Posted in discernment, new year, prophecy, spiritual gifts

Happy New Year of the Rapture!

I was saved in 2004 and then moved to GA in 2006 and the Lord put a heart for prophecy in me. I was firmly convinced in 2006 that 2006 would be the year of the rapture. I was convinced of it in 2007 and 2008 and 2009 and 2010 and 2011 and 2012 and 2013 and 2014 and 2015 and I say now, that 2016 will be the year of the rapture. Am I discouraged that these years have passed with no trumpet calling me bodily home? Not at all! I am MORE excited than ever! It just means that for ten times I’ve had the privilege of waiting and hoping expectantly for my Lord! It’s going to happen. It could happen any second! The Doctrine of Imminence is true. More on that below.

The New Testament is consistent in its anticipation that the return of Christ might occur at any moment. That pervading perspective of imminence prompts three questions. The first question pertains to whether the Tribulation will precede Christ’s coming for the church. The answer to that question is that it will not because the church is never asked to look forward to the tribulation, but they are asked to look forward to Christ’s coming. 

The second question revolves around how the return of Christ could have been imminent in the early church. The answer here is that no one but the Father knows when the coming will occur, so that Christians including the early church must always be ready. 

The third question asks why Christ’s imminent return is so important. This answer relates to the motivation it supplies for believers to purify their lives and thereby progress toward the goal of sanctification and Christlikeness. The threefold call of the imminence doctrine is to wake up and obey right now, to throw off the works of darkness, and to put on the garments of holy living. ~John MacArthur, Is Christ’s Return Imminent?

1. Wake up and obey
2. Throw off the works of darkness
3. Put on the garments of holy living

Could be good New Year’s Resolutions, couldn’t they! They could be resolutions for each of us, every year.

Our faith is one that knows it’s a body, with Christ as Head. He is the Head of the church and our membership means we individually have been uniquely placed within the body for the purpose of edifying other members and for worshiping the Head. The Doctrine of Imminence demands we retain a fervency and urgency in our walk and our witness. One way to retain that fervency is to live with the very present knowledge that whatever we are doing this moment could be completed in heaven the next. I could be facing Jesus any second. How can I honor him and His blood He shed? By living with Him and for Him, rousingly.

Moreover, I NEED the Doctrine of Imminence. I am a sinful woman. It would be easy for me to slip back to sinful ways I’d lived for four decades before salvation. In the daily and weekly grind of living, ministry can become tame, dull, routine. Though the word “fresh” is often misused these days, the fact is, living as a Christian can become a dull rut. Ministry can become a drudge. Being vigilant to stand guard against the enemy can become wearying. Diligence in spiritual disciplines can wane. I could click on auto-pilot very easily because that is what my flesh wants. And once on autopilot, I could then drift to peeking over the fortress wall to the sinful side, then soon enough I’m walking there. No! Let it not be so! Therefore I need to keep the Lord present in my mind and His soon appearing as a glorious promise and a dread threat. Though Christians are not under wrath or judgment, I would be devastated to disappoint Him and wind up throwing away any glory that could have been gained for Him just because I slacked off.

So, I keep the Doctrine of Imminence fresh and the knowledge that my Savior will come to get me any second in the forefront of my mind as both a heavenly hope and a sin-slowing brake.

In practical terms, as the New Year and a fresh start awaits, HOW can we retain that diligence, vigilance and purpose for the glory of Christ? By also remembering we are part of a BODY. My friend Pastor James Bell wrote,

The New Testament teaches us that Christ is THE HEAD of the church and we are members in vital union with vital ministry to each other– 1 Corinthians 12; Ephesians 4:11-16. But reading something in the Bible does not mean “experiencing” it. For the most part, churches today do not function as bodies in which all the members are connected to the Head and to one another in vital union and ministry. Frankly, I’m glad my own PHYSICAL body is not in the shape many churches are in— if it were: My mouth might start talking against my ears. My feet might stop listening to my head, My hands might run off and ‘join’ another body, etc! ~James Bell

I liked that phrase, “vital union”. The Lord may return any moment, but until then, we are in a vital union with other true members of the Body. How can I do my part? Here, Jack Graham wrote this devotional:

How to maximize your Kingdom impact in 2016December 30, 2015 

But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. (1 Corinthians 12:18-20). 

Several years ago, I got suckered into buying one of those pocket knives that has everything on it you could imagine. It has a can opener, about five different sized blades, tweezers, a toothpick, a nail file, and screwdriver heads. If there was something you could use a pocket knife for, this one claimed it could do the job. 

But here was the problem: none of the tools on the knife worked very well. The blades were dull, the tweezers and toothpick fell out and got lost, and the screwdriver heads were so small that I couldn’t use them to turn a screw. 

The tool was so versatile, but didn’t do anything well. And as I look at a lot of Christians today, they’re a lot like that knife. So many are multi-talented and well-rounded, but they rarely commit to doing one thing really well. They’re spread so thin that their impact is minimized. 

As you step into 2016 this week, put your focus on one thing you want to do well in the coming year. Resolve to make a deep impact in one place. Do what you do well, and you’ll make a tremendous difference for the Kingdom in the coming year! 

– Jack Graham

God makes it known what your gifts are and what ministries He wants you in. It’s not a secret and you don’t need a decoder ring to find out. Where does your mind drift when you think about serving? To the children? To the music? To the facility maintenance? To the women? To the homeless? To deaconship or teaching?

