Addressing error without compromising our credibility
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The need for people who rightly divide the truth is only going to escalate as the end-times season we are in continues to unfold. These Bereans are valuable and it would do us all well to embrace the opportunity to analyze our belief systems and to grow.
Instead, all over social media especially, we see critical and arrogant spirits assaulting others they disagree with theologically. For Christians to be rude and to operate in a spirit of accusation makes one wonder if they are saved at all. In fact, the moment we utilize methods of communication that contradict the fruits of the Spirit, we lose our credibility. Fortunately, there are many people who confirm their credibility by debating and discussing with love and honor. Communicating with them is a pleasure. However, all too often, supposed guardians of theology are zeroed in on proving their point and on shaming all who disagree. On the contrary, the shame is on them as they attempt to demoralize and invalidate people’s ministry. The focus is on mistakes, errors, disagreements and weaknesses instead of building them up, honoring them and encouraging them in the Lord.
10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Romans 12:10 (ESV)
As one who absolutely affirms bold and provocative messages, I’m dismayed that so many who name the name of Jesus presume boldness equates to cruelty and divisiveness. Haters and debaters who are driven by a contentious agenda against those they disagree with are doing great damage to the church. Strangely, they presume to be the champions of truth, knights in shining armor who are to be celebrated for defending their absolutely “perfect” view of Scripture. They presume themselves to be Bereans when in reality they are aligning themselves with a dark spirit of accusation and assault. These are no Bereans. They are, in fact, Thessalonians.
THE SPIRIT OF THE BEREANS VS THE SPIRIT OF THE THESSALONIANS
2 As his custom was, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, 3 explaining and proving that the Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead. “This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Christ,” he said. Acts 17:2-3 (NIV)
In Thessalonica, Paul was reasoning in the synagogue and revealing the glorious truth of Jesus. Some were persuaded, but many weren’t, and instead of exhibiting love in disagreement, they started a riot. This riotous spirit is driving the religious today, people who are not at all interested in life-giving truth. Their motive is selfish, protecting their own way of life and belief system.
5 But the Jews were jealous; so they rounded up some bad characters from the marketplace, formed a mob and started a riot in the city. They rushed to Jason's house in search of Paul and Silas in order to bring them out to the crowd. Acts 17:5 (NIV)
I think I’ve met some of the bad characters the verse mentions. They are all over Facebook. In the face of this, Paul and Silas moved on to Berea.
10 As soon as it was night, the brothers sent Paul and Silas away to Berea. On arriving there, they went to the Jewish synagogue. Acts 17:10 (NIV)
Many presume the Bereans heard the message and then, with a nasty, suspicious look on their face and thick theological walls built up, they put their noses into the Scriptures, looking to refute all that was being said. This is not what happened at all. Many modern “Bereans” are some of the meanest, most arrogant and unteachable people in the church. They are so tightly wound up, fearing even the slightest threat to their personal doctrines that they often slander and accuse people they oppose. This is not how the Bereans in the Book of Acts responded. Not at all.
11 Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. Acts 17:11 (NIV)
Did you notice that the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians? Did you notice why? They received the message not with great suspicion, but with great eagerness! They were excited about this fresh, life-giving message that Paul was revealing to them! Their energy wasn’t spent discounting the message but rather in searching the Scriptures to see if it was true.
Because of this, many Jews and Greeks were transformed.
The story doesn’t end there, however.
13 When the Jews in Thessalonica learned that Paul was preaching the word of God at Berea, they went there too, agitating the crowds and stirring them up. Acts 17:13 (NIV)
The Thessalonians actually went to Berea to hunt down Paul and agitate the people because of his message!
I propose many who assume themselves to be Bereans are actually Thessalonians—people who are more intent on hunting, agitating and stirring up instead of eagerly receiving revelation from the Word of God.
When engaging in conversation, especially online on social media or in the comments section of articles like this one, simply be nice. Discussions and healthy debates are supposed to be fun and edifying!
I try to make it a point to address false theologies while never assaulting the minister. I know, there are many who would argue that there are times in Scripture where false teachers were named and they were addressed quite bluntly. Yes, there absolutely does come a time to do that, but it is not as often as many might presume—and it’s always in a spirit of great love.
I do my very best to honor all, even if I believe their theology is way off. What benefit is there in being rude, arrogant or aggressive toward them as a person? When I engage in discussions on Facebook or other places online, a core value of mine is to be nice. I never want the person I’m engaging with to feel like I’m attacking them or that I presume to be superior. While I will boldly communicate my position, I don’t want anybody who might disagree to feel unsafe or devalued. They are precious people created in the image of God. Yes, if they pose a risk because of their doctrine, we must deal with that. But, it’s usually more beneficial to attack beliefs than to call out and defame people.
