Tag Archives: the gospel

The 2016 Election- Voting is a Great Privilege that Should Not be Neglected

vote

My friend Scott Lenke posted a video this morning that prompts this post.

As a Christian, I know Jesus and His gospel are preeminent (or should be). Scott reminds us that God is totally sovereign over this world.  God fully presides over the outcome of this 2016 Presidential election.  He will bring His plans to pass, no matter who wins.  But what is the believer’s responsibility in this world ?

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Our primary calling as believers involves the task of teaching and modeling the gospel, which Scripture calls the power of God. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” (Romans 1:16).  

Paul instructs believers in 1 Timothy 2: 1-7:

I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. 3 This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. 7 For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.

If the gospel is preeminent and our mission to proclaim it, it makes sense to pray that God would allow us to have leaders who will not put obstacles in the way of living out our faith, who will not remove our current freedom to preach and worship, but who will respect, maintain and encourage this freedom.

We will come back to this point in our conclusion.

Scott in his video speaks of various voting options people are facing in the upcoming Presidential election, but I feel he does little justice to the strength of a conservative argument for Trump and against Hillary.  Scott says he thinks Trump is worse than Hillary. Scott also unfortunately repeats unproven sexual allegations about Trump.  And as for the charge that Trump made fun of a disabled reporter, which has been widely disseminated and Scott also repeats, there is very clear evidence that he did not do so. 

But all this isn’t Scott’s main point.  The purpose of the video is mainly to affirm that “it’s OK” not to vote, though Scott doesn’t provide an explicit argument as to why he thinks so. Now of course, since every individual has freedom to vote or not vote, then

technically, not voting is an option.  However it is, in my view, a really bad and shortsighted option in light of the momentous election we now face.

For all the grief theologian Wayne Grudem got for his article that voting for Trump is an ethical choice (which later he temporarily wavered on), I think his ultimate conclusion –that Donald Trump is a superior candidate to Hillary Clinton– is both logical and persuasive.  His argues that Trump holds better positions on all the critical issues our nation faces: national security, borders and immigration, ISIS & terrorism, healthcare, the Supreme Court, abortion, religious liberty, Christian business owners, Christian schools and colleges, executive orders and bathrooms, churches, freedom of speech, taxes and jobs and economic growth. Hillary is not only worse on each of these important issues but would use her Presidential influence to criminalize dissent, since her intention is to install Supreme Court justices that will permanently enshrine the progressive agenda –an agenda which tolerates no dissension, as recent history shows.

So here’s where we are so far. First, God is sovereign over everything that happens; second, believers have a mission to spread the gospel; third, we should therefore ask God to provide leaders who will preserve this freedom and let us live “quiet and peaceful lives”. Together with this, there are some other pertinent facts we can consider voting in this election:

The election will certainly be won by either Donald Trump or by Hillary Clinton. True, polls are not necessarily to be believed wholesale, but it is obvious that only these 2 major candidates have any hope of securing the election in terms of number of votes and the electoral college. So don’t kid yourself, a non-vote or 3rd party vote are pretty much meaningless gestures in terms of the practical outcome.  Yes, this is a utilitarian argument. That doesn’t mean it’s immoral. Because what I’m being utilitarian about is people’s welfare– of these two candidates, only one will win– so which has the policies that achieve the most good and do the least harm? 

A vote that does not go to Trump helps Hillary, or vice-versa.  Since only Trump or Clinton can win, and by all indications this is going to be very tight contest, then non-votes or votes for 3rd party alternatives instead of Trump risk a Hillary win.  Every vote is essential, and even more so, in view of the reality of voter fraud.

The fear factor  Scott speaks negatively about the “fear” being used to prompt voters in this election season, and seems to single out the Trump camp especially for this.  The fact is both camps are employing the “fear” line.   But fear is not always a bad motivator anyway (Jesus Himself used it).  A particular fear argument is only as valid as the facts supporting it.  Those who favor policies that promote traditional, conservative values, as opposed to Hillary’s extreme progressive agenda, should in fact be deeply alarmed by what has been happening in our country now, and what is bound to continue under a Clinton Presidency.  

