Charismatic Existentialism – “I Define Myself and Destiny”

I believe we are at a discussion point concerning how God and the Bible view destiny and purpose fulfillment and how this generation has blended humanism and existentialism into their approach and experience of personal development. Our discussion will have a focus on the end results: “having the end in mind from the beginning.” The discussion will transform the path that discipling takes towards individual spiritual fullness and destiny fulfillment.

In these days of “ultimates,” we should be setting the standards higher, the plumb line straighter, and the definition of ‘success’ more accurately. The restoration of original design for Ecclesia and discipling is before us, and the dialogue has produced a spectrum of responses. Some of them have given us a green light for pursuing personal purpose through a mixture of humanism and existentialism with charismatic experiences. We have appropriated charismatic gifts and spiritual power and authority dynamics as part of a process that blends “be all I can be” and “I can be anything I want” into our practical applications of anointing. That is, we have validated some approaches to discipling and personal leadership that envision spiritual endue-ment and endowment as add-on features or advantages charismatic people enjoy that make the previously natural process more efficient. We have done so to our hurt.

Right now, the contrast between the kingdom of God and the kingdoms of darkness should be great! Gray areas should be disappearing. Persecution should purify the kingdom and produce revival and riot in culture. In other words, where God is going with this present season and where the cosmic order (the spirit of the world that is Father’s enemy) is going are further and further apart. Being “relevant” right now means “moving our lives closer to what is relevant to the kingdom of God,” not discovering some way to mainstream spiritual things by a new mixture of kingdom dynamics with natural man wisdom and strength.

“Taking it to the streets” has been overly simplified. By an effort to prove a point, we dumb down the actions and activities of the kingdom in an effort to prove that “we can all do the stuff.” We are allowing the lines to be redrawn in this effort in ways that will alter the foundations because we lack a functional leadership to apply discernment to the mixtures. The first step of the Ecclesia was characterized by the “devoting themselves to the didache of the apostles.” In other words, when the kingdom functions in greater spiritual power and authority, more leadership and accountability is needed, not less. We are trending toward existentialism by assuming that the more power and authority a person exhibits the less leadership and accountability is needed. We do so to our hurt.

At the ignition point of the early Ecclesia, the newly converted were ignorant, and the battle for blending their existing spiritual assumptions into the Gospel of the kingdom immediately began. We should see that in a season of harvest, a separation of wheat and tares is more necessary than ever before! Having harvested the seed, we must then separate wheat from tares so the seed planted in the next season will not be a mixture. Jesus made it clear that the time of harvest is the time of distinction and discernment. “Wait until harvest to separate.”

In other words, activation demands greater accountability, not less. Perhaps to some extent the present refreshing of miracles, signs and wonders is also refreshing errors. If hell cannot keep us from any spiritual or kingdom provision, hell will work to limit the power of that provision. That limitation always arrives in the form of substitutes. In this instance, if hell cannot keep us from
miracles, signs and wonders, fuller activations of spiritual gifts, and restoration of original design and function of kingdom leadership, hell will work to limit the power of these demonstrations. That will include substitutes that encourage or envelope a mixture, running a fine line between witchcraft and animistic practices and ancient modes of thinking contrary to Truth. The enemy will work to corrupt the motivations behind the valid works and working to produce the end result of which Jesus warned: “Many shall say in that day, ‘We did the stuff!’ But, I will say, ‘Who are you and how did you get in here?’ Because it is the ones doing what Father wants that I know. The rest I ignore.”

So, existentialism and humanism move us away at some fundamental place from the what-God-wants into a what-I-want or what seems right to a man. It will move us into a place of accepting what we think is best as a substitute for the renewing of the mind that proves what God wants. What ever we might think about original sin or depravity, it is certain that what we’ve done, what others have done to us, and what hell has been and is doing right now must be overcome by the power of the Cross, the power of the Spirit, and the discipling process that produces complete obedience through submission. We cannot be the source and resource of our destiny fulfillment, not can we simply appropriate redemptive provision and spiritual power as a child of God advantage given to enable our incomplete and hopelessly perverted grasp of purpose.

Discernment and Revelation

Certainly, we should have the capacity to discern spiritual conditions to determine whether or not they are “of” or “from” God. Certainly, we can activate and develop the charisma of discerning spiritual conditions. Just as certainly, the Revelation available through Scripture is the highest level of discernment test material! The maturity of discernment comes through the application of these sources of discernment, and this maturity should be available to the entire kingdom through leaders so that a corporate body of discernment is available as a foundation. [Hebrews 5:14] That is, some stuff should be rather easily dismissed and taken out with the trash because “it just ain’t right.”

Each generation faces its “battle of the moment” and shirking our discussion and discernment of these “roaring giants” is a sign of inadequate leadership.

