Whenever anyone moves ahead in the Holy Spirit, this angel of light poses roadblocks and provides would-be detractors.
by Marc Brisebois
The religious spirit comes as an angel of light. It pretends to be wisdom from above. In reality, it purposes to stifle, suppress and suffocate the true expressions of the Holy Spirit. Using man’s fear of the unknown it goads believers into a place of suspicion and unbelief. Whether the issue is tongues, the renewal, or worship, the enemy is always at work. But like any thief, he leaves his mark, making him easier to spot. You just need to know his modus operandi (mode of operation).
Dismantling the enemy’s pseudo wisdom is a key goal in the journey.
The attack is simple and can be identified as the pursuit of purity without the benefit of freedom. Pretending to stand for purity, it withholds freedom while feigning a search for the ‘right’ way. This is the mark of a darkened wisdom. It will always refuse to release an endorsement, pointing to the lack of purity. It presents a form of spirituality, but lacks critical substance. In the end it leaves a hollow shell of tradition without the Life.
The Holy Spirit on the other hand works by the rule of another paradigm. He first gives freedom before any mention of purity.
The courage of faith
Whenever a group of people makes a leap forward in the things of the Spirit there are always roadblocks and would-be detractors. We have certainly seen this regarding expressions of worship and the activity of the Holy Spirit. There is always someone there to protest when someone else steps out. Navigating these roadblocks is a matter of faith and divine wisdom.
Divine wisdom is essential because whenever we venture in faith, fear and unbelief make an argument. Divine wisdom is a specific portion of the “knowledge of God” that renders that argument powerless. Dismantling the enemy’s pseudo wisdom is a key goal in the journey. Thankfully divine wisdom is our powerful ally for pulling down strongholds! On the other hand without divine wisdom, these arguments have the appearance of sound counsel.
Faith is critical! It releases us into the breadth of God’s provision. Faith is the light that leads us down the darkened alley of our ignorance. It enables us to rely on the Spirit’s power to lead us into all truth. It is faith that enables us to confidently do what no one has previously done. Whether we speak of Moses, Noah or Abraham, all are equally commended for the same thing. They followed the Lord in doing what was not previously done. God spoke, they heard and obeyed. To do what is regularly done does not require much faith at all. And so the Scripture contrasts walking by sight as opposed to faith.
The truth is that it is far easier to do what is already being done and keep it there.
Once you spend a little time in the Church you will find that people in general have difficulty doing something new. If someone dances where no one previously danced, someone will struggle. If you raise your hands in a church where no one raises their hands, people will become uncomfortable. The truth is that it is far easier to do what is already being done and keep it there. Unfortunately too many lives reflect this approach. This, of course, is because much of the modern Church is ruled by a sentimental attachment to traditional Christianity. We call it faith, but it is truly nothing, and I mean NOTHING in the strongest possible way.
For many, the Christian faith has been received as a part of the culture of the day. We absorb it as we would music, art and fashion. There is a capacity to embrace what is safe, but an inability to passionately propel oneself into raw obedience. Launching into uncertainty is not even remotely possible. Whereas the essence of true faith is that it allows you to walk on water. Without it we are confined to terra firma, only those things which are widely accepted as a part of traditional faith. On the other hand true faith releases you from the tyranny of the present to navigate into the unseen realm.
Do not fear error!
When I first came to the Lord my mother gave me the most powerful guidelines for Christian living. She told me not to fear error. She said that the devil is cleverer than me and that I had no hope of ever discovering all the possible pitfalls he might produce—that through the ages of Church history he had deceived men who were by far my superiors in every way. In essence she directed me to set my eyes on Jesus and the promise of the Spirit. Jesus said He would send us the Holy Spirit and that the Holy Spirit would lead us into all truth.
… the fear of error fuels a spirit of deception.
What I came to believe at that moment was that I was entirely dependant upon the Holy Spirit in the arena of truth. Furthermore, I discovered that the fear of error fuels a spirit of deception. Subsequently the Lord repeatedly challenged me with Proverbs 3:5:
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.”
To trust in the Lord with all my heart is pitted against the things I presently understand to be true. This means that nothing I have come to understand in the past can guarantee passage through what is yet to come. Today, with many revelations under my belt, I can safely say I do not knowwhat I do not know. When I come to know a thing that I did not know, I then recognize that in fact, I did not know that. This may seem elementary, but it is the foundation on which all our lives should be built.
Living in the light of this truth keeps us in a place of weakness and dependency. The more often we are surprised at our ignorance, the easier it is to abandon trust in our current knowledge. This is not to say that I abandon what I already know, but rather that I cannot trust in it. It is incomplete!
My mother’s advice concluded with a warning and a commission. She said, “Wherever you see the evidence of the Spirit of God, jump in with both feet, but beware … ” she added, “that many will come around you and caution you to withdraw. Having an appearance of wisdom they will point to excesses and flesh”. This happened precisely as predicted. But what I learned is that there will always be excesses and flesh as long as people are involved. The human side of the equation will always appear in both those who are quick to advance and those who will not.
Do not trust your intellectual abilities to deduce truth,
look for the witness of the Spirit.
