How does the Holy Spirit Work Today?

(Updated 1/6/98)

The purpose of this article is not to offend, but to challenge fellow Christians in seeking the best possible understanding of the Holy Spirit, and how He chooses to work today in any of our lives.  I will cover material that has become politically incorrect to question within Christianity.  This relatively short article cannot possibly cover all the points on the subject, but it hopefully will serve as a launching pad for further prayerful study and questioning.  Since we are so very close to Christ’s return, Satan would be expected to work harder than ever to deceive everyone, including Christians.  I ask the reader to prayerfully consider what is written here before they too quickly assume that they are above being fooled by Satan's schemes, regardless of what your views are on the Holy Spirit. I BELIEVE THAT GOD IS CERTAINLY INVOLVED IN SPEAKING THROUGH CHRISTIANS AND IN DOING MIRACLES TODAY!   Nevertheless, we must have the courage to admit the difference between the real thing and fake or demonic counterfeits.  Matthew 7:21-23 21-- "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.  MANY will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?'  And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'"

Regarding views on the Holy Spirit, most Christians tend to fall into one of two different camps: Charismatics or non-Charismatics.  The Charismatics believe that ALL of the spiritual gifts that have ever existed are in use today.  The non-Charismatics believe that the gifts of tongues, interpretation of tongues, healing, and prophecy (and possibly others), are no longer being given to Christians by God once the New Testament was completed.  There is great tension put upon all believers to choose one side or the other wholeheartedly, and reject the other side completely.  I believe that this has been one of Satan’s greatest accomplishments in dividing Christians today.  Neither side of Christians on the issue is guiltless for this division.  Based upon my studies and experience, I believe that the reality of how the Holy Spirit works today lies somewhere between the two camps.

A Charismatic told me that he had a problem with those who say “test the spirits” (1 John 4:1-4). He thought this contradicted what Jesus said in John 10:27-30: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of My hand.  My Father, which gave them to Me, is greater than all, and no one is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.  I and the Father are One.”  He told me that these verses show us that all we have to do is lean on the Holy Spirit and God’s sovereignty to be secure, then we don’t have to worry about spiritual discernment.  He seems to hold a very typical attitude I see among so many Christians, Charismatic or not.

If it is so easy to know the Lord's voice, then why is there so much scriptural warning to CHRISTIANS to not be led astray by false teachings, prophecies, and spirits?  There is a battle going on down here, and it does not end when we become saved or "baptized in the Holy Spirit."  The Holy Spirit's presence does not automatically prevent Satan's presence, otherwise having to "resist the devil" (James 4:7) and “put on the whole armor of be able to stand against the wiles of the devil” (Eph 6:11) would make no sense.  We would just be commanded to have the Holy Spirit reside within us for protection from Satan's influence and control.  If the presence of the Holy Spirit guaranteed protection from Satan’s presence, influence, and manifestation, how come the devil can stand in the very presence of God in His throne room in Heaven (Job chapters 1-2; 1 Kings 22:19-22; Revelation12:7-9)?   If Satan can stand there, he can stand anywhere if we do nothing.  "Knowing" God's voice goes beyond just how it sounds.  It includes WHAT the voice says.  That is what is meant by testing the spirits.  It is too bad that most Christians are too intimidated to stand up and question the spirits.  I recently watched as two Christians supposedly with the "gift of prophecy" contradict each other about a specific thing in my life.  I truly believe that God is using them in other ways, since both have said things that my spirit agreed with AND fit with scripture.  But one or both of them were WRONG about a specific subject.  Lucky for them that we are not living in the Old Testament days where we would have had to stone them (Deut 18:20-22)!

I also see so many Charismatics disobeying God by speaking their "private" prayer languages in a public service, or speaking without an interpreter (1 Cor 14:28).  Charismatics today teach that most "tongues" speaking are not human languages.  Earlier this century, the Charismatics used to claim that ALL tongues speaking were real human languages UNTIL trained linguists did a major study of 10,000 cases of Charismatic "tongues" speaking.  They concluded that NOT ONE was a human language, and that the sounds that the "tongues" speakers were making were just jumbled up syllables borrowed from the speakers own vocabulary.  Based on these conclusions, the Charismatics began to teach for the first time that there are TWO kinds of tongues, private and public.  Unfortunately, we rarely (if ever) hear true public tongues that are real human languages.  I would love to hear the real thing, but I suppose that the "tongue" would have to be in English from a Christian that I knew did not speak English for me to be truly convinced at this time.

