So much misunderstanding has revolved around the word "charismatic." The phrase itself represents the Greek word charisma or "gift." The problem is we spend so much time arguing over "gifts of the Spirit" we forget the far more important issue, which is the gift by the Father of the Holy Spirit to us. You cannot be a Christian without having received the Holy Spirit: "Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him" (Rom. 8:9). The Holy Spirit is God. He is the way in which God is present among us from the day of Pentecost until the day the Lord returns. Without the Holy Spirit we have neither God nor Christ. It is about time Christians learned to remember that the Holy Spirit is God as much as the Father and the Son are! Some Christians have relegated the Holy Spirit to nothing more than a doctrine, and their churches show it! But other Christians have seen the Holy Spirit as nothing more than a purveyor of gifts, and their churches show it!
Why then does God give his Spirit? The answer is clear. The Holy Spirit is given to us so that we can enter into relationship with God as his sons and daughters. The person who understands what it means to be a son or daughter of God and has entered into that freedom is a truly charismatic person. Whatever else God does in our lives by way of the activity of his Spirit flows out of that central reality. What divides believers in actuality, at least in my experience, is not whether or not we believe or operate in spiritual gifts. The difference is whether or not we really know God as our Father and are living in true freedom, or whether we still have the attitude or identity of a slave, of one looking in from the outside, never sure of whether God really loves us or not and trying in our insecurity to earn his favour. After all, Paul says if we don't know the love of God, what is the point of prophesying, good works or anything else (1 Cor. 13:1-3)?
But there is good news for us! Paul begins his letter to the Galatians with a stern warning and an appeal (chapter 1). He takes chapters 2-4 to explain what the gospel really is, then returns to his theme of freedom in 5:1. And he does so with a shout: “For freedom Christ has set us free!” What he means is this: freedom is our destiny. We are no longer slaves. He was speaking into a Greek culture steeped in pagan thinking that all men are controlled by fate, are slaves of fate. Even the gods are not free. All we can do is accept our lot in life. We can do nothing to change it. The Greeks even believed that if you tried to change your life for the better or tried to be a better person morally than you were fated to be, you would be committing transgression. Transgression (the same Greek word Paul uses for sin in Romans) had nothing to do with good or evil or any moral values. In pagan thinking, transgression was the violation or the crossing of the lines of fate. An evil man who prospered was fated to prosper, while a good man who suffered was fated to suffer.
Christ died to set us free from a world in which our fate was determined either by ourselves, the gods or anything else. We don't believe in fate, we believe in destiny. And our destiny is in God's hands alone. We are no longer slaves, we are free. The way God conveyed that freedom to us is through the gift of his Spirit. The Spirit makes real in our lives the result of what Christ did for us on the cross. He literally regenerates us -- which means he brings us to life! So the cry of the gospel that we are set free in Christ was a radical message for those who heard it. And it is as true today as it was then. God paid a high price for your freedom and mine. There's only one way to take hold of it: through the gift of his Spirit.
If we seek his Spirit, we will find everything else he wants for us. That should be our focus. "The one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life" (Gal. 6:8).