The Charismatic Deception

Text: Ephesians 5:18 – “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit…”

What does it (really) mean to be filled with the Spirit? In a day when charismatic error, excess and extremes permeate much of the professing Church, the cure, as always, is a proper understanding of the Bible.

Filled with the Spirit

? Dan Phillips, The World Tilting Gospel

“The Holy Spirit of God loves to make sure that everything is all about Jesus Christ. On that basis, I will say this categorically and emphatically, and only just barely resist the temptation to say it twice: Show me a person obsessed with the Holy Spirit and His gifts (real or imagined), and I will show you a person not filled with the Holy Spirit.

Show me a person focused on the person and work of Jesus Christ—never tiring of learning about Him, thinking about Him, boasting of Him, speaking about and for and to Him, thrilled and entranced with His perfections and beauty, finding ways to serve and exalt Him, tirelessly exploring ways to spend and be spent for Him, growing in character to be more and more like Him—and I will show you a person who is filled with the Holy Spirit.”

Grieving The One Who Sealed You

Text: Ephesians 4:30 “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.”

The Holy Spirit is not a force but a Divine Person whom we can grieve. Yet even when this happens, He never threatens His people with abandonment, having sealed us for the day of redemption. There is much concerning the Person and work of the Holy Spirit in this vital message.

The Holy Spirit – Before and After Pentecost

In what way was the Holy Spirit working in the world before Pentecost?

the risen Lord Jesus fulfilled the promise he had made in John 15:26—namely, that he would send the Holy Spirit. John the Baptist had promised: The one who comes after me “will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire” (Luke 3:16). So at 9:00 on Pentecost morning, while the disciples were praying, “a sound came from heaven like a rush of mighty wind . . . and there appeared to them tongues as of fire, distributed and resting on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:2–4). Then Peter preached a sermon and said, “This is what was spoken by the prophet Joel, ‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions and your old men shall dream dreams'” (Acts 2:16–17).

In other words, Peter says, we have entered the last days: the Messiah has come, he has accomplished redemption on the cross, he has risen and ascended to the right hand of God, and the interval before he returns in glory will be marked by an incomparable outpouring of the Holy Spirit on men and women, old and young, slave and free, near and far. And the people of God in this period are to be a people born of the Spirit, baptized in the Spirit, filled with the Spirit, empowered by the Spirit to bear witness to “the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ.” We live in the latter days of the Spirit. We live in the days that Isaiah (44:3) and Ezekiel (11:19; 36:26f.; 39:29) and Joel (2:28) prophesied and longed to see. There are no more decisive turning points in redemptive history that must happen before Jesus returns to establish his kingdom. This is it. These are the days of Pentecost, the days of the fullness of the Spirit, the days of worldwide mission.

The Difference of the Aswan High Dam

Now let me suggest an analogy to illustrate the experience of the Spirit before and after Pentecost. Picture a huge dam for hydroelectric power under construction, like the Aswan High Dam on the Nile, 375 feet high and 11,000 feet across. Egypt’s President Nasser announced the plan for construction in 1953. The dam was completed in 1970 and in 1971 there was a grand dedication ceremony and the 12 turbines with their ten billion kilowatt-hour capacity were unleashed with enough power to light every city in Egypt. During the long period of construction the Nile River wasn’t completely stopped. Even as the reservoir was filling, part of the river was allowed to flow past. The country folk downstream depended on it. They drank it, they washed in it, it watered their crops and turned their mill-wheels. They sailed on it in the moonlight and wrote songs about it. It was their life. But on the day when the reservoir poured through the turbines a power was unleashed that spread far beyond the few folk down river and brought possibilities they had only dreamed of.

Well, Pentecost is like the dedicatory opening of the Aswan High Dam. Before Pentecost the river of God’s Spirit blessed the people of Israel and was their very life. But after Pentecost the power of the Spirit spread out to light the whole world. None of the benefits enjoyed in the pre-Pentecostal days were taken away. But ten billion kilowatts were added to enable the church to take the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ to every tongue and tribe and nation.

Pneumatology and Inerrancy

Dr. Sinclair Ferguson on the work of the Holy Spirit in the inerrancy of the Bible. Dr. Ligon Duncan described the session as “truly remarkable. I have no words to describe its power.”

Shepherds' Conference | General Session 15 – Sinclair Ferguson from Grace Community Church on Vimeo.

Continuist v. Cessationist Debate

I believe that in the continuist vs. cessationist debate in the Christian world, if the two sides ever sat down to talk and actually defined their terms and listened to what was being said (and not said), they would find that what they held in common would vastly outweigh what might divide.

In spite of how simple it would make things to do so, not all charismatics/continuationists can be painted with the same broad brush stroke. There is a wide spectrum of belief and practice, from the wild and crazy all the way to the responsible thinking Bible exegete. That is news to many people, but it is true, nonetheless. The “barking like dogs” manifestations of “the Toronto blessing” would never be tolerated by a Dr. D.A. Carson or a Dr. Wayne Grudem. Those who cannot see the distinctions are willingly ignorant. For sure, there are the extreme, hyper charismatics and their doctrines and practices are alarming to me. Some of it is just plain silly. Some of it borders on the demonic.

On the other side there are the hyper cessationists who in practical terms might be said to believe in “Father, Son and Holy Bible” who would not even allow for ongoing discernment and the leading and guiding of the Holy Spirit in our own day. But again, not all cessationists are the same.

