Thursday, December 15, 2011

Deception: Counterfeit Signs and Wonders

Jesus prophesied that, in the last days, demonic miraculous deceptions would proliferate:

• “At that time [of Tribulation] if anyone says to you, 'Look, here is the Christ!' or, 'There he is!' do not believe it. For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect--if that were possible.” (Matthew 24:23-24)

Although those who are truly His will continue in the faith, I don’t think that we are at all prepared for how powerful these deceptions will be and how many will leave our ranks – perhaps only temporarily – because of them. Recent counterfeit wonders and the resulting apostasy give us a small taste of what is to come. It is therefore profitable to acquaint ourselves with them.

In 1990 Rodney Howard-Browne was invited to preach at Benny Hinn’s church. Hank Hanegraaff writes that “pastors and parishioners began to fall, laugh, and get drunk in the Spirit.” Consequently, Hinn declared that “This is the Holy Ghost, people, I’m telling you. Lift your hands and thank Him for this. This is the Holy Ghost here!” And this was only the beginning. In Pastor Karl Strader’s church:

• Some even went “dumb in the Spirit.” Most notably among them was Pastor Strader, who struggled pathetically to speak but could only emit unintelligible grunts. Eventually, when he came to himself, Strader declared this extravaganza to be “the greatest move of God I’ve ever seen. It was like something in the history books. (Counterfeit Revival, 29)

Howard-Browne was then invited to speak at Oral Roberts University, where Roberts claimed that he,

• “Touched the life of our student body, including our athletes. Nobody has ever touched our athletes…All of them got the Holy Laughter…thousands of ‘em, and when he came by and said ‘Fill!,’ they fell in the Spirit on the grounds.” The response, in fact, was so overwhelming that classes had to be cancelled as students fell to the floor and laughed…There’s no question about it, he changed my life and my son’s life.” (32)

Although there is no Biblical assurance that these are genuine manifestations of the Spirit, a couple of revivalists were so impressed that they concluded,

• The Spirit of God is moving in breathtaking and sometimes startling new ways, and people of every tongue and every nation are…falling in love with Jesus in a brand new way! (33)

Hanegraaff relates so many accounts where people were absolutely overwhelmed by the supernatural, sometimes against their most strenuous efforts:

• “Suddenly she tried to get up and got as far as a crawl position on her hands and knees, and then she froze right on the spot, completely unable to move…She remained in exactly the same position for at least forty-five minutes.” (35)

Others have similar accounts:

• When standing to be recognized in the church gathering, many mothers “fell and remained on the floor for about 20 minutes, laughing.” At a previous January service, the “participants were swept up in a fervor of what they said was the power of the Holy Spirit. They laughed or shook uncontrollably and fell to the floor.”

• About what happened at one Vineyard gathering, a pastor reported of a fellow who, “described [his] . . . experience as equivalent to six months of therapy.”[3]

• “What am I to believe about these manifestations? Do they come from the Holy Spirit? Or, in failing to appreciate and apply the ‘Toronto Blessing,’ am I missing something that could bless my personal Christian walk and the congregation I pastor?”

The revival was then imported by Toronto Airport Vineyard Pastor John Arnott, where it became known as the “Toronto Blessing.” The experience radically transformed Arnott’s ministry. He had to “relearn” a lot:

• “We used to think when people shook, shouted, flopped, rolled, etc., that it was a demonic thing manifesting and we needed to take them out of the room.” (52)

How did Arnott overcome his former reservations? He decided to turn off his critical faculties and trust in this new work of the Spirit:

• “If you play it safe with this thing, the Holy Spirit, you know what? You’re never going to get anywhere.” (52)

This became the operating practice for the Vineyard churches – leap first and ask questions later, if at all. In 1995, Phil Johnson visited the Anaheim Vineyard and was shocked to hear from the pulpit:

• “And above all, don't try to rationally evaluate the things you will see. God isn't trying to reach your mind; He wants to reach your heart. Analyzing spiritual phenomena through the grid of human logic or religious presuppositions is the quickest way to quench what the Spirit is doing. Subjecting the revival to doctrinal tests is the surest way to put out the fire. Don't try to find reasonable explanations for what is happening; just turn your heart loose and let the Spirit flow through your emotions. Only then can the Spirit have His way in your life.”

