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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

My Strange Fire Conference blog series addendum: Acts 2:38-39

The Day of Pentecost had fully come (Acts 2:1) and Peter and John, filled with the Holy Spirit, stood up with the others who had gathered in the upper room and preached to the thousands of Jews who had gathered outside on the street who heard the strange sounds coming from the disciples of the crucified Jesus. There in that upper room were these Jews who had followed Jesus throughout His earthly ministry (until He was betrayed, then only John remained) "speaking in tongues and prophesying" to the glory of the risen Man Jesus and the heavenly Father. The convicting ministry of this same Holy Spirit (Jn. 16:8ff) now did His work in the hearts of the recalcitrant Jews, opening up their hearts with the light of God that they might see and enter the kingdom, calling upon the name of the One whom they had just murdered (2 Cor. 4:6; Jn. 6:44, 63; 3:3-7; Acts 2:40-41).

The same Holy Spirit (there is, after all, only one Holy Spirit) who convicted and persuaded the Jews on the Day of Pentecost, convicts and persuades to this day. He Himself is the "gift" promised to the Jews and all whom God would ever call to Himself. The promise of this gift is timeless and universal.

Acts 2:39 "For the promise is for you and your children, and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God shall call to Himself." This is not a promise to all whom God calls that they too will speak in tongues and prophesy. That issue is clearly addressed in Paul's letter to the confused Corinthians (1 Cor. 12-14). It is a promise that all whom God calls to Himself will receive the Person of the Holy Spirit. And this promise is timeless and universal.

As a new Christian in 1974, I soaked up the written word of God. Never once in my reading did I see dispensationalism in the word. I certainly saw different covenants in both the Old and New Testaments. Observing covenants in the Bible did not, however, lead me to the notion of "covenant theology." To this day I do not see either school of theology in the Bible.

Furthermore, the idea of cessationalism never ever entered my nascent theology. Nothing in the word even hinted to me that the giving of the gifts of the Spirit ceased with the deaths of the apostles. I still don't see it. As I blogged in an earlier post on Strange Fire, I believe there is a better theory on what happened in the church when the gifts no longer flourished among the believers then MacArthur's "faded away" statement. And while I never spoke in tongues in those early days and months after my conversion and exposure to the "Jesus Movement" and the Charismatic Movement, I didn't feel the least bit slighted; I knew that I been graciously saved through Spirit-given faith in Jesus Christ. It wasn't until later that I would be pressured to speak in tongues.

My first experience with someone who spoke in tongues happened when I visited a "Spirit filled" assembly that met in an early morning service in a Lutheran church in my city. I was thrilled to the bone. I heard someone speak in tongues and someone give the interpretation. Whether either the tongue or the interpretation were genuine I don't know. But at the time in my naivete I was beside myself with excitement. I had never heard of the controversy concerning the gift of tongues.

The supposed gift of tongues was and still is the chief culprit in the conversation between those who believe in continuationalism and cessationalism. The continuationists have through their dismissal of essential contextual matters of Scriptural interpretation twisted Scripture and have made it say what it clearly does not say. Tongues is nowhere in Scripture taught as the evidence of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. The evidence of that baptism is love for the brethren. The result of this abuse of the gifts and Scripture is what I refer to as the "Corinthian Confusion."

It is this "Corinthian Confusion" that was introduced to the world through the Azuza Street Revival at the turn of the 20th century and furthered by the Charismatic Movement which came to America in the late 1950's but gained its largest following during the '70's. Pentecostals and charismatics relied heavily on the spectacular manifestations they identified as gifts of the Spirit, tongues, prophecies, and healings.

