A Time To Mourn [jay]

An interesting conference took place in California little more than a month ago.  The “Strange Fire Conference” was hosted by Grace Community Church — senior pastor John MacArthur — for the purpose of bringing a bunch of evangelical leaders together to deal with the heresy and blasphemy of the Holy Spirit that is the Charismatic movement.

Here’s the intro video for the conference:

The whole Charismatic movement was attacked in this conference…all half-a-billion people therein, as though it were a denomination or some sort of institution with inherent leadership and structure that could exact change if only they would repent and steer the organization in another direction.  Identifying “heresy” and “blasphemers of the Holy Spirit” was the main thrust of the movement, which was dealt with in such a way that all people who would espouse charismatic theology were declared to not be in the family of God.  By far the most troubling thing to me in understanding the thrust of the conference was this excerpt:

The places where applause erupts is haunting.

It seems to me — and maybe I’m overstating things here — that MacArthur is adding to the Gospel in saying that in order to be saved, all Christians must concretely believe the same thing about the Holy Spirit and the usage and application of sign gifts in the Church today.  Which essentially means believing the same things he believes about the Holy Spirit and sign gifts.  I’m not sure that should be a part of our soteriology.

Don’t get me wrong, there are false teachers and crooks who call themselves charismatics.  There are also false teachers and crooks who call themselves evangelical, Catholic, mainline, Protestant, etc.  There is some seriously hurtful craziness in the Charismatic movement and some seriously hurtful hermeneutics in the Fundamentalist movement.  Drawing hard, fast exclusionary lines based on a singular systematic interpretation of Scripture seems to me dangerous and divisive.  I’m not sure we have the authority to examine, analyze and name other people — let alone other brothers and sisters in Christ — as being in or out of God’s saving grace.

I don’t see a lot of difference between the manipulative excesses of Benny Hinn and the militant, exclusionary rhetoric of John MacArthur.  I have major issues with both, but honestly, what is there to do?  I’ve freaked out about it before…hasn’t done much for me.

I don’t want to use this post to just go on a tirade against Fundamentalism or to defend the Charismatic movement.  Interestingly, I was raised in one (Fundamentalism) and would now — by the standards of the Strange Fire Conference — be a part of the other, so there’s a ton of emotion in me that would love to go off forever against this thing and offer you ways to think about it.

Problem is, having drunk deeply of both “sides”, what I most feel is deep sadness punctuated with moments of rage.

Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there with a withered hand. And they watched Jesus, to see whether he would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse him. And he said to the man with the withered hand, “Come here.” And he said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. The Pharisees went out and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.  — Mark 3.1-6

Anger and grief go hand in hand.  It makes me angry being told that I don’t know God or that I’m a false teacher as someone who teaches others that prophecy is important or that the Holy Spirit manifests Himself through sign gifts.  Theological arrogance makes me angry too; which is either a sign of God’s transformation in my life or a point of humor for those of you reading this who know me well.

We should be concerned with being right.  It’s a valid thing; righteousness matters.  But righteousness without humility is dangerous, because that is self-righteousness.  Having a conviction that something is right is one thing; being convinced you’re the only one who is right is another thing; and believing that because you are right, you and those like you are the only one(s) who know God or how to please Him is a wholly other thing altogether.

That is what caused the anger and grief of Jesus in this text.  The Pharisees were people deeply loved by God, for whom Jesus willingly lived and died.  Jesus had a strong desire for their lives, the same desire He has for all humans everywhere: that they would know Him, love Him and worship Him forever, living in the family of God with their brothers and sisters.  Their hard hearts, though — hardened through their own self-righteousness — kept them from receiving Jesus as He fully was, and they sent Him to the cross one-hundred-percent confident they were right.

When love is unrequited or despised, what else is there to do but mourn?
When someone you love is knowingly or unknowingly hurting themselves, anger and mourning are very present, right?
When a son or daughter distrusts and flees from parental love, the parental response is anger and grief.
When a brother or sister pulls away in fear, isolation or defensiveness, grief is the response.

I don’t know how to resolve these experiences.  Frankly, I don’t know that God means for them to be resolved.  Billions of people down through history have rejected God’s love, to the point of leaving this world without ever knowing Him or receiving His love.  Living in love means living with risk, vulnerability and pain.  God deeply experiences all of these things, and I’m slowly learning that it’s situations like my reaction to this Strange Fire Conference that are invitations from God to receive His heart and grieve with Him at the refusal of His love, the sorrow of His heart and the anger He has toward sin and division within His Body.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”  — Matthew 5.4

7 thoughts on “A Time To Mourn [jay]

  1. This is so, so sad. As I watched these videos I kept asking myself…”What are these men so afraid of?” This makes my heart heavy as I think about my own experience and attending fundamentalist seminary and how strong the need was not only to be right but to prove why everyone else is wrong. Its a suffocating, exhausting way of life.

