October 17, 2013

Strange Fire – Testing the Spirits – John MacArthur

by Mike Riccardi

For those who are unable to view the free live stream of the Strange Fire Conference here at Grace Community Church, I thought I would do my best to provide a written summary of the various sessions as they unfold (Session One; Session Two; Session Three; Session Four). I’m not sure how long I’ll be able to keep this up, or if I’ll be able to other sessions (check out Tim Challies‘ blog for his coverage) But I thought a little would be better than nothing. It provides us with a helpful opportunity to interact with what is actually being said at the conference. Having said that, the following was transcribed in haste, and so please forgive any typos. I pray it’s a benefit to you.

 Strange Fire

Open your Bible to 1 John 4. I want to read to you a portion of Scripture that is directly applicable to the subject at hand.

[Reads 1 John 4:1–8]

I want to draw you back to verse 1: Test the spirits—“spirits,” meaning persons. This is a mandate from the Apostle John. Test, dokimazo, is a term used in metallurgy to assay the purity of metal. “Test the persons,” whether they be human, or whether they be angelic. “Test the persons.”

We’re reminded to do this also in 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22, not to despise prophesying, but to examine (same word, test) what we’re doing.

This is critical, because Satan exists, and because demons exist, and because they operate a kingdom of lies that dominates the world. Satan is the god of this world, the prince of the power of the air, the ruler of spiritual darkness in heavenly places, and he has been allowed to run loose in this world, going about as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. He and his agents are disguised as angels of light, according to Paul in his letter to the Corinthians. And we should not be surprised that Satan operates 99% of the time in false religion, in lies and deception.

Satan isn’t the one behind the wretched, corrupt, sinful behavior of any given society. The flesh takes care of that. Satan is behind the corrupt religion, the false systems of belief. It’s really important to understand that. Turn to 2 Corinthians 10. People talk about spiritual warfare with regard to Satan and demons, and I think almost always they get it wrong. They come up with the idea that we’re supposed to be chasing Satan around. I remember being at a pastor’s conference, and the hosting pastor got up, and said, “Let’s pray.” Then the first words out of his mouth were, “Satan, we bind you.” I almost fell out of my chair. “Let’s pray,” and the first word out of his mouth is “Satan.” He thinks that’s spiritual war? That’s a delusion.

A Battle for the Mind

Spiritual war is described in 2 Corinthians 10:3 [Reads 10:3-4] The imagery here is human weapons are no match for a fortress, an impregnable stone edifice. This is the same word for prison and for tomb. We are assaulting formidable edifices. We cannot use pea-shooters. What are these fortresses? The fortresses are defined in the next verse: speculations, logismos: ideas, ideologies, theories, viewpoints, belief systems, psychologies, philosophies, religions. This is what we are engaged in as spiritual war. It’s a battle for how people think, a battle for the mind. It’s not about chasing Satan away or running after demons. That’s not within the purview of our abilities. Ours is a war for the mind.

Why? Because the world is imprisoned in false belief systems. They are fortified there, in the sense that they are impregnable in their ideologies. Those fortifications become their prisons and end up as their tombs. And the architect of all of them is Satan himself. He is the father of lies, the ultimate deceiver, the angel of light that purveys his great work through false belief systems. In fact, they’re further defined, verse 5, as every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God. Every noble intellectual idea and insight raised up as an ideology against the knowledge of God. People are fortified in systems that are anti-God. To use the language of John, they’re anti-Christ. They are fortified, imprisoned, and entombed, ultimately, there.

Our responsibility is to smash these ideologies, to crush these fortifications, and to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. This is a battle for how people think. Again, Satan is the architect, designer, engineer, and the builder of these ideologies.

Truth WarAnd it all seems so wonderful because it is operated by the ultimate “angel of light.” In the Old Testament the people were warned about false prophets. In the New Testament again, we are warned. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus warns about false prophets, Matthew 7. Paul warns about false prophets repeatedly. Peter essentially writes an entire epistle to warn about false prophets. Jude follows up, and the Holy Spirit gives to Jude the same message in a different verb tense. And the New Testament ends with 2 John and 3 John, and 5 times each in the opening verses in those letters is a warning to continue to be faithful to the truth. The last word from the last apostle of the last decade of the first century of the church is to live for the truth. And then Jude also throws in: Earnestly contend for the truth. It’s a truth war. This is spiritual war.

