Sunday, October 20, 2013

A Generation that Seeks for a Sign

The time is right.  John MacArthur holds a conference called "Strange Fire."  I work at a LifeWay in a neighborhood that must have charismatic signs and wonders.  I just read an article about the regulative principle of worship.  I must go from here and recount how I came to believe what I believe about tongues and signs and wonders for today.

I was raised in a conservative PCUSA church, aka, a church with good politics but no theology.  I had solid parents who raised me on the Bible and on orthodox Christianity.  They did their job of keeping the promise they made when they baptized me before I was two months old.

I will always consider that my home even though I've moved on.  I greatly honor my parents, especially my mother, but they erred just like all humans.  I spent high school watching the 700 Club and believing in their Words on Knowledge.  I would sit and yearn for some breakthrough from that.

Fastforward to past college.  I was in seminary and had a professor named James McGoldrick at Erskine who just seemed to not believe that miracles existed at all today.  I hated the guy.  I was like, "how can he not see God's hand in everyday things?"  I would rely on my mother who started to like Joel Osteen (he wasn't a full-blown heretic yet), Smith Wigglesworth, and just about anyone on TBN.  Not Paul and Jan Crouch, but people like James Robison.  I also was weaned on Beth Moore's bible studies.

Then my mother got cancer.  She went to doctors, but she also prayed and prayed for healing like she saw on 700 Club.  Some friends took her to a ministry in Augusta called the Healing Center.  They believe that with enough wrestling with God, our prayers can cure cancer and even grow back diabetic toes.  If mom happened to die, then people just didn't have enough faith.

Well, mom passed away in January of 2009.  It was not because of lack of faith.  God is sovereign and has his own plan and he doesn't have to follow mine.  And I know that I had faith in God even though it was shaky at that point.  All the same, because of the charismatic ministries and their magic shows, this led me to doubt my standing with God and even God's faithfulness.

The good news is that I took it straight to God and through the years he got me to where I don't have answers, but I'm alright.  He has greatly blessed me, and I look forward to what he does further on.  But the thing is, God is not a genii.  You can't rub his lamp hard enough for him to grant you your wish.  He does all things for his glory, and if he says "yes" to a prayer, then it is for his glory and for our benefit.  If he answers "no" or "not yet" then it is the same reason.

So at this point, no, I do not believe in signs, wonders, or tongues for today because I believe God is sovereign and that his revelation is complete in the pages of Scripture.  We must seek no more or no less.  I actually am thankful for folks like James McGoldrick who are bold enough to say that these things are not for the time since the death of the apostles.

So, what if someone comes to me and claims they had surgery and saw heaven for 4 minutes?  What if someone I really trust claims that he's spoken in tongues and seen dead people raised to life?  Are they liars?  Are they condemned?  Some are.  I think most people are just hypnotized.  Unlike MacArthur, I'm amillennial, believe in paedobaptism, and I believe in some remote part of the world maybe someone will say something in a tongue and someone will come up claiming he said the Lord's Prayer in Nepalese.  However, this is to point to the veracity of Christ.  If miracles were common and expected, then they would not be miracles.  If something otherworldly happens, it is the exception and not the rule.

Okay, suppose MacArthur and I are wrong and someone does speak tongues somewhere.  1 Corinthians 14 is adamant that tongues are useless unless someone understands what you are saying.  It must be intelligible and not vain repetition.  All worship should be done in decency and order (1 Cor. 14:40).  This does not mean that we can never have guitars or drums in the sanctuary during Sunday worship, but it does mean we need to have a reason for what we do, and it has to be precedented in the Bible.

And as for the charismatic ministries that take captive whole ethnicities and continents, people go to those ministries to see signs and wonders.  They seek healing, improved relationships, and other cool things, but they do not seek Christ.  They want some dose of God's presence as their weekly high, but they do not seek to have Christ permanently alter their daily routines.  They don't learn that the Holy Spirit is not a magic charm but moves as he pleases to the glory of God.

And over and over, I see people come from these churches with shallow faiths, they do not know that Jesus was actually a man and he was God, and their judgment of true believers is if they are nice or not.  And people among them that God does call have shattered faiths because God did not answer "yes" in a timely manner or they feel like he is punishing them if their mother should happen to die of cancer.

So, if you are John MacArthur and are a complete cessationist, or if you are John Piper and believe these signs still happen here or there, the point is that the cool signs should not be the focus of worship.  The fireworks and sensations should not be part of church, at least not on Sunday morning.  People need to bow before a holy God, realize that they can't make him send rain to the earth unless he wants to do so.  God could have let us all perish in hell, but he gave Christ to take the place of his elect.  We should come to church joyful, but trembling.  We most certainly should not have chaos and madness during that time because our Holy Spirit is one of order.

And yes, charismatic beliefs are dangerous to people, even if they come from well-meaning people who might even be true Christians.  You must seek the Lord from Scripture alone and not demand that he perform some sign.  Just sit and enjoy the way he works in ordinary life and how he gradually changes the world one person at a time.

"“An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40 For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth." Matthew 12:39-40

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