Having seen certain awkward situations involving what some may call Spirit-led actions, I may be tempted to steer clear of anything to do with the Holy Spirit.
But by reading the Bible, we cannot ignore the subject just because we want to avoid some potential potholes and traps.
I want to explore this subject leaning heavily on the teachings of David Martyn Lloyd-Jones who had a lot more experience and authority than myself!
David Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899–1981) was a Welsh Protestant minister and for almost 30 years, he was the minister of Westminster Chapel in London.
Lloyd-Jones preached for the last time on the 8th of June 1980 at Barcombe Baptist Chapel.
1. The Holy Spirit’s miracles are not to give us an easy life!
In theory, God can do anything because we know that He created everything, He divided the Red Sea, He scared off invading armies, etc.
So He could make our way smooth and problem-free!
Let’s just think about that, God could have saved Noah and his family by performing a miracle to enable them to survive the flood.
But the Lord wanted Noah to spend a lifetime building a huge boat with lots of sweat and money!
Many of the biblical stories involve waiting years, and lots of heartache when the Lord could have intervened to make things easier, but He did not do that!
He is more interested in training us in patience and endurance so that we can share in His holiness (Hebrews 12:10).
So let us realise that the Holy Spirit’s miracles are not there to make our lives easy!
2. Issues with the Holy Spirit: Wow! That is impressive!
Beware of getting over-impressed by ‘phenomena’ which include signs and wonders.
In saying that, I don’t mean I am against miracles and wonders because God spoke things into being from nothing.
The Lord is all-powerful and anything is potentially possible, but that does not mean that He will do that!
Jesus’ miracles seem to be extraordinary and yet not showy or done in such a way as to be a performance.
Sometimes Jesus would tell the healed person to not tell anyone else.
The crowds that saw Jesus perform miracles followed Him because they wanted to see more miracles or they were just intrigued and wanted to hear more about the Kingdom of God.
Either way, Jesus did not hype the crowd up and at times He tried to slip away to a quiet spot.
The problem with a crowd of people is that they are easily manipulated, but Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, are not interested in doing that because it does not lead to a genuine change of heart.
That is an area I particularly have a concern about the Toronto Blessing, see ‘Signs and Wonders‘.
Also, the presence of miracles does not mean that God is doing it.
Let’s remember, in the last days, the Satanic Beast will perform miracles and the crowd, the world, will be so impressed they will follow him:
One of the heads of the beast seemed to have had a fatal wound, but the fatal wound had been healed.Revelation 13:3 NIV
The whole world was astonished and followed the beast.”
3. How to test whether signs and wonders are of God or not.
Satan comes as an angel of light and this is an area where we need to be cautious.
We need to test all things, which includes things of the Holy Spirit and we’ll look into this further down the page.
When we allow the gifts of the Holy Spirit within church services or meetings it can create all sorts of issues – not because the Holy Spirit is untrustworthy, but because people are prone to misusing or faking these things.
The biggest area of safety is remembering that it is a person’s fruit – their godly character, that is important:
Jesus talking about false prophets said:
Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.Matthew 7:19-20 NIV
Thus, by their fruit you will recognise them.“
In other words, if someone performs a sign or a miracle it isn’t any guarantee that the person is right with the Lord, or even that God has performed it!
The flow of Jesus’ teaching is interesting, which includes recognising people by their fruit, then people doing miraculous things and then He ends with an astonishing statement:
Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.Matthew 7:21-23 NIV
Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’
Then I will tell them plainly,
‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!“
So impressive phenomena do not prove anything in themselves.
There are many things that can create a phenomenon, so we mustn’t be carried along by it.
Test it and if it passes the checks then praise God!
4. The fear of unbelief – Issues with the Holy Spirit
Another trap is being fearful of showing unbelief and so we then accept anything which seems to be miraculous.
This can lead to weird and wacky things.
A lot of what happened in what is now termed as the ‘Toronto Blessing’ falls into this area. To explore what this is and its history see the ‘Toronto Blessing Review‘.
I was at a prayer meeting and the leaders had encouraged everyone to ‘open themselves’ and basically go with what they are ‘given’ and don’t question it, even if it seemed strange.
