Thursday, November 17, 2005

Charismata – Impressions and Prophecy – Agreement on the Major Issue

In this post, I am going to review the main issue that a few bloggers are in agreement on, and, then, I am going to quote Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ historical survey of the experiences of the great preachers in support of this major point of agreement. So don’t miss the end that is the meat of this post…

The Major Issue: God, by the Holy Spirit, grants His children direct, conscious experiences of Himself. These relational experiences of God amount to impressions from the Holy Spirit and are good for the strengthening, comfort and edification of the believer.

Further, I contend that if we accept the availability of such impressions and their value from God that we are in essence accepting that God speaks today directly to the believer through the Holy Spirit.

The debate on Charismata – A Truly Humble Dialogue

This debate is giving me so much hope for the role of the blogoshere in positively effecting change and unity in the body of Christ. This discussion on the Charismata is developing nicely. There are numerous bloggers who, from my reading, are genuinely coming to a middle position where now the differences are fundamentally semantic

Three Bloggers of Note are Essentially Saying the Same thing.
David Wayne
David Wayne has a long post about impressions vs prophecy. David has a contention with Wayne Grudem’s definition of prophecy that prophecy “is a human report of something that God has brought spontaneously to mind”.

For our purposes, this is a matter of semantics. The point is that David accepts that God gives impressions and these impressions are valuable. Here is David’s conclusion of the matter.

When we call something "prophecy" that is really my own interpretation of some spontaneous impression we are giving a greater weight to that impression/interpretation than it can carry. The same applies when we use phrases like "God told me." Calling my own spontaneous (and subjective by the way) impressions prophecy escalates them in certainty and authority. There is a world of difference in the statements "I think God may be leading me," and "God told me." There is a world of difference in saying "I have an impression that I
ought to do so and so," and "I have received a word of prophecy." In both of those examples, the first statement identifies me as the speaker and the latter identifies God is the speaker. If I use the first kinds of statements there is no authority to them, they are not binding, it is up to me whether or not I act upon them, and there is no harm no foul if it turns out my impression was wrong (unless I act on it unwisely). If I use the second kind of statement there is a binding authority to them which I must act upon.

This position I agree with in practice (except David’s point about binding authority), but I contend that the difference between an impression and a prophecy, as David is articulating, is a matter of degree and a matter of presentation. Both experiences are in essence the same. If God is speaking to the believer and the believer is humble enough to “use the gift of prophecy according to the proportion of his faith” (Romans 12:6), then the wording of a slight impression might be stated humbly by saying, “Well, I think maybe God is saying….”. We moderate the level of faith we have in our prophecy by moderating our tone and wording. But the main issue is whether God speaks to us and give impressions directly to believers, and I answer ABSOLUTELY, YES.

John Shroeder
John at Blogotional posts a call for learning to maintain the good aspects of the charismatic experience with the Holy Spirit while boldly correcting the abuses. This is a much needed emphasis. Again, John is siding with God speaking and giving inspiration and impressions directly to believers but desires moderation. AMEN!!

Adrian Warnock
Arian is doing a great job as he moderates this debate. In this quote, he really nails the BIG point saying,

"The cessationist who concerns me is the one who does not believe that there is any sense in which we have a relational experience of God today.”
Oh…for a thousand tongues to sing my great redeemers praise. Such affection only comes from what Adrian here calls “a relational experience of God”.

Here is the Major issue. This passion to share with all people the peace and power of a conscious relational experience with our great God is I think the height of Gospel preaching. This gift of the Holy Spirit to enable us to have a relational EXPERIENCE of God directly is life itself. It is this experience that empowers me to face the lions of everyday life. Not only that we believe God is with us because the scripture says so, but an assurance we possess because we are all wet with the experience of His love. This does not for a second mean that we do not stand on scripture or that we rely on experience alone, but that the filling of the Holy Spirit does lead us to a higher level of experience which strengthens our boldness and our assurance. This position was Lloyd-Jones’ conclusion and the conclusion of John Piper, Jonathan Edwards and a whole host of Reformed believers through the centuries.

A Historical Survey of “Relational Experience of God” from Lloyd-Jones’ commentary on Romans

Martyn Lloyd-Jones in his sermons on Romans spends 19 sermons expounding on his understanding of Romans 8:14-16
14For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. 15For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, "Abba! Father!" 16The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God.

