“One of these days some simple soul will pick up the book of God, read it, and believe it.
Then the rest of us will be embarrassed.” Leonard Ravenhill
It’s been this way for us since before the internet, before social media, before the plethora of “how-to” spiritual tomes, even before the bound and abundant availability of the printed Bible. Back there in that garden with no wi-fi, no witty memes, and certainly no copies of the Holy Bible, the diabolically-motivated urge for “more” yielded to us today that thing we call the doctrine of original sin.
“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved” Ephesians 2:4-5
Despite the fact that “But God” providentially gave us His Word, we yet want “more.” We’re bombarded in our churches by programs, books, media, messages, and methodologies that promise us “more” in our walk of faith. The pursuit to get beyond “But God” is ubiquitous. “But God” just doesn’t seem to be enough.
Consider Kris Vallotton’s blog entry today, Raising the Dead, Gold Dust and Feathers. This Bethel “church” false teacher goes, as Bethel always does, beyond “But God” and well beyond orthodox Biblical truths by defending the natural, fallen, passion of people for “more.”
In his “I don’t know why God does these things” blog, Vallotton gives approving witness to gold dust and feathers descending – divinely, he claims – from the ceilings of his cult’s air ducts during “worship” services. “I do think feathers and gold dust qualify as “wonders,” he says. His blog closes with the question, “Have you experienced any of these things?”
That “worship” was being done during Bethel’s glitter scattering is certain; that it was not of God is clear to even the minimally discerning. (He also casually acknowledges yet another new “school” of ministry within the cadre of cultic classes in his “School of Supernatural Ministry,” the “DRT” or “Dead Raising Team.” The team is apparently practicing in a local morgue.)
The deceived folks following Vallotton, his cultic co-conspirator, Bill Johnson, and Bethel are pursuing the very same things that precipitated our fall – the desire for “more” and the denial of God’s Word.
Lest we get too haughty about our own church’s perspicuous stance on Biblical obedience, as we might pompously eschew such nonsense as Bethel’s, consider what Southern Baptist President Ronnie Floyd is doing. The emotionalism that Bethel sells, and which blasphemously denies Scripture, is merely a step or two beyond, perhaps, the experiential emphasis rampant in the SBC these days.
Floyd, in his blog from April 18, continues to pump up the anticipated convention crowds in anticipation of a “historic night of prayer” during the upcoming “Awaken America” annual meeting. He cites a comment from last year’s similar prayer event, “This was the greatest moment I have ever experienced in a Southern Baptist Convention.” Floyd then augments that quote: “God was with us powerfully and everyone present knew He was!” (What? Did the rest of us miss a second Pentecost or something?)
Floyd’s almost palpable craving for experience is clear, as it was in the Garden when the promise of “more” was deceptively offered then, and taken. No one attending the SBC meeting in 2015 reported gold dust and angel feathers floating from the arena ceiling, but to emphasize that “God was with us powerfully,” and that “everyone present knew” it, is to deny Christ’s reminder to believers, “And behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20) If, as Floyd purports, the evidence of God’s presence was “everyone’s” feelings, it shows disregard to Christ’s very promise. Yet Scripture must be disregarded to pursue a faith founded in feelings.
In another post on his blog, Floyd (rightly) encouraged more prayer in SBC churches, but he did it with the (wrong) typical motive of experiencing some sort of dramatic emotionalism.
“What could happen in your church if an entire Sunday morning service was turned into a prayer service? You could experience God moving in ways unlike you have seen in a long time, perhaps ever. People could come to Christ. Personal repentance could result in a releasing of the Spirit upon your church, unleashing the church to greater worship and ministry that is on mission with God.”
Not only could we get the “experience” of God moving, it could also “result in a releasing of the Spirit.” (WHAT? Umm, Ronnie, every believer already has the Spirit. He does not need to be released. He needs to be obeyed … in His Word.)
Floyd isn’t alone pursuing an agenda of emotions-based, “more” faith within the SBC though. Greg Laurie, a participant at this year’s SBC Pastor’s Conference, is pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship. In his church’s “What We Believe” statement, front and central you’ll find “Baptism of the Holy Spirit.” While this is doctrinally-divergent from orthodox Christianity and from historic SBC theology, Laurie’s church teaches two baptisms – one of water, one of the Holy Spirit.
