Excerpted from Fresh Power with permission of Zondervan.

The church cannot be the church without the Holy Spirit abiding and empowering it.

If we downgrade the Holy Spirit--worse yet, if we ignore him ...and even worse than that, if we grieve or quench him--we end up with a modern church that is foreign to the New Testament. Church services today in many places have become totally predictable, timed to the minute, devoid of any spontaneity, and with little or no sense of the Spirit's presence. I am afraid the early Christians in the book of Acts would be stunned to see what we now call the church of Jesus Christ. But we're so used to it after all these years that it sadly seems normal to us.

The very people who are thumping the Bible the most vigorously are often the ones trying to have a church without the Holy Spirit. They think that teaching alone can cause their members to live a "victorious Christian life"--but it can't be done without experiencing the power of the Holy Spirit. Vows and promises alone, no matter how sincere, can never overcome the power of the world, the flesh, and the devil.

There are no New Testament verses that tell us to dismiss the precedent of the Holy Spirit's activity in Acts. Nothing in the writings of Paul or Peter or John or Jude says, "Oh, by the way--what the Spirit accomplished through simple, untrained men in the early church can never happen again. Just forget it and try your best with eloquent sermons and clever human programs." Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and so is the Holy Spirit.

On the Other Hand...

While some churches such as I have been describing might be referred to as cemeteries ...others on the other side of the spectrum are more like insane asylums. We have some horrendous abuses going on in the name of the Spirit of God. Many in the so-called charismatic movement have done bizarre things that are not only outside New Testament teaching but actually contradict it. When people bark like dogs, laugh like hyenas, roar like lions, and chirp like birds "in the Spirit," someone needs to lift a voice and say, "Where is this found in the Bible? And how does it edify a congregation?"

The New Testament lays down as a first principle that "the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good" (1 Corinthians 12:7). For example, the apostle Paul clearly stated that any public speaking in tongues must be followed by interpretation in the common language so that the entire church could understand and be edified. Otherwise, no tongues speaking was allowed, since it was not intelligible to the audience.

If Paul objected to uninterpreted tongues, what would he say about continual flopping, twitching, or spinning like a top? Can anyone imagine Peter, James, or John participating in such madness? Paul's passion for evangelism made him all the more concerned for what "an unbeliever or someone who does not understand" (1 Corinthians 14:24) would think. To Paul, church was definitely not a circus.

How would the apostle react to the videotape I saw of two well-known preachers in a meeting carrying on an apparent comedy routine in other tongues! One man would speak for twenty seconds or so, then the other would suddenly break up laughing. Then he would begin to speak as if trying to "top" the first man's story. Both would then collapse in knee-slapping guffaws. There was no interpretation into English whatsoever. The crowd roared and cheered as if at a carnival. What an unbiblical travesty and insult to the Spirit of God!

Some people, I am afraid, aren't about to submit to the authority of Scripture. They are totally consumed with the latest trendy manifestations and strange new signs that convince them "the river is flowing." If someone were to say, "Excuse me, but that's against the Bible," the person would be dismissed by the familiar reply of "Oh, but God's doing a new thing, brother!"

My pastor friends in Argentina tell me that North American evangelists have come their way preaching that if you really have a childlike attitude toward the things of God, you will evidence the behavior of children. How? By "drooling in the Spirit." Such insanity is an embarrassment to all thinking Christians.

That kind of fanaticism would never have made it in the book of Acts. When, as we read in chapter 2, the apostle Peter stood up to explain the remarkable goings-on on the Day of Pentecost, he spent nearly half his message quoting the Old Testament.

When, a number of years later in Acts 17, an evangelistic team rolled into Berea and started proclaiming new things, the local residents "examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true" (v.11). They didn't seem to focus on whether they felt "blessed" or not. They didn't take an opinion poll. They didn't even look at the crowd size as a measure of endorsement. They instead went straight to the plumb line of the eternal Word of God.

In 1 Corinthians 4:6 Paul declares, "Do not go beyond what is written." While we often lament liberal churches that take away from God's Word, we must also beware of those who do the opposite. It is an offense to God when someone attempts to add to Scripture. We have no right to go beyond the book that the Holy Spirit inspired. It is the circumference of our spiritual circle. The Spirit of God will never contradict himself. When we test everything by the Word of God, we are doing nothing more or less than honoring again the Holy Spirit who authored it.

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