Precious Jesus

"Afresh, precious, precious Jesus, I resign this body to You, for doing or suffering, for living or dying. Will You accept it? Will You use me for Your glory more than heretofore, that You may have some little return for all the benefits You have done to me? Oh, do grant this request; my heart longs for it, my spirit pleads for it; and "if You will, You can." You know the hot temptation of which I am the subject. Bring Your glory out of it, and keep me from the evil, and it shall be well." - Ruth Bryan

Saturday, February 27, 2016

The Proof of the Pudding’s in the Eating

Dear Friends,

 It is perhaps symptomatic of these days of spiritual poverty that we find many within the ranks of the evangelical churches (and others) turning to new forms of worship and experience. What has been described as a “new Pentecostalism” has been gaining followers in most of the non-Pentecostal churches and the “gifts” of “tongues”, and “healing”, and other manifestations of the Holy Spirit now have exponents among Anglicans and Baptist, Methodists and Presbyterians, and the rest. 

In this letter I want to bring just a few practical considerations before you with regard to these movements, for, very often, what a theological and Biblical argument fails to do, a practical consideration accomplishes, if only we are honest enough to fact the naked facts. “The proof of the pudding’s in the eating” is an old maxim, but one that has good scriptural backing; for, if the tree is planted in the best of doctrine, it will bear the best of fruits.

(1) First of all, then: What manner of life does the claimant of these gifts manifest? In other words, what kind of life does the average new pentecostalist lead? And this is not a frontal attack on the members of this movement, but more a general reflection on the manner of living of the majority of professing believers today and the lack of any uniqueness on the part of any one body. The sad things that characterise evangelicalism at this present time are absence of Holiness and devotion to Christ, failure to bow to the whole Word of God and exercise the power of God in our pulpits, determination not to know anything among men save Jesus Christ and Him crucified and to take up own cross and follow after Him. But this is a general condition, and those who claim to have been “baptized” with the Spirit, or “filled” with the Spirit in this modern sense, and have spoken with tongues and prophesied are no less part of this general condition and declension, nor are they any more marked by spiritual living. Surely, the one demand that we might make from a man or a woman, or a young person who claims to have “received the Holy Spirit” in this unique sense is a unique life – far and above the average run of professing souls. 
(2) Now, this leads to a rather disturbing feature of this new avenue of Christian experience, and that is: What frame of mind does this doctrine leave the believer in? Although it appears quite open and obvious to those outside of the movement that there is really nothing unique in the lives of its devotees, nevertheless, there does seem to be the impression created that those who have “manifested the gifts” are further up the spiritual ladder than others. We recollect hearing of one woman member of this movement who believed that the Godly Murray McCheyne was a great man, “but,” she was quick to add, “just think how much greater he would have been if only he had had the baptism of the Holy Spirit.” The most outstanding feature of a Spirit-filled life, one would have thought, should be a spirit of humility, kept low by that most searching of all words of scripture, “Who maketh thee to differ from another? And what hast thou that thou didst not receive?” A far cry that from our penny-in-the-slot automated spirituality and instant sanctification, and a vastly different spirit of condescension on the part of the “Spirit-filled” towards those who have not yet "attained.”
(3) A further practical consideration of the new movement is this: What spiritual knowledge do these gifts convey? Among the hotbeds” of this new experience are the Bible Colleges and Missionary Training Institutes of our country today, and some of these establishments have witnessed a virtual breakdown in their normal curriculum on account of so-called “winds of revival” rushing through their corridors. Now, let us be assured of this: generally speaking, students, are notoriously lazy and will do almost anything but study. But, of course, with the “fulness of the Holy Spirit” as part of one’s equipment, study becomes almost obsolete. Again, however, “The proof of the pudding’s in the eating,” and whereas, we might expect those who possess, in all fullness, the Spirit of light and truth to shine like stars in the heavens, we find, as always, that it is the diligent slogger who holds his head high at the end of the day and who, on account of his studious labours, is able to show himself approved unto God “a workman that needth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth”. (4) On the question of “spiritual knowledge”, perhaps we should mention a pertinent question as it relates to those who have received these gifts but who are still in denominational attachments: How tender a conscience to wrong do these gifts impart? When I hear of “Spirit-baptized” brethren or sisters who, through their denominational ties, are in ecumenical situations that have now accepted Romanism and Modernism as aspects of “the gospel”, I immediately want to know how the Blessed Holy Spirit – Whose glorious office it is to lead us into all truth, can, at the same time – permit us to remain in all error! How can the one and same Spirit of God who pronounces as “accursed” that “other gospel” (of which Rome and Modernism are the custodians) also, at the same time, uniquely bless those who are bound up with it? Strange fruit, indeed, for a doctrine that has such high-sounding terminology. {emphasis mine} The one thing that we might rightly demand from anyone – and especially Ministers and preachers of the gospel – who have testified to receiving this remarkable degree of growth in the knowledge of Christ is a spirit of obedience with regards to associating their “temples of the Holy Spirit” with that which defiles. But, again, is the movement not symptomatic of an age of disobedience among the Lord’s professing people? When we fail to obey explicit truth, then it is often tactful to redirect any criticism of our disobedience by laying claim to a more enlightened or advanced degree of spiritual growth. The argument then quite easily runs that a man so filled with the Spirit would never be part of a wrong association, therefore, the association that he is in cannot be that wrong. However, the true statement is this, that a man in such wrong association cannot be as filled with the Holy Spirit of Light and Truth as he would have us believe, for, “When he the Spirit of Truth is come he shall lead you into all truth,” and, it goes without saying, out of all untruth. 
 (5) Just one last practical consideration: What kind of views of the Holy Spirit do these doctrines leave the believer with anyway? Who would deny that the church on earth today needs a great outpouring of that blessed Third Person of the Trinity? But is it really the Spirit of the Word of God that is thought of in these circles today? At the drop of a hat the “gifts” may be turned on, or turned off by the adept exponent of the craft. No notion of a Sovereign, Almighty Spirit here; One, Who Jesus said – as He spoke to that other unknowledgeable man, Nicodemus – was “like the wind” that blew where it listeth. No thought of “manipulation” there! Yes, my friends, we need the fullness of the Holy Spirit today, but it is that same Spirit Who came at Pentecost “as a rushing mighty wind,” and filled the believers with the powers of glory itself so that the world was turned upside down. Until we have such “fruits” again, then we can only conclude that the “roots” are planted in a different soil after all. May we have enough of the Spirit of God to honestly face our wretchedness today and lay ourselves before the Throne of God above.

 W.J. Seaton(September 1970) 

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