The confusion was exacerbated by Pentecostals and charismatics who insisted that "tongues" was the evidence of the "baptism in the Holy Spirit." This perversion of the word of God and the gifts of the Spirit was spread largely through the coming of so-called "Christian television" and the proliferation of Christian books by leaders within the Charismatic Movement. The likes of Jim Bakker, Pat Robertson, Oral Roberts, Paul Crouch, Kenneth Hagin, Charles Capps, and Jimmy Swaggart stated dogmatically on the air and in print that if you didn't speak in tongues you weren't saved. At best you couldn't know if you were baptized in the Spirit without the gift of tongues. This gave birth to the furtherance of false tongues and false prophecies by those who knew they were faking it because they were pressured to fit in. I still witness this today. As a matter of fact, I do not think I have ever heard the genuine gift of tongues.

The conversation re-introduced by John MacArthur isn't focused on the gifts of the Holy Spirit as much as on the heresies introduced into the visible church by the Charismatic Movement and its bastard child, the Word Faith Movement with its "name it and claim it," "health and wealth" gospel that is no gospel at all. These movements are symptomatic of the apostasy that is encroaching rapidly through "your best life now" deceptions. The leaven of the Charismatic Movement must be removed from the body of Christ with as little damage to the body of Christ that is caught up in that movement, with the sole idea of restoring such ones to that blood bought body. We are to guard the truth through the preaching and teaching and living out the word of truth.


Friday, October 18, 2013

An Alternative Theory To The "Fade Away" Theory of John MacArthur: Conclusion

When the Charismatic Movement began to catch on in mainline denominations and in Southern Baptist congregations, the powers that be in those assemblies saw it as a great and dark threat to their theology and traditions and membership; and rightly so. However, for several decades these non-charismatic denominations reacted in the extreme, almost to the point of pushing the Holy Spirit out the back door.

Presbyterian pastors who embraced all things charismatic (I sat under two charismatic pastors when I was a Presby) were given grief by their members and some were forced to resign. The same held true for SBC pastors who were voted out and who (I knew one who was fired and planted a church of his liking with some success) lost their living and their homes on account of their embracing charismata. And now one seldom hears of the Charismatic Movement in any denomination. Talk about fading away.

The problems with the Charismatic Movement the Strange Fire conference addresses are real. The heresies that creeped into the visible church via the multitude of false teachers/prophets/apostles/pastors are damnable, "even denying the Lord who bought them." But some of the cessationists now on the platform at MacArthur's church during his Strange Fire conference are (in my humble opinion...and I believe I too have the Holy Spirit) going to great extremes, condemning 500,000 charismatics (not too strong a word for what some speakers have said about this movement), saying that charismatics have blasphemed the Holy Spirit. There are serious problems with the Charismatic Movement. But there are serious problems with some who are using their interpretation of the word of God, their personal and subjective feelings about the Charismatic Movement, and their personal agendas, to call down fire on charismatics and Pentecostals.

John MacArthur is walking on the cutting edge of Christianity. I'm waiting to see where he goes with this conference. I've always trusted this man and have many of his books and commentaries. I've listened to him on the radio for many, many years and went to a weekend conference to hear him at The Cove. While I stand behind my belief that this conference could be exactly what has been needed for decades (why didn't someone do this in the beginning of the Charismatic Movement? Why wait till now when the Charismatic Movement is so passe?), it just might be a divisive step instead of one that guards the gospel as MacArthur hopes to do. It has definitely started a conversation...and I like it.

My theory versus Mac's theory

I call MacArthur's theory of the cessation of the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit, the "Fade Away Theory." He said, and I will try to quote him accurately from memory, "After the deaths of the original apostles and those who heard them, the miraculous gifts just faded away." And ya know something, he is right. But not for his dispensationalist interpretation reasons.

Something did happen after the apostles died off. But we're not left completely in the dark as to what that something was. We see this something developing early in the letters of Paul, Peter, and John.

In his letter to the Galatians we witness by the hand of Paul and the hand of the Holy Spirit just how quickly the denial of the Holy Spirit and His gifts arose. And the churches in Galatia were certainly not by themselves as the apostles of the apostasy sowed the seeds of deceit and damnation. Listen to these select verses from Paul's letter to the Galatians: "I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ..."(1:6). "This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh? Have you suffered so many things in vain, if indeed it was in vain? Therefore He who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you, does He do it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?" (3:2-5).

