Phyllis Beveridge Nissila
This addendum was inspired by a reader’s comments in the prior post. Thank you, Yvonne.
Here are a few more thoughts that come to mind for you—and perhaps others who stop by here.
Regarding the Holy Spirit Baptism, you, like many of us, may have run up against the criticisms of it by those who, like the Catholics, render it either just optional (for a few “needy” people, read, not YOU, of course, for heaven’s sake!) or outright heresy.
Additionally—and this always absolutely amazes me—critics usually get angry with you. Sometimes really angry. With no provocation outside of simply asking them, “What is your view of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit?
Conversely, all of the people I know who have received the Baptism have no anger at those who oppose it. We can only refer them to Scriptures and teachings from the fledgling church on up through the centuries on the matter and pray that the power of God’s Word will take it from there, while recalling, too, our own initial or maybe even ongoing questions, misgivings, and hesitancies.
I think once we realize that religion often offsets (if not outright “offs”) spirituality, as in spirituality that replaces religious works as the means of salvation by putting faith in the completed work of Jesus Christ, we begin to see the light of the reality of the Holy Spirit Baptism.
But it’s hard, if all one has known–or knows–is religion with all of its pomp and circumstance, trinkets and idols (read, CONTROLS). Or if one has only learned of a vaguely-related, sort of, event in many mainline religions called “Confirmation” that I think is somehow supposed to be similar. Kind of.
And I’m not saying all of the trappings of religion are necessarily for the purpose of control. I mean, because we live in a world requiring order to stay afloat, if we don’t know differently, of course we apply the same measure of maintenance to spirituality, too. And although some pretty amazing gifts and operations are imparted at the Baptism, it isn’t an emotional or experiential free-for-all, either, despite the bad press and bad practices. Scriptures teach an order to be observed and respected.
So, let’s face it, back to what we know about spiritual events in the natural, if you want to keep the lights lit and the pews populated, you had best be really careful and stick to the script (aka liturgy), especially if a group of the faithful start realizing that the real church is not brick and mortar, rather, living, breathing, born-again, Spirit-filled people who may go elsewhere if you marginalize or poo-poo this HSB thing.
(Heard in the vestibule: I mean, good heavens, Ada, they could even start praying in tongues or getting “words of knowledge or prophecy,” healing people or even casting out DEMONS! I shudder to think. And did you hear about that bunch that started rolling around on the floor and then threw all their jewelry out the windows*? Actually, I wouldn’t have minded to have been outside those windows, lol…)
So if you’re in leadership, especially in a bad economy, what to do? What to DO?!
One had best either co-pt it like Rome and call it something clever and somehow related, sort of, such as, hmmmmm, the “Charismatic Movement” and then begin weaving it into the fabric of Sacred Tradition which must be okay to do because RC Sacred Tradition has always been weaving things in to incorporate other spiritual traditions that hold the attention of the spiritually hungry—and/or to harness the attention of others who remain in the institution via some kind of “obligation” necessary to stay out of Hell. (Well, that’s the bottom line, people, I’m not afraid to say it, and a pretty potent Bottom Line, too, straight down to the bottom of the fiery pit…).
OR (and here is where the power of feelings comes in), one had best change it to something mysterious, mystical, and/or magical (magical as in, yes, sleight of hand trickery).
Throw in some gold dust and white feathers for good measure. Maybe call writhing on the floor laughing or barking or shaking or twitching some sort of new! improved! “holy spirit experiences” (note: no capitalization).
Okay, you might think I’m making this up.
For one example of these kinds of churches, Google “New Apostolic Reformation” or NAR, and get the inside baseball on some of the practices inside many NAR churches, and offshoots of these churches, not to mention offshoots of offshoots.
You may also be greatly concerned by their beliefs about taking over the world… (but that’s another topic)
Still don’t believe me?
Check out just this one video of a “phenomenon” called “acquiring the fire” though “fire tunnels” at one of the more visible and famous, reportedly NAR, churches in Redding, CA, called Bethel. Then look up the many warnings issued by Bible scholars, preachers, teachers, and just really, really concerned garden-variety Christians like me.
Here is one pretty good summary of the NAR belief system for starters.
