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Posts Tagged ‘Walking in the Spirit

Strange Fire Review: Chapter 10

I have been doing an ongoing review of Dr. John MacArthur’s book, Strange Fire.  The book focuses on the abuses that MacArthur sees in the modern charismatic movement.

Chapter 10 focuses on the work of the Holy Spirit and sanctification.  I am grateful that MacArthur does focus on the biblical truth of sanctification.  So many in our day want to ignore the work of the Spirit in sanctification.  They want to proclaim salvation through faith in Christ but they ignore the call of the Spirit to sanctification.  They fail to preach that true disciples of Christ must turn away from sin (1 John 3:4-10).  This is not negotiable.  True disciples despise, hate, and turn away from sin as part of repentance (Matthew 3:8).  I remember hearing MacArthur preach powerfully from Matthew 3:8 many years ago during the early 1990’s when the “Lordship” controversy was raging.  I was thankful to hear him preach hard against sin and preach that true believers must be holy (1 Peter 1:15-16).  Holiness is not an option for the disciple of Jesus (Hebrews 12:14).

2 Timothy 2:19 is clear on this:

But God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.”

Holiness is to be preached and into’s modern church, it is hard to find teachings that cause people to hate their sin.  Few preach that God is holy and that He demands holiness from His people both in the Old Testament and in the New.  Few preach that God’s grace has been given to us not to help us live in our sins but to overcome sin (Titus 2:11-12).  How can we abound in sin when we have been set free by Christ’s sacrifice on the cross (Romans 6:1-4)?

But I am moving beyond the point of this post.  This post is on chapter 10 where MacArthur deals with the precious truth that the Holy Spirit  helps the true disciple be holy or sanctified.

However, MacArthur believes that the charismatic movement falsely teaches that there are emotional encounters with God that bring about holiness.  Rather than biblical teaching, the charismatics believe that their experiences bring them closer to God.  While MacArthur briefly points to the baptism in the Spirit, speaking in tongues, prophesy, etc., he takes aim the most at being “slain in the spirit.”  MacArthur rightly points out that there is no biblical warrant for such a practice.  He spends a couple of pages dealing with this issue but in my estimation, too much time.  I know some charismatics do practice this but I think that most level-headed Pentecostals would deplore such events.  Yet in the Pentecostal-Charismatic church I will admit that there is much freedom to worship God as you desire (as long as it is not out the flesh) and this has led to some “falling down” but is not encouraged nor discouraged.  It is just allowed.  I myself enjoy laying prostrate before the Lord.  In our church, a very conservative church, this would not be entirely welcomed sadly.  During my prayer times, I enjoy just laying before the Lord God and crying to Him.  I enjoy the freedom to do this and wish that I could do this when I am with other saints worshiping the Lord.

MacArthur dives into two main distinct teachings about sanctification and the Spirit and that is what does it mean to be filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18) and what does it mean to walk in the Spirit (Galatians 5:25)?  He begins with the infilling of the Spirit.  MacArthur, of course, rejects the charismatic understanding of the baptism in the Spirit as separate from salvation.  He believes that the baptism in the Spirit occurs at regeneration (1 Corinthians 12:13).  MacArthur goes to Ephesians 5:18 and deals with this lone command in the New Testament for believers to be filled with the Spirit.  What did Paul mean?

MacArthur teaches from Ephesians 5:18 that:

  • This command is in the present tense of the Greek so this is an ongoing event.  This is not a special event apart from what Christ has already done for us in salvation.
  • While the Apostles and their brethren were filled with the Spirit repeatedly in Acts, this was for the purpose of the gospel and not for sanctification nor for ecstatic experiences.
  • To be truly filled with the Spirit is to bear the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).  To be truly Spirit-filled is to be controlled by the Spirit (Romans 8:5-9).  To be Spirit-filled is to seek to please God by pursuing practical holiness (2 Corinthians 3:18; 2 Peter 3:18).