Conservatives will get another chance?  One should not gamble on the notion that after a Hillary victory conservatives can somewhere down the line recoup and mount a recovery in 2020 or beyond.  The damage already done through 8 years of Obama will be extended, while the courts under Hillary may become tilted in such a way that conservatism may not be able to rise again.  

The Establishment GOP is not supporting Trump, though it should have. GOP leaders normally pledge to support whomever the people of America nominate as their representative, but many chose to not honor their commitment.  This is outrageous– the reason so many Americans voted for Trump in the first place is they feel the Washington GOP are already not doing their job and get outmaneuvered by President Obama at every turn.  They want change, not more of the same.  

So by refusing to support Trump, the Establishment proves the contention that current leadership care more about preserving its own power/agenda than executing the will of the people they supposedly were elected to execute.  

Ostensibly, some were triggered by Trump’s secretly taped words 11 years ago and many unproven and false sexual allegations, to drop their support.  They apparently find these accusations more consequential than Hillary’s track record of lies and proven corruption, which includes selling influence and political access to the highest bidder, willful destruction of government emails, obstruction of justice, etc. But I think the Establishment folks were simply looking for a convenient way to abandon Trump and found a plausible excuse with the well-timed release of these lurid tapes.  They secretly align better with Hillary’s global agenda than Trump’s “America-first” policies anyway. Perhaps then this is the real reason for their non-support.

The Democratic party (with able assistance from biased mainstream media, see evidence here, here and here) has run a 24/7 negative campaign against Trump. The Dems pursue an ends-justifies-the-means approach to their campaign.  Any smear against Trump, no matter how baseless, is acceptable.  It goes beyond this into manufacturing false narratives against Trump– for example, casting Trump as someone whose words incite violence, they planted paid agitators at his rallies to provoke fights with Trump supporters— then when violence predictably ensued they blamed Trump for it, thus completing their false narrative.

The current Administration, including the FBI and The State Dept, seem willing to shield Hillary Clinton.  Clinton is inextricably linked to President Obama’s agenda/legacy. Bringing her down would apparently also implicate him, and would leave no one to carry on his legacy.  But the problems dogging Hillary Clinton regarding her use of a private email server are totally her own fault, no matter what comes of FBI Director Comey’s recent re-opening of the investigation.  Of course partisanship is part of Washington DC.  But when partisanship causes an FBI in possession of clear evidence of Hillary’s guilt to not recommend charges against her, something’s seriously wrong.  Many are seeing this as a travesty of justice.  And the many Wikileaks email revelations are not necessarily giving the public new information so much as confirming to them their suspicion of foul play and insider colluding when it comes to Hillary Clinton.  

So returning to Scott’s video, it seems his argument is that as God is in charge, and the message of the gospel and His kingdom supersede earthly politics, a non-vote doesn’t do harm. It is OK.  Yet the Bible teaches throughout that human choices have impactful and significant consequences, both eternally and in this life.  We reap what we sow.

A non-vote is the upcoming election in effect amounts to a choice to do nothing to counter the very real threat of a Clinton Presidency, that continues the negative trajectory we’re on.  Believers are concurrently citizens of two different worlds, and have responsibilities to each.  As citizens of the heavenly kingdom, our primarily allegiance is obedience to God. As US citizens, we are blessed with the wonderful opportunity to vote and influence public policy for the good and to protect against the bad.  To neglect that opportunity, with all that is at stake, seems to me a cop-out.  And in this election we have one candidate promising that where her agenda conflicts with traditional Christian values and beliefs, it is those beliefs which must accommodate themselves to the new “rights”.

