Saturday, March 18, 2017

"What is truth" Part IV (Pentecostalism)

Merriam-Webster dictionary
Definition of Pentecostalism
  1. 1 :  of, relating to, or suggesting Pentecost
  2. 2 :  of, relating to, or constituting any of various Christian religious bodies that emphasize individual experiences of grace, spiritual gifts (as glossolalia and faith healing), expressive worship, and evangelism

The definition above is from the current Merriam-Webster dictionary. I tried to use the original 1828 Webster's dictionary, but the word did not exist in 1828, that's because Pentecostalism did not exist in 1828. It has become such a large block of Christianity today it would be difficult to imagine the Christian Church without it.

As I continue my attempt to write from the perspective of addressing a new believer or one beginning to have interest in Christianity, this one will be the most difficult so far. Though it is helpful to know some history concerning the origins of Pentecostalism, that is a subject perhaps for another time. The focus of these few posts is to attempt to put some clarity and understanding for someone new facing all the various claims to truth they will face in Christian circles today. The subjects of the three previous posts find their roots here in this aspect of Christianity.

If you are conservative and cautious by nature, exposure to Pentecostal circles will most likely be uncomfortable or even frightening to some. If you are bold and adventurous with a desire for an exciting atmosphere, then these circles may be appealing to you.

Our purpose here is not to define what we may or may not find comfortable, but to be able to discern truth from confusion. You are now a Christian, if that is indeed true in your life, then you know you have a desire to please God. It's just something you want to do. But you will be faced with a mirage of people telling you how to do that. Hopefully they will be well grounded people concerned with faithfulness to Scripture. God has given us ministries of various means to help us grow and increase in the knowledge of Him. But there are also many well meaning people, family, and friends who quite possibly could lead us off track and down a wrong path.

It will be absolutely necessary for you to take your Bible and study it yourself. Your first response to that may be, " But I just can't understand it". Oh, but you can.  You are just not used to reading a book like the Bible. You simply cannot continue reading it and not discover that you learned something, understood something, or gained some knowledge you didn't know before. You may not have understood everything you read, but I promise you, you will gain understanding and knowledge. You just keep reading and praying, and you will keep learning and growing, that's just the way it works.

Now back to Pentecostalism, how are you to respond when approached by someone in these circles trying to introduce you to what they believe is the true and proper way to worship? Answer: The same way you should respond to anyone from any circle, search the scriptures to see if what they say is so. (Act 17:11  These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.)

You are a Christian; you want to do what a Christian does. How does a Christian know what a Christian does? You want to do what pleases God. How does one know what pleases God? You want to know what God is like. How does one know what God is like? There is only one authoritative source that contains the answers to those questions, so now you understand why it is absolutely necessary for you to study your Bible for yourself.

You see, I could tell you that there are many practices within the Pentecostal circles that cannot be found in the Bible. But what authority do I have, except to point you to Scripture. The only road that leads you to truth, is the discovery of those things for yourself in the authority of Scripture. You must always remember, the only authority for Christian Conduct and practice is the Bible.

You will find within its pages, what Christians do, how they live, how they are to think and relate to each other and the world. You will find the nature and attributes of God which is the only revelation of Him we have. You will find what pleases Him and displease Him. You will discover your true nature revealed within it's pages and the work of redemption and our hope displayed in vivid detail.

You are wanting to discover what it means to be a Christian, but Pentecostalism and all it's branches and veins of associations, and they are many, is only a recent phenomena. The church and what it means to be a Christian existed as such for near 1900 years without the beliefs and practices associated with what we have come to know as Pentecostalism.

But how is it that loving and well meaning people may lead us astray? For the sake of clarity I am going to use a single verse of scripture here, but with the understanding you have the responsibility to search out that scripture. Not just to see if it's there, but to study the context of the book and see if I am being faithful to the purpose and intent of the text in which it is placed. In 2Pe 1:20 we read, "Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation." That clarifies for us, that I nor anyone else can take a portion of Scripture and place an interpretation upon it by my own reason or mind without the aid of Scripture itself. But this is what happens in many cases, as selected portions of Scripture are taken as support for a particular doctrine or belief. Because it may appear to be addressing that doctrine, a private interpretation is placed upon it and we accept it as validation and instruction when in reality it is not speaking to that issue at all.

