Flashback Friday: Charismatics Aren’t Like Joseph

Originally posted December 23, 2016:

bethlehem-dazzle-frameDuring my years as a Charismatic, I remember using all sorts of Scriptures as proof-texts to validate whatever spiritual experience I happened to be practicing at the time. Most of the Charismatics I knew did the same thing to greater or lesser degrees.

At Christmas time, Matthew’s nativity narrative gave me and my Charismatic friends excellent proof-texts to substantiate our claims that the Lord spoke to us personally. Three times in Matthew 1 and 2, the Lord sent Joseph dreams, in which He spoke very clearly to instruct Joseph. For example, look at God’s intervention when Joseph learned that his fiancee, Mary, was carrying a Child that he hadn’t fathered.

18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:

23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall call his name Immanuel”

(which means, God with us). 24 When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, 25 but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus. ~~Matthew 1:18-25 (ESV)

Naturally, we concluded that, since the Lord spoke to Joseph, we had good reason to expect Him to speak to us in dreams, visions, still small voices or what have you. Our conclusion certainly seemed reasonable at the time, granted, but let’s think through a few points regarding who the Lord generally spoke to in Scripture and why He spoke to them.

In the Old Testament, God spoke to prophets, or to people who would further the development of Israel (and the Messianic line). He didn’t speak to everyone in Israel, nor did He speak about inconsequential matters. He was building His nation, teaching them how to worship Him and to separate themselves from those who worshiped false gods and committed abominable sins.

Likewise, in the New Testament He spoke to apostles and prophets until His Word was written down by some of those same apostles and prophets. Those apostles and prophets, according to Ephesians 4:11-16, built the foundation of the Church by the revelations that the Holy Spirit gave them. That revelation (at least the revelation that we needed) has been preserved in the Bible’s canon.

The Lord spoke to Joseph because Joseph would serve as the legal father of Jesus, thus legitimizing His claim to David’s throne. In turn, this claim validated Jesus as the Messiah. Had Joseph divorced Mary, Jesus would not have had this legal claim. Therefore, God had to intervene by speaking directly to Joseph. Notice that His instruction that Joseph name the Child Jesus fulfilled prophecy.

God spoke two more times to Joseph (Matthew 2:13-15 and Matthew 2:19-23), both times to protect Jesus from an early death and, again, to fulfill prophecy. The Lord spoke to Joseph for specific purposes that resulted in Jesus growing to Manhood, demonstrating Himself to be God, dying on the cross to atone for the sin of those who would believe in Him and rising from the grave to break the power of sin. God’s words to Joseph held eternal consequences.

God’s words to Joseph were vastly different from the things that present-day evangelicals (particularly Charismatics) claim to receive. Joseph, like other key figures in Scripture, played a critical role in God’s plan of redemption. That being the case, 21st Century Christians need only the Bible in order to hear everything the Lord wants us to know.

Hebrews 1:1-2 says that, in these last days, God has spoken through His Son. Praise God He spoke to Joseph back then, so that we would have His Son’s Word for all eternity!

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Flashback Friday: A Right Proclamation Of The Gospel

93a68-wordjudgesheart

Originally posted on February 17, 2017.

Yesterday I watched a YouTube video featuring people I personally know from my Charismatic days. I managed to get past their “God told me” claims by remembering how often I used to phrase my own experiences in those words. In listening to Charismatics, I want to keep in mind that many of them, though deceived, are genuinely my brothers and sisters in Christ. After all, I walked in those same deceptions for most of my Christian life.

Toward the end of the video, however, they invited unsaved members of their audience to begin their “adventure” with Christ. They assured people that Jesus Christ offers freedom from sin (which He does) and personal fulfillment. According to them, Jesus waited, hoping people would reach out to Him and receive all that He had for them. They read a prayer that made vague reference to being a sinner and committing their lives to Christ. Those who said that prayer were instructed to sign a copy, write the date and keep it in their Bibles in case Satan questioned their salvation.