There should be a body of work available within the kingdom that provides the application of discernment to functions of leadership: apostles and prophets are foundational and should be able to address issues at the foundational level; evangels should be prepared to recognize pure announcement material and the proper implementation of kingdom Gospel announcement; and teachers should be able to provide both a full picture of personal and corporate behaviors and applications of Truth.

In each case, their leadership functions is both about making decisions and solving problems: no leaders in the kingdom have a “hope you like what we’re giving you” responsibility without a “what are gonna do now?” authority! While we are certainly not good at providing a comprehensive discussion of how Scripture and practice properly apply God’s ways and principles and implement God’s goals and fulfill God’s purpose, we should be!

We should be as expert in accountability as we are in authority! Yet, we seem content to revel in the reality that folks are doing the stuff as an end point. We wink at terrible dysfunction and malpractice that should only be part of a process of leadership accountability that will remove them: we should provide a safe place for people learn how to function, but we should, as a kingdom Ecclesia, do something about dysfunction and malpractice. And, we shouldn’t have this massive emptiness and silence about the mixture of new age works of sorcery with kingdom dunamis!

The apostles of Biblical days were ready and faithful to draw some lines about what is and what is not “of God” by maintaining the integrity of Revelation through continuous discussions of the Gospel and the functions of spiritual gifts and kingdom leadership. In their’s and every spiritual generation, there were “trendy” distractions that provided an unhealthy overemphasis of basic principles as well as perversions of those principles that weakened or undermined foundational truths. There is more preaching of the Gospel of the kingdom to the Ecclesia than to the world because we are learning to function as kingdom citizens once we see and enter the kingdom.

Each generation must faithfully address these new/old rehash mixtures as they are expressed in their spiritual generation. Usually, there is a rather basic issue at stake, just as there is in this case of humanism and existentialism, because the trend of mixture moves the whole Body away from its foundations.

People should be moved back from distractions by leaders, in other words, because this is the work of leaders. Leaders cannot simply throw out seed and be satisfied that “at least some of it will fall on good ground.” They have a responsibility to do something about the hard ground, stony ground, and weed systems that choke out fruitfulness. They have a responsibility and authority to maintain the integrity of the kingdom through protocols, and address the mixture of their generations openly. Paul did this with the effort to mix Jewish tradition with kingdom Gospel, or prevalent forms of ancient evils with kingdom lifestyles and ministry practices. We should do the same.

Existential Spiritual Experience

Existentialism is a very powerful, though difficult to discuss, philosophical position. It is a discussion among philosophers who had trouble agreeing with one another, a reactionary discussion of existence that was centered upon the individual rather than more universal considerations.

Jump to the attitude that existentialism produces with me: “I exist, so I am an individual. Therefore, I am the one who develops my values and beliefs and determines my destiny.”

Individual “true essence” (another way of describing identity) comes from myself instead of or more than an attributed identity someone else has developed that can be used to define me. Through myself, my own experience or “consciousness,” my values develop and determine my meaning and identity. In this way, some existentialists argue that external sources should not determine or shape individual identity. Nothing could be more diametrically opposed to God’s way of doing things! And, this kind of thinking runs cross-grain with God’s revelation of how things work in the spirit.

The troubling thing is that I hear this sentiment and attitude in the speech patterns and spiritual experiences of many modern charismatics. Our modern Spirit-filled experience has often become more of a “designer brand” of anointing, and our churches have become “designer brands” of “the church you’ve been looking for.” This approach is taking us further from Jesus’ original design and intent for a kingdom assembly (ekklesia) and the fullness of the power of the Cross and Spirit. We are developing a new form of charismatic experience and existence that allows for or appropriates the spirit of the world and diminishes or even denouncing the design of Jesus in discipling and the redemptive process available through the Cross, Resurrection, Ascension, and Intercession of Jesus.

The problem? In existential scenario, I am accountable to myself for living up to my destiny and purpose. God becomes my spiritual career consultant, and the Bible a good textbook for studying how other people discovered their individualized paths to meaning. Kingdom leadership follows along these lines toward “being the best I can be” and opens the doors to a more pervasive humanistic christianism. In its most basic expression, this attitude measures experience by “fits me fine” or “that’s what I’ve been looking for” and “this will take me where I want to go.” Kingdom leadership becomes the “can you get me what I want?” attendant at my spiritual spa or workout gym.

The problem? This is the opposite of the way God is working in my life! This limits the power of the Cross and Spirit by making them add-on features of my personal quest for being the “me” I have chosen myself to be. At some point this leads me to a “God needs to get with the program” mentality about the kingdom and kingdom leadership. The Bible becomes a set of guidelines for achieving rather than being profitable for teaching, reproof, correction, and discipling in what is right behavior. [2 Timothy 3:16] And, my understanding of “seasons” removes them right out of the Father’s hands and into my own as if “seasons” were general kingdom environmental shifts but alterations in the way things should be based upon myself as the center of the universe.

