Volume One, Issue Two

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Here is our second installment of the Newsletter.  We have had a truly phenomenal response, far greater than we had anticipated!

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We always have new breaking stories about what is happening in the world of the “Third Wave” counterfeit revival movements.  We have hundreds of articles in categories such as General Apologetics - Holy Spirit, General Apologetics - Third Wave, Third Wave Doctrines, Quotes From Third Wave Leaders, Word-Faith Movement, Kenneth Copeland, Benny Hinn, Rodney Howard-Browne, John Wimber & The Vineyard, Toronto “Blessing”, Pensacola “Outpouring”, False Prophets, Teachers & Healers, Revivalism, The Catholic Connection, Jubilee 2000, End Times Apostacy, Demonization, and Rightly Handling The Word Of Truth.

We also offer links to related books, publications, other web sites, video, audio, radio and TV programs, and other useful links to help you find your way through the maze of false doctrines and practices that are plaguing the church today.

The featured article in this issue is called “How To Evaluate A Spiritual Movement” by John Edmiston of Eternity Online Magazine.  It has some very good biblical thoughts on how to tell if a spiritual movement is of the Holy Spirit, “spirits” or the flesh.  Any movement that tends to devalue Scripture, debase human beings created by God, or trivializes the work of Jesus Christ on the cross and His resurrection should be shunned.

How To Evaluate a Spiritual Movement by John Edmiston, Eternity Online Magazine 1997

The Toronto movement and the revival at Brownsville Pensecola have generated an enormous amount of heated discussion amongst Christians. I will discuss this later. First of all I want to discuss how to evaluate anything that claims to be a “move of God”. This is important. Most of the recent deceptions such as hyper-faith, the prosperity gospel, and “headship” have claimed to be new moves of God that would usher in good things for the Christian church. Their promise has turned to ashes and bitterness however with many destroyed lives in their wake before they were largely refuted (they still have their adherents). Lets take the following verses as our guide: (1 Thessalonians 5:19-22 NKJV) Do not quench the Spirit. {20} Do not despise prophecies. {21} Test all things; hold fast what is good. {22} Abstain from every form of evil. This means that as we test we are to not despise spiritual phenomena but to test them in a way that keeps the Spirit’s flame alive. We are to gently sift out the good from the evil. Then we are to hold to that which is good -remembering it and putting it into action. And we are to firmly reject that which is evil.

How To Evaluate a Spiritual Movement

1. Are the revival leaders “workers of righteousness” or “workers of iniquity”? Are they characterized by financial greed or good works?(Matthew 23:25, 1 Thessalonians 2:5) Good doctrine or fables? ( 1 Timothy 4:1-8) Deep Christian character or selfish ambition?(James 3:14-18) Are they “law-full” or “lawless” ? (Matthew 7:15-23)

2. What are the long term fruits in terms of Christian character -especially faithfulness, truth, love, mercy, and righteousness.(Matthew 7:16-20, Galatians 5:22,23, Ephesians 5:9, James 3:14-18)

3. Does the movement as a whole display a love of sound doctrine ? What is the movement’s attitude to Scripture? (2 Peter 3:13-18, 1 Timothy 4:1-8))

4. Does the movement have a clear aim? Is it taking people somewhere? Can the results of the movement be built on by later generations? Is it a “house of straw” or a well-constructed foundation for the future? Is it built on Christ ie .the historical Jesus of Scripture? (Matthew 7:15-29, 1 Cor 3:10-17)

5. Does the movement have a sound morality ? Does it manage to avoid the twin dangers of moral licentiousness on one hand or overbearing legalism on the other.(Colossians 2:18-23, Jude 1:4)

6. What is the attitude of the movement to the rest of the body of Christ? Is it humble or proud? Is it boastful? Does it separate itself?

These tests are probably best applied to the movement as it is affecting your own congregation. It is much more difficult (unless you are very well informed) to judge the movement as a whole and the Bible warns us against such judgments.

Are We Allowed to Judge Others?

We are commanded to “test spiritual things” ( a literal translation of 1 John 4:1) and God is not offended by our careful sifting out of the truth.. The sin against the Holy Spirit is not questioning or testing but outright blasphemous conduct in the face of a completely clear and powerful revelation of God (Mark 3:22-31). We must not be intimidated out of the careful, prayerful searching out of things to see whether they really are of God. Jesus tells us not to believe everyone that comes along with a spiritual claim (Matthew 24:23-26) and Paul echoes this thought later on when he speaks of the false apostles with their false Christ and false Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 11:3-5, 13-15). The question is complicated by the fact that there are two words in the Greek language for “judge” and one is wrong (Romans 14:13) while the other is an essential part of Christian discipleship (Philippians 1:9). The “judging” we are not permitted to do is called “krino” in the Greek and it means to judge the person/thing as a whole eg “he is absolutely no good”. We are permitted to judge particulars which is called “dokimazo” judging “that was a good action”, “this person has strong faith” “that person has a wrong doctrine in the area of ....” etc. For instance it is not right to say that “the Toronto Blessing is absolutely no good” or “everything about the Toronto blessing is of God”. When Jesus judged the licentious Nicolaitan heresy in Revelation he said “..the deeds of the Nicolaitans which I hate...”(Revelations 2:6) thus specifying what it was that offended Him. Thus you can say “I am concerned about such and such a manifestation” or “I think it is wrong that they believe such and so” and be on much safer ground.