  An easy example of this can been seen here in the belief in speaking in tongues. This is a doctrine you will find taught in the Pentecostal circles. One of the Scripture texts many will take you too to support this practice is Rom 8:26 where we read  "Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered." 

The interpretation will be placed upon this verse of Scripture indicating the work of the Holy Spirit moving on an individual to pray in the Spirit, a term understood as tongues or unknown language. You by someone's instruction will be shown this Scripture, you will read it, and it is possible by their influence along with other Scripture used in the same manner, to be brought to the understanding and acceptance of this practice.

The problem is, that it is a private interpretation, of which we have been instructed by Scripture not to do. It is a private interpretation because no where in the book of Romans is the subject of tongues addressed. The context of this verse is such that it has nothing to do with speaking in tongues. So now you see the importance of not just looking to see if the Scripture is there, but a careful reading of the text must be applied to see if what you have been told is so.

As a new Christian you may wonder or have questions about this speaking in tongues business. Some will tell you it is no longer a spiritual gift practiced in the church today. Others will tell you that the gift continues today and it occurs frequently in their services, as a matter of fact, they may even tell you they have the experience themselves. You may even know this person very well, or they could even be an immediate family member, and you know they would not lead you astray. So, with such influence in your life and certain Scriptures being applied as support, it is easy to see how one could be persuaded to accept such in Christian practice.

So again you can now see the absolute necessity of Studying the Bible for yourself. Here is a process you can use to help with such questions about certain doctrines (things people believe) and practices of faith (things people do). Today we have many tools available to us which makes this task much  easier. One is possibly in the back of your Bible, where you can look up a word or subject and it will direct you to certain portions of Scripture addressing those issues. Just remember to read the entire context and not just those selected portions.

We will use the subject of speaking in tongues as an example, but you can apply this process to any subject in question. The New Testament practice of tongues begins in Acts Chapter 2. The subject is addressed in this Chapter with unparalleled clarity. After the reading of the text you are left with no questions of what it is, what they did, the manner they did it, the reason they did it, and the result of their doing it. Here is a portion of what you will read, I'm using the CEV version for clarity:

Act 2:1  On the day of Pentecost all the Lord's followers were together in one place.
Act 2:2  Suddenly there was a noise from heaven like the sound of a mighty wind! It filled the house where they were meeting.
Act 2:3  Then they saw what looked like fiery tongues moving in all directions, and a tongue came and settled on each person there.
Act 2:4  The Holy Spirit took control of everyone, and they began speaking whatever languages the Spirit let them speak.
Act 2:5  Many religious Jews from every country in the world were living in Jerusalem.
Act 2:6  And when they heard this noise, a crowd gathered. But they were surprised, because they were hearing everything in their own languages.
Act 2:7  They were excited and amazed, and said: Don't all these who are speaking come from Galilee?
Act 2:8  Then why do we hear them speaking our very own languages?
Act 2:9  Some of us are from Parthia, Media, and Elam. Others are from Mesopotamia, Judea, Cappadocia, Pontus, Asia,
Act 2:10  Phrygia, Pamphylia, Egypt, parts of Libya near Cyrene, Rome,
Act 2:11  Crete, and Arabia. Some of us were born Jews, and others of us have chosen to be Jews. Yet we all hear them using our own languages to tell the wonderful things God has done.

It will be necessary for you to continue to read the entire account throughout the book of Acts, but when you are done, you will be armed with a serious understanding of speaking in tongues. Now, someone tells you this practice is continued today and they practice it frequently in their services. When you attend such services what you discover is interesting, what they are doing is not what you have just read. They will not be speaking in other languages that are known in other parts of the world. They will be speaking in some mystical unknowable pattern of sounds that is unknown to any people group.