The results were chaotic; barking, crawling around on the floor, etc.
Only myself and another chap weren’t performing and we were told to stop resisting the Holy Spirit.
But we mustn’t open up ourselves to everything!
We have got to test things and not be pressured into a quick decision that we live to regret.
God will not hold it against us if we test these things because Paul tells us this:
Do not put out the Spirit’s fire; do not treat prophecies with contempt.1 Thessalonians 5:19-22 NIV
Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil.”
And John wrote:
Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.”1 John 4:1 NIV
To question things is not unbelief, it is common sense and it is biblical!
Just because the gathering of Christians is doing strange things does not give you the thumbs up to do the same, because we need to test what is happening to see if it is from God.
Do not be afraid to test the spirits, it does not show you have unbelief, but it does show that you are biblically based.
5. Issues with the Holy Spirit: Are the gifts ‘on tap’?
David Martyn Lloyd-Jones taught that tongues and spiritual gifts were given at a particular moment.
It was not something which we could turn on or off like a tap.
The key is found in the Apostle Paul’s teaching:
All these (gifts) are the work of one and the same Spirit, and He gives them to each one, just as He determines.”1 Corinthians 12:11 NIV
Notice that these gifts are the work of the Holy Spirit and He determines who and when they should be used.
D. M. Lloyd-Jones said that someone cannot do a miracle when they want to.
It appears that Jesus performed miracles WHEN the power of the Lord was with him:
They had come from every village of Galilee and from Judea and Jerusalem. And the power of the Lord was with Jesus to heal those who were ill.Luke 5:17 NIV
This implies that he could do miracles at that point, but not at other times because the power of the Lord was not with him.
Gifts of the Holy Spirit can only be used when a commission is given from heaven.
This is especially important during public meetings, but what about during our personal devotions?
In the present climate on spiritual gifts, D. M. Lloyd-Jones’ teaching would raise a lot of eyebrows!
I have found his teaching interesting considering my own personal spiritual path.
So let’s keep an open mind and look at what Paul said:
I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you.”1 Corinthians 14:18 NIV
Does Paul speak in tongues more than anyone else, because he decides to do that?
It would appear not, because he says ‘I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you.’
Paul thanks God – why would he do that if he could speak in tongues at any point in time?
We don’t want to quench any of the Spirit’s work, so what do we make of this?
Perhaps in our personal devotions when we open our mouths to speak in tongues and the Spirit does spring up within us, then we continue with that until the streams of living water seem to stop flowing.
But on other occasions, we open our mouths to speak in tongues and it seems kind of ‘hollow’, so this teaching would recommend that we should stop because the Holy Spirit will determine another time when He will rise up within us.
‘I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you.’
6. Final traps and potholes – Issues with the Holy Spirit
D. M. Lloyd-Jones also said never to use the word ‘claim’ when talking about the gifts, because the Spirit may give, or not give, just as He chooses.
Desire the gifts but do not claim them:
Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy.”1 Corinthians 14:1 NIV
Humility should accompany the gifts, distinguishing a true experience from a false one.
Every believer should seek to be filled with the Spirit so that they can be filled with power to be Christ’s witnesses.
That is the motive, to glorify the risen Christ, and not to seek after an experience.
In a letter sent to Dr. Gerald Golden D. M. Lloyd-Jones wrote:
I think it is quite without scriptural warrant to say all these gifts ended with the apostles or the apostolic era.David Martyn Lloyd-Jones 2
I believe there have been undoubted miracles since then.
At the same time most of the claimed miracles by the Pentecostalists and others certainly do not belong to that category and can be explained psychologically or in other ways.
I am also of the opinion that most, if not all, of the people claiming to speak in tongues at the present time are certainly under a psychological rather than a spiritual influence.
But again I would not dare to say that ‘tongues’ are impossible at the present time.
Below is a video of D. M. Lloyd-Jones preaching on ‘The Gifts of the Holy Spirit’ – Sermon #8204 (Great Biblical Doctrines, Volume 2):
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For more info on D. M. Lloyd-Jones see: ‘Martyn_Lloyd-Jones’ Wikipedia