Monday, May 18, 2015

What Has Happened to the Spirit?

There are many teachers out there who either completely ignore the Holy Spirit and then there are others who solely teach on the Holy Spirit. Oftentimes these are called evangelicals and charismatics. I personally don't identify with either. As a BIBLE believing Christian who doesn't follow specific pastors, teachers, leaders, etc., I rely solely on what Scripture tells us about the Holy Spirit and what He brings to us/what comes with Him.

Now, there are churches like Bethel in Redding, California that seem to get into some weird things when it comes to the Spirit and spiritual gifts (including grave sucking/soaking aka necromancy... Read more on that one HERE), and whether or not these things are true about Bethel, if they are then they're not only going against what Scripture says, but they're also in sin while doing so! Here is what Bill Johnson has said regarding this subject,
"There are anointings, mantles, revelations and mysteries that have lain unclaimed, literally where they were left because the generation that walked in them never passed them on. I believe it's possible for us to recover realms of anointing, realms of insight, realms of God that have been untended for decades simply by choosing to reclaim them and perpetuate them for future generations." - Bill Johnson
Now, I believe in anointings sure, I believe that the Spirit anoints certain people for certain tasks, but grave sucking or taking someone else's anointing is not at all biblical. But I do want to be fair here, the brother of one of our fellow brothers in Christ goes to Bethel in order to be taught how to use spiritual gifts and one of my best friends is considering it as well, I don't think Bethel is evil but I also am personally very weary of them as they are dangerously close to being on the extremest side of the charismatic movement.

On the other end of the spectrum, we have people like John MacArthur who are convinced, and have convinced others who seem to follow him blind, that spiritual gifts aren't really a thing and that things like tongues, healings, and raising the dead are of the Devil (Read more on that one HERE)! Here's a quote from a sermon MacArthur did about how he really feels about the use of the Spirit,
"...visions, revelations, voices from heaven, messages from the Spirit through transcendental means, dreams, speaking in tongues, prophecies, out of body experiences, trips to heaven, anointings, miracles. All false, all lies, all deceptions attributed falsely to the Holy Spirit..." - John MacArthur
Now, not only does he not use any specific Scripture to back this statement up, but he also seems to be missing the point of the Holy Spirit and what SCRIPTURE actually says the Spirit will do in the Last Days (which most believe is the time between Jesus' return to Heaven and His Second Coming here on Earth). But before we get into that let me leave you with a question here, how is MacArthur, based on what we read here, any different than a Pharisee? They all believed in Scripture, they all believed the head-knowledge, they understood prophecy, miracles, etc., but they called Christ a devil simply because He did those things. Now, we know MacArthur believes in Christ, but if he's going to persecute his people for doing what Christ did then how is he any different than those who did it to Christ? Like most of the Church, MacArthur seems to have a religious spirit, the only "strange fire" that seems to be around him is his.

But that all being said, I don't want to pick on either Bethel OR MacArthur (I own a MacArthur study Bible for goodness sakes & the church I go to loves him) or anyone else on either side of the church spectrum, I think (and pray) they all have a heart for the Lord but I believe both are slightly misguided on the role of the Holy Spirit and how He relates to the Church. So let's talk about, based on Scripture, what the role of the Holy Ghost is in the Church and what we are to do with Him...

1. Teaching us about Jesus Christ: The Holy Spirit was sent to us because Jesus was to go back to Heaven to prepare for His Second Coming, to prepare for His final battle. But before He left He told His disciples that the Spirit would be who teaches to us about Christ. John 16:12-14 tells us that the Spirit WILL glorify Christ as Lord and that He would also take what is Christ's and declare it to us. This means all that is Jesus', all that He could do, we are given authority to do! John 14:26 also talks about this. We'll talk more on that later...

