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Charismatic Chaos - Part 11

Written by: MacArthur Jr., John    Posted on: 04/02/2003

Category: Sermons

Source: CCN

The following message was delivered at Grace Community Church in Panorama City, California, By John MacArthur Jr.  It was transcribed from the tape, GC 90-62, titled "Charismatic Chaos" Part 11.  A copy of the tape can be obtained by writing, Word of Grace, P.O. Box 4000, Panorama City, CA 91412.

I have made every effort to ensure that an accurate transcription of the original tape was made.  Please note that at times sentence structure may appear to vary from accepted English conventions.  This is due primarily to the techniques involved in preaching and the obvious choices I had to make in placing the correct punctuation in the article.

It is my intent and prayer that the Holy Spirit will use this transcription of the sermon, "Charismatic Chaos" Part 11, to strengthen and encourage the true Church of Jesus Christ.



                        Charismatic Chaos - Part 11

                        "What is True Spirituality?"

                              Copyright 1991                                     by                           John F. MacArthur, Jr.                             All rights reserved.



Now we come to the next in our series that we have been studying on the Charismatic movement.  Tonight we want to talk about the subject, "What is True Spirituality?"  In Romans 12:2 we find a good starting point for our thinking tonight, and that is this statement by the Apostle Paul, "Do not be conformed to this world; but be transformed by the renewing of your mind."  Transformed by the renewing of your mind.

Many Charismatics believe that you can renew your mind and achieve holiness without any conscious effort.  They would say (some of them), that sanctification can come to you through an experience, effortlessly; sometimes even through subliminal conditioning.  My first exposure to the notion of subliminal spirituality came a few years ago when I received a flyer advertising subliminal neckties.  They were fairly stylish paisley ties; normal looking at a casual glance.  But the ad copy informed the prospective buyer,

      Hidden in the fabric, almost totally undetectable to the human       eye are the words "Jesus Saves, Jesus Saves."  The ties are made       from anointed cloth offered by a Charismatic enterprise [and]       can be yours for a tax deductible love gift of $30.  You could       also buy seven for a tax deductible gift of $200 to help us feed       the hungry.

We are not sure who the hungry are but I am sure that would help.  Quoting the ad further,

      For years Russian and Communist scientists have experimented       with subliminal advertising designed to influence unsuspecting       consumers to their ideology and propaganda.  Now, the Lord has       revealed to His people how to use it for His glory. 

A magnified picture of one of the ties revealed that indeed the words "Jesus Saves, Jesus Saves, Jesus Saves, Jesus Saves," were over and over again woven through the fabric.  "When worn," the leaflet promised, "The words 'Jesus Saves' are actually being planted in the subconscious minds of everyone who sees it."  In other words, you can do your witnessing without ever having to say a word to anybody.  At the time it frankly struck me as a bizarre, somewhat atypical oddity, but in retrospect I see that it was something of a harbinger of one of the latest fads in the Charismatic movement: this idea of subliminal messaging.  Despite having some occult overtones and some New Age involvement, and for all intents and purposes being absolutely useless, it has quickly become a popular means of addressing spiritual, emotional, and health problems among Charismatics. 

I mentioned earlier in our study the subliminal word therapy tapes offered by the Raffa Ranch (sp.) as a means of healing cancer patients.  Raffa offers the subliminal messaging cassette tapes for $14.95 each, and although the price seems high, thousands of people desperately seeking cure for cancer have evidently been willing to pay the price.  Linda Fell (sp.) explains how the tapes were born; she says,

      In 1983, God healed me of Breast Cancer and called me to raise       up a place where cancer victims can come and be healed.  In       obedience to that call, our family of four moved to 70 acres of       land in a small rural community in Northwest Florida, and there       we began construction on the 5,000 square foot Raffa Ranch       lodge.  After almost two years we had received our first cancer       patient and quickly realized that our commission would not be an       easy one.  Over the next two years we learned much, but       continued to see the majority of our guests die.  We continually       cried out to God to show us how to get the Word in His precious       people in their crisis situation, and one day we stumbled on to       a television program describing how the subliminal process was       helping masses of people use positive affirmation. 

      The idea came--could the pure Word of God be used in a similar       fashion?  After two months of some research and much prayer we       knew we had not only a creative idea but a mandate from God to       produce a tool that would help heal the sick.  The Lord said       that I was to be the voice since He could trust my spirit, and       use Christian musicians, engineers and studios to create this       tape.  In June of '88 "The Word Therapy Healing" tape was       released and healing reports were immediate; within two weeks a       woman was healed of cancer. 

