Archive for November, 2008

That Sensationalism Quote

Sunday, November 30th, 2008

A quick comment on the sensationalism quote that I posted last week:

This spring, when the Lakeland Revival was starting, I thought about writing a post on the general issue of sensationalism, along with “mountaintop experiences” like Christian camps or conferences or events. I didn’t so much want to evaluate Lakeland, as to talk about the proper place of “unusual/sensational” things in the life of the church. I wrote a couple drafts, but never finished one.

Carson did a fantastic job. He didn’t talk about everything there is to say–for instance, he didn’t directly compare the unusual/uncommon work of the Spirit with the regular work of the Spirit in the local church–but I absolutely love what he did say.

It reminds me of a Sam Storms quote that I heard about second-hand, recently. Something like: Biblical balance means pursuing everything the Bible teaches with exactly as much emphasis and enthusiasm as the Bible teaches us to have.

A Word About Thanks & the Spirit

Thursday, November 27th, 2008

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.” 1 Thess. 5:16-22

People typically connect “Do not quench the Spirit” with the next verse, “Do not despise prophecies.” But I wonder if it’s also connected with the preceding verse, “Give thanks in all circumstances”. In other words, is grumbling & complaining–the opposite of thankfulness–a way of quenching the Spirit?

There seems to be a pretty consistent connection between thankfulness and the Spirit.

Thanksgiving is part of being filled with the Spirit:

“And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.” Eph. 5:18-21

Thanksgiving is part of walking in Christ:

“Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.” Col. 2:6-7

Thanksgiving is part of the word of Christ dwelling richly in us:

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Col. 3:16-17

Speaking in tongues can be giving thanks with your spirit:

“Otherwise, if you give thanks with your spirit, how can anyone in the position of an outsider say “Amen” to your thanksgiving when he does not know what you are saying?” 1 Cor. 14:16

Avoiding grumbling and complaining is part of working out our salvation with fear and trembling, and part of remaining blameless and innocent:

“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world” Phil. 2:12-15

So, it seems that being filled with the Spirit produces thanksgiving, and grumbling quenches the Spirit.

Carson on Sensationalism

Friday, November 21st, 2008

Edit: See That Sensationalism Quote for a brief introduction to the following.

“Yet another issue is a deeply ingrained love of sensationalism and triumphalism, and little knowledge of taking up one’s cross daily. I do not mean to suggest that any gift of tongues, say, or any “prophecy” as defined here, or any miraculous healing, should be ruled out because it might be thought “sensational.” To denigrate the “sensational” in so sweeping a way, a fairly common ploy among noncharismatics, would surely be to indict Jesus and Paul. Rather, the problem lies in love for sensationalism, in the unbiblical and unhealthy focus upon it. […] It magnifies the importance of what is, biblically speaking, relatively incidental, while ignoring the weightier matters: righteousness, holiness, justice, love, truth, mercy. It is constantly in danger of sacrificing integrity as the rush towards the sensational pelts on: stories of healings are blown out of proportion, so that the genuine instances are lost in exaggeration and distortion; evangelism loses out to manipulated outbursts of emotion […]; the straightforward and impassioned message of the cross, proclaimed by a Whitefield, is displaced by endless promises to solve personal problems; and only the Christians whose problems have evaporated and who enjoys perfect health has entered into the fullness of the riches Jesus promises. In the more extreme cases, the triumphalism is carried so far as to promise wealth as well: give your “seed money” to God (i.e., our organization), and watch God multiply it; you are the child of a king–do you not think your heavenly Father wants you to live in royal splendor? Believers who have meditated long on Matthew 10 or John 15:18-16:4, let alone believers in China, will not be impressed by this argument. [emphasis added]”

— D. A. Carson, Showing the Spirit: A Theological Exposition of 1 Corinthians 12-14, p. 173-174

Spiritual Gifts — Getting Past the Term

Thursday, November 20th, 2008

The other night, in the discipleship & spiritual growth class I’m taking at my church, we were discussing spiritual gifts.  The question came up of how to distinguish between spiritual gifts and natural traits/talents.

Many non-believers are good at things that are also called spiritual gifts–like administration, or teaching.  But spiritual gifts are manifestations of the Spirit, empowered by the Spirit, in believers.  So does that mean that if you were good at it before you began to trust in Christ, then it’s not a spiritual gift?  But then there’s also Eph. 2:10, which says that we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ for good works that he prepared in advance for us to do.  So he made us in ways that are suited to the tasks he has for us–natural traits are the work of God, too!  How do you figure out which is which?  Do you need to?

