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7 Threats From a False Teacher

False teachers and abusive leaders need to maintain their power. Therefore, they use a series of threats to keep people quiet and in line. Get out of line? You might hear one of the seven statements I’ve listed below.

Some people who aren’t false teachers or abusers do use some of these from time to time. For example, someone may be accused of behaving like a “Pharisee” because they’re relying on legalism to achieve their righteousness. That isn’t in the context here. This particular post is in the context of a pastor or church leader who is approached by a well-meaning church member concerning teachings that are not faithful to Scripture and are twisted for a desired end.

Don’t Put God in a Box

This phrase is usually directed at those who are trying to convince their church leader to keep his or her teaching in line with Scripture. You may hear this kind of statement after congregants push back against a pastor who gets up one Sunday and starts tossing out random prophecies that don’t come true (or make sense). Another example would be a concerned church member who says, “Pastor, that’s not exactly what God said He would do in His word.” The pastor would respond, “Don’t put in a box.” The pastor may even tag on one of these other statements to beef up his domneering response.

Touch Not the Lord’s Anointed

This threat tends to be used when venerated leaders are opposed for their false and abusive teachings. Their defense? They claim to be “anointed” by God and immune from any accountability and that if you criticize them God will bring judgment upon you. Those who blindly follow them will usually echo this phrase as well as they warn a whistle-blower to keep quiet. Should you ever hear this threat you have nothing to fear. When you “mark” someone who is teaching false things, you are not touching the Lord’s anointed. You are obeying the Lord Himself (Romans 16:17:18).

Don’t Be a Pharisee

The Pharisees were not necessarily the best example of what true worship looks like. Even though they were very devout, they were legalistic, twisted God’s word, and burdened people with manipulative teachings that were not a part of God’s Law. They were known to control people with their spiritual arrogance and elitist mentality. Without question, they were a questionable group. Therefore, it’s not surprising when the term “Pharisee” is used in a pejorative manner. This threat from a false teacher gets used when someone holds them accountable for Scripture twisting or loose living. The false teacher will respond claiming, “Don’t be a Pharisee!” Ironically, it is false teachers and abusers who are pharisaic. They add to God’s word, they use their authority to exploit people, and are hypocrites.

Be Careful, Religion Put Jesus on a Cross

I remember seeing an outlandish service take place. There were false prophecies flying everywhere, people being “slain in the spirit,” manifestations of people’s bodies that included: gyrations, roaring, foaming at the mouth, and slithering like snakes. These manifestations appeared demonic but were claimed to be angelic. Some onlookers were very disturbed by the excessive actions taking place in the service and let it be known to the leaders. They were told, “Be careful. It was religion put Jesus on a cross.” This threat means one thing: don’t question anything or you’ll be labeled an “anointing killer.” It’s the perfect way to keep people in the dark; causing them to cower in fear that they’re like those who crucified Christ.

God Told Me I Could

When self-proclaimed prophet Todd Bentley beats on people as he prays for them, he says God tells him to. In one service, he bragged about kicking people in the face and beating on old ladies (we wrote about this in Defining Deception so you can check out the footnotes there). Another false teacher I grew up very close to used to do whatever he wanted with the offering money and explain that God gave him permission to. Never trust a leader who justifies sin by saying God commanded it.

Donate or God Will Curse You

The famous “give or die” threat has raised a few dollars over the years. Some, like Oral Roberts, have even used the “give or I will die!” fundraising ploy. Is there some biblical truth to principles of giving, receiving, and living a generous life? Of course. However, no one should ever trust a leader who says to give money or God will curse (or kill) someone. Back in my BC days (before Christ) I was in the crowd during a fundraiser in which a family was told if they didn’t give money to the building campaign that God would not give the baren mother a baby. Greed makes false teachers say whatever they can to get the mighty dollar.

If You’re Divisive, Expect a Disease

When I was 18 there was a family in our church who was leaving because they no longer trusted the leaders. The track record of the church told the story. Mishandling of funds was common. Upon leaving the church they encouraged a few others to leave because it was no longer a healthy place to be. I vividly remember the threat: If you divide the body of Christ then disease will come upon your body. This was common. A pastor within our church once had several leaders invest money into a deal guaranteeing a huge (and quick) return. It sounded too good to be true because it was. A businessman who was near 80 years old simply wanted to be paid back after his money was stolen but was told to keep quiet or else…

When people wonder why publically calling out false teachers is a big deal, simply ask: Would you point out a known sex offender in a neighboorhood full of children? Would you warn others if an active shooter were present in a shopping mall? Would you not pick up your infant if a pitbull entered the nursery? Of course. Then why wouldn’t we be faithful to point out dangers and protect the precious children of God?

Keep standing for the truth and holding fast to sound doctrine. Preach the truth. Refute error. Expose evil deeds.

There is a coming King who is building His church (Matthew 16:18). His reward will be great for those who stay faithful.

God, Greed, & the Prosperity Gospel

Beamers, Benz’s, and Bentleys. Mansions, maids, and millions. These terms are synonymous with the prosperity gospel. If you’re new to planet earth or haven’t watched television during the past ten years, here’s a simple definition of the “prosperity gospel” to get you up to speed: Jesus Christ minors in saving sinners, but majors in making you healthy, wealthy, and happy!

With a gospel centered on what Jesus Christ can add to your bank roll, prosperity preachers are infecting the minds of desperate people, and cashing in more than ever. The results? Millions of people have the wrong idea about Christianity and money.

This issue used to be just a few big name preachers but simple internet search will reveal that it’s no longer just the likes of Creflo Dollars, Kenneth Copeland, Benny Hinn, or Joyce Meyer who are raking in millions by exploiting people. TV networks have launched shows like, Preachers of L.A., and countries like Nigeria have their very own Top 10 Richest Nigerian Pastors list. The globalization of the prosperity gospel has people in third world countries rushing to fill stadiums in hopes of receiving a “breakthrough” from a self-anointed false teacher.

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The third world has become a favorite target for prosperity preachers. They fly in on private planes, stay in presidential suites at the finest hotels, and then grace the stage at crusades claiming, “Healing is yours, health is yours, money is yours! Give to ‘Jesus’ and He’ll do for you what He has done for me” (obviously a paraphrase but hardly an inaccurate one).

Just a cursory glance at men like Benny Hinn’s ministry calendar  will show that he can no longer pack American hockey arenas with 20,000 people, but he can draw 150,000 to his crusades in places like Indonesia and Brazil. This massive global impact means that thousands of international pastors, government leaders, and desperate people, will potentially buy into the theology or buy one of the overpriced gimmicks on Benny Hinn’s website like special Israeli anointing oil for the low price of just $45. This theology and it’s ancillary products are a deadly poison of deception that point away from Christ!

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There was a time when a small group of holy-water selling, Bentley-driving “pastors” were the laughing stock of the real gospel ministers and regarded as fringe scam artists. But now, even political figures know how to tap the evangelical vote.

