Tuesday, November 29, 2005
‘Open but Cautious’. This is a term that has been rankling me for some time ever since it began to be used at my home church in Dunstable. Dictionaries define the word; “Caution” as; “Prudence or restraint in action or decision”. Now is there anything wrong with that? This article may stir and cause a rumpus, but I want to assert that I believe that this category carries more danger of ‘quenching the Holy Spirit’ than even being cessationist. Furthermore I want to argue that this present age is no time to be cautious. Wise – yes. Cautious – no. The need of the hour is passionate hunger!
There is my brief. Now it is time to begin gathering and presenting my evidence before the mobs start gathering with stones and flaming torches. This article is, of course, a response to Mark Heath’s latest post entitled: "Over Cautious?".
He admits that he is cautious freely but “hopes” that he is open. So in the spirit of friendly debate, I want to consider this and establish whether it is a responsible and indeed spiritual position to hold.
Keathley defines the ‘Open but Cautious’ view as one that; “recognizes that there are no explicit verses in the New Testament that say that miraculous gifts have ceased, and so, this group wants to stay open to the possibility that the miraculous gifts may still exist, but at the same time, they are uncomfortable with the teachings and practices of the charismatic and vineyard movements”. He suspects quite rightly (I think) that it is a view held by most evangelicals and notes intuitively that; “They don’t want to be accused of putting God in a box, and so they remain open, but cautious”.
Charismatics Are Closer to Cessationists Than We Think.
It is my contention that I have more patience sometimes with the cessationists themselves rather than the “open-but-cautiousites”. (By the way that’s my term and it’s copyrighted). Dr Richard Gaffin addressed the Conference of Reformed Churches in Seoul in 1997 on the subject of the Charismatic Movement and he made this startling comment:
“There can be no question from the viewpoint of the New Testament; not to experience the Spirit – in a vital, transforming and thus powerful way – is not to have the Spirit at all” .
If I were addressing the intricacies of the baptism of the Holy Spirit itself I would question the logic of Dr Gaffin’s argument. He seems to be therefore suggesting that if the baptism of the Spirit occurs simultaneously with regeneration, and clearly it must be a vital, transforming and powerful event – then those believers who do not have an experiential conversion by default do not have the Spirit and therefore (according to Gaffin) are not believers. This argument is one that Dr Lloyd-Jones would call very cruel.
That aside, I am hugely encouraged by the fact that one of the leading cessationist scholars in the world is writing here urging that the Spirit must be experienced in a vital, and powerful manner! Similarly I was told that at the Banner of Truth Conference (a few years ago) that after a particularly powerful sermon, there was a “holy hush” where the Spirit was unquestionably moving and touching, and apparently the conference stayed in that manner for at least half an hour!
A few comments on previous blogs have questioned whether I think that cessationists have a “real” relationship with God. Even such a wondering I think is a mistake. To me, the issue of cessationism is that they simply believe that certain sign gifts have ceased and were meant only for the apostolic age. I would hazard a guess that they would be shocked and deeply offended if a suggestion was made that they denied the power and supremacy of God to intervene in time and space in any manner in which He deemed fit. As I have mentioned previously, many of the historical heroes were cessationists; Jonathan Edwards and C H Spurgeon (maybe) and yet their true and utter and fervent belief in the power of God and His Holy Spirit surpassed many so-called charismatics today.
Is the New Testament Very Cautious?
I did a preliminary survey of a concordance – does the word “caution” appear in the Bible. And the answer is – no. Not much. I would guess that the “proof text” for all those “open-but-cautiousites” or “cautious-but-openites” is from 1 Corinthians 14:40. Yet I think that Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones brings the ‘forgotten perspective’ to the context of this verse. Paul was writing to a church that was in deep moral sin and serious charismatic excess. The Doctor said; “Could it be claimed that any of our churches are in a similar state to Corinth?”. I would seriously hope not! So why therefore has it become the favourite verse of some. Furthermore we must ask – is the order of the Spirit that Paul has in mind, the order that the ‘cautious-but-openites’ have in mind?
So I have gone to the book of Acts to look at some principles and events of New Testament life. And I have some hypothetical statements and questions to put to my “cautious-but-openite” friends. Now I will be fair. After just coming fresh from Richard Gaffin, I know that it is a debatable thing as to whether we are ‘allowed’ to use Pentecost as a template for life today, so I will start my questions post-Pentecost just for the sake of argument:
1. Acts 2:13 – “They are all filled with new wine”. Question: Were the apostles cautious in this event? Did they weigh up the pros and cons of this experience that had come upon them and the strange sounds that were coming out of their mouths? If they did, then why were they accused of drunkenness? Drunks are not usually associated with being cautious men.
2. Acts 2:17 – “I will pour out My Spirit”. Question: Is this a cautious act by a cautious God? Merriam-Webster defines the word; “Pour” as “to supply or produce freely or copiously”.
3. Acts 2:42-47 – “And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47praising God and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved”.
Question: If I went to my pastor and asked him to hold a prayer meeting every day where he preached a sermon every day and we broke bread every day, and sold my house and my car and gave my money to the church, oh and gave up my job so I could serve the church - do you think he would call me a “cautious” individual?
4. Acts 5:1 – “A man named Ananias”. Question: If a man brought a generous offering to your church and said it was all his pension payment, but you suspected he had kept some, would you declare before the community that he had lied to the Holy Spirit? Or would you exercise … caution and keep it to yourself for “unity’s” sake?
5. Acts 10:44 – “While Peter was saying these things”. Question: If members of your congregation who you knew were blatant non-Christians began prophesying and speaking in tongues during your preaching … what would you do? Would you be amazed and worship God? Or would you exercise caution and rebuke them and tell them to wait till the ministry time at the end of the sermon?
6. Acts 11:27 – “Prophets came … and foretold a famine”. Question: Having read Wayne Grudem and being “open” but still of course “cautious”, how would you weigh such a prophecy of famine? You see, the disciples sent aid to the affected area. Is that cautious? Pyromaniac has told us about the numerous false prophecies!
7. Acts 13:7 – “A Jewish false prophet”. Question: Exorcisms! This is going to become quite contemporary with the release of the true story; “The Exorcism of Emily Rose”. A priest was taken to court for attempting to exorcise. You may face the same penalty. What would you do if you faced an evil man seemed clearly demon-possessed; who denounced your work, slandered your name, lied and generally was horrid to you? Would you “suffer for the Lord’s sake” and be cautious? Or would you do what the disciples did and cast the demon out?
Stop Being Cautious and Get Thirsty!
I think that my point is clear without even touching on the examples in 1 Corinthians. For example; say you are open but cautious and allow prophecy in your church – how would you feel if you were “sharing” a “thought” from the Lord and someone stood up and interrupted you with another word? (1 Corinthians 14:40).
It seems painfully obvious to me that God is blessing abundantly some of the most “un-cautious” groups, churches and individuals alive today. Look at Benny Hinn. Philip Johnson doesn’t like him very much. He made it into the “bad” category in the list of bookmarks. His theology is doubtful. His website contains advice on buying nice, new flashy cars - yet can anyone deny that God is blessing his ministry? That people are being saved? Look at Reinhard Bonke. He shouts and he bawls. His ministry technique isn’t what you would call cautious. Yet can anyone deny that God is blessing his ministry? He is filling stadiums with hungry people longing to see God move in power. Look at Black Pentecostalism. Their often rampant Arminianism offends the cautious, yet God is filling their churches especially in the United Kingdom.
It just seems to me that God meets the hungry and meets them in power! What was the pre-requisite for Jesus giving the Holy Spirit? Not right theology – not right doctrine – not the five points of Calvinism. But THIRST!!!
Does that mean I am going to abandon Reformed Theology and go running to the Hinns, Copelands, etcs of this world? No. But I do get disturbed when Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones thunders from the pulpit at Westminster; “Perfectly Orthodox – Perfectly Useless!”. So Mark, I am afraid I won’t be joining you in the Camp of Caution and I freely admit that. I love Reformed Theology. I love reading the Puritans, the Reformers, Spurgeon and will continue to do so.
But alongside Terry Virgo, I don’t think this is any age to advocate restraint. The church needs to be awakened with the Spirit of Glory! Like George Whitfield told John Wesley, if we get rid of the excess, then the real may disappear. If I have to take that chance, then so be it. I’m thirsty. Let me shut up with a quote from C S Lewis and his marvellous Chronicles of Narnia. No it ISNT that oh-so-overused quote of Mr Beavers! (Something about Aslan not be tame) If I hear that again, I’m going to hurl. It’s from the Silver Chair and it involves Jill and the Lion Aslan.
“The Lion said to her, "Are you not thirsty?" "I'm dying of thirst," said Jill. "Then drink," said the lion. "May I-could I-would you mind going away while I do," said Jill. The Lion answered this only by a look and a very low growl. And, as Jill gazed at its smooth motionless bulk, she realized she might as well have asked the whole mountain to move aside for her convenience. The delicious rippling noise of the stream was driving her nearly frantic. "Will you promise not to-do anything to me, if I do come?" said Jill. "I make no promises," said the lion. Jill was so thirsty now that, without noticing it, she had come a step nearer. "Do you eat girls?" she said. "I have swallowed up girls and boys, women and men, kings and emperors, cities and realms," said the lion. It didn't say this as if it were boasting, nor as if it were sorry, nor as if it were angry, it just said it. "I dare not come and drink," said Jill. "Then you will die of thirst," said the lion. "Oh dear!" said Jill, coming another step nearer. "I suppose I must go and look for another stream then." "There is no other stream," said the lion”.