To those who, by the way, might have fears that subliminal therapy is of the Devil, Mrs. Fells writes,

      Your cautions are justified as you approach subliminal tapes; be       assured of this, there is no need to fear our tapes.  They are       holy and have the blessing of the Lord on them; we use no       hypnosis, no relaxation technique, no New Age, or deceptive       practices; simply a modern technological method of multi-track       duplication of the pure Word of God.  Your first tape will       convince you as the anointing will destroy the yoke.  If the       Apostles were alive today, they would consider "Word Therapy" a       scroll of the 90's. 

Several Charismatic ministries offer these subliminal tapes; one group called "Renew Ministries" offer continuous play tapes for $20 (a continuous play means you don't have to rewind them); they promise you freedom from doubt, fear, failure, fear of death, guilt, grief, depression, temper, pride, lust, temptation, pornography, procrastination, unforgiveness, rejection, drugs, alcohol, smoking, anger, rebellion, anxiety, panic, judging, homosexuality, scars from child abuse, and molestation--all for $19.95! 

Other Renew tapes promise to speak into being.  They will speak into being in your life: prosperity, weight loss, peace, healing, self-esteem, salvation, marital harmony, surrender to God, acceptance of God's Love, and a closer walk with God.  And according to Renew, "Bible-based subliminal messages hit controlling spirits where they live and command them to leave in Jesus' name and then the void is filled with the Word of God."

Now, you might be asking, "What are the mechanics of such tapes?"  Renew puts multiple voices on different tracks, simultaneously chanting a message aimed at indwelling demons.  For example, one tape designed for people struggling with homosexuality includes this message, "I speak to you spirits of homosexuality, I curse you and cast you down in the name of Jesus!"  That message is followed by Scripture verses relating to moral purity.  And so it goes. 

Other companies use variations of that approach.  "Life Source," an El Paso based ministry, uses an audible track of ocean waves.  Inaudible, subliminal background tracks carry Scripture verses.  You can hear the waves, you can't hear the verses.  Healing evangelist Vicky Jamineson Peterson (sp.) of Tulsa, Oklahoma, plays a reading of the entire King James Version, New Testament, at a rapid speed on a 60 minute cassette.  Imagine, the entire New Testament in 60 minutes!  Her brochures promise that positive suggestions are being stored in your belief system at a rate of 100,000 suggestions an hour! 

You wrap this all up and it's all so easy and it's all so effortless; you put on a tape and you get 100,000 suggestions for your spiritual life, you get cured of every problem you have, you get all the demons chased away, and if you put it on your tie the people who see your tie are going to get saved!  This is all so painless, it's all so easy.  Supposedly you can absorb Scripture without ever paying attention to it.  You can get involved in spiritual development, spiritual growth, miracles, and so forth without ever opening your Bible.  Things like fervent prayer and diligent holiness, and earnest devotion, and careful study, and conscientious meditation on the things of God are rendered unecessary by this approach.  It used to be that losing weight required self-control and some discipline.  Now, we are told a continuous play tape can exercise demons of fat and gluttony for you and there is absolutely nothing to it; pay the money and you are delivered.  More important, it used to be that faith and spiritual understanding and righteousness were pursued through disciplined lives of devotion and study and prayer, and now the proponents of subliminal therapy promise that holiness can happen to you even while asleep! 

Subliminal sanctification and the Charismatic movement seem to be good partners; they fit together perfectly.  From the very beginning Charismatic movements, whichever of them, have promised primarily shortcuts to spiritual maturity.  One of the greatest attractions of the Charismatic movement has always been that it offers believers "Power, Understanding, and Spirituality" immediately through some kind of experience; and if you just have the experience--you've got it without the time, without the pain, without the progress, without the struggle that's natural to any growth process. 

The question is, "Is this really a shortcut to sanctification?  Can a believer receive subliminal messages, a divine jolt, or some other kind of quick, immediate power boost and be instantly brought out of infancy into maturity?"  The answer is, "Not according to Scripture."  For the typical Charismatic the gateway to spirituality is through an experience, and that experience is usually defined as the "Baptism of the Spirit with speaking in Tongues."  They tell us that if you have that experience--you are zapped!  It accurately describes the way most Charismatics view sanctification; they think you go along in your Christian life until you get the Baptism of the Spirit, speak in Tongues, you get the "zap" and then you have been elevated to sanctification.  Some would go so far as to say you've reached the "Second level of Grace."