“The purpose of the baptism of the Holy Spirit is to empower believers for service, to witness, for spiritual warfare, and for boldness in their testimonies.” This claim by Laurie is part and parcel of the results of a fallen, “more”, emotions-based theology. We want to feel “more” and be supernaturally empowered to do “more.” “Mind you, “more” is also more than Scripture prescribes, but not less than what emotionalism falsely promises.
Baptists have always believed the Holy Spirit indwells us at the time He regenerates us, and that the events and effects of Pentecost – the coming of the Holy Spirit – are not repeated today. Former SBC President Jerry Vines has said, “Pentecost was a biblically promised historical event. It cannot be repeated. There can be no second Pentecost just as there can be no second Bethlehem.”
The emotional attractions of Bethel are fundamentally no different than the similar appeals of the SBC. They each reflect disregard of Scripture in our corrupted pursuit of “more.” (But, gee, aren’t we, as regenerate believers, to have “put off the old self?” Yeah, well, in classic Romans 7 style, it seems we’re yielding far too much to the flesh, serving “the law of sin” by pursuing flesh-borne emotions.)
Floyd’s appeal for prayer is certainly not problematic. Scripture tells us to “pray without ceasing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17) Prayer should be a consistent and common pursuit for every believer. But God is not more or less present when a single believer lifts up his requests to Him than when 7,000 gather to do so. But if one, or 7,000, pray with the expectation of confirmation by emotion, they are praying for experience, not out of obedience.
The power of prayer, or God’s presence during it, is not evidenced by our emotions. The Holy Spirit does not confirm divine response by feelings. Why? Because our faith is not founded on feelings. It is founded on the truth of the Word of God.
We must be ever diligent not to fall into the trap of easily manipulated (by both our natural fallen natures and by diabolical influence) emotions. With Paul, rather, should we declare, “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind,” (Romans 7:25) because, “we have the mind of Christ,” (1 Corinthians 2:16) not the emotions of Christ.
As Martin Luther wisely said, “God wants to give you His Spirit only through His external Word,” we must shun fallen feelings opting instead for the facts of faith. Those facts are the foundation of our faith and they come to us in a singular place – Scripture.
When we lay Scripture aside, we open ourselves to great potential deception. It’s one of the reasons the nonsense of contemplative prayer is such a heretical threat, and such a powerful attraction to those not grounded in the Word. The great man of prayer, George Mueller, said, “The Spirit and the Word must be combined. If I look to the Spirit alone without the Word, I lay myself open to great delusions.”
But delusions are rife throughout the church today. False “churches” such as Bethel pursue experience with theatrical accouterments that ought to be readily dismissed as manipulative. But so too should the overtly emphasized appeal for emotionalism within the SBC be dismissed. (When LifeWay promotes “Christian coloring” to offer “soothing reflection”, they aren’t promoting obedience to Scripture; they are entreating you to coddle your emotions, not your mind. Color for fun, not for mystical emotions. God don’t work that way!)
The words of Ravenhill, quoted at the start of this article, ought to be both convicting to us and encouraging to us. We have the very Word of our Living God that we claim, in the Baptist Faith and Message, is the “perfect treasure of divine instruction.” The Holy Bible is, we purport, “ the true center of Christian union, and the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and religious opinions should be tried.”
It’s beyond time that the SBC “try” our own conduct by the standard of His Word, rather than the hopeful chills & thrills Floyd seems to prefer as evidence of God’s presence in our prayerful conduct. Pray we next place a man at the helm of the convention who focuses more on “the mind of Christ” within every believer, rather than peddling warm fuzzies as proof of faith. Otherwise, how long could it be before the SBC has its own “Dead Raising Team?” Once you start downhill, it’s a long slide that ends, ultimately, in places you just don’t want to be.
Let’s be the man, the woman, and the convention that picks up that Book of God, reads it, believes it, and obeys it. If we do that, our prayers won’t be confirmed by our emotions. They’ll be confirmed by His blessings.
And gold dust, feathers, and feelings are no match for that!
[Contributed by Bud Ahlheim]
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