There isn’t any other stream. There is danger in coming to drink. But there isn’t any other stream.
 Commendation by Terry Virgo from “Joy Unspeakable” by Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Published 2000 by Kingsway, Eastbourne.
 http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=Caution – downloaded Monday, 28 November 2005.
 http://www.bible.org/page.asp?page_id=2248 – downloaded Monday, 28 November 2005.
 http://www.the-highway.com/charismatic1_Gaffin.html - downloaded Monday 28th November 2005.
 http://www.m-w.com/dictionary/pour - downloaded Tuesday, 29 November 2005.
Monday, November 28, 2005
Hurrah!! After far too long, my laptop is back and working so I have my broadband connection back and I can get going okay! Very exciting!! Many thanks to PC World ... you managed it ... finally!
What am I reading at the moment?
I was up in Birmingham at the weekend and I was surprised to find that a biography has been brought out of the great teacher Derek Prince. http://www.dpmshop.org/eshop/exec/shop.php?s=dpmuk -
It is an extrodinarily moving story and account of one of Ern Baxter's best friends. Ern himself is mentioned quite a bit during those years when they worked together in Fort Lauderdale. I am tremendously excited about this book because I've always felt a stirring that one day maybe I might write Ern Baxter's biography and the publication of this book seems to me to validate that.
What am I listening to at the moment?
Well ... many many thanks to the wonders of broadband I am back with a vengance on the Church of Christ the King, Brighton website and I'm listening to a sermon of Terry Virgo's where he preached on; "A New Day Rooted in a God Who Speaks". http://www.cck.org.uk. It's vintage Terry and amazing stuff!!
What am I watching at the moment?
I've just seen a dvd of P J Smyth:
he was speaking at a main session at Brighton 2005 on "The Juggernaught Church". It was an interesting message and one that, no doubt, will bring a measure of criticism from those who are "cautious but open" about the militancy of Newfrontiers. I found it incredibly faithbuilding. Here's a young guy who is Newfrontiers homegrown (I presume) and is taking so seriously the Word of God and the prophecies that have been spoken. He takes the biblical examples of Jerusalem, Antioch and Ephesus - as examples of "Juggernaught" churches that attract the attention of the cities and world around them.
Interestingly enough he did a practical exercise where he got those pastors who have congregations over a thouand to stand up. I could only see Peter Brooks (CCK) and Stephen Van Rhyms (Jubilee Church, SA) stand up. Yet you could feel the ripples of faith, that it is the will of God that churches grow. Why not? The USA commands many many churches with congregations of thousands. Why is it that to us a congregation of a thousand is big - yet to the USA, it would be considered small.
Bring it on Lord ... let's see growth come!!
Sunday, November 27, 2005
Once again Adrian Warnock poses the question, what is a reformed charismatic? - http://www.adrian.warnock.info/2005/11/what-is-reformed-charismatic.htm - its a fascinating concept and one that I have thought about for many years now.
My first somewhat tongue-in-cheek reply would be that a reformed charismatic is a "frustrated Christian". Why do I say that? Because Ern Baxter was the first man I have heard to speak of the "tension" that exists between the two. I haven't heard many modern speakers, writers or pastors use that term often. But he used a very vivid analogy there in that sermon that demonstrated how so easily it is to slip into either "excess" - either bibliology or pneumatic excess. And I have seen that again and again in my own life. I see 'charismaniacs' charging around claiming this that and the other, so I drop the whole thing and hide in my Spurgeon's, Owen's, Goodwin's and MacArthur's (yes I do have a few of his books!). Then I read something harsh and judgemental against charismatics and it irks me and so off I trot to my Rick Joyners, and Cindy Jacobs. Yet its not just in personal testimony that I see the frustration. Take R T Kendall http://rtkendallministries.com/ . I don't think I've ever seen someone strive to hold the tension of Word and Spirit harder, yet he admitted in his autobiography that he left Westminster Chapel, a frustrated man, because the revival he longed for never came. Oh the frustration!! What is a reformed charismatic Adrian? He's a frustrated person!!
I think my second thought is that a reformed charismatic sees the "irreconcilable" as "destined for each other". What do I mean by that? Well I think Terry Virgo hit the nail exactly on the head in one of the interviews he gave on God TV. http://www.resources.newfrontiers.xtn.org/product_info.php?cPath=95&products_id=731.
On being asked about being a "reformed charismatic" - a term by the way, he was very happy to claim, he said that he felt that the reformed doctrines of the faith and charismatic experience "belonged together". So when we read the Puritans or the Great Reformers, we don't find a problem with believing in the power and wonder and glory of the manifestation of the Spirit. Or as Adrian Warnock put it much better:
"The charismatics believe in a God who is alive and acts today. We believe in a God who wants a personal relationship with his followers. Who hears prayers. Who reveals himself. Who pours out his love into our hearts. Who never changes and is the same God of the bible today. We believe that receiving the Holy Spirit is a conscious real experience. We believe that this experience of the Spirit is one of the major ways that God gives us assurance that we are saved.". It isn't in Spurgeon or Owen or Goodwin or Lloyd-Jones that I start squirming. A reformed charismatic reads the words of the apostle Paul; "Not in Word only ...".
I guess above all the ultimate end for the reformed charismatic is that they believe in what Grudem calls the "active Presence of God". Or in other words a God who is present in this world - here and now - by His Holy Spirit. It is interesting reading the "Four Views" book on Signs, Wonders and Miracles that Grudem edited: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0310201551/103-4993257-4947863?v=glance&n=283155&n=507846&s=books&v=glance - Grudem brought a cessationist, an open-but-cautious, a Third Waver and a Pentecostal together for massive talks on all of these matters and they disagreed on many things - but Grudem concluded that the one thing we are all united on is that; we long for the Presence of God. What are we without it?!
It's encouraging that Dr Warnock writes that he is 'stumbling towards a theology' - that gives me hope if the greatest minds still haven't quite got it sussed yet!! Maybe that's why Ern Baxter called it a "tension".
So ... what part of the tension is winning in me at the moment??!! Well ... put it this way, the latest book that I have just finished reading is Rick Joyner's; "The Torch and the Sword". http://store.morningstarministries.org/cgi-bin/morning/RJ1-043.html. It's kind of interesting. I'm going to review it later on tonight if the shift stays as quiet as it is at the moment. Hee hee.
Now, now ... before those secret SGM visitors get all jumpy and get tapping on their emails to Newport, this is a 'good' and 'nice' blog entry. Hee hee. For once. I found this great blog entry that hits right at the heart of one of my deepest passions and deepest pains.
Yere bro, I'm really REALLY jealous of Josh Harris too. He's written a book on "courtship" - a phrase that makes me cringe every time I hear it. And yes - I confess, a book I haven't read and probably won't. But I'm not jealous of his authorship and fame. I don't even particularly care that he pastors a large successful church in the USA. I'm jealous of his spiritual father. I'm jealous that he HAD a spiritual father!!
"I am desperate for a mentor. I am absolutely desperate to have someone who will invest in me. I am desperate to find a person, or have a person find me, who will play Paul to this Timothy".
This could have been written by me. Wow. A little bit of history. I think the first time I realised that I desperately wanted a spiritual father was when a pastor in London took me under his wing while I was at university in Birmingham. We had EXACTLY the same passions and principles. We both loved and hero-worshipped Ern Baxter, we both had a desire to see Word and Spirit come together, we both loved Newfrontiers and Terry Virgo, we loved Gordon Fee and John Piper. We loved so much. And I would spend most of my student grant travelling down for weekends to London to be with him and his family and just learn and listen and sit at his feet and absorb like a sponge. Then he just ... vanished. (Not literally ... he was called away elsewhere to minster and didn't have time to meet anymore) And it broke my heart. But God had given me a taster of this spiritual principle of discipling!!
Then my pastor Dr Jebb, oh so graciously gave up many many weekends of his precious time just after I had moved to Bristol to have me down to Cornwall to do exactly the same, to sit, to learn, to grow. Its amazing - while his lectures on so many awesome subjects of theology were just solid gold - the most amazing thing to me was to hear him pray before dinner. He's always been a man of prayer and I felt that I was on holy ground when I heard Dr J commune with our Father. And again ... cruel cruel circumstances (or God's sovereignity!) dictated that that too fizzled and seemed to disappear. But again!! God had given me a further deeper taste of this spiritual principle of discipling!!
So in that sense I realise I am amazingly blessed because: I have never had a single person (outside of my parents) who has invested in me in this way. I have never met a man who was willing to challenge me, to strengthen me and to teach me in this type of relationship. Not one. I have had some great pastors and teachers who have taught me in a group setting, but never one who pulled me aside and really invested himself in me". And I have! Yes, they have been hideously brief times and I have mourned their loss again and again, but I have had two men invest their time in me.
