In the midst of all the discussion about the Lakeland Revival, the unusual over-emotional expressions of the first great awakening are often brought up. Having read Jonathan Edwards‘ biography, his collected sermons, and his ‘Religious Affections’, as well as being midway through Sam Storm’s “Signs of the Spirit”, and having long research the life and teaching of George Whitefield, I can honestly say that there is a very significant difference between the revivals of old, and the so-called revivals of today, and those differences are what give me pause.
The difference is that Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield, and most (if not all) of preachers involved in the First Great Awakening, were Orthodox Evangelical Christians – they taught sound doctrine, and modeled correct practice. Yes, the crowds, when some were touched by the Spirit of God, sometimes responded with a mix of Spirit and flesh, and there were – to be sure, by Edward’s own account – many among them who were merely caught up in the emotion of it all, who acted not in response to a move of God’s Spirit on their hearts, but merely to the buzz of emotion in the air. However, all the while they heard the Gospel proclaimed – the Scriptures taught with an attention to detail, and truthfulness. It was not the goal of Edwards or Whitefield to work the churches they stood before into an emotional frenzy, but to teach the truth of God, and see people respond appropriately.
I can look beyond unorthopraxy in those attending the Lakeland Revival, but what grieves my Spirit is that so many of those allowed to take the pulpit aren’t orthodox in what they teach or practice, both of which are important to genuine, full-orbed Christian faith.
A few years ago I taught on this passage from 1st John:
They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us. But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth. I do not write to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it and because no lie comes from the truth. Who is the liar? It is the man who denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a man is the antichrist–he denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also. See that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you. If it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father. And this is what he promised us–even eternal life. I am writing these things to you about those who are trying to lead you astray. As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit–just as it has taught you, remain in him. — 1 John 2:18-27
Here is what I wrote about these important verses…
“Here John gives us couple of ways that we can identify saving faith. He asks, “Who is the liar? It is the man who denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a man is antichrist – he denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also.” It appears as though individuals had left the congregation because they no longer believed the truth about Jesus.
Notice that by denying that Jesus is the Christ, we also deny God the Father. Since Jesus revealed the one true God who spoke through the prophets, by denying Jesus we show that we also do not truly believe in the one true God of the Old Testament, since one testified to the truth of the other.
Notice, also, the results of this false belief: they left the church. Remember this; it is SO IMPORTANT that we believe what is ultimately true because what we believe has an effect on what we DO — on how we live! Here the results of their misconceptions were divisions in the church, but every time we accept what Paul called deceptive philosophy over the truth of God it will have some sort of negative results. We were made to live out what we believe, whether it be true saving faith, or falsehood and lies. Either way we will live according to what we believe is ultimately true.
Later John expands on this thought by saying, “Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God “(from 1 John 4:1-6). We should strive to know the Biblical truth about God, and to live out the teachings of Scripture, in order that we might present ourselves as a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:15)“
There are ways of denying the Father & the Son that are not overt – in fact, as an Angel of Light, those are the means that Satan most often employs. When one is actively acknowledging Jesus – that He is of God, and came ‘in the flesh’ – that individual is by necessity being Cross-Centered, & Gospel-Driven. To focus attention primarily on the Holy Spirit, who’s central goal is the guide eyes to Christ, is to actually go against the Spirit, and to risk submitting to another spirit entirely – one that is not quite so Holy.
Sound doctrine and correct practice should accompany the Spirit-filled, Spirit-guided man of God, as the Holy Spirit not only teaches us the Scriptures, but even more-so, applies them to our hearts and lives. To claim to have come in the name of God, and to claim to be led by His Holy Spirit, yet to not teach Cross-Centered sound doctrine, and to not practice Biblical orthopraxy – well, of that person we should at least set our ‘discernment’ on ‘high’, and be very careful to ‘test the spirits’ in every thing we hear them say or see them do.
Please don’t leave your brain at the door in exchange for an experience. If you do so, there is no promise that the experience you have will be one from God, no matter how good it may make you feel at the time. Be blessed.
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