Psalm 97:10-12 NASB
“Hate evil, you who love the Lord,
Who preserves the souls of His godly ones;
He delivers them from the hand of the wicked.
Light is sown like seed for the righteous
And gladness for the upright in heart.
Be glad in the Lord, you righteous ones,
And give thanks to His holy name.”
Last evening my husband and I were watching a documentary, of sorts, on a particular subject of interest. When the video had finished, I noticed off to the side that there was a video of John MacArthur – a renowned preacher in evangelical Christianity here in America. In the video, he was being asked a set of questions which had been asked of him by a select group of professing Christians whom he had trashed – condemned, criticized, censored, and judged strongly in his book, “Strange Fire” (1). So, we watched that, as well.
I will state up front that I have not read John MacArthur’s book, so my comments here will be based solely on the Q&A discussion (link to video provided below), and on the Word of God and what it teaches, and as I am being led by the Holy Spirit in what to say here.
Evidently, the book is a strong condemnation against the charismatic movement (Pentecostal movement) as a whole. And, one of the criticisms against John’s book, given by those whom he was judging, was that he was painting with a broad brush, and that he was clumping all charismatics together in his censorship. It appears that he did do that in his book.
But, it isn’t just the charismatics who are being trashed here. It is all believers in Jesus Christ who believe in the filling of the Holy Spirit and of the anointing of God on their lives in ministry, and who believe all the gifts of the Spirit are still alive and active and are being used of God still today. His comments are directed at all of us. And, I don’t identify myself with any particular movement. I am just a child of God doing the will of God.
“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” 1 John 4:1 NASB
But, are there abuses and false teachings and false prophecies going on within the charismatic movement? Absolutely! And, that is a serious issue! And, it is one that needs to be addressed. I agree! But, this is not unique just to them. There are abuses and false teachings and false teachers among the Baptists, the Methodists, the Presbyterians, the Lutherans, the Episcopalians, and the Christian & Missionary Alliance, too.
One of his criticisms of the charismatic movement was the amount of immorality that was rampant within the movement. But, that is not peculiar only to them. With the cheap grace gospel permeating much of today’s evangelical churches, immorality is running rampant throughout all of Christianity, at least here in America, even among the strict conservative churches which preach repentance, obedience, holiness and sanctification.
Nonetheless, scripture says…
“‘And it shall be in the last days,’ God says,
‘That I will pour forth of My Spirit on all mankind;
And your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
And your young men shall see visions,
And your old men shall dream dreams;
Even on My bondslaves, both men and women,
I will in those days pour forth of My Spirit
And they shall prophesy.” Acts 2:17-18 NASB
So, as I was listening to this Q&A, and I was taking notes on what was being said, I heard the term “cessastionism,” so I looked up its meaning:
Cessastionism: “The concept, amongst most Christians, that the works of the Holy Spirit (speaking in tongues, prophecy, healing, and miracles) ceased at some point in history” (yourdictionary.com).
I disagree with that theology, but I don’t have time in this writing to discuss that subject in massive detail. So, I will share a few scriptures here which I believe speak to the contrary. But, that theology is one of the big foundations behind why MacArthur feels the way he does about all who believe in the movement of the Holy Spirit in our lives, and who believe all the gifts are still valid, and that they are being used of God still today.
In this discussion, he stated that the people in the charismatic movement live in a paradigm outside of scripture, and that they are not submitted to the true and accurate interpretation of scripture, although later on he indicated that there were a few on the fringes of the movement who were submitted to the truth of scripture. That is a very broad brush, indeed.
And, then he went on to say that communion with the Holy Spirit occurs through the Word of God, in understanding, applying, and obeying it, and that communion with the Holy Spirit is not induced by people playing on our emotions. I agree with that, but still that is a pretty narrow point of view.
For, MacArthur doesn’t really believe we can hear the Holy Spirit speak to our hearts except through the study of scripture, but within the confines of his theological leanings. He leans very heavily on theology and on the great theologians of the faith for his Christian heritage and for his understanding of scripture and even for his guidance and inspiration for his sermons.
