Is Experience a Valid Test of Truth? (Selected Scriptures)

Is Experience a Valid Test of Truth? (Selected Scriptures)


As you know, over the last number of weeks,
we have been sort of anticipating the coming of our Strange Fire Conference which will
be held here at Grace Church on October 16 through 18 th . This is the second in what we’re calling Truth
Matters Conferences, and this one addresses the issue of the Charismatic Movement which
has had a greater negative impact on the church over the last 25 years than probably any other
Movement at all. It has created all kinds of chaos. It needs to be addressed and so that’s what
we’re going to do in that conference. Now there will be, we’re not sure what the
ultimate number is, but we know there are somewhere around 4,000 people who have registered
and we’ve closed down registration, at least for the moment, but we know we’re going to
have the unregistered church up as well. So we’re not quite sure how many. We may be able to squeeze everybody in. But we don’t want to leave you out, so we’ve
been talking about some of the issues with regard to the Charismatic Movement and reaching
back, not too many months ago now, maybe over a year at least, I did a series on Romans
chapter 8, The True Work of the Holy Spirit, comparing it with the false representations
of the Holy Spirit that have become so ubiquitous in the Charismatic Movement. Over the last three or four Sunday nights,
Phil Johnson and I have dialogued a little bit about the issues and from what I hear,
this has been very helpful to all of you. That was very gratifying. We intended to do one and there was such a
great response, we did two, and then there was equally great response so we did three. So I have preached on this from Romans 8. I have put on the question and answer hat
and sat and dialogued about this. And now I’m going to kind of put on my lecture
hat tonight and come to you more maybe as a professor, more looking at this from the
standpoint of giving you a lecture, but that doesn’t change the urgency of the issue before
us…whether preaching or answering questions, or presenting to you essentially what will
come across as a bit of a lecture rather than unpacking a portion of Scripture–the truth
is the same. And the question I want to address tonight,
and I’m going to do this for three Sunday nights this month. There are three urgent questions that I think
are at the foundation of this Movement. The one for tonight is “Is experience a valid
test of truth….Is experience a valid test of truth? That is a very foundational issue. How do you discern the truth–is the first
issue, is the foundational issue. The Charismatic Movement goes wrong because
it has an invalid approach to discerning the truth. They can’t possibly come up with the right
answer when they’re asking questions of the wrong sources. They can’t possibly come up with the truth
when they’re looking for it in all the wrong places. Now this can be illustrated, first of all,
a woman wrote to me and she was very angry, as occasionally people are with me, and she
wrote this, “You resort to Greek translations and fancy words to explain away what the Holy
Spirit is doing in the church today. Let me give you a piece of advice that might
just save you from the wrath of Almighty God. Put away your Bible and your books and stop
studying. Ask the Holy Ghost to come upon you and give
you the gift of tongues. You have no right to question something you
have never experienced.” And while that is anecdotal and while that
is a letter from one rather beleaguered lady whose husband I would only show mercy to,
it is reflective…it is reflective of a trend, in fact it is reflective of the whole Movement. Put away your Bible and your books and stop
studying and ask the Holy Ghost to come upon you and give you the gift of tongues. Another radio listener after hearing me teach
on 1 Corinthians 12 through 14 wrote, and I quote, “You people, and especially ministers
of the gospel who claim that speaking in tongues is not for today, are in my opinion and all
those who do speak in tongues, grieving the Holy Spirit and missing a blessing from God. To me it is as ridiculous as if an unsaved
person tried to persuade you that you absolutely cannot be sure that you will enter into heaven. If you haven’t experienced it, you cannot
tell someone who has that it doesn’t exist.” Now there is another testimony to where they
draw their truth. They draw their truth out of their own experience. If you haven’t experienced it, you can’t speak
on it. Both of those letters reflect the Charismatic
tendency to gauge truth by personal experience rather than Scripture. This kind of jumps into our contemporary situation
with a quote by Mark Driscol, a well-known pastor in Seattle who says, “People like me
have created a new Trinity, the Father, the Son and the Holy Scripture.” And the assumption in that accusation is that
we have somehow replaced the Holy Spirit with the Holy Scripture. That is being thrown at people who want to
qualify and define everything that the Spirit does by the Scripture. That is no threat to the Holy Spirit. I believe in the Father, the Son and the Holy
Spirit and that all of them work in perfect accord with the Holy Scripture. Charismatics, however, if they’re at all honest
with themselves, have to acknowledge that their personal experience, not Scripture,
is the foundation of the whole system. They want to give the Bible a high place. They carry around Bibles, they read Bibles. They don’t interpret them, necessarily. They read them, they are familiar with the
surface of the Scriptures but the Bible itself, and Scripture itself rank second to experience
in their system. Experience is the priority source of truth
and the Bible is used to proof text those experiences. Experience is the basis of belief. Experience is the source of truth. And that, of course, is exactly backward and
