"And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth" (1 John 5:6).
Several years ago I was invited to attend a revival meeting in a suburban church just outside of New York City. People had been raving about a "successful crusade" being held there by two young male evangelists. Finally, I went to one of their services, and I was seated up front with the ministry team. Little did I know, I was about to endure a terrible experience!
People had been calling this pair a "powerful evangelistic team." One preached, and the other sang and played the organ. But as the service began and I watched these two young men, something deep inside me began to twitch. I felt a strange uneasiness.
Before the young preacher began his message, he hyped up the audience. He had a beautiful set of boxed gifts he gave out each night to the person who brought the most visitors. There were toasters, radios, mixers – even a bicycle for the closing night!
His preaching was nothing but one exciting story after another. The crowd loved it – but I got nauseated! Now the uneasiness inside me spoke loud and clear: "This is not of God – it's all flesh! There is something evil going on. The Holy Spirit is not here. Those two evangelists are gay – and they're fooling everyone!"
I was sick that night, grieved beyond words – but it was all because the witness of the Spirit was working in me! The pastor was so excited about the big crowds that he'd shaken off all discernment! And the people loved this flesh–show because they had blinded themselves spiritually – they were simply following the pastor!
A few years later, I saw those two young evangelists in an airport. This time the Spirit's witness told me to confront them. We greeted one another, and then – with no malice in my voice – I said, "I know what you two boys are – you're homosexuals. Please, quit mocking the Lord! Go out and get another job. God won't let you get away with this charade. I don't want to have to expose you!"
My warning didn't seem to bother either of them. A few years later I was in northern Canada for a crusade. Late after a service one night I was hungry, so my host drove me to a remote restaurant a half–hour away. As we walked in, who did we see sitting at a table nearby, entertaining two very effeminate men? It was the two young evangelists! How shocked they were when I passed their table. They knew they'd been caught!
Not long after that they were exposed and left the ministry. The Holy Spirit confirmed what He had shown me years earlier! Yet what frightened me most about the ordeal was that all the pastors of large churches who invited these young men to speak never discerned what they were. No one had the witness of the Spirit to expose it all!
On another occasion I was invited to hear a so–called "powerful evangelist" who was holding his sixth week of meetings at a large Pentecostal church in a Southern city. This time my wife, Gwen, and I slipped into the balcony unnoticed – and what a show we saw!
The evangelist came out dressed like a nightclub performer, wearing a red–plaid, sequined jacket. The crowd applauded when he was introduced. I was startled by it all – and immediately I turned to Gwen and said, "Honey, that's the biggest phony who ever stepped into a pulpit!"
For the first five minutes he merely pranced about the stage, joking and flattering the crowd. Then he stepped down into the audience and kissed a few women, imploring their husbands not to be jealous. I thought to myself, "He's a showman. He doesn't know God at all!"
His preaching, too, consisted of one incredible story after another – and the crowd was awestruck! He said, "I was sitting in a barbershop when the Vice President came in and sat in the chair next to mine. He turned to me and, to my surprise, he knew my name. He said, 'Brother Billy Bob, the President and I have heard all about your great meetings. Please stop in next time you're in the capital."'
I turned to Gwen and said, "Honey, he's lying! He's telling great, big fibs!" But everyone was clapping and going crazy! The gray–haired pastor was eating it all up. And the big crowd was feasting on all the outrageous lies!
Gwen and I left – and all the way to the car I had to hold my stomach. It was not a physical pain; rather, it was a deep, inner groaning, an unexplainable hurt. It was the witness of the Spirit again – showing me the difference between the holy and the profane!
God had given that pastor what he coveted: a packed house and big crowds. But it had cost him the witness of the Spirit! He was blinded – he'd lost all discernment! Every Spirit–filled person who lived a holy life in that church recognized the sham in the first five minutes – and walked out! These had the inner witness of the Spirit – and they could not stand to be in that man's presence!
Sometimes the Holy Ghost Won't Let You Sit Still!
There are times when the Holy Ghost's inner witness will not allow me to keep quiet. The Spirit rises within me and I have to speak up, loudly exposing the flesh and the devil!
