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Where is the Power?

There is a phenomenon that I have observed over the past 12 years (a very dangerous one) which most "reformed" Christians and churches seem to be oblivious to, or simply do not want to acknowledge--and if someone actually points it out; that individual is avoided like the plague or preceived as having the potential for causing dissension.

What phenomenon and I referring to? If I had to sum it up in one sentence it would be this: "It seems to me that in many churches the Holy Spirit has been removed and "Grace" has taken His place as the third person of the Trinity." You rarely hear the Holy Spirit mentioned in corporate prayers; or from the pulpit; or in private conversations among the congregants. I believe they are afraid of Him. The result is a congregation that is, and individual Christians that are (at least from this writers prespective)--spiritually dead and without power.

After six months of attending one church that preached the "doctrines of grace" and whose pastor was a Master's Seminary graduate, it dawned on me that the Holy Spirit was blatantly missing. For the following year, I actually made a mental note of how many times He was mentioned from the pulpit in prayer or in a sermon. That wasn't hard to do, as He was only mentioned six times during the course of one year. Six times during an entire year. I met with the Pastor on several occassions and expressed my concerns. They were not well received and I currently worship at another church. (However, I am still praying for that church and all the members)

I often tell people that in my experience of trying to find a church home, I ultimately discovered that I basically had two choices; I could either attend a "Carnival" or a "Crematorium" on Sunday. That is a sad commentary; but, I fear a true one--at least in California.

Where the Holy Spirit is neglected--there is no life and no power! God's "grace" does not replace the Holy Spirit in the life of a Christian.

Since I have felt pretty alone, in terms of this concern, I was encouraged to read the following article written by the late Martyn Lloyd-Jones. I hope you take the time to read it. This is so very important to be aware of. Not only in the life of a church; but, in our own individual lives, as well:

We can study the authority of the Lord and of the Scriptures in a purely intellectual manner. We may have intellectual convictions. But they do not of necessity affect our lives and our work. Only when the authority of the Holy Spirit comes to bear upon us do all these things become real and living and powerful to us. More than that, all that we believe about the Scriptures and about the Lord Himself can only be applied in our ministry, and so become relevant to the world and its situation, as we are under the authority and power of the Holy Spirit. So from the practical standpoint there is no question but that this is the most important matter of all.

In the second place, there is often a conflict in the minds of people between the authority of the Scriptures and the authority of the Holy Spirit. How this comes about is an aspect that in itself merits careful and prolonged treatment, but we cannot linger on it because our concern at the moment is to deal with something else. I would just remind you in passing that in the seventeenth century this conflict became acute among the Puritans and divided them into two main groups. Those who asserted that nothing mattered except the authority of the Spirit became known as the Society of Friends (or ‘Quakers’). They said that nothing mattered but the ‘Inner Light’, the inner witness, the inner experience, and an inner power. They also tended to depreciate the Scriptures, some of them going so far as to say that the Scriptures were not even necessary at all. That attitude naturally provoked a reaction in the other party who tended perhaps to depreciate somewhat the place, influence and authority of the Spirit and to emphasize exclusively the authority of the Scriptures.

Now this, surely, is a thoroughly artificial and false antithesis. Believing as we do, and as we have seen, that it is the Holy Spirit Himself who inspired and guided men to write the Scriptures, it should be clear to us that it is obviously His intention that the Scriptures should be used. But more than that, the Scriptures exhort us to search, to examine and ‘to test the spirits’.

Unfortunately there are evil spirits as well as the Holy Spirit in the world. Furthermore, these evil spirits are ever attacking us and trying to influence us. ‘We wrestle not against flesh and blood,’ says the apostle, ‘but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places’ (Ephesians Vi. 12). These spirits would delude us, and would lead us into error. So the only way by which we can examine and test the spirits, and also ourselves, is by the Word.