I still live in hope and faith that "Father" will come along at some point. I get that tingle every time I sit under any spiritually alive, mature man of God; Virgo, Storms, Holden ... you name it. And I long for it. But I am so glad to read this blog and realise I am not alone. Probably the most painful thing of all in my 2 year experience in my previous church was the day by day longing for fathering from the pastor which never materialised. What do you do? Push for it? Some did. Ask for it? Some would. I tend towards the Spurgeon principle and just hang in the shadows and hope and pray that it will happen and my Samuel will come and ask for me. I don't mean that to sound arrogant, because God alone knows. Yet that amazing song from Brighton; "You see the depths of my heart and you love me the same!".
So I will end with and echo the prayer of this blogger:
"I'm not sure if I am writing this in the hopes that pastors and leaders will read it and it will help them understand that there are men in their churches who are just waiting and ready to be mentored. Maybe I'm writing it so even lay-people like myself will take a hard look at ourselves to find those men within our own churches who could be waiting for us to come to them. Or maybe this article is entirely selfish and I'm just putting my hand in the air and asking someone to notice me. I honestly don't know. As a bit of an introvert I don't think I would ever be that bold. What I do know is that I feel like I've come to a point in life where I not only want, but really need, someone to play a mentoring role in my life". (Liberty taken by me with the bold and underline key).
So I suppose this article is really a type of prayer request or maybe even is a type of prayer, asking that God would stir the hearts of Christian pastors, leaders and lay-people to invest in those who are younger than them, whether they be younger in age or younger in the faith".
PS: Adrian Warnock's seen it too ... http://www.adrian.warnock.info/2005/11/are-you-jealous-of-josh-harris.htm - and has added some really helpful comments and points of his own. This is an issue that hopefully will become more and more prevelant. A friend of mine from my home church in Dunstable and I went to the Westminster Conference in 2001 to hear Dr Stanley Jebb give an address on one of the Puritans, and a comment caught our attention during one of the discussions with those venerable gentlemen. They were discussing the educating of those hopefuls for the ministry and the question went out; "Where are the young men?". We felt like jumping up together and going; "Here we are!! Where are the old men?!!?".
Wednesday, November 23, 2005
The Southern Baptist Seminary Faculty have posted a page of Thomas Schriener's writings and links to loads of on-line articles, papers and reviews that he has written. It's a veritable gold-mine if you like him ... which I do!!
Tuesday, November 22, 2005
Hey all. I got an email suggesting that I was toning down in my writings and getting less controversial, so wouldn't want to disappoint ... here's an email forward I got that I quite liked. We don't and wouldn't agree with the spirit of it ... but there is a very valid point that is something to do with a discussion between me and http://www.lukewood.blogspot.com. It's about biblical authority. I've just had yet another *sigh* email accusing me of not being "biblical". Well what IS biblical??! Who decides "biblical"!?!? Lets be consistent in our apologetics and not be guilty of twisting the Scripture to suit our own comfort zone. Enjoy and be challenged ...
The next time that you hear someone condemn homosexuality, abortion, contraception or anything else on the grounds that 'it is against God's Law as laid down in the Bible', try asking them the following:
a) When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odour for the Lord (Lev, 1:9). The problem is my neighbours. They claim the odour is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?
b) I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price?
c) I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual uncleanliness (Lev 15:19-24). The problem is, how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offence.
d) Lev 25:44 states that I may indeed possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighbouring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to the Scottish but not the Welsh. Can you clarify? Why can't I own the Welsh?
e) I have a neighbour who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly states that he should be put to death. Am I morally obliged to kill him myself?
f) A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an abonimation (Lev 11:10), it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don't agree - can you settle this?
g) Lev 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit to wearing reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20 or is there some wiggle room here?
h) Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressed forbidden by Lev 19:27. How should they die?
i) I know from Lev 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play rugby if I wear gloves?
j) My uncle has a farm. He violates Lev 19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them (Lev 24:10-16)? Couldn't we just burn them to death at a private family affair like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws (Lev 20:14)?
Saturday, November 19, 2005
So after those few blog entries of gossip and tittle tattle, I have dragged myself back to the great and glorious subject that I was meant to be writing about. Namely Dr Lloyd-Jones and his use of the Puritans in dealing with the Sealing of the Spirit and the awesome assurance of salvation that it brings us. To begin with, here is a reminder of why Dr L-J thinks quoting the greats is helpful:
"It will be well for us to look at further testimonies to this teaching which are to be found in the writings of prominent children of God in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. This is important because many imagine that what I have been saying in exposition of this verse is something new and strange. I want to show therefore that far from being an innovation, it has been taught regularly throughout the centuries; and it chiefly in this present century that it has been dropped into the background and has been neglected and forgotten".
I think we ended the quotes with the glorious Thomas Goodwin yesterday. Dr L-J's next quote was from George Whitfield. This was a brief entry in his journal:
"Was filled with the Holy Ghost. Oh, that all who deny the promise of the Father, might thus receive it themselves! Oh, that all were partakers of my joy!".
The next quote is quite a famous experience of the great Jonathan Edwards. Dr L-J was particularly fond of Jonathan Edwards as he felt that he was more "experimental" than the more academic Puritans of the previous century. Jonathan Edwards had rode to the woods on his horse for his health and had the following experience:
"The Person of Christ appeared ineffably excellent, with an excellency great enough to swallow up all thought and conception (remembering he was one of the greatest academics of his day!!) which continued as near as I can judge for about an hour; which kept me the greater part of the time in a flood of tears and weeping aloud. I felt an ardency of soul to be, I know not otherwise how to express, emptied and annihilated; to lie in the dust and full of Christ alone; to love Him with a holy and pure love; to trust Him; to live upon Him and to serve and follow Him".
The next is from Howell Harris (1714-1773) who was used greatly in Wales in the Revival:
"His heart was dancing in the warmth of his first love. After two to three weeks that love burst forth into a flame, a flame that melted his whole nature".
And again a quote from his journal - also brief but so powerful:
"June 18th 1746: London: A day to me memorable. This day eleven years ago I was sealed to the day of redemption".
Dr L-J said that Howell Harris kept referring to it and never forgot it. It was not his conversion - the Doctor was careful to point out - but the first occasion on which he had "expereienced this great effusion of the Spirit".
He then quotes D L Moody:
"Oh! What a day! I cannot describe it! I seldom refer to it; it is almost too sacred to name. Paul had an experience of which he never spoke for fourteen years. I can only say God revealed Himself to me and I had such an experience of His love that I had to ask Him to stay His hand".
This just so blows my mind. When I have ever come CLOSE to having to "ask God to stay His hand"?!!??! It just shows what an amazing thirst-driven spiritual plane these men walked on.
The final quote comes from C H Spurgeon. I do love quoting this, especially as he is being used in an attempt to buttress the cause of cessationism here and there.
"May the Holy Spirit grant that we may not say a word which is not strictly verified by our experience! But I hope we can say we have had converse with the Divine Father. We have not seen Him at any time nor have we beheld His shape. It has not been given to us like Moses to be put in the cleft of the rock and to see His back parts, or the train of the invisible Jehovah, yet we have spoken to Him; we have said to Him; "Abba Father" ... we have had access to Him in such a way that we cannot have been deceived ... we have found Him!".
There are two side issues that just occur to me that are worthy of mention.
That first quote; "May the Holy Spirit grant that we may not say a word which is not strictly verified by our experience" seems to really back up a theme that I have picked up on at the last two Brighton Leaders Conferences that I have been to. Terry mentioned it once also at Stoneleigh 1998. It is this VITALITY of leaders having what Dave Stroud called Power Encounters with God. It has to happen! I think John Piper was the man who said that a leader cannot take his people any further in experience with God than he has been. It's an interesting insight into the wisdom of having an extremely young church pastor isnt it? Yet age aside ... C H Spurgeon was preaching this sort of stuff at 19! The key is - are the leaders of our churches having these power encounters with God??? Are they walking with Him and knowing Him?
The other issue touches on my previous blog entry about worship and SGM's unease with "God is my boyfriend" terminology. C H Spurgeon writes: "We have said to Him; "Abba Father". Any scholar knows that means essentially "Daddy!". You can't get more intimate than that!! I think I know what SGM's concern is - that we do not forget that He is God. But I don't think we are in danger of over-familiarity at the moment, particularly in UK churches. No ... Terry Virgo is right; "This is no age to advocate restraint!". My concern rather is to seize this concept of deep and rich assurance whereby the Spirit cries out with our spirit; "Abba! Father!". Soo .. I WILL sing that beautiful and precious chorus; "Draw me close to You, never let me go" - thanks very much!
Anyway ... they were just asides ...
The final quote from Dr Lloyd-Jones was from Spurgeon's Revival Sermons;
"It is possible for a man to know whether God has called him or not, and he may know it too beyond a doubt. He may know it as surely as if he read it with his own eyes; nay he may know it more surely than that ... the testimony of the Spirit must be true!
There is such a thing on earth as an infalliable assurance of our election. Let a man get once get that, and it will anoint his head with fresh oil, it will clothe him with the white garment of praise and put the song of the angel in his mouth. Happy, happy man! Who is fully assured of his interest in the covenant of grace, in the blood of atonement and in the glories of heaven. Such men there are here this very day".
