Is It of God? Andrew Murray’s Strange Fire

“Quench not the Spirit. Despise not prophesying. Examine everything carefully. Hold fast to what is good.”—1 Thessalonians 5:19-21

Recently pastor John MacArthur, a cessationist who does not believe in the gifts of the Spirit today, held a conference attacking those who practice supernatural gifts and manifestations, calling it “Strange Fire.” By MacArthur’s definition, the experience of one of the most godly and respected holiness leaders of a century ago, Andrew Murray, a Dutch Reformed minister, would be strange fire.

Had God not changed Andrew Murray’s mind, Murray might have become known as the preacher who tried to stop a revival. He and his father and other ministers of the Dutch Reformed Church had been praying for revival in South Africa for many years, but when it arrived he could not recognize or accept it as being from God.  One evening in 1860 Murray was hurriedly summoned by one of his elders to the church he where he pastored. The whole congregation had spontaneously begun praying fervently and loudly all at once, totally out of character for a staid, reserved Dutch Reformed church.

He tried to exercise his ecclesiastical authority, commanding the congregation, “People, I am your minister sent from God. Silence!” But the people paid no attention to him and kept on praying emotionally and boisterously. Finally, out of frustration Murray declared, “God is a God of order, and everything here is confusion,” and stalked out of the building.

The prayer meetings continued in spite of Murray’s efforts to stifle them. Horrendously, some people even appeared to faint, what today is sometimes called “falling under the power of the Spirit.”  At a later meeting where he tried to quiet the people, a stranger approached him, advising, “Be careful what you do, for it is the Spirit of God that is at work here. I have just come from America, and this is precisely what I witnessed there.” He was referring to the revivals led by Charles Finney, Dwight Moody, and Phoebe Palmer in 1857-1859.

This testimony confirmed to Murray the genuineness of the revival.  His father, a Dutch Reformed pastor who had prayed for revival for many years, came to visit and assured him, “Andrew, my son, I have longed for such times as these, which the Lord has let you have.”  From that point on, it transformed his way of thinking about the work of the Holy Spirit, and Andrew supported the revival, which yielded remarkable and lasting results. So the preacher tried to resist what he perceived as religious fanaticism, became one of those fanatics himself.

Murray would go on to lead other revivals, promote the holiness movement of the Spirit in South Africa, and teach and model a life of faith, respected by people of all theological streams and denominational backgrounds. His teachings and writings have been respected throughout the Christian community for more than a century. His accomplishments demonstrate his life of faith:

  • Because of the leadership he displayed and his dynamic, anointed preaching, in the providence of God two years after the revival, at the age of 34, he was elected as Moderator of the Dutch Reformed Church of South Africa.
  • As a result, he was able to stem the encroaching tide of liberalism and lead his denomination to renewal.
  • He authored more than 30 books, many of which continue to be republished and foster an enduring impact a century later.  Murray’s classic books Absolute Surrender, Abide in Christ, and With Christ in the School of Prayer were born out of revivals such as this.
  • Due to strain on his vocal chords, he became ill and lost his voice, unable to preach for two years.  Yet he experienced miraculous healing and complete restoration of his voice. He then became one of the primary advocates of divine healing by faith in his generation, writing another classic book entitled Divine Healing.

Excerpted from Moving Mountains: Lessons in Bold Faith by Paul L. King (order at http://www.paulkingministries.com)

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The Hall of Higher Life Faith–Ancient-Future Faith II

“By faith Abel . . . By faith Enoch . . . By faith Noah . . . By faith Abraham. . . . And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, and Barak, and Samson, and Jephthah, David, and Samuel and the prophets, who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions. . . . ”—Hebrews 11:4, 5, 7, 8, 32, 33

 Hebrews 11 is sometimes known as the “Hall of Faith”—biblical heroes of a life of faith. We find many of those heroes throughout church history as well. In this blog, I want to focus on the Hall of Faith of teachers on the higher Christian life—life in the Holy of Holies, in the heavenly places at the throne of God.  They are noble members of the Heavenly King’s Round Table.

 Some people have the impression that such Higher Life and faith teaching are new 20th and 21st-century revelation from the Holy Spirit. However, in reality, teaching on the truths of faith and the Higher Life are indeed very ancient.

