Former Pentecostal reveals how practising the Charismatic sign gifts drew him into demonic oppression and away from the power of the Gospel.
I was raised by a mother who was a Jehovah’s Witness and a father who is a Pentecostal Charismatic. Throughout my childhood, I was constantly going back and forth between the two churches. Gradually, I chose to settle at my father’s church because I enjoyed their sunday schools and fun programs they had for the kids, so I leaned towards the Charismatic side of things. When I was 11, my parents divorced and my father remarried twice more.
I attended numerous Charismatic churches, including a Nazarene church and an Assembly of God church. When I was 16, I moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma with my father and stepmom, and we attended a church called Open Bible Fellowship (OBF), a seeker-friendly church. That was when I took a deeper dive into the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement.
I was taught by these churches that a saved Christian could lose their salvation. The main pastor of OBF told our youth group that when he was younger, he blasphemed the Holy Spirit by continually sinning (I know now from Scripture, that’s not what blasphemy against the Holy Spirit means) and that he was on the verge of losing his salvation. I was taught that my continual daily good works and servitude to the Lord is what qualified me for eternal life instead of by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9), so I believed my works would save me. Even my father was unsure if he would go to Heaven because he knew he was not good enough.
Instead of looking to Scripture for the gospel of salvation, I followed my favourite celebrity preachers like Todd White, whom I revered and looked up to as a “living example of Christianity”. I sought after and practised the “sign gifts” as a way to reassure myself that my faith was genuine and that I was saved. I spoke in “tongues”, had “prophetic dreams”, walked through “fire tunnels”, got “drunk in the spirit” / “slain in the spirit” and experienced uncontrollable laughter and sobbing. The church played music from Bethel and Hillsong, and the preaching and music focused on emotional manipulation and producing a charged atmosphere rather than on biblical doctrine.
I prided myself as a “worship warrior” and honestly couldn’t care less about doctrine. All I wanted to do was “worship”. The church focused more about their form of “worship” than they do about preaching (if you can even call it that). It was typically an hour and a half to 2 hours of “worship”, 30 minutes of “preaching” and the rest of the time was dedicated to getting “soaked” and “drunk in the spirit”. It was chaotic. I realised now that it was all fleshly, all self-edifying, addictive emotional high that we got Sunday after Sunday. But back then, I truly believed those were of the Holy Spirit.
During sermons, I did not see a need to take out my bible and refer to it. The church would put verses out on the screen and the pastor would vaguely go through them. I don’t recall any preaching that tackled sin other than our pastor telling us that we could lose salvation if we did not stop sinning. Sin was rampant in the church despite them teaching that we can lose our salvation. I remembered a guy who was a homosexual in the church, but he left and became a Buddhist.
I read numerous bible versions as encouraged by the church, but our church staple was The Message bible (MSG). Even though I wasn’t being properly fed, I still upheld God’s Word above anything and I always defended His Word to those who sought to attack it or claim that it was just written by man. However, I put the words of the Charismatic “prophets” on the same pedestal as God’s Word as Charismatics believe God speaks through them.
One time, I was at an event called “Freedom Weekend” where people would be delivered from demons, and I remembered specifically someone pulling a “spiritual knife” out of my back. But after the event, rather than having demons cast out of me, I felt more demonically oppressed than ever.
Thank God, I did not experience some of the extreme mental after-effect that others had experienced, even though my anger issues remained, but that was more of a result of coming from a broken home. However, the same cannot be said for my step-brother, who saw many kinds of strange stuff that a naked eye cannot see. For instance, we were out playing pool one time and he claimed to see decapitated heads hanging from the ceiling. Besides him, my dad encountered a “snake-like demon” suffocating him while he was asleep. We all thought that we must be so spiritual that Satan chose to attack us, but I realised later that it was through these Charismatic “sign gifts” that we actually opened ourselves to the demonic realm.
The entire time that I was in the Charismatic movement, no one corrected me. However, when I was married to my first wife, I would always disagree with her Baptist mother about her stance for salvation that cannot be lost.
By the time I was 20-21, I stopped attending the church but I still hung unto the Charismatic ideologies. It wasn’t until my mid twenties when I first heard the true gospel by Pastor Steven Anderson* (I don’t agree with his bigotry and some of his other unbiblical doctrines, but he was the first preacher who led me to the Lord. Our final authority is still the Word of God, not any preacher). I began to understand what it means to be saved by faith through grace in Christ alone, that salvation cannot be lost because it’s purely the work of Christ, not based on our works, and that salvation is a free gift.
It felt like a weight off my shoulders. Why did I waste all those years in fear and confusion, trying to obtain God’s favour and grace? I tried so hard to save myself from hell, but I realise I can never be able to save myself!
I finally understood what Jesus meant when He was on the cross and said in John 19:30, “It is finished.” All I needed to do to get saved was to simply trust in Jesus alone, in what He has done for me, that all my sins are paid in full. I used to fight so hard against once-saved-always-saved, so this was a complete 180° turnaround for me.
Little by little, I began to see the errors of the Pentecostal/ Charismatic movement as I grew in my new faith. It struck me how much these modern bible versions that I leaned on all those years (MSG, Passion, NIV, etc) altered and corrupted my view of the true Word of God. They support a works-based salvation view, even in the subtle places through their pages. No wonder my church taught it. After much research, I now believe that the KJV is the perfectly preserved Word of God for the English-speaking world. Reading it gave me so much more clarity, understanding and richness than those modern versions.
From an avid follower of all things Charismatic, I am now an avid fighter against it.
After I disassociated myself from the Charismatic movement and renounced it, my entire family from my father’s side were shocked. They are still heavily involved with the movement. My father thinks it’s weird that I believe that salvation cannot be lost. My stepmother, grandmother and other family members were unhappy that I exposed their false signs and wonders. When I tried to warn them of false prophecies that they constantly share on their Facebook, they would get defensive and countered me with resources from their false teachers. Till today, I still correct my dad whenever he shares the teachings of these false teachers with me. They have stopped trying to convince me otherwise, but they continue to promote their false beliefs. I am thankful I still have a relationship with my dad and my family, but we are not as close as before.
I also lost many friends from OBF after I shared with them the errors of the Charismatic movement. The church silences those who criticise them.
To Charismatics out there, true biblical salvation is to trust solely in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ and not in your works or sign gifts. Once you are born again, you cannot be unborn. Once you are saved, you cannot be unsaved. Jesus paid in full for all our sins (past, present, future) on the cross and our obedience to the law has no effect on salvation. Thus, we can truly abide in Him and be free in Him.
I urge that you flee from the false teachings of the Charismatic movement and find the truth in the Word of God as our final authority, not in those corrupted modern bible versions but in the KJV. The apostolic gifts have been done away with and God’s Word is sufficient.
John 20:29 – “…blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed”
*Disclaimer: Ex-Charismatics does not endorse Steven Anderson