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(25 posts)

Word of God? Ha, Ha!

Friday··2007·09·21 · 7 Comments
Doug Pagitt says, It’s just so weird to hear him say stuff like that . . . Seriously, “If you want to relieve stress, go to the Word of God”? Ha, ha! Oh, my goodness! Okay, will everyone please stop telling me emergents are Christians? Can we just dispense with that fiction? Good, that’s settled. Addendum: Pagitt answers—or doesn’t—the question, “Does a good Buddhist go to heaven?” on Way of the Master Radio.
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“God told me”

Sinclair Ferguson laments the desire of many for direct revelation from God: Why, then, should Christians today—by contrast with their fathers—be so thirsty to experience immediate personal revelation from God (“God told me . . .”) when His desire for us is the ongoing work of the Spirit opening up our understanding through mediated revelation of the New Testament? There seem to be three reasons: 1. It may appear to be more exciting, more obviously supernatural, to have direct revelation rather than Bible revelation. It seems to many people to be more “spiritual,” more “divine,” more “personal.” 2. To many people, it feels much more convincing to be able to say, “God told me . . .” than to say, “The Bible tells me. . . .” 3. Direct revelation makes it unnecessary to engage in painstaking Bible study and careful consideration of Christian doctrine in order to know the will of God. By comparison with immediate revelation, Bible study seems—to be frank—boring. Although rarely said, underlying all of this is a sinister thought: the Bible is not very clear. By contrast, it is assumed that direct revelation cannot possibly be misunderstood. —Sinclair Ferguson, In Christ Alone: Living the Gospel Centered Life (Reformation Trust, 2007), 107. While I agree that all three of Ferguson’s reasons are correct, I think the third is the most common, and perhaps the one that leads to rationalizing (I know, an odd word in this context) the first two. I believe most Christians are just too lazy to do the hard work of Bible study. The less apathetic among them fall back on the entirely sentimental reasons one and two. All this is very sad, because those people are going to learn absolutely nothing from God, because God is not going to speak to them. Yes, my subjectively-guided friend, you read that right. If you claim that God has spoken to you, I don’t believe you. I don’t think you are lying (unless you say it on TBN; then I’m quite convinced you’re making it up); I just think you are deluded, mistaking the voices in your head for the Holy Spirit. Conversely, if you are willing to buckle down and “be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15), you will “[increase] in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man” (Luke 2:46–52), and be “[sanctified] in the truth” (John 17:17–19).
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Five Truths about God

J I. Packer lists “five basic truths, five foundational principles” that will form the foundation of his study of God. 1. God has spoken to man, and the Bible is his Word, given to us to make us wise unto salvation. 2. God is Lord and King over this world; he rules all things for his own glory, displaying his perfections in all that he does, in order that men and angels may worship and adore him. 3. God is Savior, active in sovereign love through the Lord Jesus Christ to rescue believers from the guilt and power of sin, to adopt them as his children and to bless them accordingly. 4. God is triune; there are within the Godhead three persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit; and the work of salvation is one in which all three act together, the Father purposing redemption, the Son securing it and the Spirit applying it. 5. Godliness means responding to God’s revelation in trust and obedience, faith and worship, prayer and praise, submission and service. Life must be seen and lived in the light of God’s Word. This, and nothing else, is true religion. —J. I. Packer, Knowing God (InterVarstity Press, 1993), 20.
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Things I Wish I Had Said: Sufficiency of Scripture

Monday··2008·10·27 · 4 Comments
I have, on several occasions, had some variation of the following conversation: Charismatic: It’s sad that you don’t believe God speaks today. God is still the same as he was in the Bible. He spoke to his people then; there is no reason to believe he doesn’t now. It’s a shame that you think so little of God. He is awesome, and still does awesome things. Me: God doesn’t speak to us now because his Word is complete. . . . . . . and I would go on about the cessation of prophesy, the closing of the canon, etc. It has been quite a while since I’ve had such an encounter, and I’ve replayed the situation in my mind several times. As is typical, I have excellent hindsight, prompting one of my many Things I Wish I Had Said moments. I wish I had said something like this: You’ve misunderstood me. I do believe that God speaks today. He speaks to me, personally, all the time. He tells me all about himself, his nature, his character, his will, and his acts—past, present, and yet to come. He tells me all about myself, my sin, and my need for a Savior. He calls me to repent and believe. He invites me to come to him, weary and heavy-laden, and promises me rest. He entreats me to cast my cares upon him, for he cares for me. He commands me to love him with all my heart, soul mind, and strength, and to love you, too. He tells me what is good, and what he requires of me: do justly; love mercy; walk humbly. He promises that I will face no inescapable temptation, and that he will preserve me in the faith to the end, when he will receive me into his presence. He speaks to me of those things each time I open his Word. He tells me everything I need to know, and much more than I can possibly take in. You see, when I say God is not giving direct revelation today, I am not betraying a low view of God; I am demonstrating a high view of his Word, and therefore of God himself, since I cannot separate the two. You think you show great faith by looking for extraordinary words from God. But I say, this Word that I hold in my hand, this Bible, is itself a miracle. Men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God. Is that not extraordinary? I have a sure, undeniable Word from the Lord constantly available at my fingertips that never fails to accomplish God’s purpose, that is living and active, sharper than a two-edged sword. You say I think too little of what God will do. I say you think too little of what he has done. You are looking for something fresh, new, and exciting; I’m not yet over the exciting things God has already done. I am satisfied with his finished work and his future promises; you are looking for more, now. Your faith is dependent upon perceived signs and wonders; My faith and hope is in the Word God has spoken. I am filled; you are hungry. You are hunting for unicorns, while I eat from a freezer filled with prime beef. I suppose that’s not a very scholarly apologetic; but that’s what was on my mind this morning, and those are my immediate thoughts on the matter.

