Category Archives: Charismatic

The Beginners Guide to Spiritual Gifts – When Power Comes to the Church

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As mentioned in my last blog, I am beginning a series reviewing Sam Storms book, The Beginners Guide to Spiritual Gifts. Today we get the ball rolling with chapter one.

Sam kicks off the book by sharing about the many things that he is encouraged by in the western church he lists; attendance and giving are up (american context), there is more and more conferences, sales of christian books steadily increase, small groups are becoming more and more popular and Christians are beginning to find their voices in the public arena.

But the tables soon turn:

“Preachers teach the Bible, and people snore. Homemakers share their faith and it falls on deaf ears. Lives get broken but rarely get fixed. Bodies are suffering, yet few are healed. Marriages are dying, and people just give up. Temptations are faced, and sin flourishes. The poor are hungry and stay that way.”

Tough words! Are they true? Probably.

Storms argues that most Christian leaders are thinking along those lines. He admits that there is a wide range of opinions and solutions floating around, but Storms spends the remainder of this chapter sharing his opinion of why this is (to an extent). You’ve probably guessed what his solution is from the title of the book:

“My conclusion is this: The real problems, the painful struggles and our diminishing impact wont be solved short of a fresh infusion of power- no just any power, mind you, but spiritual power, the kind of power that the human flesh can’t produce and education can’t conceive and revamped programs cant’t strategize. The Church desperately needs the power of her Lord and the energy and activity of the Holy Spirit.”

I read that and my heart cries “Amen!”. We need the same Spirit who regenerated us to continue His work in us. We need the Holy Spirit to work deeply in us so that we can grow in holiness. We need the Holy Spirit to be illuminating the scriptures to us.  We need the same Spirit to be applying our theology to our hearts. The same Spirit needs to speak through us in order for our words to contain any power. No seeker sensitive programs will work; there only is one seeker. As a Church we need the power of the Holy Spirit.

The ceasing of Cessationism; Sam continues by sharing his story with his readers. He tells us that there was a time that he would not be able to write the book. He reveals that for the first 15 years of his pastoral ministry he was a cessationist (meaning- miraculous gifts of the Spirit ceased in the first century). Sam actually wrote a book about cessationism early on in his ministry.  Storms stresses that his theological shift was not down to a miracle or a healing or anything like that. Talking about his shift from cessationionism he says “in the solitude and safety of my office, I became convinced that the bible didn’t teach it.”

One of the biggest reasons Storms rejected the Spritiual gifts in the early part of his ministry was to do with embarrassment.

“I didn’t like the way they dressed. I didn’t like the way they spoke. I was offended by their lack of sophistication and their overbearing flamboyance. I was disturbed by their flippant disregard for theological precision and their excessive displays of emotional exuberance.”

He goes on to share some of his fears:

“My opposition to spiritual gifts was also energized by fear- the fear of emotionalism; the fear of fanaticism; the fear of the unfamiliar; the fear of rejection by those whose respect I cherished and whose friendship I did not want to forfeit; the fear of what might occur were I fully to relinquish control of my life and my mind and my emotions to the Holy Spirit; the fear of loosing what little status in the evangelical community my hard work had attained.”

I think this perhaps is an issue for many. People have a fear of being labeled or put into some sort of category. We are afraid what people will say or think. Perhaps this is down to our church circles being too narrow. Often we only associate with churches that are “just like us.” I think this tendency is gradually changing. Our circles are beginning to widen. We are beginning to work along side churches that have a different style or structure, and  even churches that disagree on some non-essential doctrines. But the issue still remains, there is a fear of been put in a particular camp and what that would mean for ones reputation.

Sam admits:

” In my pride I had allowed certain extremes to exercise more of an influence on the shape of my ministry than I did the text of scripture.”

The chapter is ended with some words of advice and caution about spiritual gifts:

“There’s a crucial principal we need to understand from the outset: Spiritual gifts are not God bestowing to his people something external to himself. They are not some tangible ‘stuff’ or substance separable from God. Spiritual gifts are nothing less than God himself in us, energizing our souls, imparting revelation to our minds, infusing power in our wills, and working his sovereign and gracious purposes through us. Spiritual gifts must never be viewed deistically, as if a God ‘out there’ has sent some ‘thing’ to us ‘down here.’ Spiritual gifts are God’s present in, with, and through human thought, human deeds, human words, human love.”