What have other people said to you? “You have a heart for the little ones, all right.” “You seem to connect with the youth very well.” “The church looks fantastic, thanks for cleaning/mowing.” Just as men anoint the leaders, by having observed and can see what perhaps it takes our own selves longer to see, others will guide you, prompt you, and tell you where your gifts are and suggest ministry & service opportunities.

What are your God-given talents? Not spiritual gifts, talents, you’ve had all your life? Mine is writing. It was natural that once I was saved He would include me in ministries that involved research, promotional writing, web maintenance, exhortation in print, blogging, discernment papers answering questions the ladies ask, outlines, etc. I’ve been able to write all my life, now in ministry it was a no-brainer to use the talent as the foundation for the gifts of teaching, discernment, and encouragement.

Finally, though don’t do this last do it first, pray. Open your heart and mind in obedience to want to be used. Ask the Holy Spirit to place you. He will. He WILL, I promise, because He promised! (1 Corinthians 12:7-11).

Happy New Year of the Rapture to you all! He is coming soon!

EPrata photo
Posted in discernment, jesus, spiritual gifts, tongues

Be children in mischief, adults in righteousness

Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature. (1 Corinthians 14:20)

Childlishly enthused with his new toy,
Opie killed the mama bird, leaving 3 orphans

Here, Paul is admonishing the Corinthians for over-valuing tongues (glossolalia). The church was entranced by the ‘show’ of tongues and interpretation of tongues.They had become unduly entranced by this next ‘shiny new thing’ (kind of like a mega-pastor with a fog machine or a boy with a new slingshot).

Pulpit Commentary says-

The Christian should always be childlike (Matthew 11:25; Matthew 19:4), but never childish (1 Corinthians 13:11; Ephesians 4:14).

Good advice. To often in this day and age, pastors leave one fad to leap on the next so as to appear relevant. Surfing from Jabez Rugs to Daniel Fasts, Courageous Resolutions to Love Dares, Promise Keepers to Beth Moore bracelets, Be Still to Labyrinths, Seeker Sensitive to Emergent, tongues to healings, it often leaves out the most important: JESUS. Pastor Phil Johnson speaks harshly about the Flaws of a Fad Driven Church. A Charismatic fascination with tongues had swerved the Corinthian Church from its underpinnings and caused all sorts of divisive issues.

Going further, Gill’s Exposition says,

The apostle here has chiefly reference to the gift of speaking with tongues, these Corinthians were so desirous of; which when they had it, was only to talk like children; and for them to prefer it to other gifts, which were more useful and beneficial, discovered their judgment to be but the judgment of children; and if they desired this, and made use of it for ostentation, it showed a childish vanity, from which the apostle here dissuades.

Matthew Henry says –

Children are apt to be struck with novelty and strange appearances. They are taken with an outward show, without enquiring into the true nature and worth of things. Do not you act like them, and prefer noise and show to worth and substance; show a greater ripeness of judgment, and act a more manly part; be like children in nothing but an innocent and inoffensive disposition. A double rebuke is couched in this passage, both of their pride upon account of their gifts, and their arrogance and haughtiness towards each other, and the contests and quarrels proceeding from them.

Note, Christians should be harmless and inoffensive as children, void of all guile and malice; but should have wisdom and knowledge that are ripe and mature. They should not be unskilful in the word of righteousness (Heb. 5:13), though they should be unskilful in all the arts of mischief.

In today’s cluttered world, there are many things that compete for attention. In the Church it is the same. Fads, things that seem good or even biblical, are simply stumbling blocks. It’s hard to understand how a Spiritual Gift could be one of those stumbling blocks, but this simply proves that satan can make hay out of anything. He made a piece of fruit Eve saw every day look so good that Eve was drooling over it and with her husband caused the downfall of man! Disobedience can come anywhere at anytime.

The childish mischief is complicated but the solution is simple. Jesus. Stay in your word, stay praying, stay streamlined in your quiet time. Strip away the clutter, lay aside every weight, focus on the Holy One.

Posted in discernment, distinguishing of spirits, listening, spiritual gifts

Having "ears to hear"

One of the spiritual gifts is “discerning of spirits” (1 Corinthians 12:10 KJV). Other translations say “distinguishing between spirits” (ESV, HSB) while the NAS says “distinguishing of spirits.” They generally mean the same thing. The word distinguishing in the Greek carries with it a meaning that someone judges, a passing of a sentence, a thorough conclusion, to detect look-alikes of things that appear to be the same. This is what Charles Spurgeon meant when he said “Discernment is not knowing the difference between right and wrong. It is knowing the difference between right and almost right.”

Illustration for NC Wyeth Poem,
The Picket-Guard

To a degree, all Christians have been given an ability to discern. That comes with the Spirit who resides in us. We’re all supposed to ask for discernment, and wisdom, too. We are supposed to practice it and develop it. (Hebrews 5:14). The Spirit delivers this discernment, we don’t obtain it at seminary or by study with an elder or any man-made means. It is the Spirit ultimately Who gives us the ability to detect error and truth.

While all Christians have at least the ability to discern, some have been given a Spiritual Gift of Discernment. It means some have been given an extra dose. Picture an army. All the encamped men listen for the enemy. However, some have been stationed at the edge of the camp and are on patrol. If the enemy makes a move, it is the men on patrol who hear it first. They sound the alarm. Soon the enemy is close enough f the main army to hear it themselves. However it is the guard on patrol who hear the enemy first and earliest.