And, I become enamored with being an achiever instead of a leader. I seek no responsibility for others, just the ability to perform cool stuff as a demonstration of my personal spiritual achievement. Whatever God is doing in my life become a validation or confirmation of me instead of a confirmation of Him and a demonstration of the Gospel.

Created with Destiny

I am not the Potter. I am the clay. I am not the creator. I am the creature. I do not have the right to myself. That right comes from the Creator and the Redeemer. [1 Corinthians 6:19-20] The idea that my existence is the basis for my right to myself, the right or authorization to make of myself what I will, and that my salvation experiences are part of that choice – a really good one, of course! – wrecks something fundamental at the foundation. Jesus isn’t providing redemption so you can salvage your own dreams; He is redeeming you in order to restore what He had in mind in the first place, something irreparably corrupted by what you’ve done, what others have done to you, and what hell has been or is doing in your life.

It is here that modern Americans christians start thinking that “God needs to start doing a better job of being God.”

They begin to assume that God should provide them a personalized Gospel, an individualized kingdom experience, and make them more successful by their own definition of success. In this way, they expect God to listen to their dreams and ambitions and send mighty angels to clear the way for their rise to the top or experience the fullness of their vision of purpose. The reality is that you don’t know who you are until God tells you who you are, and you have no hope of becoming that person He had in mind outside the redemptive and restorative work of God. Your surrender positions you to receive what nothing in you can possible achieve, and in the process a complete overhaul of personal identity will occur!

Our present embrace of personal achievement is so narcissistic as to be disgusting, but it has become a mantra! “I can do all things through Christ” and “My God shall supply all my need,” which is part of Paul’s discussion of giving, has been fitted into a whole new context of humanistic ambition and achievement – from giving to taking – and the end point is “I can do whatever I want and Christ will strength me and supply me what I want.” Such a false expectation fails to produce the desired result, people mourn the loss of things that were never their’s, and develop bitterness of soul from the disappointment and tend to blame others, circumstances, “them,” or God for the shortfall.

We love to attack certain flavors of faith to discuss this narcissism: the Faith people did this, the Word people taught us to “get our stuff,” the seeker-friendly people made this happen, or the “changing times christianism” produced this. Not so much! It is more about tailoring both Gospel and function toward the existing spiritual atmosphere instead of confronting the culture and moving ourselves and the atmosphere toward God’s goals. In other words, our present narcissism is more a symptom of a deeper problem, a misappropriation of good teaching and charismatic activation than the fault of some “false doctrine.” The problem is rather pervasive across charismatic categories.

This narcissism is what existentialism and humanism are all about. I start with myself as a basis for discovering and developing my destiny instead of embracing a cross that kills me and resurrect me so He can restore what has been lost through what I did, what others did to me, and what hell has been and is doing in my life right now. I cannot redeem myself. I cannot restore myself.

Self-image and Existentialism

Paul says, “I am what I am by the grace of God.” That is true humility! That negates human wisdom and strength as a source of personal redemptive progress. It destroys any other measuring stick of destiny fulfillment outside the finished work of the Cross and the power of the Spirit applied through greater and greater surrender decisions.

We need to can the “fixer-up” model of redemption without falling back into the “everything will be alright once we die” assumptions. We need to restore restoration to the model!

Jesus creates what the Father wants. Having accepted responsibility to create All, He accepted responsibility to redeem All – “the Lamb sacrificed from before the foundation of the world.” having accepted responsibility to create and redeem, He also accepted responsibility to restore so that He will one day present the Father with a completed “what-God-wants” universe, everything will be exactly where it should be, as it should be.

What I’m pointing out here is that Jesus doesn’t start with the creature, He starts with “what-God-wants.” The death of the Cross, life of the Resurrection, Authority of the Ascension, and His present Intercession that applies this to restoration guarantees the availability of full restoration of what the Father wanted in an eternal condition. That is, when He is finished restoring, things are gonna be better than they were before His work was applied to all things! Everything will be where it belongs: redeemed and restored or judged and destroyed. (There is destruction in redemption necessary to full and proper restoration.)

So, Jesus doesn’t begin working out His salvation in you with what you are in terms of “taking it from here and patch things up.” He is restoring you to be the person Father wanted when you were created in the first place. That finished work will include a glorified body someday. But that work involves personal transformation here and now that restores what God had in His mind when no one but God knew you were there.

The issue becomes “who am I when I am fully restored?” The issue becomes, “Who knows what I am, fully restored?” The issue becomes “How do I come to understand who I am, fully restored?” The issue becomes “How do I discover my true destiny and prioritize the work of God that restores that true self-image and identity?” The issue becomes “Do I tell God who I am or allow God to tell me who I am?” The issue is never “I am now in charge of my redemption.”

Posted in
Dr. Don

Dr. Don

Scroll to Top