Donald Trump knew that the best way rally evangelicals was to get forty of the richest pastors in a room to support him. Enter Paula White, Joel Osteen, and countless others who were said to have represented “the mainstream evangelical” voter.

Clearly there are no limits on just how far prosperity preachers will go to cast up their shameful foam (Jude 13).

So what does Jesus have to say on the subject? Does real faith have anything to do with getting rich?

There are plenty of passages in the Bible that talk about money, but Luke records a conversation between Jesus and His disciples that puts the prosperity gospel to shame.

Let’s take a deeper look.

In Luke 12:15-21 Jesus teaches.

And He said to them, “Beware, and be on guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does life consist of his possessions.” And He told them a parable saying, “The land of a certain rich man was very productive. And he began reasoning to himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no place to store my crops?’ “And he said, ‘This is what I will do: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take up your ease, eat, drink and be merry.”

“But God said to him, ‘You fool!’ This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?’ “So is the man who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”

When God calls someone a “fool”, it’s best to do the exact opposite of whatever that “fool” was doing.

In the following verses (Luke 12:22-34) Christ sets the record straight.

1. DON’T WORRY ABOUT EARTHLY NEEDS

Luke 12:22 Jesus said, “For this reason I say to you, do not be anxious about your life, as to what you will eat; nor for your body, as to what you will put on.”

This is downright counter-intuitive but it’s the best way to live! Prosperity preachers will tell you to give big to them and receive big for you; to give $777.77 if you want God to give you your “breakthrough”, and to order their anointing oil and rub it on your monthly donation if you want God to bless you! These bold faced lies are backed by greed.0

Jesus says an anxiety-filled rich man built some barns for security and right as they were completed God took his life and he never got to enjoy them. Because treasures on earth are fleeting, because only treasures in heaven last, because you don’t know how long you’ll live…don’t worry!

Seven times in the gospels Jesus commands, “Don’t worry!” Don’t be anxious, solicitous, over-occupied, concerned about earthly things. Paul hits this hard in Philippians 4:6-7 saying, “Be anxious for nothing!” Now, that’s a statement to stew on, don’t be over-occupied by any earthly thing…

Jesus says not to be worried about your life, what you will eat, or what you will wear. He’s mentioned three common areas of worry: 1) Stomach 2) Strength 3) Style. Imagine in history how much money has been spent attempting to better those three things! How many new year’s resolutions have been set around those three things! How much counseling, medication, and stress mgmt. books have been taken over those three things! How many gym memberships, insurance policies, teeth whiteners, diet plans, compression pants, all for those three things!

Does that sound remotely supportive of the prosperity gospel? It’s not even close.

2. LIFE IS MORE THAN EARTHLY NEEDS

Luke 12:23-26 “Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap; they have no storeroom nor barn, and yet God feeds them; how much more valuable you are than the birds! And which of you being anxious can add a single cubit to his life’s span? If then you cannot do even a very little thing, why do you worry about other matters?” 

Jesus says to get beyond trivial pursuits and realize that you could starve to death but your life would still continue on in eternity. Jesus expanded on this in Matthew 10:28 when He said, Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”

Who cares about the body if your soul goes on to eternal torment? You’ve wasted your life on bad theology.

Picture Jesus pointing over to some birds explaining that if God provides for an end-of-the-food-chain animal, which has a pea-size brain, with a purpose unto His glory, how much more so does He have a plan for you, a person made in His own image!?

If you believe in God, and have trusted in Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord, then life becomes far more than earthly pursuits and more stuff.

Worrying about things can’t extend your life one hour so fretting over every menial matter is a waste of time and energy. You came to earth with nothing and you’ll leave with nothing no matter nice your casket clothes are, or how hard you try to stop it with anti-aging creams, cosmetic surgery, valiant exercise, and your Paleo diet. God has numbered your days and that’s that.

So can a “faith-seed” or special offerings buy you another minute of life or less anxiety? No. But on the flip side to that, this doesn’t mean that a vow of poverty, quitting your job, ceasing from advancements, and hiding from all riches will give you peace either. God is not interested in how much money you make or how much money you give…. He wants your heart!

3. GOD KNOWS YOUR EARTHLY NEEDS

Luke 12:27-28Consider the lilies, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin; but I tell you, not even Solomon in all his glory clothes himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass in the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, how much more will he clothe you?

If lilies don’t sweat, and they don’t sew, yet they’re more splendid than earth’s greatest king, can’t God handle your needs? Those wild flowers would be burnt with manure in the clay kilns yet God created them with a purpose. And, if God puts that much energy into something with an inferior purpose, imagine what He thinks of you…

Then Jesus explains his whole point:

Luke 12:29-30 “O men of little faith! And do not seek what you shall eat, and what you shall drink, and do not keep worrying. For all these things the nations of the world eagerly seek; but your Father knows that you need these things.

This isn’t a simple worry issue, it’s a serious faith issue, because worry means that I don’t trust that God is who He says He is, or that He can do what He says He can do. When I don’t trust God, it’s an assault on His person and power! That’s why Jesus points out the difference between the faithful follower and the pagan in this passage. Jesus is contrasting two different hearts:

The heart that trusts God vs. the heart that trusts itself.

4. SET YOUR ATTENTION ON ETERNAL NEEDS

Luke 12:31-32 But seek for His kingdom, and these things shall be added to you. Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom.

Instead of “seeking” earthly things, instead of wanting what the pagans do, instead of building a reservoir of belongings, instead of security in stomach, strength, and style, seek earnestly heavenly things and all the other stuff will take care of itself!

Make it your all consuming charge to trust Christ, to know Christ, to obey Christ, and to share Christ.

Christians are different from everyone else. Christians don’t let fear reign any more because God the Father has chosen gladly (delights in, pleasures in) giving you the kingdom. Isn’t that great? God made you, and He’ll provide for you. God purposed you, and He’ll gift you. God knows your end, so you aren’t leaving planet earth until you finish your work for Him.

Luke 12:34 “Sell your possessions and give to charity; make yourselves purses which do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near, nor moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

You see, there it is. Your heart and subsequent trust is either in earthly things or heavenly things. If you’ve ever privately questioned your faith in God, simply reflect on your attitude towards giving. Do you love to store up on earth or do you love to give towards heaven?

Jesus never promised that this life would be perfect, and that you would be healthy and wealthy – no matter how much you give.

What He did teach is that if you’ll trust Him with your heart, and invest in His true kingdom, heaven’s treasures are your eternal inheritance.

 Any belief system based on temporal blessings is absolute foolishness.


Portions of this post are from the sermon manuscript of Pastor Anthony Wood. Sermon Series: Treasures. Sermon Title: The Treasure of Trust : Luke 12:22-34. Originally preached on Sunday January 15th, 2017. To listen to the sermon in its entirety, click the link below:

Sermon Link: http://subsplash.com/missionbiblechurch/v/erzudyd

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If You Can’t Heal ‘Em, Beat ‘Em?