Dr Lloyd-Jones concludes; "They all bear the same testimony". What an ache that leaves in my heart!! It aches, because I have tasted just barely of what these men write of. But what a longing for more. Call it what you will ... baptism - filling - assurance - sealing. I long for an effusion of power from the Holy Spirit that totally transforms my life!! Nothing else will do!! Nothing else is enough!!
*UPDATE - Monday 28th November* Oops I spoke too soon. Kauflin has indeed coigned the phrase ... and it's "God is not my GIRLFRIEND" not "Boyfriend"!!! - http://worshipmatters.blogs.com/bobkauflin/2005/11/expressing_love.html.
It's interesting that he mentions C J Mahaney's literal interpretation of the Song of Solomon in his book; "Sex, Romance and the Glory of God" - maybe that is where his discomfort comes from the level of intimacy in these sorts of songs? I don't know. But I have a real problem with Mahaney's interpretation. The Puritan and traditional view of interpreting this beautiful book was that it primarily is a picture of the relationship between God and His Bride - the Church, not - as Mahaney tries to argue - a textbook for husband and wife. I tend towards the Puritan view. It seems far more beautiful and precious ... and surely at the end of the day the idea of marriage was intended as a SYMBOL of something ... oh! Christ and His Bride. I don't have a problem with Song of Solomon being used as Mahaney suggests, but I do think the Puritan view should come first. I can see where Kauflin is coming from. Yes we must beware of over-familiarity because God is God. But as I go on to argue ... to me "Abba Father" is far more intimate than "God is my girlfriend!". It's a beautiful, intimate, Spirit-filled cry of love and childlike adoration coming from the Holy Spirit Himself!! That's what I long for in the lingering notes of 'those' songs of worship.
*Further Update - Wednesday 30th November*.
The case against Mahaney's odd view on the Song of Solomon continues to grow in my opinion. I found a comment by Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones in his small paperback book; "A Superabundance of Blessing". The Doctor said quite clearly;
"The Song of Solomon is undoubtedly a picture and a prophecy of the relationship between Christ and his church. Written in a poetic, dramatic form, it is a perfect representation of the church as the bride of Christ. This is a New Testament term but the Song of Solomon sees it long before it came to pass".
So Doctor Lloyd-Jones joins the heavyweights of authorities standing against Mahaney on this matter. I really would be intrigued to know where he came to that conclusion. Did Jeff Purswell persuade him? Who knows. Heh heh.
And I love it. There's nothing more humiliating than it, and its something I need, as I am the proudest human being to walk the face of this earth ... I must be ... because God allows THE most humilitating things to happen to me!! But this entry isn't about a list of those things ... It's to do with Worship. My family know the sorts of subjects that I bristle, hackle and snarl at certain subjects usually to do with the Holy Spirit, and worship if I feel they are under attack. As they are still involved in SGM, I heard by way of conversation that there is a phrase floating round the SGM ranks that 'they' don't like ... it's "God isn't my boyfriend". Basically I think it means that they are cautious and wary of over-familiarity in times of celebration and worship on Sundays. That got me listening, because of my pre-conceptions already with where I think SGM are going, so I tracked down Bob Kauflin, who is the 'Worship Director' of SGM. And I found that he blogs!! http://www.worshipmatters.com/
But far from finding a distrust and a dislike of emotion and affection, I found a really well-balanced growing list of blog entries that give a great insight into worship. Best of all I found a GREAT definition of worship and an exposition of that, showing that Kauflin is not only a great worship leader, but also a teacher and expositor. Here's how he defines worship:
I’d like to unpack one more definition of worship today, keeping in mind that we’ll never exhaust the meaning and wonder of worshipping our Creator and Redeemer, even in eternity.
"Biblical worship is God’s covenant people recognizing, reveling in, and responding rightly to the glory of God in Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit."
Biblical worship…to separate what we do as Christians from all other types of worship. This also implies that God is the One who determines how we should worship Him. (Jn. 4:23-24)
Is God’s covenant people…God’s plan from the beginning of creation has been to redeem a people for his own possession who would give him glory endlessly. The basis of our relationship with Him is His unchanging character, His unfailing love, and His unrepeatable sacrifice for our sins. (Ex. 19:5-6; 1 Pet. 2:9-10; Rev. 5:9-10)
Recognizing...This implies mental awareness and perception, as opposed to a highly individualized emotional encounter. (Ex. 34:6-7, Jer. 9:23-24)
Reveling in…One of the definitions for “revel” is “to get great pleasure from.” It is in that sense that we “revel” in God’s glory in Christ. When we find our highest joy, pleasure, satisfaction, and good in knowing God, we are worshipping Him. Although worshipping God involves more than our emotions, it doesn't involve less. (Ps. 32:11, 37:4; 1 Pet. 1:8-9)
And responding rightly…There are countless wrong ways to respond to God, including ungratefulness, anger, and idolatry. Our right responses include both adoration and action, both what we do in specific meetings as well as in all of life. (Rom. 12:1-2; Heb. 10:24-25; Heb. 13:15-16)
To God’s glory in Christ…We have been saved to see that God’s glory has been most clearly revealed in the person and work of His Son. (2 Cor. 4:6) This is a precious truth that we must proclaim and protect. (Heb. 1:1-3)
In the power of the Holy Spirit…While they may disagree on the application, Charismatics and cessationists can both affirm that the worship of God is impossible apart from the power of God’s Spirit. (John 4:23-24; Eph. 2:18)".
Wrong again Bowen!! Ha ha ... great stuff. Although for the record it doesn't mean I've suddenly joined the universal SGM fan club. I do have deep suspicions about what is going on in their ranks. One of my chief interests is the fact that they seem to be trying to follow a Third Wave track of theology ... in terms of shying away from the baptism of the Holy Spirit or any such emphasis dealing with initiation and focusing more on the gifts of the Spirit ... and yet they couldn't be more different from the classic Vineyard Third Wave church which absolutely DO cherish and focus on affections in worship ... just where SGM are reigning caution.
I still wonder ... are they trying to be all things to all men and failing?
It's unbelievable but its already getting round to the time when we have to start deciding which conferences we are going to go to in 2006!! Oh scaredom. I got a leaflet through the door advertising Life in the Spirit. I think (if my memory serves me) I blogged a report on this early back in July. Sam Storms was the keynote speaker last year and it was quite a time. Their website is: http://www.lifeinthespirit.tk/. It is quite a simple site, basically letting the Old Faithful book their en-suite rooms at next years conference (or single rooms if they are humble). Hee hee - if you want proof I was there, I've just found my photo on the website!
The theme of the conference will be "Triumph of the Crucified". The main speakers are Greg Haslem and Paul Reid. I don't know why I'm not going really ... guess the theme doesn't really grab me although it will be interesting to hear reports from my friends who are going. I've got quite a history with Life in the Spirit. My pastor Dr Stanley Jebb used to be on the conference team and brought some really key messages in the eighties. Now my old hero Peter Cockrell is on the conference team. He leads a church in Worthing: http://www.gracecc-worthing.org.uk/
It really is a great conference, but I guess when my annual leave and money are regulated and limited, I need a life-changing encounter with God at these holy convocations.
Which is why, I will be DEFINATELY at Brighton next year: http://www.newfrontiers.xtn.org/leadership/category_index.php?id=50 and we are considering being really naughty and running upto CCK and seeing the amazing stuff going on at Mobilise. I think Evan Rogers is such an amazing worship leader - I've never seen such passion before!! I'm always really excited to see what guest speakers Terry Virgo will invite, but actually the highlights of the conference are always hearing Terry himself, Dave Holden and Dave Devenish. These guys are just pure gold, as well as John Hosier and John Groves!!
My family are going to go to New Wine I think in the summer!! http://www.new-wine.org/ I went to Soul Survivor which is the student version years ago when I was a student, but again like Life in the Spirit, I don't think I'll be tempted.
Darlene Zschech is coming to London in September!! I am so going to be at this conference. I have always loved the wonderful albums that Hillsongs bring out. They touch something of the pure passion and wonder and awe of God and I can't WAIT to be there!! - http://www.hillsong.co.uk/hillsongeurope/
I would absolutely LOVE to go to New Day - the youth conference organised by Newfrontiers. It sounds absolutely incredible. Birthed in the prophetic (I think there was a picture of a bath filling up and passing the water mark and overflowing over the sides), it just sounds pure Presence of God. Regretfully I think I'm too old :( so I am content with praying and pleading with my teenage brother and sister to go. http://www.newday.xtn.org/
Hee hee ... or something like that. It seems I'm not the only one deep along the Lloyd-Jonesian/Puritan thread on this whole issue of life in the Holy Spirit. I found this awesome blog entry and blogger today:
He sees the key situation as: "The Major Issue: God, by the Holy Spirit, grants His children direct, conscious experiences of Himself. These relational experiences of God amount to impressions from the Holy Spirit and are good for the strengthening, comfort and edification of the believer". I quite like that summary. "Direct, concious experiences of Himself". Yes oh yes!