The apostle was shocked by the almost immediate apostasy of some of the Galatian church members who had rejected the Holy Spirit and faith in Jesus Christ and had turned to the law of Moses and works of the law rather than the grace of God (5:4). They had heard as clear as anyone could hear the true gospel of God.This very thing has happened in every local church since the Holy Spirit was poured out on all who believe.

Our day is no exception. And the further in time and geograhy the visible church moves away from Pentecost, the more we see a reliance on works and less on the Person and work of the Holy Spirit. And likewise, the further away from the written word of God some move, the deeper into error, and worse, do they find themselves. And that's precisely what the folks in the Charismatic Movement have done; and that's why it morphed into the damnable Word Faith Movement with its abundance of false teachers and false prophets and false apostles and false bishops.

By the 2nd centruy church leaders and even church fathers had turned to scholasticism and their "gray matter" rather than the Holy Spirit. It didn't take long for heresies to reign in the visible universal church as man exalted himself, boasting in themselves for their own justification, sanctification, righteousness, and wisdom (1 Cor. 1:26-2:5). Even those who fought the heresies of Arias and Marcion and Pelagius denied the gifts of the Spirit as they won their fight for the truth of the gospel. From Tertullian to Augustine to Calvin and Luther, those who believed in the gifts of the Spirit were called silly and ridiculous by these outstanding church theologians. Now the church fathers and the Reformers are given the final say by many of our 21st century theologians who seem to rely on their intellect, their particular schools of theology, and hermeneutical skills rather than the Holy Spirit.

I'm not ready to deny what Scripture does not. And nowhere in the word of God do I find any allusion to what the cessationists and dispensationalists claim. But, I am teachable.


An Alternative Theory To The "Fade Away" Theory of John MacArthur: Part 1

On October 16, 2013, Dr. John MacArthur opened his conference exposing the heresies of the Charismatic Movement which he entitled "Strange Fire." This expose is long overdue. I have said for many years to those in my little circle that if the false teachers/apostles/prophets/pastors of our day who have twisted and perverted the word of God and deceived millions through the doctrines and practices of those who lead and those who follow in the Charismatic Movement had done so to such a grand scale as we witness everyday, the "church fathers" of centuries ago would have sounded the alarm by assembling and declaring the heresies of such deceivers, enumerating their heresies and calling their names in what they would have called a "Church Council." Dr. MacArthur's conference is the closest meeting we have seen to such a much needed council.

I was "in" the Charismatic Movement for 9 years, from March of '74 to sometime in 1983. I never spoke in tongues. It was my understanding from the Bible that all the gifts of the Spirit were determined and distributed by the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. If the Lord had wanted me to speak in tongues at any time He would have so equipped me; He never did, though I sought that gift with tears.

The pressure to speak in tongues was pretty heavy upon me. I had precious brothers who "spoke in tongues" into my ears (and I do mean "into my ears") hoping I would hear them and at least imitate the sounds I was hearing. After a while they gave up. They still loved me. But they never again prayed for me to receive/feign that gift. *I did learn to fake it and it sounded really good and authentic. I repeated my "tongue" for years in my little circle of charismatic friends. I can do it to this day. My tongue was based on Shoney's restaurant...seriously. I wanted desparately to fit in.

I survived my years in the Charismatic Movement by the grace of God who had indeed gifted me with an overwhelming and consuming love of His Son, His people, the lost, and His written word. I consumed the word. I was blessed in the Bible and memorized many, many verses for my personal edification and the building up of the faith of my friends and many others. My charismatic friends were at least impressed with my growing knowledge of Scripture and my nascent theology. I was pretty satisfied myself.

