Posted in discernment, Uncategorized

How does the Holy Spirit lead us?

On Facebook last night I’d posted a mini-discernment lesson regarding a tweet Beth Moore had written advocating a process for distilling whether a prompt from the Holy Spirit is legitimate or if it’s your own imagination. I wrote the following in response to her tweet:

moore tweet

Beth Moore is an alleged ‘Bible teacher’. She has 753,000 followers on Twitter alone. The following comment is something she taught a few hours ago on Twitter. Nothing in the Bible says what she taught and teaches. What solid and credible Bible teachers do is teach their pupils to go externally and seek the source of all truth, the Word of God. Moore teachers women to go internally and rely on mystical warnings, feelings, and prompts. What Moore is actually teaching is the insufficiency of scripture and the sufficiency of ourselves in obeying personal feelings.

If Moore was a true Bible teacher she should have written that we seek wisdom from the Bible and follow its commands. We do not rely on the timing of mystical feelings in order to make decisions. We don’t even have to wonder if it is our imagination if we read it in the Word of God. Here is what she should have written-

“Take caution not to override a command of the Lord in His word. Pray persistently in seeking the strength from the Lord you need to obey what is written. Mind the Lord and His statutes.”

I thought that it would be obvious that Moore is teaching something extra-biblical. Obvious.

I was wrong.

I received several comments, one of which asserted that I’d misunderstood the tweet. While it’s always possible I misinterpret an author’s intent within the confines of a 140 character tweet, in this case I’ve studied Moore’s work widely enough to know that I had not done that in this case. I also thought the tweet was plain enough in its assertion.

Another commenter tried to to convince me that there was room for direct revelation. She knows there’s room, she said, because though 99% of the time scripture is enough, sometimes God speaks “very clearly” to her and she knows it’s Him because what He says comes true according to her wishes and wants at the time.

If scripture isn’t sufficient 100% of the time, it is not sufficient at all. God is not speaking clearly or audibly to anyone in any form, not in…

whispers
prompts
leadings
warnings
impressions on our heart
‘told me’
spoke audibly

…because the Bible says that God has spoken though His Son, who IS the Word. (Hebrews 1:2)

Peter said personal experience is never a proper validation of God’s authority, because the word is more sure. (2 Peter 1:19). I notice in these kind of discussions that people assert that it must be God is telling them stuff because what they wanted is coming true. However I notice it never seems to be the case that ‘the Lord told us very clearly one of us will die from cancer’, or ‘the Lord told us very clearly that we will never have children,’ or ‘the Lord told us very clearly that I should stop sinning via pornography.’ No, the direct leading of the Spirit people claim they receive are never that kind, the type that brings bad news against their wish list or commands the person to slay their besetting sin.

Worse, women who claim “He told me very clearly that…” means the woman is claiming prophet status – which elevates her to a position she does not have. Moreover, it discourages other women who have not had the privilege of “hearing directly from God”. They begin to doubt their situations when they aren’t given such personal, clear commands.

One commenter did ask a good question, which formed the basis for this post. She asked, “Where does the Holy Spirit come into it?” Her question is a good one, but a sad one. An entire generation of women have been taught by the Beth Moores etc. that we should expect to be directly (or audibly) led by God, that they do not know what to be led by the Spirit actually means. So here is a post on what it means to be led by the Spirit.

We know the Spirit does lead us. One verse in particular comes to mind, Romans 8:14, where it says so.

For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.

Now, the Holy Spirit does guide us and convict us and teach us and help us but not in a way we know at the time. You might look afterwards and say, gee, that sure was from the Lord. But at the time, we cannot, must not, rely on feelings, prompts, whispers, inclinations, or imaginations, and attribute them to God. That is dangerous because the flesh is at war with the Spirit. One can never really know if it’s the flesh or not. We are commanded not to obey the flesh, but to slay it. (Mt 16:24). Just because Beth Moore teaches that if the feeling hangs around long enough it must be God is ridiculous on the face of it. The flesh is persistent. Very persistent.

It’s also mysticism and divination to follow promptings and claim they were from God. How can we interpret? We can’t, we’re sinful. So while the Spirit leads, His main ministry is to point to Jesus, who is the Word. John 16:14. That’s why a good teacher also points to the Word, which is more sure.

Here is John MacArthur on the Romans verse 8:14, with a very simple explanation of the Spirit’s leading:

How does He lead us? Two ways. Externally, by the Scripture – externally, by the Scripture, Psalm 119:18: “Open my eyes that I may behold wonderful things from Your law.” Show me the truth of Scripture. Externally by Scripture, internally by sanctification. Those two ways. Externally, Scripture; internally, sanctification.

Therefore, there’s no need for a teacher such as Moore to teach an extra-biblical process for figuring out if the prompting is imagination or not.