You will question this, you will then be told something like, well, this is different than what they did in Acts. They tell you that you will find this explained in the book of Corinthians, chapter 12, 13, & 14. So you go to those verses and others that you have been given and behold, those verses are there, and they seem to explain this practice just like they told you they would.

But then you remember that thing about private interpretation, so you begin your search in Scripture about this kind of tongue and the practice of it that is different than what you read about in Acts Chapter 2. But you discover that Scripture doesn't mention any other kind of tongue or practice in the Church. This brings us to another important tool that is used in obtaining truth from Scripture. In the places where the Scripture seems vague and obscure, a portion where it seems to lack explanation, you go back to the other Scriptures that do speak clearly on the subject and use Scripture to gain understanding in those portions of Scripture which are less clear.

You see, in the Corinthian scripture addressing tongues, it is not necessary for the text to give specific detail as Acts 2 does. We already know now what they were doing. What Corinthians is addressing is areas where they were doing it wrong and correcting it. But since Scripture gives no instruction concerning a different practice of tongues other than the one given in Acts Chapter 2, to imply another interpretation is again applying private interpretation, which we are told not to do. You may go ahead and accept this practice because of the influence of these particular relationships, but you will do so without the explicit support of Scripture. You will have looked somewhere else for an authoritative voice on faith and practice of the Christian faith.

You also may come to understand that these people, as precious as they are to you, are misguided in their understanding. By using Scripture, great clarity is brought to the subject, it will be obvious that this practice is not continuing in the Church today, for it would be as easy to recognize as it was in Acts Chapter 2. If God decides to once again give this sign or ability to the church, it will be instantly recognized for what it is, because of the clarity in which Scripture speaks of it.

So you see, the truth is not as difficult to know as perhaps you may have thought. It just takes a little effort and time applied to prayer and the study of the Word. My dear Brother or Sister in the Lord, if you have just begun your walk of faith, don't be uncertain. Don't be afraid of the journey, just begin the journey. You will discover so much wonder along the way. That is not to say you will not be hurt by people and things in this world. Disappointments and difficulties are a part of living in a fallen world. Life as a Christian will not be the easiest thing you have ever done, and your faith may cost you much in this life. But it all pales in light of the joy and peace you receive in the form of Grace given to the Saints.

May the Grace of God be upon each of you,



Saturday, March 11, 2017

"What is Truth" Part III (The Money)

I really considered not even mentioning this aspect of Christianity, it seems so foreign to me now, but at one time I was intrigued by this message. And because they do have a tremendous following here in America and around the world it seems I should at least address it somewhat.

If you are a new Christian and have a television set and come across any Christian Station you will be bombarded with this message of prosperity. You may have already been captured by this sect of Christianity as there are little Word of Faith and Prosperity churches all over the country. They vary greatly in what doctrine they have, but they have a few strings running throughout their churches that unite them and bring them together in fellowship. They are mostly held together in fellowship by their belief in supernatural experiences and their belief that they can have what they say if spoken in faith. They teach it is God's will for all to be blessed, healthy and wealthy.

Their message is appealing, because if you are in financial need, they offer hope. If you are sick and are in need of physical health, they offer hope. If your marriage is on the brink, they offer hope. If your life is a wreck, they offer hope. Just about anything you could be in need of as it pertains to this world and this life, they offer hope. If you will just heed their teaching, apply your faith, everything wrong in your life, God will fix. My dear friend, their hope is a false hope.  Let me appeal to you again to go to the scripture.

 We are a sinful people, (sin-full) a people who deserve nothing but wrath and judgment. Read the book of Romans and discover what we are and our helpless state. Then discover there who He is and what He has done to save such a people as us.

Our redemption is so far reaching it is beyond our scope of comprehension. But what we do perceive compels us to worship him regardless of our earthly circumstances. In many places on this planet, all one has could be lost, just because they put their faith in Christ. But the Apostle counted all these things but loss, that he might win Christ. That is true prosperity.