2. He is here to comfort us: As I said above, John 14:26 talks about the Spirit being sent to teach us, but it's also called the Comforter in this passage! Comfort us from what? Well, that's simple, persecution. You see, Matthew 10:22 and John 15:18 both specifically tell us that the world will HATE us because of Jesus. Not every single person, but the world as a whole. Think about being at a school where everyone hated you no matter what and there was nothing you could do to convince them otherwise! You would need someone to be with you, comfort you, and be a friend in your time of need. This is what the Spirit does, He helps us to press on no matter our circumstances.

3. He convicts us of our sin: Whether or not you want it, when we give our lives to the service or Christ, the Spirit is given full authority to convict us of sin, hidden or open, and He continues to until either we repent or numb Him away. John 16:8 is where we find this is Scripture.

4. Special gifts: Here is where some people begin to freak out but quite frankly if Scripture doesn't freak you out on some level then there's something wrong with you (go read Matthew 7, that'll make you faint...). But here's the deal, the Holy Spirit is also here to allow us believers to have spiritual gifts! I don't care if you believe in them or not, but this is what the Bible itself says! Any information I'm going to be giving now comes from direct Scripture, so watch out! According to 1 Corinthians 12:7, every believer has at least ONE gift from the Spirit. Earlier in the chapter, Paul tells us that it is only by the Spirit of God that someone can say "Jesus is Lord" and if someone is blaspheming Christ they don't have the Spirit. Romans 12:3-8 and 1 Corinthians 12 both tell us that spiritual gifts ARE given by the Spirit in order to allow the Church to work together, meet needs, and glorify God, specifically Jesus Christ!

This all being said, there are various different spiritual gifts! Speaking in tongues is one (Acts 2:1-4, and don't give me that "Acts is transitional" thing please, it is still applicable in terms of gifts as well), prophecy is one (look at the Apostle John's Revelation as well as Acts 2:17 which specifically tells us that DURING the Last Days people would have visions, dreams, and prophesy, and don't forget Romans 12:6), healings and miracles (1 Corinthians 12:29-31 tells us that not everyone has these gifts but that we are to desire more as we grow in Christ implying that they can be given to us), and of course interpreting tongues is also included in 1 Corinthians 12:30. There seem to be a lot of people in the Church today who believe that prophets are dead, apostles are dead (all apostle means is "one who is sent out" by the way, and if an apostle is someone who has seen Christ as some say than there are definitely still apostles today because He still reveals Himself to some in order that they believe), and that gifts aren't around anymore, that we can't apply what happened in Acts to our lives today because it's "transitional". No, those are lies from the pit of Hell, in fact Jesus said that we who believe will do greater things than He did (John 14:12)! If we can do greater miracles than Jesus and we're not then what are we doing Church?

5. Helps us achieve the Fruits of the Spirit: The final big point that the Holy Spirit is here to help us accomplish is that of the Fruits of the Spirit. Galatians 5:22-23 tells us that included in the Spirits character/fruits are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (or in the KJV it reads, ", joy peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance..."). "Against such things there is no law." the verse goes on to say. You see, with the Spirit we are able to conform to the image of Christ, the image of God, imago dei, but without it we are simply in the image of Adam, the image of sin, we have no life or power without that of the Spirit!

Conclusion: I know at the beginning of this article I was a bit harsh on both Bethel and MacArthur and I only use those two specific examples because I know people who love both and even seem to be blinded by that love for both, but here's the deal the Spirit is real and powerful and knows wolves from sheep. Something we forget as believes is that we worship God the Father (as we should), we worship Jesus Christ, the source of our salvation, our Lord (as we should), but we either forget or ignore the Holy Spirit and what He can do through us if we actually believe He can! We forget that the Holy Spirit is as much God as the Father and Son! Matthew 12:32, Hebrews 9:14, and Psalm 139:7-8 each talk about the power, importance, and holiness of the Spirit, only things that are or can be attributed to God. We need to remember that the Spirit is just as important as the other two-thirds of the Holy Trinity, but we must also remember that we should not use His work as an excuse to cause division in the Church! We should remember that Jesus Christ is LORD, that He is the source of our salvation, and that He is who we believe in and put our faith and trust in to be SAVED! The Holy Spirit is who comes after, who arrives due to prayer (it took ten days for the Apostles in Acts 1-2...), and not only teaches and comforts us, but pushes us into the image of Christ and allows us to do the impossible through faith, if only we believe.