If I’m not exhibiting the fruits of the Spirit in my conversation, I should not be communicating at all. It’s time to shut off the computer and head into the prayer room. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control should dominate our discussions.
Quit calling everyone you disagree with a heretic. Quit commenting on articles like this one with the sole intent of exposing the author as deceived, false or in some sort of error. Share your perspective. Offer your point of view. Reveal your concerns. Be teachable. Communicate with honor and humility without abdicating your mandate to be a true Berean. Your eagerness to receive truth will open the door for many to believe in Jesus.
Please understand, I have thick skin. By the grace of God I’m nearly unoffendable. When people are aggressive toward me personally when I write or preach, I honestly don’t take offense. Reading mean tweets and comments can be entertaining and even enlightening. I understand the messages I’m called to deliver are provocative and I do know the arrows will fly.
But, I will say this. As someone who is deeply troubled when other preachers and prophetic people are attacked simply because of a disagreement over their theology or style of ministry, I want to simply ask you to be nice. Don’t aim your arrows in their direction. Understand the accusations and cruel things you say don’t only hurt them, but they hurt their spouses and children. Do you have any idea how many tears wives have cried because their husbands are mercilessly assaulted by others in the church through gossip and all over the internet? This is a very real and terribly sad problem, and it simply shouldn’t be.
Let love lead. Be kind. Be gentle. Be patient. Be bold. Stand for truth. Don’t hate. Be tender in your debate. Put the arrows down and simply love.
We are all hungering for a powerful move of the Holy Spirit. What we do when reports of revival come will determine whether it continues or not.
11 But when they heard that he was alive and had been seen by her, they would not believe it. Mark 16:11 (ESV)
What will we do when we hear about a move of God in our region? Will we reject it, resist it, doubt it—or will we run and see and serve with passion?
I need to begin by explaining my personal views on revival. I must do this so you understand what my perspective is when I deal with false reports of revival and how to respond to true moves of God in a region.
I understand this is nothing more than an opinion, but I don’t personally believe the United States has experienced legitimate revival since Asuza. We have experienced various very powerful moves and visitations of God in places like Brownsville and Smithton, and some might argue that the impact is greater than I am understanding. I have been powerfully transformed by such moves of God and I in no way am attempting to diminish what happened there. The reason for the distinction is to bring clarity to just what we are contending for. I believe a move of God must shift history and change the spiritual landscape and culture of the region it is in in order for it to be called revival. Simply, revival radically changes entire cities and nations.
There are over 19,000 cities in our nation and none of them are experiencing the biblical normalcy of revival. God has done all that is necessary for us to be living in revival as a nation every day of our lives. Revival isn’t a special kiss from heaven as much as it is God’s church stepping up and living according to the grace and power of the Holy Spirit that has been available for over 2000 years. I’ve often said that we should be trembling in the shock and awe of the presence of God day and night. Churches should be full of people who are praying and groaning in the Spirit day after day. Salvations, healings, signs and wonders should be normal not unusual.
I believe the following passage describes clearly what is biblically normal—and what a sleeping, naturally minded church would consider unusual:
14 Afterward he appeared to the eleven themselves as they were reclining at table, and he rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen. 15 And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. 16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. 17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18 they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.” 19 So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. 20 And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by accompanying signs. Mark 16:14-20 (ESV)
The eleven were overtaken by unbelief and hardness of heart. Sound familiar? They were driven by the same attitude that drives many today when reports of a move of God in a region are given. Just as they didn’t believe those who had experienced the resurrection power of Jesus, today’s church is quick to scrutinize, dismiss and reject such reports with a very suspicious spirit. More on this in a bit. Let’s continue looking at a movement of revival.
Jesus appeared to the disciples, rebuked them and gave them an all consuming mandate—Go all over the world, preach the gospel to everyone, cast out demons, speak in tongues and heal the sick. The promise of protection was given to them if they obediently responded to the orders of their Commander. Harm will not come to them.
This is revival! The American church needs a rebuke! We need a visitation of Jesus and we must say yes to every command of God to carry and release life and healing to the nations!
THE TRUE HEART OF A BEREAN
11 but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. 12 But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened. Luke 24:11-12 (ESV)
Belief and expectancy will result in running as a result of any news that God has moved with great passion. Doubt will always result in resistance, staying away and embracing suspicion.
