I'm getting a really tired of Christians telling other Christians that they should seriously doubt their salvation and whether or not they're a "True Believer In Christ Jesus" if they don't show any evidence of so-called spiritual gifts, miracles, signs, and wonders in their lives.
Let's keep it real, shall we? That being said, I want to issue a quick response to "Charismanics" who are doing much more harm than good to Christ's Church.
Before I give my own personal thoughts in response to the things I'm hearing and seeing a lot of lately (yes, even in historically orthodox Lutheran churches!), here's a helpful list I found online.
The following are "10 Signs You Are Involved In Charismania Or Are A Charismaniac" -- written by another Charismatic Christian -- that provides us with some helpful insights into this spiritual phenomenon. I want to include it in this piece since the vast majority of Charismaniacs that I know either believe and/or practice at least one of the following.
1. You put prophecies and extra-Biblical leadings on the same level as the written Word of God Isaiah 8:20 says if we speak not according to the Scripture then we have no light. 2 Timothy 3:16 teaches that all Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, correction and for training in righteousness. The Scriptures are our rule for life and the highest standard for judging truth. Unfortunately, some in the charismatic camp seem to be led more by personal prophecies and supernatural visions and dreams than by the Scriptures. I have known some people who would record personal prophecies by well-known “prophets” and -- without praying about it or comparing it to Scripture or getting discerning counsel from more seasoned leaders in the kingdom -- would just obey the prophecy as if it were as inspired as the Bible! There are some others who seem to be getting daily visions and dreams from God that guide them. While I do believe God can speak through visions and dreams if He chooses to, we have to be careful because Satan also comes as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14) and can deceive naïve believers who think that just because they have a supernatural encounter that it must be the Lord. Paul said that even if an angel from heaven appears and preaches another gospel let him be accursed (Galatians 1:8)! The more sure word of prophecy comes from the inspired writings of the canonical books of both the Old and New Testaments, which should be our guiding light for life (2 Peter 1:19-21) and by which all prophetic utterances should be judged. If the prophetic word or supernatural vision doesn’t go against the Scriptures, then we still need to pray and get a witness from the Lord in our spirit as well as get counsel from mature leaders as to whether this specific prophetic word or vision is really specific guidance from Him. (The Scriptures cannot always give us specific guidance but provide general principles and precepts.) Lest my non-charismatic friends gloat over this point, let me say that a totally objective human being does not and cannot exist. All humans are subjective, even the non-charismatics who believe God only speaks to us through the Bible. The only truly objective being in the universe is God because He is the only one who is never influenced by time, space or environment! Even fundamentalist cessationists (those who believe the gifts of the Spirit and speaking in tongues ceased after the first century of the church) are subjective because they believe they are saved because they have “a witness in their spirit” that they are children of God (Romans 8:16). Since we can’t avoid subjectivity then how do we determine biblical truth? The only way to know the truth is to trust that the Holy Spirit will guide us and our leaders into all truth when we study the Scriptures, as well as the fact we have a responsibility to read how the believing church down through the centuries has interpreted the Word historically. Hence, when there is a consensus from the evangelical church regarding the interpretation of a passage or truth of the Bible then we can have general assurance that the Holy Spirit has illuminated this truth to His people.
2. You are blindly led by charismatic leaders Although this can be the case for the non-charismatic world as much as the charismatic world, as a charismatic, I am going to pick on my own camp. I have seen far too many believers get caught up in following the teachings of charismatic leaders, even if their leaders are not living moral lives. There have been leaders who endorse political candidates who push anti-Biblical laws; charismatics not only follow them but vote like them! There have been charismatics who are getting divorced unbiblically and remarrying, or living lavish opulent lifestyles with no accountability. But, because they have “charisma,” move in the gifts of the Spirit, and have a great preaching anointing, people follow them without question! Many churches have devolved into nothing more than personality cults and are led by charismatic leaders who could preach heresy with much of the church still shouting amen and hallelujah! On the Day of Judgment God will hold each of us accountable for our lives, our families and our callings. We will not be able to give an excuse for being led astray by a leader if we have not taken the time to study the Scriptures and seek God for ourselves.
3. You come to church looking for experiences more than Jesus Many in charismatic churches come to church to “feel” God’s presence because it makes them feel good. Only when we know God (John 17:3) can we make Him known.