On one occasion, a "Christian" rock group begged me to attend their outdoor concert. I went, and most of what I heard was merely okay; it was all loud drums and unintelligible music. Then, toward the end of the concert, the smoke machines went on and lights began to flash – and the crowd went into a frenzy!
As I looked up, I saw hordes of demons flying off the stage and hovering above the whole congregation. At that point, I fell backward to the ground, literally stricken by the Holy Spirit. The witness within me was saying, "This is Ichabod! The glory of the Lord has departed!"
Suddenly, the Holy Ghost took over my voice. I got up and ran throughout the whole place, knocking over chairs and crying out, "Ichabod! Stop it – it's the devil!" But nobody cared!
When I got home I fell on the living room floor, doubled up, groaning and weeping. I couldn't catch my breath. When Gwen saw me she was hysterical. "Dave, what's wrong? Where do you hurt? Speak to me!"
I couldn't even talk. Never had I felt such grief. Finally, I blurted out, "Honey, it's the grief of God! There's a blindness in that ministry. They don't understand it was all satanic! Everyone was clapping, but they should have been weeping!"
I will never forget that night. Into the wee hours I cried, "Oh God, all those preachers, staffers, parents, teenagers – and none of them could see it! No one knew it was flesh, that Satan was manifesting! Oh Lord, am I the crazy one? Why was I so stirred? Why did I run through that crowd like a fool?"
It was the Holy Ghost within me – bearing witness to truth! "Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth Him not, neither knoweth Him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall he in you" (John 14.17).
The Holy Spirit abides in us to reveal to us what is true and what is false. He speaks with a still, small voice, deep within the heart. Many of our holy forefathers believed in this operation of the Spirit in believers. They preached much about "having the witness." But I don't hear this truth being preached anymore. In fact, the witness of the Spirit is virtually unheard of in most churches today!
Yet the fact is, believers need the Spirit's witness as never before. And we're going to need it more and more as the day of the Lord draws near! Satan has come brazenly as an angel of light to deceive, if it were possible, the very elect of God. His evil seductions are going to flourish: false doctrines, false teachers, false gospels. Even now, multitudes are being swept away and captivated by wicked false prophets and corrupt teachers!
But you can have the Holy Ghost's witness in you – to help you know whether what you're hearing is right or wrong, truth or lies! With His witness at work in your heart, you can listen to any teaching tape, go to any meeting, read any book, and know beyond a shadow of a doubt what's pure and what's unholy. You can walk in the assurance that you will not be deceived by any wickedness!
You see, the Spirit's inner witness operates on the "principle of peace." The peace of God is the greatest thing you can have. And when your peace is disturbed, you can be sure the Holy Ghost is speaking to you! When there is a troubling in your spirit – a shaking and a turmoil deep inside – God is telling you that something is false. You will feel His embarrassment – His grief and anger!
You may say, "I already have the Holy Spirit living in me. But I want His witness in my heart. How can I get it?"
1. The Holy Ghost Witness Can Operate Only in a Humble, Pure Vessel in Which the Peace of God Reigns!
"And let the peace of God rule in your hearts" (Colossians 3:15). Sin brings turmoil to the heart. And any hidden, unrepented sin will rob a believer of his precious peace! His heart will be torn by guilt, condemnation and fear – and the Spirit will speak only two words to him. "Repent! Flee!"
Yes, the Spirit will speak to you to correct you; He will deal with you about sin, righteousness and judgment. But when it comes to giving you direction – that is, the still, small voice which tells you what to do and where to go – He will not operate in an unclean vessel!
If you persist in sin – if you do not confess it or deal with it – your heart will feed you a steady stream of lies. You'll hear teachings that make you at ease in your sin. You'll think, "My problem couldn't be that bad. I don't feel convicted." But you will be totally led astray!
Isaiah speaks of a people who went out claiming to desire the true counsel of God. They said: "Let Him make speed, and hasten His work, that we may see it,' and let the counsel of the Holy One of Israel draw nigh and come, that we may know it!" (Isaiah 5:19).
