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Liver Shivers, Goosebumps, and “I Have Peace About This Pastor”

A quote from Ken Sande in The Peacemaker (2004, 3rd ed., Baker, Ch. 1 endnote, p. 299):

I have found that many Christians rely more on their own ideas and feelings than they do on the Bible, especially when Scripture commands them to do difficult things. In particular, many people seem to believe they can be sure they are doing what is right if they pray and have a sense of  ‘inner peace.’ Nowhere does the Bible guarantee that a sense of peace is a sure sign that one is on the right course. Many people experience a sense of relief (‘inner peace’) even when they are on a sinful course, simply because they are getting away from stressful responsibilities.’

I would add that the relief can also come simply because a decision has been made and a direction has been chosen. I am not certain of the root of this false teaching historically, but it likely includes a misunderstanding of Philippians 4:6 – 7

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. NASB

Having spent a significant time around charismatics (Assembly of God, and Pentecostals), there was clearly an understanding among many of them (including pastors and leaders) that a physical response (including manifestations like gooseflesh) indicated that “the Holy Spirit was working.”  We cessationists often mock or deride their subjectivity, but how many Christians do you know who engage in something similar to Sande describes at the beginning of this post? Just when a choice is to be made, they decide to follow a sinful (or at least stupid/foolish) path because some kind of coincidental event occurs which “confirmed my choice in my spirit.”


Imagine if God’s Son went on such feelings, and “inner peace”?

Matthew 26:37-39  37 And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and distressed.  38 Then He said to them, “My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with Me.”  39 And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.”

The Greek words of interest are lupeisthai–“grieved,” (v. 37b) ademonein–“distressed” (v. 37b) and perilupos— “deeply grieved” (v. 38a) in the original language. They have meanings which are well represented for the most part in the various translations. Friberg’s lexicon has “afflicted beyond measure” for perilupos, which takes the meaning much deeper, and matches then His remark of the extent of his grief–“to the point of death.”

What if our Lord waited for the right kind of physical or emotional response before proceeding to do His Father’s will? What if He waited for “inner peace”? What if He would only go forward if His “inner spirit was prompted,” if “all the doors were opened,” or He felt “God was saying this” because of His circumstance? If God was speaking “through the circumstance” you’d think that Jesus would have divined the Father’s “will” to be “get out!”

Here’s a novel idea: why not labor hard in the Scriptures and strive to develop a more properly tuned moral compass so that we can discern good from evil, and pray that God would give us the courage (faith) to obey Him? (That is the kind of prayer He answers!)

Then maybe we will leave goose bumps to their real use–telling us when to put on a coat.