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.
9 thoughts on “When Will Being A Christian Be Enough?”
James… you do open the door for ‘friendly’ discourse which I view as a good thing! I just hope people will come on board, leaving their tempers behind, to discuss the issues at hand. I personally have had some very negative and unkind experiences with a handful of Charismatic individuals but I fully understand THEY do not necessarily represent the Whole. The Spirit of G-d moves in many ways.
Thanks, Pat. That said, the First Fruits of Zion Shauvot conference last May was titled Gifts of the Spirit and the tagline for the conference was “Let’s get Pentecostal”.
Charismatics tend to make me uncomfortable for the simple reason that I’m not all that emotionally demonstrative. I don’t like jumping up and down like a hyperactive jackrabbit, especially in a public setting crowded in by lots of other people.
I was surprised to find out just how many people in the Messianic movement, including those directly associated with FFOZ and Beth Immanuel, came from a Pentecostal background. At the conference, speakers bend over backward to be respectful of Pentecostals (probably a good thing, since there were a number of them in general attendance).
The reason for the conference’s emphasis was that Messianic Judaism/Hebrew Roots tends to have a reputation for being very cerebral and study oriented. Nothing wrong with that, but if you go too far in that direction, you start ignoring the Holy Spirit, which is a “central figure” in many parts of the Bible (not the least of which is the act of Creation “in the beginning” and in Acts 2 and Acts 10).
I’d have to go over my notes, but the emphasis on the Spirit was to balance out the other aspects of Messianic Judaism (or Christianity, for that matter). Without a balance between the tangible aspects and the supernatural aspects of who we are in Messiah, we end up with a highly slanted faith (and sometimes no faith at all).
You’re right. God’s Spirit does move in many ways, but we need to let God define Himself for us, not for us to put Him (and His Spirit) in one of our pre-defined boxes.
Having “grown up” so to speak in the Charismatic movement, I do have to say that John McArthur has nothing to say about Charismatics that I believe is worth hearing. Does this mean I think he isn’t worthy? No. A good speaker? No,he’s actually very good. Not a Christian? Again, I fully expect to see him in heaven.
But ignorant on this subject? Yes. And quite possibly stubbornly ignorant. That’s ok, I’m not perfect either. I just happen to know from personal experience that he’s ignorant and therefore on this subject has nothing to say that I need to hear.
As to denominations, I have often wondered if the fact of denominations was as inevitable as the leaves on the trees being different. We serve a God who has made it so that no two fingerprints are the same, no two leaves are the same, no two snowflakes are the same….Do we see a pattern here?
How on earth do we think it’s ok for any two congregations to be the same? Well theoretically I guess we don’t, but Theologically, we do. That’s just stupid in my opinion.
So why can’t we tolerate differences? I think two things, fear, and pride. Fear that God isn’t big enough to raise His children His way (not ours), and pride that we know better than those <>. We know the bible better, we know the Greek and Hebrew better, we know the traditions better…
I fully expect to be both surprised and embarrassed when I get to heaven. Surprised at some of the folks who are there and surprised at the way things really are, and embarrassed that I thought I knew what I was talking about while I was down here. But one thing that doesn’t surprise me is that we have different expressions of congregation here on earth. When I was younger, I used to jump up and down and yell, and sing loudly, raise my hands, etc. I did a lot of things different than I do them now. But one thing I have known for a long time, is that my Father loves those who don’t do those things as much as He loves those who do. He made both, and He gave both of them appropriate places to worship. Which means that the places that they worship will be as different from each other as the people who are part of them.
Paul’s appeal for unity in the body of Messiah. Where they were dividing over leaders, the modern “Church” divides over denominations, theologies, doctrines, and dogma. What would Paul say to John MacArthur should Paul have attended his conference?
Notice that Paul is thankful that he baptized only a few, lest some of them turn him into a leader or a movement, forsaking Messiah in the process.
I agree that these divisions were inevitable Dree, but not desirable. They are inevitable because this is what human beings do. We take what God has given us and twist it to our will, then tell ourselves we are actually obeying God’s will. To be fair, I don’t doubt that most of us believe our own fiction. That is why it will come as a terrible shock to most believers that Messiah will so little resemble the portrait we’ve painted of him in our minds. Our only hope is that our faith is untainted and that we truly desire to serve our Lord, may God forgive our vanity and foolishness.
James: Just one thing about the “Church” being “born” in Acts 2. The greek word for church is
From a compound of G1537 and a derivative of G2564; a calling out, that is, (concretely) a popular meeting, especially a religious congregation (Jewish synagogue, or Christian community of members on earth or saints in heaven or both): – assembly, church.
And it just happen to be the exact same word use in the Septuagint when referring to the “congregation of Israel”…
So, when in Acts or in any of the Apostolic Scriptures the term “church” is mentioned, I believe that it is talking mostly about the same “congregation of Israel” mentioned in the Tanakh.
I always tell this argument to anyone who still believes that the “Church” is some entity different to what the Tanakh refers to.
I too would also disagree with your Pastor on this issue.
Oooops! I think overstated my disagreement in my last sentence ! LOL
Thanks for the language lesson, Alfredo. I think you overstated your disagreement with my Pastor, too. 😉
My basic understanding of the word “ekkesia” is that it can be any group of people who come together for a common purpose, could be a poetry slam, could be a lynch mob. Over time, it has taken on “religious” overtones and become “the Church.”
I think you misunderstood me. You used the word division, I used the word difference. My point was that we should accept the fact that there will be differences, there must be differences. It’s when we start arguing about them, that they become divisions. When we decide that our “difference” is the only correct one, then we get into big trouble.
So divisions, no, differences, yes. That is what I meant about fear and pride. I might also add the desire for control.
I guess what I’m asking for is the humility to admit that we don’t know it all, even when we assume that we do. That is what causes divisions. the “I’m right, your wrong”. mentality.
It pays for us to remember that we are the servants, and our Master doesn’t tell us what He desires of His other servants, He only tells us what He wants us to do.
Oops. Sorry. You’re right, Dree.
That seems to be at the root of all of our religious arguments. I hope we all have the grace to discuss our differences and not let them be divisions.