It is not a new thing for a church or minister to be under attack. Recently, I read of a well known church in San Diego that is under verbal assault simply for inviting a conference speaker that is connected to what some people feel is a controversial move of God. That particular outpouring of God's Spirit is known as the Toronto Blessing, and though it originated twenty years ago, some of those associated with this move of God became suspect because of others that were critical about how they thought God should or should not manifest His Spirit among His people. As it was then, it is now, a stumbling block and an offense to those that may not understand the Holy Spirit. What is truly sad is that there are good people, God-seeking people, who are simply searching for more of His presence. This particular church is under fire by those that are uncomfortable with what they feel may be a counterfeit of God's spirit. Association with people who carry a stigma and a controversial reputation from critics has become a stumbling block for no apparent reason. Well meaning and some not-so-well meaning people often criticize and find fault with things they are not open to discover for themselves. Why do people have such a quick response of fear towards the movement of the Holy Spirit? Do they not believe He is good?Why are they so quick to judge God's servants with a suspicious heart that looks for evil, instead of looking for what is good? Why do people judge what they don't know or understand and believe the critics without any real proof of their own, especially if they have no direct connection with what is in question? Perhaps it is because they lack discernment, faith, or love. WHY do people tend to believe negative reports rather than wait to see for themselves what is truth about a situation? WHY do people not trust Holy Spirit to show people what is or is not God? Is He not capable of leading His people into truth? That would seem a bit ironic, given the fact that He is known as the Spirit of Truth! The answer then is simple, it's fear.
People that fear loss of control, or people that are afraid others won't 'see the truth' that they think they know; people that fear change, fear looking foolish, or associating with someone or something that others don't necessarily approve...all these factors come into play and cause controversy. These things cause people to fear that they have to explain or justify everything that may not be understood, and then attempts to control what they don't understand, or bring accusation, critical spirits and much more. Misunderstandings and offense increase when offense or accusation occur, because those things invite a spirit of witchcraft to energize negativity and gives it a life of it's own. My opinion may not count for much, but I have to issue a warning: simply don't judge. You protect yourself when you refrain from unnecessary judgments. While everyone is entitled to their own opinion, it's just not ok to speak critically of others in the body of Christ and bring discouragement to others. People that think they are 'warning' others to steer clear of something or someone that they feel is a fraud or a counterfeit really only expose what is in themselves. One cannot 'judge' and speak out against one thing without also being held accountable to the same spiritual law. What is hidden will be brought to light for others to also weigh against the truth. Religious spirits will provoke negative behavior that partners with the accuser and unbelief; not love and faith. It's really important that we all be able to discern what spirit is influencing us and others!
We simply have no basis for judging how people should be expected to respond to the Holy Spirit. Manifestations of the Spirit are NOT doctrine. Many of the complaints about the Toronto Blessing are because people started to do some very odd things that had not been seen before. Some people barked like dogs; others were reported to have roared like lions. All I can say about that is, when people encounter the Holy Spirit, it's true that some may manifest in the flesh. Perhaps the Spirit of God has agitated a demon or the person is undergoing some sort of deliverance. Who knows...maybe the people who roared like lions were controlled by a spirit of fear and God was setting them free. I have not done that, but personally, I have encountered the intensity of Holy Spirit ministering to me where I felt like I wanted to roar and the feeling was so strong it was hard to control. It was because God was doing something powerful within me to release this sense of victory over something that had been oppressive. Jesus is known as the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, and the word in Prov. 28:1 compares the righteous to being 'bold as a lion.' So, could that whole 'roaring thing' line up with that? I think we have to give it some latitude and say it's not out of the question. Who are we to say exactly how God can minister to His people? Who are we to judge how He chooses others to experience Him? Some may weep quietly. Some may laugh. Some may feel electricity shooting through their body. Some may be glued to the floor. Others may experience a trance like state or receive visions. And, some may manifest the spirit in ways that make us feel awkward and uncomfortable, maybe even more showy than we like. However, we cannot possibly know what others are experiencing simply by observation. The Bible clearly tells us to test the spirits for ourselves, but just because we may not have prior experience with something doesn't mean it might not still be God at work. Just as an example to make my point, I prayed for a woman who felt the Holy Spirit like strong jolts of electricity and she started shaking. She did not know what it was and was afraid it was the enemy; but, it was simply the power of God responding to her prayer for healing. After a few minutes I was able to explain it was the power of God ministering healing to her, and she felt so much better. At first she was fearful because she had never experienced God like that before. And guess what? She received her healing! So, first impressions are not always accurate. A wait and see attitude is better, don't you think? Though some things might be exposed as being in the flesh, does that mean everything is? Let's be careful, and as that old saying goes, "Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater."
