by William Lau
In response to J. Lee Grady's Preparing for a Charismatic Meltdown
Preparing for a Charismatic Meltdown was written by no less an authority on the Charismatic Movement than J. Lee Grady, Editor of Charisma. The article is shocking in its import although not surprising. What is happening to the Charismatic Renewal Movement?
When the Charismatic Movement was born over forty years ago, it was in reaction to a form of evangelicalism which at that time among other things taught believers the virtues of self-denial, suffering for Christ, and even poverty. It promoted austerity both inwardly in the spirit and outwardly as a lifestyle. Unfortunately, there was little joy or "abundant life" evident in the lives of the believers. Some even characterized it as being spiritually dead and lifeless.
The ground was thus fertile for the advent of a teaching that taught an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit which would result in unspeakable joy, power through the Spirit for an abundant and overcoming life, and fruitfulness for the Kingdom of God. It taught that through the Holy Spirit believers would be enabled to become effective witnesses for Jesus Christ.
Acts 1:8 - But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.
What was the purpose of the coming of the Holy Spirit?
The primary purpose of the coming of the Holy Spirit was to empower believers to witness for Christ and to proclaim the Kingdom of God effectively. It was to impart power to believers to fulfill the Great Commission before the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. As clear as this purpose was according to Acts 1:8, it was in the end neglected for the most part by the Charismatic Movement. How did this come to pass?
There is a trait of human beings that is manifest time and time again. Whenever we move to an extreme position, there will inevitably be a reaction. That reaction will be in the opposite direction. Unfortunately the backlash can take us all the way to the very opposite extreme. That is what has happened to the Charismatic Movement.
As an example of this, over 500 years ago Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation reacted to Roman Catholicism which erred at the time by teaching a form of justification by works. We are now taught correctly from Ephesians 2:8-9 that we are saved by grace through faith, and not by works. However, Protestantism eventually went to the opposite extreme of teaching that once we are saved by faith in Christ, we are not required to obey the Lord with any good works at all---despite the admonition in James 2:14-20. Some have aptly labeled this the gospel of "cheap grace." We have gone from salvation by works all the way to salvation by doing nothing except a public confession with no outward evidence whatsoever of saving faith---from one extreme to the other.
What happened to the Charismatic Renewal Movement
This very same thing has occurred to a large extent within the mainstream Charismatic Movement. In reacting to the self-denial and asceticism once taught by mainstream evangelicalism, charismatic teaching has drifted steadily to the opposite extreme. The emphasis has become primarily directed toward securing God's blessings for our spiritual and material comfort here on earth. While it is true that God wants to restore His people's lives on earth and to provide for their physical needs, there has developed a definite imbalance in the teaching. Even though it is taught that like Abraham we are "blessed to be a blessing," the emphasis is almost always on how to secure God's blessing for oneself and far less on being a blessing. The original promise to Abraham from God is found in Genesis 12.
Genesis 12:2 - I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.
And so we scour God's word and listen to many good teachings on how to secure the Lord's blessings in their various forms for us and our loved ones---how to become "successful" in this life. After we are sufficiently blessed and restored, then we can be a blessing to others. What is wrong with that?
The heart is deceitful beyond all things
Firstly, "the heart is deceitful beyond all things and beyond cure" (Lamentations 17:9). When we start out our walk with the Lord by focusing exclusively on what He can do for us beyond eternal life and the forgiveness of sins, our priorities can go astray, however gradually. Our priorities should be to obey and please Him in everything that we do because we love and fear Him. But instead we are slowly led to the motivation of obeying and pleasing Him for the sake of receiving blessings from Him on earth. It is the "seed" theology of giving in order to get back here on earth. We have become unbalanced and forgotten the admonitions from Paul and Peter:
Colossians 3:1 - Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
1 Peter 1:13 - Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed.
When will enough be enough?
Secondly, when will we reach the point of being sufficiently blessed, strengthened and restored so that we can devote full or more attention to being a blessing to "all peoples on earth"? Few are the believers who have been taught to pursue God's blessings zealously and then who can change direction and their focus to devoting energy for dispensing blessings for the sake of the advance of the Kingdom of God on earth. Once one has been given a motivation and a focus, it is not easy to change.
For some believers, enough is never enough. They want "all that God has for them" on earth. Yes, they have learned to give generously, but for the primary purpose of getting more.