There are many Charismatics who will even use the word "zap" and say, "Well, may Jesus zap you!"  I had the occasion (it was a strange and bizarre one) to be invited to speak at the "Full Gospel Businessmen's Luncheon."  That is a Charismatic group.  They were having their Southern California Luncheon and somebody in the group thought that I had had the Gift of Tongues, that somewhere along the line I had gotten the Baptism of the Spirit and had spoken in Tongues; and they invited me to be the speaker.  They asked me to speak on "Speaking in Tongues."  This is true!  And this was when Jay Leddy was still on our church staff and he went with me.  I thought they were just open and wanted to hear the other side.  They thought I had the "Gift."  And so I went and they had a nice lunch and after lunch I got up, and I launched into my Biblical discussion on the reality of what the Bible says about Tongues.  And I could note there was a severe amount of nervousness and movement in the crowd, and I didn't know why because I thought these gracious people just wanted to know what the other side believes. 

So I continued to "wax eloquent" about what I believed the Bible was teaching about the cessation of the Gift of Tongues, and that it had no part for today and that it was a false standard of spirituality and things like that.  It was the only time that I can remember in my ministry that I was literally, physically, pulled out of the pulpit!  A man grabbed my arm and pulled me down in a chair--before I was finished!  And he got up and he said, "We've got to stop and have prayer for this brother because he's deceived and confused" (and then I was really confused because I thought that I was doing what they expected me to do).  I will never forget his prayer.  He started out by saying, "We want to pray for this brother, that sometime soon, in the middle of the night, the Holy Spirit will zap him!"  That's exactly what he said and that's what he prayed.  So I have heard that term used.

Charismatic evangelist, Norvall Hayes (sp.) explained what happened when he got his zap,

      God came on me so strong and started blessing me so much, I just       fell on my knees and began crying and weeping and getting       blessed.  I found out that God loves me and He was petting me       because I obeyed the Holy Spirit.

That's somewhat like the experience of many.  Unfortunately, the Charismatic movement has divided Christianity into two levels--the Zapped and the Unzapped.  And the Zapped believe they are at least a bit more spiritual then the Unzapped.  Like it or not, the effect has been severely schismatic.  Some of the Unzapped wonder why they don't have the experiences that their Charismatic friends describe.  Charismatics argue that unless you have the Baptism of the Holy Spirit with Tongues, you can't function the way God really wants you to; you're missing something.  If on the other hand, you do have the Baptism of the Spirit with Tongues, you have been elevated to a level of spirituality and sanctification. 

A good example of this particular kind of viewpoint is Melvin Hodges' book called "Spiritual Gifts" and I quote,

      While the full manifestation of a person's gift and ministry       must await the fullness of the Spirit, there may be a partial       measure of spiritual ministry and incomplete manifestation of       spiritual gifts or endowments before the culmination of the       Pentecostal gift is experienced.  We must not lose sight of the       fact that in the New Testament, the Baptism in the Holy Spirit       (with the Charismatic experience) is considered an essential and       primary requisite for a fully developed spiritual life and       ministry.

And he is doing deference to people like me and others who have some kind of a ministry, because you just can't just flatly deny that people have a ministry, but it is a second class ministry: it is a partial measure of spiritual ministry, an incomplete manifestation of spiritual gifts and endowments because we have never had the culminating Pentecostal Gift of the Baptism of the Spirit and that "Zap." 

Now, are these people correct when they say this?  Is there a gap between Christians?  Are there two levels?  Do the Charismatics have some other level of Spirituality they have attained?  And are non-Charismatic Christians somehow mired in the muck of a second-classed Christianity?  We want to answer that question by considering the Scripture.  I think we need to be very direct in going to the Word of God so that we can understand it.  A foundational place to go (and you can turn there in your Bible, and we are going to go through these fairly rapidly because I know these are truths with which you are familiar) but it is 1 Corinthians 2, and I want to kind of give you a little bit of a feeling here for some of the terminology that is important to the issue.

1 Corinthians 2, verses 14 and 15,

      But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of       God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand       them, because they are spiritually appraised.  But he who is       spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by       no man.

Paul spent most of 1 Corinthians 2 discussing the difference between the natural man and the spiritual man, and that's the difference between the unsaved and the saved.  The unregenerate is the natural man and the regenerate is the spiritual man.  The natural man doesn't know God, he is unsaved, isolated in his humanness and sin, and headed for hell.  He cannot understand the things of the Spirit.  In contrast the spiritual man knows God and understands spiritual things. 