They never mentioned Christ’s death on the cross.

Not once.

Hopefully they’ve given more complete Gospel presentations at other times. Certainly, I must guard against judging the entirety of their ministry based on one isolated video. But it made me think that perhaps I should periodically present the Gospel in this blog, making sure that any new readers (particularly those who don’t know Jesus as their Lord and Savior) really understand it Biblically.

Paul proclaimed the Gospel in its most basic form in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4.

3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, (ESV)

To Paul, nothing was more important to preach than Christ’s death as a substitute for our sin, His burial and His bodily resurrection. The Gospel revolves around His atoning work to pay for our sin, and His resurrection that proves the Father’s acceptance of His sacrifice. Paul elaborates in Ephesians 2:1-10.

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (ESV)

Our sins violated God’s holy standards, making us deserving only of His wrath. But in His mercy, Christ expressed His love by dying for our sin (Romans 5:6-9 and 1 John 2:1-2). Then He raised us from our spiritual death, graciously allowing us to believe in Him and providing us with opportunities to serve Him.

The Gospel focuses on Christ’s glory first. Indeed, He gives us tremendous joy in serving Him, as well as in knowing that we will spend eternity with Him. In those ways, the Gospel most definitely offers fulfillment. But we must never proclaim a gospel that focuses on self and neglects Christ’s death, burial and resurrection.

I do not question the salvation of my friends in that video. But it broke my heart to watch them mishandle an opportunity to present the Gospel in a Biblical manner. Rather than criticize their techniques, however, let me learn to faithfully declare it when God gives me opportunities to do so. The Gospel is too precious, and too important to handle in any other way.

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The Allure Of Wounded Healers

WoundedAs a Charismatic, I attended my share of seminars on physical and emotional healing. I quite vividly remember a friend of mine, who had struggled with eating disorders and a divorce (among other traumas) expressing joy and relief when someone at a seminar prophesied that she was a “wounded healer.”

Even then, I wondered where the Bible supported that concept.

Sadly, now many non-Charismatic churches embrace similar ideas. And why not?

There’s something comforting in hearing someone confess their flaws and Continue reading

Saturday Sampler: October 21 — October 27

Saturday Sampler graphic

Most evangelicals I know don’t seem to understand the significance of Reformation Day (October 31). Praise God for Michelle Lesley, who explains its importance in The Mailbag: What is Reformation Day? Please don’t ignore this blog post. And don’t ignore the Reformation.

Women like being in control. But, as Jessica Pigg writes in Biblical Woman, we need to make sure we’re Building for Eternity rather than for ourselves.

What does it mean to glorify God? Over on The Cripplegate, Jordan Standridge answers that question with three challenging examples. You might be surprised and intrigued by what he has to say.

Praise God for John Divito’s marvelous article, Living the Cessationist Life, written for Founders Ministry! As a former Charismatic who loves the Holy Spirit, I wish all my Charismatic friends understood these things about Him.

Maybe Leslie A’s When It’s Time to Reap hits home for me because I turned 65 last month.  But it sure wouldn’t hurt younger women to consider the Biblical wisdom she dispenses. Her Growing 4 Life blog features many helpful posts on how to live in ways that honor the Lord.

I’ve written a lot this week about the importance of thinking critically and Biblically. By writing The Brains God Gave You, SharaC of Into the Foolishness of God encourages me that I’m not alone in seeing the need for Christians to evaluate things more thoroughly.

Living in the Greater Boston Area has familiarized me with the name of Anne Hutchinson, and I knew her theology was less than Blblical. But Elizabeth Prata really enriches our understanding of the damage a rebellious woman can do in Puritan Wives: Anne Hutchinson – Screeching usurper, or passionate devotee? And if you’re tempted to think an essay about a 17th Century New England woman has no relevance to current Christian controversies, remember that Elizabeth calls her blog The End Time for a reason. Who does Anne Hutchinson remind you of?

