Beloved, we are living in a time where we need to discern and know the spirit in operation in certain places. Mark 13:22 says ‘For false christs and false prophets will rise and show signs and wonders to deceive, if possible even the elect.’ 1 John 4:1 says ‘Beloved do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.’
The purpose of this post is to give you 7 spiritual points to guide you in discerning if truly Holy Spirit is at work in a place or deceiving spirits are at work. Remember even satan can do miracles. The verse I quoted before says false prophets will show signs and wonders to deceive. So deceiving spirits will also do miracles. So, you cannot discern the spirit at work in a place just by looking at the miracles that happen.
1) Holy Spirit will never do anything that is outside of what is stated in the Word of God. He will not do anything that contradicts the Word of God nor will He do anything in total opposite to the Word. Matthew 24:35 ‘Heaven and earth will pass away, but My Word will by no means pass away.’ Revelation 22:18-19 ‘For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the Book of life, from the holy city and from the things which are written in this book.’
We cannot add and remove from the Word of God according to our convenience and liking. Some talk about new revelation or progressive revelation. This they say to mean that God is still adding to His Word by giving them new teachings which God did not give in the Bible. The Word of God is already given and complete. So, if anyone says they have new or additional revelation that is a lie. Psalm 119:89 says ‘Forever, O Lord Your Word is settled in heaven.’ So, all that the Holy Spirit will do here on earth, will be in accordance to the Word which was inspired by Holy Spirit Himself. So, if any manifestation or message goes against what is said in the Word of God, you can be sure it is not from Holy Spirit.
2) If Holy Spirit is at work, He will bring glory only to the Lord (John 16:14). He will not draw attention to the human preacher (1 Corinthians 1:29). We human beings have a great love for superstars. Be it in the field of sports or movies or even the corporate world we want to see superstars. The world idolizes these superstar men and women and gives them adoration and praise. Unfortunately, this practice has now come into the church as well. People long for superstar preachers and they run at the mention of their name. The name of Jesus is no longer on the lips of the so-called believer but rather the name of the preacher is on their lips. Yes, there are enough of preachers who exploit this and play the part of a superstar. They make sure all attention is on them. However, if Holy Spirit was truly in these preachers, they would not be like this nor will the people run after them. It is deceiving spirits which divert attention from God and put the spotlight on a human.
Revelation 13:13-14 speaking of the anti-christ and his false prophet says ‘he performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men. And he deceives those who dwell on the earth by those signs which he was granted to do in the sight of the beast (antichrist), telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast (antichrist).’ Yes, these are the last days and deceiving spirits that are in operation now are drawing Christians away from the Lord and making them focus on men.
3) If a preacher covers sin or hides sin or ignores sin or encourages sin, you can be sure that preacher is not from the Lord. Hebrews 12:14 says without holiness no one will see the Lord. This is why Paul when instructing Timothy on preaching says in 2 Timothy 4:2-5 says ‘Preach the Word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching years, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth and be turned aside to fables. But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.’ When you speak the truth, you will be unpopular with the majority, but your messages will convict people, turn them to repentance and put them on the road to Heaven. Sending people to Heaven is the most important thing ever.
4) The prophetic gift is given to build up the church and not destroy or put it to shame. 1 Corinthians 14:3-4,12,32-33,37,40 says ‘But he who prophecies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men. He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church. Even so you, since you are zealous for spiritual gifts, let it be for the edification of the church that you seek to excel. For you can all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be encouraged. And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints. If anyone thinks himself to be a prophet or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things which I write to you are the commandments of the Lord. Let all things be done decently and in order.’
Paul gives us very important instructions in exercising the prophetic gift.
- The gift of prophecy is for the purpose of edifying (encouraging), exhorting (warning) and comforting people.
- The prophetic anointing is given to build up the body of Christ. It is not given for your personal gain to build an empire for you, earn money or give yourself the title saying prophet.
- If the Master is truly at work, then the body of Christ as a whole will benefit greatly. Holy Spirit will not destroy one church just to build up another church. That is not the way He works.
- The prophetic gift from Holy Spirit will not cause confusion, chaos or comedy. It does not entertain people or entice people’s carnal desires with carnal promises.
5) Holy Spirit does not do cheap magician tricks, gimmicks, strange signs and weird stuff to entertain people or glorify a person. Today we hear many strange and weird stuff happening and all are being done in the name of the Lord. Remember the Holy Spirit will operate within the boundaries of what is stated in the Word of God. He will not do anything that is against or outside of God’s Word. The Master will never do anything that is unholy. Everything He does will be in perfect harmony with the Word and it will bring God’s peace into the hearts and lives of people. The Holy Spirit is a gentle spirit and sensitive spirit. Hence there will not be instances where people go out of control and doing crazy stuff. That is why Paul says the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. Hence if you have the true anointing of the Holy Spirit you will operate within the boundaries of the commandments of God. There will be decency and order.
