Recently, while in a time of fellowship with the Lord, He said this: "Demons perform on demand, especially when My Name is spoken. This is one of their favorite deceptions. But know this, I am a Sovereign God. I don’t come every time someone calls, and I don’t perform on command. I only act according to My will and purpose and in My timing. And I don’t act to bless you, I act to fulfill My will and purpose, which is a blessing to you"
In other words, God isn’t sitting around waiting for people to call His name so He can come running to see what they want. He isn’t like some trained circus animal, ready to jump through a hoop as soon as someone sticks one in His face. How ludicrous! Yet that’s exactly what many in the traditional church believe today. They travel around from place to place, drive for hours, and spend thousands of dollars on airfare and motels to see the latest circus, otherwise known as a "signs and wonders revival meeting". All because they think certain anointed men have this gift of making God do what they want, when they want. This won’t be popular, but I have to say it, if that’s what you believe, then you don’t know God! You only have a conception of God, and it’s a wrong one.
When you look at it in context (something that’s not very popular today, isolated phrases and verses are a lot more flexible), Ezekiel 20:9,14,22 all tell us that God acts to protect His name and reputation in the midst of unbelievers. What He doesn’t do is act continually on demand for a bunch of people who claim to be believers already! But, the part of what the Lord said to me that really intrigued me was what He said about demons being willing to perform on demand. I wanted to know more about that, so I asked the Holy Spirit to reveal the truth to me. What He did was take me to Matthew 12. The following is a paraphrase of verses 22-45, after which, I’ll make some comments on what the Spirit has shown me.
Then they brought a man to Jesus who was both blind and dumb, because he was afflicted by a demon. Jesus cast out the demon and the man began to both see and speak.
This amazed the crowd and they started asking among themselves, Could this be the Son of David? (The Messiah, John 7:42)
But when the Pharisees heard what was going on, they were contemptuous and immediately set out to discredit Jesus by saying, This Man drives out demons only with the help of Beelzebub, the lord of the flies.
And Jesus discerned what they were thinking and what was taking place in the spirit realm. So He said to them, Any kingdom working against itself is slowly, but surely, being destroyed. When members of the same family fight each other, that family can’t last.
And if Satan is driving out his own (and he certainly is), then he’s fighting against himself. So, how long do you think he’s going to last?
Now, you’re saying that I can only cast out demons with Satan’s help; then tell me, with whose help do your disciples cast them out? Because of your own deceit, those same disciples will stand to accuse you in the Judgment (because you’ve convinced them that they’re driving out demons with God’s help, but they’re not).
But if I cast out demons with the help of the Spirit of God, then the Kingdom of God has come to you and you don’t recognize it.
How is it possible to go into a strong man’s house and carry away his possessions? First, you have to overcome the strong man, and then you can do whatever you want.
The truth is, I’m at war with Satan (and I’m winning). And if you’re not on My side, then you’re on his; if you’re not fighting with Me, you’re fighting against Me.
And here’s something else you should know: any evil that you do or hurtful thing you say can be forgiven, except this one thing – speaking against the Holy Spirit cannot be forgiven. You cannot deny the work and ministry of the Holy Spirit.
If you speak against the Son of Man, it can be forgiven. But, when you speak against the Holy Spirit, you’re severing the only connection you have with the One Who forgives, and you will not be forgiven in this time or in the time to come. This kind of spiritual blindness is fatal.
The tree is either healthy, and its fruit good; or the tree is diseased, and its fruit is worthless. You can tell everything you need to know about a tree by looking at its fruit.
Your fruit betrays you; you’re nothing but a bunch of snakes, just like your fathers. Your hearts are full of evil, so it eventually flows out of your mouths.
I can always tell, because good men are full of good things, and that good can always be seen in them. But, by that same token, evil men are full of evil, and their evil is always apparent.
And I’m telling you now; on the Day of Judgment men will be held accountable for every worthless word they’ve ever spoken against God.
So, by your words you will either be found not guilty, or you will be found guilty and condemned.
This confrontation caused several of the scribes and Pharisees to soften their stance a bit and they asked Jesus, Master, show us just one more miracle to prove that You really are Who You say You are.
