Q. I was talking to my wife earlier today about experiences and how they can wrongly shape our perceptions of Yahweh and even counterfeit the Ruach (Spirit) and she told me of an experience she had years ago when she became a Pentecostal. She had gone to a charismatic meeting, been 'filled with the Holy Spirit', talked in 'tongues', and had this wonderful and glorious experience that filled her with happiness. Then she went home, spoke to a lifelong friend on the telephone, got into a terrible argument with her, was really very nasty, and permanently damaged their friendship. It then got me thinking about some of the 'spiritual' experiences we have and whether they are from Elohim (God) or not. What is your view on this?
A. You touch on one of the most difficult and probably important subjects we have ever addressed in these interviews because spiritually-speaking we are contrasting spiritual and psychic experience with spiritual reality. I have said a thousand times to believers and unbelievers alike that just because you have a supernatural, life-changing, subjective spiritual experience that makes you happy inside, doesn't mean that what you experienced was necessarily from Yahweh. And the reason we have to be careful about these 'experiences' is because not only is there a counterfeit spiritual world ruled by the forces of darkness who are expert at dressing themselves up as angels of light (2 Cor.11:14), but we in our imperfected state are easily fooled.
For the last two years I have been involved in the demonic deliverance of a victim of Satanic Ritual Abuse (SRA) who only the other day became completely delivered after a long, painful and harassing battle. This person suffers from Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD), also known as Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), which means that her personality has been fractured into many different parts. When I first met this lady virtually all these personalities or alters were highly demonised. I remember one of them relating to me how she had experienced Lucifer as a beautiful and pure being of light. This experience played a foundational part in her spiritual experience. Though she had heard of Yahweh and His Torah these had been painted in such a horrible way that she came to hate both. Many months later she came to Messiah, was delivered of demons, cleansed of her sins, and discovered that everything she had built her life and faith on was a huge LIE. She was profoundly shocked by the experience because what she had been so absolutely sure of as reality turned out to be a huge fantasy. Her earlier experiences were completely and utterly nullified by her later one.
Q. That's what I mean. And yet my wife was at a Christian meeting and had a Christian experience ... so how can one tell the true from the false?
A. Well, are you sure this was 'Christian'? I have not doubt that your wife was led to saving emunah (faith) in Messiah by the Pentecostals or whoever it was who brought her, but the problem is what happened afterwards.
These three errors were very costly to her spiritually because they took her away from Messiah and into a delusional 'spiritual' realm. Though Messiah continued to use her afterwards, she was under an enormous spiritual handicap: the Pentecostal experience crippled her from spiritually growing.
- 1. Firstly, the Bible nowhere says that we need an 'extra' experience of 'Spirit-filling' as though there had been no Ruach (Spirit) filling when she first converted;
- 2. Secondly, nowhere does it say that one has to speak in 'tongues' - let alone gibberish - to prove that she had been 'Spirit-filled'; and
- 3. Thirdly, she was never taught to be obedient to Torah.
Now I am not just singling the Pentecostals out here. As I said, Yahweh uses us in spite of the errors we make - the problem is, if we embrace a lie we start becoming an adversary to those who are embracing the emet (truth). The Mormons also base their religious convictions on supernatural experiences.. For them, the 'burning in the bosom" experience, which concerns the realm of feelings, is pivotal in their wholesale embrace of their faith including their extra scriptures, temple ceremonies, priesthood authority, and much else besides. The Catholics are very taken up with apparitions of the Madonna, the stigmata of their mystics, bleeding statues, and the like, which they interpret as a vindication of their religion. Thus when some young Portuguese girls saw a vision of the 'Virgin Mary' they were enwrapped in their experience for days and felt they were in paradise.
Q. But how can such things be counterfeit when the soul is in such ecstasy?
A. Altered states of consciousness are part and parcel of many kinds of experience, from psychedelic drugs to some of the New Age visionary experiences I have read about. I myself saw an ecstatic vision of a false prophet - Sun Myung Moon - when I was a young man and was nearly convinced I was seeing a manifestation of divine emet (truth). Only my presence of mind nudged me to remember that there were inconsistencies in this man's doctrine and I was prompted to ask Yah'shua (Jesus) to reveal the true nature of this manifestation.