The following post is a modified portion of a chapter from “Defining Deception.”

Why in the world does church history matter? That’s a question more Christians should be able to answer – and a highly important one at that.

In his phenomenal work, Why Church History Matters, Robert F. Rea defines history as “the study of the past in order to understand the present and improve the future.”[1] History teaches us valuable lessons about the good, the bad, and the ugly. It teaches us about the nature of the way things have been and how they came to be. These are certainly lessons we do well to learn because they remind us that even the best of men are still men at best. Furthermore, lessons from history provide us with the motivation to change the future, even when it’s painful to face the facts.

Unfortunately, and far too often, we tend to idealize past figures because death is the great equalizer and it’s considered poor form to talk ill of the dead.  But where does that refusal of the facts leave us? Are we to simply brush over swaths of historical mayhem by saying, “Well, nobody’s perfect”? Is it prudent, or even Christian, to turn a blind eye to those who call violent abusers and scripture-twisting manipulators heroic? Denial is never an option when seeking the truth – in fact, it’s downright impossible.

At the risk of tearing down the sacred cows of the past we must be committed to giving our children a hopeful future – a future founded on biblical truth. Nobody is perfect, but Christians who proudly find their roots in certain erroneous theologies are in desperate need of a reality check regarding those who introduced those belief systems. Such beliefs and practices are found nowhere in the Bible.

If “history is the endeavor to provide accountability to the present in light of the past,”[2] proper understanding of history is an imperative need. In light of that need, here is a historical faith healer who is still revered as a general of the Christian faith but need be known for what he always was.

Smith Wigglesworth (1859–1947)

Wigglesworth was one of the first to take faith healing to violent new heights. He is considered Pentecostal and Charismatic royalty these days, but that’s mostly because people are ignorant of his aberrant and unbiblical ministry tactics. For nearly two decades of my own life, Wigglesworth was one of my heroes because he represented audacious faith without any regard for the confines of religiosity and tradition. He was a reckless rebel and, just like Peter, was willing to jump over the side of the boat to walk on water and follow Jesus. That’s the kind of risk-taking that God always blesses, I often thought. That’s who I wanted to be! wigglesworth

Born before both Charles Parham and William Seymour, Wigglesworth outlived them both. Due to his long life span, he was perfectly positioned to almost single handedly impact the UK in the same way Parham and Seymour impacted America.

Wigglesworth focused the core of his ministry on signs and wonders like healing, miracles, and tongues. He taught that believers should refuse medical treatment for any illness. If not the first, he was one of the first in history to conduct his faith healing using methods other than laying on of hands—though he still touched them. According to Wigglesworth, sickness was demonic activity so he would physically attack the person as though they were the devil! Ignoring biblical teaching that spiritual warfare has nothing to do with flesh and blood (Eph. 6:12), Wigglesworth would punch, slap, or hit people in the place where they were afflicted. Wigglesworth explains his reason for assaulting sick people:

There are some times when you pray for the sick and you are apparently rough. But you are not dealing with a person, you are dealing with the satanic forces that are binding that person. Your heart is full of love and compassion to all, but you are moved to a holy anger as you see the place the devil has taken position in the body of the sick one, and you deal with his position with a real forcefulness.[3]

If people didn’t get healed, he was sure to place the blame on the sick. Wigglesworth taught that everyone should be able to control their own healing. He blamed those who couldn’t rid themselves of sickness on their own sin and lack of faith. He declared, “Is healing for all? It is for all who press right in and get their portions.”[4] To one sick woman he barked, “If you’ll get rid of your self-righteousness, God will do something for you. Drop the idea that you are so holy that God has got to afflict you. Sin is the cause of your sickness.”[5] He also states, “There is a close relationship between sin and sickness . . . but if you will obey God and repent of your sin and quit it, God will meet you, and neither your sickness nor your sin will remain.”[6] With no regard for biblical teaching on praying and trusting God’s will, God’s purposes through physical trials, and sanctification from unhealed sickness (Gal. 4:13-14; James 1:2-3), Wigglesworth confused and spiritually abused those who were sick and desperate by telling them they were the problem and he was the solution. He was especially aggressive toward anyone who approached him for prayer more than once. One poor man experienced public humiliation when Wigglesworth came to the altar and asked the faith healer to pray for him a second time because he wasn’t yet healed. Wigglesworth yelled, “Didn’t I pray for you last night? You are full of unbelief, get off this platform.”[7] His method of placing the blame on innocent people for his own failed healing attempts, and his violent antics for trying to heal people, are still practiced today by many false teachers. Later on in the book, we’ll get an up close look a modern day preacher who, like Wigglesworth, assaults people when praying for their healing.

People merely searching for hope were devastated when men like Wigglesworth humiliated them with his shameful practices. Still, countless modern day Pentecostal and Charismatic preachers ignore the hard facts of history and consider Wigglesworth a hero of the faith. Regardless of modern sentiment, Wigglesworth was a charlatan who exploited the sick by teaching falsely about salvation, sin, and sickness. His legacy does not represent true Christianity nor the character of biblical leadership.

Those who wish to faithfully represent Christ must arm themselves with truth. The dark history of abusive false teachers is not where Christians should ever find their truth, or claim their heritage.  Look to God’s word for timeless guidance – it will never disappoint.

[1] Robert F. Rea, Why Church History Matters (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2014), 23.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Smith Wigglesworth, Ever Increasing Faith (Springfield, MO: Gospel Publishing House, 1924), 135–36.

[4] Ibid., 37.

[5] Ibid., 38.

[6] Wigglesworth, Ever Increasing Faith, 41.

[7] Julian Wilson, Wigglesworth: The Complete Story (Tyrone, GA: Authentic Media, 2004), 82–83.

Did a False Teacher Heal You?

A few years ago an excited woman in her 20’s ran up to me one Sunday at church – she was a newer attendee who had been kicking the tires on our church for a few weeks when my last name must have clicked. It’s not like we talk about it every Sunday at Mission Bible –  our members don’t really care. We have a lot of important ministry to do and I’m just another one of the pastors. But sometimes it comes out in conversations and you never know what you’re going to get. Angry ex-faith-healer-enthusiast who threatens a shake down if I don’t pay them back what my uncle stole from them?  Excited believer who came out of the jaws of deception like me? It’s hit or miss.

This particular Sunday it was a little more complicated. Here’s a paraphrase of what she exclaimed just outside the sanctuary doors:

Costi Hinn? Like as in Benny Hinn? Oh my goodness! Your uncle is part of my testimony – He totally healed me of scoliosis (curved spine). It was late one night when I was watching his program, “This is Your Day,” and he told everyone who is sick or in pain put their hands on the TV up against his hands and believe for a miracle. I did. Then, I felt this warmth go up my spine and I just knew I was healed! After that experience, my spine got better and I stand here today completely healed with a straightened spine. I know you don’t agree with all that he teaches but he’s a part of my story and God used him to heal me – I’ll always be grateful for your uncle.  

