Where do you draw the charismatic line?
30 years ago nobody would’ve given this question much thought because it was easy to answer. People either liked Benny Hinn or thought he was crazy. People thought Kathryn Kuhlman was a great woman of God or a dramatic fraud. People were largely conservative, or charismatic. They either spoke in tongues that made no sense or viewed the practice as foolish and unbiblical.
It wasn’t a perfect Christian world, but at least there was some clarity.
Nowadays, it seems that people are down right confused or just uninformed, which means that a generation of millennials is heading for an even foggier future. Some people call themselves open but cautious when it comes to signs and wonders, while others called themselves Reformed Charismatics. Our favorite bible teachers are sharing stages with charlatans. Millions of Charismatic Catholics are now muddying the waters of evangelicalism, and whoever thought the day would come when we would have Charismatic Calvinists? Some people say revivalists like Bill Johnson are heretical, but won’t stop listening to Jesus Culture or Bethel Worship. Still others say they listen to John MacArthur for solid Bible teaching, but still, go to Benny Hinn crusades to get the “anointing.”
What in the world has happened to the body of Christ and what semblance of biblical orthodoxy will be left for our children and grandchildren?
In the name of ill-advised tolerance, and because of the wide variety of charismatic entry points, total confusion has taken the place of clarity, and “doctrine” has become a four-letter word.
People are mesmerized by the supposed gift of some gibberish-like tongues, or tearfully hoping that a faith healer can offer the solution for their terminal cancer. It is imperative that Christians understand the importance of biblical literacy when it comes to discerning truth and error. It’s of subsequent importance that Christians be able to convey the truth they’ve come to know.
Three common factors cause biblically illiterate Christians to end up as sitting ducks for destructive heresies (2 Peter 2:1):
- It Feels Good
A common trap for those caught up in the signs and wonders movement of Jesus Culture or Bill Johnson’s Bethel Church. The music is sensual, the lyrics unbiblical, “but it makes me feel so good,” said a former colleague of mine who now attends the Bethel Supernatural School of Ministry. Christians need to be resolute in their passion for truth no matter how good something sounds or what “goosebumps” they claim to feel. 2 Peter 2:2 reminds, “And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned.”
Case and point….
Jesus Culture’s Kim Walker-Smith is an incredible singer, with the band to boot. So it’s not surprising that many people feel “touched” with emotion during her musical renditions. What’s the problem? Well since it feels good for the emotions, her babbling in tongues with no interpreter from 4:55-5:18 is overlooked as some mystical experience that God is involved in. Anyone who knows their Bible would know He is not involved in this ludicrous rhetoric. In fact, based on God’s very word, Kim should sit down and be quiet since nobody could interpret (1 Corinthians 14:28).
Never trust your feelings over the foundation of Scripture.
- It Looks Good
Everybody loves when everybody gets along. The Bible is clear that Christ came to divide and that those who aren’t willing deny themselves are not worthy of Him (Matthew 10:33-38), but for many, those words fall flat in comparison to their goals for unity. When the “Azuza Now” revival took place this past year “Christians” praised the unity of the church as Catholics, Charismatics, and everyone else in between gathered for worship at the LA Coliseum. The music was modern, the presentation was hipster-ized, and the stage was set for a complete abandonment of true biblical Christianity. Works salvation was endorsed as Catholics and NAR leader Lou Engle took part in a foot kissing ceremony for the ages, and Todd White screamed for signs and wonders to be unleashed as a method of evangelism. People may scoff at a gathering like this but imagine for a second if that was your daughter at the 13:12 mark of the video below. Christians need to understand that tolerance and unity may look good, but if it’s unbiblical, it’s deadly.
John Wesley said it best, “What one generation will tolerate, the next generation will embrace.”
- It’s Just “Unexplainable” Power
What better way to deceive the masses than to have no explanation whatsoever? A common tactic by Benny Hinn and other faith healers is to act absolutely dumbfounded at the miraculous hand of God apparently moving through the services. Unfortunately, there is one explanation for this lunacy that they all-too-frequently use – God told them to do it, of course. Biblically illiterate Christians would never know any different because they have not studied God’s word concerning false teachers, or doctrines relating to the sufficiency of Scripture, the unsaved are caught up in a false gospel and believe they are something they aren’t, and the lost stay lost because false healers have no real power. All the flying pastors on the platform and people at the altars are simply doing what they see others do – and the show must go on.
Do not get caught in the lie that something is anointed or even remotely biblical just because it feels good, looks good, or seems to be from God Himself. Popularity is also not a good reason to abandon truth and stretch the pages of Scripture. Every Christian should make it their goal to be able to discern divergent, unbiblical teaching and avoid it. There is no room in the body of Christ for the type of lunacy that is invading the church today.
No Signs of Slowing Down
Studies have shown that in 1900 there were just 900,000 charismatics in the world and they all lived in Africa (see Bruce Shelley’s, “Church History in Plain Language”, pg. 498). In the year 2000, the numbers are staggering around the world. Hundreds of millions of charismatics like history has never seen suddenly appear in just 100 years! Did a great reformation occur that sent anointed Africans on missionary journeys to spread the true power of God and the gifts to all? Did new teaching emerge from some special revelation that spread from African’s most anointed to the rest of the globe? No. What history tells us is that over the past 100 years our world has become more enamored with tricks than truth. Churches are finding out that their people are biblically illiterate, pastors are ordained because they’re good at entertaining the crowd, and the masses flock to the well-marketed mainstream conferences even if a heretic dawns the platform. The results? Once biblical churches are now speaking in tongues, or at least trying to. Radio hosts won’t take your call if your point of view is in opposition to their charismatic guest, and it seems that we have a new “type” of Charismatic every year.
What once was boldly called error is now heralded as, “anointed.”
So how do we remain faithful to the Scriptures and see subsequent generations thrive as discerning, stable sheep?
- Practice What You Say You Believe
For many parents, this is the struggle. Their mediocre spiritual discipline is not appealing to their children, their powerless prayer life does not bear fruit, and the softly unbiblical version of the gospel they’ve attested to saves no one! Nominal Christianity is the deadliest Trojan horse of all. In order to keep our homes centered on the firm foundation of Christ, His word must be known accurately and taught consistently.
- Be Unwavering on the Doctrine of Christ
If professing Christians would accept that teachers like Bill Johnson’s and his entire Bethel crew preach a false version of Christ, it would put Bethel out of business and do the true bride of Christ a great service.
In an article from Charisma Magazine on February 23, 2012, Johnson writes: “While Jesus is eternally God, He emptied Himself of His divinity and became a man…it’s vital to note that He did all His miracles as a man, not as God. If He did them as God, I would still be impressed. But because He did them as a man yielded to God, I am now unsatisfied with my life, being compelled to follow the example He has given us. Jesus is the only model for us to follow”. Colossians 2:9-10, and Hebrews 1:3 would say otherwise.
Johnson’s “Jesus” keeps his church full, his music popular, and his supernatural school cashing in.
- Stand for Truth Publicly
It’s often unpopular to speak the truth, but it’s also the avenue through which Christ is effectively proclaimed. His job description for His disciples was far from comforting on earth but assured them of heavenly rewards. Jesus promised that families would divide over Him (Matthew 10:35), that followers would be hated because of Him (John 15:18), and that Christ-centered kinship would be based on obedience to the will of God (Matthew 12:50).
True Christians will be hated for their allegiance to Christ. Even still, there is no greater act of love than to stand for His life-saving truth.
[Contributed by Costi Hinn]
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