In my previous post, “Fumbling the Gospel,” I noted that many charismatic churches are using what is known as “power evangelism” to reach the lost. Power evangelism employs the Holy Spirit-given charismatic gifts to heal and speak words of knowledge and prophecy into the lives of people who do not know Jesus.
I fully support power evangelism done by genuine believers who can fully articulate the Gospel. Whether that’s the case in what passes for power evangelism in some sectors of the Church today is the question and the gist of my previous post.
Today, I feel compelled to add one more point to that post.
When you closely examine the “gospel” that many churches in America preach today, it is not the real Gospel. In too many cases, it fails to emphasize three core principles of the real thing:
1. Conviction of sin in the presence of a holy God
When the prophet Isaiah had a vision of God, notice his response:
In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!”
In the presence of a God called “Holy, Holy, Holy,” Isaiah, though called to be a prophet of God, immediately was undone by his own sinfulness in the presence of supreme holiness. As Isaiah stared into the reflecting mirror of God’s holiness, he saw a creature of his worst nightmares staring back. And he cried out in his guilt for being a sinful man.
The Bible notes that Isaiah is not alone:
…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…
2. The death of self at the cross
The Apostle Paul writes of the one thing of which he must speak boldly:
But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.
All the world’s religions, save for Christianity, are little more than rules that no one can fully abide by. Each of us has sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, no matter how many religious rules we try to keep. Only Jesus Christ perfectly kept the rules of God, and so being perfect, He took our place of punishment on the cross and served as the perfect sacrifice for our sins. As one popular Christian song states, “The cross has said it all.”
Paul said earlier in that same letter to the Church in Galatia:
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
If people don’t make it to the cross, then they never die to self. And if they never die to self, then they are not new creations. Because the only kind of Christian that God can fully use is the one who has died to the self that was the old man and been born again into Christ.
3. Genuine repentance
Sadly, the portrait of Jesus often sold to people today is of the weepy-eyed sort who loves infants and little lambs. Yes, that side of Jesus is real. Yet He had another side that too many churches fail to promote as part of the whole Gospel:
There were some present at that very time who told [Jesus] about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”
Jesus called John the Baptist the greatest of the prophets. What was John’s message?
In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
Shortly after being baptized by John, Jesus began His own public ministry. His message?
From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
After Pentecost, when Jesus had been resurrected, had ascended into heaven, and the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the disciples who had followed Jesus, they had something to tell the world. That message?
And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”
Do you think repentance is a big deal to God?
That last verse I quoted, Acts 2:38-39, is preceded by the Holy Spirit falling in power on the followers of Jesus at Pentecost. Those indwelt by the Spirit spoke in tongues and exhibited the power of the Holy Spirit’s gifts, the charismata. That power was so stunning that 3,000 people watching the events of that day surrendered their lives to Jesus. Talk about power evangelism!
But what immediately preceded verses 38-39 is a telling response by the crowd of unbelieving onlookers to the words of Peter concerning the truth of Jesus and the power they had seen wrought in that gathering place by the Holy Spirit:
Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”
This is not a simple question but a desperate one, the same kind of angst-filled reply that burned in the heart of Isaiah when confronted with the holiness of God and the true nature of his state before that holy God. It’s the conviction of sin.
When the Holy Spirit touches sinful people, He ALWAYS brings conviction of sin because He is HOLY, HOLY, HOLY. Every great revival of the last 300 years of recorded history has been marked by conviction of sin, people fleeing to the cross, and genuine repentance. The First and Second Great Awakenings, the Welsh Revival, the Azusa Street Revival—when Christians (especially charismatics) start talking about the Holy Spirit in revival, the results always lead to conviction, the cross, and repentance. ALWAYS.
So when I’m told about power evangelism supposedly being done in the power of the Holy Spirit, if I don’t hear about people coming to conviction, dying at the cross, and genuinely repenting of their dark sins in the light of the purity of the Holy Spirit, then I have got to wonder. Without those three essentials occurring in the lives of people touched by some sort of powerful spirit, I wonder just what spirit they received. Is it possible they are being influenced by a spirit who is not the Holy Spirit of God?
Real power evangelism done through the genuine power of the real Holy Spirit will convict people of their sins, drive them to the cross, and lead them to repentance. The Bible tells us this, and the great revivals of history add their own yes and amen.
If you are doing power evangelism and conviction of sin, dying to self at the cross, and repentance are not immediately following people’s power encounters, then stop what you are doing and ask yourself if you are truly ministering the genuine Holy Spirit to people.
We have got to stop being ignorant of the truths of God. This is simple stuff, but people are not using even basic biblical discernment to understand these truths. It’s just another example of how a lack of understanding of the words of the Bible leads to all manner of error. Better to know the Bible inside and out before one attempts anything resembling power evangelism.