Christians (especially for this post, those with a charismatic preference), how do you decide who you will allow yourself to learn from?
"I only want to learn from those who are demonstrating God's power of the Holy Spirit through signs, wonders and miracles."
Ok, is that the primary criteria you look for?
"Yes. The supernatural validates the ministry. If they're able to perform signs like that then they must be doing something right."
So, you don't look for other criteria, such as character?
"Nope, it's too hard to tell character. Only God knows a man's heart. Who am I to judge?"
How about godliness?
"I'm not even sure how to define godliness, but it sounds works-based. And I learned a long time ago God doesn't call us to do, He calls us to be. Doing is legalism and being is sonship."
Ok, what about longevity in ministry, endurance in faith?
"No. Satan is a strong adversary and he targets those who are doing the most damage to his efforts. Just because someone gets 'taken out' by Satan, doesn't invalidate everything they did before. In fact, it's almost a testament to the impact of their ministry. Why would Satan attack someone who isn't harming him?"
Are you at all concerned that you may be opening yourself up to deception, when you make the supernatural your primary (and sometimes only) criteria for who you learn from?
"What do you mean??"
Have you not read, "For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect." Matt. 24:24 & Mark 13:22
Or this one, "The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders." 2 Thes. 2:9
Or, "And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light." 2 Cor. 11:14
How about, "On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’" Matt. 7:22-23
This is not intended as a commentary on the validity of spiritual gifts, but rather an admonition regarding who you learn from and who you hold up in high regard as a teacher in your life.
The Bible gives us some clues of what to look for, when it lists out the qualifications or criteria to look for in an elder, overseer, deacon (for those curious, pastor - literally translated shepherd - does not have its own qualification list in the New Testament and so it is often lumped into this same list).
Here's a sampling:
- husband of one wife
- one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence
- not a novice
- their wives must be reverent
- not quick-tempered
- just, holy, self-controlled
- holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict
Read the entirety of the lists for yourself (1 Tim. 3:1-13, Titus 1:5-9) and you'll notice that the performing of spiritual gifts as validation of their ministry is nowhere to be found.
Guard yourselves against deception by knowing God (Daniel 11:32), through the studying of His words, and you'll see that the gifts are there for the edification of the body, and not for the elevation of the performer into the role of teacher and overseer of your faith. (1 Cor. 14:12, Eph. 4:12)