The other day on Twitter I came across a retweet by Steve Murrell of a tweet by Mark Ramsey. Steve Murrell is the Senior Pastor of the Victory churches in Manilla and a founder of Every Nation Ministries. Mark Ramsey is the senior pastor of Citipointe Church in Brisbane. Both are megachurch pastors who I have met and respect even if these days I have some theological differences with them.
The tweet was ‘Once you use the “God told me” card you isolate yourself from Godly wisdom from those who care.’
I was saved into a charasmatic church where there was a strong emphasis on experiencing God and a ‘personal’ relationship with Jesus Christ. I was introduced early on to the concept of the Holy Spirit speaking to someone and leading and guiding them. I had people tell me that God spoke to them about everything in life right down to the particular curtains they should pick for their home.
The gift of prophecy was encouraged in the church (and rightly so according to 1 Corinthians 14) as was the belief that God would speak to you personally. I can remember many prayer meetings where people would say things like ‘I feel like God is saying….’ and many a visiting prophet saying ‘The Lord says….’ I did it myself of numerous occasions.
At some point though I began to become sceptical of anyone declaring ‘God told me’ or ‘God said’ including myself. I can remember one girl saying that even though she couldn’t afford to purchase a certain skirt, God told her that it was okay so she put it on lay by. I laughed with friends at the story of one baptism where a prophetic word was given over a baptised youth that started with “‘Wow’, says the lord”.
I was sceptical but not particularly perturbed by examples such as these as I saw them as reasonably harmless mistakes being made along the way to maturity in Christ. This changed however when terms like ‘God said’ and ‘God told me’ began to be used during some leadership team meetings I was a part of.
On one occasion we were discussing various ministry strategies and plans when a member of staff shared what they believed was a word from God with us. To be honest I cannot even remember what it was that God was meant to have said but I do remember the unease in the room as the rest of the people around the table tried to figure out how to precede.
Do we disagree and argue God has it wrong? Do we tell them they did not hear from God? How do we know if that’s true? Do we go to scripture to test the Word that they have given? What if there is nothing contrary to scripture in the Word? Do we simply have to accept it?
It was clear from the mood in the room that there were at least some reservations about acting on this supposed word from the Lord. The hardest part was that the person sharing this word genuinely believed that God had spoken to them and were offended when people did not fully believe in the same way they did. They left the meeting convinced that they were right and that God was on their side and on reflection it was another marker on the way to the division that would eventually befall this leadership group.
Despite the problems that come with the above claim, I still believe that God speaks to people today. We are under the new covenant where the promise of Joel 2:28-29 is fulfilled. God no longer speaks to us through prophets alone, he has spoken to us by his son (Hebrews 1:1) and we have received the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8). I believe that some men and women have been given a prophetic gift greater than others. While their words are not the equivalent of scripture, nor are these people prophets in the sense of the Old Testament ‘office’ of a prophet, they do have words from God for people. God also gives us words of knowledge and wisdom by his Spirit that we could not received otherwise.
We must always remember though that we only ‘know and prophesy in part’ (1 Corinthians 13:9) and that the canon of scripture has closed. Any word we believe to be prophetic today must be submitted to the scriptures for testing to ensure that nothing said contradicts scripture. Beyond that we also have to weigh the words given against our own experience, wisdom and reasoning to see if they truly do apply to us.
Most of those people I know who walk in a strong anointing of the gift of prophecy are reluctant themselves to say things like ‘thus says the Lord’. They understand that any word they give should be weighed first and foremost against scripture for truthfulness. They would not advocate making rash or impulsive decisions based on the words they pass on but do so in faith that the words they give will edify the body of Christ.
Mark Ramsey is right. If we play the ‘God Told Me’ card without being willing to submit what He apparently said to others for consideration and prayer, then we cut ourselves off from the other means of understanding that God gives us. We also separate ourselves from the rest of the body of Christ because if ‘God told me’ and you don’t believe then God and I are on the side of right and you are clearly wrong. It’s an unhealthy place for a believer to be.
Lord I pray that you would speak to your people. May we eagerly seek the gifts that you wish to give us for Your glory and honour. I pray that we would use these gifts while remembering our own fallibility. Please help us not to be deceived by ourselves or by Satan and instead be led by your Holy Spirit.