Getting Wisdom

Theologians divide the attributes of God into two categories, communicable and incommunicable. That God created man in his image means that man was given qualities corresponding to the attributes of God. However, not all of God’s attributes were included in this image. Incommunicable attributes are those for which there is no corresponding quality in his image in created man. These attributes were not communicated to Adam. They include aseity (self-existence) and infinitude (unlimited by time or space). Communicable attributes are those that God communicated to man in creation. They are his moral qualities. God’s communicable attributes are the image of God in us. That image, and therefore those attributes, were lost or damaged in the fall. A part of God’s redemptive plan is the renewal of those communicable attributes (2 Corinthians 3:18; Colossians 3:10). Among those communicable attributes is wisdom. It should be clearly seen that fallen man is lacking wisdom. It is equally clear that God wants to give us wisdom. Scripture, particularly the book of Proverbs, exhorts us repeatedly to “get wisdom.” The New Testament also instructs us to seek wisdom (Ephesians 5:15–17; James 1:5). But how can we get wisdom? J. I. Packer offers two prerequisites for receiving this gift. 1. We must learn to reverence God. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” . . . Not until we have become humble and teachable, standing in awe of God’s holiness and sovereignty . . . acknowledging our own littleness, distrusting our own thoughts and willing to have our minds turned upside down, can divine wisdom become ours. 2. We must learn to receive God’s Word. wisdom is divinely wrought in those, and those only, who apply themselves to God’s revelation. “Your commands make me wiser than my enemies,” declares the Psalmist; “I have more insight than all my teachers”—why?—“for I meditate on your statutes” (Ps 119:98–99). So Paul admonishes the Colossians, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly . . . with all wisdom” (Col 3:16). How are we of the twentieth century to do this? By soaking ourselves in the Scriptures, which, as Paul told Timothy (and he had in mind the Old Testament alone!), “are able to make you wise for salvation” through faith in Christ, and to make us “thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim 3:15–17). Again, it is to be feared that many today who profess to be Christ’s never learn wisdom, through failure to attend to God’s written Word. . . . How long is it since you read right through the Bible? Do you spend as much time with the Bible each day as you do even with the newspaper? What fools some of us are!—and we remain fools all our lives, simply because we will not take the trouble to do what has to be done to receive the wisdom which is God’s free gift. —J. I. Packer, Knowing God (InterVarsity Press, 1993), 101–102.
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Hymns of My Youth II: Day by Day

And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong. —2 Corinthians 12:9–10 Day by Day Day by day, and with each passing moment, Strength I find, to meet my trials here; Trusting in my Father’s wise bestowment, I’ve no cause for worry or for fear. He Whose heart is kind beyond all measure Gives unto each day what He deems best— Lovingly, its part of pain and pleasure, Mingling toil with peace and rest. Ev’ry day, the Lord Himself is near me With a special mercy for each hour; All my cares He fain would bear, and cheer me, He Whose Name is Counselor and Pow’r; The protection of His child and treasure Is a charge that on Himself He laid; “As thy days, thy strength shall be in measure,” This the pledge to me He made. Help me then in ev’ry tribulation So to trust Thy promises, O Lord, That I lose not faith’s sweet consolation Offered me within Thy holy word. Help me, Lord, when toil and trouble meeting, E’er to take, as from a father’s hand, One by one, the days, the moments fleeting, Till I reach the promised land. —Great Hymns of the Faith (Zondervan, 1968). Original: Blott En Dag (Swedish)

“Expect a Miracle”

Thursday··2013·03·28 · 3 Comments
Let us not argue about what God can do. Let us agree from the start that God can do anything. He can turn a cat into a dog, if he so desires. But let us instead consider what God does do, as he has revealed in Scripture, and as we see in creation. If God wants me to have a dog, he will not transform my cat, though I may earnestly wish for it and believe with all my heart that he can. No, if God wants me to have a dog, he will by some means cause me to acquire a puppy born of a canine mother. To look for anything more dramatic, considering what he has taught me about his normal means of dog-making, would not demonstrate any kind of faith. It would insult him, and be presumptuous and sinful.
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The Gaithers EXPOSED!!!

