• Two Distinct Errors in Thinking About the Holy Spirit

    A while ago I went to a wedding. The bride looked beautiful, the groom had actually showered, the music was great and there was a lot of happiness to be shared around. It was a Christian wedding and so there was the usual Bible readings, sermon, prayers which were all Gospel centered. I was talking to an old friend of mine after the service and he pointed out that there wasn’t one mention of the Holy Spirit in the service. Not one.

    Another time I had a conversation with a pastor who told me he was sad a particular minister was leaving town. When I asked why he replied “Because he is interested in the things of the Holy Spirit.” I was taken aback. Shouldn’t he have said he was interested in proclaiming Jesus?

    We Evangelicals have reacted against the excesses of the some brothers and sisters in the church who are not only spirit filled Christians but Spirit centered Christians. But we have reacted so strongly that sometimes we are wary of anything that feels charismatic.  Some of us over react and therefore we have not defined ourselves by what the Bible says but we define ourselves by what we are against. This means that our preaching and our churches are silent on the Spirit. He is, as Francis Chan has said “the Forgotten God”

    Wherever we think about the Holy Spirit we need to heed John Macarthur’s words on the spirit very carefully:

    “Two errors regarding the doctrine of the Holy Spirit have clouded the contemporary church’s understanding of His person and ministry. On the one hand, the charismatic movement is obsessed with the Holy Spirit, tending to focus all doctrine and worship on Him exclusively. The danger with an undue stress on the gifts and leading of the Holy Spirit is that personal experience is often elevated over the objective truth of Scripture. On the other hand, many non-charismatics tend to ignore the Holy Spirit altogether. Perhaps weary of the controversy, confusion, and subjectivity of the charismatic movement, too many have responded by going to the opposite extreme. They simply avoid the Holy Spirit in their teaching and study.”

    John Macarthur, The Silent Shepherd: The Care, Comfort and Correction of the Holy Spirit. 

    Are you and your church more likely to fall into Charismatic errors or Conservative Evangelical errors when it comes to the Holy Spirit?

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  • Spiritual warfare is more boring than you think

    Spiritual warfare is a constantly thorny topic. There seems to be people who see a demon under every bush and every spiritual attack looks like a scene from Paranormal Activity 4. (Which looks AWESOME by the way!)  Then there is other people who seem to downplay  spiritual warfare so much that it seems like we are to discount the passages in the Bible which speak of it.

    So how does spiritual warfare actually work?

    The answer is spiritual warfare is much more boring than you think! Here is what Kevin DeYoung says about it in his great book The Hole in our Holiness:

    “But we could also talk more broadly about faith in the Word of God. That’s essentially what spiritual warfare is: believing the truth of God instead of the lies of the Devil. Satan is the father of lies, and his basic weapon is deception. He lies about God. He lies about your sin. He lies about you forgiveness. He lies about the Bible. Resisting the Devil has nothing to do with haunted houses or spinning heads. It has to do with faith, trusting in truth instead of lies. That’s what Ephesians 6 is all about. Put on the belt of truth. Take up the shield of faith. Wield the sword of the spirit. In spiritual warfare you stand fast against the schemes of the devil by standing fast on the Word of God.”

    Kevin DeYoung, The Hole in our Holiness, 87-88

    So, how do you engage in spiritual warfare? Believe the Gospel. Read your Bible and pray. Tell people about Jesus. Be active in church. Listen to sermons for encouragement not for entertainment and critique. Read a good gospel centered book that will help you love Jesus more. Then you will be in the thick of spiritual warfare.

    Because, in the end, spiritual warfare is more boring than you think.

    What do you think about spiritual warfare?

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  • Why we Sydney Evangelicals need to be a bit more charasmatic

    I preached on these verses over the weekend:

     “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

     “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone?  Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!

    Matthew 7:7-11

    As I was preparing the text I found myself thinking “But there are some things that this doesn’t apply to.” I was thinking about asking God for fancy cars, money and general bling. All of which I am still sure this text doesn’t apply to. But as I kept thinking I found myself rationalizing this text away. I was thinking that there were so many good things I was saying this couldn’t apply to.

    This can’t mean that if we ask God for revival in our land he would do it.

    This can’t mean that if we ask God for healing of this sin or sickness he would do it.