Michael J. Petty

P.S. For those wondering the image above is a picture of the Holy Spirit as drawn in the Archangels: The Saga comic book series (a Christian series obviously) that ran nine issues. It's a fantastic series and would highly recommend it for anyone interested.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Super Powers in the Bible

In my opinion, one of the coolest things about the Bible is the idea that people in both the Old and New Testament were given "super powers" by the Lord without them having to be bit by a radioactive spider, get bombarded with gamma rays, or come from a doomed planet. Obviously the coolest thing about the Bible is the fact that we are saved by grace through faith alone in Jesus Christ when we repent of our sins, believe in His sacrifice, and strive to do the will of the Father (and no, I'm not promoting a works-based salvation here guys...). What an amazing gift, am I right?

That being said, another really cool thing about the Bible, as I said before, is that some of the most famous biblical characters HAD SUPER POWERS! Maybe they didn't have them all the time, and technically they were called "miracles" or "signs and wonders", but in today's world where The Avengers, X-Men, and Superman are so popular we would know them as "super powers" or "abilities".

Let's start off with some of the most obvious...

Super Strength - This one is perhaps the most apparent as seen in Scripture and that is Samson's very own super strength. In Judges 14:5-6, we see that Samson actually kills a lion with his bear hands. Now, I don't know about you, but I'm not sure that I could ever do that! Later in verse 19 we find out that he kills 30 men down at Ashkelon! I mean, wow! Thirty men? All by himself? Yep, that's Samson! But it doesn't stop there... In Judges 15:14-17, not only does Samson break out of the bounds that he was entangled in, but after picking up a donkey's jawbone, he took out a thousand men. I don't know about you, but that's some strength! Now, unfortunately, Samson, much like Solomon, had a weakness: women. Because of Delilah, his hair (the source of his strength) was cut and he was tortured, blinded, afflicted, humiliated, and made into a slave by his enemies... A woman was a terrible trade-off Samson... However, in Judges 16:25-30, Samson realizes his mistakes and his rejection of the Lord and prays that one last time his strength would return so he could avenge his two eyes and fulfill the will of the Lord against the Philistines. God answered his prayer and as his hair returned, so did his strength and he brought down the building that he was imprisoned in, taking out more Philistines through his death than he did in his life. It's a shame Samson didn't live longer, he could have gone up against Goliath and his brothers (who very possibly had super strength of their own, especially since we know how much armor & weaponry Goliath carried)... That would have been an awesome fight!

Super Speed - The second super power I'm going to talk about that seen in Scripture is one that a lot of people read over and/or miss. In fact, I couldn't tell you how I originally heard of this passage (because I only heard about it originally, I did not read it myself at first), but that doesn't make it any less cool! In 1 Kings 18, at the end of the chapter (verses 40-46), Elijah has an encounter with King Ahab where he tells him to head back to Jezreel from Mount Carmel and to make sure that the rain doesn't stop him. Verse 46 says that the "hand of the LORD" was upon Elijah and that he ran before Ahab and his chariots, beating them to Jezreel. I don't know about you, but that sure sounds like super speed to me, and super speed that would make Quicksilver & The Flash jealous!