Wednesday··2013·06·12 · 5 Comments
Forgive the watchbloggeresque title. I couldn’t resist. In anticipation of John MacArthur’s newest book, Strange Fire, I decided to read his previous works on the charismatic movement. I’ve already read Charismatic Chaos (1992), so I grabbed his older book, The Charismatics (1978), which I had purchased used quite a while ago but never read. While Charimatic Chaos dealt mostly (as I remember) with the nuttiest charismatic extremes, this appears to be a more general treatment of the subject. Still, it’s not without its sensational revelations. Someone once wrote to the well-known and respected songwriters Bill and Gloria Gaither and asked them for a theological interpretation of their song, “The King Is Coming.” Following is an excerpt from a reply sent by their secretary: Regarding the interpretation of the song, “The King Is Coming,” of all songs that song has been a gift from God. Bill and Gloria do not profess to be theologians. The song came quickly to them and they do not care to discuss the theology of it. In fact, they feel that to dissect the song would be tampering with the inspiration of the Holy Spirit who inspired the song. —John MacArthur, The Charismatics (Zondervan, 1978), 15. Well. I’ve know the Gaithers for years as singers of sappy songs (“Tender words, gentle touch, and a good cup of coffee . . .”), but I never suspected they were charismatic goofballs. the quotation above provokes a few questions: Why is there no First and Second Gaithers in the New Testament? Don’t they belong there? and if not, What am I going to do with my record collection now? No, but seriously: Why do so many people who “do not profess to be theologians” insist on writing theology? Why would any Christian writer not be delighted to discuss their own theology, especially when the topic is so ineffably joyful (“Praise God, he’s coming for me.”)? Most importantly, if explaining the meaning of the song is “tampering with the inspiration of the Holy Spirit who inspired the song,” how must they feel about preaching? Would not preaching that explains the text of Scripture also tamper with the inspiration of the Holy Spirit who inspired the text? As you can see, it’s nonsense, which is the inevitable destination of anyone who goes down the road of ongoing, extrabiblical revelation.
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Post-Apostolic Charismata: Montanism

Once upon a time, I challenged Charismatics to present post-apostolic examples of the miraculous gifts (two and a half years later, I am still waiting). John MacArthur writes of one example that does not qualify: You are seated in a roomful of intense worshippers. The zealous singing is punctuated by cries of praise and fervent prayers. Suddenly someone standing near you begins to speak in rapid syllables that seem completely foreign to any language you have ever heard. The cryptic “message” is echoed by a number of others in a quiet, almost inaudible way. Then, as a response, another worshipper stands and gives a message or “prophecy,” spoken as if originated with God Himself: “Thus saith the Lord. If you my people will confess your sins, and seek my path, and call on my name, you will be blessed beyond measure.” The rest of the group, quiet during the short message of prophecy, now begins to praise God as others offer additional messages. Quite possibly you recognize this kind of scene. Surely, you say, it is a description of a charismatic prayer fellowship. You are familiar with it because you have witnessed similar occurrences when accompanying friends or even family members to such meetings. Groups like this have grown more and more numerous in the last few years. This kind of activity is typical today as Charismatics speak in tongues and prophesy as the dynamic witness to what they feel is a generation living in the last days. As familiar as this seems, it is not a modern meeting of Charismatics at all. Described above are a group called Montanists, who lived in the second century A.D. Following the teachings of their leader, Montanus, this group believed that every believer was a means of special revelation. As proof they exercised dramatic gifts of the Spirit including “prophecy” and “tongues,” which they claimed were prophetic signs of the end times. Montanus believed that Christians were living in the “last days” immediately before the return of Christ. Montanus even taught that the New Jerusalem would descend upon his own village of Pepuza in Asia Minor in his life time. One of Montanus’s key doctrines was the claim that he spoke with direct revelation from God through the gift of the Holy Spirit. Montanus claimed to receive revelation God of a nature supplementary to that communicated by Christ and the apostles. He taught a progression of revelation from the Old Testament prophets to the Lord’s disciples and then on into the “new age of the Spirit.” In the “new age” the Holy Spirit spoke through the mouths of Montanist prophets and prophetesses. Montanus boldly intimidated Christians by claiming the church was comprised of two groups: the “spiritual Christians” who followed his teachings and claimed direct revelation from God and the “carnal Christians” who only had the “dead letter” of the Scriptures. . . . The rest of the church branded Montanism as a serious heresy to be rejected. The Council of Constantinople (381) decided that repentant Montanists were to be brought back into the fellowship very carefully. They were examined regarding their grasp of salvation and were put into an intensified study of the Scriptures. —John MacArthur, The Charismatics (Zondervan, 1978), 27–28.

