"Mainstream" Spring 1994 (Part One)
"BEHOLD, HE COMES!"
The Spirit of Love
Let no man defraud you by acting as an umpire and declaring you unworthy
and disqualifying you for the prize,
insisting on self-abasement and the worship of 'angels',
taking his stand on visions [he claims] to have seen,
vainly puffed up by his sensuous notions
and inflated by his ungodly mystical thoughts and fleshy conceits.
[Col 2:18 Amplified Version.]
SPECIAL NOTE: This newsletter was written and circulated before the Toronto outbreak of revival, which did not hit the UK until the Summer of 1994, and then only slowly. Therefore, having been inspired -as I believe- by the Holy Spirit, in the absence of ANY knowledge of what was to come, it is interesting to read that God was warning believers to take heed of spiritual deception, especially in the area of false "love" and spiritual manifestations. He was also warning about globalism and the rise of the "apostles and prophets". Those who received a copy of "Mainstream" in the Spring of 1994 were warned in advance to resist and beware of what we now call the River Revival. Although the article is now old by current standards, it would still repay close attention as the information is as true today as it was then.
Put yourself in this position: You are invited by Christian friends to attend a huge meeting in the city. Thousands are eagerly and happily waiting there. Stirring music strikes up, the people rise and dance and sing with all their hearts in unison - “We are the ones who will take this world for God; in the name of our Lord we will conquer every nation...” Hope and joy are on every face, and you feel your everyday worries draining away.
The speaker appears, to prolonged applause. He speaks compellingly about the need to develop our inner potential as spiritual beings. He illustrates this by touching people in the crowd, many of whom fall prostrate to the ground.
Excitement has mounted, and an electric sense of power fills the meeting place. The speaker leads in a prayer, calling on the Spirit to fill the room and come upon the people. Every heart is filled with awe.
Sensations of great and overpowering joy and love begin to grip the audience. Some drop to their knees, some stand in silent adoration, tears coursing down their cheeks.
Your mind is confused, but your doubts are overpowered by the sheer intensity of the emotions you are experiencing. You are shaking all over, as waves of what feels like burning water wash over you. All around you are praising the Lord - how can this be wrong?
Will you have examined the teaching at that meeting in the light of scripture?
What evidence would you have that the power is not of God?
How can you resist those emotions and physical sensations?
MESSIAH OF A NEW AGE
Now consider this: the chaos and uncertainties of life have resulted in a deep and profound spiritual quest right around the world. You, too, are seeking. Against a background of untold suffering and evil, millions long to return to decency and order. You, too, long for peace.
The Church, united and powerful, has been waging a militant war against all that is wrong in society, and calling upon national governments to return to biblical principles. Your church, and those organisations you support, have also contributed.
Now a new day dawns. Everywhere people are talking about the new spirituality, about overthrowing materialistic ideals and seeking after inward fulfilment. Mankind longs for a new kind of leadership - upright, dogmatic and tough on evil. Their hearts are filled with hope for a new era of peace...
Then, it happens! The sky splits with a brilliance equal to that of the noonday sun! From the cloud of glory, attended by a myriad of angels, appears a figure dressed in gleaming white! His face is that of an angel, beatific and benevolent. He holds out his hands to draw the people of earth into his heart.
What you experience is like a waking dream. Your heart is bursting with a new sensation - that of love, peace and euphoria. All your suffering flies away as you gaze adoringly at this wonderful figure. You feel impelled by an irresistible force to fall to your knees and worship. Your blood races, your head swims. Never have you felt such joy and excitement - and love that floods your being with ecstasy.
Would you stop to identify who he is?
Would you ignore those powerful emotions?
Do you have any knowledge that would put you on alert that this is not the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus?
THE SPIRIT OF LOVE
As a young Christian, I was taught that the difference between godly
and satanic things was clear cut - godly things were good, and satanic
things were evil. I later
learnt (the hard way!) that such simplistic advice was misleading.
Not all satanic things appear evil at first sight - indeed,
many of them are so subtle and devious, so akin to godly things,
that even the most mature Christians could be deceived for a time.
Because of my feelings of rejection at that time, I reached out to what I supposed was the Lord Jesus, but what were in fact intense physical sensations of euphoria engineered by the devil. I thought anything that FELT good had to be from God. I was wrong! I had encountered what I now call the “spirit of love” - a spirit who can counterfeit the Lord Jesus but whose nature is utterly evil. He craves our worship, but offers only bondage in return.