Healing Factor - Although many of you are probably thinking of the X-Men/Avengers character Wolverine's immediate self-healing factor, that's actually not what I'm talking about here. All throughout Scripture there are accounts of people being healed! Whether it's healing from disease, sickness, blindness, lameness, being risen from the dead, or healed from demons/possession, healing is actually a common theme throughout Scripture because, well, Jesus was the ultimate healer who died for our sins, healing us from the Curse, therefore allowing us into Heaven one day! How cool is that? Acts 5:15 tells us that Peter was so filled with the Spirit that his shadow could heal people! We know full well that Jesus raised Lazarus (and Himself) from the dead, but the Apostles brought people back too, like Tabitha (also known as Dorcas) in Acts 9:36-42. Not to mention, when Jesus came back to life, not only was He alive once again, but His wounds were healed, leaving only scars to prove that He was the Christ (In Luke 24:39, He tells his Disciples to look at His hands and feet as proof). Healing, in fact, still goes on today. We don't see it as much in America because we rely so much on medicine and science to help us, but in many countries around the world supernatural healings are still a common occurrence, and can be here too if we allow ourselves to see/believe in them.

Flight - Believe it or not, this one is actually in the Bible. More commonly known as the "Ascension of Jesus", Mark 16:19, Luke 24:50-52, and Acts 1:9-11 all talk about Jesus being "carried up to Heaven" and being "received by a cloud". I don't know about you, but that sounds to me like Jesus floated, of flew, back up to Heaven (though He may have just teleported between dimensions, Scripture isn't exact on the details), and that's really cool! Many people also believe that angels can fly as well, especially since in Isaiah 6:2 it's mentioned that the Seraphim class of angels had six wings (most likely used for flying, I mean come on, what else are wings used for?). Though no human in Scripture, at least to my knowledge and if I'm wrong let me know, has been given the ability to fly, with the exception of Jesus (who we have to remember was also FULLY GOD as well as fully man).

Invisibility/Teleportation - Now, let me be clear here, invisibility and teleportation are actually two entirely different abilities. Invisibility is simply the ability to make yourself appear as if you are not there at all, at least to the human eye, while teleportation is traveling from one place to another simultaneously. Invisibility is definitely something Scripture talks about in relation to God as Colossians 1:15 says, "The Son is the image of the Invisible God." Based on this Scripture, we know that God is invisible, or at the very least can make Himself be. Now, Acts 12:10, Luke 22:43, and Judges 6:21 (and many other places in the Bible) all talk about angels appearing and disappearing. Some instances, like the one from Judges 6, are clearly showing that the angels can make themselves visible to one person or animal and not the other, but the other passages are a little trickier when looked at closely leaving it up to interpretation whether or not angels can teleport or simply turn invisible. When watching A.D. The Bible Continues, the way they show Jesus' ascension, He kinda teleports up to Heaven, He doesn't actually float up into the air. I don't honestly know how it happened exactly, but in that instance, flight or teleportation make the most sense!

Shapeshifting - This ability we see very on in Scripture, in the third chapter of Genesis to be exact. If Genesis 3's reference to Satan as a serpent are meant to be taken literally (not to mention Revelation's reference to him as a dragon), then we must assume that the Devil can change his shape/appearance to look like whatever pleases him. In 2 Corinthians 11:14 we know that he can make himself look like an "angel of light", even when he clearly is not. On some level, the Word becoming flesh in Jesus Christ (John 1:14) is in and of itself a form of shapeshifting! We also know that in Scripture angels can make themselves appear as men. We don't know what angels look like in their natural spiritual form, but they can certainly take on physical form, often appearing as men to Abraham, Lot, Mary, Zechariah, and others.

