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Monday, August 26, 2013

The Holy Spirit in the now. Is John MacArthur right?

It's pretty obvious, isn't it? I disagree with John MacArthur's dispensationalist interpretation of the present work of the Holy Spirit. That's all it is. I just disagree with him on this vital issue.

From my study of the word of God (like Paul, I too think I have the Holy Spirit) I see no Biblical support for the idea that the gifts of the Holy Spirit ceased when the last apostle or whomever died. MacArther interprets "perfect" in 1 Corintians 13:8 as a reference to the Canon of Scripture, the Bible. He teaches that once we had the Bible as we now have it there was no longer a need for the spiritual gifts. In fact, I see more Scriptural evidence to the contrary.

Let me provide at this point passages that give us the gifts mentioned in the New Testament as specifically being identified as gifts of the Spirit or simply as gifts given to the church without being referred to as "gifts of the Spirit."

Romans 12:6-9 6 And since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let each exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith; 7 if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching; 8 or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.

1 Corinthians 12:4-11 4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. 6 And there are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons. 7 But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8 For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit; 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills...1 Corinthians 12:27-30 27 Now you are Christ's body, and individually members of it. 28 And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues. 29 All are not apostles, are they? All are not prophets, are they? All are not teachers, are they? All are not workers of miracles, are they? 30 All do not have gifts of healings, do they? All do not speak with tongues, do they? All do not interpret, do they?

Ephesians 4:11-13 11 And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fulness of Christ.

1 Peter 4:10-11 10 As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. 11 Whoever speaks, let him speak, as it were, the utterances of God; whoever serves, let him do so as by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

Galatians 3:5 5 Does He then, who provides you with the Spirit and works miracles among you, do it by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?
The church of Jesus Christ, the church of God, would not exist and cannot function apart from the presence and work of the Person of the Holy Spirit. The true church does indeed have the Holy Spirit.
 
Jesus Christ is the Head of the church which is His body. The Trinity delegated a particular work to the Holy Spirit, that of drawing the ungodly to His Son through the preaching of the gospel, baptizing everyone who by the grace of God comes to faith in Jesus Christ into His body, and then gifting each individual in His body with gifts that glorify God and edify the body and the individual. The works of glorifying God and edifying the body will not cease until God says the time has come, that "great and terrible Day of the Lord."


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Holy Spirit in the now. Is John MacArthur right? Part 2

Fads come and fads go. But not God; but not the Holy Spirit.

The "Jesus Movement" of the '60's crossed paths with the Charismatic Movement; they were not the same thing. The Jesus Movement was false Christianity at its best. "God is Love. Love is God." "Make Love, Not War." The '60's culture meshed religion and politics together so well one couldn't tell where one began and the other ended. The hippy anti-war movement loved God as long as they thought love is God; as long as they thought God is love said everything about God.

The Charismatic Movement with its emphasis on the Person and work of the Holy Spirit at least made an attempt to get us focused on Someone other than ourselves. It didn't work. But it certainly got us talking and thinking about the third Person of the Trinity. However, "talking and thinking" about the Spirit is only as sound as is the commitment to the word of God of those who are talking and thinking about the Spirit. Charismatics tended to make things up as they went along.

Songs about the Holy Spirit were popular back then and some of them were great. Songs about the Lord Jesus and "Jehovah" were sung in many churches around the world. And that was good. Those songs were simple and shallow and easy to memorize but in the final analysis they contributed little to the true body of Christ. The churches that identified as charismatic were as full of corruption and error as any of the traditional churches they shunned. I still sing some of those old songs and love them. But that's only because by the grace of God I was justified and graced with a tremendous hunger for the word of God and His Son from day one.

Spiritual songs minister to spiritual people. They simply entertain those in the church who are not.

Back in the day we would visit churches recommended by my charismatic friends because these congregations were "Spirit filled." In most of them there would be a time when dozens of charismatics would be "praying in tongues" aloud. That is very much opposed to what the apostle Paul said was right in the church concerning the gift of tongues (1 Cor. 12:4-13, 27-31; 14:1-5, 13-40).

