February 23, 2015

Strange Fire

This was a super intense book.

I ended up with seventeen pages of notes!

I grew up in a Charismatic Pentecostal church and so it was also very personal.

I have always highly respected John MacArthur and often listened to his radio show 'Grace to You.'

He is an excellent Bible teacher, and I would even go as far as to say one of the most devoted.

Do I agree with everything he says in this book? No. He is a cessationist, I am not. But I can say I learnt a lot from it and I am so glad to have read it.

To be honest, from my experience, I can sadly say, much of what he writes is true. Though I have to say he writes about the more extremist in the movement.

What I disagree with is the belief that the gifts of the spirit are no longer with us. I believe if God wants to heal He can still heal and that He continues to speak through His children.

Children like John Hus (one of the first reformers) and Betsie Ten Boom (Corrie's sister). Who both prophesied in their life-time and it came to pass. Their desire was not to bring attention to themselves but to the God they loved.

John Piper, in the preface of his book 'The Legacy of Sovereign Joy' says of John Hus's prophecy:

"On July 6, 1415, he (John Hus) was burned at the stake along with his books. One tradition says that in his cell just before his death, Hus wrote, 'Today, you are burning a goose (the meaning of 'Hus' in Czech); however, a hundred years from now, you will be able to hear a swan sing, you will not burn it, you will have to listen to him.' 

Martin Luther boldly saw himself as a fulfillment of this prophecy and wrote in 1531, 'John Hus prophesied of me when he wrote from his prison in Bohemia: They will now roast a goose (for Hus means a goose), but after a hundred years they will hear a swan sing; him they will have to tolerate. and so it shall continue, if it please God."

Martin Luther was one of the few early reformers who were not burned at the stake. He also nailed his 95 theses to the church door in Wittenberg, Germany and the world listened.

Corrie Ten Boom in her book 'The Hiding Place' talks of a vision her sister Betsie had:

"And always at these meeting I spoke of Betsie's vision: of a home here in Holland where those who had been hurt could learn to live again unafraid."

The home Betsie described in detail was exactly the home donated to Corrie for this cause. She says here as she was getting a tour for the first time. She asked:

"Are there -' my throat was dry. 'Are there inlaid wood floors inside, and a grand gallery around a central hall, and - and bad-relief statues set along the walls?"

It was exactly as Betsie had described it.

I believe prophecy is personal. It is God's way of speaking to those who are in His will. It is not for show or to make money as many self-proclaimed prophets do.

I tread with caution as many come in God's name but do not know Him and do not speak for Him.

This book is about the abuses and mistreatment of the Holy Spirit, as well as exposing false teachers, false prophets and false healers. It gave me a greater respect for the Holy Spirit and a Biblical look at His work.

One of the misunderstandings of the Holy Spirit within the Pentecostal Church is, the teaching that only Pentecostals are filled with the Holy Spirit. I thought maybe this way of thinking was disappearing in charismatic circles but then I read an article online yesterday in the Charisma News. It was an article encouraging us to intercede for Franklin Graham, which I agree is a wonderful thing, but then I read this:

"Although he's not a Pentecostal spiritual warrior that prays in the spirit and binds devils, he has strong discernment and enough boldness to go toe-to-toe with the principalities and powers that have targeted Christians for destruction."                                                              Jennifer LeClaire

This makes no sense and greatly saddens me. She is insinuating that Franklin Graham is not filled with the Holy Spirit and therefore does not pray in the Spirit because he is not a Pentecostal. This is utter nonsense. What does he pray in then? If anyone is born again and filled and led by the Holy Spirit, it is Franklin Graham. Just look at his life!


John MacArthur says here:

"The charismatic fixation with the Holy Spirit's supposed work is false honor. Jesus said, 

'When the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, 'He will testify of me.' John 15:26 

So when the Holy Spirit becomes the focal point of the church's message, His true work is undermined."

Jesus said 'He will testify of me' His true work is to point us to the Christ, not to give us 'spiritual experiences.'