Trump and Pence on the other hand, are standing up for various liberties that arise from being created in the image of God: the right of the unborn to be treated as persons with rights, including a right to life; the rights of Christians and people of faith to exercise religious conscience not just in the private sphere but in their businesses, public life and speech.  The right to bear arms, which Hillary pays lip service to but her policies do not really support.  If Christians can no longer openly live out their faith; if speaking the truth from a biblical perspective becomes outlawed “hate speech”–then we are hindered from being able to fulfill our primary mission of preaching the gospel.  These developments would be logical consequences of the policies of a Hillary Presidency. Trump’s policies, at the very least, treat religious liberty (the essential liberty than protects all other liberties as well) as the serious and important issue it is. 

Yes, this election presents us all with difficult and challenging choices, given the flaws of the major candidates and the lack of alternatives.  Sadly, countless voters may use that as an excuse to simply sit out the election.  Many more will not take the time to study the relevant issues and vote in accordance with their best knowledge.  But intelligent and thoughtful folks can and ought to do the hard work of studying the issues, sifting through the options, then voting intelligently and in accordance with conscience.  This is a high and noble privilege.

Thousands around the globe envy us this freedom of choice, this amazing chance we get to make our voices heard.   May we not squander it but use it wisely, while we still can.

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Filed under Election 2016

The Tyranny of the Offended

Bullet-proof windows, troll-proof doors in my safe space!
Hilarious…. (I must offer a disclaimer here– I do not endorse the show “South Park”, but I think their satire of the safe-space mentality in this video is true and therefore valuable. Also there is some crude language in the video, so please be warned).

 

While the “safe-space” folks rightly deserve this mockery, right now they are winning the “culture wars”. They get university presidents to resign, shut down Presidential candidate events, have conservative speakers pulled, and generally get folks to grovel before them and do their bidding.  We even have a candidate running for President of the US that operates in 100% in accordance with the safe space paradigm. That’s why she recently labeled millions as “deplorables”– “Racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic, you name it.”
This is what safe-space folks do– it is all about controlling the narrative,  controlling speech and ultimately, controlling everything by manipulating you. So they may be alone in their bullet-proof protected bubbles, but they are still calling the shots!
And it ceases being amusing when so-called “deplorables” lose their jobs, lose livelihoods and businesses, and even do jail-time, just because SAFE-SPACE people claim we offended them. It is here already and happening all around us.  States being punished and economically shunned by large companies or by musician-celebrities because they don’t want their bathrooms turned into danger zones due to misguided thinking. Christian business owners punished because they hold a traditional view of marriage and therefore don’t want to endorse gay marriage ceremonies through their speech and services.  24/7 allegations of racism, white privilege, white supremacy and various other hate crimes most of us are supposedly guilty of.  And denying it is futile because this just confirms your prejudice.
So it seems NOTHING one can say or do will ever change the minds of safe-spacers. Common sense is powerless to move them. The free speech and toleration they demand for themselves they deny to others, without any qualms, without self-awareness.
Remember, this is not an evidenced-based worldview but an ideology based on victimhood that demands total capitulation through emotional manipulation. It’s all about shaming and “guilt-ing” and thus making everyone grovel. You can’t give them facts, because they can neither see nor handle them.  Their song is, “we can face almost anything, but REALITY we can do without”.  Nevertheless in accordance with their narrative they demand retribution, reparations and total indulgence. And sadly and amazingly they are getting what they want, as universities coddle them and society as a whole caters to this progressive agenda and all its whims.
Welcome to the tyranny of the offended, my friends.
So what can be done?  Well in my view the safe-space way of thinking has infiltrated policy at the highest levels, because it informs the thinking of liberal ideologues such as President Obama and Hillary Clinton.  So an immediate priority is make certain Hillary Clinton does not get elected President to carry on this foolish and dangerous legacy!  She is a major cheerleader for the delusional mentality, and will accelerate its complete takeover in our government and law. Only Donald Trump successfully resisted these political correct, anti-common sense manipulations, and people love him for it.   Therefore, to stop this kind of nonsense and to prevent further tyranny, I urge people to unite behind Mr. Trump in the upcoming election.

