Part two in a series on genuine revival.
Principles unfold throughout this series; therefore, it’s my hope that readers consider the entire series before drawing conclusions. The need to address revival and the vital role of the Holy Spirit is as relevant today as it has been throughout church history.
Christians can embrace one of two extremes concerning the word “revival.” At one extreme are those who embrace pure emotionalism and hysteria—“if it’s odd it’s God”—all weird behavior is excused. The other extreme lacks a living, vibrant spiritual life. The church feels dead, cold, and lifeless. Talk of reviving the things of God (revival) is either dismissed or ridiculed. Both extremes can hinder the work of the Holy Spirit and genuine Christian growth. I will primarily address the first extreme where I have viewed videos of people supposedly “getting high,” “toking,” and “drunk” on the Holy Ghost. This is not the same as being filled with the Spirit of God (cf. Ephesians 5:18). I’ve attended conferences where questionable things have occurred, and I have seen video footage of people being led around like dogs on a leash and acting like animals. Yes, I’m serious…bizarre and grossly unbiblical manifestations are not reflective of one filled with the Spirit. Those truly filled with the Spirit seek to reflect the personality and nature of God.
When questioned about extremes in this type of odd behavior, there are no answers that find support in Scripture. Common responses are, “I know it seems bizarre, but…” Or, “I know it’s weird, but…” Or, “You’re quenching and grieving the Spirit by not being open.” These are not biblically sound responses for such bizarre manifestations. The Holy Spirit is not quenched when we honor God’s Word and “test the spirits, whether they are of God” (1 John 4:1). He is quenched and grieved when we do not test and discern—when we allow the Holy Spirit to be misrepresented. The apostle Paul, in 1 Corinthians 2:15, said that Christians are to judge, or discern, all things.
Sadly, Scriptures are often used out of cotenxt to support very odd behavior. For example, Acts 2:15 states, “For these are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day,” and John 18:6 records that men “drew back and fell to the ground” when Jesus surrendered Himself shortly before His death. These Scriptures, when used to validate wild, ranting fanaticism, are incorrect exegetically (uncovering the literal meaning of a text), and misleading.
Granted, we cannot dismiss the truly miraculous works of God that happen daily, nor can we minimize the incredible power of God to radically change lives through the power of the Spirit. We can’t put God in a box. However, in our zeal and excitement we often minimize the need for discernment. A discerning person considers supernatural experiences in light of God’s Word, nature, and character. They ask, “Is there genuine fruit? Does the experience align with God’s Word? Is the fruit of the Spirit found in Galatians 5 present: love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control?” A true, genuine experience with the Holy Spirit will produce godly fruit and obedience to God. It seeks to promote those things that are pure and/or righteous. A word of caution here: even those in the New Age movement experience powerful feelings of love and euphoria, but it doesn’t draw them closer to Christ or lead to repentance or surrender to the true God.
Although sincere, we can be sincerely wrong and seriously misled. Having an experience or being enlightened can create “feel good” emotions, but it does not necessarily mean that it is right. Even though there is flexibility and freedom, our experiences must align with the Scriptures and the character of God. “We should not interpret Scripture in the light of our experiences, but rather, interpret our experiences in the penetrating light of Scripture” (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones). Feelings can be good and God-given; however, we cannot forget the prophet Jeremiah’s words, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” (17:9). Profoundly moving experiences do stir emotions, and rightly so, but emotions are primarily a vehicle for expression, not a gauge for Truth.
Sadly, some of the disturbing behavior mentioned earlier has been excused, and some of the leaders of these movements are rarely challenged. They can divorce their spouses and remain in leadership using 1 Chronicles 16:22 as a proof text, “Do not touch My anointed ones, and do My prophets no harm.” This is an abuse of grace at the highest level and a twisting of Scripture. We should forgive, but reinstatement raises several questions. In our zeal to defend the Holy Spirit, we sometimes run the risk of defending wrong behavior. One can rise to the top because of ability, but plummet to the bottom because he or she lacks character. Throughout the Old Testament, God gave people the opportunity to be leaders, but it was their character and their humility, not their position, that determined their outcome.
More on genuine revival next week…