 Civil War Dictionary of terms explains the Picket Duty: “An advance outpost or guard for a large force was called a picket. Ordered to form a scattered line far in advance of the main army’s encampment, but within supporting distance, a picket guard was made up of a lieutenant, 2 sergeants, 4 corporals, and 40 privates from each regiment. Picket duty constituted the most hazardous work of infantrymen in the field. Being the first to feel any major enemy movement, they were also the first liable to be killed, wounded, or captured. And he most likely targets of snipers. Picket duty, by regulation, was rotated regularly in a regiment.

It is like that with believers who have been given discernment as a gift. We are usually the watchmen, on guard, patrolling the section of ground we have encamped by. The Lord our General has stationed us in a place, given us the ability to hear the different moves of the enemy, and we raise the cry when we hear him slithering, crouching at the door, or otherwise making a move. We also detect spies (Galatians 2:4, Jude 1:4).

I don’t often talk about my own experience, because my own experience doesn’t matter. Also, the process of discernment is a mystery even to me, who experiences it every day. However I’d like to press your patience this one time and share something personal, with a tie-in to the Mark 4:9 verse,

“And he said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

Ears of a Watchman with discernment

I’ve mentioned briefly in passing that our former pastor was let go for serial plagiarism. He had been memorizing other men’s sermons and delivering them as his own, even relating the other pastor’s personal anecdotes as if he had lived them himself. Apparently this had been going on for four years or more. I arrived at my church in January of 2012. After a few months, little things were said or done by the pastor didn’t set right with me, spiritually. I watched, prayed, and watched some more. I had an open mind. I call this phase, the “Hunh” phase, as in “Huhn, what’s up with that?” Or, “Huhn, what does that mean?” Or, “Huhn, did I see/hear what I thought I saw/heard?”

Along same summer and then fall of 2013, and my “Huhn” phase morphed into a low alarm phase. I’d leave the sermon feeling unsettled. What was happening as I listened to the sermons during this time is the crux of this essay. I’d never heard anyone speak to this process or never have seen it written about, until one comment recently by Pastor Justin Peters caught my attention. During this phase of listening to my former pastor preach, I’d have the strong sense that behind what I was hearing was…nothing. There was nothing behind the words.

WWI: “The most interesting of the special instruments
employed for the defense of Paris from aerial attack
are the “listening posts”, as shown in the illustration.
This consists of four huge horns, which gather up
the slightest sound and magnify it by means of a
microphone, so it is impossible for an
airplane to approach unheard.” Wikimedia Commons

See, when the Living God sends His Spirit to fill the words spoken from His word via a preacher or a teacher, they are heavy in my ears. It is like the words themselves are edged with neon, weightier, heavier…like there is something behind them. Alternately, when there is no Spirit carrying the words, it is like they are pale, dead, like brown leaves drifting to the ground rather than arrows piercing the heart. I can’t explain it better than that. Here is a visual.

Hearing regular words:

Hearing Spirit-filled words:

Hearing dead & empty words that are supposed to be alive:

Dead words are empty, they whisper weakly and then fall to the ground. They litter the floor of the sanctuary and flutter only when kicked while walking out the doors when the sermon is done. Jesus was explaining this to Nicodemus in John 3:8, when He likened the Spirit to wind, and said,

“The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

In the 1 Corinthians 12:10 verse about distinguishing of spirits, the word is pneúma . Depending on context, it means wind. Without the word “Holy” in front of it, the word means just spirits, not The Holy Spirit. (source)

As each week progressed through the summer, fall and then winter of 2013, I’d leave church increasingly unsettled. My mind would react to the sermon by saying, “It feels empty.” “It feels canned”. “There’s nothing there.”

As Gertrude Stein famously said about Oakland CA, “There’s no there there.”

When I couldn’t shake the feeling and the unsettlement grew to prickling proportions, I decided to investigate, and by March of 2013 I’d made the discovery that each and every sermon was plagiarized. That was why the words I’d heard had no power. They were not carried by the pneuma, the Holy Spirit. They were a lie.

The tragedy of this last hour is that we have too many dead men in the pulpits giving out too many dead sermons to too many dead people. There is a strange thing that I have seen even in the fundamentalist circles: it is preaching without unction. What is unction? I hardly know what it is, but I know what it is not, or at least I know when it is not upon my own soul. Preaching without unction kills instead of giving life. The unctionless preacher is a savor of death unto death. The Word does not live unless the unction is upon the preacher. Preacher, with all thy getting, get unction.” ~Leonard Ravenhill

When the movie Heaven is Real was released, discernment minister Justin Peters was reviewing it on his radio program. (Link below). He was referring to a video interview of the father and son, Todd and Colton Burpo. Peters was describing how Colton looked and sounded when Colton was telling the interviewer of his alleged trip to heaven.

Peters was attempting to describe the lack of verve in Colton’s voice and the lack of animation on his face. Peters was saying that IF Colton had actually gone to heaven, there would be a liveliness on his face and a power behind his words. Peters was struggling to articulate the feeling of having ears that hear the pneuma power. He said, frustrated, “Where is the unction? There is nothing behind the words!”

I understand! Gratefully, I finally heard someone else say what I was also struggling to put into words.

Easton’s Bible Dictionary explains unction: “Unction- (1 John 2:20 1 John 2:27; RSV, “anointing”). Kings, prophets, and priests were anointed, in token of receiving divine grace. All believers are, in a secondary sense, what Christ was in a primary sense, “the Lord’s anointed.