And Jesus replied, What you’re asking now only proves what I’ve just said. Only a worthless, unfaithful generation that loves the world more than they love God, would continually demand miracles for proof of God’s existence. But, no more will be given, except the one that Jonah represents.
He lay dead for three days and three nights in the belly of a sea monster, and the Spirit of God led him out alive! Likewise, the Son of Man will also lay dead for three days and three nights in the earth and then be brought out alive!
The men of Nineveh will stand against you on the Day of Judgment and condemn you, because they heard Jonah’s message and repented. Open your eyes, One greater than Jonah is standing right in front of you!
Even the Queen of Sheba will condemn you. She went to great difficulty to find Solomon and hear his wisdom. But, again, One greater than Solomon is standing here now!
When an unclean spirit has gone out of a man of its own accord, it wanders around looking for another place, but it can’t find one.
So it says, I’ll just go back to the place I was before; after all, there’s nothing there to stop me. And when it comes back, sure enough, the place is swept clean, empty and ready to be occupied again.
Then, the unclean spirit goes out and finds seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they all go in and make themselves at home. So, the last condition of this man is far worse than the first. And so it is with every wicked generation.
Now, before we get started, let me warn you. This paper is a mixed bag. I’ve been waiting for several months now to write a paper on the ministry of the Holy Spirit, and the Lord kept restraining me. But I just realized this is it. The Lord has used this passage in Matthew 12 to give me the opportunity to use the information He’s given me on the ministry of the Spirit. So, I’ll follow this passage and talk about it, but as we go through this you’ll see an explanation of the ministry of the Spirit come out. Just understand, as is usually the case, this is not a definitive presentation of all that the Spirit does; it’s what He wants us to see at this time.
O.K., so, Jesus heals a man possessed by a demon and the jealous Pharisees, seeing their followers being drawn away, begin to try to discredit Him. But in verse 25 it says, "Jesus knew their thoughts". It doesn’t say, Jesus read their lips, or, Jesus heard them talking. He discerned by the Spirit what was going on. Then by divine revelation, He not only confronts the Pharisees; He exposes the activities of Satan and those in the demonic realm.
In verses 25-29, Jesus acknowledges that Satan, in fact, does drive out his own for the purpose of deceiving those involved. But then Jesus says that since He drives out demons with the help of the Spirit of God, then the Kingdom of God had come. And being the spiritual pygmies they were, the Pharisees couldn’t tell the difference. Then in verse 30, He tells them the war is on and they’d better get on the winning side.
We need to stop here for a minute. Satan does drive out his own. As I’ve already stated, the Lord has shown me that one of Satan’s favorite deceptions is to cause the super-natural to happen, especially when the name of God is invoked. Think about it, what better way to deceive? People ask God for something, they get it, so they naturally think God answered their prayer. The Scriptures plainly tell us that Satan has the ability to do supernatural things and he has the ability to enable men to do supernatural things on his behalf (Matthew 24:24; II Thessalonians 2:8-12). He can also make himself look like someone good and righteous, acceptable to those who are deceived and don’t really know the true God. In their deception, Satan’s lies look like truth (II Corinthians 11:13-15). And, we already know it’s possible for men to do miraculous things in Jesus name, even when they don’t really know Him (Matthew 7:21-23).
Put all that together and you see a description of a large portion of the traditional church today. Men continually call on God to do supernatural things. Many of them actually happen. They sincerely believe God showed up, but He didn’t, demons are responsible for what is happening. But the people get excited. They think it was God. They’re deceived into thinking supernatural manifestations are the best and highest experience they can have with God. They settle for that and never pursue God and His real purpose for their lives. So they never experience salvation. Some day they’ll stand before the Lord and will be shocked when they hear these words, "Depart from me you lawless rebels, I never knew you at all!"