This is familiar ground for a lot of pastors and Christians who are approached often by people who claim that God is doing great things through a false teacher and/or that God used a false teacher to heal them. Some of these claims are even by well-meaning, truly converted Christians who no longer follow the false teacher but are adamant that God used the false teacher to heal them or provide them with some particularly meaningful mystical experience.

“The truth of a teacher’s words is determined not by the feats he can perform but by the orthodoxy of what he teaches. We are never to follow anyone who perverts the truth of God’s Word, no matter how gifted that person is, how large of an organization that person commands, or how amazing that person’s work seems to be.

– R.C. Sproul

So is there any credence to a claim of miraculous healing at the hands of a false teaching faith healer? How should a pastor or leader handle such claims when there is clearly a danger in any kind of endorsement of a false teacher? There is much more to be said on the topic than a mere blog entry can supply, so resources for further reading have been recommended at the end of this article.

For our purposes here, let’s look at four potential responses (or scenarios) that can be useful in helping people understand what they may (or may not) have experienced.

Response #1: You were mercifully healed by God; and He mercifully snatched you from a wolf.

This particular response would be applicable if an individual proved to be a true believer, was verifiably healed, and had been saved from following a false teacher’s ministry out of ignorance.

Since God is still a healer, it is certainly possible that He has healed this individual, but the biblical standard for healing must still apply as does the biblical standard for bearing the fruit of true faith in Christ.

First, throughout Scripture we see divine healing at the hands of God as: 1) immediate, 2) unquestionable, 3) irreversible, 4) not dependent on special healing services, 5) not solely dependent on faith, 6) much more than curing a cold, 7) accompanying a call to flee from sin 8) not dependent on continuous confessions 9) not solely dependent on proximity, 10) possible through prayer.

One could certainly add this to this list but if, generally speaking, the healing matches the biblical standard, then praise God! God heals in many different ways, but false teachers are not able to thwart the divine power it takes to match God’s criteria. Even if in the slightest way, they will fall short.

Second, throughout Scripture we see that true believers cannot and will not stay deceived, so even if someone appears to be have been healed, there may have been other powers at work if that individual has not come out from the clutches of false teachers. Sheep ultimately come to hear and follow the Shepherd’s voice (John 10:27), saved people grow in Christ-likeness (Philippians 1:6), children of God walk in the truth (1 John 3:18-19), true disciples – though not always perfect – will pursue obedience to God’s Word out of love for Christ (John 14:15).

Plainly, we can gather a short list of truths and offer these to genuinely saved people who have experienced healing, but mistakenly believe they were healed by a false teacher.

  1. Give God the credit for healing you if it fits the biblical criteria.
  2. Give God the credit for healing you through medical means if you’ve received treatment and were healed from it.
  3. God is sovereign in healing, and in saving. He has mercifully done both in your life.
  4. He spoke through a donkey (Number 22:28-30) in Scripture, turned a murderer into an Apostle (Acts 9), and healed a man’s ear who was teamed up with Judas the Betrayer and Pharisaic High Priests (Luke 22:49-51). He has graciously worked in your life, in spite of your prior ignorance and blindly following false teachers.
  5. Reject false teachers as agents of Satan (2 Corinthians 11:13-15), not as anointed vessels who “God uses despite some shortcomings.”
  6. Seek wise counsel for quantifying your testimony and explaining it biblically.

Maybe you know someone who fits nicely into this criteria – and that’s wonderful – but it’s likely you will eventually meet someone that needs help defining one of the subsequent categories.

Response #2: You were temporarily healed by the power of suggestion, hypnosis, or sleight of hand.

 Wouldn’t it have been nice to just have the first section on our list?

The sad reality is, this response is necessary and applicable for helping people understand that if their healing, relief from pain, or euphoric experience was temporary, then it was not cut short because of their own lack of faith or negative confession – it was because it was all part of the game. God doesn’t relapse when it comes to divine healing.

We need to get honest about facts that are much easier to kick under the rug.

Studies have shown that the placebo effect is real, that hypnosis can cause people to do and feel things they’d otherwise never do or feel, and that the power of suggestion can cause people’s bodies to respond in temporary ways – without the lasting results. This reality is nothing new. Back in the late 1980’s, Tyndale published Dr. Normal Geisler’s, Signs and Wonders, and shed light on a very confusing era in evangelicalism. The Charismatic Renewal era (approx. 1960-1983) had given way to what was being called, “The Third Wave.” The Third Wave was taking Charismatic practices to new mainstream heights and Dr. Geisler’s book provided important answers. In his chapter, Psychological or Supernatural, he quotes Doctor Paul Brand’s original article in Christianity Today on the mind’s power to control or even heal the body,

In the placebo effect, faith in simple sugar pills stimulates the mind to control pain and even heal some disorders. In some experiments among those with terminal cancer, morphine was an effective painkiller in two-thirds of patients, but placebos were equally effective in half of those! The placebo tricks the mind into believing relief has come, and the body responds accordingly…In a false pregnancy, a woman believes so strongly in her pregnant condition that her mind directs an extraordinary sequence of activities: it increases hormone flow, enlarges breasts, suspends menstruation, induces morning sickness, and even prompts labor contractions. (Brand 1983,19)[i]

Furthering the evidence surrounding the power of the mind, Geisler writes,

Dr. William Nolen explains that “the patient who suddenly discovers…that he can now move an arm or a leg that was previously paralyzed had that paralysis as a result of an emotional, not a physical disturbance.” It is known that “neurotics and hysterics will frequently be relieved of their symptoms by the suggestions and ministrations of charismatic healers. It is in treating patients of this sort that healers claim their most dramatic triumphs” (Nolen 1974, 287). So “there is nothing miraculous about these cures. Psychiatrists, internists, G.P.’s, any M.D. who does psychiatric therapy, relive thousands of such patients of their symptoms every year.” But they do it by purely natural means, claiming no special supernatural powers.[ii]

Today, not only do we have many faithful Christian theologians who have put in countless hours of study to help us understand false faith healers in contrast to biblical truth, even unbelievers have been able to shed light on the deception. In his 2011 documentary, Miracles for Sale, a world-renowned hypnotist and illusionist goes undercover in one of the most jaw-dropping exposes ever recorded. maxresdefaultHe teaches and trains a man who had no prior experience with hypnotism or faith-healing to be a faith-healer. The facts prove that numerous modern faith-healers are little more than scam artists who use a false rendering of biblical truth to exploit the sick for monetary gain.

Unfortunately, many people – both Christians and non-Christians alike – have been duped by faith-healers who use hypnotic strategies and the power of suggestion to provide temporary relief from ailments. The real losers in this game of winner-take-all are the sick and hurting people who are left wondering what they’ve done to keep God from healing them completely.

Response #3: You’ve been deceived by a demonic, or counterfeit, sign.

