Do Not Quench the Spirit - Test Everything
Dr. Sam Storms once stated, "Many Christians are either woefully deficient in their knowledge of Scripture or noticeably devoid of any experience of God's power. The Lord never intended this for His people. We have all seen firsthand the joyless intellectual arrogance the absence of spiritual power can produce, as well as the fanatical emotional excess that comes from the lack of theological integrity."
Yesterday, here on the blog I made the point that there seems to be extremes both on the cessationist side and on the continualist side. Personally speaking, I am a continualist, but I would be very quick to state that I am much more comfortable with the stance that fellow continualists such as Dr. John Piper or Dr. Wayne Grudem take than say the "crazies" out there who seem to be the main voices on so called "Christian" television in America. I shudder inside to think that my non-Christian neighbor friends tune in to these television shows and conclude that this is the Christianity I represent. Many times I would have to say that I abhor what I see portrayed there probably as much as they would.
Having said that, I wonder just how cessationist my cessationist friends are. Some dismiss all inward impressions as being either an over-active imagination or worse, having its source in the demonic. They would never be open to the fact that God might speak to someone through a dream or guide through an inward leading of some sort.
I realise that there are vast dangers involved here because (generally) the people who speak about God leading them are not normally known for their discernment, or know enough Scripture to be able to have a biblical filter in place. These dangers however are not new. They were the same dangers prevalent at the time of the writing of the New Testament. In 1 Thessalonians 5 Paul wrote, "Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil." (v. 19-22) All things should be tested by that which is theopneustos - the God breathed Scripture. All Scripture is God breathed. All claims to be a word from God certainly are not. That is why all things should be tested.
Recently, I was interested to read an interview with Dr. R. C. Sproul. In recounting his call to the ministry (in a 1990 Tabletalk magazine article) he wrote:
"One night when I was in eighth grade (before I became a Christian), it was particularly dark outside. When I crawled into bed, I was overwhelmed with a terrible feeling of dread. I was overcome with gloom. I had a profound sense that someone was in the room with me that shouldnâ€™t be. I was terrified. Then the sky lit up from the molten lava. The sudden light coupled with the dark only heightened my fear.
I didnâ€™t hear any voices, but an idea went sharply through my head. I found out later that the words were from Scripture which I had never read. â€œFear not, for I am with you.â€ As soon as those went through my head, I was enveloped with a sense of total calm. The next thought that went through my head was â€œGo throughout the world and preach the Gospel to every living creature.â€ The next thought was â€œTake Vesta [R.C.â€™s future wife] with you. â€œ I decided at that moment to be a minister even though I wasnâ€™t a believer. I didnâ€™t become a Christian until my first year in college.
I donâ€™t tell that story very often because I donâ€™t want people to get the wrong idea that you have to hear bells and whistles before you go into the ministry. In any event, I told people the next day that I was going to go into the ministry. Five years later I became a Christian and eight years later I married Vesta."
As far as I can ascertain, Dr. Sproul is a cessationist. I just wonder (thinking out loud) if cessationists have a category for what happened to the younger R. C. Sproul, or would the whole experience be dismissed out of hand as something God would never do in our day?
I believe God can and does lead and guide today, though any "leading" must be tested by the sure testimony and standard of God's holy word. I for one do not question either Dr. Sproul's calling to the ministry or the fact that God did indeed direct him at that time, even when as yet, he did not know Him.
May I make a suggestion that should you wish to make a comment on the blog here, you would try to keep things friendly and refrain from personal attacks or gross generalisations like "all cessationists are dry, powerless Christians" or "all continuationists are nuts." To be sure, some indeed are... but that's not the point. They were more than likely "nuts" long before they became continuationists. :-)
As I say, I am just thinking out loud here. Any thoughts?