Elemental Control - I know the immediate thought for most here is to Avatar: The Last Airbender, and honestly, that's kinda accurate. We of course know the story in Exodus about Israel crossing the Red Sea after God, through Moses, parted it (hydrokinesis aka water-bending), but that's not all. In the New Testament, Jesus actually uses the ability of hydrokinesis on two distinct occasions. The first is in Mark 4:35-41 where Jesus calms the raging storm on the Sea of Galilee with just his voice. Now, I know that Jesus is FULLY GOD, so this power is certainly part of His divine nature, but when He was on Earth He was also fully man, therefore making this ability still a miracle and, by my definition, a "super power". The second time He uses this ability is in Matthew 14:22-33 where He walks on water. I read a blog post somewhere about the "super powers" of the Bible, and they called this "Jesus, Like a Non-Useless Aquaman" (Aquaman is actually not useless, but it's still pretty funny). In fact, Peter also walked on the water in the same passage, until he took his eyes off the Lord. 2 Kings 2:11 tells us that the prophet Elijah was take to Heaven in a whirlwind (air-bending) not to mention the Lord leading Israel in the desert with a pillar of air during the day and one of fire (pryokinesis or fire-bending) during the night. We also know that as believers, our faith can move mountains (earth-bending) as told in Matthew 17:20. Revelation 7:1 also tells us that the angels have control over the winds across the four corners of the Earth.

Prophecy - Now, this may not be considered a "superpower" per se as much as it is a revelation from God, but all throughout Scripture the Lord has allowed his prophets (including His Son) to foretell future events, some of which have already come true and some which will still come to pass. Elijah, Daniel, Samuel, Elisha, John the Apostle, John the Baptist, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Jesus, and many others throughout Scripture prophesied about what would happen to Israel and her enemies, the Church, Jesus' coming and death, His Second Coming, the events of the End Times and the rebuilding of the Temple. All this and more found all throughout the Word!

Telepathy - We know that God is omnipotent and omnipresent (and one more I'm forgetting), so clearly we know the Lord is able to read our minds! While on Earth, Jesus knew what was on people's minds often, to the point where He knew that Judas would betray Him long before he did. We also know that angels can enter dreams based on their interaction with Jacob and Joseph in Genesis 28 & 31 as well as Matthew 1-2.

Cross-Dimensional Travel - Genesis 28:12 (Jacob's Ladder) talks about angels moving in between Heaven and Earth, in 2 Kings 2 we see that Elijah traveled from Earth to Heaven, and of course Jesus went back to Heaven forty days after He conquered Death. Being able to enter dreams as talked about above may be considered part of this category as well though I'm not entirely sure.

Telekinesis - Acts 12:7 talks about how Peter's chains fell off his hands after an angel appeared to him. As said before, in Matthew 17:20 Jesus tells us that we have the power (through faith) to move mountains. Whether this is metaphorical or literal is up debate, but nevertheless.

Witchcraft - Now we're getting into the evil superpowers of the Bible... Witchcraft is condemned by God as sin Deuteronomy 18:9-12 tells us that omens, witchcraft, spells, divination, and consulting the dead is "detestable" (or in other translations, an abomination) to God. Saul consulted the witch from Endor and had her bring "Samuel" (actually conjuring a demon) up from the underworld to talk to him (1 Samuel 28) and Pharaoh's magicians created snakes to combat Moses' in Exodus 7. Witchcraft is definitely a "superpower" in the Bible, but unlike the abilities above is not one that could potentially be used by good AND evil, ONLY the Enemy. For more on why magic is evil, check out my article on it HERE.

Possession - Much like telepathy or "dream travel", possession involved invading someone's mind, though in this case here I am solely referring to demonic possession. Demonic possession is less a superpower and more an ability that demons can use to torture and destroy mankind. In fact, over 2,000 demons can even possess one body at a time as seen in the story about Legion in Matthew 8, Mark 5, and Luke 8. During possession, demons often physically harm the body they are "wearing" or those of others while being given enhanced super-strength as well as being able to survive drowning and falling into fire (Matthew 17:15). Possession is a scary ability that only demons have, though I supposed the Lord could if He wanted too, but there's not scriptural evidence that He does or has. This is strictly and evil ability used by demons.

So there you all have it! This is an extensive list of some (as I'm sure I've missed a few) of the superpowers and abilities found within both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible! I hope you've enjoyed this article and I hope it's made you even more excited about what Jesus can do and maybe do in your life in the future!


Michael J. Petty