that is why the Movement is as out of control as it is because it is defined by as many
people as are having experiences. And that’s completely out of control. And non-Charismatics are accused of opposing
experience and opposing emotion, and exposing feeling. Now let me tell you, that’s not the case,
not at all. We believe that God works in our emotions. We believe that He exposes Himself in our
experiences. But we do not discern truth out of our emotions
and our experience. I would not for one moment advocate some kind
of cold inanimate approach to religion, some attachment to a barren creed, or some empty
ritual. We as believers have authenticate spiritual
experience and emotion and feeling, things like a strong sense of remorse over sin. That’s a legitimate feeling. A mighty sense of trust in God, great faith,
almost faith that produces joy in the midst of a devastating traumatic experience. We also feel overwhelming peace in the midst
of trouble, great joy and confidence and hope in God in the face of death, intense sorrow,
heartbreaking sorrow over the lost, joy over answered prayer, exhilaration in praise and
even a sheer delight as the truth of Scripture opens to our understanding. We feel all that in our emotions and it produces
the range of emotions. So we’re not saying there’s no place for emotion,
and there’s no place for feeling and experience, there is. Spiritual experience in its legitimate form
is an internal awareness that responds to the truth of the Word of God. We are emotional because we understand the
truth. We are joyful because we understand the truth
of Scripture. We are sad because we understand the truth
of Scripture. We are confident in the face of trouble because
we understand the promises of God, and so it goes. No matter what hits us, we’re so anchored
by truth that literally our joy surpasses all difficulty. Sad to say that’s not true of Charismatics. When the riding on their emotions that is
unattached to truth, when the real issues come, they have nothing from which to draw
emotional joy and confidence and peace and hope. You basically live on, survive on, triumphant
on your theology and your theology cannot be the product of your own experience or you’re
hoping in yourself. And anybody knows in the depths of his heart
that that’s folly. Charismatics err because they tend to build
their teachings on experience. They are utterly detached from authenticate
experience. They don’t have authenticate experience because
authentic Spirit-directed emotion and experience is drawn in response to the truth of God and
the knowledge of that truth. They look like they’re flying high. And I guess emotionally, they are. But they are unattached. There’s nothing that holds them. They just float in to nebulous space. There are then no ways to…in the system…contain
the false teaching because it can come out of anybody and there are no bases for disqualifying
that claim. Charismatic books, Charismatic media are literally
full of visions, dreams, prophecies, words of knowledge, private messages, voices from
heaven, appearances of God, appearances of Jesus, appearances of angels. It gets to the point where the experiences
are so definitive that they would say things like this, this is Kenneth Copeland who’s
one of the leaders. He is not one of the low-level privates in
the Charismatic army, he would be a general. He’s a leader, he’s a definer of what they
believe. Kenneth Copeland claims that he receives his
own novel interpretations of Scripture by direct revelation. So when he misinterprets verses in the Bible,
he says that his interpretation came to him by divine revelation. For example, he was teaching on the account
of the rich young ruler in Mark 10 and he was clearly seeking support for the prosperity
gospel from the story of the rich young ruler which is a story about Jesus saying to a man,
“Sell everything you have, give it all to the poor and come and follow Me.” But he needed to turn that on its head in
order to sell the prosperity gospel. Jesus says in Mark 10:21, “One thing you lack,
go sell all you possess, give to the poor, you’ll have treasure in heaven, come follow
Me.” Copeland claims that God privately revealed
to him that this verse actually promises early monetary wealth. Copeland says, quote: “This was the biggest
financial deal that young man had ever been offered and he walked away from it because
he didn’t know God’s system of finance.” So he literally reverses the intention of
our Lord’s words and defends it on the basis that he gets private interpretations from
God Himself. Dr. Percy Collett(?) who was a Charismatic medical
missionary devised an extensive series of detailed messages on heaven, all drawn from
his extraordinary experience. He went to heaven, transported to heaven. That’s very popular nowadays. If you look at the new edition of The Glory
of Heaven , the whole opening section looks at these more contemporary trips to heaven
by…particularly by children. But this is Percy Collett, he is a medical
doctor who went to heaven for five and a half days. He says he saw Jesus who was very busy supervising
the building of mansions there. Never mind that there are no mansions there,
what the King James said, “In my Father’s house are many mansions,” and the Greek says,
“In my Father’s house are many rooms.” You can’t have mansions in a house. A newsletter detailed Dr. Collett’s journey to heaven. He says, “While Christianity abounds with
accounts of glimpses of the other dimension from those who have had out-of-body experiences,
Dr. Collett’s is unlike these. Obviously he was caught up in the third heaven
as Paul was, the difference being Paul was not allowed to utter the things he saw and
heard, but Dr. Collett almost two thousand years later was
commanded to do so. So you can set Paul aside, this guy’s got
a higher rank. He offers video tapes detailing his trip to
heaven. It says things like this, “Everything God
created on earth is in heaven…horses, cats, dogs. Everything He created on earth is in heaven