And part of being able to fight that war is to test the sprits. We can’t go blithely along accepting anything and everything that people aver or affirm or avow. We need to test the spirits. This passage gives us the principles to do that.

Edwards and the Awakening

And by the way, when the Great Awakening broke out in the 1730s and 40s, there were questions about the legitimacy of that. There were things that were going on that were the work of the Holy Spirit, things that weren’t the work of the Holy Spirit. Edwards assessed that movement on the basis of this same text. So last night Steve Lawson raised Calvin from the dead, this morning we’ll raise Edwards from the dead.

Edwards wrote The Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Sprit of God, and he based it on 1 John 4, published 1741. Edwards asserted that this passage is foundational to assessing anything that is claimed to be the work of the Holy Spirit—timeless tests given to us not by Edwards, but by the Holy Spirit through Edwards’ work. These are to evaluate all movements; all preachers/teachers are to be evaluated by these tests. What is truly of the Holy Spirit will conform to these. All the lines of examination converge in these 8 verses. It is the responsibility of every pastor, teacher, preacher, and Christian, to examine all claims and test all persons and prophecies. Like the noble Bereans, to examine everything to see what is true.

Invisible Work, Visible Results

Clearly here the issue is a work of the Holy Spirit. 1 John 3:23–24. Our salvation is confirmed and we are assured that we belong to Christ because of the work of the Holy Spirit. Our assurance, our confidence, the affirmation of the reality of our salvation is based upon the working of the Holy Spirit. I know the Holy Spirit is invisible, that He works in a supernatural and divine and imperceptible way within us. However, while the working of the Holy Spirit is invisible, the results are visible. While we do not experience or “feel” the Holy Spirit, the manifestation of His work we do experience.

MacArthur PreachingOne of the follies of the Charismatic movement is to say, “The Holy Spirit is leading me,” or “directing me.” You have no way to know that. I have no way to know that. I don’t have a red light on my head when it’s the Holy Spirit and goes off when it’s just me. I have no mechanism of understanding when it’s the Holy Spirit or just me. All I know is I can experience the result of His moving in my life. And it started when I was saved: I had a hatred of sin and a love for things that honor God. I wasn’t at all interested in philosophy (which was my minor in college), but I had and continue to have a consuming passion to know the Word of God. I didn’t see or feel the Spirit doing that, but I know the result of His Work. I tolerate those in the world with compassion, but I adore God’s people. I don’t even know who you are, but I love you in a real sense—not that I know all about you—but there’s something about those who belong to Christ, they belong to me. These are things that are evidences of an invisible work by the Holy Spirit.

So we know that Christ abides in us because we know the Spirit He has given us is manifest in us. People say, “How do you know when you’re a believer?” Not by perfection but by your direction—by what you love and hate and long for. We’re all in Romans 7. We don’t do what we want, and we do what we don’t want. And we hate that about us. That’s the evidence of the Holy Spirit in us. It’s in John 3:8 that Jesus says to Nicodemus that the wind blows where it will—you can’t see it but you can feel it and know its effects.

By the visible, manifest, experiential effects of the Holy Spirit’s invisible work, we know He lives in us. What is He doing in us? He produces in us a desire for repentance, a hatred of sin a desire to seek salvation and forgiveness, a belief in the Gospel, love for Christ, a desire to become a slave of Christ, acknowledging Him as Lord, a delight in Scripture, a longing for obedience, joy in trials, love of other believers, desire for fellowship, understanding of Bible through illumination, a heart of thanksgiving, a desire of praise, worship as a way of life, and increasing Christlikeness. This is what the Holy Spirit is doing in you whether you like it or not. 🙂

But there are some other spirits. And it’s really pretty surprising to me that in a sudden unexpected shift from the glories of 3:24, the Holy Spirit brings words to John’s mind that move from the glorious reality of Christ and the true wok of the Holy Spirit to the deadly dangers of the unholy spirits, the persons who are not from God, the anti-God, the anti-Christs.

