Friday, April 20, 2012

We Live in a World of Supernatural Wonder!

I watched a video of an interview between Doug Wilson, a cessationist, and Mark Driscoll, a more charismatic preacher. It was a charming discussion regarding how they differ on how and whether the Holy Spirit is active today. By the end, my impression was that they agreed far more than they would have originally thought, and I loved how they remained friendly and funny all the way through, not becoming tense. That easy, friendly attitude comes more readily and you can allow for differences if you know that the basics of faith in who Christ is, and what He has done, are firmly in place in all parties of your discussion. Then you know that you still converse with a brother or sister in the faith, and the differences are just grounds for iron sharpening iron, a good and productive practice of fellowship in Christ.

Our family used to go to a cessationist church. Soon after we started there, the pastor started on a sermon series that ran about 20 or 30 sermons long on how the gifts of the Holy Spirit had ceased. At the time I believed him entirely and thought I had received a thorough and scholarly rendering of the subject. Later we started at another church, where our pastor lent me a couple of books by Jack Deere that came at it from the opposite point of view. I don't remember whether I thoroughly agreed with him by the time I finished reading his works, but I do remember re-reading 1 Corinthians 12-14 and realizing the Love chapter was nestled in like the pull-out corsage that was nestled in the midst of my bridal bouquet...the only problem being that most people pull it out and forget the bouquet surrounding it, all about the spiritual gifts. Why would God have so much in the New Testament about His supernatural works and what to do with them, if they were not going to be present for His church after the canon was closed? 

I know that my kneejerk response to these books would have been to never even read them if I had received them in the wrong timing. By the time I got them, though, I had come to realize how stifling the power of the Holy Spirit in the first church had brought about the series of events that had caused us to eventually leave: We had found that the pastor was plagiarizing sermons because he said emphatically that he was "not capable of writing a decent sermon." He had been working as a pastor for years, and had not been writing any of his own sermons in the process. Where is the power of the Holy Spirit? Could he not access His inspiration to come alongside and equip him for this vital work of service? No--he'd already established that the Holy Spirit is not very active in the present day, and he would not have even considered that possibility. 

There was one observation that Doug Wilson stated, that our world is a strange and magical place. I avoid the flippant use of the word "magic," but in this use it is well-stated. His stance is that the Holy Spirit is not so fully active as many Christians claim; but he knows that many supernatural things occur that no man can explain. Many of these are evil, and those fall into the category of magic, Satan's activity that is often a counterfeit of God's use of power; sometimes it is just sheer evil activity without so much reference to God as opposition to His work. Wilson acknowledged a few supernatural nudgings of the Holy Spirit that bring a Christian response, or that bring an unbeliever to salvation,  but other than that he didn't really have much to say about whether God works miracles in these days. 

I think that if a person would acknowledge that we live in a strange and magical place, but wouldn't acknowledge that God is doing anything supernatural, they would be saying that Satan is doing more to communicate with the people here than God is. I believe the opposite is true. Hopefully the Scriptures illustrate just how much the Holy Spirit is an essential worker in helping us to see God's divine hand. Our very understanding of the Scriptures is His doing, or it would come across as foolishness. Our initial response to God, our salvation, is His doing. Psalm 19:1 says that the heavens declare the glory of God, the skies proclaim the works of His hands. But without the Holy Spirit drawing us in that direction, our hearts would never see God in it. 

The Holy Spirit is more active than just that, too. Probably not so much in our United States as overseas, probably not in the ways that are practiced in far too many churches, that undisciplined, out-of-control, disorderly and self-glorifying, but don't you hear story after story of how He works in the lands where Christianity is illegal, or persecuted, or otherwise stifled? Where the Word of God is hardly present, where people have no natural contact with His Church, there are stories of people hearing a voice, having a dream, being directed to a place where they hadn't intended to go, making some supernatural discovery that leads them to salvation in Christ. If you read the writings by or about missionaries, these stories are plentiful in their world. I am thankful that our world is not limited to the things we can sense as the natural world; I am thankful that God has left the supernatural impact present. There's a war going on in that realm, and sometimes we feel its presence. There's a spiritual realm that sometimes breaks through the natural world and makes itself known. I'm glad to know even that the evil is there, so I can appeal to my God to help me; I'm glad to know that our good and holy God is there, acting and speaking to me in the present day, coming alongside as my Paraklete, my Help, my Comforter. Where would I be without Him? I would be doomed, hopeless, blind and separated from my Creator. Hallelujah! He is an active, ever-present, supernatural help in all my life (John 14:16-17).