The following is a guest post from Lewis Macaulay
I was once well in to the Charismatic Movement, they were more radical than other Christians, I thought. They were more expressive of their faith, more joyful, more evangelical and more unified in my eyes.
It all started when I was at the CLAN (Christians Linked Across the Nation) in St Andrews in my mid teens about 5 years ago, I was a very young Christian (only converted a year) and I got totally caught up in the contemporary worship, the “signs and wonders” teaching, the whole “have faith and it will happen” theology. It was brilliant, exhilarating, everything was happy, there was no worries and I just loved God and all the good things he had done.
There was something totally missing throughout this whole experience, and that was God’s word, the Bible, Scripture. But myself and others did not mind, we were happy and excited we were going to be part of a generation that would change the world we live in, that is what we were told, we were going to change things, heal people, give other Christians extra revelation through prophecy, cast out demons, we were going to do that…….. us!
Then came challenges, daily difficulties, I did not know where to turn. Where to go?
How could I be so low?
I was going to save the world…I was loved by God
Why do I feel so rubbish?
Why am I not happy?
In church I was told I need to experience God…. How do I do this?!
You just need to surrender to him….
You just need to forgive others….
You need to open your heart….
How do I do this?!
I had to do something.
It was my fault.
There is something wrong with me.
This lasted for a good 2-3 years. I once again felt lost, wandering from next “spiritual experience” to the other, the next high. The presence of God, in my mind, became a drug. I was searching for it.
Throughout these years, there was little to no prayer, bible reading or devotion of time to God. I went to church for an experience or miracle.
I wanted experience, not Jesus.
Then out of the blue a friend invited me to a Youth Conference of a more conservative denomination, it was very last minute in fact, only a few days before the weekend, so I booked overly priced flights from Stornoway and managed to make my way down. Part of me, as I went there, dreaded the weekend. I was going to spend my time with what I thought were Pharisaical people that had no grasp of reality and were in a “holy huddle”.
I was very wrong, the whole weekend was incredible. The teaching was great, relative, and had God’s word at the centre. Throughout the weekend God drew me to himself through devotional bible reading, actual learning and even discussion of doctrine and Theology in seminars and small groups. I was previously shunned in charismatic groups previously for wanting to discuss Theology, I was told it caused splits and took attention away from God and was of no use to Christians. Over the weekend I loved to discuss the things of God, talking to each other, challenging each other and still had a great sense of unity a verse in proverbs summed it up:
As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.
I came away from that weekend a revived person with a renewed hunger and thirst for God’s word. This was not because of anything I had done but:
God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.
– Romans 5:8-9
God showed me it was Christ that did it all. I am justified by him, I am adopted by him, he said – It is finished, my sins were atoned for, his Word is vital.
I needed biblical grounding, I realised I had neglected his Word. I had tried to do everything myself, I sought experiences, signs and wonders, everything else but God. I missed the mark well and truly.
Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. – John 6:26
That weekend I had ate my fill of loaves. I had been eating from the Bread of Life, His word and I now had a true hunger for Him.
Some now think I am “religious”, missing out on the Holy Spirit. I can tell you now, I have experienced the Spirit, God’s presence too. I have felt an immense peace since that weekend, even through struggles and difficulty, not because I sought it. It was because, through his Word, God drew me to himself. A sense of his presence is secondary, and not the main goal. The hymn I actually sung this weekend sums it up perfectly:
Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you, allelu alleluia.
So what is it that bothers me now about the Charismatic movement?
Scripture is not always used as the compass for discernment within the movement. I saw especially at the CLAN conference I would hear more stories of what was happening now. I would hear more testimony of experiences, visions and dreams that did not match up to scripture than bible teaching. This left no boundaries to peoples ideas and some totally unbiblical and even blasphemous accounts regarding visions of Jesus and “Spiritual” experiences.
I found in discussions with people, there was no room for questioning the experiences from a Biblical perspective. I was told I had no right to judge so encountered brick walls in conversation. Then in bible studies it was OK to have different vastly opposite interpretations of verses, as to avoid discussion or – Iron sharpening iron . I believe the Bible reveals everything we need to know about God, and this biblical revelation is sufficient for ALL believers. I also believe scripture is neglected quite often for guidance in the practical and spiritual, “Spiritual revelation” over Biblical revelation is common place. I see this as a dangerous place to be and can lead to ourselves becoming the centre, not God.
Sola Deo Gloria?
In Charismatic circles, especially Bethel, Word of Faith and New Apostolic Age movements; People such as Peter Wagner, Mike Bickle, Heidi Baker, Todd Bentley, John Bevere, Bill Johnson and many many more, have been raised up within the Charismatic Church as heroes. In many cases, they have been said to have been “anointed” by God to be Apostles that will lead God’s people and conquer the world of sin and death and bring heaven to earth. In very rare cases some leaders have been equated as to being like Paul the Apostle and can even give “new revelation”. I do not believe this glorifies God, and instead magnifies man.
It it wrong to question these things?
I believe we have to ask questions, in 1 Thessalonians we are told to Test the Spirits . In the end of the day, it is a serious matter, an eternal situation for an eternal soul. Christians have every right to discern what is right according the Scripture, that God provided for us.
The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders – 2 Thessalonians 2:9
In this passage, it is made clear that Satan himself can use false signs and wonders. This is certainly worth keeping in mind and taking great care when discussing or being in the midst of proclaimed “miracles” in a Charismatic Church or Movement.
For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. – Matthew 24:24
Christ gives us the warning in Matthew, there will be false prophets/teachers. These people will seem really inviting and convincing, perform signs and wonders, do these people seem familiar? Is the Gospel message being preached?
Brothers and Sisters in Christ, I plead with you to be careful. In the end of the day, it is a serious matter, an eternal situation for an eternal soul. Christians and Christian leaders have to discern what is correct according the Scripture that God provided for us.