bentley, Benny Hinn, and Rick Joyner, and something that calls itself the "modern prophetic movement." On the other side are mainstream Pentecostals and Fundamentalists who protect the status quo. What makes this battle so difficult to sort out is that the issues in question have so little applicable scripture to aid in discernment. Proponents of this new movement claim that what we are seeing is nothing short of the works of Christ, his apostles, his prophets, and a final outpouring of God's Spirit, while opponents claim it is unbiblical and demonic. Desperately needed is the Wisdom of Solomon to discern and bring forth the truth.
Jesus told them another parable: "The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.
"The owner's servants came to him and said, 'Sir, didn't you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?'
"'An enemy did this,' he replied.
"The servants asked him, 'Do you want us to go and pull them up?'
"'No,' he answered, 'because while you are pulling the weeds , you may root up the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.'"
Other than the parable of the "seed and the sower," this is probably the best known parable of Jesus. Some modern versions of the Bible substitute the word "weeds" in place of the traditional word "tares." The Greek word is actually zizanion [dziz-an'-ee-on]. The origin of this word is unknown; however, zizanion is believed to be "a kind of darnel, the commonest of the four species, being the bearded, growing in the grain fields, as tall as wheat and barley, and resembling wheat in appearance. It was credited among the Jews with being degenerate wheat. The rabbis called it 'bastard.' The seeds are poisonous to man and herbivorous animals, producing sleepiness, nausea, convulsions and even death. The plants can be separated out, but the custom, as in the parable, is to leave the cleaning out until near the time of harvest (Vines)."
Over the centuries, volumes of material have been written, and innumerable sermons have been preached concerning this parable. There is no end to the arguments over how exactly this parable should be applied. Do the tares represent the Pharisees who lived during the time of Christ polluting the work of God? Are they the false churches that would arise following the deaths of Christ and His apostles? Are they speaking of the Dark Age or some time in between then and now? Or, are they speaking of the end time and the coming antichrist?
We believe that scripture is meant to be timeless. The value of Christ's teaching, His parables, and all prophecy is applicable to every generation. As Paul wrote, "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works (2 Timothy 3:16-17)." This instruction was not meant to be just for the believers of His generation but for us as well. Peter also wrote "no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation (2 Peter 1:20)."
Twenty-five hundred years ago, the Jews read the book of Jonah as a warning about disobedience. They did not necessarily see it as prophecy of the Christ. Jesus used it (Mathew 12:39-40) as a prophecy foretelling His death and resurrection. Therefore, regardless of how the scripture applied to the brethren who read it 2,000 to 4,000 years ago, we must consider how it applies to us today.
Quite often we hear the tares referred to as people who go to church but are not really saved and are quite often indistinguishable from the real Christians who sit next to them. But consider the implications of such a contrast. In this parable, the tares were very similar to the wheat - the implication is that they are almost indistinguishable. If the wheat looked like the unsaved, then this would mean that the wheat represents carnal and apathetic Christians who often look no different than the unsaved. If the wheat were the truly saved Christians - or as Jesus later explained, "the children of the kingdom (Matthew 13:38)" - who are disciples of the Lord then could we really say that they were almost indistinguishable from the lost? Is this really the contrast we should draw from this parable? We think not.
We believe that the fruit God (the harvester) is looking for is not a withered up, rotting, decaying fruit. It is not some emaciated grain that has hardly any nutritional value. The tree/vine/stalk that God is looking for - the kind from which He plans to harvest - is that which "bears much fruit (John 15:8)." Therefore, if the wheat - "the children of the kingdom (Matthew 13:38)" - resembles any form of Christianity over the past 2,000 years, then it resembles the form it held at the purest moment of its history: its inception. When it first began, it was not dogmatic but spontaneous; it was not apathetic but evangelistic; it was not pragmatic but radical; it was not subdued but capricious and volatile. Consequently, most Christians who fill our cold lifeless Western churches could not qualify as "tares" because they do not even begin to resemble the genuine article.
On the other hand, there are Christians today who operate in the power and anointing similar to the First Generation Christians. You might not hear much about them because typically they are too busy lifting up Christ to promote their own ministries. Many of these people do not even claim to have a ministry at all. They are just out "about [their] Father's business (Luke 2:49)." There is no pretense to their lives. They are not looking to promote themselves or any ministry. In fact, it's even difficult to learn much about them. They are enigmatic!
