Test All Things Pt. 1 – Commentary on the ‘Baptist Mystic’

charles stanely

Christian mysticism is becoming the new norm due to the Christian media, and its mainstream Christian media personalities. Mysticism is promoted as though it were just another Christian practice, and the result is that it can be challenging for followers of Christ to discern the difference between a relationship with God, and the mystical counterfeit. It comes in various forms; some in the form of new age mysticism, sometimes it is promoted as Roman Catholic Mysticism, and sometimes it is promoted in more subtle and simple ways, such as with Charles Stanley, who does not deny his mystical tendencies, and even described it, in the interview below, with Christianity today, as simply “knowing who God is, having a relationship with him, and hearing his voice”. But, is his understanding of “knowing who God is, having a relationship with him, and hearing his voice” the same as how the Bible describes these three aspects of Christian living?

To find out, if Mr Stanley’s mystical approach to “knowing who God is, having a relationship with him, and hearing his voice” is consistent with what Scripture teaches, one must compare the two teachers, which is Scripture and Charles Stanley.

Christianity Today

In the interview with Christianity Today, Mr. Stanley makes the claim that his lack of having a father in his life has caused him to live his Christian life without experiencing God’s love for him, and that it was a mystical experience that revealed God’s love for him, as stated below.

Talk about the absence of your father. For some people that would make it difficult to pray to God as Father.

You’re exactly right. That was very difficult. When people would ask me about my dad, I’d say, “My father died when I was nine months of age. So I never knew him.” Period. There was no emotion. That was the end of it until later on in my life.

I’d been a pastor for quite a number of years, and something was going on that I couldn’t figure out. There was an emptiness I couldn’t define. It forced me to get on my face and cry out to God, “Lord, what are you trying to say to me? Because whatever it is, I’m not getting the message.”

I called four friends and told them that I was trying to find the will of God about something. I didn’t know what it was, didn’t know how to go about it. Would they be willing to meet with me and just talk with me? So we made an appointment to meet.

I said, “What I’d like to do is this: I’d like to tell you everything I know about myself, and between the four of you and God, I will do whatever you will tell me to do.” So we talked from about two o’clock till dinner, and then after dinner. I woke up in the middle of the night many times and wrote 17 longhand legal-sized sheets of things that I wanted to remember to tell them that had not crossed my mind the previous afternoon.

Next morning we talked on until about ten o’clock. Finally I said, “That’s everything I know about me. I don’t think I held out anything.”

One of the men said, “Charles, put your head on the table and close your eyes.” So I did. “Your father just picked you up in his arms and held you. What do you feel?” And I burst out crying, and I cried and cried and cried and cried. Then he asked me again, and I just kept crying.

Finally when I settled down I said, “I feel warm, loved, and accepted.” For the first time in my life, I acknowledged and recognized that God really loved me, that I could have a personal relationship with him that went beyond salvation. It changed my life. It changed my ministry. It changed my perspective about everything, and it made me realize how very, very, very important a person’s relationship to their father is.

After reading Mr. Stanley’s story about his revelation of God’s love, one should then ask, “does Scripture teach believers to know God’s love by telling their life’s story to Christian friends, then being told to put one’s head down in a table, closing one’s eyes, and being told that the Father just picked that person up and gave them a hug, in order for them to know God’s love, and to know that God wants to have a relationship with them?

The Bible teaches that believers in Christ can know God’s love for them by understanding that God loves them so much that he did not spare his only begotten Son from suffering and death, and that this is the basis for the believer to know that God will give his children all things, and that nothing can separate a believer in Christ from God’s love.

Romans 8

31    What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?
32    He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?
33    Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth.
34    Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.
35    Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
36    As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.
37    Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.
38    For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,
39    Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

A follower of Christ can also be sure of God’s love for him, or her, simply by reading what Jesus said about the Father’s love for his children.

Matthew 6

25    Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?
26    Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?
27    Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?
28    And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:
29    And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
30    Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?
31    Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?
32    (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.
33    But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
34    Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.

Scripture makes it abundantly clear how much the Father loves his children, who were bought with the blood of his Son, Jesus Christ.

Romans 5

1    Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:
2    By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
3    And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience;
4    And patience, experience; and experience, hope:
5    And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.
6    For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.
7    For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die.
8    But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
9    Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.
10    For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.
11    And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.

One must only read what God said on this matter, and believe it. This is possible because the Holy Spirit has been given to those who believe in Christ. Furthermore, the Holy Spirit has been sent by Jesus to teach his followers about Jesus, and his good news of salvation.

John 14

14    If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.
15    If ye love me, keep my commandments.
16    And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever;
17    Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.
18    I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.
19    Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also.
20    At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you.
21    He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.
26    But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.
27    Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.

John 15

26    But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me

Mr. Stanley also presents an interesting way of hearing from God, and being sure that the spirit speaking to an individual is really the Holy Spirit.

