The Grace of God

That Brings Salvation Has Appeared to All Men (Titus 2:11)

Why Emotionally Led Christianity is Wrong

In this post, I will attempt to explain why I try to lead people away from ministries that encourage being emotionally-led or seeking after titillating experiences (almost all charismatic movements, including IHOP.) It is not because I am a cessationist (I’m not.)

First, a little personal history.

As an unbeliever, I had allowed myself to be emotionally-led into all kinds of sin. But I had also seen my father live an emotionally-led “Christian life.” He was no different from me except he had a stronger drive to go to church, and he dragged me along (and sometimes up front to have my demons cast out–which never seemed to work). We were both slaves of sin. One day he would turn over the dinner table in a rage over a meal he disliked, and the next day he would be called upon to pray in the sanctuary, his uplifted hands quaking with apparent holiness. It was the height of hypocrisy, and I knew it, but I don’t think he knew it. He kept telling himself he was the righteousness of God in Christ and agonizing to believe it. He listened to dynamic teachings that told him it was so. It was a denial of reality.

My father went to church to get a good feeling that would hopefully get him through the trials of the next few days. Sometimes that worked, and other times it didn’t. When it didn’t, he would rage about how someone else must be quenching the Spirit. Sometimes he was sure that Spirit-quencher was me. My dad’s rage often turned to irrational violence that perpetuated an ongoing hatred between us. I don’t write of it here out of unforgiveness or a need to vent–all has been forgiven long ago, and the love of Christ has more than healed those old wounds. I just want people to understand that an emotionally-led life can never be equal to a Spirit-led life. They are exact opposites. The life my father was living–for all of his Scripture knowledge, church attendance, tongue-talking, and seeking after various impartations of anointing from traveling “holy men”–was a life lived according to the flesh. It was death for him and for everyone around him.

As a new Christian at the age of 28, the only Christianity I had ever known was the emotionally-led kind. My repentance and new birth was accompanied by rapturous joy, which is as it should be for someone whose weight of sin has just been cast into the sea of God’s forgetfulness. Learning to know God as my Father–the first kind and gentle Father I had ever known–was amazing. I sometimes danced to Christian songs while the kids were at school, tears of gratitude streaming down my face. It was a wonderful and pure time, and I am sure that God accepted this sincere worship.

When trials began to come upon me because of the Word (and ALL who will live godly in Christ Jesus SHALL SUFFER), I became very fearful and unstable. Where was my Father? I thought He loved me? I thought I was special to Him? I thought…

And I cried out to Him and asked Him where He was. I am thankful for something He taught me then. He taught me I must learn to trust that He is there BY FAITH. Not by feelings. I was reading the Scriptures hungrily every day, as every newborn babe should do, and I believed them. Do you know that this is worship too–to believe God’s Word?! These words–the very words of God–became like an anchor for my soul. Oh yes, I could still feel the seasickness of the circumstantial waves and taste the bitterness of sorrows in my life. I felt everything just as before, for God has not made us unfeeling creatures. But now I knew that I must trust God by faith in His Word, stand by faith in His Word, and make decisions by faith in His Word. That is life in the Spirit. This was the beginning of a much more stable life for me.

After my conversion, my parents and others were giving me lots of books, many of them by popular charismatic authors. After having a dream that seemed prophetic to me (I had been taught to seek after such things), I was encouraged to publish some writing in a book published by Rick Joyner (part of the NAR with others like Peter Wagner, Mike Bickle, Lou Engle, Bill Johnson, etc.) Another person encouraged me to write and share Christian poetry publicly. But the Lord Jesus was warning me not to seek a name for myself, and for this reason, I declined and even stopped writing altogether for a time. At that point in my life, it was needful for those things that once were a source of pride to me to be counted as loss for the excellency of knowing Christ (Phil. 3:4-8).

I didn’t know it at the time, but what these people were doing was extremely unbiblical. I was a “novice” in the Christian life, by any standard. I may have been utterly ruined by pride if anyone had been able to turn me into some type of superstar in the Church just because I dreamed something or could string a few words together. I had read one poem to about 500 people in my church, and a man approached me afterward and told me I was “just like David.” Through those words, I became dizzy with my own importance. I was like David? God must need me. I’m thankful the warning of Jesus put me back where I needed to be: a simple student and disciple of the only One who is Great. When we learn of Him whose heart is humble, self-importance becomes irrelevant, and the Church’s superstars suddenly appear as they really are–shallow robbers of God’s glory.