I often hear about the concept of being a Berean from some who may be considered heresy hunters. Those who are deeply suspicious of any report of a fresh move of God often attempt to disguise their unbelief and mocking spirit with a religious cloak. They say, I’m just being a Berean.
People driven by a false Berean attitude hear a report of a possible revival or outpouring and their immediate response is to discredit it. They pull out scriptures that supposedly renounce any new move of God and declare the participants to be misguided at best, heretics at worst. Others may take a less direct approach by holding back, waiting to see if it passes muster.
That, my friend, is not being a Berean.
I agree that we must be based on the Word of God more intentionally than ever in history. There is too much foolishness out there today in the name of revival. The answer is a people who are sensitive to the Holy Spirit and firmly grounded as students in the Bible.
However, I don’t agree that our immediate response to a potential fresh outpouring of the Spirit of God should be suspicion! This attitude can affect even the most godly of people. It’s all too easy to immediately doubt that such a move could be anything more than overreaching hope, hype or sensationalism.
I propose we all have the heart of a true Berean.
Before the stop at Berea, Paul preached about a powerful fresh move of God at Thessalonica. I believe heresy hunters are actually more like the Thessalonians than the Bereans:
2 And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, 3 explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ.” 4 And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a great many of the devout Greeks and not a few of the leading women. 5 But the Jews were jealous, and taking some wicked men of the rabble, they formed a mob, set the city in an uproar, and attacked the house of Jason, seeking to bring them out to the crowd. 6 And when they could not find them, they dragged Jason and some of the brothers before the city authorities, shouting, “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also, 7 and Jason has received them, and they are all acting against the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus.” Acts 17:2-7 (ESV)
There was an urgent and immediate rejection of the report of resurrection power. Let’s contrast this with the pure hearts of the Bereans:
10 The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue. 11 Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. 12 Many of them therefore believed, with not a few Greek women of high standing as well as men. 13 But when the Jews from Thessalonica learned that the word of God was proclaimed by Paul at Berea also, they came there too, agitating and stirring up the crowds. Acts 17:10-13 (ESV)
This is a powerful passage of scripture!
The Bereans were more noble than those in Thessalonica. This is an important point! Why were they more noble? When they heard the report of a powerful, transforming, new move of God that would change everything in their lives, they received the word with all eagerness!
Their response was not scrutiny, unbelief, jealousy or resistance. They were excited to hear the news! They were so impacted by the potential of such a report that they immediately dove into the Word with the hope of confirming—not disproving—the life altering revelation!
But then, in verse 13, we see the unrelenting Thessalonians actually traveling to Berea to gather people to them in opposition to what God was doing there.
I hope you are truly ready for revival. This is what it looks like. The resistors will show up in force.
The question that needs to be answered is, which camp will you be in? Are you a scrutinizing Thessalonian or an eager Berean?
WHAT ABOUT FALSE REPORTS?
As I have already stated, I don’t believe we have seen an actual revival in over 100 years. I also am very careful not to label something revival or an outpouring if it is not. I want to be a true Berean, searching the Word and honestly determining whether something is an outpouring—or if it’s something different.
The reason this is important is because our response to it will be shaped by what is happening, or is reported to be happening.
If there is a very real fire in an apartment building, it makes all the sense in the world to put all of our resources, time and energy into an immediate and urgent response. Lives are hanging in the balance! But, if there is a false report about a fire, people and equipment are diverted away from availability into crisis response—where there is no crisis. Legitimate emergencies will then be under resourced due to the false report.
When I moved my family to the Detroit, Michigan area seven years ago I did so for only one reason—to prepare for revival. Detroit was poised for a move of God and my assignment was to serve with everything within me.
Shortly after arriving, my spirit began to be somewhat disturbed as I heard truly amazing, godly people announce that “revival is here” or that it is near or that it can’t be stopped.
I began to wonder just what definition of revival people were using. I knew before I ever decided to move to Detroit that revival was not near, but we had everything we needed as a region to get to work and give ourselves to the long, costly process of building a city fire. Unfortunately, the premature reports of revival were compromising the efforts. If revival was here or near why would we need to gather the laborers? Now we can relax and wait. Premature reports can kill a move of God that requires extreme participation from the city church.
The false report was that revival was there. The true report was that revival was possible.
Now, I agree that we might be able to say at times that the spirit of revival has arrived, or that there is a greater grace to believe for revival. We might be able to announce a local move of God or even an outpouring in a church. But, revival is a very special word. It must be reserved for something so gloriously cataclysmic in the spirit and in the natural that even muttering it causes a holy hush.