Sinclair Ferguson at Ligonier Ministries has a good take on leading by the Spirit, which concurs with MacArthur’s in terms of the main leading of the Spirit being illumination of the scriptures. Remember, the point of the Spirit’s ministry is to point to Christ – who is the Word. (John 16:14, 1 John 4:2).

Spirit of Light, by Sinclair Ferguson
Why, then, are Christians today—in contrast to their fathers—so thirsty to experience immediate revelation from God, when His desire for us is the ongoing work of the Spirit opening up our understanding through the mediated revelation of the New Testament? There seem to be three reasons:

1. It is more exciting to have direct revelation rather than Bible revelation. It seems more “spiritual,” more “divine.”

2. For many people, it feels much more authoritative to be able to say, “God has revealed this to me” than to say, “The Bible tells me so.”

3. Direct revelation relieves us of the need for painstaking Bible study and careful consideration of Christian doctrine in order to know the will of God. In comparison to immediate revelation, Bible study seems—to be frank—boring.

Lest we be brow-beaten and develop a kind of siege mentality as Reformed Christians, here are some things we should bear in mind about the work of illumination:

This is the divine method that produces authentic Christian growth, because it involves the renewal (not the abeyance) of the mind (Rom. 12:2) and it is progressive (it takes time and demands the obedience of our wills). Sometimes God does things quickly. But His ordinary way is to work slowly and surely to make us progressively more like our Lord Jesus.

The result of the Spirit working with the Word of God to illumine and transform our thinking is the development of a godly instinct that operates in sometimes surprising ways. The revelation of Scripture becomes, in a well-taught, Spirit-illumined believer, so much a part of his or her mindset that the will of God frequently seems to become instinctively and even immediately clear—just as whether a piece of music is well or badly played is immediately obvious to a well-disciplined musician. It is this kind of spiritual exercise that creates discernment (see Heb. 5:11–14).

In other words, the Spirit leads us by slowly conforming us to Christ-likeness through the application and illumination of the word in us. Our affections change. As MacArthur above said, by the word externally and by inner sanctification as the word works through us.

Now, is there such thing as impressions or promptings? Ferguson below then Phil Johnson below that, explain…yes…and no.

Ferguson from the Ligonier article above:

Well-meaning Christians sometimes mistake the Spirit’s work of illumination for revelation, which, unhappily, can lead to serious theological confusion and potentially unhappy practical consequences. But the doctrine of illumination also helps us explain some of the more mysterious elements in our experience without having to resort to the claim that we have the gift of revelation and prophecy.

Here the late John Murray spoke with great wisdom: “As we are the subjects of this illumination and are responsive to it, and as the Holy Spirit is operative in us to the doing of God’s will, we shall have feelings, impressions, convictions, urges, inhibitions, impulses, burdens, resolutions. Illumination and direction by the Spirit through the Word of God will focus themselves in our consciousness in these ways. (Collected Writings, I, p. 188).

Again, it’s through the Word.

Phil Johnson, Shepherds Conference 2002, “Super Seminar: Private Revelations”

Now, does the Spirit of God ever move our hearts and impress us with specific duties or callings? Certainly. But, even in doing that, He works through the Word of God. Experiences like this, impressions and all, are not in any sense prophetic or authoritative except as they echo what the Word already says. They are not revelation. Those sensations, those impressions, those feelings you get are not revelation, but they are the effect of illumination. When the Holy Spirit applies the Word to our hearts, and opens our spiritual eyes to His truth. And, we need to guard carefully against allowing our experiences and our own subjective thoughts and imaginations to eclipse the authority and the certainty of the more sure Word of God. This is a very practical application of the principle of Sola Scriptura.

Think about this…to what ever degree you seek private messages from God outside His Word, you have abandoned the principle of Sola Scriptura.

It is simpler and more direct to say something like “My husband and I decided to adopt 3 children” rather than “The Spirit led us to the adoption agency.” It’s more honest to say, “We decided to purchase the organ for the church because we adhere to the biblical principle of cheerfully giving” than to say “We felt led by the Spirit to drive down Main Street where we saw the organ store and God clearly told us to buy it.”

The Spirit leads us into sanctification, where we gradually and inexorably conform to Jesus’ likeness, not by having Him specifically give us explicit directions for certain actions at any given time. But what a joy to know He does lead us!

Posted in prophecy, Uncategorized

The crooked speech of gossip

Introduction

God hates sin.

Let me say that again.

God hates sin.

Of course, we know that, but sometimes we let our minds pass over it without thinking more deeply about the fact that God hates sin. Really hates it. Why does God hate sin?