in the way of animals. Only these are perfect animals. For example the dogs don’t bark.” And then he adds, “You don’t need plumbing. You can go to the banqueting house and eat
all you want and no plumbing is needed.” Collett also describes the pity department,
the place where the souls of aborted babies go and also some severely retarded babies
and it’s here that these little souls are trained for a period of time before they go
before the throne of God. Then he saw the record room, quote: “An immense
area where all the idle words spoken by Christians are being retained until after Christians
give account of them or are judged at which time these will be emptied into the sea of
forgetfulness.” Then he describes the garment room where angels
are sewing our robes,” mansion is under construction, a Holy Ghost elevator, and many other things. And then he added one detail. When I was traveling back to earth, quote:
“I saw two girls, one brunet and one redhead. We stopped to talk to them, their soul-bodies,
they were on the way up, we were on the way back, we asked them what had happened to them
and they indicated they had gotten killed in a car accident on the California highway,
their bodies were physically in a funeral home, and they said their mother was weeping
over them, so would I please find her and tell her they were okay?” That kind of nonsense is then supported by
conclusive proof that he has, quote, “About a year later I went to that area where the
mother lived and was giving this testimony. A mother jumped up in the congregation and
said, ‘That’s a description of my daughters.’ I told her she shouldn’t fret, that her daughters
are in that wonderful place.” She said she would never cry again. And if you believe that, I’ve got a bridge
in Brooklyn to sell you…I said that, he didn’t. Dr. Collett…Dr. Collett lectured on heaven to standing-room-only
audiences and the first question in a Q & A he did came from a man down in Montgomery,
Alabama at a Q & A who said, “I’m a cowboy, are there rodeos in heaven?” Dr. Collett was ready with an answer. “There are
horses in heaven, beautiful horses. They’re all praising God. There’s no foolishness in heaven, I’m not
saying that a rodeo is foolish, but there’s no Will Rogers’ style acting up there. I mean the folly of this is so ridiculous
and bizarre. Why am I reading this? Because Charismatics have never said anything
editorially about this. There’s no way to judge it. There’s no way to stop it because the experience
validates itself. Fresh revelation, by the way, like that, trumps
the Bible…the old book…the old book. Now everything starts in the system, in the
Charismatic system, with what’s called the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. It’s a misunderstanding of a wonderful, miraculous
event that occurs at salvation, according to the New Testament. When you put your faith in Christ and when
you’re saved, Christ Himself by means of the Holy Spirit places you into His body, immerses
you into His body. That’s the baptism of the Holy Spirit. It happens to every believer at the moment
of salvation. But in the Charismatic Movement, the Baptism
of the Holy Spirit is a post-salvation experience. It’s not a divine transaction. It’s not the Son by the Spirit placing a believer
into the body of Christ as in the Bible, but rather it is an experience that you feel. If it really happens, you are euphoric, you
may have visions, you might have outbursts of various kinds of emotion and in most cases
you will speak in tongues, you will jabber in some kind of non-language. Anybody who hasn’t had this post-salvation
experience is not possessing the fullness of the Holy Spirit and consequently is immature,
carnal, disobedient and incomplete. So that is the initial inaugural entrance
into the Charismatic Movement and you need to have the experience. The Baptism of the Holy Spirit is not an experience. The Baptism of the Holy Spirit in the New
Testament is like justification. You don’t experience justification. You don’t experience it, that’s a forensic
declaration by God that the righteousness that He possesses and manifest in Christ is
credited to your account. And the Baptism of the Holy Spirit is a divine
action, a divine miracle by which the Father places you into the living, organism of the
body of Christ by granting to you the life of God in your soul. You don’t feel that. But for them, the Baptism of the Spirit is
this post-salvation, or perhaps it is something that most of them who are unsaved chase, some
kind of experience, highly emotional, sensational, usually including jabbering in a non-language. And that then becomes the inaugural experience
and from there you continue chasing those kind of experiences. That’s why you see people in a Charismatic
meeting, the music is hard-driving, highly emotional, very repetitive and the people
are swaying and moving and waving their arms. This is not worship, this is an effort to
induce a kind of elevated feeling. One writer said, “This would be like putting
LSD in the communion wine.” Why not? Because what you’re trying to do is induce
an experience. The experiences can be bizarre. A Charismatic newspaper reports a genuine
photograph of the Lord Jesus. “Yes, I have one recorded on film,” writes this photographer,
“in mid-summer I woke at 3:30 A.M. to a strong voice, thought impression(??), ‘Go and photograph
My sunrise.’ Beside the river I set up my camera, waited for the sun. In that pre-dawn I felt so close to God, perfect
peace. On one negative, in the perfect shape of a
figure, arms raised in blessing as reflected in the water, exactly opposite to every other
shadow, I believe God gave me an image of Himself to share.” The item is signed, Dudley Danielson, photographer,
and you can have an 8 by 10 copy of God for $9.95 prepaid. It doesn’t bother Dudley that the Bible says,
“No man has seen God at any time, that God is a Spirit.” Oh how about Exodus 33, “That no man can see
