Saturday, October 06, 2018

Hearing God & the Manifestation of Prophecy (Notes for Ferris State Real Life Students)

Linda and I are with Real Life Campus Ministry of Ferris State University. This morning I am talking about Hearing God and the Manifestation of Prophecy. Here are notes I will be sharing from.

Ps 126:5-6 - Those who sow with tears
    will reap with songs of joy.
Those who go out weeping,
    carrying seed to sow,
will return with songs of joy,
    carrying sheaves with them.

Is It Possible to Hear From God?

On occasion, in my Philosophy of Religion classes at 
Monroe County Community College, I have told my students that I hear from God; that God speaks to me. I share this in the context of the many God-discussions that take place in this class which revolves around issues of the existence or non-existence of God, and the nature of the God of theism.

I do hear from God. God does speak to me. These claims should shock no one who is a Christian theist. Our Scriptures tell us to expect this. Dallas Willard asks, “Should we expect anything else, given the words of Scripture and the heritage of the Christian Church?” (Willard, 
Hearing God Through the Year, 12)
The ancient Israelites heard the voice of God speaking to them out of the fire (Deut. 4:33).
The prophet Isaiah had first-hand experience in hearing from God.
Isaiah 58:9, 11 says:

Then you will call, and the LORD will answer; 

you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I…

The LORD will guide you always; 

he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land 

and will strengthen your frame. 

You will be like a well-watered garden, 

like a spring whose waters never fail. 

For the past 42 years I have spent several hours each week going to a solitary place and praying and listening.

I am certain we can hear from God, for these reasons:

1. Scripture tells us we can and should expect to hear from God.

2. Personal experience has verified this for me.

3. The testimonies of many other Jesus-followers throughout history attests to the reality of God speaking to his people, both individually and corporately.

4. “Prayer” defined as “taking with God about what we are doing together” implies that God is our dialogical partner.

This relates to the New Testament spiritual gift of prophecy, since ““Prophecy” can be defined as “the reception and subsequent transmission of spontaneous divinely originating revelation.” (Wayne Grudem, The Gift of Prophecy)
The “reception” of revelation from God requires “hearing” God. I assume this is possible. If it’s not, then the gift of prophecy Paul mentions in 1 Corinthians 14 is not possible.

“Prophecy” is a word from God that is, precisely, something beyond my own wisdom. Such a prophetic word from God transcends my own thinking.
Prophecy is an “I would never have thought of that” kind of moment. In this regard it is different from a prepared sermon, although one hopes that in sermon preparation the preacher hears from God.

Ben Witherington writes:

• A prophecy certainly was not a sermon by 20th-century standards. It was a spontaneous utterance prompted by the Spirit (cf. vv. 29 ff.) and based on a sudden and uncontrived revelation from God (v. 30).
It was controllable by the speaker, however, and was unlike pagan ecstatic utterances of the Dionysiac sort. In Christian prophecy both the mind and the spirit are edified.

Note: I’ve read and talked with some who say “In the past people heard directly from God, but since we’ve had the Bible this has stopped.” I have never agreed with that, one reason being the Bible itself tells us we should expect to hear from God. 
John Piper – There is no text in the New Testament that teaches the cessation of these gifts. [emphasis mine] But more important than this silence is the text that explicitly teaches their continuance until Jesus comes, namely, 1 Corinthians 13:8-12.

While it may be hard at times to discern if that voice in your head is from God or not, this difficulty does not eliminate the possibility of hearing from God. The following is not logical:
1.           I don't hear from God.
2.           Therefore it is not possible to hear from God.

How Can We Discern Whether We are Hearing from God or Not?

I have found that hearing God’s voice has been an acquired ability. My threefold counsel on how to hear God’s voice is as follows.

1. Spend much time with God, in his presence.

2. Saturate yourself in the Christian Scriptures.

3. Hang around people who do #s 1 and 2.

I assume hearing from God is possible, that God is able to communicate to us, and desires to do so. Surely we can expect God to assist us in the listening process.

My Desire to Prophesy

Linda and I talk with many who share their struggles with us.

A few times the results have been astounding, even miraculous.

Yet there remain many who are stuck in their addictions, bondages, and illnesses.

At times we are clueless, having no answers, and sometimes seeing no path to walk on.

Our own strength and wisdom is far from enough.

On the other hand, the God we believe in is all-knowing and all-powerful and all-loving. Such a Supreme Being is able to see the Big Picture, the Path to freedom. What if we could resource Him?

Who wouldn't want to access that? Not for some personal show of power that acts like we are the originator of brilliant God-ideas.

If we truly love people and want them to have life abundantly, who wouldn't want the gift of prophecy? Who wouldn't long for such manifestations that would strengthen, comfort, and encourage those we love and care for?

That's why I desire to prophesy. Not for my own self and glory, for the sake of others, with all glory being given to God.

I'm praying that this Pauline desire to prophesy would be the desire of your heart.

Dwell deeply in His presence today. Listen for His voice. When He gives you a strengthening, comforting, and encouraging word for another Jesus-follower, risk sharing it with them. When I do this I don't add "Thus saith the Lord." I often say, "I feel God has given me something to share with you. Check it out, between you and God, for yourself.
ONE MORE THOUGHT…  The gifts are for everyone.

The early church did not hand out "Spiritual Gift Inventories," so people could find out what their spiritual gift is. I think that's a misunderstanding. The situation was more fluid and organic than that. 

In 1 Corinthians 12:4-7 Paul writes:

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.

