Recently I read a comment from someone who said one of the biggest issues that seems to divide charismatic western Christians these days is where people stand on “new” supernatural manifestations in church services. I’m talking about people seeing gold dust, gems, feathers, etc. I won’t go into the history of these things, but I’ve noticed that some believe there are just two camps on this; those who believe in the miracles, and those who don’t.
I disagree. I think there are many camps when it comes to this, but I’ll narrow it down to just five.
Camp 1: Believes the supernatural manifestations are of God.
Camp 2: Believes the manifestations are fake, due to a trick of the mind or figment of the imagination.
Camp 3: Believes the manifestations are of the devil.
Camp 4: Believes in miracles but only the ones that can be found listed in the Bible.
Camp 5. Believes most supernatural manifestations are real but that each needs to be “tested” to discern whether they are of God or the enemy.
One woman came to our group and posted “Gold dust is not in the Bible!” and went on to call out many “false prophets.” Now, I’m not saying she was entirely wrong. Gold dust is not in the Bible, and some of the people she was upset with may very well have been false. But her logic and argument to support her views were wrong. If anything she got people disagreeing with her and taking the side of those “false prophets.” Had she shown that they were doing something wrong by using scripture that would have been different. We know it’s wrong to steal and we can show this to someone else by giving a Bible verse. Likewise we know it’s wrong to go to mediums and psychics because that is also clearly indicated in the Bible. But as for gems falling from heaven, there are no verses speaking against this. To say gems appearing out of nowhere is wrong simply because “it’s not in the Bible” is like saying a cheeseburger is wrong because the disciples did not eat that.
In scripture miracles happened in many different ways, all unconventional and surprising: There is nothing to indicate miracles have to be limited to the ones listed in the Bible.
I myself fall into Camp 5. I believe most of these supernatural manifestations are real but that they need to be tested to make sure they are of God. The enemy can do counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders. We are warned in the Bible that some of these signs and wonders could deceive even the elect.
How do we test these manifestations? First off there’s the 1 John 4:1-3 test.
Dear friends, 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. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.
That scripture refers to the incarnation of Jesus, his deity.
Just because people say “Jesus” does not mean it is from God. What Jesus are they talking about? Is it the Jesus of the Bible or a Jesus that does not fit with scripture?
And yet, demons can tell the truth too. If you want to get a dog to eat medicine what do you do? You hide the pill inside his regular food. When he eats all that food he gobbles up the hidden pill as well. That’s how the enemy works. He gives a lot of truth but sneaks in the lie.
Did you know there was a fortune teller who followed the disciples around? Check this out in Acts 16:16-18:
Once when we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a female slave who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling. She followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.” She kept this up for many days. Finally Paul became so annoyed that he turned around and said to the spirit, “In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!” At that moment the spirit left her.
Do you get this? The girl had a demonic spirit that let her foretell the future. She was shouting that Paul was a servant of God (he was!) and that he was telling people the way to be saved (he was!). If this girl had been in many charismatic churches today she’d be considered a prophetess! And yet just because someone is saying a truth does not mean their source is God. Unfortunately, some judge whether a prophet is true just by whether their words are accurate. Yes, a true prophet of God will speak the truth, but not everyone giving accurate “words” are from God as clearly shown by this fortune teller following Paul around.
So how do we know the false from the true then? First, you judge by the Bible. Is the real Jesus being preached or “another” Jesus that doesn’t line up with scripture? Second, if you are a Christian you have the Holy Spirit within you, and should pay attention to that inward witness.
Here’s something more plain though from Matthew 7:15-23:
Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’
There you go! You will know them by their fruit.
Miracles are real. God can do anything, and we should never limit him or put him in a box. If God wants to send gold dust, I want it! I believe in the power of God to do anything, including miracles I’ve never seen or imagined. But all needs to be tested. The magicians back in Moses’ day could do mighty miracles that copied God – and the devil still copies God to this day.
Some say we should not be so concerned with seeing the devil in things, and I agree if they mean those who see evil in everything. That’s a terrible trap and is itself a demonic bondage. But the scriptures do command us to test to make sure we are dealing with the real God of the Bible, and we should do no less regarding new supernatural manifestations.