Have you ever noticed how encouraging and motivating the Holy Spirit is?
That’s probably the sole impression of the Spirit you’d get by listening to a lot of our charismatic and Pentecostal brothers and sisters. Listen to them relate what a powerful time they had with the Spirit last night, and hear the wonderful things He said to them, and it’s all encouragement for now, and success for the future. Their church will grow. Their business will prosper. “Keep going” – all in the context of remaining faithful to God, and doing things his way, of course.
I grew up in a church that spoke like this.
I especially remember an older man standing up, ‘speaking in tongues’, then ‘interpreting’ what he’d said. His words were always an encouragement to the (reasonably) small church, all about God’s love and care and desire for us to know him more intimately.
It’s a nice ‘warm fuzzy’ from God, and there’s plenty of the Bible that could substantiate (most) of what he said. But, if this is a message from the Holy Spirit, isn’t there something missing?
I can’t think of a single time when, in talking about this experience with the Holy Spirit, that someone said, “I was so convicted over my sin. I just felt so dirty before this holy and glorious God that I knew I had to repent.” (There might be some exceptions where this was a conversion experience, but I’ve never heard someone already a Christian say this).
I can’t think of a single time where the Spirit has said their church will stay small, or will reduce in number. Or say that their business will fail.
What’s missing is: the Bible.
In theory and/or practice, when our brothers and sisters think about God revealing Himself to us, they don’t think of the Bible. Instead, they think of a wonderful experience/feeling/audible voice. They think of how the Old Testament prophets heard from God, but because their Bibles are closed they forget:
“Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son” (Hebrews 1:1-2).
The revelation we’ve received in Jesus is greater than what the prophets received. We have a better revelation, from a better source!
“No prophecy [that is, from the Old Testament] was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21). “Take… the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:17).
Our brothers and sisters either divorce the Holy Spirit from the Bible, forgetting that he speaks to us through the Bible, or they believe that it’s more precious and wonderful to hear a new word than it is to hear his eternal Word.
“His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence…” (2 Peter 1:3).
We don’t need anything else for this life – we have all we need! To ask for more revelation is to be discontent with it, to suggest it’s not enough! It makes God a liar!
I hope I don’t sound cranky. That’s not my intention. I’m actually concerned for them, and for us.
I’m concerned for them because the Eternal Word has been substituted, for something that seems so much more exciting. For them, to really hear from God, they need this experience. On top of that, they don’t really receive a greater revelation of God – they hear that He’s loving, but do they hear He’s also holy? They say the Spirit reveals to them intimate details of their lives but does He remind them that His grand plan is that everything be united in Christ (Ephesians 1:10)?
I’m concerned for us, because we can hear their experiences, and wonder what we’re missing. I know what it is to feel inferior because I’m not hearing the voice of God like they supposedly do. But God has spoken to us, and His voice is glorious. He’s revealed his own nature, and ours, and His plan for this world. He’s called us from the Kingdom of Darkness into the Kingdom of the Son whom He loves (Colossians 1:13). We have nothing to feel inferior about; we have a Word to rejoice in.
Maybe the next time you hear a friend mention a new revelation they’ve received from the Spirit, you could respond with eagerness and joy at what God has been showing you through His Word.
Jesse Walz is married to Bec, and they have a four-year-old boy and a one-year-old girl. They attend Surrey Hills Presbyterian Church. Jesse is studying theology at PTC, and Bec is a stay-at-home mum.