Saturday, August 18, 2007

Why Only Grace-Filled Christians Will Make Fully Released Charismatics

I spent much of yesterdays bus travel re-reading Rob Rufus's book "Living in the Grace of God" and was impressed again at how the subject and issue of grace isn't an optional one for Christians. We need to wake up and realise that legalism is not an "acceptable" sin that is preferable to moral failures. Truly being released into the grace of God will be life changing! I had a few thoughts come to mind for those of us who believe in the Person and work of the Holy Spirit and long for His full unleashed power and Presence in our churches.

When I first became immersed in charismatic life, the idea of a "legalistic charismatic" was a complete misnomer. However I quickly began to realise that legalism works it's evil way into charismatic church life as it does into cessationist church life. These 3 thoughts that came to my mind are for the benefit of those of us who are talking about a "Charismatic Resurgence" among the blogging world. I appreciate that cessationists will be arguing that "we have everything in Christ" anyhow so what is the point of seeking more?

I think Ern Baxter's quote is accurate. It is not possible to have an attitude of grace and yet be legalistic in practice. Grace is action!

1. If you are not in grace, you will be taught you may be taught you must "tarry" or wait for the Baptism of the Holy Spirit or attain a certain level of holiness BUT a grace-filled believer will realise that the Baptism of the Holy Spirit is sharing in Christ's inheritance freely.

Galatians 3:1-3 - "Received ye the Spirit ... BY believing what you heard".

When talk of the baptism of the Holy Spirit begin to revive in the 1960's and 70's there was a great mixture of an understanding that this was a grace gift from God and also talk that a need for holiness was involved. Despite some of the early material on this at my home church being excellent I noted that several times in a section called "Preparing" - my senior pastor wrote and urged people to "cleanse themselves" and "pray for holiness". This was vital and important and should be our daily practice, but I am learning from Rob Rufus's teaching that actually the baptism of the Holy Spirit doesn't have anything to do with how holy we are.

“This He spoke of concerning the Spirit which those who believed in Him were to receive. But the Spirit was not yet given because Jesus was not yet glorified”.The Spirit was not yet given – why? Because they were not yet holy enough. They had not yet proven themselves enough. No – nothing to do with them! ...

Now what does it say in the verse? It says if anyone is thirsty. It doesn’t say if anyone is mature or holy. It says if anyone is thirsty. That’s all you have to be – thirsty. You are demonstrating some kind of thirst by being here this afternoon. That is the only thing. That’s what Jesus said. The other idea is that if you do well then you will get the Holy Spirit later. It is rather like a general of an army saying – now you go out and fight and if you do well you can have a gun next time. It is crazy! We need guns now! We need the Spirit as soon as possible!".

Ern Baxter did an extensive study throughout the whole Bible where the phrase; "The Spirit came upon" is used. He argued that every time this phrase is used, it meant that the Spirit was being poured out on individuals for a specific anointing for a specific task. I read those passages through also and nowhere do you see the individuals concerned preparing themselves in prayer and fasting for this baptism of power that is coming. In Numbers 11 the men concerned weren't even expecting it! So unexpected was it that Joshua went and complained to Moses that two men in the camp had received it and they weren't even at the gathering. A note of legalism even in Joshua I wonder?

The baptism of the Holy Spirit is a grace gift from God that we might share in the royal anointing of the risen and exalted King Jesus to enable us to walk out in power and fulfill the Great Commission to go and make disciples of all nations. The prerequisite for it is that the believer is thirsty and comes to the Lord Jesus to drink.

2. If you are not in grace, you will believe that a spiritual gift given to you is a mark of holiness or higher living BUT a grace-filled believer will realise a spiritual gift is a grace gift for the benefit of the Church.

Much of the controversy within the Corinthian church (both cessationists and charismatics unite in agreeing) came from the mistaken belief that the practice of spiritual gifts - particularly tongues - made them somehow super-spiritual. Surely the whole object of 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 is that spiritual gifts exercised without a spirit of love is an un-godly, un-glorifying, dis-honouring thing to happen in the Church.

"Paul makes it clear that while (prophecy) is freely given by God; it's proper use depends on the obedience of the gifted one to the order of God for the exercise of gifts as given by apostolic authority".

There is a vital tension that must be held. On the one hand 1 Corinthians 14:1 makes it clear that it is a command of God that spiritual gifts MUST be eagerly desired and especially prophecy. But on the other hand we must realise that spiritual gifts are "freely given" by God but they are freely given for a purpose!

"Spiritual gifts are not for sanctification; they're for ministry. You can manifest spiritual gifts and be carnal. You can manifest spiritual gifts and be immoral".

This truth is actually tremendously releasing! I have seen more legalistic charismatics than I care to see with worry in their eyes because they haven't brought a spiritual gift or prophecied "the best" in the church that morning. I have heard what are clearly legalistic charismatics prophesying in the flesh because they feel "they must". If we can truly and clearly grasp the truth that spiritual gifts do not make anyone more holy and are a free gift from God to advance His Church - then what freedom! What release!

"When we do come to understand that we are loved irrespective of our actions, we will realise that He sees us as worth-while of His devoted specific attention on a daily basis. When we have a revelation of this truth, we can come to the throne room of grace to find in abundance the grace we need" - Rob Rufus.

3, If you are not in grace you will believe you will only advance in signs and wonders by prayer and fasting BUT if you are in grace you will realise that God gives gifts in greater measure to the humble and those who step out in faith.

