February 18, 2010

Contemporary Miracles, Signs, and Wonders: Divine or Demonic?

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30 Comments
  1. When crazy things happen, some say, “only in America!”

    When miracles happen, I find myself saying, “everywhere BUT America!”

    Look at the sacrificial and communal lives of those who have it rough in third world countries and compare it to the apostolic model in the New Testament.

    Look at the American church as a whole and compare it to Laodicea.

    Not a mystery to me…

  2. Its funny how some people interpret “when perfection comes…” (1 Cor 13:10) as when the Bible was “finalized” instead of interpreting it to the second coming of Christ.

    Also, tongues are not just foreign languages of another nation. It is also a heavenly language:

    “For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God. Indeed, no one understands him; he utters mysteries with his spirit.” 1 Cor 14:2

    “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels…” 1 Cor 13:1

    Tongues is not a natural gift referred to as something learned by taking language classes or by reading a book at Barnes and Noble. The gifts listed in 1 Cor 12 are supernatural which man cannot obtain to learn on their own.

    Dr. Brown, Im trying to figure out what book you wrote where you gave an example two or three different of people standing by the “river” or something symbolizing the move of the Holy Spirit. One person jumps in while the others avoids jumping in it out of skepticism and misses out on it. Would you happen to remember the book and the specific quote?

  3. I would like to highlight to those who believe the gifts are for today by quoting:

    “Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy.” 1 Cor 14:1

    1) Follow the way of Love
    2) Eagerly or earnestly DESIRE or PURSUE spiritual gifts.

    The word desire is a very strong word. In Greek, it means:

    zēloō
    ζῆλος (G2205)

    1) to burn with zeal
    a) to be heated or to boil with envy, hatred, anger
    1) in a good sense, to be zealous in the pursuit of good
    b) to desire earnestly, pursue
    1) to desire one earnestly, to strive after, busy one’s self about him
    2) to exert one’s self for one (that he may not be torn from me)
    3) to be the object of the zeal of others, to be zealously sought after
    c) to envy

    Let us all continue to FOLLOW the way of love. At the same time, PURSUE spiritual gifts.

  4. I grew up in a nominal Roman Catholic family and never heard or saw speaking in tongues until the day I was baptized in the Holy Spirit myself.

    As a young military man, I was born again in 96 and later baptized in the Holy Spirit and power after reading the book of Acts and Corinthians and telling God “if this is for today, I want it.”

    After true repentance and prayer, when the power of God came down upon me, I could not contain it and fell to the ground speaking in an unknown tongue and like the testimony stated, “in a state of ecstacy.” I can identify with the feelings that may have been felt on the day of Pentecost when people thought they might have been drunk!

    When I spoke in English, I was saying, “I’ll never say there’s not a God, I’ll never say there’s not a Jesus” over and over again. To me, it was God dealing with my former unbelief. I also heard the voice of the HS saying, “This is the way I want you to worship me…in humility” as I laid face down on the carpet, I knew God was breaking my pride.

    After that day I was never the same again. I went from having keg parties to having Bible studies. From cursing to blessing. From shyness about Jesus and the Word of God to being bold to testify of the Gospel.

    I was always taught that the Baptism in the HS with the evidence of speaking in tongues was mainly for the “power to be witnesses to Jesus to the uttermost ends of the Earth” and for personal edification. 14 years later I have been to over 15 nations, am still going strong for Jesus, and am a missionary among an unreached people group in Thailand with my wife of 9 years and two sons.

    A man with a good argument is never at the mercy of a man with an experience…and the word of God to back him up!

    If you ask God for a fish he will not give you a snake! As God for the Baptism in the HS, it is the power of God to be His witness to the ends of the Earth!

  5. Thank you for all you do to equip and unify the Body of Christ in our belief and defense of the gospel. I thoroughly enjoyed the Feb. 17 program and ask you please to open that discussion again and devote more time to it (especially the five pillars of Islam). As to the Feb. 18 broadcast, I had listened to John MacArthur the same day you did and was not so surprised, but disappointed because I highly respect his expository teaching of the Word. Your show is realistic and has brought balance to the written record and experience of the move of God. Please keep doing what you do. You are strengthening a lot of people! Thank you.

  6. Brothers and Sisters,

    I once believed that the “sign” gifts had ceased. I no longer hold to that position.

    I am however cautious because of the great propensity for counterfeits and abuses. I have read many works from the cessationist point of view and to date have only read Wayne Grudems section on the Spiritual Gifts in his systematic. Can any of you suggest some solid works from the non-cessationist point of view?

    On a personal note when I was first saved I read my bible and prayed with great fervor and enjoyed communing with my savior. Often in my personal prayer times I would have rushes of great emotion, passion, and joy even to the point of my body quivering slightly. After becoming more theologically astute and embracing Calvinism and Cessationism I found myself praying with less fervor but studying theology with a greater passion. Many years later I found that prayer had become a cold and wooden experience.