He goes on to list some important bloggers who are deep in the debate more from the gifts point of view. These are:
http://jollyblogger.typepad.com/jollyblogger/2005/11/infallible_prop.html (a careful and weighty critique of the Grudem thesis on the NT gift of prophecy).
http://blogotional.blogspot.com/2005/11/doctrine-and-holy-spirit.html (he asks the fundamental question that I still wonder ... why ARE we so afraid of the Holy Spirit?)
http://www.adrian.warnock.info/2005/11/fallible-prophecy_16.htm (this guy seems to be the Godfather of all things bloggerific).
The blog then gets into the nitty-gritty for me and begins to survey the issue of assurance from Lloyd-Jones in Romans, as I had been doing yesterday. And then again goes on to list the awesome list of Puritans that Lloyd-Jones presents as authorities on his position on the Holy Spirit.
It's an amazing blog entry and puts it far better than I did. I just found it so exciting to find that someone is thinking along exactly the same lines as me!!
Friday, November 18, 2005
Still on the theme of using spiritual giants from the past to buttress our theology, I have found a very telling and useful sermon of Dr Lloyd-Jones. It was from his great Friday series on Romans. I heard the tape first from a collection I brought from Westminster Chapel in the days of R T Kendall, so then hunted it down in the books. The Doctor (Lloyd-Jones not Jebb) was addressing the great and glorious theme of the Sealing of the Spirit with regard to assurance, so in a sense I am killing two birds with one stone because he has some absolutely awesome quotes from the Puritans, some known and some older Puritans that I have never heard before but will definately hunt down their books!! Listen, bask and revel in the weight of glory!! This is the Doctor speaking first.
"It will be well for us to look at further testimonies to this teaching (the Sealing of the Spirit) which are to be found in the writings of prominent children of God in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. This is important because many imagine that what I have been saying in exposition of this verse (Romans 8:16) is something new and strange.
I want to show therefore that, far from being an innovation, it has been taught regularly throughout the centuries; and it is chiefly in this present century that it has been dropped into the background and has been neglected and forgotten.
I do not hesitate to assert that the main explanation and cause of the present state of the Christian church - and I am referring particularly to Evangelical churches - is the neglect of this doctrine, and the influence of false doctrines that would have us 'take it by faith' and not be concerned at all about our feelings. The same applies to the teaching that all receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit at regeneration and that it is non-experimental".
The first quote he brings is from the successor of John Knox in Scotland:
"His Spirit has testified to my spirit not only by real joys, spiritual and elevated light, but by vocal speeches within me in the daylight that I heard so sensibly with great effusion of tear, so far not only by approbation but to my commendation that I admire how He should bestow such gracious speeches upon so wretched a creature as I was".
Dr Lloyd-Jones comments: "That from a dour Scotsman! That is how he describes the Spirit bearing witness with his spirit and you notice it is full of emotion and of feeling - highly experimental!".
The next quote is extremely significant, it is from John Preston - an early Puritan from his writings; "The Saint's Portion";
"My beloved, it (the Sealing of the Spirit) is a thing that we cannot express; it is a certain divine expression of light, a certain inexpressible assurance that we are the sons of God, a certain secret manifestation that God hath received us and put away our sins. I say it is such a thing that no man knows but they that hath it".
The third quote is of another Puritan, Thomas Horton who preached a mere forty-six sermons on the eight chapter of Romans;
"Whenever it comes in the reality and the fulness of it, and so long as it remains upon the soul, it silences all temptations, removes all scruples and doubts whatsoever to the contrary, and sets the heart at perfect rest".
The fourth quote is from a sermon I am desperately trying to get hold of - from the Works of Richard Sibbes; "A Fountain Sealed".
"The heart is stirred up and comforted with joy inexpressible ... the Spirit doth not always witness unto us (note that) ... This is greater than the promise, as a seal is more than our hand, and as an oath is more than a man's bare word".
We must finish this blog entry with the great Thomas Goodwin, who Dr L-J regarded as a real authority in this matter of the Sealing of the Spirit and quoted often:
"There is light that cometh and over-powereth a man's soul and assureth him that God is his and he is God's and that God loveth him from everlasting ... It is a light beyond the light of ordinary faith ... it is the next thing to heaven; you have no more, you can have no more, till you come thither ... It is faith elevated and raised up above its ordinary rate, it is the electing love of God brought home to the soul".
I cannot commend this sermon tape (available from the DML-J Recording Trust) or the chapter enough ... it is simply jewel after jewel ... the chapter is 27 and is pages 338 - 355. There are far more and longer quotes than I had time to write, I hopefully will get to them tomorrow night. These include Jonathan Edwards, Howell Harris, George Whitfield ... and just for Phil Johnson's benefit ... yes, C H Spurgeon!!
Until tomorrow ...
Crikey ... it seems when I stumbled across Phil Johnson's "Finale" on the 'fact' that C H Spurgeon was a cessationist, this was just the tip of the iceburg ... check out this "pillow-fight" blog entry that details very accurately all the bloggers who are raging to and fro, back and forth on spiritual gifts, and whether or not they continue!!
It's quite a list, and one that doesn't look like it's gonna end very soon. Oh, and Mark Heath weighs in with his 'open-but-cautious-yes-prophecy-might-exist-but-the-Word-is-better' entry:
How these people have the time to read all these blogs beats me, I only get to write when I'm on night shifts!!
So my primary interest is back to C H Spurgeon and his 'cessationism' because that's what caught my eye. The issue at stake seems to be that Christians on both sides of the debate - cessationist and charismatic, seem to love nothing more than finding and claiming heroes who are dead that seem to support their position. I am guilty of exactly such a thing. Nothing thrills my heart more than when I turn the page of a dusty Puritan tome and there in print seems to be words that would back up what my heart believes. I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing. We are meant to learn from those who have gone before, and thank goodness their words are preserved for us in print. Thank God for those who invested their time in writing and not just "coffee time"!!
But the point is ... can ANYONE really prove that such and such a hero was either a cessationist or a charismatic??! The hero is in glory!! And also ... so what?? Spurgeon was a cessationist ... big deal! (Or in my case boo-hiss-boo). Or Spurgeon was a charismatic ... big deal! Does it really change my beliefs? Unless he brings illumination into the Word of God that is utterly convincing that the gifts of the Spirit have irrevocably ceased, then I can still benefit gloriously from his awesome ministry, but I will gloss over those quotes Phil Johnson dug up. Am I making myself clear?
So back to the question ... was Spurgeon a cessationist? I dunno. Johnson's quotes seem quite convincing and it would fit in with the time frame of those particular writers. Quite a few of the Puritan writers such as Jonathan Edwards were as well, and that doesn't cause me a problem.
But what I DID find and discover ... and what DOES make a difference for me was that C H Spurgeon TOTALLY and UTTERLY believed in the awesome and dynamic power of the Holy Spirit coming down in a flood to change a believer by sealing him or her, baptising him or her, filling him or her, whatevering him or her!! And to me - that's what counts. Yes I love and cherish the gifts of the Spirit, but I'm just not liking the obsession with them at the moment, and we have the Third Wavers to thank for that (and SGM although they don't seem to be keen on affections at the moment ... see Bob Kauflin's "God isn't my boyfriend" comments).
Over to C H Spurgeon:
"Am I not so happy as to have in this audience some who will immediately ask for this blessing? I pray that some who have never received the Holy Spirit at all may now be led, while I am speaking to pray; "Blessed Spirit, visit me, lead me to Jesus".
Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones comments: "He is here referring to unbelievers who have not received the Spirit at all and he is exhorting them to pray there and then as he was preaching".
C H S continues:
"But especially those of you that are the children of God, to you is this promise especially made".
Lloyd-Jones butts in: "He is referring to the promise of having this blessing of the Spirit which will lead to rivers of living water flowing out from the inward parts".
C H S continues:
"Ask God to make you all that the Spirit of God can make you, not only a satisfied believer who has drunk for himself, but a useful believer who overflows the neighbourhood with blessing. I see here a number of friends from the country who have come to spend their holidays in London. What a blessing it would be if they went back to their respective churches overflowing; for there are numbers of churches that need flooding; they are as dry as a barn floor and little dew ever falls on them. Oh that they might be flooded! What a wonderful thing a flood is!
Go down to the river, look over the bridge and see the barges and other craft lying in the mud. All the kings horses and all the kings men cannot tug them out to sea; there they lie, dead and motionless as the mud itself. What shall we do with them? What machinery can move them? ... No it cannot be done! Wait till the tide comes in! What a change! Each vessel walks the water like a thing of life. What a difference between the high tide and the low tide. You cannot stir the boats when the water is gone, but when the tide is at the full see how readily they move, a little child may push them with his hand. Oh for a flood of grace! The Lord send to all our churches a spring tide! Then the indolent will be active enough and those who are half dead will be full of energy. I know that in this particular dock several vessels are lying that I should like to float but I cannot stir them. They neither work for God nor come out to the prayer meetings, nor give of their substance to the Gospel.
If the flood would come, you would see what they are capable of! They would be active, fervent, generous, abounding in every good word and work. So may it be! So may it be! May springs begin to flow in all our churches, and may all of you who hear me this day, get your share of the streams! Oh that the Lord may now fill you and send you home bearing a flood of grace with you. It sounds oddly to speak of a mans carrying home a flood with him, and yet I hope it will be so, and that out of you shall flow rivers of living water. So may God grant for Jesus' sake".