You often say in your books and preaching that God speaks to you, tells you things, and gives you messages. What is that like for you? Is it a thought? Is it a voice you hear?

For me, I get this strong sense of feeling that’s so clear, so direct to me. Like this week, something happened and I thought, Well, I could do thus and such, and God said, “Don’t do that.” I don’t hear a voice, but it’s so crystal sharp and clear to me, I know not to disobey that.

I think that comes from early in life as you learn to listen. You make mistakes; after a while, you realize as you obey him, it turns out right, and whatever your reason was for not obeying him, it doesn’t turn out right.

Is this pragmatic approach to hearing from God, and testing the spirits, affirmed by Scripture. Are strong feelings, that one may have about a matter, a way of identifying the voice of God? Should believers be confident that they heard from God just because they received the desired results? Jesus makes it clear that the pragmatic approach can be used as a tool to deceive people.

Mark 13

22    For false Christs and false prophets shall rise, and shall shew signs and wonders, to seduce, if it were possible, even the elect.

Jesus also gave this warning about the heart of those who seek after a sign, instead of God’s word.

Matthew 12

38    Then certain of the scribes and of the Pharisees answered, saying, Master, we would see a sign from thee.
39    But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas:

The Apostle John teaches the church not to believe every spirit, but to test the spirits by their doctrine.

1John 4

1    Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.
2    Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God:
3    And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.
4    Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.
5    They are of the world: therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them.
6    We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error.

Scripture does not teach believers that they are dependent upon hearing from God, outside of Scripture, in order to know God’s will, but instead, the Holy Spirit teaches believers through Scripture, and it is Scripture that matures and equips believer for every good work.

2Timothy 3

16    All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
17    That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.

2John 1

26    These things have I written unto you concerning them that seduce you.
27    But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him.
28    And now, little children, abide in him; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming.

John 15

3    Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.
4    Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.
5    I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.
6    If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.
7    If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.

Psalm 1

1    Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.
2    But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.
3    And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.

The Apostle Peter elevates the written word of God as more sure than his own experience with God.

2Peter 1

16    For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty.
17    For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.
18    And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount.
19    We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts:
20    Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.
21    For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.

Therefore, strong feelings are not the test of hearing from God, and knowing his will, but studying and understanding Scripture is how believers are to hear from God, and know his will.  Believers know who God is by believing in the gospel of his Son, Jesus Christ, learning about him through Scripture, and obeying him. Abiding in Christ (prayerfully studying, meditating upon, and obeying, God’s word) is how believers are to know God’s will, and it is how they become equipped for doing his will. It is how they become more like Christ. It is how they have an intimate knowledge of God’s love for them. A mystical walk with God is not commanded of believers, but abiding in Christ is commanded of every believer. Abiding in Christ is also called walking in the Spirit (Galatians 5:16-25), being transformed by renewing one’s mind (Roman 12:1-2), putting on the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 13:14), putting on the new man (Ephesians 4:22-24), putting on the whole armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-18), and adding to one’s faith (2Peter 1:5-11). This is the key to having an intimate relationship with God, and it has nothing to do with sitting in the dark, in silence, learning to hear from God outside of Scripture. God, indeed, can speak to anyone, as he has in the past, but he does not command his people to practice hearing from him in this manner. Instead, he commands his children to learn of him by abiding in his Son, Jesus Christ, who is the Word of God (John 1:1, Revelation 19-13). The practice of mysticism among Christians will only serve to take them away from God, as it replaces their relationship with God with a counterfeit, experienced-based, religion, that will lead them into error by way of mysticism’s subjective experiences.

Mark 9

2    And after six days Jesus taketh with him Peter, and James, and John, and leadeth them up into an high mountain apart by themselves: and he was transfigured before them.
3    And his raiment became shining, exceeding white as snow; so as no fuller on earth can white them.
4    And there appeared unto them Elias with Moses: and they were talking with Jesus.
5    And Peter answered and said to Jesus, Master, it is good for us to be here: and let us make three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias.
6    For he wist not what to say; for they were sore afraid.
7    And there was a cloud that overshadowed them: and a voice came out of the cloud, saying, This is my beloved Son: hear him.
8    And suddenly, when they had looked round about, they saw no man any more, save Jesus only with themselves.

John 15

1    I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman.
2    Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.
3    Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.
4    Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.
5    I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.
6    If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.
7    If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.
8    Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.
9    As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love.
10    If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.
11    These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.

Related articles are listed below:

  1. The New Christianity Pt. 6 – The ‘New Age’ Experience-Based Religion
  2. Worldview Weekend’s Commentary on IHOP
  3. The New Christianity Pt. 10 – Setting the Stage for ‘The False Prophet

Author: SlaveofJesusChrist

I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. Galatians 2:20

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