Q. That was when you saw the devil for the first time, wasn't it?
A. Yes, and what a shock I got! For behind this apparition and the warm feelings it gave me was a force of great evil which had spun not only a beautiful picture to seduce my eyes but also a psychic aura with which my own psyche reacted to and partly embraced. I was nearly tricked big-time. Praise Yahweh I was delivered from that delusion!
You may have heard of a former Trinidadian Hindu guru who came to Christ called Rabindranath Maharaj. He wrote a wonderful book called Death of a Guru. He describes the most sublime and wonderful experiences he had seeing the Hindu gods and was convinced beyond any doubt in his own mind that he was in the true religion. But when he met the living Messiah he saw all at once that what he had believed and experienced was a massive lie.
One book I recommend everyone read is called Deceived by the New Age (Pacific Press, Boise, Idaho, 1990) and was written by a former New Age priest called Will Baron. He had the most amazing psychic abilities and could tell people everything about themselves. I knew a girl from Bulgaria with the same gift. After they came to Messiah they both lost this gift. Will Baron had the most sublime supernatural experiences with a demon he thought was an 'Ascended Master' called Djwahl Kuhl who looked just like Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ) and who is a high-level demon associated with the foundation of the Theosophy Movement (the Lucis - formerly Lucifer - Trust) of Madam Blavetsky. He was involved in the infiltration of Christianity and tells of the demonic delusions of the charismatic movement, Kenneth Copeland, and all the other super-evangelists, who in reality are all occultists. His own journey to Messiah is graphically described and all the counterfeits he experienced before finally being delivered.
Q. That's amazing. And isn't it true that your own first wife was tricked by the same kind of thing that Baron and others saw?
A. Yes, sadly. She had a profoundly deep mystical experience in which she saw a vision of the guru of a New Age cult whom at first she thought was Yah'shua (Jesus). She was transported in ecstasy by the experience, fell in love with him, and proceeded to get false revelations which anyone not blinded by such a spirit could see were obviously false. But the experience meant more to her than the Davar Elohim (Word of God). She traded the experience for Yahweh's emet (truth). To this day she is still a New Ager.
Q. That's terrible. And what an experience to have yourself in your own home.
A. This kind of thing is happening all the time. We live in a world where people are looking for substitute experiences for Yahweh and Yah'shua (Jesus). Everybody wants a spiritual 'high', an emotional 'fix' to charge them up and keep them going. The whole mystique of tongue-speaking is linked to this psychic lust. It is entirely carnal and masquerades as spiritual. These people will tell you that it is the 'Spirit' that is giving them these experiences and so they are convinced absolutely that it is 'God' speaking to them in their own special, private language. The Mormons say the same thing. They can 'feel the Spirit'. But this is not what the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit) does. The Ruach (Spirit) was not given by Yahweh to give us emotional (or spiritual) 'highs' but to lead us to all EMET (TRUTH) (Ps.43:3).
Q. That is so important. I wonder if you could develop this theme - the relationship between the Ruach (Spirit) and the Emet (Truth)?
A. As we know, the New Testament Messianic Community (Church) was plagued with false spirits and heresies. Learning to discern between false teachings, false practices, and false supernatural manifestations eventually became the number one priority. It is heartbreaking reading for the most part. And if there is one thing that is clear about all false manifestations and experiences it is that they weaken the bond of love between people, violate commitments and covenants, and move people into a less practical and more aesthetic view of life.
But let's take a look at some Scriptures on this subject. As you know the Ruach (Spirit) is also called the Comforter in the Johannine Writings, or Advocate (or in the Greek, Paraclete). The word "comforter" conveys the best meaning of the original Aramaic and is used of the maternal quality of the Ruach (Spirit) in Isaiah where we read:
This quality of comforter is very important to understand because the nature of being a "comforter" is to nourish and cherish others rather than self. The maternal image is important here. A true mother thinks of the well-being of her child before herself - it is an inbuilt instinct. Try to come between a mother and her child and you are in for big trouble. Yahweh, we are told in Isaiah, is like this. He is very protective of His children. And not surprisingly the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit) is too. Yah'shua (Jesus) says to His talmidim (disciples):
"As one whom his mother comforts, so will I comfort you" (Isaiah 66:13).
"If you love me, keep My mitzvot (commandments). And I will ask of My Father and He will give you another Comforter that will be with you forever, the Ruach haEmet (spirit of truth) that the world is not able to receive because it has not seen and does not know. But you know because the Ruach (Spirit) abides with you and is in you ... He who has My mitzvot (commandments) with him and keeps them, that one loves Me. And he who loves Me is loved by My Father, and you are in Me, and I am in you" (Jn.14:15-17,21, HRV).