Go to The Domain for Truth to read SlimJim’s excellent article, Physical Beauty without Good Works is Dead. If you’re a single gal, read this as an encouragement. If you’re a mom to teenage or college age boys, have them read it. Several times. Until it oozes out of their pores! Did I mention it’s an excellent article?

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Throwback Thursday: No Need To Choose

Originally posted on October 21, 2015, this article seems even more relevant now.

Cross and Bible 3A few years ago, someone scolded me on Facebook for holding to the “dead letter of a book” rather than enjoying a “living relationship” with God through His Spirit. I thought of her reprimand a couple days ago when one of Tim Challies’ links to a Kindle deal providentially misdirected me to Tom Olson’s January 22, 2015 blog post, Is It Possible for Christians to Idolize the Bible?

Olson produced helpful arguments as he reasoned from 2 Timothy 3:16 and 2 Peter 1:21 (please read both verses). He maintains that Scripture is breathed out from the Holy Spirit. That being the case, it makes little sense when people try to represent Scripture and the Spirit as being mutually exclusive (as my Facebook critic suggested). Olson explained that God’s Word, as given through the agency of the Spirit, facilitates our relationship with God.

Consider the primary descriptions of Scripture from the Bible itself:

  • All Scripture is breathed out by God” (2 Timothy 3:16)
  • For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” (2 Peter 1:21)

Add to this that one of the favored names of Jesus Christ is “The Word,” and you have a Trinitarian testimony that the Bible is not divorced from the Godhead, but is the tangible work of the Trinity in perfect harmony speaking to us.

Simply put, the Bible is the voice of God. The Father breathes out the Word. The Son is the Word incarnate. The Holy Spirit carried along the biblical authors so that they would speak “from God”. The Bible is the voice of God – not just the red letters – the whole Bible. As such, the question “Is it possible for Christians to idolize the Bible?” is inaccurate, because it forces us to drive a false wedge between God and his voice. Prioritizing God’s voice is prioritizing God, and thus prioritizing his voice cannot be thought of as idolatry.

Please know, I get it. The Scriptures and Jesus Christ are different entities. The Bible and the Spirit are unique from one another. But that does not mean we can or should treat them as such, divorcing them from one another.

So why did my love for and reliance on the Bible’s authority offend the woman on Facebook? I can’t judge her motives for certain, nor should I try to do so, but I can think of two possible reasons. Usually, people who accuse Christians of bibliolatry operate from one of two positions.

The less prevalent of the two (I hope) comes from a desire to accommodate sin without outright rejecting God. If we can minimize Scripture’s authority by hearing from “God” as we imagine Him, perhaps we can wiggle out of some demands that the Bible imposes on us. Maybe translators made mistakes, or maybe culture has advanced beyond the antiquated notions of the prophets and apostles. Surely God wouldn’t confine His expectations of us to a 2000-year-old book!

Typically, however, the people who make that accusation believe that the Holy Spirit speaks to people directly. They do agree that the Bible is God’s inerrant Word, and they’ll even say that it’s the final authority for Christians. Furthermore, they actually do wish to live in obedience to its precepts. But they also insist that “relationship” with Jesus must extend beyond the Bible through personal communication from Him. They want to feel His presence and to believe that they have unique relationships with Him.

Yet His Word does retain its authority and it is able to speak to us personally.

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. ~~Hebrews 4:12 (ESV)

As we read these precious Spirit-breathed words, He shows us how they apply to us in the 21st Century. Far from being a dead book, the Bible overflows with more treasures than we know what to do with! In holding the Bible in high esteem, we use it as a vehicle to worship its Author in spirit and in truth.

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Saturday Sampler: September 23 — September 29

Birds Sampler

In her guest post for Biblical Counseling for Women, Svea Goertzen muses about a One Hit Wonder — The Impact of a Single Song to demonstrate how someone, even in the depths of suffering, can rejoice in the Gospel.