4. You think weird physical gyrations or manifestations are necessary to experience when “in the Spirit” There have been some so-called revivals or renewal movements in Pentecostal and charismatic churches (even in classical Pentecostal churches) in which people think the Holy Spirit is moving upon a person because they start jerking, going into weird gyrations, barking like a dog, clucking like a chicken, dancing in the Spirit, running, spinning, etc. When I first preached in a classical Pentecostal church I thought someone was having an epileptic attack but then someone told me it was the Holy Ghost upon them! While I am sure the Holy Spirit does at times move upon us in such a way that we have a strong physical, emotional and psychological reaction to the raw power and presence of God (which has happened to me on several occasions), I am convinced that many people try to manufacture a move of God upon themselves that is nothing more than Pentecostal hype and a work of the flesh. God does not have to operate in such a manner in order to speak to us or move upon us. In my opinion, sometimes unstable people, in their zeal for God, give in to their emotions and manifest weirdness in the name of the Lord, which is nothing but a work of the flesh (and in some cases can be demonic!). Furthermore, I have seen whole churches celebrate these weird manifestations as moves of God resulting in only attracting charismatic kooks from other churches with very few unbelievers getting converted!
5. You focus on soaking in the Spirit rather than being empowered by the Spirit to be a witness According to Acts 1:8 the primary purpose of Spirit baptism is to be empowered to be a witness of the resurrection of Christ. Thus, the power of the Spirit has a missional focus, not a self-centered focus. Many charismatics think the Spirit has come upon them to make them feel good and all they want to do is come to church to “soak in the presence of God.”
6. You are mystical and are not practical When we are heavenly minded we are of earthly good (Colossians 3:1-3). Charismaniacs are constantly having experiences, interpreting numbers, sequences, dreams, and visions in their lives and spiritualizing everything to the point in which they don’t accomplish very much on the earth! Every spiritual or mystical experience that does not directly result in either me knowing God more intimately or being equipped to serve Him better in this world is a waste of time and not worth my attention.
7. You claim to speak to the saints in heaven I have heard some leaders who have claimed to have conversations with the Old Testament patriarch Abraham and the Apostle Paul and other departed saints of old. This is dangerous and can lead to the saint worship heresy of the Roman Catholic tradition. First Timothy 2:5 says there is only one mediator between God and men: the man Jesus Christ. I don’t need to speak to Paul, Mary, Abraham or any of the saints of old. Jesus assigned the Holy Spirit to guide us into all truth and to take of His and reveal it unto us (John 14:26; 16:14). Not even a heaven-abiding Paul the Apostle could do better than the Holy Spirit!
8. You always claim angelic appearances Once I was asked to conduct a television interview with a person called the “Angel Lady.” I turned it down because I did not want my name associated with this nonsense, as well as the fact that I would not have been a good host but would have seriously challenged her views and embarrassed her in public. I don’t need anyone teaching me how to connect to my “guardian angel.” The only angel I want to know is the Angel of the Lord who encamps around those who fear the Lord (Psalm 34:7), whom many scholars believe is none other than Jesus Christ! Although I know I have angels going before me when I do the work of the kingdom, it is not my responsibility to get to know them or give them orders. The word of God teaches me to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18) and never admonishes me to get to know my guardian angel. This kind of foolishness can lead to angelic worship, which the Apostle Paul said would disqualify us (Colossians 2:18)! Although Hebrews 1:14 says that angels are sent to serve believers, Psalm 91:11 teaches that God is the one who commands them, not me! Giving angels orders bypasses the protocol of prayer that instructs us to approach the Father in the name of Jesus when we have need of something (John 16:23-24). The Bible says nothing regarding believers speaking or commanding angels. God is the Lord of Hosts and He knows best how to dispense His angelic army!
9. You lack biblical depth and doctrinal soundness Few are the saints in the church that are like the Bereans who searched the scriptures to see whether or not what Paul the Apostle was preaching was true (Acts 17:11)! Charismaniacs are driven by emotions, subjective feelings and very rarely crack open the Bible for serious study! The less knowledge of the word you have, the less discernment you will have to know when thoughts and imaginations coming into your brain are from the Lord or from the devil (read 2 Corinthians 10:3-5). Consequently, charismaniacs are susceptible to false teachings and false prophets who can deceive them with false signs and wonders and unbiblical teachings (2 Corinthians 11:13-15). Jesus told the religious leaders of His day they were in error because they knew not the Scriptures nor the power of God (Matthew 22:29). In my opinion, the Scriptures were mentioned first by Jesus because Scripture has to frame our power encounters so we can have proper discernment! No Scripture equals no discernment, and no discernment equals potential deception.