Me and live.” Marvin Ford who was featured for a long time
on the 700 Club went to heaven and got the aroma of heaven on his necktie. And whenever he wants to renew the experience,
ne sniffs his own tie. Another Charismatic leader by the name of
Roberts Liardon who is, by the way, a very influential one, says he took an extensive
tour of heaven as an eight-year-old with Jesus as his personal guide. He recalls and these are his words, “Many
people have asked me what Jesus looks like. He’s five foot eleven to six feet tall and
He’s got sandy-brown hair. It’s not too long and it’s not too short. He’s a perfect man. Whatever you picture as a perfect man, that’s
what Jesus is. He’s perfect in every way. The way He looks, talks, everything, that’s
the way I remember Him. We walked a little farther and this is the
most important part of my story. I saw three storage houses, five hundred to
six hundred yards from the throne room of God. They’re very long and very wide. We walked into the first. As Jesus shut the front door behind us, I
looked around the interior in shock. On one side of the building were arms, fingers,
and other exterior parts of the body. Legs hung from the walls but the scene looked
natural not weird. On the other side of the building were shelves
filled with neat little packages of eyes, green ones, brown ones, blue ones. The building contained all the parts of the
human body that people on earth need, but they haven’t realized these blessings are
waiting for them in heaven and therefore saints and sinners alike. Jesus said to me, ‘These are the unclaimed
blessings. This building shouldn’t be full, it should
be emptied every single day. You should come in here with faith and get
the needed parts for you and the people you’ll come in contact with that day,'” end quote. So there are all kinds of body parts up there
and the reason they’re stuck in heaven is because you don’t have the faith to get them
down here. Roberts Liardon describes many other incredible
sights. The River of Life, a stadium full of people
who he says were the cloud of witnesses in Hebrews 12. And a medicine cabinet with pill bottles labeled
overdose of the Holy Ghost. He describes the River of Life, he says this
branch of the River of Life was knee-deep and crystal-clear. We took off our shoes and I got in and do
you know the first thing Jesus did to me? He dunked me. I got back up and splashed Him and we had
a water fight. And so it goes. I can hardly bear to read more of these things. Liardon also claims while he was in heaven
he was ordained to the ministry by Jesus Himself. Now that will give you some leverage in the
Movement. If you were an unimportant person, but you’ve
been to heaven and got ordained personally by Jesus, you just trump everybody…everybody. He says, “When I get back to heaven, I’m going
to put up a historical marker on the place where Jesus dunked me. It’s going to say, ‘This is the spot where
Jesus Christ became not only my Lord and Savior but my friend. Yes He became my friend. Now we walk and talk together. When I hear a good joke, I can run to Jesus
and listen to Him laugh at it. And when He gets a good one, he tells me.’
We walked awhile and were quiet, then Jesus turned around and took both of my hands in
one of His, He placed His other hand on top of my head and said, ‘Roberts, I’m calling
you to great work. You’ll have to run like no one else, preach
like no one else, be different from everyone else. Go, go, go like no one else has gone. Go and do as I have done.'” And by the way, Jesus has appeared to him,
he says, two more times. This is beyond comprehension. The third time I saw Jesus I was eleven years
old. Jesus walked in through the front door of
my home while I was watching Laverne and Shirley on television. He came over and sat down beside me on the
couch, kind of glanced at the TV and everything in this natural world clicked off. I couldn’t hear the telephone or the television
set, all I heard was Jesus and all I saw was His glory. He looked at me and said, ‘Roberts, I want
you to study the lives of My generals in My great army through time. Know them like the back of your hand, know
why they were a success, know why they failed, and you’ll want nothing in that area.’ He
got up and walked out through the door. The TV clicked back on and…this is impossible…I
resumed watching Laverne and Shirley.'” Are you kidding me? What fool would have a face-to-face encounter
with Jesus Christ and watch Laverne and Shirley? These things are so absurd, but there’s never
any condemnation of it because this is the source for revelation. Dr. Richard Eaby fell off a balcony and I used
to listen to him, it was painful, but I did. He struck his head when he fell off the balcony
and was supposedly dead. He went to paradise. He could see for hundreds of miles and he
goes on talking about that. He found some flowers, broke them off, noticed
there was no water in their stems because Jesus is the living water. He had a body that was transparent, that floated
in mid-air. He said in regard to the twelve cranial nerves,
the twelve cranial nerves represent the twelve tribes of Israel. He learned that in heaven. And Dr. Eaby was a doctor. But when you have all of this folly and you
have no way to stop the outrage, then the Movement just goes bizerk. This is pseudo-Christian mysticism, it has
nothing to do with the Bible, nothing to do with God, nothing to do with Christ, nothing
to do with the gospel. Mysticism is any system of belief that attempts
to perceive spiritual reality without objective verifiable fact. I’ll say it again, mysticism is a system of
believe that attempts to perceive spiritual reality without objective, verifiable fact. It seeks truth through feelings, intuition,
senses, dreams, supposed visions, hallucinations and most of it is just lies…just lies. But I would think that some of it is experience
