Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Who needs theology when God shows up?

I was asked about the 'Welsh Revival' this morning (by a member of one of those 'enthusiastic' churches as one of the local churchgoers so kindly puts it) and I had to stop and wonder why something that happened over one hundred years ago might be the main focus of a conversation. But before I had a chance to ask what they meant, they told me.

Seems some of those in town had taken themselves off to Cwmbran's Victory Church to 'enjoy what God is doing there!' and this was the revival they spoke of. This outpouring of God has been running for some sixty-plus days as each,and every day, people turn up at 7pm and stay until late praising God and seeing many apparently healed and many others giving their lives over to God - and that can't be bad can it?

I asked them what the teaching and theology was like and received a somewhat unsettling answer, 'You don't need theology and teaching when God turns up!'

Now I don't want to be a wet blanket; I'm sure there are many who have already taken upon themselves that role! BUT I do want to say that without theology (of the sound kind) the potential for error is immense and unless what is taught is Biblical then the potential for abuse of God's word and people being found to be led astray is great. The more that we see manifestations of God the more we need to welcome it with joy and also test what is before us. After all I've seen a great many 'waves' where God has been apparently evident and yet the fruit was neither lasting nor sound!

In the Bible, 1 John 4, tells us to 'test the spirit', that is to challenge that which appears, or is claimed to be, of or from God:
'Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.'

The same passage continues by telling us that what we have before us needs to have Jesus, the Christ, as central and Him acknowledged as both mediator and as God made flesh and if it doesn't, then it just ain't God! Test failed and you can be assured that it's error regardless of the music, the crowds and the manifestations!

Another test is that God will produce His spiritual fruits (Galatians 5) and that the hallmark of being authentic is 'love' - but let's read the passage for ourselves:

'For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbour as yourself.”

'I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. 

But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. The acts of the flesh are obvious: 
sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like.
I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. 

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 

Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 
Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.'

Since the conversation I've taken a quick look at the (many) videos and assessments of this 'outpouring' and I hope and pray that it is exactly what it looks like. This is my prayer and hope and I look to the wisdom of Gamaliel as he addressed those who wanted to deal with Peter and the other apostles for preaching Christ in the Temple courts (Acts 5):

'They were furious and wanted to put them to death. But a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law, who was honoured by all the people, stood up in the Sanhedrin and ordered that the men be put outside for a little while. Then he addressed the Sanhedrin:

“Men of Israel, consider carefully what you intend to do to these men. Some time ago Theudas appeared, claiming to be somebody, and about four hundred men rallied to him. He was killed, all his followers were dispersed, and it all came to nothing.

After him, Judas the Galilean appeared in the days of the census and led a band of people in revolt. He too was killed, and all his followers were scattered.

Therefore, in the present case I advise you:

Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. 
But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.” '

Here are some wise words - for we must be careful not to curse that which is indeed God nor to bless (or endorse) that which obviously isn't. But that which is not of God will surely (in time perhaps) fall and so it is better to watch and pray rather than curse that of which we are unsure.

This is my position - I pray that whatever is happening in Cwmbran is indeed what it looks like and if so, say, 'Bring it on here Lord, the needs are great and the work of your hand is welcome where we are!'

I would also say that worship is great but the word tells us that signs and wonders follow the preaching of the word and it was by hearing of God's love as shown through Jesus, the cross and resurrection (the kerygma) that people came to faith - without sound teaching and theology all we have is ears tickled and a work that will neither bear fruit or last.

I would value any comments, experiences and the like on this - for I am encouraged and hopeful regarding it.



Nick said...

Lots of proof-texting and quotes out of context but you are right that we need to be careful not to curse what might be of God and so, until I know different, I too will give thanks to God for it and bless Him for it.

Thank you for your considered words (and supporting scriptures).


Vic Van Den Bergh said...

I'm assuming (hoping) that the PT and out of context applies to Victory and not be (think the 'supporting scriptures' confirms this).

Glad to have been of help


The Underground Pewster said...

It was a coincidence that I was reading about the Welsh revival just the other day. The study of past revivals can be quite revealing when the later lives of some of the saved are described and we see more clearly the work of the Lord.

Vic Van Den Bergh said...

Revival often comes at times and in places where there is great need (often social deprivation being a factor) and the hallmarks of same is a lasting conversion. Problem is that I am reading of people 'chasing the spirit' and seeing people 'chasing the thrill' and true Christianity is never a spectator sport - is it?

Thanks for comments,


Gillyrose said...

Hi, I have been a committed Christian for 30 years and .I live 36 miles from Cwmbran. Have visited 4 times and watched on live stream many more. Whenever I have heard them I can say their theology and doctrine is sound. The message is usually a gospel one to the unsaved, focuses on the cross and the blood. My testimony is that since I have been seeing them my every thought is Jesus and how I can love and serve Him and others. Gill.

Vic Van Den Bergh said...

Excellent - thanks