A Sidekick's Blog

Holy Spirit Baptism – Part Three

April 15, 2014
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This is Part Three of a four-part series on Holy Spirit baptism. Please read Parts One and Two before jumping into the middle of the story here!

Part Two ended where the great experiment – “the Church in Fort Lauderdale” – began. A link at the end of Part Two describes the experiment and it’s tragic results which linger even today. The principle founders of the movement have expressed regret for the damage, at least as far as to say, “we did a right thing a wrong way.” I am here to bear witness that they did a wrong thing, period. They failed to clearly distinguish spiritual authority from other forms of authority; most notably domestic authority, the authority of conscience, and the priestly authority that belongs to every believer in “a kingdom of priests (Revelation 1:6).” It was wrongly assumed that disciples were under obligation to their master until released by him. That was never so, even in bible times. Jesus’ disciples were free to walk away at any time, and in fact, many did. In this tyrannical experiment, the “penalty” for departure was condemnation – equivalent to excommunication, “let him be to you as a tax collector (Matthew 18:17).” Entire churches that saw this scheme for what it was were labeled as being “in deception,” and members of those churches who followed the movement were called upon to renounce their churches and be assigned to a new “shepherd.”

My church was soon to become one of them. My old middle school crush didn’t even know that I existed, and her dad’s preaching didn’t make sense to me anyway. So when some of the other kids from the Monday night teaching time who sat on the floor with me, literally at Bob Mumford’s feet, invited me to their church, I was anxious to go. It was a Southern Baptist church, traditional, with a piano, organ, and choir just like a “real” church was supposed to have. And it had a supercharged youth group that was oh-so-Spirit-filled, just like the few kids from my first church! It would be almost like going back to my first church, except with no danger of being kicked out for speaking in tongues! Andy, the youth pastor, was dynamic and “wise in the things of the Spirit,” and the youth group under his leadership grew large and dynamic as well. One of the church buildings was designated “The Cup,” and Friday night meetings there took the form of youth-led rock ‘n’ roll Charismatic bliss where “the gifts of the Spirit” flowed freely. Manifestations of tongues, interpretation, prophecy, and knowledge ran almost amok. It was so very different from the Sunday services, which were more traditional, but peppered with more modest “manifestations” during the song and prayer times before the sermon. The Cup was dark, crowded, and exuberant with runaway Charismatic indulgence that reminded me of my first visit to a Pentecostal church, but less put-on and artificial. I had met Andy and some of the other kids before at the Monday night “Mumford meetings,” but Friday nights at The Cup were wild and wonderfully “anointed.” I didn’t find out until later that Andy was among those being trained as a “shepherd” for the new Church in Fort Lauderdale, nor did I have any hint of the heartbreak that was soon to follow.

Before I get to that part of the story I want to convey what we kids meant when we talked about “the anointing,” or about so-and-so being “a really anointed teacher,” or “that song is really anointed.” For us, a person or event that was “anointed” was one that had a special spiritual power. “Wow couldn’t you just feel the anointing Friday night!” Anointing imparted a kind of righteous ecstasy that was palpable. The thrill of a teaching with implications we hadn’t considered before, or a song that made us feel especially intimate with God, or a teacher whose presentations prompted intense feelings of unqualified weal and delight – this was “the anointing.” It was a sure indication to us that God had empowered and approved the person or thing that was taking place. If one could feel the anointing, one accepted it as having been God-sent and God-empowered.

The Scriptures, however, hold no such definition of the term. Most often the words anoint and anointing in the both Testaments refer to the physical application of medicine, balm, water, or oil to an injured part or a sick person. Sometimes it means “mingled” or “mixed,” as in unleavened cakes “anointed” with oil in Exodus 29:2. In a more spiritual sense, anointing was done to designate people or things as set apart, or holy to the Lord, as in the ordination of Levitical priests (Exodus 29:29) or Samuel anointing Saul and David as kings of Israel (1 Samuel 10:1 and 16:12-13 – and note in the account of Saul’s anointing that he prophesied!). In the New Testament, other than its primary meaning of applying or mixing, it is similarly used to represent ordination or setting apart for God (Luke 4:18, Acts 4:27, 2 Corinthians 1:21). We find it applied generally to all who are in Christ, representative of the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives, applying God’s word to our hearts, bringing it to remembrance in time of need. As oil is applied to outward things, so the word of God is applied to the inner man by the Holy Spirit. Through the Apostle John, the Holy Spirit writes,

These things I have written to you concerning those who are trying to deceive you. As for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him (1st John 2:27, NASB).