Maybe it’s helpful, maybe not…  The question that I prefer to think about is, “How can I act so that God works through me?  How can I serve the Body of Christ?  How can I care for the people in my community?”  When I read 1 Cor. 12, that seems to be what spiritual gifts are about.

Check out verses 4-7:

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone.  To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.

Key point: Gifts are activities.  They’re ways to serve.  These activities of service are manifestations of the Spirit, and they are intended to help the Body.

So, the major question to be asking is:  Does God work through me in this, for the good of others?

It’s not even a question of, “Am I good at this?”  Two teachers might be effectively identical in the way they teach–but the Holy Spirit might regularly move powerfully when the one preaches.  Or you might have people who are totally uninspiring & dry in how they share the gospel–but when they do, the Spirit brings people in.

And when you find a way that you can serve people–something where God works through you–don’t you want to press into that?  Isn’t that something to pursue, whether or not you know precisely what to call it?

More on the Morality of Voting

Monday, November 17th, 2008

In the comment section of the previous post, I linked to a debate, Is it Immoral to Vote for McCain/Palin?, and the associated discussion thread.

One side was arguing that it is wrong to vote for the lesser of two evils.  (They argued that McCain is evil on abortion, because of his willingness to allow abortion to be left up to the states, along with his support for rape & incest exceptions, and his support for some government funding of embryonic stem cell research.  That this is morally equivalent to wanting it to be legal to lynch black people, or to beat women.  And that wanting something to be legal leaves you effectively guilty of the crime itself.  There was more–you can read their arguments to get the full picture.)

The “morality of voting” issue turns out to be a more difficult question than I thought.  Think about it this way:  Take some heinous evil, and imagine a candidate who thinks it ought to remain legal.  Would that make it impossible for you to vote for him?  (This is single-issue refusal-to-vote, not quite single-issue voting.)  Could you ever vote for an avowed member of the Klu Klux Klan?  For someone who wants it to be legal to lynch black people?  Could you give approval to such a candidate?

Internet debate can be really bad sometimes.  And some of the debate and discussion was painful to read.  But it was good food for thought.  I posted my conclusions to the discussion thread.  It was a bit long, so I’ll just post the major bullet points here, and follow up with the link, if you want to read more.

1.) Do not do evil to avoid bigger evil. In your actions, words, and thoughts, do not compromise God’s standards. Ends don’t justify means.
2.) To figure out this question, you have to figure out what a vote means.
3.) If voting is inherently an act of approval, support, or participation in the proposed policies of your candidate, then you shouldn’t vote for a candidate with any policies that violate God’s law.
4.) If voting is only a tool for affecting what happens, then you should vote to have the best possible effect, according to your best judgment about what everything that will happen.
5.) I’m not sure how to view voting. I suspect there isn’t an objective answer. When Christians differ on this point of political philosophy, then they’re disagreeing over disputable matters–not over the teaching of Scripture or over the demands of God’s Law.

Keep Reading

Voting Your Conscience

Tuesday, November 4th, 2008

What does it mean to vote your conscience?  What is the meaning of a vote?

I have two conservative, pro-life friends who can’t stand Obama, but also do not want to vote for McCain.  Instead, one says that he is going to leave the ballot blank.  I’m not sure what the other is going to do–she may be voting third-party.  But in both cases, they do not want to vote for McCain because they do not believe he is authentically conservative–especially on pro-life issues.  Their conscience won’t allow them to vote for him.

So that makes me wonder… How do you view your vote?

I think my friends are probably thinking about it this way:

“I don’t want to vote for the lesser of two evils.  I want to vote on principle!  Am I going to vote on principle, or am I going to vote pragmatically?”

If you think about it that way, you’ll probably vote “on principle”.  You won’t be willing to vote for the lesser of two evils.

But what if you think about it this way?

“I really don’t want candidate X’s policies to go through.  Am I going to vote to affect what happens, or am I just going to vote to make a statement?”

If you think that way, you’ll probably vote for the lesser of two evils.

So, how should you think about your vote?  How will your conscience reason?

  • A principled vote vs. a pragmatic vote?
  • A vote to make a statement or a vote to affect what happens?