generated by the kingdom of darkness. Mysticism is at its heart existentialism,
humanism, and paganism. Mark down those three words in your mind…this
kind of mysticism is not Christianity, it is at its heart existentialism, humanism and
paganism. It is irrational and irrational mysticism
is at the heart of the Charismatic experience. And when you draw spiritual reality out of
your experience, you subvert biblical authority. And that’s why people say, “You’ve got to
stop studying the Bible because the new standard is personal experience. The Lord told me…the Lord said to me…the
Lord gave me a revelation…the Lord gave me a vision. This is how all those preachers talk because
people can’t negate that. This gives them ultimate power. The people sitting out there are honest enough
in most cases to say that’s never happened to me. But they want to cash in on whatever’s going
to come through this preacher that might happen to them. So the lady says, “Put away your books and
your Bible and stop studying.” Now there are only two basic approaches to
truth, one is the historical objective approach which emphasizes God’s action toward man recorded
in Scripture, perceived rationally. The other is the personal, subjective approach
which emphasizes man’s experience as defining God. In one, God defines Himself by revealing in
Scripture His truth. In the other, man defines God by his experience. The choice is self-evident. We can’t define God by our experience. We can only build our theology, we can only
know truth as we go to the Bible. We can’t get a collective doctrine of God
by pulling together everybody’s experience. That is why there is no doctrinal commitment
in that Movement, because they can’t frame any doctrine, other than simple things. They might affirm the Trinity, the deity of
Christ, things like that. But beyond those very basic things, even when
they talk about the nature of Christ, or the nature of God, or the nature of the Holy Spirit,
they start to go afield. Objective historic theology perceived rationally
is biblical theology, is classic theology, reformation theology, historic evangelicalism. It is orthodoxy. We begin with Scripture , my thoughts, my
ideas, and my experiences have nothing to do with discerning the truth. I cannot discern the truth through my experience. I can only discern the truth through careful
study of the Word of God. The subjective approach, rather than the objective
approach is not new. It is the methodology of historic Catholicism…intuition,
experience, mysticism plays a central role in Catholic theology. That’s how they come up with saints. They invent miracles and they canonize people. By the way, the subjective approach is at
the heart of liberalism which denies the Scripture. It’s at the heart of neo-orthodoxy which also
denies the validity of Scripture and is essentially existentialism. For us, truth is what is revealed to us from
God. To them, truth is what happens to you. The subjective view, the truth is discerned
by what happens to you is the methodology of historic Pentecostalism. How did this ever get started? It got started. It got started in 1900, 1901. It wasn’t around. Well there were forms of mysticism around,
sure. But not in the Pentecostal Charismatic form,
prior to that. There was a guy in Topeka, Kansas, there’s
a very fascinating section about him in the coming book Strange Fire , his name is Charles
Fox Parham. He was a bizarre character who eventually
was arrested on homosexual, sodomite sex charges…bizarre guy. He started a small Bible college in Topeka,
Kansas in 1900 called Bethel College and it was out of business in a year. His approach to the Bible was not to study
a book of the Bible, or a passage in the Bible. He came out of the Holiness Movement which
was very, very experiential and in that beginning year, they locked the date down as January
1, 1901, they began to have some bizarre experiences as they sought those experiences. The way they studied the Bible was to bounce
around a concordance, I won’t go into the detail, it’s not helpful. They began to bounce around the concordance. Somebody came up with the idea that they needed
to seek this thing called the Baptism of the Spirit and connected to the Baptism of the
Holy Spirit was speaking in tongues. And so, during the last days of December 1900,
headed for January 1, 1901, he gave his students an assignment in his Bible school to study
about the gifts of the Spirit and come to some conclusion. They came to the conclusion that the Baptism
of the Spirit was what they ought to seek and if they found this post-salvation work,
they would speak in tongues. Now they believed that tongues were real languages,
as they were in the Bible. The first person began to seek it on New Year’s
Day, 1901. The student body all got together, they didn’t
know how to go about this, so they just kept seeking for hours, and hours, and hours. Then, according to one of the historians,
later that day, a thirty-year-old student by the name of Agnes Osmond came to Parham
and requested the laying on of hands so she might receive the Holy Spirit and speak in
tongues. As he prayed and laid hands on my head, I
began to speak in tongues, glorifying God. I talked several languages. It was manifested when a dialect was spoken,
“Glory to God.” The report is that then others began to have
the same experience. Agnes Osmond tried to record her experience
on paper and she believed she was writing Chinese. There’s a copy of that in the book Strange
Fire , it’s not Chinese, it looks like it was written by a two-year-old, it’s nonsense. She thought it was Chinese. It later became apparent that it wasn’t Chinese. This Movement found its way to Azusa Street
in Los Angeles. A pastor named Seymour cultivated this another
very suspicious character, a very ugly scenario, and that all gave birth to this crazy idea
of the Baptism of the Spirit and speaking in tongues. Sixty years later, in the sixties, it jumped