All believers have an unction, or an anointing, to hear the Spirit and be moved by His power. Those of us who have received the gift of discerning of spirits perhaps have a radar that is tuned to a longer frequency, or who have a greater range and hear earlier than others.

I personally believe this is partly what Jesus meant when He said of understanding the parable in Mark 4:9, “And he said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

Jesus said it again in Mark 4:23, Matthew 11:15, Revelation 2:7, Revelation 2:11, Revelation 3:22. It is said in Deuteronomy 29:4 and Ezekiel 12:2. In the Deuteronomy verse, Moses said to Israel,

 “Yet the Lord has not given you a heart to perceive and eyes to see and ears to hear, to this very day.”

Having ears to hear is obviously important.

Pulpit Commentary on Mark 4:9 says: “He has “ears to hear” who diligently attends to the words of Christ, that he may ponder and obey them. Many heard him out of curiosity, that they might bear something new, or learned, or brilliant; not that they might lay to heart the things which they heard, and endeavor to practice them in their lives. And so it is with those who go to hear sermons on account of the fame of the preacher, and not that they may learn to amend their lives; and thus the words of Jehovah to Ezekiel (Ezekiel 33:32) are fulfilled, “And, lo, thou art unto them as a very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument: for they hear thy words, but they do them not.”

Acoustic listening devices developed for the Dutch army as part of
air defense systems research between WWI & WWII. Source

We all have ears to hear, if we are a believer. However those ears need to be kept clear (Acts 28:27, Matthew 13:15). If you do not have discernment as a gift, you still have a responsibility to practice the skill. Matthew 13:15 explains the first steps in keeping our ears open and receptive:

for this people’s heart has grown callous, their ears are dull of hearing, they have closed their eyes; or else perhaps they might perceive with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their heart, and should turn again; and I would heal them.”

When the heart grows callous, the eyes and the ears also dim. Keep the heart soft by continual study of the word, prayer, and repentance of personal sins.

Also, are the fruits of the spirit—love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance—apparent in the words you’re hearing? If those are present they are from God. If they are not, the words are not from God.

Third, if there is no Spirit power behind their words, there will be a difference between what people say and what they do. If you hear one thing said but observe that the above fruits are not in the person’s actions, then their words are not anointed. In other words, anyone can parrot love, peace, joy, gentleness in their speech but do they demonstrate it, too? One who speaks with unction will speak and act in alignment with God’s word. One who speaks without anointing will always show themselves Spirit-less by their actions at some point. (Proverbs 5:22; Isaiah 59:12).

While it is dangerous to base our spiritual life on feelings, the fact is, we do experience things by the Spirit. If you feel something is “off” in a sermon or a teaching, if you feel that it is pale, or lacking something, it could be that it lacks the pneuma or the unction and the Spirit is alerting you to that fact. It takes much prayer and discernment to detect the difference between a personal feeling and the Spirit’s warning bell.

Even then, the alert isn’t the end, it is the beginning. My role was not just to rely on a feeling, but to prayerfully investigate. When the cold hard facts come in is when we move ahead. The guard on patrol doesn’t come running to the encamped army saying, “I think something may be out there!” Something is always out there. The guard comes to the army and says “I saw a flashlight and heard the cocking of a gun.” Facts.

While the devices posted above where man experimented with various means of amplification and acoustic listening, our spiritual listening devices are the Word and prayer. That’s all we need. Hone your listening skills and ask for increased discernment, whether or not you have the specific gift.

And don’t listen for only the words. Listen to what is behind the words.

Whoever has ears, let them hear. (Revelation 13:9)


Further Reading

Challies reviews Expository Listening

1st Mark of a Healthy Church MEMBER: Expositional LISTENING

What is the Spiritual Gift of Discerning Spirits?

Justin Peters reviews Heaven is for Real movie (skip to 22:26-24:20 to the ‘lifeless/no unction’ incident)

Posted in charismatic, continuationism, john piper, spiritual gifts

Cessationism versus continuationism

A conference called Strange Fire, held at John MacArthur’s church last fall and attended by notable keynote Christian pastors, there has been an ongoing fire of its own. The conference was to expose the heresies of the Charismatic movement and to explain biblically why continuationism has a falsely interpreted basis.

Continuationism is the hallmark of the Charismatics and to a degree the word faith believers also. It holds that the first century apostles’ healings, direct prophecies, and other miracles are normative to every Christian’s experience. Cessationism holds that the miracle spiritual gifts were for a foundation only, alive in the first century apostles and designees only and ceased after the foundation of the church was laid the the bible was completed.

A lot of ink has been spilled in the debate prior to and subsequent from the conference. It is still raging. But there was one comment I enjoyed for its succinct biblical explanation of why these miracle gifts have ceased. It is from a blog essay posted this week by John MacArthur, who is following up on some things from the conference regarding John Piper. I encourage you to go to the essay and its follow up and read the piece in its entirety.

The comment I enjoyed is here, #44 by comment moderator Gabriel Powell. He was responding to the people who embrace continuationism by saying that to reject cessationism is to reject the Holy Spirit entirely.

Posted by Gabriel Powell | Tuesday, March 11, 2014at 3:47 PM

It seems like there is some confusion over what cessationism rejects. While there are clear differences between the two theological positions, the reality of miracles and healing is not one of them.