Gordon Fee, in his brilliant commentary on 
First Corinthians, writes:

""Each one," standing in the emphatic first position as it does, is [Paul's[ way of stressing diversity; indeed, this is how that diversity will be emphasized throughout the rest of the paragraph. He does not intend to stress that every last person in the community has his or her own gift...  That is not Paul's concern. This pronoun is the distributive (stressing the individualized instances) of the immediately preceding collective ("in all people"), which emphasizes the many who make up the community as a whole." (589)

Fee writes that what "each one" was "given" was not a "gift,' but a "manifestation of the Spirit." "Thus each "gift" is a "manifestation," a disclosure of the Spirit's activity in their midst... [Paul's] urgency, as vv. 8-10 make clear, is not that each person is "gifted," but that the Spirit is manifested in a great variety of ways. His way of saying this is that, "to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit."" (Ib.)

This is about the Spirit manifesting himself within the Jesus-community, and not a statement about spiritual gifts being given to people once and for all. 

Desire the manifestations of the Spirit.    

Books That Can Help You Understand Prophecy
·                     Wayne Grudem, The Gift of Prophecy in the New Testament and Today. This is the best scholarly text on prophecy by an excellent New Testament theologian who embraces the spiritual gifts for today. Especially valuable is Grudem's explanation of the distinction between prophecy in the Old Testament and in the New Testament.
·                     Mike Bickle, Growing In the Prophetic. Bickle's Kansas City Fellowship was, at one time, the center of the prophetic movement in America. Mike's book is a wise reflection on those times, with very helpful biblical understandings of prophecy.
·                     Jack Deere, The Beginner's Guide to the Gift of Prophecy. Jack is an excellent biblical scholar who values the gift of prophecy in the church today. This is a very helpful, clearly written book.
·                     Jim Goll, The Seer: The Prophetic Power of Visions, Dreams, and Open Heavens. We've used this in our ministry school. I found it to be very wise and practical.
·                     Dallas Willard, Hearing God: Developing a Conversational Relationship with God. Outside of the Bible this is one of the books to read on the matter of hearing the voice of God. 


John Piper on Spiritual Gifts Today (and Especially Prophecy)

I'm thankful for John Piper's views on spiritual gifts as being for the church today. Here's Piper talking about this, from 

“I am one of those Baptist General Conference people who believes that “signs and wonders” and all the spiritual gifts of 1 Corinthians 12:8-10 are valid for today and should be “earnestly desired” (1 Corinthians 14:1) for the edification of the church and the spread of the Gospel. I agree with the words of Martyn Lloyd-Jones, preached in 1965:

“It is perfectly clear that in New Testament times, the gospel was authenticated in this way by signs, wonders, and miracles of various characters and descriptions . . . . Was it only meant to be true of the early church? . . . The Scriptures never anywhere say that these things were only temporary — never! There is no such statement anywhere.” (The Sovereign Spirit, pp. 31-32)

. . . I want to argue in this section that the New Testament teaches that spiritual gifts (including the more obviously supernatural or revelatory ones like prophecy and tongues) will continue until Jesus comes. The use of such gifts (miracles, faith, healings, prophecy, etc.) give rise to what may sometimes be called “signs and wonders.” Therefore, signs and wonders are part of the blessing we should pray for today.

There is no text in the New Testament that teaches the cessation of these gifts. [emphasis mine] But more important than this silence is the text that explicitly teaches their continuance until Jesus comes, namely, 1 Corinthians 13:8-12 . . . .
. . . Both of these phrases (“seeing face to face” and “understanding as we have been understood”) are stretched beyond the breaking point if we say that they refer to the closing of the New Testament canon or the close of the apostolic age. Rather, they refer to our experience at the second coming of Jesus . . . .

This means that verse 10 can be paraphrased, “When Christ returns, the imperfect will pass away.” And since “the imperfect” refers to spiritual gifts like prophecy and knowledge and tongues, we may paraphrase further, “When Christ returns, then prophecy and knowledge and tongues will pass away” . . . .

Therefore, 1 Corinthians 13:8-12 teaches that such spiritual gifts will continue until the second coming of Jesus. There is no reason to exclude from this conclusion the other “imperfect” gifts mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10. Since these include miracles, faith, healings, etc., with which we associate “signs and wonders,” there is clear New Testament warrant for expecting that “signs and wonders” will continue until Jesus comes.

Now add to this conclusion the forthright command in 1 Corinthians 14:1, and you will see why some of us are not only open to, but also seeking, this greater fullness of God’s power today. This command says, “Make love your aim, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy.” And it is repeated twice: “Earnestly desire the higher gifts” (12:31); “Earnestly desire to prophesy and do not forbid speaking in tongues” (14:39).

I wonder how many of us have said for years that we are open to God’s moving in spiritual gifts, but have been disobedient to this command to earnestly desire them, especially prophecy? [emphasis mine] I would ask all of us: are we so sure of our hermeneutical procedure for diminishing the gifts that we would risk walking in disobedience to a plain command of Scripture? “Earnestly desire spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy.”

I have come to the point of seeing that the risk lies in the other direction. 
It would be a risk not to seek spiritual gifts for myself and my church. [emphasis mine] It would be a risk not to pray with the early church, “Grant your servants to speak your word with boldness while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through your holy servant Jesus.” Disobedience is always a greater risk than obedience.

Much of my experience disinclines me to “earnestly desire spiritual gifts,” especially the gift of prophecy. However, I do not base my prayer for such spiritual empowering on experience, but on the Bible. [emphasis mine] The Scripture is sufficient for all circumstances by teaching us the means of grace to be used in all circumstances. And I agree with Martyn Lloyd-Jones that one of the means of grace needed in our day is the extraordinary demonstration of power by signs and wonders. Here is what he said:

“What is needed is some mighty demonstration of the power of God, some enactment of the Almighty, that will compel people to pay attention, and to look, and to listen. . . . When God acts, he can do more in a minute than man with his organizing can do in fifty years.” (Revival, pp. 121-122)