God hates sin because it is the very antithesis of His nature. The psalmist describes God’s hatred of sin this way: “For You are not a God who takes pleasure in wickedness; no evil dwells with You” (Psalm 5:4). God hates sin because He is holy; holiness is the most exalted of all His attributes (Isaiah 6:3; Revelation 6:8). His holiness totally saturates His being. His holiness epitomizes His moral perfection and His absolute freedom from blemish of any kind (Psalm 89:35; 92:15; Romans 9:14).

The Bible presents God’s attitude toward sin with strong feelings of hostility, disgust, and utter dislike. For example, sin is described as putrefying sores (Isaiah 1:6, NKJV), a heavy burden (Psalm 38:4), defiling filth (Titus 1:15; 2 Corinthians 7:1), a binding debt (Matthew 6:12-15), darkness (1 John 1:6) and a scarlet stain (Isaiah 1:18).From: GotQuestions, Why Does God Hate Sin? For the rest of the essay, go to link here

If I let my mind do it, I’d be telling myself what a good person I am. Hey, I’m not a murderer. I’m not a thief. I’m not a rapist. I’m not queer. Hey, I don’t do those big sins! I’m pretty good.Not so much.

I do the “respectable sins”. I sure do. According to Jerry Bridges in his book “Respectable Sins: Confronting the Sins We Tolerate“, respectable sins are the ones we don’t repent of, and nobody calls us to account for them. These are the sins we all collude over because we all do them, hence, the tolerating. What are some of these respectable sins? Pride, worldiness, anxiety, impatience, selfishness, gossip…

Am I proud? Yes. Am I selfish? Yes. Do I gossip? Yes. I’m a sinner! A disrespectable one!

Part 1: Sins of the Tongue

We can dispense with the obvious first. Some sins of the tongue are so immediately identifiable as inappropriate that we can and do call the speaker on those. Lewd jokes or using the F-word, especially in mixed company, at work, or worse, at church, are not tolerated.

If you ever read any parts of Proverbs at all, you run up against warnings about engaging in various types of bad speech. There are over 60 different verses addressing poor speech/right speech. There are lots of sins of the tongue besides lewdness and profanity, such as gossip, white lies, critical/harsh words, slander, insults, sarcasm/ridicule.

When Isaiah was given the vision of God on His throne, and He saw the majesty and perfection of our God, what did Isaiah say? I am a man of unclean heart? I am a man of unclean mind? No, though he was a man of unclean heart and mind (as are we). He said,

Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” (Isaiah 6:5)

Where did the angel cleanse Isaiah with the hot coal from the altar? On his breast to cleanse his heart? On his head to cleanse his mind? No. On his lips. Why? McLaren says

The vision kindled as with a flash Isaiah’s consciousness of sin. He expressed it in regard to his words rather than his works, partly because in one aspect speech is even more accurately an act, as it were, of character, and partly because he could not but feel the difference between the mighty music that burst from these pure and burning lips [of the seraphim] and the words that flowed from and soiled his own.

Though we are saturated through and through with sin, our heart, mind, strength and soul are all drenched with impurity and pollution. However, the mouth gives birth to the sin inside us. James said in James 3:10,

And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right!

Sins of the mouth also include hasty words, flatteries, anger. (Prov 29:5, 11, 20). Proverbs warns against hasty words, and James 1:19 advises us to be slow to speak.

Part 2: Gossip

Let’s talk about gossip. It might be a ‘respectable sin’ on earth but God spoke against “sins of the tongue”manytimes in scripture. Don’t be fooled. Gossip is a big sin.

Proverbs 4:24 says,

Put away from you crooked speech, and put devious talk far from you.

And Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible says of the Proverbs 4:24 verse,

Our hearts being naturally corrupt, out of them a great deal of corrupt communication is apt to come, and therefore we must conceive a great dread and detestation of all manner of evil words, cursing, swearing, lying, slandering, brawling, filthiness, and foolish talking, all which come from a froward mouth and perverse lips, that will not be governed either by reason or religion, but contradict both, and which are as unsightly and ill-favoured before God as a crooked distorted mouth drawn awry is before men. All manner of tongue sins, we must, by constant watchfulness and stedfast resolution, put from us, put far from us, abstaining from all words that have an appearance of evil and fearing to learn any such words.

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. (Ephesians 4:29).

Only such as good for building up…how many times do we fail at speech that is solely for the other person’s good? How many times even in church do we gossip?