The Bible suggests, therefore, that the Holy Spirit normally speaks to us through the Word. He takes His own Word, He illumines it, and takes our minds and enlightens them, and we are thus made receptive to the Word. Through such a process we are able to check all the experiences that we may have, so that we may be sure that we are not being led astray or deluded. It is not right, therefore, to speak of the Spirit or the Word, but rather of the Spirit and the Word, and especially the Spirit through the Word. This antithesis which tends to be perpetuated in some quarters even today, is one which we must refuse to entertain.

A third consideration which emphasizes the importance of our subject is that, of all the aspects of this question of authority, there is none which is so neglected today as the authority of the Spirit. A great deal of attention is given to the Person of our Lord and His authority. There is certainly great interest in the Scriptures and in their authority. But how much do we bear, comparatively speaking, about the Holy Spirit and His authority? If I were to hazard an opinion I would say that no aspect of the Christian faith has been so tragically neglected and perhaps misunderstood. Why is that? It is important that we should ask that question, because as we come to answer it we shall be forced to examine ourselves. Here, I truly believe, we are dealing with the main source of weakness in modern Evangelicalism.

What, then, are the reasons for this neglect? I think that one is respectability and our great concern about ‘dignity’. That is the fatal word which, it seems to me, came in somewhere about the middle of the nineteenth century. The fathers of that generation had been born in an atmosphere of great religious awakenings and revivals. They were men who were alive to the movements of the Spirit. They were not very much concerned about themselves, or their dignity, or their position. But toward the middle of the last century this other idea came in, and men began to talk about the need of a ‘dignified’ service. So they began to put their emphasis more upon the intellectual equipment and training of the minister than upon his conversion, his being filled with the Spirit, and his consequent spiritual insight and authority. This was done in order that we might have a ‘dignified’ form of service. One result was that the Church began to pay more and more attention to forms and ceremonies.

At the same time, a kind of pride of learning and of knowledge began to creep in. As popular education spread, people said that the Church needed a more educated ministry. It was argued that people who were going to primary and secondary schools and to universities would no longer be content with the old kind of preaching. All this comes under the general heading of ‘respectability’, and it undoubtedly had the effect of ‘quenching the spirit’. The desire for a cultured, educated ministry is of course right, but not simply as an end in itself, and never at the expense of the spiritual element.

That is one explanation of the neglect of this subject. Another, which is closely related to it, is our fear of ‘enthusiasm’. There has been a horror of excesses. We hear of various sects and denominations which put a great deal of emphasis upon the work and ministry of the Spirit, but we add at once, ‘Look at their excesses. Look at the things they do. Look at their lack of control.’ Many have become so horrified at the thought of excesses and have allowed themselves to be driven so far to the other extreme, that they are undoubtedly guilty of quenching and grieving the Spirit.

Yet this charge of enthusiasm has ever been brought against Evangelicals. It was brought against George Whitefield, John Wesley and their coadjutors two hundred years ago. They were continually being charged by bishops and others with being ‘enthusiasts’. However, it did not concern those men, nor frighten them.

But the modern Christian, the modern Evangelical, seems horrified and terrified of this charge, as if there were something inherently wrong in a Christian’s being really roused and, at times, almost taken out of himself and his own control. Far be it from me to attempt to defend excesses or fanaticism, but I am certain that our danger today is to be so afraid of such things as to be guilty of quenching the Spirit. In the last analysis, of course, it all comes back to the question of pride.

We are so concerned about ourselves and our self-importance that we are almost afraid to allow the Holy Spirit to gain control, lest we find ourselves doing something or saying something, or appearing in a guise which does not accord fully with our ideas of what befits the modem educated, sophisticated individual.


If you would like to read the entire article click here.

Comments

Mel said…
Perfect love casts out fear. I don't think we really grasp what that means, but I pray that God will open our eyes to see it a little more clearly, every single day...

You know what's funny? Every time I've logged on to Blogger today, it's been within minutes of a post being posted. I think God's sending me a message.... :)

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