Now, Matthew is just talking about demon possession here, but the scope of this activity is much broader. Satan has always promoted and participated in religions that promise healing, material blessings or other supernatural manifestations. Don’t misunderstand what I’m saying here. God does heal. He does bless obedience. He does manifest Himself sometimes in supernatural ways to get our attention. But, there are those today who have made healing, material blessing and supernatural manifestations their religion. All you have to do is turn on your local religious TV channel, watch for 5 minutes, and you’ll see what I mean. Whoever happens to be on at the time will probably be talking about one of those things. Satan’s goal is to distract people from the true purpose of God and get them to accept a counterfeit. He’s happy to accommodate those who only go to God on their own terms – on the basis of what they want from Him. And as we’ve discussed many times before, when you choose the wrong thing, God will allow you to have it. But, it’s not His blessing. It’s His curse. It’s an insult to a Holy, Righteous God, when people care more about the things He can give them than about knowing and loving Him.
Church history shows us many examples of this. There have been many so-called revivals in the past and up to the present, that illustrate the fact that people are more interested in what God can do or what He can give than Who He is. A real revival is when people repent, forsake their wickedness and submit themselves to God to receive His will and purpose. The Holy Spirit then begins to put them through a long, quiet, deep, sometimes joyful, sometimes excruciating, often frustrating, more often confusing, personal, process of stripping away their flesh and conforming them to the image of Christ. Revival is not a nightly, thrill-packed, supernatural manifestation sideshow. In its most benign form, it’s not an evangelistic crusade designed to increase church membership. And while I’m on the subject, there are those who try to document the validity of certain manifestations currently being displayed in "revivals" today by pointing out the fact that those same manifestations occurred in past revivals. Well, I’m sorry, but the Lord reminded me that Satan and his hordes started playing these games long before history ever recorded a revival!
And while I’m still on the subject, let me clarify that some so-called revivals in the past may have started as a result of a genuine act of God. But, since the church is structured like it is, the organizational form, the professional clergy, the bottom line (greed), and the worldly mindset, all combine to make it impossible for a genuine move of God to move very far. If the traditional church could learn anything from its history, it should learn that in it’s present institutional form; it has the innate ability to quench the Spirit, quickly. And when you quench the Spirit, the demons show up and go to work.
Well, I chased that rabbit about as far as it needs to be chased. But, there is one more thing. Revival doesn’t really happen to a group of people anyway, though it can happen to a group of individuals at the same time. Relationship with God is not a group activity. One of the greatest failures of the traditional church is its refusal to recognize the fact that the most important characteristic of the Christian faith is its individuality. Spending time alone with God, one on one, has to be our first priority. Personal intimacy is foundational. Little or nothing of real value is ever accomplished in congregational meetings or Sunday school classrooms.
In the right context, personal ministry times (those led by the Holy Spirit) can be helpful, but personal time with God is still more important. Fellowship times with like-minded believers can be sweet, but fellowship with God is sweeter. When traditional church ministry reduces Christianity to a group exercise, it becomes a mind-numbing, spiritual dead end. In its most efficient form, a congregational service can do no more than point someone towards God. They’ll eventually have to follow that up on their own. Christianity is not a spectator sport. It’s really not even a team sport. It’s an individual sport, where the participants cheer each other on, and encourage each other to be the best they can be.
I suppose now would be a good time to repeat myself in regards to the real purpose of God. As He said, and I repeated at the beginning of this paper, God doesn’t act to bless us, He acts to fulfill His will and purpose, which is a blessing to us. And what is His will and purpose? His will is to conform us to the image of His Son Jesus Christ, and His purpose is to do that through the sanctifying work of His Holy Spirit, but only when we submit to Him. God isn’t interested in what we want, He’s interested in who we are. He’s not interested in accommodating our sin. He wants to change us. People today don’t want to change, they just want God to accept them where they are and give them the stuff. And they aren’t interested in submitting to God. They want Him to submit to them.
Well, enough of that. Now we have to deal with verses 31-32. Back in verse 24, the Pharisees accused Jesus of being in cahoots with the Devil, denying that He was really working in the power of the Holy Spirit. So, Jesus warns them here that spiritual blindness (blasphemy) is fatal. How many people today who profess to know God are actually afflicted with this same spiritual blindness? And what is spiritual blindness you may ask? It’s not being able to discern the work and ministry of the Holy Spirit. The Pharisees were so caught up in their religiosity they couldn’t recognize true spirituality. When Jesus operated in the power of the Holy Spirit, they couldn’t see it, or didn’t want to. Either way, they were dead.