But these people had deceit in their hearts – and they ended up perverted in all their counsel! Sin had perverted their judgment! As a result, they weren't able to discern evil. And the things that were holy and pure, they called unrighteous. Isaiah said of them, "Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!" (verse 20).
Some time ago a minister acquaintance of mine warned me not to listen to a certain Bible teacher. He told me, "That man is preaching the worst false doctrine! Stay away from him, or it will destroy you. He's dangerous!"
This acquaintance was full of anger toward that teacher. But when I heard the teacher on tape, my heart leaped within me. Peace flooded my soul! I kept waiting to hear the "dangerous" part – but the message was all about walking in holiness and having a pure heart. So I got another tape, then another – and each one was sweeter than the first! I thought, "How could anybody say this is dangerous or evil?"
But that accusing preacher had really believed what he'd told me. I believe a voice had spoken to him – but it wasn't the voice of God! It was the voice of his own flesh crying out because he was being convicted of his sins!
The messages on holiness and purity had touched something deep within him and made him angry. And an inner voice was telling him that this good teaching was evil. He totally misjudged! Why? Because sin had blinded him! He had compromised somehow, and the spirit of the world had crept into him. Jesus said those who are of this world cannot hear the voice of the Spirit, "whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth Him not, neither knoweth Him" (John 14:17).
Beloved, be very careful not to be influenced by someone else's so–called witness! Whenever somebody tells me something evil or reproachful about another person, I want to meet the accused. Often it is that person's pure devotion to God that provokes the sinner's heart!
2. There Can Be No Inner Voice of the Spirit In a Proud Believer!
Let me distinguish clearly between pride and humility:
A humble person is not one who thinks little of himself, hangs his head and says, "I'm nothing." Rather, he is one who depends wholly on the Lord for everything, in every circumstance. He knows the Lord has to direct him, empower him and quicken him – and that he's dead without that! He says, "I won't do anything until I get the mind of God. I will not act until He commands!"
A proud person, on the other hand, is one who may love God in a fashion, but he acts and thinks on his own. At its root, pride is simply independence from God. And the proud person makes decisions based on his own reasoning, skill and abilities. He says, "God gave me a good mind, and He expects me to use it. It's silly to ask Him for direction in every detail of life."
This person is unteachable because he already "knows it all." He might listen to someone who is higher in authority or better known than himself – but not to someone he thinks is inferior. I know this to be true; at one time it described me!
I was a high–flying young evangelist, known all over the world. I would have listened to some well–known man of God. But I seldom listened to an unknown, uneducated person! Whenever some young preacher came into my office to try to tell me something, he got five minutes of my time before he was pleasantly escorted out. I reasoned, "I've got all this experience. I've been through such deep waters. Unless they have been equally experienced, they have nothing to say to me."
In recent years I've thought God had dealt a death–blow to this attitude in me long ago. Then something happened several weeks ago that made me see I may still have some of it!
Someone on our mailing list sent me a teaching tape by a man I'd never heard of. I took the tape home and listened for about fifteen minutes, and I realized this unknown man was speaking truth. The witness of the Spirit told me I was listening to a truly holy, humble man.
Then the preacher spoke of having no education. He hadn't studied any books; only the Spirit had taught him. He explained in his Southern, monotone drawl that the only book he'd studied for the last fifteen years was his Bible.
For a fleeting moment I thought, "This man can't teach me anything. I'm an avid reader – I've read entire volumes of the Puritans and all the great missionaries' lives. But he sounds like he's never read a book!" So I shut off the tape.
Then the Spirit's witness spoke to me clearly: "Turn it back on. He has much to teach you!"
Now I've ordered six more of his tapes and his book – and I've been greatly blessed! Yet my blinding pride would have robbed me of something God had meant for my growth!
You Can Easily Know a Proud Person by His Fruits!
Not one word a proud person receives is of God! It is impossible for him to judge righteous judgment – impossible to speak God's mind – because the Holy Spirit is not present in him to bear witness to truth. "There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death" (Proverbs 14:12).
You may wonder, "How can a person who is filled with the Holy Ghost hear strange voices instead of the Spirit's?"