However, leaping first meant that Scripture had to be put aside. Scripture didn’t give any sanction to disorder – leaping, barking, laughing, and twitching all over:

• But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way. (1 Cor. 14:40)

• The spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets. For God is not a God of disorder but of peace. (1 Cor. 14:32-33)

In contrast to the “Toronto Blessing” chaos, Paul argued that disorder would turn people away from the truth:

• So if the whole church comes together and everyone speaks in tongues, and some who do not understand or some unbelievers come in, will they not say that you are out of your mind? (1 Cor. 14:23)

No “Blessing” can be complete without prophets to encourage and interpret it, and the Vineyard became a magnet for them. However, they lowered the bar. Vineyard prophet David Ravenhill (and the others) changed the Rule-Book:

• “I believe the test of a prophet is not whether his word comes to pass…it’s the nature of that person’s life.” (75)

The fruits of their lives would only become apparent much later. Removing the prophecy test opened the door to many “prophets.” However, removing this test is a violation of Scripture:

• You may say to yourselves, "How can we know when a message has not been spoken by the Lord?" If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the Lord does not take place or come true, that is a message the Lord has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously. Do not be afraid of him. (Deut. 18:21-22)

The Word of God required stringent protective tests. This test would insure the purity of the Word of God. The false prophets would be infallibly ruled out, otherwise Scripture, the basis of all life and worship, would suffer contamination. Consequently without this most stringent test, the Vineyard had a surplus of prophets, and they consolidated their position through intimidation. One, Rick Joyner, warned:

• “Some who are presently in leadership that resist this move will become so hardened they will become opposers and persecutors of the church. Others will be changed and repent of their hardness of heart, even though, in some cases, their resistance to the Holy Spirit will have disqualified them from leadership. This growing tide of unity in the church will reveal the true nature of those in leadership.” (96)

As a result, the Vineyard prophets could not be tested, lest the doubters become charged with resisting the Holy Spirit. However, testing the prophets or spirits is something that we are commanded to do (1 Thess. 5:19:21; 1 John 4:1-3). If we fail to do this, we are derelict in our duty:

• If a prophet, or one who foretells by dreams, appears among you and announces to you a miraculous sign or wonder, and if the sign or wonder of which he has spoken takes place, and he says, "Let us follow other gods" (gods you have not known) "and let us worship them," you must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer. The Lord your God is testing you to find out whether you love him with all your heart and with all your soul. It is the Lord your God you must follow, and him you must revere. Keep his commands and obey him; serve him and hold fast to him. (Deut. 13:1-4)

Faithfulness to God’s Word had to take precedence even over miraculous wonders. However, the Vineyard prophets protected their exalted position by eliminating the Biblical safeguards. This opened the door to a lot of bad theology. Even John Wimber, the leader of the Vineyard churches, warned that,

• “Evangelicals all over the country are worshiping the book. They have God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Book.” (109)

Wimber had come out of the Calvary Chapel movement but turned against them:

• “Calvaryites are sometimes a little too heavily oriented to the written Word. I know that sounds a little dangerous, but frankly they’re very pharisaical in their allegiance to the Bible. They have little life and growth and spontaneity in their innards. Sometimes they’re very rigid and can’t receive much of the things of the Lord.” (109)

However, without the Word, we have no defense against Satan who “transforms himself into an angel of light” (1 Cor. 11:14). Peter instructs us to “be vigilant” against the devil (1 Peter 5:8), but we cannot fulfill this without the guidelines of the Word.

Paul warned the Ephesian church that,

• Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears. Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified. (Acts 20:30-32)

According to Paul, it is the “word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.” It is also the word that will alert them against those who would “distort the truth in order to draw away disciples.”

Another Vineyard prophet, Jack Deere, also warned against exercising any discernment:

• “God is in the process of offending our minds in order to reveal our hearts.” (76)

According to Deere, our thinking just gets in the way. Therefore, the Spirit has to take it out of the way so that we can receive. Wimber also had warned that this rigidity of mind would prevent us from “receiv[ing] much of the things of the Lord.”