Cessationism affirms that God maintains the power to heal and perform miracles. What we deny is that the “gifts” to perform signs and wonders which were so prevalent and normative in the 1st century church are still prevalent and normative today.

God’s character remains the same (which is the point of “Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever”), but He deals with His people in unique ways at unique times (Hebrews 1:1).

Posted in continuationism, miracles, spiritual gifts

The spiritual gift of miracles given to Christians in the first century is not for today

Men are not endowed with the power today to heal miraculously, like they were in the time of Moses/Joshua, Elijah/Elisha & Jesus/Apostles. Those miracles were for a sign to authenticate the message and the messenger, in the building of the foundation of the church. Today we have the messenger whom we authenticate if he preaches the same Jesus and if his message is consistent with the one delivered once for all to the saints. (Jude 1:3).

In the time of the Apostles, the miracles were authenticated, undeniable, and sufficient. Lazarus was dead. Then he wasn’t dead. There was no ambiguity. Jesus healed a man born blind. He could not see. Then he could see. (John 9:1-7).

The one I always got a kick out of was Peter’s mother-in-law.

And when Jesus entered Peter’s house, he saw his mother-in-law lying sick with a fever. He touched her hand, and the fever left her, and she rose and began to serve him.” (Matthew 8:14-15).

Jesus’s touch healed her completely. When you have a fever, you’re usually sick for a period of time, days even. You get weak. You cannot keep food down. You body deteriorates and after the fever breaks, you need time to recuperate to get back to 100%. Not so with the miracle of Jesus and His healing touch.

Her healing was authenticated, because there were witnesses. It was undeniable, it is in the bible. It is sufficient, because she was healed and restored to 100% perfect health.

What does one do when they are delivered from a bad situation? You’re grateful. Imagine the gratitude of Peter’s mother-in-law being delivered from an illness of a person in advanced age. Gratitude, unto service. Her gratitude was so great, she served the Lord. It was so complete, she could serve the Lord.

God can and does still perform miracles today if He chooses. He does not give people that ability any more, those gifts have ceased.

I’m listening to a Phil Johnson lecture in the series Drive By Pneumatology. He defined cessationism and continuationism. Here is Pastor Phil Johnson on the miracle gifts:

“The Holy Spirit is at work in us in the ordinary things of life. A lot of people have an idea that the Holy Spirit is only working if He is doing miraculous or phenomenal things. If it not something that takes your breath away, or amazes you, that if He is not doing things like that, He is not at work at all. But I believe that scripture teaches that the Holy Spirit is at work in all the ordinary aspects of life. He orders every minute detail of our lives. It is He who actually gives us life. That’s what it says in Romans 8- He gives life to our mortal bodies… . Most of what he does seems ordinary but it is really extraordinary because He is the Holy Spirit.”

He went on to explain the difference between revelatory gifts and ministry related gifts, revelatory ones (the Charismata) are utterance of wisdom, utterance of knowledge, faith (a supernatural measure of faith, not saving faith we all have) prophecy, miracles, healing, tongues and interpretation of tongues (1 Corinthians) compared to the gifts in Romans 12; preaching, service, exhortation, generosity, leadership, mercy, and teaching. In comparing the two lists of gifts, the Romans 12 one is ministry related, and is neither supernatural in character nor revelatory.

Phil said, “The distinctive claim of the Charismatic movement is that these revelatory gifts of healing, miracles, tongues knowledge/wisdom and prophecy are continuing today just as they were in Apostolic times. The Charismatic person says they continued since then and never ceased. That these gifts are available and operational just as they were since Pentecost. This is the continuationist view.”

The opposing view is cessationism. The belief that these revelatory gifts, these sign gifts, have ceased. That they pertained uniquely to the Apostolic age and that those gifts ceased sometime at the end of the first century upon the death of the last apostle.

(Phil is a cessationist).

So the question is, is the Holy Spirit doing everything exactly as He was doing as He did in the book of Acts? Has that stopped, or has that continued? And is there a proof text that shows it has stopped?

The miraculous gifts of the apostolic era had a specific and clearly defined purpose. I contend that it I also clear in scripture that they did diminish in frequency and importance and in fact, faded from use after the era in the Book of Acts ended.

Cessationism is today a minority opinion. It was practically standard evangelical theology for many centuries until about 60 years ago. Prior to the 20th century, it would have been hard at any time to find any protestant who believed that the charismata, the miraculous gifts, continued uninterrupted from the time of the apostles thru all of church history. It is a fact that the most theologically orthodox church theologians all believed the miracle gifts ceased.

In summarizing the next part of Pastor Johnson’s lecture, the reason they say this today, that the charismatic gifts continue, he explained, is that they cannot find a proof text or a verse that would support the view that the spiritual gifts of this nature have ceased. Specifically there is no one verse in scripture that says the miracle gifts have stopped at a particular date or time. Bottom line there is no proof text that states that the miracle gifts would end at the conclusion of the Apostolic era.

There is no proof text to show the Jehovah’s Witness to show their flawed view of the Trinity, either. You compare scripture with scripture to show the Trinity and I would say the same method applies to cessationism.

Those of us who are cessationists base our conviction not on a single proof test but is a theological conclusion that is drawn from a number of biblical, historical, and doctrinal arguments.

Scripture does teach that the charismata had a specific, foundational and temporary purpose. They are part of a hierarchy of supernatural signs and wonders that were associated with the founding of the church. That hierarchy is listed in 1 Cor 12. It specifically states not all the miracle gifts were given to all in the church. (He goes on to explains some verses here). Scripture does not have a specific proof text that shows the Apostolic age ended, that there are no more apostles. There is no specific proof text that the canon of scripture is closed. Those arguments are the same exegetical arguments used to also say that the miraculous gifts ended too.