This isn’t a popular one but the Word of God gives room for scenarios in which a power other than God is at work either to perform a legitimate sign or falsify one so well that it’s uncritically believed. Here some examples from Scripture that provide undeniable evidence that satanic and demonic power is allowed under the sovereignty of God and legitimate to some degree – whether falsified or not:

  1. Jesus doesn’t refer to “false” signs and wonders when He tells miraculous workers that He never “knew” them (Matthew 7:23). Those could be legitimate, demonic signs.
  2. Jesus is also clear that in the last days “false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect” (Matthew 24:24; Mark 13:22).
  3. Paul points out that the man of lawlessness will come in accordance with the activity of Satan, with “all power and signs and false wonders” (2 Thessalonians 2:9).
  4. Paul also assures that false prophets will disguise themselves as workers of righteousness (2 Corinthians 11:15).
  5. The Seven Sons of Sceva were completely overpowered by evil spirits who “leaped on them” via a man they possessed (Acts 19:14-16).
  6. Satan can bind people with sickness (Luke 13:16). If such an individual is converted, Satan and his oppressive force through disease would conceivably both be gone. In cases like these, salvation is primarily the miracle, the physical relief from satanic sickness is not – the person has simply gone back to his pre-possessed state of health.
  7. Satan could stop Paul from going forward in his missionary plans (1 Thessalonians 2:17-18).

No matter which side of the coin you land on, there’s no debating that Satan is the father of lies and has mastered the art of deception. It is very likely that many false teachers in the signs and wonders movement are “deceiving and being deceived” (2 Timothy 3:13) by demonic means.

Spiritual warfare is real.

Response #4: You are being used by darkness to deceive people.

There is one final category and it’s probably the last one on the list for a reason – use it sparingly. Simply put, it’s possible that a person is lying and being used to deceive others or are being deceived. They were never sick in the first place, or they had a minor ailment that was healed by their own body’s self-healing capabilities (built by God) and they see it as a way to get attention. Similar to little children who make millions of dollars off of false stories about going to heaven, people claiming healing can make a lot of money off of books and films but offer zero theological value to evangelicalism. Truth always produces fruit. Money doesn’t equal fruit.

Furthermore, even with the best of intentions, deception is deception. I have a former colleague in the faith-healing circuit who is fully convinced (and ok with it) that many of the healings claimed in his meetings are faked and claimed by people who want to be prayed for on the platform. Claiming you were healed is one of the best ways to make it on stage at a healing crusade – if not the only way.

His answer when I asked him why he doesn’t quit going along with the charade and just offer people truth? He says that it’s not his job to focus on who is or isn’t lying. He believes his job is to give people hope and increase their faith so they can activate their healing that Christ already paid for in the atonement. If he can do that by being optimistic about even the potentially false healings, then that is fulfilling his calling in his mind.

This category fits Paul’s exact words to Timothy about the contrast between those who will be faithful to the boundaries of God’s Word, and those who will irreverently or ignorantly do things as they please:

But evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:13-17).

None of these scenarios negates that a sovereign God can will and work in the life of one of His sheep at any given time. If a person is in fact a genuine believer, he or she will not stay in a false church long-term, and he or she will be malleable to God’s word as it informs previous experiences under a false teacher.

There is nothing wrong with a Christian praising God for being healed by the Great Physician or his or her medical doctor, but there is something dangerous about an enthusiastic perspective that believes a false teacher is just a well-meaning (though somewhat mistaken) healer who did the healing. We cannot stand idle while sheep are left untaught.

Experience never defines our truth. Truth always defines our experience.


Recommended Reading for Further Study on This Topic: 

Desiring God: Satan’s Ten Strategies Against You

Grace to You: Demons and Magic

Grace to You: False Prophets and Lying Wonders

Ligonier Ministries: False Signs and Wonders


[i] Norman L Geisler, Signs And Wonders, 1st ed. (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1988). 78-79. Geisler quotes from Paul Brand and Philip Yancey, “A Surgeon’s View Of Divine Healing”, Christianity Today, 1983. 19.

[ii] Ibid., 79-80. Geisler quotes from William Nolen, Healing: A Doctor in Search of a Miracle. (New York: Random House, 1974). 287.

Pharisees and False Teachers

There is a word that used to have no derogatory meaning but has found its permanent place in  the insults of “Christianese.” Its original meaning referred to a man’s position as an expert adherent of God’s law with rabbinical duties to guide others. The word is – Pharisee.  

Nowadays, this word is used and thought of in a slightly different way. If you call for accuracy in biblical preaching you could get called a Pharisee. If you lovingly confront a small group friend concerning their sin, you’re not thanked through tears – you’re called a Pharisee. If you voice concern for dangerous doctrines and the exploitation of those desperate for hope…well, you’ll see.

Recently a special conference was held in our city (Tustin, CA). The promoter promised signs, wonders, and miracles to those who would attend. A big sign was posted on the street and social media sites spread the word. Revival and health for the sick and needy was coming to our little corner of Orange County. Finally! Clever marketing tactics tagged the miracle working men as the “Pep Boys.” Perhaps because they were going give spiritual “tune-ups” to the crowd. Of course, admission was free. Based on some of the video footage from the conference host, the “signs, wonders, and miracles” were in short supply, but unintelligible tongues and bad theology was plentiful.15871887_941119289357321_4192490706401469971_n

Any push back against this tomfoolery could get you labeled. Shining a light on the flagrant lust for phony signs & wonders in today’s church climate could get you a new nickname. Encourage your friends to flee from this gimmickry and caution people about this unbiblical chaos, and you’re going to hear the P-word at some point.

You Pharisee.

Such a jarring indictment is enough to make any bold Christian think twice about opening their mouth concerning any serious issue. Jesus Himself called the over-zealous Pharisees horrible names. Would you ever want to be thought of as one of these?

  • Blind guides (Matthew 23:16)
  • Fools (Matthew 23:17)
  • Serpents (Matthew 23:33)
  • Vipers (Matthew 23:33)
  • Hypocrites (Luke 11:44)

That is one serious list. Obviously this kind of Pharisee is the last thing you ever want to be. Even from the earliest age, churches teach kids about these religious infiltrators with songs like,

“I don’t wanna be a Pharisee (a Pharisee!), I don’t wanna be a Pharisee (a Pharisee!), cause they’re not fair-ya-see? I just wanna be a sheep (ba-ba-ba-ba!).”

Ok so maybe only a few of us still remember that song from Sunday school, but you get the point.

There is one glaring problem with everything I’ve just described. Many people don’t know why Jesus used such harsh words with certain Pharisees. This leads to Christians getting either confused or fearful when called such a horrid term. So what in the world would constitute being called this type of Pharisee in today’s world? Is it being strict about biblical commands? Is it prohibiting the wearing of nail-polish or earrings at church? Is it calling out dangerous teaching? Is it the old guy who yells at the kids for playing drums in their youth worship service?

We need to let the bible speak so we don’t completely miss the point of what disastrous Pharisaic practices truly were.

