For me, there are some very simple guidelines to work out whether or not the Holy Spirit really has shown me something or spoken to me through some other means than the Bible – which is, of course, all God-breathed. Number 1 rule is does it tally with what the Bible says? If it does not, then for me there is no other option but to dismiss it. We do not know God simply by what seems right to us or to our intellect or what seems right or wrong according to the culture we are part of in any given place or time, but by revelation. God has revealed Himself in his Word and supremely and finally through His Son, Jesus Christ: so when I hear someone say, “God has told me that…” followed by something that I know is contradictory to Scripture then I feel at leave to draw that to their attention; although it is never easy to challenge someone who is saying to you almost in defiance of allowing you any opinion, “The Lord told me,” or one of its equivalents! We are sadly faced with a divorce in the church at the moment. Increasingly there are those who have been brought into the Kingdom of God who right from the start have an openness to things charismatic that was not common going back 40 years in UK church life, but often there is little Bible awareness by which to test what is truly of the Lord. However such things must be tested. (By the way, again, I won’t enter into debate via my blogs with those who think things charismatic died out with the early church. Am I too, therefore, guilty of saying, “The Lord told me” and allowing no alternative opinion? NO! I am simply saying what the Word teaches beyond any shadow of a doubt, not something the Spirit revealed to me separate from the Word! I cannot debate the Word. To do so is irreverent to the point of blasphemy in my eyes. It may be right for some to debate such things but for me it would be sin.)
Well, I love it when Word and Spirit come together in obvious ways to bear witness to a truth. Let me give you an example: last night I had a dream which I believed was given to me by the Holy Spirit. There are certain signs and symbols which have become part of my dream language. It would take me too long to explain why certain occurrences in dreams are symbols of something else to me, and it would go beyond the purpose of this blog which is to encourage you to look for Spirit and Word confirming one another. In my dream, I was speaking to a dentist: for me, that represents learning about wisdom and is usually a bit of a warning when I am in danger of losing some wisdom on a matter. The dentist was explaining to me that I needed an operation to my ears in order that certain things could drain away so that I could hear what I was meant to hear more clearly.
I knew that was a relevant dream. One of the battles of this last year has been to let go of misbeliefs about my worth or my usefulness or lack of it because of having to give up parish ministry. It has been easy at times for words like “useless” or “failure” to gain my hearing and attention and at times to sound convincing. I know these are lies from the Father of Lies, but at the same time a lie has to suggest itself as true to have a chance of succeeding. I knew the dream was about lies I teeter on the edge of almost believing at times that are needing to be drained out of my spiritual ears to the last dregs as it were, in order to hear more clearly what God is speaking into my current situation and into the approaching future which is getting ever closer: this coming weekend is officially the last weekend of my being the senior minister of Holy Trinity, in Wester Hailes, though I have been off work for almost a year.
Well, I opened my Bible this morning to read from the Book of Job where I had been reading from in recent days. I soon came across these words in Chapter 12 verse 11: “The ear tests the words it hears, just as the mouth distinguishes between foods.” (N.L.T.) I felt that was confirmation that the dream had indeed been a warning dream from the Lord. I know it shouldn’t amaze me, but it still does amaze me when confirmations like this happen. Simple things amuse (and amaze) simple minds I guess! In fact maybe simple things SHOULD always amuse and amaze me come to think of it!
As well as being an example of Word and Spirit not being opposed but being in harmony, I am sharing this because often the enemy of our souls uses a very predictable range of weaponry against God’s children. He is subtle, but he is not a creator. So I guess I am wondering, do you need to test what you are hearing and maybe even believing? It may be you need to test what others are saying to you. It may be that you need to test things you say to yourself about yourself.
A suggestion: try and get hold of persistent thoughts about yourself that you find yourself thinking about a lot. Did that thought come from the lips of our loving heavenly Father revealed in His Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ, as recorded in the pages of the Old and New Testaments (remember Jesus is not just in the New testament)? If so, then hold on to it with all your strength and don’t let it be stolen from you. If not, then it does not come from the Holy Spirit of truth no matter how much it tries to present itself as true.
In fact let me refine all of this a wee bit more: I hope this doesn’t complicate things for you needlessly; I think this needs to be said too. One of the things I realised when reading Job today, is that often his so called “comforters” and friends are speaking things that in other contexts would in fact be true, but with reference to Job in his circumstances were not true. A truth at the wrong time or used in the wrong occasion or circumstances can be destructive, which at the right time would be life giving. I have actually found in this transitional time in my life, that at times people have well-meaningly quoted the Bible’s truth to me but not a truth that was relevant to my situation no matter how well intentioned. There was something missing in Job’s comforters which led to them speaking some nonsense, but also led to them speaking truth that was unhelpful and irrelevant to the moment into which they spoke it. Perhaps it is best summed up by Job himself: “Honest words can be painful, but what do your criticisms amount to? Do you think your words are convincing when you disregard my cry of desperation.” (Job Chapter 6 verses 25-26 N.L.T.) I have to say that on some occasions the words of non-believers have been more helpful than when believers have well meaningly spoken to me in my journey through this transition time, though of course many believers have helped me as well. Just sometimes however, they have applied a truth that is not relevant to the situation. What was said seemed a bit glib, and seemed not to come from empathy. I guess in some ways this is taking me back to the theme of a previous blog about “tone.” I am more certain than ever of the tone of my Father’s voice because this last year or more. I know where I have found Him and truly heard His voice.
I wonder if someone has told you a verse of Scripture but tried to apply it wrongly to your situation? Does that sound familiar? It is what Satan did in the wilderness with Jesus. Jesus however had heard His Father’s voice. It is not beyond the realm of possibility that the enemy may have tried the same tactic on you. Is there a verse of Scripture which you have been finding gives you a level of torment since a fellow believer mentioned it to you? Of course God can convict through His Spirit and HIs Word, but conviction that is heavily tinged with strong condemnation without the offer of opportunities to repent, to receive help, to find a way on does not come from the Father of mercies revealed in Jesus Christ. Is it time for you to test a word your ears have heard? Please remember the devil is an expert at quoting the wrong scripture perfectly in any translation you care to name as being the most true to the original text. With him, Word and Spirit do not coincide.
God bless you this day, this night and always,
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