He suggests to the willing mind that he can fill the empty void of our loneliness, dispel despair and bring joy, satisfaction and love. However, once bonded to this spirit the believer discovers that despair is not healed, but intensified into torment; and feelings of love are elusive and need to be constantly reinforced by further periods of seeking and submitting, until addiction to loving feelings sets in and becomes the driving force of the whole personality. Meanwhile, deception gradually clouds the mind until confusion reigns.
However, this spirit only shows his true character when challenged. To the open, willing, submitted and trusting soul he appears all love and gentleness. But to anyone who dares to question his promises, there is instant anger!
My own deception ended when I began to “test the spirits” as commanded by God, and discovered that the waves of ecstasy I had been enjoying fled from the Blood of Christ.
Mystical Encounters of the Older Kind
Understand that the idea of overpowering “love”, supposedly of God, is by no means a new phenomenon. Mystics through all the ages have experienced such things. One of the better known of these was Teresa of Avila, who levitated and had out-of-the-body experiences.
In her autobiography, written in 1565, she describes the four stages of prayer that lead to mystical experiences, each a successive abandonment of the physical and mental faculties. The result, for Teresa, was a condition she described as “rapture”. It was an unconscious kind of bliss - a trance state if you will - which she describes thus:
“In these raptures, the soul no longer seems to animate the body; its natural heat is left to diminish and it gradually gets cold, though with a feeling of very great joy and sweetness. Here there is no possibility of resisting, as there is with union [the fourth stage] in which we are on our own ground. Against union, resistance is almost always possible, though it costs pain and effort. But rapture is, as a rule, irresistible. Before you can be warned by a thought or help yourself in any way, it comes as a quick and violent shock; you see and feel this cloud, or this powerful eagle rising and bearing you up on his wings --- we have to go willingly where we are carried, for in fact, we are being borne off whether we like it or not.” [i]
Passivity Is The Key
The hallmark of this kind of mystical trance-state (and every other wrong kind of religious experience) is passivity.
Teresa, though she fully believed she was worshipping God, allowed her intellect and all her powers of reason to be set aside while other powers took possession of her mind and body. God, however, never works in this way. Only the enemy of our souls asks us to empty our minds and cease all resistance.
You will notice, too, that she describes the experience as “irresistible” - that is another indication of its origin in the occult realm. God draws and woos, but he will not compel us into His presence. That is the act of a dictator, not a loving Father. Whenever an experience leaves no room for reason or choice, it is not of God.
So much for the Catholic mystics. But if you thought such things died out entirely with the Reformation, you were wrong. Today there is a powerful swing back to such mystical experiences, and for the same reason - those who have no real knowledge of the love of God “shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us (Rom 5:5) are on a quest for something satisfying to feel. Not having the fullness of God in their hearts, they yearn for a counterfeit spiritual experience.
SEARCH FOR SPIRITUALITY
In one recent Christian magazine, [ii] this spiritual yearning was explained as man’s rejection of secularised society, which denies, the writer says, the two essentials of human fullness: intimacy and transcendence. Intimacy is the experience of human love and joy, and transcendence is the experience of divine love and joy. Spirituality, he says, is a fusion of intimacy and transcendence.
He applauds present society’s search for deeper meaning in life, but upbraids the evangelical Church for offering only rational answers that do not satisfy the soul. He then counsels people to rediscover old-style spirituality, as exemplified in such figures as Augustine of Hippo, Julian of Norwich, and - guess who? - Teresa of Avila!
Is there a move to push people backwards in time to the Roman version of Christianity? At the time of Rome’s dominance, people remained spiritually starved, bound by habitual sin, and without any true experience of the love of God that fills the heart with peace and satisfaction. If any of them found a deeper religious experience than the norm, they were hailed as saints, and their spiritual practices were taught and copied. Unfortunately, these spiritual experiences were usually demonically inspired!
Now we have a similar “spirit-quest” - and for the same reasons. Many professing Christians are disillusioned by the emptiness of their chosen religion; many do not know God and are not born again of His Spirit. They are Christian in name only, practising a religion that looks Christian, “but denying the power thereof” (2 Tim 3:5).
