Examining a recent advert reveals so many of the flaws in Charismaniacal theology.
For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God's Word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ. -- 2Corinthians 2: 17(ESV)
The picture said it all really. Split screen between two depictions of a little girl, maybe age five. The girl on the left looked pitiful, anxious, weepy, and nearly curled into a fetal position. The girl on the right however was dressed in a non-descript superhero costume with flowing cape and all. Chin up, bravely looking skyward, chest puffed out in a mix of defiance and strength. What was the purported difference between the two pictures? The Holy Spirit. I thought to myself this perfectly sums up the absolute disconnect found in modern day Charismania. The advert from Charisma Magazine is for a series of books called "Life in the Spirit." Let's examine the claims made:
"Learn how the Holy Spirit can transform your life from mundane and meaningless to significant and exciting with Life in the Spirit."
In the Book of Revelation Jesus Christ writes seven letters to seven churches in Asia to warn them about what they are doing wrong, and commend what they are doing right. For the church at Pergamum, He makes reference to a man who was martyred for the Gospel named Antipas. According to Christian scholarly tradition, Antipas was a doctor and his medical guild turned him over to Caesar claiming he was actively spreading sedition by preaching the Gospel. He was sentenced to death but not an ordinary death. No it was a significant and exciting death! He was placed inside a copper bull which was then placed under fire until red hot. Peter was crucified upside down. Other disciples were boiled alive in oil or beheaded. Move forward to these times and we still see Christians in the Middle East being crucified and beheaded for refusing to denounce Christ.
But not in American purpose-driven Christianity as taught by the Seeker Friendly Industrial Complex. No beloved. Here everyone has some glorious purpose set aside by God Himself at the foundations of the earth! It will transform your life from being ordinary and mundane to being extraordinary and exciting! Wait a minute preacher! Are you saying we do not have this purpose? Yes beloved. You may want to sit down for this revelation. Jeremiah 29:11 was not written to you. It is not about you. It does not apply to you. It was written to the exiles in Babylon. God was promising them that they would be delivered. He was assuring them that He had not forgotten them. That they still had a hope and a future. It is not a promise that can be universally applied. Now, do you have a "purpose" in a general sense? Sure and God knows what it is because He sees all time. But sometimes our purpose is a little mundane. Maybe it is to be a loyal housewife. Perhaps it is to represent Christ in the boardroom, the local Wal-Mart, or wherever you work. I remember a story once about a question found on the entrance application for a major university. The question was simply are you a leader or a follower and why. One young man answered honestly about being a follower and when he received his acceptance letter it simply read that of all the thousands of applications they had received he was the only one who admitted to being a follower and if there were going to be so many leaders it would only be right to have someone there to follow them! The point being that life is not always significant as the world defines it. It is not always exciting and the Holy Spirit makes no such promises of transformation on this level. None. So does God have a purpose for your life? Sure, in the sense that He has already seen it. But it is not necessarily significant and exciting. It might be painful unto death. It might be boring unto sleep. But this is the same tripe that churches serve up each and every week to their sheep. Like this:
"What if you could trade your mundane, everyday life for an unimaginable adventure with God? What if you started a journey today that could change your life and destiny from the natural to the supernatural?"
