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In a follow up phone call to a recent guest to our church, they eagerly described the service they attended here as one of the best they had ever attended. I might have expected them to say it was the worship or possibly the preaching, but their answer surprised me. In their words there was such reverence, peace, and organization. The service was free from chaos. They felt the presence of God and love of God's people like never before. They proceeded to tell me that their appreciation was based on their previous experience in another church that was unorganized and chaotic and lacked the peace, love, and joy they felt here. Now, I have been around long enough to understand that people can say lots of things. However, I believe there is a principle behind what this person was saying. Unfortunately some churches have adopted the idea that "organization" and "order" are dirty words to God and are code words for "stiff, dead, cold religion". They believe that "freedom of the Spirit" means that they must cast off all boundaries and adopt an "anything goes" mentality where "wilder and crazier" and getting spiritually "drunk" is evidence of God's glory. However, you cannot find this kind of practice and behavior sanctioned in the New Testament church. Paul (who spoke in tongues and would be considered Charismatic or Pentecostal by our definition today), rebuked the Corinthian church for allowing things to get out of hand in the church services. While he encouraged the exercise of spiritual gifts for personal edification outside the church gathering, when it came to the church meetings, everything had to be done decently and in order for the edification of the church. The reason is that God is not the author of confusion. Confusion and chaos are the result of spiritual disorder. Biblical order is necessary to insure that God is glorified and that the people who attend the church gathering are edified. True "freedom" in worship takes place when we worship God within the boundaries of His Word and in loving consideration for one another.
Romans 16:17–20 (NKJV) "Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them. 18 For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple. 19 For your obedience has become known to all. Therefore I am glad on your behalf; but I want you to be wise in what is good, and simple concerning evil. 20 And the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen."
Did you know that the Scripture tells us to avoid certain persons? Yes. We are to avoid those who cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which we have learned (i.e. the Word of God). Paul says that those who cause division and spread offenses are deceivers who do not serve the Lord Jesus Christ but their own belly--their own agenda. In order for deceivers to draw away disciples unto themselves, they use the power of seduction. Deceivers know that they must first soften the heart of those who have heard the truth before they will be willing to embrace the lie. Through seduction--smooth words and flattering speech--deceivers lure the simple. Proverbs describes the "simple" as those who are without wisdom and understanding and who live their lives without clear boundaries. The simple do not have clear boundaries because they are not settled in the truth. Rather than bringing every thought, emotion, and opinion captive to the Word of God, their life is characterized by subjective impulses causing them to wander from one opinion to another. As a result, the simple are easily led astray through the work of seducers who charm their hearts to go astray. The Puritan minister and writer, Thomas Watson (1620-1685) said of these seducers, "They have fine elegant phrases, flattering language, whereby they work on weak Christians. They possess a pretense of extraordinary piety, so others may admire them and suck in their doctrine. They seem to be men of zeal and sanctity, to be divinely inspired and pretend to new revelations." [Glorifying God (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2009), January 3]. In order to avoid falling victim to the work of deceivers, Paul says we must 1) Note those who cause divisions and offenses contrary to the Word of God, and 2) Avoid them. Those who entertain serpents eventually get bit. If Adam and Eve had noted and avoided the Serpent in the Garden of Eden, they certainly would not have been seduced to believe the lie.
© E. Keith Hassell
Blessed are the proud,
For they shall be wise in their own eyes.
Blessed are the rebellious,
For they shall be called my children.
Blessed are the unforgiving,
For they shall never be forgiven.
Blessed are those who sow discord,
For they shall separate the brethren.
Blessed are those who bring division,
For they shall accomplish my vision.
Blessed are the easily offended,
For they shall never be established.
Blessed are the critics,
For they shall act as my judges.
Blessed are the unsubmitted,
For they shall be my slaves.
Blessed are the disobedient,
For they are obedient to me.
Blessed are those claim to be led by God to do their own will
For they are led by me.
Blessed are the unmerciful,
For they shall not receive mercy.
Blessed are the envious,
For they shall resent the advantage of others.
Blessed are the self-centered,
For they shall be the center of my attention.
Blessed are those who seek recognition,
For they shall be noticed by me.
Blessed are the easily offended,
For they shall become angry and quit.
Blessed are the self-righteous,
For they shall be self-justified.
Blessed are the fault-finders,
For they uncover a multitude of sins.
Blessed are the accusers,
For they are my prosecuting attorneys.
Blessed are the excuse makers,
For they shall never accept the blame.
Blessed are those who hate their brother,
For they have me as their father.
Blessed are the do-nothings,
For they shall wear out the diligent.
Blessed are the troublemakers,
For they shall oppress the saints.
Blessed are the ungrateful,
For they shall always feel they deserve more.
Blessed are the gossipers,
For they shall be called my messengers.
Blessed are the unfaithful,
For they are faithful to my cause.
Blessed are those who expect to be invited to their own church,
For they are important to me.
