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The "Jesus" of Signs & Wonders

By David Sheldon

Just pray a prayer. It seems innocent. The prayer is even in the Bible! "Grant that Thy bond-servants may speak Thy Word with all confidence, while Thou dost extend Thy hand to heal, and signs and wonders take place through the name of Thy holy servant Jesus." Acts 4:29b-30 (NASB) Go ahead. Pray the prayer. After all, you don't want to "miss out" on what God is doing.

The previous type of invitation has paved the way for a new "signs and wonders movement" of this generation. The movement and its' underlying thought has settled in and become part of a number of "evangelical" churches with many of its' proponents dispersed throughout. Because of this, many Christians have also gone through mysticism's front door. This is most unfortunate. The spirit of the "Jesus" behind the movement claims to have expanded his role as "Lord." He has morphed from only providing individual "signs and wonders" to delivering fresh revelations. Further, since many leaders have bought into "Kingdom Now/Dominion" theology, they proclaim the "Jesus" of this movement will deliver the kingdoms of the world into the hands of a new order of apostles and prophets!

C. Peter Wagner was/is a leader within the signs and wonders movement. In addition, he heads "The New Apostolic Reformation." As "power-broker", Wagner has combined the signs and wonders movement with the church-growth movement. The former was possibly best embodied in the late John Wimber of the Vineyard Churches while the later can historically be linked to Robert Schuller and, now, Rick Warren.

What is the basic idea? Wagner "demonizes" those within the church who hold to "tradition." What tradition is this regarding? Good, bad, inconsequential, or Biblical? Well, he doesn't say. Instead, he paints a huge canvas filled with demonic activity, calls it "the spirit of religion," and labels it "tradition." (There is a cartoon of a devil with his hand inserted in the back of a man who is preaching from his pulpit.) Here is the real kicker: Wagner says that because the Bible doesn't tell us much about this "spirit of religion" then "we must depend, more than some other subjects, on God's fresh revelation." According to Wagner, one must depend on revelation apart from Holy Scripture! Understand that he is laying a foundation by saying that people who hold to "tradition" have demons and demonic-structures controlling them! Are we to depend upon Wagner's "fresh revelations?" No! The Bible ITSELF:

1) helps us understand the reality of the "powers of darkness" both in the world and battling against the true saint. (Ephesians 6:10-20)
2) tells us that Jesus already conquered all powers at the cross and He is already in authority over everything! (Colossians 2:15; Matthew 28:18-20) If you are in Christ, you have already been wonderfully united to the One in authority over all these powers! (Ephesians 2:4-6)
3) tells us that the weapons of our warfare are spiritual and involve taking our "thoughts" captive unto obedience to Jesus Christ. (II Corinthians 10:3-6)
4) is filled with "traditions" that we are supposed to firmly grasp.

The ONLY way we can do all of this is to understand those thoughts of God which He has clearly and fully revealed in the HOLY SCRIPTURE. But, evidently, if you are not "under" Wagner's order and warnings via his fresh revelations about "corporate demonic-structure" in our world, then you yourself are controlled by the demonic structures because of your adherence to "tradition."

In our day and age, people have set up an absolute "false dichotomy" between the Word of God and the ministry of the Holy Spirit of God. Many will say they hold to the sole authority of Scripture for faith and practice while that conviction (if you can call it that) has obviously been tweeked and is then violated. (Once these types of thinkers get you thinking their same way, they can begin to lead you astray from vitally abiding in the Lord Jesus Christ). In this process, the "false dichotomy" is between the role of the "mind" and the role of the "heart" in the Christian faith. This false dichotomy often takes place through the ministry of what the Bible calls "seducing spirits." They are seducing because they subtly draw you from the Word helping you feel that you are really starting to "walk in the spirit" and understand and obey the "fresh" word. But, in reality, the authority on which you base your "walk" has shifted! It has away drifted from the authority of Scripture as understood by the mind, applied to the heart, and carried out in obedience. (All of these occur through the illumination and empowering of the Holy Spirit.) And, instead, it has settled upon the authority of a "fresh word" or "anointed leader" as understood in your own "spirit" (which he defines as the ministry of the Holy Spirit). In actuality it is only your own "intuition." But, one thinks, "It must be good and right because I feel good and right as do all of these people around me that seem so "spiritual" to me." Unfortunately, these types of thoughts are becoming increasingly rampant among those within the modern day church no matter the label or denomination. But, only Scripture is to be our authority.

