IN THE SPIRIT
Is it of God?
How can Christians decide?
By Tricia Tillin (1994)
all the media and Church interest in the UK in what is being called "revival",
and "refreshing" or "The Toronto Blessing", Christians urgently need to
consider their response. While some are waiting for the genuine hallmarks
of revival to develop, and others are simply undecided, many have accepted
the manifestations as totally of God. But is this right? How can we judge
coming in, and also from the study of the Word, and of previous genuine
revivals, we can make several observations that may be helpful:
PREVIOUSLY AS DEMONIC
disruptive and outrageous manifestations present in the meetings, such
as hysterical laughter, growling, roaring, over-heating of the body and
paralysis have never been signs of a genuine revival. They have, however,
occurred elsewhere (new-age therapies/drug-abuse, for example), and been
identified as fleshy or demonic manifestations during earlier revivals.
Pot-smokers report they developed hysterical laughter in which everything
appears to be funny. One Christian who had worked in a lunatic asylum
reports having heard the same laughter there!
from "War On The Saints" (Jessie Penn-Lewis, Publisher: Thomas Lowe, NY,
first published 1912, reprinted 1973 onwards)tells of an earlier occasion
during the Welsh Revival (1904) in which laughter was identified as a
work of the devil in a Christian meeting:
element comes in, possibly only recognisable to some with keen spiritual
vision, or else plainly obvious to all. Perhaps the speaker begins to
pray quietly and calmly, with a pure spirit, but suddenly the voice
is raised, it sound "hollow", or has a metallic tone; the tension of
the meeting increases and overwhelming over-mastering "power" falls
upon it; and no one thinks of "resisting" what appears to be such a
"manifestation of God"!
of those present may have no idea of the mixture which has crept in.
Some fall on the ground, unable to bear the strained emotion, or effect
upon the mind; and some are thrown down by some supernatural power;
others cry out in ecstasy; the speaker leaves the platform, passes by
a young man, who becomes conscious of a feeling of intoxication upon
him, which does not leave his senses for some time. Other laugh with
the exuberance of the intoxicating joy. Some have had real spiritual
help and blessing through the Word of God being expounded ere this climax
came, and during the pure outflow of the Holy Spirit consequently they
accept these strange outworkings as from God, because in the first stage
of the meetings, their needs have been truly met of Him, and they cannot
discern between the two separate "manifestations" coming through the
In a passage
headed "How Demons Attack Advanced Christians" Jessie Penn-Lewis describes
religious demons who offer a counterfeit of true, deep spirituality. (page
324) She cites the example of one man who:
like rolling on the floor, groaning and pulling the chairs around, but
he distinctly perceived that the impulse to do so had something wild
in it; and a touch of self-display contrary to the gentleness and sweetness
of Jesus; and as quick as he saw it was an attack of a false spirit,
he was delivered. But another man had the same impulse, and fell down
groaning and roaring, beating the floor with his hands and feet, and
the demon entered into him as an angel of light, and got him to think
that his conduct was of the Holy Ghost, and it became a regular habit
in the meetings he attended, until he would ruin every meeting he was
how this sort of thing was discerned as demonic, you need to read the
comments in context and see the teaching of the book as a whole. "War
On The Saints" (unabridged version, by Jessie Penn-Lewis, Publisher: Thomas
Lowe, NY, first published 1912, reprinted 1973 onwards) is invaluable
at this time, as it so mirrors the present-day events.
therapy is also currently in use as a new-age therapy. Norman Cousins,
globalist, new-age occultist and leader of the infamous human potential
movement is famous for his metaphysical laughter teachings; "laughter
therapy workshops are an integral part of the human potential movement
here in Australia", reports the Christian newsletter "Despatch" March
1994, Vol 6:1
DIFFERENCES BETWEEN PREVIOUS REVIVALS AND TODAY
A study of
revivals in the past reveals major inconsistencies: Firstly, revival
is primarily for the unsaved, to bring them to Jesus. True revival has
always been the powerful preaching of the Word of God, leading to a conviction
of sin and a strong desire to repent, and to seek God for salvation. If
and when physical manifestations occurred, (falling down, moaning, crying
aloud) they happened as a result of conviction - and they ceased once
the person found relief in the Lord Jesus.
these things were the exception rather than the rule. There was NEVER
a time in previous genuine revivals when Christians lined up en masse
to receive holy-laughter, or came over and over again to meetings to get
slain in the spirit.
the attitude of the elders to physical manifestations was very cautious,
in genuine revivals. They were aware of the danger of letting satan get
a foothold in God's work, and they tested and limited the manifestations.