    This can’t mean that if we ask God for spiritual renewal in our church he would do it.

    I mean those things seem so big!

    I know what you are thinking “In his sovereignty God may or may not bring those things to pass” Totally and 100 percent agree.But,  have we used God’s sovereignty to negate us asking big things of God? Have we, in our cultural and theological conservatism, really undermined this text and undermined the character of God as revealed in this text?

    Our charismatic brothers and sisters seem to believe this text more than I do. They not only believe it intellectually but they believe it in action and prayers. We see this in the things they try to do for God and the types of prayers they pray.

    I need to learn from my charismatic brothers and sisters in this area.

    Do you too?

  • Why we need to repent over how we speak about Charismatic Christians

    One of the things I have noticed in Sydney is that some of us get riled up at the mere mention of anything to do with Chrasmatic theology or practice. I know people whose preaching usually has a point in it where they critique, helpfully or otherwise, an aspect of charismatic theology or practice.

    Now I am not a charismatic but I am concerned with the way we Sydney evangelicals talk about our charismatic brothers and sisters and I do think we need to repent and apologise for this lack of tact and grace.

    Here are my three biggest concerns:

    1. We lump all Charasmatics together

    What do all these guys have in common: Creflo Dollar, CJ Mahaney, Brian Houston, John  Wimber, John Piper and Kenneth Copeland. Answer: They all, in some sense, call themselves charismatic. This little exercise should show us that charismatic is a broad term in which many different people fit under. Now I have got no problem with anyone going at a charismatic prosperity preacher with gusto but when we, with that same gusto, go after a reformed brother who happens to be charismatic with a small ‘c’ I think we are forgetting that there are differences and we are now lumping all people who call themselves charismatic together and tarring all with the same brush. This is neither loving nor gracious.

    2. We don’t critique them lovingly, graciously or well

    I remember at college having a class about music in church.  The topic shifted to how our charismatic brothers and sisters do music. It was interesting that those of us who were most vocally opposed to the charismatic view of music were the ones who had the least experience with charismatic music! The scary thing is that I have heard preachers do this too. I have heard preachers critique the charismatic point of view based on hearsay and the like and not on their own experience or research. This leads to wrong conclusions and, in some cases, slander. We also don’t do our people any service when we critique badly because we are warning them against a straw man and not a real danger which may or may not be there.

    3. We treat Charismatics like they are Galatians and not like they are Corinthians (if they even are)

    Have a look at the way Paul talks to the Galatians:

    6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7 which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! 9 As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!

    Galatians 1:5-9

    1 You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. 2 I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard? 3 Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh? 4 Have you experienced[b] so much in vain—if it really was in vain? 5 So again I ask, does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you by the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard? 6 So also Abraham “believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”

    Galatians 3:1-5

    Have a look at how Paul; talks to the Corinthians:

    4 I always thank my God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. 5 For in him you have been enriched in every way—with all kinds of speech and with all knowledge— 6 God thus confirming our testimony about Christ among you. 7 Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. 8 He will also keep you firm to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

    1 Corinthians 1:4-9

    1 And so it was with me, brothers and sisters. When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God.

    1 Corinthians 2:1

    21 I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand.

    22 If anyone does not love the Lord, let that person be cursed! Come, Lord!

    23 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you.

    24 My love to all of you in Christ Jesus. Amen.

    1 Corinthians 16:22-24

    Why the difference in language? Why is Paul so harsh to the Galatians and loving (notice the repeated use of brothers and sisters) to the Corinthians? It is because the Galatians were going to a false gospel. Whereas the Corinthians, even though they had issues to do with speaking in tongues, prophecy and the like (1 Corinthians 12-14) were not going to a false gospel. For Paul there were issues that, because these issues threatened the gospel, needed to be dealt with harshly using strong language. Then there were other which needed correction but were done with loving words and with an acknowledgement that these guys were his brothers and sisters.

    When I look at our critiques of charismatics I hear a different thing going on. I hear us treat our charismatic brothers and sister as if they are Galatian heretics not Corinthian believers. This says far more about us than it does about our charismatic brothers and sisters.

    Do charismatic brothers and sister need to be critiqued in love? Yes, just like we do.

    Lets make sure we love them as we critique them. Lets make sure we commend the gospel by how we critique anyone as we do it with grace, love and