Now, that is very basic, and what I want you to understand is according to 1 Corinthians 2, all Christians are--what?  Spiritual!  It's basic; its basic terminology.  That's our position in Christ.  We are alive in the Spirit; we have the life of God within our souls; we possess the Holy Spirit (as Romans 8:6-9 clearly indicates).  And again in Romans 8, if we look at that, and I would just draw you there for a brief moment (chapter 8 of Romans) to affirm that same thought.  Romans 8:6,

      The mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the       Spirit is life and peace, [same contrast] because the mind set       on the flesh is hostile toward God, for it does not subject       itself to the law of God, for it's not even able to do so; and       those who are in the flesh cannot please God, however you are       not in the flesh but in the Spirit.

And then he goes on to say the Spirit of God dwells in you.  Only two kinds of people: those in the flesh and those in the Spirit.  Those in the Spirit are Spiritual, and those who are natural are also fleshly.  So in the purest, truest, simplest sense, there are only two kinds of people: spiritual people, and natural people, who are also carnal people.  The first understanding that I want you to have is that unregenerate people are natural; that is, they live according to human nature and they are carnal or "fleshy."  They operate out of the flesh--the impulse of the flesh.  Christian people are spiritual; the Holy Spirit dwells within them; their inner man has been made alive; they are new creations; they are sensitive to God and alive to spiritual reality.  Now, that's basic. 

Now, to be spiritual simply means to be alive to God, to possess the Holy Spirit, and all Christians are spiritual and all non-believers are carnal and natural.  But let me take it a step further.  It is possible for a spiritual believer to act in a carnal way.  In other words, it is possible for us to behave like our old self.  We understand that don't we?  We still have the remaining flesh; that carnal reality is there and it is very possible that that carnal reality, that unredeemed human flesh, can still exercise and exert its power.  And so I want you to look for a moment at 1 Corinthians, chapter 3.  Christians are spiritual--they just don't always act spiritual.  And that is really contrary to our own new nature. 

But Paul says (interesting way he words his words in 1 Corinthians 3:1),

      I brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, I should       have been able to talk to you as spiritual men, but I couldn't,       and I had to speak to you as men of flesh.  I had to talk to you       like you were still unregenerate, as if you were just infantile       in Christ.

Obviously, one who is new in Christ, one who is an infant in Christ is going to have a greater struggle with the flesh (right?) then one who is mature in Christ.  And so he says,

      You're acting as if you're brand new baby Christians struggling       with the flesh that's continually gaining the victory over you,       and I can't even talk to you as spiritual because you have       succumbed so frequently to the flesh. 

In verse 2, he says,

      I can't even give you meat (solid food); I have to give you milk       because you can't handle the meat, (verse 3) "Because you are       still fleshy.  For since there is jealousy and strife among you,       are you not fleshy, ("fleshly" it says but "fleshy" is a good       way to translate that) and are you not walking like mere men?" 

There's the key!  He says, you're walking like natural men; you're acting like you used to act.  You're spiritual but you are acting like a natural man, and that is, you are succumbing to the flesh.  He should have been able to talk to them as spiritual because they were Christians, but they weren't acting spiritual; they were not receiving the Word; there was unholiness in their lives; they were behaving carnally; and they had to be dealt with as if they were brand new baby Christians who were still being victimized by the things that used to be a part of their life.

Now, all Christians face the same problem.  All Christians are spiritual positionally, but we are not always spiritually practically, right?  We are alive to God, we sense God, the Spirit lives in us; the life of Christ has manifested itself in us and we are a new creation, but we don't always act like that because we are incarcerated in the unredeemed flesh and it rears its ugly head.  I think a good illustration of this is the Apostle Peter, borrowing a little bit from a pre-Church text, but he fits the picture so well.  In Matthew 16 Peter recognized Christ as the Son of the Living God, you remember that, and Jesus immediately responded and said, "Blessed are you, Simon, and now I am going to change your name to Peter (which meant rock).  You are going to be a new person: you are going to be solid like a rock." 

But in John 21, a lot later, Jesus met Peter on the shore of the Sea of Galilee and Peter had denied Christ (you know all about that).  But Peter, even after the resurrection, was still weak.  Before the resurrection he was in a denial state; after the resurrection he was in a disobedient state.  And he had gone back to fishing and the Lord confronts him and calls him to task and asks him if he loves Him, and if he'll feed His sheep and goes through all of that.  And when the Lord talked to him, remember those three times He said, "Do you love Me?"  He didn't call him Peter; what did He call him?  "Simon!  Simon, Simon, Simon!"  Why did He do that?  After all he had been given a new name, "Rock."  I'll tell you why He did it, because he wasn't acting like a rock; he was acting like a Simon.  He wasn't acting like a transformed man; he was acting like the guy he used to be.  Whenever he acted like the guy he used to be Jesus called him by his old name, which is a pretty vivid reminder. 

