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Monday, November 8, 2010 | Comments (30)

Do you know what controls you? In other words, what fills, and further what dominates your thinking? For some, it’s a consuming relationship or addictive form of entertainment like video games or Facebook. For others, maybe it’s health, education, or even a career.

The principle is clear: Whatever fills your mind controls your thoughts and behavior.

How does that relate to God’s will? Simple. If you’re a Christian, it’s God’s will for His Spirit to fill and control you. Sadly, many equate being Spirit-filled with some of the most bizarre and outlandish behavior, but Scripture is clear about what constitutes a Spirit-filled life—and what doesn’t. Listen in, as John MacArthur explains…

Listen to this 9-minute clip:

Launch Player  |  Download  |  Full Sermon


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#1  Posted by Achnes Smith  |  Tuesday, November 9, 2010 at 8:04 AM

Our church teaches the baptism of the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues, as well as being "slain in the spirit". Words of knowledge, prophetic utterances are common place. My husband and I are questioning all these practices now and considering leaving this church after 10 years of membership. We have been listening to Pastor MacArthur for some months now and are getting a whole new understanding of the Word and how to apply it. I would like to know if you believe we should look for another church?

#2  Posted by Tommy Clayton  |  Tuesday, November 9, 2010 at 9:42 AM


Thanks for your post. To follow up on your question, here are a few comments:

First, you and your husband have no biblical mandate or obligation of any kind to remain committed to a church whose practice is not lining up with Scripture—so don’t let any kind of artificial loyalty you may feel (or others in the church may project) keep you from leaving. After all, you’re not questioning music styles, personality preferences, or the color of the carpet. This is a doctrinal issue—and as John MacArthur says, the truth demands scrutiny, but error demands tolerance. If your church’s doctrine can’t stand up to biblical scrutiny, you have every right to question it.

Second, if you and your husband have both determined leaving the church is your best choice, it should be done quietly and respectfully. Causing a stir, leveling accusations against the pastor, or gossiping about and maligning the church leadership won’t help the matter. Neither will it honor Christ.

Finally, to provide some help in exploring other churches, here’s a link to The Master’s Seminary (That’s the seminary where John MacArthur serves as president). This page lists TMS graduates by state: You can try and find a graduate serving near you and visit his church, or if there’s no TMS guys serving in your area, you can find the closest one and enlist his help in finding a biblical church—your call.

I hope that helps. May God bless you and your family as you seek to obey the truth. We're encouraged you found help at GTY through the teaching of John MacArthur.


#3  Posted by Greg Tegman  |  Tuesday, November 9, 2010 at 11:47 AM

Regarding Achnes Smith's comment, I am encouraged that she is coming about and questioning these so-called gifts. The perception that something is off beat is evident here. I spent years going from one charismatic church to another. I seldom searched the scriptures and was led astray. That is because I checked my brains out at the door as well as feeling eternally damned. I still stuggle with the belief that I lost my salvation and or lost my opportunity for salvation. Drinking,fear and anger became my mainstay. Nonetheless, I kept coming about and seeking forgiveness and then running away. A frustrating pattern is what I have had here. I too came across John MacArthur. For some reason,without any real knowledge of Scripture,I sensed something was very right regarding his teaching. A no nonsense verse by verse presentation of the truth of His Word is what I believe I am seeing here,Yet,I am one who is still fearful regarding my place with Christ. I cannot run away from the expositional teaching Pastor MacArthur presents. What does this mean?. I am full shame for many past gross sins and yet still uncertain where I am spiritually. The churches I spent years in(charismatic)condemned me to hell. I can say to Achnes Smith is this: Get out as soon as possible following Tommy Clayton's advice. I found a church in Bellevue WA from the Masters Seminary website's Alumni. Jumping from church to church can create much confusion.

I do have a question. Can anybody help me find verses that prove that these so-called gifts have ceased since the canon of Scripture?. Some argue that the verse,which I don't have in front me right now,which says "When the perfect comes,these things will cease" is not a verse that proves that the miraculous gifts have ceased. I am renting a room in a house with some odd pentacostals who disagree with me. What a mess.

