Walking In the Spirit And the Charismatic Movement
Often you will hear Charismatic Christians speak of themselves and their church or movement as “Spirit-Filled”. For example, “I’m Spirit Filled, are you?” “Oh yes, I’m Spirit Filled, too!” “Oh, that’s wonderful. Where do you go to church?”
Or, “Our church is Spirit Filled, is yours?” “Yes, we’re a Spirit Filled church, too.” And so forth.
What they mean of course is that they consider themselves “baptized in the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues”. There are slight variables between one Charismatic and another, but that’s the basic.
This short post will not be a treatise on pentecostal theology in general. Although I’m not prepared to say that God has boxed Himself in such that He could never give someone the true gift of tongues, I believe what passes for “tongues” in the modern Charismatic church is a tragic joke. “Shandala mandala preekoo yaba daba doo” is not the supernatural gift of another language that characterized the apostolic age.
I flirted with the movement in the early 1980’s, when I was “taught” how to speak in tongues:
“Just let words come out of your mouth, but make sure they’re not English.”
“Shai rah pahnee doi…”
“That’s it! You’ve got it! You’re baptized in the Holy Spirit. You’re Spirit-Filled!”
“I am? Uhh…All-righty then!”
Then I was taught not to doubt that the “tongues” were real. When I would read about real tongues in the Bible, and my mind would say, “This is ridiculous. It’s a sham on the level with the Emperor Who Had No Clothes,” I was taught to “pray in tongues” until the doubt goes away. Well the doubt never went away, and I eased back out of the “Movement”.
I was a co-teaching-pastor-elder of a Charismatic church in Grand Rapids, Michigan for about a year. When I said I must resign, ’cause I don’t believe this stuff, the other two co-teaching-pastor-elders begged me to stay. They said, it’s O.K. if you don’t believe in the “baptism with the Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues” (showing how important they really thought it was). I told them that if they had so little belief in their own Charismania that they would want ME to stay, then they ought to consider resigning, too.
Anyway, I was teaching things like the sovereignty of God, justification by faith, walking in the Spirit, communion with Jesus Christ, etc., and the people in that Charismatic church were really appreciating it.
The Tragic Part
What I saw, and have seen ever since, is the tragedy that a person who thinks they are “Spirit-Filled” because of some one-time experience, has typically lost the understanding of really being “filled with the Spirit”.
Ephesians 5:18 which tells us to not be drunk with wine, but to be “filled with the Spirit” is the key verse. In the original Greek, the meaning is literally “be being filled with the Spirit”. In other words, it’s a continual and repeated thing, a goal of being “re-filled” or “kept full” as a lifestyle. To put it another way, after the “filling” we leak. The world, the flesh, and the devil deceive us, and we may quench the Holy Spirit. We then need to “be being filled with the Spirit” anew.
Another angle by which to understand it is regarding control. To be filled with the Spirit is to be controlled by the Spirit, or to “walk in the Spirit”, or to be in “surrender” to Jesus Christ.
“Surrender” is my favorite biblical way of looking at it, because it not only is a beautiful thing in itself, it’s the key to “be being filled”. When we seek close communion with Christ, and surrender to Him in the moment, such that we can say, “Not my will, but thine be done”, then we are subject to the real filling of the Spirit.
What’s the result? The fruit of the Spirit! Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, meekness, faithfulness, and self-control.
That’s the easiest way to see the error of the Charismatic who says they are “Spirit-Filled”. When they exhibit fleshly behavior, as we all do at times, they simply are not “Spirit-Filled”. And the sad thing is they don’t even know it.