 As we study church history, we can see that seeds of faith were planted early on, which germinated and grew into greater movements of faith. What began with a few individuals continued to snowball in the 19th and early 20th centuries into a revival of faith. The rudiments of classic and contemporary Higher Life faith teaching and practice can be found in the Early Church Fathers, the Reformers, Lutheran and Dutch Reformed Pietism, and the evangelical mystics of the church.

The 19th-century “Higher Life” holiness movement was sometimes called “the life of faith.” This classic faith movement was interdenominational in scope and included people of a wide variety of theological persuasions—Presbyterian (A.B. Simpson, W.E. Boardman, A.T. Pierson), Lutheran (August Francke, Johannes Blumhardt, Otto Stockmayer), Baptist (A.J. Gordon, C.H. Spurgeon, F.B. Meyer, Oswald Chambers), Methodist (Phoebe Palmer, E.M. Bounds, R.K. Carter, George D. Watson, J. Hudson Taylor), Quaker (Hannah Whitall Smith), Congregational (Thomas Upham, Charles Finney, R.A.Torrey, Horace Bushnell), Plymouth Brethren (George Müller, Watchman Nee), Dutch Reformed (Andrew Murray), Episcopalian/ Anglican (Charles Cullis, Amy Carmichael), Salvation Army (Carrie Judd Montgomery), and many others.

This classic faith movement was also international in scope, beginning in mainland Europe (emerging out of German and Swiss Pietism—Blumhardt, Stockmayer, Trudel) and spreading to England (Müller, Spurgeon, Taylor, Meyer, Penn-Lewis, Chambers), South Africa (Murray), Asia (Taylor, Carmichael, Nee) and America (Moody, Gordon, Simpson, Torrey).

Throughout these blogs, I will draw from the treasures of their writings timeless truths that are just as relevant and real for us today.  Join me in the journey with these great saints to the Higher Life in Christ!

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Living an Ancient-Future Faith

“Stand at the crossroads and look: ask for the ancient paths,ask where the good way is, and walk in it” (Jeremiah 6:16, NIV).

You may have notice that in these blogs, I quote a lot from old Christian writers. The exhortation of the Scripture above is why. God tells us to ask for the ancient paths.  The ancient is the key to our future.  Robert Webber wrote of “The Ancient-Future Faith.”

 An old African-American Pentecostal preacher, known as “Mother Tucker,” for more than 50 years was the Mother Teresa of Tulsa, Oklahoma, with her ministry to the poor and homeless, and even received an honorary doctorate from Oral Roberts University for her loving service. One of her daughters is a good friend of mine.  Mother Tucker once spoke a word to a group of pastors that was really prophetic: “Everyone is looking for new revelation and God’s new thing, but the Scripture says . . . ,” and she quoted the Scripture above.

 God is doing new things (Isaiah 42:9; 43:19), but He has not changed truth. As E.M. Bounds wrote toward the end of the nineteenth-century, “It is not new truth that the world needs, so much as the constant iteration of old truths, yet ever new truths of the Bible.” Again Bounds counseled shortly before his death in 1913, “Hold to the old truths—double distilled [refined].”

A.B. Simpson, commenting on Jeremiah 6:16 in the first decade of the 20th-century, declared in a similar vein, “We are not originators of truth. We are not sent to formulate a new gospel or a new theology. Rather, we are to ‘stand . . . in the ways, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein.’” Simpson also held that God causes old truths to become “present truths.”

Some contemporary teachers have taken old principles of faith, modified them, and sometimes strayed from sound teaching and practice.  In the name of innovation and new revelation, they have in some ways sometimes abandoned the old paths.  They need to stand at the crossroads and ask for the ancient paths where the good way is, and walk in it, to heed the sound teachings and examples of the classic men and women of faith. While some old traditions can quench what the Spirit is doing today, we must be careful not to disdain all “old” teaching as antiquated tradition.

 Webster’s Dictionary defines a classic as “a work of enduring excellence,” “serving as a standard of excellence,” “of recognized value,” “authoritative,” “historically memorable.” The writings of many evangelical Christians of earlier times are considered to have become classics, particularly in American evangelical circles, because their insights have abided through the generations. What has often gone unnoticed is that these classic leaders were men and women of great faith.