I thought I'd share the fivefold test of Biblical discernment about the Holy Spirit from Jonathon Edwards based on 1 John 4 that John MacArthur shares and speaks on in his book.

These were uplifting and encouraging to me as well as gave me some clarity in regards to the Holy Spirit.

1. Does the work exalt the true Christ?

John MacArthur says:

"A true work of the Spirit shines the spotlight on the Savior, pointing to Him in an accurate, exalting and preeminent manner."

"Charismatics focus on the blessings and gifting of the Holy Spirit as center stage. In other words what the Spirit can give them (blessings and spiritual gifts) thus ignoring the purpose of the Holy Spirit which is drawing us to the Savior, Jesus Christ."

He quotes Matthew Henry:

"The Spirit came not to erect a new kingdom, but to glorify Christ"

And David Martyn Lloyd-Jones:

"The Spirit does not glorify Himself; He glorifies the Son...This is, to me, one of the most amazing and remarkable things about the biblical doctrine of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit seems to hide Himself and to conceal Himself. He is always, as it were, putting the focus on the Son, and that is why I believe, and I believe profoundly, that the best test of all as to whether we have received the Spirit is to ask ourselves, what do we think of, and what do we know about, the Son. Is the Son real to us? That is the work of the Spirit. He is glorified indirectly; He is always pointing us to the Son."

And Chuck Swindoll:

"Mark it down: the Spirit glorifies Christ. I'll go one step further: If the Holy Spirit Himself is being emphasized and magnified, He isn't in it! Christ is the One who is glorified when the Spirit is at work. He does his work behind the scenes, never in the limelight."

John MacArthur then goes onto say:

"Genuine evidence of the Holy Spirit in a person's life is not material prosperity, mindless emotionalism, or supposed miracles, rather, it is sanctification: the believer's growth in spiritual maturity, practical holiness, and Christlikeness through the power and leading of the Holy Spirit (as He applies biblical truth to the hearts of His saints). A true work of the Spirit convicts the heart of sin, combats worldly lusts, and cultivates spiritual fruit in the lives of God's people."

“However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.

He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you." John 16:13-14

2. Does it oppose worldliness?

John MacArthur says here:

"When the Holy Spirit is at work sinful pursuits, passions, and priorities are rooted out as believers, 'put to death the deeds of the body'(Rom 8:13) The Spirit's ministry is utterly opposed to the worldly desires of the flesh."

"Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God." James 4:4

He continues here:

"The Holy Spirit does not tempt people with empty pursuits or the lusts of the flesh; rather, it promotes personal holiness and resists worldly desires."

"Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world." 1 John 2:15-16

3. Does it point people to the Scriptures?

John MacArthur states here:

"A true work of the Spirit leads believers to submit to apostolic teachings (i.e. the New Testament) and by extension the entire Bible. He guides them to a greater appreciation and love for the Scriptures. Conversely, false prophets belittle God's Word, adding their own ideas to it and twisting it's meaning."

"...as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures." 2 Peter 3:16

Here are a few more quotes by John MacArthur on the Scriptures:

"The Bible is the Holy Spirit's book; He inspired it and He empowers it. It is the primary instrument He uses to convict the world of sin (John 16:8-11; Acts 2:37); to point sinners to the Savior (John 5:39; 1 John 5:6); and to conform believers into the image of their Lord (2Cor. 3:18; 1Peter 2:2)

"Human experience is subjective and fallible; only the Word of God is unfailing and inerrant, because it's Author is perfect."

"No true work of the Spirit will contradict, devalue, or add new revelation to the Scriptures. Instead it will elevate biblical truth in the hearts and minds of believers."

'And the Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.

For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book;

and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.' Revelation 22:17-19

4. Does it elevate the truth?

John MacArthur says here:

"A true work of the Spirit thrives on sound doctrine. It promotes Biblical truth; it does not dismiss it or see it as a threat. Once experience is allowed to be the litmus test for truth, subjectivism becomes dominant and neither doctrine nor practice is defined by the divine standard of Scripture."

