All Over Holy
Believers are commanded to be ‘holy men,’ Exod. xxii. ult. In the original it is men of holiness; and ‘ye shall be men of holiness unto me’—that is, all over holy. As Christ is called ‘a man of sorrows,’ because his whole man, body and soul, was steeped in tears, and his whole time, from the womb to the tomb, was spent in sorrows and sufferings, full of tribulations; and as Antichrist is called a ‘man of sin’ because he is, as Beza observes well, merum scelus—mere sin, nothing but sin, Isa. liii. 3; 2 Thes. ii. 3; so the children of God should be men of holiness, mere holiness, made up of holiness, nothing but holiness. Every part of them should be holy, and every deed done by them should be holy. Holiness in their hearts should, as the lungs in the body, be in continual motion; and holiness in their life must run through all their works, as the woof through the whole web.
—George Swinnock, The Christian Man’s Calling, Works of George Swinnock (Banner of Truth, 1992), 1:84–85.
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A few years ago, I was down on Main Street with my family watching a parade. I forget the occasion, but I remember one entry in particular. It was an old pickup that’s wheels had been modified so that the hubs were eccentric, causing it to wobble up and down, front to back, side to side, and corner to corner. It was entertaining as a novelty, but no one would want to travel in a car like that, for obvious reasons. As a means of transportation, it was worthless. So it is with the religion of many.
The glorious priority of the Holy Spirit is to point people to the Lord Jesus Christ. As Jesus told His disciples, “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you. . . He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you” (John 14: 26; 16: 14). The Spirit’s work is always centered on the Savior. Any ministry or movement He empowers will share that same priority and clarity. In contrast to this, an emphasis on the person and work of Christ is not the defining feature of the Charismatic Movement—where an intense fixation on a caricature of the blessing and gifting of the Holy Spirit has instead taken center stage. As charismatic authors Jack Hayford and David Moore affirm, “In the Pentecostal potpourri only one thing is the same for all: the passion they have to experience the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. This is the common denominator. This emphasis on the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, is what defines the ‘charismatic century.’” Ironically, they celebrate a misplaced priority. While claiming to honor the Holy Spirit, charismatics generally ignore the very purpose of the Spirit’s ministry—which is to draw all attention to the Lord Jesus. As Steve Lawson rightly observes, “The Holy Spirit’s desire is that we be focused on Jesus Christ, not Himself. That is the Spirit’s chief ministry. He is pointing us to Jesus. Bringing Christ more clearly into focus. When the Holy Spirit becomes an end in Himself, then we have misunderstood His ministry.” Within charismatic circles, a proper focus on Christ is obscured by a preoccupation with alleged spiritual gifts and supernatural empowerment. 6 Listen to the typical charismatic and you might think the Holy Spirit’s work is to manifest Himself and call attention to His own works. In the words of Kenneth D. Johns, a former Pentecostal, many charismatic churches “are Spirit-centered rather than Christ-centered.” —John MacArthur, Strange Fire: The Danger of Offending the Holy Spirit with Counterfeit Worship (Thomas Nelson, 2014), 41–42.
A Charismatic Bicycle
I serve a risen Savior (“He ascended into heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of God the Father almighty”. From thence he sent the Holy Spirit, who is in the world today.) I know that He is living, Whatever men may say. I see His hand of mercy; I read His words of cheer; And just the time I need Him He, my great High Priest, intercedes for me with the Father. “Therefore let us draw near . . .” He lives, He lives, Christ Jesus lives today! He teaches, reproves, corrects, and trains me in righteousness as I “let [his Word] richly dwell within [me] ” along life’s narrow way. He lives, He lives, salvation to impart! You ask me how I know He lives? He promised that he would rise from the dead, the angel announced that he had, he appeared to the Apostles and others, and the Holy Spirit recorded it all in Scripture, which “I have treasured in my heart.”
And that’s all I have to say about that.
I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.”
Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. —Philippians 2:1–2 Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. —Ephesians 4:30–32
Hymn 130. (L. M.) Love and hatred. Phil. ii. 2; Eph. iv. 30, &c. Isaac Watts (1674–1748) Now by the bowels of my God, His sharp distress, his sore complaints, By his last groans, his dying blood, I charge my soul to love the saints. Clamour, and wrath, and war, begone, Envy and spite, for ever cease; Let bitter words no more be known Amongst the saints, the sons of peace. The Spirit, like a peaceful dove, Flies from the realms of noise and strife: Why should we vex and grieve his love Who seals our souls to heav’nly life? Tender and kind be all our thoughts, Through all our lives let mercy run; So God forgives our num’rous faults, For the dear sake of Christ his Son. —The Psalms & Hymns of Isaac Watts. Hymns and Spiritual Songs. Book I: Collected from the Holy Scriptures (Soli Deo Gloria, 1997).
