by winston davenport, february 17 2014
Jesus is operating on Earth right now in exactly the same way He was in the New Testament. Why do we applaud His unpredictability and unprecedented spiritual behavior during His three-year tour, but now assume that He will strictly move inside our prescribed, religious matrix? Let me ask you this: Did Jesus's actions range beyond the written Scripture of His day? Did He do things and present ideas that were beyond the scope of the Old Testament? Absolutely! Were the religious elite upset about this? Absolutely! John even stated that the spectrum of Jesus's supernatural demonstrations was so vast that all the books in the world would be unable to contain it (see John 21:25).
Yet today if there is a miracle or a manifestation that we can't see clearly in Scripture, it is quickly condemned by our very own religious elite: self-appointed watchdogs. We're repeating the great Pharisaical blunder of the ages: opposing what God is doing because it doesn't make sense to us. But what if it really is God? What if the holy laughter, dancing in the Spirit, gold dust, and other unusual phenomena really are the Holy Ghost at work in the Church? Who are we to judge or condemn these things simply because they breach our personal margins? Who are we to say that someone else's spiritual encounter was at best unfounded, and at worst demonic, just because it looked different than our expectations?
The Bible does make something clear: Giving God credit for something, even if it's not from Him, is not the end of the world (see Luke 9:49-50; Philippians 1:17-18). However, attributing God's works to the demonic realm is called "an eternal sin" (see Mark 3:22-30). Perhaps we shouldn't be so quick to call signs and wonders "demonic" just because we don't understand them.
Many of the unusual spiritual manifestations over the years have been inspired by the flesh, while some truly demonic. Nevertheless, this doesn't negate those experiences that truly are from God. In addition, Jesus did warn about false prophets in the last days who would deceive many with signs and wonders. However, our gauge of what's real and what's counterfeit has nothing to do with what makes intellectual sense. Using our current and limited understanding of the Bible to fence out what might be spiritually illegitimate is not acceptable. After all, when Peter's shadow started healing the sick in Acts 5:15, what was the Biblical proof text for this sign? In addition, God did "unusual miracles by the hands of Paul, so that handkerchiefs or aprons were even carried from his body to the sick, and the diseases left them and the evil spirits went out" (Acts 19:11-12 NASB). At that time, what was their scriptural validation for that supernatural operation? There wasn't one! Yet they did not challenge what the Spirit was doing because they couldn't find it in the Bible. That attitude was unheard of.
How about this one: Did you know that even though Jesus told the disciples to preach the Gospel to all creatures, Paul was "forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia"? (Acts 16:6). Whoa! How is this possible? Today's Pharisees would say, "If what the Holy Spirit is telling you contradicts the clear instruction of Scripture, you're not hearing the Holy Spirit." But maybe, just maybe, God is bigger than the book!
People have often asked me, "Why would the Spirit cause people to laugh uncontrollably? What's the point?"
First of all, why does there have to be a point? And who says that this "point" must be intelligible to the masses? Last time I checked, God could do whatever He wanted. Besides, if you are an earthly parent, don't you get joy from tickling your children, or teasing them, playing games and making them laugh? I loved to receive that kind of love and attention growing up! Is it really that obscure to suggest that our Heavenly Father—"a Father to the fatherless" (see Psalm 68:5)—might just find enjoyment in making His children laugh? After all, if you can't see the scriptural emphasis on joy, you're blind! Guess what? Laughter is a significant part of joy! So next time you see a fellow believer rolling on the floor with "holy laughter," restrain your judgment. In fact, it might do you some good to yield your dignity and join them!
People question, "Why would God send gold dust or jewels from Heaven? Why would He inspire people to bark like a dog or roar like a lion?"
My response is, "Why don't you ask Him?" I honestly don't feel the need to try and justify what my Heavenly Father decides to do. But I have a suspicion that sometimes His motivation is to deliberately violate what certain Christians deem acceptable. And really, you might not be able to find these things in the Bible, but consider some of the things God inspired His prophets to do. He suspended Ezekiel in midair by the hair (See 8:3). He stuck his tongue to the roof of his mouth (see 3:26). He made him lie on his side for over a year (see 4:4). Then He told him to bake a cake over human dung! (see 4:12). In light of these occurances, gold dust or angel feathers from Heaven doesn't seem that ridiculous.
In the New Testament, when John encountered Jesus, he "fell at His feet like a dead man" (Revelation 1:17). Yet many Christians are ridiculed today because they are "slain in the Spirit." Can you see how that same spirit of the Pharisees is still active in the Church?
Another Pharisaical ax to grind is being "drunk in the Spirit." Zechariah 9:15 prophesies, "And they will drink and be boisterous as with wine.... And the Lord their God will save them in that day." Is this the day in which we have been saved? Yes! And along with salvation comes a celebration. Drink up! The day the Church was born, people got drunk in the Spirit. They must have been carrying on extravagantly as they spoke in unknown tongues, because the crowd said, "They are full of sweet wine" (Acts 2:13 NASB). Notice that this is exactly what Zechariah prophesied. They were drunk as with wine.
Next, Peter stood up and said, "These men are not drunk, as you suppose...." Now, pay attention to this verse. The actual order of the Greek sentence (minus the punctuation that isn't included in the original manuscripts) says, "These men are become drunk not as you suppose...." I believe that Peter was saying, "Yeah, we're drunk, but not in the way that you think!" There's a reason Jesus talked about putting "new wine into fresh wineskins" (Matthew 9:17 NASB). Even Paul used this example, saying, "And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit" (Ephesians 5:18 NASB). The word "but" means "instead," or "in its stead," or "as an alternative." In the stead of natural wine and its mind-altering effects, Paul commands us to become mind-altered by the Holy Spirit!
Finally, I'd like to point out that the true gauge to identify a legitimate sign or wonder is the discernment of the Holy Spirit. We are never instructed to measure what we see against the Bible, but rather against what the Spirit is telling us. Indeed, false signs will be performed. But the issue isn't the sign itself. A sign points to something, remember? The question we should be asking is, "Who is the source of this sign, and where does it point?" That answer can't be found in Scripture. That's why we were given the living, active Holy Spirit to live in us. He is the One who will expose the counterfeit prophets and their false miracles.
If you are guilty of judging spiritual experiences based on what you think God might or might not do, ask Him to show you a better way. Ask Him to teach you how to follow the discernment of the Holy Spirit. It's possible that a leader could come looking, sounding, and acting exactly how you think He should. He could seem very Bible-based. But the Holy Spirit might tell you otherwise. Be sensitive to that inward peace, and never use the Scriptures to hold God hostage. Whenever we attempt to control or limit His work, He will intentionally violate our expectations. It's so much better to just stay in the flow. Don't be held back by your denomination, either. The Kingdom of God is advancing, and we must advance with it!
by winston davenport, february 17 2014