As regular readers already know, I was stuck with my head in the books preparing for some exams while some interesting things were going on in the rest of the world, topics where I would have loved to have thrown my 2 cents into the conversations going on as well. First it was John MacArthur, then Mark Driscoll and then the Pope. So yes, I know that most of you have moved on already, but bear with me as I play catch up.
This post sits a bit heavily on me as I am well aware that some will disagree strongly with it. I'm not one for talking up divisive issues or trying to sound like I know better than anyone else. So with that disclaimer out of the way let's continue. For those who have not yet heard about John MaCarthur's new(ish) book, or about the Strange Fire conference his church held. They basically came out and saying more or less what was previously said in his earlier book "Charismatic Chaos". Stating that the gifts of the Spirit ceased with the closing of the writing of the bible. He draws your attention to the extreme abuses and blatant forgeries happening on television and ultimately ends up throwing the baby out with the bath water. Now my intention here is not to give a theological rebuttal of his paper thin arguments as many have already done that. I recommend checking out some of them over at http://mennonerds.com/ . Rather, I want to share here the 4 places I see people coming from regarding the work of the Spirit in the 21st century. I will also be sharing a story in an upcoming blog of a miraculous healing that was close to home. The proof is in the pudding so they say. Anyway, let's look at those 4 observances I mentioned earlier...
1 - Those who have not experienced the gifts of the Spirit and operate under counterfeits.
This is pretty much the guys people like John MacArthur are highlighting in their books. Some of these people are just stirring people up into an emotional frenzy and by the time the smoke machines are switched off and everyone has gone home, nothing has changed except the church goers are left either disillusioned with God or they feel guilty about their "lack of faith". There are others out there who are doing genuine signs and wonders but they are not from God. There are some videos on TB Joshua which are genuinely scary. Pushing people over from 10 meters away who are not even facing him, people throwing up and urinating worms and all kinds of weird stuff... Then to a much lesser degree there are also those who have simply being taught to imitate the gifts and it's just normal for them. Meetings where you actually go and learn to speak in tongues or prophesy. I was in those sorts of circles as a new Christian and it hurts me to see the Emperor with no clothes type story going on in so many churches today.
2 - Those who have not experienced the gifts of the Spirit and have to adjust their theology accordingly.
Maybe it is a bit harsh of me to make such a generalization, but this is certainly where a lot of cessationists fit in. It's never wise to make a stand on something and then start building a doctrine around those ideas. Proof texting always follows...To see guys as smart as John MacArthur making the weakest of arguments is pitiful as well as harmful to the body as a whole. History is saturated with stories of Gods amazing power and to take the glory away from Him and attribute it to anyone else is to tread on very thin ice.
3 - Those who are filled with the Spirit and are living out the book of Acts today.
One book everyone should read is The Heavenly Man . There are many others as well but that one really spoke to me as it has to many others. What God has being doing in the Chinese church as a whole for the last sixty years is truly remarkable. Check out this 4 part documentary on Youtube , the bible is not just a history book made up of fanciful stories for a past generation, the similar stories (to the book of Acts) happening in the world today are among the greatest evidences that Jesus is alive, well and Lord in the present.
4 - Those who believe in the gifts but experience little "signs and wonders".
I especially created this group for myself, although I am sure that I am not alone in it. I have seeing many wonderful and legit healing's, have heard God speak distinctly and clearly and the fruits of following that voice. I have seeing Muslims baffled at how a man could speak Arabic to them without learning it. Many things, but in truth, it's far from the norm and nothing like the constant testimonies I hear from friends in places like India. This concerns me sometimes, why is Gods power not manifest in the West like He is in Asia? I can only guess. Maybe, in our comfort we are not as reliant on Him for our needs to be met? Maybe, its because we are more private in the Western world and the gifts are corporate in nature and purpose aren't they? I think there is truth in both, especially in the latter. I would love to hear from others who have dwelt on this before for there insights as I work through it myself...
But for now, me and my house will continue to pray for the sick and to desire the gifts for the edification of the body. I will be cautious, but not cut off.