Ref: CHS, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, vol 28 (1882), pp 311-12
and D M L-J's Commentary on CHS: Romans - Exposition of Chapter 8:5-17 "The Sons of God" (pp322-323).
So with a prayer like that, a preacher like that and a sermon like that, my heart is full!! THAT is the Holy Spirit I believe in!! That is the Holy Spirit I long for and expect for and hope for!! Yes, lets talk about spiritual gifts, but they are just a mark of His Presence. Surely the goal must be His Presence itself!! Surely the main thing is the 'passing by' of the God of Moses!
Have just been alerted to a "must-have" for everyone's libraries by a blog friend of mine, the awesome Luke Wood: http://lukewood.blogspot.com
It's a Bible Study resource from Scripture Union and there are some absolutely AWESOME looking articles by John Hosier on "Word and Spirit" (a passion of mine), and by Terry Virgo on "Know the Word" (two passions of mine; the writer and the subject).
Details are on Luke's site:
Order yours now!!
Thursday, November 17, 2005
Just a real quick entry for future consideration. My fave Phil Johnson (the Spurgeon Archive is SO good - http://www.spurgeon.org) has posted a massive epistle on 'proofs' of Spurgeon's cessationism.
V v interesting to me, particularly as my previous post a few weeks ago looked at the prophetic word that was spoken over Spurgeon himself - which subsequently came true. So as the Man Himself is in glory and can't be questioned, it just means I'm going to have to go to my Met Tabs and research more!! I guess that can't be a really bad thing!
Friday, November 11, 2005
Following hard and fast on my determination to make available material that may be either out of print or slightly older, but yet pure and solid gold in spiritual and theological worth, I found a large section in Volume 3 of the Works of Richard Sibbes - which was his exposition of 2 Corinthians. He deals in depth with his understanding of the 'Sealing of the Spirit' which would fit in very deeply with that of Dr Lloyd-Jones ... and therefore me. He raises questions and proofs that perhaps have been overlooked in the charismatic movement and of necessity must be revived if papers like Jeff Purswell's are to be rebutted. So here it is - transcribed in entirety. It was from the Banner of Truth edition.
Works of Richard Sibbes – Volume 3; “Exposition of 2 Corinthians”.
Banner of Truth, Edinburgh.
“When we honour God by sealing His truth, then the Spirit seals us; certainly then the Spirit doth it by Presence, by being with us in our souls. What then doth the Spirit work when we believe? How shall we know that there is such a spiritual sealing?
I answer the Spirit in this sealing works these four things;
1. First, a secret voice or witness to the soul, that we are ‘the sons of God’.
2. Secondly a voice or speech in us again to God, causing us to have access to the throne of grace ‘with boldness’.
3. Thirdly a work of sanctification.
4. Fourthly ‘a peace of conscience and joy in the Holy Ghost’. Rom xiv. 17.
By these four ways we may know the sealing of the Spirit after we believe and that our faith is a sound belief and that we are in the state of grace indeed.
1. First I say the Spirit speaks to us by a secret kind of whispering and intimation that the soul feels better than I can express. ‘Be of good comfort, thy sins are forgiven thee; saith he to the soul, Matt ix. 2 ‘I am thy salvation’, Ps. Xxxv 3. There is, I say a sweet joining, a sweet kiss given to the soul. ‘I am think and thou art mine’, Cant. Vi 3. God by His Spirit speaks so much. There is a voice of God’s Spirit speaking peace to His people upon their believing.
2. And then, secondly the Spirit of adoption stirs up the speech of the soul to God, that as he says to the soul, because thou believest, now thou art honoured to be my child; so the Spirit stirs up in the soul a spirit of prayer to cry ‘Abba Father’. It can go boldly to God as to a Father, for that ‘Abba Father’, it is a bold and familiar speech.
There are two things in a prayer of a Christian that are incompatible to any carnal man; there is an inward kind of familiar boldness in the soul, whereby a Christian goes to God as a child when he wants any thing goes to his father. A child considers not his own worthiness or meanness but goeth to his father familiarly and boldly; so I say when the Spirit of God speaks to us from God and tells the soul ‘I am thine’, ‘I am thy salvation’, ‘thy sins are forgiven thee, be of good comfort’; and when the soul again speaks to God, when it can pour forth itself with a kind of familiar boldness and earnestness, especially in extremity and in time of trouble, and can wait in prayer, and depend on God – this spiritual speech of God to the soul, and of the soul to God, it is a seal of the Spirit that indeed we are true believers, because we can do that that none can do but Christians. God speaks to our souls, he raiseth our souls, and by His Spirit He puts a spirit of supplication into us and helps our infirmities; for we know not what to ask, but he helps our weakness and enables us to lay out the wants of our souls to God. These are the evidences of the Presence and of the seal of the Spirit.
3. In the third place, this sealing of the Spirit after we believe, is known by the sanctifying work of the Spirit; for as I have told you before in the unfolding of the point, the Spirit seals our spirits by stamping the likeness of the Spirit of Christ on us. So that when a man finds in his soul some lineaments of that heavenly image of Christ Jesus when he finds some love, he may know by that love that he is ‘translated from death to life’, John v 24; when he finds his spirit subdued, to be humble, to be obedient, when he finds his spirit to be heavenly and holy as Christ was’ when he finds this stamp upon the soul, surely he may reason, I have not this by full of malice, now I can love, I can pray heartily for mine enemies as Christ did. Naturally I am lumpish and heavy now in afflictions, I can joy in the Holy Ghost; I have somewhat in me contrary to nature, surely God hath vouchsafed his Spirit upon my believing in Christ, to mark me, to seal me, to stamp me for his, I carry now the image of the second Adam, I know the Holy Ghost hath been in my heart, I see the stamp of Christ there. ‘Know you not that Christ is in you, except you be cast-aways?’ saith the apostle, 2 Co xiii 5. So upon search the Christian soul finds somewhat of Christ always in the soul to give a sweet evidence that he is sealed to the day of redemption.
4. The fourth evidence that the Spirit of God hath been in a man’s heart is the joy of the Holy Ghost and the peace of conscience. Sanctification is the ordinary seal that is always in the soul; this is an extraordinary seal, peace and joy. When the soul needs encouragement, then God is graciously pleased to super add this to give such spiritual ravishings which are as the very beginnings of heaven, so that a man may say of a Christian at such times that he is in heaven before his time, he is in heaven upon earth. But especially God doth this when he will have his children to suffer or after suffering, after some special conflict after we have combated with some special corruption, with some sinful disposition, with some strong temptation, and have got the victory. ‘To him that overcometh will I give of the hidden manna and a white stone and a new name that none can read it, but he that hath it’ Rev ii 17, that is he shall have assurance that he is in the state of grace and the sweet sense of the love of God and that sweet heavenly manna that none else can have. Thus God dealt with Job. After he had exercised that champion a long time, at the last he discovered himself in a glorious manner to him. So it is usually after some great cross, or in the midst of some great cross, when God sees that we must be supported with some spiritual comfort, we sink else. Then there is place and time for spiritual comfort when earth cannot comfort. Thus St Paul in the midst of the dungeon when he was in the stocks being sealed with the Spirit, he ‘sang at midnight’ Acts xvi 24. Alas! What would have become of blessed Paul? His spirit would have sunk if God had not stamped it with ‘joy in the Holy Ghost’. Rom xiv 17 and so David, and the ‘three young men’ in the fiery furnace, and Daniel in the den. God doth then, even as parents, smile upon their children when they are sick and need comfort; so above all other times God reserves this hidden sealing of his children with a spirit of joy when they need it most, sometimes in the midst of afflictions; sometimes before. So our Saviour Christ had James and John on the mountain to strengthen them against the scandal of suffering after. So God when he hath a great work for his children to do, some suffering for them to go through, as an encouragement beforehand, he enlargeth their spirits with the joy of the Holy Ghost. And sometimes also after a holy and gracious disposition in the ordinances of God, God doth add an excellent portion of His Spirit, a seal extraordinary; for indeed god thinks nothing enough for his children till he have brought them to heaven, seal upon seal and comfort upon comfort and the more we depend upon him in the means of salvation, and the more we conflict with our corruptions, the more he increaseth the sweet comforts and the hidden manna of the Spirit.
Thus we see how the Spirit seals; I beseech you, therefore let us examine ourselves by that which hath been spoken; after we believe God seals those that do believe. We honour him by believing, he honours us by sealing us with his Spirit. Hath God spoken to thy soul by the witness of the Spirit and said ‘I am thy salvation’, ‘thy sins are forgiven thee?’, doth God stir up thy spirit to call upon him especially in extremity? And to go with boldness and earnestness to him? Surely this boldness and earnestness is an evidence of the seal of the Spirit; for a man that hath no seal of the Spirit, he cannot go to God in extremity. A man that hath not the Spirit of God speaking peace to his conscience , to whom God hath not given the Spirit of adoption to cry ‘Abba Father’ in all manner of exigents, he sinks as lead to the bottom of the sea. Did you ever feel the sweet joy of the Spirit after conflict with corruptions, and getting ground of them, and in holy duties? It is a sign that God hath sealed you.