    Today I am still a fully comitted follower of Jesus who love’s theology (the study of God) but I am longing for the experience of God as well. As a Calvinist (I am no longer one) I shunned emotion and experience as subjective and untrustworthy. Only objective knowledge was to be trusted. I was unbalanced. I think that many believers today are unbalanced one way or the other.

    To Jesus be all glory my passion is returning and the desire for gifts of the Spirit is rekindled. He is truly faithful.

    Thanks for your help and DR Brown for a very balanced example to the Christian life,

    Bob

  7. There is absolutely, positively, no biblical evidence whatsoever that the gifts and power of the spirit have ceased.

    Let’s drop the presuppositions when reading the Bible

  8. John, great testimony. Thanks for sharing.

    I was saved in a revival in a Methodist church back around 1970. The gospel was preached, an invitation was made, and I could not have stayed away from the altar if I wanted to. It was like an irresistable force was pulling me to the altar- as if I would have died if I had not gone up.

    As they say, “you know that you know.”

    Months later, I was attending a bible study for teens, held in the home of a couple who were of Baptist persuasion but not cessationists. I think the term used back them was “closet charismatics” as they did not speak in tounges in public.

    They asked me if I wanted to receieve the Baptism in the Holy Ghost. I had Sherril’s book “They speak with other tounges” and Bennet’s “nine O’clock in the Morning.” I did have prayer, and felt that same presence of the lord that drew me to the altar. No tounges, and the issue was never pressed amongst this group. It was at this time that I received the Baptisim in the Holy Spirit.

    As they say, “you know that you know.”

    It was about 5 years after I recieved the Baptisim in the Holy Spirit later that I recieved the gift of tounges. which confuses the heck out of some pentecostal theologians, what can I say? That’s what happened.

    Folks, this stuff is real and it is of God. Far too many scriptures are being mangled trying to prove it is not. I can speak in tounges prophetically to the church- and have it interpeted (by someone who does not know that language) and I can speak in tounges to God, and be built up. I frequently pray in tounges when words cannot express what I need to pray, or when I have incomplete knowledge.

    I have cessastionist friends who are conflicted, because they know what they have been taught but they also know me and my love for the Lord.

    I follow the admonition to utilize the gifts in a service “decently and in order” but I also believe that one should not “forbid speaking in tounges.”

  9. Dr. Brown,

    Thanks for an interesting show. I was convinced a few years ago that the case in favor of the spiritual gifts today is strong. However, what I have seen in the groups were the gifts are practiced seems to range from bad to disastrous.

    Some time after I looked into the gifts I had an experience with tongues with an antitrinitarian group. I quickly distanced myself from them and do not currently speak in tongues. It seems that a large number of false teachers practice the gifts and it looks no different than in orthodox groups. Also in orthodox groups what I see is a lot of questionable prophecy and little discernment. People just seem to make vague statements.

    I was wondering what your advice would be for someone who wants to be open to experiencing the gifts but is very weary of false teaching.

    Doug

  10. Doug,

    There are many respectable churches pentecostal/charismatic churches that are experiencing the spiritual gifts. Just know that there is no such thing as a perfect church. The only perfect church you will find is when Christ returns back.

    Also I would recommend you to check out Dr. Browns book “The Revival Answer Book”

    Product Description
    God has used Michael Brown as a key part of the Brownsville Revival, which has gained worldwide recognition as a movement marked by deep repentance and salvation for tens of thousands of people. Of course, questions have been raised, as they have whenever revival has come to God’s people throughout history: Just what is revival? How do we know it when we see it? What are the signs of true revival? Does revival extend beyond the body of believers to the community or the nation? What about all those weird manifestations we’ve heard about? Do I have to go there to get revived? Can’t God just meet me where I am? The author answers these questions and many more, without defensiveness or negativity, in this completely revised edition of Let No One Deceive You. This is your hour of visitation. Don’t miss out!

  11. One day, I was at church and a woman asked if she could pray for me. I have MS and it was common for people to ask to pray for me. I said yes and she began. She was a tall woman and she wrapped her arms around me.

    Suddenly, I was on the floor and she was over me. For a moment, I wondered what had just happened. I had never been ‘slain in the spirit’ before. I had seen it. Didn’t really know what I thought about it, but I didn’t judge it.

    In that moment on the floor though, I wondered very briefly, ‘was that God?’ and when I determined that there was nothing spirit-filled about it, I forced the woman off of me and got up.

    I felt so violated and nervous. I reached into my purse and fumbled for a cigarette. The woman asked me if I was saved and then, when she saw the cigarettes, she proceeded to tell me that cigarettes were demon-possessed.