Then there are the tares who in many ways have the appearance of First Generation Christians. They are anything but obscure. Their ranks include Bob Jones, Rick Joyner, JoAnn McFatter, Paul Keith Davis, Patricia King, John Paul Jackson, Bobby Conner, etc. The words used earlier to describe First Century Christianity easily define the antics of this crowd: spontaneous, evangelistic, capricious, volatile, radical. But the similarity ends with the definition of those words.
The First Generation Christians were not popular entertainers looking to expand their ministries, increase their revenues, shock and stun audiences through hype and hysteria, and outdo each other through their (claimed) visitations by angels, dead prophets, and even Christ Himself. Their only goal was to bring salvation to the lost and holiness to the Church. They would have been appalled at the ridiculous performances and antics these people use to sensationalize their ministries, draw larger and larger audiences, bring attention to themselves, and distinguish to their ministries from others.
One thing is certain: they do not have the Spirit of God. They run a pageant, a show. It is all about who can outdo the others and get away with the most outlandish form of mockery. You will find Christians dancing sensually and worshipping to pagan and voodoo drums. You find New Age music, transcendental meditation, and mysticism. You will see people manifesting Tourette's Syndrome, practicing "Holy Ghost hypnosis," falling under spiritual convulsions, and men cracking jokes at the Holy Spirit's expense, making a mockery of God and the scripture supposedly because the Holy Ghost has "intoxicated" them. And Christians are being sucked into this because the adverbs and adjectives used to describe this "modern movement" are the same ones used to describe First Century Christianity. Does this not sound like the parable of the wheat and the tares?
Consider what this "modern prophetic movement" teaches: a restoration of the five-fold ministry described in Ephesians 4, a restoration of the Church back to its former First Century (man-child and dominion) glory, and the blessing and favor of God upon His people (word of faith). All of these teaching have biblical merit. They are carryovers from the teachings of William Branham, A.A. Allen, Gordon Lindsey, and Oral Roberts. It is an overly simplified and unrestrained form of Latter Rain doctrine with an uncontrolled emphasis on shock and hysteria. In short, (what is known as) the "modern prophetic movement" has effectively hijacked Branhamism and is using it to promote men instead of God. It uses a Biblical foundation to promote the pretences of pernicious men. It has "a form of godliness, but denying the [true] power thereof (2 Timothy 3:5)."
The Influence of Post-modernism
Our modern age is generally viewed as beginning about two hundred years ago when the Western nations abandoned their religious wars and began to embrace personal religious freedom. Along with this, Western nations began moving from an agrarian to an industrial economy, and science began to provide answers to long-asked questions. Personal religious freedom brought about personal fulfillment, and the industrial revolution brought the promise that utopia was finally within reach. Combined with science, these values created a belief that "truth" could be and finally was understood. Therefore, the concept of truth became an unquestionable standard.
But two world wars, empowered by the industrial revolution, shattered our visions of utopia, and one man's personal religious views brought about the genocide of six million Jews. Instead of becoming our security, science brought about the atomic and hydrogen bombs and put us at the brink of self-destruction. Consequently, the "truths" and standards that promised security and utopia caused instead our undoing. The modern age was perceived to have failed, and thus the post-modern age was born. Unlike modernism, post-modernism rejects that any broad sweeping truths can save us. Post-modernists point to unquestionable and broad-sweeping truths as modernism's weakness.
Throughout the modern age, religious truth was rarely questioned. The Bible was always used as the textbook in the classroom, and "separation of Church and State" was never an issue. Truths, whether scientific, economic, or religious, were esteemed and valued. But all of that changed when the modern age appeared to fail. The perceived failure has lent justification for some Christian leaders to embrace post-modernist thinking.
It has been suggested that "post-modern" means "to ask." Because the values and truths of the modern age failed, it has become our nature to be skeptical of long-held beliefs, "to ask" questions (i.e., question everything). Therefore, the post-modern ideology rejects all forms of "universal" truth or dogma because, at one time, so-called "truths" almost led to our destruction. Consequently, the post-modernist views biblical accounts (that are frequently surrounded with generalities but nevertheless accepted by Christians to contain absolute truth and certainties) with incredulity. Relativism (the idea that values do not exist except in the mind of the individual or the culture that values them, and that ideas such as "truth," "right/wrong," or "large/small" are merely opinions from the observer's point of view) is a byproduct of this post-modern age. Truth, if there is such a thing, is situational and has largely been substituted for situational ethics. Therefore, the closest one can come to truth is merely one's own personal opinion.
It is important to understand that we are ALL children of a post-modern culture. We are like Lot ["For that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds (2 Peter 2:8)"] and have been affected by the influences of post-modern thinking.
