Saturday, January 3, 2015

But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or an uninformed person comes in, he is convinced by all...and thus the secrets of his heart are revealed; and so falling down on his face, he will worship God and report that God is truly among you.                  1 Corinthian 14: 24-25.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Spiritual Gifts and Godly Character

This article continues our teaching on the subject of “Prophecy in the New Testament Church.” The emphasis in this post (and the next one) deals with very important aspects which are especially important for leadership to understand. ---Billy Long 

Spiritual Gifts and Godly Character  
And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.  1 Corinthians 13: 2

Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies.  1 Corinthians 8:1

His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue.  2 Peter 1:3

Many will say to me in that day, “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name”? And I will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!”  Matthew 7: 22-23

Truth must be accompanied by compassion, godly character, and integrity. This principle applies to any aspect of our relationship to the Lord and His word, whether it be Bible study, preaching, personal counsel, exhortation, or prophecy.  Complications arise when carnal man (rather than the spiritual man) handles the word of God. The lack of compassion causes it to be used as a legalistic hammer to condemn and hurt people. The lack of character and holiness brings deception, mixture, and contamination. The lack of integrity causes men to “use” people and act with wrong and selfish motives.

When we think of spiritual gifts we think of God’s power. But God’s power must not be divorced from godly character and God’s holiness. Character and integrity are the things that prevent prophecy and the other gifts from being “flash” and glitter. Character is the foundation for the anointing and a ministry that has purity and durability. A person’s character can destroy what his gift builds. It is essentially character, not gifting, that determines whether or not we pass the tests of life.

Therefore, we seek to walk in God’s holiness as well as in His power. Power without holiness and character is empty and rings hollow. The world will scorn us if we walk in the power of God but fail in the holiness of God.  The holiness of God (right living, right motives, and moral purity) is what distinguishes us from the rest of the world. The devil can imitate our noise and our power, but he cannot reproduce holiness and godly character.
The devil’s counterfeit imitation of God’s power is seen in soulish mysticism, sorcery, witchcraft, the occult, and psychic phenomena.  His attempts at imitating holiness and character become legalism and bondage.

Godly character is something we as Christians must be careful to cultivate. Good people excelling at good things have to beware of pride. Immature and unlearned people must remain humble in order to learn and avoid the paths of error. People who experience the power and working of the Holy Spirit must especially guard their hearts to maintain integrity and pure motives.  There have  been men and women of God who moved in healing and power gifts who fell because they were deceived into thinking God was overlooking their sin.  Because the miracles continued, because God was still using them, they presumed to think God was giving them special dispensation to continue in their sin with impunity. The fact is the Holy Spirit will continue to use a person who is in disobedience and sin, at least for a season, while the Holy Spirit tries to draw him to repentance in the particular area of transgression.   However, eventually “the bottom will drop out” and the person will face the consequences of his un-repentant sin. Sometimes the problem may be an area of stubbornness, an area which grieves the Lord. Whether sin or childish stubbornness, eventually a person may face either judgment or discipline.

In this same vein of thought it should be noted that some very interesting (though not godly) people have prophesied. Balaam was a soothsayer who spoke some wonderful prophetic words over Israel, words which also prophesied of Jesus (Numbers 22-23). King Saul himself prophesied, even while trying find and kill David (1 Samuel 10:6, 10-12;  19:18-24). The high priest Caiaphus, while leading the plot to put Jesus to death, prophesied that one must die for the nation.  These examples (and maybe some you know personally) show us that the gifts and manifestations of the Holy Spirit operate by the mercy and grace of God, and that God will use imperfect vessels.
The imperfections may be related to ungodly character (like those discussed above) or to issues related to normal spiritual growth and character development experienced by all Christians. If the issues relate to sin and evil, we should repent and change. If the issues relate to the stumbles and imperfections of normal growth, we should recognize that mistakes are a part of growth, thank God for the disciplines of learning, and move forward rejoicing in the grace, mercy, and goodness of the Lord.

Don’t try to fulfill the prophecy yourself; let God do it.
Then the men of David said to him, “This is the day of which the Lord said to you, ‘Behold, I will deliver your enemy into your  hand, that you may do to him as it seems good to you.’” And David arose and secretly cut off a corner of Saul’s robe.  And he said to his men. “The Lord forbid that I should do this thing to my master, the Lord’s anointed, to stretch out my hand against him, seeing he is the anointed of the Lord.” 1Samuel 24: 4-5.
Abishai (acting on the same promise quoted by David’s men in the verse above) said to David, “God has delivered your enemy into your hand this day. Now therefore, please strike him at once with the spear, right to the earth.”  1 Samuel 26: 8
This principle applies to those who receive a prophetic word. We must allow God to fulfill His own words rather than our trying to do it ourselves. Waiting on God’s timing requires faith, patience, and godly character.

Abraham is the first example that comes to mind.  He was promised a son, but instead of waiting on God to fulfill this word, Abraham tried to do it on his own. He produced an Ishmael by his own flesh rather than waiting on Isaac the son of promise.

The prophetic word to David was that God would deliver his enemies into his hands. In the two verses quoted above, King Saul was on a campaign to find and kill David. In the first example, David was hiding in the recesses of a cave where Saul just happened to enter to “use the restroom.” In the second example, Saul was asleep in his camp. In both cases David could have killed Saul while he was in defenseless and vulnerable positions. In both cases David’s men encouraged him, based on a prophetic word, to kill Saul. They whispered “This is your chance to fulfill the prophecy. Saul is your enemy and you can kill him now!” David, however, knew in his heart that this was not the time or the manner. He would not enlist his own flesh or the devil’s methods to accomplish God’s purpose. He would wait for God’s hand, God’s timing, and God’s way.

A word from God not only encourages and strengthens us, but also, at times, tests us (Psalm105: 19). A word from God does not necessarily make life easier. Sometimes it precedes waiting, and it requires faith and patience (steadfast perseverance). In the words of an Old Testament prophet, “Though it tarry, you must wait for it.”

Keep a look-out for the next post as we continue our discussion on Prophesying, especially as it relates to leadership. —Billy Long