Controversy causes people to make decisions about where to place their loyalties. Accusation always causes people to take sides. What people must understand is that they are either going to end up on God's side or they can end up on the opposing side, but HOW they conduct themselves and WHAT they decide is of the utmost importance and will affect them personally. Judgments always do. It is unfortunate that this is happening, but there is something positive that we can all do to help share some of that burden and be a LIFE GIVER to those that feel the weight, the shame, and the pain of the enemy's attack.
The enemy knows what people are made of. Many times God will choose to work through someone that does not have a squeaky clean reputation. He chooses the weak and undesirable things to confound those who are wise in their own opinions. If God is working to tear down religious misconceptions, you can be sure He will offend some people when He confronts their sense of propriety. Again, what it comes down to is a question of whether or not others feel someone else is worthy of being used by God to accomplish certain things. Are people human? Do they make mistakes? Will they do things at times that might seem more in the flesh than in the Spirit? Absolutely. But God still chooses who He chooses in spite of their weaknesses. Apostle Paul boasted that when he was weak, Christ was strong. God does not choose people that feel strong and capable or proud of their own spirituality because they will tend to boast upon themselves. He moves through people who have failed miserably and understand they are undeserving of any glory, accolades or desire to boast upon themselves. God will not share His glory with another! Why did Jesus' disciples all scatter when He was being persecuted? Fear. People don't like to feel like they are aligned with something or someone that could affect their reputation or relationships in a negative manner because they don't want it to feel like it is a reflection upon them personally or professionally. They don't want to be associated with someone that might bring reproach on them, so they scatter and say, "I don't have anything to do with them." That's what Peter did, right? People tend to shy away from those that are in the public spotlight and under speculation because they don't want to be associated with someone that they perceive is being shamed or condemned by others. This is more of a fearful response out of self preservation, rather than a response of maturity, faith and grace. It is important to remember that accusations are often the result of misunderstandings. Not always, but enough to caution us towards making hasty judgments and joining the crowd of negative conversationalists. Even when one of Jesus' disciples came to him and said, "Master, we saw someone casting out demons in Your name and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow along with us." Jesus responded by saying, "Do not hinder him, for he who is not against you is for you." (John 9:49,50). Friends, be very careful not to touch what God is doing or hinder His Spirit, for you may find yourself dealing with God in a way that isn't comfortable.
Every time there are people that desire more of God's presence, the enemy seeks an opportune moment to throw a monkey wrench into the mix. It would seem that these people in this church are hungry for more of God's presence, but the enemy thought he could issue a preemptive strike and stop things before they really got moving. The number one way Satan tries to accomplish his goal is through slander, accusation and negative conversation. This church will not be the only one that takes fire under enemy assault. We need to prepare ourselves now for how we are going to respond when the storms come. Don't let the enemy's smokescreen get in your face and take you off course. Satan delights in misunderstanding, offense and creating chaos. There are so many people that are seeking the Lord, wanting more of Him, and EXPECTING Him to show up and do something new. Yet, in every move of God, there have been people that do not understand that 'new thing,' or the form that it may take. He will come and rearrange the furniture. He will turn things upside down because THAT IS WHAT THE SPIRIT DOES. Lack of a previous point of reference and misunderstanding how God may choose to work can cause people to become fearful, suspicious or even accusing towards things they do not understand.