    I still don’t judge people who are ‘slain in the spirit’, but I absolutely know that I wasn’t and I am so sure that a lot of people, if they experienced what I did, would hesitate to reject it. I think, if something is from God, we’d recognise it. It wouldn’t feel violating and we shouldn’t be afraid to refuse it when it does.

    I don’t doubt for a second that the gifts continue today, but I’m sure there are counterfeits and we should remember that we are told to test the spirits.

  12. Hi Ben,

    Thanks for the product advice, but I am not sure it would cover my concern exactly. I agree with what you said about there being good pentecostal/charismatic churches out there. I guess my concern with the movement as a whole is: (1) The false teachers (oneness groups, the TBN crowd, etc.) seem to have the same tongues experience as the good groups and what I and my wife experienced when we spent time with a couple from a oneness group. How do you know you are not being deceived? (2) Even within the good churches from what I have seen and heard (which is somewhat limited) there is little concern for dealing with the false. I bet I could show up in most any pentecostal/charismatic church and share some vague made up prophecy and no one would call me on it. The real problem is that some poor person might actually try and act on it!

    Doug

  13. Doug,

    Good points, for sure, and worth further discussion. On the flip side, there are thousands of non-charismatic churches out there that use the Bible to support once-save, always-saved — a dangerous, unbiblical doctrine — which, to me, is worse than a false or meaningless prophecy, since the Bible is being misused. So, there are plenty of sincere people who are being misled by their spiritual leaders in lots of churches, without tongues or prophecy.

    Also, based on a NT perspective, which should be expected: the potential abuse of spiritual gifts or the absence of spiritual gifts? To me, it’s clearly the former.

    I don’t raise these points to minimize your concerns but simply to say that I have other concerns that come up primarily in non-charismatic churches, and in many ways, these are the more grave concerns.

  14. It is ironic to me that those who put so much emphasis on trusting scripture alone and not experience, themselves trust so much in negative experiences they and others have had to prove that the miracles and gifts of the Spirit are passed away. It is absolutely true that there are many perversions of miracles and misuse, and/or counterfeit displays of God’s power but we can not just look at those negative experiences to judge whether or not something is of God. We must first look at the clear testimony of scripture. I am convinced that if someone picked up a copy of the New Testament and read it from Matthew to The Revelation they would not come to the conclusion that miracles have pasted away and the spiritual gifts that Paul used three chapters of the Holy Writ to expound on have passed away as well.

    I want to challenge you Dr. Brown to challenge Patrick Donahue to use only the scriptures to support his stance. I am willing to say without the testimony of negative experiences and quotes from men of God from the past he will not have a valid leg to stand on.

  15. Hi Doug,

    I understand your concern but I dont think its a big concern compared to preaching/teaching behind the pulpit especially in the conservative circles. It has caused more deception in history. There is a list of topics/doctrine that can be highlighted such as once saved always saved, cessationlism, “cheap grace theology”, replacement theology, etc…

    Im not down playing other issues that branched off the pentecostal/charismatic movements such as the oneness pentecostals. But I think some critics have painted a terrible picture of the pentecostal/charismatic movement which caused many to feel overly cautious and paralyzed many to move foward.

    I would recommend Dr. Browns’ book on “The Revival answer book”. I would also recommend Jack Deere’s Book on “Suprised by the Power of the Spirit”.

    Heres the editorial reviews on Jack Deere’s Books:

    What caused a former Dallas Seminary professor to believe that the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit are being given today? What convinced someone skeptical about miracles that God still speaks and heals? A dramatic change took place in Jack Deere’s life when he took a fresh look at the Scriptures. He discovered that his arguments against miraculous gifts were based more on prejudice and lack of personal experience than on the Bible. As soon as Deere became a seeker instead of a skeptic, the Holy Spirit revealed himself in new and surprising ways. In Surprised by the Power of the Spirit, Deere provides a strong biblical defense for the Spirit’s speaking and healing ministries today. He also describes several reliable cases of people who were miraculously healed or who heard God speak in an unmistakable way. Finally, he gives sound advice for using spiritual gifts in the church. Written in a popular style, with the care of a scholar but the passion of personal experience, this book explores: the real reason Christians do not believe in miraculous gifts, responding to charismatic abuses, whether miracles were meant to be temporary, and why God still heals.

  16. Ben,

    God has blessed me by providing me with a good church where I was saved about seven years ago. So, the teaching from the pulpit has not been a concern for me personally (although I wonder what you mean by replacement theology). However, once you open yourself to the experiential aspects of the gifts there seems to be the possibility of deception as well. I have read Jack Deere’s Book (it was one of the first things I read on the subject) and I think I agree with him about the gifts being for today. However, I don’t think he provides much advice in the way of discernment. My concern is it seems that the bad out weighs the good by more than 10 to 1 in what I see and I don’t see a clear way to avoid the deception I see in most pentecostal/charismatic circles.