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Immortal, Invisible Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. 1 Timothy 1:17 Immortal, invisible, God only wise, In light inaccessible hid from our eyes, Most blessèd, most glorious, the Ancient of Days, Almighty, victorious—Thy great Name we praise. Unresting, unhasting, and silent as light, Nor wanting, nor wasting, Thou rulest in might; Thy justice, like mountains, high soaring above Thy clouds, which are fountains of goodness and love. To all, life Thou givest—to both great and small; In all life Thou livest—the true life of all; We blossom and flourish as leaves on the tree, And wither and perish—but naught changeth Thee. Great Father of glory, pure Father of light, Thine angels adore Thee, all veiling their sight; All praise we would render—O help us to see ’Tis only the splendor of light hideth Thee! —The Hymnal for Worship & Celebration (Word Music).
The Gibbers are, of course, the inhabitants of Gibb, speakers of—well, you figure it out.
Pentecostal father Charles Parham was a nut by anyone’s standard. Contrary to cessationist—i.e., biblical—orthodoxy, he expected the gift of tongues. Contrary to today’s Pentecostal/charismatic dogma, he believed that biblical tongues were actual languages, intended to be understood.
He boasted to the Topeka State Journal, “The Lord will give us the power of speech to talk to the people of the various nations without having to study them in schools.” Several weeks later, he told the Kansas City Times, “A part of our labor will be to teach the church the uselessness of spending years of time preparing missionaries for work in foreign lands when all they have to do is ask God for power.” —John MacArthur, Strange Fire: The Danger of Offending the Holy Spirit with Counterfeit Worship (Thomas Nelson, 2014), 22.
As the best laid plans of mice and mystics often go awry, so Parham’s plans were to be disappointed.
S. C. Todd of the Bible Missionary Society investigated eighteen Pentecostals who went to Japan, China, and India “expecting to preach to the natives in those countries in their own tongue,” and found that by their own admission “in no single instance have [they] been able to do so.” As these and other missionaries returned in disappointment and failure, Pentecostals were compelled to rethink their original view of speaking in tongues. — Ibid., 23.
An answer to the perennial question of why young evangelicals are leaving the church is attempted here: Why Younger Evangelicals Are Leaving the Church: Some Arguments against the Conventional Wisdom. The reasons offered are good, but they answer the wrong question. The question they answer is, why do young people leave this or that church. The reasons for that may be complex and require many paragraphs to explain, but the answer to the more important question, why are young people leaving the church, is quite simple.
They leave the church because they are not of the church.
It is very tempting to assume that because we are Christians, and we have given our children the gospel, and they have been with us in church and Sunday school, that they are Christians, too. This is a particular problem in sacramental churches, in which parents are taught to trust in their child’s baptism, and that child’s faith is “confirmed” by a rote recitation of the catechism. It’s a particular problem in Arminian churches that hold to “once saved, always saved” (not remotely the same as the biblical doctrine of Perseverance of the Saints), in which parents watch their children depart from the faith, but take solace in knowing that little Jimmy asked Jesus into his heart that night at camp. Those people might be forgiven for asking why their children are leaving the church, but not those who understand the truth of John 3:5–8:
Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I said to you, “You must be born again.” . . . The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.
Our children are not save by being sprinkled or asking Jesus into their hearts, nor do they prove they are saved by correctly reciting the catechism or gathering by the river. They are saved by the miracle of regeneration, and are proved by persevering in the faith.
The church has got to stop assuming the salvation of its youth.
When we see our children walk away from the church, the least of our worries is that they are not going to church. What ought to concern us is the fact that they don’t belong in church—they are not Christians. And the solution to that is not manufacturing strategies to make the church attractive to them. The solution is the same as it is for reaching any other unbelievers. The solution is the gospel. If we failed to give it to them before, we must give it to them now. If we gave it to them before, we must give it to them still. This is the Christian mission, and our unbelieving children are the mission field.