Already Profitable

John MacArthur refutes a notion that I first heard from the Gothard cult: Charismatics are caught in a terrible tension as they try to hold onto the Bible while at the same time making their experience their real authority. And the views of Charismatic leaders and theologians shoe their struggle. For example, Charles Farah, professor at Oral Roberts University, tried to harmonize the tension between the revelation of God and the experience with the two Greek words translated “Word.” He suggested that logos is the objective, historic word and rhema is the personal subjective word. However, neither the Greek meaning nor the New Testament use make any such distinction. The logos, says Farah, becomes rhema when it speaks to you. The logos is legal while the rhema is experiential. Farah wrote, “The logos doesn’t always become the rhema, God’s Word to you.” What Farah was saying is that the logos becomes rhema when it speaks to you. in other words, he was saying that the historic objective of logos really doesn’t do much for you until it “zaps” you. Then it becomes rhema—your own personal word from God. His ideas sound dangerously close to what neoorthodox theologians have been saying for over fifty years: the Bible becomes God’s Word when it speaks to you. But God’s Word is God’s Word whether it is experienced or not. The Bible does not depend on the experience of its readers to be the inspired Word of God. Paul said the Bible was already able to make Timothy wise unto salvation, not that “it would become able” if Timothy acted in a certain way (2 Tim. 3:15). Paul went on to say, “All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness” (v. 16). Paul was saying the Scriptures are already inspired and profitable, not that they will become inspired and profitable depending on the experience of the reader. —John MacArthur, The Charismatics (Zondervan, 1978), 69–70.
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The Fatal Flaw

According to a survey by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, more than ninety percent of self-identified Pentecostals in most countries hold to the beliefs known as the “prosperity gospel.” How is this possible for such a blatantly heretical philosophy to so thoroughly infest the movement? The answer explains more than just the embrace of prosperity teaching. It is a critical and systemic defect within charismatic theology—a flaw that accounts for just about every theological aberration or abnormality that makes its home within the Charismatic Movement. It is this: Pentecostals and charismatics elevate religious experience over biblical truth. Though many of them pay lip service to the authority of God’s Word, in practice they deny it. If Scripture alone were truly their final authority, charismatic Christians would never tolerate patently unbiblical practices— like mumbling in nonsensical prayer languages, uttering fallible prophecies, worshipping in disorderly ways, or being knocked senseless by the supposed power of the Holy Spirit. They ought to reinterpret their experiences to match the Bible; instead, they reinterpret Scripture in novel and unorthodox ways in order to justify their experiences. As a result, any aberrant teaching or practice can be legitimized, especially when a new “revelation from God” conveniently authenticates it as having His approval. Though written nearly a half century ago, the words of René Pache still ring true: The excessive preeminence given to the Holy Spirit in their devotions and their preoccupation with gifts, ecstasies, and “prophecies” has tended to neglect of the Scriptures. Why be tied to a Book out of the past when one can communicate every day with the living God? But this is exactly the danger point. Apart from the constant control of the written revelation, we soon find ourselves engulfed in subjectivity; and the believer, even if he has the best intentions, can sink rapidly into deviations, illuminism or exaltation. Let each remind himself of the prohibition of taking anything away from Scripture or adding anything to it (Deut. 4: 2; Rev. 22:18–19). Almost every heresy and sect has originated in a supposed revelation or a new experience on the part of its founder, something outside the strictly biblical framework. By abandoning the final authority of the text, the Charismatic Movement has made itself susceptible to the worst kinds of doctrinal deception and spiritual exploitation. —John MacArthur, Strange Fire: The Danger of Offending the Holy Spirit with Counterfeit Worship (Thomas Nelson, 2014) 16–17.
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Hearing God’s Voice?