Lloyd-Jones’ position is that this ‘bearing witness” is a conscious experience and that this experience leads to a heightened sense of our assurance of salvation which leads to boldness and empowerment in ministry. This conscious contact with God Lloyd-Jones argues is the essence of being filled or baptized with the Holy Spirit. In my essay on discipleship, I argue that this “relational experience with God” is the power we need to guard our hearts from the self-centeredness and fear that is at the root of our sinful responses to life. It is through the maintenance of our conscious contact with God that we find power over pride and unbelief. This conscious contact with God is worth fighting for as it is these on-going, daily, affection transforming experiences that is the “seeing and savoring of God” that Piper is fighting for when he says “God is the Gospel”.

Before I list some of these experiences, I simply refer readers to this marvelous volume.

Lloyd-Jones lists numerous tests regarding how we know we are being led by the Holy Spirit. He states that this being led is not normally guidance which is how so many people take being led. But then he gives marvelous examples of actual guidance. So much of the pastoral care and precision needed to understand how to help people who are unbalanced by over reliance on guidance of the Holy Spirit, Lloyd-Jones deals with extensively. I take Lloyd-Jones thorough working of the subject as the best available for those of the Reformed-Continualist perspective.
Lloyd-Jones speaking of the experiential element of the work of the Holy Spirit says the following:

"Let me remind you of Thomas Goodwin, one of the great Puritans of three hundred years ago, states the matter. He used a remarkable illustration. He pictures a man walking along a road with his little boy, holding hands – father and son, son and father. The little boy knows that this man is his father and that his father loves him. But suddenly, the father stops, picks up the boy, lifts him up into his arms, embraces him and kisses him. Then he puts him down, and they continue walking. The boy is no more a son when he is being embraced than he was
before. The father’s action has not changed the relationship; it has not changed the status of the boy; but oh, the difference in the enjoyment.” (pg 280 – Banner of Truth)

This experience is worth fighting for and praying for our friends and loved one’s to experience. This is the pleasure of Piper’s Christian hedonism.

Biographies of The Reformers
From the Life of Robert Bruce – successor to john Knox (1554-1631)
"There was never such foul flesh that has gotten a more gracious, more sensible, more powerful, approbation of my ministry in Edinburgh, of my fidelity therein. His Spirit has testified with my spirit, not only by real joys, spiritual and elevated light, but by vocal speeches within me in the daylight, that I heard so sensibly with great effusion of tears…that I admire how He should bestow such gracious speeches upon so wretched a creature as I was.”Bruce goes on and on with a testimony of being totally overwhelmed with these sensible assurances.

George Whitefield speaks of his experience innumerable times in his journals. Speaking of the spirit of adoption as a sensible experience.
"Was filled with the Holy Ghost. Oh that all who deny the promise of the Father might thus receive it themselves! Oh, that all were partakers of my joy”. Exactly.

Jonathan Edwards
"Once, I rode out into the woods for my health, in 1737, having alighted from my horse in a retired place as my manner commonly has been, to walk for divine contemplation and prayer, I had a view that for me was extraordinary, of the glory of the Son of God as mediator between God and man, and His wonderful, great, full, pure and sweet grace and love, meek and gentle condescension. …The person of Christ appeared ineffably excellent, with an excellency great enough to swallow up all thought and conception, which continued, as near as I can judge, about an hour; which kept me the greater part of the time in a flood of tears, and weeping aloud….” (pg 346 – Banner of Truth)

These are very conscious experiences by these great men. These are very strong impressions directly upon their souls. The experiences are filled with overwhelming emotion and “views” of God. Edwards knows how long the view lasted and explains later in the quote of how he responded with greater desire to serve God with all his being.

These experiences are direct communications by God to His people. These experiences, though not always to this degree, are to be common in the contemplative life of men who desire earnestly to prophecy. By this definition of prophecy I mean speaking of he truth regarding God and His ways with a passion that comes ONLY from such experiences of the Holy Spirit.
Though all of us can say God is great. Only the Edwards’ and those who are so filled can rise up from their experiences and speak with the urgency that is need to awaken the church.
Such glorious fillings and direct knowledge of God is what our people need. As we discuss the topics of the gifts of God’s spirit, it is these works of the Holy Spirit that we can all agree upon are the most vital to be able to communicate and propagate in our congregations.

God Bless,

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