Friday, March 30, 2007

“Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised…”

I’ve been blog browsing today, and spent some time reading comments by cessationists against charismatics and continuationists, and against the whole notion of God speaking outside of the Bible. I must say, I find many of the comments to be smug, arrogant and condescending. It’s a shame that with all their biblical and theological knowledge, these overly-confident and cessationistic brethren in Christ couldn’t also pick up some humility and kindness.

But, then again, like I said in yesterday’s post, they are responding out of fear—fear of that which they don’t understand. It’s like individuals who don’t like people of a different race than their own. Most likely they’ve not actually made an effort to get to know people of a different race. Rather, their dislike of other races is fueled by a fear of the unknown. In my opinion, it’s much the same thing here in the obvious hostility of cessationists. Sad.

I wonder what these brothers and sisters in the Lord would think of Aunt Sylvia? My Aunt Sylvia was about 50 or 51 years old when she was saved way back in about 1954. Although she would attend church, Aunt Sylvia had never professed faith in Christ. As Aunt Sylvia told the story to me, she eventually came under conviction that she needed to be saved, or “profess Christ”, as she put it. She told me that she became so bothered about her relationship with God, that she would regularly get up at night and go shut herself up in the bathroom, so as not to disturb Uncle Fancie (yes, his name was “Fancie”), and there she would seek the Lord, reading the Bible and praying.

I don’t know how long Aunt Sylvia sought the Lord, but eventually the time came that she made up her mind to make a public profession of Christ and join the church. Now, I personally believe that Aunt Sylvia was saved by this time. However, the old folks believed you needed to “walk the aisle” and join the church in order to come to Christ. So, it was with this mindset that Aunt Sylvia decided she would join the church. To make a long story shorter, Aunt Sylvia did join the church that particular Sunday—and what a joyous occasion it was. In fact, 30 years later, the old folks were still talking about it. You see, Aunt Sylvia didn’t just “walk the aisle” that day. Oh, no. That day, Aunt Sylvia literally ran to the aisle…then leaped…and shouted…and “fell out” in the aisle! She, herself, told me she really didn’t remember what happened, but this is what Grandma (my great grandmother) and Aunt Willie (Grandma’s sister) told me. Our church had a young man as pastor at that time. They told me Aunt Sylvia about scared him to death!

You see, Aunt Sylvia was so overjoyed, so thrilled to be saved—to be “delivered…from the domain of darkness and transferred…to the kingdom of his beloved Son” (Colossians 1:13)—that she lost all control. I wonder what my cessationistic and non-emotional brothers and sisters would say about Aunt Sylvia? I guess her experience was an example of emotionalism run amuck. Just another example of the backward and heathenistic ways of the Black Church (By the way, I do wonder what they think about the worship of the Black Church).

For my part, I can fully understand how Aunt Sylvia must have felt that day. Even as I sit here typing I feel my eyes well up with tears. To think, here you’ve been lost, under the wrath of God and headed towards hell for 50 years! And now, by God’s grace, all your sins are forgiven, you’re made a child of God, and you're given a home in heaven! Of course she shouted and leaped and ran! And—bless God—at 90 years of age, Aunt Sylvia was still shouting God’s praise!

I also wonder what my cessationistic brethren would have to offer to my wife’s late grandfather who, when he died, just one month short of his 101st birthday, still couldn’t read. Or my great-great-great grandparents—former slaves who never learned to read. If God only speaks through Scripture, what hope is there for the illiterate? The answer, of course, would be that they can listen to the word of God being read or taught. Okay. But, what if you don’t have anyone to read to you or teach you? I wish I could put my finger on it, but I have a book somewhere which has the stories of former slaves, as told by them and transcribed, sometime in the 1930s. I recall the conversion story of an old woman who was a slave. She told how God, literally, spoke to her, how she prayed to a God she had never been told about, and called on a Savior she had never been taught about before. As I recall, her testimony was thoroughly biblical and conformed to the gospel message, but this woman couldn’t read. No one had taught her the gospel. Only thing she knew was God spoke to her. What do you do with that, if God can’t or won’t speak outside of the Bible? Was she crazy? Was she merely hallucinating? Was her salvation a fraud?

