In our last Prophetic Telegraph I referred to the current wave of spiritual power that is sweeping the United States and Britain, and although I never mentioned the name, most people have now read about it in the papers, or seen excerpts on the television news. It is commonly called “The Toronto Blessing.” The name derives from the supposed source of this “blessing”, because the main figure in bringing this new wave of power is Rodney Howard-Browne, a South African who lives in Toronto. In this number, our purpose will not be to denigrate any individual, or speak harshly about groups of believers. Even if we have serious doubts about their activities, we have no desire to criticise or judge those who are our own brethren in the Lord Jesus Christ, washed by the same precious blood of Calvary. Rather do we see that Satan has managed to foist his own deceitful plans on the church in these end times, and it is against his plans that we now write.
Our continual prayer and plea to God our Father is that Satan’s work will be made manifest, so that he will bite the dust yet again. This has been our prayer for a quarter of a century, since the charismatic movement began in earnest. And now that a new wave of power has begun, we address those prayers the more earnestly before the throne of grace. We do not doubt for one moment that a great surge of power has been liberated. But we are not so gullible as to believe that all power derives from the Holy Spirit of God. The main thrust of this number of the Telegraph is to see how the Lord, long ago, spoke about current events through the prophet Malachi.
A brief perusal of the four chapters of Malachi must surely display the fact that the people to whom he wrote were BLIND to what they were doing. Blindness was the factor that came out of the SUGAR-ICE-DUCK vision. Those who ate the sugar became progressively blind to the truth. And as a result they were ultimately claiming the black beast to be their leader. Such blindness doesn’t happen over night. We have seen the development of it in the charismatic church for 25 years, and now it seems almost total. It is our considered opinion that if the events now being reported from Toronto were suddenly to have appeared in ANY CHURCH in the United Kingdom at the beginning of the 1960s, they would have immediately been treated as spurious. Christians would have denounced them as being either from the Devil or from a hyped-up psychic state due to some hypnotic influence.
“The burden of the word of the Lord to Israel by Malachi”. The condition that obtained some 400 years before the birth of Christ, obtains again today. The Lord was troubled by the state of His people, and their blindness.
He says, “I have loved you,” and they respond, “Wherein have You loved us?” (1:2)
He says to the priests, “You have despised my name,” and they respond, “Wherein have we despised Your name?”(1:6)
And again the Lord says to the priests, “You have offered polluted bread on My altar,” and they say “Wherein have we polluted You.” (1:7)
With the priests still in mind, the Lord says, “I will not regard your offering any more,” and they reply, “Why not?” (2:14)
Yet again the Lord says to Israel, “You have wearied me with your words,” and they answer saying, “In what respect have we wearied You?” (2:17)
And again the Lord says, “Return to Me and I will return to you,” and they seem totally perplexed, saying, “In what respect shall we return?” In other words they never even realised that they had gone away! (3:7)
Finally, the seventh time, the Lord says to them, “Your words have been stout against Me,” and they reply, in so many words, “What have we said that we shouldn’t?” (3:13)
It will be profitable for us to consider the LAST of these seven responses in a little more detail, because it depicts fairly clearly the problem that now obtains amongst many of God’s people. “What have we spoken against You?” they say, and the Lord says, “You have said, ‘It is vain to serve God; what profit is there in keeping His commandments? or in mourning before the Lord of Hosts? As from now we shall call the arrogant blessed, and those who practise lawlessness shall be established, and whoever puts the Lord to the test shall escape (punishment)'”
Six items are contained in this, the Lord’s own summary of what they say. Of course, none of them ever uttered words EXACTLY like that, but the Lord saw them as flowing from a heart that had become blind to the clean, pure, and holy way He had set before them from the days of Mount Sinai.
1. IT IS VAIN TO SERVE GOD. But the Lord had said “You shall not take the Lord’s name in vain.” The outworking was such that they had grown weary of serving the Lord with a whole heart, because there was little evidence of God’s power and presence amongst them. They were craving something more tangible, in exactly the same way that the children of Israel had craved a golden calf in the days of Moses’ absence from their midst. And in these days Christians have become seekers after EXPERIENCES, rather than seekers after the Lord Himself. Ever since the Charismatic Movement started, and the powers of the Holy Spirit were widely advertised, people have flocked to places where they can SEE and HEAR the power at work, in tongues, healing, and prophetic utterance. We are not knocking the value of these gifts, far from it, but referring to the appetites of the human flesh, and when the FLESH craves the SPIRIT, it creates a deception of monumental proportions.
2. WHAT PROFIT IS THERE FOR US TO KEEP HIS COMMANDMENTS? But Jesus said, “If you love Me, you will keep my commandments.” Bearing in mind that the question came from their hearts, rather than from their lips, what do the words signify? In today’s world, how many Christians are prepared to take the Sermon on the Mount seriously? From our own point of view, although we view it with great seriousness, yet we find that it is so exacting, that it finds us out constantly. The more we study it, and ask the Lord for help to keep it, the more aware do we become of our own shortcomings. But coupled with this is the comforting knowledge that “we are forgiven all of our sins by the riches of His grace.” So what does this mean in the present day climate? It means that the pathway of difficulty, the “way of the cross”, has been down-graded, and another principle allowed to rise in its place, that of “health and wealth,” of “triumphalism,” of “name it and claim it,” and of “kids of the King.” Under these headings a new “gospel” is being preached which is no gospel at all. It takes away all the necessity for suffering, and promotes the right to riches, and therefore, although no one would ever think of dismissing the Sermon on the Mount, in effect it has been laid on one side, and that is why God would read the heart as saying, “What profit is there for us to keep His commandments?”