I was used of the Spirit to participate in the evangelizing of many with whom I came in contact. My heart longed to see people saved. But this wasn't listed (in the minds of the charismatics) as one of the spectacular gifts that they deemed necessary as proof of my being "filled with the Spirit." My calling wasn't to see unbelievers, or believers for that matter, "baptized in the Holy Ghost." My heart was set on knowing Him and making Him known (with apologies to my Alma Mater, Columbia Bible College) and enjoying Him forever. And I in no way ever felt superior to my charismatic friends. In fact, during those 9 years I felt inferior to them because I didn't speak in tongues publicly and never quite fit in.

During the mid to late '70's the Charismatic Movement gave birth to what came to be known as the "Word Faith Movement" and the likes of Jim Bakker, Kenneth Hagen, and Kenneth and Gloria Copeland. Their acceptance by charismatics was the beginning of my separation from the Charismatic Movement. These people were clearly false teachers and false prophets focused on their own wealth and fame and I could not for the life of me understand how my friends and brothers and sisters at church couldn't see it. I told my pastor that the folks at PTL were playing games and twisting the word of God but he defended them. I cautioned others about the Word Faith Movement and this brought about a rift that exists to this day.

Through the influence of a good friend, I had been introduced to the writings of E.W. Kenyon and found them to be interesting but questionable. I read 3 or 4 of his books and threw them away. When Copeland came on the scene I heard the voice of Kenyon in Kenneth Copeland's teachings; it was nothing less than plagiarism.

These were the days of the "big guns" of Pentecostalism and the Charismatic Movement. Oral Roberts, Hagin, Kenneth Copeland, Marilyn Hickey, Derek Prince, Bob Mumford, etc., etc. It was actually a pretty exciting time to be a Christian with all the new stuff that was popping up everday. I examined much of what was going on, listening to new ideas over the radio and watching the popular teachers of that time on television. But my excitement was tempered and quenched by what was clearly blatantly false teachings and false prophecies. It was during these days that "being slain in the spirit" came into vogue. And it was this phenomenon that caused me to finally say enough is too much. I left the movement (I was never really a part of it) in 1983 after participating in a Sunday morning "come get your miracle" service in the mountains of North Carolina.


Saturday, October 12, 2013

Is faith in Jesus a gift? Or is it simply a choice?

It's both.

The real question, for me at least, is "which comes first, the gift or the choice?"

We do in fact "choose" to "call upon the name of the Lord" that we might be saved. And we call upon the name of the Lord Jesus because we have heard the gospel, by the grace of God, and we have believed the gospel, by the grace of God. So before we call we believe (Romans 10:1-17; Eph. 2:1-10).

Faith is first the gift of God. Just as His grace is a gift; just as the Holy Spirit is a gift (Acts 2:38-39; Rom. 5:4).

Upon hearing the gospel, those who believe do so because the Holy Spirit has quickened them, given them life and understanding of the message of the Cross ("light"), and so moved upon their hearts that they freely and joyfully "choose" to trust Jesus (Jn. 6:44, 63; 2 Thess. 2:13-14). This is nothing less than being raised unto life from the dead (the point Paul makes in Rom. 6:1-11; Eph. 2:1-3 and in 1 Cor. 6:9-11).

We are all born "dead in our trespasses and sins," enslaved to sin and the sin nature and can only pick and choose within that spiritual sphere in which we once lived (Eph. 2:1-3; Rom. 3:10-17). The spiritually dead cannot rise to the place where they can break out of their spiritual sphere of existence except by the gracious intervention of God. And even then millions will say no to the Holy Spirit as He works with and in the preaching of the gospel. This is the negative side of what is called "free will." The dead do indeed have free will but it is limited to their spiritual sphere of existence. They are slaves of sin and Satan and are only freed from their deadness by the grace of God. The dead cannot choose life except God gives them life and light and faith (Eph. 2:1-13).

We can plant and water the seed through preaching the gospel but it is ultimately God who gives the growth (1 Cor. 3:1-11). "Let those who boast, boast in the Lord" (1 Cor. 1:30-31).