(We all need to learn to discern)
1 Cor 12 gives us:
To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8 To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues.
This has come to be heard as suggesting that most of us don’t have a duty to discern whether what we are hearing is of the Holy Spirit – because ‘discerning of spirits is a specific gift, and I don’t have it’. Instead I can just relax… Nope. Nice excuse to cop out of our responsibilities – but simply isn’t the case. This is most clearly demonstrated by a passage from Hebrews 5:
11 About this we have much to say that is hard to explain, since you have become dull in understanding. 12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic elements of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food; 13 for everyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is unskilled in the word of righteousness. 14 But solid food is for the mature, for those whose faculties have been trained by practice to distinguish good from evil.
I.e it is the definition of Christian maturity to have be used to spotting the difference between good and evil. The natural progression is for Christians to get to be teachers – because they have become sensitised to what is God, and what has other origins. Instead what we tend to see is many Christians who are passive consumers of whatever is put before them, and therefore liable to be ‘blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming.’ Eph 4:14. The result is that some fall into obviously secular thinking, conforming to the latest worldly fashion, most recently gay ‘marriage’, others take seriously the always unfulfilled ‘prophecies’ of revival this year, whilst others fall for the prosperity gospel.
There are two solutions to these problems. The first is to study the bible seriously. This means, at the very minimum, make sure you read from ALL of it. If you stick to just a part – the bits you are comfortable with – then it’s inevitable you won’t be equipped to resist the more subtle attacks. I can recommend David Pawson’s excellent introductions to each of the books of the bible to be found YouTube; he offers a starting point before diving in, and leaves no excuse for failing to engage with it ALL.
The other is to look hard at the ‘prophecies’ that you hear. You’ve just come back from a meeting where a well known preacher has promised you that ‘revival’ or a ‘great awakening’ is just round the corner. Funny that. We need to be more sceptical, because they’ve been selling that story for 25 years. And yes, it’s a selling scam; if they give you an uplifting message, you’ve leave the show encouraged by the buzz, and so go home happy. So they get invited back next year – and that keeps them in the comfort to which they have become accustomed. And noone will remember that their prophecies were false last year, so THEY CAN DO IT AGAIN.
I stumbled across this article from 2012 that promised – on the authority of such luminaries as Bill Johnson of Bethel – that September 1st 2011 will be looked back on as a turning point for the church in the UK.
Really? Anyone noticed?
For those of you who are tempted to give Kenneth Copeland house space, I encourage a reading of
From some 20 years ago. It would be howlingly funny if it wasn’t so sad. And given Copeland’s claims to be able to influence the weather, the continuing catastrophic drought in California should be enough for us to treat him with disdain…
Of course there’s nothing new about false prophets misleading the people of God. Jeremiah was plagued with them. Jeremiah 28 offers a sharp confrontation: Hananiah promised in the name of the Lord: ‘I will break the yoke of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon from the neck of all the nations within two years’. Jeremiah tells Hananiah he will be dead within a year – and he dies in the seventh month. (v17)
And for those of you who don’t buy into such predictions, may I remind you of the promises made at the time that the CofE allowed women priests. This would be a game changer, we were told. People would suddenly realise that the church was relevant. The pews would refill. All would be right with the CofE again. Yeah, right.
“but test everything; hold fast to what is good; abstain from every form of evil”
1 Thess 5
‘It’s nice to go with the flow. It’s a lot less work. We won’t upset people that way.’ Indeed – dead fish do drift gently down stream…