The True Charismatic Movement

Historically, the various pneumatic movements have put forward the view that emotional intensity practically equals the presence of the Holy Spirit. But this can turn into a disastrous mistake. …

The heart of the problem appears to be that Christians often think of the filling of the Spirit largely in quantitative terms, as though the believer were a quart jar one-third full. In this view the coming of the Spirit consists in the filling of the jar to the brim, usually through an experience of great emotional power.

In all this longing there is commonly a hunger for a life which is delivered at one stroke from all sin and temptation. This longing is not to be despised. But it will not be fully realized until the believer is fully glorified at the time of his death or at the return of the Lord. Furthermore, the serious danger is that those who seek the Spirit in this way will shift their reliance from the daily working of the Spirit to a previous landmark experience of great emotional intensity.

What happens is that people with this experience in their background can become secretly proud that they are “spiritual” Christians of a special class. They no longer look to Christ in love (2 Cor. 3:18). Instead, they mount a pedestal and quench the Holy Spirit, denying the reality of the sin which yet remains in them and which must be put to death by active reliance on Christ (Rev. 3:14–22, Col. 3:15).

At present there are some teachings that push their adherents in this direction. They emphasize intense religious experience, and they tend to stress sin as human actions without taking sufficiently into account sin as a state of the heart. These ingredients of perfectionism are dangerous.

The hazard here should be obvious. People who believe this know they have the Holy Spirit. And they are right. But they no longer can freely admit that they must confess their pride and unbelief on a daily basis. They also may begin to think themselves qualified to serve as priests for others.

Moreover, those they “help” will often admire them—for a time. For just as they are soft on their own sins, so they will be soft on the sins of others. Or if they are severe with people’s sins, they will only deal with surface matters; for those who do not have the courage to look into the depths of their own hearts cannot see clearly into the heart of another.

What we must see is that God never promised to transform us into super-Christians who would never again sin and never again need to repent. He never promised anybody strength apart from continued dependence upon Himself (Jer. 10:23, John 15:5).

Therefore, I want to set down two closely related criteria for the Spirit-filled life:

The first is sincere love to the Lord Jesus Christ as the gift of the Father’s love,

and the second is a genuine repentance which causes us to be broken down before God.

First, according to Scripture, the presence of love in the Christian life is a sure evidence of the fullness of the Holy Spirit. To understand this as a promise to you personally, turn to your Bible and read John 14:15–24 (a related passage is John 16:27).

From verse 16 we learn that the Holy Spirit will be given to the disciples because Christ will pray to the Father. Hence, Jesus promises them, “I will not leave you orphans” (John 14:18).

But there is something that the disciples must do and be if they are to receive the full presence of the Father. This concerns their response to Jesus. The Lord says, “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him” (John 14:21).

Catch the loving fire of Jesus’ words. Loving obedience to Jesus by His disciples attracts the love of both the Father and the Son.

Loving obedience results in the Father and the Son coming into the believer’s life in a fuller way. The language is strong. The Father and the Son will move in whenever a believer looks in love to Jesus. …

But if you wish the continued fellowship of this love, adore Jesus Christ and love Him with all your heart. Show your love by obeying Him, and you will find your life abounding in spiritual power. …

We must therefore see that the Spirit of truth present at Pentecost is, first of all, a Spirit of love leading people into disciplined obedience to Christ.

He is a missionary Spirit who draws us into the fellowship of the saints by causing redeemed sinners to love Christ and one another. As those in Christ grow in love to one another, this love becomes highly visible (John 13:34–35, 17:22–23). It magnetizes men and women to the church of God.

Here then is the true charismatic movement. It is centered on the excellent way of love (1 Cor. 12:31–13:13). Outward signs and wonders prove little as to the reality of the Holy Spirit’s presence (Matt. 7:21–23).

In particular, “speaking in tongues” is a phenomenon to be found in non-Christian religions, and therefore can hardly be a convincing proof of the Spirit’s presence.

Consequently, forget every quantitative concept of the Holy Spirit’s presence. For to have the Holy Spirit in you is to have more of Christ in you, to be more like Christ and to bear the fruit of the Spirit which comes through faith in Christ and His merits (Gal. 5:22–23).

The second (and intimately related) criterion of the Spirit’s presence is repentance.

The church at Jerusalem [in Acts 11:18] identifies the Gentile reception of the Spirit through faith in Christ with repentance.

Here, as elsewhere in Acts, the word “repentance” (metanoia) is used in a very broad sense, virtually as a synonym for conversion. The emphasis falls on the radical character of the change from death to life, from the proud delusions of the pagans to a humble dependence upon the living God for salvation. Hence, this passage makes absolutely clear that the New Testament church saw the fullness of the Spirit to be the same as a state of repentance for sin.

But what is true of the first turning (conversion) of the sinner to the Lord must continue throughout the Christian life. There must be a daily conversion of the heart to God (Col. 2:6). And the more you deepen your repentance, the more room you have in your heart for the rivers of living water. The more you know that you are stained to the bone with selfish impulses, the more you see how you hold out against the will of the Lord, then the more you will go to Christ as a thirsty sinner who finds deeper cleansing, more life and greater joy through the Spirit.

We have said that love and repentance are positive proof of the fullness of the Spirit’s presence. But what is the vital-connection between the two?

The answer is found by looking into the heart of any child of God who is walking in loving obedience. It’s exciting. Here you meet ardent love to Jesus because the believer has been “broken” down through repentance. Repentance prepares the way so that the Lord of glory can enter into the spirit and be adored as the new center of heavenly life. Before, such people were consumed by self-love, but once the Spirit convicted them of sin and turned them to the cross, self-love was crowded out by love to the Lord Jesus Christ.

Jack Miller, taken from Chapter 4: Repentance and the Spirit-Filled Life, in Repentance (Kindle Edition), Christian Literature Crusade (emphasis added).

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