But we’ve been warned by the Holy Spirit from the Old Testament on. Satanic deception is always with us. It was there in the Garden. It’s always at work, always effective. God has always warned His people to vigilance and discernment. It’s a long war on the truth. And it rages all the time, and the true people of God had always had to battle the false prophets and the liars. And what makes them effective is the deceptiveness of it.

Are We Being Divisive?

It is a strange irony in the Charismatic movement that if you criticize them, if you endeavor to be vigilant and discerning and contend for the truth and hold them to Scripture and expose their error, they will condemn you as the sinner. You are the one who are standing in the way of the fulfillment of the prayer of Jesus in John 17 for the unity of His church. In order for them to succeed, they have to turn discernment into an iniquity, a transgression against Christ in His high priestly prayer. It is essential for the Charismatic movement to survive that it attack truth warriors and turn them into enemies of the Holy Spirit, because if sound doctrine rules, they do not survive.

Evangelicalism has largely been intimidated into silence. I was discussing this when I started working on the book. We couldn’t find a book exposing the Charismatic movement for what it is, a book of any note at all, that had been published in the last 15 years. They have been very successful in silencing Evangelicalism.

Test Them

And so we come back to 1 John, and we are commanded to test the persons espousing anything in the name of God and Christ to see whether they are from God. Verse 1: Beloved, do not believe every person. Don’t believe it! Why? Because many false prophets have gone out into the world. So test the spirits.

It ought to be enough to convince you of the effort of that movement, just to know that they don’t want examination. If this was a true work of the Holy Spirit, consistent with Scripture, they would be inviting all the scrutiny they could get, because they would want the affirmation and authentication.

So what are the tests? Well I’m going to give you one. I have several, I don’t know how far I’m going to get. The rest of them are in the book. 🙂

Test 1: The True Work of the Holy Spirit Exalts the Lord Jesus Christ

Verse 2: By this you know the spirit of God. Here’s how you know. Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the Anti-Christ, of which you heard that it is coming, and is already in the world.

The first test is Christological. It has to do with the person of Christ. It starts with a clear understanding of the incarnation. That Jesus, God in human flesh, is understood biblically. Now, what is John writing about here in specific? Some were denying that Christ was really human. He only appeared to be human. This was called Docetism, which came out of the Greek dualism that taught that matter is bad and the spirit is good. That matters. Because if Christ is to be the Substitute who dies in your place, He must be man. If your sins are to be imputed to Him and He punished in your place, He must be man. Furthermore, if His life is to be credited to your account, His humanity matters.

John’s not intending to speak on a full-range Christology. He’s picking out one error of the time that assaulted Christ’s nature. But we can draw form that that everything begins with a true Christology. The Council of Chalcedon in 451 condemned monophysitism as heretical. So early on they settled the issue of the two natures of Jesus Christ being together in one person and unmixed.

Not all the elements of Old Testament and New Testament revelation on Christology are here. But the first test is an accurate view of the incarnate son of God. It’s all implicit here. False religions and heretical Christian cults all have an aberrant Christology. The Mormons think that Jesus is the spirit-brother of Lucifer who was a created being created by God who himself was a created being. All the cults have an aberrant view of Christ. The Holy Spirit does not. He has an accurate view of Christ, always truthfully presenting the glory of the Son. Any Holy Spirit-filled preacher will be Christ-dominated and present Him in an accurate and exalting and truthful way. It is a matter of sound theology, but also a matter of preeminence, and of Gospel clarity. So where you see any deficiency in the nature of Christ or the prominence and preeminence of Christ, this is not the work of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus says in John 14, 15 and 16, “When the Spirit comes, He’ll show you Me. His ministry is to point to Me. He will lead you into all truth concerning Me.” Anyone who is wrong on Christ, or who diminishes Christ, or who pollutes the Gospel, or distracts from the Son to the Spirit, is not operating in the Spirit.

Edwards said, “The Devil has the most bitter and implacable enmity against Christ. He would never go about to beget in men more honorable thoughts of Christ.”

The devil seeks to twist, confuse, suppress, and misrepresent the glories of the Son of God. He seeks to draw attention away from the Son of God to a false image of the Holy Spirit, while pretending to honor Jesus. The true work of the Spirit does the opposite. The true work of the Spirit exalts the true Christ in all glorious preeminence, and the full and accurate understanding of His Gospel.