Even born-again Christians are falling for the seduction of the “spirit of love”, not knowing that they are being led astray. Yes, sometimes God WILL deal with us powerfully, and there ARE genuine spiritual experiences of the Holy Spirit. But we must learn to distinguish the genuine from the counterfeit.
The book “Prayer” by Richard Foster (author of “Celebration of Discipline”) was hugely popular and achieved the status of Book Of The Month during its promotion in 1992.
Judging by the popular response to this book, there is a desire for deeper forms of prayer and more profound spiritual experiences than are commonly known in the Church today. While there is much food for thought in Foster’s book, unfortunately he draws his material from the Catholic mystics, quoting sources such as Julian of Norwich, Thomas Merton, Bernard of Clairvaux, Madame Guyon and - of course - Teresa of Avila. He even draws from St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits, and promotes his “Spiritual Exercises” as “a school of prayer for us all”. [iii]
Once again, the deeper forms of prayer that Foster recommends come only through a process of abandonment. Foster says that the Quakers use the term “centering” for this - so do new-agers, for when they meditate, they empty their minds while opening up their spirits to whatever influences are around them. Foster suggests much the same process, quoting Francois Fenelon who tells his disciples that “this silence of all outward and earthly affection and of human thoughts within us is essential if we are to hear his voice”. (Emphasis added) [iv]
It is also essential to “divine union” Foster says. In the chapter on Contemplative Prayer, he describes its goal as “union with God” as in John 15:4. He also warns that such prayer is “not for the novice”. [v] So we have a situation where the most basic and fundamental truth of our faith - our union with God, which actually takes place at the moment of salvation (2 Cor 13:5) - is denied to all but the most spiritually advanced!
Divine union, according to the Catholic mystics, was only attained after years of intense prayer and other demanding spiritual exercises. Thus, those who had the leisure to pursue such things could eventually know the presence of God, while the ordinary working man and woman missed out! It was ever thus with Catholic spirituality.
Another recent article, also in a popular Christian magazine, is actually called “Baptism of Love”.[vi] Its writer confirms the above observations on union:
“only through apprehending the heart of God can we enter a spiritual place of immunity. Only in communion with Him can our spirits receive the victory Christ won for us - the oneness with God in Christ”.
This makes union with God a thing to be attained by spiritual disciplines and contemplation, not a gift of grace given to every new convert at the moment of conversion!
This article tells us that simple church life, prayer and Bible study “offer little satisfaction in themselves”. They must become “a means through which we seek and find God”, for “knowledge about God is only the first step we take to enter His presence.”
Beyond the common Christian experience, this article proposes, lies a more fulfilling realm of divine love and awe. “Awe comes from seeing and encountering, not merely from knowing...”
Likewise, it is suggested, we must actually meet with God, to go beyond doctrine to “divine presence”. This suggests that no real christian satisfaction exists in faith, obedience or belief in the Word of God, nor in the knowledge of God within, but some tangible experience is needed to feel and see God before the real heights of spirituality are attained.
Many people today are suffering emotional problems. Feelings of emptiness, loneliness and rejection ought to be taken to God, for He alone can give inner healing. But the catch is that this involves some painful self-examination and growth towards maturity, together with forgiveness towards those who have hurt us.
An easier route is to indulge in quick-fix spiritual routines that massage the emotions but require no self-denial, repentance or personal growth. Powerful mystical experiences can be produced that satisfy cravings in a fleshy way, without calling for a change of character.
Now we are being told that such experiences are leading the Church towards “fullness” and that those who have transports of joy and visions of angels are in the vanguard of the coming kingdom of God on earth. The so-called “glory” of God is about to be poured out, they say, and this will be seen and felt by all.
The article quoted above ends by predicting such an outpouring of love as “God’s last great move on earth”. It will produce “an irresistible desire for him” for we will be “immersed in his love”.
“As the world experiences the redeeming power of God’s kingdom, he will draw multitudes of people into the valley of decision”. Since the world is not about to be redeemed, according to scripture, this must be predicting another event, just on the horizon, affecting every man woman and child on this planet. What could it be?
