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My wife and I attend a traditional church that doesn't operate in the gifts of the Spirit. However, God has been wetting our appetite for these gifts from books, ministry newsletters, magazines, internet, etc.
We can see that this may be for our day. I'm not sure that some of these things are caused by the demons or not. I read on your site about the angels that appeared to you. What do they look like? This is a huge concern to me, because I am trying to sort out an experience in my own life.
Most of these people that believe in these things seem to just talk about the miracles, healings and word of knowledge. They don't focus on salvation and on reaching the lost with the gospel.
My wife and I are trying to get closer to God and I want to make sure this is from God and not the devil. We need physical healing and help financially also. We are in our late 60s and sort of retired. We want all that God has for us, but we don't want to open ourselves up to the devil.- Inquisitive
The question you are asking is: "for any supernatural experience, how can I be sure it is God and not the devil?" There is no quick and easy answer for that question, it comes down to how close you walk with the Lord, how well you know Him and how much time you spend in His presence.
The truth is that the devil does imitate the things of God. Demons can appear as "angels of light" and deceive people. The devil can imitate many of God's miracles, just like Pharaoh's magicians could imitate the first few judgments that Moses brought to Egypt. It appears that that the devil can imitate healing as well. There are all sorts of "new age" healings that are done with "light" and "energy," and without the name of Jesus or anointing of the Holy Spirit.
So, how do you discern the real from the imitation? There is one thing that will really help is this: get to know God better and walk closer to Him. Spend as much time as you can in His presence, through things like prayer, worship, meditating on His word, etc. The better you know the real thing, the easier it will be to spot the imitation.
Let's look at this principle in the natural. My Mom once took a cashier job at a large department store, and they sent her to the same training that bank tellers get to learn to spot counterfeit money. The way that they learned to spot counterfeits was to spend hours looking at the real thing. The instructors pointed out all sorters of features of the genuine article--where there are grid marks, where the ink color is a slightly different shade, etc. In fact, the spent 8 hours of a 10 hour course just getting familiar with the real thing. Then it was easy for them to spot most counterfeits, because it doesn't quite line up with the real thing.
It is tricky to judge spiritual experiences that are not commonly practiced in your church. I can relate to this because I had a similar background. I was Southern Baptist much of my life--in fact I am currently an ordained Southern Baptist minister and attend a spirit-filled Southern Baptist Church. (Yes, such things do exist.) One good thing that Baptists have is that they are usually very well-grounded in Scripture. We get to know quite a bit about what God is like from reading His word, where He reveals His character. That was a good start for me, but it is not enough, in and of itself. I also had to spend a lot of time before Him in worship and meditation and "soaking in His presence."
In short, it was not enough for me to just read about God, I also had to experience a relationship with Him so that I could come to recognize His presence. His presence has a very distinct feel to it, and it becomes easy to recognize when you are around it a lot.
I can also relate to your concerns about deception, because "fear of deception" was something that I struggled with for years. It permeated most areas of my Christian walk, making it harder for God to speak to me. Every time He said anything to me, I would spend hours double-checking and triple-checking what I heard to make sure it was really Him and not the devil imitating His voice. That made me sluggish in obeying Him, because I was constantly concerned that I might be opening myself to the imitation instead of to the Real/Living God. It had a crippling effect on my walk of faith.
Then the Lord begin to speak to me from Matthew 7:7-11 about how when we (in the natural) ask our fathers for good things, they don't give us hurtful things instead. God began to tell me that when I ask Him for revelation of Himself (to get to know Him better), He isn't going to give me a demonic imitation instead. The real issue came down to whether or not I would be willing to start trusting Him. He also assured me that if I started to follow something that was not from Him, He would be faithful to correct me--to let me know I was off the path and to lovingly steer me back onto it.
The issue for me was not an issue of discernment (the ability to tell the genuine from the demonic imitation) but a trust issue. E.g., could I trust God to meet me and to show me any time the devil tried to come with an imitation? That (combined with constantly bouncing my experiences against God's written word) is what enabled me to open up to experience more of the supernatural in my life.
