Counterfeit Charismatics

Counterfeit Charismatics have stripped themselves of the world's clothes, but remain naked and spiritually dead. In their exposure they grab at anything that might cover them and provide them with physical and emotional comfort. In every wind and wave of doctrine that their false teachers blow at them, they feel temporary shelter, but it never lasts. They keep coming back in order to receive a greater touch, thinking (and taught to believe) that it is the Holy Spirit who has been touching them all along, when it is actually another spirit.

Aside: It is very important to understand that in all of this labeling and defining it has never been and will never be my intention to judge or exclude any person from the Christian faith based on their expressiveness, or lack thereof, in worship. It's hard enough to discern whether a charismatic expression is authentic or not. Anyone can fool anyone else, and indeed I myself have fooled many people. The only One who cannot be fooled is the only Judge to whom our worship is directed. And although I am no judge in these matters I feel responsible to simply make it known that these people do exist and to do my best to discern between spirits. Beware that we don't confuse judgment for discernment, and be certain that the Gospel is the standard by which we discern the spirits.

Again, let me reiterate here that the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the fullness of grace and truth, must enter a person's soul in order for his body to manifest its affection in a true charismatic expression. If a charismatic is, in the purest sense of the word, "filled with grace," then Counterfeit Charismatics are not truly charismatic, although they appear to be. They are really non-charismatic, because grace has not filled their soul. They are charismatic, though, in the weaker sense of the word, meaning expressive. Or how about this definition from my dictionary widget: "exercising a compelling charm that inspires devotion in others."

Counterfeit Charismatics, like all humans, have an innate need for community, which for them is satisfied most often, although not exclusively, in special congregations where they can be "free in the Spirit." They gather in "Jesus' Name" but don't understand His mediation. They use the Bible but only to support their unbiblical agenda. To be sure, these churches seldom proclaim the Gospel, which makes it virtually impossible for their spiritual experience to be of God, and, I might add, for their sense of belonging to be genuine.

These communities, then, function more as exclusive clubs for those who have been "filled with the Spirit," confirmed by speaking in tongues, to feed off of the emotions of one another and to mimic each other and their leaders. Many of them exclude non-charismatic Christians from the faith, saying they aren't true Christians until they are "baptized in the Spirit" and prove it by speaking in tongues. There is a hope, I guess, since they call themselves Christians, and since they bring their Bibles, that the Gospel might incidentally be stumbled across, which then might invoke a genuine move of the Holy Spirit. But they might not recognize a real move of God, because it would probably look a lot different than the false, hyped-up ones they're so used to.

I should note that it is not only in these exclusive communities that fake charismatic expressions of worship occur. Even Genuine Charismatics are prone to have bouts of false worship experiences, as all humans are swayed, to an extant, by ungodly emotions and manipulations, no matter how well-intended they are. The moment anyone moves away from the Gospel, danger lurks. And even the best of us forget the Gospel on a regular basis. The difference between Counterfeit Charismatics, as I have labeled them, and Genuine Charismatics is the regeneration factor, the latter being alive in Christ and able to receive and respond freely to His grace. One more thing, to try to cover all my bases, is that the actions of a person who is genuinely manifesting the Gospel at work in his soul can possibly be observed and mimicked by another person who is really unaffected by the Gospel, thus making his own experience counterfeit. The hope is that the person who is merely faking is in a place where the Gospel is faithfully proclaimed. Perhaps his heart will be made alive and he will become truly charismatic.

Speaking from personal experience now, in the Counterfeit Charismatic circles in which I was raised (and I hesitate to call them counterfeit, because I am now lumping many people I know and love into this group, some of whom are most assuredly regenerate, Spirit-filled believers, but most of whom are stuck in this Gospel-less nightmare), the exaltation of the personal/individual experience in "worship" far outweighed the communal element, which I am convinced is an unbiblical thing and a hindrance to a true encounter with God. This is reflective of the narcissism that permeates Contemporary Praise and Worship, the forty year old movement which happens to have its roots in the charismatic movement. I have actually participated in a worship service where the worship leader told us to draw a box around ourselves, so as not to be distracted by anyone around us, and to "make love to Jesus."

In those Charismatic settings, there was also very little proclamation of the Gospel, and when I say that, I'm not talking about the preaching of topical sermons and altar calls. There was plenty of that, but there was no christocentric continuing in the doctrine of the apostles. Knowledge was subject to experience. Theology, in fact, was frowned upon. All we needed was "Jesus" and "the Bible." I am convinced, looking back, that I was not taught to worship the God of the Bible. Rather, I was encouraged to "go after" God in "charismatic worship," the primary means by which, I was taught, God reveals Himself to us. What really happened was, in those moments of charismatic expression, because there was no revelation of the true and living God as He is spoken of in Scripture (there was virtually no biblical exposition, just Bible verses to magically support the preacher's topic), I created my own imaginary god.

It seems the charismatic worship I partook of in my past was initiated by man. We would come, either stir ourselves up with music or immediately "enter in" with exuberant actions, and wait for the Holy Spirit to fall upon us. The important thing to notice is the order of events: We initiate, God responds. If God responded with an unusual outpouring, we would react accordingly. Sometimes we would skip the sermon altogether and sing and pray and come to the altar for a couple of hours, experiencing "renewal." If we didn't receive a "touch" from the Holy Spirit the next time, we might not have considered the "worship" to have been as good or anointed as the last time. In that case, God didn't show up, or we must have done something wrong, or someone in leadership was in sin, or we just weren't "worshiping" good enough. And if we had a whole season of dryness, we needed to have special prayer meetings for a revival.

To summarize, Counterfeit Charismatics have not received the Gospel and therefore have no grace to respond to God in worship. Instead, they clothe themselves with anything they think is "of the Spirit," and although they are exuberant in church and appear to be charismatic, they are dead and in desperate need of the Gospel. My heart breaks for them, and I pray they see Jesus for who He really is, so they can respond to Him in true charismatic worship.

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