The way we know whether a thing is approved by God is not from the giddy feeling we get from having our ears tickled with seductive words. We know God’s approval because of the application of the written and infallible word of God by the Holy Spirit! The anointing, as it applies in believers, is upon their ears and feet, so to say:

…he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he puts forth his own, he goes ahead of them and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. A stranger they simply will not follow, but will flee from him, because they do not know the voice of strangers (John 10:3-5, NASB).

So how is it that so many of the Lord’s sheep follow false teachers? One would have to ignore and suppress the anointing that John described above in order to do so! But tickle their ears a bit, and many will do just that:

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths (2nd Timothy 4:3-4, NASB).

The genuine anointing of God in every believer is what keeps calling them back to the truth, enabling them to walk away from myths and fables to dine in the fields of lush grass that our true Shepherd leads us to. To many Charismatics, “anointing” only means having their ears tickled! But they would rarely admit it.

When all of the “shepherds” in “the Church at Fort Lauderdale” were trained and established in little flocks of their own, all accountable to the three “Apostles” of the church, the call went out from the “Apostles of the Church at Fort Lauderdale” that any church that was not “in submission” to the larger Church at Fort Lauderdale was “in deception,” and those who were truly following the will of God would come out from those churches and take their place under an approved “undershepherd.” My church did not play along. Andy left West Lauderdale Baptist Church, and took most of the Friday night “Cup kids” with him and formed a commune under “the Church at Fort Lauderdale.” While I must confess that I immensely enjoyed having my ears tickled, even at age 14 I knew the voice of my true Shepherd and refused to follow Andy – and almost all of my friends with him – any further. Besides, there was plenty of ear tickling to be enjoyed right where I was. I stayed put, but was lonelier than ever. I watched from a distance as old friends from the Cup were exploited, abused, and abandoned when they broke. The great guitar player I always tried to emulate had gone with Andy. And in less than a year’s time, had entered into a homosexual relationship with another member of “the Church at Fort Lauderdale.”

The youth group at West Lauderdale Baptist had to rebuild, almost from scratch. Very few of the youth had remained, not wanting to miss out on the Grand Anointed Plan that was unfolding. Of those who stayed behind, I was the youngest, I think, and the loneliest of them. The loss of those friendships left me in profound danger of further exploitation, yet God had spared me from the fate of those who left, which was far worse.

In Part Four I will finally get to a scriptural analysis of the doctrine of Holy Spirit baptism, and the role of the spiritual gifts according to scripture. Stay tuned!

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Holy Spirit Baptism – Part Two

April 12, 2014
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Be sure to read Part One before you read on. This is Part Two.

In Part One I described conversion to Christ, the longing of a 12-year-old to be like some of the older kids in the youth group who were “on fire for God,” and the secret they kept that got us all thrown out of our church when it was exposed. Then followed a search for a new church and the introduction of a radical idea: The church in the city, just being birthed in my hometown by three charismatic teachers.

There were a few Charismatic churches in town that I was to learn about in my 8th grade year, but I just had to visit the one where a girl I had a crush on went. Her father was the pastor of Memorial Baptist Church. Pastor Arnold was instrumental in introducing the new bible teachers to Fort Lauderdale. I wasn’t allowed to go to church on Sundays, but I was able to get rides to Bob Mumford’s Monday night teaching sessions at Memorial Baptist Church. He taught there until the crowds grew too large and the meetings moved to the Governor’s Club Hotel downtown. I used to literally sit at Bob Mumford’s feet for lack of any other seating. And besides, all the kids sat on the floor up front and we wouldn’t have had it any other way. Bob Mumford was entertaining and wonderful, and had a special way of making mysterious teachings sound perfectly sensible.

The Monday night meetings were captivating! The entire crowd, gathered from a half-dozen Charismatic and Pentecostal churches in the area, would sing with abandon to the glory of God. No one really led the song service beyond the first song or two. After that all of the worship was spontaneous, and seemed to be choreographed by the Holy Spirit Himself. As if on cue it might suddenly get quiet, then spontaneously erupt in made-up melodies with unintelligible lyrics. It was angelic-sounding, robust yet subdued, sweet and intimate. Hands in the air, eyes closed, just “letting the Spirit overflow.” I had never seen such heartfelt worship from so many people before, so completely absorbed in rapturous ecstasy. I had seen the super-spiritual kids from my old youth group do it, but this was hundreds of people! I yearned for the intimacy with God that they seemed to have. And I was sure that “Holy Spirit baptism” was the missing ingredient in my life.

There were plenty of people around to help me get “baptized in the Spirit,” including one very attentive “prophet” who told me, “God has called you to the ministry even from the womb, and I am to be your guide.” He even tried to take me from my home to go live with him and I would have gone happily. Until I learned from an older kid that this so-called “prophet” was a pedophile who was especially attracted to vulnerable, frail-looking pre-teen boys.