Newfrontiers Magazine – Winter 2001
4. Weighing and Testing.
What about weighing and testing? This is obviously something that Paul encouraged us to do with prophetic words. The New Testament suggests that this should be done after two or three prophetic words. I would not want to be legalistic about this but it is helpful to summarise what we believe God is saying in a meeting after a few prophetic words have been given, otherwise we can lose track and their effect can be lost. The idea of weighing, I believe, not only means testing (1 Thess 5:21) but also giving weight to the word that has come. Sometimes the weighing may take place by asking people to response to the word. If the word is in any way directional to the life of the church, then the elders may say that they will consider the word and also invite others to pray about it and to let the elders know if they have anything they feel God is saying about it. It is very important then that elders give feedback to the church where there has been a significant directional word.
5. How do we weigh?
It is obviously important that we weigh prophetic words in accordance with Scripture. What God may be saying now will never contradict Scripture. In Acts 15 James summarised what God was saying to that meeting by reference to a Scriptural promise in the book of Amos. Prophecy will be Christ-honouring. ‘The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy’ (Rev 19:10). We also need to test the attitude of the person bringing the prophetic word. Whatever is said can have three origins. It can be human, demonic or of God. Sometimes there can be a strong human element in prophesying which needs to be sifted. For example someone may feel very strongly about a particular subject; they may be quite right to feel strongly about it. However this does not justify ‘prophesying’ about it. It may just be better to say that we feel strongly about it. Only very rarely have I heard prophetic words that seem demonic in origin because of the content or the heaviness that they can bring into a meeting. Here we do need to be responsible and say that we believe that contribution is not of God. It may be even appropriate to stop the person mid-flow.
It is important to say that condemnation is not of God. We need to distinguish between conviction of sin, which is specific and which requires repentance and general condemnation. Sometimes there can be a misunderstanding of Old Testament prophets and they way they brought messages in an attempt to justify condemnatory prophesying today. We are living in a New Testament era when, praise God, ‘there is now therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus’ (Rom 8:1). Furthermore the Old Testament prophets spoke about specific sins and brought clear conviction. That is the work of the Holy Spirit. They did not simply bring blanket condemnation.
If prophecy is predictive or directive, we do need to look for confirmatory prophecies. God may speak more than once and such prophecies will usually be confirmed over time by others. It may be helpful to say this in a meeting. If I am bringing something particularly directional to an individual or a church, I ask God for a ‘word of knowledge’ component to my prophesying. I once received a prophecy to the effect that someone was going to be an evangelist. However because this was so directional in his life, I asked God for a word of knowledge. I immediately sensed from God that this person had been beaten up recently. This word of knowledge raised faith for the directional prophecy because the facts were true. With predictive prophecy, however, we must remember the ‘implied condition’ of most prophesying. We may hear words about amazing things for which we shall be used in the future. However if we do not continue to live godly lives and perhaps train for what God has for us, then we should not be surprised if they are not fulfilled.
We also need to recognise that some people who have remarkable insights and an established prophetic gift can sometimes be wrong. We must not accord to any person in our current age the status of infallible prophet.
It may be helpful to say another word about individual prophecies. Often these are given in ‘ministry times’ following meetings and may therefore be given ‘one to one’. Personally I discourage ‘one to one’ prophesying. The reason for this is that because all prophecy needs to be weighed and tested, it is important that there are those present who are able to weigh and test the words. I usually like to bring individual words in a public setting so that they can be tested. This may be a bit daunting to somebody who has had less experience in bringing individual prophetic words. However under these circumstances the importance of testing is even more relevant. When bringing an individual prophecy it is helpful to ask one or two others to be present when the word is given. I do not mean people selected at random because they may not have maturity to test the prophecy. Ideally those called to test the word too should have a degree of authority in the local church and know the circumstances of the person receiving the prophecy.
6. Getting Started.
You may be saying ‘This is all very well but how do I start prophesying?’. First of all let me encourage all of you to have faith for it. Paul said, ‘I would like every one of you to speak in tongues but I would rather have you prophesy’ (1 Cor 12:5). The vast majority of you who have been baptised in the Holy Spirit will have no problem with faith for speaking in tongues. This same faith is available for us to prophesy.
Let me be very practical. Here I am not giving explicit biblical teaching but some practical hints that may help you. When you first prophesy you may feel you have heard something from God and start to ponder it. Often this can be accompanied by natural sensations such as a nervous stomach or clammy hands. You are getting nervous because God is speaking to you and something may be required of you. Sometimes there is the sense of the hand of God upon us compelling us forward. It is often helpful to ask God for confirmation. Sometimes you will find a clear reference to what you believe God is speaking to you in somebody else’s prayer or a reference in a song that is currently being sung. Take that as an encouragement. Also ask God to clarify the word in your mind. You may have received a picture so ask God to clarify it and give an interpretation. A prophetic picture does not just fade away or get confusing. It becomes clearer and usually God gives some interpretation.
Sometimes somebody else brings the word you were going to bring. You could at this point get negative and feel that you have missed God. I would rather you saw it as an encouragement. It is God confirming that you are beginning to hear His voice.
There are different ways of bringing prophecy and we need to be sensitive to the promptings of God in this as well. Sometimes we speak out the picture because that will help people understand what God is saying and then we explain it. Sometimes we simply speak out words of interpretation even though we may have seen a picture. Sometimes it is helpful, as we have said above to accompany our words with actions. We may be in a one to one situation, perhaps counselling, when the prophetic word is not to be given in the form of a prophecy but to encourage us to ask relevant questions.
It is very important to learn to obey the promptings of God. Sometimes this can be very risky. However it develops our ability to hear the Shepherds voice.
There are other matters to consider as we start bringing prophecy. The Bible says that we prophecy ‘in part’. This means that parts may be right and parts not. We need encouragement but we also need correction as to the way in which we brought the word, what was said, whether it was said at the right time or whatever. If we cannot receive correction then we cannot really operate in the prophetic.
Do be careful about manipulation. We can sometimes try and change circumstances or somebody’s mind by speaking in the form of a prophecy when we are really just expressing an opinion. Also we need to be very careful with time predictions. Because the prophet ‘sees’ the word in the present then he or she may be way out as far as dates are concerned. Also we must rule out prophecies regarding who should marry whom and be very careful about bringing prophecies in emotional circumstances such as terminal illness. If you do receive a word about someone’s healing then this should encourage you to pray more fervently. It is not usually right to share something like this in traumatic circumstances.
Prophetic ministry is a vital part of the life of a healthy church. It is essential that we make room for the Holy Spirit to speak to us in this way, applying the appropriate safeguards to ensure authenticity.
I am constantly concerned that I do not fall into the evangelical trap of criticising everything that I do not like or find fault in and do not present my thoughts and ideas and visions for an alternate reality that seizes my imagination. I found this excellent article on the 'Gift of Prophecy' by Dave Devenish in an older Newfrontiers magazine that I don't think is available on the net. It was pre-the Newfrontiers website update!! Therefore I have taken the liberty of transcribing it in two sections so that this awesome material can be accessed by a wider audience than those who have the magazine, and I pray that God in His awesome grace may bring about a revival of this gift that we are commanded to earnestly seek - so that the world may be convicted of the Presence of God!
Prophetically Speaking by David Devenish
Newfrontiers Magazine – Winter 2001.
From the pages of the New Testament it is quite evident that prophesying in our gatherings, both large and small, is very important. According to 1 Corinthians 14:1, we should earnestly seek all the gifts but we should in particular seek the gift of prophecy. Prophecy in our gatherings is also intended to have an impact on those coming in as unbelievers. If everybody is prophesying then the unbeliever is likely to be convicted of sin and to exclaim that ‘God is really among you!’ (1 Cor 14:25). Furthermore it doesn’t seem to be something for the special few because Paul makes it clear that we can all prophesy in turn (1 Cor 14:31). He concludes the chapter by stressing the same things, saying ‘Be eager to prophesy and do not forbid speaking in tongues’ (1 Cor 14:39).
A particular characteristic of the age of the Holy Spirit (from the Day of Pentecost until the second coming of Christ) is that there should be an abundance of the prophetic. In looking forward to this, Joel prophesied about the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. The evidence of this would be that ‘Your sons and daughters will prophesy’ (Joel 2:28). In other words the role of prophesying was not limited to a few special prophets; it was something that would be demonstrated widely amongst God’s people. On the day of Pentecost, Peter quoted Joel’s prophecy saying that this age of the Spirit had now dawned. Paul told the church in Thessalonica that they must not treat prophecies with contempt (1 Thess 5:20). It seems that whereas the church in Corinth perhaps went ‘over the top’ by not handling the spiritual gifts in an orderly way, the church of Thessalonica was in danger of despising the prophetic and putting out the Holy Spirit’s fire. In reality even in the charismatic movement we are probably more in danger of the mistakes of the Thessalonians than the mistakes of Corinth.
What is Prophesying?