MacArthur then contrasts this with the “Spirit-filled” movement and he points out that the movement is full of people who have not been controlled by the Spirit at all.  He points out the many sexual sins that have arisen in the charismatic movement

MacArthur continues to teach from Ephesians 5:18 by moving on to verses 5:19 to 6:9.  MacArthur shows the true Spirit-filled believers show the influence of the Spirit in their daily lives by making us not just right before God but to others as well.  The key mark of the true Spirit-filled believer is not experiences but love toward others (1 Peter 1:22-23).  MacArthur’s point: spiritual gifts are not the sign of the Spirit filling.  Sanctification is.  Spiritual gifts are given to saints to help saints.  God only gives gifts to those who have been sanctified (1 Peter 4:10-11).  Spiritual gifts are given to help others (1 Corinthians 12:7) and not to build up ourselves (1 Corinthians 13).

MacArthur spends the duration of the chapter speaking of what does it mean to walk in the Spirit (Galatians 5:25).  MacArthur concludes this is what happens as we abide in Christ by faith and trust in Him alone.  We look to Him to save us, to empower us, to fill us with His righteousness, to strengthen us to overcome the flesh, to help us during times of temptation, to glorify His name through us.  This is the key.  It is not striving in our own flesh but trusting in the Spirit to help us to be holy (Romans 8:1-4).  To walk in the Spirit is to live under His control by submission to His Word (Ephesians 3:16; 6:17-18; 1 Peter 2:1-3).  We are not saved by our own efforts (Galatians 3:3; Philippians 2:12-13) but by faith in Christ Jesus alone who sanctifies us by His grace (Ephesians 2:8-10).

The Holy Spirit helps the believer be conformed to the image of Christ.  MacArthur points out that the Spirit was very much active in the ministry of the Lord Jesus.  While Jesus was God (John 1:1, 14), He depended on the Holy Spirit His entire life to glorify the Father and pay the price for our sins.  Even His resurrection was by the power of the Spirit (Romans 8:11; cf. Acts 2:24; Romans 1:4).  Jesus, the perfect Son of God, depended on the Spirit so how much more should we?  After dealing with the work of the Spirit in Romans 8:1-27, Paul declares in Romans 8:29 that the work of the Spirit is to conform us to the image of Christ.  This truly glorifies God (Romans 8:30).


Pentecostals and charismatics who love the Word of God no doubt appreciate MacArthur’s focus on the Bible.  I appreciate this much about his ministry through the years.  His sermons, his books, his blogs, etc. are full of the Word of God.  His focus on expository preaching is excellent.  We all should copy this.  We should love the Word of God.

However, exceptions will be made with MacArthur spending too much time attaching “slain in the Spirit” and emotional experiences as basis for Pentecostal sanctification.  This is misleading and simply not true.  I grew up in a Pentecostal home and church and while I saw much flesh (as I believe you would see in any normal evangelical church), I often heard, “God does not care how high you jump but how you walk.”  While some will view this with legalism, I saw many godly people who lived this truth.   Yes there would people who would be in the flesh and people confused this with being “Spirit-filled” but I saw many saints who loved Jesus and loved to obey the Word of God.

My question is why would the devil give a person a spiritual experience that leads them to love Jesus more?  I am not advocating all charismatic experiences.  I would not.  I am simply wondering out loud why the devil would let people claim to be filled with the Spirit only to watch them become stronger disciples?  And I have seen this.  I have seen people who went to Pentecostal churches and claimed to be filled with the Spirit and this experience took them deeper in holiness, in worship of God, in their evangelism.  How does MacArthur explain this?  One could attack the language of the experience but why attack the experience itself?

Furthermore, what about countless Christians down through the years who claimed to have an experience with the Spirit?  I am not talking about charismatics either.  What about Spurgeon?  What about Wesley?  What about Whitefield?  What about Moody?  While these men did not agree 100% on theological issues, they all had deep experiences with God.  I recommend the book, Deeper Experiences of Famous Christians.  I also recommend Richard Taylor’s book, What Does It Mean To Be Filled with the Spirit?

