Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. - 2Corinthians 3:5-6 (ESV)
How 'Word Without Spirit' Ministry Is Killing Today's Churches
Bert Farias has always seemed more tethered to the planet than his peers at Charisma News. Of course it is easy to appear sane amidst a cesspool of crazy. While people like Jennifer LeClaire are waxing prophetically about sneaky squid spirits, Farias is usually writing about holiness. While Stephen Strang is pontificating about how the church can take over the world like Ren and Stimpy, Farias is usually writing about the Holy Spirit. It is this area that he unfortunately goes off the Charismatic rails because Farias is above all else a Charismaniac. Not to be confused with a Charismatic, who believes that the gifts of the Holy Spirit are active today, albeit greatly abused. I am a Charismatic. I believe any competent reading of scripture renders the argument of cessationism, that the gifts ceased at the end of the Apostolic Age, inaccurate. Charismaniacs however, believe in any alleged expression of gifts attributed to the spirit must be of God. They believe in any supernatural event as must have originating from God. They check their discernment at the door, embrace whackadoodleness (that's a technical industry term) and if you dare question them you are deemed a legalist who needs an "encounter" with the spirit. What they fail to see is that any such movements not rooted in scripture are not the from the Holy Spirit and thus they attribute much demonic activity to God. Bethel is an example of such a church. Gold dust, gemstones, glory clouds and angel feathers are examples of false manifestations. Holy Laughter in Toronto, Kundalini evil spirits in Pensacola, and Todd Bentley kicking people in the face to impart "healing" are examples of historical false movements in Charismania. With this as the backdrop let us analyze Farias' latest offering linked above on Charisma News about how "word without spirit ministries are killing the church."
"I love the Bible. I read it. I live it. I preach from it. I know it to be the inspired Word of God. But it is the voice of God and the Spirit's witness in my life that makes it so. The Bible is not just a written Word but a living word. Many more Christians need to read the written Word, but many also need to learn to commune with the living Word. There is a difference. "who has made us able ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life" (2 Cor. 3:6, author's emphasis). It is the Spirit who gives life. The flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit and are life" (John 6:63, author's emphasis)." All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness" (2 Tim. 3:16, author's emphasis)." - Bert Farias
"I love the bible, but" never ends well. You just know from the start that the opening statement is probably untrue. Can you imagine telling your spouse, "I love you but?" I am glad he preaches from it and that he allows himself to be inspired by it. Now if we can only have him believe it and put it into practice. The bible being a living word means it is alive in our lives. God speaks through the words! Instead Charismaniacs get hung up on chasing the voice of God, as Farias indicates here. Now, can God talk audibly to you? Sure, He is God. The chances are not however what you have been led to believe. While it may seem to happen all the time in the bible, remember that the bible covers 6000 years of history. The amount of times God audibly speaks to us is very minimal, especially if you do not count the times He speaks through His prophets. Let me explain what Farias is speaking about when he references the voice of God. Bethel and most Charismaniacal churches teach eastern mysticism tricks such as emptying oneself and then listening for that "still small voice." Then whatever pops into their hearts and head is deemed to have come from God. The bible however, warns us that the heart is wickedly deceitful. This is how the false prophet industry works. This is actually how Bethel teaches their worship leaders!
Perhaps the saddest thing is to watch a decent divider of the word try to leverage the bible through proof texting. Farias uses the key verses above to infer that they speak to this perceived difference between the written word and this nebulous "communing with the living word." The problem is that is not what these verses speak to at all. Just reading the surrounding text and available commentaries make it clear that Paul is distinguishing between the law and the New Covenant. Under the law, we would not pass the judgment of God but thanks to His grace and mercy we have the new covenant sealed by the Holy Spirit! Never let someone downplay the dire importance of written scripture to trumpet something as vague and malleable as communing with the living word. We can rely upon the written word. It is never wrong. We cannot rely on our own experiences of personal communing.
The Bible is dead to those who do not have the life of God. Sermons are dead without the Holy Spirit infusing life into them. One day a pastor decided to ask for input from his parishioners concerning his sermons. Since he spent a good portion of his week preparing sermons for his congregation, he was interested to know if his sermons were helping them. One woman raised her hand and asked him a provoking question. "Pastor, if on your way to the pulpit God asked you to adjust your sermon and preach something else, would you be open to doing that?" Here is the pastor's response: "Well, how would I know that was God?" In other words, this pastor knew the Bible to be God, but was doubtful about God speaking to him outside of the Bible. He knew the written Word but not the living word. He knew the Scriptures but did not really know the author of the Scriptures. He had the Word without the Spirit. Isn't that how it is with so many preachers, theologians and believers today? Many say that they're sticklers for the Bible, but yet those same people don't believe in the gifts and manifestations of the Holy Spirit and don't have a real fellowship with Him. They don't know the Spirit's ways and are unfamiliar with His leadings.
The example given is perfect for illustrating the dangers of accepting any input into our hearts as God ordained. I want us to seriously consider this for a minute. The God of the entire universe knows and sees all time. Nothing surprises Him. Why in the world would He give a sermon to a preacher taken from the word and then ask the preacher to change it at the last second? Simply put, He wouldn't. Nothing could have possibly arisen that God did not see coming. The pastor's response is absolutely correct. How can he be sure the thought about changing the sermon was actually God? It is not about doubting that God can speak to him - He already did! He prepared a sermon from His word! Any ask to suddenly change this is more than likely our flesh. There is no difference between the living and written word. This is the point so many charismaniacs simply do not understand. The written word is alive! It is insulting that Farias would accuse the pastor of not really knowing the author, which is God. I agree with Farias' point about cessationists but not his explanation of ways of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit does not exceed the written word! He doesn't speak in gibberish and make people collapse when touched by a preacher. He does not use clairvoyance and call it prophecy. He does not traffic in false signs and lying wonders. Just think about what Farias is saying here. It is a held belief by charismaniacs that there is the written word and that is great but then there is some "other level." This level is supernatural and apparently contains truths beyond what the mere written word can provide. That is utter blasphemy.