You will notice immediately that the true Ruach (Spirit) only abides in those who are commandment-keepers, in not just intent but in very deed. This is the "spirit of emet (truth)". The Ruach (Spirit) is identified by the word emet (truth) linked to Torah-observance.
Now let us consider more of the function of the Ruach (Spirit). I think you will be surprised to learn that Her function is not to 'give experiences'. Listen to what Yah'shua (Jesus) says a few verses on is Her primary calling:
"But the Comforter, the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit), whom My father will send in My Name, will teach you everything and will remind you of that which I tell you" (v.27).
Q. So the function of the Ruach (Spirit) is to remind us of everything Yah'shua (Jesus) taught! She is a Teacher!
A. Yes! A teacher. An instructor. And of what? TORAH! And in the next verse Yah'shua (Jesus) tells us:
"I leave you My shalom (peace), My shalom (peace) I give you; not as the world gives do I give you. Let not your heart be troubled and do not fear" (v.28).
Now there are two types of 'peace' and there are two types of 'fear', just as there are two types of 'love' and two types of 'hate' - the one divine, the other carnal. The issue here is the type of shalom which Yah'shua (Jesus) gives, and the reference to it is always mitzvah/commandment-keeping. The Comforter points back to the Davar (Word) - to the Torah - and it is this which must always be our measuring stick for emet (truth) and experience.
This truth is repeated many times by Yah'shua (Jesus) who says a little while later:
"But when the Comforter comes whom I will send you from My Father, the Ruach haEmet (Spirit of Truth), who has proceeded from My Father, will testify concerning Me" (Jn.15:26, HRV).
Q. Again, the "Spirit of Truth".
A. The Ruac haEmet (Spirit of Truth), yes. Emet (Truth). It is the #1 principle of the Besorah (Gospel), not experience. Emet (truth) is independent of experience. It is of course better to experience the Emet (Truth) but such is not necessary. Our journey to Yahweh always begins by entering into a Covenant of Obedience with Him to obey Torah. The litmus test of our lovingness is always our obedience to the mitzvot (commandments), and a condition for the Ruach (Spirit) to abide in us and give us discernment is conditional upon obedience. No obedience, no discernment, and so the possibility of delusion.
Q. What do you say to the people who claim NCAY is too much occupied with Torah and mitzvot (commandments), and not with grace?
A. When a person has a cold or 'flu you pump Vitamin C into them because they have a deficiency. The only reason we lay such emphasis on Torah is that this is the spiritual deficiency in Christendom today. It does not mean that we neglect or diminish grace or ahavah (love), which is why we constantly remind our readers and hearers of these things too. Every generation has its heresies and deficiencies and these must needs be addressed to restore proper balance and harmony to the Body. Right now we live in an antinomian (anti-law), anarchistic society which is crippling those Christians trying to know Yahweh. So naturally we emphasise certain things at different times according to the needs of people. Why do you imagine that Paul stressed grace so much? His was a Torah-saturated world - the people lived and breathed it but they had lost the ahavah (love) and grace focus. Therefore he addressed a deficiency. The trouble is that evangelicals have assumed that his emphasis was the balance, when it was not.
Q. Of course we have to acknowledge what you say is true since that is what Messiah so clearly states, and yet I know you are not saying we should not have supernatural experience.
A. Indeed not. But I want you to note this: all those who experienced Yahweh's revelation were already living Torah and as a result, their revelation and experience harmonised with Torah. The problem we have today is people getting revelation from the Body, or claiming wonderful supernatural encounters with the Creator, which contradict Torah and lead people even further away from it, or else obedience to man-made rules. Those who are receiving revelation are not Torah-obedient unlike the original apostles! Is it any wonder that the vast majority of modern 'revelation' is false?
Q. Could you give an example?
A. The charismatic demand for Spirit-infilling, tongues, and the ' showy show-off' gifts is a classical modern example that has got out of control. Most of the prophecies coming out of the charismatic movement are patently false.
Q. And the opposite extreme?
A. There are those who despise all 'spiritual experience' because of fear it may be false or because they have misinterpreted scripture, as the cessationists do. Typically, they claim the prophetic gifts were only for the apostolic time and 'naturally' died off later once the Bible had been put together.