Oh well. There were others to help me get this “Spirit baptism,” and I wanted it desperately. There seemed to be differences of opinion among my mentors about “how to get baptized in the Spirit,” but some of the things they all had in common were:

  • Be completely pure in heart, “sold out” to God,
  • Confess every last known sin,
  • Pray unceasingly seeking the baptism,
  • Put aside absolutely every other interest,
  • Make peace with every enemy … in short,
  • “Be ye perfect, even as He is perfect.”

I was far from that. I thought I needed the power of the Spirit to achieve such purity and holiness, yet my teachers pressed this spiritual perfection as a prerequisite for receiving the Spirit’s power. Had I not lost sight of the truth, that salvation of imperfect, corrupt, depraved sinners is by grace alone, I might have asked:

If it is possible to achieve such spiritual perfection without Holy Spirit baptism, then what do I need Spirit baptism for?

But alas, as in the years of darkness in the Church before the Reformation, the gospel had become obscured behind mystery, superstition, and gnostic-like seeking after “deeper experiences of God.” Years before, I had been taught that every Christian has the Holy Spirit dwelling within. And if I had kept my bible open and my mouth shut, I might have apprehended the meaning of “Christ in you, the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27)” and “in Him you have been made complete (2:10),” “made alive with Him (verse 13).” No, it is not possible to “qualify” for God’s grace. No one can earn the Holy Spirit by their own efforts. The best we can offer is like filthy rags to Him! Spirit baptism and having a “prayer language” were treated like some sort of merit badge for advanced Christianity. No “head-knowledge-only” Christian could possibly understand the rewards of being “Spirit-filled.”

It took nearly a year of radical, desperate prayer and pleading and seeking and crying and begging and imploring God to pleeeeeeease immerse me in His Spirit and give me my prayer language so I could truly live for Him and have the power to be like these others; effortlessly soaring far above the “ordinary” Christian who had only doctrine and catechism and orthodoxy to guide him. But then, riding my bicycle home from Rogers Middle School, I was westbound on Davie Boulevard at the intersection of SW 9th Avenue when it happened. I still remember every detail of that magical moment when my “prayer language” spilled out out my mouth through tears of joy. I jumped off my bike and danced and jumped around, singing and crying and babbling away in ecstasy for 15 minutes or more right there on the side of the busy four-lane boulevard. Looking back, I can imagine that if it had happened today, several people might have called 9-1-1 to report “an obviously mentally disturbed kid having some sort of attack or seizure or something.” Thankfully, cell phones were not in common use in 1971.

Now, at last, I thought I would never wander away from God or fail Him again. Now I had POWER, and even the devil himself couldn’t interfere with my perfect prayers, because they would by-pass my mind and go directly from my pure spirit to God’s throne (conspicuously absent from my thinking was the clear biblical teaching of prayer directed to the Father through the Son, by the Spirit), free from the interference of any evil thought that the devil might put in my head. I could be His real true faithful sidekick now that I had been baptized in the Spirit!

And speaking in tongues was to be just the beginning. Bob Mumford described it this way:

Tongues is like the ABCs. You learn them in kindergarten. But even when you’re writing you doctoral thesis in astrophysics, you still use the ABCs! It’s only that you have grown in maturity to a point where you can use them to edify others.

I knew I was on my way to something wonderful. Maybe prophecy or healing or miracle-working faith! Or maybe special knowledge from God like Pat Robertson had: “Someone named Sally has just been healed of cancer! You know who you are, because you just felt the pain go away, just now.” Or maybe I would even have the gift of discerning spirits! Then I would know the next time some false prophet was hoping to molest me, or if someone had the wrong interpretation of a message delivered in tongues. What an adventure I was starting! I had lost touch with all the super-spiritual kids from the little church I started at, but if only they could see me now! And if only that little “head-knowledge-only” church could open up to the experience of God instead of just knowing about Him!

How little I knew what was coming. How unaware I was of how far I had already strayed from the truth. If Calvary Presbyterian Church had cared enough to take us kids to the scriptures instead of just tossing us out of the church, I might have been spared from 20 years of “wilderness wandering.” But God had an even bigger plan than I could have imagined.

The great Fort Lauderdale Experiment was ready to start, and “shepherds” were already being selected and trained. For a sneak peek at the next exciting episode, click HERE!

Until then,
Robin

 


A Trap Along The Journey

August 14, 2012
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This Part Three in a series. Please read the two previous posts to get the larger picture of my journey so far.