Criticizing the Charismatic Movement is easy. From the speaking of gibberish to fake-healers and the prosperity gospel, charismatics present a target that just cannot be missed. But those, flashy and fraudulent as they are, are not the most problematic manifestations of charismania. The most insidious aspects of charismania are those that directly attack the sufficiency of Scripture, for example, the following statements quoted by John MacArthur in Strange Fire: Some object to the notion that God communicates directly with us, supposing that everything that God wanted to reveal He revealed in the Bible. This cannot be true, however, because there is nothing in the Bible that says it has 66 books. It actually took God a couple of hundred years to reveal to the church which writings should be included in the Bible and which should not. That is extra-biblical revelation. Even so, Catholics and Protestants still disagree on the number. Beyond that, I believe that prayer is two way, we speak to God and expect Him to speak with us. We can hear God’s voice. He also reveals new things to prophets as we have seen. —C. Peter Wagner, cited in John MacArthur, Strange Fire: The Danger of Offending the Holy Spirit with Counterfeit Worship (Thomas Nelson, 2014), 68. In order to fulfill God’s highest purpose for our lives we must be able to hear his voice both in the written Word and in the word freshly spoken from heaven. . . . Satan understands the strategic importance of Christians hearing God’s voice so he has launched various attacks against us in this area. One of his most successful attacks has been to develop a doctrine that teaches God no longer speaks to us except through the written Word. Ultimately, this doctrine is demonic even [though] Christian theologians have been used to perfect it. —Jack Deer, Ibid., 69. What troubles me most is that many evangelicals outside the charismatic asylum share similar notions, expecting to hear from God, though usually not audibly, but in some “still, small voice.” This looking for personal experience, as though Scripture has left us needing something more, is the zenith of folly. MacArthur, commenting on Peter’s account of the Transfiguration, writes, Speaking of his own eyewitness experience at the Transfiguration, the apostle Peter gave this revelation: For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. (2 Peter 1:16–19 ESV 2007) At the Transfiguration, Peter witnessed an unparalleled supernatural spectacle. He had a genuine divine, heavenly experience. Even so, the apostle knew that Scripture (“the prophetic word”) is “more sure” than even the most sublime experiences. Peter’s point is precisely the issue that many charismatics fail to understand. Human experience is subjective and fallible; only the Word of God is unfailing and inerrant, because its Author is perfect. —John MacArthur, Ibid., 70.
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In Preparation for the Lord’s Day: Tell Out, My Soul

Tell Out, My Soul For the Mighty One has done great things for me; Luke 1:49* Tell out, my soul, the greatness of the Lord! Unnumbered blessings give my spirit voice; Tender to me the promise of His Word; In God my Savior shall my heart rejoice. Tell out, my soul, the greatness of His name! Make known His might, the deeds His arm has done; His mercy sure, from age to age the same; His holy Name, the Lord, the mighty One. Tell out, my soul, the greatness of His might! Powers and dominions lay their glory by; Proud hearts and stubborn wills are put to flight; The hungry fed, the humble lifted high. Tell out, my soul, the glories of His Word! Firm is His promise, and His mercy sure. Tell out my soul, the greatness of the Lord To children’s children and forevermore! —The Hymnal for Worship & Celebration (Word Music). * This hymn is based on Luke 1:46–49, commonly known as the Magnificat.

Apostolic Qualifications

Charismatics, and others who build entire theological systems on single verses or even words, will ask, “Where does the Bible say the apostolic office is no more?” This is unlikely to satisfy them, but it should convince you, the logical, biblical thinker. It would be impossible for any contemporary Christian to meet the biblical qualifications required for someone to be considered an apostle. The New Testament articulates at least three necessary criteria:(1) an apostle had to be a physical eyewitness of the resurrected Christ (Acts 1:22; 10:39–41; 1 Cor. 9:1; 15:7–8); (2) an apostle had to be personally appointed by the Lord Jesus Christ (Mark 3:14; Luke 6:13; Acts 1:2, 24; 10:41; Gal. 1:1); and (3) an apostle had to be able to authenticate his apostolic appointment with miraculous signs (Matt. 10:1 –2; Acts 1:5–8; 2:43; 4:33; 5:12; 8:14; 2 Cor. 12:12; Heb. 2:3–4). Those qualifications alone conclusively demonstrate that there are no apostles in the church today. No living person has seen the risen Christ with his or her own eyes; no one is able to perform miraculous signs like those done by the apostles in the book of Acts (cf. Acts 3:3–11; 5:15–16; 9:36–42; 20:6–12; 28:1–6); and—in spite of presumptuous claims to the contrary—no one in the modern church has been personally and directly appointed as an apostle by the Lord Jesus. Of course, there are some charismatics who claim to have seen visions of the resurrected Lord. Not only are such claims highly suspect and impossible to verify; they simply do not meet the apostolic criteria—since an apostle had to see the resurrected Christ in the flesh with his own eyes. . . . Wayne Grudem, popular author and professor of theology and biblical studies at Phoenix Seminary, is a committed charismatic himself and perhaps the best theologian and apologist for the movement. But even he acknowledges that “since no one today can meet the qualification of having seen the risen Christ with his own eyes, there are no apostles today.” —John MacArthur, Strange Fire: The Danger of Offending the Holy Spirit with Counterfeit Worship (Thomas Nelson, 2014), 92–93.
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How God Moves Us

[F]rom childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. —2 Timothy 3:15–17 Those verses make a solid, brief statement on the truth, authority, and sufficiency of Scripture. It could hardly declare more clearly the folly of looking for more revelation than what is already given. To seek further unmediated communication from God is plainly contrary to the Word already given. However, we also want to know what this does not mean. MacArthur writes, Does this mean God has stopped speaking? Certainly not, but He speaks today through His all-sufficient Word. Does the Spirit of God move our hearts and impress us with specific duties or callings? Certainly, but He works through the Word of God to do that. Such experiences do not involve new revelation but illumination, when the Holy Spirit applies the Word to our hearts and opens our spiritual eyes to its truth. We must guard carefully against allowing our experience and our own subjective thoughts and imaginations to eclipse the authority and the certainty of the more sure Word. —John MacArthur, Strange Fire: The Danger of Offending the Holy Spirit with Counterfeit Worship (Thomas Nelson, 2014), 117.
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Spirit Filled