How We Are Deceived...

Here are twenty-two common ways that people make mistakes in judging movements of God.

1.  Not loving the truth so as to be saved...(2 Thessalonians 2:10) having more regard for expediency, experience or feelings than facts, truth and sound doctrine.

2.  Believing rumors , unreliable sources and unsubstantiated reports.(1 Tim 4:1-8)

3.  By flattery..to which few are immune. False prophets flatter their hearers or make extravagant and boastful claims.(Romans 16:18, Jude 1:16)

4.  Forgetting to go back to Scripture and to the Lord for guidance.(Joshua 9:3-17, Acts 17:11)

5.  Checking only part of it. Many heresies start out orthodox and then add in the extras as they go. Those who start with the movement think “What he said at first was true and we could find it in Scripture so even though we cannot find this in Scripture it must also be true”(Rev 22:18,19 , 2 Peter 2:1, 3:13-18)

6.  By saying “if this is wrong then the opposite must be right”. Eg “All I ever had before was lifeless bible teaching so .I have thrown away the Bible now and I just have the Spirit” or conversely “All I saw as a Pentecostal was totally shallow and dishonest I will have nothing to do with people who talk about the Holy Spirit any more”.

7.  Being overly impressed by “worldly attributes” such as an impressive church, a well-dressed or polished speaker with charisma, large attendances, “international” speakers. These things naturally impress us and we do not take a second look to see if there really is godly character, righteousness and truth. Statistics cannot measure holiness.(James chapters 2 and 3)

8.  Buts its the only group that believes X and X is just so important. Most cults have one core biblical truth that they have “rediscovered”. It might be that God speaks to us personally or that people can live holy lives or a certain view of baptism. . But that one rediscovered truth does not make the whole group good especially if all their other teachings are wrong or inadequate.

9.  Novelty has its own attraction - but not all new things are of God. Neither are they always wrong either. The core of any true movement of God will have the touch of eternity and solid truth about it. If something is flashy, novel and shallow “scratch the chrome” to see what’s underneath.

10  Reacting from fear and in haste instead of calmly examining things and sifting them through.

11. Judging from a purely cultural perspective. “I knew he was a man of God by the way he held his Bible/dressed/spoke..”

12. Emotionalism - what feels good must be true. The reverse prejudice is “if there is lots of emotion it must be false”. That also leads to error.

13. An incorrect definition of blessing. For example positive emotions = blessing , negative emotions or seriousness = lack of the Spirit. The Bible never makes this correlation. Joy is a character disposition and does not necessarily show in constant laughter.

14. Incorrectly defining God’s Presence/the Holy Spirit. as a human emotional state rather than an objective presence. “Such and so feeling = God’s Presence/the Holy Spirit.” People who do that end up saying the presence of this emotion=the presence of God. Since emotional states are stored in our memories and can be induced/recalled at will they can then “make God present” any time. The problem is its just the feeling that is present - not the Lord.

15. Equating financial prosperity with God’s blessing. This is common Christian jargon. Unfortunately some are deceived by it into thinking that a preacher who is doing well financially is thus “obviously blessed” and “therefore of God”. False prophets are often well paid while true prophets are often persecuted. Paul was not prosperous and Peter had neither silver or gold. The heroes of faith in Hebrews 11 “lived in holes in the ground”. Riches are no sign of approval and poverty is no sign of disgrace.

16. By being so averse to preaching, teaching and theology that we are uncritical of fads, trends and obvious deceptions. Some people dislike “dry as dust theology” so deeply that they refuse any and all teaching thus throwing the baby out with the bath water. They become open to deception and end up ‘reinventing the wheel”, going through all the ups and downs of the early church and all its heresies.

17. Refusing to learn from the past and saying “let me find out for myself..” That can be very costly and is an attitude that Scripture associates with the “fool” in Proverbs. (Proverbs 12:15, 15:5, 18:2, 26:12)

18. If there are miracles it must be OK - there are still genuine miracles happening but not all miracles are from God and some miracle workers are in fact “workers of iniquity”. (Matthew 7:15-21, 2 Thess 2:9) -also see article False Miracles In The End Times. Miracles even “in Jesus’s name” do not necessarily indicate God at work unless they are accompanied by righteousness. Miracles without character are just magic in disguise.