Posted in church, distinguishing of spirits, jesus, spiritual gifts

What is the gift of distinguishing of spirits?

More on spiritual gifts: I asked the question in prior blog entries on whether the spiritual gifts that were given as a sign are ceased now. (tongues, interpretation of tongues, miracles, healing). I came to the conclusion that scripture seems to say they are concluded.

There are many other permanent, edifying spiritual gifts that remain to this day.  The spiritual gifts are endowments given by the Holy Spirit.  As Theology professor Wayne Grudem says, “these are the supernatural graces which individual Christians need to fulfill the mission of the church.” I won’t take time to do a series on all of them, better scholars than me have weighed in on explaining them. However today I do want to look at one particular gift, though: distinguishing of spirits.

Here is the verse from 1 Corinthians 12:10 in several different translations:

“to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues.” (ESV)

“To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues:” (KJV)

“He gives one person the power to perform miracles, and another the ability to prophesy. He gives someone else the ability to discern whether a message is from the Spirit of God or from another spirit. Still another person is given the ability to speak in unknown languages, while another is given the ability to interpret what is being said.” (NLT)

The word for distinguishing in Greek is diakrisis, and it means an act of judgment. Not the kind of judgment in court, but “properly, a thorough judgment, i.e. a discernment (conclusion) which distinguishes “look-alikes,” i.e. things that appear to be the same” goes the definition from Strong’s. (source)

Pastor Charles Spurgeon once said that “discernment is not simply a matter of telling the difference between what is right and wrong; rather it is the difference between right and almost right.”

In the bible one example of the gift of distinguishing of spirits was when Peter was able to tell instantly when both Ananias and Sapphira were lying to him and thus to the Holy Spirit.

“But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, 2and with his wife’s knowledge he kept back for himself some of the proceeds and brought only a part of it and laid it at the apostles’ feet. 3But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? 4While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.” 5When Ananias heard these words, he fell down and breathed his last. And great fear came upon all who heard of it. (Acts 5:1-5)

How did Peter know? Ananias had made a claim, and there doesn’t seem to have been enough time to pass for Peter to have heard any different from other sources…except from the Holy Spirit. And the exact same thing happened when Ananias’s wife Sapphira came in three hours later and laid some money down. She also claimed it was the full amount. Peter pronounced her death and immediately she fell down and breathed her last. (Acts 5:7-10).

Paul had the same thing happen, and the gift of discerning of spirits manifested itself in a way that showed him though the girl was saying something truthful, was at root an evil from a demon.

“As we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners much gain by fortune-telling. 17She followed Paul and us, crying out, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.” 18And this she kept doing for many days. Paul, having become greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And it came out that very hour. (Acts 16:16-18)

The Holy Spirit had given Paul and Peter the ability to discern if what the person was saying was a lie or the truth, or was a half-truth, or was truth but was from an evil spirit.

We all have a certain amount of discernment. We should practice it, pray for it, and be diligent about it. As we grow in our faith, we employ the discernment knowledge we have gained as we strive with the Spirit. But there are other people who have been given a gift of discerning the spirits. These people seem to be able to tell earlier that something is false. They are ahead of the curve so to speak.

The men at GotQuestions tell us:

“There are certain individuals, however, who have the God-given ability to distinguish between the truth of the Scriptures and erroneous and deceptive doctrines propagated by demons. Although we are all exhorted to be spiritually discerning (Acts 17:11; 1 John 4:1), some in the body of Christ have been given the unique ability to “spot” the forgeries in doctrine that have plagued the church since the first century. But this does not involve a mystical, extra-biblical revelation or a voice from God. Rather, the spiritually discerning among us are so familiar with the Word of God that they instantly recognize what is contrary to it. They do not receive special messages from God; they use the Word of God to “test the spirits” to see which line up with God and which are in opposition to Him. The spiritually discerning are those who “rightly divide” (2 Timothy 2:15) the Word of God in a thoughtful and diligent manner.”

John MacArthur on 1 Cor 12:10, on how the discerning spirits verse manifests itself today says,

“This kind of gifted Christian can intuitively identify truth from error, hypocrisy from genuineness, and false prophets are everywhere today and I believe there are some people who are gifted by God to unmask false prophets. I think some of them write books. I think some of the people who have done good work in the cults and in the occult may be exercising the gift of discernment, the capacity to see through something to the core of its hypocrisy.”

The gift of discernment of spirits is a gift the Spirit has given to me. So, how does a person with this gift use it? How is the church edified by proper use of a gift of discerning the spirits?

MacArthur again:

“The gift can be exercised in many ways. Let me just share what possibly could be the use of it today. It could be used to reveal demonism in any form, any form. It could be used to reveal false prophets and spiritual phony’s. This person can spot a spiritual phony without missing, usually. Sometimes someone say to me, “You better not put that person in such a such position. You’d better not have that person come to your church and do, because something’s not right, protecting the church. I think the gift can even be used to see the intrusion of carnal elements into worship. The gift can discern one in whom the Holy Spirit is genuinely working. The same person will often say to me, “You know there’s a person really energized by the Spirit of God. I can see it.” They are the watchmen of the church.

