Saturday, May 05, 2007

Gifts of the Spirit - Faith or Fear?

My good friends Don and Julie are participating in a fascinating discussion on the most excellent blog, "Prophetically Speaking" that I mentioned last article. The blog is entitled; "Tim Challies and functional cessationism". A brief summary - Jesse noticed that Tim Challies wrote an article here about the gift of healing. Jesse summarised it accurately by saying:

"The main thrust of his argument was that cessationists still believe that there can be miraculous healing, but there is no gift of healing operative in the church".

He noticed something I have picked up on too in my studies of the great charismatic/cessationist divide.

"It is easy to take the approach that says, "Sure, we believe that God can heal. He can do anything, and if he wants to, he will." And yet, we don't strive to cultivate the gift of healing.So, even though we may be 'continuationist' in our theology, it may be hard for an outsider to tell any difference between us and a cessationist like Challies if we are not actively pursuing the cultivation of these gifts".

I've just finished transcribing a document on "Ephesians 4 Ministries" that was ground-breaking when it was preached. The preacher put forward a concrete argument, carefully drawn from Scripture showing how it is inconsistent to believe that the risen Christ has given the gift of the pastor/teacher to the church and yet has withdrawn those of apostle and prophet (and evangelist if you are Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones). Unfortunately the preacher has changed his mind and thinks the apostle and prophet gifts are no longer given so I can't make it available. But I think the same inconsistencies surely apply in the whole realm of spiritual gifts and cessationism.

To me Julie touches on the issue - "Faith". She wrote in a comment on Jesse's post:

"I think this is the main problem in our churches today which is limiting our moving in the miraculous on many levels. Is it faith to believe God has the power to heal or is true faith believing God has not only the power but also the desire to heal? I have recently listed to some excellent sermons on the authoritative command for healing (by Rob Rufus) that radically changed the way I view this whole subject. He points out that there is only one instance where we are instructed to pray for the sick, the passage in James of course. Every other time healings occur it is at command. I rather like the way he says " God is tired of us asking him to do what he's already told us to do".

The challenge facing all of us who call ourselves serious and earnest readers and believers of the Word of God is this: Do we honestly believe that the Word of God categorically says that the spiritual gifts have ceased? Or are our orthodox stomaches turned by some excess we have observed and if we are honest, we don't really have the faith to lay hands on someone and see them healed, or open our mouths and hear a miraculous unknown tongue or a prophetic utterance from God come forth?

It's a challenging and excellent discussion and deserves to be heard. Particularly as the phrase; "raging charismatic fire-brands Larry Tomczak and C J Mahaney" is there somewhere. I like that. I wonder if people call me a "raging charismatic fire-brand". Or has that fire gone out? I think I would rather God told me to calm down from being a raging charismatic fire-brand rather than hear Him say that He is tired of telling me to go and do what He has already told me to do.
I am loving Jesse's heart and burden in what he is writing. I know I am not part of the same group of churches but I think it's one that can be shared in the Church universal in this awesome quote of C H Spurgeon;

"If there were only one prayer which I might pray before I died, it should be this: 'Lord, send thy church men filled with the Holy Ghost and with fire.' Give to any denomination such men, and its progress must be mighty: keep back such men, send them college gentlemen, of great refinement and profound learning, but of little fire and grace, dumb dogs which cannot bark, and straightway that denomination must decline."


Anonymous said...

I think I know which message you are transcribing on the Ephesians 4 Ministries. There was a crucial address given a small conference at High Leigh in the mid-80s some time and the speaker concerned was outstanding in his Biblical backing of the issues concerned. His arguments were very persuasive and although I didn't agree with everything, it was extremely influential for my theological thought and backing and implementation in my churches that I relate to. It was a great shame to hear that the speaker's views had changed and he had gone back on what he taught so biblically and so persuasively.

Sheree said...

This is Jesse's "mum." I so appreciate your support of the things the Lord is stirring in his heart. As a child Jesse was an often sullen, stubborn, throwing violent temper tantrums, and causing his dad and me to cry out to God for his salvation. Then our church (along with many others) received an outpouring of the Spirit in the mid 90's. During that time Jesse encountered the active and baptising presense of the Holy Spirit. The fire in his heart began then and continues, by God's grace, till now. If there are parents who read your blog that are struggling with spiritually lethargic or even stubborn children, please don't give up. Train and disciplne them according to scripture. But pray for God to arrest their hearts and give them encounters with His holy presence. The church CAN have "men filled with the Holy Ghost and fire" -- perhaps the son you are struggling with even now will BE one of those men because of His power and might!

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much Sheree. Your caring words and heart touched me so much I couldn't stop weeping. I've felt for so long the condemnation in people's eyes as my children "had the form without the power". I felt so responsible yet so helpless. I longed for God to fall on them by His Spirit in fire but we never expect Him to come!!

You have blessed me and given me hope - thank you.

An SGM Pastors Wife.

PS: Forgive me for remaining anonymous. Fear of man!