Here’s what the gospels teach about the kind of things that the wretched Pharisees were doing to garner such harsh responses from Jesus:

  1. They Were Sign Seekers

When the Pharisees asked Jesus to show them a sign He replied, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks after signs…” Then warning His own disciples Jesus cautioned, “Watch out and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees…He did not say to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees” (Matthew 16:1,6,12).

Jesus calls the teachings of the Pharisees “leaven” as an illustration of how it changes bread dough when it’s added in. Similarly, modern day false teachers alter the gospel message with their own ingredients and corrupt it to the core. Signs and wonders is not what Christ came for and never to be our focus. He came to save sinners (Luke 5:32).Kris-Vallotton_large

When modern day churches start to obsess over signs, wonders (and everything in between) to draw an audience, they’re on a slippery slope. If preference is given to sign-seeking healing services over gospel-centered preaching, it is a sign that the wrong kind of Pharisees may be running the show. Further, if the gospel message is said to be powerless without signs and wonders, run from the place that teaches such a thing.

We don’t need more hype about signs and wonders. The pulpit must determine to know nothing among us but Christ crucified and Him raised from the dead.

  1. They Targeted Helpless People

In order to benefit themselves most, certain Pharisees preyed upon those who could defend themselves least. They were notorious for targeting helpless widows so they could benefit from the estate and resources a deceased husband had left to her.

Jesus described these greedy predators in His final public teaching discourse that Mark recorded. He taught, “Beware of the scribes who like to walk around in long robes, and like respectful greetings in the market places, and chief seats in the synagogues, and places of honor at banquets, who devour widows’ houses, and for appearance’s sake offer long prayers; these will receive greater condemnation” (Mark 12:38-40).

These conmen took no prisoners and even broke God’s law to make a buck off of heart-broken widows! The Old Testament commanded that people not overharvest their crops so that widows could benefit from what wasn’t picked the first time. Widows were not even be held to their own pledges (Deuteronomy 24:17-21). God took the care of widows seriously along with those who could not care for themselves – such as orphans.

In these modern times, false teachers take advantage of the lonely, the sick, the weak, and still go after widows much like the predatory Pharisees did. “Christian” leaders who capitalize on the least, last, and lost of our society for their own gain mirror the kind of bottom-feeding behavior that many Pharisees undertook.

  1. They Added to God’s Law

Pharisees enjoyed nothing more than adding their own powerless words, traditions, and methods to God’s basic commands. Where God had given enough instruction for the people’s good, the Pharisees added traditions and precepts that were established by their own ambition. Their agenda was centered on controlling people and making themselves look powerful. In Mark 7:6-9 Jesus calls out the Pharisees for their man-made system:

And He said to them, “Rightly did Isaiah prophecy of you hypocrites, as it is written: ‘This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far away from Me. But in vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.’ Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men.” He was also saying to them, “You are experts at setting aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition.”

Much like the Pharisees of yesterday, false teachers today add to God’s decrees with decrees of their own. They convince people that God has more to say, and He is using them to say it. These modern Pharisees toss aside what God has declared and in preference their own twisted version. As if the completed revelation breathed out by God Himself wasn’t enough (2 Timothy 3:16-17), they seek to elevate their own ideology as equal to God’s revealed word.

One famous mystic who has sold millions upon millions of books opens one of her best-sellers by saying, I knew that God communicated with me through the Bible, but I yearned for more.” This is common place today. Hoards of people yawn over expository preaching from the pages of Scripture, but mystical (possibly even demonic) counterfeits and prophetic conferences draw millions of people who are seeking a “new” word from the Lord. How much more time and money could be spent on spreading the gospel and lives saved from deception if people would accept that God already has spoken?

Reliability is in short supply in many loose theological circles that claim new prophetic words from God. Perhaps going back to the sufficiency of God’s already revealed will in the Scriptures and leaving it at that would solve the insufficiency of old pharisaic habits.

  1. They Added Unlawful Burdens to People

This one carries over from #3 on this list because the “extras” that the Pharisees added to God’s law were things they couldn’t even keep themselves. Hypocrites! For example,  where God set the Sabbath in order for man, the Pharisees created a laundry list of ridiculous additions to define “work” how they saw fit. At one point Jesus looks at an expert of the law and said, “Woe to you lawyers as well! For you weigh men down with burdens hard to bear, while you yourselves will not even touch the burdens with one of your fingers” (Luke 11:46).

Though they appeared to be righteous, the Pharisees were crooked benefactors of a system that burdened the people. image_large

The type of burdens the Pharisees used back then have a modern-day version that burdens Christians in similarly oppressive ways. For example, false teachers convince people that if they want to be healed, they should give money or just “have enough faith.” People are taught that they have to give a certain amount of money to be “blessed”, to get a “breakthrough” at their job or have relief from debt. Further, people are taught that certain men and women are especially anointed so they should give money to them.

These burdens are as powerless as the works-based salvation the Pharisees sold. This spiritual abuse results in confused Christians with deflated faith, and false teachers with inflated wallets. None of that sort of teaching is biblical. Sure, anyone can twist God’s word for capitalistic control over people. The Pharisees did it better than anyone.

  1. They Loved Their Own Honor

Nothing excites a Pharisee more than a system that will honor himself. These leaders love when people elevate them to unbiblical heights. This cultish hierarchy makes the shepherds of God’s people into anointed royal rulers worthy of glory and praise that only God deserves.

In Jesus’ day, the Pharisees sat themselves in the best seats, received immaculate greetings in public, and ensured that everyone noticed how holy and powerful they were.

One day, Jesus gave them an ear full and told them what He thinks about their honor-system.

“Woe to you Pharisees! For you love the chief seats in the synagogues and the respectful greetings in the market places. Woe to you! For you are like concealed tombs, and the people who walk over them are unaware of it” (Luke 11:43-44).

Now there’s a divine indictment. These status seeking Pharisees were caught red-handed by Christ. He saw right through their fancy clothes, front row seats, long bios, and hidden hypocrisy. He knew of their self-indulgent pride, lust for power over people, and desire for possessions. They were like dead corpses lurking unnoticed below and spoiling their unsuspecting victims.

Like those who Jesus rebuked, false teachers in the church world today love to be called humble yet enjoy the spoils of a king. They use a culture of honor to protect themselves from accountability. Protecting the precious people of God is the last thing on their minds. In fact, they are the very wolves attacking the sheep from within the fold. The Pharisees in Jesus’ day were too busy honoring themselves that they missed salvation from the Messiah when it was right in front of them. Today’s Pharisees take on the form of supposed “pastors” who spend a lifetime compiling a pension of riches from their powerless pulpits, only to find their lake front retirement plan is more of a lake of fire one. Christ is not in the building. He was never involved at all (Matthew 7:22-23).

Once we allow the bible to speak on this issue, it’s not so hard to spot a real Pharisee after all is it?