#4  Posted by Tommy Clayton  |  Tuesday, November 9, 2010 at 2:34 PM


I think this site will help you out. In this series, John confronts the issues you mention head-on and provides clarity on what’s really at the heart of the problem. Enjoy.

#6  Posted by Michelle Peery  |  Tuesday, November 9, 2010 at 8:06 PM

Greg - I can really relate to what you are going through. I just wanted you to know that you are not alone. Thank you Tommy for providing the link to that site.

#7  Posted by Steve Nuhn  |  Tuesday, November 9, 2010 at 10:11 PM


I attend a small southern Baptist church in the Midwest and for the last few years have been struggling with issues similar to those above. In bible study this past Lord ’s Day we were going thru Ephesians 5:15-21 and I commented that churches (our church) sometimes gets too spiritual or mystical about God and salvation. My comments were not received very well and one lady responded with this. She told us that last year in preparation for a mission trip to Venezuela sponsored by our church, the contact person from Venezuela prophesied that we would come and minister to them. Another young lady spoke of how her Mormon college friend also believes in Jesus Christ as her savior and that we are all not really that different in what we believe. I explained to the group that we have to be very careful as satan is not going to march right in and proclaim his error, rather he’s going to appear as an angel of light and deceive as many as possible. Well that didn’t go over very well either and young lady told the group that southern baptists shouldn’t get caught up on doctrinal issues and she used predestination and election as examples and also told us that southern baptists don’t really believe in Calvinistic views any more either. I have to admit I’ve brought up issues before that have not gone over very well and didn’t want to upset anyone at that time so I didn’t pursue it any further. My question is not about predestination or election. The bible is pretty definitive on those areas. My question is when is it ok to stick around and fight for the truth. I agree I don’t want to stir up things and make accusations but, as I feel all of those issues are important, when is it ok to push for some clarity in our church. How does a person who’s not in a position of leadership ask for our church to define these truth? I might add, we are without a pastor and have been for over a year now. We are clearly lacking leadership so I hope it’s ok to post here and perhaps gain some direction.

#8  Posted by Elaine Bittencourt  |  Wednesday, November 10, 2010 at 11:27 AM

#3 Greg.

Like others, I too can relate to your comment.

You said "Jumping from church to church can create much confusion." That is true. After I got saved last year, I started attending a church in my community that I thought was biblical. After a few weeks I knew I wasn't in the right place, but I didn't want to jump from one church to another, mainly because of my family. My kids go to youth and children groups during the week, and I made a couple of friends. However, I couldn't stand their shallow teaching, their disregard for Scripture (in a sense that they only preach topical sermons and many times they have to "change" Scripture a "little bit" to fit their topic). I am seen as too dogmatic, and maybe a little fanatic. I wanted to read a book by Martin Lloyd Jones but didn't have the money to buy one, so I asked many of the leaders if they had any, no one even knew who Martin Lloyd Jones was, not one single person knew, and I asked from the senior pastor, elders, down to layman (mind you, the pastors all went to seminary). Their library is full of "christian novels", romances, the likes of Ted Dekker, etc. You cannot find any books on theology. They love Rick Warren and Max Lucado, yes, those are deep and profound readings, they say. An example is a lady who became a dear friend, who will not read any real good books (tried to convince her to read a couple of JM's books as well The Holiness of God) because, she says, she only reads the Bible, but will read all the christian novels/romances she can get her hands on!

But I stayed there because it was "the lesser of the evils" sorta speaking. However, about a month and a half ago I stopped attending. I cannot take it anymore. At the same time, I know I need a church. My family needs a church.

Back on topic: "The principle is clear: Whatever fills your mind controls your thoughts and behavior." I am at a point where I know I am still too much in control of my own life. Self-denial, that expression has been a neon sign in my head that never stops blinking. The more I learn about our Lord, the more painful this road gets. It is true that light exposes darkness.

