Now, Contending for the Faith. In this regular feature, Dave and Tom respond to questions from listeners and readers of The Berean Call. Here’s this week’s question:
“Dear Dave and Tom, I recently ran into this group of Christians who interacted with one another as though each one had God’s cellphone number. They all have personal prophecies for each other that they claimed that God gave them. Some were exhortations, but most were guidance information related to work opportunities, people they were to talk to, or plans that God wanted them to follow. I tried to challenge them biblically, but I was regarded as one who was ‘quenching the Holy Spirit.’ That’s the last thing I want to do. Do you think I overreacted?”
Tom: Dave, as you know, we just returned from the Christian Book Sellers Convention in Denver, and it was wild in terms of all the things that were there. I mean, some really strange, bizarre things. But on the plane back, there was a lady sitting a couple of rows behind me and she was on her cell phone, and it sounded, as she was talking to a friend, it was this very kind of thing. “God had just given me a prophecy for you, and this is what He said,” and on and on. What was really interesting: she wove it into her business. I don’t know if she was a writer or a bookseller or whatever, but it was really odd. She let the whole plane know about it, by the way - she was really loud, but she was hearing from God.
Dave: Well, Tom, just simple common sense for anyone out there, for myself and you, who is this prophet, or who are these prophets and prophetesses, you know? What authority do they have, and do we just follow them? I’ve had people come up and say to me, “Let me tell you what God said to me about you today, or for you,” or whatever.
And I just say, “Well, He didn’t tell me, and until He tells me, I can’t listen to you. That’s not even biblical. You would have to give me some reason why I should listen to you.” And people that are always hearing from God, that’s not biblical either. We could take Abraham - he’s called the friend of God. There was a period of 25 years when he did not hear from God at all, and yet God did speak to him.
So people get the idea, “Well, God ought to be talking to me all the time.” It’s almost like Benny Hinn - Benny tells us that for one year every night, his room was filled with angels watching him. I guess they were just fascinated with Benny. So God isn’t always talking to us, giving us messages. We need, first of all, to pay attention to what He said in His Word. It’s in black and white, it’s not just an impression, it’s not a feeling, and I think some of these people can kind of get into that mode where every thought that they have in their heads, they think it must have come from God.
Tom: Right, and “thus saith the Lord.”
Dave: Yeah, it’s very dangerous, Tom, for the people who think they are getting these messages from God and for those that they are guiding in this manner, they need to back off a bit, pray a little bit: “Lord, deliver me from false messages from You. Deliver me from my own imagination.”
It reminds me of Jeremiah:14:14: “Then the Lord said unto me, The prophets prophesy lies in my name: I sent them not, neither have I commanded them, neither spake unto them: they prophesy unto you a false vision and divination, and a thing of naught, and the deceit of their heart.” And Jeremiah goes on to say, “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked” and we have to be very, very careful about our own hearts and wanting to impress people or, you know, wanting a message from the Lord. Tom, I believe that God speaks; I’ve had the Lord guide me. You know, there are people who say, “No, He only speaks through His Word.” Well, how did you get the…off to China as a missionary, or what took you to Africa? That wasn’t in the Bible in so many words. I believe that God goes guide; He guides through circumstances and so forth…
Tom: That’s a subjective thing, not doctrine. It’s not, “Thus saith the Lord.” If God speaks to your heart, it’s personal; through you it’s subjective.
Dave: That’s right, and you have to be very, very careful. Is this what I want? I sometimes facetiously say, first of all, the young man that prays, “Oh, God guide me to the woman that you would have to be my wife, but please let it be Joanne.” So God could hardly guide him to anybody else; he’s already got his heart set on Joanne.
So our hearts are deceitful, the Bible says, and I believe that God does speak; He does guide, but it’s very dangerous to think that this is happening all the time.
Tom: Dave, the other side is people who think that other people have this ability, or are hearing from God, they draw crowds. I can remember in a church that I was in, we did something really wonderful: the elders would come forward and we would pray for all the needs of the people, but it was interesting, the one who everybody thought was hearing from God, the line was longer for that person than anybody else.
Dave: Tom, I remember a gentleman, and I won’t mention his name. I haven’t heard about him for a long time in charismatic circles, but oh, wow! was he ever popular. It was like a palm reading or something, although he didn’t look at your palm. You come up to him, and people were lined up, and he would just give a word from the Lord for everybody that came up, and people loved that. But, Tom, it’s not biblical. I don’t read of it in the Bible. They didn’t line up for the prophets to give them a word from the Lord. This is God speaking. It’s going to be very special, it will be very important, but He’s gone to great trouble to preserve His Word. Let’s study that and learn that and follow it, obey it, and then if there is something else the Lord wants to say to us, it will more than likely come from His Word, an application of a Bible verse.