Mythbuster: "Slain in the Spirit"

It had been over three hours since the service started, and I was really starting to feel God’s presence in the building. As I stood next to my friend, the music was deep and intense. The lighting made everything feel so intimate, and a slight fog danced through the air. The lead singer’s voice was so beautiful – Jesus Culture’s music is so anointed. The voices all around me sang in unison, and I felt myself slipping into a deep, rhythmic trance as I swayed to the song. The pastor had been continuously telling us to expect an encounter with God and that God was going to touch us all in some special way. Could this be the solution to my problems in life? I’d been through so much heart-ache and insecurity. I was tired of being told that God’s word and prayer was enough. Maybe this was the real deal – maybe this was the encounter I needed. Just then, the pastor interrupted the singing and shouted, “Jesus is here! The anointing is yours! If you want a fresh touch from God get down here to the front of the stage!” I looked at my friend quickly and said, “Are you coming?! This is it!” He shrugged nervously and stayed put. I think he was skeptical of this sort of thing – he’s a Baptist. Oh well, I thought – his loss. Bodies poured out into the aisles as people just like me hurried desperately down to the stage. As I got closer to the front I felt adrenaline pump through my veins and soon found a spot just a few feet away from the pastor. Looking up at him I felt like God was telling him who to lay hands on. His eyes scanned the sea of young people below his platform. Then, my moment came. He told one of his assistants, “Get that girl right there! The power of God is all over her!” I felt so special that he picked me it caused me to sob uncontrollably. I was pulled up on the platform and it felt like I had made it to the holy of holies. My hands were shaking from the nerves, my breaths were short but heavy, and I sensed the catchers getting into place. Then he shouted, “FIRE!!! on you…” The emotion of the moment was too much for me to take as I felt something take a hold of my body. I abandoned all rationale and was powerfully forced to the ground. My body began to convulse and contort while I was laying on the stage; sounds poured out of my mouth I’d never made before. I could hear and feel other bodies beginning to fall around me and on me. Some people were laughing hysterically, others touched me and groaned deeply, and some were screaming while crawling on all fours. I have heard some Christians say this sort of experience was demonic, while others say it’s just hypnosis. To be honest, I haven’t seen it in the Bible and don’t really know what it is…but I really feel like it’s the Holy Spirit…

The virtual tour you’ve just read through is taking place all over the world every single week in tens of thousands of charismatic churches, healing crusades, youth groups, kid’s camps, Third Wave revivals, and N.A.R. conferences. Many conservative Christians are scared to death of their children ever going to one of these services but when asked what the issue really is, most cannot explain it but to say, “It’s unbiblical” or “not God.”

We need a better answer than that.

So what exactly does someone mean when they say, “I got slain in the spirit!”? This phrase describes what many believe to be a touch from God that sends them falling to the ground – literally. Those who ardently defend this practice claim that it’s God’s manifest presence in a service that causes people to fall over. According to them, God’s power is usually “imparted” to people by a pastor who lays his hands on them, blows his breath on them, waves his hand, waves his jacket, or shouts a phrase like, “Fire!” or “Touch!” These gestures cause people to go flying in all directions. Sometimes it even occurs when a certain song is sung by the worship band, or because people are overcome with emotion during a portion of the service. Often times those being slain in the spirit will manifest on the ground by making animal sounds, crawling, slithering, shaking, convulsing, weeping, laughing, and experiencing trance-like euphoria. Some say they feel electricity when the pastor touches them, others feel warmth, while others are not able to stand under their own strength for hours afterwards. All of this is believed to be the work of the Holy Spirit as He refreshes and renews spiritually empty and broken people. With over 500 million charismatics, and 1.5 billion Hindus (Kundalini Awakening)  practicing slaying people in the spirit, it is no exaggeration to state that at least 2/7 of the entire world has beliefs tied to falling or shaking under the power of some sort of spirit. This is not fringe behavior. This is now mainstream spiritualism and considered highly normative – it’s everywhere.

But does the Bible have any evidence to prove normative activity by the Holy Spirit that causes people to shake, slither, laugh, bark, crawl, or convulse in the church? When God interacts with people in the Bible, does He electrocute them into a seemingly drunken state where speech is slurred and the body uncontrolled? Can a preacher (shouting “FIRE!”) really cause heaven to invade your life on earth? Is there a chance that when some of these charismatic experiences are identical to manifestations found in Hinduism that there is a demonic aspect to it? maxresdefault-1

The best way to understand the charismatic practice of being slain in the spirit is to understand the position of those who support and practice it.

WHAT DO ‘SLAIN IN THE SPIRIT’ ENTHUSIASTS CLAIM?

First, there are a number of varying claims depending on what charismatic group is explaining them. That in itself proves how much confusion there is surrounding the practice.

Here are several key claims:

  • Slain in the spirit experiences are the result of the manifest presence of God the Father.
  • Jesus is the one doing the slaying.
  • The Holy Spirit is a force that cannot be stopped. When He touches people they fall
  • People who are “empty” need to be slain in the spirit to get filled with the Spirit.
  • When God touches human flesh, something will happen.
  • When heaven touches earth, things shake.
  • The power of God is overwhelming. When it shows up, people fall.

To support these general claims and explanations, charismatic enthusiasts use specific Bible passages as proof-texts for being slain in the spirit. Christians who aren’t biblically literate won’t usually notice the interpretive gymnastics being utilized, but when we study what the Bible actually says, the myths behind being slain in the spirit get biblically busted.

MYTH #1: IT HAPPENED IN THE OLD TESTAMENT

It happened that when the priests came from the holy place, the cloud filled the house of the Lord, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the house of the Lord” (1 Kings 8:10-11).

The context of this passage is the completion of Solomon’s temple in which the manifest glory of God literally descended. God’s presence dwelt in the temple as was consistent throughout the Old Testament. A similar experience happened in Exodus 40:34-38 to Moses when he was unable to enter the tent of meeting because of the glory of the Lord.

BUSTED: God’s glory descended upon the temple to signify His residence in the temple. The priest could not to stand to minister (1 Kings 8:10; 2 Chronicles 5:13), and Moses was unable to enter the tent of meeting because of the cloud of glory that filled it – not because they were laid out on the floor. There is nothing remotely close to today’s slaying in the spirit that provides evidence for the practice. God’s presence did not once slay people in the spirit, He did not cause people to fall hysterically, burst out into holy laughter, nor manifest with strange noises. None of what the Old Testament says about God’s presence or experiences at the temple has anything to do with the practice of being slain in the spirit today.

Though still a complete misinterpretation, if charismatic enthusiasts insist on using these texts as proof for their antics, then they must reconcile how the O.T priests were unable to stand or serve in the manifest presence of the Lord while modern day preachers, catchers, organ players, singers, and rest of the audience is able to stand, clap, use the restrooms, and film the antics with their cell phones while only people being “touched” are slain the spirit?

If the glory of God literally shows up, nobody will be filming for YouTube. All will be faced down.

Other texts that are poorly twisted in a similar way to the aforementioned example are:

Genesis 15:12Abram fell into a deep sleep.

