One of the things that have occupied the religious media’s attention recently has been the rise and fall of Todd Bentley. While we pray for restoration for his life and marriage what is not being looked at is the reason for his popularity. For years, decades really, the Pentecostal wing of the Body of Christ has been redefining terms to the extent that their “redefinitions” have become the popular definitions of those terms. A good example is the word “revival”. This is the old fallacy of Charles Finney come back to life again. That is, if you do certain things, then God will do certain things in return. In this case, if you pray enough or get excited enough that will bring God’s Spirit to do what you want Him to do. At the heart of this is simple mysticism. It makes God a genie in a bottle. The funny thing about that is they believe, falsely, that God must do what you want Him to do if you just do and say the right things. The problem with that is that it not only removes God’s sovereign will but puts God in a box that He has not put Himself in.
Now the flip side of that is how many justify the phenomena that takes place in meetings like the Todd Bentley “revival” in Lakeland Florida, or the meetings of John Arnott, Rodney Howard Brown or Benny Hinn to name a few. Here it is the phenomena and the desire for it that takes center stage. Here it is all about “signs and wonders”. God’s Word gives us two things to think about here; Mark 13:22 Jesus says; “For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform signs and wonders, to lead astray, if possible, the elect.” Then in Matt.7:22-23 Jesus says; “On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.” The fact that phenomena are taking place is no guarantee that it is God that is doing it. So how do we know when God is at work in our midst?
Jesus makes that easy for us. He has explained in John 14:16-26 and 16:7-16. Here we have what we can expect from the Holy Spirit. Further in 1Cor.12-14 we have instructions on what we can expect from the Holy Spirit in an assembly of believers who have gifts to be exercised. The point I want to make is that commonly, when certain Pentecostal Churches are held up for examination by God’s Word, their common response is “we don’t want to put God in a box”. Now let’s look at it like this; God has put Himself in a box so to speak. He has told us in His Word what we can expect from His Spirit and what it looks like when His Spirit is at work. The instructions in 1Cor.14 are so specific that I am amazed at how many Pentecostal Churches seem to ignore them altogether! That being said, I am a believer in the gifts, offices and callings of the Holy Spirit as listed in Rom.12:6-8, 1Cor.12:4-11 and Eph.4:11. But I also see, and this is critical, how God’s Word defines these gifts, offices and callings and instructs us on their uses.
Now before I get accused of being “anti-Pentecostal” let me say this; in my Church experience, which is primarily Calvary Chapel and earlier a vanilla flavored protestant denomination, I believe that we have much in common and much to be learned from the Pentecostal wing of the Body. But they in turn have much to learn from this wing of the Body. We have so often shied away from the Gifts of the Holy Spirit and the so called “phenomena” simply because of all the imbalance in the Church as a whole. The old “baby out with the bath water” approach. But the Pentecostal wing has always and need today a return to a systematic understanding and adherence to God’s Word to balance out the issues brought up by their approach to Scripture. That is how Todd Bentley became the Todd Bentley that we saw.
An un-scriptural ministry with no spiritual discernment or grounding in God’s Word. God’s Word has told us what we can expect from His Holy Spirit, anything outside of that is just plain dangerous.