Wagner goes on, "The central issue is God's new times and seasons. The demonic strategy is to preserve the status quo through adhering to tradition." Wagner himself is "hearing what the spirit is saying collectively about new times and seasons." {Wagner states at the bottom of p. 85, in a rather matter of fact way, that "…we now live in the Second Apostolic Age."} In an attempt to justify this "new thing," he equates "radical change" as that which took place between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant and associates this with Jesus' teaching on new wines/wineskins and his "New Apostolic Reformation." His statements and reasoning are very misleading. First of all, the better term for the difference between the O.T. and the N.T. would be "radical fulfillment." {Remember Jesus' preliminary statement in Mark 1:15 – "the time is fulfilled,…} This is clearly what the Bible states and what was in the mind of Jesus via His constant referencing to the O.T. Scriptures being fulfilled in and through Him. The promise of a New Covenant is very clearly present in the O.T. Scriptures (Jeremiah 31:31-34) and in fact its' very nature is seen in the blessing given to Abraham. {Read Galatians 3} God didn't just decide to do a "new thing" in Jesus apart from O.T. promises and symbols. He fulfilled HIS PROMISE in Jesus Christ which He had planned from eternity and which was "hidden" in the O.T. and "revealed" in the New! {The "new thing" was the incredible glory that attended the promise in Christ Jesus – which the real Apostles beheld!} Second, the new wine and new wineskins teaching of Jesus in Matthew 9:17 is simply stating this: You can't take "NEW" AND TRUE THINGS and "put them in" or "place them upon" "OLD" AND FALSE THINGS because it just doesn't work. The problem is: Wagner's "new" thing is not a "true" thing. C. Peter Wagner's "new thing" is three-fold. One is his vague and false teaching about "corporate demonic-structure" that Christians are to be concerned about, and evidently fearful of and oppose because it undermines the "work of the Spirit." Two is his failing to even mention the sole authority of Scripture and instead listening for fresh revelation apart from Scripture! (At one point, he even admits he is using his imagination and invites you to join in.) Three is seen in his statement about the role of "apostles" in the new order "of the Spirit" which God is supposedly bringing about. This third issue is seen in his statement, "When the Holy Spirit speaks to us about a new wineskin recognizing the contemporary office of apostle, for example the corporate spirit of religion goes into action among the leaders of the old wineskin. It manipulates their minds to emphasize what the Spirit said (past tense) to them when they were a new wineskin. …." (You should note here: I Corinthians 11:1,2 NASB – "Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ. Now I praise you because you remember me in everything, and hold firmly to the traditions, just as I delivered them to you." Paul commended them for holding firmly to the traditions, which are now written for us in Scripture, not holding firmly to him.) What the Spirit said in the "past" as truth – is still truth! And it is truth that is consequential. If we are to "hold on" and "be led by the Spirit" we are to hold on to truth! Otherwise, there will be problems.

Again, Wagner characterizes "the spirit of religion" as having a "collective" assignment. This spirit works on "groups" and it "casts a spell over the leaders of whole segments of God's people." In one way, Wagner is correct. The people of God both individually and corporately can become "bewitched" according to Paul's questioning of the Galatians. In our generation we should know this because of the following. Rick Warren, author of "The Purpose-Driven® Life," did his Doctoral of Ministry Thesis under the mentoring of C. Peter Wagner at Fuller Seminary. Yet, in the first session of the "40 Days of Purpose" video tape, Warren tells people (who otherwise do not know or understand God and His purpose for them) that they are now a "part of the family of God" after having delivered a message and leading them in a prayer. But he omits telling them that Jesus had to go to Calvary to die for their sins, nor any Biblical understanding about a call to repentance/faith, etc! Talk about some spirit or spirits casting a spell! Evidently Wagner can see this "spirit" behind those who want to be "traditional" but doesn't now see it behind the man whom he mentored for his doctoral of ministry degree!