So far i have really enjoyed this book and it has really got me thinking. Stroms writes in a very warm and honest way and I look forward to reading what he has to say about spiritual gifts over the coming days and weeks. However one thing that Storms said in this chapter has set the ‘alarm bells’ off, he claims that spiritual gifts are not a secondary issue. He says “In affirming them (the gifts), we welcome Him. In denying them, we deny Him.’ This seams rather strong, hopefully Storms will clarify as the book goes on.

Next time: Myth Busters – Spiritual Gifts

“The Spirit is the first power we practically experience, but the last power we come to understand.” – Oswald Chambers

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My Journey into the Gifts of the Holy Spirit

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Spiritual Gifts… A divisive issue in the church for the last, well, long time. I’m not planning on bringing anything new to the dialogue ill leave that to the big brains. I just want to reflect a bit about where I am at; perhaps work out for myself where I actually  stand on things.

For the last 5 or so years I have been wrestling with myself about where I stand on spiritual gifts.

I know for sure that I am certainly not a cessationist. As much as I love and respect many great bible teachers who hold to the cessationist view I am convinced that the plain reading of scripture does not indicate that any of the gifts have ceased. One of the common arguments is that these gifts were Apostolic gifts. John Piper clears this argument up:

  1. Jesus sent out the seventy, not just the twelve apostles, “to heal the sick” (Luke 10:9). And when they returned, they said that the demons were subject to them in Jesus’ name (Luke 10:17). These miracles in Jesus’ name show that apostolic signs and wonders are not unique to the apostles.
  2. In the book of Acts, Stephen “did great signs and wonders among the people” (Acts 6:8), even though he was in the “deacon” category not the apostle category (Acts 6:5). Similarly it says that “the multitudes gave heed to what was said by Philip, when they heard him and saw the signs which he did” (Acts 8:6). Philip was not an apostle, but performed miraculous signs.
  3. Paul writes to all the churches of Galatia and says, “Does he who is supplying the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith?” (Galatians 3:5). The point is that God is now supplying his Spirit to the Galatians and working miracles among them when he is not there. Hans Dieter Betz notes that “the [present] participle ‘supplying’ (epichoregon) suggests a continuous supply rather than an initial and momentary ‘outpouring'” (Hermenia, Galatians, p. 135). And Ernest Burton says, “In view of the dative ‘to you’ after ‘supplies,’ the ‘miracles’ must be supposed to have been wrought not principally by Paul but by the Galatians themselves, as 1 Corinthians 12:10,28,29 imply was the case among the Corinthians” (I.C.C., Galatians, p. 152).
    Peter Masters does not adequately deal with this grammatical fact when he says that these miracles refer to Paul’s own miracles which he had worked among the Galatians when he was recently among them (The Healing Epidemic, p. 134). Burton also wrestles with our very question concerning “the signs of the apostle” and astutely observes, “2 Corinthians 12:12 indeed suggests that such things were signs of the apostle, yet probably not in the sense that he only wrought them but that the dunameis of the apostle were in some way more notable, or that they constituted a part of the evidence of his apostleship” (Galatians, p. 152)
  4. Finally, 1 Corinthians 12:9-10 says that among the spiritual gifts given to the members of the church at Corinth were “gifts of healings” and “workings of miracles.” Thus (as Burton suggested) such “signs and wonders” were not the “sign of the apostle” in the sense that only apostles could do them. Various gifted members of the church were also empowered in these ways as well. This is confirmed in verses 27-29, where these gifts are distinguished from the gift of apostleship.

There is many other arguments as well but I feel that to get to that view on the spiritual gifts you really have to do some extreme exegetical gymnastics! Although I’v been going to the gym and shedding the lbs I still cant do the splits; and I couldn’t in good conscience do the exegetical splits to get me to this position. Therefore, if signs and wonders were not limited in function to validating the ministry of Jesus and the apostles, but rather had a role in the edifying and evangelistic work of the church in general, then there is good reason to trust God for their proper use today.

So I most certainly fall into the continuationist category of some kind but where?

It’s also fair to say that I am not a ‘charismatic,’ in terms of the current use of the word. In my, all be it, limited experience of the charismatic church it seems to me that quite often the gifts at times can be elevated above the Giver of the gifts. Also to me it seems that often the works of the Spirit today can be elevated above the word of God, of course no one would admit that; but that is the impression I have got in the dozen or so Charismatic/Pentecostal churches that I have attended. It is vital that we trust in the sufficiency, supremacy and inerrancy of the book the Spirit inspired!