John MacArthur writes, “As those who claim to have the primary, if not exclusive, right to the title ‘Spirit-filled Christians,’ charismatics invariably define being filled with the Spirit in terms of ecstatic experiences.” Babbling gibberish, falling down, rolling or crawling on the floor, hysterical laughter, animal noises, drunken behavior, or, at least, being overcome with emotion, are all (according to charismatics) signs of being filled with the Spirit. Scripture describes the fruit of the Spirit somewhat differently. After commanding believers to be filled with the Spirit in Ephesians 5:18, Paul continues in the subsequent verses by giving specific examples of what that looks like. Those who are Spirit-filled are characterized by joyful singing in worship (5:19), hearts full of thanksgiving (5:20), and selflessness toward others (5:21). If they are married, their marriage honors God (5:22–33); if they have children, their parenting patiently unfolds the gospel (6:1–4); if they work for an earthly master, they work hard for the Lord’s honor (6:5–8); and if they have people working for them, they treat their subordinates with benevolence and fairness (6:9). That is what it looks like to be a Spirit-filled Christian. His influence in our lives makes us rightly related to God and to others. In Colossians 3:16–4:1, a parallel passage to Ephesians 5:18–6:9, Paul explains that if believers “let the word of Christ dwell in [them] richly,” they will likewise respond by singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. They will do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, “giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” Wives will be submissive to their husbands; and husbands, in turn, will love their wives. Children will obey their parents, and parents will not exasperate their children. Servants will work diligently for their masters, and masters will respond by treating their workers with fairness. A comparison of Colossians 3:16 with Ephesians 5:18 demonstrates the inseparable relationship between the two passages—since the fruit produced in each case is the same. Thus, we can see that obeying the command to be filled with the Spirit does not involve emotional hype or mystical encounters. It comes from reading, meditating on, and submitting to the Word of Christ, allowing the Scriptures to permeate our hearts and minds. Said another way, we are filled with the Holy Spirit when we are filled with the Word, which He inspired and empowers. As we align our thinking with biblical teaching, applying its truth to our daily lives, we come increasingly under the Spirit’s control. —John MacArthur, Strange Fire: The Danger of Offending the Holy Spirit with Counterfeit Worship (Thomas Nelson, 2014), 205–206.
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The Real Ministry of the Holy Spirit

Rather than being hopelessly distracted by charismatic counterfeits, believers need to rediscover the real ministry of the Holy Spirit, which is to activate His power in us through His Word, so that we can truly conquer sin for the glory of Christ, the blessing of His church, and the benefit of the lost. —John MacArthur, Strange Fire: The Danger of Offending the Holy Spirit with Counterfeit Worship (Thomas Nelson, 2014), 212.
John MacArthur on sola scriptura and the charge of bibliolatry: Occasionally, someone will suggest that such a high view of Scripture makes the Bible itself an object of worship. Point out that Scripture is vastly superior to (and infinitely more authoritative than) the dreams and visions of contemporary charismatics, and you are practically guaranteed to be labeled a bibliolator. Such an accusation utterly misconstrues what it means to honor God’s Word. It’s not the physical book that we revere, but God, who has revealed Himself infallibly therein. Furthermore, Scripture is pictured in 2 Timothy 3:16 as the very breath of God—meaning it speaks with His authority. There can be no more reliable source of truth. To entertain any lower view of Scripture (or to suggest that belief in the absolute trustworthiness of the Bible is a kind of idolatry) is a serious affront to God. He Himself has exalted His Word to the highest place. David made that point explicit in Psalm 138:2. Speaking to God, he exclaimed, “You have magnified Your word above all Your name.” —John MacArthur, Strange Fire: The Danger of Offending the Holy Spirit with Counterfeit Worship (Thomas Nelson, 2014), 218–219.
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In Preparation for the Lord’s Day: Day by Day

Day by Day My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness. 2 Corinthians 12:9Day by day, and with each passing moment, Strength I find, to meet my trials here; Trusting in my Father’s wise bestowment, I’ve no cause for worry or for fear. He Whose heart is kind beyond all measure Gives unto each day what He deems best— Lovingly, its part of pain and pleasure, Mingling toil with peace and rest. Ev’ry day, the Lord Himself is near me With a special mercy for each hour; All my cares He fain would bear, and cheer me, He Whose Name is Counselor and Pow’r; The protection of His child and treasure Is a charge that on Himself He laid; “As your days, your strength shall be in measure,” This the pledge to me He made. Help me then in ev’ry tribulation So to trust Your promises, O Lord, That I lose not faith’s sweet consolation Offered me within Your holy word. Help me, Lord, when toil and trouble meeting, E’er to take, as from a father’s hand, One by one, the days, the moments fleeting, Till I reach the promised land. —The Hymnal for Worship & Celebration (Word Music).

