Holy Spirit – a strange fire?
John MacArthur, influential author and pastor of Grace Community Church, has organised a very controversial conference which end this week. Its interesting hearing some of the messages online. The theme of the conference is called “Strange Fire” and the conference is an attack on the charismatic movement. The speakers at this conference are far right fundamentalists whose aim is to attack what they call the heresies regarding signs and wonders and spiritual gifts.
MacArthur, who is a cessationist (one who believes the miraculous gifts have ceased), said at the opening of the conference that the charismatic movement continually dishonors God in its false forms of worship. He accuses the charismatic movement of attributing to the Holy Spirit works that have originated by Satan. He states quite firmly “What I’m talking about is the charismatic movement that offers to God unacceptable worship, distorted worship. It blasphemes the Holy Spirit. It attributes to the Holy Spirit even the work of Satan. People are caught up in it, deceived, led astray.”
This is so sad that this sector of the church would attack another sector of the church, the charismatic and pentecostal sector, which is the fastest growing sector of the church. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Unity. No one can say Jesus is Lord without the Holy Spirit working in their lives. If the charismatic movement, who have very boldly acknowledged the lordship of Christ, is offering strange fire, then MacArthur, and the other speakers of this conference are grieving the Holy Spirit with these attacks. This really breaks my heart. Yes there are often excesses and wrong teachings that come out of the various sectors of the church. We are still human trying to understand the mind of God that is far higher than our human mind. Instead of tearing down each other, could we try and live together as fellow travellers following the way of the cross?
Jesus prayed for the church just before He was crucified. He said, “I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one, I in them and you in me, so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (John 17: 20-23)
This is the cry of my heart – to see this prayer of Jesus becoming a reality in North-East Christchurch there is a deep unity amongst God’s people offering a holy worship that is pleasing to Christ.