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Strange Fire Q&A: Why have some gifts ceased and others continue? Are we picking and choosing?

One hundred years ago, the modern Pentecostal movement was born. By October 2013 the Pentecostal movement has morphed into the Charismatic movement with its particular brand of false doctrine and had infected much of western Christianity and polluted quite a bit of Christianity abroad. The excesses of the movement include faith healing, reports of raising the dead, babbling tongues, alleged prophecies and direct revelation, disorderly church services and worse. The movement assaulted the sufficiency of scripture, the inerrancy of scripture, besmirched the name of Jesus Christ and damaged the faith of many.

John MacArthur and his team at Grace To You took a stand against this movement and sought to bring clarity to why its doctrines needed comparison to the Bible correction. To that end, they organized the Strange Fire Conference, held in the fall of 2013. One of the main purposes of the conference was to initiate a substantive discussion about these issues. It achieved its purpose. Every sermon preached at the conference rebuked the movement simply by preaching the truth, and brought correct biblical doctrine to the fore. Given the outcry, it seems that the effect was immediate.

There were many good questions asked at the various seminars and Q & A sessions held during the conference period, but not all of them could be immediately answered. After the conference concluded, ministers and theologians at Grace Community Church and The Master’s Seminary wrote out answers to these unanswered questions, compiled them, and put them on one web page.

The page is a treasure trove of good, solid rebuttals to and practical helps about what to do if encountering Charismatic doctrines in your church, in your family, or in yourself.

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Why are the teaching gifts and others in the list of gifts in effect today if the others ceased? Do we pick and choose?

As in all matters of life and doctrine, we must follow carefully the teaching of Scripture. We must be careful to interpret the text and to apply its direct teachings and its principles to every area of life. God has indicated clearly in His Word that some spiritual gifts were given for the duration of the church’s time on earth and some were intended for use only during the establishment of the church. We don’t have the authority to decide which gifts belong in those categories, nor do we desire to make that decision. Our only desire is to follow what God has revealed to us in Scripture.

The miraculous sign gifts accompanied the apostles and validated them as true spokesmen for Christ (2 Corinthians 12:12; Hebrews 2:3–4). The ministry of the apostles and New Testament prophets was to lay a doctrinal foundation for the church (Ephesians 2:20). They laid the foundation on which the evangelists, pastors, and teachers can build (Ephesians 4:11–13). Evangelists anchor new people into the foundation, and pastors and teachers strengthen and grow them from the foundation.

After the apostles died and the canon of Scripture was completed, the church has carried on through the equipping ministry of evangelists, pastors, and teachers. And now every Christian has the ability to discern truth from error by studying the written Word of God.
For a careful explanation of which gifts have ceased and how we know they were intended by God as temporary gifts, I refer you to Tom Pennington’s excellent teaching in “A Case for Cessationism.” Explore our sermon archive for more detailed exposition on the key passages related to the temporary spiritual gifts, such as 1 Corinthians 13:8–13, 2 Corinthians 12:12, Ephesians 2:20–21, and Hebrews 2:2–4.

 

Mother’s Day: Thank You to Christian Mothers

Christian mothers are precious in God’s sight. I’ve talked before about the effect Charles Spurgeon’s mother had on him. Today we see the effect Frank Boreham’s mother had. She nurtured and raised a man who became one of Christianity’s top 20 preachers, ever. What a glory to Jesus mothers give, when they raise their children in His name! What a long-lasting effect they have on the faith throughout the ages!

Spurgeon had a mother. She bore 17 children. Nine of them died. Phil Johnson wrote in his essay “How childhood influences shaped a great preacher“,

Spurgeon’s mother was the one whose influence first awakened him to the claims of Christ on his life. Her exhortations to her children, as well as her prayers on their behalf, made an indelible impact on Charles as a young boy.

It is the same with Boreham. From the 4-part video of Boreham’s life, we hear the narrator speak, and then an actor re-enacting Boreham reading from his memoirs.

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Narrator: FW Boreham adored his mother. His admiration was magnified because of the stories she told and the engaging way she told them.

Boreham: I have never heard anybody unfold the classic biblical narratives with such dignity and winsomeness and charm such as she could command. And when she came to the story of the cross, she could move us all to tears. I confess that although betwixt those days and these, I have attended many theological lectures and read ponderous theological tomes. The conception of the cross was always in my mind and in preaching and in writing, is the conception that took shape within me by the fireside in those days of long ago.

Narrator: Boreham could say that on those Sunday nights in front of the fireplace with his mother nine times out of ten the evenings closed with the singing of his mother’s favorite hymn that exactly summed up all her teaching:

Jesus, who lived above the sky,
Came down to be a Man and die;
And in the Bible we may see
How very good He used to be.