He said, “What do I do when I want to prepare a message? I go read a dead person in my family,” referring to the great theologians of the faith of years gone by who are now dead. He goes to them for his sermons. He didn’t say he prayed to God, or that he sought the guidance and direction of the Holy Spirit in what he should preach, but that he consulted with the dead, instead, i.e. with the writings of mere mortals long gone.
“Do not quench the Spirit; do not despise prophetic utterances. But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil.” 1 Thessalonians 5:19-22 NASB
Here is the bottom line, I believe, in this whole matter. Good things of God, which are truly of God, of the Spirit of God, and which are supported scripturally, in context, in truth, are being twisted, abused, misused and misrepresented across evangelical Christianity, but not just in the charismatic movement.
And, where they are being misused, they often give a bad reputation to what is legitimately of God, and of the Spirit of God. And, thus people will often reject them as false because of the misuse. But, just because some people misuse them doesn’t mean they are not valid.
I agree with John MacArthur that there is a massive number of people today in evangelical Christianity who are basing their faith in Jesus Christ on their emotions or on their experiences rather than on the truth of scripture, but not just among the charismatics. I agree that there are many abuses of the Spirit of God and of the Word of God existing within today’s church. And, I agree that immorality is running rampant. So, I empathize with him.
But, I believe he is “throwing out the baby with the bathwater.” I believe he is discarding, suppressing, and quenching many legitimate workings of the Holy Spirit in people’s lives by putting God in a box that is based in the theologies of men, but that is not fully supported scripturally.
And, it appears, from the things he stated in this Q&A, and in other sermons I have heard of his, that his faith is based primarily in the theological teachings of human beings and in their interpretations of scripture, rather than from the guidance and direction of the Holy Spirit leading him into all truth and in giving him the words to speak to the people.
And, strange fire is that of men, not of the Spirit of God, and holy fire is that of the Spirit of God, and not of men.
Although I agree with a lot of what John MacArthur teaches, for he does teach on repentance, obedience, holiness and sanctification, and he does teach against the abuses of scripture and against the abuses of faith, too, it appears to me that he is quenching the moving of the Holy Spirit in people’s hearts and lives by limiting God to the confines of his theological viewpoints.
And, I believe he is injuring the faith of many legitimate followers of Christ who are following the scriptures, and who are walking in obedience to Christ. And, he may be turning many of them away from hearing the voice of the Holy Spirit who is leading them in where to go, and in what to say, and to whom, by convincing them that they are in error.
But, I agree with him that we must test the spirits, even within our own selves, to make certain we are hearing clearly from God, and to make certain what we are hearing others say is clearly from God and in line with scripture. So, we must be those who test all things against scripture.
But, if you are one of the injured, via men in our pulpits who are putting out the Holy Spirit’s fire, then be encouraged that God is still on the throne.
Broken and Contrite
An Original Work / May 13, 2012
I come before You, Lord, my Savior,
With humble heart and crushed in spirit.
I bow before You, I implore You,
Heal my broken heart, I pray.
Love You, Jesus, Lord, my master,
You are the King of my heart.
Lord, purify my heart within me;
Sanctify me, whole within.
Oh, Lord, I long to obey fully
The words You’ve spoken through Your Spirit.
I pray You give me grace and mercy,
Strength and wisdom to obey.
Father God, my heart’s desire,
Won’t You set my heart on fire?
Lord, cleanse my heart of all that hinders
My walk with You, now I pray.
Oh, Jesus, Savior, full of mercy,
My heart cries out for understanding.
I want to follow You in all ways,
Never straying from Your truth.
Holy Spirit, come in power,
Fill me with Your love today.
Lord, mold and make me;
Your hands formed me;
Live Your life through me, I pray.
(1) Strange Fire Q&A: Answering the Critics (Selected Scriptures)
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For your discernment: False Teachers Exposed: by Justin Peters
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