This is a provocative one:
Most likely, people use this term as an off-shoot of the happening at Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit descends as “tongues of fire” on the apostles, signifying the authenticity of their message, and that the presence of God dwelt in man, no longer in a temple building.
Beyond that, the term has closer ties to counterfeit Benny Hinn revivals than it does to an explicit scriptural reference.
In the recent conversation about who’s in charge of the Christian blogosphere, I saw in at least one place that the blogosphere was likened to a great big library—a place where diverse viewpoints are housed, a place where people come to seek truth, a place where ideas are not censored and readers need discernment. Without wanting to deny these general points as they relate to Christians in the blogosphere, I believe it is a necessary part of discernment that we realize the internet (of which the Christian blogosphere is a part) is nothing like a library.
This progression toward priestly privilege and abuse in a church is subtle. It’s not like the guy with the three-pronged fork just came out of nowhere. This was the culture (v.13). Therefore, it’s helpful to identify a few patterns that emerge that may give us a hint of the type of soil that causes such stink-fruit to flourish in the covenant community. Let’s call them six problematic patterns with pastoral bullies.
Pharisees are legalists, but not the newborn kind. They have all the same fears about grace, but they have coated their insecurities with accumulated knowledge, morality, and religion. Pharisees are legalists who are puffed up (1 Corinthians 8:1). They look educated, clean, and alive, all while dying inside. The seeds of sin and death keep growing and spreading underneath the confident appearances and practices, always harder and harder to cover up.
We are born legalists. But Pharisees are informed legalists.
It’s easy to think that the best way for Christianity to grow is to emphasize the palatable parts for a culture and avoid the offensive. But surely the last century shows us that the very claims that were most embarrassing to a scientific age became the most attractive elements of Christianity.
What you and I need is not merely a pep talk or to get off the hook. We need an exhortation. We need a warning as if we’re on the edge of a cliff that we can’t see. We need to look one another in the eye and communicate that no less than the glory of God is at stake. We need strong words because we are weak people. We need strong words from one another because the glory of Jesus is too wonderful to miss out on. That can’t happen if we isolate ourselves. It can only happen when we intentionally meet together. If you want more of the assurance of God in your life, you must be in regular community with other believers.
A favorite from the archives:
Several years ago, I met a Muslim man at our pediatrician’s office. We spoke briefly and when he learned I work for a Christian ministry, he was very excited. He mentioned he’d been looking for Bibles in Arabic and asked if I knew where he might find some. He also suggested my family and I come over to his home sometime. However, being the sort of Canadians who tend to be skeptical of such invitations, we didn’t wind up following through. In fact, I didn’t even contact him until a few weeks later when my conviction about the issue had gotten to the point where I couldn’t ignore it anymore. So, I wrote an apologetic email, sent along a few links to where he might be able to find an Arabic Bible, and gave an open invite to get together if he was ever interested.
I’ve not received a response.