Boreham: And all through the long years of pilgrimage I’ve never sung that hymn or heard it sung without experiencing a clutch at the heart and a moistening of the eyes as the fond recollection has swept over me as those heart to heart talks in the flickering firelight of the old home.

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Christian Mothers, thank you!

The idol of emotionalism

To the women who claim to have cuddled with Jesus, heard His whisper, sat on His lap, felt His ‘caress’, had their fondest dreams validated, (and I’m speaking of Beth Moore, Ann Voskamp, Kim Walker Smith, Joanna Gaines, and all the rest), hark to this paraphrase from Revelation 1:12 by John MacArthur,

He [John] turns when he hears this booming voice that sounds like a trumpet, and the voice is speaking, and he turns and sees that this voice belongs to a person in his vision moving among seven golden lampstands. Verse 20 says the seven golden lampstands are symbolic of the seven churches; they’re lights in that sense. And he looks into the middle of the lampstands and must be with some hope for comfort and encouragement, and instead he sees a warrior; he sees a frightening warrior, “one like a son of man – ” a term from Daniel expressing God in form, manifesting blazing glory, who has authority and power and dominion, as it says of the Son of Man in Daniel “ – clothed in a robe reaching to the feed and girded across His chest with a golden sash. His head and His hair were white like white wool, like snow; and His eyes were like a flame of fire. And His feet were like burnished bronze, when it has been made to glow in a furnace, and His voice was like the sound of many waters. In His right hand He held seven stars, and out of His mouth came a sharp two-edged sword; and His face was like the sun shining in its strength. 

There is nothing cozy and cuddly about that vision of Christ. In fact, it is so terrifying that in chapter 1, verse 17 says, “When I saw Him, I fell at His feet like a dead man.” It literally, it literally took away his breath.

Ladies, reject the romantic panentheism. Don’t succumb to the idol of emotionalism, as explained here-

Beware of substituting the love of feelings and drama and emotion for the love of God. Some of us come to Him in tears; others in quiet surrender. Some come running, others walk, others are led by another, but the end result is the same. The bottom line is this: God is sovereign, and He will do it His way. It’s not about how we feel—it’s about who He is. more here

See Jesus for who He is: not the hand-wringing needy Jesus who begs for attention from us, but the Warrior in charge of His church, having ‘things against us’ when we do not obey His commands and threatening retribution. (Revelation 2:4, 2:20).

And for a laugh that hurts a little because it’s so true, read this from the Babylon Bee:

Powerful Time Of Worship Draws Woman Closer To Her Own Emotions Than She’s Been In A Long Time

RAPID CITY, SD—Sources are reporting that local woman Britney Mollison experienced the presence of her own emotions more powerfully than she has in a long time during a time of worship Wednesday night. According to Mollison’s own testimony, about three-quarters of the way through the set of dramatic songs blasting from the band onstage out to the worshipers, she was finally able to surrender all to her feelings.
“In that moment, when the bridge to ‘Oceans’ reached its crescendo and the keyboardist masterfully applied the wah pedal, my emotions were more real to me than I can remember,” Mollison sobbed to sources. “It was just me and and my personal relationship to the chemicals in my brain responding to stimuli. Nothing else mattered.”

More at link.

Be theological. It’s the best way to love Jesus, because it is the way He revealed Himself to us.

Am I in the place of God?

When someone wrongs us, and they know it and you know it, the temptation is to lord it over them. The flesh seeks power in a relationship, to be the one on top. However, Jesus said that we are to seek the other’s good, to humble ourselves, to be the last, and to think more highly of the other person- in all our relationships.

If anyone had a reason to lord it over anyone, it was Joseph. The brothers could hardly believe the turn of events when they found Joseph in Egypt as second-in-command over the entire nation. Joseph loved his brothers and held no account against them for their plot to kill Joseph and sell him into slavery.

This attitude of Joseph’s was born of a Godly spirit, certainly. In the flesh we would hold all sorts of grudges against a person, but in the LORD Joseph had developed a forgiving and a truly loving spirit. He forgave the brothers’ sins against him. Overjoyed, the brothers held their peace. When their father Jacob died, however, the brothers began to worry again.

When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “It may be that Joseph will hate us and pay us back for all the evil that we did to him.” (Genesis 50:15)

It was not so.

But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? (Genesis 50:19). Joseph went on,

As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.” Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them. (Genesis 50:20-21)

Oh, how often we put ourselves in the place of God! We withhold forgiveness, we lord it over people, we pridefully forget we are sinners too! We put ourselves in the place of God. At least, I do sometimes!