Post-modern ideology holds that there are no universal standards but that each individual must decide for themselves what is right and wrong, good and evil, acceptable to them as an individual. It holds that everyone may hold a different opinion, but that is okay. Right and wrong is subjective. This means that what may be wrong in one church may be right in another church, and that is alright as long as the people within those churches all agree. Humanism and relativism are both different manifestations of post-modernism.
What has all this to do with the subject at hand? The lack of any cohesive standards and the ability to perform any outlandish act as a form of worship in the "modern prophetic movement" is a result of our generation of Christians embracing post-modern ideology. You can dance to voodoo drums, listen to New Age music, engage in transcendental meditation, and practice mysticism all in the name of God. And none dare judge you.
Also, the widespread embracing of this "modern prophetic movement" has come about similarly to the embracing of post-modernism. Post-modernism was the result of the failure of modernism. In like manner, the "modern prophetic movement" has come about largely because of the failure of Pentecostalism that stretches all the way back to Azusa Street.
"What God hath cleansed"
About noon the following day as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles of the earth and birds of the air. Then a voice told him, "Get up, Peter. Kill and eat."
"Surely not, Lord!" Peter replied. "I have never eaten anything impure or unclean."
The voice spoke to him a second time, "Do not call anything impure that God has made clean." Or, according to the KJV: "What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common."
Years ago, God showed us that we should make a distinction between the word that is taught and the man who teaches it. An old preacher once said that it is like "picking the meat from the bones." The idea here is that no one is perfect. There are many "good" men who are striving toward holiness, and even they can have problems and issues.
There are those who condemn Todd Bentley because of his past: he has tattoos, he was a biker, he was arrested for immoral acts, or perhaps he does not have a good enough biblical education. A past can be forgiven. A past can be washed away. A past is behind the man. So let's get past the past. Todd Bentley is not a bad man because of his past or his looks. We have known many brothers who were criminals and even involved in organized crime, but if God choose to accept them, then who are we to reject them?
In addition, we should also remember that it does not take perfect men to preach the gospel. We are by nature imperfect. This does not mean that we are sinners. It simply means we are not perfect. So for us to find out that certain men are struggling should not diminish their message, as long as their message is true.
When considering the men behind the "modern prophetic movement," the real question that must be addressed is not their past nor their education, but their hearts.
2 Peter 2:1-3, 14-19
But there arose also false prophets among the people, even as also among you there shall be false teachers, who will be of such a character as to bring in alongside [of true doctrine] destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who purchased them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their licentious conduct to its consummation, on account of whom the way of the truth will be reviled. And in the sphere of covetousness, with fabricated words they will exploit you, for whom from ancient times their judgment has not been idle [i.e., it is being prepared], and their destruction is not sleeping.
Having eyes full of an adulteress and which are unable to cease from sin, catching unstable souls with bait, having a heart completely exercised in covetousness, children of a curse. Abandoning the straight road, they went astray, having followed assiduously the road of Balaam, the son of Bosor, who set a high value upon and thus came to love the hire of unrighteousness, but was the recipient of an effectual rebuke for his own lawlessness; the inarticulate beast of burden, having spoken in a man's voice, restrained the insanity of the prophet.
These are springs without water, and mists driven by a tempest, for whom the blackness of the darkness has been reserved. For when they are uttering extravagant things that are in their character futile, they are alluring by means of the cravings of the flesh [the totally depraved nature], by means of wanton acts, those who are just about escaping from those who are ordering their behavior in the sphere of error. While they are promising them liberty, they themselves are slaves of corruption. For by whom a person has been overcome with the result that he is in a state of subjugation, to this one has he been enslaved with the result that he is in a state of slavery.
Licentious means "unrestrained by law or morality; lawless or immoral; going beyond proper bounds or limits; disregarding rules." The KJV uses the word "pernicious," which means "causing insidious harm or ruin; injurious; hurtful; deadly; fatal; evil; wicked." The NIV simply uses the word "shameful." The idea here is that they demonstrate an obvious disregard for law, self-control, God's law and His Spirit. Let's remember that the apostle Paul when dealing with the Corinthian church - a church suffering from a lack of self- control and self-discipline - imposed compulsory man-made restraint on their persons as well as their meetings. When discussing the issue of fornication in their church, he wrote, "Put away from among yourselves that wicked person (1 Corinthians 5:13)." When dealing with the chaos in their meetings (1 Corinthians 14:23-40), he wrote, "Let all things be done unto edifying (1 Corinthians 14:26)," "Let all things be done decently and in order (1 Corinthians 14:40)," "And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints (1 Corinthians 14:32-33)."