This is not happening today!
excitement spreads rapidly through a congregation under the influence
of sympathy, and it not unfrequently becomes necessary in powerful revivals
to proceed with great discretion for this reason. Where one person becomes
overwhelmed with excitement, and breaks out into loud crying and tears,
where he cannot contain himself but has to wail out with excitement, it
requires much judgement to dispose of such a case without injury on the
one side or the other. If the thing be severely rebuked, it will almost
invariably beget such a feeling among Christians as to quench the Spirit.
On the other hand, if it be openly encouraged and the flame fanned, it
will often produce an overwhelming amount of excitement throughout the
congregation. Many will perhaps be overcome, and multitudes profess to
submit to God; whereas scarcely one of them has acted intelligently or
will in the end be found to have been truly converted...(Finney, "Reflections
On Revival" P.42)
IS THE REPENTANCE? WHERE ARE THE UNBELIEVERS?
This is a
"revival" that so far has affected only Christians. There is no such thing,
in reality. In fact, even the leaders of the new move are wary of calling
it "revival" for this very reason. They know that God's revivals reach
out to the unsaved, to convict them and convert them. God's Holy Spirit,
when He comes in power, calls sinners to repentance. He convicts of sin,
he reminds of judgement, and he gives assurance of righteousness only
to be found in the Saviour, the Lord Jesus. (John 16:8)
the case, a move that involves no evangelism, has no foundation of repentance,
and consists mainly of Christians being slain in the spirit for no apparent
reason, cannot be called a revival.
4. A REVIVAL
THAT IS SPREAD FROM PERSON TO PERSON?
feature of this current move is that it is being spread by the use of
testimonies, audio tapes, laying-on-of-hands, and so on (rather than the
preaching of the Word!). There is also a scramble to travel to a place
where the manifestations are occurring, in order to "get" it.
a genuine revival is the work of God alone, a sovereign move of the Holy
Spirit, in response to believing prayer over a period of time. It cannot
be pinned down to a place or a person, and cannot be passed from one to
another like an infection, for God deals with each person in a special
and unique way.
5. THE MANIFESTATIONS
CAN BE HALTED IN THE NAME OF JESUS
If this outpouring
were truly of God, it would spread solely under His guidance and power,
and no man could halt it. Instead, several Christians report that they
have rebuked the manifestations and caused them to stop. Others say, after
asking the Lord for protection during the meetings, anyone who tried to
lay hands on them swerved away. Is the Holy Spirit divided, or is He praying
THE WORD OF GOD AND INTERRUPTING PREACHING
in particular the laughter, are not happening in response to the ministry
of the Word of God. Indeed, they often interrupt the reading of the Word,
and make preaching impossible. The UK Christian magazine "Renewal" reports:
read his opening remarks, the power of God swept through the building
totally unrelated to the words that he had said, which actually were
rather serious and solemn. His opening remarks were, "The story of Solomon
is one of the most tragic in the whole Bible". This sober comment was
greeted by sudden outburst of hilarious laughter....there was no way
we could stop this spontaneous, uninvited laughter...the meeting continued
until 11.30 at night with no opportunity for the speaker to preach"
(Terry Virgo, "Fresh Outpourings of the Holy Spirit, Renewal Magazine
from the American Christian magazine "Charisma" says much the same thing.
Hugh Williams, an Episcopalian priest fell down and started laughing when
prayed for by Rodney Howard-Browne ("Be filled" was his prayer!). Afterwards,
manifestations broke out in this priest's home church:
became longer and more intense. Sunday services began to last up to
three hours and more healing and laughter occurred. Recently, laughter
broke out during the consecratory prayer for the Eucharist, normally
the most solemn part of the service. "It IS distracting", says Hugh
Williams, "but I've come to feel it is God who is distracting us from
our routine ways and concentrating our attention on Him". (Julia Duin,
Charisma, August 1994)
sends miracles, it is in confirmation of HIS WORD. (Mark 16:20) Today,
however, the reading of the Word is being drowned out by irrational laughter,
shouting and raving. (It is demons who love to mock the Word of God).