And these questions beg to be asked at this point. What about all those denominational people who want to believe God is a benevolent Being who wouldn’t send anyone to hell, therefore, everyone’s going to heaven; can they discern the work and ministry of the Holy Spirit? (They’re oblivious to it.) Are all those Baptists who accept the Scriptures as their only source of faith and practice (you know, the ones who run from the room holding their ears any time the Holy Spirit is mentioned) able to discern the work and ministry of the Holy Spirit? (They’re afraid of it.) Do the conservative, evangelical groups that reduce salvation to an easy-believism, four-point outline, discern the work and ministry of the Holy Spirit? (They only give polite lip service to it.) And what about all those Pentecostals and Charismatics who say they believe in the Holy Spirit, but spend all their time chasing around after the stuff; can they discern the real work and ministry of the Holy Spirit? (They redefined it and got lost in their own deception.) And can the Catholics, who elevate the Pope and the Blessed Mother above Jesus and ignore the Holy Spirit, discern the work and ministry of the Holy Spirit? (They replaced it with their own program over 1700 years ago.) What else can I say? This whole religious quagmire is in a world of hurt!
So, what is the work and ministry of the Holy Spirit? I’m glad you asked. I have several passages I’d like to share with you on this. The first deals with this idea of spiritual blindness and is found in II Corinthians 3:16-18:
And whenever anyone turns to the Lord in repentance and humility, their spiritual blindness is taken away.
And that’s not all. The Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord goes He brings freedom from the corruption and deception of the world.
Then, in this newfound freedom and with the spiritual darkness gone, the Holy Spirit can begin to show us what Jesus really looks like (it’s as if we’re looking in a mirror at ourselves, and what we see is Jesus). And as we embrace Him, we’re transformed more and more into His image – from one glorious manifestation to another!
What did Paul say? When you chase after the stuff, then your spiritual blindness will be taken away? When you find a church with a talented preacher, the best children’s programs and a professional-sounding worship team, then your spiritual blindness will be taken away? No, of course not! When you go to God in repentance and humility. Only then can the Holy Spirit begin His work in you. And what’s the work? To accomplish the purpose of the Father, which is to show us what Jesus looks like, so we can embrace Him and be changed!
Of course, when considering the purpose of God and the ministry of the Holy Spirit, Romans 8 comes to mind. When you follow Paul’s presentation here, the connection between the two is certain. We’ll just look at a couple of verses (9, 14, and 28-29).
But you’re not letting your sinful nature tell you what to do; instead, you’re listening to the Holy Spirit, He’s living inside of you.
Because all those who continually listen to the Spirit of God are the sons of God.
And we can be assured that everything works together to accomplish His redemptive plan for those who love God and have responded to the call of His Divine purpose.
He always knew who would respond, and had determined from the beginning that we would be conformed to the image of His Son, the first of many like Him, who would come after Him.
In Galatians 5:16-18, 22-25 Paul’s point is that when you follow the leadership of the Holy Spirit, the result will be that you’ll be like Christ (the fruits of the Spirit are manifestations of Christ’s character). Again, the connection is unmistakable. The Holy Spirit’s ministry is to accomplish the purpose of the Father in our lives. The purpose of the Father is to make us like the Son.
And in I Thessalonians 4:1-3, 8 Paul encourages us to not become self-satisfied; but keep striving to be more and more like Christ, dedicated to a pure and holy lifestyle. And, that if we reject this, then we’re rejecting the God Whose Spirit He gives to make it all possible. You can’t be like Christ without the ministry of the Holy Spirit.
There is, too, a parallel I’d like to point out between these two verses. II Thessalonians 2:13b "…because He chose you from the beginning to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit and your firm belief in the Truth." And Hebrews 12:14 "Pursue peace and holiness, without which no man will ever see the Lord." The word translated "sanctifying work" and "holiness" is the same Greek word hagiasmos (a term used generally to designate a turning away from the flesh and the things of the world to embrace and submit to the things of God, facilitated by the ministry of the Holy Spirit). I naturally point this out simply to show that without the ministry of the Holy Spirit, we’re dead in the water, no hope, nada!