A dishonest man spreads strife, and a whisperer separates close friends. (Proverbs 16:28)

Whisper campaigns can be devastating. Sometimes a Christian doesn’t mean to spread tales or doesn’t know the tales are untrue. It’s still sin. Sadly, other times, people deliberately whisper against others, even those who sit in the same pew. Whisper campaigns are-

-a method of persuasion in which damaging rumors or innuendo are spread about the target, while the source of the rumors seeks to avoid being detected while spreading them. Wikipedia

Part 3: The Solution

In returning to the moment when Isaiah realized the magnitude of his sin, and how it’s expressed via his lips, McLaren says,

The next stage in Isaiah’s experience is that sin recognised and confessed is burned away. Cleansing rather than forgiveness is here emphasised. The latter is, of course, included, but the main point is the removal of impurity. It is mediated by one of the seraphim, who is the messenger of God, which is just a symbolical way of saying that God makes penitents ‘partakers of His holiness,’ and that nothing less than a divine communication will make cleansing possible. It is effected by a live coal. Fire is purifying, and the New Testament has taught us that the true cleansing fire is that of the Holy Spirit. But that live coal was taken from the altar. The atoning sacrifice has been offered there, and our cleansing depends on the efficacy of that sacrifice being applied to us.

We’re warned to put to death our sin. (Colossians 3:5). And yet, I don’t. I don’t regularly murder, but I readily kill their character, name, or reputation through gossip, thoughtlessness, or hasty words. Daily I pray for strength to speak words that only build up. Every day I fail. Given the numerous verses which warn about gossip or other poor speech it seems that this particular sin is important to God for us not to commit. I continue in my pursuit of good speech.

I can console myself that several of the heroes of the Bible were caught up in the sin of gossip and complaining and tale-bearing.

Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Cushite woman whom he had married, for he had married a Cushite woman. And they said, “Has the LORD indeed spoken only through Moses? Has he not spoken through us also?” And the LORD heard it. (Numbers 12:1-2)

But it is no consolation at all. The second part of this verse says, And the LORD heard it. Gulp.

In 1 Timothy 3:3, the passage outlining qualifications of overseers, the candidates are warned not to be quarrelsome. Matthew Henry has explained the word quarrelsome,

He must be patient, and not a brawler, of a mild disposition. Christ, the great Shepherd and Bishop of souls, is so. Not apt to be angry or quarrelsome; as not a striker with his hands, so not a brawler with his tongue; for how shall men teach others to govern their tongues who do not make conscience of keeping them under good government themselves? Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible

Isn’t that a good insight? A brawler with the tongue. One who can govern his or her tongue is worthy to lead.

The solution:

–Remember, the LORD hears it.

–Let us confess our sin of gossip and tale-bearing when we do stumble.

–Adhere to the verse which admonishes that we should sanctify our lips by only allowing good speech such as for building up.

–Repeat

The Conclusion

There is an obscure prophecy in Zephaniah. At the end of time at the conversion of all the nations, the Lord promises that,

For at that time I will change the speech of the peoples to a pure speech, that all of them may call upon the name of the LORD and serve him with one accord.”

Interpreters are divided as to exactly what this will mean. Does the pure speech refer to one language, as prior to the dividing of the peoples at the Tower of Babel when God confused the languages? Some think that this verse promises a reversal of the confusion of multiple languages and a return to one language, whether that possibly will be Hebrew, or not.

Jamieson, Fausset, Brown Commentary explains,

turn to the people a pure language—that is, changing their impure language I will give to them again a pure language (literally, “lip”). The confusion of languages was of the penalty sin, probably idolatry at Babel … The full restoration of the earth’s unity of language and of worship is yet future, and is connected with the restoration of the Jews, to be followed by the conversion of the world. Compare Isaiah 19:18; Zechariah 14:9; Romans 15:6, “with one mind and one mouth glorify God.” The Gentiles’ lips have been rendered impure through being the instruments of calling on idols and dishonoring God (compare Ps 16:4; Ho 2:17). Whether Hebrew shall be the one universal language or not, the God of the Hebrews shall be the one only object of worship. Until the Holy Ghost purify the lips, we cannot rightly call upon God (Is 6:5–7).

Yet others think the verse in Zephaniah means less the literal ‘one language’ theory as a pure lips to call upon God once again interpretation. (As Adam and Eve did before the Fall.)

Instead it means the renewal of once-defiled speech. One’s lips represent what he says (the words spoken by his lips), which in turn reflect his inner life (cf. Isa. 6:5–7). The nations, formerly perverted by the blasphemy of serving idols, will be cleansed by God for true worship. As a result the nations, turning to reverential trust in God, will call on the name of the LORD and will evidence their dependence on Him by their united service (shoulder to shoulder). In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures

What a blessing to have only blessing come from our lips! As James said above, blessing and cursing from the same mouth? It is not right! Yet there will be a day when only blessing will emerge from our glorified lips, no inner stain to pollute pure worship and the name of the Lord as we vocally call hallelujah upon Him. And the LORD will hear it.

Further Reading:

The Sin of Talking Too Much