I believe that the gifts of the Spirit continue. They have certainly been abused and misunderstood and feigned, but that does not by any means negate the authentic manifestations of those gifts.

The church of God is supposed to be excited and expectant and eager about all that God has done for us and in us and is still doing today. Else why would Paul pray for the Ephesians (and we can pray for our churches) that they might know the fullness of the Spirit and God? (Eph. 1:15-20 and 3:14-19). Remember, beloved, "All Scripture is God-breathed, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work" (2 Tim. 3:16-17). That, of course, includes every passage concerning the gifts of the Spirit. We are not free to pick and choose gifts for ourselves and our brethren. That's the Trinity's work.

I hope and pray that John MacArthur's conference, "Strange Fire," is effective in calling out the heretics and the heresies so prevalent in out time. I also pray that God might visit those attending with His overwhelming presence.
 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Holy Spirit in the now. Is John MacArthur right?

One of my favorite pastor/theologians, Dr. John MacArthur, has announced and is currently promoting his upcoming conference, "Strange Fire," that will focus on the plethora of heresies currently infecting the visible church and through the infected church the world around it. This is very much like what I have suggested many times needs to be done.

This conference very well could have been in the vein of the councils of the early church fathers where heretics and their damnable heresies were called out and condemned. However, there is a twist to Dr. MacArthur's plan in that his denial of the present working of the Holy Spirit and in particular the more spectacular of His gifts, is almost as heretical as those charismatics he rightly condemns.

John Piper has recently said in an interview that "the absence of God has become normal." I would add to that; the absence of the Holy Spirit, or rather, the willful ignoring of the Person and continuing work of the Holy Spirit has become normal and preferred. Dr. MacArthur doesn't by any means deny the essential nature and indwelling presence of the Person of the Holy Spirit in the lives of Christians. He does, however, teach an unscriptural view of the gifts of the Holy Spirit in the lives of those who are genuinely born again.

In our culture the absence of God is simply the manifestation of man's separation from God. To be absent from God or for God to be absent from man is the state of all who are not in Christ. We are all born "dead in our trespasses and sins," separated from our Creator. Life comes only by the grace of God through faith in Jesus, that faith itself being a gift of God that is given to us by the Holy Spirit and only by the Holy Spirit (2 Thess. 2:13-14; Eph. 2:4-10; Jn. 6:63).

The Charismatic Movement was exciting and fun for those of us who were caught up in it 40+ years ago. It was so much fun that we forgot to check with God to see if what we were witnessing was His doing. Most of it was not.

I became a lover of the word of God upon my conversion in March of '74. I was surrounded by young charismatics, men and women barely out of high school who were woefully ignorant of the word of God.

Speaking in tongues, healings of all kinds (for some reason it became popular to have legs lengthened during these days of carnival like meetings) and prophesying were all the rage in the circles in which I walked. However, I began to see early in my walk that what was going on in the charismatic assemblies I visited didn't "line up" with what I was reading in the Bible. It took me 9 years to finally say enough is too much, but in 1983 I made my break with the Charismatic Movement.

The Charismatic Movement with its scripture twisting leaders, opened the door for the most bizarre and ridiculous teachings and behaviors the visible church has witnessed in its 2,000+ year history (Benny Hinn, the Copelands, Kenneth Hagin, and Jesse Duplantis come to mind). The danger for those of us who love the Lord Jesus, His written word, and the Holy Spirit, as John MacArthur indeed does, is that we will go to great extremes to counter the damnable heresies and abuses we see in the Movement as we attempt to close the door it opened.

Our theological presuppositions must not override our interpretation and application of Scripture or the continuing work of the Holy Spirit.
 

Friday, August 9, 2013

"You betta check yoself before you wreck yoself." The Christian and temptation: Conclusion

"You're about to do something that you're really going to regret. And you're probably going to do it anyway even while knowing the outcome, guilt and regret." That's why people say to us and others, "You betta check yoself before you wreck yoself." We are all train wrecks looking for someplace to happen.

The allurement of certain sins, i.e., temptations, those that have a particular draw for each of us, are like that, they are alluring. They appeal to our remaining corruption, our flesh, our old man. And they are individualized in that not all temptations have the same power in the lives of every believer. What can bring one Christian down will have no effect on another. And should we fail to check ourselves by recognizing the very real threat that stands before us, we will give in.

