Strange Fire by John MacArthur is basically an attack on anything and everything related to the charismatic movement and the various movements descended from it, as if the whole of it were composed of one monolithic set of doctrines and practices that all of us espouse. It invalidates anything that smacks of the supernatural or of emotion freely expressed in God’s presence.
-R Loren Sandford
“Real Holy Spirit Fire Out”
For Thursday’s “morning meditation,” I’m going to publish my own commentary on John MacArthur’s recent Strange Fire conference in Sun Valley, California, or rather, the implications of such activities when one member of the body of Christ apparently attacks another. It’s like my liver wants to eat my pancreas because my liver doesn’t think my pancreas is an authentic member of my body.
Hey! Don’t I have anything to say about it? After all, I need all those organs inside of me so I can stay alive and healthy. Doesn’t my liver have enough to do processing all of the toxic junk that enters my body through the environment (including what I eat) without going after all the other stuff inside my body that keeps me alive?
But enough about MacArthur, Strange Fire, and all that…at least in detail. What I want to know is why being “a Christian” isn’t enough?
Recently I became aware of the buzz surrounding a new book, soon to be released, by a prominent cessationist who has been around for a long time.
Reading MacArthur, you’d think all charismatics espouse prosperity teaching. We do not. You’d think we are all Word of Faith adherents when, in fact, they constitute a small minority and promote a doctrine many of us oppose.
Oh yuk! More divisions and doctrines.
Before now, I’d never heard of the debate between Cessationism vs. Continuationism. I have heard of Prosperity Theology (and am not impressed), but I had to look up Word of Faith to figure out what all that’s supposed to mean.
I’ve written before about how different religious streams are basically Systems human beings use as an interface between themselves and the Bible as well as between themselves and God. We use this sort of interface, like the Graphical User Interface (GUI) of your computer, to help us talk to and understand what otherwise would be inaccessible to us. You use the GUI of your computer to interact with the computer’s software and hardware. You use your religious systems to interact with the Bible and with God.
But as anyone who has used a computer can tell you, the interface isn’t a perfect environment and it has inherit limitations. So does any religious system, even yours.
I’ve talked with my Pastor before about the various Christian denominations and why he’s attracted in a certain denominational direction. Obviously, I lean in my own direction, though it’s far from the fundamentalist world of my Pastor. I’ve also lamented as to whether or not I’ll make a good Christian, but what I’m really saying is that I wonder if I’ll ever make a good and true “demominationalist.”
I know, you probably think of my “denomination” as “Messianic Judaism,” but that has a few problems (I’m going to write on related topics pretty soon), not the least of which is whether or not a Gentile Christian can practice Messianic Judaism or any other Judaism. With apologizes to Toby Janicki and his classic introduction of himself on the FFOZ TV show A Promise of What is to Come, I have my doubts.
On the other hand, Toby could be right, at least in the sense of the future, Messianic Kingdom. My Pastor tells me that “the Church” was formed in Acts 2 and although it started as a completely Jewish religious entity, with the addition of Gentiles and finally, when Gentiles became the “majority stockholders,” so to speak, it became separate from the rest of Israel and developed into its own “thing.”
The Jewish religious stream of “the Way” in the first century CE was the culmination of everything that came before it in Jewish and Biblical history, the apex of a dream, where Gentiles could join a Jewish religious stream in a way that resulted in reconciliation and justification before God without the Gentiles having to convert to Judaism or take on the Torah in the manner of Jewish people. In that sense, “the Church” wasn’t a new thing but it did a new thing…allowing the Gentiles in as equal members without necessarily equal Torah responsibilities.
It’s not that way now, thanks to all kinds of terrible things that happened in the decades and centuries to follow the destruction of Herod’s Temple, but I firmly believe it will be that way again for all of us when Messiah returns. There will be one, valid, thriving, religious stream that has evolved from Abraham, from Sinai, from the life of Messiah, that was always Jewish and will again be Jewish that we, the people from the nations who are called by His Name, are allowed to join, in a manner defined by Jewish authorities with the approval of the Holy Spirit (Acts 15) and commanded by Messiah (Matthew 28:19-20).
But it won’t look much or anything like “the Church” looks like right now.
Fundamentalism, Charismatics, Word of Faith, Prosperity Theology, Calvinism, yada, yada, yada, will all be swept away from the lived experience of any approved believer and disciple of the Jewish Messiah when he establishes his throne in Jerusalem.
I can imagine there will be Christians and Jews who will resist the Kingship of Messiah in those days. I can imagine there will be a lot of people who will have great difficulty surrendering their pet theologies, doctrines, and dogmas, all of which have been invented in the last two-thousand years, and most of which have been invented only in the past several centuries (or even decades).
It will be enough to be a disciple of the Master. Put in “church-friendly” language, it will be enough to be a Christian.
Religious Jews practice Judaism by definition. In those days (and maybe as a foreshadowing, even today), Gentiles who are disciples and worshipers of the Jewish Messiah King will also “practice Messianic Judaism” in the manner defined for us by Messiah.
And it will be enough.
So try not to become too attached to all of that stuff we argue about now in the blogosphere, on websites, at conferences, in books we write and publish, stuff preached from the pulpit, discussed at the bema, taught in Sunday school, yada, yada, yada.
Learn to accept the idea that someday you may have to let go of most or all of your much-vaunted doctrines and dogmas, because being a disciple of Messiah as he desires us to be will be enough.
It will be enough.