Yes, many Christians have heard stories of somebody who supposedly spoke a true human language that they did not learn, or hear of somebody who brought somebody back from the dead.  This “evidence” seems to always be out of reach.  One is expected to not question the provider of the wonderful news, which certainly sounds like cult mind control to me.  The problem at the very least with this is that miracles such as ones in the Bible have GREATLY diminished since the early church, and it was predicted that the diminishment would happen (1 Cor 13:8-12).  I am weary of mainly "seeing" people get allegedly "healed" of things that are not visible like internal pain, hearing loss, or smoking addictions.  If a Christian like me who believes in miracles is skeptical about this, how much more would an unbeliever be?

I AM NOT SAYING THAT GOD DOES NOT HEAL TODAY.  Yet the fact is that we NEVER see people BORN blind or crippled from birth (or something just as obvious and permanent) being instantly and completely healed, such as when Peter healed the man crippled from birth in his feet, and EVERYONE who visited the temple regularly KNEW for years that he was so crippled that he could not walk (Acts 3:1-12).  We don't hear of people having such amazing visions of God that they cannot tell it apart from reality, such as in the case when Peter was let out of prison by angels (Acts 12:6-11).  I am sorry, but I cannot buy the current story that Peter was too sleepy and thought he was dreaming.  He was teaching us that his visions in the past were so vivid and real that it was hard to tell it apart from what was actually happening.  Daniel and John got sick and went into shock from the visions they had because they were so real and intense (Dan 7:28; 8:27; Rev 1:17).  I do not know of ANYONE who has had such vivid experiences.  Even a Christian I know who claims to have visited heaven itself during a "near-death" experience says it was much like a dream.

So many claim that the Holy Spirit is still working the same yesterday, today, and forever.  That is simply not true, since the verses quoted to prove this refer to God’s unchanging CHARACTER and not to His specific plans (Mal 3:6; Heb 1:8-12 and 13:8).  It saddens me that many Charismatics have to water down God's glorious miracles of the biblical past to justify what is going on today, as if today's miracles really compare to them.  The miracles in the Bible were so obvious that even the UNSAVED Jewish leaders who wanted Jesus dead KNEW that the miracles He did were real (John 9:16; 11:47).  Unbelievers also knew that miracles occurred through Peter and John (Acts 4:16).  Does it not seem strange that many Christians such as myself who believe God can and does do miracles appear to be more skeptical than those unbelievers that wanted to kill Jesus?  I have no motive to not want to see miracles today.  In fact I welcome them, just as many crippled believers would welcome a healing from God of their own bodies, but are turned away by the healers (yes, that happens more than you may know).  It is very clear to me that many of those who are not healed have far superior faith than many of the arrogant Charismatics that think the crippled stay that way because their faith is somehow less than theirs.  Though I know God heals people sometimes through prayer today, truly miraculous healings rarely, if ever, appear to occur, especially by those who claim to have the gift of healing.