We are blessed in order to become a vehicle of the gospel
Thirdly, the original promise to Abraham that "all peoples on earth will be blessed through you" referred specifically to the coming of his seed---Jesus Christ---through whom redemption and the forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed to all nations (Genesis 22:17; Galatians 3:8,16). Abraham would be a blessing by being the obedient vehicle through whom the gospel of Jesus Christ would be given to the world.
Therefore we are to be a blessing by being the vehicles through whom Jesus Christ will be proclaimed to all peoples as the only Savior and the only way to the Father. We are to be a blessing as agents of the Great Commission given by Christ to the Church. But how many of us are actively involved in preaching the gospel and fulfilling the Great Commission? The answer is very few, although we are thankful that some do indeed give very generously for the work of evangelism and missions. But most charismatic believers instead invest their time and energy in learning about what God can do for them.
Unfortunately, this kind of "learning" (as designed by the teachers) can take a lifetime, leaving precious little time and energy to accomplish the works commanded by Jesus Christ to His disciples in order that He might return for His Second Coming. When are the learning and restoration complete? For the many who have learned how to just sit and receive, it is likely never finished. Ironically, this is good for the success and popularity of the teachers whom they so avidly follow.
The Old Testament is but a shadow
Fourthly, many of the earthly blessings cited by charismatic ministries which teach about the "successful Christian life" are taken from the Old Testament. Deuteronomy 28 is an especially good example of this. The Old Testament, however, is but a shadow of what is to be fulfilled in Christ Jesus. Thus the flavor and tone of the Old Testament contrasts noticeably from that of the New Testament. The Old Testament can be compared to the letter while the New Testament to the spirit. It can only be by the spirit that we can properly interpret and understand the purpose behind the letter. Does the New Testament place more emphasis on material and spiritual blessings in this life, or on the eternal blessings in the next? Does the New Testament focus on the benefits of faith in this life, or on having faith in Christ which leads to a life of holiness and good works pleasing to the Lord? The answer is clear to those who know the Scriptures.
The primary blessing is spiritual
Galatians 3:14 - He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.
The primary blessing that we are to receive as New Testament believers is spiritual: the promise of the Spirit and spiritual blessings that He brings.
Ephesians 1:13 - And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession—to the praise of his glory.
Here the apostle Paul describes the Holy Spirit as "a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance." Indeed, that is the greatest blessing---not the real estate known as the land of Israel as promised to Abraham, or any other earthly blessing for that matter---but the guarantee of our inheritance above where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.
The purpose of the coming of the Holy Spirit
The purpose of the coming of the Holy Spirit should be for disciples to know the Lord intimately so that they will love Him more, live a holy life in the fear of God, and serve Him obediently. Its purpose should be for disciples to have power to become effective witnesses of Christ Jesus so as to fulfill the Great Commission. Then they will hear His words, "Well done, good and faithful servant! …Come and share your master's happiness!" This is what disciples of Jesus Christ should live for and look forward to.
The gifts of the Holy Spirit upon which charismatic believers place much emphasis are, in accordance with 1 Corinthians 12, for building up the body of Christ. But what is the purpose of building up the body? Along with the five-fold ministry, the gifts help to "prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up" (Ephesians 4.12). Unfortunately, most charismatic teachings do not equip God's people for works of service, but instead to receive more blessings from God on earth. Again, we note the imbalance within the contemporary charismatic Church.
The Holy Spirit should stir our hearts not just to ask what God can do for us, but what we can do for God.
A suspect foundation
Finally, "your boasting is not good. Don't you know that a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough?" (1 Corinthians 5:6) Whenever there is a weakness in the foundation of a building, the entire structure is in danger of collapse as more and more weight is put on the suspect foundation over time. In the same way, the imbalance that has characterized the Charismatic Movement since its near inception is now threatening the entire structure and may bring down the entire movement. When the Movement returns to the fear of God in spirit and in truth, then it may survive. Or God may decide to demolish the entire structure and then to rebuild the foundation: we are given the Holy Spirit in order that we might be empowered to be effective witnesses of Jesus Christ to the world in our lives, in our words, and in our works of supernatural power.
What about our earthly needs?
Jesus taught us to "seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well" (Matthew 6:33).
As J. Lee Grady wrote at the end of his article:
"All of us should be trembling. God requires holiness in His house and truth in the mouths of His servants. He is loving and patient with our mistakes and weaknesses, but eventually, if there is no repentance after continual correction, His discipline is severe. He will not be mocked.
Romans 11:22 says: 'Behold then the kindness and severity of God; to those who fell, severity, but to you, God's kindness, if you continue in His kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off' (NASB)."
4 years ago