10. You are independent from the Body of Christ because you are “led by the Spirit” I have known several charismaniacs who are not connected to any one local church but just float around from church to church because, they told me, they are being led by the Spirit. People like this will never fully mature in the Lord because, like a seed, you have to be planted in the ground in order to reach your potential. (Psalm 92:13 says that being planted in the house of the Lord precedes flourishing!) Even Jesus needs a body to fulfill His present mission (Ephesians 1:22-23)! Those not committed to one local church are like a person who dismembers their hands and then expects them to function on their own!
Now, obviously, I might take issue with some of the nuances of that list.
Still, I think that's a great place to start, especially since it's from another Pentecostal/Charismatic who's criticizing his own camp if you will, but I don't want us to end there either.
Since this is such a serious subject that demands our undivided attention, I want to give you a more comprehensive and specific list of things to watch for, which I also found online.
You Might Be A "Charismaniac" If…
1. You think it’s normal that your pastor owns the church.
2. Most of the sermons you hear are about money -- getting more of it.
3. Most sermons are based on Old Testament texts, or single verses plucked out of the New Testament, particularly 3 John 1:2.
4. You think it’s normal to give a pastor a standing ovation.
5. You think it’s normal for a pastor to take up birthday offerings for himself or his wife.
6. You think the “Gospel” is mostly about the good things God will do for you on this earth, right now.
7. You keep hearing that there is a huge “end-times” revival right around the corner.
8. You’ve been taught that, in conjunction with this “end-times” revival, Christians are going to get richer and richer.
9. You believe that the best way to receive a miracle is to “sow a seed,” which means give a large offering you can’t afford.
10. You believe certain people -- your pastor, and other leaders with large ministries -- are specially “anointed” and hear directly from God.
11. You don’t bat an eye when you hear your pastor say, “God told me…”
12. Your pastor has bodyguards.
13. Your pastor drives a car worth more than most people’s houses.
14. The only people with any authority on your church’s staff are either the pastor, or someone who shares his last name.
15. Your pastor didn’t go to seminary. But he calls himself “Doctor.”
16. Your pastor’s wife is also a pastor and goes by the title of “First Lady.”
17. Anyone related to your pastor is also “anointed.” And this “anointing” is transferable by marriage, so that your pastor’s kids’ spouses begin sporting the title of “Pastor.”
18. There is special reserved seating for people particularly close to the pastor.
19. When you see your pastor up close, you get as tongue-tied and as star-struck as if you’d run into your favorite movie star.
20. If you found out your pastor and his wife were coming to visit you, you’d immediately feel an urgent need to remodel your house and buy all new furniture. But that would be a pipe dream, because your pastor never visits anyone except for a select few who have been with his ministry for years. Or new people who have given huge donations.
21. Your pastor calls himself “Apostle.”
22. Your pastor calls himself “Prophet.”
23. Your pastor preaches that prophecy is for today…but only HE is allowed to prophesy.
24. You’ve been going to your church for more than a year, but you still don’t really know anyone there very well. You do, however, feel like you know your pastor pretty well.
25. There is fierce competition for seats in the first few rows of the auditorium. You get to church a half hour early to secure one of those seats.
26. New people are treated with suspicion. “New people” is anyone who has been at your church less time than you have.
27. Your church has very few small-group Bible studies or other supplementary classes.
28. Very few people are allowed to teach at your church, except those who either A) have the same last name as your pastor; or B) are really, really bad at teaching. If someone happens to slip into group “B” but turns out to be good at teaching, he or she will probably never teach again.
29. Although you’d never be able to guess from your church’s official statement of faith, the practical reality is that everybody puts more stock in “The Anointing” (particularly as it exists within your pastor) than they do in the message of salvation. Salvation is your ticket to heaven, but “The Anointing” is where all the “good stuff” comes from.
30. Your church talks A LOT about physical healing. They even hold “Healing Services” and have healing lines. But nobody ever jumps out of a wheelchair. Rather, a few people get healed from stuff like back pain and migraines. Although to hear everyone talk, you’d think that crowds were re-growing amputated limbs and snapping out of Down Syndrome.
31. There is a lot more prestige associated with volunteer positions like washing the pastor’s car or opening the door for him than there is with working in the children’s ministry.
32. Your pastor talks a lot about how he’s your spiritual father, your covering, and your head. You find yourself aspiring to dress and live like the pastor and his family, although you don’t have the money to do so.
33. You are encouraged NOT to think. Analytical thought is scorned. “The Anointing” trumps all need for theology, education, or anything else that would involve the logical part of your brain.