(Updated 1/6/98) Let me once again make myself clear: THE HOLY SPIRIT STILL WORKS MIRACLES TODAY!. It is just that I do not see the same league of miracles happening as in the Bible. I have heard wild claims, but I have never seen on TV or at a healing service someone made to see who was blind from birth, made to hear who was deaf from birth, made to walk who was crippled from birth, nor have I heard of a person dead more than a few hours (let alone days) being brought back to life! The miracles recorded in the Bible also all have two other qualities that most of today's do not seem to have: instantaneousness and completeness. [At this point of the article, I used to include three examples of "healings" from someone who saw my web page. It seemed clear to me that these examples based upon the e-mail sent to me were not clearly miraculous, at least not close to the kind of healings during the writing of the Bible. Today, the person wrote an angry letter saying I misquoted him greatly perhaps to mock God's work. I have chosen to drop his three examples, mainly because I no longer have a copy of the original e-mail he sent me to see how I supposedly misquoted him. I NEVER said that God was NOT involved with possibly SOME amount of healing within his family. I found it very revealing that this person seems to judge my ENTIRE spirituality based upon whether or not I COMPLETELY accept his unverifiable testimony he provided me. Why would somebody be so angry with me if God was so good to him and his family?  Should he not instead have sympathy for me since I do not completely "believe" his testimony, assuming that it was completely true? As far as I can prayerfully tell, my spirit and conscious is clear any guilt about not fully accepting his testimony. I have been wrong in the past, but this gentleman has yet to convince me that my understanding is wrong regarding this subject.] When the Holy Spirit does decide to do miracles, we must be careful to not blow it out of proportion. He does not need us to exaggerate His work, since that would amount to lying. PLEASE, regarding our testimonies of God, ESPECIALLY TO THE UNSAVED, let OTHERS be the judge of whether or not "miracles" occurred. We are called to be WITNESSES, NOT THE POLICE, NOR LAWYERS, NOR JUDGES, NOR JURY.  A witness is called in court not to testify for another witness (the other witness would then be called instead to avoid hearsay). They are called to simply tell the judge and jury only what they heard and saw . When the disciples of John the baptist were sent to Jesus to question whether Jesus was the Messiah or not, Jesus did not get all angry and put them down for lack of faith. Here is what happened ( Matt.11:2-5): And when John had heard in prison about the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples and said to Him, "Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?" Jesus answered and said to them, "Go and tell John the things which you hear and see: "The blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them. John the Baptist, who was filled with the Holy Spirit from the womb, still required two his disciples (required by Mosaic law to confirm a fact) to check out the reports he heard about regarding what Jesus was supposedly doing. By the way, Christians are STILL expected to function in the same way when being witnesses (Matt 18:16; 2 Cor 13:1; 1 Tim 5:19; Heb 10:28).  After these disciples clearly heard and saw the miracles He was doing they still proceeded to question Him. Please notice that Jesus did NOT scold them for not immediately accepting Him as their Messiah. He simply told them to tell John what they heard and saw for themselves. I wonder how many more of the lost could be spared from Hell if our churches today would cut out all their unnecessary dramatics, and simply attempt to be more discerning about what God is actually doing, and stick to the known simple facts, not just parrot what a "healer" pronounces, for example.

Just as the little boy in the story The Emperor's Clothes told others what he plainly saw, I am saying what I plainly see.   In the story, those who did not "see" the emperor's clothes were considered stupid and evil.  In many Charismatic circles, those who do not "see" the "miracles" are considered "unspiritual."  Please do not misunderstand me.  I know God speaks and does more than what many non-Charismatics' claim.  The problem I see is how many Christians blindly accept ANYTHING that happens among those "baptized with the Holy Spirit."  It was predicted that in the end times that many Christians would gather teachers around themselves to "tickle" their own ears, rather than be taught and exhorted by God's truth (2 Tim 4:3-4).  Since we are in the end times, who do you think is involved with this?  Some say it is the "laughing" churches (what do you do when you are tickled?), but it most likely goes beyond just them.  Also, the Bible predicted that many CHRISTIANS would be led astray by doctrines of demons (1 Tim 4:1-4).  This group of believers in the 1 Timothy passage are restricting our freedoms in Christ more than God ever intended, as opposed to those going for too much freedom or “lawlessness.”

One would think a good place to start looking for people falling into these problems would be places where believers think that they are above these problems.  My wife grew up in a "charismatic" church which had countless abuses of so-called "spiritual gifts" that were obviously NOT from God.  Many Charismatics seem to have a problem with me in that they cannot understand how someone who has been supposedly "baptized" and "filled" with the Holy Spirit would condemn or even doubt ANY of the alleged work of the "Holy Spirit."  Yes, I have spoken in “tongues” like other Christians these days.  Yes, I have experienced the Holy Spirit speak to me in a “still, small voice.” I have also seen and had many other Christians confirm that it was He who spoke through me.  I have seen God do amazing work within my own life.  I have had the peace and joy that is inexpressible.  This is why I am not intimidated to stand up to any Christians who think they are spiritually superior to me just because I disagree with them.

