Friday, January 15, 2016

Part 7: The Biblical Context for the Supernatural

In light of the current rise in the influence of new age and eastern religion in our nation and in the church, I plan to write a series on "Deception." There is serious error entering both evangelical and charismatic churches that undermines two basic foundational truths: The person and work of Christ and the Bible as the true word of God. I am beginning this series by re-posting this article I previously included in a series on the gifts of the Holy Spirit. You can read that whole series by visiting my other blog "God's Presence With Us."       -Billy Long
 
Common errors in approaching spiritual gifts
There are three common errors in how churches approach the manifestations of the Holy Spirit. Evangelical churches tend to either dismiss them (ignoring them altogether) or naturalize them (doing away with the supernatural aspect). Pentecostal denominations which claim acceptance of the gifts have often quenched them through emotionalism. 
The error of the non-Christian world is that it imitates spiritual gifts through psychic and occult phenomena which are demonic counterfeits of the true. When man seeks spiritual experience apart from the God of the Bible, he will encounter human soul power and evil spirits. In modern cultures evil spirits have masqueraded as “good” and so have lured many educated folk into the pantheistic world of the new age movement. In our modern culture the spirit realm has disguised itself as “good” and gives people spiritual experiences with “warm-fuzzies” included. The devil comes as an angel of light.
 Pagan and primitive societies have been generally animistic, either worshiping spirits or seeing them in everything. They know the reality of spirits and their malevolent nature. They generally fear them and constantly try to placate them in their religious rites and cultural practices. With the exception of modern new age philosophies that see good spirits in inanimate objects and nature, most primitive societies have always recognized the evil in the spirit realm, and have lived in fear of these spirits unmasked for what they really are.
American culture has seen a rise of activity in the non-Christian supernatural realm through new age and eastern mysticism and occult and psychic phenomena.  Multitudes have sought spiritual reality while attempting to avoid the God of the Bible and the moral demands He places upon His followers. This has resulted in a rise and acceptance of various facets of eastern religions with their new age practices including yoga and meditation (which seem harmless on the surface but are demonic in their origins), a fascination with the occult and paranormal phenomena, astrology (horoscope), and witchcraft.  All of these practices introduce people to the demonic supernatural realm.  The Bible forbids our involvement with such practices because they represent a form of idolatry (See Deuteronomy 18:10); they introduce people to the realm of evil spirits; and they counterfeit the manifestations of the Holy Spirit.

The Biblical Context for the Supernatural: Jesus, the Bible, the Church
The genuine manifestations of the Holy Spirit occur within an atmosphere where Jesus Christ is glorified as Lord and the Bible is respected as the word of God. People are filled with joy and peace as they are healed, set free, encouraged, and strengthened. True Christians need not fear nor be apprehensive about the workings of the Holy Spirit. Within the context of the guidelines given below Christians can discern what is of God and what is of the evil one.

Jesus is Lord. The supernatural must be within the context of the people who confess and follow Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
The New Testament is very clear. The Holy Spirit comes to reveal and glorify Jesus Christ as Lord. Jesus affirmed this to His disciples before He ascended to the Father (John 15:26). The Book of Acts is filled with examples of the supernatural manifestations of the Holy Spirit as He reveals Christ and confirms the Gospel message with miracles, healings, exorcisms, prophetic utterances, and great joy. The letters of the apostles reaffirm and establish as foundational the truth that those under the influence of the Holy Spirit will acknowledge and confess that Jesus is Lord. The writers also stated that anyone working in the supernatural who does not acknowledge the Lordship of Jesus  is a false-prophet and of the anti-Christ.  (1John 4: 1-3, Revelation 19:10, 1 Corinthians 12: 1-3).

The Bible. The supernatural must be within the context of the biblical model, within the context of those who believe the Bible to be God’s word and who walk according to it both doctrinally and morally. The supernatural must follow the pattern found in the Gospels, the writings of the apostles, and in the Book of Acts.
The Biblical writers exhorted God’s people to trust only those whose message was according to their written Bible. Moses warned Israel to reject any prophet or miracle-worker who spoke contrary to the written law and word of God that Moses had given (Deuteronomy 13: 1-3). Isaiah warned Israel of those who claimed supernatural gifting but who did not speak according to law and testimony given by Moses and the prophets (Isaiah 8:19-20). The Apostle Peter tells us that the written word of God is more sure than a voice from heaven and that we do well to heed it as a light that shines in a dark place. (2 Peter 1: 12-21).

The Church. The supernatural must be within the context of the church, the people of God who confess Jesus Christ as Lord. We are referring to people, not buildings and corporate entities, but the living body of Christ that transcends all political and corporate entities.
The context of church refers to followers of Christ functioning under the authority of God’s Word, believers gathered in His name, as well as involved in personal ministry and outreach in daily life as they interacts with the world outside the church.1 Corinthians 11-14 speaks of the gifts of the Holy Spirit working within the context of the body of Christ, the church. The Apostle Paul tells us that God has appointed in the church the gifts and manifestations of the Spirit. (1 Corinthians 12:28).  Paul lists the manifestations of the Holy Spirit as well as ministry gifts in 1 Corinthians 12 and in Romans 12: 4-8. Again he sets them within the context of the body of Christ.

The Gifts and Fruit of the Spirit

The Holy Spirit comes to reveal and glorify Jesus. The “manifestation” of the Holy Spirit is actually the manifestation of Jesus Himself walking among us and working through us. For the church to express the fullness of Christ (Ephesians 4: 13) to this world it must abound and grow in both the fruit and gifts of the Holy Spirit. The fruit of the Holy Spirit (See Galatians 5: 22-23) express the nature of Christ, His love and holiness. The gifts or manifestations of the Holy Spirit (See 1 Corinthians 12: 7-12) express the power and actions of Christ. This is the true Biblical context for the supernatural—an atmosphere where followers of Christ walk in His word and express His nature and power by the fruit and gifts of the Holy Spirit.



1 comment:

Billy Long said...

I am posting here an email I received from a friend in response to this post.--BL
Billy
I think you make a vitally important point. A generation ago, eastern mysticism had a brief heyday in the culture – but it was explicit. That is, it correctly referred to itself as “new age” or “transcendental meditation” or whatever. The current sweep of influence is more insidious – it comes in the name of tolerance and love. After all, Christians shouldn’t be so bigoted as to claim they have a monopoly on the only way to heaven and only their text is valid! And to speak of an eternal hell creates the picture of a vindictive tribal god, not the sweet Santa Claus in the sky that we all know God to be. (Universalism is having a really disturbing emergence among ostensibly “Christian” ministers – Carlton was only one of the first; now you’ve got Rob Bell and a whole host of others proclaiming that a merciful, loving God would never consign anyone to everlasting torment.)
Lowell Peterson