Tim Challies wrote a book on discernment. He said,This is not merely a gift, but a responsibility.”

You shouldn’t accumulate knowledge just for the sake of knowledge. Once you know something is true or false, you have a responsibility to do something about it. You have a responsibility to praise the Savior if you find a true teaching, but if you find a false teaching you have to say something about it, as well.

I tell my fellows at church that I am a carbon monoxide alarm. Carbon monoxide gas is poisonous and odorless. It kills, but people only detect its presence when they start to feel sleepy and even then it may be too late. False doctrine is like that, odorless, undetectable except for some symptoms that appear in people who are under its influence. If you detect a false teaching, or an evil spirit at work or a carnality creeping in, or whatever it may be as MacArthur outlined, DO something. What I do is speak to my pastor or the teacher of the class. I make a report. I tell the men, right away. I let them know what I found, how I found it, where I found it, and the methods I used to find it. This is so they can check for themselves. I also offer the scriptural foundation that in my opinion shows the teaching or carnal thing is false so they can compare it to the Word. If they deem it false, my prayer next becomes that they do something about it and therefore it will not be tolerated.

Remember the condemnation of the church at Thyatira. The people were tolerating a false prophetess. Jesus was unhappy about that. (Revelation 2:20). If you discern something is off somewhere, you have a responsibility to speak up about it.

It isn’t an easy ministry. I don’t go looking for falsity. The blogs that have a badge on their top menu bar “member of heresy hunters” or some such…I disagree with that. I don’t spend my time hunting evil. I spend my time hunting good. There is too much evil to keep up with and it always finds me anyway. Instead, I try to stay on the center line of the narrow road of His goodness by listening to sermons, praising Jesus, learning the word, exhorting about Him everywhere I go.

Sometimes in other places or in other churches when I did make a report on this or that, my report was rejected summarily without prayer or consultation to the scriptures. Sometimes I was identified as a bad influence rather than the false doctrine being bad. Shooting the messenger does happen. Poor Jeremiah, thrown into a nearly bottomless cistern… That is why having the gift of discernment of spirits is a responsibility and not an intellectual game and not a personal playground. It comes with consequences, sometimes.

Challies said,

“Satan and his spirits can be discerned in appearance. Satan invades the Christian community with teachers and leaders who counterfeit the truth. These people will always introduce teaching that is foreign to Scripture. … Though her [the slave girl’s] words were true, the spirit behind them was false and sought to lure people with a little bit of truth so that the opportunity could be used to heap reproach upon the gospel.”

And there is the nut of it. Whether you don’t have the specific gift but are maturing in your faith and gaining discernment, or you do have the spiritual gift of distinguishing spirits, not bringing reproach on the Gospel is the goal. Jesus is to be uplifted, always. It is HIS Gospel, it is HIS church, it is HIS doctrine. So even though the responsibility is heavy, the joy is wonderful when the body works together to maintain a level of purity in a local church. It is joy when we see the melding of the separate gifts result in something pleasing to the One who delivered us from the evil that we are now reporting and protecting the fellow sheep from.

In some cases, the sheep never even knew that a creeping poison almost touched them. They are happily ministering and functioning in their spiritual gifts unknowingly protected from yet another foray by satan. Praise the Lord for mature churches where all gifts of the body work together to edify His congregation and exalt Jesus, the ultimate goal of any church!

Posted in benny hinn, miracles, slain in the spirit, spiritual gifts, tongues

Are the miraculous spiritual gifts for today? Part 1

Do you wonder about being Spirit-filled, or being “baptized with the Holy Spirit” as a separate event from the regenerating work?

Do you ponder whether whether the miracle gifts mentioned in 1 Corinthians have ceased?

And what about “praying in the Spirit”? What is that all about?

I was asked these questions this week and I answered in an email but decided to bring the issue to the blog also. I had an interesting conversation this summer with a person who attends a Pentecostal church and the issues that were raised then are still on my mind. So when the email came…

Disclaimer: I have friends who are in or who came from circles where it was taught or demonstrated that the miracle gifts are a normal part of Christian walk. As I explore whether the miracle spiritual gifts have stopped or not, I plan to make it a biblical exploration. Please do not consider this an attack on any person’s particular faith or denomination. I want to soberly take a look at the question, but I know that in so doing, the fact that so many people have had an experience which is tied to their emotions, they may react emotionally. Let’s just put Jesus in the center and discern His word,with full assurance from me that this discussion is from the heart and not a jab at any person’s salvation or any particular denomination’s legitimacy.

The question is discussed in various circles and it is an ongoing discussion. It is called “Cessationism versus non-cessationism” or in other words, if the miracle gifts have ceased or have not ceased. Sometimes the discussion gets heated. However, it is not a salvation issue nor it is something that impacts the essential doctrines of faith, so in discussing the issue here or anywhere let’s have grace and remember not to bring division. This isn’t a hill to die on, but it does call for discernment. The bible does tell us the miracle gifts are foundational, and the foundation has already been laid by the Apostles. So we must be careful when we see what someone claims is a miracle or says they are speaking for God with a word, just as we are told to test all things.

First, we look at the Holy Spirit and what He does for His church. These are links to all the bible verses collected on the topic of the Holy Spirit in each of His ministries–

The Ministry of the Holy Spirit as comforter:

Holy Spirit, The Personality of

Holy Spirit, The Teacher

Holy Spirit as God

Second, what are the spiritual gifts the Spirit gives, and where are they in the bible?