The important thing here is that you don't search for 'experiences' because that is a kind of divination. People who look for signs invariably get them from the wrong source because Yahweh is not dictated to. Satan is more than willing to oblige with signs. True signs, when they come, are unsolicited and always the result of true emunah (faith).
Q. What about sincere believers who are doing their best to live Torah. Is it possible for them to have counterfeit spiritual experiences?
A. Of course, deception is always possible when one is living in the flesh, but this is lessened the more obedient you are, because the presence of the Ruach (Spirit) is always proportionately stronger. One can be Torah-obedient and have a revelation leading you away from Torah. We experienced this in NCAY when a group decided to reject Torah as being 'Old Covenant' and proposed that in the 'New Covenant' everything is automatically written in the heart so one no longer needs written Torah any more. The fact that the members of this group all interpreted Scripture differently was proof to those with any common sense that Torah was not written on the hearts since there is only one Torah! The fact that their hearts led them into gross disobedience was even further evidence that their existentialist doctrine was a lie. Their spiritual experiences contradicted Yahweh's Davar (Word). And when that happens, you are in mortal danger of losing your soul.
I read the other day of a Christian who claims that we must continue killing a lamb at Pesach (Passover) and to anoint our door posts with its blood. Now that is 'Old Covenant' for it denies the atoning blood of the Lamb, Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ). Similarly, anyone claiming we 'need' a temple - a physical building - for animal sacrifices is 'Old Covenant', or the Levitical/Aaaronic Priesthood in addition to (as the Mormons do), or apart from, the Melchizedek Priesthood.
Q. So the group was basically trying to say that the core of the New Covenant is personal experience?
A. Basically. A life in Messiah will, of course, give you experience, but unless it is anchored in Torah it will lead you astray eventually. The essence of the New Covenant is that the Torah is no longer imposed externally but becomes second nature, as it were (Jer.31:31). To be walking in the spirit of the New Covenant is to spontaneously live the Torah with gladness without feeling it is a burden. To claim that it is to feel whatever you want is no Covenant at all - such is a covenant or agreement with the flesh.
Q. Maybe I can interject a question here about "flesh" because some say that this refers only to the physical body. Is that true?
A. It is much more complicated than that, and this where a knowledge of languages is essential. It was the Gnostics who taught that the physical body was evil and the spirit was good and which led to the Augustinian vision of Roman Catholicism and various aesthetic heresies. Gnosticism teaches that we are saved by knowledge, whereas the Besorah (Gospel) teaches we are saved by Yahweh's grace (undeserved loving kindness) through emunah (faith) in Messiah which leads to obedience to Torah.
Q. I believe gnosticism is quite a broad system?
A. Yes, so we must be careful here. But basically they taught - and still teach - that the keynote to salvation is in the possession of certain secret knowledge which would lead ultimately to union with Elohim (God). In short, it was a system of philosophy, and little different from occultism and Satanism which teach the same thing. In the Gnostic vision, Elohim (God) is entirely separate from matter which is viewed as inherently evil. Needless to say Gnostics rejected that Messiah was ever in the flesh, because the flesh is bad, and Elohim (God) could not therefore be associated with badness.
Q. That rather contradicts Yahweh's pronouncements of "good" on His physical creation?
A. Indeed. Which brings us back to biblical concepts of "flesh". In the Tanakh (Old Testament) it refers to meat or the physical part of the soul (Heb. basár) but it is also used of the whole soul, body and spirit (as for example, in Proverbs 19:30) and the whole man (Psalm 16:9). Thus when the Bible speaks of husband and wife being "one flesh" with one another it is the whole person (body and soul) that is being spoken of (Genesis 2:24), as a result of which a man may say of his relatives that "I am your bone and your flesh" (Judges 9:2). This is taken one step further in the Tanakh (Old Testament), to its full expression, when "all flesh" refers to the totality of human existence, sometimes even including the animal creation.
Q. So even in the Tanakh (Old Testament) "flesh" can mean different things. What about the New Testament?
A. It is exactly the same - it can refer to the meaty part of the soul ... the physical body (Gk. sarx) (e.g. Rev.19:18) or to the whole soul, body and spirit (e.g. Gal.4:13ff). It may mean the whole man (e.g. 2 Cor.7:5). Like the Tanakh (Old Testament), man and woman are one flesh in marriage (Mt.19:5ff). The covenant of marriage is of the whole soul, and its component parts are therefore inseparable - body and spirit; and there are passages referring to "all flesh" (Jn.17:2).