Exodus 19:18Mount Sinai shakes from the presence of the Lord.

1 Samuel 16:13The Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David.

Judges 6:34The Spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon.

There is not a theologian on earth who can make any of these truly mean that being slain in the spirit is biblical. Did God move in powerful ways throughout the Bible and does He still today? Absolutely. Is there a single instance in the Old Testament where He “slays someone in the spirit” or instructs a prophet to form a fire tunnel and knock people down in a heaping pile? Absolutely not.

MYTH #2: IT HAPPENED IN THE NEW TESTAMENT

They answered Him, “Jesus the Nazarene.” He said to them, “I am He.” And Judas also, who was betraying Him, was standing with them. So when He said to them, “I am He,” they drew back and fell to the ground” (John 18:5-6).

Jesus the very Son of God stood face to face with a betrayer, and a mob of soldiers and high priests, then sent them straight to the ground with a declaration of who He was. This was the ultimate sign of power and authority by Christ and a clear display of His divine sovereignty over those He was allowing to kill Him. Not once was the Lamb of God not fully God and not once was He without control.

BUSTED: When we observe Jesus sending these men falling to the ground, several things cannot be overlooked: 1) They were His enemies 2) He did not impart His anointing to them 3) They did not have a euphoric encounter with God 4) They did not manifest by barking, shaking, convulsing, or sobbing 5) They were not filled with the Spirit 6) They were not healed while lying on the ground 7) They carried on with arresting Him. The events of this text cannot be divorced from the application of this text. What Jesus did, and how the mob responded offers no support for modern day practices.

Other New Testament texts poorly twisted in a similar way to the example above:

Acts 8:17Peter and John lay hands on people who receive the Holy Spirit.

Acts 19:12Handkerchiefs that touched Paul were used to heal and deliver people.

Acts 26:13-14Paul was knocked off his horse by a beam of light.

Revelation 1:17John falls on his face before Jesus out of fear. Jesus says, “Do not be afraid.”

To use any of these examples of God’s power in the New Testament as proof to support the normative practice of slaying people in the spirit today is beyond far reaching – it’s dangerous hermeneutics.

WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY ABOUT BEING ‘SLAIN IN THE SPIRIT’?

There is literally nothing in the Bible that supports the practice of slaying people in the spirit, being slain in the spirit, or even uses those terms. Some may argue that the term “Trinity” is not in the Bible either yet we believe in the Trinity. This is not a good argument since the doctrine of the Trinity is explicitly proven through countless texts that describe the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and we apply it exactly as the scriptures teach it. Terminology is not the issue with determining the biblical evidence for being slain in the spirit – finding any evidence is.

Even the most commonly known chapters on spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12-14) do not at all deal with the practice or give credence to it. In fact, Paul does more to tone down the chaos of Corinth than to invoke further antics that would confuse the church.

The burden of proof to legitimize this completely unbiblical practice ultimately lies only with those sympathetic to being slain in the spirit.

WHAT IS HAPPENING WHEN PEOPLE ARE BEING ‘SLAIN IN THE SPIRIT TODAY’?

Since we can conclude it is not found in the Bible, there must be other factors at work. After 26 years of personally experiencing, or being a part of tens of thousands of “slayings”, I’ve come to find that five conclusions quantify what in the world is going on when people fall under this supposed power.

I. People think they have to fall down – Peer pressure at these sort of services is intense. Nobody wants to look bad or make the preacher look bad. It is widely believed that there is something wrong with you if you don’t “feel” God’s presence and have a manifestation of some sort, so peer pressure plays a huge factor in falling. Sadly, kids end up being the biggest loser in this forced behavior as they seek to please and soon are brainwashed into the system. In many cases, people see other people falling and just follow suit. Finally, it is common for seekers who come to these services to think they have to fall down in order to get the experience that the preacher is promising.

II. People are told they are going to fall down – The power of suggestion and hypnosis is real. Documentaries like “Miracles for Sale” have proven that the power of suggestion and hypnosis can be used to make complete strangers do whatever the hypnotist commands. This isn’t news to those with an understanding of psychology and social science but many Christians are still unaware that many charismatic extremists who slay people in the spirit are experts at hypnosis and manipulation. Three hours of sensual and soothing music, countless bursts of saying, “Jesus is here! He is going to touch you! You are going to feel something you’ve never felt before! Just receive it!”, gets people in the mood. Then, they are ripe for the picking. Hypnosis is also proven to put people in a trance-like state – something common at these services.

III. People want to fall down – Reverence is a big deal in Third Wave, N.A.R., and charismatic extremist circles. People are taught to honor leaders in a god-like fashion because they are literally on His level. Many former followers in these movements have admitted that they wanted a deeper connection with God, and wanted the anointing that was being promised by the leader – so they chose to fall in hopes of having a spiritual experience. This often leads to the weeping, praying, and emotional responses seen after the pastor lays his hands on them.

IV. People are faking it – I’ve personally interacted with friends, family, and followers who have faked it. By the grace of God, people who don’t grow up in charismatic chaos have no idea this happens but when you grow up with a special anointing service every week and it lasts 4 hours a shot – you start falling just to get it over with. I once asked someone close to me why they threw themselves back and acted so crazy on the platform to which he claimed, “Come on man, we gotta make him look good and get this over with.” Make no mistake about it, people fake it.

V. It is demonic – In many cases where a false teacher is involved (Start @ 3m:15s) modern day slayings in the spirit are akin to the biblical accounts of someone who is experiencing demonization and demonic possession (Mark 9:17-18). Being seized, thrown to the ground, and rigidness of the body are all things people experience – this is exactly what demon possessed people experienced in the Bible. This isn’t a blanket statement to say that all slaying in the spirit practices today are demonic, but it is to say that when the other four points aren’t in play, you can bet it’s not innocent charismatic behavior. Some may wonder how anyone could dare attribute this to demonic behavior, but think about this for a second. Can a false teacher, teaching a false gospel, being used by Satan (2 Corinthians 11:13-15), lay hands on false Christians (or anyone for that matter) and cause them to experience the true Holy Spirit? No. It’s a false imposter – a demonic spirit.

At best, well-meaning people are seeking an encounter with God in the wrong way through the wrong means and will end up confused and disappointed. At worst, desperate people and apostates are being overtaken by hypnosis, the power of suggestion, demonic forces, or a false spirit that they believe to be the Holy Spirit.

If it doesn’t match the Bible, isn’t found in the Bible, or can’t be truly backed up by proper interpretation of the Bible, you’re not missing out on anything. The Holy Spirit is accessible today through the power of the gospel and He exists to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ, not to put on a show (John 16:14-15). If people surrender to Christ, embrace the true work of the Spirit in their life, and submit to the Bible as sufficient and final revelation, being slain in the spirit becomes obsolete.

No matter what a person’s position is on spiritual gifts today, all discerning Christians can confidently say, “I’ll pass” when it comes to being slain in the spirit.