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Strange Fire

I finished reading Strange Fire by John MacArthur recently. I have long respected much of Dr. MacArthur's teaching, but I always though that he had a somewhat abrasive style-- to put it nicely. Therefore, I shied away from reading his books or listening to him preach. I have come to realize that it was my loss, for he is very knowledgeable. Sometimes we all must take the heat for standing up for that which is right. He has called out the modern Charismatic movement for some of its false teaching and abuse-- and I think he is right in doing so. Of course, I wouldn't limit it to the Charismatics or Pentecostals. Many "denominations" have things to answer for and correct. Many folks down through the ages have strayed from the idea of using the Bible alone as the only source of doctrine and ventured into their own comfortable "inventions of the truth."

I had previously not given much credence to the cessationsists and felt that they were missing out on some of the best parts of a Spirit-filled life. I have come to realize that, in some cases, I was wrong and was fooling myself. I want so much for the doctrine I am taught to be true that I realize the only thing to do is check everything out against Scripture. I know that there were things I wanted to make happen and have to be careful I don't invent their reality in my mind. Unfortunately, my obsession with some of it sometimes hinders my growth in the Spirit, giving me the opposite of what I hope to receive.

I don't even like to use the term "cessationist" because [to some] that may carry with it the connotation that the Spirit does not work in the lives of modern believers. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The moment I was drawn to God it was the Holy Spirit who did the work of attracting me to Him. It is the Holy Spirit who continues to convict me of sin and reveals the Word of God to me. He is He, not "it." I won't go farther with that than I have, because that is the subject of another book I just started by Charles Stanley (a favorite teacher/author of mine).

Back to a review of the book: It is as well written as I was afraid it would be. I must confess that I picked it up with the intention of reading it and discrediting what it had to say as simply one man's opinion. I was ready to argue an opposing point of view. Fortunately for me, it did what it was intended to do by the author and pointed out some of the obvious heresy [and outright blasphemy] present in some of the Charismatic/Pentecostal movement today. While I am not prepared to call out every Charismatic or Pentecostal for what they believe at this point in my walk, it does give me reason to approach it all with a cautious attitude and Bible in hand. MacArthur offers a lot of documentation both historically and biblically for what he says. In some cases, conflicting opinions with apparent biblical support can be argued and should be carefully considered. As Christians, we are compelled to seek the truth, are we not? I suggest that anyone who struggles with certain aspects of the Charismatic or Pentecostal movement, thinking somehow that they just 'don't get it,' read the book and open themselves up to what the Bible says about many of these "modern miracles" that seem to be happening all around us today. I am not saying that everything he writes is right, but certainly worth taking the time to investigate with Scripture. For those who defend and are part of the charismatic movement, know that I personally consider you brothers and sisters in the Lord and do not contend that you adhere to false doctrine. I believe God is very present in the lives of believers today and how He chooses to manifest Himself is entirely up to Him. I have no conclusive biblical support for the idea that all of the gifts cessationsists says have ceased have indeed done so. That is certainly not something I believe. God is very present and active in the lives of believers today, for sure!

Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. -1 Corinthians 13:8 (NASB)

I would be anxious to hear from anybody who has read [or is reading] Strange Fire to get your point of view (pro or con) on the content and your biblical understanding of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. I'll be doing a follow-up post to this one in the coming weeks as  I ponder different points of view and study Scripture.

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