Within a few years of becoming a Christian in the mid-70s, I found that I was faced with a dilemma. My heart was brimming with love for Christ. I was completely overwhelmed by the realization that he had given his life for me, and I wanted nothing more than to give my life for him. I was very emotional, and expressing my emotion in prayer and praise was as natural as breathing.
At the same time, I was learning a lot, as I was devouring books by J.I. Packer, Charles Spurgeon, John Stott, Jerry Bridges, A.W. Tozer, C.S. Lewis, Watchman Nee, Andrew Murray, Corrie Ten Boom, Elisabeth Elliot, and many others. My understanding of God’s Word was growing, and my thinking was maturing.
Then it happened. Slowly, I began to realize I was going to have to make a choice I didn’t want to make.
By that time I had grown to love the doctrines of grace that I found in the writings of Packer and Spurgeon and Stott, and later, other writers like J.C. Ryle and Sinclair Ferguson. I had also grown to love the passionate expressions of worship common in the somewhat unstructured environment of the charismatic movement of the 70s. But… whenever I found a church that valued good doctrine, it was generally opposed to passionate expressions of worship. And whenever I found a church that valued passionate worship, good doctrine was almost a matter of indifference to them. Frankly, that baffled me.
Not going to church wasn’t an option. (It still isn’t, by the way, but I’m not so sure that’s as obvious to everyone as it should be.) So I found myself forced to choose between profound, intense, God-exalting worship, and profound, intense, God-exalting doctrine; or, between heat and light, as some have put it.
That isn’t the case so much any more. There are many people who identify themselves as Reformed charismatics, or charismatic Calvinists. (I fully intend to pursue that subject at some point.) But back then it seemed to me that those who should have been most impassioned by the glorious truths of God’s sovereignty and grace, were instead dying of dignity.
I want to follow this post with at least one more on this particular subject, but for now I’m curious about something. Have any of the rest of you ever found yourself facing this same dilemma? What did you do?