Charismatics can be tempted to twist scripture based upon their spiritual experiences.
Conservatives can be tempted to twist scripture based upon their lack of spiritual experiences.
Both sides must become vulnerable enough to ask God for something that could ruffle their feathers:
“Lord show me truth, whether I like it or not and I don’t care if its convenient or not..just show me truth”
I saw a video a while back of an extremely Charismatic church service. (I’m using extremes here) What a chuckle Satan must have had. Those leading the service were so “high on the Spirit” that they were taking drags off make-believe joints they were holding between their fingers! Inhaling the Holy Spirit like weed! They were so “baked” that they were leaning on one another and laughing hysterically. Really? Toking the Holy Spirit? Hello? Anybody home? Obviously not. Lights out folks. Good night.
On the other hand, I was in a service at a conservative Bible college once where a missionary was sharing some of the many documented stories of Muslims who have come to Christ as a result of having vivid dreams and visions of Issa(Jesus). Half-way through his presentation a high ranking faculty member stood up, interrupted the missionary, proceeded to publicly rebuke him and challenge his account. The faculty member was a strict secessionist and did not believe that these miraculous works of God take place anymore. This appalling and embarrassing display caused a premature end to the service as the missionary graciously and humbly stopped his presentation and stepped down form the pulpit. What nauseated me most was the general aproval of students and faculty alike for the faculty member’s intervention in the service. He was applauded as having “defended the faith.” What a load of rubbish! To this day I wish I had the fortitude to have stood up and silently followed that dear missionary out the door in solidarity.
Oh the extremes! As Leonard Ravenhill once said, “Heresy is truth pushed too far.” Nothing has changed since the Garden of Eden. Satan is a master at using truth to gain credibility. If he can get us to agree with an introductory truth, he will leverage the credibility he gains from it and twist it to his purposes. All he has to do next is simply push that truth to the extreme by introducing assumptive arguments, appealing to sinful motivations or fear.
My ultra conservative brothers are frequently guilty of replacing the Father, Son and Holy Spirit with the Father, Son and Holy Bible.
“Proprosterous!!” They say. “We are dedicated to scriptural truth!”
To which I respond: “I agree and we are deeply indebted to you for much of it. Yet, you also have deviated from truth because you have feared error and extremes. In fact, you have swung to the other side of the pendulum to find a safe little hole to hide in! In so doing you lock yourself away from the Spirit of God. You have blocked up the spring of living waters within you. You are dry and crusty. You would never deny the Spirit of God’s ministry, yet you effectively deny him in your life and preaching. You cut the very legs out from underneath you so that you are spiritual cripples. Simply said, you avoid the Holy Spirit.
In 1978 Soviet geologist came across a family of six in an the Tiaga region of Siberia. They had been living in isolation for 40 years and were unaware that WW2 had even happened. What were they doing there? The father, Karp Lykov, was an “Old Believer”-a member of a fundamentalist Russian Orthodox sect. They fled persecution during Bolshevik revolution. Lykov took his family by night deep into the wilderness. Fear so gripped them that they remained there without ever seeing another human being for 40 years!
What a sad parable on dead fundamentalism. It is so terrified of the error and violence done in the name of the Holy Spirit. Because of this, they are content to live and die with cold hearts in the squaller of the spiritual hinterlands. They sing the great hymns of faith with dull eyes. They eat dry spiritual bread from sermons preached by equally bankrupt preachers . When they open their Bible’s their hearts are not stirred or taught by the Spirit. They speak of the riches of God’s grace as if they are fairy tales from long ago and far away.
You know it is possible to be content as a pauper? I grew up in Africa. My village friends were among the poorest in the world. Yet they also coped quite well and were generally quite content. They were more content, in fact, than we are in the west. We often have more pity for the poor than the poor have for themselves. Sadly, it is possible to live like spiritual paupers and be content with it. All the while, failing to investigate to see if indeed these exceedingly great and precious promises are actually ours to inherit! So, in the end you have a form of godliness that denies the power thereof.
Now to my Holy Spirit “toking” friends. You have fallen into utilitarian christianity. You began to ask “What can I get out of God?” You may(or may not) have begun in the Spirit and power but you have ended up defaming the name of God by your idolatry. God will not be a means to your ends! The product of such a line of thinking has led to the sacrifice of truth because it didn’t feel good. You defend your fleshly desires and licensed your madness by quoting “where the Spirit of God is their is freedom.” You further encourage heretical prosperity gospel by quoting your favourite exert from The Lord’s prayer “…Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” By it you argue that it is your job to bring heaven to earth. If health and wealth is our destiny than all the apostles, great men of faith and even Jesus Christ himself were miserable failures.
This madness doesn’t just happen..it develops. It happens over a period of time as more and more truth is sacrificed to satisfy the fleshly desire for emotional experiences, signs, health and wealth.” Discernment of the spirits is not exercises. Church discipline goes out the window. Order in worship is discarded as archaic and restrictive. Accountability also falls victim and soon all kinds of immorality and fraud appearing in leadership.
When discernment is shown and someone does confront an error, it is often squelched by heavy handed leaders who brand them as heretics and divisive instruments of the devil. What you get is a petrie dish for all kinds of sin and heresy.
At this point many conservatives might be patting themselves on the back and saying, “Thank you Lord that I am not a sinner like these.” Wipe that smug smile of your face! At least the charismatics took what they knew and ran with zeal and power. Many of them may have fallen, but at least they went somewhere. For a time these fallen ones greatly glorified God. Do you remember Sampson? What a screw up he was! But he was listed in Heb 11 in the “Hall of Faith.” Deal with it! He was a great man of faith!
Oh conservative evangelical, Don’t laugh because some of them have fallen. Be careful! Most of you have only ever been dead! I‘d rather be among the living than the dead wouldn’t you! I don’t see to many people hanging out in graveyards. Many of you are what is called “unbelieving believers.” You sat in the church pew for 30 years like a corpse! I don’t care if you ushered, taught Sunday school or preached all your life. If it wasn’t born of the power of the Spirit the only chance it did anything of eternal value was if God had pity on those you were ministering to! What have you to show for it? What real fruit have you bourn? Wake up! Repent! Put on strength! Discover the riches of God’s grace. Be filled with the Holy Spirit and fire! Seize the promises by faith – not for your purposes but God’s.
To my Charismatic brothers, whether you like it or not. God has established parameters, submit to them. Don’t pretend they don’t exist. Be bold against heresy. Engage the gift of discernment. Stop chasing miracles and signs all the time. “A wicked and adulterous generation seeks signs.”(Matt 12:39) It is true that “..signs will accompany those who believe”(Mark 16:17). Remember, though, that signs “accompany.” They are a bi-product not a prime product. It is “believing”- faith that is the greater thing. Without faith it is impossible to please God. And our goal is to please God not ourselves. Further more it is Christ we primarily seek not the Holy Spirit(Phil 3). The Holy Spirit is our guide and Counselor to Christ. We are the bride He is the Groom.
Its’ a struggle to have fiery zeal balanced with truth. We owe a great deal to both sides. Lets bring that pendulum back to centre so that Christ will be most glorified.
I want to hear your insight or critiques. What has God shown you regarding this matter?