I don't think there has ever been a generation of Christians tossed to and fro by every wind of teaching by the sleight of men and cunning tricks, as this current generation. And there is a very good reason for this, which is what this series is about.
If you can imagine a belief based on something the Bible seems to state, it is out there: Do you think Jesus is returning by 12/21/12? Someone will show you a formula based on scripture to prove it. Do you think there is no accountability nor sin anymore? Someone will have scripture to prove it. Do you think women should be silent in all church services and/or wear no make up? There is a stream in the faith for that one too.
And how did we get in this condition? How can we be safe when we hear a teaching, and determine if it is God or man? Allow me to walk us through the corridors of time.
Back in the day
There was a time when the Seminary-trained clergyman was the lone man who had been taught the Word of God. You went to a specialized college to study medicine. You went to a specialized college to study law. You went to a specialized college, Seminary, to study God. Only the Pastor/Priest/Minister understood scripture because it was just too hard for the common man to understand. That was the culture.
As limiting as that structure was, the benefit was that across denominational lines, all Christendom was pretty much on the same core spiritual page. There were core beliefs based more or less on the Word that all Protestant denominations held as true, and they watched those idolatrous Roman Catholics with a wary eye, for all knew the worship of Mary and saints wasn't in scripture.
There goes the neighborhood!
A funny thing happened on the way to church one day, somewhere in the 1960's and '70's, the Charismatic Renewal broke out across denominational lines. People were getting baptized with the Holy Spirit and speaking in tongues faster than denominations could adjust. Members of all denominations began meeting in homes for "prayer & praise" with anyone who was also baptized with the Holy Spirit - leave your church membership card at the door. Just break out the harpsichord and let's worship Jesus!
The Christian book store
Soon, publishers and musicians started marketing to these once content pew sitters who were 'ruined' by the baptism with the Holy Spirit and their prayer & praise meetings. Christian bookstores popped up with more translations of Bibles than I knew existed and numerous authors on all things God. Music ranging from folk rock/hippy culture Jesus people to hard rock, and even Christian posters by a company named 'Argus', jewelry, and t-shirts...Surely our nation was one step away from being fully Christian!
God's Word was no longer held captive by the Seminarians, it was now being given out to the common man. Curious about angels? You could find books from Billy Graham on the conservative side, to Charles & Francis Hunter on the wild side. Wanting to know about the Baptism with the Holy Spirit? You could read John Sherrill's 'They Speak With Other Tongues' or if Episcopalian, read Father Dennis Bennett's material.
Diluting the Word
Soon, everyone had at least one opinion on any topic called God because there were so many voices on the subject. People were leaving the study of the Word itself in favor of what people said about the Word.
Over a short time people went from just loving God for loving God's sake, to wanting something from Him - money, saved family, success, health - and formulas based on what people said God said arose.
Word of Faith
In the 1980's the Word of Faith movement arose with a core message of the integrity of God and His Word. That seemed to be God's answer to all the craziness of the 1970's, and brought many into balance and taught them how to compare x teaching against the whole counsel of the Word.
By the 1990's disciples of the Word of Faith turned the Word into a means of getting money, and the prosperity movement began full of its own formulas. The subtle concept 'If I do x then God will do x' took over and has flowed to different streams in the faith to this day.
Now people fill conventions yelling and screaming at God trying to get Him to send down revival, as if we want people saved more than the One who sent His Son to take away the sin of the world wants them saved, making God our adversary in their minds.
Along the way world culture became one of sound bites, short blasts of sight and sound that told people what they should think, rather than encouraging them to think for themselves. That played well to the church, and Christians left common sense and self-respect at the door, allowing themselves to be manipulated to do things in the name of God no one in their right mind would do. You don't have to think anymore, the pastor will do that for you! It's all in the formula. In the Bible they sought God, today we seek formulas. Sad.
Now all these voices find an outlet on the Internet, with even more people believing those sound bites are what the Word says, yet in reality is merely what someone said the Word says. For all our freedom and knowledge, human nature remains lazy, wanting Moses to talk to God for us and tell us what He said, rather than us investing ourselves in knowing Him up close and personal.
A new generation
There is a people hungry to know the Lord merely for the sake of knowing Him, no strings attached, nothing wanted of Him, just to know Him. They've been in meetings where they've recognized manipulation of the congregation, have seen the hypocrisy, have tried the formulas, and been left empty. They want Him!
The fact is, spirit-beings can talk. Not Koko the gorilla sign language, but spontaneous speech. Only spirits can do that - God, angels, people. That means the primary way of knowing a spirit-being is by speech.
Hebrews 1:1-3 states the Father spoke in many ways in different times to the fathers by the prophets but in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son, by whom He appointed heir of all things and by whom He made the universe. This Word of the Father is the brightness of the Father's glory, the impressed image of His character, and upholds all things by the Word of the Father's power.
Along with His appearance in the gospels, the Word of the Father has been appearing to mankind since walking in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve. Our Bible is the collection of writings through the centuries tracing His appearances and involvement in man's life, as Peter tells us written by men for us 'as they were moved by the Holy Spirit'. (II Peter 1:21) These writings are today's Bible.
You know people by their word
The only way I knew my grandfather was by his words and being in his presence. He was an eye, ear, nose, and throat doctor and I loved being around him. He would take me on his Sunday hospital rounds when I was just a boy. We'd walk into someone's hospital room to be greeted warmly, he'd give the patient an exam, talk a bit, then move on. He would talk to me about medical things, about patients and their families, why they had that condition, and important grandfather-grandson things. I knew him by his word, and I knew him by being in his presence.
The Father is the same way. We must know Him by written Word and by knowing Jesus, and by being in His presence. Our Father lives in us, there to talk to, feel His presence inside, and able to commune with as fast as the speed of thought.
People ask me why I am so privileged to have Jesus appear to me to teach me or give prophetic words. First, it is grace. Second, the way to Jesus' heart is to love the Father first and foremost, which I do.
But if you lay those aside, I am 'safe' for them to appear to me or tell me things because I am grounded in the Word and Spirit. They know I won't get off balance or get kooky on them. I'm safe. Look around - there are many, many who have spiritual experiences out there, and usually that is their single event because they get goofy, proving the Father can't trust them with more. They filter their experience through religion or culture or add to it rather than just reporting what happened. I'm safe because I know the Word and Spirit and am not trying to make a name for myself...that's frank talk, but honest.
This is what I want to share with you in this series, so the Father and Lord can trust you with more and greater revelation and knowing the things of the Spirit - to know His ways. Learn how to ignore other voices, and only hear the Shepherd's voice. Stay tuned folks, this could change your life!