Based on the continued "morphing by the spirit" of the "Jesus" he is following it would seem the movement is ultimately leading us to follow a different Jesus from the Lord Jesus Christ of the Scriptures.{That is rather a bold and somewhat vilifying statement – and I would tend to agree it may be perceived as such. It is not more vilifying than the article I just reviewed which tells me that if I don't follow C. Peter Wagner I have come under the control of demons!} And the reason is simply this. Jesus Christ saw no dichotomy between the Word of God and the ministry of the Holy Spirit of God. NEVER! Scripture was the complete and final authority for Him. After all, He Himself was and is the incarnate Word. He certainly would have made known in His earthly ministry if the written Word somehow lacked in any way!!! Which He didn't!!! And the true church of Jesus Christ has always recognized that when the Apostles died, so died the work of "revelation" through them. The canon of Scripture is closed. And when we see Jesus, for example, interacting with the Sadducees it doesn't say that they simply misunderstood the "power of God" – He said that they did not understand "the Scriptures nor the power of God." (Matthew 22:29) There is a big difference. Jesus expected them to understand the real meaning of Scripture in order to understand what God was doing or would do! This is the sequence. First, understand the Scripture. Then understand God and His ministry by the Spirit! And why is this so? Because the Holy Spirit breathed out the truth of the Word of God!!! That Spirit does not do or teach things contrary to what is revealed in the Word!!! If you seriously want to walk in and obey the Spirit, He first gives you an appetite for the truth of the Word in the inner man! It is His order of things! This is because the Spirit makes known the Lord Jesus Christ who is now seated at the right hand of God the Father - the same Lord Jesus Christ of the HOLY SCRIPTURES! To create a false dichotomy is absurd and then to label it a "spirit of religion" without any qualifications is deceptive!!! Here – let me put this ring in your nose. I wish I could count the number of times that I have read or heard supposed "shepherds" of God babble on about their own seductive doctrines and this on the pretense of helping us understand those "nasty" Pharisees. We don't want you to be "legalistic" and miss the work of the Spirit just like those "nasty Pharisees" they say. But, those nasty Pharisees had embraced bad doctrine versus good doctrine. And because the Pharisees embraced bad theology they then had too high a view of themselves in relation to the Word of God due to their self-imposed misunderstanding of that Word! Because, taken on its' own, no one can have too high a view of the Word of God! It is impossible! The Scriptures themselves warn us against those who would have us embrace false versus true teaching. You can also "check out" an early and clear example in history of the church resisting those who wanted to step outside of the N.T. teachings and "follow the spirit" in Montanus and his followers in the mid-second century a.d.

Ponder this for a moment: Evidently, people who now desire to live only by the authority of the Word of God (II Timothy 3:16,17) and directly unto Him as priests (I Peter 2:4-10) and don't want to be a part of Wagner's "new thing" – have a "spirit of religion" upon them!!! The title of the article to refresh our memories is "Don't Let Religion Control You!" It seems to me the only conclusion Wagner is providing is "Let Fresh Revelation of the "Spirit" Control You! And by the way – I am His new "Apostle." And "the spirit of religion" (those who aren't a part of Wagner's "new thing") must be opposed "now" according to Wagner! Notice in the article: According to his own word it must be opposed! He won't allow for contrary voices!

Otherwise, how can the New "Apostolic" Order be established?

It is incredibly ironic that there is another article in this same issue of Charisma titled "The Lost Gift of Discernment" with an introductory remark "We charismatics love prophecy and revelation. But we must be aware that not all spiritual information is from God." No kidding! How about the "lost art" of studying the Bible to see what true spiritual information is in the first place? And how about the lost art of confronting those who bring false information? How are we doing at being "aware" of that?

Copyright ©, 2006, David Sheldon. Updated 2010 by Kerri Sheldon
Can be copied in its entirety for personal use or to be distributed, but not for profit.

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