If the charismatic movement was being produced by the Holy Spirit, the glory of Christ would prevail everywhere. It would be Christ-dominated. Everyone would be bowing the knee to the true Christ in belief of the true gospel. The people would be humble, joyful, sacrificial, confessional, declaring Jesus as Lord and themselves as slaves, denying themselves, taking up their cross sand following Him wherever they led.

Yet, very proudly, a book by Jack Hayford and David Moore claims the distinctiveness of the Charismatic movement is the preeminence of the Holy Spirit: “Only one thing is the same for all: the passion they have to experience the Holy Spirit’s presence and power.” When the Holy Spirit is the person sought, His work has been rejected. Christ is obscured, Scripture depreciated, and a preoccupation with counterfeit experiences imagined to be induced by the Holy Spirit, but not having anything to do with Him at all. [Reads Eph 3:14–16.] Paul is saying, “I’m praying to the Father, and I’m asking Him to allow His spirit to strengthen you so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. [Reads Eph 3:18–21.]

What is Paul’s prayer? It is that the Spirit would lead you to a full understanding of the love of Christ. He always points to Christ.

Here the Charismatic movement fails the test of exalting Christ above all by exalting that false image of the Holy Spirit that they’ve created. Show me a person obsessed with the Holy Spirit and I’ll show you a person not filled with the Holy Spirit. Show me a person obsessed with Christ, never tiring of learning about and loving Him, entranced by His magnificent glory and seeking to obey Him and be like Him, and I’ll show you a Spirit-filled person.

Much of the movement is actually anti-Christ. Stories about visions of Jesus are terrifying to me. Some have proclaimed Him dressed as a fireman. Others have seen Him 900 feet tall. Others meet with Him regularly in the bathroom. Some have seen Him dancing on the garbage dump. Others have seen Him sitting in a wheelchair in a convalescent home. Some have taken long walks with Him on the beach. And so it goes. “Shortly after the Holy Spirit revealed Himself I saw Jesus. I asked the Lord to take me to His secret place. I was lying in the grass and said Jesus would you lie down next to me. The Father came too and reclined next to Jesus.” Sappy emotionalism, bizarre fantasy, having absolutely nothing to do with Jesus or the Holy Spirit. Delusions? Probably. Lies? Surely. But they do not find their source in the Holy Spirit.

Word of Faith Heresies

It’s not just those bizarre images like you read in Heaven is For Real. That’s bad enough. But even worse are the heresies concerning Him. In the book you’ll read about them. Jesus didn’t come to earth as God in human flesh. “He never claimed to be God,” they say. He took on Satan’s sinful nature on the cross, died spiritually, and went to hell for three days.

Kenneth Copeland exhibits the blasphemous and unbiblical way in which Jesus Christ is treated in Word of Faith circles:

How did Jesus then on the cross say, “My God”? Because God was not His Father anymore. He took upon Himself the nature of Satan. And I’m telling you, Jesus is in the middle of that pit. He’s suffering all there is to suffer. …  His emaciated little wormy spirit is down in the bottom of that thing and devil thinks he’s got Him destroyed. But all of a sudden God started talking.

Creflo Dollar openly questions the deity of Christ:

Jesus didn’t show up perfect, He grew into his perfection. In one Scripture in the Bible He went on a journey, and He was tired. You better hope God don’t get tired. … But Jesus did. If He came as God and He got tired—he says He sat down by the well because He was tired—boy, we’re in trouble. And somebody said, ‘Well, Jesus came as God.’ Well, how many of you know the Bible says God never sleeps nor slumbers? And yet in the book of Mark we see Jesus asleep I the back of the boat.

Convoluted, irresponsible, ridiculous thinking. Casting aspersions on the deity of Christ.

And the Word of Faith is guilty of positioning themselves and those in their movement as if they’re God’s. Copeland pretends to speak for Jesus like Sarah young in her silly books. “Don’t be disturbed when people accuse you of thinking your are God. … They crucified Me for claiming I was God. I didn’t claim that I was God; I just claimed that I walked with Him and that He was in Me. Hallelujah!” Rank arrogance. Stupidity. Gross falsehood. Blasphemy.

And where are the Charismatics who do believe the truth about Christ in calling these people out? And shutting down their influence? Only the Spirit of Antichrist would inspire that kind of blatantly unbiblical teaching.