 

Yes, Donald Trump is a flawed human being who makes mistakes and may not be right in all of his prescriptions.  He is not a pure conservative.  Yet he is still a candidate who shows plain common sense regarding such issues as our currently porous borders, our weak military, our wrong spending priorities.  For example, he knows that around the globe our enemies no longer respect us because they no longer fear us.
He understands that our enemies don’t have to like us (this is the safe-space mentality) but do need to know we will not be bullied and taken advantage of.
 
Can you imagine Donald Trump, following an attack that kills 4 of our people (Benghazi), making a video at taxpayer expense that apologizes for American free speech and distributing it across the Muslim world? Essentially, blaming ourselves for the act of terror?!  I cannot.

I do see him re-building our currently gutted military as promised, to demonstrate to our enemies that we will be a military force not to be trifled with, and who will use our strength wisely, as necessary.  Some may argue this is not compatible with Christian principles, but that is a debate for another day.

Of course the political remedy is only a stop-gap solution.  Ultimately, it is truth that sets people free (John 8:32).  Which in my mind means, unapologetically, the gospel of Jesus Christ. Our chief problem is now, as it has always been, the sinfulness of the human heart, which no power can fix but the Lord.  We currently enjoy the freedom to deliver such a message openly, but that freedom is rapidly being stolen.  That is why the immediate fix of electing the right leaders is so important. So that we can lead “peaceful lives” and continue to exert influence in the marketplace of ideas.  I hope and pray that we as a people may arise to see the stark dangers before us, and that believers especially, would take action and would pray.

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. (1 Tim 2:-6)
Some argue that Christians should not get involved in politics, that since the Lord is sovereign He will place into leadership those whom He chooses.  I agree that of course the Lord is sovereign, yet we are called to be “salt and light” in our world.  This I believe includes every aspect of life– not just a life of privatized faith, but a publicly lived out faith that includes but how we live, how we work, how we vote, etc.  There is no reason, especially in a country such as ours founded on principles of freedom to worship and to live in accordance with faith or no faith, that secular humanism should be allowed to dictate all law and policy.  We as salt stand for and live out truth, thus preserving that which is good in society, and  reflect God’s light by proclaiming the truth that points to the ultimate light, Jesus Christ.  May God grant that we can continue in this blessed freedom and that we may do our part to preserve it.

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Filed under Election 2016, Political Issues, Pop theology

It’s Time to Get the Gospel Right (Pt 2- What is the Gospel?)

This is a follow-up to my last post.  Thanks to those who commented.   I agree with the comment by “savedbygrace” on that post– the gospel we preach defines us.  This is precisely why I think it is so important we get it right.  Of course as imperfect beings, we do not and will not have perfect theology this side of heaven.  Nevertheless we must strive to improve our understanding, and moreover, I think God expects us to preach and teach an accurate gospel in the essentials.

So, is the gospel an invitation to a “charismatic” life characterized by the super-spiritual– constantly receiving direct revelations from God on what we are to do, say and pursue; being able to “see in the Spirit”; the ability to do all the same miracles Jesus did that we may convince people to believe; prophesying that which we claim is from God (but may not be 100% accurate)?  I don’t think so.

Granted, Christianity is indeed a supernatural life and the Holy Spirit indwells us, and we are called to be filled with the Spirit today (see John 3:3; 1 Peter 1:3, 23; Eph 5:8).  But this does not require that we have all of the above sorts of manifestations.  God is free to give such things if He chooses, but I don’t think in this day He is normally giving such gifts. Rather, we have been equipped by God’s Word and by His Spirit to live the Christian life we are called to live (2 Tim 3:16-17; 1 Cor 12:4-31).  Thus I think the chief mistakes in the larger charismatic movement are: 1) to pretend that miracles are happening all the time when in fact they are not; 2) to downgrade the gift of prophecy to hit-or-miss pronouncements characterized by inaccuracy; and 3) to promise healing based on a supposed provision of the atonement that guarantees it (see my article, Sickness, Healing and the Christian, Pt 2 (Biblical Analysis).)