Consider King Saul – a prime example of pride – a man who insisted on doing things his own way! He couldn't wait for God to act. So when the prophet Samuel was slow in arriving to make the sacrifice before battle, Saul played priest and offered up his own sacrifice. It was an act of pure self–will, independence, impatience with God's ways!
God also had commanded Saul to slay all the Amalekites. But again Saul did things his way: When the battle was over, he spared King Agag. Samuel rebuked Saul for this, asking, "Why did you not obey God and kill him?" Saul answered, "Because I feared the people." Again human wisdom!
The Bible says, "But the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord troubled him. And Saul's servants said unto him, Behold now, an evil spirit from God troubleth thee" (1 Samuel 16:14–15).
Saul was troubled – he had no peace! Everybody could see it in him: He had a troubled look, an angry spirit. Another spirit had begun speaking to his inner man – and it was a witness from hell!
Saul constantly heard voices imitating God. They told him to kill David. They said his own son was a traitor. They convinced him he was being betrayed by his own body–guards. "No one loves you. Everybody is against you!" Saul became full of envy, hatred, anxiety, fear!
Can a Holy Ghost–empowered person lose the Spirit, be given over to an evil spirit, and yet continue preaching and prophesying? Yes! Saul had been Spirit–empowered:
"And the Spirit of God came upon Saul..." (1 Samuel 11:6). Then we read that "the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul..." (16:14). And, finally, "...it came to pass...that the evil spirit from God came upon Saul, and he prophesied in the midst of the house: and David played..." (18:10).
Saul was still prophesying – even though there was an evil spirit in him! You can be sure that what came out of this man was not of God. It may have sounded right – but everything he spoke was another gospel! Even though this man at one time had been chosen of God and anointed of the Holy Ghost, he was speaking straight from the flesh!
Right now, thousands of Christians are exchanging tapes and books – but much of it is full of poison! You might not recognize the error at first; but if you have the witness of the Spirit, just keep listening awhile, and He will expose it. The proud teacher or preacher – under the direction of an evil spirit – eventually will say something that makes you uneasy. You may hear an entire hour of good–sounding gospel before you hear the five minutes of gross error. But only the witness of the Spirit can reveal it to you!
3. One Night During a Prayer Meeting, God Told Me Something About Our Church I Was Not Expecting to Hear.
The Lord whispered to me, "This church needs shock treatment! Too many have grown satisfied and complacent. You feel safe and secure from all the winds and waves of false doctrines sweeping over the land – but you are not prepared for what is coming!"
Beloved, this message of having the Spirit's witness functioning in you is not a request – it is a matter of life and death! If you don't have the witness of the Holy Ghost in these last days, you're not going to make it! You'll give in to the coming spirit of the Antichrist!
Here's an example: in President Clinton's health plan, there is a provision for a national health identification card – and, eventually, a state–of–the–art, tamper–proof numbering system. This probably means an implantation device in the head, arm or somewhere on the body. No one will receive health coverage without a number.
We also are headed for a cashless society – first by credit card, and later by a laser implantation beneath the skin. The European Community has already planned for this. We may be on the very brink of the mark of the beast! And if you don't have discernment, you become an accessory to a murderous government system that takes your tax dollars for abortion!
Tragically, some Christians are not going to recognize these Antichrist setups! That is why you need the Holy Spirit witness every day – on your job, at work, at school. You'll need to rightly judge politicians and leaders so you'll not suddenly be sucked into the Antichrist system.
Wake up beloved! This is what Jesus was trying to tell us about the foolish virgins who ran out of oil for their lamps. They had a supply of the Holy Ghost – but they didn't have His witness at the final moment. And if you haven't made provision to have a functioning, Holy Ghost witness in these last days, you'll run out of oil at the last hour!
Don't end up a foolish virgin! If you are running out of oil – trusting your church or your pastor to keep your soul – then repent! Humble yourself and search your heart! Cry out to God to rid your soul of all anger and bitterness. Confess your sins and forsake them. And depend on God once again for everything!
Get the peace of God in your heart, so you can have a Holy Ghost witness. And ask the Father for a greater enduement of the Spirit. Invite Him to be your witness and guide in everything! You don't have to be afraid in these days. He is anxious to become your witness!