What are the manifestations of Holy Spirit mentioned in scripture? My focus for this is the New Covenant under which the church is given the promise of Holy Spirit.
- The 9 gifts of Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:8-10) – word of wisdom, word of knowledge, gift of faith, healing, miracles, prophecy, discerning of spirits, speaking in tongues and interpretation of tongues.
- Visions and Dreams – Acts 2,17, 9:9-17
- Being caught up in the spirit to heaven – 2 Corinthians 12:1-3, Revelation 4:1-2
- Supernaturally being transported from one place to another – Acts 8:39-40
- Angelic intervention and assistance – Acts 12:5-1
Are these available to the church today? Yes, they are. Nowhere in scripture does it say that the gifts and manifestations of Holy Spirit have stopped. In 1 Corinthians chapter 12 Paul writes in detail about the gifts and how they benefit the church as Holy Spirit distributes His gifts to each person according to His will.
So, the question now is what about all these strange signs we see happening today. There are 4 questions that we should ask yourselves and before accepting any sign. What are these 4 questions?
- Did Jesus do it?
- Did Jesus teach it?
- Did the apostles do it?
- Did the apostles teach it?
If you cannot get even one ‘Yes’ for any of the 4 questions above, then do not accept those signs. If it is not in the Word, it is not to be accepted. Now some try to justify these strange things by using Acts 19:11 which says God did unusual/extraordinary/special miracles by the hands of Paul. Now the unusual miracles that God did through Paul is clearly explained in the next verse which says ‘so that even handkerchiefs or face-towels or aprons that had touched his skin were brought to the sick, and their diseases left them and the evil spirits came out’. So, scripture again is very clear to us. Hence do not let anyone deceive you into accepting any sign that is not from Holy Spirit.
6) Men and women in the Bible who had the calling of a Prophet spent most of their ministry time warning God’s people to repent and turn back to Him. The primary call of a Prophet is to lead people back to God in repentance. Telling about the future is secondary. Promising people money and wealth however was the main calling for all those who were called false prophets in the Bible. The Lord spoke to His prophets to speak to His people and warn them about the coming judgement. Ezekiel 3:17-21 and 33:1-9 compares the role of a prophet to a watchman who warns the people when he/she sees danger. Mark 13:32-37 compares it to the role of a door keeper in the Kingdom of God. Prophets are commanded to watch and warn the people. They are called to keep the body of Christ alert and on their toes ready to meet the Master when He comes. It is a very unpopular role. That is why so many prophets in the Old Testament were martyred for their calling.
Even the apostles such as Paul, Peter and James and others also carried a prophetic office as they also spoke of the Lord’s Second Coming. Hence, they too gave their lives for the Lord as martyrs. The Lord gives His prophetic anointing to prepare the way for His return and keep His bride ready when He comes. That is why the Lord tells Ezekiel when I tell you to say something and you do not say it, I will require accountability from you. If I tell you to warn them and you don’t warn them, then I will judge you. However, if you tell what I tell you to say and you warn them, and they do not listen to you; then I will require accountability from the people. That is importance of the office of a prophet and the great responsibility placed upon a person when he or she receives that anointing. Prophets are not called to talk about money, prosperity and all that is worldly.
Today you see many self-proclaimed prophets who only prophecy about worldly stuff. But a true prophet’s ministry is only concerned about the people being ready for the Master when He comes. They are concerned about the spiritual state of the nation, church and people.
7) Check the fruit – the person, the message and the people around him/her. Many of us make the biggest mistake of judging based on what we see. The signs, wonders & miracles, the crowds, the size of the ministry, the fame surrounding the name, the growth are some of the things we consider and say this person is from God. Sadly, the devil is good at duplicating all of these too. That is why Jesus said, ‘Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgement’ (John 7:24). So how did Jesus tell us to judge? Matthew 7:16 ‘You will know them by their fruits.’ What are the fruits we are to look for?
- Do they have the fruit of the Spirit? (Galatians 5:22-23). A servant of God without this fruit is not a good fruit. They must have the character of Christ.
- Are they money minded? Luxury focused? Where the person’s treasure is, that is where his or her heart will be. If they only focus on money, wealth and things of the world, let me make this easy for you – they are deceivers.
- Does the action of the messenger match the message? Many speak about holiness, but they do not put it into practice. They talk about humility but in action they are full of pride and arrogance. The lifestyle, behaviour, actions should match the preaching.
- Who are the people around them? If you want to know the character of a person just check the people who are around them. Check the people they follow as mentors. Don’t just look at the main person. Take a good look at the others also because that will tell you a lot about the kind of choices and the character of the main person. Look at the fruit of the pastoral team, the leadership team, the worship team, the ministry team & check fruit of those who act as spiritual head/mentor to the main person. It will tell you a lot of about the main person, their character and the ministry. 1 Corinthians 15:33 ‘Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.”
Use these 7 points in making a discerning decision about your choice of attending a church, ministry or any service. This post is not intended to put down anyone but written for the benefit of all in the body of Christ in Sri Lanka.