Points to Ponder: Testing: Dumping Cold Water On God?
Points to Ponder
Testing: Dumping Cold Water On God?
Remember the iced tea commercial in which a sweat-drenched man is drinking a tall glass of iced tea? As a look of satisfaction begins appearing on his face, the camera goes to a wide angle and we see him fall backwards into a glistening swimming pool. It's a powerful picture of a thirst being quenched.
That vivid image comes to my mind when I read: "Do not quench the Spirit" (I Thessalonians 5:19). The picture does not seem to fit, since quenching seems so desirable. But then again, maybe it does fit; far more than we realize or would want to admit. How often have you and I quenched the Holy Spirit? As we read the verses that follow the above, we see it implied here (by use of plurals) that opportunities to quench the Spirit are before us quite regularly.
"Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies. Test all things; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil" (I Thessalonians 5:19-22).
How might we quench the Spirit? By having a contemptuous attitude toward the word of God by quickly rejecting the vessel in which He sent it. God can use any vessel He chooses to speak for Him, to act on His behalf, or to give assurance to His servants.
King Cyrus of Persia, who released the Jewish exiles (Ezra 1) to return to Jerusalem, was called of God by name though He was not a believer.
"...the Lord stirred up...Cyrus King of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and also put it in writing, saying, 'Thus says Cyrus king of Persia: "All the kingdoms of the earth the Lord God of heaven has given me. And He has commanded me to build Him a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Who is among you of all His people? May the Lord his God be with him, and let him go up!"
Protestants and Catholics may vehemently disagree on doctrinal perspectives but even non-Christians admire the late Mother Teresa as a picture of what Jesus taught about loving "the least of these My brethren." And likewise, the Baptist evangelist Billy Graham is viewed from a wide spectrum of people, as a true man of God. These two would be exceptions, but, even so, I have still heard prominent Christians totally discount these individuals and others. Though the substance of their theological differences may be scriptural, are these very sincere individuals violating scripture themselves by their judgmental attitudes?
Is anybody's ministry perfect? Is any pastor or teacher free of error on every point all the time? And even despite mistakes made or well-intentional but flawed theology proclaimed, can the Holy Spirit still bring a word? Is man's sin condition more powerful than God's perfection? For instance, Martin Luther brought much good for God's glory through the Reformation; however, he was anti-Semitic. Do we despise the work of God in Luther because of his sin? "Lord, speak through me or in spite of me," I pray.
I love to connect with clergy and ministry leaders from a variety of backgrounds, even if I disagree with their theology. I can learn from what we share in common as well as what we differ about; opposition helps me revisit and understand more deeply why I believe as I do. If my belief is of God, then what is God showing me through this other person? If I feel intimidated, who has the problem? Am I listening for God or am I hearing myself here?
I was talking with a pastor about our common love for God's word and the Lord. When I mentioned a prominent church leader whose writings and teachings have brought me closer to Christ, he said, "You're not into that stuff, are you?" He went on to criticize some of the methods this leader has used. But, I asked, did you ever read his books or hear him? No..."but I've heard...", and went on to essentially say he had formed his opinion on the impressions of a few others.
I showed some teaching material to a church elder, thinking that it might be worth a look. When he saw it was published by a prominent Christian magazine publisher, he said, "I heard that's liberal." I've been a subscriber for about 10 years and I'd never heard that assessment before. But this man had his mind made up. Nothing from this publisher would earn a review by him. "Have you ever read it yourself?" I asked. "No."
The irony in these two examples is that this elder has often used materials produced by the church leader whom the pastor I mentioned earlier blew off as unworthy.
Isn't it funny, I thought, that if the Holy Spirit wants to speak through someone like me, that's okay. But if He's using someone who doesn't have it all together and as perfectly accurate as I do (chuckle here), then they won't pass muster with my standards. "Talk to the hand." Quench.
This is not to excuse apostasy, heresy, etc. That's why Paul says, "Test all things; hold fast what is good." This implies that not all of it is good - nor is it all bad all the time.
"Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God" (I John 4:1-3a).
Arrogance is not of God, no matter how righteous you are.
Points to Ponder is a series of occasional articles written by Rev. Dennis Whitmore, Pastor of Hilltop Christian Fellowship, of Clear Spring, MD. These articles are also found at www.HilltopChristianFellowship.com