Charismatic Catholics

You can go to misrepresentations of the Gospel. We know that the Holy Spirit to convict the world of sin, righteousness, of judgment, to bear historical witness to the Gospel, to empower those who preach its saving message. The Holy Spirit is faithful to the Gospel and would never misrepresent the Gospel. So wherever the devaluing of Gospel truth is visible, we know that’s not the work of the Holy Spirit. And let me be blunt: Any movement that can fully embrace Roman Catholicism is not a movement of the Holy Spirit, because that’s a false gospel! Why do they do that? Because it’s based upon a common false experience. Sound doctrine is subjugated to spiritual experience. False forms of the gospel are happily embraced.

The Charismatic Catholic renewal began in 1967 when students received “baptism” and supposedly spoke in tongues. The movement was officially recognized by Pope John Paul II. The Catholic system always absorbs. You’ve heard the Pope recently: Welcome everyone back to the church. Homosexuals, atheists. Absorb everyone and build the system. Why? Because that system has one king: the King of Darkness.

By the year 2000, there were 120 million Catholic Charismatics. There are well over 500 million Charismatics. So 1 out of 5 is Catholic, globally. Catholic Charismatics hold to Catholic theology. They deny that a believer is justified by faith alone. It’s by works. They believe in the ex opere operato of the seven Roman sacraments. They are up to their eyeballs in the idolatry of the Catholic mass, that horrendous attempt to re-sacrifice Christ. And yet they are fully embraced by Protestant Pentecostals.

I was criticized openly and publicly for what I said at Moody Bible Institute for what I said on Isaiah 53. The next week, there was an article from students at Moody hailing the arrival of Pope Francis as the new Pope. Why would anyone do that? Why would anyone in Evangelical historic Protestant history make a concession to Catholicism? It’s just become part of the contemporary fabric of Evangelicalism.

Here’s a  report:

Ten thousand Charismatics and Pentecostals prayed, sang, danced, clapped and cheered under the common bond of the Holy Spirit during a four-day ecumenical convention last summer. … About half the participants at the congress on the Holy Spirit and World Evangeliziation, held July 26 to 29 in Orlando, Florida, were Catholics. … ‘The Holy Spirit wants to break down the walls between Catholics and Protestants,’ said Vinson Synan, theological dean of Pat Robertson’s Regent University, who chaired the congress.

If this movement can embrace Catholicism it’s not a movement of the Holy Spirit. Roman Catholic theology is corrupt; it preaches a false gospel. The spirit behind this charismatic renewal is not the Holy Spirit.

Oneness Pentecostalism

Not just them. Worldwide, there are 24 million Charismatics that belong to a group called Oneness Pentecostalism. You’ve heard them as the “Jesus only” people. They deny the Trinity. 24 million people deny the Trinity. That’s about 1 out of every 4 Pentecostals in America. They believe in Modalism: one God, appearing in three different modes; sometimes the Father, sometimes the Son, sometimes the Spirit, but never all three at the same time. There are three modes in which He may appear. You run into a little bit of trouble with that at the baptism. He’s changing hats really fast.

But way back in the Athanasian Creed, it was settled that God was Father, Son, and Spirit, three co-equal, co-existent divine Persons. Modalism has been condemned all throughout history as a heresy that literally attacks the nature of God and cuts you off from the possibility of salvation. The leading Oneness Pentecostal is T. D. Jakes, who denies the Trinity. You don’t have the true God, the true Christ, or the true Spirit. The Councils of Nicea (325) and Constantinople (381) condemned modalism as heresy.

Osteen’s Universalism

The largest “church” in America is Joel Osteen’s in Houston—a shallow, saccharine variety of universalism, standing starkly at odds with everything Scripture says. When he was asked what he thought about people who refused to accept Jesus Christ, he gave an answer that could have been from the lips of Pope Francis.

Well I don’t know if I believe they’re wrong. I believe here’s what the Bible teaches and from the Christian faith this is what I believe. But I just think that only God will judge a person’s heart. I spent a lot of time in India with my father. I don’t know all about their religion. But I know they love God. And I don’t know. I’ve seen their sincerity. So I don’t know. I know for me, and what the Bible teaches, I want to have a relationship with Jesus.