Matthew Henry Commentary explains:

Judging of Joseph from the general temper of human nature, they thought he would now avenge himself on those who hated and injured him without cause. Not being able to resist, or to flee away, they attempted to soften him by humbling themselves. They pleaded with him as the servants of Jacob’s God. Joseph was much affected at seeing this complete fulfillment of his dreams. He directs them not to fear him, but to fear God; to humble themselves before the Lord, and to seek the Divine forgiveness. He assures them of his own kindness to them. See what an excellent spirit Joseph was of, and learn of him to render good for evil. He comforted them, and, to banish all their fears, he spake kindly to them. Broken spirits must be bound up and encouraged. Those we love and forgive, we must not only do well for, but speak kindly to.

Lording it over a person puts ourselves in the place of God. Forgiving those who transgressed against us includes a full spirit of gentleness. How much more would a kind word to those who sinned against us help bind a broken spirit.

Not that we lord it over your faith, but we are fellow workers with you for your joy, because it is by faith that you stand firm. (2 Corinthians 1:24)

Seek others’ joy. Lord, help me not give in to temptation to lord it over, but to fully forgive, seek others’ joy, and bind a broken spirit with a kind word.

Why the evaporation of America’s cultural Christianity is a good thing

John MacArthur wrote in his monthly letter why the deflation of the bloated Christianity we see in America is allowing the true Christianity to shine. Here is an excerpt from his monthly letter, and then below that, despite the encouraging news, a warning for the Church.

In light of recent headlines, court cases, and cultural trends, over the past few months you’ve probably heard—or said—something like the following: 

Our culture is spinning out of control.”
I can’t believe how fast the moral slide is happening.”
We’re living in a different nation than the one I grew up in.”
I think persecution of Christians is coming . . . soon.” 

Without question, the cultural Christianity many of us grew up with has vanished. There is no collective Christian consensus wielding any significant power in this country today. In fact, the more that true Christians endeavor to speak and live biblically, the more we are being labeled as extremists, homophobic, and intolerant. Truly we are aliens. We foresee a day when being a faithful Christian will cost us or our children dearly, and in ways we couldn’t have imagined just a few years ago. 

So is there any good news? Certainly. We know that God will use even the current hostilities and the climate of impending persecution for good (Romans 8:28). For years I’ve been concerned by the church’s pursuit of cultural change through political and social activities. Large swaths of Christians have placed enormous time, energy, money, and hope in the wrong things. Hand in glove with that thinking, a superficial, cultural Christianity has blurred the clear lines between the kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of this world. Pragmatists in evangelical pulpits have softened the hard demands of the gospel, making discipleship sound easy and grace sound cheap. As a result, churches have been filled with religious, superficially moral, self-righteous people who don’t understand the gospel and are self-deceived about their true spiritual state. 

But with the façade of cultural Christianity shattered, biblical Christianity is beginning to stand out in a way it hasn’t in our lifetime. Scripture teaches and church history confirms that the Body of Christ is most potent and most effective when it simply speaks and lives the gospel without equivocation or apology. With the mask of superficial Christianity pulled down, I believe the best days for the spread of the true gospel are ahead of us.

Read more at the link.

With that said, though it’s true that as the cultural church shrinks and thus there are wonderful opportunities for the church global to share the Gospel and to show out living in a doctrinally pure manner, the moral purity of the Church leaves much to be desired. In a wonderful sermon of two parts, John MacArthur is preaching about Calling The Church To Repent.

There are two parts, and the transcript for both is coming soon. He is preaching from verses in the one place the Bible reveals where the Lord is calling the church to repent, Revelation 1:1-3. The warnings to those actual churches are also actual warnings to us today. The warnings were earned by the various churches due to a list of identified problems listed in the scripture. The churches’ problems were:

  • sexual immorality
  • idolatry
  • absorbing the pagan culture
  • tolerating sin
  • compromise
  • hypocrisy
  • false teaching
  • seduction by error
  • deception
  • preaching for money

This is a list that should be familiar to all of us. Many churches, unfortunately, engage in one or more of these same issues that the first century Revelation churches were engaging in. No, we haven’t built a golden calf to worship idolatrously, but we have built football stadiums, paint ourselves like pagans, and skip church regularly during football season to cheer for sports instead of worship our God. We also worship ourselves, and we have constructed many other idols that compete with God. The rest of the church’s sins are exactly the same today, which is why they should be familiar to us now in the twenty-first century.