Grace and Peace,


#9  Posted by Tommy Clayton  |  Wednesday, November 10, 2010 at 11:52 AM


Thanks for your comment. It serves to prove a valid point. The kind of mysticism and subjectivism we alluded to in our opening post is not unique to charismatic churches—nor is it isolated or contained there. It has infiltrated every denomination and affiliation. One (among many) of mysticism’s main entry points into Southern Baptist quarters can be traced back 2 decades ago to Henry Blackaby’s and Claude King’s Experiencing God project. When that literature hit the shelf, Baptists bought it hook line and sinker—and we’re still reaping the harvest. The book sold over 7 million copies and was translated in over 45 languages. It’s been revised, expanded and has now undergone a special 20th Anniversary edition. Baptist drank the kool-aid…and they liked it. Still do.

It’s a sad testimony to the lack of biblical exposition in the American church. Preaching is to equip the saints for the work of the ministry (Eph. 4:12). When that is removed, or when it never existed in the first place, undiscerning, immature believers (if believers at all) populate the church and are carried to and fro with every wind of doctrine. It’s tragic. It manifests itself in their approach to decision making--one of the driving reasons we launched this new blog series.

To answer your question about when to leave and church, when to stay and contend, and how to find a good church, I’ll refer you to some great GTY resources I think you’ll find extremely helpful. Here goes:

When to Leave

How to Find a New Church

What to Look for in a Pastor

I hope that helps, Steve.


#10  Posted by Gabriel Powell (GTY Admin)  |  Wednesday, November 10, 2010 at 1:31 PM

I read a good quote today from Justin Peters (if you don't know who he is, look him up! He has a great ministry).

He said, "If you need a word from the Lord, read your Bible. If you need an audible word from the Lord, read your Bible out loud."

#11  Posted by Elaine Bittencourt  |  Wednesday, November 10, 2010 at 1:44 PM

#10 - Gabriel, indeed a good quote! =)

#12  Posted by Dan Wilson  |  Wednesday, November 10, 2010 at 1:56 PM

I feel disturb when one gal said to me that she spoke in tongues. I

left the church that teaches. Like tongues, prophetic words, and etc. Remember to pray for the people you are leaving behind. Someday the Holy Spirit will wake them up in their hearts in that church.

I got to realize myself as I was younger, I thought I had a vision, but

it wasn't really God. That's why God says test the spirits.

Will be praying for you and your husband. God bless.

#13  Posted by Dan Wilson  |  Wednesday, November 10, 2010 at 2:18 PM

Why is the church sometimes hypocritical. It's not the church, it's the

false teachers that crept in as well said in the scriptures. It's sad

when one is usually deceived and then the whole church might. Remember one thing, Don't give up!! and keep standing bold. And I like what Gabriel mention. God bless.

#14  Posted by Elizabeth Offer  |  Wednesday, November 10, 2010 at 2:57 PM

Being spirti filled, has been the most bewildering subject since I became a christian. I agree with #9 that mysticism has influenced all denominations in Christianity. I have seen it throughout my life visiting Protestant churches in many denominations. The feelings people have is that the Spirit is guiding them in little ways leading them to God, through the Bible or through sunsets, songs, ect. I understand if I slip on a banana peel and

see a paper on the ground about something, that is not necc. my destiny. I decided after hearing sermons on GTY to get baptised at a church a family member reommended. I was happy I finally got baptised, but I did not feel any different. I attended a class on the Gospel of John. One day the teacher,the pastor's wife, asked me if I had the Spirit, I said I did not know. She explained that once I was born again I had it, but it can be like using a straw that is bent, it cannot come out. Is that like the sails not being filled with wind on the boat that JM was talking about?

When Jesus was talking to Nicodemis about the wind blowing, the Macarthur study bible it points out that the Holy Spirit cannot be understood, like the wind. The Bible is the sword of the Spirit, and the Spirit we are filled with, it if can come out, will guide us, won't it?

The church I used to attend would have skits and

film clips before the sermons. Once it had a clip of the ending of "Forest Gump" and it showed a leaf floating around after Gump's kid got on the bus. The pastor had his daughter up on stage and asked her what that was, and she said it was the Holy Spirit. I was very perplexed but felt the Spirit lead me to question that. I did not like that idea. Could movies that have nothing to do with the Bible be influenced by the Spitit? I know we have to test the spirits, which a blogger mentioned on the first article. The Bible is our guide, but being Spirit filled continues make me wonder. I do not want to give up the idea that the Spirit is there guiding us, but I do not want to believe in a charasmatic lie either. I defer to those more learned than myselt. God bless.