19. Gullibility -our desire to see a real movement of God can make us open to being conned.(Matthew 10:16)

20. Making blanket judgments based on one powerful personal experience either good or bad.

21. Saying that “If people are getting saved it must be of God”.Say someone receives Christ while drunk at 3 am in a casino. This does not mean that drunkenness, late night binges or casinos are of God. Conversions are definitely a good sign but we need to look at how those salvations hold up and the long term results. Jesus indicated this when He said of the Pharisees converts that they were “ sons of Hell..” (Matthew 23:15) thus indicating that their “conversions” did not bring about true character.

22. Wrong “litmus tests” people make up all sorts of criteria for judging groups. Some people use certain peripheral doctrines as litmus tests of orthodoxy. Pass that one test and you are in, fail it and you are a hell-bound heretic. While doctrine is important only a handful are seen as litmus tests in Scripture .The true tests of a Christian are practical agape love, righteousness, belief in the incarnation, death, resurrection and deity of Jesus and remaining in fellowship with believers following the apostolic traditions.

My deep concerns with Toronto and Pensecola

The movement delights in disorder. If the sermon cannot be brought because of laughter that is seen as spiritual and good. However, in 1 Corinthians 14 Paul goes to considerable lengths to say that public communication should not be private and ecstatic but clear and easily understood. (1 Corinthians 14:7-20). A Christian worship service should be a model of orderly edification (1 Corinthians 14:33, 40). This order is however created by the Spirit and consists of the harmonious, godly and reverent blending of the gifts into a mutually edifying service conducted by the Holy Spirit. (1 Corinthians chapters 11-14 treat this in detail). I do not see this evidenced in churches in the Toronto/Pensacola movement.

There is no deliberateness about the teaching in Toronto/Pensacola.. In contrast Jesus and the apostles taught in order to change lives. They taught deliberately, systematically and coherently. There was a connection between what they taught and what occurred in the lives of the hearers. They did not say “Just come into God’s presence and be fixed up”.

It teaches people to suspend their critical faculties completely and only to evaluate spiritual experiences subjectively. It says “get your mind out of the way” “don’t attempt to understand this, just receive” etc. The Bible however teaches us to be discerning people. (Philippians 1:9-10 NKJV) “And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, {10} that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ,”. The Bible wants us to abound in understanding, in knowledge, and wisdom (see Proverbs). It teaches us not to “just believe” but to evaluate spiritual experiences very carefully holding to what is good and rejecting that which is evil (1 Thess 5:19-22). I sense that much deception is occurring because Satan is taking advantage of this unguarded spiritual state.

A lack of doctrinal coherence and extremely unusual interpretations of Scripture particularly those relating to phenomena such as laughter and roaring “in the Spirit”. They seem to read what they want back into the Scriptures. No-one reading the Scriptures in an unbiased way can possibly come to the conclusion that a Christian church is supposed to be full of people laughing uncontrollably or roaring like lions. An anti-biblical stance by many involved. A church I know said “We have had too much of the Word so we are just going to have the Spirit for a while...” and the Bible was not preached on for two years and services consisted of people lying on the floor “drinking in the Spirit”. This antithesis between the word and the Spirit is unbiblical. From Genesis to Revelation the Word and the Spirit operate together to create God’s Kingdom purposes.

John Arnott says tells people not to pray or they will be unable to receive. This should be a huge danger sign. In Scripture people receive while praying but John Arnott rationalizes it by saying “you cannot give out and take in at the same time..”. There is no substance to that assertion in Scripture or well-attested Christian practice where most of us receive most from God while in prayer.

I have noticed that the movement seems very inward looking. Believers seek blessings for themselves only. Little in the way of social reform has occurred as a result of it . Genuine revivals result in deep social transformation and the founding of institutions and ministries for the poor. This seems to be a “bless me club”.

Lack of character, stability, honesty and faithfulness. There is an exchanging of solid dependable reliability for “freedom”. They become the spiritual equivalents of drug addicts. Always going for another “shot”, not able to function in the real world. The boastfulness and exceedingly affluent lifestyles if its leadership.

The emphasis on the offering as one of the main means of blessing. The blessing from tithing are stressed and those available from studying the Word are minimized. “The Spirit” may dispense with the sermon but funnily - never with the offering. This really rings alarm bells for me and indicates that we are dealing with greed not godliness..

For the above reasons I would urge you to stay away from the Toronto/Pensacola movement . Continue to seek the Lord’s blessings in churches where there is good teaching. He is real.

© Copyright John Edmiston, Eternity Online Magazine 1997. May be freely photocopied for non-profit ministry purposes.

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Be on guard, as an overseer in your church, against the deceptions of the “Third Wave”.

“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)

In Christ,