We are being "overcome" by this particular temptation, sexual lust, gossip about a friend, using your favorite profanity (profanity in the Biblical sense), lying about why you did something or didn't do something you were supposed to do, etc., etc. The mental wrangling over an attractive temptation with its accompanying physical feelings with their deceptive and lying promises of pleasure and satisfaction/fulfillment/vindication, is the factor that clinches the deal. You do it. Then you're sorry you did ... hopefully.

And there's not a righteous man on earth who doesn't sin, who doesn't give in to his or her temptations on a regular basis. The good news is that God provided for every sin, every failure the disciple of Christ has and will face. He knew full well that we were going to sin after being justified through faith in Christ and took that into account "before time began," "before the foundation of the world."

This is the Scriptural way of saying check yourself, "Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall" (1 Cor. 10:12).

CONTEXT

Don't you wonder sometimes why so-and-so said what he said? If you stop and give the conversation some thought and check the context of that conversation you can often answer your own question. "What did I say, if anything, that may have triggered his response?" "What is going on in his life that contributed to his rather tort remarks?"

Why did the apostle Paul write these words to the church? Context answers our question. Notice the word "therefore" at the beginning of this verse. That word points us back to v.1 and what follows.

We're being reminded that we're no different than the Hebrews who came out of Egypt by the mighty hand of God; we can succumb to the same temptations that brought them down.

We're blessed of the Holy Spirit? So were they. We walk with God's gifts and guidance and provisions? So did they. We have God's word preached to us by men of God? So did they. However, there is a huge difference between those rebellious Jews and you and me. They fell because of unbelief. Those of us who really do belong to Jesus can never fall into apostasy as they did.

But we can fall into similar sins to the point that God might take us away from here. And that ain't good, beloved. Cf. 1 Cor. 11:27-32; 1 Jn. 5:16-17. This doesn't refer to the loss of one's relationship with God the Father. What is born of God cannot be lost, referring to the inner man. It is a warning about the very real possibility of one losing one's physical life on account of sin.

So lets do it. Lets check ourselves before we wreck ourselves.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

"You betta check yoself before you wreck yoself." The Christian and temptations: Part 1

Ok, ok. It's a phrase that came to mind this morning and I thought it would be a great title for a blog post. It's kinda like what my preaching professors warned against, coming across a great illustration and building a sermon around it rather than getting one's sermons from the word of God. "Hey, that's a great story. I'll bet I can find some Scripture to go with it." Sounds good but tends to be a very careless way to construct a sermon.

But that cute little phrase, coined by a black American a decade or so ago, has a good word for every believer in Jesus Christ. And I've found a couple of really good Bible verses to go with it. *Put a smiley face here.

First, James 1:12-16, "Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. Let no one say when he is tempted, 'I am tempted by God'; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives  birth to sin'; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren."

That's it. That's the Biblical equivalent of "you betta check yoself before you wreck yoself."

Let me make you aware of just how common it is and always has been to think that we are getting away with sin and it's God's fault.

James concludes this little section with these words of warning, "Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren." That phrase, "do not be deceived," is what we Greek scholars (:)) refer to as a "negated present imperative." It is a command, but not just any command. It is a command to stop doing something you're currently doing. Here James is saying to his beloved brethren, "stop being deceived into believing that you can't help but sin because God is the one tempting you to sin. It's His fault. It can't be so bad if God is behind my temptations." Oh, brethren, you need to check yourselves before you wreck yourselves. The end of this is death, physical death.

Now, verses 17 and 18, "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures."

The chief of God's good gifts is the Person of the Holy Spirit. It is through our working in cooperation with the Holy Spirit, the written word of God and other believers in the body of Christ that we are being sanctified following His initial work of sanctification in each of our lives (1 Cor. 1:30; 6:11). We are set apart by God for His purposes (initial sanctification) and are in the lifelong process of sanctification. And in this process we are assured that God is for us and not against us. He never ever tempts us, rather He helps us.

In part 2 we will go to 1 Corinthians 10:11-14.