I still check in regularly with God on things and I ask Him to reveal anything to me that is not Him. At times He has done that.
Let me give you an example. One time some of my friends got into this "inner healing" technique that was really more humanistic psychology than God's Spirit. I took the class with them, and I felt a bit uncomfortable about it, but I couldn't put my finger on what was wrong. So I began God about it, and He showed me clearly that what we were studying were humanistic psychology stuff. That is not bad in and of itself, but in my case the enemy was trying to use to get us to each depend on ourself to minister instead of on God's revelation, anointing and power. I was into the class for about 5 or 6 weeks, but God steered me out of it. He is faithful to do that when we misstep while we are sincerely seeking Him.
God was not mad at me, He did not punish me, He just redirected me to what He wanted me to be doing instead of letting me continue down a path that would have been wrong for me. God is faithful to do this sort of thing any time I step out in faith, thinking I am obeying Him, and I get it wrong. (Of course, I try to check in with Him regularly and invite His Lordship in every detail of my life.) He has taken ownership over deception, promising to take responsibility for making sure that I am not led astray when a deception of the devil tries to misdirect my walk with the Lord.
This is actually a relief for me, because God is much better at discerning the imitation than I am. It is a relief that He has taken over this responsibility in my life and that I don't have to be the one to figure it out on my own. That broke the power of fear of deception off of my life.
If you struggle with fear of deception, perhaps you might want to seek the Lord about entering into a similar agreement with Him. Your part is to do your best to seek His will and obey Him, and His part is to make His will clear to you, and to lovingly correct you when you misstep or "hear wrong." God is faithful, and He is powerful enough to communicate clearly to us even on days when we are not hearing Him well.
This same fear of deception kept me from being open to some spiritual experiences that God wanted to bring into my life. I used to be terrified that I would not be able to tell a real angel from the demonic imitation, and as a result, God did not send angels to me for many years. At one point I was on a prayer journey through Italy, and one night God sent an angel to me to give me better instructions about how to pray. I never saw the angel clearly--it radiated too much light and I could not make out much by way of details. But it carried the unmistakable presence of the Lord. It was the same presence of God that I experience when I am soaking in Him, worshipping, meditating on His word, etc. That unmistakable presence of God was how I could tell God's real thing from the demonic imitation.
Since then, the Lord slowly began opening me up to the angelic-- through quality human teaching from men of God, and through the Holy Spirit working directly in me. At first my experiences with angles were mostly limited when I was caught up into Heaven in visions. Then I would occasionally begin to experience them in my day-to-day life. At one point God sort of opened the floodgates of Heaven, and I had this two month period where angles came to me on a daily basis. That was an amazing experience, and God used it to push me past a stumbling block and blind spot in my own life, and to prepare me for an important ministry trip.
I wish I could say that I still had this daily interaction with angels; but the truth is that I don't control them--God does. They show up with God sends them, and they come with a mission and a purpose. At present, God only sends them occasionally...maybe once every week or two. But when they come, they carry the unmistakable presence of the Lord, and it is easy to tell them from the demonic imitation.
As far as what they look like physically, that doesn't matter so much. The way I understand it, they are spirit-beings, and they can take on many different physical forms, depending on their desire and on their mission. The bible records angels appearing as heavenly beings dressed in white with wings. It also records them looking so much like a human that you would not know they were angels by looking. It also records them appearing as flames of fire. I have personally seen them in all of those forms, and there have been a few times when they are "invisible." I.e., I could hear their voice and feel their touch, but I could not see them with my physical eyes. (If that sounds weird to you, there is actually a bible precedent for that Daniel 5:5, when a Heavenly hand wrote a judgment of God on the wall. The hand doing the writing was visible, but the rest of the angel was invisible.)
Most of the time when I see angels, they are the size of a regular person. But I have friends who have seen angels appear in different sizes, from small to huge. I don't know what the angel's criteria is for choosing the form they appear in at any given time.
The important thing is not what they look like, it is the mission God sends them on and the presence of God that they carry.