I long for the Lord.  I want to know Him more and more.  This is why I study His Word.  This is why I pray to Him.  This is why I worship and adore Him.  I want to love Him and obey Him with all that is in me (Matthew 22:37-40).  I also long to have Him near.  I don’t want to just know Him abstractly.  I want to know Him deep within my soul.

I pray I have been faithful toward God in this review.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

03/30/2014 at 7:05 PM

The One Who Practices Righteousness Is Righteous

1 John 3:4-10 are powerful verses aimed at those who would teach that we can abide in sin and claim Christ.  These verses are not about whether those who don’t remain faithful are saved or not.  1 John 3:4-10 are simple, clear calls to holiness, to forsake sin, and to be righteous.  1 John 3:7 is clear: the one who practices righteousness is righteous.  Let us not be fooled by those who claim Christ but do not practice righteousness.  There are countless people around us who would claim heaven as their own, would claim Jesus saved them, but they are not saved from sin.  Their lives show that Christ has not mastered them but they are their own masters (2 Peter 2:10).  Their lives are marked by sin, ruled by sin, controlled by sin, and their wages from their sin will be death (Romans 6:23; James 1:12-15).  True disciples, however, are marked by the rule of Christ over their lives (Luke 6:46-49) and holiness (Romans 6:1-4; 12:1-2; 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1; 1 Peter 2:11-12).  True disciples exalt the grace of God which saves us from sin (Titus 2:11-12) and avoid abusing His grace to allow for our own willful rebellion against a holy God (Jude 4).

Let us read 1 John 3:4-10 and be holy as He is holy (1 Peter 1:15-16).

4 Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. 5 You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. 6 No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. 7 Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. 8 Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. 9 No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. 10 By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

07/12/2013 at 9:39 AM

Good Tree or Bad Tree?

I was reading in Matthew 12:33 today and this verse just jumped off the page of my Bible.  It reads in the NASB:

“Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for the tree is known by its fruit.”

Very clear words from our Lord Jesus about the nature of people.  He goes on in verse 35 to add this:

“The good man brings out of his good treasure what is good; and the evil man brings out of his evil treasure what is evil.”

Notice that Jesus states clearly that there are only two types of people.  This is true of all people.  You are either a tree bearing good fruit or a tree bearing bad fruit.  You are either a good tree or a bad tree.  He states in verse 35 that you are either good or evil.  This falls in line with the rest of Scripture that assures us that we are either saved or lost (Luke 19:10), can see (2 Corinthians 4:6) or are blind (2 Corinthians 4:4; Ephesians 4:18), dead to sin (Romans 6:11) or dead in our sins (Ephesians 2:1).  We are either children of God (Galatians 3:26) or children of Satan (John 8:44).  We are either in the light or in the darkness (John 3:19-21; Ephesians 5:8).  We are either in the kingdom of God or the domain of darkness (Colossians 1:13).  There is no middle road, no middle ground, no part Christian, part child of Satan.  We are either walking after the flesh or the Spirit (Galatians 5:16-17) but we cannot do both (2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1).

You can rest on this promise: those living in continued sin will not inherit the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9-11; Galatians 5:19-21; Revelation 21:7-8).  Those who seek God (Romans 2:7-8) and love and obey His gospel (2 Thessalonians 1:8) will indeed inherit an eternal kingdom that will never be shaken (Hebrews 12:25-29).  Jesus promised us in Revelation 2:11:

He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes will not be hurt by the second death.