Yes beloved. What if? What if your life can be permanently situated under the windows of heaven so that the blessings of God simply wash over and over you, while unicorns dance around and you drink from the river of God? What if? Enough! They are not selling God here. They are selling a false god. A god of intrigue and exhilaration that is clearly from the latest fast paced action movie. This is a carnal god not based on anything scriptural. Note the buzz words though because they are so prevalent within the false signs and lying wonders network of churches, the New Apostolic Reformation and so many mainstream purpose driven churches. Things are always an adventure with God! We are on some kind of a journey and usually there is a shift coming somewhere and a river or some other body of water we need to seek refreshing in. Seriously, we have all heard this nonsense before. It is always about some pre-ordained destiny thingy. Like a cheap late night infomercial; but wait, there's more! There is the supernatural beloved. That is what they sell more than anything. False signs and lying wonders is called such for a very real and dangerous reason:
For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. -- Matthew 24: 24 (ESV)
On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.' -- Matthew 7: 22-23 (ESV)
It does not matter if you can perform parlor tricks. The presence of something supernatural does not mean it is of God. The only thing that matters at the end of the day is if what you say lines up with the Word of God. Simon the Sorcerer was able to perform such tricks that the people all assumed he was from God but his heart was not right with God. Bill Johnson pretends that he has supernatural glory clouds, angel feathers, gold dust and gemstones randomly appear at his services but we know from his teachings that his heart is not right with God. That is actually the correct application of knowing them by their fruits. Often misused as a catch all for anyone's behavior, these verses are actually dealing with false teachers. If we focus on the show instead of the message then we can be fooled. This is why the Bill Johnson's of the world traffic in experiential Christianity that eschews the Bible and solid exposition of Scripture in favor of how we feel. Everything becomes about a relationship with the Spirit apart from the Word of God. There is no relationship with God apart from His Word! In case you think I am being hyperbolic, let's return to some of the claims in this advert:
"Gives you a deep understanding of who the Holy Spirit is, how he works in your life and how you can interact with Him on a daily basis."
"Helps you to enter the presence of Almighty God, Come boldly before the throne and spend time with the one who loves you eternally. Learn to hear His voice clearly."
"God has great plans for you. His gifts are irrevocable. No one else can do what He has called you to do on earth. His power is available to those who ask."
"Use the power of your tongue to declare and decree the Word of God in a powerful way. Witness heaven move on your behalf."
Let us deal with the low hanging fruit first. If you want to interact with the Holy Spirit on a daily basis all you have to do is open up your Bible. Why? Because while the Bible does not promise any of this hyper-spiritual gobbledygook, it does say that the Holy Spirit will lead us into all truth. It says He will testify about Jesus Christ. That is how we hear the voice of God clearly. What they are speaking about here is trying to tap into the spirit based upon how you feel. Transcendental meditation, eastern mysticism, centered prayer, soaking prayer -- it is all nonsense and unbiblical. Nowhere does God instruct us to empty our mind if we want to talk to Him. No one else can do what He has called you to do? Really? God is hamstrung by our participation? I seriously doubt that. When you combine this with the absurd "declare and decree" theology what they are really doing here is raising man to the same level as God. Witness heaven move on our behalf? Wow. How special we are. How great we are. This is not Christianity beloved. It is the deification of man. Because God has the power of creation in His words we think we do too. His power becomes our power. Man has been recreating God in his own image since the beginning. Be very careful if your church starts preaching this doctrine of demons. As if sensing the scriptural blowback, the salespeople warn that people in your church "may not like you stepping out in faith or challenging their practices." What utter nonsense. It has nothing to do with stepping out in faith and everything to do with stepping off a cliff. It is abandoning the Gospel and chasing false gods of adventure and excitement that promise you the power of God Himself but cannot even save your sin sick soul. They are powerless. Waterless clouds that promise refreshing and sustenance but have nothing we need or can even use. As they wrapped up their pitch, they provided a list of things that MIGHT happen from reading this devotional series:
You might learn just how much God is in love with you
You might fall completely and totally in love with your Heavenly Father
You might learn that God desperately wants to be in every detail of your life
You might her God speaking to you clearly throughout the day
You might not want to ever leave His presence again
You might dream the unimaginable and believe God to achieve it
You might see the blind gain sight, the lame walk and lay hands on the sick and watch them recover
Where do we start beloved? The most organized way is to take these in order. The first two "mights" on this list encapsulate the sloppy agape that these types of churches believe in and openly teach. It seems very slight and nuanced but it is not. God obviously loves us. He is not "in" love with us. This is a carnal term usually reserved for Eros love, which we know better as romantic love. Then there is Phileo love, which is brotherly platonic affection. Lastly there is Agape love, which is how God loves us. There is no romanticizing involved. A parent does not look upon their child romantically. Beloved. God so loved us that He sent His only Son to die our death. To take our punishment. God is love. The language used here however is from a Harlequin Romance novel. Fall completely and totally in love! God is in love with you! There are entire worship genres of music that embrace and promote this heretical theology.