34. Your pastor’s sermons begin with, “God told me…” and involve your pastor then going on to explain how what God told him is supported by various Bible verses. These verses, in their original context (which is never discussed), have NOTHING to do with what your pastor is saying, but they do contain a key word from the message that “God gave” your pastor.
35. Your pastor is in complete control of everything and answers to no one. If there is an elder or deacon board, the board meets only to fulfill IRS requirements and consists of men hand-picked by the pastor who will agree with whatever the pastor tells them.
36. Your pastor dreams of being famous and expends much effort (and cash) to buddy up to already-famous ministries…regardless of whether or not they agree on key doctrines like the trinity.
37. Your church’s offering envelopes have a place for giving by credit card.
38. You are also taught that the best way to become financially stable is to “give your way out of debt.”
39. You begin to notice that the list of “regular attenders” seems to change all the time. People will attend every service faithfully for months or even years and then suddenly disappear forever.
40. Your pastor spends a lot of time talking about how these folks are in rebellion, and how you will keep yourself from receiving “your blessing” if you listen to them.
41. You are taught all the time that you are “blessed,” which generally means that you will live in financial “overflow” and have “favor” over all areas of your life. Sometimes this “favor” seems to mean that you expect people to bend the rules for you…as evidenced by prayer requests like, “Pray for my nephew as he faces drug charges, pray that he will find favor with the judge, and if anyone knows anyone in the D.A.’s office, please call us.”
Again, I might take issue with some of the finer points made in that list, but it does help to clarify the significant problems with the Charismatic church in Christianity today, which is why I wanted to reference it also.
I would argue that the most glaring omission -- from both lists that I shared -- is that the Lord's Sacraments, His very Means of Grace (hearing the Word preached and Absolution; Baptism; Lord's Supper), are nowhere to be found! I mean, they're not even mentioned once, and yet, they're EVERYTHING that I would argue the Charismaniacs desire and are looking for!
My dear brothers ans sisters in Christ, we need to be on guard against such half-truths and outright lies! These things are not the Gospel of Jesus Christ and anyone who tells you that they are is lying to you!
Sure, those people (often family members and friends) might be sincere and they certainly mean well, and there's no doubt that they are having experiences of some sort that they're attributing to God and their faith in Him, but what does the Bible say about such things? That's the question we must ALWAYS ask ourselves at all times (Acts 17:11).
Now, here's my quick response based on conversations I've overheard, things I've read, things I've seen written, and/or things people I know have actually said to me recently.
We all believe that the Lord cannot and does not lie. We all believe that the Word of God is truth. We all claim to know what God’s Word says. So then...
I. Am I a Christian if I don't speak in tongues?
* What about 1 Corinthians 14 (1 Corinthians 14:22 specifically)?
* What about Acts 2:6?
II. Am I a Christian if I don’t perform miracles and signs?
* What about Matthew 12:38-41? Matthew 16:14?
III. Am I a Christian if I don’t give prophesies about the future?
* What about Hebrews 1:1-2?
NOTES: Want to hear God’s voice? Then open your Bible and read His Word out loud. There is no such thing as a “fresh revelation from God" unless you mean you just read it in the Bible!
IV. Am I a Christian if I am sick? Do I somehow lack faith if I get sick?
* What about the Apostle Paul? 2 Corinthians 12:7-10?
NOTES: Isaiah 53:5 is a prophecy about Jesus Christ saving us from sin (spiritual healing) -- not a prophecy and promise about physical healing! 1 Peter 1:24 definitely emphasizes that these verses aren’t about physical/temporal healing.
V. Am I a Christian if I still sin from time-to-time?
* What about the Apostle Paul? Romans 7-8?
* What about 1 John 1:8-10?
NOTES: Simul justus et peccator
VI. How does one evangelize and/or become a Christian?
* What about Romans 3:11? Ephesians 2:8-9? John 6:44?
* What about Romans 10:17? 1 Peter 3:21?
NOTES: People aren’t converted by reasoning with them, but by hearing God's Word and/or by His Means of Grace This whole notion that we become saved, but we never really receive the Holy Spirit until some point later on in life like at a specific moment in time when "we finally and fully surrendered our lives to the Lord" (a.k.a. often referred to as a "Believer's Baptism"/"Second Baptism"/"Baptism By The Holy Spirit") is severely flawed and entirely un-Biblical!