This quote is from a meeting led by Rodney Howard-Browne:
I was preaching on hell, and laughter just hit the whole place. The
more I told people what hell was like, the more they laughed." (Julia
Duin, Charisma, August 1994)
AS SENSUAL EXPERIENCE/RESULTS IN SUBJECTIVE FEELINGS:
God is interested in our bodies as well our souls, His sphere of involvement
with a Christian is primarily "in the spirit" . God is a Spirit, and those
who worship Him must worship in spirit and in truth. On the other hand,
demons interact with people in the flesh - that is, in the physical body,
and in the mental realm (emotions, desires, feelings).
bodily sensations (shivers, shakes, heat, tingles, weakness, energy, etc.)
and mental feelings (overwhelming burdens, or intoxicating sensations
of joy, revelations, strong desires, impulses to do irrational things,
of people who experience "holy laughter" say the result is a feeling of
intense love. Because they are Christians, their love is directed at Jesus.
However, this does not prove that the feelings of love are sent from God.
a time of demonic deception in my own life, this writer can testify that
feelings of intense love and ecstasy can be demonically induced, even
though you think you are worshipping God and praying to God. If, at the
time I experienced those things, you had asked me to stake my life on
the fact that it was from God, I would have done it. I was utterly convinced.
It was only the challenge of judging my experiences objectively by the
Word of God, and testing them by the power and the Name of Jesus, that
opened my eyes to the truth. I was not possessed, nor was I a backslidden
Christian, yet I was truly deceived.
believe they are safe from deception as long as their intentions are right.
But the sad fact is, that if you unwittingly fulfil the conditions for
demonic activity, you WILL nevertheless experience demonic interference
of some sort. We must learn to tell the difference between demonic and
godly experiences, not just subjectively, but by knowing the scriptures.
the results of the "holy laughter" and so on are subjective experiences,
we are left to decide on the basis of peoples' experiences and their impressions
of the meetings.
This is not
good enough! THERE MUST BE AN OBJECTIVE BASIS ON WHICH TO JUDGE THE
objective, rock-solid foundation we have is the Word of God and the Truth
of God. Thus, however overwhelming, convincing and acceptable people's
experiences are, if they do not line up with the Word of God, they are
not to be trusted as genuine!
We need fear
no kind or degree of excitement which is produced simply by perceived
truth, and is consistent with the healthful operation of the intellectual
powers. Whatever exceeds this must be disastrous. In general, those cases
of bodily prostration of which I have spoken occur without the apparent
intervention of any external means adapted to produce such a result...the
excitement produced when the Holy Ghost reveals God to the soul...is not
only consistent with the clearest and most enlarged perceptions of the
intelligence, but directly promotes and produces such perceptions. Indeed,
it promotes the free and unembarrassed action of both the intelligence
and the will.
Now it appears
to me of great importance to distinguish in these cases between things
that differ. When I see cases of extraordinary excitement, I have learned
to enquire as calmly and affectionately as I can into the views of truth
taken by the mind at the time. If the individual readily and spontaneously
gives such reasons as naturally account for this excitement, I can then
judge of its character. If it really originates in clear views by the
Holy Ghost, of the character of God and of the great truths of his government,
the mind will be full of these truths and will spontaneously give them
off whenever there is ability to utter them....But where the attention
seems to be occupied with one's own feelings, and when they can give no
intelligible reason for feeling as they do, very little confidence can
be placed in their state. (Pp49-51 Finney, "Reflections On Revival")
8. THE RESTORATION
What is happening
at this point, to the Church, must be understood in its proper eschatological
framework - that is, we have to look to the prophecies about the endtimes
to see if we can identify what is happening at this present time. The
truth is that the scriptures do not predict a widespread revival, but
they DO predict a great falling away from the truth. There will be false
teachers, false prophets and lying signs and wonders taking place. The
greatest concern of Jesus and the apostles, when considering the endtimes,
was that Christians might get deceived.