When he was asked if Mormons are true Christians, he said, “Well, in my mind they are. Mitt Romney has said that he believes in Christ as his Savior, and that’s what I believe, so, you know, I’m not the one to judge the little details of it. So I believe they are.”

Do you understand the pervasive impact that he has? This is massive. This is universalism.

And Mormonism claimed to experience the same Pentecostal miracles in Acts 2. Joseph Smith said that tongues, prophecy, and miracles were there at the dedication of the Kirtland Temple in 1836, “There were great manifestations of power, such as speaking in tongues, seeing visions, administration of angels;” and, “There the Spirit of the Lord, as on the day of Pentecost, was profusely poured out. Hundreds of Elders spoke in tongues.”

There you have it. More than half a century before Charles Parham launches the Charismatic movement the Mormons are doing the same thing. Is this a work of the Holy Spirit? It wasn’t in the case of the Mormons, and it isn’t in the case of those who followed them.

The Prosperity Gospel

Another distortion of the Gospel is the health/wealth promises of the Word of Faith movement. The prosperity gospel is horrendous, but it is the defining feature of all Pentecostalism, so that the majority of Pentecostals exceeding 90% in most countries believe the prosperity gospel. That’s why it has grown: because it lies, promising success, health, and wealth. And it preys upon the poor. The prosperity gospel has no interest in the biblical gospel. It only offers financial prosperity, physical well-being to desperate people, carnal comforts, and worldly riches and success to people who literally give up the little that they have to buy it.

It’s the worst, the ugliest. To prey on the sick and the poor and become wealthy by lying to them. Is there anything more wretched? And then attributing it to the Holy Spirit and the name of Jesus. Prosperity preachers have made Christianity a laughing stock. One writer said prosperity gospel is Christianity’s version of professional wrestling.

Spiritual swindlers will one day be punished for their blasphemous conceit.

If you were to add up the numbers of the Catholic Charismatic renewal, Oneness Pentecostalism, and the Word of Faith Movement (with its gospel of health, wealth, and prosperity) the sum would easily be in the hundreds of millions.

All this goes back to our point. A true work of the Holy Spirit exalts Christ, His person, His work, His Gospel.

Now, when you get the book, and you will, you will read a whole lot more of these kinds of things to substantiate the deviations of this movement.

Test 2: The True Work of the Holy Spirit Opposes Worldliness

[Reads 1 John 4:4–5.]

Do you know why that movement grows? Because it is offering to people in the world what they already want. It’s worldly. They’re offering what the unregenerate heart wants: health, wealth, prosperity. They package it every way they can: high-powered spiritual experience, out of the doldrums of their daily experience, a large crowd, music, lights flashing, and elevation to a kind of experience that people have when they’re drunk. All of it is worldly: the music, emotion, liberation, freedom, promises of health and wealth, ecstatic experiences, the hope of prosperity. “They are from the world,” verse 5. That’s why the movement works. You have worldly men speaking to worldly people about worldly things. It has nothing to do with the kingdom of God. On the other hand, we have overcome the world.

Do they not hear the warning of 1 John 2:15–17? Joel Osteen writes Your Best Life Now. That’s it. That’s the message. The only way that’s true that your best life is now is if you’re going to hell. Because if you’re going to heaven, this is not your best life.

The Holy Spirit doesn’t provide the mindless superficial lusts of the fallen heart. He brings humility brokenness, repentance. And produces in us love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.

The main attraction is the carnal desire.

Do you notice how the preachers flaunt their worldliness? They have to. It’s how you sell the story. “Look what happened to me. It can happen to you.” It’s a ponzi scheme—a spiritual version of Bernie Madoff.  9 out of 10 Pentecostals live in poverty. Over 90% of Pentecostals and Charismatics in Nigeria, South Africa, India, and the Philippines believe that “God will grant material prosperity to all believers who have enough faith.”

It’s more morally reprehensible than Las Vegas because they associate it with religion. They take your money in Las Vegas, but that’s the Mafia! And you expect it! You don’t expect God to do this. When the widow gives her last mite in Luke 21, that was not example of Christian giving. That’s what happens to a widow who is suckered by a religion of works. She was trying to buy with her last two cents her way into the kingdom because that’s what she’d been taught. And Jesus says any system that sucks people down to the place where they have nothing left is coming down. And it did.