"...the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth (John 16:13). Any work of His will elevate Biblical truth and sound doctrine in the hearts and minds of His people."

5. Does it produce love of God and others?

He states here:

"A true work of the Spirit causes people to increase in their love for God and others."

And here:

 A true work of the Spirit produces a love of God that expresses itself in sober-minded adoration and praise that is the definition of Biblical worship." 

And here:

"In authentic worship thoughts and feelings together - along with all our human faculties are focused on God in pure adoration. That principle is implied in the first and great commandment...

'Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ Matt. 22:37"

I hope this isn't getting to long for you!

I just want to share one more thing. It's actually 6 things the Holy Spirit is doing in the world today as quoted by the author.

1. The Holy Spirit convicts unbelievers

“And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:

of sin, because they do not believe in Me" John 16:8-9

2. The Holy Spirit regenerates sinful hearts

"But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared,

not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit,

whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior,

that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life." Titus 3:4-7

3. The Holy Spirit brings sinners to repentance

"And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient,

in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth,

and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will." 2 Tim. 2:24-25

4. The Holy Spirit enables fellowship with God

 “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent." John 17:3

5. The Holy Spirit indwells the believer

"But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His." Romans 8:9

6. The Holy Spirit seals salvation forever

“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.

And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.

My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand." John 10: 27-29

I'll leave you with a thought-provoking, yet simple question John MacArthur asks:

"...for those who wonder if they are truly being filled with the Holy Spirit, the proper question is not 'have I had a ecstatic experience?' Rather, it is, 'Am I becoming more and more like Jesus?"

Buy it HERE on Amazon


  1. This sounds like a really interesting, informative book!!!

    1. It was! Thanks for stopping by Susannah. : )

  2. This book sounds interesting. As a Baptist, I believe I had the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, the moment I accepted Jesus. He sent His comforter into my life. As a child, I attended a Church of God and spoke in tongues. I felt it was a genuine experience. Thanks for sharing with us on Literacy Musing Mondays.

    1. Being born again is such a beautiful miracle, isn't it? I love that the Holy Spirit fills us in that moment and helps us grow in the Lord each day.

      I believe we were created with emotions and feeling to experience the Lord, but I'm careful with what I put my trust in because I've seen manipulation and abuses within the charismatic movement. Our experiences with the Lord are very personal and should always point to Him, and His Word must always coincide. When we do this we experience real joy and real peace and so much more in Him.

      Thanks for sharing Mary. Appreciate your visits! : )

  3. My husband has read the book but I haven't yet. I really appreciate your humility in writing this and not attacking the author by things you don't agree with as so many others have.

    1. Thanks Debbie. I may not agree with everything John MacArthur says (sometimes he can be a bit harsh!) but I do believe he has a deep love for the Lord and is my brother in Christ.

      Glad you stopped by. : )

  4. Good review, Cathy! Thanks for posting it. I just wanted to add something: Coming from an extremely conservative Reformed background (similar to MacArthur), I've seen the unfortunate results of dismissing any supernatural working of the Holy Spirit. The thing that frustrates me a bit with MacArthur is his tendency to lump all those who believe in the continuation of tongues, etc., together with faith-healing charlatans and similar (in my opinion) unbiblical practices. However, MacArthur's warning toward those who promote MERE experience rather than a regenerated life should be heeded... But we should also be careful to not LIMIT the Holy Spirit, though, by our own ideas of what He is "permitted" to do. :-)

    1. Yes, I agree with you Alicia! There is a Biblical balance in all things and it's our job to each seek the Lord in these things. Working out our own salvation, trusting Him in all He teaches us through His Holy Spirit.

