A Charismatic Confession
Have you noticed how many “old” bands tour Australia these days? For example, the ‘Eagles’ have polished up their guitars, snares and larger belt buckles in order to head ‘Down Under’. Why?
To entertain the ‘Baby Boomers’ of course! ('Baby Boomers' are those 'oldies' born after WWII and a little bit more). But it’s more than that (besides the fact that ‘Boomers’ have more money now than in the ‘70’s); it’s about nostalgia – meaning, a longing for the good old days.
A further meaning: a re-visiting to those happier times – which are valued more highly now, than back then – when things like (alleged) ‘good bands’ were taken for granted.
What has this to do with a Charismatic confession? Read on…
J. Lee Grady is a 'charismatic Christian' (apparently we Christians are all categorised by didtinctive labels).
This means that J. Lee places a lot of emphasis on the full range of the ‘charismata’ (gifts of the Holy Spirit); especially the (alleged) gifts that are spectacular e.g. ‘speaking in tongues’; ‘prophecy’; ‘healings’ etc (you get the drift).
J.Lee (sounds like J.Lo!) has also been involved in the Apostolic Movement along with Peter Wagner and at one time, gave initial support and approval to Todd Bentley (oops, bad call there J.Lee!).
J.Lee has been reminiscing on the old days too, but he hasn’t been pining to see the ‘Eagles’. The truth is, J.Lee is pining for what every Christian needs to grow in Jesus – Jesus.
That’s right – Jesus.
Consider J.Lee’s comments from his November 17 blog article, We Need Another Jesus Movement, via Charisma Magazine online.
“Lately I find myself waxing nostalgic for those days—not because I want to return to the awkward fashions and hairstyles of 1972, but because I miss the spiritual simplicity of that era. The Jesus movement was primarily focused on—surprise!—Jesus. Theology was not complicated, pastors weren’t trying to be hip or sophisticated or tech-savvy; and we hadn’t yet created a Christian subculture with its own celebrities and political power bases.”
Wow! This is fascinating stuff! Serious!
J.Lee laments that ‘spiritual simplicity’ is found in Jesus.
He goes on …
“Today, we just don’t preach enough about Jesus. This is certainly true in many charismatic churches, where we’ve become experts on everything but basic Christian theology 101. In my travels this past year I’ve been horrified to learn that many Spirit-filled believers have given up the discipline of reading their Bibles even semi-regularly. They prefer a steady diet of culturally relevant, fast-paced, techno-theology that is a poor substitute for discipleship.”
Wow (Part 2)! This is fascinating stuff (Part 2)! Serious (Part 2)!
J.Lee has become “horrified” in the deficiencies of a movement he helped create!
Hello!!?? Am I missing something here?
But, having said that, I do warm to his words, because I, too, sense that it’s so constructively helpful for ‘charismatic’ Christians (as we all should) to ask themselves: “Has ‘Jesus’ fulfilled His usefulness now that the ‘celebrities’ have taken control via their ‘political power bases’?
Strong words from J.Lee; very strong! Surprisingly strong! Is Jesus on the ‘outside’ looking ‘in’ and seeing lights, camera, action but no Bible? Surely not!
But there’s more!
“Many charismatics have developed the attitude that a simple focus on Christ isn’t enough. We’d rather go to a “prophetic encounter” to hear what Obama’s chances are in 2012, or experience some exotic spiritual manifestation (gold dust, gems falling out of the ceiling), or ask Rev. Flash-in-the-Pan to pray for us for the sixteenth time so we can receive yet another “special anointing” that we will probably never use.
In the midst of all this charismatic gobbledygook, where is Jesus?”
“Where is Jesus?” asks J.Lee! This is a profound question from an influential charismatic leader.
“Where is Jesus?” (Mind you, this could be asked of many non-charismatic/non-Pentecostal churches too - let's not kid ourselves!).
I congratulate J.Lee for putting this into print. J.Lee and I would disagree on a lot of issues; but his gutsy analysis of some out-of-control excesses is also being echoed by some of my charismatic brothers and sisters too – who have discovered that one cannot grow on ‘hype’ alone (in fact, not at all) .
So when he goes on to ask, “Am I the only one out there who is weary of this distraction?” the answer is a loud ‘NO’!
Let’s drop the labels for now. They are sometimes very, very unhelpful, if not elitist.
