“a great reformation and revival . . . will happen the same way the early Christians conquered Rome. Their program of conquest consisted largely of two elements—gospel preaching and being eaten by lions—a strategy that has not yet captured the imagination of the contemporary church.”
Quote found here: http://theresurgence.com/2013/11/12/going-out-of-business-for-jesus
Another great work of the Holy Spirit, which is not accomplished, is the bringing on of the latter-day glory. In a few more years—I know not when, I know not how—the Holy Spirit will be poured out in a far different style from the present. There are diversities of operations; and during the last few years it has been the case that the diversified operations have consisted in very little pouring out of the Spirit. Ministers have gone on in dull routine, continually preaching—preaching—preaching, and little good has been done. I do hope that perhaps a fresh era has dawned upon us, and that there is a better pouring out of the Spirit even now. For the hour is coming, and it may be even now is, when the Holy Ghost shall be poured out again in such a wonderful manner, that many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased—the knowledge of the Lord shall cover the earth as the waters cover the surface of the great deep; when his kingdom shall come, and his will shall be done on earth even as it is in heaven. We are not going to be dragging on forever like Pharaoh, with the wheels off his chariot. My heart exults, and my eyes flash with the thought that very likely I shall live to see the outpouring of the Spirit; when “the sons and the daughters of God again shall prophesy, and the young men shall see visions and the old men shall dream dreams.” Perhaps there shall be no miraculous gifts—for they will not be required; but yet there shall be such a miraculous amount of holiness, such an extraordinary fervour of prayer, such a real communion with God, and so much vital religion, and such a spread of the doctrines of the cross, that every one will see that verily the Spirit is poured out like water, and the rains are descending from above. For that let us pray; let us continually labour for it, and seek it of God.
Charles Spurgeon – The Power of The Holy Ghost (Sermon, 1855)
“It is a glorious divine manifestation of God unto the soul, shedding abroad God’s love in the heart; it is a thing better felt than spoken of: it is no audible voice, but it is a ray of glory filling the soul with God, as He is life, light, love, and liberty, corresponding to that audible voice, ‘O man, greatly beloved’ (Dan. 9: 23); putting a man in a transport with this on his heart, ‘It is good to be here.’ (Matt. 17: 4.) It is that which went out from Christ to Mary, when He but mentioned her name– ‘Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto Him, Rabboni, which is to say, Master.’ (John 20: 16.) He had spoken some words to her before, and she understood not that it was He: but when He uttereth this one word “Mary”, there was some admirable divine conveyance and manifestation made out unto her heart, by which she was so satisfyingly filled, that there was no place for arguing and disputing whether or no that was Christ, and if she had any interest in Him. That manifestation wrought faith to itself, and did purchase credit and trust to itself, and was equivalent with, ‘Thus saith the Lord.’ This is such a glance of glory, that it may in the highest sense be called ‘the earnest,’ or first-fruits ‘of the inheritance’ (Eph. 1: 14); for it is a present, and, as it were, sensible discovery of the holy God, almost wholly conforming the man unto His likeness; so swallowing him up, that he forgetteth all things except the present manifestation. O how glorious is this manifestation of the Spirit! Faith here riseth to so full an assurance, that it resolveth wholly into the sensible presence of God. This is the thing which does best deserve the title of sensible presence; and is not given unto all believers, some whereof ‘are all their days under bondage, and in fear’ (Heb. 2: 15); but here ‘love, almost perfect, casteth out fear.’ (1 John 4: 18.) This is so absolutely let out upon the Master’s pleasure, and so transient or passing, or quickly gone when it is, that no man may bring his gracious state into debate for want of it.”
William Guthrie, The Christians Great Interest, Chapter 6, (1668) - quoted by D. Martyn Lloyd Jones in his sermon: “Baptism in the Spirit (6)“
“Dec 26, 1689. After that I had long, seriously, and repeatedly thought with myself, that besides a full and undoubted assent to the objects of faith, a vivifying, savoury taste and relish of them was also necessary, that with stronger force and more powerful energy, they might penetrate into the most inward centre of my heart, and there being most deeply fixed and rooted, govern my life and that there could be no other sure ground whereon to conclude and pass as a sound judgement on my good estate God-ward; and after I had in my course of preaching been largely insisting on 2 Cor. 1:12. This is my rejoicing, the testimony of a good conscience, etc.
This very morning I awoke out of a most ravishing and delightful dream, that a wonderful and copious stream of celestial rays, from the lofty throne of Divine Majesty, did seem to dart into my open and expanded breast.
I have often since with great complacency reflected on that very signal pledge of special divine favour vouchsafed to me on that noted memorable day; and have with repeated fresh pleasure tasted the delights thereof. But what of the same kind I sensibly felt through the admirable bounty of my God and the most pleasant comforting influence of the Holy Spirit, on Oct. 22, 1704, far surpassed the most expressive words my thoughts can suggest. I then experienced an inexpressibly pleasant melting of heart, tears gushing out of mine eyes, for joy that God should shed abroad his love abundantly through the hearts of me, and that for this very purpose mine own should be so signally possesed of and by his blessed Spirit. Rom. 5:5.”
