BEYOND THE LIMITS
Over the past few decades a variety of strange physical manifestations have been endorsed by Christians who claim that they are experiencing "the supernatural power of God." Many non-Christians and even Christians look upon these "spiritual gymnastics" as trendy, foolish, and even blasphemous. Should we eagerly receive these alleged manifestations of the Holy Spirit as genuine, or should we be examining them with some caution and concern?
Recently a number of Christians have claimed that the Holy Spirit is
falling upon people and causing them to do strange and
unusual things. Although Bible-believing Christians readily acknowledge the miracle-working power of a supernatural God, the
question is: Can such bizarre and grotesque displays actually be the work of the Holy Spirit?
There have always been Christians who have held that unless extraordinary
spiritual phenomena are happening before their
eyes, the power of God is somehow being restricted. In order to "release the power," many say, it is necessary to go to a
certain place (e.g., the Toronto Airport Vineyard, or a Rodney Howard-Browne revival meeting) and experience a particular
practice being proclaimed by a chosen person who has received a "special anointing from God."
Some have even gone so far to say that unless this power of God falls
upon Christians and produces such unusual utterances
and behavior, true revival can never take place. In order to manifest the power of God, it is said, people must fall over
backward on the ground, lie in a trance for hours, or even laugh uncontrollably to the point of hysteria. As Vineyard movement
leader John Wimber once said, these strange expressions of spiritual power could "readily become the revival we've all longed
and prayed for."(1)
It is clear from the Scriptures that the Holy Spirit is given to believers
for the purpose of giving them boldness and wisdom for
witnessing. As Jesus Himself told His followers before ascending into heaven: "You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit
comes upon you, and you shall be My witnesses...."(2) However, it is another thing altogether to say that certain extra-biblical
techniques release the power of God by the manipulation of men. Is it reasonable, as various renewal leaders argue, that acting
silly or ridiculous is justifiable (and even desirable) because "God uses the foolish things of the world to confound the wise?"
The apostle Paul's charge to his disciple, Titus, as he governed the
church at Crete is excellent advice for all believers today. He
said to be "hospitable, loving what is good, sensible, just, devout, self-controlled, holding fast the faithful word which is in
accordance with the teaching, that [you] may be able to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict."(3)
Through Paul, the Holy Spirit instructs sensible, devout, self-controlled
believers to hold fast to God's Word and exhort their
fellow Christians to receive sound doctrine. The Bible is our measure for all truth claims(4), and we must always strive to
maintain balance when it comes to spiritual experiences. As someone once said, "Satan doesn't care whether you're in the attic
or the basement, just so long as you're not on the main floor."
(1) Ministries Today, September-October 1994, p. 8
(2) Acts 1:8a
(3) Titus 1:8-9
(4) 2 Timothy 3:16-17
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