No Christian can grow in the Lord, without the Lord. As Michael Horton correctly states, we are not self feeders. We all desperately need good Bible teachers who are gifted to teach His Word – to His people – so that His people will grow. How will they grow?
Jesus’ words are poignant here, “Sanctify them in the truth, your word is truth.” John 17.17
Jesus' plan for the growth of His people (sanctification) is inextricably linked with His 'Word' which is 'truth'.
Therefore, J.Lee’s solution is sought for in the wrong place. His nostalgia for a new ‘Jesus movement’ is ill founded and certainly not needed. Why not? Because he places far too much confidence in people.
A new 'Jesus Movement' will NOT be like the nostalgic old movement. Times/culture/people have changed a great deal since the '70's. A new 'Jesus Movement' could be far worse than what J.Lee is witnessing now - far worse.
What is needed is a continual reformation – a back to the Bible reformation; not an Apostolic Reformation!
We all have the Bible. We DO 'have' the original apostles via their inspired writings in the New Testament.
J.Lee has the Bible.
The Bible is all about God’s meta-narrative.
That is, the Bible is a record of the unfolding plan of a truly sovereign God for the glorification of His Son – Jesus.
There is no true “Christianity” without Jesus. J.Lee, too, believes this.
But we don’t need, as J. Lee proposes, a ‘fresh revelation of Jesus’ (He states: “Perhaps another Jesus movement will be unleashed in our country when we discard our distractions and focus on Him again.”)
The revelation of the living Jesus is already here – in the Bible.
Jesus has been revealed J.Lee!
We call this ‘Special Revelation’ and it is a supernatural revelation about the Saviour – spelled out so clearly in ‘the Gospel’ – which all Christian are obliged to believe and herald. It is that simple.
The Gospel is all about Jesus – not us; ‘Good News’ about the Father’s beloved Son and how He has secured a ‘not guilty’ verdict from the Father (justification) for all His true followers (sorry, no labels there – let’s just use Jesus’ term – the ‘elect’).
What we all need is a fresh ‘illumination’ of Jesus by the Holy Spirit because that is what the Holy Spirit does. He brings glory to the Son:
“When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.” John 16.13-14.
(NB The NIV Study Notes: 1:14 . The Spirit draws no attention to himself but promotes the glory of Christ.)
J.Lee longs that the Holy Spirit would allow us to “gaze at Him [Jesus] from all sides and become captivated by His magnificence—His supreme kingship, His compassionate mercy, His supernatural power, His perfect justice, His amazing humility and His love for sinners like you and me.”
Amen J.Lee; Amen!
But we don’t need yet another movement to see this as a reality – we need to read the Bible for ourselves and commit ourselves to being taught by those so gifted, by His Spirit, in solid Bible teaching; with the Bible connecting to how we live our lives (so that we glorify Him; not as a personal development course).
That is what the (older, wiser, mentor, Bible teacher) advised Timothy (the trainee pastor/teacher):
"Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers." (1 Tim.4.16)
Paul tells Timothy that doctrine (teaching, theology) and the way we live our lives (in Him and for Him) are BOTH important to God.
Finally, a very telling comment on J.Lee’s article found below his blog article by a Charisma reader:
“Am I the only one out there who is weary of this distraction?"
No Lee, you're not the only one. From your column I get, we're of the same generation. In those days we heard many sermons about Jesus, about the meaning of the cross, about denying self and following Jesus, about carrying one's cross... Those subjects are but rarely part of many of today's charismatic sermons. Many sermons are about 'what's in for me?', in stead of giving up all for Christ. Today's consumer attitude contradicts the gospel, but it spawned prosperity teaching and preaching that presents God as a super santa, spoiling us with presents and satisfying all of our wants. Back to the true gospel!”
I rest my case!
(J. Lee Grady is the Senior Editor of Charisma Magazine. He has also been an ‘Apostolic’ member of Peter Wagner’s ICA. For some years, J.Lee Grady has been public in his criticisms of the excesses within the Charismatic Movement/Pentecostalism as a Pentecostal. It is hoped that, instead of wanting ‘movements’ (meaning yet more celebrities) to correct the excesses, he might devote a far greater weight to Biblical teaching than he does at present. His voice is a powerful one – may it herald King Jesus as the Author and Perfector of our faith!)