Test 3: The True Work of the Holy Spirit Points People to the Bible

[Reads 1 John 4:6.] “…listens to us,” i.e., the Apostles. How do we know the spirit of truth form the spirit of error? Because the spirit of truth runs to Scripture, to the Bible [i.e., where Apostolic revelation is recorded]. That’s how we know.

Listen to Peter Wagner:

Some object to the notion that God communicates directly with us, supposing that everything that God wanted to reveal He revealed in the Bible. This cannot be true, however, because there is nothing in the Bible that says it has 66 books. It actually took God a couple hundred years to reveal to the church which writings should be included in the Bible and which should not. That is extrabiblical revelation. Even so, Catholics and Protestants still disagree on the number. Beyond that, I believe that prayer is two-way; we speak to God and expect Him to speak with us. We can hear God’s voice. He also reveals new things to prophets as we have seen.

Jack Deere, once a professor at Dallas Seminary says the sufficiency of Scripture is a demonic doctrine.

“In order to fulfill God’s highest purpose for our lives, we must be able to hear his voice both in the written Word and in the word freshly spoken from heaven. … Satan understands the strategic importance of Christians hearing God’s voice so he has launched various attacks against us in this area.”

Did you get that? Satan is the one calling them to Scriptural fidelity. He further says,

“One of his most successful attacks has been to develop a doctrine that teaches God no longer speaks to us except through the written Word. Ultimately, this doctrine is demonic even [though] Christian theologians have been used to perfect it.”

The test is failed.

Test 4: A True Work of the Holy Spirit is Manifesting the Love of God

[Reads 1 John 4:7 –8.]

A true work of the Holy Spirit is manifesting the love of God. Love for God, and love toward God’s people. A true work of the Holy Spirit elevates love—biblical love. That love shows up toward God in pure, true, and holy worship. And it shows up toward others in the humble, sacrificial desire to serve and edify.

In the Charismatic movement, everything is about me, not about you. “Gifts are for me, to edify me.  Prayers are for me to get me what I want. I attach myself to this false system in order that I can get what I desire.” It lacks love.

Edwards wrote about this. There’s a false kind of fake love that exists among people that are in this together. But it is anything but sacrificial. Where you have mysticism and materialism mingled you have self-absorbed attitudes. It’s about me feeling, experiencing, getting, acquiring what I want. It’s infantile, cold-hearted materialism and selfishness disguised as a work of the Holy Spirit.


So we don’t need to speculate. We really don’t. We have the tests. Just look at the tests, Measure the movement. Be discerning like the noble Bereans. And it should be clear to us.

I want to close by reading 2 John 7-11:

For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist. Watch yourselves, that you do not lose what we have accomplished, but that you may receive a full reward. Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house, and do not give him a greeting; for the one who gives him a greeting participates in his evil deeds.

That is a clear warning against any ecumenical embrace of those with an aberrant Christology.

Mike Riccardi

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Mike is the Pastor of Local Outreach Ministries at Grace Community Church in Los Angeles. He also teaches Evangelism at The Master's Seminary.
  • Steve Rowe

    John McArthur,
    It is a strange irony in the Charismatic movement that if you criticize them, if you endeavor to be vigilant and discerning and contend for the truth and hold them to Scripture and expose their error, they will condemn you as the sinner.

    Well, that’s pretty harsh, John, but, no, I’m not going to call you a sinner for criticising me, I welcome criticism if it fits, but I will test your spirit, as advised. Is that fair?

    You say, ‘One of the follies of the Charismatic movement is to say, “The Holy Spirit is leading me,” or “directing me.” You have no way to know that. I have no way to know that.’

    So, according to you, no one, even you, can be led of the Spirit, whereas Scripture says the sons of God are led by the Spirit, and He bears witness with our spirits that we are the sons of God. The inner witness is the leading of the Spirit.

    Romans 8:14-17

    For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs–heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.

    Then you proceed to teach exactly what we would on how the Spirit bears witness with our spirit, and, in effect, leads us into all truth.

    Very strange. This is becoming bizarre.