Contrast Paul's admonition to the church at Corinth with the meetings orchestrated by the "modern prophetic movement." Their meetings are notorious for a lack of accountability, self-control, and order. In fact, to them, the more outrageous, the more lawless, the more confusing, the more controversial a meeting appears, the greater the anointing and blessing that is upon it. It is evident that "licentious conduct" has replaced the Holy Spirit in their meetings. If Paul were writing under the authority and mind of God, then it is evident that the leaders of the "modern prophetic movement" are not bound by scripture nor the mind of the Lord.
"Having followed assiduously the road of Balaam, the son of Bosor, who set a high value upon and thus came to love the hire of unrighteousness." And, "for when they are uttering extravagant things [or, promised liberty] that are in their character futile they are alluring by means of the cravings of the flesh."
The issue here is motive. Are their motives to bring profit to themselves in the form of visibility or popularity to their ministries? Are they in competition with others for the greatest respect, influence, or preeminence? Are they driven by ego and fame? Are they motivated by the size of the crowd? Profit can be sought in many forms, not just financial. In addition, it is easy to see that it is not just the "modern prophetic movement" that falls into this definition but also many of the prominent Christian leaders who oppose them.
It is evident that, though we should not judge a man's past, we are to judge his current state. We are to seek to understand his motivation because "where your treasure is, there will your heart be also (Matthew 6:21)."
But if the "modern prophetic movement" is driven by individuals who fall into the category of false prophets, how then can we explain how some people going to their meetings are actually touched by God?
Dividing the Child
1 Kings 3:16-25
Now two prostitutes came to the king and stood before him. One of them said, "My lord, this woman and I live in the same house. I had a baby while she was there with me. The third day after my child was born, this woman also had a baby. We were alone; there was no one in the house but the two of us.
"During the night this woman's son died because she lay on him. So she got up in the middle of the night and took my son from my side while I your servant was asleep. She put him by her breast and put her dead son by my breast. The next morning, I got up to nurse my son - and he was dead! But when I looked at him closely in the morning light, I saw that it wasn't the son I had borne."
The other woman said, "No! The living one is my son; the dead one is yours."
But the first one insisted, "No! The dead one is yours; the living one is mine." And so they argued before the king.
The king said, "This one says, 'My son is alive and your son is dead,' while that one says, 'No! Your son is dead and mine is alive.'"
Then the king said, "Bring me a sword." So they brought a sword for the king. He then gave an order: "Cut the living child in two and give half to one and half to the other."
King Solomon knew that, like the wheat and the tares (once they are planted among the wheat), a child cannot be divided and survive. It will die.
With this analogy, it is important to understand that even in the most bizarre, weird, and outrageous meetings that take place in this "modern prophetic" community, you will probably find people who truly love God. Many of these people may be plagued by the same devils that control much of these meetings but that does not prevent them from also receiving something from God! This may seem just too fantastic, but remember the words of David:
7 Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence?
8 If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there.
God does not and never has recognized Satan's territory. If He did, then He would have nothing to do with this world. He is very able to pick out a person in a meeting where demons run amuck to touch and heal them. So do not try to decide who is Christian and who is not. That is God's job. When considering the parable of the wheat and the tares, it is God and His angels who do the separating. Our job is to water the field. Our job is see that, as with Solomon, the truth comes forth. It is not easy, and I am fairly certain that not even Solomon knew which mother was the real mother.
Solomon was faced with a particularly difficult situation. If he simply adjudicated the matter, it is likely that one of the mothers would not have accepted his decree and would have continued to fight. He needed the truth to come out, clearly and finally. He needed the false mother to expose herself. So Solomon used wisdom in the situation to allow the false mother to expose herself.
In this current "revival," there are people who claim to be "slain in the Spirit," "drunk in the Spirit," or participating in "Holy Ghost laughter." We do not deny that these things take can, have, and do take place. There is biblical precedence for these and many other spiritual manifestations. The question is not whether or not the Spirit of God can/does manifest in this nature but which of these manifestations is the Spirit of God. What is demonic mockery, and what is simple man-made hype and hysteria? Now, more than likely no one can know for sure the difference. So what do we do? We allow the wheat and the tares to grow together and leave it to the angels of God and His Holy Spirit to separate the two. If we go in with a sword, we will certainly kill some of the wheat along with the tares - we will kill the baby. Remember, Solomon most likely did not know which mother was the true mother, but he did know how to find the truth and so his goal was to bring it out in every situation.
Today we are in desperate need of men like Solomon, who can present the wisdom of God in the hope that it will both save the baby and bring forth the truth. Amen.
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