into the mainline right here in Van Nuys, California. St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Van Nuys, Dennis
Bennett. And for the first time it was out of the little
Pentecostal Movement, the Holy Rollers as they were called, and it jumped into a mainline
denomination that was as dead as a dodo bird, looking for some kind of experience, and it
was on the way. Once it jumped out of the confines of traditional
Pentecostalism into mainline denominations, it knew no limits. And then they demanded acceptance as normal
evangelicals and they pressed the rest of evangelicals into silence on the basis that
anything other than that was loveless…loveless. I guess we could ask the question then at
this point, and there’s a lot more to say and a lot more will be available for you in
the book, but I guess we could say, you know, if we look at the Scripture, let’s just take
a look at Peter and Paul and ask if Peter and Paul were Charismatics. I mean, I would think that if you were going
to try and defend this, you would want to say that the Apostles were committed to this,
wouldn’t you? Well what about Peter? Listen to the words of Peter in 2 Peter chapter
1, the first chapter of his second letter. He says in verse 16, “We did not follow cleverly
devised tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. We were eyewitnesses of His majesty.” You want an experience, there’s an experience. What’s he talking about, do you know, do you
remember? Transfiguration, Matthew 17. “When He received
honor and glory from God the Father, such an utterance as this was made to Him by the
majestic glory, ‘This is My beloved Son with whom I am well pleased,’ and we ourselves
heard this utterance made from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain.” Listen, Peter could have been the first Charismatic. He could have launched his ministry, “I am
the guy who was on the mountain who heard the voice of God. I was there when Christ was transfigured,
pulled back the veil of His flesh and His glory was manifested.” He had an experience not unlike the experience
of Moses in Exodus when he saw the glory of God revealed on Mount Sinai. And that experience was stunning. I mean, it made him a bumbling, muttering
sort of incommunicable man, he fell down literally like a dead man. He couldn’t speak, he was shocked and stunned
and shattered and broken. An incredible experience. He could have that parlayed that into a career,
the man who heard the voice of God…the man who saw the glory of God unveiled in the person
of Christ. Incredible experience. He could have gone on the road with James
and John because they saw it. Did he build his theology on that? Let’s go to verse 19, 2 Peter 1, “So we have
the prophetic word, more sure. We have the prophetic word, more sure…more
sure than what? More sure than that experience, to which you
do well to pay attention. It is the prophetic Word that is a lamp shining
in a dark place until the day dawns and the morning star himself arises. But know this first of all, that no prophecy
in this Word of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation. No prophecy was ever made by an act of human
will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God. Does Peter build his theology on his experience? No. What does he build his theology on? On Scripture. A better rendering of the Greek text in verse
19 would be this, “We have the even more sure prophetic Word.” The King James is good, “We have a more sure
Word.” More sure than what? “Than a valid experience,”
to say nothing of an invalid one. Peter was saying, in effect, that although
the Transfiguration was an astonishing experience, Scripture is a far more trustworthy verification
of truth. All experience is superseded by the more sure
Word of Scripture. I will tell you this, Peter would never be
a Charismatic…never…never. Because you can’t rely even on a valid experience. You must base everything on the revealed Word
of God. One man said on television he was driving
in his car, suddenly looked and Jesus was sitting next to him. And then he said this, quote: “It was wonderful. I drove along and just talked with Jesus and
He was sitting right beside me. And if you have enough faith, you can talk
with Jesus, He will appear to you.” Really? I don’t think Peter would do that or say that
because it was Peter that wrote this, 1 Peter 1:8, “Though you have not seen Him, you love
Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy
inexpressible and full of glory.” And it’s not just uninformed immature Charismatics
who say things like this. One of the most famous pastors said to me
personally, Charismatic pastor, “Jesus comes into the bathroom, puts His arm around me
and we talk while I’m shaving in the morning.” And then he paused to measure my reaction. He said, “Do you believe this?” I said no, I do not believe it. But what troubles me is I think you believe
it. And he said, “Why is it so hard for you to
accept the idea that Jesus visits me in a personal way every morning?” I thought to myself, does he keep shaving? I would cut myself to ribbons. Does he collapse in fear and trembling? Does he cry out like Peter…let’s stick with
Peter…when he saw Jesus command the fish, Luke 5, what did he say? “Depart from me for
I’m a sinful man.” Go away, I can’t stand Your holy presence. Another very well-known Charismatic wrote
a book on Miraculous Healing , he says, “It may confidently be anticipated as the present
apostasy increases that Christ will manifest His deity and Lordship in increasing measure
through miracle signs, including healings. We are not to say, therefore, that the Word
is sufficient. Stop saying that. Not sufficient. So at the core of this whole system is a denial
of Scripture’s sufficiency. And even more, Scripture is not where you
go to find the truth. You proof-text with the Scripture your experience. Really frightening. Did the disciples have experience? Oh yes they did. On the road to Emmaus, their heart burned
