Charismatic Chaos – Part 11
AUTHOR: MacArthur Jr., John
PUBLISHED ON: April 2, 2003

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
                          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

      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

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

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

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

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 Spirit–spirituality is
yours!  But unfortunately it doesn’t work that way, so you know what happens? 
They live under a false assumption of their true spiritual condition.  When
the glow of one experience fades they are forced to find another experience,
and then another experience.  And they find that a second work of grace is
not enough, and a third, and a forth, and a fifth, and so on.  And they seem
to have diminishing returns, and in their effort to seek something more they
often unwittingly abandon the Bible; they unwittingly abandon prayer and the
true path of spirituality and they run errantly and wildly down a road of
experience that leads to an inevitable increasing carnality. 

Charismatic books and pamphlets and articles are filled with testimonies,
also of how a certain special experience brought a new degree of
spirituality.  The testimony follow something like this,

      When I was baptized by the Spirit, when I spoke in tongues, then
      I began to live a more holy life (you’ve heard that).  I had
      more power, I had more freedom, I had more joy, I had effective
      witness, more love, more fulfillment as a Christian. 

I have heard that many, many times.  And although not all Charismatics are
consistent on this point, most would strongly connect that with speaking in
tongues as a means of obtaining that spirituality.  But Scripture just
doesn’t support that idea.  In 1 Corinthians 1:7, Paul commended the Church
at Corinth and this is what he said, “You are not lacking in any gift, you
are not lacking in any gift.”  They had all the gifts: they had the gifts of
prophecy, knowledge, miracles, healings, tongues, interpretations of
tongues–they had them all in the Corinthian Church!  They also had every
imaginable spiritual problem.  They were spiritual in terms of their gifts,
they had spiritual gifts.  The true Christians were spiritual in terms of
their position, but their actions were carnal and the Church was in carnal
chaos.  You see spirituality isn’t related to your gifts or to even some
supernatural kind of manifestation through those gifts of miracles, healings,
tongues, and interpretation. 

The Corinthian believers of the First Century were not unique; Christians
today face similar problems.  We are saved, we have the Holy Spirit, we have
certain spiritual gifts but we still struggle with the flesh.  Your spiritual
gift doesn’t change your struggle with the flesh at all.  If tongues is a
spiritual gift then why in the world would tongues change your spiritual
struggle?  It certainly didn’t do anything for the Corinthians; they were
still fleshly, carnal.  He said that to them in chapter 3, as I read a little
bit ago, “You have all the gifts and you are carnal!”  So even having the
gift of tongues has no relationship to your spirituality.  Do you see that? 
It doesn’t have any relationship to it.  No spiritual gift will guarantee
that you are going to win the struggle and live on a supernatural spiritual
plain.  The only way you can win the spiritual battle and live according to
your position as a spiritual being, having been transformed, is to walk in
the Spirit; Galatians 5:16, “Walk in the Spirit and you will not
fulfill. . .” what?  “The lusts of the flesh.” 

You overcome the flesh by a daily, step-by-step obedience to the Spirit of
God.  And I have to say that any discerning Charismatic will, and perhaps
some do, admit that he or she has just as much trouble with the flesh and the
appetites and lusts and desires of the flesh as anybody else!  Enthusiasm,
euphoria, fervor, excitement, emotion, all of that stuff, all the things
Charismatics tend to equate with spiritual intensity, have no power to
restrain lusts, no power to conquer pride, no power to overcome selfishness,
no power to deal with greed; none at all. 