Or is your cessationistic theology a fraud?

My friends, cessationism doesn’t square with the Bible. Acts 9:10-16; 11:27-28; 13:2; 16:6-10; 21:10-11, plus many, many other examples in the book of Acts and throughout the Old Testament, testify to the fact that God can and does speak outside the Bible. No text of Scripture says He stopped talking. I only affirm that God can and does speak outside of the Bible because the Bible affirms it.

We just need to stop trying to figure God out. Our brains are too puny and feeble to understand what God can do. In my opinion, this kind of academic and cerebral religion would have left illiterate Black slaves lost in their sins. And an emotionless and rationalistic religion doesn’t appeal to the majority of the descendants of these Black slaves. We wouldn’t have a religion we couldn’t feel…at least, sometimes!

Thankfully, that’s not the religion—the Christianity—that Scripture presents:
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1:3-9, emphasis mine).
I don’t know how that strikes you, but to “rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory” (1 Peter 1:8) sounds to me like it may require an emotional response. And, tell me, how does one “rejoice” silently? Certainly, this kind of rejoicing, that Peter wrote about, can’t be done in my head, with no outward sign that there is “inexpressible” joy within.

“Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. And a man lame from birth was being carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple that is called the Beautiful Gate to ask alms of those entering the temple. Seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked to receive alms. And Peter directed his gaze at him, as did John, and said, ‘Look at us.’ And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, ‘I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!’ And he took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. And leaping up he stood and began to walk, and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. And all the people saw him walking and praising God, and recognized him as the one who sat at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, asking for alms. And they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him” (Acts 3:1-10, emphasis mine).

Tell me, do you think this lame man who was healed leaped unemotionally? Did he praise God in his thoughts, silently? Notice, he wasn’t rebuked by Peter and John for being emotional.

I wish—I only wish—I had this kind of liberty in the Spirit. Anyone that knows me will tell you I’m no emotional extremist. In fact, I’m usually quite reserved. I wish I wasn’t! I feel deep emotions, but self-consciousness and thoughts of what others will think or say help me keep my emotions pent up (except for “manly” emotions, like anger). Oh, how I wish I felt as free as Aunt Sylvia to shout and leap for joy in God! This kind of emotion is fitting, because our great God is worthy of great praise!
“I will extol you, my God and King, and bless your name forever and ever.
Every day I will bless you and praise your name forever and ever.
Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable.
My mouth will speak the praise of the LORD, and let all flesh bless his holy name forever and ever” (Psalm 145:1-3, 21, emphasis mine).
“Be glad in the LORD, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!” (Psalm 32:11, emphasis mine).


Anonymous said...

Wow, powerful poss! It sounds like you have a rich history and a very godly legacy.

Anonymous said...

Well, of course that should say, 'post' :)

d said...

I 100% agree!! great post. My wife's testimony would blow most people away would try to conveniently distort scriputre about "when the perfect comes," which actaully referes to the Lord's coming and establishment of hi skingdom on earth where death itself and all sorrow is removed! We aren't there yet! There are simply too many fruits from the charism to say it's either demonic, made up or whatever. And besides which, why would God have the Bible be filled with so much instrction on how to use the gifts properly if they were only going to die out 20 or so years later? Rediculous! Why would Paul wish all spoke intongues and that even more so prophesied, if itwas so bad or for only a few, etc?!

All my wife's and my non beleiving family admit that when my wife was 'born again', she was completely healed (of scientifically impossible to be healed disease) and totally, utterly transformed into an entirely different, and far more loving, person. From complete anti-christian to devout follower...and still is these many,many years later.

I could go more into it but not here.

God bless you.

-duncan too :)