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The River of Seducing Spirits

By David Sheldon

Participants of many modern day church settings and religious events are invited, whether explicitly stated or not, to jump into what has been termed "the river of God." This "river" is an emotional state that will supposedly bring cheer to our otherwise melancholy hearts and dancing to our otherwise stationary feet. More often than not, plunging into the "river" originates through song or visual stimuli. (i.e. images, videos, dancing, worship leaders saying "open up your hearts" or "open yourself up", etc.) Are participants being asked to do something (to jump into the "river,") that is Scripturally required? Does the Scripture command you to open up your heart or to become emotional for true worship? Is it possible that an uncontrolled display of emotions could come from a source other than God the Holy Spirit? Is this flowing "river," or emotional high, really the norm for Christian living? Could there be subtle false teaching amidst these corporate song times and sensory stimulations? If so, what is being taught?

Some would argue that there needs to be more of an emotional response to God in our worship than past church tradition has provided or allowed. But, that is not the issue this article is addressing. The issue at hand is whether the worshipper knows whom and why they are worshipping. True worship can in fact elicit a number of different types of emotional responses ranging from profound grief to utter joy. However, many have come to the conclusion that this "river" is often extremely menacing to true Christian growth. This is due to the beliefs that are subtly employed. So, how do we distinguish if worship is rooted in the sensual/emotional or is truly spiritual before a Holy God? Have we even thought to consider that it is possible to worship God in a wrong way; that there might be a difference between true worship and sensual worship?

Jesus said that we should love God with all of our heart and soul and mind. (Matthew 22:37) Thus, true love and worship of God is multi-faceted in that the entirety of our being should be fully engaged. True worship, as seen in Romans 12:1-2, is when we present our bodies as living sacrifices unto God. But note, this is a response to the understanding of the wonderful mercies of God already given to us in Romans 1-11. Along those lines, ask yourself, "Does God require me to worship Him through the feelings I receive from the music while neglecting the meaning of the words? Or, does God want me to worship Him as a result of my convictions and understanding of who He is?"

According to John 4:21-26, Jesus says we are to worship God in spirit and in truth! Jesus did not say that we are to worship in spirit or in truth. Does our finite understanding of truth give us an excuse to eliminate our minds as we worship? According to I Corinthians 2:6-16 the answer is "no." Paul says we are to know the things which the Spirit teaches because they are literally communicated to us via words. We can understand because we have the mind of Christ! There is no excuse. Accordingly, we should ask, "Is true worship by-passing the given revelation of God (His Word)? Does worship become the means by which His Spirit communes and communicates thus neglecting the mediation of His Word?" It appears, at times, that people decide to plunge into the great mystical unknown by shelving their minds during worship. Are we to initiate entrance into altered states of consciousness (passive mind) to have our spirit carried away on an uncontrolled spiritual journey? Are we to seek some voice, some mystical, visionary and fresh experience (supposedly of God) apart from the Word?" Colossians 2:18-19 says those things are not related to our divine knowledge of Jesus Christ whom, by His Spirit, we know through His Word. They are described in this text as fleshly rather than spiritual.

When worship settings foster these emotional experiences, they are also laying aside certain foundational truths. Subsequently, these upbeat worship times are often a diversion that admit false doctrines into the scene. This occurs because spirits that seduce away from truth and in this instance, true worship, will entice toward false worship and the teachings of demons (see I Timothy 4:1). Unfortunately, this is what the vast majority of "charismatic churches" in the world are experiencing.

It is in these very ministries that statements of faith will say, "We believe in the sole authority of Scripture for faith and practice." Do they truly abide by this standard if their time together includes more than Scriptural teaching and practice. Beyond this, many have decided that judging things, spoken or practiced, is not the "cool" thing to do. As a result, members/participants are discouraged, or aren't given the opportunity, to consciously weigh what is taking place. This is contrary to the teachings found in 1 John 4:1 "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world."

Therefore, participants are placed into a huge quandary. The unconscious and undiagnosed reality is that those gathered have shifted their allegiance from the authority of the Holy Scripture to "the spirit" of the corporate whole as encouraged through the leadership. This spoken or unspoken emphasis to "open up" to spiritual reality without spiritual content results in the leader taking on the role of an intermediary between the congregation and God. This is incredibly dangerous!

Remember, the Scripture says all true believers have an anointing from the Holy One. That anointing teaches us all things which are true, the Scripture! (I John 2:20-27) Also, each believer is a priest unto God with Jesus, and only Jesus, as their perfect and permanent High Priest. (I Peter 2:1-10; Hebrews 7:11-8:6) We do not need any human or spiritual entity to be set up as an intermediary - NONE. Lest you think leaders of this flowing "river" do not function as intermediaries, let me remind you of this fact: often times they have claimed for themselves the right to be untouched or unquestioned in terms of their authority or ministry. It is "theirs" and unless you agree with them you don't understand and are in fact against their "anointed authority." These "ministers" have left the foundation of the Word of God as it was given through those who were the foundation of the church, the apostles and prophets of the New Testament and spoken of in Ephesians 2:20. Modern day, capital A apostles, and capital P prophets, are just simply not present like those Apostles and Prophets that Paul spoke of in this text.

A true shepherd of God's people should never take the roll of an intermediaray because he realizes that he is an under-shepherd of God in the ministry. Godly leadership includes self-giving love and doctrinal integrity, and does not include coming between God and His flock.

In conclusion, each person needs to think biblically for themselves and in all instances. Leaders should aid in our biblical thinking, but ulitimatly someone else cannot do our thinking for us. Every thinking person or spirit has an agenda. Every non-thinking person is usually led around by the former! Friends, the reality is this: if you don't, by the Spirit, bring your thoughts to line up with Scripture, then someone is more than happy to do your thinking for you, and it might not line up with Scripture. The worst case scenario is when you do not realize this is happening.

BEWARE – "the river" could be plunging you headlong into troublesome waters!

Copyright© 2004, 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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