While in Detroit we experienced some absolutely stunning moves of God that are completely undeniable. We saw a visible mist of God’s presence three separate times. After a prophecy about a very unusual manifestation of God’s glory landing on a young lady, people were rushing to see gold dust coming up out of her scalp—just a week later! Another young man had anointing oil manifest on his hands during most every service for an extended season. People’s lives were being changed dramatically. Yet, there is no way I would even begin to presume we were in revival—but the spirit of revival was definitely there (meaning, God was moving in a way on a small scale that would be representative of full blown revival).
While some great friends are laying down their lives and contending for revival to this day in Detroit, the nation has not yet heard of the Great Detroit Revival. It hasn’t come yet. The masses have not come to Jesus. Healings are not skyrocketing. Churches are not full. The culture has not changed to one that is marked by the fire and Spirit of God.
Please understand an extremely important point: When a report of revival is sounded, we must dive in and serve—not because we immediately agree that true revival has landed, but because there are people who are hungry for revival gathering together—even though they may be premature in the announcement. If I hear about a move of God in my region, it’s critical that I, as a member of the city church, offer myself as a log on that fire, ready to be consumed for the sake of a greater outpouring. We can’t determine whether we will support it or not on the front end. Give it time and God will make it clear whether it’s going to continue or not. I gave six years of my life to the call for revival in Detroit. I never felt revival was near in the whole time I was there, even when God was moving powerfully as he did on multiple occasions. But, for a time I did feel we could see it come within a few years if we gave ourselves rightly to it. I ultimately realized that my season was done and others would have the honor of contending further.
The opportunity definitely does remain for Detroit and any other region in our nation to experience revival. This is good news! Detroit is one out of 19,000 cities who have yet to see it come. So is Branson, Missouri.
I am quite undone by the recent meetings led by Marrio Murillo in Branson, Missouri. Of course, I’ve been wrecked by the power of God, the intense messages and the incredible number of healings and salvations. Last night’s meeting was probably the most powerful I’ve been to in many years. It was indescribable.
But, that’s not why I’m undone. After moving to Detroit for the sole reason of seeing revival come to that region I was honored to be a part of meetings led by Brian Simmons that were similar to what I’m experiencing in Branson. If a Christian could experience Déjà vu, this would be it.
Every night for a month my team in Detroit and I cancelled our own agendas, most church services and other activities and gave leadership to the prayer emphasis at the meetings. I knew in my spirit that these services were designed by God to be catalysts to a revival that would impact the entire Detroit region—and the nation. I can’t even begin to explain the hunger and passion that I was experiencing. God was moving and revival was a legitimate possibility—if only the church would reorder their lives, show up and contend with everything they had.
In the midst of those meetings a haunting prophetic word was given: If the church of Detroit doesn’t respond to the costly call of revival, God will move on to Chicago.
Unfortunately unbelief and a Thessalonian spirit brought the outpouring to an end after just a month. Suspicion and resistance manifested and the eagerness to serve with passion was lacking.
Six years later, in the first meeting I attended in Branson, Mario Murillo mentioned that he felt one of a few cities on the clock for revival now is Chicago. He had my attention. He also mentioned that God would move on from any region that doesn’t compel him to stay. The similarities between the two events and the two words was stunning.
The question is clear no matter what city on the earth you live in: will the church of the city respond with great passion and pay the great cost to see revival come? If it’s a false report, how will we respond? Will we jump in and contend with people who may be overstating the experience yet are zealous beyond measure for the Holy Spirit to pour out? You do realize that gathering together with a handful of like-minded people and praying without stopping can result in legitimate revival no matter what true or false reports are flying, right?
We must gather together as the regional church. I’ll include the last instructions that we as a nation have received for revival—the instructions that led to the last true revival in the United States, Asuza:
Gather those who are willing to make a total surrender. Pray and wait. Believe God’s promises. Hold daily meetings. ~Evan Roberts
No matter the report, we should be doing this in our city. Stadiums should be filled with people who are crying out and contending day and night for revival.
And, keep in mind, when revival does come it will impact a city, not a single church. That’s the primary distinction between an outpouring and revival. This means that the church of the city must be unified and in position to serve the regional move of God. A supernatural, holy event in a church is a good thing, but not until the city church gathers and the entire region is rocked by the glory of God can we presume to call it revival.
We must not be like the Thessalonians. We need true Bereans who will eagerly receive the news of a fresh move of the Spirit of God and respond in force.
City shaking revival lies in the balance.