But, of course, this kind of religious aberration is not new.
Pretty much as soon as the gifts and operations of the first, Holy-Spirit-filled believers began to manifest don’t you think people interested more in profits than prophets wanted in on some of that action? (IMPORTANT INSERT: see here for Jesus’ comments on the order of events–first preach the Word of God, then come the signs and wonders–NOT just preach signs and wonders, because there are all kinds of “signs and wonders”.)
It’s not hard to see how smart, ambitious people would put (and want to get) money on some kind of experience that pulled at the heart- and mind- and spirit- strings of all those, read everybody at some point in life, honestly searching for real answers to life’s fundamental questions: Who am I? Where am I going? Who or what is the God person/thing? And easy pickins, it would be, too, among the sheep, for all manner of wolves.
Then throw in some experiential whiz and bang (reasonable facsimiles thereof also available to you through your NOT friendly neighborhood demons) and when, say, the seekers get up from the floor after “catching” some “fire” and stagger off home, they will likely be back for more of this “special experience” for “special people”.
And likely they’ll bring a friend or six.
Maybe even sell off all their stuff and donate the money to the New (Church of the Sexy, Evolving, 21st Century Experiences) Reformation for all that money can buy, there.
Maybe even go off to a remote location in the world when “persecution” starts so that Pastor(ess) Anointed Leader can preach (with impunity) and (mind controlled/brain washed) followers can get even closer to Nirvana (New Nirvana, that is)…
Ring any (Jonestown, Guyana) bells?
(Side note: I’m the kind of person who likes to go right to the end game, logical conclusion, which, ironically, my “Cradle Catholic” experiences inspired. See why, here, if you are interested. My testimony is peppered with reasons. And what I learned when I worked years ago for an ex-cult counseling ministry about the nature and practices of cults was enough to “convert me,” you might put it, to the camp of people who know darn well ANY of us, no matter how smart or not, educated or not, wary or not, can be easily caught up in such groups, given certain normal, human vulnerabilities).
Okay. I’m back from Jonestown. Phew.
So how does this kind of tragedy happen, even if not all members of this or that “church” go so far as to follow the black-brick-road of heresy and end up committing culticide?
It starts off simply, really.
Here an aberration, there an “experience”…
Or, maybe some new converts (or still “in utero” believers as their church preaches and teaches little other than “how to get saved”) have come to realize that the more they read their Bible the more their church is looking and sounding less and less like classic Christianity and they start checking out other fellowships that, to their knowledge, are regular Bible believing churches but they aren’t.
As to the first option, I wrote here about “going off (Biblical) subject,” and how being even just one degree off of plumb line when it comes to spiritual matters can cause great damage over time. If the error is left unchecked, darkness eventually envelops the whole shebang.
(Well–pausing for a sec—all of that is quite fearful! some might be thinking at this juncture. Maybe I should just shut my mouth, calm my questions, sit in the pew like a good little lamb and do what the pastor or priests say. After all, they have those letters after their names, and that must mean they know a lot more about all this theology stuff than the rest of us…and also they look good and talk so articulately.* But, hang in here with me.)
As to the second option, babies, physical or spiritual, are always looking for food. And it takes a while for them/us to know that what we have picked up off the table is good or not good for us, and without someone to show us, we might ingest some pretty bad stuff especially when we’re really hungry. So it can be risky to really know what’s on the menu, at first, in a given church.
Worse, when self-proclaimed “spiritual parents” want us to eat only the “food” they provide, we might be kept from some vital spiritual nutrients…some meat and potatoes of God’s Word that would point us right to that which will expose and neutralize the bad stuff.
So how does this all relate to the Holy Spirit Baptism?
That—real–experience is one way to shine even more light, as it were, on truth. Not to mention the vital ministries.
AND, for even better news, even those who have not yet considered receiving the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, there is still and always the Spirit-infused Word of God which, as Hebrews 4:12 indicates, is alive and active (sharper) than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
(So we are never in this mess alone. We can suss ’em out, not only the teaching but also the teachers–even the most well-educated, best-looking, wealthiest, and most articulate of all off-topic-ers–with a little help from our everlasting Friend!)
But here’s the thing.