Written by The Seeking Disciple

07/10/2013 at 10:05 AM

Temptation Is Not Sin

Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11:

9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

Notice that he says in verse 11 that such were some of you.  The Corinthians once were these people.  They once were living in sin but now through Christ Jesus, they had been saved (1 Corinthians 1:18-25) and the Lord was in the process of making them holy (Hebrews 10:14).  If you read 1 Corinthians, this was by far a perfect church.  They still had their struggles including one man have an adulterous relationship with his step-mother (1 Corinthians 5).  The Corinthians were a divided church (1 Corinthians 1:11-13).  The Corinthians were a church that even had drunkenness at their love feasts (1 Corinthians 11:21).  This was by far a perfect church (1 Corinthians 3:1-3) and yet Paul called them saints in 1 Corinthians 1:2.  They were being made holy.

Sanctification is not always an instant process.  My father was a smoker before he was saved in 1952.  He instantly stopped smoking.  He stopped cursing.  He became what 2 Corinthians 5:17 describes.  Yet my father was far from perfect and I saw his imperfections up close as a boy and now as an adult.  I praise God that my daddy is saved but he is not perfect.  None of us are.  Our aim, however, must be to become more like Christ.  We should not become stagnate in our passion to be holy.  My desire is to be just like Jesus (1 John 2:6).  I want to be able to say, like Paul, imitate me as I imitate Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1).

For others, sanctification is a hard road.  Some struggle with smoking or drinking before salvation and after salvation are still (and sometimes more so) tempted to go back to those ways.  Some just give in and claim this is how they are.  Some fight with their own will power but they lose the battle.  It is this way with many men I know over sexual sins.  Before salvation, they gave into their sinful desires to please their sexual desires but after salvation, they now hate sin but still face daily temptation to sin.

Here is the key: temptation is not a sin.  We must see this.  If you struggle with sexual sins, drugs, lying, gossip, idolatry, etc., the temptation to do these things is not a sin.  We all face temptations.  1 Corinthians 10:13 promises us:

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

Call me naive but I believe this verse.  I believe that every sin can be avoided if we look to the promise here.  God is faithful, He is able to deliver us.  Ponder this for a moment: the last time you sinned, who made you sin?  You did!  We choose to sin. We choose to give in to our flesh.  We are faced with temptation and we give in.  God doesn’t make us and in fact, He often is convicting our conscience to not sin, to run from the sin (1 Corinthians 6:18).  The Holy Spirit comes and He convicts us of sin (John 16:8) yet at times, we all have rebelled against His warning and sinned.  What do we feel after sinning?  Shame.  Remorse.  Failure.  Weeping.  Just like King David in Psalm 51, we hate our sins and we confess them to God.  Amazingly, God is merciful and kind toward us and He does not send us to hell as we deserve the moment we rebel but instead He lovingly convicts and restores just as He did with David through Nathan the prophet (see 2 Samuel 12:1-14).

The pursuit of holiness is not always an easy road.  I have been a disciple of Jesus for over 20 years.  I still face temptation sometimes on a daily basis.  Temptation is not sinful but when I give in to that sin, that is sinful.  The hope for us all is that Jesus Christ is our salvation (1 Corinthians 1:30-31).  Our salvation is focused entirely upon Him and He is more than able to deliver us from sin.  1 John 1:7 says, “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.”  Notice what the command is here to being cleansed from sin: to walk in the light.  We walk in the light by walking according to the teachings of Jesus, by focusing entirely upon what Jesus has done for our salvation.  This is our hope for redemption both initially when we repent and all through our life as His disciple.

In closing, I don’t begin to try to say that I am a perfect man.  Far from it.  I am a fallen man like all of you are fallen humans as well.  My wife can surely testify to my sins.  Yet I pray that we all see that God can help us overcome.  This is the miracle of salvation, that God actually does save us from sin and its power (Romans 6:1-12).  Galatians 5:16-17 describes our battle with our flesh in terms of a war.  This is just what it is.  We are at war with Satan and with our flesh but we have a mighty God on our side (Romans 8:31).  We can overcome!  The grace of God is our strength (Titus 2:11-12 NIV).  I pray that today this post will not condemn you in your sins but you’ll see that there is hope in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1-4).  Jesus can deliver us from sin and He can help us to be the holy people of God that God calls for us to be (1 Peter 1:15-16).  I pray that you’ll look evermore to Him for strength (2 Peter 3:17-18).

