I share this story in response to your comments on:
“1) I believe in charismatic gifts in the modern church.”
I was invited to attend a Christian Busninessmans Association Dinner at a local restaurant. Had never been to one prior and I was curious. There was an evangelist speaking. I was out of town and arrived at the gathering late, after the meal was over and the approx. 80 people were all sitting in chairs facing a podium that was set up as a pulpit. The only seat left was one off to the side in front, very similar to where an acolyte would sit during a church service. I could see the side of the speaker and if I turned to my left, I could see the faces of all in attendance.
The evangelist started speaking and I listened carefully. I had no problem with what he said scriptually, but was surprised that he held the Bible in his had, waving it, but never opened it. I looked for his Divine connection above him and it was not there. I squinted, but still no light. I realized that it was late on Friday night, I had just driven four hours in the dark and rain after a long day of working to get to the event. I figured it was just me being too tired to see anything.
A bit later, people were coming up and giving testimonials as to how being saved cured them or changed their lives for the better.
Then all of a sudden the evangelest walked back to one lady and proclaimed.... “The Holy Spirit is moving into you now and you are drunk with the Spirit.” She fell off her chair onto the floor and couldn’t stand up her legs were so wobbly. Soon he had a whole line of people and he would wave his hand in front of them and they would fall over backward. This went on for quite some time with many people. Again, I squinted and strained, trying to see this Holy Spiit which I can usually see. Nothing there!
And all of a sudden the realization hit me like a ton of bricks. I felt physically sick. This evangelist was using stage hypnosis techniques in a religious setting. It was all mind control and the Holy Spirit was not here. I am trained as both a clinical hypnotist and a stage hypnotist. This was part of my path to learn about consciousness and the human soul. (As well as a degree in psychology and many years studying cognitive neuroscience) I do not use hypnosis except in rare situations as I do not want people to surrender their will to me. I never use stage hypnosis techniques although I have the ability to do so.
I provide this information to help people understand the process. If anyone uses this knowledge incorrectly, you are accountable for your actions!
If you have a group of people in a religious setting, preferrably in the evening or at the end of a weekend retreat, and you do the following; each person there will go through a psychological and physical experience where they will swear on a Bible they are “Born Again.” It is a false “Born Again” experience.
1. Alow the volume of your voice to go up and down. shout and then whisper. If you are using a PA system, have the volume turned up and down.
2. Knock the people’s emotions off balance by telling a very sad story and then a happy story. This is to destabilize their consciousness. The testimonials served this function in the above meeting. Music also helps.
3. Induce guilt, fear or anger upon the group. Very easy to do in a religious setting.(or political in the case of certain campaigne rallies) This is why Bush was demonized!
4. Offer them a solution, or way to get rid of that guilt.
Bingo, you have them under your control. They are in a trance and will do what you say no matter how bizarre. They have surrendered their control to you and have given up their individual ability to use their logic to discern truth from non-truth.
As I wallked to my car in the rain afterward, I asked God..”Why was I led here to see this atrocity?” And the answer came back loud and clear... “This is how the anti-messiah will lead the people.” Please don’t stretch this too much and try to apply it to the present political environment. Emotional decision makers make a descision makers make a decision and then look for the facts to support it, being blind to all in contrary. Do not fall into this trap.
PLOEASE DO NOT LET THE ABOVE STORY DISCOUNT THE REAL PROCESS
Incidently, the actions of the group in the trance included speaking in tongues, interpreting tongues, prophesy, healings, and all the other attributes of the Holy Spirit!
PLEASE DO NOT LET THE ABOVE STORY DISCOUNT THE REAL PROCESS
This is sound advise, no doubt. Having discernment is a wonderful gift. It is something I wish I had more of.
I will not endorse anyone declaring gifts from God without being able to be eyeball to eyeball with them, because what little discernment I do have presents itself in the physical presence of the person.
It is hard to describe- with some it is weak, and one must lay a hand to them... with most it is within a few steps... with some, quite a long distance away.
For me, it is not "sight", but more of a perception in the air... an aura, for wont of a better word, almost like air pressure, and something behind/within/around the eyes... an "authority". Sometimes it is "kindred", and sometimes, it is most definitely NOT (hair on the back of your neck kind of *not*).
But it is not something I can perceive in all people, as you describe. For me it is particular people. Folks I am there to interact with... And it is not something I have at my disposal either... It seems to be reserved for important occasions only. I wish it were given to me more abundantly.
But on to your point:
The tale you tell is one that is often used against Pentecostal/Charismatic folks - False charism and emotionalism - and it is TRUE. It is something that must certainly be guarded against.
Any Pentecostal will agree that they have found false spirit in a church, and testimony abounds regarding churches that started out with God, and showing gifts of the Spirit, but fell prey to false charism later and adopted false doctrines and familiar spirits in their confusion.
But for the most part, if folks listen to the Spirit (indwelling), this is less likely to happen. In fact, IMHO, it is worth the risk, and far better to try and fail, than to be in a church that is dead... lukewarm, with no Spirit in it at all.
I testify from the other direction: Having been given visions and dreams, and such as the Spirit has given me, I was in a church and denomination which was too narrow for the Spirit to inhabit. I sought direction from my church leaders, from my denominational leaders, from other denominations, and etcetera, and *none* told me it was the Spirit.
In those days, every time I prayed, the Spirit would come upon me, and it was wonderful. The visions were not, for the most part, and still are not. But they are not supposed to be - They are apocalyptic.
But *none* of those church leaders were interested in the least. ALL of them lead me away from it. They told me not to pray so much, or so long... that my style of praying was wrong. Whatever could be done to STOP me from being in the Spirit.
For a very long time, I languished. I went away from the church and went far from God. So far away, that one day, the Spirit left me. I KNOW the difference.
YES. BE CAREFUL. But don't be dead to the Spirit. One is supposed to be baptized in water and fire:
Mar 1:8 I indeed have baptized you with water: but he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost.
I KNOW that if one cannot absolutely recall the very moment the Spirit came upon you, it is unlikely that the Spirit ever has. And I know that there are many, many churches that are full of people like that, because I was one of them.
It is incredibly important to look for the gifts of the Spirit - They are guaranteed to be in God's Church, and in His people...