I heard a remark the other day, on some intellectual-esque podcast – far above my own cranial capacities, by the way – that the post-modern era has ceased. We are now in a post, post-modern era, as yet unnamed. This may, or may not be true, but a couple of clear carry-overs from the post-modern mindset still prevail – subjectivism and experientialism.
When the modern era, driven as it was by humanistic rationalism, gave way to the post-modern one, the prevailing evidence of its arrival was disdain for concrete rationalism and a recognition that humanism had failed to fulfill man’s nobly inspired ambitions. Rationalism became subjectivism – we can no longer know anything for certain. What’s true for you is great, it just may not be true for me.
The embrace of absolute truth in the modern era transitioned from a universally accepted reality to a self-defined, personal perspective. What I feel is true, is true … though I can’t even prove that. The spirit of the age – the ubiquitous idol of tolerance – ensures the veracity of your truth for you, and vigorously defends your right to it. It could not, should not, dare not be challenged. Who are you to say that what I feel is true isn’t, in fact, true?
Believers know the source of this deception.
We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one. 1 John 5:19
Whatever this new era in the world may be, the “church” is increasingly vigorous in its embrace of the spirit of post-modernism. The influence of absolute truth, while lurking virtually unseen in the shadows of popular, modern “Christianity” – where Scripture is given oral homage and practical disregard – is only verified personally by experience. You can know God is at work because of what you feel. The veracity of His inspired Word is insufficient; the implications of your warm fuzzy are far more validating.
One of the clearest examples of this is an August 23rd post in the “news” outlet Charisma News. The article ‘Hillsong: Let Hope Rise’ Shows Revelation 7:9 In Action is exemplary of Biblical ignorance, experiential affirmation, and the pervasive influence of a “you” centered, false form of Christianity. The writer is trapped in a false religious system that promises hope and confirms it with feelings.
“Goosebumps prickled my skin as I immediately recognized the presence of the Holy Spirit in my home. What surprised me, though, was how He entered: through my computer screen.” (Source)
The opening paragraph highlights the all-important, widely sought-after “goosebumps” experience. The Holy Spirit was present because warm fuzzies confirmed it.
“God wants to give you His Spirit only through His external Word.” Martin Luther
Now, not to discount the omnipresent attribute of God, if you are a regenerate believer, you’re not going to walk into your home and bump into the Holy Spirit. He’s not going to leap out of your closet, ooze out of your kitchen cabinet, or esoterically un-pixellate Himself from your computer screen. He does not announce His presence with “Holy Ghost bumps.”
If you are Christ’s, His Spirit indwells you. How do we know? Because Scripture proclaims it … in numerous places. Check out 1 Corinthians 3:16, Ezekiel 36:27, Isaiah 63:11, Romans 8:11, 2 Timothy 1:14. There’s more, of course, but the surest truth of the indwelling of the Spirit in each believer comes from Christ Himself:
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.” John 14:15-17
The article’s author, however, seemed to only confirm the presence of the Holy Spirit by her feelings, not by the Christ-promised truth of Scripture. But the goosebump emotionalism wasn’t all. Oh, no. The next level of mystical confirmation came. She started crying.
“Admittedly, tears uncontrollably streamed down my face as I heard “Mighty to Save,” a song I’ve known since high school, sung in different languages. This, I thought, really is the next great move of God.” (Source)
If emotional experience is the foundation of your faith, you don’t have faith. You have an idol of feelings. Feelings are not the validation of the truth of faith; God’s Word is the validation of the truth of faith, followed by the evident fruit of the Spirit in His sanctifying work. And, no … tears, goosebumps, and emotionalistic highs are not “fruits of the Spirit.”
“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.” George Mueller
Of the ministries of the Holy Spirit, for the believer His function as illuminator of truth is foremost. He guides us to understanding His Word. Never pointing the believer to Himself, the Holy Spirit always points to Jesus in the Word.
“The Holy Spirit is evident as these men and women write songs, record music, spend time with their families and move about town. He fuels their callings, even those who don’t travel. What’s more, He can be felt by anyone so much as watching the documentary. I was alone in my home and keenly aware He was there.” (Source)
Do you read the experiential validation of faith in this? “He fuels,” “He can be felt by anyone,” “keenly aware He was there” affirm the foundation of this “faith” on feelings as opposed to the propositional truth of God in His inspired Word. And “anyone” can “feel” the Holy Spirit just by watching a Hillsong documentary? Really? Sans regeneration first? Umm, no.
“I know the Holy Spirit is invisible, the Holy Spirit works in a supernatural, and divine, and imperceptible way within us.” John MacArthur (Source)
The Apostle Paul’s introductory thanksgiving and prayer in his letter to the church at Colossae give us more than a clue about the eternal importance of our apprehension of truth as knowledge, not emotions.
“We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and increasing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth, just as you learned it from Epaphras our beloved fellow servant. He is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf and has made known to us your love in the Spirit.
And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.” Colossians 1:3-11
Paul didn’t pray that the Colossians would have warm fuzzies; he prayed that they would grow in “spiritual wisdom and understanding.” If you’re a believer, take this as encouragement. But if you’re an acolyte of a false, emotions-driven form of faith, take it as a warning. Feelings are not the foundation of faith, nor are they a guide for it. Why? Because the “heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick.” (Jeremiah 17:9)
“Let Hope Rise proves worship is a unifying experience among believers. Hillsong United’s lyrics allow Christians to place their own hearts within the songs and cry out to God in a way that feels personal. The documentary shows that this is not a perfected formula, but the heartbeat of the band.” (Source)
The article’s headline is summarized in this paragraph. However, the vision of the Apostle John in Revelation is of the glorified church in Heaven, not a crowd of ecumenism embracing revelers at a Christianized rock concert from a prosperity gospel church from down under. While the use of narcigetics is a well-known technique by the Word-Faith likes of Hillsong, the author here indicates the great value the technique offers by inserting one’s self within band’s tunes. Doing so helps “Christians .. cry out to God in a way that feels personal.” Yippee and pass the Kleenex … I guess.
“Show me a person obsessed with the Holy Spirit, and I’ll show you a person not filled with the Holy Spirit.” John MacArthur
While Charisma News can be a great source of cathartic comic relief, it reveals the woeful, unscriptural condition of what the world increasingly views as the face of Christianity. In this case, Hillsong is merely one featured evidence of a faux form of faith, falsely called Christian, that is an intrinsic expression of the post-modern spirit of the age in which truth is subjective and experiential. The pursuit, and experience, of “Holy Spirit” feelings is the validation of truth.
Yet, in authentic Christianity, Truth is verified by the Word.
You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. John 8:32
And, oh, don’t think that authentic faith is void of emotions. It isn’t. But those emotions are eternally permanent, given as promised gifts of Christ to His chosen. The peace, love, joy, and the fruits of the Spirit (John 14:27, John 15:10, Galatians 5:22) that Christ brings, though, are not things the enemy of our Lord, try as he might, can counterfeit. But he does try and, sadly, many fall victim to a deceptive faith founded on feelings.
Rely on the Truth of His Word and take seriously our Lord’s warning in Matthew 24:4, “See that no one leads you astray,” even if you do get goosebumps.
Be sure to see Why Hillsong Music is Dangerous For Your Church.
[Contributed by Bud Ahlheim]
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