Q. I guess the confusion arises from the metaphorical usage of flesh.
A. Yes indeed. The weakness of the flesh is spoken of in conjunction with the apostles' failure to keep watch in Gethsemane (Mk.14:38). This weakness is not 'sinful' - we just get physically exhausted! And you will see that "flesh" is applied to Messiah positively - there is none of the Calvinist, Augustine or Gnostic hostility to it.
A. There are parallel passages in the New Testament for the concept of "my bone and my flesh", as would be expected, since the New Testament was originally written in Hebrew and Aramaic. There are in addition "flesh" passages that refer to descent. Thus Yah'shua (Jesus) is described as being made of the seed of David "according to the flesh" (Rom.1:3, KJV), and Paul can speak of "Israel after the flesh" (1 Cor.10:18, KJV), and Israelites as his "kinsmen according to the flesh" (Rom.9:3).
So flesh can stand for the whole of this physical existence, and there are references to being "in the flesh" (Col.2:1). There is never any blame attached to this - nothing negative is ever inferred - indeed, Messiah Himself is said more than once to have been "in the flesh" (Eph.2:15; 1 Pet.3:18; 1 Jn.4:2-3, etc.). Indeed, the Calvinists, Augustinians and Gnostics should pay more attention to Scripture because being "in the flesh" is not incompatible with being "in the Master (Lord)" (Phm.16).
Q. So there's nothing sinful about the physical body per se?
A. Well, you tell me! What do the scriptures say? However, the Scriptures do say that the flesh can either be defiled (Jude 8) or purified (Heb.9:13), and the life that Paul the Christian now lived was "in the flesh" (Gal.2:20).
Q. Sheesh - we have been lied to!
A. The flesh is morally neutral. It's what you do with it that makes it either pure or defiled. If you're living your life according to Torah then it is pure; if you are living it in rebellion to Torah then it is defiled.
Q. But what about the "lusts" and "desires" of the flesh per pro Ephesians 2:3?
A. Beware of language! "Lust" has come to mean in modern English to sinfully desire something that is wrong. But this is not the biblical meaning of lust - to lust biblically is to 'eagerly desire' and we can either lust after Elohim (God) and goodness or lust after Satan and evil. It is what you lust for that is good or evil - there is nothing wrong in lusting or eagerly desiring in itself! Thus if you lust for another man's wife, you are lusting in an evil way. If you lust for a single woman, you may be lusting in a good and healthy way.
Q. I just lust for my wife!
A. And Yahweh bless you for it - lust on!
A. The New Testament teaching about lust and the soul is twofold:
If a man concentrates too much on physical things he is said to "mind the things of the flesh" (Rom.8:5, KJV) - in other words, he is out of balance. And therefore the mind of the flesh "is death" (Rom.8:6, KJV) because the flesh is mortal - it dies in death eventually. If we are so absorbed with the flesh that we have no time for the spirit we are at "enmity with Elohim (God)" (Rom.8:7, KJV). The man whose horizon is limited by the flesh is by that very fact opposed to Yahweh. He lives "after the flesh" (Rom.8:13, KJV), that flesh that "lusteth against the Ruach Elohim (Spirit of God)" (Gal.5:17, KJV).
- (1) We must lust only for that which is lawful - according to Torah; and
- (2) we must remember that where there is competition between the flesh and the spirit of man, the spirit must take first place.
Q. That pretty well puts the flesh in the category of evil, doesn't it?
A. Well, I deliberately quoted the King James Version to you because it reflects the Augustianian attitudes to flesh that I have been speaking about - I was hoping you would conclude that so I could illustrate the problem with translations. Let's now look at the original Aramaic and see how that is worded:
"For the flesh desires a thing which is opposed to the Ruach (Spirit) and the Ruach (Spirit) desires a thing which is opposed to the flesh and the two of these are opposed to each other that you do not do the thing which you desire" (ibid., HRV).
On the face of it, it looks as though Paul is speaking of all impulses that derive from the physical body. But he isn't. If you read on, he is using the word "flesh" in a purely negative context, namely:
"...fornication, uncleanness, perversion, worship of idols, magic, animosity, contention, over zealousness, anger, insolence, factionalism, sectarianism, envy, murder, drunkenness and revelling, and all that are similar to these" (vv.19-21, HRV).