It seems that this subject is not quite as black and white as ANYBODY (both Charismatic and non-Charismatic) says.  I have attended both types of churches, and talked to many from both.  By far, most of their differences on this subject are just about semantics.  The Holy Spirit does speak to us, and it does go beyond bringing mere scripture to mind.  Yet even today's Christian "prophets" mostly do not claim to actually hear God's voice audibly.  Unfortunately, Christians on both sides of the issue have trouble with looking at the facts of reality.  Non-Charismatics tend to be fearful of trusting their experiences AT ALL.  Charismatics tend to be fearful of questioning ANY Christian's experiences.  Both sides need to get away from their closed-minded circular reasoning and take a more careful look at what the scriptures actually say AND more carefully examine what experiences they are actually having.  If healings are not happening like they did in the Bible, let's have the true courage to admit that.  God will not be less than God due to us facing the facts.  If healings are happening just like in the Bible, please do not keep it a secret!  Please include me by telling me about it, or more importantly, tell me where I can go to see these miracles for myself so I too can glorify God!

I know that this article will not clear up everything.   I run the risk of being called "unbiblical" by the non-Charismatics, and "mean-spirited" or "unspiritual" by the Charismatics.  Regardless, I hope and pray that my article will be a starting place for some new attempts at discernment AND seeking a closer walk with the Lord spiritually.  We need to seek Him BOTH in "Spirit AND Truth” (John 4:23). 

Other Thoughts (possible red flags) to ponder (updated 1/6/98):

What is God’s purpose for doing miracles?  If tongues were meant to be a sign to the unbeliever (1 Cor 14:22), then why do we never see it used that way?  How come so many Christians claim that they cannot control what the “Spirit” is doing in or saying through them, when “the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets, for God is not the author of confusion but of peace in ALL the churches of the saints” (1 Cor 14:32-33).  Right in the middle of instructing us how to practice tongues, God commands women to keep silent in churches.  Why would God command that?    If tongues is the least important gift, why is it made so important by Charismatics (1 Cor 12:28)?  Why do many Charismatics claim that the main evidence of being “baptized in the Holy Spirit” is speaking in tongues, when God clearly teaches that not all Christians are meant to speak in tongues, or have all the various spiritual gifts (1 Cor 12:4-31)?  Since we are commanded to seek the edification of the church (1 Cor 14:12), then why do so many Charismatics put so much importance on tongues, the only gift which is said to ONLY edify oneself (1 Cor 14:2)?  Why would God work “miracles” through believers who are living in unrepentant sin?  Because modern medicine is so advanced today, how come most of the “miracles” done by healers today are not even as amazing as in the days of the apostles?  How come many Charismatics describe natural medicine “healing” as miracles?  How come so many people that are “healed” don’t actually get better?  Why are Charismatics so afraid to question there own beliefs?  Why do many non-Charismatics put their relationship to the Bible ahead of their relationship to God?  Why do so many Charismatics put their experiences ahead of their relationship with God?  Why are so many non-Charismatics afraid to have a close relationship to God?   Since Charismatics believe that the gift of prophecy will stop when “the perfect” returns (1 Cor 13:8-12), how can they believe “the perfect” is Christ when God tells us that the gift of prophecy will start up right at the time of Christ’s return when He judges the nations (Joel 2:28-3:21)?  Will the soon coming true prophets of the tribulation have strong words for the Christian “prophets” practicing today, who think that they are above being questioned and tested?  Have these true prophets already starting to confront the phony ones?   How many Christians fully understand the three things Christ said the Holy Spirit would do when He came (John16:8-11)?  Since the Holy Spirit's intention with Christians is to glorify Christ and not Himself, is the Holy Spirit therefore a failure since so many Charismatics glorify Him (the Holy Spirit) so much (John 16:13-14)?   (added 1/6/98) Do you often hear and see those who JUDGE and test the spirits during a church service, calling someone on their false prophecy or "tongue" (1 Cor 14:29-- Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge.)

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