    Then it is made plain that, even though we cannot be led by the Spirit, if we claim we are, we are in the flesh, or being led by the devil, even though Paul tells us that it is by walking in the Spirit, and being led by the Spirit that we overcome the flesh, and the law.

    Galatians 5:16-18
    I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

    Just testing the spirit, here, that’s all.

    • In many of those passages (if not all of them) the context makes it clear that being led by the Spirit is the word of God working on the will/mind of the person. That is very different than how the term is used in the modern charismatic movement. Just as your last line reveals: “Just testing the spirit.” Obviously you understand that means comparing what is said to the word. Ditto w. being led by the Spirit.

      • Steve Rowe

        So then, Ps McArthur said that he was not led by the Spirit, but by the Word, making a distinction between the two. Yet you say that being led by the Spirit is one and the same as being led by the Word. How, then, does the Spirit bear witness with our regenerated spirit that we are the sons of God?

        How do you explain the following passage from 1 Corinthians 2:9-16?

        But as it is written: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit.

        For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him?

        Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God.

        Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.

        These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual.

        But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

        But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one. For “who has known the mind of the LORD that he may instruct Him?” But we have the mind of Christ.

        Are you not attempting to replace the Word with the Spirit, when, in fact, it is the Spirit which confirms and quickens the Word to us?

        1Corinthians 3:5-6
        Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God, who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

        Further, what does Jesus mean when he says to the disciples, ‘the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you’? Is Jesus speaking, here, of the Word or of the Spirit, who reminds the disciples of the words Jesus spoke to them?

        And, when Jesus, our example, had been baptised at the Jordan, he was filled with the Spirit, and, we’re told, led of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. Was the Word made flesh led of the Word, or the Spirit?

    • Pastor John didn’t say he wasn’t led by the Spirit, but that when one is led by the Spirit, there’s no way to infallibly determine if the impression you had was from the Spirit or just from yourself except in retrospect when compared to Scripture. “The Spirit led me to…” should not be used as a power play.

      The Spirit led me to write this blog post about that. I trust you’ll read it and be benefited.

      • Steve Rowe

        What Ps McArthur actually said was, ‘One of the follies of the Charismatic movement is to say, “The Holy Spirit is leading me,” or “directing me.” You have no way to know that. I have no way to know that. I don’t have a red light on my head when it’s the Holy Spirit and goes off when it’s just me.’

        Well, hen, one would have to assume that Ps McArthur was led by his own mind to put together the conference and the Holy Spirit had nothing to do with it. I can understand this, because I think the Holy Spirit might have been grieved by some of the things which were said, for instance, in regard to Ps Piper and Grudem at the last QandA session.

        Your blog post is really a defence of your position on cessationism rather than a Biblical representation of how the Holy Spirit speaks to us today.

        I would wholeheartedly agree that He speaks to us through the Word. But the leading of the Spirit is also through bearing witness with our spirit. When we received Christ, God put His Spirit in us and gave us a new heart which was compliant with His will and Word.

        “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them.”

        The fear you have is that this could be considered extra-boblical revelation, which it isn’t, or an empowerment to defy the Word, which would only be the case if someone was wilfully disobeying he Holy Spirit and the Word, because He will never lead us to act apart from the Word. So His leading is always and exclusively in conjunction with the Word.

        The Scripture actually says, ‘I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.’

        So why, if you are correct, did Paul not say we should walk in the Word and be led by the Word? Why emphasise being led by the Spirit?

        Why does Ps McArthur say he has no way of knowing if he is being led by the Spirit when we are clearly instructed that we should walk in the Spirit and be led by the Spirit?

        For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.

        If I am a son of God I am assured I can be and will be led by the Spirit. It doesn’t say, ‘as many as are led by the Word of God these are the sons of God’. Paul is making a clear distinction here. The Spirit will never violate or go outside of the Word, and he is addressing sons, not sinners, so we should be able to recognise the lading of the Spirit, and we should understand that we will never be led outside of the Word.

        In fact, it is primarily by the reading, study and application of the Word that we learn how to be led by the Spirit because the Word and Spirit are of Christ who is of the Father, so why would not a son of God be led by the Spirit of God?

        And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.

  • Philip

    Thank you for posting these updates Mike. I’ve been looking forward to this conference for months, but being overseas my internet connection isn’t always reliable and I missed most of today’s presentations.

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