John MacArthur/Grace Community Church hosted a major conference last week called Strange Fire. Its title is taken from the verses in Leviticus 10:1-3, where Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu offered strange fire before the LORD and they were killed by the LORD for it.
|Strange Fire proclaimed truth
and the truth divides, Luke 12:51
The catalyst for the conference was because the organizers and speakers at Strange Fire had become concerned because of the improper worship offered to the Lord in the Holy Spirit’s name, in the form of the ever-growing Charismatic movement. This is the movement that has an expanding umbrella of false doctrines under it of Prosperity Gospel, miracles, tongues, healings, personal revelation, visions, intuition, and other shenanigans which the Charismatics claim are part of legitimate worship. The conference was held so that the men who were asked to speak could deliberately identify this movement as false and offer biblical reasons why. It was also intended to identify the true body of Christ, so that the body may be educated and the lost in this terrible movement be evangelized. Finally, it was to call out the leaders of both the Charismatic movement and the evangelical movement to step up and stand against it.
The conference was held on Wed-Thu-Fri Oct 16-17-18, and closed Sunday morning Oct 20 with a final message by Dr MacArthur at the Grace Community Church Lord’s Day morning service. I watched some live as it was happening, and some on YouTube when I got home from work each night. I saw the opening and closing sermon by Dr MacArthur, Phil Johnson’s stunning Baby in the Bathwater sermon, Tom Pennington’s case for cessationism, MacArthur’s address regarding the objections to having the conference, and Dr Steve Lawson’s brilliant sermon on the Puritans and cessationism. I also watched two Q&As, and the music worship. It was all great.
And the Lord said: “Because this people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me, and their fear of me is a commandment taught by men. Isaiah 29:13.It’s been two days now since the final address by MacArthur, and my head and heart have had time to settle. The dust is now settling a bit also. The reaction to this conference was extreme. Twitter and blogs lit up with comments of all kinds, from support and thanks to hyperbole and incendiary fury. The Pope got involved. Christian and secular news reported on it. Mark Driscoll and James MacDonald, two men who lead churches, crashed the conference and then whipped up even more anger because they failed to be totally honest about what happened when they arrived. Accusations flew and theological battle lines were drawn. Phew.
It was sad to see such reactions but in another way, it was good. If you’re not taking flak, you’re not over the target, goes the old saying. It’s encouraging because I know that the Spirit was with the men of that conference and Jesus was honored by the truth being proclaimed.
The hyperbole is mostly on the side of people who disagree with the Strange Fire conference, either its existence or the content. The men who spoke at the Strange Fire conference were not hyperbolic, but spoke biblically in clarity, confidence and firmness, in love. Multitudes were edified, and said so.
|Strange Fire: drew out men of faith.
It also drew out the faithless. Jo 8:32.
In fact, there is always hyperbole, division, and linguistic ruckus when the truth is proclaimed. Always. The fact that there IS such a ruckus is not indicative of a lack of work via the Holy Spirit, as some claim. To me, it is assurance that the Holy Spirit IS working. If we can take a look at the bible, Jesus spoke “hard sayings” and many left Him. Did He do it wrong? The Pharisees went hyperbolic over what Jesus was teaching, was the Holy Spirit not present?
In all that hullaballoo last week, there was one simple truth that was biblically explained time and again: the miracle sign gifts have ceased. The canon is closed. God is not speaking. Opening one’s self even one millimeter to the possibility of any of those things opens one’s faith to shipwreck, where it is heading for millions who believe they are experiencing visions and healings and miracles and tongues from the Holy Spirit, when it is really the devil.
This assertion inflamed millions, who hold that with half a billion people in the Charismatic movement they all can’t be wrong. LOL, by that standard, numbers, can a billion Muslims be wrong? A billion Catholics? Yes, and yes. And yes that many Charismatic people can be wrong too.
Both the number of heated reactions and the number of people involved in this false movement are staggering. It opened my eyes once again to the unfortunate fact of the proportions in the bible. There are many who are on the broad road, there are few on the narrow. Apostasy is on the rise so fast it is staggering.
CARM.org defines apostasy as “the falling away from the Christian faith. It is a revolt against the truth of God’s word by a believer. It can also describe a group or church organization that has “fallen away” from the truths of Christianity as revealed in the Bible.”
The Charismatics who believe in the things they believe (as discussed at Strange Fire) have fallen away from the truths of Christianity as revealed in the bible. It is depressing to see how many are drawn away.
“Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons,” (1 Timothy 4:1)
“But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:3)
I was heartbroken to hear that half a billion people are drawn away from a sincere devotion to Christ and instead are pursuing ecstatic experiences that look and likely are demonic. In Dr MacArthur’s final sermon at the conference, which was Sunday morning, he said that no conference of that sort would be complete without addressing the likely end of people who defect from the faith, these defectors are the ones who don’t know they have defected and they plead with Jesus on His Day. Matthew 7:22 has it–
“Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?'”
And grievously, the Lord will send them away, saying they are evil workers of iniquity and He never knew them. MacArthur noted that the list of works they use to plead their case are the exact list that the Charismatics insist are a work of the Spirit today: prophesyings, (and visions) demon deliverance, and miracles. The Charismatic movement as described at Strange Fire is indicative of apostasy.
This rising apostasy reminded me of a famous Japanese woodblock print called The Great Wave.
Wikipedia explains, “The Great Wave off Kanagawa is a woodblock print by the Japanese artist Hokusai. An example of ukiyo-e art, it was published sometime between 1830 and 1833 (during the Edo Period). This particular woodblock is one of the most recognized works of Japanese art in the world. It depicts an enormous wave threatening boats near the Japanese prefecture of Kanagawa. While sometimes assumed to be a tsunami, the wave is, as the picture’s title notes, more likely to be a large okinami – literally “wave of the open sea.” (source)
The foam at the top of the wave look like claws, ready to devour the helpless rowers underneath. That is apostasy, the lion prowling with claws ready to devour the helpless and hapless. By its very nature, the Charismatic movement opens scripture to additions, and this make a shipwreck of people and their faith.
In his book Toward An Exegetical Theology, Walter Kaiser wrote 34 years ago,
“It is no secret that Christ’s Church is not at all in good health in many places of the world. She has been languishing because she has been fed, as the current line has it, “junk food”; all kinds of artificial preservatives and all sorts of unnatural substitutes have been served up to her. As a result, theological and Biblical malnutrition has afflicted the very generation that has taken such giant steps to make sure its physical health is not damaged by using foods or products that are carcinogenic or otherwise harmful to their physical bodies. Simultaneously a worldwide spiritual famine resulting from the absence of any genuine publication of the Word of God continues to run wild and almost unabated in most quarters of the Church.“
“Behold, the days are coming,” declares the Lord GOD, “when I will send a famine on the land— not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD. (Amos 8:11)
There will be a lot of good that will come from the conference, there always is with the Holy Spirit. Men were edified. Truth was taught. Praise and honor to the Lord was given. People clarified their positions, on both sides. And in a seemingly negative good is that it showed just how apostate so many really are. The Lord said that before He returns there will be a rebellion against the faith, a falling away from it.
“Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction,” (2 Thessalonians 2:3)
“I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” (Luke 18:8)
“Just as it was in the days of Noah, so also will it be in the days of the Son of Man.” (Luke 17:26).
The Lord WILL be glorified. With all the words that have been said and will be said, there is only one goal. Worship the Lord properly. Glorify Him in Spirit and in TRUTH.
“All the nations — and you made each one — will come and bow before you, Lord; they will praise your great and holy name. For you are great and perform great miracles. You alone are God.” (Psalm 86:9-10)