Not Error, but Excess: How Satan Responds to Revival
One especially effective tactic of Satan during times of spiritual renewal and revival is not so much to promote explicit error but to push Christians beyond the truth. Continue reading . . .
One especially effective tactic of Satan during times of spiritual renewal and revival is not so much to promote explicit error but to push Christians beyond the truth. Here’s what I mean. Satan will typically fail to prevent us from the pursuit of truth. As much as he may try, he rarely will succeed in driving us backwards into theological error. You won’t find Christians during seasons of renewal denying Christ’s deity or bodily resurrection or salvation by grace. Rather, Satan surreptitiously circles back around and pushes us from behind. Knowing that it is unlikely he can deceive Christians into believing error, he devotes all his energy to pushing us in the direction of truth.
But why would he do that, you ask? Because he doesn’t stop with pushing us into truth. He pushes us beyond it into excess and fanaticism. Truth taken to an unbiblical and unhealthy extreme can be just as destructive as blatant error and falsehood. This is what has happened in virtually every revival in church history. Some examples of this might be:
“Oh, isn’t it wonderful that God has healed some! Surely, then, it must be his purpose to heal all.” And when that doesn’t happen, Satan accuses people of not having enough faith and accuses God of not caring enough for his children and thereby undermines our confidence in his goodness.
“Oh, isn’t it wonderful that we are hearing God’s voice in prophetic words and inward impressions of his Holy Spirit!” Yes it is. But before you know it, people have abandoned their focus on Scripture and listening to God in his written Word, thinking it to be less exciting and less personal than getting a direct revelation from his Spirit.
“Oh, isn’t it wonderful to see how quickly and decisively God moves in power! He appears to accomplish in a short time what used to take us weeks, even months.” And before you know it, people have abandoned the daily discipline of prayer and Bible study and mutual encouragement and the ordinary means of grace by which we are sanctified.
“Oh, isn’t it wonderful what happens in corporate worship and prayer! It only makes sense that we should cancel our small groups and other activities and even minimize the preaching of God’s Word so that we might have more time to experience God’s presence.” And before you know it, the life of a local church is woefully out of balance, having taken what is good and truthful and life-changing and used that as an excuse to ignore the less sensational responsibilities that the Bible requires of us.
Again, what is happening in each of these instances? It isn’t that Satan tries to persuade us that we are wrong in emphasizing healing and prophetic words and powerful personal encounters and life-changing supernatural experiences. He’ll never succeed in that effort. So, he doesn’t stand in front of us and try to push back. Rather, he takes what is right and good and true and stands behind us, pushing us faster and farther than we should go in such a way that we move beyond biblical boundaries into excess, fanaticism, and theological error.
So, don’t for a millisecond back down from embracing the good things God has done. Don’t for a millisecond put the brakes on your wholehearted pursuit of God’s power and presence. But be wise and discerning and careful that you do not let a good thing become the only thing and in doing so fall into unbiblical and unbalanced fanaticism.