#15  Posted by Simon Caneparo  |  Wednesday, November 10, 2010 at 3:42 PM

to find a good congregation (in fact the church is one), post #9 provides good resources.

To give my rusty penny, I believe that prayer and investigation are the most important things to start with. Then we need discernment.

I am blessed for having a faithful Calvary Chapel in the proximity of where I live, however my criteria for finding a fellowship whenever I move or travel are: statement of faith, solid Bible teaching, must be book by book and verse by verse.

With this you can skim 99% of them (listening the sermons online helps) and then visit them physically.

And if you don't find no churches, start a Bible study on your home.

May the Lord bless you in your search

#16  Posted by Gabriel Powell (GTY Admin)  |  Wednesday, November 10, 2010 at 4:10 PM


I appreciate your fervor for solid preaching, but true expositional preaching does not necessarily need to be done book by book, verse by verse. Indeed each sermon must be grounded firmly in a text, but that text does not need to be immediately following the text from last week.

It is entirely possible to teach a topical series (e.g. Doctrine of Salvation, marriage, parenting, finances) for several weeks out of a number of places throughout Scripture and still be expositional.

Also, let me encourage folks not to be so quick to write off churches they don't think meet their teaching expectations. It may very well happen that if a person starts a Bible study in their home, the teaching there will be worse than in the less-than-perfect churches in town. Much wisdom and humility must accompany the decision to dismember from a local church. It is impossible to "know" a church simply by attending several services. Indeed, some churches will have instant red flags, but for those that are simply "weak" or have something off to the side you disagree with, it is important to talk to the pastors and elders to find out their commitment to Scripture and what their philosophy of ministry is, how they make decisions, etc.

I'm afraid many churches are unnecessarily missing critical body parts because some folks are a bit too prideful and refuse to fellowship with them.

#17  Posted by Travis Allen  |  Wednesday, November 10, 2010 at 4:37 PM

Elizabeth Offer,

I understand your bewilderment about being filled with the Spirit. That’s due to the pervasive influence of charismatic teaching over the last century, and it’s not going away. They’ve wed their understanding of the Holy Spirit’s work with their own emotions, subjective impressions, and individual experiences. But that’s not what the Bible teaches at all.

And that’s precisely John’s point. He’s trying to take the mysticism and mystery out of finding and following God’s will. As he said in the audio clip above, to be filled with the Spirit is to be under His control. Just as being under the influence of alcohol causes you to think, say, and do what you normally wouldn’t, so it is for those under the influence of the Holy Spirit.

There’s nothing mystical about that. Biblically, this is called being “transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Rom. 12:2). The Holy Spirit, the divine author of the Scripture, wants to bring you under the influence of what He wrote.

As you “let the Word of Christ richly dwell within you,” (Col. 3:16), you’ll discover how your thinking changes over time. More than that, as your thinking changes, so will your words and behavior. In fact, if you compare the effects of being filled with the Spirit (Eph. 5:18-21) with letting the Word of Christ richly dwell within you (Col. 3:16-16-17), you’ll notice they are very much the same.

Conclusion? To be filled with the Spirit is to let the Word of Christ dwell within you richly. No mystery, no mysticism, no feelings-based emotional rollercoaster.

I hope that’s good news for you, Elizabeth—there’s no need to be bewildered any longer.


#18  Posted by Travis Allen  |  Wednesday, November 10, 2010 at 4:48 PM

That's a great cautionary word from Gabriel Powell (#16). It takes a tremendous amount of biblical discernment, charitable tolerance, and the humility of wisdom to assess a church's true condition and decide whether it's best to stay or go.

The links Tommy Clayton posted (#9) provide solid principles for making those decisions, but working out the principles in real life requires maturity. And when you've lived your entire Christian life under weak teaching, well, you see the dilemma.

Simon Caneparo (#15) gave some good practical pointers on how to screen churches so you don't waste a lot of time. But once you get to a church that passes those initial tests (e.g., biblical doctrine, teaching, philosophy and methodology of ministry), give it some time before you write a church off.

There's no perfect church, which is good, because you and me are no perfect Christians either.


