Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Godly Prophesy or Sinister Forces?

by Cowboy Bob Sorensen

This article is from a conversation I had with a friend. Unfortunately for me, she asked a question for which I could not give a simple answer. I was disappointed in myself for being unable to give a good response at the time until I realized that it was not really an easy question. It needs some background in several areas, including my own belief system. So, I gave it some thought and did some research, and am going to give what I hope is useful material for her, and for others. I am expanding on what was supposed to be a reply to her question. Which is quite a trick with Basement Cat snoring behind me.

From what I can reconstruct in my memory, she told me that a man she did not know very well began telling her some things about her life that were true, and saying what would happen in her future. In addition, he claimed to be a Christian and that this was a gift of God. (I believe she told me he said he was not a psychic.) So, was this a prophecy?

"The Winged Man (The Fallen Angel)" by Odilon Redon, Public Domain
Being a skeptic at heart, my first impulse was that this guy was being manipulative. Some people are skilled at reading others, and can steer people's emotions so they accept what they are told. There are times when the person on the receiving end is caught up in the moment and does not really notice things that are incorrect or very general, and there are times when people seem to have a keen insight that is difficult to explain. My first impulse when someone seeks to gain from what they are saying is that it should sound an inner alarm bell. Have you ever watched the TV show "The Mentalist"? I used to. The hero is a former "psychic" who could read people and use other tricks, but renounced his ways and even claimed that there are no such things as real psychics. Whether you agree with the character's claim or not, the show did convey ways that people are emotionally manipulated.

"So what about prophets, Cowboy Bob?"

In the Old Testament, prophets were people who were moved by God to speak for him. Pagan religions and cultures had prophets all over the place who claimed to speak for their gods. 1 Samuel 6.1-3 shows that the Philistine prophets spoke accurately (I assume that God worked through them at that time). However, a prophet of Yahweh had to be correct. It was a very serious undertaking to speak for the Creator of the universe who brought the Israelites out of captivity! A prophet's main duty was to speak for God, but there were times when he was led to foretell the future. If he did this and what he said did not come to pass, that was all. Game over (Deuteronomy 18.20-22).

John the Baptist was the last of the Old Testament-style prophets, as implied in Matthew 11.13. The Old Covenant was fulfilled, and the New Covenant was instituted through Jesus. When he left, he sent all Christians the Holy Spirit (John 14.17, 2 Timothy 1.14, Ephesians 3.16), so there was no need for those kinds of prophets.

"So what about prophets in the New Testament?"

In the New Testament, God would give utterance to people and they would prophesy (Acts 21.9, 1 Cor. 13.9-10). There are two kinds of prophecy. First, there are occasional prophecies caused when someone is filled with the Spirit. The second kind is more complicated, this involves the "gift of prophecy". Astrologer and "prophet" Jeanne Dixon supposedly had a "gift of prophecy". She also had quite a few things that were wrong. There are others like her. Although we're not under the Old Testament, God would not reduce his standards to have someone claim to be a prophet and have "iffy" accuracy.

Here is where I have to stop and explain a position I have: The "charismatic gifts" of speaking in tongues, healing, prophesy and so on described in the New Testament have ceased because the church has been established. I could be labeled as a "cessationist". (To take this tangent on a tangent, there are some people who will say that if someone is prophesying or speaking in tongues, they are under Satan's influence. Who am I to restrict God? If he wants me to speak in a language that I do not know, or gives me a prophetic utterance, hey, great! But that will not necessarily mean that I have been given that particular gift.) Dr. John MacArthur wrote on the spiritual gifts here, and has a sermon series here. There are others who insist that these gifts have continued through the present time.

I am not interested in having a debate here about whether or not the "sign gifts" have continued to this day. This was to show where I am coming from, but I will refer you to this short article about prophecy in the church today.

God has given us many good things, and Satan counterfeits many of them. To say that someone "speaking in tongues" as a guarantee of God's approval is ridiculous. Cults and occult practices have mimicked this and other things of the spirit (2 Corinthians 11.13-15, 1 Timothy 4.1). A simple way to tell if someone is interested in the truth is to test him and determine what testimony he brings (1 John 4.1-4). This requires good knowledge of the Bible. Does he glorify God (1 Peter 4.12-16)? Is he bringing the truth of the gospel (Galatians 1.8-9)?

Yes, someone may have a special message for you. But it must be measured against the written Word of God (Acts 17.11). Is it harmless? Perhaps. Or it could be an opening into a darker deception. Pray, search the Scriptures, get good counsel and be discerning.


Anonymous said...

Didn't know that you leaned towards cessationism but then again, overall, good article.

Always go back to the Word. It is in His Word that we find solace and truth.

Unknown said...

I think you should not use the word of God to twist it to fit your "implied" opinions & theories. I believe you're pretty much correct on the series you have about evolution being totally wrong and creationism being right. But when you say that all of "the gifts" listed in the New Testament were 'no longer needed' I would like it if you would give a particular time that "you think" they were no longer needed, number one, and number two; I would like for you to give an actual chapter or verse that implies clearly, any place in Scripture at all, that seriously suggest that the gifts of the Eternal Holy Spirit just vanished with the death of some of the Apostles. Also Paul spoke to the church about our Spiritual inheritance "for the ages and the ages to come" which, believe me, is longer than 70 years by at least a 1,000 years...don't you think Bob? Jesus was speaking in Math.11 about the fulfillment & end of the Old Covenant Law and the beginning of the New Covenant and the beginning of the church, HE was NOT suggesting the 'end of the gifts of the Spirit', He was talking about John's life and death signaling the end of a specific era & the entering into of the times of His Body, the Church.. Who would need everything God has to give, to walk the Godly Life. I can't imagine a time that we would ever NOT need God's indwelling power to overcome in this world, where we are called to overcome the god of this world with the power of the Indwelling Holy Ghost and all of the gifts of the Holy Ghost, are the WAY we would overcome Satan in this world. Bob, Can you really believe this world today is easier to live in, WITHOUT the sovereign POWER of His Spirit?

Bob Sorensen said...

Sarah, I think it would be far better for all concerned if you actually paid attention to what I said and did not put words in my mouth. You are doing exactly what I said I did not want, and you're turning this into a debate about the spiritual gifts. But NOWHERE did I say that ALL are gone. Your emotional diatribe is noted, but you are basing a lot of things on your personal preferences and unargued philosophical biases. Essentially, you are calling me a liar and a heretic as well as completely missing the point of the article so you can put forth your own personal views. No more comments from you will be allowed.

Unknown said...

Bob, always give a cool answer...your answer shows a lot of defensiveness and lack of enough facts.

Bob Sorensen said...

You can read into it whatever you like, but I stand by my response.

Bob Sorensen said...

Also, my answer show "lack of enough facts"? Weird.