Carol and I know many people who are dis-satisfied with church-life. They want to go deeper into the Word of God. They want to get into the mind of Christ so that they can know God’s thoughts on every issue, but they think of church services as on the level of kindergarten. They place themselves on a higher plane than the Church and look down on others.
However, when I look at their lives, I find many of them to be spiritually arrogant. Many of them do weird things – in the name of Christ, of course. I am reminded of Second Timothy 4:3-4 that says, “The time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.”
One Sunday evening, I watched Pastor Frank tell a parishioner, “If you believe and stick your head out the church window and yell ‘Jesus’ three times as loud as you can, you will be healed.” The woman obeyed and Frank victoriously pronounced her healed. When she died a month later, Pastor Frank merely intoned, “She didn’t have faith.”
I watched Pastor Carey announce to his congregation, “If you believe, and sign the book of life in the back of the church, you’ll never die. No matter how long Jesus delays His return, you’ll live until He comes back.” With people lining up to sign his book, I asked my father, “When Brother Carey dies, that will disprove his theory, won’t it?” Dad responded, “No, son. His followers will just think the pastor didn’t have faith.” Brother Carey died in 1993 and people continue to propagate his fables.
One day while praying, Jack had an experience with the Lord that could have changed his life. Jack was excited and wrote down every detail so he would never forget it; and every time visitors came, Jack excitedly read the experience to them. One day a minister he hadn’t seen for some years came to visit, and Jack went to his room to get the document. The visiting minister wondered what happened when he heard Jack yell, “Oh no! The rats ate my experience!”
Yes, the rodents found their way into the desk and destroyed the document. However, Jack had lost the reality of his experience to spiritual rats long before. Why? He placed his affection on an experience rather than on the Lord of the experience.
Let’s back up for a minute. I am from a Pentecostal background and have been affiliated with various denominations. I’ve also been dis-satisfied with church at times. I always want to go deeper into the Word of God, and I want to know God’s thoughts on every issue. So, what’s the difference?
Many of the folks to whom I referred place their faith in spiritual experiences, spiritual knowledge, and spiritual gifts; but that emphasis tends to overshadow Jesus. Scripture tells us to exalt Jesus, the resurrected Christ, the Giver of the experiences, knowledge, and gifts. That’s where I am. There is a world of difference here. If we are devoted to or focused on Jesus as we study the Bible, He will help us gain the knowledge, experiences, and gifts as He sees appropriate. But our priorities will be correct.
Some friends remind me that First Corinthians 12:31 says “Earnestly desire the best gifts.” They think that’s an exhortation to go after gifts that appeals to them. But I respond, “You are seeking the gifts while side-stepping the Giver of the gifts. That’s backwards. Instead, that verse encourages us to utilize the gift that is most appropriate for the situation, for there is NO spiritual gift that is more important than any other. And if we seek God’s input, He will grant us the wisdom we need as we respond to any and every situation.”
I’ve seen people healed of terminal diseases and seen other miracles take place. But I understand the purpose of miracles and spiritual experiences. Yes, they benefit man, but they are supposed to help us focus our attention on the Lord, to honor and bring glory to God.
First Corinthians 2:16b tells us, “We have the mind of Christ.” That is, Jesus will reveal His thoughts as we remain true to Scripture and turn away from those who exalt either themselves or their ideas.
“Itching ears” generates misplaced devotion and causes us to put our faith in miracles or in experiences. Instead, we should put our faith in the Scripture and on the Lord Jesus Christ.