And so my advice is the same to other believers. The Holy Spirit is given to lead you into all truth, so believe Him. Do not trust your intellectual abilities to deduce truth, look for the witness of the Spirit. And yet remember that the truth you discover in your personal walk will always be consistent with the Word of God. That is, the Holy Spirit will not tell you to steal, murder or divorce your wife. And so we need not fear error but be aware of what is expressly forbidden.
In addition to faith we need divine wisdom. In this present age wisdom is as beauty, it is found in the eye of the beholder. In other words when someone has a particular belief he will identity wisdom according to his present perceptions. If someone is racist then the rhetoric of racism will strike him as wisdom. Likewise when there is fear and unbelief in our hearts, its rhetoric will have the ring of wisdom.
“If there were less human emotions then perhaps the evidence of the Holy Spirit would come through.” This is utter nonsense!
In the early days of my walk I came to see this with great regularity. I happened to be part of a Bible College that was adventurous in the Spirit. When no one was dancing they were dancing. When deliverance was controversial, they were casting out demons in the name of Jesus. Unfortunately not everyone was comfortable with these fresh expressions. One of the schools professors struggled with expressions of worship and most particularly dancing. He would argue that those who did favour the gifts of the Holy Spirit were not stumbling over the Spirit Himself but over our dancing. The idea being, that if our dancing contained more purity then they would not stumble. If there were less human emotions then perhaps the evidence of the Holy Spirit would come through. This is utter nonsense! But it is the substance of many accusations and the basis of much fear.
This category of arguments is a veil behind which hides an unbelieving heart. Some use it as an excuse for not living according to the truth already evident to them. In other words, I do not go to Church or participate in Christianity because there are hypocrites there. Yet, these same people will still participate in a sports team and work at a job where other forms of hypocrisy prevail. The failure of people cannot invalidate the truth. If we are truly committed to the truth, what others do is immaterial. You cannot justify not prophesying because others do it wrong. The fact that one believer does something imperfectly does not justify our abandoning it entirely. This argument has an appearance of wisdom but it is a lie.
Recently this lie has resurfaced with regards to renewal manifestations. It goes something like this: “I am fine with the Holy Spirit and manifestations so long as they are purely God.” Others have said this in regard to prophecy and dance, yet they themselves participate in neither. How is it that those who don’t dance or prophesy become the judges of those who make every effort? In the natural, what person would respect the opinion of a hockey commentator who had no firsthand experience and who regularly misinterpreted the rules? They say they are for a purer version of the things they reject, but show no capacity, desire or intent to walk in them. Instead, they sit idly waiting for some version that meets their criteria. It will not come!
The false wisdom behind this argument suggests that it sides with purity. “When you do it right (according to me), then I will approve of what you are doing.” In other words, once an indescribable level of perfection is achieved then freedom and endorsement is granted. The problem with this demonic wisdom is the belief that you can have purity without freedom. This wisdom says: You can dance if, and only if, it is in the spirit; You can prophesy, but only if there are never any mistakes; We believe in manifestations but only if they are void of human emotion and any evidence of flesh.
Those who say such things may sincerely believe they are standing for “pure” streams but they do not. They are those who not only do not enter, they refuse entry to others. Sincerity aside, they are deceived by their own unbelief and fear. The religious leaders of Jesus’ day believed they were contending against that which would undermine a true expression of God. They were wrong!
Imagine a mother telling her nine-month-old son that he could not “attempt” to walk: Unless you do it right you cannot do it at all! Imagine a whole society taking this approach” In order to protect the sanctity of “walking,” we forbid “wrong walking.” No stumbling or falling is acceptable. We will only tolerate what is being done with purity.
What would be the outcome? First off, the next generation would never walk. They would spend their days living in the shadow of those who once walked, revering their memory and example, saying with suitable emotion, We remember with fondness our fathers who once walked; We celebrate the place where they walked and we enshrine their footsteps. On account of their pure walking we discourage walking which lacks the spirit of their excellent example.
If this strikes you as ludicrous, you are right. But this wisdom prevails in many circles. If we embraced this wisdom, “walking” would disappear from our experience in the same way the activity of the Spirit has waned from many churches. That is, until someone was willing to step out, and risk doing it wrong, until it was right. Where courage is absent, the ministry of the Spirit has gradually departed.
Freedom is always given before purity is demanded.
It is in this atmosphere that natural children develop.
We do not suggest that we abandon wisdom, but there is a way that seems right to man whose end is death. The question we might ask ourselves is, Where is the dividing line between wisdom and unbelief? Can anyone suffering under the weight of fear ever hope to make that distinction? Unbelief and a religious spirit continuously point to the failure and excess of some to discourage others.
However we need not abandon our love of purity to encourage freedom. If you want someone to sing who is afraid of doing it wrong, the first step is to simply get him or her singing. Once they have begun to make that necessary initial venture, then you gradually integrate the requirement of purity. To demand purity without first giving freedom will only lead to one outcome: Fear and unbelief will dictate all future ministry. The pattern of the kingdom of heaven is based on the mercy heart of God.
Freedom is always given before purity is demanded. It is in this atmosphere that natural children develop. Can any wisdom say it would be any different for spiritual children?
Marc Brisebois, the senior leader at Sprucegrove Community Church in Alberta, is widely published. Marc is a member of the Canadian National Prophetic Council.