Thursday, February 24, 2011

Your Best Grief Now

1 Peter

1: 6-7

In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.

4: 12-16

Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.

James 1: 2-3

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.

Suffering doesn't win many converts to the Christian faith in our Westernised climate of self-betterment. The religion of self-help, cloaked in Christian clothing, opts instead for the language of breakthrough that promises the upwardly mobile and victorious Christian life; with better relationships, perfect righteousness, financial security and all the trimmings. And its all just around the corner, if we could only put our positive thinking hat on.

Yet we know through experience that this religion comes crashing down when faced with the harsh realities of life which turn us inward, so that we question God's goodness and mercy, and the status of our relationship with Him. It's in this arena, one of doubt and unbelief, where Satan would like to leave us.

But these reassuring words spoken to us from the apostles Peter and James challenge our thinking and renew our minds as we go through our own Job experiences. Turn outward and rejoice! Because God in his grace is refining our weak faith so that we can stand when the Grade 5 hurricanes come to beat against our house; when rejection and persecution come knocking.

God knows what we most need - and it isn't necessarily better homes and jobs - but to live in complete dependence and security in Christ so that we might persevere and not fall away when the fragile securities of this world are undone. With a faith refined by fire that looks past the temporary setbacks of this earthly life, and forward to our permanent hope where God's love alone endures.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

34 Theses for a Charismatic Reformation

34 Theses for a Charismatic Reformation

1. The charismatic gifts should testify to Christ alone in His saving office, not to anything in us or about us.

2. Signs and wonders are not a replacement or addition to the gospel but testify alone to God's saving power and the new creation to come.

3. If signs and wonders testify to anything above or below apart from Christ, then they are to be regarded as false no matter how impressive the miracles may be.

4. The spiritual practice of the charismatic gifts should be founded on God's Word not on the traditions of men or extra-Biblical teachings not found in Scripture.

5. The public speaking of tongues without interpretation should be discouraged lest it should lead to sensationalism or hype.

6. Not all speak in tongues, not all prophesy, not all heal. To suggest that all Christians possess certain gifts is unbiblical and takes away the pure comfort of the gospel.

7. A pastor or elder of the church should be judged alone on his understanding of sound doctrine, not on the success or lack thereof of the signs and wonders he performs.

8. Spiritual maturity is not found in someone's mastery of the charismatic gifts but in the knowledge of the gospel and God's generous grace to them as sinners.

9. Assurance of salvation must be based on Christ alone not on the foundation of spiritual experiences, being filled with the Spirit, etc.

10. The baptism in the Holy Spirit must not be separated from the process of conversion. It is intimately connected with the hearing of God's Word and the believer's reception of the Sacraments instituted by Christ (baptism and the Lord's Supper).

11. We cannot earn or merit the baptism in the Holy Spirit by our prayers, holiness or any spiritual disciplines. It is a gift of God's grace alone. It is found only in the power of the gospel unto salvation.

12. For those of weak faith, the gift of the Holy Spirit must not be made attainable through any other means apart from the gospel and faith alone in our Lord Jesus Christ.

13. Healing, prosperity, and other miracles are not promised to us in this lifetime. Rather they are signs of God's grace which makes the sun shine on both the wicked and the righteous.

14. If signs and wonders are not accompanied by the preaching of the gospel, then they are false and lying signs and wonders.

15. The worship of angels should be strictly forbidden.

16. Teaching about various kinds or species of angels (financial, healing, etc) should be fought and guarded against.

17. God's Kingdom here on earth is built only through the preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ, not through signs and wonders, the transformation of society, or any other means.

18. The practice of soaking prayer should be fought and guarded against.

19. Manifestations of the Holy Spirit contrary to God's Word must be soundly condemned. As when God condemned Aaron's sons for presenting strange fire before the Lord.

20. True revival is accompanied by the preaching of Law and Gospel, which results in true repentance and faith. Signs and wonders do not create repentance or faith in the unregenerate. Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

21. No one who holds to Word of Faith doctrines should be ordained as a pastor, elder or deacon in God's church.

22. A church member who holds to Word of Faith teaching should be given right instruction. If they refuse to repent, they should be subject to church discipline.

23. The office of prophet and apostle died with the Old Testament prophets and the New Testament apostles. There are no living apostles or prophets today.

24. The Bible is a closed canon. Nothing can be added to it or subtracted from it. No prophetic message spoken today carry the authority of God's Word.

25. We earn God's blessing only because of the merits of Christ's death and resurrection, and not because of our tithing to any particular church leader or church.

26. There is no physical healing or material prosperity promised in the atonement. Christ made the once and for all sacrifice for sins, but not for our lack of health and wealth.

27. The Holy Spirit's role is to give glory to our Lord Jesus Christ not to Himself.

28. We should not speak of the Holy Spirit, who is the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity, as an impersonal spiritual force. Terms that imply that God's Spirit is an intoxicating substance ("come and get some") should be regarded as blasphemous against the true and eternal nature of the Third Person.

29. God's presence is found only in the church, in His Word and Sacraments, in prayer and worship. It is not to be found outside of the one holy and apostolic church.

30. The preaching of God's Word is to have the supremacy above any prophetic utterance in the church. Nor should the prophetic replace God's Word as if they were the very words of God.

31. Those who claim they are speaking the very words of God in their prophetic utterances should be soundly rebuked and if necessary subject to church discipline.

32. Christ's return is subject to the sole authority and sovereignty of God the Father, not to the efforts of the church here on earth. We do not bring about Christ's Second Advent, Satan's destruction or the coming of God's Kingdom here on earth. The timing of these events is willed by God alone from before the foundation of the earth.

33. The heretical doctrines of the Latter Rain movement should be soundly fought and guarded against.

34. No movement or revival should be created on the basis of a false manifestation of demonic and unholy spirits.