Blessed are those who will not serve others,
For they will always serve me.
Blessed are those who murmur and complain,
For they always hear my voice.
Blessed are those who persecute the righteous,
For they are soldiers in my army.
Blessed are those who do not pray,
For they shall become my prey.
Ezekiel 14:4–5 (NKJV) “Therefore speak to them, and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God: “Everyone of the house of Israel who sets up his idols in his heart, and puts before him what causes him to stumble into iniquity, and then comes to the prophet, I the Lord will answer him who comes, according to the multitude of his idols, that I may seize the house of Israel by their heart, because they are all estranged from Me by their idols."'"
Are you a prophecy junkie going from one prophetic conference to another seeking another "word from the Lord"? Are you drawn to prophets who tell you what you want to hear rather than what you need to hear? When I first got involved in the Charismatic Movement, it wasn't this way. People were hungry for the Word of God. They would sit for hours with Bibles and notepads in hand feeding on God's Word. Most of the prophetic words given in meetings had a simplicity and innocence that was beautiful. Prophecy edified rather than controlled the meeting. Prophecies were generally given under accountability to church leadership and were lovingly judged and corrected when they contained error. There were no lines to receive "personal prophecies". However, over time came the rise of the prophetic movement that placed emphasis no only on prophecy but on prophets. While some of the emphasis has been biblically based and profitable, it also provided a platform for the rise of profaned prophetic ministry and outright false prophets. As a result, false doctrine, covetous practices, questionable methods, moral issues, spiritual arrogance, and manipulative prophetic ministry has become commonplace. The abuse of prophecy and the prophetic office has unfortunately resulted in many shipwrecked lives and church splits. Often pastors who naively allowed this kind of ministry to enter the church unchecked find themselves in a battle to save the flock and even their own leadership. Why are so few pastors sounding the alarm and protecting the flock? I believe it is due to a lack of discernment coupled with a pressure to embrace what they are told is "cutting edge" prophetic ministry. No one wants to be left behind in the shadows, right? The pressure on pastors to embrace the prophetic movement is increasing as growing numbers of prophets and prophetesses affirm each others prophecies and to validate one another's ministries. Does large numbers validate the movement? No. Elijah stood as God's true prophet against 450 prophets of Baal. In fact, Ezekiel 22:25 called the alliance of false prophets in his day a "conspiracy" that he likened to a pride of roaring lions devouring their prey. Pastors who dare to question, much less confront, these self-proclaimed prophets are met with a ferocious warning, "Touch not the Lord's anointed!" However, pastors need not be afraid of false prophets (Deuteronomy 18:18-22). The apostle John admonishes us to test the spirits in order to deny false prophets access to the flock (1 John 4:1-6). In Revelation 2:2, Jesus commended rather than rebuked the church in Ephesus for testing those who claimed to be apostles but were not. Brothers and sisters, it is time to wake up and wise up to the reality that not everyone who prophesies is a prophet of God and not every prophecy is true. If the body of Christ doesn't wake up soon, I believe the church in our generation may experience the great apostasy (falling away from the true faith) spoken of in 2 Thessalonians 2:3. Don't misunderstand, I believe that there are true prophets. In fact, we need to ask God to raise up true prophets like Elijah who will confront the false prophets of our day! Remember, when the spell of false prophets was broken off of the people, revival was the result! False prophets are dangerous. They are masters of disguise (Matthew 7:15) and of seduction (Ezekiel 13:10). False prophets claim to have a word from God, but God has not spoken to them (Jeremiah 23:21-22). They prophesy out of the inspiration of their own heart (Ezekiel 13:2). Their spirit is corrupt and profane (Jeremiah 6:13). They are motivated by covetousness (Jeremiah 8:10). As a result, they lure the unsuspecting by telling them what they want to hear (2 Timothy 4:2-4). They deliver a message of "Peace! Peace!" to those involved in idolatry, rebellion, sin, and disobedience (Ezekiel 13:10; Jeremiah 6:14). False prophets are dangerous because they affirm wicked desires and comfort the sinner. Once people embrace the ministry of false prophets, they rarely escape deception. In His wisdom, God has judged these individuals by causing them to believe the lying spirits operating in false prophets (Ezekiel 14:6-11; 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12). For a sobering example of how God did this with King Ahab, read 2 Chronicles 18:18-22! Friend, you and I are not immune from being deceived. If you don't believe that, then you are already deceived! How can we escape the seduction of lying spirits operating through false prophets? We must humble ourselves before God, confess our sin, repent of our idolatry and sin (Ezekiel 14:6), repent of our fascination with subjective supernatural experiences, and then develop an uncompromising love and obedience for the truth of God's Word (2 Thessalonians 2:10).Without an uncompromising love for the truth of God's Word and the humility to receive its correction, we will be unwilling and unable to escape the deception around us.
Is that a "Ba-a-a-h", a "But", or a "Growl" I hear?
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