When we have God the Son, we have God the Holy Spirit already. Jesus tells us to be born of “water and spirit” (John 3:5) and in Acts 2:38 Peter tells us that those who repent and are baptized will have the gift of the Holy Spirit. In Titus 3:5 we read that the baptized Christian has the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit lives in all believers of Jesus Christ; nowhere in scriptures do we find that Christians are to seek a second baptism of the Holy Spirit, or repeated “fillings” either.
I’m grateful that other Christians loved me enough to correct me when necessary (like I'm attempting to humbly do here), because I know fully well what a danger just a little deception can be and how it can even have eternal consequences (2 Timothy 4:3-4 “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths”; Galatians 5:9 “A little leaven leavens the whole lump”; Proverbs 27:5-6 “Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy”; Ephesians 4:15 “Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ.”)
Far too many Charismatics/Pentecostals/"Word-Of-Faith-Name-It-Claim-It" types I know believe, teach, and confess that it is possible to reach some spiritual plane of existence in this life where we are essentially rendered sinless through our own progressive perfection and sanctification, but they completely leave out any role of Christ and the Holy Spirit, let alone the Sacraments, and completely confuse sanctification with justification.
The longer you are a Christian, the more you realize what a wretched sinner you are, and how great and merciful a Savior you have in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins past, present, and future! You certainly don't go around thinking you're better than everyone else or acting like it, and you definitely don't go around telling others they need to "be better" and "do more" to merit God's approval and forgiveness, because you might not be a Christian if you don't.
Such beliefs, teachings, and confessions are straight from the pit of Hell itself and are more characteristic of doctrine of demons and doctrines of men. Repent of your sins, my dear friends! Repent and return to "the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 1:3).
In a Lutheran layman's terms, I apologize for the rant today, but I just had to issue a quick response to the many "Charismaniacs" I know who are destroying the Body of Christ from within.
NOTE: Please understand that I'm not a called and ordained minister of God's Word and Sacraments. I'm a layman or just a regular Christian, Candy-Making, Husband, Father, Friend who lives in the "City of Good Neighbors" here on the East Coast. To be more specific, and relevant to the point I want to make with this disclaimer/note, please understand that I'm also a newly converted Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism almost 2 years ago now. That being said, please contact me ASAP if you believe that any of my "old beliefs" seem to have crept their way into any of the material you see published here, and especially if any of the content is inconsistent with our Confessions and Lutheran doctrine (in other words, if it's not consistent with God's Word, which our Confessions merely summarize and repeatedly point us back to over and over again) so that I can correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray (James 3:1). Also, please be aware that you might also discover that some of the earlier pieces I wrote for this blog back in 2013 definitely fall into that "Old Evangelical Adam" category since I was a "Lutheran-In-Name-Only" at the time and was completely oblivious to the fact that a Christian "Book of Concord" even existed (Small/Large Catechism? What's that!?!). This knowledge of the Lutheran basics was completely foreign to me even though I was baptized, confirmed, and married in an LCMS church! So, there are some entries that are a little "out there" so-to-speak since the subject matter was also heavy influenced by those old beliefs of mine. I know that now and I'm still learning. Anyway, I decided to leave those published posts up on this website and in cyberspace only because they are not blasphemous/heretical, because we now have this disclaimer, and only to demonstrate the continuing work of Christ and the Holy Spirit in my life (Hebrews 12:2; Philippians 1:6). Most importantly, please know that any time I engage in commenting on and/or interpreting a specific portion of the holy Scriptures, it will always closely follow the verse-by-verse notes from my Lutheran Study Bible and/or include references to the Book of Concord unless otherwise noted. Typically, I defer to what other Lutheran Pastors both past and present have already preached and taught about such passages since they are the called and ordained shepherds of our souls here on earth. Finally, I'm going to apologize ahead of time for the length of most entries (this disclaimer/note is a perfect example of what I mean! haha!). I'm well aware that blogs should be short, sweet, and to the point, but I've never been one to follow the rules when it comes to writing. Besides, this website is more like a "Christian Dude's Diary" in the sense that everything I write about and share publicly isn't always what's "popular" or "#trending" at the time, but is instead all the things that I'm experiencing and/or studying myself at the moment. For better or for worse, these posts tend to be much longer than most blog entries you'll find elsewhere only because I try to pack as much info as possible into a single piece so that I can refer to it again and again over time if I need to (and so that it can be a valuable resource for others -- if possible, a "One-Stop-Shop" of sorts). Thank you for stopping by and thank you in advance for your time, help, and understanding. Feel free to comment/email me at any time. Grace and peace to you and yours!