These groups will say many things that sound good, it will be appealing. They will, as all false teachers do, take you to the scripture in a selected manner. My dear friend, what I want you to do is broaden your vision.  For the moment, escape from the verse, or verses, of which these teachers (probably on TV) have taken you. Slow down, do a little work on your own and read through the book of Acts. This is a record of about 30 years of Christian history, keep in mind much of the New Testament was written during this time in the form of letters to the Church. Search through it carefully and see if you can find the life style these prosperity, or Word of Faith, teachers are telling you to live.

What you find is a people that found no pleasure in the very things these teachers are telling you God wants you to have. The loss of their comforts and earthly securities were not thought to be some disparagement of the blessings of God.

For most, their lives were very difficult as a result of receiving the Gospel. For many their marriages became difficult because they received the Gospel and their spouse did not. For many, they lost their possessions as repercussion for receiving the Gospel. For many, they lost their lives, or the lives of their loved ones, because of receiving the Gospel. In the record we are given of this 30 year span in Acts, not a word is mentioned that these things should not be so, or that God wanted something better for them. They thrived in spite of these difficulties with lives of peace, comfort, securities, and hope, because their heart had been changed and its affections were on things above, not on things below.

The Bible is a comprehensive book, it covers all aspects of our lives. Yes, there are scriptures concerning health and wealth and how these things are a blessing from God. There are times in history, and will be in our lives, when these things will be more available than at others. So the Scripture instructs us in how we are to view both prosperity and lack, both health and sickness, comfort and difficulty. When health and prosperity come, we are to view them in light of God's blessing. When we suffer need and difficulty in our lives, we are to understand God's sovereignty over all things and put our trust in him.

My dear reader, I am trying not to write in a manner to persuade you to some other opinion and lace that opinion with a list of Scripture to support my view. If you can be persuaded by my argument, then one better and more persuasive than myself can win you over to theirs. My concern in these posts is a response to all the various opinions in Christianity today that bombard a new Christian and promotes confusion and uncertainty. It is my purpose to serve simply as a compass and point only and always to the Word. To convey to you that you can know "what is truth". You will not know it all at once, nor will you ever know it all. But you can begin the journey, your primary tools will be the Bible and prayer. You may be told that the Bible says in 3Jn 1:2  Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth. Because of this verse and others they will make reference to, you will be told, "See, it's right there in the Bible, God wants you to prosper and be in health above all things."

It is here you will need to step back, take a look at the life of the Apostle John as it is revealed in Scripture. Then view such claims by these perhaps well meaning, but nevertheless false teachers, through the knowledge you gain by viewing the lives of Christians you see in the book of Acts. You will then be armed with the broad knowledge of Christian life in which to understand this single verse given in greeting through a letter to a dear friend. We must view and grow in our faith guided by Scripture as a whole; avoid basing our faith and practice upon isolated verses that seem to teach particular beliefs that are not found in practice, experience, or instruction of the Christian faith as it is recorded in the lives of Scripture.

It would be natural and proper for us the pray and desire that any of our dear friends and acquaintances should prosper and be in health, even as their soul prospers. This is because we understand in God's providential working in our lives we will at some point be in need of these things. If it were always God's will for us to prosper and be in health, then no one has ever lived in the will of God.

There are times in our lives when the lack of each of these things works in us or someone else as a result of our lack, some purpose in God that could only be found in that place and time. My dear friend, search the Scripture, listen to the message, hear the words of the writers, watch their lives in the narrative. Then love what they loved, desire what they desired, be willing to suffer what they suffered, hope in what they hoped, be encouraged by what encouraged them, and in doing so, you will discover the truth they knew.

May the Grace of God be upon each of you,


Saturday, March 4, 2017

"What is Truth?" Part II (Slain in the Spirit)

The Constitution of the United States is a wonderful document. It is a concise instruction concerning the structure and application of practice allotted to the governing body of our nation. It has served us well for more than two centuries. The greatest weakness is not in the document itself, but in those of whom it governs.

President John Adams points to this weakness when he stated, "Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other." ~ John Adams

There are two major opposing views of understanding the meaning and purpose of the Constitution. One is a strict view that tends to hold to and try to attain the original meaning and its application. The other is sometimes referred to as a living Constitutional view and tends to focus on cultural trends. One argues that the needs of our nation change over time and cultural views evolve, therefore the constitution must also change to remain relevant in our society. Therefore when interpreting the meaning or governing practice of any article in the Constitution it must be interpreted with the weight of the cultural changes in view.