No one wants to make the same mistake of the Pharisees. When Jesus showed up on the scene, His teachings, the healings, deliverance and miracles were all new. No one had any previous point of reference to compare them to, and so they judged what they did not understand, attributing the work of the Holy Spirit to demons, and committing the sin of blasphemy in the process. They were fearful of change and loss of control. They held fast to what they thought they understood of the scriptures yet mistakenly thought they could separate the Spirit from the Word. They fact that their spirits were closed to a greater understanding of God caused them to err gravely and form their actions out of those judgments. They ended up bringing judgment down upon themselves and shutting themselves off from the blessings that could have been theirs. Judgments and pride blinded them to the Spirit of God moving among them. Friends, this is what occurs in just about every true move of the Holy Spirit. People who are not open to how God may want to move criticize what they don't understand and cite heresy or wrong spirits at work. They state it's unbiblical because they can't find a point of reference to it in scripture. In John 20:30 and again in 21:25 the word of God tells us that Jesus did many more miracles that were NOT RECORDED. He has done so many miraculous things there is a not a book large enough to contain them! Perhaps we can all agree that God can move however He sees fit because He is God!
When God moves, we can expect controversy. New births are always a bit messy. Rev. 12:4 reminds us the dragon stood by as the woman gave birth, ready to devour the child. How does he do that? Through accusation. Satan the accuser, brings a twisting of understanding, twisting the word and accuses those that are being used by Holy Spirit to birth something new. Like with Eve in the garden the serpent said, "Hath God not said...?" and proceeded to twist the word of God in order to bring mistrust, accusation and tempt Eve to sin. The word accuser, or diabolos, means 'liar;' one who generates confusion, divides or makes someone fall. The accuser will always look for ways to twist understanding and offend our sense of what is going on. When God moves, some things will be of God and perhaps some things not, but the fruit speaks for itself, so perhaps the best perspective is to give something time to show what fruit emerges rather than rushing to judgment - especially when someone may not have any personal point of reference. Are people being healed and set free? Are they testifying of personal encounters with God? Then let them enjoy their God and resolve not to speak against their experiences. No matter how critical or even spiritual someone might sound with an attempt to negate a move of the Spirit, NO ONE has the power to make someone else's testimony null and void. If they got healed, they got healed. End of discussion. I urge others not to form judgments based on someone else's judgments or offenses no matter how influential they may be. Let us leave justice and judgment to the Judge of Heaven and Earth. Jesus had righteous judgments because he did not judge by what he saw or heard in the natural; He judged by the Spirit of God that came from a pure and holy source. When ever the temptation arises to form a judgment about someone or something, please be encouraged to err on the side of wisdom, mercy and grace rather than judgment. Jesus warned us not to judge for a good reason, because wrong judgments have the ability to boomerang back into our own life. To the extent that we model grace and mercy to others, is what we receive. False judgments and criticisms can come from unhealed wounds in our own spirit that then make room for the accuser to bring division, discord and tear apart the exact place where God wants to move in a mighty way. God wants to move in our families, personal relationships, ministries, churches and in our communities, but He cannot do so where there is division and discord. Let us be aware of the schemes of the enemy and stop him before the accuser does further harm where ever it hits close to home with us.
I ask that Your Holy Spirit pour out on me and my family, my church and community, the Spirit of Understanding, and give me eyes to see others differently. Give to each person in my family, church and within the body of Christ eyes to see and a heart to understand the spirit and motive of others. If negativity is being spoken about a person or situation, help me to have heaven's perspective and not that of the flesh. Guard my heart from being misled by the enemy, false judgments and negative opinions of others. Help me to yield to Your Holy Spirit. Bless me with a new heart that is willing to yield to you and others. Heal any areas of my heart that are in need of healing so that the enemy finds no place in me. Give me that grace and anointing by which true community is built. Pour out on me, and those in my family, my church and my community, the grace and understanding that displaces all jealousy, competition, strife, ambition and pride. Supernaturally remove the differences in our hearts that lead to disunity, discord and division. Let our hearts be filled with deep respect and appreciation for one another, so that we honor one another in love. May each of us find acceptance and the love that heals as a result of You pouring out Your Spirit of grace and understanding. Give me and my family this gift from Your Holy Spirit; this grace anointing that unifies, edifies and brings us into one accord with one another. Let this be poured out on us now, that we might glorify the name of Your Son, Jesus Christ. In His name I pray, amen.