    Doug

  17. Dr. Brown,

    I agree that OSAS is worse than false prophecy in most cases. However, false prophecy is pretty dangerous. From the NT it would seem that when the gifts are used properly there should be edification and not confusion. It seems to me that there is almost universally the opposite. How often do you actually see the gifts at work in your church or in your life. For example, what were the last several prophecies you have heard and were any false?

    Doug

  18. “My concern is it seems that the bad out weighs the good by more than 10 to 1 in what I see and I don’t see a clear way to avoid the deception I see in most pentecostal/charismatic circles.”

    Doug,

    It really depends on your approach your discernment. Sometimes, depending on what resource tells us how to discern God can do good or do harm. What are some of your concerns besides false prophecies.

  19. Ben,

    My approach to discernment is to use the Bible. With prophecies this is not straightforward if a biblical teaching is not contradicted. My main concern is the revelatory gifts (prophecy, words of wisdom and knowledge and to a lesser extent interpretation of tongues). Although the various experiences that people have, like what I had with the oneness group, are also a concern. On the more extreme side I am told things like barking like dogs, shaking for long periods of time and pretending to wield swords happen.

    Doug

  20. Doug,

    One the extreme side you mention like shaking, what are your thoughts. I have my thoughts but I would like to hear yours.

  21. Ben,

    I am not exactly sure what you are asking. I suppose that someone may shake as a result of a real move of the spirit. However, when this sort of thing happens again and again or the effects last for a long period of time it seems that something is not right along the lines of the other things I mentioned.

    Doug

  22. Doug,

    I just spotted your post now. The last few prophecies I heard were accurate, some of them strikingly so. Does this answer your question?

    I’ve also been in thousands of charismatic meetings in my life (some of them very intense) and have yet to see someone barking like a dog, and only once do I remember someone “in the Spirit” wielding a sword (and it’s possible he was acting something out prophetically, but I can’t make judgment without more information).

    So, why major on the extreme fringe of the fringe (be it right or wrong) as opposed to looking at the wonderful things the Lord is doing and, more importantly, embracing what His Word clearly teaches concerning the continuance of the gifts?

  23. Hi Dr. Brown,

    I don’t mean to be a trouble maker. This is an issue I have considered seriously for some time (I have probably read half of your recommended books on the issue). Thanks for answering my question. I must say I was surprised to hear your answer!

    My experience and the experience of the people I have met have been different. In my experience in a charismatic meeting I saw prophecy I do not believe to be genuine. I likewise have a friend whose wife was received a false prophecy that she would be healed. Usually when you hear testimony about the prophetic people can find some good example but there they don’t mention the 10 questionable prophecies that came before it. With tongues my experience has been similar. Another friend had someone tell them to tilt their head back and say some nonsense to receive the gift. My personal experience with tongues from a oneness group left me very confused (although more discerning).

    I don’t intend to lump all charismatic groups into the extreme fringe. Actually what worries me most about the extreme fringe is some of what they do is quite similar to the mainstream groups do. Let me ask you another question if you don’t mind. I am open to moving in the gifts and agree that the Bible teaches they continue but I am very weary. I don’t want to speak in a false tongue to God or make a false prophecy. What would be your suggestion on how I should proceed?

    Doug

  24. Doug,

    As you are waiting for Dr. Brown to respond, I was wondering if you are aware that there are prophecies can be conditional and unconditional?

  25. Ben,

    Sure, some prophecies could be conditional and not come to pass because of repentance for example. However, this was not the case in what I have seen.

    Doug

  26. Hi Doug,

    Sorry, I should have been more clear. I didnt mean to sound like my question was for your friends case.

  27. Doug,

    Thanks for sharing your experiences here.

    First, I would encourage you not to develop a negative attitude based on bad experiences. Remember Paul wrote that we should not despise prophecies.

    Second, I would meditate on the good rather than the bad, focusing on building faith and expectation.

    Third, I would encourage you to take hold of Luke 11:9-13. Since the day I was filled with the Spirit and began to speak in tongues (Jan 24, 1972), I have not worried about speaking in a “false tongue.”

    Fourth, let tongues flow out of your worship and prayer. For me, this happens quite naturally and, after praying in tongues for a period of time, I find myself quite edified, in accordance with 1 Cor 14. But if you try to hyper-analayze everything, it’s hard to stay focused on the Lord and in the Spirit.

    The Word gives us broad guidelines to follow, basic doctrines to hold to, and a description of the fruit that should be produced. Major on that and don’t get hung up on side issues.

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