Secondly, God is not desperate that we do anything. He is God. He can get along just fine, regardless of our posture. He does not wish any to perish but He is just as ready to exact justice and wrath -- believe it. So the notion that He "desperately" wants to be in every detail of our lives is simply inaccurate. Now, God has spoken about everything we might face in this world in His Word. If we want to know something we need look no further. But there is no "desperation" about it. Who is God in that scenario? We are! We are the creation, not the Creator. We ought to be desperate to please Him. Desperate to serve Him. This sentiment flips God on His ear and makes it all about us. This ties directly into number four as well. If we want to hear from God throughout our day then all we need to do is read our Bible throughout the day. It really is that simple. That is not however what they are saying. They are selling this emotional Christianity that relies upon our liver shivers and goose bumps to determine if something is "from God." We all know people who are lost in this false teaching. Everything is super spiritualized. I hate to break it to you but God did not decree that you should have the Frosted Flakes this morning over the Cap'n Crunch. I had friends who once determined "confirmation" to move based upon license plates passing them on the highway. If you were planning to move to Nepal and suddenly there Nepalese license plates everywhere then maybe we could talk but they were moving one state away and that is ridiculous, pagan, and the reading of omens.
These all seem to blend into one another as number five reveals the esoteric and mystical nature of what they are selling. That we would never want to leave His presence? Seriously? Where is that promoted in Scripture? How are we to be salt and light for a dying world and spread the Gospel if we are so wrapped up in chasing an experiential presence thingy? Number six continues the "I am god" theology as it encourages us to dream the unimaginable and then let God deliver for us. Except sometimes He doesn't. Sometimes the answer is no. You see our unimaginable dreams come from our wickedly deceitful hearts beloved. They are not to be trusted let alone pursued as automatically being righteous in the sight of the Lord. The final point is always the crescendo of false signs and lying wonders. The unaccountable miracles that we just have to trust happened. You would think with all the fantastical claims, there would one documented case to dismiss the critics. Bill Johnson's church has what they call a "Dead Raising Team"; where kids travel the world to pray for the raising of the dead. They claim about 15 resurrections to their credit. None of which are documented. None of which are verified. I believe in the gifts of the Spirit and that God still heals today but not without correct doctrine. Signs and wonders accompany the correct preaching of the Word of God. But many, like Charisma Magazine and Charisma News are no longer preaching the Word of God correctly. Instead they are peddling it, as our key verse speak about today. They do so with slick marketing devoid of sincerity. They are not commissioned by God and though they claim to speak for Christ they forget they are still in the sight of God. They are hucksters and snake oil salesmen leading people away from the real Gospel and the real Jesus Christ.
As we close let us return to the picture that grabbed my attention at the start of this. The little five year old girl. Without the Holy Spirit she is just a mess but with the Spirit she turns into Supergirl. What a fundamentally poor understanding. We do not come to Christ to be empowered but to give up our power. We turn our lives over to Him. He is the super hero. Sure the Spirit can give us victories over sin and the enemy but that leads to humility in who we are compared to God not pride and a cape. Except they are selling the pride and the cape. As we just saw, so much of this was about making you out to be God. The same sin that caused Lucifer to be cast down and Eve to disobey God. In order for God to truly increase in our lives then we must decrease. Not that we are that weeping little girl on the left or the Supergirl on the right. It is not about us beloved. No matter how Charismaniacs try to make it so.
Reverend Anthony Wade -- November 17, 2016
Credentialed Minister of the Gospel for the Assemblies of God. Owner and founder of 828 ministries. Vice President for Goodwill Industries. Always remember that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.