A lot of people get a little bit nervous about this phenomenon, but just like our born-again experience by means of, IMO, the greatest, most powerful gift of all that God has given us, saved or not, our free will, we also have free will when it come to the Holy Spirit Baptism. And for both experiences there is no coercion involved. Just answer the question (alone or in a prayer service), “Do you, or do you not, believe Jesus Christ is God’s Son (or do you believe what the Scriptures teach on HSB), and do you want, by faith, to receive Him as Lord and Savior in your life (or by faith receive the Baptism)?”
Answer options, circle one:
Only, I’d switch to “A,” asap, if you circled one of the others, after you have prayed and done a good “Berean study,” as needed, for these reasons:
My Spirit will not contend with humans forever, for they are mortal... in the sense that we have a limited (fleshly) shelf life within with to make eternally-impacting decisions.
And here is an encouragement: the more you fill up with God’s Word, the more you’re going to find information about a certain Baptism…just saying…just something to think about…and take notes on…and maybe pray about…and then…
BUT HERE IS THE MOST IMPORTANT REASON OF ALL TO YIELD TO THESE BLESSINGS:
Guess where we get the discernment from in order to tell real from fake, true from false, Holy Spirit from other spirits, Godly experiences from, well, what can seem an awful lot like circus shows?
The same Holy Spirit involved in our salvation and in every other Scriptural spiritual event after.
Doesn’t seem possible, in a way, right?
Do I mean, just, well, “ask and ye shall receive”? No pomp? No circumstance? … ?
(Rhetorical question, of course.)
And if you ask me, what the remnant needs now perhaps more than EVER is the kind of discernment only available through God’s Spirit available in His Word (what with the kind of all-pervasive and all-invading class of technological ordnance of which I wrote in the previous post and the proliferation of all the off-shoots of heresy spreading around the globe at the speed of 5G).
In sum: for every powerful, ever-morphing and adapting, counterfeit spiritual experiences strewn in our spiritual paths there are real, powerful, NOT morphing but the same yesterday, today, and forever experiences including, in my view, the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, courtesy of the blood of Jesus Christ shed for our salvation, healing, and deliverance.
And that is the real bottom line.
Something to think about.
Today would be good.
*This is an actual, true story from my youth, as witnessed by neighbors of a little Pentecostal Church down the road during some revival service.
Okay, here’s something I have always wanted to toy with, being a lover of words and humor, especially. Meaning no disrespect to anyone, and hoping God is okay with a smidge of satire, here is my best rendition of another kind of deceptive preaching, but nevertheless preaching that just sounds so educated and erudite it keeps us glued to our pews like a flies on flypaper, mouths hung open, pencils poised above note pads, even, because it’s just so, well, mesmerizing, although to be honest we can’t actually make heads nor tails of it, but, dang, it sounds so ga-ooood. And nobody is offended! Although besides the preacher’s three-part outline words such as, say, “Spirit” “Orthodoxy,” and “Existentialism” we don’t have the vaguest idea of what to put down anyway…
Okay, here goes:
Pastor: “Today’s sermon is on the topic of the “The Spirit of Orthodox Existentialism” (and before I begin, I think we all want to thank our very own, “Judd and the Amazing Firebrand Revival Band,” for a particularly rousing rendition of “Fire! More Fire! More Fire!” on drums, cymbals, and bagpipes, and we wish you great success on your “FLAME” tour over the next six months).
Okay, where was I? Oh, yes. The Spirit of Orthodox Existentialism. Which is also, if you think carefully and follow my thesis, not that dissimilar from the conversations around the burning question of the Orthodoxy of Existential Spirituality although in the Canon of Sacred Footnotes we do find some differences of opinion by the Reverends Moxmire and Flibbens who wished to emphasize the importance of the use of the term “disenfranchisement” as it relates to orthodoxy. But never you mind that, here, for our purposes, unless you have been unduly influenced by errant interpretations of the concept of “dispensationalism” (in the paleo Greek, qrstuvex, lmnopx although there is also some dispute, there, but minor, really). If so, just take my word as gospel, and we shall get on with it. But first, dim the lights, cue the Bach Requiem, and let us pray…”
Or something like that.