Charismatics, whose only strength is drawn from the last high, the last
experience, in fact, are more likely to be spiritually weak and spiritually
immature.  Dr. Charles Smith, who is now with the Lord, was the dean of our
seminary, points out, and I quote,

      The doctrines of free love and spiritual marriages have too
      often appeared in association with tongues.  Perversion of the
      Biblically teaching relating to sex and marriage can be seen in
      the Mormons and the Shakers.  Amy Simple McPherson (started the
      Four Square Church) was not the only tongues leader to receive a
      revelation that her marriage was not “in the Lord” and that she
      should enter another union.  One of the serious problems of the
      Pentecostal movement has been the fact that many of its leaders
      have fallen into immorality.  One well known Pentecostal
      preacher, a woman widowed for three years, professed to be with
      child by the Holy Ghost!  Pharham, father of the modern
      Pentecostal movement was arrested for the grossest of

Now what he is pointing out is something we continue to see played out on the
scene today, right?  This problem of gross immorality, this problem of a
lifestyle totally inconsistent with spirituality; what you have got here are
people who are getting “zapped” all the time but on the contrary are not only
not spiritual, but tend to give manifestations of unspiritual lives, carnal
fleshly lives that are preoccupied with lust, pride, selfishness, and greed. 
To compound the difficulty, when they stumble they are not even likely to
take the responsibility for it.  They are going to blame demonic power,
rather than examining their theology or their fleshly will or their Biblical

With all their claims of new power and a new level of spirituality the
Charismatics have no guarantee that any of their ecstatic experiences will
put them in any kind of lasting spiritual condition.  Now, please understand
that I am not saying there aren’t people in the Charismatic movement who are
spiritual–there are.  There are people who are in those churches who walk in
the Spirit because they love Christ truly, they study His word; but the upper
echelon propagation, the stuff they are telling people and the “party-line”
(if you will) about spirituality is not legitimate.  No matter what kind of
experience they think they’ve had, no matter how often they speak in tongues,
no matter how frequently they get slain in the Spirit (One of their leaders
said, “If you not slain in the Spirit every week, you’re never going to able
to live the Christian life.”), no matter how many times they fall over
backwards they still face the same challenge given to every Christian–they
have to walk in the power of the Spirit and obedience to the Word which they
understand; die to self and sin everyday.

There isn’t any shortcut.  And I want to submit to you that begins with the
mind and not the emotion.  That begins with an understanding of truth, an
understanding of Scripture, an understanding of God, and Christ, and man, and
sin, and the Holy Spirit.  It starts with the mind.  Unfortunately there is
so much doctrinal ignorance in the movement that the people are trying to
function without an understanding of who God is, who Christ is, what the
Bible teaches about the Spirit and spiritual life.  How many people join that
movement because they have been promised an easy answer to problems and a
quick and easy path to instant godliness?  It’s sad.  Sometimes I look at it
and I think it’s more giddy than godly.  You can turn on, almost any night,
on Charismatic television and see it. 

It’s emphasizing amusement and frivolity, and there is a lot of laughing and
sort of breathless gushing and time for silliness, bafoonery, and shallow
talk.  You look at the expensive lavish clothing and the whole scene that
goes with it, the behavior, so many women who seem, to me at least, to
violate most everything that is taught in 1 Peter 3 and 1 Timothy 2, and I
get embarrassed because I know the watching world is looking at this and
assuming that this is Christianity.  I mean, this has got to be
Christianity–it says it is!  There is nothing wrong with being happy, I am a
happy person.  I mean, I am always happy.  In fact, I’ve always said that, “I
think God has taken happiness from a whole lot of people just to give it to
me because I have more than anyone could imagine.” 

There is nothing wrong with praising God and laughing and feeling self-
fulfilled, enjoying your Christian life and enjoying life in general.  But,
it seems to me that many in the Charismatic movement seem so determined to
pursue the emotional high, the quick thrill, the exciting event, the
electrifying moment, the exhilarating conference, that they don’t know
anything about the serious part of spiritual life.  They don’t know about the
consistent walk with God that deals with the reality of your life, and
therefore, they have given up the rich rewards of that walk; and they have
settled for a superficial frivolity, sort of a cheap substitute; and gaiety
is no substitute for godliness. 