While I was newly converted and living in a non-Christian home with unbelieving parents, I was still able to share my faith with my parents and siblings. The abuse continued, but I was carried along through it by my Lord and Superhero, Jesus Christ. Had I followed His written word and remained under the discipline of those who had brought me this far on my journey, I might have avoided some of the heartache and “wilderness wandering” that my teen years introduced, which endured for over twenty years.

That time was not wasted, though! For despite my unruliness and vain pursuit of things other than what God has already provided to His children in Christ, God redeemed those years and used the experience to prepare me for a unique and wonderful ministry to hundreds of my fellow sojourners in that particular wilderness.

Most of the older kids in the church youth group caught on to a movement that had been sweeping through the Church in our little part of the world for a few years. Folks called it “the Charismatic Movement” and it was remarkable for it’s adaptability. Crossing denominational lines and sweeping away laymen and clergy alike, it became a means of seducing its followers into a world of subjective experience-seeking, superstition, chaos, and naturally following all that, spiritual abuse.

Seeking and receiving “Holy Spirit baptism” promised a whole new way of experiencing God. It promised unparallelled intimacy with God, supernatural powers, knowledge, and gifts, deeper and more intimate worship, and dominion of the surrounding culture. It promised to open the door to a revival of first-century Christianity complete with apostolic miracles and thousands of new converts adding to our number every day. The promise of being powerful was very attractive to a skinny, awkward, abused, mildly autistic kid like me. Now I could have real power and respect, and physical proof of God’s acceptance, approval, and anointing! If only I could get that Holy Spirit baptism.

But of course, in order to get it, there were conditions: No unconfessed sin, no bad habits, super faith that went way beyond the norm for most Christians, super Christian discipline, and complete practical holiness. It should have occurred to me that if it takes all that to qualify a person to receive the power to accomplish that kind of super-righteousness and super faith, why do I need Holy Spirit baptism at all? If it takes all that just to qualify for it, then no one could get it – at least not without already having it! Yet when I went with the big kids to these stirring meetings of the Full Gospel Businessmen’s Fellowship International, and to the teaching meetings where Bob Mumford, Derek Prince, Don Basham, and other Charismatic leaders were teaching, everyone seemed to have this Holy Spirit baptism. The “proof” was that they could all speak in tongues (their “heavenly prayer language, known only to God”), and they could “sing in the Spirit” supernaturally uttering not only the inspired words, but an inspired melody as well. Truly beautiful to see huge crowds of people rapt with joy, hands in the air, and filling the auditorium with the beautiful, eerie sound of a tonic major chord dominating a madrigal-style fugue woven beneath it. Magical. These folks appeared to be suspended between heaven and earth inwardly, completely lost in the Spirit, and I desperately longed for such wonderful intimacy with my God.

It would be another two decades before I sought after intimacy with God in the one place I should have been seeking it – His unchanging, infallible written Word. I’ll submit other articles later which will demonstrate how and why the charismata of the first century was intended by God only for a single generation and served the purpose God had ordained for it. Suffice it to say for now that the sign gifts of tongues, miracles, prophecy, supernatural knowledge, etc served as a covenant sign to the generation of Jews that rejected and murdered God’s Son. Once the judgement those signs signified had come and gone, so too did the covenant warnings of that judgement. But that’s for another post. This one is about how the Charismatic Movement (Pentecostalism with a new name and interdenominational distinctives) took me far from the simple, unchanging, effective, practical, loving fellowship of God and into a world of superstition, fear, manipulation, and betrayal.

Some of those “big kids” in the youth group who got involved in the Charismatic movement invited me along to the meetings, and I went as often as I could. We even brought our youth pastor into it. Later on even our pastor accepted the theology of “second blessing” and was eventually expelled by the church, after they had expelled all the kids who refused to stop going to those meetings. Yup, they kicked us all out. Rather than TEACH and PROVE from the Scriptures why our pursuit of spiritual gifts was WRONG, they chose to do the easy thing instead of the right thing. May God reward them according to their deeds. For if the elders of that little church had acted properly, they could have spared dozens of people years of heartache, deception, and even madness.

Elders, Pastors, Deacons, Parents:
If your church has some heretical or heterodox error sweeping God’s people up in it, don’t simply rid the church of the problem by chasing the sheep from the fold and leaving them to the wolves! The elders of that little church did as much damage by dismissing us as our false teachers did by deceiving us. When the children are in trouble, their parents and spiritual shepherds and guardians should defend them! Fight for them instead of abandoning them to the wolves!

From that abandonment followed further seduction, betrayal, and abuse. But the choice of the elders of little Calvary Presbyterian Church all those years ago became the doorway to danger.