The scene often plays out like this: Some unruly, disorderly display of an unidentified spirit’s influence over a person grips the attention of those present. Many look at the situation and declare, “Something’s happening! It must be the Holy Spirit!”
Another believer, though, sits back and takes it all in. He doesn’t feel right. Something just doesn’t sit well in his spirit; but to avoid being the party pooper, he keeps quiet.
That is, until pressed.
“Wasn’t that amazing the way God touched so-and-so tonight?” asks one well-intentioned believer.
“Uhh…well…” the other starts, “If you ask me, it just didn’t seem like God to me.”
And that’s where the pet phrase gets pulled from the Charismatic bag of tricks: “Of course it seemed that way,” replies the indoctrinated Charismatic, “God is just offending your mind so you’ll rely more on your spirit!”
Really? Offending your mind? Let’s look a little deeper at this.
If you’ve followed this blog for any length of time, you know I would consider myself a Charismatic Christian. I believe in the full operation of “charism” or “gifts of the Holy Spirit” in the Church today. I’m a youth pastor at a Pentecostal church, and I’m passionate about demonstrations of the Holy Spirit’s power throughout the world! I practice a lifestyle where healings, miracles, prophecies, and so forth are commonplace. Nevertheless, this doesn’t make me blind to the glaring problems within the Charismatic Movement.
This is one of those problems. In our passionate desire to experience God, we often throw discernment out the window. We’re perfectly content to settle for a stone rather than the true bread from heaven!
People with the spiritual gift of “discerning spirits” are often ignored in the Charismatic movement. I’m not talking about those who “see” angels and demons and such—these folks are generally praised and lauded. Many go into intricate detail about what they saw, and the eager crowd laps it up. There is a place for clearly describing what was seen—otherwise we wouldn't have biblical accounts like we find in Ezekiel or Revelation. But there are many who pridefully aim to impress, and they're dangerous.
Colossians 2:18–19 – Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you for the prize. Such a person goes into great detail about what he has seen, and his unspiritual mind puffs him up with idle notions. He has lost connection with the Head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow. (NIV, emphasis mine)
Who is the Head? Jesus. If such people have lost connection with Jesus, then they are not functioning as part of His Body. They’ve gone AWOL! When people start going into detail about what they've seen and experienced, pay attention to the way they share. Are they exalting Jesus? Are the details necessary to convey the message? Or are the details only serving to impress the crowd? If it's the latter, I can assure you, it’s not a properly-functioning gift of discerning spirits!
Those who truly have this gift in the church are not popular. They don’t say what people want to hear. While everyone else rejoices and declares, “Look! It must be God!” the person who discerns spirits quietly wonders, “Am I the only one who doesn’t feel right about this?”
Strange, isn’t it? As everyone else gets excited that their minds are offended, this one lonely saint tries desperately not to actually offend them! They so often stand silent until the uneasy feeling in their spirit subsides. I tell you the truth: this should not be!
It is true that we need our minds offended so that our spiritual senses can be awakened! But if people really want their minds offended, it doesn’t take a crazy manifestation of an unidentified spirit. Here is the reality that actually does offend the mind:
1 Corinthians 1:22–24 – Jews [and many Charismatics?] demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. (NIV)
The true offense to our minds comes when we’re so desperate for a miraculous sign, yet all we get is preaching about the cross. We want the Holy Spirit, but everyone wants to talk about Jesus. We want some deep secret wisdom to open our eyes to the spiritual realm, but instead we’re handed a beaten and bloodied Savior who paid the price for all our sin.
In John 6:25–70, Jesus offended the crowd by proclaiming that in Him was life and that those who eat His flesh and drink His blood would receive that life. Many disagree about the full ramifications of this statement, but we can at least agree that He was speaking, of course, about His future death on the cross. Funny—many of my fellow Charismatics are similarly offended when you choose the sound doctrine of Jesus over flashy experiences with questionable origins.
John 6:61–66 – Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, “Does this offend you? What if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life. Yet there are some of you who do not believe.”….From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. (NIV)
Charismatics glare at those steeped in religion and identify them as Pharisees. But Romans 2:1 is clear that “you who pass judgment do the same things.” Just as many people in our churches are blinded by religion, many Charismatics are blinded by lust.
Yes, lust—a lust for mystical experiences. It’s shrouded in a desire for Jesus; but if they truly wanted Jesus, then they would heed the words of those who discern spirits. They would crave true discernment rather than racing to the next big wave of spiritual distraction. They would appreciate the Word of God for what it is. Many Charismatics don’t really want Jesus. They say they do, but their actions speak louder than their words.
Matthew 15:7–14 – You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: “‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.'” ….Then the disciples came to him and asked, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this?” He replied, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots. Leave them; they are blind guides. If a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into a pit.” (NIV, emphasis mine)
Leave those who have lost connection with the Head. They are blind guides! Heed the warnings of those who truly discern spirits—not internet heresy-hunters who demonize anyone they disagree with but real believers who you personally know. Flee from those who go into great detail about spiritual experiences with angels while paying no attention to Christ and Him crucified.
I want to call for those with the gift of discerning spirits to rise up in the Church! Come out of hiding! Don’t be afraid to share what you feel. You may be rejected by man, but it’s far better than ignoring what the Holy Spirit is actually doing.
Your fellow Charismatic Christians want and need an encounter with the true Jesus, so give it to them! Steer them away from the distractions of the devil and point them to Jesus! Expose the “Blind Guides” who have “lost connection with the head.”
It’s about time we had our minds truly offended.