Real godliness doesn’t carry with it some kind of silly emotional high. 
Again I say, that the truly spiritual and truly godly person pursues
righteousness with a burning sense of conviction, with a deep awareness of
his own sin.  And when the Spirit of God is at work there is deep joy, but
there is also a sort of corresponding profound sorrow.  Walter Chantery (sp.)
has aptly written and I quote from him,

      When the Holy Spirit comes to sinful men, He initially brings
      sorrow, but in Charismatic circles there is only the boast of
      rapid transport to joy and peace.  Any religious experiences
      that brings immediate rejoicing and uninterrupted cheerfulness
      are not to be trusted.  There is much more to spirituality than
      a lifting of the spirits and the entering into the exuberant
      life and in extending one’s succession of thrilling experiences. 
      Yet, in many of the popular neo-Pentcostal societies, you will
      look in vain for anything else.  No one who has God’s spirit can
      walk through our world without deep groanings of sorrow and
      distress when the stench of immorality feels his nostrils.  The
      spirit filled man cannot be happy, happy, happy, all the day! 
      If the Spirit were to come powerfully today, it would not be to
      make men clap their hands for joy but to make them smite their
      breasts in sorrow.

And Chantrey (sp.) adds, “He’s not the jolly spirit–He’s the Holy Spirit!” 
Charismatics usually give the impression however, that it is more jolly than
holy.  And I don’t want to be ungracious to those in the movement who are
genuine, and there are many.  But the face of Charimaticism that we see cast
before us projects so much of this.  Meanwhile, the self-indulgence in
immoderation gets louder, gaudier, flashier, and more eccentric.  This trend
I don’t see as the fruit of genuine godliness. 

One of the most unfortunate characteristics of this movement is the continual
emphasis also on the astonishing, and the dramatic, and the sensational, and
the idea that that has got to be the part of everyday life.  The effect
really is to intimidate anybody who is not getting the same kind of results: 
tongues and prophecies and spiritual pyrotechnics and whatever else is going
on, miraculously filled fuel tanks and audible voices from God and all that. 
There are people–you’ve got to know that those churches are filled with
people who don’t quite have that spectacular list of events on their weekly
schedule.  They are getting, frankly, not any spectactular things at all, and
they live through a dry spell.  And you have got to wonder what they think
and how unfulfiling and sad of heart they find themselves. 

The Apostle Paul knew what it was to be scorned, and he knew what it was to
be intimidated by people who felt they had attained a higher level than he. 
Did you know that?  Second Corinthians, you don’t have to turn to it, we
don’t have time, but in 2 Corinthians, you read chapter 9 and to the end, and
Paul talks about the “Super Apostles.”  Remember he had poured out 18 months
of his life and love establishing the Corinthian Church.  And when he wrote
back two letters, obviously there were so many problems.  The worst of it,
from his viewpoint was, some guys had risen in the Church who wanted to
destroy Paul.  There whole view was that Paul was not an honorable man and
that they had reached a higher level of spirituality than he and they were
the “Super Apostles.”  By the way, the leader of that group, I believe, was
the thorn in the flesh, the messenger from Satan that really tore him up. 

They came to town while he was gone, or they rose from the congregation while
he was gone.  They were the new guys.  They love to extol themselves and
elevate themselves; they had the power, they had the experience, they had the
estacies.  They had swept the Corinthian believers off their feet and it
broke the heart of Paul because people in the Church were believing them and
following them and turning their back on Paul.  And it all came back to Paul
that his spirituality was in question.  He didn’t measure up to the
superstars; he didn’t measure up to these new guys.  They were saying that
Paul couldn’t play in their league.  How did Paul respond?  He didn’t rattle
off a list of healings or other miracles he had performed; instead he
presented his credientials.  He didn’t say, “Well, I have raised five and you
know, I’ve healed a 1,000.  I’ve cast demons out of 1,500; here’s a few
illustrations.”  Do you know what he said?  He said,

