Word and Spirit?

I am used to straddling two worlds – the charismatic and the evangelical. I guess to caricature both, the one seems more obviously slanted towards the Spirit and the other more orientated towards the Word. However even as soon as I have written that I am remembering Dr. R.T. Kendall, a wonderful bible teacher, on the first of several memorable times he came to speak at CLAN Gathering in St. Andrews asking me why I had asked him and John Paul Jackson, who had a strong prophetic ministry, to come as speakers that year. I think my answer may not have been what he was expecting. I said I had asked John Paul Jackson because he was a man of the Word, and I had asked him, R.T., because he was a man open to the Spirit. I stand by what I said then.

However I was thinking today that it is not enough to honour both Word and Spirit in general. Whatever our claim to honour either or both, the proof of that is how deeply any truth or claimed experience is related to the cross of Christ, the very centre of our faith. Does any truth I claim to have seen or encounter I claim to have experienced carry something of the story of the cross? It may show the victory of the cross, or its suffering, it may show the truth of rejection or the truth of acceptance, it may carry the death of Jesus or the life of Jesus or both.

For me this is the great test of orthodoxy. If what I am speaking about from the bible or what I am sharing in terms of charismatic experience cannot ultimately be related to the cross then it is probably bogus and the result of too clever an intellect or too fertile an imagination.

Let me give an example of what I mean. For me one of the most powerful charismatic experiences in my life was meeting with God in the so called Toronto Blessing. People speak for and against that movement and I don’t want to get into that argument, nor will I allow you to use this bog to enter into a debate about that. That would be to misuse this blog for your purposes not the purposes for which I think God called me to start it. There are many sites pro and against The Toronto Blessing, most of them descending eventually into slanging matches achieving nothing. All I can say is that for me the Toronto Blessing was yet another an experience of the cross that I had years earlier at my conversion. It was an experience of the power of the cross to completely bring me into the security and assurance of the Father’s love. It felt as though as I lay on the floor under the power of the Spirit I was looking through a movie camera into the grace of God. The camera drew back a bit and I saw that the grace of God was wider, higher, deeper than I had seen. It drew back some more and I saw it was still wider, still higher, still deeper. It kept drawing back until I understood that I could not understand the depth, width and height of the love of God my Father in Christ Jesus. It was an experience ultimately of the saving and reconciling power of the cross. The face of God the disappointed father or worse the angry judge disappeared and the face of the Father came to the fore. THE TRUTH OF THAT MOMENT, THE POWER OF THAT MOMENT, THAT CHARISMATIC EXPERIENCE OF THE  BIBLICAL TRUTH OF THE CROSS HAS NEVER LEFT ME.

Charismatic friends, it would help our evangelical brothers and sisters if our claimed experiences did not sound like Walt Disney cartoon experiences with not real tie in to the truth of the cross at their foundation or in their fruit. Evangelical friends  it would help our charismatic brothers and sisters if the cross was the centre of all exposition, if everything led to and from there, rather than descending into a rant against liberal and charismatic heresy or a biblical lecture with no movement to or from the experience of the crucifying and resurrecting power of the cross.

The cross is God’s provided way to unity. Evangelicals can often look for unity based on doctrine and theology before being willing to call someone brother or sister. Charismatics perhaps at times only honour someone as such on the basis of some experience of the Spirit, whatever that experience may be called by friend or foe. God invites us to meet at the cross, in truth and experience. It is His ordained meeting point.

God Bless


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