However, nowhere is Scripture do we read that too much thinking on Scripture impedes the work of the Spirit. Instead, the Berean church had been commended because they didn’t receive Paul’s teachings immediately but “searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so” (Acts 17 :11).

Similarly, Jesus instructed His followers to not believe Him without corroborating evidences. However, because there were such supporting evidences, they were to believe (John 5:31-38). This is only reasonable. In the Bible, everything had to find support from at least two or three witnesses (Deut. 19:15). The Bible wasn’t about blind faith but a reasoned faith.

Although the Vineyard had many prophets, they also had one premier prophet, Paul Cain. How did he become prophet #1? Orrel Steinkamp writes:

• Cain was given a special place of recognition because of his nearly always-accurate clairvoyant ability to see things that no one else could. In a sense, he was like the second coming of Branham. All the other prophetic wannabes aspired to become like Cain and were always having to justify the fact that their prophecies never really ever attained anything near to Cain's apparent accuracy. To be sure, Cain has had an occasional slip. He once prophesied that Bill Clinton would lead America in a worldwide revival.

Wimber declared that the prophetic power resident in Cain is so awesome that:

• “He’s interacting in two dimensions continually. He’s not only seeing you and talking to you, but he’s hearing from God constantly.” (145)

Despite his powers, Cain erroneously prophesied that,

• “God is now raising up a Christian army to take over the socio-political systems of the day…Not even Elijah or Peter or Paul or anyone else enjoyed the power that is going to rest upon this great army.” (106)

In addition to a number of erroneous prophecies, Cain had other problems. One of the Vineyard prophets, Rick Joyner, who also had had his own sexual flings, wrote on his website:

• "In February 2004, we were made aware that Paul had become an alcoholic. In April 2004, we confronted Paul with evidence that he had recently been involved in homosexual activity. Paul admitted to these sinful practices and was placed under discipline, agreeing to a process of restoration, which the three of us would oversee. However, Paul has resisted this process and has continued in his sin... With our deepest regrets and sincerity, Rick Joyner, Jack Deere, Mike Bickle." http://www.morrnnsstrarministries.ore/oages/ special~bulleu.ns/0ct_19.html

A prophet of God can be no less a man-of-God than elders. The Apostle Paul stipulated the requirements for eldership:

• Since an overseer is entrusted with God's work, he must be blameless--not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. Rather he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it. (Titus 1:7-9)

David Pyches, who has authored a book extolling the Kansas City prophets [forerunners of the Vineyard], explains the clairvoyant talent of Paul Cain:

• "Paul's mother, grandmother, and great grandmother had all been born with the gift of seeing. His great-grandmother would sometimes see things in broad daylight and ask her friend or family if they could see them too. If they said they could not, she would occasionally wave her hand upon them and they would immediately see the identical vision... Paul now found he was "seeing" also and would know things that were going to happen to classmates at school or were happening to absent friends. (Pyches, pgs. 24,26.)

We shouldn’t be overly skeptical at the mention of clairvoyance. The Bible refers to many false prophets. And there’s no reason to dismiss the idea that they might have had a supernatural demonic connection. Paul had even cast the demon out of one woman who had been so successful that she was able to make her master money with her “gift.” However, without the demon, she became worthless to her master.
So many had been hurt by the “Toronto Blessing!” Many of the disappointed had wandered away from the church after the inconsistencies had become apparent! This could have been avoided had people been willing to put Scripture before experience. Sadly, we are too ready to put miracles above the warnings of the Bible, the quick-fix above God’s truth.

Paul’s final words to the Ephesians included these:

• Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified. (Acts 20:32)

We are too ready to think that we are missing out on some spiritual blessing. However, we are instructed that we have everything that we need in Christ (Col. 2:9-10) and in His Word:

• All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Tim. 3:16-17)

If we truly know that we are “thoroughly equipped for every good work.,” perhaps we might be able to resist the next prophet or the next set of miraculous signs!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.