It was Christmas week 1986 and my foray into the world of charismatic Christianity was two years young (we never grow old in the spirit). A young lady who was a relative and a Prophetess in a church was asked to spend Christmas with us as her Aunt spent Christmas with my Uncle outside of town. I began to share the gospel with her but she couldn’t believe she needed salvation as a Prophetess who already had encounters with ‘Jesus Christ’ and ‘Angels’ from time to time in her church.
As a young Christian and a teenager myself, I lacked the tact and wisdom to guide her from the darkness of false religion to the light of life in Christ Jesus. I chose a spiritual confrontation instead as I began to speak in tongues aloud and took authority over the religious spirit within her on one of those argumentative sessions. She jerked and shook violently, ran out of our apartment, down the stairs, and away to a neighbors house to calm down. She avoided me for a few more hours, packed her belongings, and escaped to another relative’s house. Mind you, she professed Christianity, went to a popular ‘spiritual’ church that was and is still popular for the ‘manifestations of the ‘Holy Spirit. While my handling was spiritually infantile and ought to have been done in a way that I could win her to the Lord, it remains true that our spiritual influences were different and the forces governing our lives were in conflict, albeit indiscernible to natural senses.
My little discernment of the differences between us was from the teachings of my Pastor who had taught about the difference between genuine operations of the Holy Spirit and that of the devil’s deceptive appearance as an ‘Angel of Light’. The church at Corinth had fallen prey to the hands of such deceptive people. They preach like us, do good works like us and it will take the mature and discerning to know they operate by different spirits from ours and do have different motives.
“But I am not surprised! Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no wonder that his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. In the end they will get the punishment their wicked deeds deserve.”
2 Corinthians 11:14-15 NLT
The types of deceptive ministers also fall into two categories, namely; the deliberately deceptive and the deceived deceptively. There are several world religions and brands of Christianity that are founded on supernatural experiences that people had, believing it was from God. The late Kenneth E Hagin used to say ‘there is a voice in the spirit realm similar to the voice of the Holy Spirit. It takes being mature in the word of God to tell the difference. Many have had powerful spiritual experiences teaching them wrong doctrines through a twisting of scriptures by the devil who appeared to them as Jesus Christ or one of His angels.
I remember in June 1991 which fell within the first year of my first pastorate. The Spirit of God moved mightily in a service where many had been healed and encountered God’s power. A young lady at the end of the service complained about being unable to see. In a miniature of the Damascus road experience of Paul, she had woken up that day and heard a voice repeatedly ringing the word ‘Rhema Chapel’ in her ears until she agreed to attend the church. In what was apparently a sovereign move of God, this lady came to church and had a divine encounter. She mentioned how that she was a prophetess in a particular church but the Lord appeared to her that day, telling her the ‘Jesus’ who had been appearing to her in the other church was a false Jesus. She couldn’t see for a few hours and I had to arrange for someone to transport her back home. There are multitudes of deceived people around the world like the former ‘prophetess’. They do ministry, establish churches, preach and do lots of good works as we do. It is hard for the indiscernible to tell the difference except they have insight into the underbelly and behind-the-scenes operations of such ministers and their organizations.
In Leviticus 10, we read of Nadab and Abihu, genuine priests of God, offering ‘Strange Fire’. God has established a brazen altar where sacrifices were made by Aaron and his sons as priests. The altar was a symbol of the cross of Christ and the sacrifices a type of Christ who would be sacrificed for the sins of the whole world. God demanded fire should always be burning on that altar and only that fire could be used in burning incense before him in the Holy Place. All worship and ministry, therefore, are to spring out of the Redemptive work of Christ on the cross of Calvary. Any ministry that is not founded upon it is not of God and is an offering of ‘Strange Fire’. God was so angry with Nadab and Abihu that he struck them dead. Their behavior was a desecration of God’s temple and complete disregard for God’s majesty and holiness. Without the fire being sourced from the altar, it is still a picture of sin and pollution being offered to God. A few guides can help us to distinguish right from false Ministries:
1. Did the ministry begin after a genuine salvation experience of the founder?
2. Do they preach and emphasize the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross of Calvary, giving people opportunities to repent and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ?
3. Do they clearly encourage Holy living and scriptural practices or compromise biblical standards in their operations.
4. Do they glorify Jesus Christ and focus on him or focus on the deification or promotion of the leader of the ministry?
5. Does the ministry believe and teach the incarnation and divinity of Jesus Christ?
“For false messiahs and false prophets will rise up and perform great signs and wonders so as to deceive, if possible, even God’s chosen ones. See, I have warned you about this ahead of time.”
Matthew 24:24-25 NLT
I pray the Lord by the help of His Holy Spirit will help us all to discern the genuine from the counterfeit in Jesus’ name.