The recent debate over Strange Fire has made me think again about what it means to be a Christian, and for the church to be truly Christian.
One of the dangers of the debate over Strange Fire, and a danger for those who call themselves Reformed (I don’t particularly like labels as you are not always sure as to what they mean to others, but if you are wondering I guess I’m reformed with a small ‘r’), is the reducing of Christianity to that which is cerebral, solely of the mind, an intellectual exercise, something which we have power and control over.
But, one thing that stands out with just a cursory reading of the Bible is that being a Christian is far more than assenting to the truth (though there is and must be that), it is supernatural, there’s no two ways about it, and you can’t be one without it!
- To be a Christian involves a supernatural new birth.
- To be a Christian involves the supernatural baptism and continual filling of the Holy Spirit.
- To live as a Christian requires daily dependence upon God, a life lived in the Spirit.
- To be a Christian is to be resourced by the Spirit with all his wonderful gifts.
- To be a Christian involves mortifying the flesh, the old passions, by the Spirit (not strength of mind or will).
- Our praying is to be in the Spirit.
- Our worship is to be in the Spirit.
- Our meetings are to be led and enabled by the Spirit.
- Our witness is to be empowered by the Spirit.
Christianity is then an experience, a powerful supernatural experience, and without it we end up with sterile form – cold, disciplined religion. For Paul it wasn’t simply a case of giving mental assent to the truth, it was what do you know of the Spirit’s presence. In Reformed circles it has been traditional to speak of justification by faith alone, through grace alone, in Christ alone, as the foundational truth of the church – lose it and you have no church, and there is a measure of truth to that. The problem is it’s not the whole truth, and on it’s own it’s like a plane with only one wing. Paul’s great challenge to those who professed belief at Ephesus was ‘did you receive the Spirit when you believed?’ According to Paul then there is another fundamental and foundational truth to the church – the reception of and experience of the Spirit.
My question is do you know Him? Have you truly encountered the Saviour? What do you know of the Spirit’s presence? You can’t have One without the Other. If you don’t then you don’t have to wait to go to church, you can meet him now. Recognise your sin and need of a Saviour, turn from your sin and helplessness to Christ, believe in Him and receive the gift of his Spirit.
And if you do know him, what place does the Spirit have in your life? Do you know what it is to be filled? Do you know his Presence and Power? If not, why wait, open up your heart afresh to him, seek his renewal and filling….
What place are we giving in our churches to the Spirit?
What place are we giving in our churches are we giving to the Word?
We need both Word and Spirit, without them we are in trouble, but with them, wow! who knows!