Rob Rufus taught us at Brighton about the past anointings that were upon men and women within the Healing Movement like William Branham and Kathryn Kuhlman. He paid tribute to the great anointings that were on them but warned that their failure was that they sought the power of God more than His Presence and began to move into legalism to seek a greater degree of that anointing. Rob suggested that God has withdrawn the extraordinary anointing from that time until His Church move truly into a foundatio of God's lavish grace.

"Without God's grace we cannot do anything supernatural that will last for eternity" - Rob Rufus.

This concept is an important one - that of striving and looking to God for greater dimensions of His anointing and power. Dr Lloyd-Jones warned that one characteristic that is most found in evangelicals is that of being too smug and too self-satisfied. While we of course recognise that we have gained every spiritual blessing in Christ, surely we must recognise that "we are too easily satisfied with too little". John Macarthur wrote this in his commentary on 1 Corinthians;

"The believers in Corinth, as believers everywhere, did not need to look for and should not try to look for additional special blessings or gifts. God has provided every spiritual gift His children need or may have".

If this is the case then why bother interceding and praying to God for a revival of power or a reformation? It strikes me that a statement like this from John Macarthur reflects an eschatology of fatalism. On the other hand if we hold the view that we have indeed gained every spiritual blessing in Christ legally, we have yet still to see the full realisation of these come to pass. A famous statement is "Already but not yet". We need to reject teaching that we have it all now and seek God for a greater manifestation of His Presence - and that manifestation will involve grace!

"When we truly understand grace we will lay down our lives passionately, zealously, faithfully and totally to follow Jesus Christ enthusiastically at any cost, at any price" - Rob Rufus.

It is my desire and longing to see spirit-filled churches moving deeper and deeper into a greater display and manifestation of spiritual gifts. To not just look to Rob Rufus's or Terry Virgo's or William Branham's or Kathryn Kuhlman's but to see supernatural healings occuring regularly across the country. To see supernatural prophecies coming forth from the corporate Body of Christ that reveal so much of the Presence and power of God that indeed unbelievers fall down and exclaim God is truly among you!

Let us hear the call of Rob Rufus and bring grace and the power of God together. Let us let grace set us free and then maybe we will see Terry Virgo's words come true;

"Local churches flooded with the Presence of God and the gifts of the Holy Spirit are the most potent weapons in God's hands for world evangelisation".


jul said...

This is so good. As I keep saying, everything we need and have ever desired is found in God's grace.

Dan Bowen said...

Thanks! I was thinking of you when I wrote it. Will it pass the Julie test I wondered?! If I have left one scrap of legalism in my thoughts then she is the one to find it!! ;) Amen - I am still learning new things about grace daily. And it's AWESOME! I can't believe all the churches I have yet been in were riddled with legalism. How easy it creeps in and how respectable it looks!!

jul said...

You're funny! I hope you don't fell as though I'm always testing you...but you're right, I usually do sniff out legalism, but I just want to see everyone get rid of it and enjoy grace!

Dan Bowen said...

Here's a dichotomy. Can one get legalistic about not being legalistic?! Because I read a recent book on humility and half of it was filled with tips on how to not be proud and I found myself absolutely bogged down with things I must do to not be proud!

jul said...

I think you can be legalistic about not being legalistic. I hate legalism, but I know I don't fully understand and live in grace yet, so I must still have some legalistic mindsets to be rooted out. We need to be trusting God's work and not focused on where we still need to be changed.

As for humility and all other good fruit I hope to see in my life, I'm done with all ways and methods that come at the outward appearances and even thoughts, to try to change me. There's only one way to be changed and it has nothing to do with implementing plans--it's to be more and more in God's presence receiving revelation and power, utterly unaware of ourselves at all.

Why are there even books on humility or lust or anger or servanthood or giving or anything? I'm not against all books of course, but far far too many of them are neat little packages of exactly what to do so we don't have to really really depend on the Holy Spirit. So few books actually point us to God and his grace and make us feel that our huge mountainous problems in marriage, parenting, church, friendship, jobs, etc... are really just tiny things in light of His power.

Dan Bowen said...

That's a good point. Is the flood of books on "How To's" actually an example of how the Holy Spirit is abandoned and ignored in our churches? After all doesn't it say quite simply "If we walk IN THE Spirit we WILL NOT fulfill the LUSTS of the flesh"?! (Emphases mine!).

I haven't read the said books on lust but I wonder how much teaching there is on walking in the Spirit - because it seems to me quite a simple situation. If we can walk in and gain intimacy with the Holy Spirit (John Piper calls it "dancing away from temptation") then surely we don't need manuals on how to and how not to?

Interesting point!

Don said...

Wonderful post, Dan!

Your comment above, "Is the flood of books on "How To's" actually an example of how the Holy Spirit is abandoned and ignored in our churches?" reminded me that all the church-growth-movement books were published in the '80s, when the revival of the 60s-early 80s had receded like a wave, leaving all the pastors scrambling to figure out how to get people saved and into their churches. They looked increasingly to methodologies of growth, rather than waiting on the Spirit for his leading, etc.

Randy Clark's testimony is that when the Spirit hit him freshly in late 1993, he was close to a nervous breakdown from trying to make church-growth happen through works and methodology (after having seen the Lord move in power in previous years).