Tozer's 7 Tests
I said yesterday that we need to be careful about prophecy. I wrote, "We must be more careful, more skeptical, more questioning, more discerning, and more mistrustful of ourselves. Most of all, we must elevate the written Word of God above all other words."
Now, the last thing I want to do is throw a wet blanket over the Holy Spirit's fire (indeed, Paul adivses Timothy to fan it into flame, not douse it). Yet I have run into more than one case lately in which a believer who felt a "yes" in his spirit should certainly have waited and sought solid confirmation before acting. We should beware of false prophets (as the Bible routinely reminds us), but also of false "prophecies" engendered in our own hearts. Mind you, I am not here to downplay or deride feelings as if they were of no value, but we should be hard on ourselves, for we are prone to syndromes of self-deception.
As if on cue, Dan at Cerulean Sanctum has provided an extremely useful and timely link to How to Try the Spirits by A. W. Tozer. Regarding the heart, Tozer writes, "The heart of man is like a musical instrument and may be played upon by the Holy Spirit, by an evil spirit or by the spirit of man himself. Religious emotions are very much the same, no matter who the player may be. Many enjoyable feelings may be aroused within the soul by low or even idolatrous worship."
Tozer provides 7 ways to test the spirits. Herewith, Tozer's seven tests in nutshell form. But I highly recommend that you follow the link and read the entire chapter.
1) How does the religious experience "affect our relation to God, our concept of God and our attitude toward Him?"
"God acts only for His glory and whatever comes from Him must be to His own high honor. Any doctrine, any experience that serves to magnify Him is likely to be inspired by Him. Conversely, anything that veils His glory or makes Him appear less wonderful is sure to be of the flesh or the devil."2) "How does this new experience affect my attitude toward the Lord Jesus Christ?"
"Christless Christianity sounds contradictory but it exists as a real phenomenon in our day. Much that is being done in Christ's name is false to Christ in that it is conceived by the flesh, incorporates fleshly methods, and seeks fleshly ends. Christ is mentioned from time to time in the same way and for the same reason that a self-seeking politician mentions Lincoln and the flag, to provide a sacred front for carnal activities and to deceive the simplehearted listeners. This giveaway is that Christ is not central: He is not all and in all."3) "How does it affect my attitude toward the Holy Scriptures?"
"Did this new experience, this new view of truth, spring out of the Word of God itself or was it the result of some stimulus that lay outside the Bible? Tender-hearted Christians often become victims of strong psychological pressure applied intentionally or innocently by someone's personal testimony, or by a colorful story told by a fervent preacher who may speak with prophetic finality but who has not checked his story with the facts nor tested the soundness of his conclusions by the Word of God."4) Hoe does it affect the "self-life"?
"A good rule is this: If this experience has served to humble me and make me little and vile in my own eyes it is of God; but if it has given me a feeling of self-satisfaction it is false and should be dismissed as emanating from self or the devil. Nothing that comes from God will minister to my pride or self-congratulation. If I am tempted to be complacent and to feel superior because I have had a remarkable vision or an advanced spiritual experience, I should go at once to my knees and repent of the whole thing. I have fallen a victim to the enemy."5) "Our relation to and our attitude toward our fellow Christians is another accurate test of religious experience."
As we grow in grace we grow in love toward all God's people. "Every one that loveth him that begot loveth him also that is begotten of him" (I John 5:1) . This means simply that if we love God we will love His children. All true Christian experience will deepen our love for other Christians. Therefore we conclude that whatever tends to separate us in person or in heart from our fellow Christians is not of God, but is of the flesh or of the devil. And conversely, whatever causes us to love the children of God is likely to be of God. "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another" (John 13:35).6) Note also how the spiritual experience affects our relation to and our attitude toward the world.
Any real work of God in our heart will tend to unfit us for the world's fellowship.... It may be stated unequivocally that any spirit that permits compromise with the world is a false spirit. Any religious movement that imitates the world in any of its manifestations is false to the cross of Christ and on the side of the devil and this regardless of how much purring its leaders may do about 'accepting Chris' or 'letting God run your business.'"7) "The last test of the genuineness of Christian experience is what it does to our attitude toward sin."
"The man of honest heart will find no difficulty here. He has but to check his own bent to discover whether he is concerned about sin in his life more or less since the supposed work of grace was done. Anything that weakens his hatred of sin may be identified immediately as false to the Scriptures, to the Saviour and to his own soul. Whatever makes holiness more attractive and sin more intolerable may be accepted as genuine."