Monday, 13 May 2013

Weird is not the 'New Normal'




I came across a blog called The Internet Monk, written by a guy called Michael Spencer. Although Michael succumbed to cancer in 2010, his work has been carried on by others. Today I’m simply going to leave it to Michael to sum up what I feel today by quoting from one of his blogs entitled ‘Signs’.

“So they said to him, "Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform?" John 6:30

So the Jews said to him, "What sign do you show us for doing these things?" Jesus answered them, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." John 2:18-19

And he sighed deeply in his spirit and said, "Why does this generation seek a sign? Truly, I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation." Mark 8:12

I am tired of hearing people I work with say that God is talking to them like He talked to Moses at the burning bush or like He talked to Abraham. I'm weary of people saying God speaks directly to them about mundane matters of reasonable human choice, so that their choices of toothpaste and wallpaper are actually God's choices, and therefore I need to just shut up and keep all my opinions to myself until I can appreciate spiritual things. I'm tired of people acting as if the normal Christian life is hearing a voice in your head telling you things other people can't possible know, thus allowing you a decided advantage.

I mean, if all this were really happening, wouldn't these people be picking better stocks?...................

I'm worn out on people doing weird things that aren't in the Bible and saying it's the "leading of the Spirit." Falling over.  Acting drunk.  Jumping around like a wasp went down your dress. I'm tired of turning on the TV or the radio and hearing Christians making more noise than a riot at a mental hospital. I'm out of patience with Christian spirituality equalling some form of clown college graduation. 

I'm seriously fatigued from constantly hearing reality explained as spiritual warfare between angels, Christians, demons, and various conspiracies. The drama of blaming everything from illness to bad credit to all your bad choices on the devil is getting old. I'm tired of people being delivered from demons when their problem is their own rebellion, stupidity, meanness, and determination to get their own way.......................................

Isn't the Christian life the "Victorious" life? The "Purpose Driven" life? The "Spirit Filled" life? The life with Christ living in you and through you? It's not a normal life, and it's not ordinary. Right? Do I get an "amen?"

Or maybe you are like me. You are an ordinary Christian living an ordinary life. You don't hear voices, see visions, or believe you are under constant attack by demonic forces. You may have some experiences that you call supernatural or miraculous, but they are the exception, not the rule. When you pray for people, things usually don't change; you change. You have no authoritative insight into what is going to happen in the future. You suspect that if you were filled with the Spirit, you would love God and people more, and do the right thing more often. You'd be more like Jesus. You wouldn't be running around in circles pointing out angels on the roof. The fruit of the Spirit would make you a person others would want to be around, not someone who would frighten animals and small children.

My point is not to trash anyone who believes in any of these things. Not at all . My point is that "normal" Christian experience is increasingly seen as "bad" or "abnormal," while weirdness is increasingly seen as "normal" and proof that a person is really "spiritual." This shift has enormous implications for Christianity in its essence, its witness, and its experience in the lives of believers.

The principle that I would like to put forward is this: The supernatural character of Christian truth and experience does not remove the basic, normal, human experience of Christians. If "normal" humanity is eclipsed, Christianity ceases to be Biblical, truthful or helpful...................................

"Normal" Christians are living without these "signs." They are living by faith in what the Bible says, and not looking to their experience to be a daily demonstration of God's still being around and in the miracle business. In comparison to those who live with daily miracles and prophecies, these normal Christians may have experiences that seem dull or even absent. It is no wonder that many "normal" Christians struggle with feelings of resentment, envy, or anger toward those Christians who claim constant miracles and manifestations of God's power. Part of my own weariness is from years of feeling second-class and left out of "real" Christian experience. Then I was angry at myself for faking it in an attempt to fit in. Now I'm tired of playing this game, and disturbed by what I see as the misrepresentation of the Gospel, and an insensitivity to the effects of weirdness on those in and out of the church.....................................................................................

Discernment is what we most owe to our weirder brothers and sisters. Not condemnation or rejection, but discernment and simple truth. We need to know our Bibles, and be able to point out the truth of the Gospel. Our lives need to be shaped by Christ, and display evidence of the work of the Holy Spirit in sanctification and renewing our minds and characters. Even those who have given themselves over fully to every kind of weirdness are usually well aware of their own need of what is real. Many solid Reformed Christians spent a sojourn in this camp, and starved to death while everyone pretended there was a feast.

Bishop Ryle put it plainly: "Feelings in religion are worse than worthless, unless they are accompanied by practice." Many of our sincerely deluded brothers and sisters know this, and are afraid of what this must mean. It will do them good to see in us genuine experience and a true, substantial working out of what Christ has done for and in us.”

I’ll be raising a glass to Michael Spencer tonight. He was a true, courageous, honest and normal Christian. Speaking out on these issues while inviting the ire of some is essential.

You can read more of the late Michael Spencer’s brilliant insightful and courageous observations at: www.internetmonk.com

 
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