3.WHAT PROFIT IS THERE FOR US TO WALK AS MOURNERS BEFORE THE LORD? This follows on from the last item. As the “prosperity gospel” declares, the believer’s right is for riches, not poverty, not only in the spiritual realm, but also in the material realm. Hence any sign of mourning, sadness, unhappiness, lack of joy, etc., would cause the leaders to look upon it with suspicion, and attempt to deliver that person from whatever hindrance afflicted them. But Jesus said, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” There must therefore be a place for sadness and mourning in the Christian’s life. Jesus also condemned the attitude of the Laodicean saints, who said “We are rich and have need of nothing.” Instead He said, “Blessed are are poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.” And before Solomon lost the wisdom God gave him, he pronounced through his own experience, “Sorrow is to be preferred to laughter, for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made stronger. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.” (Eccl.7:3-4) Those who walk the narrow way have always found it to be accompanied by sorrows. They become “men of sorrows acquainted with grief” like their Master. There is no lack of pure joy, but holy joy is not to be equated with raucous laughter and high jinks.
4. FROM NOW ON WE SHALL CALL THE ARROGANT BLESSED. Arrogance and pride are works of the flesh, and have no place in the spiritual life of a believer. Although we all possess some measure of these evil works, the Master progressively purges them from us as we seek to walk faithfully before Him. So what did these people mean? They were discarding the life of humility and replacing it with a life of showmanship. God calls it arrogance or pride. They would have used different words. They would have spoken of “aggressive evangelism”, and “power healing” to depict today’s trends in Christian living. And work of this sort requires men of “charisma” (to use the word in the sense the world uses it), who would be ready and willing to be “up front”, names that become world-famous as preachers and healers. But this is a far cry from the One who never lifted up His voice in the street, and whose care and concern was such that He never “bruised a broken reed, or extinguished a smoking flax.” Neither did He want His name advertised as a “healer”. “Go and tell no man,” was His frequent message to the healed.
5. THE LAWLESS SHALL BE ESTABLISHED. The antichrist is dubbed “the man of lawlessness.” The Lord has always been against those who break His laws, whether the laws of Sinai, or the Sermon on the Mount. “Whosoever shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven.”These are the words of our Master. How then can men declare that the lawless shall be established? Once again, the Lord hears these words from men’s hearts, and not from their lips. Those who practise lawlessness do not see it as such. They have chosen the aggressive life-style of power and riches, believing it to be an effective tool in evangelism. Their blindness has led them to follow this course, even though it cannot equate in the slightest with the Sermon on the Mount. And their methods, which are humanly devised, are justified in their own eyes, and by them they believe they will “be established.”
6. THOSE WHO PUT GOD TO THE TEST WILL ESCAPE PUNISHMENT. Jesus spoke to the Devil in the wilderness, saying “You shall not put God to the test.” What was he referring to? The Devil had urged Him to throw Himself off the pinnacle of the Temple. For what reason? Simply that such an act of showmanship would produce gasps from the crowds, and they would immediately set Him up as the Messiah. But the Lord was not into showmanship. He sought to be understood quietly by those whose eyes had been opened to the truth of who He was. He refused to “put God to the test.” But today “big name men” are constantly seeking miracles to substantiate their OWN POSITION as healers and miracle workers before gaping crowds. And the blindness of these leaders is such that they throw off any suggestion of being punished for their actions.
We believe that all the signs of these six attitudes have been escalating in the charismatic movement for a quarter of a century. Furthermore, the movement has now become so well established throughout the land that to try to stop it would be like stopping a huge spinning wheel full of built-up momentum. No, the only course of action lies in giving the word of caution to those who are still capable of listening, and saying to them, “Come out.” This was the thrust of one of the two brief prophetic messages we published at the end of Telegraph 56.
But the coming of the “Toronto Blessing” brings vastly new power onto the world stage. It is spread by contagion. Those who have “received it” are then able to “pass it on” to those who haven’t. And those who firmly believe it to be the power of God’s Holy Spirit, are prepared to go forth and use it to “take the Kingdom by force” on behalf of the Lord. They are delighted with the sudden arrival and availability of this power, many times greater than anything known to the charismatic movement hitherto. But we want to caution our readers not to imagine that ALL power derives from the Holy Spirit. If all the areas of disobedience depicted above are practised by those “up-front” in the charismatic scene, then it would be impossible for the Lord to honour what they are doing with true holy power. But there is one who comes in his own name, who would be willing to supply unlimited power for the sake of effect. This we believe to be the antichrist, now very much at work within the Christian church.
Be not deceived by the apparent healings that may be in evidence. Our souls are of far greater value than our bodies. Edgar Trout had a ministry of healing back in the late 1960s, and he declared that it was nothing for Satan to be holding a man round the throat to strangle him, so that when prayed for he might declare that he had been healed. All that had happened was for the Devil to release his grip for the sake of deception. But the crowds would praise the Lord in ignorance. He said that the Lord had shown him this during a time of retreat. Ask yourselves whether you could imagine the Lord indulging in the antics prevalent within the Toronto blessing. Can you imagine Jesus laughing uncontrollably? (This is the most prevalent form of this new “blessing.”) Or stamping His feet, or banging His head against the wall, or jogging on the spot, or jumping up and down as though on a pogo stick, or lying on the ground feeling like a lump of immovable concrete. To interpret any of these activities as being the work of the Holy Spirit of God is to express godlessness resulting from blindness. Wake up, people of God! Treat this new thing for what it’s worth! Denounce it publicly, and summon people to repentance before it is too late. Let us all be part of a crusade to expose this new evil for what it is, a work of the Devil. May God give us grace to help our brethren in this time of great need, and if possible, deliver them.