Interview with a Charismatic
These are common questions on the topic of the charismatic gifts (e.g., visions, tongues, healing, prophecy). Some are simply honest inquiries into an unfamiliar subject, and some aren't! ;)
Certainly this subject is not something we can respond to with a
fleeting "that's nice." The fire of God's love is too much for that.
The gift of tongues seems odd. Why should I look into it?
Good news! You're normal. I don't know anyone, including myself, who initially approached the gift of tongues like "boy, that's what I've always wanted to do in my prayer, speak in a language I can't understand." Those who receive the gift usually need a lot of encouragement. It takes a little work to 'uncork' it, like opening a bottle of wine.
I've been praying in tongues almost every day since October of 1988. It's a fabulous aid to worship. I'll never go back. But I can understand if it seems a little difficult to get used to. If it appears a bit of a shocker, that's a healthy reaction.
Do you ever think you're holier because you experience this?
The experiences are not awards, but aids. A high-end power drill doesn't necessarily make one a better carpenter. It's just a tool. The gifts of the Spirit are catalysts for love and worship, which do not imply holiness; but make holiness easier—if they're used.
For example, Peter was loved the same by Jesus before and after Pentecost (when the gifts were first given). Before Pentecost he wasn't a "second-class Christian"; he just didn't know there was more. Further, everyone has gifts from God; but we don't always open our presents.
Do I have to get the gift of tongues?
It seems that God usually gives tongues first, probably because 1. It's a direct aid to loving God in worshipthe Holy Spirit intercedes on your behalf. 2. Its purpose is to release the other charisms, so it makes a great "starter gift"! 3. If someone is willing to be radical enough to get it, then the other gifts flow more naturally. As the saying goes "if you're ready to do the ridiculous, God is ready to do the miraculous."
I have friends who received visions and then later tongues, so I'll never say you have to get them in a certain order. But since tongues is the logical place to start, I would ask for it first. It's rare that you'll find someone hungry for it who doesn't get it. (It's so common that some Pentecostals think you're not really a genuine Christian without it. Of course, that's a misunderstanding but makes the point of the gift's prevalence for the hungry.)
The Voice of God
Actually, the real kicker is not tongues, but prophecy, i.e., God speaking directly in first-person. The Apostle Paul says "if you pray in tongues, but aren't experiencing prophetic revelation, then newcomers will think you're out of your mind, but if they hear prophecy they'll go 'Whoa, God really is among you.' " (1 Cor 14).
(Though not apparent at first tongues and prophecy are related: Tongues is speaking on behalf of man to God; prophecy is speaking on behalf of God to man.)
That sounds too incredible. God still speaks in first-person? Isn't that adding to the infallible revelation of the Bible?
Think of it like this. If the Bible were a record album, then prophecy would be analogous to dropping the needle on the album so you could hear a specific part. It would not be like adding more songs to the record.
There are two Greek words that translate to the English noun "word." They are "logos" (the eternal, unchanging word of God), and "rhema" (that part of the logos brought into the present moment.) Modern prophecy is rhema. So there is no addition to the Bible. The Bible is the right truth; prophecy is the right truth for the right time.
Note that if we take this question to an extreme, then we could never be guided by God about anything, because that information could be also accused of adding to the Bible; e.g., the prophecies received in Christian communities referred in the book of Acts that weren't written down are just like ones received today.
Everything should be tested. It might be the devil.
Absolutely. Does it agree with: the Bible, permanent commitments youve made, Christian teaching, other prophetic words from proven prophets? Are the messages self-consistent?
In my experience it would be hard to conclude they're from the devil since they consistently promote surrender to Christ. In the lives of many, the fruit is clearly: worship of God, joy, repentance, healing, unity, etc.
When I first heard my friends receiving prophecies I was very skeptical, so I asked them to pray for specific requests independently and was amazed how frequently they received the same message. This still continues. It's definitely something to experience.
In fact, if you're familiar with the "Lord, Liar or Lunatic" argument that Jesus is God, you can see that the same reasoning applies to the Holy Spirit (either these manifestations are mass hallucinations, or people are all lying about them, or it really is God).
Yes, everything has to be tested, but after it becomes obvious they're from God, then we do the devil a far greater favor by wallowing in disbelief. Whenever Jesus denied a request it was usually because of a lack of faith.
Did I hear you say physical healings are happening, too?
That's right. I have experience with this. And yes, I know there are some people that attribute the supernatural to the natural: "I had a headache and it went away: Jesus healed me!" I'm not talking about that (but praise the Lord they're feeling better!)
Pew Forum 2006 Report
Perry Marshall Stories
CBN Bethel Miracles Film
Parkinson's JP2 Healing
Disappearing Tumor Film
However, we are talking about people with tumors disappearing, lifelong deafness cured; lifelong numbness cured, etc. That certainly doesn't happen every time we pray, but it is happening. God is active.
There are many experiences of God. One of my favorites is Visions
This is too much.
Yes. But actually, it gets even better—you can experience it yourself.
Great question. Things get even more interesting in:
Interview With a Charismatic—Part 2