So what is prophesying? The gift of prophecy is the special ability that God gives to members of the body of Christ to receive and communicate an immediate message of God to His gathered people, a group among them, or any one of His people individually, through a divinely anointed utterance. It is essentially a sense of the immediacy of God’s Presence demonstrated in His speaking to us. It is not a prepared talk explaining what the Scriptures mean, as some would say – that is teaching. However it is still consistent with God’s revealed word completed in Scripture.
2. Different Types of Prophesying.
There are different types of the prophetic gift referred to in the New Testament. All these aspects need to be reflected in our gatherings.
· It is a general characteristic of prophesying that God is speaking to us for our strengthening, encouragement and comfort. Many words we get in our gatherings obviously have that effect. Some may be brief, some longer and more involved but all should have an uplifting effect upon God’s people. Even if a prophetic word comes with a corrective aspect to it, it must clearly be seen in the context of strengthening and encouraging the church.
· There are individual prophetic words. Agabus brought such a word to Paul in Acts 21:11. Not only did he bring a very specific individual word, but he acted out the word so bringing it into very clear focus. I have experienced on a number of occasions when a dramatic presentation of the word, under the influence of the Holy Spirit has really helped in terms of making vivid what God is saying. However I believe this is still the exception rather than the rule because otherwise it could become just another method and lose its impact. Sometimes individual prophetic words bring an impartation of a gift of the Holy Spirit. Paul refers to such a prophetic word when the elders laid hands on Timothy. (1 Tim 4:14).
· Some prophetic words are predictive. In Acts 11:27-30, Agabus predicted that there would be a famine. It is very important to note the response of the Antioch church. They did not say, ‘Well lets hold that and wait and see what happens’. They acted upon the prophetic word and as a result funds were available to help the poor Judean churches when the famine actually came.
· Prophetic words may give clear direction to the church. In Acts 13 at Antioch the Holy Spirit spoke to the effect that Barnabus and Saul needed to be set apart for the work to which they had already been called. It is noteworthy that this word came in a leadership context. I will be coming back to that later in the article.
· It is also anticipated that prophetic words will sometimes bring genuine conviction of sin. This is often linked with what we call ‘the word of knowledge’. I believe that the ‘word of knowledge’ is an important weapon in the prophetic armoury. When the woman in John 4 heard Jesus say that she had seven husbands and was now living with another man, the woman replied to the effect that she discerned that Jesus was a prophet (John 4:19). I believe it was almost certainly these sorts of prophetic words, which were occurring in Corinth, which would have caused unbelievers to be convicted of sin. A few years ago in one of our churches in Bedford, someone tentatively came to the front and shared what seemed an unusual prophetic word. It was simply two words; ‘Woolworth’s’ and ‘shoplifting’. It turned out that there was somebody present who was not a usual member of the congregation but had indeed been guilty of shoplifting in Woolworth’s.
3. How should we bring these words?
Normally I encourage people just to bring words at an appropriate time during the meeting. In smaller churches just bring them from where you are seated. In larger churches, it may be appropriate to have an extra microphone at the front to which people can come and share the prophetic word. A microphone aids hearing; it doesn’t give prophecy additional authority! I personally do not encourage the practice whereby every word has first to be vetted by the elder presiding in the meeting. In effect this makes the elder the sole judge of the prophetic words and does not seem to capture the ‘body ministry’ atmosphere of the New Testament. I think it is better to listen to the word and then test it. There would of course be exceptions to this. Somebody may not be very confident or may be new to this ministry and prefer to have such encouragement before bringing a prophecy. Furthermore if the word is very directional in terms of the life of the church or of that particular meeting, then it would be sensible to speak to the meeting leader first. However we should avoid the formality of ‘platform’ and do everything possible to encourage the sense of family and body ministry.
*Update Friday 9th March 2007* - Mahaney now rates his speaking engagement at MacArthur's church along with speaking in place of John Piper as two of the highlights in his ministry. The question is asked "In summary does CJ's appearance on the stage at a MacArthur conference as a preacher mark the beginning of a new phase for the whole church or the beginning of the end of the charismatic era for some?". It's a good question. It depends whether you think that SGM reflect true charismatic life in the USA. Remember that prior to Toronto they kept themselves to themselves and showed quite clearly that they were not interested in having churches join their ranks. Post-Blessing when they "chose Geneva over Toronto" they were far more reformed than charismatic anyway. The question has to be asked - when was the last time anyone heard Mahaney preach on anything avidly charismatic while appreciating being welcomed into the MacArthur reformed fold?
I read this quote and I couldn't resist a brief comment. If you remember I was particularly interested in the visit of C J Mahaney to John MacArthur's church (the vehement anti-charismatic of "Charismatic Chaos" fame and yes ... the Tortilla Lady who represents all who believe in signs and wonders naturally).
We were assured by Ligon Duncan III that by no means was John MacArthur going "soft" on his anti-charismatic views, therefore I asked the question ... is C J Mahaney and by default SGM going soft on their charismatic views? There is of course no answer, because SGM are too busy thinking about the Cross, and everybody else loves them.
However blogger Phil Johnson (who by the way is John MacArthur's right hand man) wrote this:
"While I'm at it, let me say that if all charismatics were of the Mahaney/Piper/Grudem variety, I probably wouldn't pick a fight over our differences on the charismata. That's not to say I approve of any kind of charismatic mysticism, but if no one ever went any further than, say, the typical guy from Sovereign Grace Ministries, I don't think I would spend much energy arguing against them".
Is that a good thing? I suppose it is if you don't think that the charismatic issues are worth fighting about. But what charismatic issues are those? If you are a Reformed Charismatic as I am, then the Word of God tells me that there is a rich glorious inheritance that is called the Sealing of the Spirit that is the birthright of all Christians, and also church life should be a rich glorious tapestry of 'every member minstry' where unbelievers fall down and exclaim "God is truly among you!". Why do they exclaim that? Not because of the preaching (according to my ESV Bible) but because of the prophetic.
Is it a good thing that Philip Johnson wouldn't bother arguing against Sovereign Grace Ministries? Time will tell I guess ... but this only adds to my suspicions as to where SGM are going. I wonder how long that 'charismatic dimension' will survive.
Thursday, November 03, 2005
I can't quite decide what I love more ... discussion and dialogue with a fellow Christian who loves the same things I do, or to be confronted in the spirit of debate on something stupid I may have said!! There is a definite thrill that goes through me as I read words about myself and have to stand back and wonder ... "Did I really mean that?!". It was great to read through Luke's blog; http://lukewood.blogspot.com - an amazing guy from Southampton, and in the Newfrontiers family of churches as well. Above that he is pretty darned intelligent (must be to be studying Structural Engineering!) and has got a heart for God and his church.
The Leaders ...
So the issue under discussion is one of authority. His latest blog is so stimulating: http://lukewood.blogspot.com/2005/11/interaction.html - oh yes I couldn't agree more that we both hold and cling to the "God-given and unique authority of spiritual leadership" and how absolutely right that it is undermined today. This is so in line with what Terry Virgo wrote in his awesome book; "Does the Future have a Church?". Not only are churches closing left right and centre, but the traditional icons of spiritual leadership (bishops, priests) are frequently defamed in the press for moral failure and so on.
Yet the great thing about Newfrontiers is that we dont have to get pessimistic and defeatist. Just as churches are closing, so new ones are opening! And just as traditional leadership is folding, so new spiritual leadership is rising up and God is clearly anointing men over the nation to lead His church!!
The Tension ...
So it seems that there is a tension to be held. On the one extreme we can see suspicion and independent autonomy ... trust a leader?? believe a leader?? You must be joking! On the other extreme we can see cults. Is it then possible to hold a balance between the two and use our minds and intellects to the full under the supreme authority of Scripture, yet be joyfully submitted to a Christian leader who loves us, shepherds us cares for us, and may even discipline us if he has to?!?!
I think it must be!! And it has to be.
In terms of Luke's comment about holding leaders accountable to Scripture, in my limited experience of church life, I've only seen two men demonstrate a vast humility and desire to be held accountable. One is my pastor Dr Stanley Jebb who repeatedly from the pulpit while I was growing up told us to go and see if what he preached was in the Scripture. His favourite quote was:
"The Unexamined Opinion is hardly worth holding!".
And the other was Terry Virgo at Stoneleigh 2001. In his first message; "Time to Go!" he spoke of Gideon and his question to the angel; "If God is with us, then where are the miracles?!". His application was breathtaking to the young people in the thousands gathered. He challenged us to actually start asking demanding questions of the leaders!! They asked questions in their day, and we (he said) are to ask questions in our day.
Us, the Laity ...
That of course cleverly puts the weight of challenge back on us ... if the leaders are saying "Come on - ask us the questions!! Challenge us!! Are we preaching true to the Word?" then I see a number of challenges and questions posed to us, the younger generation:
1. Do we know the Bible well enough, to know if our leaders are preaching truthfully?
2. Do we know our leaders well enough to know what time, effort and preparation the preaching of the Word demands? (That will tell us a lot about how truthful and close to the Word they are).
3. Does their preaching fit in with the general cohort of most of Reformed Church History?
4. Do our leaders know us well enough, to allow us to get close to them to discuss these questions with them? Or are we seen as back-seat church row young people who look bored, and don't contribute much to church life?
Just a few thoughts that come to mind! ...