within them, didn’t it? I was talking about emotion. Why? Because He opened the Scripture to them and
their heart burned. Well what about Paul, was Paul a Charismatic? If Paul showed up today, would he be a Charismatic? Would he be on TBN, would we have to listen
to him there? He had a fantastic experience. Really, I mean what an experience. He’s on the Damascus Road and he’s headed
to rest and persecute Christians and he’s knocked flat and he’s got a mouthful of dirt,
he goes blind. Jesus confronts him, speaks to him. Devastating, instantly changed from a killer
of Christians into a slave of the Lord Jesus Christ. Did he use that experience? Did he make that the basis of his message? Listen to Acts 17:2 and 3. According to Paul’s custom, he went to them
and for three Sabbaths, reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and giving
evidence that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead and saying, “This
Jesus who I am proclaiming to you is the Christ.” He could have said, “Let me tell you about
Him. He’s alive cause I saw Him.” He didn’t say that. He went to the Scripture to prove the resurrection. And then, if you will for a moment, turn to
2 Corinthians 12. I’m not going to be able to cover everything,
I thought I might. But 2 Corinthians 12, verse 2, Paul pushes
this whole thing away. But he’s defending his apostleship. “I know
a man in Christ,” he’s reluctant to say it’s him, “who 14 years ago whether in the body,
I don’t know, or out of the body, I don’t know, God knows, such a man was caught up
to the third heaven.” “I don’t even know what that was,” he says. “I don’t know what it
was. I got caught up into the third heaven. And I know how such a man whether in the body
or apart from the body, I don’t know.” So that’s the second time he says in two verses. Please don’t ask me for more information,
I don’t know what it was. I can’t explain it. God knows. He says it twice. “This man was caught up into paradise and
heard inexpressible words which a man is not permitted to speak. On behalf of such a man, I will boast but
on my own behalf, I will not boast, except in regard to my weakness.” You know, I could boast about that amazing
experience, but I would rather boast about my weakness. I would rather boast about my weakness. And what I saw, I’m not allowed to speak.” Why? Because it’s not verifiable, it’s not repeatable. God gave it to Paul as an affirmation in the
midst of his dire suffering. God gave to Paul before there was a New Testament,
comfort through an experience, but now comes to us through Scripture. Paul reasoned. Even at the end of the book of Acts, 28:23,
he kept reasoning out of God’s Word. As a prisoner in Rome, they came to him at
his lodging in large numbers, he was explaining to them by solemnly testifying about the Kingdom
of God and trying to persuade them concerning Jesus, both from the law of Moses and from
the prophets, from morning until evening. He never closed his Bible. Let me tell that lady, I’m going to keep my
Bible open because Paul never closed his. Charismatics don’t follow the road of Paul
and Peter. They travel a road frequented by liberals,
by neo-orthodox theologians, by existentialists, humanists, pagans. They do it unwittingly but they nonetheless
do it. They are literally in the same zone that neo-orthodoxy
is in. What do the neo-orthodox say? This is what is their mantra, the Bible becomes
God’s Word when it speaks to you. It isn’t of itself God’s Word, so let me make
a little distinction. Liberalism says the Bible is not the Word
of God. It’s a religious book, written by men. It’s their musings about God. It may be true, maybe not. That’s liberalism. Neo-orthodoxy backs off of that a little bit
and says, “The Bible can become the Word of God. It isn’t in itself the Word of God, but it
becomes the Word of God and it can become the Word of God when it speaks to you.” That’s the new orthodoxy, that’s…somebody
in liberalism saying, “We can’t live with the fact that this is not the Word of God
at all, we don’t have religion then. All we have is another book.” So backing off, they wanted to create a new-orthodoxy,
hence neo-orthodoxy. Carl Bart, German theologian, who says, “No,
no, it is the Word of God, not in itself but it becomes the Word of God when it speaks
to you.” Well that’s the view of Charismatics. You can find that in the writings of people
like Charles Ferra(?) that there is the logos which…the logos is simply the words on the
page. The rhema which is another word for word,
is when it speaks to you. That neo-orthodox idea dominates the Charismatic
Movement. But Paul would tell us that all Scripture
is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, reproof, correction, training in righteousness
and ultimately makes the man of God perfect. I’m not questioning the sincerity of Charismatics. They’re just sincerely wrong. They have zeal without knowledge, remember
Paul’s indictment to the Jews in Romans 10:2? They have a zeal for God but not according
to knowledge. You can’t approach the Christian life without
your mind, without reason, without thinking, without the Scripture. You can’t depend upon your own experience
or somebody else’s experience. This is mysticism. This is another form of existentialism. You say, “What is existentialism?” It’s a philosophy that says life is meaningless
and absurd in and of itself, and you put meaning into it. You’re free to do whatever you want because
you create your own meaning. That’s existentialism. Truth is whatever grabs you. Truth is whatever you want it to be. It’s a post-modern idea. Existentialism says life is meaningless and
absurd in and of itself unless you infuse it with whatever meaning and truth you want
to put into it. Well that essentially is what the Charismatic
Movement does. It’s also humanism. Humanism is the philosophy that humanity is
the ultimate power. Humanity is the ultimate potential. Time, education, experience, self-authenticates,