#19  Posted by Elaine Bittencourt  |  Wednesday, November 10, 2010 at 4:48 PM

#16 - Gabriel. I know you're replying to Simon, but I thought I'd comment. I hope I am not one of those folks in your last statement.

I understand what you explained about expositional preaching not needing to be done verse by verse and book by book. When I look at the way Pastor MacArthur does it, it just makes so much sense. I enjoy that type of teaching/preaching greatly. I have enjoyed his "selected scriptures" sermons as well.

I have a question. How do you call sermons that are not expositional but simply topical? I've always called them topical sermons, but I see your point. Like, for example, once a heard a pastor preach on Daniel 1 and his point on Daniel and his friends not eating and drinking from the king's table was because they didn't want to loose control over themselves and eat too much. He ignored a little word on the text, "defile", and that made a big difference. His sermon focused on (funny to think about it now) what things have control over us.

So, when a preacher uses a passage (or more than one) in the bible just to make a point, even though it's not the point of the passage, what kind of "style" that is?


ps - I think we are going off-topic, I apologize.

#20  Posted by Dan Wilson  |  Wednesday, November 10, 2010 at 5:19 PM

It won't hurt to talk to the pastor if he is in the wrong. It's ok to

say what or how one has to say for the truth, so the pastor and elders might understand, only God can move the hearts and God says that He knows the hearts of man. It's not really good to write off a church, Let the Holy Spirit guide you to the church that He provides, so you may grow and be a good example to other members, as well to the pastor too.

#21  Posted by Ryan Weston  |  Wednesday, November 10, 2010 at 6:56 PM

It is important, friends, that we do not "throw the baby out with the bath water" ... I think thats how the saying goes?! When speaking of the Spiritual gifts we should stay Biblical. I love Johns teaching (most) but he certainly misses alot of huge Biblical points. The gifts of the Spirit are functioning today, however, many appear to be in use that are not. Tounges for instance is largley misunderstood. The gift of tounges is literally prophecy in another tounge, requiring a translator. However, the practice of praying in tounges is completely different. Romans 8:26 tells us that the Spirit DOES interced for us in our prayer. Paul tells the church in Corrinth he "speaks in tounges more than any of them".

An example as to the Spirt-less teachings John sometimes brings to the table (lets remember he is a man like us, not a perfect being) is in one of his recent teachings on this subject (other denominations) In his teaching he claims John 14:26 was meant only for the disciples, not for all believers. In this verse Jesus tells His disciple "the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you". Now to claim this was not "spoken to all believers" as John does is kind of a turn off. The Holy Spirit dictates what scriptures are used for whom and when. The Holy Spirit DOES and WILL continue to take scriptures out of context to fit His perfect purpose.

I go to a church where we try not to be affiliated with any denomination. Some would call us a blend of Pentecostal and evangelical churches, but I dont know. All I do know is EVERY teaching is taught with use of multiple scriptures and heavy prayer. We should NOT portray the Holy Spirit has anything less than all knowing and all powerful, capable of everything and eanything.


#22  Posted by Tommy Clayton  |  Thursday, November 11, 2010 at 9:58 AM


No one on this blog is saying the Holy Spirit is anything less than 100% divine. But when you say He’s capable of “everything and anything” you justify the concerns we’ve been voicing all along. He is not capable of everything. He’s not able to mislead, lie, deceive, tempt, or confuse. Why not? Because He’s God, and God doesn’t do any of those things. He’s not the author of sin or confusion, both hallmarks of the popular approach to decision making we’ve been discussing. So when you see a professing believer and especially a pastor who claim to somehow be “led,” “prompted,” or “guided” by the Holy Spirit, but then make a sinful decision, teach aberrant doctrine, contradict the Bible, or flat out lie, what do you do, Ryan? Do you grant them a free pass? God doesn’t, and neither should you.

That’s not throwing out the baby with the bathwater. That’s exercising spiritual discernment through the application of Scripture.

Your comment about the Holy Spirit taking verses out of context—verses He authored, mind you—to fit His perfect purpose… Just think about that statement and let the implications sink in.

So the bathwater we’d like to throw out is everything foul, confusing, deceptive, unedifying, and untruthful that goes on in the name of the Holy Spirit. Because, hey, “No one speaking by the Spirit of God calls Jesus accursed” (1 Cor. 12:3).