“This is the finger of God”

Like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation —1 Peter 2:2 Many preachers aim for style over substance, or even style with no regard for substance. Many serve up sugary sweets rather than meat and vegetables. Which do you prefer? It may be thou goest to table only for the sauce, to church for the style and elegancy of the language; if so, I dare be bold to tell thee, that ‘thine heart is not right in the sight of God.’ Dost thou not know that it is the naked sword which doth the execution, that a crucified Christ is the great conqueror, not a pompous, gaudy Messiah, which the Jews dreamed of? Paul is commanded to preach, ‘not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect,’ 1 Cor. i. 17, so also ver. 27, 28. Truly, if thou lustest after the quails of some new dish, it is a sign that thou loathest manna, the bread of heaven; and what a condition is thy poor soul in then! They that have the greensickness care not for solid food, but hanker after trash. They have souls sadly sick that neglect the good word of God, and long after the fancies and wit of men. God doth, ‘by the foolishness of preaching, save them that believe,’ that he alone might have the glory of their salvation; ‘that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us,’ 2 Cor. iv. 7. When men nibble at the bait of human eloquence, and are caught, the skill of the angler is applauded; but when men bite at the naked hook, the simplicity of the gospel, all will grant this to be a miracle, and say, ‘This is the finger of God.’ Dost thou not see, that as Daniel and his companions thrived better and looked fairer with feeding upon pulse, than the other captives who fed on the king’s dainty provision, so those Christians in every parish, look abroad where you will, thrive more in holiness, and are fairer in God’s eye, who feed on plain, naked Scripture, than those whom no dishes will please but such as are curiously cooked for a king’s palate? Thou wilt not believe but that thy face may be seen in a glass where the sides are not gilded; thou wilt choose a horse, not by its trappings and fine furniture, but by its usefulness and serviceableness. Why shouldst thou be so childish as to be in love with no garments but what are daubed with silver lace, when other plain raiment will warm thy body as well? —George Swinnock, The Christian Man’s Calling, Works of George Swinnock (Banner of Truth, 1992), 1:146–147

The Necessity of the Word

Before going to worship on the Lord’s Day, we ought to prepare our minds to receive the Word. Toward that end, George Swinnock suggests three things to consider: “Before thou goest to hear, labour to affect thine heart with the necessity, excellency, and efficacy of the word.” On the first: Consider its necessity. Mary minded ‘the one thing necessary;’ indeed she gave the word her heart, but the way to it was this, she gave it her ear; she ‘sat at Christ’s feet and heard his word.’ . . . Urge thy soul with this: The word which I am going to hear, in regard of the ordination of God, is absolutely necessary to my spiritual and eternal good. I am dead, and it is the word that must enliven me; I am blind, and it is the word that must enlighten me. It is absolutely necessary that I know my sins and misery; now the word must do this, and is therefore called a glass, James i. It is absolutely necessary that I know my Saviour, and the way of my recovery: now the word must do this, and is therefore called faith and life, John vi., Rom. Iii. It is necessary to open mine eyes to see Christ, to open my heart to receive Christ, and that heaven hereafter may open to my poor soul. My soul is sinful, and it is the word that must sanctify it; my soul is sick, it is the word that must heal it; my soul is hungry, and it is the word must feed it, or I shall starve; my soul is thirsty, and it is the word that must satisfy it, or I shall die for thirst. Whatsoever conditions of misery I am in, it is the word that must give suitable exhortations to support me; whatsoever relations of life I stand in, it is the word that must give suitable exhortations to direct me; whatsoever service I am called to, whether of doing or suffering, it is the word which must relieve me with suitable supply. Oh, what concernment is this word to my well-being in this and the other world! I must be sanctified, or I can never be saved; I must turn to God, or burn in hell; and the word must do this for me, or it will never be done. Good Lord, how should I hear! —George Swinnock, The Christian Man’s Calling, Works of George Swinnock (Banner of Truth, 1992), 1:149–150
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Back to the Word