A reformed, and I think biblical response to the charismatic portrait of the Christian life demonstrates practical differences in the two approaches:

  1. We pray to God for all our needs (Phil 3:6) and may even ask Him to do miracles, which He may or may not do as He wills. We rejoice if and when God does miracles in our midst, but of course, do not and cannot demand them. We define miracles as that which is extra-ordinary (as in the healing a of a man born blind, for example). God’s providential care for us as He answers prayer doesn’t necessarily constitute a miracle, which by definition is a special and rare occurrence.  Moreover we argue that the miracles of Jesus’ day were signs authenticating the message of Jesus and His apostles (Matt 12:28, 2 Cor 12:12) and that that season of miracles apparently has passed.
  2. We preach and teach the Word of God as accurately as possible (2 Peter 4:1-2), knowing it alone is God’s inspired revelation to us (unlike charismatic prophecy, we don’t need to guess what percentage of the prophecy comes from God and what part is human error).  We trust therefore that God’s Word is sufficient to provide the guidance and instruction we need to properly live a Christian life and to teach and make disciples (2 Peter 1:3, 2 Tim 3:16-17). We define prophecy as Scripture does– the very words of God spoken through the mouth of people (2 Peter 1:21).  So we hold all prophecy to the high standard of Scripture in terms of its accuracy– if it does not come to pass– it’s false prophecy and the person who has spoken it is falsely speaking for God (Deut 13:1-5; Deut 18:20-22).
  3. As we obey God and live for Him we ask that He would heal the sick, and we can lay hands on the sick, as the Word prescribes (James 5: 14-18).  But we leave the answer to these prayers to God– if He heals, we rejoice in that, and if He does not heal, we trust that God knows best (2 Cor 12:8-10). We don’t claim God has healed if in fact He has not healed, and we don’t charge folks with not having enough faith if their prayer for healing is answered in the negative.  We  don’t claim to know that all sickness is caused by sin or by the devil, but trust that ultimately God in His sovereignty rules over this and all areas of our lives.

Thus far we have been addressing what the gospel is not. I have claimed it is not an invitation to a supercharged, mystical life full of continuous miraculous manifestations.  So then, what is the gospel and what is the normal Christian life?

The gospel is that Jesus Christ– Son of God and God in the flesh– came to Earth, lived among us, was crucified on a cross for sins and was raised again by the authority and power of God after three days in the grave (1 Cor 3:3-5; John 1:9-18, 34; 1 John 5:11-12, John 10:18) .  The person who puts their faith in Christ is forgiven all their sins, because God poured out His full wrath and anger at sin upon Jesus as He hung on the cross, and by raising Him from the dead, God validated Jesus’ claims to be God, in fulfillment of the many ancient prophecies that predicted a Messiah would come that would do all the things Jesus did (Romans 4:23; Romans 5:9).  The life Jesus lived– a perfect, selfless life– satisfies God’s requirement of holiness– and Jesus’ record of sinless obedience is transferred to the one who has faith in Him (2 Cor 5:21). So our sins of commission and of omission are both fully taken care of and removed by the cross and the obedience of Christ, and we are thus reconciled to God, adopted as His children, and called to a new life of fellowship with Him and with brothers and sisters who have likewise been called (Romans 5:10; Col 1:22; John 1:12; 1 John 1:3).  Much more could be said, but these are the essentials.