Douglas-Wilson-2Doug Wilson wrote this today (below). I believe he nails the issue very well:

I need to say something about the Strange Fire conference, and the reactions to it, but because I am not particularly well-informed about that particular controversy, let me content myself with saying a few general things about the topic, which others may inject into the controversy as it suits them. I suspect, although I do not know, that in what I say there will be something encouraging for both sides, and perhaps something discouraging for both as well.

I am a cessationist, and I am not a continuationist. The sign gifts in the New Testament were revelatory, and if they are still operational, this means that the canon of Scripture is not closed. I don’t have a category in my head for quasi-revelatory. “Thus saith the Lord” is either true or false. If true, the words that follow that formula should be treated as though God spoke them, and I only have one way to treat the Word of God. I treat it like it is the Bible.

In short, I believe that cessationists usually understand the Bible better than do continuationists, not to mention the logic of the thing.

But there is an additional, and very weighty, concern, pushing from the other direction, and this has to do with the nature of the world. Too many cessationists are functional materialists when it comes to the operations of the world, and their supernaturalism is limited to the ink on the page.

In short, I believe the continuationists often understand the personal nature of the world better than do cessationists.

Continuationists are vulnerable to the sins of the gullible. Completely independent of the question of spiritual gifts, I am more likely to be able to get a charismatic to believe that there are fairies in the garden than I would be able to get a cessationist to believe it. Cessationists are correspondingly susceptible to the sins of the debunker. I am much less likely to get a cessationist to believe in a remarkable response to prayer than I would be able to get a charismatic to believe it.

Ferinstance. A number of years ago a good friend of ours was dying. When she finally passed away, Nancy and I were on the road (in Philadelphia). It was the middle of the night and we both woke up. Are you awake? Yeah, are you awake? How come? Beats me. A few minutes later the phone rang, and it was the news that our friend had gone to be with the Lord. Back home, our grandson Knox had been praying regularly for her, and he was two or thereabouts. But that night while praying for her, he stopped, and said, “She died. She is in Heaven.” They found out later that she had in fact died that night. Continue reading

Extra-Ordinary Works of the Spirit within Cessationist Theology

Vern S. Poythress has written what could well prove to be a very helpful article on the present day “gifts” of the Spirit, unhealthy found here.

The Coming Upon of the Spirit

Terry Virgo, leader of the New Frontiers network of Churches recounts his personal interaction with Dr. Martyn Lloyd Jones concerning the “coming upon” of the Spirit:

Reformed and Charismatic from Terry Virgo on Vimeo.

It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all

spurg2“Oh, brothers and sisters, if anybody in this place knows the power which is in Christ to make his ministry of any use, I am sure that I do! I scarcely ever come into this pulpit without bemoaning myself that ever I should be called to a task for which I seem more unfit than any other man that ever was born. Woe is me that I should have to preach a gospel which so overmasters me, and which I feel that I am so unfit to preach! Yet I could not give it up, for it were a far greater woe to me not to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Unless the Holy Ghost blesses the Word, we who preach the gospel are of all men most miserable, for we have attempted a task that is impossible, we have entered upon a sphere where nothing but the supernatural will ever avail. If the Holy Spirit does not renew the hearts of our hearers, we cannot do it. If the Holy Ghost does not regenerate them, we cannot. If he does not send the truth home into their souls, we might as well speak into the ear of a corpse. All that we have to do is quite beyond our unaided power; we must have our Master with us, or we can do nothing.

We deeply feel our need of this great truth; we not merely say it, but we are driven every day, by our own deep sense of need, to rejoice that our Lord has declared, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth,” for we need all power. Every kind of power that there is in heaven and in earth we shall need before we can fully discharge this ministry. Before the nations shall all be brought to hear the gospel of Christ, before testimony to him shall be borne in every land, we shall need the whole omnipotence of God; we shall want every force in heaven and earth ere this is done. Thank God that this power is all laid by ready for our use, the strength that is equal to such a stupendous task as this is already provided.”

[Spurgeon, C. H. (1896). The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, Vol. XLII (pp. 235–236), “Our Omnipotent Leader.” London: Passmore & Alabaster. Paragraphs added to enhance readability]

HT:Dan Phillips

He shall glorify Me

floodlight_Dornoch_CathedralJ.I. Packer:

The Holy Spirit’s distinctive new covenant role, then, is to fulfill what we may call a floodlight ministry in relation to the Lord Jesus Christ. So far as this role was concerned, the Spirit “was not yet” (John 7:39, literal Greek) while Jesus was on earth; only when the Father had glorified him (see John 17:1, 5) could the Spirit’s work of making men aware of Jesus’ glory begin.

I remember walking to a church one winter evening to preach on the words “he shall glorify me,” seeing the building floodlit as I turned a corner, and realizing that this was exactly the illustration my message needed.

When floodlighting is well done, the floodlights are so placed that you do not see them; you are not in fact supposed to see where the light is coming from; what you are meant to see is just the building on which the floodlights are trained. The intended effect is to make it visible when otherwise it would not be seen for the darkness, and to maximize its dignity by throwing all its details into relief so that you see it properly. This perfectly illustrates the Spirit’s new covenant role. He is, so to speak, the hidden floodlight shining on the Savior.

Or think of it this way. It is as if the Spirit stands behind us, throwing light over our shoulder, on Jesus, who stands facing us.

The Spirit’s message is never,

“Look at me;

listen to me;

come to me;

get to know me,”

but always

“Look at him, and see his glory;

listen to him, and hear his word;

go to him, and have life;

get to know him, and taste his gift of joy and peace.“

– Keeping in Step with the Spirit: Finding Fullness in Our Walk with God, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2005), p. 57.