 And so I feast on these ancient writers who have timely and timeless wisdom to impart to us today—early church fathers, Reformers, evangelical mystics, Lutheran and Dutch Reformed Pietists, English Puritans, Wesleyans and Calvinists, Scotch Covenanters, Quakers and Baptists, Higher Life Leaders, and many more.  Ancient writers who write about the ancient paths, and bring to life the Ancient Word of Life still speaking with relevance and life for the 21st Century—we live an Ancient-Future faith!

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The Lifting Power of Love and Grace!

“Love Lifted Me!”

In my last blog, I shared about the magnetic drawing power of God.  That drawing power to lift us into the Higher Christian Life, into the heavenly place, to the throne of God, comes through the love and grace of God.  I am drawn again and again to the ancient writers because they in turn draw us into the very heights of God!

We Are Lifted by the Love of God. The 5th century church father Chrysostom declared, “Love is the way that leads up to God.” He uses the Greek term anaphero, meaning “to carry up higher.” Love carries us when we cannot carry ourselves, when we cannot pull ourselves out of the pits of our lives. As the old hymn says, “When nothing else could help, love lifted me.” Puritan philosopher Thomas Traherne asserted that through the true love of God, “you are advanced to the Throne of God.”

We Are Lifted by God’s Grace. Higher Life writer Sarah Foulkes Moore, in her booklet Throne Rights, explains: “Through the grace of God, every believer is elevated with Him to the right hand of God and occupies potentially the Throne of the Lord. In the purposes of God this elevation took place at the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ through the believer’s identification with Him.”  Puritan Thomas Watson likens the lifting power of grace with three vivid images:

  • Grace carries us like a heavenly chariot: “A godly Christian begins his heaven here, grace translates him into the paradise of God. Elijah left his mantle behind—but he was taken up in a fiery chariot. So it is with a saint, the mantle of the flesh is left behind—but his soul is carried up in a fiery chariot of love.”
  • Grace carries us upward like fire: “Grace carries the soul up towards God. Grace is like fire. It is the nature of fire to ascend.”
  • Grace mounts us up on wings like eagles: “You who lie groveling on the earth—feeding like the serpent, on dust—or like eels wrapping yourselves in the mud and slime of the world, had you that new and holy principle of grace infused, your souls would sparkle upwards—you would “mount up to heaven as eagles”( Isaiah 40:31). Had you the sharp eye of faith to see Christ, you would soon have the swift wing of desire to fly to him.”

Meditate on the meaning of this old hymn:

He has raised our human nature

On the clouds to God’s right hand;

There we sit in heavenly places,

There with Him in glory stand.

Jesus reigns, adored by angels;

Man with God is on the throne;

Mighty Lord, in Thine Ascension

We by faith behold our own.

Think of this—He has raised our human nature. We are still human, but He has raised us above mere human nature. Imagine this: Man with God on the throne! We are seated on the throne with God. It is only by faith we can conceive of this truth. By His grace and love He raises our understanding that He has indeed lifted us up.

 

 

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The Magnetic Drawing Power of God

Jesus said, “If I be lifted up from the earth, I will draw all men unto Me” (John 12:32).

Jesus is magnetic!  He was speaking of the drawing power of His crucifixion—being lifted up on the Cross.  Classic Christian leaders have recognized the magnetic drawing power of God in bringing a person to Himself.  Here are some examples.

We Are Lifted by Contact with God Like a Magnetic Force. Seventeenth-century Puritan leader Thomas Watson cites Ezekiel 3:14, “The Spirit lifted me up,” explaining that we are lifted by the “magnetic power of God’s Spirit. The Spirit has not only a soul-purifying power—but a soul-elevating power. As the sun draws up the vapors from the earth—so the Spirit draws up the heart to God. . . . A Christian in this life is both checked and spurred; grace spurs him forward in his way to heaven, and then corruption checks him. But the Spirit comes in and draws up the heart to God; which is a mighty power—as if you should see a mill-stone drawn up into the sun.”

We Are Drawn Like a Magnet toward His Coming. Higher Life leader A.B. Simpson explains how we are drawn toward Jesus more and more as His Coming approaches:

         “Did you ever see a great magnet held over a little box of sawdust and steel filings? As it came within a certain range, the very air seemed magnetized and the little particles of steel got restless, and movement passed through them, and they vibrated and trembled. There was some strange power possessing them and attracting them. As it came nearer and nearer, at last they began to rise, and suddenly, clinging together, they sprang up and attached themselves to the magnet.