all truth is relative. What matters is what you think, that’s humanism. And paganism is another illustration of experiential
theology. Paganism starts with the mystery religions
is just trying to create mystical, transcendent experiences without objective truth. Experiential theology was at the heart of
Baal worship. The emphasis of Baal was on psychological
relatedness and subjective experience, says one writer, the transcendents of the deity
was overcome in the ecstasy of feeling. Baalism is worship reduced to the spiritual
stature of the worshiper. Its canons are that it should be interesting,
relevant and exciting. Yahwehism, Old Testament Judaism, established
a form of worship which was centered in the proclamation of the Word of the Covenant God. The appeal was made to the mind and the will. Man’s rational intelligence was roused to
attention as he was called upon to respond as a person to the will of God. And Yahwehism, everything was said, words
which called men to serve and love and act and obey responsibly and decide. The distinction between the worship of Baal
and the worship of Yahweh is a distinction between approaching the will of the Covenant
God, which could be understood and known and obeyed, and the blind life force in nature
which could only be felt, absorbed and imitated. Extreme emphasis on experience in the Charismatic
Movement is perilously close to neo-Baalism. With all of this in view, Christianity is
in danger. We are victimized by an experiential approach,
mysticism, existentialism, humanism, paganism are over-running Christianity everywhere and
the new theologian abandons the intellectual, the rational, the historic, the objective. And by the way, they condemn us for our adherence
to it and we’re right back to where we started. Get rid of your books and your Bible, they
say, cause the only real test is experience and we’ve had the experience and you haven’t. So you have nothing to say to us. This is how substantially foundational this
subject is for us. When you think of the Charismatic Movement,
this is where you start thinking. Not about something out on the periphery in
terms of behavior. Theology is never an explanation of someone’s
experience. It is a revelation from God…a revelation
from God. Let me give you one other footnote and I’ll
stop. You can’t possibly grow in grace if you’re
a Christian, through your experience. Your experience has no power. John 17:17, “Sanctify them by Thy truth, Thy
Word is truth.” If you’re bouncing from one experience to
another, to another, to another, to another, you are not moving in the direction of Christ’s
likeness and sanctification. This is a serious counterfeit and the impact
that its had has really been devastated. It obliterates, in many cases, the gospel
because people are looking for a gospel experience. I’ll close with this. I did a radio program, Q & A, and there was
a woman who was the afternoon talk show host and this was a Charismatic Christian radio
station. And I use the word sanctification in answering
some questions she asked me and she said, “Well, what does that mean?” And I thought, “Whoa, she’s…she’s, you know,
like three hours every afternoon answering people’s question and she doesn’t know what
that means. So I began to realize through the question
and answer that she didn’t know a lot of things that she should have known. So in the break I said to her, “Can I ask
you a personal question?” She said, “Yeah, of course.” I said, “How did you become a Christian? How did you…how did you become saved?” She said, “Wow, man, it was really cool.” This is almost a direct quote. “One day I
got Jesus’ phone number and we’ve been connected ever since.” I said, “Could you explain what that means,
that you got Jesus’ phone number and you’ve been connected ever since?” She said, “What do you mean explain? How would you explain the gospel?” she said. And I said, “Here’s how I would explain the
gospel.” And in this three or four minute break, I
explained the gospel to which she responded, “O come on, you don’t have to go through all
that, do you?” This is a talk-show host, five days a week,
three hours a day answering people’s spiritual questions on a Christian radio station. If you don’t think this is pervasive, you’re
missing reality. This is pervasive. And if you wonder why we’re addressing the
subject, maybe you’ll have a better understanding of it now. And I can say this as well, be grateful the
Lord has put you in an environment where the Word of God is exalted, right? And lifted up. (Applause) Look, that applause goes to the Lord who is
the source of this. I’m one of us. I’m glad to be here, too. I think the Lord made me a preacher because
He knew I’d have to take the hardest hit from every passage because I’d have to spend the
most time in it. And that’s okay by me. Well I could say a lot more. That’s what preachers say when they run out
of notes. Let’s pray. Our Father, we thank You for a wonderful time
today, wonderful fellowship, the joy of being with each other, and celebrating our loving
union in Christ. Thank You for dear friends, and thank You
for the flock here with fellow shepherds and all of Your children who make up our family. Thank You for Your Word, what can we say? Thank You for showing us the truth, enlightening
us. Thank You for the Holy Spirit’s mighty work
through the Word in teaching us the truth. Open the hearts of all of us, Lord, to Your
Word. And, Lord, we pray that You will do a work
to bring the truth in the midst of all this confusion. May the Word spread so that You might be honored
because You have exalted Your Word even as high as Your name, Psalm 138. No one really honors You who doesn’t honor
Your Word as supreme. Your supreme and Your Word is supreme, for
Your Word is Your will expressed and revealed. Give us an increasing love and knowledge of
that Word and we thank You in our Savior’s name. Amen.

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