And for clarity, the verse you cited from Romans 8:26 about our praying in tongues won’t fly. Read it again carefully. The Holy Spirit is interceding for us because we are weak, ignorant (i.e. human), and sometimes not able to ascertain how to direct our prayers to God. So the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. That’s not praying in tongues, Ryan. It’s communication between members of the trinity and is not even audible.

#23  Posted by Gabriel Powell (GTY Admin)  |  Thursday, November 11, 2010 at 11:22 AM


Non-expositional sermons can simply be called topical (if dealing with a topic), biographical (if dealing with a person), or whatever else.

We could say it like this: topical sermons can be expositional, but most topical sermons are not expositional.

Part of the determination also stems from how the pastor prepares. Does he say, "I want to talk about marriage... now what are some nuggets the Bible has about marriage?" On the other hand, he can say, "I want to talk about marriage, and Ephesians 5:22-33 is about marriage, so I'll preach that text."

Unfortunately many topical sermons are void of a biblical foundation. Sometimes they are based on a modern book, and other times they're just random practical points with a brief Scripture reference to make it sound biblical.

The question to ask yourself is, "Is what he is saying stemming from God's thoughts or his thoughts?"

#24  Posted by Dan Wilson  |  Thursday, November 11, 2010 at 2:30 PM

Forgive me, what is the phase "Throw the baby out with the bath water" ?

Just wondering? Smiles.

#25  Posted by Gabriel Powell (GTY Admin)  |  Thursday, November 11, 2010 at 2:33 PM

Dan, it's one of those really weird expressions. It means that just because you don't like a part of something, don't throw away the whole thing.

With a meal it would be like, "If you don't like the broccoli, don't throw away the whole meal." With a church, "Just because you don't like the music, don't condemn the whole church."

Hope that helps...

#26  Posted by Dan Wilson  |  Thursday, November 11, 2010 at 2:38 PM

Oh, Thanks

It's helpful.


#27  Posted by Simon Caneparo  |  Thursday, November 11, 2010 at 3:08 PM

in reply to Gabriel #16, i said that those are my criteria and i don't want to impose my opinion.

However this gives me a springboard for listing the main reasons for which I prefer expositional teaching :

- there is no risk to skip any topic

- sermon can embrace more than one topic in a study

- the same topic is repeated any time it is encountered

- result is a positive repetition (Philippians 3:1)

- the Bible speaks for itself and gains more authority

- the saints increase their knowledge of the Scriptures

last but not least, the audience knows the contest where the verse is in, as you know the greatest abominations come from verses used out of their contest

many blessings

#28  Posted by Steve Nuhn  |  Friday, November 12, 2010 at 9:39 PM


Thank you for the encouraging words. It appears you are affiliated with GTY or Grace Church in some way. If so, I must say, I thank God every day for people like you and your organization. The teaching and preaching offered from GTY is so helpful. I’ve even found Grace Churches website to be a great resource for rich, deep teaching. If you’re not part of that organization then I thank God for you anyway.

Those links you provided are very helpful. I’ve listened and studied a couple of them quite a bit. I would like to be able to say that answers my question clearly but, I’m still a little reluctant to act. Perhaps it’s some of my own immaturity (spiritually) that puts me in this situation. There’s so much I’d like to say but, as I know there’s always two sides to a story and, I don’t want to ramble on and expect you to fully understand what I’m trying to say. I’m very encouraged by your words, if there's another way I can speak to you about it let me know. For now I’ll keep it here and brief.

Our church is one of those churches with competing worship styles; early morning traditional and mid-morning contemporary. We have bible studies that are not much more than social hours, and focus our ministries to community wide events that have plenty of music and entertainment but rarely, if at all, any time for a message not to mention preaching. Every time I bring up the need for something deeper and for focusing more on the word of God (using 1 Corinthians 2 and 2 Timothy 4 as examples), I’m told “we’re doing that” and “we can reach people through relationships”. Now I will say, our church is good at providing stuff “for the unchurched” to do but, we never minister to them with the truth of the gospel. Last summer our church went on a mission trip and hosted Vacation Bible School and a Block Party. I asked if we could use some time during the block party to present the gospel to the adults there and they said, “we are with a puppet show”. Well I’ve rambled enough. Perhaps others are in a similar situation and can comment as well.