      I want to present my credientials: five times I received thirty-
      nine lashes.  Three times I had been beaten with rods, once I
      had been stoned and left for dead, three times I have been
      shipwrecked, I have spent a night and a day in the sea.  I have
      been hungry and sleepless, I have been in dangers from robbers
      and Gentiles and even my own countrymen.  I have been run out of
      town more times than I can even remember.  I’ve got a thorn in
      the flesh that the Lord won’t even take away and I have asked
      Him three times.  You know what?  Do you want to know my
      credientials?  I am well content with weakness, insults,
      ditresses, persecutions, difficulties for Christ’s sake, for
      when I am weak then I am strong.  I have become foolish; you
      yourselves compelled me.  Actually, I should have been commended
      by you for in no respect was I inferior to the most immenient
      apostles, even though I am a nobody.

Wow, what an amazing list of credentials.  It seems to me very doubful that
Paul would have made much of a guest on a Charismatic television show. 
Instead of being “Slain in the Spirit” he was almost slain in the body over
and over again.  He couldn’t even remember his visions; he couldn’t even get
on to tell them.  Second Corinthians 12:1-4 he mentions being caught up to
the third heaven fourteen years before, but he couldn’t rememeber the
details.  Now, how are you going to make a career out of that if you can’t
even remember what happened?  Instead of emphasizing his miraculous trip to
the third heaven and back, he wanted to talk about his weakness, and he
wanted to talk about his pain!  Because all of that weakness and all of that
pain put all the glory in the place it should be and gave it to God.  That’s
the kind of true spirituality that is missing in the movement, and that’s the
kind of true spirituality that doesn’t make it on the “Best Seller” chart. 

According to Paul, his life was weak, his life was wretched, his life was
desperate, he was humble, he was the chief sinner, he was in a constant state
of stress, tension, fear, even misery from the time he came to Christ until
his head got cut off.  The same is true of the other apostles: Peter, James,
[and] John.  You never find anywhere some kind of catalog of all their
escapades.  See, they learned that true spirituality was walking humbly
before God in the power of the Holy Spirit; that’s where spirituality is.

Well, there is much more to be said, but I just remind you that perhaps the
best and clearest definition of true spirituality comes in the simple
statement of Ephesians 5, which says, “Be not drunk with wine, in which is
excess; but be filled with the Spirit.”  I wish we had time to go into all
that that means but allowing the Holy Spirit to control your life is the
essential issue; and that comes when you submit yourselves to the Word of
God.  The path to true spirituality is through the Word, prayer, daily step
by step commitment to the Holy Spirit. 

Aesop told about a dog who was crossing a bridge with a bone in his mouth. 
He looked over the edge, saw the reflection in the clear stream.  The bone in
the water looked better than the one in his mouth, so he gave up the reality
for the reflection. 

My great fear is that there are many Christians who with great zeal and
lacking knowledge are doing the very same thing.  A false standard of
spirituality will not restrain your flesh; witnesses are abundant to prove
that.  The only way to restrain your flesh and gain victory is true
spirituality.  Again I say, the path is through the Word and prayer to a
daily walk with the Spirit.  Let’s bow in prayer. 

Father, just touching these things tonight reminds us that even while we are
endeavoring to understand a movement that we feel doesn’t honor You we don’t
want to leave it at that, we want to bring this into our own hearts and ask
if we are on the path of true spirituality to the place of true obedience; if
we are walking in the Spirit so that we don’t fulfill the lusts of the flesh. 
Since we are spiritual and the Spirit dwells within us we must walk according
to His will.  So Father, may the Word of Christ dwell in us richly, and may
that Word become the controlling principle that moves through our mind to our
volition and yields our body and our mind to the controlling Spirit.  May we
know true spirituality, we who are spiritual, and give no occasion to the
flesh, that we might live to your glory for Jesus’ sake.  Amen.

Transcribed by Tony Capoccia of

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