Thursday, June 05, 2008

Thoughts on GodTV and the Lakeland "Revival"

In Discernment, Revivals, and Godly Common Sense Dan Edelen over at Cerulean Sanctum has done a very good service for the Christian community by writing a piece that carefully analyzes, according to biblical standards and common sense, the current so-called "revival" happenings taking place at a series of meetings at "Ignited Church" in Lakeland, Florida. The "Lakeland Revival" meetings are being helmed by Todd Bentley, and Ignited Church is pastored by Stephen Strade.

I am in in complete agreement with Dan Edelen when he reminds us that "real miraculous works from God are often imitated by the Enemy". The mere fact that some kind of supernatural events and even healings may be taking place is no proof that the things taking place in Lakeland are of God.

Underdeveloped, unexamined theology
Personally I think that the reason many Christians flock to such events and/or look to them for hope of revival is because of the lack of discernment that comes with having an underdeveloped and/or unexamined theology. I have observed GodTV many times before the current broadcasts featuring the Lakeland "revival". It seems every time I turn on GODTV I observe people seemingly lost in trance, rocking back and forth, swaying as they listen to a worship band, waiting for God to "show up" in some kind of tangible way. The preaching of the word of God is rarely to be heard, and when it does come, it seems all kinds of theological nonsense is spouted. I realize I'm not providing specific examples, but what I'm saying is that the teaching and preaching I've heard does not seem to be based on systematic, thorough examination of scripture, in its grammatical and historical context. Rather, verses are quoted to prove points, but the context is neglected of who the verse was originally to and why is not taken into consideration, as if all verse in Scripture can simply be plucked out at random and be considered relevant to us today or as promises to the modern believer. In other words, this is typical Christian TV fare-- light on substance and theology, heavy on entertainment and emphasizing experience above all. And how can we know that something is of God, according to God TV? Well, we know that God is moving because people are falling down, "slain" by the power of the Spirit; or people shake uncontrollably, allegedly as a result of the power of God coming upon them, and other such experiential manifestations.

It's Time to Wake Up
Brothers and sisters, when are we going to wake up? This clamoring after signs and wonders is not faith, it is a sign that we have not yet become free of fleshly notions about what it means to be spiritual. When I hear Todd Bentley going on about how an angel named Emma speaks and directs him, I'm reminded how different the New Testament attitude is towards such revelations. Paul, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, had a genuine heavenly experience. But unlike modern day preachers who build entire ministries based on their alleged heavenly encounters, and go on in great detail about such encounters and write books about them, Paul only mentions his experience to make the point of its relatively unimportance to his mission for the Lord. In 2 Corinthians 12:1-10, Paul writes of his own personal supernatural and heavenly encounter, though in humility, he refers to himself in the third person:

... Though there is nothing to be gained by it, I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord. I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven— whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows. And I know that this man was caught up into paradise— whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows— and he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter. On behalf of this man I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, except of my weaknesses. Though if I should wish to boast, I would not be a fool, for I would be speaking the truth. But I refrain from it, so that no one may think more of me than he sees in me or hears from me. So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Was Paul a success or a failure?
But notice that Paul's heavenly experience did not thereafter turn him into someone who was blessed of God with great finances or with perfect health. Unlike teachers on GodTV and at the Lakeland revival, Paul does not portray the Christian life as one where the most important thing is an "experience" of God that proves itself by financial prosperity and healing for the body. If one were measuring the success and genuineness of Paul's ministry by the measures used today-- that when God "manifests" Himself He always brings signs and wonders that provide healing and prosperity to those "hungry" enough to reach out for God-- well, then Paul was a dismal failure!

For it would seem Paul didn't know that he was supposed to pray to be delivered from "weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions and calamities" and instead walk in the "FOG" (favor of God), and claim his "birthright" as a "child of the king". But Paul knew what he was talking about, while these false teachers today don't know what they are talking about.

Hear Paul speak to this age, with words of profound heavenly wisdom, as he tells believers about their true riches in Christ:

See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.

Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God. (Colossians 2: 8-19, emphasis mine)

Growth that is from God
Do we want to grow with a "growth that is from God"? Let us pay heed to Paul's counsel then-- and not lose sight of what our true riches are and how they come to us. Is it wrong to seek healing for the body? Of course not. Is it wrong to seek to improve our financial situation, particularly if we are struggling to make ends meet? Of course it isn't. But let us seek the counsel of Scripture on how to go about finding healing or making money, and at the same time, trust in the Lord's grace and provision. Let us learn to think spiritually, by being careful readers of the word of God, and so be able to know what is most important as believers-- our connection to Christ, our Head. Let's be discerning so that we don't get taken in by those who are re-defining the Christian life to make it into something that it not-- a "magical" experience whereby money fills our pockets and we don't know where it came from, or saying the "touch of God" is equivalent to rolling around on the floor like a dog and barking.

When there are true riches to be had in Christ, through communion with Him that comes through abiding in His truth and practicing it, why "spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy (Isaiah 55:2)? I certainly don't claim to have experienced the depth of this communion myself. But that's the kind of experience with God I think is worth striving after-- the kind that makes us mature, full of the fruit of the Spirit, more godly, more compassionate and yes, wise and discerning, able to judge correctly (Romans 12:2, 1 Corinthians 2:14-16, 1 Corinthians 14:20).

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