Depending on which view or approach you hold to, determines the meaning you derive from the text.

President Thomas Jefferson stated, "On every question of construction (of the Constitution) let us carry ourselves back to the time when the Constitution was adopted, recollect the spirit of the debates, and instead of trying what meaning may be squeezed out of the text, or invented against it, conform to the probable one in which it was passed.” ~ Thomas Jefferson.    

It is my opinion to agree with Jefferson, but the point here to be made is that there are two different views of interpretation looking at the same document, each view obtaining different results and therefore governing in a different fashion.

Now to the subject of this post. If you are a new Christian, you will begin a process of learning what it means to be a Christian. You will have a desire to learn what pleases God and ways to express your worship of Him. It will be your desire to express your faith and practice in a way that pleases Him. Hopefully you will be instructed to read your Bible and listen to the word preached so that you may grow and increase in the knowledge of how to do this.

What may not have occurred to you, is depending on how those who are instructing you and how you are approaching the scripture, will drastically affect how this works itself out in you life.

As in the example of the Constitution above, so with scripture there are opposing views, which leads us down different roads of interpretation. You may have noticed that all Christians are looking at the same book, but they are coming away with different views. There are many contributing factors which lends themselves to this troubling issue. Two of the heavier ones are something called the regulative principle of worship and the normative principle of worship.

As a new Christian you have to decide which of these principles will govern your approach. Basically, the simple distinction between the two is the regulative principle stresses the fact that scripture alone is our guide in our practice of worship, we are only allowed to practice in our worship what is specifically stated in scripture. The normative principles will stress the fact that scripture is our guide in the practice of worship, but elements that are not specifically restricted are allowed as practices of worship. 

 I'm sure you can now begin to see how various churches can all be looking at the same book and yet come away with very different views of worship. One example would be the practice of being slain in the spirit. This is a practice in some churches where the minister lays his hand on you and you are supposedly slain in the spirit. The person falls to the floor (usually caught by a catcher) and is in a trance or ministered to by the Spirit.  

This would not be a practice under the regulative principle, for there are no instructions concerning this practice nor any example of this practice anywhere in scripture. Therefore it would not be considered a biblical form of Worship under the regulative principle. It is however accepted under the normative principle as scripture does not specifically forbid this practice.

As a new Christian or even one of many years who perhaps just 
never considered these things, you will need to decide how you are going to approach your practice of worship. If you stay with me as we work our way through this series of post, you will discover my leaning to the regulative principle. In my Christian walk I have moved from the normative view to the regulative. If I want to worship in a way that truly pleases God, it's seems logical to me that the way He has prescribed in His Word is the safest way to achieve this.

There are those promoters of this practice of being slain in the spirit, though they cannot defend the practice with scripture, will do so sighting some wonderful experience they had as a result of it. My advice would be to be very cautious with experiences, they do not and must not ever be given supremacy over scriptural instruction. This being slain in the spirit is also a practice in pagan religions around the world today, and they too give testimony of having wonderful experiences of peaceful feelings and emotions of love as a result. Never assume just because an experience has been had, the God of the scripture has been experienced.

"the moment we go beyond the bounds of the word we are out of the course, in darkness, and must every now and then stumble, go astray, and fall." ~ John Calvin.

If you are already in a church that practices being slain in the spirit, I would encourage you to study the scripture. Let the scripture be your guide for worship and practice. Let it be the sufficient source of instruction. You may have wonderful friends and family who would encourage you in this practice of being slain, but I would encourage you to search the scripture, especially the new Testament, see if it encourages you in this practice. Remember, your purpose is to please God in your worship, not necessarily you wonderful friends and family. Gal 1:10  For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.  

Gal 1:9  As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed. 

2Pe 1:20  Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.
2Pe 1:21  For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.

May the Grace of God be upon each of you,