MAINLY BY THOSE WHO HAVE BEEN MENTALLY PREPARED
is no regarder of persons, any genuine outpouring of the Spirit should
have affected all churches alike. But this is not so. The manifestations
are occurring in charismatic churches that had previously accepted unbiblical
teachings, such as kingdom-now, word-of-faith, and replacement theology.
The Toronto church that has been a focus of this phenomenon is part of
the Vineyard Fellowship, which promoted the infamous Kansas City Prophets
a few years ago. Vineyard prophets, like Rick Joyner, have been building
up expectancy for worldwide revival for some years now. The churches that
accepted the Kansas City Prophets and others like them will have been
mentally prepared for this outbreak of power. They are therefore much
less likely to be critical or objective about it.
10. NO FEAR
in the past were conducted in an atmosphere of great reverence and awe
of God. When the presence of God came, it was to bring a holy awe, and
those who cried out did so in deep conviction of their sinfulness. However,
today many have been disgusted at the irreverence, hilarity, lack of control
and downright silliness of what is going on. Supporters speak in terms
of "fun" and "partying", and sneer at sobriety. Charisma magazine, in
its futile attempts to support holy laughter, cites one case in the revival
at Cane Ridge in 1801. But this only serves to emphasise the differences.
Out of a reported ten to twenty thousand people attending the meetings,
one or two laughed out loud.
was a loud hearty laughter...the subject appeared rapturously SOLEMN,
and his laughter excited SOLEMNITY in saints and sinners." (Charisma,
it is today! The tone of today's laughter is mocking and manaical, and
excites nothing but amusement or disgust in others.
BY RODNEY HOWARD-BROWNE
did not start spontaneously, but was promoted by Rodney Howard-Browne,
a South African who at one time worked as associate Pastor with the Rhema
Word-of-Faith Ministries (Ray McCauley). He can be seen on videos and
heard on audio tapes commanding people to laugh by repeatedly invoking
"Ho-ho! Ha-ha!" over them, and saying things like "Be filled! We loose
the power! Have another drink!". Browne likes to call himself "The Holy
DOES THE WORD SAY?
references to laughter are nearly all adverse, to do with mocking and
derision. There is no biblical "gift" of a spirit of laughter. Christian
joy is an inward peace and assurance, not an hysterical outburst of laughter.
The Bible tells us that the fruit of the Spirit is "self-control" and
commands: "Let all things be done decently and in order." (1 Cor 14:40).
Some of the
wilder manifestations, such as roaring and growling are linked in scripture
with the Babylonian religious festivals, which were abandoned orgies of
drunkenness and immorality. God says He will make the feasters drunk so
that they "shout with laughter", then judge them with a perpetual sleep
out of which they will never awake. (Jer 51:37-40 NIV)
is no biblical warrant for calling upon the Holy Spirit, or praying to
Him - as happens in connection with this "outpouring". Leaders are inviting
spirits to enter into the meeting room by invoking "Come, Holy Spirit"
and similar prayers. But this is not biblical. Our relationship is with
the Father, in Christ Jesus.
Christians are, there God will be at work - and in the midst of the bedlam
no doubt some are being truly healed or converted. But these isolated
incidents in no way explain or excuse the current manifestations.
If the root
be bad, then the fruit will be rotten - for no bad tree can bring forth
good fruit. If we look at the roots, at Rodney Howard-Browne's ministry,
at the theology behind the "revival", at the legacy of the Word-of-Faith
preachers and the Kansas City Prophets, and at the headlong downward spiral
into apostasy in certain parts of the Church, we cannot conclude that
this present move reverses the trend and anoints with God's blessing things
that have been so abhorrent and deceptive before.
to be a bland assumption that Christians cannot be deceived, and that
rituals like "claiming the Blood" make one immune from demonic attack.
On the contrary, Jesus warned: "For false christs and false prophets will
rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the
elect. See, I have told you beforehand". (Matt 24:24-25 NKJ)
are not enough! Not only a thorough knowledge of the Word of God, but
other precautions are required, such as keeping conscious control of our
minds and bodies; guarding against the flesh; dying to self (emotions,
desires, etc); and testing the spirits to see "if they be of God". (1Jo