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My advice with Lakeland was the same as with Toronto and any other unusual “new movement” of the Spirit: You can safely ignore it.

Over a decade ago, I offered a simple piece of advice meant to protect Christians from ever being taken in by any religious fad, novel teaching, or alleged new manifestation of the Spirit.

At that time, a movement variously called the “Toronto Blessing,” the “Laughing Revival,” and the “Brownsville Revival” stirred up contention for the bizarre behavior associated with it.

Others have come and gone. A few years ago, Todd Bentley of Fresh Fire Ministries in Lakeland, Florida, grabbed the Christian headlines with what some called the “Lakeland revival.” His style and methods were controversial for the same kinds of reasons “Toronto” was.

Circumstances like these give thoughtful Christians pause. On the one hand, when spiritual manifestations seem bizarre, the urge is strong to run the other way. On the other hand, the Scriptures themselves record God’s unusual activity in the past. Aslan is not a tame lion, after all. No sincere Christian wants to resist the Holy Spirit and offend God.

My advice with Lakeland was the same as with Toronto and any other unusual “new movement” of the Spirit: You can safely ignore it.

I gleaned this advice from Second Timothy, Paul’s swan song, his final thoughts before facing the executioner. In it, he passes the torch of the Gospel to Timothy with a sober warning: Difficult times are coming. First, there will be trouble in the world:

But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God (2 Tim 3:1-4).

Second, there will be trouble in the church:

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires; and will turn away their ears from the truth, and will turn aside to myths (2 Tim. 4:3-4).

Trouble is on the horizon, Paul says—trouble in the world, and trouble in the church. He then gives Timothy the antidote, a solution found in three simple words: “You, however, continue....”

You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them...All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work (2 Tim 3:14-4:2). 

In Paul’s final warning to the church, he does not counsel them to face the challenges of the future by embracing new movements of the Spirit. Instead, he tells them to look backwards, to continue in and guard what has already been revealed.

This is Paul’s message throughout his entire letter. “Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me” (1:13). “Guard...the treasure which has been entrusted to you” (1:14). “And the things which you have heard from me...these entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also” (2:2).

Paul warns of a time of moral chaos falling on the world and theological chaos falling on the church. The antidote for both is the same: Steady at the helm. Guard what has already been entrusted to you. Continue in the things which you have already learned.

Everything we need to be fruitful and productive, to be trained in righteousness, to be adequately equipped for every good work, has already been revealed. For Paul, all the old stuff was all the right stuff.

New movement of the Spirit? Maybe. And maybe not. I don’t have to decide. Instead, I’m taking the safe route by heeding Paul’s advice and focusing on the old movement of the Spirit. And so should you.

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Article | Christianity & Culture, Miscellaneous
Jan 22, 2014
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