What Peter had done and what all of us do, from time to time, is temporarily cease from following closely after Christ.  Even after Pentecost Peter continued to struggle.  And do you realize that if you go back to Galatians, chapter 2, you read one of the most devastating accounts.  Galatians 2:11-12; the Apostle Paul had to go nose-to-nose with Peter and confront him because he was acting in a carnal way.  And he did that publicly before all those Jews up there, and confronted Peter in Antioch, and that whole thing was so embarrassing to Peter.  And it got written in the Bible; as if Peter didn't have enough "Bad Press" in the gospels, he has to show up in the epistles?  And there he is again getting labeled as this "Guy who can't seem to get his act together."  And he says, "You are acting in a fleshy way!" 

There is some measure of comfort in that for all of us, to find out that one of the choicest apostles of all "stumbles and bumbles" his way around, both before and after Pentecost.  We would like to relegate him to some other dispensation and make ourselves feel more guilty, I guess, for our failures, but it is fortunate that he failed after the resurrection and Pentecost just so that we know that this is reality.  So it is that we do the same thing; we are new creations and we have been transformed, but very often we act in a fleshy way.  I think the Apostle Paul fully understood this (don't you, in Romans 6-7?), he says, "With my mind the law of God; with my redeemed nature, but also with my flesh I serve the law of sin or the principle of sin operating in me."  And he says, "I can't stand this struggle because I don't want to do what I do and I don't do what I want to do, and I am a wretched man and how am I going to get out of this mess?" 

Spirituality, beloved, is not some permanent state that you enter into the minute you get zapped!  You are spiritual positionally, but practically you never enter into a permanent state of spirituality.  You don't have some zap and become spiritual.  Spirituality is simply receiving the Living Word daily from God and letting it dwell in you richly and then living it out in the fullness of obedience.  It is walking by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.  It doesn't say, "Have one zap and you are set for life, of five zaps, or wait for the next zap, or go to the meeting where they zap you."  It just says, "Walk in the Spirit and you'll overcome the flesh." 

The word "walk" is a very important word in the New Testament.  It means "moment by moment conduct."  It's a choice word: you walk one foot at a time and one step at a time.  Paul said in Galatians 5:25, "If we live by the Spirit," and we do--better to translate, "Since we live by the Spirit, since we are spiritual, then let's just take one step at a time in the power of the Spirit.  Obedient to the Word which dwells in us richly."  Walking speaks about a measured pace, one step at a time, and that's how true spirituality functions--one step at a time, one moment at a time.  A basic mark, just to kind of help you follow this through a little bit more, a basic mark of true spirituality is a deep awareness of sin.  You know I hear people who say they reach a certain level of being zapped, and now they feel they reached a certain level of holiness.  That is a dead giveaway that there is no sense of an understanding of spirituality. 

You show me a truly spiritual man and I will show you a man that is overwhelmed, not with his holiness but with his sinfulness; even though it may appear to everybody else to be less than the rest, it is monumental to a spiritual man!  It is not that he now feels himself to have arrived, it is that when he is spiritual he knows full well that he is far from where he ought to be.  The spiritual man is aware of his sin.  In Scripture, those who most despise their sinfulness were often those who were the most spiritual.  Paul didn't say, "I have arrived at a very high level of spirituality."  Paul said, "I am (not was, 1 Timothy 1:15) the chief sinner!"  Peter said, "Depart from me, O Lord, for I am a sinful man" (Luke 5:8).  Isaiah, the godliest man in his nation, said, "Woe is me!  Damn me!  Curse me!  Sentence me to judgment for I am a man with a dirty mouth" (Isaiah 6:5).  The spiritual man realizes he is in a death struggle with sin, and Paul said, "Look, (1 Corinthians 15:31) I have to die"  How often?  "Daily!  This war goes on every day and I have to slay this guy name Paul, this fleshly man, who though spiritual in the inner man is still victimized by his remaining humanness."

The ultimate objective of the spiritual man is to be like Christ and nobody gets there.  Paul writes, "Not that I have already obtained it (in this life, not until glory)."  Paul writes,

      Not that I have already obtained it, or have already have become       perfect, but I press on in order that I may lay hold of that for       which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus.  Brethren, I do       not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I       do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what       lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the       upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:12-14).

And what was the goal?  Christlikeness, and the goal is the prize.  The prize is Christlikeness and the goal is Christlikeness.  Paul said, "I am not there; I haven't attained it; I'm pressing towards it."  Many Charismatics, however, insist that once you get the Baptism of the Spir

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