      "Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure." Phil. 2:12-13

      No matter what our backgrounds, are all Christians not just sinners saved by grace? And oh how amazing is His grace as we seek! : )

    2. I agree with Alica too. I come from a non-pentecostal background (actually anti-pentecostal), but live in a country where most of my brothers and sisters in Christ speak in tongues. I cannot write them all off as easily as the "strange fire" folks do.

    3. I agree, we should never write anyone off! Though I don't think that was John MacArthur's intention either. I recently read this article and listened to these podcasts by John Piper on these issues. They may be of interest to some here... http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/piper-addresses-strange-fire-and-charismatic-chaos

      Thanks for your comment! : )

  5. I haven't read this book, but have heard so much about it. It's always nice to hear another angle; thanks for sharing this from your perspective. Years ago I used to listen to "Grace to You" a lot. I respect John MacArthur's Bible knowledge, but I do question his attitude at times and certainly don't agree with him on everything. I'm not a cessationist either, but I know I can still learn from those who are. Grace for all of us!

    1. What John MacArthur shares about the true work of the Holy Spirit was so informative for me. I definitely have learnt a lot from his books and radio show, though I don't agree with everything he says. I don't think he would like that I wear jeans to church! : )

      I do agree with him in that a relationship with Christ is personal and not denominational. He makes it clear in the book he considers many Pentecostals as brothers and sisters in Christ.

      Thanks for your comment Lisa!

  6. Sounds like a really excellent book! I agree with many things that you have written here, and sadly I have seen also how the manifestation of Spirit are glorified beyond Christ Himself. Not what the Holy Spirit is here to do.
    I will have to add the book to my to read list. And thank you for giving the other side also, it's good to have a discerning spirit while reading. Not everything is perfect, since we cannot be perfect ourselves.

    1. I often pray for discernment, as it is so important in these matters. I'm learning to follow the Lord's Truth and to divide it from the ideas of man.

      Thanks for your comment! : )

  7. I'm intrigued! Thanks for sharing so well and linking up at #ThreeWordWednesday.

  8. Sounds intense! I agree I believe God could still speak through others and whatnot. He has no limits. Yet there is definitely abuse and misuse of these gifts- which would be expected with our sinful natures. Sounds like an interesting book! Stopping by from the link up- have a great day!

    1. Yes, our sinful natures get in the way! Again I'm so thankful for God's grace.

      Thanks for stopping by. : )

  9. Your post has thoughtfully presented a summary of an intense study of the Holy Spirit. Again and again the quotes pointed to Jesus, the Son of God. Thank-you for sharing this. Yes! to honor and glorify Jesus and to become more like him!

    1. Thanks for stopping by Carol and for your encouraging comment!

  10. This book sounds an interesting read. We have had time both in traditional churches and pentecostal and it has been an interesting journey. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us at Good Morning Mondays. Blessings

  11. This book sounds like a very interesting read :)

  12. I don't always agree with MacArthur either, but he does have a lot of truth. Your post is interesting and like you, I can't deny the working of the Holy Spirit in my life and the things I see God do around me.

    1. This seems to be a theme here in the comments! Not agreeing with John MacArthur on everything! : ) I have to say though I can not find any heresy or just plain made up stuff in his teachings as I have in so many charismatics. This is the difference and why I highly respect what he has to say over so many others.

      Thanks so much for stopping by!

  13. Serving in a Pentecostal Church I would have to say there is definitely a difference between Pentecostal and Charismatic. I am like yourself & some of the previous commenters in that I can learn some things from John MacArthur but do not agree with all he says. Unfortunately so many people throw out the gifts of the Spirit today and simply wish to have the Spirit as that friend and guide but I have personally been spoken to in prophesy in the past and again within the last month and I am glad that God allows us to have such a personal touch from Him through His Spirit.

    1. In the book he talks thoroughly about the history of the Pentecostal church and how the charismatic movement came out of it. They are very much intertwined. Being raised in a pentecostal church, it was very interesting to read the history which I didn't know much of. Some of it really sadden me.