    On a lighter note…I am glad that I didn’t burst into laughter during communion at John Maxwell’s church. I am pretty sure I would have been confronted by the Elders for complete irreverence 🙂

  2. The Strange Fire Conference as a Whole was what does the Sound Doctrine of the Bible say about the Holy Spirit. Jay of all people was schooled in Sound Doctrine and knows that the Holy Spirit Exalts the LORD God the Father and the Son Jesus Christ. He Convicts the World of Sin & Righteousness and Regenerates those Chosen by God making Repentant Sinners ALIVE IN CHRIST. Acts is clear that the Holy Spirit is POWER to Witness for the LORD after Jesus Gave the Great Commission. The Holy Spirit enables Christians to Be holy, godly, blameless and to share the faith and to live the fruit of the Holy Spirit, Using His Spiritual Gifts to build up the church. The Emphasis was on Extra-Biblical Revelation which is taken as Equal to or Usurping Scripture. While Jay is upset at MacArthur for painting with a Broad Brush on the Charismatic Movement as a Whole, Jay used a Narrow Brush over the Excesses and UnBiblical practices that can not be backed up Biblically. I am Thankful for Pastor Jay and his faithfulness, been under his teaching, support the church wholeheartedly – but we cannot say that these men of the LORD are not right for defending Heresy when things are being attributed to the LORD or the Holy Spirit or to the Word of God Being ABSOLUTE. For Example: Rick Warren saying that the Muslim god is the Same as the Christian LORD. Joel Olsteen, when asked by Larry King, “I am a Jew, I do not believe in Jesus, will I go to Hell if I do Not believe in Jesus?” Joel said, that is up to God to Judge, instead of saying Authoritatively the Absolute Word of God says, that Unrepentant, sinners who do not have Jesus as Savior will not be in Heaven. Liberal Pastors say God Now Accepts the SIN of homosexuality, fornication. They ALL Claim the Holy Spirit is showing them the Truth, but the Holy Spirit NEVER leads contrary to the Holy Spirit Written Word of God. People read books on 90 minutes in heaven or hell over “Slave” or “Saved Without a Doubt” or “Reckless Faith” or “Ashamed of the Gospel” by John MacArthur, or ” “Essential Truths for the Christian Faith” (100 Bible Doctrines in 2 page bites) or “The Righteous Shall Live By Faith” by R.C. Sproul some of the most sound teaching. The thrust of the conference was OBJECTIVE TRUTH OVER SUBJECTIVE EXPERIENCE. Martin Luther said, I would Rather be “DIVIDED BY TRUTH than UNITED BY ERROR” and also, “Preach in such a way that if people do not come to HATE their sin, that they instead would hate you.” The Christian Life is ALL about the UNCREATED HOLY LORD – Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit guiding us through conviction, discernment by the Written Word of God. That is why we are to be Diligent, Read, Study, Memorize, Obey and Proclaim the Word of God. Don’t ever buy into the lie that LOVE is MORE IMPORTANT than SOUND DOCTRINE. Many Churches no longer teach on SIN, REPENTANCE, GODS WRATH on ALL UNREPENTANT SINNERS, HELL, THE LAKE OF FIRE, THE BIBLE IS THE INSPIRED WRITTEN WORD OF GOD WITHOUT ERROR, JESUS IS DIVINE AND THE ONLY WAY (not one of many or the same god as other religions). Read Strange Fire and Charismatic Chaos and tell me where they are wrong. Especially when it comes to Extra – Biblical Revelation claimed to be the Holy Spirit. My biggest sermon is on Hebrews 11 (audience participation, clap, shout Glory, and get all excited when I stop after each verse) of course from verse 1 to 35 A we get loud cheers. Then not as loud when we get to martyrs. Why Not, they are in the Presence of Jesus in Glory, the Praise should be louder. A Solid Charismatic Church Emphasis that the Message is NOT about health, wealth, prosperity, and Love but about Suffering, Persecution and Death in this life and real faith endures that God is Good – All the Time. Read “When Life Is Hard” by James MacDonald and “Surprised by Suffering” “getting the Blues” (what Blues Music teaches Us About Suffering and Salvation by Stephen J. Nichols. LOOK before anyone responds, I will NOT REBUT – I just wanted to say that these men have contributed solid Biblical Wisdom in Context of Interpretation, with Commentaries, Books Etc. and they their heros were Martin Luther, John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards who also wrote Sound Doctrine on the Holy Spirit. YES maybe, it was too BROAD of a BRUSH for ALL in the Charismatic Church, but I am sure that there intention was “IF YOUR CHURCH IS TEACHING THIS, you need to Examine your beliefs, for the Holy Spirit does not respond this way, it is unScriptural). I would Love to hear Jay teach a Series on the Doctrine of the Holy Spirit from the outline he learned at Liberty- that is SOUND DOCTRINE. Grace & Peace, to my Brothers & Sisters In Christ, Todd A. Zulick

  3. I was talking to your mom this morning [insert rim-shot here], telling her how I want to turn everything around about this and use the same standard of judgment and poor-spiritual-hermeneutics on the “fundies.” But I don’t think that would help change anything or love anyone. It’s a precarious spot.

  4. I’ve looked at the two sides and thought: Hmmm, I get a choice between stupid and crazy vs. nasty and mean-spirited. How about I choose neither? Anyway, I came across your blog while researching my own article, and I have a different twist than any of the players. One thought: if John Macarthur really believed that millions were lost because they believed false doctrine, why wouldn’t he be fasting and praying for them, reaching out in love toward them and their leadership, rather than shutting himself off and sending his underlings to shill for him? According to his camp, they are only good and true and everything in the other camp is evil and false. I will answer my own question by telling you that the reason for this is it is all a marketshare war, and Macarthur’s goal is to get everyone into his tent. He just can’t kill people like his idol Calvin did.

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