Charisma and Theology Do Not Equate to Character and True Spirituality

(Unsplash/Greg Weaver)

The four Gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke and John—show several encounters of Jesus with theologians. Largely, they were not positive encounters because the theologians thought that they knew much more than Jesus did.

Even though they had the same Old Testament that Christians use today, they could not believe Jesus was God.

Even though they saw Jesus healing the sick, they could not believe these miracles were from God.

Even though they saw Jesus delivering people from demonic oppression, they thought the power Jesus was using was demonic.

Their theology, coupled with a lack of real fellowship with God, hindered them from seeing the obvious reality: Jesus was God, His miracles were divine and He was above their human traditions and theology. They were unable to see such powerful reality, which was visible only to spiritual eyes.

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So theological eyes do not equate to spiritual eyes.

Theologians today can have massive theoretic knowledge of God—just as the theologians who confronted Jesus had—but without spiritual eyes, theological eyes are blind.

Sadducees and Pharisees, the theologians who saw no divinity in Jesus, had no character and spirituality. Their religion was only formal and nominal theological theories, as Jesus showed when he confronted their empty religiosity.

The same problem often happens to theologians today. They have massive theoretic theological knowledge but lack real knowledge and fellowship with Jesus. Sadducees and Pharisees have inhabited the hearts of theologians for centuries. Pride is an old companion of theoretic theology.

If theology can pose its own challenges by simulating spirituality when there is hypocrisy and false spirituality, a lack of proper Bible knowledge and character can pose other dangers.

The Bible says that Samson had a big strength, and this was a gift from God. He had no character and was an immoral man, but his gift never left him.

He could stand in the presence of a massive crowd and show his great strength. Weak people could conclude that God's strength in him equated to God's character in him. But this was not so. Theology and charisma never equate to character.

Many people who have character have no theology and charisma, and many people with theology and charisma have no character.

If you see a man with big theological rhetoric, it does not follow that he has a big character.

If you see a man showing big spiritual signs, it does not follow that he has a big character.

The biggest scandals in the church happen when people put excessive trust in the theology of a man—this happened with Ravi Zacharias, who had a big theology, but a terrible character—or in the charisma of a man—Jimmy Swaggart was an example.

The spiritual task of a man of God is to point people to Jesus. When he points people to his own glory, going after their money, tragedy follows.

Every human being is prone to fall. But if a man of God points everybody to Jesus, even if he falls, people will continue looking to Jesus.

Theology or charisma without character points people to human glory. Character, even without big theology or charisma, points everybody to Jesus. So if he falls, no one will notice because all of them are with their eyes fixated on Jesus.

More important than having theology or gifts of the Holy Spirit is to have our eyes fixated on Jesus.

Yes, if possible, we should have theology and spiritual gifts. But without constant fellowship with Jesus, theology and charisma are useless and harm our mission to bring people to Jesus and His kingdom.

The Bible says, "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world" (1 John 4:1).

We are taught to test the spirits within the church, especially to see if the theology and spiritual gifts are according to the character of God. We should therefore test the spirit of leaders who have theology and charisma.

"The heart is more deceitful than all things and desperately wicked; who can understand it?" (Jer. 17:9).

God's Word never deceives. Even the heart of people with theology and charisma can deceive, so we should never avoid the responsibility to test the spirits.

We are taught not to trust in our hearts and in the hearts of other people. We have always to trust in Jesus and His heart.

If you attend church only for a nice philosophical sermon, demons will use it to dupe you. I knew a former Presbyterian minister who had a superb philosophical and theological knowledge. When he fell in adultery and other scandals, his followers were shocked that their idol let them down. This is because his theological philosophy pointed people not to Jesus Christ but to himself as a gospel superstar. Many became apostate.

If you attend church because you want to see big miracles, but you do not care about the character of the superstar preacher, sooner or later you will be let down.

The only superstar in the church should be Jesus Christ. Beware of any charismatic or theological superstar who points people to himself, not to Jesus Christ.

The church does not need pastors with the strength of Samson but who lack character.

The church does not need pastors with the massive theological knowledge of Sadducees and Pharisees but who lack real spirituality.

The church needs pastors with a "sheep spirit" for Jesus, pastors willing to make sheep for Jesus. Pastors who do not want to have such this sheep spirit eventually become greedy wolves.

The best way to avoid such wolves is to beware of leaders with charisma and theology but no character.

Test the spirits. By doing so, you will save yourself from wolves.

Julio Severo is the author of Prophetic Prayers: Daily Prayer Guide Based on the Book of Proverbs, published by WestBow Press, a division of Thomas Nelson & Zondervan.

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