So what does this Christian life look like?  Well, outwardly it is a very normal life, in many respects.  The Christian doesn’t necessarily look any different than before, but inwardly, a miracle of new life has been wrought in his/her heart, one which plants a desire to love God and to be obedient to Him (Ezekiel 36:26; 2 Cor 5:17).  We are drawn to the Bible (1 Peter 2:2), which by the Spirit we recognize as the true Word of God to His children (1 Cor 2:12-13).  This new life implanted within has a supernatural quality, in that we have new desires that prod us and help us to transcend our old selfish tendencies.  But the Christian need not manifest anything outwardly spectacular.  I think that biblically the Bible doesn’t teach that Christians need special experiences like being “slain in the Spirit”, speaking in tongues, the so-called “baptism in the Spirit” that is subsequent to salvation, in order to be fruitful.  Yes, we are commanded to be filled with the Spirit (Eph 5:18) but this seems to be an ongoing process that involves many non-flashy activities– reading and meditating on God’s Word, obeying God’s Word, etc.  Ultimately, people will know we are Christians, not because of our exciting supernatural manifestations, but rather, by the fruit we bear in love towards God and others (see John 13:33-35; 1 Cor 13).

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. (Galatians 5:22-24, ESV)

For further thought:

Providence by J. I. Packer

God’s Providence over all (PDF) by B.B. Warfield

The Sufficiency of Scripture Part 1 and Part 2 by Gary Gilley

The Gifts of Miracles & Healings Today?  by Fred Zaspel

Divine Providence, or What About Miracles? by S. Lewis Johnson

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Filed under Charismaticism, Controversy, Theology

It’s Time to Get the Gospel Right

The recent conference by John MacArthur, “Strange Fire” has generated a lot of controversy.  It stirs up an ongoing and often heated debate among evangelical Christians on “cessationism vs continuationism”: did miraculous gifts such as tongues, miracles and prophecy “cease” some time after the establishment of the early church and with the canonization of Scripture?  Or are those gifts continuing in operation, and to be sought after and put into practice today?  Unfortunately lack of clarity about terms such as cessationism, continuationism and charismaticism creates confusion as people debate these issues.  Online debates I have been part of often suffer from the lack of clarity.  Since there are varied positions within cessationism and charismaticism, to call oneself a “cessationist” or “continuationist” or a “charismatic” isn’t enough and usually requires further clarification.  Exactly what kind of “cessationist” or “charismatic” are you?   Lisa Robinson has a post right now that addresses this topic, “What is a Cessationist?…or Why I think We Need Another Term“, and I think her post is a helpful conversation opener on this.

Yet I think that what underlies the need for clarity of these terms is something even more fundamental and urgent to our mission as Christians: what is the gospel?  In other words, it seems the believer needs to figure out if charismatics are right or cessationists correct, because these very different positions have such a great impact on our mission of making disciples, and also lead to very practical differences in following Christ.  I encountered a Facebook post about continuationist Mark Driscoll showing up at the John MacArthur conference.  I noticed that several people sympathetic to the continuationist position in their comments on the post were bashing cessationism and Reformed theology with statements I felt were very derogatory as well as inaccurate characterizations of it.  Now perhaps many in the charismatic community who know of the Strange Fire conference feel the same way– that the conference unfairly caricatures the charismatic position.  One of the commenters on the post made this statement:

I am just learning about all of this and still reading. but it sounds to me like two “camps” with different ideas of how the holy spirit should look. they spend all their energy and time on defending “their” way instead of using that time and energy on preaching the gospel to a dying world. seems like they are missing the whole point.

I think the commenter makes a salient point, one that I can sympathize with.  It’s true that believers can be too focused on internal squabbles and get distracted from their main task, which as we know is to preach the gospel and make disciples.  But while we must not pick a fight on every little matter, there are matters too important to our mission to not get right.  In my mind there is no more important issue than getting the gospel right.  What exactly did Christ accomplish for us on the cross?  What should the Christian life look like? Is the believer still a sinner, or a saint who sins?  Must we have all these answers precisely correct before we go out and make disciples? I am not going to attempt in the brief post to answer all of these questions (but perhaps I’ll address them in future posts).

