To have good fruit you must have a healthy tree; if you have a poor tree, you will have bad fruit. A tree is known by the kind of fruit it bears.
[Jesus continues to lecture the Pharisees about the authority to drive out demons. See Day 116 for background.]
I like being comfortable. I’m what is commonly referred to as a nester. I can move into a new house and have it totally comfy in about 2 days. I don’t like surprises, they make me nervous. I don’t watch scary movies. I’m jumpy enough already. I appreciate a predictable church service. I find the routine comforting, peaceful, and relaxing. I like the concept of sanctuary – a safe retreat from the world and its problems. However church is where we go to make a special effort to meet God, and God is neither predictable nor comfortable. To think otherwise is quite unrealistic.
I have had a lot of spiritual experiences over the years. On Day 53 I described an ecstatic experience where I was healed from excessive worrying. It was the ultimate comforting experience. Peaceful, calm, transcendent.
On the other hand, I’ve seen some pretty weird things happen in church when the Holy Spirit takes over. Weird, scary, and downright spooky. I remember the time when we were in a rural Pentecostal church in Michigan when we were introduced to physical manifestations of the Holy Spirit. The sermon had ended and the people went to the altar to pray. Many of them were crying and shouting out to God. Suddenly there was a roaring sound that filled the sanctuary, like a rushing wind, and we felt like we couldn’t move. It was overwhelming. We both heard it and felt it. It was weird and spooky and awesome. However, when I left that church I felt a great sense of release, like a weight had been lifted. It also changed the way I looked at church. That experience taught me that it’s possible for God to reveal himself in a physical way. All we have to do is invite him to come and go with the flow. We have to give him a little time and space to move and he will show up.
When I think of creepy church experiences I remember the time a woman was coming up for communion and she suddenly fell on the floor and started writhing around and making very strange noises. Another woman with prophetic gifts stood up and said, “She has a demon.” It wasn’t surprising because this woman had a lot of problems. I was at the organ and I remember the hair standing up on my arms and neck and I started to sweat. I remember feeling like I wanted to pull my legs up and curl up into a ball. I didn’t want to think about demons in the middle of a church service. I fought off the impulse to get really angry about the whole thing. I wanted everyone to knock it off.
The woman didn’t get delivered that day, and I’m not sure that demons were the problem. Whatever the problem, the woman did indeed make some progress as time went by. It was a bizarre experience, but all of the prayer the woman received over the next few months must have helped because she became more functional and relational. She was eventually able to get some relief from her unexplained physical pain so she could hold down a job. She seemed to calm down a lot and find some peace. There was some good fruit.
We always had prayer ministry at our monthly revivals. People would fall on the floor like they were in a trance. Some would laugh or cry. Others would get weird. It was always a little scary. You never knew what was going to happen, but we trusted the Holy Spirit to do whatever was necessary to help heal the people or take them to a higher spiritual level. We kept seeing good fruit so we just went with it. We laughed and loved and totally supported each other. We were at the church almost every night. We prayed all the time and studied and learned from each other. Despite the occasional weirdness, it was great.
In yesterday’s scripture Jesus told the Pharisees not to say bad things about the work of the Holy Spirit (See Day 118). Jesus said many strange and confrontational things, and performed many powerful miracles. The Pharisees were probably scared of Jesus. When he was healing all those people they could probably feel the heaviness of the presence of God. The hair probably stood up on their necks and arms when he delivered people from demons. They probably felt like they wanted it all to go away. Then because it made them scared and uncomfortable they assumed it must be from the devil. If you just go by feelings you can make that mistake.
Jesus encourages us to get past the feelings and look for the fruit. Jesus says that deliverance is like spiritual surgery. Think about it. When you go in for surgery fill you up with drugs that knock you out, they cut you open with a knife, blood comes out, they fool around with your body parts and even throw them away, then they staple you back together. It’s a very messy business. The surgeon may leave the room with blood all over his hands. But if the patient gets better, it’s all worth it. If you only look at the surgical process it looks evil. But if you look at the fruit in the form of a happy, healthy person then it’s a godly thing. It’s the fruit that’s important.
In closing it’s always important to remember that when you go to church, anything is possible. You may see the Lord come right into the sanctuary like Isaiah did. You may see fire fall from the sky like Elijah did. You may see someone healed right before your eyes like Jesus did. The main thing is to keep an open mind and watch for the fruit. What does good fruit look like? Love, joy, peace, freedom, healing, passion for God, love for all humanity. Those kinds of things. Watch for those kinds of things. And remember, why do you think all those angels always have to say, “Fear not” when they appear? Because the people are scared! Spiritual things can be scary and creepy. You just have to get past it. If you pull back because you are afraid you may miss the blessing of a lifetime, or prevent someone else from receiving theirs.
So if you are in church or some other gathering and you see something creepy or weird, don’t make any rash judgments. You can’t rely on your feelings alone. Jesus says to wait until you see the fruit. If the fruit is good then God’s got to be in there somewhere. And Jesus says he’ll put his fruit up against anyone else’s any day of the week.
What does this scripture say to you?