Visit Growing 4 Life to read Leslie A’s thoughts on “Wordless” Christianity. You’ll see why spending time in God’s Word is so vital to spiritual development.

I’m including Steven Kozar’s The Gigantic Problem Beneath the Really Big Problem a week late because I didn’t see it until this week. But I can’t emphasize strongly enough how crucial his point is in developing discernment through sound doctrine! Kozar’s blog, Messed Up Church, appears on the Pirate Christian Media website.

Unafraid  to write on a difficult topic, Elizabeth Prata of The End Time writes What about hell? I didn’t want to read it any more than you do, but willfully ignoring the reality of eternal damnation has eternal ramifications.

Elizabeth continues confronting us with unpopular truth with When Women Pastor. She stands against today’s cultural climate in favor of Biblical gender roles. She also draws an interesting connection between women as pastors and the rise of Pentecostal churches.

Since we get a double dose of Elizabeth Prata this week, why not also have a double dose of Leslie A? Her piece, What Determines Truth for You?, challenges us to continually examine our hearts.

Personally, I’m not a fan of tattoos. But neither am I a fan of misusing Scripture to support my distaste for them. Peter Krol’s post in Knowable Word, Context Matters: Your Body is a Temple of the Holy Spirit, provides excellent guidance on using 1 Corinthians 6:19 appropriately. So I’ll enjoy my cheesecake while those of you with tattoos enjoy them. Deal?

John Ellis, writing for adayinhiscourt (his personal blog), ruminates on #BelieveWomen Versus the Presumption of Innocence. His empathy for accusers and the accused alike encourages us to think Biblically instead of rushing to judgment.

What’s Behind the Social Justice Gospel-ers? Colin Eakin answers that question in his riveting essay for Pyromaniacs. His assessment couldn’t be more accurate! Ladies, I beg you to read this one.

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Saturday Sampler: September 2 — September 8

Twist Blend Flowers Sampler

There’s nothing like studying Scripture itself, ladies. I love the way Michelle Lesley constantly encourages us to turn away from canned Bible Studies (which usually aren’t doctrinally sound) in favor of cracking open our own Bibles. Look at The Mailbag: How can I get started studying the Bible itself? for her practical suggestions.

Dealing with people who say God spoke to them or talk about other manifestations can be tricky. Never fear! Clint Archer of The Cripplegate offers great counsel with How do I evaluate claims of supernatural experiences? He has some superb ideas. But we need to question his assertion that he’s Clark Kent.

Hannah Roberts-Antunes invites us to #CheckYourHeart in her post for Biblical Woman. Notice the encouraging twist she brings out from Scripture to distinguish godly self-examination from morbid introspection.

Is It God’s Will to Always Heal? by Tim Barnett of Stand To Reason tells the heartwrenching story of his friend Alex, who has brain cancer. Learn how false teaching multiples this young man’s suffering.

In Things Above Us, Allen Nelson IV writes How to Cut Up Your Bible as an encouragement to cherish the Word of God. In the current evangelical climate, we sadly need reminders like this one. As an added bonus, Nelson produces some of the finest writing I’ve ever seen in a blog post.

Check out John Ellis’ Why Sex Outside Marriage Is a Sin in adayinhiscourt for a perspective that often gets ignored. Whether you’re struggling with sexual temptation yourself or you’re raising teenagers who need guidance in this area, you can certainly benefit from this article.

Why is personal holiness dependent on avoiding false teaching? Mike Ratliff of Possessing the Treasure answers this question with Personal holiness is not an option. I love this demonstration of using discernment for godly reasons.

Take a look at Phil Johnson’s Biblical reasoning in A Gospel Issue? He gets to the heart of why so many of us see serious danger within the evangelical embrace of the Social Justice Movement. And, if you haven’t done so already, please consider signing The Statement on Social Justice & The Gospel.

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