Eventually I became confused by the books I was reading. Everyone claiming to speak by the Spirit of God was saying something different, and some things seemed not to line up with Scripture. At that point I committed to reading nothing but Scripture so that I could know the truth straight from God, and no longer be confused by men. I am very thankful that God has given us His Spirit and Word, whereby we can know the Truth and be set free!

After being grounded in the Truth, I became able to discern between the truth and error I had been exposed to in my life. Honestly, it was pretty horrifying to see how far the Church had sunk in apostasy. It still horrifies me.

On the one hand you have so-called “fundamental” churches that teach a false-grace message excusing sin and giving false assurance of salvation; or ritualistic churches in which people get baptized and pay a tithe and have no relationship with God, emotional or otherwise.

On the other hand, you have churches that offer emotionally stimulating services, mesmerizing music, dynamic speakers with amazing stories and catchy phrases, and manifestations of some kind of power that is almost never tested by the Word. In these churches you either check your brain at the door and “jump in the river” of whatever the new thing happens to be, or you get left behind to feel ignored by God. Sometimes these churches promote holiness and obedience, but there is a subtle twist–to obey God you have to obey their latest “prophet,” even if what he is saying doesn’t sound quite right. Suddenly you aren’t complete in Christ. Now you need this other man’s book, you need his Cd’s, you need his interpretations of Scripture, you need his anointing, you need his approval. And pretty soon you find yourself gravely telling other people who test this man’s words by Scripture that they are touching God’s anointed and bringing a curse on themselves. You really believe what you are saying because you are deceived. Your Mediator Jesus has been replaced with another mediator whose dazzling revelations have blinded your eyes.

What was in it for you? How could this happen?

Maybe you honestly wanted to serve Jesus, and this movement assured you that you would be “on the cutting edge” of some great move of God (as IHOP claims.)

Maybe you were told you had a prophetic anointing and there was a special place for you leading others–sounds very alluring, doesn’t it?

Maybe the tears you cried while that hypnotic song played over and over made you feel more spiritual than you felt this morning when you snapped at your child.

Maybe you can forget the frustration of a marriage that isn’t working, a home that needs attention, a job that seems so dead-end, while amazing “prophetic words” are spoken over you, giving you hope that things are about to change.

Maybe the strange manifestion you experienced made you feel like God was there, and you just wanted assurance that He hadn’t left.

Maybe the idea of calling down feathers and gold dust from heaven sounds pretty exciting, while teaching people the gospel (as Jesus commanded) sounds like it involves study and sobriety and being hated. Yeah…lame.

Maybe you’re not sure how you got sucked in, but the roller coaster ride is making you nauseous and you’d like to get off.

I want to encourage you to embark on the same journey I took. Jesus changes not. He will give you all things necessary for life and godliness through simply knowing Him (2 Pet. 3-4). You need no man to teach you; Jesus is the Teacher by His Holy Spirit, and His anointing illuminating the Word to your obedient and humble heart is enough (I Jn. 2:27). Do you believe that?

If you insist on seeking after emotional and spiritual highs, rather than seeking after Jesus (who, by the way, may lead you into some pretty LOW places), you will continue to be tossed to and fro, carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive (Eph. 4:14). If you insist on making a name for yourself, you may wind up in the entourage of a false prophet who is climbing that same ladder of self-gratification. Jesus taught self-denial, and unless you embrace it, you cannot be His disciple.

Yes, even in the Church, the following Scripture is true:

For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. Rom. 8:13

An emotionally-led or experience-driven form of Christianity is actually slavery to the flesh. It is death, death, death–no matter how many times it claims to be life. It is not Christianity at all. It is apostasy, and it is anti-Christ.

And what is the fruit of a life lived in the Spirit?

Love, Joy, peace, longsuffering, goodness, gentleness, faith, meekness and self-control.

Only Jesus can give you these things.

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