GotQuestions answers that one:
“The three main passages describing the spiritual gifts are Romans 12:6-8; 1 Corinthians 12:4-11; and 1 Corinthians 12:28. The spiritual gifts identified in Romans 12 are prophesying, serving, teaching, encouraging, giving, leadership, and mercy. The list in 1 Corinthians 12:4-11 includes the word of wisdom, the word of knowledge, faith, healing, miraculous powers, prophecy, distinguishing between spirits, speaking in tongues and interpretation of tongues. The list in 1 Corinthians 12:28 includes healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.”

The essay goes on to define each gift a little more.

The Holy Spirit delivers spiritual gifts to all believers. (1 Corinthians 12:7-11). All people have at least one gift, and some have two or more. For example all pastors are teachers but not all teachers are pastors. Some of these were gifts of revelation from God and others were gifts of miracles, like healing or languages.

Third, what are the miracle gifts, specifically? states:
“On any given day of the week, Christians can be found debating with one another over the “sign gifts”–that is, the spiritual gifts of tongues, prophecy, miracles, and healings. [emphasis mine]. The debates center on a simple issue: Are they for today or not? There is no debate about whether these gifts were a part of the first-century Church. That part is assumed by all who embrace the Bible as the Word of God. Rather, the debate is whether these gifts have continued or have ceased. There is no debate that certain spiritual gifts have continued to today, such as teaching, mercy, administration, service, etc. But whether the more overtly supernatural gifts continued is a different matter. Again, the issue is not whether God is still powerful enough to work such miracles. Rather, the issue is whether he does so through individuals as special emissaries of his power.”

Why were these gifts given as described in the book of Acts?

The purposes of spiritual gifts given to the Apostles was to reveal and confirm God’s will for man. The miracle gifts were given to authenticate that these men were indeed from God and their words and deeds could be trusted as coming from the Divine source. The miracle gifts were to authenticate His men who proclaimed His will. And cessationists say that authenticating work was completed during the lifetime of the original apostles when the bible was closed.

Painting: Peter raising Tabitha, Acts 9:40,
Pierre-Jacques Cazes, Louvre.

Others say no, they are not finished, that the normal Christian life is, or can be, full of miracles and healings and supernatural knowledge and “tongues” just as actively as it was in the immediate post-resurrection time. The question is not whether God CAN work this way. His power is perfect and His will is His will. The question is, does He still work this way, and as a result, does the Spirit still distribute these miracle gifts to believers today?

“Jesus invested supernatural authority in his own apostles (Matt 28:16-20) to bring this good news to the world. These apostles and certain others in the early church had a measure of some of these gifts. Whether they represent all Christians of all time or whether theirs was a special time and a special gift is the question.” (source)

The folks at wrote:
“The early church did not yet have the full revelation of Scripture. The Scripture was revealed to the apostles – the same apostles who by signs and wonders were proven to be authentic messengers of God. Their gifts of prophecy, knowledge, wisdom and inspiration were now added to the list alongside healing and miracles, and were given in order for the early believers to know God’s will and plans. But these “revelatory” gifts, now that the Bible is finished, are obsolete. The Bible is a supernaturally-inspired book, given to the apostles, God’s proven messengers. We are commanded not to add to or take away from the Word of God as revealed to the apostles (Revelation 22:18-19). Because the revelatory gifts have ceased, and the sign gifts were given to give credence to those receiving God’s message, it is safe to assume that the sign gifts have also ceased.”

People who hold to the stance that the miracles still continue today point to the fact that Jesus is the same yesterday and today and tomorrow (Hebrews 13:8) so He would certainly still continue to distribute gifts via the Spirit. However, the bible shows us that some miracles He performed will never be repeated. (source)

  • Creation – Gen. 1,2 (cf. 2:1,2)
  • The flood of Noah’s day – Gen 6-9
  • The virgin birth – Matthew 1:18,20; Luke 1:35
  • Jesus’ resurrection
  • The work of apostles living on earth (Acts 1:21,22)

So does that mean Jesus is different today than He was yesterday? No.

I am of the opinion the miracle gifts of languages, healings, prophecy, interpretation of languages and sundry miracles have mostly ceased- in believers. I believe that God still performs them or at least he can still perform them. I hold this opinion because of my high regard for the closed canon of the bible. It is God’s word and in it He said that no one is to add to it nor take away from it. Additional revelation, such as when Beth Moore says she was lifted up into another dimension, shown things by Jesus through His eyes, and sent back down to teach them, I believe are false.

If we believe Moore, and the myriad other people who claim to have a prophecy or a revelation or a miracle, where does it stop? It doesn’t. It is chaos. These modern “revelations” have the exact characteristics of false prophecy, not true prophecy. Falsity brings chaos, and that is exactly what we have today in the believing church. Chaos. [Here is a good series on the topic: Miracles and Spiritual Gifts]

John MacArthur is a cessationist who wrote a book called Charismatic Chaos, based on a preaching series he did. I recommend it.

So what about all the hubbub we see in the church of hearing a word from God, or the tongues, or miracles of healing we see on TV and in charismatic or Pentecostal revivals?

Benny Hinn crusade, Nashville?,people “slain in the Spirit”

Do you wonder about being Spirit-filled, or being “baptized with the Holy Spirit” as a separate event from the regenerating work? And what about “praying in the Spirit”? What is that all about? And what is it to speak in tongues? More on that next.
Part 2: Tongues
Part 3: Baptism of the Spirit