However on the other hand I appreciate the ‘we can do this (in the power of the Spirit)’ attitude that many of our charismatic and pentecostal brothers and sisters have. Often in reformed circles we can have committee after committee, meeting after meeting and years can pass before things have begun. But in my limited experience, I have found that our Charismatic brothers just go out there and get it done, and for that they win my deep respect.

But often in Charismatic churches I can feel quite uncomfortable, particularly when we sing 7 words 11 times and it results in ‘tongues-a-palosa’ (everyone singing in ‘tongues’). In situations like that there is 2 choices, stand awkwardly or sing ‘yaba-daba-do-la-la-la,’ take your pick, I usually opt for the first option.

So where does that leave me?

I appreciate guys like Driscoll, Mahaney and Virgo who label themselves as ‘reformed charismatics’ each of these men have blessed and encouraged me in my ministry countless times’ and I have learned alot from their sermon’s, lectures and books. The charismatic element of each of their churches/networks looks very different.

It seems that Driscoll’s church would not be deemed ‘charismatic’ by most in a regular church gathering, however there would be charismatic elements in small group gatherings. But on the other hand NewFrontiers/Virgo and Sovereign Grace/ Mahaney’s churches would be actively charismatic in corporate worship.

As much as I agree with these guys (mostly) theologically (excluding the re-definition of apostle) my experience and practice does not necessarily match what I believe.  I pray and ask God regularly for many of these ‘supernatural’ gifts, especially prophecy (as we are encouraged). I have at times sensed I need to speak to people, and share particular portions of God’s Word with them or share some words of encouragement, usually nothing spectacular. Don’t get me wrong, on a handful of occasions I have seen God work in mind-blowingly miraculous ways. One of the most notable occasions was while I was in Chicago studying at Moody Bible Institute (a predominately cessationist collage I might add). Me and my friend Dave felt strongly that we should go out witnessing in the streets, it was a great season in my life where we saw many souls converted. One night stands out in particular, we came across a man in the street who was very hostile to the message that we were sharing, one of the lads who was out witnessing with noticed the guy had a plaster cast on his arm. Some how the guys felt that I should lay hands on the guy and pray for him; I was sort of pushed towards the guy and with out much thought I was laying hands on him and praying a silly prayer that went something like this: ‘eh…God…can you like, eh… heal this guys arm…amen.’ Something amazing happened. I felt something happen in his arm, and before I knew it the guy was ripping off his cast and shouting ‘oh my God.’ His hand was completely fine. At this point quite a crowed had gathered and the rest of the crowed were witnessing to them, before we knew it the man who had just been healed was gone. It was very bizzare. But that night about half a dozen people were converted. Since then i have prayed for dozens of people who have had varying degrees of sickness. Most were not healed, a couple were, but nothing as spectacular as that freezing cold night on the streets of Chicago.

That experience is very much a stand alone experience for me, I have never seen anything like it again in my ministry. But it was that night that started off the journey in exploring where I stand when it comes to spiritual gifts and trying to get a grasp of the work and ministry of the Holy Spirit.

Am I any clearer? -Well, not really.

Where do I stand? To be honest I’m not really sure. I quite like how Mark Driscoll calls himself a ‘Charismatic with a seatbelt,’ perhaps that’s what I am. But i find myself coming back to the teaching of John Piper, who feels like an old friend.

He summarises his views in a few short videos in a QnA form to promote the up and coming pastors conference (on a side note- if anyone wants to fly me out there I’d be more than willing to go ;p) In many ways I find myself siding with Piper, i love how he handles such delicate issues with love and respect.

What Is the Gift of Healing? from Desiring God on Vimeo.

What Is Speaking in Tongues? from Desiring God on Vimeo.

What Is Prophecy in the New Covenant? from Desiring God on Vimeo.

So where am I at? I’m not really sure. I just paddling along in this great ocean of grace and find myself currently in no-man’s land.

Anyone else find themselves in no-man’s land?

A reminder:

“Signs and wonders are not the saving word of grace; they are God’s secondary testimony to the word of his grace. Signs and wonders do not save. They are not the power of God unto salvation. They do not transform the heart–any more than music or art or drama which accompany the gospel.” John Piper