The One Who Practices Righteousness

Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous.
– 1 John 3:7 (NASB)

Can we declare ourselves righteous if we are not practicing righteousness?  Some would say that we can.  The teaching that we are positional righteous even if we are not practicing righteousness has deceived many.  How often have I been witnessing to someone and they tell me that they are saved because they said a prayer or once walked with God.  They believe that because they once were in Jesus by faith then they must be righteous still despite their willful rebelling against God and His Word.  They believe that they are positionally righteous even if they are not living out their lives from their position.  I have heard great sermons against living in sin and then to hear the speaker blunder at the end by teaching their hearers that we are positionally holy.

Now there is some truth to what they say.  Hebrews 10:10, 14 are two strong verses that teach us that we are holy in Jesus Christ.  Hebrews 10:14 even says that God has perfected us in Christ those who are being sanctified.  The work of sanctification is an ongoing progress.  However, the teaching that we can stop progressing in sanctification and still be perfectly holy apart from faith in Jesus is absurd.  It is not based on Scripture.  In Hebrews 10:10, 14 we can rest in these promises if we are in Jesus Christ by faith.  To suppose that the promises of being holy once and for all apart from Jesus has no basis in Scripture.  We are righteous before God because of Jesus and we remain righteous before God because of Jesus (Hebrews 7:25).  We are at the present both holy (or set apart) in Jesus by faith and thus called saints (1 Corinthians 1:2) and yet we are to continue in our faith in Jesus as He helps us to be holy (1 Peter 1:15-16; 2 Peter 1:10-11).  We are positionally holy in Jesus and progressively becoming holy in Jesus.  All of this work of sanctification is found only in Jesus.  Not in the Church or in laws of men or religion but in Jesus Christ.

1 John 3:7 is powerful because it clearly shows us who is righteous.  John the Apostle doesn’t say that we are righteous merely by position but he tells us that the one who is righteous is the one who is practicing righteousness.  The true saint of God can be seen in their lives.  2 Corinthians 5:17 says that if we are in Christ Jesus then we are new creations.  Everything about the saint of God is different from their head to their toe.  We talk different (Ephesians 4:29-31).  Our marriages are different (Ephesians 5:22-30).  Our work ethic is different (Colossians 3:22-25).  Our focus is different (2 Corinthians 4:16-18; Colossians 3:1-4).  Our character is different (Galatians 5:22-23).  Our use of money is different (Matthew 6:2-4).  Our prayers are different (Matthew 6:5-13).  We look like aliens to others (1 Peter 2:11-12).  We are the ones who declare that Jesus is Lord with all that is in us (Romans 10:9-10; cf. Luke 6:46-49).

This is not to teach that we are righteous by works.  This radical transformation occurs because of the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.  If this is not the case in your life then repent and God will truly save you and will fill you with His Holy Spirit and He will help you to be a saint of God.  I told my wife recently that I could not be the godly man that she sees if it were not for the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit is the one who works this transformation in me and you.  If we depend on the flesh, we will fail.  We must depend entirely on the Spirit of God to help us to be holy.  The flesh always desires what is contrary to the Spirit (Galatians 5:16-17).  But the Spirit helps us (Romans 8:26-27) and He provides a way of escape from all sins (1 Corinthians 10:13).  The Holy Spirit helps us to be righteous in Jesus Christ (John 16:8-11).  How we must then cast ourselves upon the Spirit to help us to be holy.

So the next time you meet an ungodly person who claims to be righteous positionally but is not living out their righteousness by practicing righteousness, point them to 1 John 3:7.  Ask them to explain that verse in light of the context.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

10/30/2011 at 10:02 AM

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