        So as this divine attraction comes nearer and nearer, our hearts are strangely thrilled, and we are looking for and hasting unto the coming of the Lord. A heavenly presence and a divine atmosphere are abroad. It is gathering day by day, and week by week, and month by month. The mighty attraction is coming nearer; the Parousia is in the air, and our hearts are responding. Some day soon the attraction will be so supreme that we shall be caught up, and the gravitation of earth will be counterbalanced, and we shall be with Him in the air. . . . It is on the way, and though it may seem yet a little way off, we run forward to meet it, and He will meet us more than half way.”

Are you attracted more and more to the presence of Jesus? Are you being drawn more and more into the life of the heavenlies?  Are you anticipating His kingdom to come and His will to be done more and more on the earth as His coming from the heavens approaches?

We Become Magnetically Charged. For Baptist Keswick leader F.B. Meyer, to come into contact with God is to encounter a magnetic force that pulls us up to a higher dimension of living, as he prayed, “Human souls who touch You become magnetized, charged with a spiritual force which the world can neither oppose nor resist.” When we touch Jesus, we become magnetized.

The Drawing Power of Jesus Through Us. Sometimes, just because of our position on the Throne and our exaltation of Jesus Christ, we are in a place of “Throne Influence.” When we lift up Jesus, the magnetic drawing power of Jesus flows through us authoritatively. We have significant influence because others are attracted to Jesus within us. When they come in contact with us, they come in contact with Jesus within us. We operate in the authority of throne influence and people are changed—not by us, but by the presence of Jesus within us. Let us pray as Meyer prayed:

 

Oh, let me touch You!

Let me dwell in unbroken contact with You,

that out of You successive tides of Divine energy

may pass out into and through my emptied and eager spirit,

flowing, but never ebbing,

and lifting me into a life of blessed ministry.

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Throne Life–The Law of Lift

“God . . .  raised us up and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:6).

 “Throne Life,” as called by classic Higher Life writers like A.B. Simpson and John MacMillan, is life seated with Christ on the throne of God in the heavenly places.  They understood that we cannot lift ourselves up; it is God who raises us up through what they insightfully called the “law of lift.”

We Are Lifted into the Heavenly Places by Faith Like the Law of Lift Overcoming the Law of Gravity. The ancient church father Chrysostom, commenting on this verse, asserted, “Your faith is what lifts you up.” Our faith is what enables us to go higher. He uses the Greek term anago, meaning to lead up to a higher place. This is just as the Apostle John declared that faith “is the victory that has overcome the world” (1 John 5:4).

Long before the age of the airplane, Higher Life leaders envisioned faith as the “law of lift” spiritually. Puritan Thomas Watson declares that grace through faith mounts us up on wings like eagles : “You who lie groveling on the earth—feeding like the serpent, on dust—or like eels wrapping yourselves in the mud and slime of the world, had you that new and holy principle of grace infused, your souls would sparkle upwards—you would “mount up to heaven as eagles,” Isaiah 40:31. Had you the sharp eye of faith to see Christ, you would soon have the swift wing of desire to fly to him.”

Hannah Whitall Smith likewise illustrated this vividly: “Birds overcome the lower law of gravitation by the higher law of flight; and the soul on wings overcomes the lower law of sin and misery and bondage by the highest law of spiritual flying. The ‘law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus’ must necessarily be a higher and more dominant law than the law of sin and death; therefore the soul that has mounted into this upper region of the life in Christ cannot fail to conquer and triumph.”

We Are Lifted by the Life of Jesus Within Us. Jesus Christ has become a priest “according to the power of an indestructible life,” the author of Hebrews declares (7:16 ). Andrew Murray comments on this verse: “These precious words are the key to the higher life. . . . His priesthood acts as an inner life within us, lifting us up. . . . Our High Priest by His life-power enters our life, and renews it, and lifts it up; His heavenly life becomes our actual life, and the presence of God surrounds and shines on us as the sunlight shines on our bodies.” F.J. Huegel describes this identification with Christ as “swept forward by the tide of divine life, . . . spontaneously from the inner surgings of a heavenly life.”

If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, because you are in Him and He is in you, you are seated in the heavenly places with Jesus on the throne of God.  You have been lifted beyond yourself.  Begin to realize your position with Christ and enjoy throne life with HIm!  Experience the “spontaneous inner surgings of a heavenly life!”

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