Clues can be found in a vision reported in another Christian magazine.[vii] This vision came after three days of prayer, worship, and seeking God - just the sort of spiritual exercise promoted by the above books and articles. That it is clearly NOT of God can be ascertained by the contents, which are too detailed to be repeated here. However, after a dramatic conversion to God in all nations, the conclusion was the sighting of a huge light, brighter than twenty suns, being seen over the Atlantic Ocean. Out of that light, a figure like Jesus came, poised ready to descend to earth. He was waiting for an invitation.
“There was a tremendous strength of desire, and he just had to come. There was nothing he could do to hold back. The prayers of his people began to draw him down. He came with power upon the earth - he came and filled the whole world with his glory." (Emphasis added)
Here is the spirit of love personified. This figure is so like to Christ that many will identify him as such - but he is another christ (Gk: anti-christos).
Those who are at present indulging in subjective feelings and experiences of mystical love, those who are dissatisfied with their faith in Jesus Christ, and those who have never really known Him, will eagerly reach out to such a tangible form of love. They will, indeed “draw him down”. Jesus Christ, by contrast, needs no such invitation, for He is Lord of all.
However, we don’t want to go to the other extreme of rejecting EVERY spiritual experience, in fear that it might be demonic. So, how can we know the difference?
v The Word of God: Nothing of God contradicts scripture. If man or angel comes preaching what is not strictly according to the Bible, you can know it is counterfeit. Let the Word of God be final judge of every experience, not your feelings, hopes, wishes or desires.
Beware of physical sensations:
We know and hear God in the inward parts, in
the spirit. By contrast, demonic experiences take place outwardly,
forcefully manipulating the body, mind or emotions. God’s love is
not a goose-bump feeling that leaves our character unchanged. Nor
does God’s love always soothe and comfort.
Often the love of God, working in co-operation with our minds,
will humble us in order to help us grow. Demonic “love” however
is nothing more than an enjoyable sensation.
v Compulsion is of the Devil: God does not compel - He draws, woos and entreats, but never overpowers us with irresistible force. God seeks our co-operation, whereas demons seeks to control us. Any spiritual experience that is compulsive, that urges haste, that denies us the use of our reasoning faculties but insists on instant obedience, is of the devil.
v A passive mind or body is open to deception: God provided us with our intellectual powers, and he makes his appeal to our reason. God’s guidance never requires us to empty our minds. Satan, however, commands us to surrender our minds and bodies so that they become inactive. Then demons can implant suggestions or manipulate our bodies at will. Visions, voices and all kinds of supernatural occurrences happen to people while they are in a passive state.
v Test the Spirits: Any spiritual manifestation must be tested, to see if it is of God. Demons are very subtle, however, and the test should be completely unambiguous. If any feeling or sensation begins to occur, it should be challenged in this sort of way: “if this is not of the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the Head of every Principality and Power, and if this is not in accordance with the Covenant in His Blood, then I reject it in His name and command it to flee from me”.
v Learn to be humble: Demonic manifestations appeal to the flesh - they are sensational, and awe-inspiring. They minister to our pride - promising us fame or runaway success. They also appeal greatly to our innermost longings and desires, those things we keep hidden from others and even from God. So, if you have such weak areas (and who doesn’t?), offer them up to God. Let your Heavenly Father heal you and humble you in these areas until you recognise the danger of gratifying self. Refuse to be drawn along by your own feelings; learn to humble your flesh and refer everything back to God.
v Spiritual Armour: We have been given spiritual armour (Eph 6:13) - let’s use it! When under pressure to receive false spirits or to give in to powerful sensations, we must fight back, using the shield of faith in Christ, and wielding the sword of the Word of God. Use the Name of Jesus to rebuke overpowering sensations that threaten your spiritual stability. “The name of the LORD is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe.” (Prov 18:10)
[i]”The Life of St. Teresa of Avila By Herself” Penguin 1957 P. 136
[ii] “Christianity Today”, Nov 8th 1993, “Spirit Quest” by E.H. Peterson
[iii] “Prayer” by Richard Foster, Hodder & Stroughton, 1992, P. 62
[vi] “Charisma” magazine Feb 1994, article by Francis Frangipane.
[vii] “World in Vision” by Craig Anderson, Exec. Pastor of Mansfield C.O.C. May 1993, reported in “A New Way Of Living” magazine of Christian Outreach Centre Dec 93/Jan 94.
(c) 1994 BANNER MINISTRIES