      You may find the book interesting. You will not agree with everything and his tone can be a bit harsh at times (I just ignored his sarcasm), but I found it very informative. I think Pentecostals should read it with grace and kindness. As well as with an openness to learn and to agree or disagree in love.

      Thanks for your comment Sandra! Appreciate it. : )

  14. Great review, Cathy! The last quote you shared is really the crux of the entire matter for me personally. Thank you for taking the time to prepare such an informative post on this subject! Nicely done.

    1. I loved that quote!

      Being raised in a Pentecostal church we were encouraged to feel God's presence in worship. I felt pressure to feel something and get caught up in it. But the truth is, we don't always feel Him and that doesn't mean He is not with us. Just read King David's laments! : )

      I'm learning to take God at His Word and trust when I don't feel His presence. It's brought me closer to Him and given me a desire to be more like Him. I can finally rest in just Him!

      Thanks for stopping by June!

  15. Stopping by today from Spiritual Sunday. I stopped reading his books when I heard him say, "There was no grace in the Old Testament." I decided that if he could be wrong on that, I'd be better off not to listen to him. All authors have feet of clay, and we are all on a journey to find the Truth. I have pretty much decided to stick with the Bible. Years ago I got on my knees and said, "Father, lead me to YOUR wisdom. I don't want a man's, a teacher's, a denomination or religion's wisdom. Show me YOUR truth." He answered that prayer.
    Shalom to you,

    1. The Bible is always the best place to be! Though as you can see I love to read and have found great wisdom in many books that have encouraged me in my understanding of the Word and helped me to grow in my faith. We need encouragement from each other and sometimes that's a C.S. Lewis or Charles Spurgeon book for me.

      Beautiful prayer! I pray that as well. Thanks for stopping by. : )

  16. Thank you for a detailed and well thought out review of this book, as well as a selection of good information about what the Bible says about the Holy Spirit. I agree that the best touchstone is the Holy Spirit's role to glorify Jesus and draw people to Christ.

    1. Thank-you for your comment Ginger! I really wanted this post to point to the true working of the Holy Spirit because that is what stood out to me in this book.

      The fruits of the Spirit are not falling on the ground, barking like a dog or laughing or shaking uncontrollably. These things have no purpose. But rather Galatians 5:22-26 tells us,

      "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,

      gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.

      And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

      If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.

      Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another."

      That's what I desire in my life and hoped to have expressed that in my post.

  17. This sounds like a thought-provoking book! I particularly appreciate your closing quote: "...for those who wonder if they are truly being filled with the Holy Spirit, the proper question is not 'have I had a ecstatic experience?' Rather, it is, 'Am I becoming more and more like Jesus?"

    I attend a Baptist church, but I'm one who isn't willing to limit God in how He interacts with people. I tend to think prophecies and visions are rare occurrences, at least in the West where His Word is readily available. And much caution must be exercised, because it's so easy to mislead and to be misled. It's critical to use God's Word as the supreme standard of truth. But I'm open to other viewpoints, and I thank you for sharing on this subject so thoroughly. Thanks for sharing this post at Grace & Truth!

    1. Great points! Though I don't think us humans have the capacity to limit God. We can ignore Him and disobey Him but can we limit Him? I don't think it's possible. He will do His will no matter our feelings or actions. And it is always for our good. I love that about Him. : )

      Thanks for stopping by and leaving your comment Jennifer!

  18. I'm a note taker as well! This book sounds like a book I'd like to read. Thank you for sharing at Women With Intention Wednesdays! :)

  19. I read the book and it is true what the author talk about the PC/CMM. I am a member of this type church. It is true that many people in my church do not read the Bible and do not know how the real Holy Spirit works. They settle for false spirit and deceived. I pray that one day many people will wake up to the truth of the Bible.

    1. This is always sad to hear, but I am happy you are praying for others to find the Truth in God's Word. God bless you!

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting.


Feel free to leave your own thoughts in the comments. I try to respond to all of them by the end of the week. : )