24/05/2007

How important is the Holy Spirit?

{Edit 2013:  The blogs mentioned in this post are no longer functioning.  I have therefore removed the links and changed the text slightly.}

Jesse Philips' recent post on Charismatic Resurgence Through the Blogosphere is so encouraging. He says:

"I have been encouraged as I started blogging to find out that there are like-minded Christians who have faith for an increase in the miraculous gifts in our generation of the reformed-charismatic church."

I believe, like him, that these blogs can: "contribute to a charismatic resurgence, particularly by increasing people's faith for gifts such as prophecy, faith, miracles or healing."

Further, I believe these blogs can help us tackle important issues in the practice of charismatic life. For example, Jesse has posted on Uninterpreted tongues is not sin. We need to examine things like this together, looking at God's word and seeking the help of His Spirit.

{Edit 2013:  Jesse's sister, Janelle, also used to blog.  At the time this post was first written, she had been looking at the different views of the the group of churches called Sovereign Grace Ministries.  It was Janelle's blog that first inspired this post.  I appreciate that, since my writing, there have been many issues with respect to SGM and to its then leader, CJ Mahaney.  I was tempted to remove this post altogether.  However, the point "How important is the Holy Spirit" remains.

In particular, at the time, many were saying that the involvement of CJ Mahaney at Together for the Gospel would cause a decline in charismatic distinctives among SGM.  Many would argue that this has happened, although perhaps not because of the Together for the Gospel connection.

My concern in this post was to discuss how much charismatics should "hold back."  Should charismatics pretend that they are not charismatics when they are working with non-charismatics?  How should unity impact upon our charismatic life? Should we downplay it and seek gifts less in the interests of unity?}

A couple of thoughts - first on fellowshipping with cessationist churches and secondly on preaching the gospel:

Fellowship

While I am very happy to stand with people from any evangelical church on the vast number of issues upon which we agree, I believe we must be careful not to downgrade our charismatic distinctives - even subconsciously - in order to avoid offending our cessationist friends.

Obviously, we are wise. It would not be appropriate, say, for CJ Mahaney to make an altar call at a John MacArthur Shepherds Conference for people to receive prayer for the Baptism in the Holy Spirit, because CJ has voluntarily come to serve under John MacArthur's leadership. But it would also be totally wrong to discourage (or fail to encourage) the expression of gifts of the Holy Spirit because John MacArthur has come to Covenant Life Church.

In our relationship with our non-charismatic friends we must never downplay who we are, although we must respect who they are. It is not our job to convert their flocks to the things of the Holy Spirit (although we might hold private discussions with the leadership). But it is our responsibility to remain thoroughly (and increasingly) charismatic in our walk and corporate church life.

Preaching the gospel

While conferences like Together for the Gospel can be helpful in terms of encouraging and envisioning churches and leaders to the glorious task of gospel preaching, when it comes to actually going out on the streets, or inviting people to hear the gospel, as charismatics we might find ourselves on difficult ground. Why? Because gospel preaching in the Scriptures is charismatic!

Jesus sent out His disciples to preach, heal, cast out demons and raise the dead. Should we hold back on seeking these things for fear of offence to the cessationists? Acts 2v38 ("what shall we do?") is answered by repent, be baptised and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. As charismatics is it right to reduce our gospel preaching to simply repent and believe? Don't we want to see new believers birthed fully into Kingdom life?

As I posted a couple of weeks ago, healing and gospel preaching go together, and they must stay together. God uses healing to awaken people's attention that there's a message to be heard (Acts 3v11).

So, while we pray for, encourage and fellowship with all who love the message of the gospel, we must not downgrade our charismatic fulness, even in the way in which we preach the gospel.

{Edit 2013:  In rereading the above, this is too dismissive of working in gospel partnership with non-charismatic churches.  Acts does contain healings and deliverances, some on a large scale (Acts 5 and Acts 19).  However, the apostles and disciples primary work was preaching.  They preached and they dealt with healings and deliverances as the need arose.  They (and Jesus) didn't go out to heal they went out to preach.

Therefore, I can go out and preach with my cessationist friends.  However, if someone asked for healing, then I would pray for them trusting God to stretch out His hand to heal.}


Facing criticism

Janelle concluded her post with this:

"If we are going to be criticized, then it certainly would be GREAT to be criticized for being "too charismatic" than having a false Gospel."

I hope we are never criticised for having a false gospel. We may differ from Reformed Cessationists over the present operation of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, but we and they must stand together on "the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 3).

But I think if I wasn't criticised for being too charismatic, I would be worried. Not because I want to go out of my way to offend, but because the Scriptures are clear that charismatic experience is at the heart of church life and evangelism.

God bless cessationists. Many of my heroes of past generations, and some of the present, are cessationists. But the Holy Spirit is, as it were, the dynamite of Kingdom life and we must not limit His gracious influence in anything we do, whatever people may say.

4 comments:

janelle said...

Peter, great article. Thanks for faithfully depicting both Jesse's and my posts. I completely agree with you when you said

"But I think if I wasn't criticised for being too charismatic, I would be worried. Not because I want to go out of my way to offend, but because the Scriptures are clear that charismatic experience is at the heart of church life and evangelism."

And yes, me and my siblings blog a lot! There are two more of us; my younger brother Jake has one as well as my older sister, Jaime.

Josh Phillips said...

You forgot about my blog, Janelle. Of course, I blog about IT stuff, so it's not interesting to you people...

Baxter's Boy said...

Awesome post. Agreed - the matter of the Holy Spirit isn't and can never become secondary. Our Gospel will then become "truncated" as one great man said some years ago, and I for one can never again accept a Gospel of words only!!

There's a wonderful song from Hillsongs which goes;

"I'm not satisfied to have the form without the power!".

R T Kendall was fond of asking a question - if the Holy Spirit was totally withdrawn from the Church, how much of us would carry on as if nothing had happened? And I am sure he was including charismatic churches. We NEED His Presence!! We NEED His fire!!

Peter Day said...

Thank you for all these comments. It is wonderful that we are finding friends all over the globe who agree on these vital things.

Josh, thanks for visiting. IT stuff is important too! There would be no blogger without IT.

Just as the printing press was mightily used by God to further the reformation, I do believe that IT and communications will be used by God to spread His Word in mighty ways in these days.