There can be little doubt that we are living in a very important era in the long panorama of earth’s history. Change is taking place at a pace never before imagined, must less witnessed. I firmly believe these changes are a part of God’s plan for the world and, although I don’t know all the ins and outs of that plan, I do know several things:
- Change is real and happening rapidly.
- Part of God’s plan for this age has to do with deepening our understanding and application of spiritual laws and principles.
- Unity within the Body of Christ is essential if the next phase of Kingdom Manifestation is to occur. We can only see through a glass darkly, but we can, on faith, understand that God’s establishment of the kingdom is a progressive, dynamic process. I have the strong sense that this issue of unity is key at this time.
- Unity is critical because Satan’s primary weapon has been division within the Body of Christ. “Divide and conquer” has been his strategy and, to a large extent, it has worked and continues to work. Satan uses the saints to “accuse” one another and by doing so, weakens our ability to not only withstand his intrigue, but also, to further advance the kingdom.
- Another aspect of this age will be the erosion of the forms of “church” as we know it and in its place, the establishment of new and more effective structures of faith. This will require much openness and flexibility from within the Church universal, and do not be surprised when you see that the majority of the resistance will come from within the Body.
- The Church is exploding in Asia and Africa. There are many examples of miracles, works, and powers happening in these places and they are genuine. They are not happening so much here because of our rigidity and lack of unity. The West will no longer be the center of the Christian faith and we need to get our minds around that.
- I firmly believe in the old axiom which states “the brighter the light the deeper the shadows,” and as the Master bombards our world with an ever-increasing amount of light, the enemy will be busier than ever. He cannot defeat us, and he cannot even overpower us except by the use of the primary weapon left at his disposal – deception. This age we live in will be witness to an increasing amount of spiritual darkness and demonic activity. This does not mean that more people will be possessed and have heads that twirl around on a swivel – but more than likely, it will be manifested as an increased amount of demonic oppression resulting in all sorts of negativity. (See section below on Witchcraft and Demonic Oppression).
- Related to the increase in spiritual darkness is the fact that the “power of God” will be increasingly demonstrated through what has traditionally been called “signs and wonders.” This has little to do with charismatic foolishness such as holy drooling and barking like dogs. Instead, it will be akin to what is already being seen in the churches in Asia, Central and South America, and Africa. The miraculous is becoming commonplace in these areas as the church is growing at a rapid pace. God’s supernatural power is being demonstrated and those Christian that cannot acknowledge the supernatural and apply it in their lives will be left behind. This may seem harsh, but it is simply in recognition of what God is doing and how he is currently moving in the world. Just as Paul described to the Corinthian church during his time, God is speaking us today so that we can see that his ways and wisdom are far different from ours.
And my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God. (I Cor. 2:4-5)
As these changes take place we will begin to see some areas where God will be moving rapidly and, in these cases, there will inevitably be some stragglers who get left behind. In other areas, God will move more slowly and with great deliberation. In either case, the important thing to grasp is that God is moving and he is doing a new thing. Our task is to develop our sensitivity to what he is doing, pray for wisdom as to what our role and calling might be in his work, and then get busy doing it.
It is becoming increasingly apparent that the supernatural realm is where the real action is in these days. As a race, especially those of us in the West, we have become so sophisticated that we discount the supernatural without adequate investigation and, by doing so, fall into the enemy’s trap. We must pay closer attention to the supernatural realm because we are involved in a supernatural battle, whether we understand it or accept it.
It is interesting to note that the fastest growing churches in the world are those of the charismatic/Pentecostal traditions. This is especially true in Asia and Africa, but really, it is a phenomenon that can be seen all over the world. By the same token, it is those denominations that adhere most closely with the use of reason, logic, science, and the legacy of the Enlightenment that are withering on the vine. This is not how I would have predicted things to have worked out and it surely is not how I would have wished it would have worked out. Quite frankly, some of the craziness and downright foolishness seen in the Charismatic and Pentecostal churches is an abomination in my sight. And I suspect that much of the really fringe elements of these movements will disappear as time progresses.
However, I think the core elements of Pentecostalism and the Charismatic movement will continue to prosper because God says he must be worshiped in spirit and in truth. And certainly, now more than ever, the supernatural side of things must be taken into account. I am uncertain as to exactly how this will manifest itself here in the West, however. One thing is certain, the church in the West will need more manifestations of God’s power in these rapidly changing times. Yet this revealing of God’s strength must be presented in a manner that is less chaotic and “sensational” than in the past. The days of flopping about, running around the sanctuary, and drooling have passed. It is a time for the world to see God’s power and presence in all its glory, not in patently bizarre human translations of it that greatly miss the mark.
As the future unfolds, one of the most needed of the spiritual gifts will be that of discernment. Pastors, teachers, elders, and others in positions of spiritual authority will need to be deeply educated in the criteria of discernment, or at least in recognizing those who have this gift, even in its embryonic forms. Anytime there is a period of increased Holy Spirit activity, and this is without a doubt one of those times, the potential for the Great Deceiver to lead many astray is great. We live in an age that is ripe for deception. Trained, gifted discerners are in critical need. James Goll speaks directly to this issue:
Lack of discernment and an unscriptural emphasis on experience beyond the confines of Scripture are major stumbling blocks for the majority of Charismatic and Pentecostal Christians who are open to the supernatural and revelatory realms of God…..When it comes to gifts of miraculous powers and prophecy, we need mature elders in every church who are equipped with the gift of discernment to watch over the flock. We also need apostolic voices who will release guidelines for discernment in the years to come, as the sense of God’s Presence and power increases throughout the world – growing alongside the “tares” of this world, evidenced in soulishly and demonically induced counterfeit expressions of power. Right now, we are sadly equipped with too few apostolic leaders who are respected enough to speak the truth in love about these issues of discernment and correction. And we have too few humble church leaders who are open to correction from apostolic leaders, regardless of their denominational preferences, networks, or alliances.
Many within the Mainline denominations and Evangelical churches have such a historically “negative charge” with the Charismatic movement that they suspect anything of Spirit-filled nature as being either doctrinally lacking or worse, a product of Satan. This mind-set is not entirely their fault as there has been such excess and, yes, plain wanton foolishness in more than a few Charismatic and Pentecostal circles. Yet at the same time, it is not wise to completely slam the door shut.
At one end of the spectrum you have those sincere followers of the Master who are so turned off by what they see as bizarre extremism that they slam the door shut of Charismatic experience. In a sense, these folks use too much discernment in the sense that anything even remotely resembling “Spirit-filled” experience is discounted out of hand. At the other end of the spectrum you have the fringe elements of Pentecostalism and Charismatic Christianity that fall into all sorts of error, both doctrinal and experiential, and wind up engaging in practices that seem too strange to be true. At this extreme, too little discernment is practiced and, in some cases, none at all.
Obviously, what is needed is a more balanced approach, grounded in Scripture but, at the same time, not so tightly bound as to quench the Spirit. The real challenge for the church at this point is the development of this much-needed criteria and, after that, widespread training in its fundamental applications.
Although this particular age is filled with challenges to the Body of Christ, it is at the same time an era of golden opportunity. Despite the negative blathering of naysayers and the sometimes harsh judgments launched by critics of the church, the fact is, these can be times of positive transformation in the Body of Christ. What is needed is consecrated, committed Christians who are creative in approach, flexible in attitude, and open-minded enough to realize that the status quo in a rut we can no longer afford to wallow in. As someone much wiser than me once said:
A rut is nothing more than a grave with the ends kicked out.
Think about it.
(c) L.D. Turner 2010/ All Rights Reserved