In his sermon, Dr MacArthur said that it’s unusual to hear of a pastor calling his church to repent. It’s even more unusual to hear of an entire church repenting, he said, or broken over their hypocrisy, or sorrowful over their compromise, or repudiating their tolerance of the pagan culture, and so on. Though many people think the safest place in the universe is the church, MacArthur said, it’s not so. Jesus is intensely interested in the church, and when He sees problems, He makes threats. This should be a concern to all churches claiming the blood of Christ, and all churches as a whole should do their utmost to adhere to biblical and moral purity.

Please tune in to the sermon and then go on to part 2. It’s worth it.

I’m doing everything I can to listen for that whisper…

Doing a scan of Twitter of the liberal women you will find a plethora of references to listening to the Holy Spirit’s whisper. And of course these liberal ladies have all sorts of advice on how to catch that breeze whisper so that you can hear it and obey it. This lady says we have to be still to hear it.

Oh, no! I might miss it!

Ann Voskamp is kind of gross about the whisper madness.

Just…ew. That gal got some fetishes for sure.

Beth Moore says,

So Jesus tells us ‘now’. Now what, I’m not sure. But we must stay close because He might say it. And according to Moore, it’s better if He only has to whisper.

Lysa TerKeurst gives advice on how to make prayers powerful,

Listening for the slightest whisper … sounds … fleeting. I’ll just take my Bible, thank you. It’s solid.

So, IS the Holy Spirit whispering to us? Must we sit, or be still, or listen hard, or stay close, or press scars, or DO any other particular thing in order to receive this revelation all the other women seem to be receiving?

No.

First, the Spirit is now whispering to you. Ladies, you can relax from worry that you’re not doing something particular to tune in to the frequency that you fear you’re missing. There is no frequency that only a select few know and has to be tuned in just right. Remember those finicky rabbit ears before cable? With tin foil on the tips for that extra boost? It’s not like that. The reason the Spirit is not whispering things to you is that the revelation from Jesus Christ about Jesus Christ is complete.

From the Strange Fire Question and Answer page. You do not have to worry about missing Holy Spirit whispers because the canon is closed and revelation is done

What does it mean that the revelation of God is completed in Christ according to Hebrews 1:1–2?Regarding the revelation we received in Jesus Christ (Hebrews 1:1), Dr. Lawson said there is nothing left to be said. Could you please expand on this and comment on the revelation the authors of the New Testament received from the Holy Spirit and the necessity of writing the epistles? 

Hebrews 1:1–2 looks at the big picture of God’s revelation throughout human history. Just as the Old Testament looked forward to the coming of Jesus Christ, the New Testament is the revelation of Him. This is what the author of Hebrews meant in the opening verses of that book. He was gathering up the new revelation that had been given through the apostles and their associates and referred to it as that which God “has spoken to us in His Son” (Hebrews 1:2). 

In his commentary on Hebrews, John MacArthur writes this helpful explanation:
We must, of course, clearly understand that the Old Testament was not in any way erroneous. But there was in it a development, of spiritual light and of moral standards, until God’s truth was refined and finalized in the New Testament. The distinction is not in the validity of the revelation—its rightness or wrongness—but in the completeness of it and the time of it. Just as children are first taught letters, then words, and then sentences, so God gave His revelation. It began with the “picture book” of types and ceremonies and prophecies and progressed to final completion in Jesus Christ and His New Testament (p. 5). 

The New Testament revelation given through the apostles was the fulfillment of the Lord Jesus’ promise to His disciples recorded in John 16:13–15: “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine; therefore I said that He takes of Mine and will disclose it to you.” 

Thus, when Dr. Lawson commented that there is nothing left to be said, he referred to the fact that no further revelation will be added to the Bible (cf. Revelation 22:18–19). For further study on this point, please listen to John’s introduction to Hebrews and his two-part series from Revelation 22:13–21.

Flash of light announces life

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day. (Genesis 1:1-5)

This actually happened. It happened the way the Bible records it happening. God created everything. With HIS VOICE!

Awesome.

Anyway, we read in 1 John 1:5, This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.

God is light. He is unapproachable light. (1 Timothy 6:16).

I read a cute story in the Science section this week. You might have read it as well. It’s this:

Human life begins with ‘flash of light,’ claim scientists

A “flash of light” marks the beginning of life in humans, according to a study conducted by researchers from Northwestern University in Chicago. Scientists were able to capture in video the light or “fireworks” that break out when a human egg is activated by sperm, which mimics the process of conception. During fertilization, the amount of calcium in the egg increases, and the egg releases zinc. As the zinc is released, it bursts into light. This happens every time conception occurs.

It makes sense that light accompanies life, as we read in John 1:1-3

All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. 4In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men.

God is life. God is Light. God ordains all life, creates it, sustains it, numbers it, and calls it home.

Human life begins with a flash of Light. God is good.