From “The Works of the Rev. John Howe”, and quoted by D. Martyn Lloyd Jones in his sermon: “Baptism in the Spirit (6)“
“But when I love you, what do I love? It is not physical beauty nor temporal glory nor the brightness of light dear to earthly eyes, nor the sweet melodies of all kinds of songs, nor the gentle odour of flowers and ointments and perfumes, nor manna or honey, nor limbs welcoming the embraces of the flesh; it is not these I love when I love my God. Yet there is a light I love, and a food, and a kind of embrace when I love my God – a light, voice, odor, food, embrace of my inner man, where my soul is floodlit by light which space cannot contain, where there is a sound that time cannot seize, where there is a perfume which no breeze disperses, where there is a taste for food no amount of eating can lessen, and where there is a bond of union that no satiety can part. That is what I love when I love my God.”
“You can believe, and in a sense have a measure of love; but the thing put before us is not just a measure of love it is an abounding love…
Here, then, is the question – to what extent do we know this love of God to us and how do we love God? We are meant to love him with the whole of our being and their is nothing that can make us do so but the love of God shed abroad in our hearts. ”We love him, because he first loved us.” You can believe in his love to us, but you feel it in its fullness when you are baptised with the Spirit, and that in turn forces your love to rise up within you to him.
This is New Testament Christianity! New Testament Christianity is not just a formal, polite, correct, and orthodox kind of faith and belief. No! What characterises it is this element of love and passion, this pneumatic element, this life, this vigour, this abandon, this exuberance – and, as I say, it has ever characterised the life of the Church in all periods of revival and reawakening. This is what we must seek – not experiences, not power, not gifts. If he chooses to give them to us, thank God for them and exercise them to his glory, but the safe way of receiving gifts is that you love him and that you know him.
In other words, you put 1 Corinthians 13 in the centre. Concentrate on love and then all these things will fall into their right respective positions”.
D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Seeking the Baptism With The Spirit, Joy Unspeakable
Hear recordings of his sermons on the matter here: http://www.mljtrust.org/search/?q=seeking+the+baptism
“I resigned as an elder because people falling over backwards is not in the Bible, therefore it cannot be from God.”
I heard this statement about 14 years ago when I was a student in London. The man was a former elder of a large, well-known church in London and this was my first encounter with the theology espoused at John MacArthur’s Strange Fire conference this week. Several people have posted able rebuttals to the Scriptural grounds for cessationism presented at the Strange Fire conference this week, Andrew Wilson does a great job as does Luke Geraty at thinktheology.org. However, I think the exegetical arguments offered by MacArthur et al are a red-herring; we are at an interpretive impasse. What is at the heart of the cessationist attack of continuationism is the issue of discernment.
For example, Phil Johnson was pretty ruthless in highlighting some of the perceived errors of reformed charismatic leaders (Sam Storms, Jack Deere, R.T. Kendall’s) in relation to the ministry of Paul Cain. Johnson argues that, whatever their other strengths and gifts, these guys did not spot that Cain was obviously a fake for two decades. Where did this blind-spot come from? Johnson argues that their charismatic theology caused them to be undiscerning. Likewise, according to Phil Johnson, Mark Driscoll’s so called “pornographic divination“, is incontrovertible proof that the gift is not genuine. This is based simply on the basis of the content of the revelation received; the argument goes, “The Holy Spirit would never do that!”
They believe from experiences like these that charismatic doctrine harms the body of Christ. I think that for the sake of the Church we need to answer their critiques of our practice as well as their exegesis.
The truth is we are far more catholic (little c!) in our approach than our cessationist brothers. They carry with them a Reformation-born pessimism about sin’s ability to warp the practice and doctrine of the Church of Christ. The only way to guard against sin in the church is a Sola Scriptura approach to practice as well as doctrine, and hence we have the doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture.
Historically, the charismatic position has been far less concerned with the distorting power of sin on the Church’s doctrine and practice. This leads to the Gamaliel-like “wait and see” attitude that had been referenced at the Strange Fire conference. We are confident in believers’ abilities to discern a genuine work of God from a fake one without looking for direct scriptural precedent. For cessationists, it is this optimism that means that charismatics have departed from the doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture by denying its very raison d’etre, to guard against our own fallen tendency to get things very wrong.
What the guys at Strange Fire are saying is that the charismatic confidence, based on the evidence they see, is misplaced. The charismatic church is going the same way as the Roman Church and, in the word of MacArthur, we need a new Reformation. The burning question is, are they right?
Walking to-day by a cottage I shed tears
When I remembered how once I had walked there
With my friends who are mortal and dead. Years
Little had healed the wound that was laid bare.
Out little spear that stabs! I, fool, believed
I had outgrown the local, unique sting,
I had transmuted wholly (I was deceived)
Into Love universal the lov’d thing
But Thou, Lord, surely knewest thine own plan
When the angelic indifferencies with no bar
Universally loved, but Thou gav’st man
The tether and pang of the particular,
Which, like a chemic drop, infinitesimal,
Plashed into pure water, changing the whole,
Embodies and embitters and turns all
Spirit’s sweet water into astringent soul,
That we, though small, might quiver with fire’s same
Substantial form as Thou-not reflect merely
Like lunar angels back to Thee cold flame.