Again Tommy, I’m grateful for your words and pray that through this, God is honored and glorified.

Thank you… Steve

#29  Posted by terry harrell  |  Saturday, November 13, 2010 at 7:17 PM

I grew up in a very conservative Christian home. We are no nonsense Southern Baptists. My father was an especially quiet, worshipful, very restrained emotionally kind of man. Several years ago, he confided in me that he had a vision of a very bright light and some consoling words that he experienced when he was going through a very difficult time. (he was having health problems when I was very young and was afraid that he would not be around to raise me which troubled him deeply.) He was reluctant to talk very much about it but he wanted me to know. I have thought about this a great deal and this discussion of charismatic churches has brought me to the point of sharing this. To my knowledge, he never had any more visions until he was on his death bed at which time he seemed to catch a glimpse of the glory of Heaven which he shared with my sister. This happened right before he slipped into a coma and died 14 hours later.

I know that he is with the Lord now and I wish that I could talk to him to learn more but I can't.

What do you make of this? If this came from one who saw a vision every week, I would quickly dismiss it as foolishness, but I knew my father's character and I knew that if he said it, it happened. Does the Lord work in this manner in this day and time?

This is the first blog that I have ever participated in. This question has been burning in me for many years and I have would like someone to comment on it please.

Also, thank you John MacArthur and GTY for all you do. You have truly been a blessing to me. Also, thank you for the sermon archives--I think I've listened to about 400-500 of them in the past couple of years!


In His Name,


#30  Posted by Tommy Clayton  |  Monday, November 15, 2010 at 10:40 AM


That’s a good question. I hope you don’t mind a personal anecdote to raise the stakes. When I was a new believer, I found myself frequently in the company of an ill-tempered elderly woman whose life was almost completely void of Christian fruit—no charity, grace, patience, and little tolerance for preaching. To be blunt, she was bitter lady who—in my opinion—had no right to Christian assurance of any kind, yet she adamantly professed to be a believer.

One day I dared to question her testimony and the grounds for her confidence. Her answer shocked me. Decades ago while sick and near death in a hospital bed, she witnessed some kind of angelic apparition in her room (she claimed). The “being” assured her of God’s love and full restoration of health. From that day, she never doubted her salvation.

At that point, I was severely unequipped to refute her claim, yet it sounded so wrong to me. She was so sincere and convinced in her own mind of the experience, I couldn’t bring myself to challenge her. Now granted, more was at stake in her case because she was basing her salvation on that “experience.” But the principle is the same. How should we respond?

I refer you to 2 Peter 1, where Peter indirectly addresses that issue. He recalls his personal experience with Jesus on the Mt. of Transfiguration where he saw Elijah, Moses, and Christ in His glorified form, then heard God’s voice from heaven. He never forgot that experience—and neither would we. Here’s the strange thing… years later, when writing about his personal experience, Peter ranks it below Scripture. Here’s the passage:

For we did not follow cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For when He received honor and glory from God the Father, such an utterance as this was made to Him by the Majestic Glory, “This is My beloved Son with whom I am well-pleased.”—and we ourselves heard this utterance made from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain. So we have the prophetic word made more sure. -2 Peter 1:16-19

Here’s John MacArthur’s Study Bible note on that passage.

It says, “And we have more sure the prophetic word.” … Peter is ranking Scripture over experience. The prophetic word (Scripture) is more complete, more permanent, and more authoritative than the experience of anyone. More specifically, the Word of God is a more reliable verification of the teachings about the person, atonement, and second coming of Christ than even the genuine first hand experiences of the apostles themselves.

Terry, to conclude, bright lights, angelic apparitions, visions of heaven, and everything else must be evaluated by the “more sure” Word of God. The heart of man is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked (Jer. 17:9). That truth should always be a factor in our perception of experiences.


#31  Posted by Elizabeth Offer  |  Monday, November 15, 2010 at 2:17 PM

Thank you Travis and Tommy for clearing up a lot of confusion.