“Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”
I grew up believing in the cessationist viewpoint, that the Holy Spirit and His giftings happened long ago, and have “ceased” in today’s society. Not that we called ourselves cessationists, but like many religious spirit-filled churches, that belief went without saying.
You never would’ve caught us commanding out evil spirits, declaring that someone is healed in Jesus’ name, speaking in tongues, or giving prophetic words. All these things were, as I was taught, “of the devil.” And again, this wasn’t openly said, but there was a kind of fear behind such power, a fear likened to that of the Pharisees when they felt their beliefs questioned by the acts of Jesus.
Even they started attributing acts of God to that of satan, falling prey to the great sin of blaspheming the Holy Spirit as stated in Matthew 12:31. Surely, we don’t want to sin against the very one that Jesus sent to us with the words, “I tell you the truth, it is better for you that I go away. If I do not go, the Helper will not come to you…” (John 16:7)
Jesus later explains that through His return to heaven and the coming of the Holy Spirit, we would be able to do even greater things than He did on the earth! (John 14:12-14) Must we be reminded of what Jesus has done? Even that which has been recorded is not the whole account as John states:
“Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written” (John 21:35).
And so, why has the church underwent this “Great Divorce” between the Holy Spirit and the Word of God?
From my own perspective, the church I grew up in was young and inexperienced. It had a mere mustard seed of faith that revolved around that which can be seen and understood with the mind. We didn’t see miracles and so they must not exist, at least, not in the capacity that they did in Biblical times. I mean surely if such healings and works of God happened today we would’ve heard about them, right?
Some of the greatest discoveries on my walk with God have occurred when I was actively searching for more. When I became open-minded about God’s abilities, not limiting Him based on what I had seen or hadn’t seen. And when I sought the truth for myself, instead of just believing what was popular at the time, that is when I began to see miracles.
Let’s face it, this world is largely governed by satan and his forces, this is his kingdom and so it shouldn’t surprise us that miracles aren’t on the daily news or made famous through other media sources. What kingdom would allow others to be swayed toward another? Most miracles are largely unseen and even unbelieved when they are widely witnessed or recorded simply because of satan’s influence!
Miracles are also, in my belief, even less common in America and other largely secular, mind-numbed cultures. We are distracted most of the time, difficult to please, and either too busy or too caught up in self to really desire such things.
Generally, when something does happen that requires a miracle, we first seek man’s wisdom and in this technological society, we easily place our faith and hope in the medical sciences to bring about the miracles we so desperately want.
Meanwhile, in third world countries, such technology isn’t readily available. Death is a very real and unavoidable foe, as well as fear of war, poverty, disease, and even evil spirits, which inhabit America as well but thrive in our obscurity.
The veil of darkness is very real in those countries. You won’t find many, if any at all, who are atheists or unbelieving in anything spiritual because they’re literally surrounded by spiritual warfare and unshrouded acts of satan. He isn’t shy, and he isn’t humble. In fact, satan is quite the show-off to those who really want a demonstration of his “power.” Which largely consists of illusion or deception. He masquerades in fear and to a believing culture that has never seen the power of Jesus, that is all it takes to create a reverent following. That is the birthplace of black magic, witch doctors, full-bodied possessions and even miraculous acts such as levitation or spiritual revelations that are not of God.
Can God really expect us to combat such atrocities without the Holy Spirit’s power? How else will we reach these people who are accustomed to the works of demons? Won’t we have to show them, not just tell them, but actually demonstrate our God’s power, authority, and love?
Jesus is our primary example of how we are to live, teach, serve, love, and save the lost. He didn’t just recite scriptures or follow religious rituals like the Pharisees. He showed us a new way, a new covenant that would replace the old “works” based one in which we had to strive and claw toward salvation but never really achieve it on our own. Jesus is the only way, He is the bridge between us and God. And the Holy Spirit is Jesus in us!
How can we profess to know Christ and carry Him in our hearts without mirroring Him and His heart toward the Holy Spirit and giftings?
Do you really carry the heart of Jesus if you teach people about God but do not live it? If you do not then proceed to love others through demonstration? Healing the sick, raising the dead, casting out demons…do you or do you not believe that this is the Will of God?
Jesus unscrolled the scriptures of Isaiah 61 and read aloud:
“The Spirit of the LORD is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, and that the time of the LORD’s favor has come.”
He rolled up the scroll, handed it back to the attendant, and sat down. All eyes in the synagogue looked at him intently. Then he began to speak to them. “The Scripture you’ve just heard has been fulfilled this very day!” (Luke 4:18-21)
The great commission has been passed on to us, we are to carry out what Jesus started on the earth, just as the forefathers of our faith, the disciples who began the church and gave up their lives for the Truth. How do our passions and works compare? What would they think and say if they saw today’s church with its empty rituals, it’s false, “non-offensive” teaching of Jesus who is more comparable to a hippie than to the man who was so zealous that he turned over the money changer’s tables, chasing them out of God’s holy temple with a whip.
There is much more that can be said, so much more…however, for the sake of unification, I will end with this.
Both cessationists and charismatics are still brothers and sisters in Christ who ultimately desire the same thing…and that is the salvation of the lost and the coming of Jesus. We agree on the most important matter of all; that Jesus was crucified, rose and that He is the road to salvation.
At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what denomination you are so long as you realized that we are all in this together, that our common ground is what unites us and ultimately leads others to Christ.
If satan is divided against himself how can he stand? (Matthew 12:26), how then can we stand if we are divided? It is time we realize our common goals and our sole purpose. No one is perfect and no one’s theology is spot on in every respect, I believe that we are all constantly learning and growing, or at least we should be open to such. Even the charismatic who completely believes in the works of the Holy Spirit and implements them in his daily life can get it wrong.
Charles V. Bryant described it best in his novel Rediscovering Our Spiritual Gifts:
“Many persons tarnish the idea and practice of the gifts of speaking in tongues, divine healing, prophecy, and discernment with extreme and bizarre claims and behavior. Because of them, others discount the authenticity and value of the gifts. So, two opinions emerge: that of pneumaphobics, persons who are afraid to have anything to do with the Holy Spirit; and that of pneumanics, those who worship the experience or the gifts and not the Giver. Both hurl unloving accusations at each other, rarely understand each other, and confuse the silent majority between them. One wonders which sin is greater–gift pride, looking down on others with different gifts, or gift denial, not believing in gifts at all.”
Which do you believe is the greater sin? I believe the greater sin lies in what differing views ultimately does to the church which should stand as a united symbol of the bride of Christ. And that symbol should always be….love.
If you love well, you will serve well. If you place others before yourself, you will discover the best way to serve them, and if you pursue God with all your heart, mind, will, and emotions…all else that you desire will be added unto you.
Even the great divorce can be reconciled and I believe that it is! We are seeing a new revival, an awakening of the church, a return to Biblcal zeal, the book of Acts. No matter where you stand on the issue of spiritual gifts and miracles, it is no lie that we all desire to see such things today. Why not pray for them? Why not actively seek them out? Listen to testimonies and immerse yourself in every move of God in your town, city, or state. Discover for yourself whether you are living out the most God has for you and your destiny!
You will not be punished for searching, and so what have you to lose?