Review: When Heaven Invades Earth; Pt III

When Heaven Invades Earth

This is a continuation of my review series on Bill Johnson’s When Heaven Invades Earth.
You can read my first and second posts here.

The Spoiled Milk

Off the Map

The more pronounced His presence, the more unique the manifestations of our God encounters become. Although the manifestations we experience while encountering Him are important, it’s God Himself we long for.

It’s difficult for most to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit because we are so limited in our experience with Him….The bottom line is we are not accustomed to recognizing the Holy Spirit’s actual presence. We are acquainted with a small list of acceptable manifestations that sometimes happen when He shows up, such as tears, or perhaps a sense of peace when our favorite song is sung. But few recognize just Him alone. To make matters worse, many unknowingly reject Him because He either shows up in a way that they are unaccustomed to, or He failed to come as He has in the past. (Consider the arrogance of automatically rejecting everything that we don’t understand, or have never recognized the Scriptures to say. It implies that if God hasn’t done it or shown it to us first, He wouldn’t possibly do it to someone else) (p. 83).

Somewhere out there is a small list of acceptable manifestations that sometimes happen when He shows up (e.g., tears, a sense of peace’). Let’s set aside the fact that I can get a sense of peace’ ‘when [my] favorite song is sung’ by R.E.M. or how I shed tears’ while watching Homeward Bound, and we’ll say that Johnson is right that those are on our small list of acceptable’ manifestations. Sometimes, then, He shows up in unfamiliar ways or ‘fails’ to come as He has done before. Does that mean we show arrogance’ by automatically rejecting everything that we don’t understand,’ especially if it’s something we have never recognized the Scriptures to say’?

Yet in this next paragraph Johnson states that “His voice” will always line up with Scripture.

Jesus did not say, “My sheep will know my book.” It is His voice that we are to know. Why the distinction? Because anyone can know the Bible as a book—the devil himself knows and quotes the Scriptures. But only those whose lives are dependent on the person of the Holy Spirit will consistently recognize His voice. This is not to say that the Bible has little or no importance. Quite the opposite is true. The Bible is the Word of God, and His voice will always be confirmed by scripture. That voice gives impact to what is in print. We must diligently study the Scriptures, remembering that it is in knowing Him that the greatest truths of Scripture will be understood (p. 84).

Is it be Scripture that we know His voice’ or is it by His voice’  that we know Scripture? And what is His voice’? Is it a small, subjective, emotional feeling I have deep down in my heart? I believe what Freisen says about John 10.3-4, 16, and 27 is telling,

Using the imagery of a shepherd and his sheep, Jesus spoke repeatedly of the sheep “hearing” and “knowing” the shepherd’s voice. According to proponents of the traditional view [i.e., feeling some inner confirmation from God on His direct will], this parable teaches that Jesus conveys His individual will to those “sheep” who “hear His voice.” The closer I walk to the Shepherd, the clearer I will be able to hear the Shepherd’s specific directions revealing His individual will.

The parable is not difficult to follow. It is a response to the conflict between Jesus and certain Pharisees over the healing of a blind man (John 9). The parable is addressed to Jesus’ opponents (9:40-10:1). He is the Good Shepherd who lays down His life for the sheep (10:11); He is also the “door” to salvation (10:9). They are thieves, robbers (10:1,8), strangers (10:5), and hired hands (10:12-13). The sheep are those who believe Him.

So what does Jesus mean when He says, “My sheep hear My voice”? Is He speaking solely of auditory recognition? No. In the context, Jesus is explaining a grim reality. There are others who would permit or do harm to the sheep. These others call out to the sheep, and the sheep hear them, in a literal sense. But the sheep do not “hear” the imposters (10:8) the way they hear the shepherd in confident trust. The subject of the parable is not guidance, but salvation. and the point is that only Jesus is the true shepherd and all who are true sheep believe Him, follow Him, and receive eternal life (10:26-28).

Those who do not recognize God’s leading, it is said, are too far away from the Shepherd. In contrast, John 10 teaches that all God’s sheep, all believers, hear clearly and accept the words of His voice (10:4-5, 16). Because the sheep hear and believe, they are given eternal life (10:26-28)….Jesus is referring to His actual spoken words [not heart impressions] and His message of salvation

(Friesen, Decision Making and the Will of God, p. 63-65)

So Johnson says this ‘voice’ ‘will always be confirmed by scripture.’ But says we are arrogant when we automatically [reject] everything that we…have never recognized the Scriptures to say.’ So, while John 10 says all of the Good Shepherd’s sheep hear His voice, follow after Him, and are led to the salvation of eternal life, Johnson says this voice is an inner impression. Yet even if there is an inner voice, it will always be confirmed by scripture.’  Yet why do we exude with arrogance when we reject something we have never recognized the Scriptures to say’? What’s the use in studying the Scriptures if the Holy Spirit will lead us off the map?

Following the leading of the Holy Spirit can present us with the same dilemma. While he never contradicts His Word, He is very comfortable contradicting our understanding of it. Those who feel safe because of their intellectual grasp of Scriptures enjoy a false sense of security. None of us has a full grasp of Scripture, but we all have the Holy Spirit. He is our common denominator who will always lead us into truth. But to follow Him, we must be willing to follow off the map—to go beyond what we know. To do so successfully we must recognize His presence above all (p. 76).

Bill Johnson, you’ve fallen off of the map. The Holy Spirit will not ‘lead’ us to do something the Bible does not say. He will always lead us into truth’, but we know this truth because of the Bible, not some subjective voice.

Holy Jumping Verses, Batman

….you’ve been reading the Bible, and a verse jumps out at you.…initially you couldn’t teach or explain that verse if your life depended on it. What happened is this: Your spirit received the life-giving power of the word from the Holy Spirit. When we learn to receive from our spirit, our mind becomes the student and is therefore subject to the Holy Spirit (p. 47).

Johnson tells us to learn to receive from our spirit,’ but he never tells us how. Yes, a verse may jump out at someone, and that one may have some idea of what it might mean, but how does he know? The Spirit told him? What if he later found out that the interpretation doesn’t fit with the author’s context? If the Spirit leads us to all truth [Jesus], and yet his interpretation was wrong, then perhaps he didn’t hear from the Spirit. Perhaps his brain made a ‘connection’, and rather than study to show himself approved, rather than put in the extra work to make sure the connection was legitimate, he became too excited to figure out if the connection was legitimate.

Perhaps we can become too excited to see if the connection is legitimate.

Perhaps Johnson has become too excited. Too excited to sit down and cognitively understand what the Bible is really saying, not by some mystical understanding, but by the means and methods that God has provided us to learn His word: work. We read, we think, we pray, we mull it over, we throw out any old conceptions and notions that don’t not line up with the Bible. Rinse and repeat.


Conclusion

His Spirit is working in us, and it’s for our obedience to His commands. Walking in the Spirit isn’t to be led by a subjective feeling, but to walk in line with God’s moral character: to be loving, gentle, patient, kind, long-suffering, joyous, peaceful, faithful, and self-controlling.

Beware of those who implicitly (and explicitly) undermine the Bible. Or those who claim that the Holy spirit manifests Himself as a cloud in our midst. Or those who claim He manifests Himself in new ways through fire tunnels, barking like dogs, holy rolling laughter fits, or sucking up the Holy Spirit’s power from dead revivalists.

It’s wrong. God will not be mocked.

Next Time

Since this section ended up being longer than I expected, in my next post I’ll talk about how Johnson pits Paul against the Holy Spirit’s work (at Pentecost and in Corinth). I may talk about Johnson’s misuse of the word ‘power’ and/or how he purposely doesn’t examine his motives.

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