Gods are we, Thou hast said; and we pay dearly.
Scazons, C.S. Lewis, Collected Poems, 1994
“Think about it: beneath your happiest moments and closest relationships inevitably lies some instance of being loved in weakness or deserved judgment. Someone let you off hook when you least deserved it. A friend suspended judgment at a key moment. Your father was lenient when you wrecked his car. Your teacher gave you an extension, even though she knew you’d been procrastinating. You said something insensitive to your spouse, but instead of retaliating, she kept quiet and didn’t hold it against you the next day. One-way love is the essence of any lasting transformation that takes place in human experience—a person loved in weakness blossoms.”
I feel like saying to Tullian Tchvidjian “Ah, now you are speaking plainly and not using figurative speech!” (John 16:29) I said in the past that in his fight against a spiritually narcissistic form of sanctification he left the question of how a person grows unanswered . From this interview with Matt Smethurst over at The Gospel Coalition it seems like his thinking has either matured or is simply expressed more clearly in his new book One-Way Love: Inexhaustible Grace for an Exhausted World.
He now makes clear that one key purpose of grace is to free us to obey fearlessly Christ’s command to love others. So, he states ”…that love is absent to the degree that faith is missing. If I’m not trusting that everything I need in Christ I already possess (lack of faith), then I will be looking to take from you rather than give to you (lack of love). I’ll be concentrating on what I need, not what you need. I’ll be looking out for me, not you.”
I love this development in his thought. The obvious questions from his previous books (and blog posts) were: “How does grace lead to obedience?”, and “How does a Christian grow?”. Here, I feel, these questions begin to be answered in ways that can be put into practice.
Nevertheless, his method drives a certain conclusion that I am still uncomfortable with: that the chief need of God’s people is preaching of Law vs Grace in the Gospel. So he states: ”The command shows us our sin and drives us to cry out for a Savior. God, through this Savior, so overwhelms us with his one-way love (love for the unlovable and undeserving) that we’re inspired to love God and others. “ (Emphasis mine)
I suspect that this leads to a key pneumatological weakness. It seems (and I want to use that word advisedly) that Tchvidjian still conceives of obedience as psychologically motivated, but not Spirit-empowered. If we cannot actually obey the law in any sense at all then all we can do is run from it, doing what we can in our own strength out of thankfulness. However, if this is true, then an unscriptural wedge is driven between the Law and the person who desires to act righteously. That is, the Christian should be able to delight in God’s law as much as David does in his Psalms, not seeing them only as a terrifying standard but also as joyful hope and a God’s-grace-granted gift; that somehow, God might enable me to begin to obey his law, not just externally but in my heart. Obedience to the Law that I delight in might actually be my destiny and that I might receive a down-payment of that as the Holy Spirit pours His love into my heart. Kung’s critique of the Protestant understanding of Justification still stands over Tchividjian’s system; that, while Catholics may underestimate the power of sin in the life of the believer, we underestimate God’s ability to actually transform us into the likeness of his Son.
In one sense it makes little-difference, Tchvidjian’s method will lead himself and those who follow his line of thinking to obedience and the Spirit, I am certain, will empower them. His goal is to bring peace, both to Christians and in preaching of the Gospel to non-Christians, and that is laudable. However, if my description of his pneumatological weakness is correct then as we receive peace from one hand we have our joy taken by the other. The mark of the children of God as described in Romans 8 is peace at our reconciliation with the Father, hope for our future glory and joy in the Holy Spirit. We receive in part a guarantee of what we will receive in full on the glorious day of the Lord’s return.
I think there is a further weakness in Tchvidjian’s system in that it leads to an unintegrated approach to sanctification. God wants us to get on with obeying him without complication. Tchvidjian’s approach means that Christian obedience becomes almost like a game in which one must continually adopt just the right posture towards law and grace, like a surfer keeping their balance on a surfboard. It seems arbitrary that God requires this very particular type of faith especially as it not explicitly found in so many praise-worthy biblical figures nor is it found in any notable way in the history of the Church up until the 16th Century. Tchvidjian’s desire that we “trust God and get going” is just right, but it is hard when you are constantly watching your heart for a particular type of attitude to law and grace. What God is looking for is child-like faith, not Luther-like faith.
If we can do this then we can preach Scripture on it’s own terms instead of constantly having to look for a revisionist law/grace distinctive in every passage. This allows for a far richer reading of Scripture and a far richer understanding of the life of the Christian disciple.
One final thought. I agree with Tchvidjian that we need a constant reminder of the Lord’s command to love, and of God’s love and grace to us in Christ, and that this is vital precisely because it is the only way to uphold a “high view of the Law”. To this I would add that we need to be constantly reminded of the promise of the Holy Spirit who imparts to us the resurrection life of Christ that we might live even now, while we await our glorification. These three things are essential; the pillars of the Christian life. But where are we to find this constant reminder of these things? Is it possible that they are to be found in the Lord’s supper, which has been the heartbeat of the body of Christ since Acts Chapter 2? That is my suspicion.