For the most part, professing Christianity today knows nothing about the real will and purpose of God and hasn’t a clue what the true work and ministry of the Holy Spirit is all about. It is literally the blind leading the blind. As we go back to the passage in Matthew, in verses 33-37 Jesus confronts the Pharisees, calls them a bunch of snakes and tells them to be careful what they say, because they’re going to be held accountable for it. In verse 38 they seem to back off a bit, but still press Him to do another miracle to prove Himself.
This brings us to another pivotal verse. In verse 39 Jesus in His characteristic style says it like it is: "Any generation that continually seeks after miracles is both worthless and unfaithful." Jesus calls them worthless, because the purpose of God will never be accomplished in them. They don’t know what His purpose is, and they don’t want to know. They’re happy with things just the way they are. They’re unfaithful, because the things of the world are more important to them than God. They don’t want God. They just want all the things they think God can give them. Of course, this verse isn’t just for the generation of Jesus’ day.
To me, this is the apostasy spoken of by Paul in II Thessalonians 2:3, where he describes the time when most professing Christians will abandon the true faith. When I look at the church today, I see a people who want to come to God on their own terms (on the basis of what they think or what they want). They don’t come to God in repentance and humility, ready to submit to what He requires, willing to receive only what He wants to give. In the church today there can be only two eventual results, both of them bad. When apostasy rules the day, the only things it can produce are deception or disappointment. And when I look at the traditional church today, I can see just how successful Satan's devices have been. For the most part, there’s no middle ground. People get involved in churches and are either hooked by some form of deception, or they realize their expectations aren’t being fulfilled, and get disappointed and leave in bitterness and confusion. Either way, Satan wins.
As we continue to follow this passage in verses 40-42, Jesus talks about His death and resurrection and chides the Pharisees again for not recognizing Who He is. Then we come to an interesting parenthetical passage that refers back to what Jesus was talking about in verses 24-28, and 39. Here, Jesus explains that when a demon leaves a person he has possessed (He doesn’t say the demon was cast out or forced to leave, He’s talking about a voluntary thing, remember, Satan casts out his own), he soon returns and finds that there is nothing to prevent him from reoccupying the same place. But, instead of coming back alone, he goes out and finds other demons to return with him. The result is a condition far worse than before.
Then Jesus applies this principle to a generation, describing a downward spiral of apostasy. When people allow themselves to be deceived. When they don’t make the effort that’s required to really know the truth. When they refuse to submit to a Holy God. When they allow themselves to get caught up in Satan’s devices. When they’re satisfied with religion. When they fail to recognize the work and ministry of the Holy Spirit. Things don’t improve; they get worse. The deception gets stronger, the disappointments get deeper, the destruction more real. This all describes the present generation in the traditional church.
In closing I’ll quote from II Thessalonians 2:9-12, a passage that the Lord has told me applies directly to the world today, and specifically to the traditional church of today. Actually, I should tell you specifically what the Lord told me, that the events described in II Thessalonians 2 (events that lead to the coming of antichrist and a great worldwide rebellion against God) have already begun. The Holy Spirit has been withdrawn and the spiritual condition of the church continues its downward spiral, as you would expect it to, being guided by human reason and demonic influence. Look at the whole chapter and allow the Holy Spirit to reveal this truth to you. Here’s the paraphrase of verses 9-12:
This rebellion will come through the work of Satan himself, who will enable those who follow him to display all sorts of supernatural manifestations, miracles and convincing signs to prove that God is on their side – all of them lying wonders used to deceive.
There will be no limit to the ever-increasing deceptions and perversions Satan will use to seduce people into joining his rebellion, and these are the ones who are perishing because they refused to love the Truth so they could be saved.
And since they refused to love the truth, God will cast an overwhelming delusion over them to make them believe the lies.
And they will all be condemned because they would not follow the Truth; but, instead, were more than willing, even happy, to be a part of the rebellion.
And if you intend to love the Truth, you’ll pursue Him with every fiber of your being, every day for the rest of your life! And in the midst of that pursuit, you’ll learn to allow the Holy Spirit to be your helper, your counselor, your guide, your intercessor, your source of revelation, and your friend. The ministry of the Holy Spirit is the key to your success!
"And when the Comforter comes, Whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of Truth Who prepares you to come to the Father, He will tell you everything you need to know about Me." (John 15:26)