“All flesh is like grass, And all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, And the flower falls off, But the word of the Lord endures forever.” —1 Peter 1:24–25 (cf. Isaiah 40:6–8) In which R. C. Sproul gives permission to burn his books: Nothing is more worthless than yesterday’s newspaper. A candy bar machine deposits only one candy bar with the insertion of a coin, but when you put a coin into a newspaper dispenser and open the slot, there are ten or fifteen newspapers available for the taking. Newspaper publishers are not concerned about theft because they understand the economic rule of marginal utility. Who needs yesterday’s newspaper? Yesterday’s candy bar may still be succulent, but not yesterday’s newspaper. Books have a longer shelf life than magazines, but even books come and go. One of the hardest things to do is to get people to read the classics of the giants that God has given to the church. If people would read Luther and Calvin they could take my books and burn them, because all I try to do is direct people back to the giants. All Luther and all Calvin wanted to do was direct people back to the Word of God, because that Word is not only living but also abiding—forever. —R. C. Sproul, 1–2 Peter: Be All the More Diligent to Make Your Calling and Election Sure (Crossway, 2011), 54—55.
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Grace in Knowledge

Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. —2 Peter 1:2–4 Peter links the multiplication of grace and peace to the knowledge of God, which is the central thesis of this epistle. As we noted earlier, one of the obvious threats to the early Christian church was brought by the Gnostic heretics, who claimed to have a superior knowledge. These heretics believed that they had a higher knowledge than that conveyed by the Apostles. Over against the heretical view of knowledge, Peter talks about true knowledge, the knowledge that comes from God, which is, perhaps, one of the most important—if not the most important—grace that He disposes upon His people. God gives us knowledge that comes to us from Himself. The one excuse that will never stand before the bar of God’s judgment is that we have not been given enough clear knowledge of God. In fact, it is tragic that we find people with advanced degrees, who, in one sense, have been educated beyond their intelligence. Although they have been exposed to many dimensions of human education, they live their lives as if they were ignorant of the things of God. The fact that God has not kept us in the dark but has been pleased to manifest His being clearly through the things that are made is grace. God did not owe His creatures His self-revelation. He could have made us and walked away and remained in shadow, obscurity, and darkness, giving us no knowledge of Himself. However, He has given us not only knowledge of Himself in creation, which we call “general revelation,” but He has also given us His Word. Our God is not silent. Though we may not see Him, we hear from Him in His Word. I never cease to be amazed at why so few professing Christians have a passion to know God in His Word. . . . We are to be always learning more deeply, more carefully, and hopefully more accurately the things that are contained in this Word. —R. C. Sproul, 1–2 Peter: Be All the More Diligent to Make Your Calling and Election Sure (Crossway, 2011), 211–212.
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In Preparation for the Lord’s Day: Holy Bible

Holy Bible, Book Divine All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 2 Timothy 3:16 Holy Bible, Book divine, Precious treasure, thou art mine; Mine to tell me whence I came; Mine to teach me what I am. Mine to chide me when I rove; Mine to show a Savior’s love; Mine thou art to guide and guard; Mine to punish or reward. Mine to comfort in distress; Suff’ring in this wilderness; Mine to show, by living faith, Man can triumph over death. Mine to tell of joys to come, And the rebel sinner’s doom; O thou holy Book divine, Precious treasure, thou art mine. —The Hymnal for Worship & Celebration (Word Music).
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8 The following note was addressed to G. Campbell Morgan: The writer begs leave to call to the Rev. Campbell Morgan’s remembrance a statement he made last Sunday evening, viz., “My Friend has proved His love to me so as to bring conviction to my heart.” Then why does he not convince every person of His love? Why is He not just to all? Since the note was unsigned, Morgan responded in the following week’s sermon. It will be seen that my Friend had brought conviction of His love to my heart I made the statement on the basis of the text which I take tonight. I do not think the thinking of that letter is lonely, even though the writing of it is singular. I can well imagine that many people would go away lat Sunday evening saying in their hearts practically the same things. “The Preacher declared that God had demonstrated His love to the conviction of his heart, but He has not done so in my experience, and if not, why not?” To that attitude of mind I want to say that the proof given to me of the love of God has been given to all. I did not mean to say that in some flaming vision of the night or apocalypse of the day God had done for me what He has not done for others. . . . My Friend’s proof of His love is not given to me alone, but to all men. No proof in mystic words spoken in loneliness to my own heart and no proof by some sudden and exceptional vision could begin to be so conclusive to my reason as the great proof which belongs to all quite as much as it belongs to me. I venture to say—I know I speak within the realm of the finite, and limited and human, and yet I say it of profound conviction—God Himself could not have thought of any other way to prove His love so conclusive as the way He has taken. Will you let me, in all love and tenderness, and yet with great earnestness, say to you, my friend who wrote to me, and to all such, that if God’s love has not carried conviction to your heart, I think it is because you have not taken time to consider that great proof? You have heard of it, you have sung of it. You could recite the proof texts, my text and the text in John, and many other such. “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son.” That is the proof. “God commendeth His own love toward is, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” That is the proof. I have no other. . . . What can be said when Scripture has spoken? —G. Campbell Morgan, The Westminster Pulpit (Sermon: Amazing Love) (Baker, 2006), 1:126–127.
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