Yet I do believe it is part of the task of preaching the gospel message to be able to give accurate and Scriptural answers to these basic, critically important questions.  How can we preach a saving message if the gospel we preach is not real or true or accurate?  The Church is even charged with correcting false teachers/teaching.  How can we do so if we don’t know what the true gospel is?  We’re in the midst of a raging spiritual battle in which the forces of darkness are quite happy if the message we preach is a distortion that leads people away from the true and living God, all the while deceiving them into thinking that Christ is being truly preached.  We have been warned by Christ Himself that false Christs will come (Matt 24:24), and that in the last day many who thought they were working in the name of Jesus will find that Jesus rejects not only their works but them as well (Matt 7:21-23).  This is a very sobering warning.  Time is short, and there are eternal stakes involved if we allow ourselves to be deceived.

In my opinion the popular charismatic message has got things very wrong. It declares that all the miraculous gifts that were part of the early church continue today in the same exact manner as in the early church and are even crucial to the life and mission of the church.  Every believer should be a miracle worker, a prophet, a tongues speaker and a healer, or at least be ardently seeking these available gifts.  The Strange Fire conference looks at the phenomena happening in much of the charismatic world under the lens of Scripture, and finds it unbiblical.  The miracles they claim are happening cannot be verified, the prophecies proclaimed are usually wrong, the tongues are not practiced in accordance with Scriptural guidelines and don’t appear to be real languages, but only gibberish.  Accordingly Phil Johnson charges, it commits “the sin of attributing to the Holy Spirit words He has not spoken and things He has not done.”  Now John MacArthur and Phil Johnson are well aware that there are charismatics who are well-studied, who teach an orthodox view of Scripture, who are not at all guilty of the excesses often found in the movement.  In fact there are even well-known “Reformed Continuationists” like John Piper, Wayne Grudem and others that they esteem very highly for their ministries of the Word.  Nevertheless, these reformed continuationist leaders who are aware of the “strange” phenomena seem very reluctant and reticent about criticizing these aberrant practices.  Over at the Cripplegate blog, Mike Ricardi has posted Phil Johnson’s outstanding message, Strange Fire – Is There a Baby in the Bathwater? and I think Phil really hits the nail on the head when he writes:

But there’s this carefully cultivated, non-committal spirit of indecision that permeates most of the Reformed charismatic and “open-but-cautious” segments of the evangelical community. It is a deliberate agnosticism with regard to discerning spirits.

So the extremists and the charlatans can make any claim or pull any stunt they like with near impunity. The handful of Charismatics who have the most influence in conservative evangelical circles have basically settled into a comfortable indifference. (Remember the line I quoted from Michael Brown earlier? “Why [should] Pentecostal and charismatic pastors renounce extremes in their movement?”) Supposedly “cautious” continuationists watch the procession of charismatic horseplay. They are curious, intrigued, generally nonplussed, but they refuse to make any judgment until after the wheels come totally off the latest bandwagon.

It someone looks into the turbid swamp of charismatic sludge, and thinks that attitude of non-judgmental passivity is the baby, forget it. That kind of smug, deliberate indecision has more in common with double-mindedness than with faith. There are times when staking out a middle position is simply the wrong thing to do. And it is never more wrong than when thousands of people are going around claiming to speak for God but prophesying falsely.

It is time to get the gospel right.  We have been blessed and equipped to complete our mission with the authority and power of the Word of God, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work (2 Tim 3:16-17).”  Why then do we need to seek after sensational experiences, prophecies, miracles, tongues, especially if, when we stop kidding ourselves and admit the truth, we can see that the things we are seeking after are not authentic?  How does inaccurate, hit-or-miss prophecy help anyone?  How does if further the cause of Christ to claim that healing and miracles are happening when in fact they are not happening?

Does what I am saying deny the power of God?  No, because I am not saying that God will not answer prayer for healing, even in miraculous fashion, nor am I saying that God may not visit us with extraordinary things whenever He wants.  But my charge is not to seek after the extraordinary but to humbly live for Christ.  I seek His power not that I may have ecstatic experiences or by miracle doing prove to an unbelieving world that the God I worship is real, but that I may live faithfully and honor Him in the way I speak and act and live.  The gospel itself is the power of God, and it accomplishes the miracle of raising the dead to life, and we have the privilege of being part of that.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek (Romans 1:16)

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