I have delayed writing this post until I have more clarity on it. However, when I see people influenced by those who put God into a box, I feel like I have to speak.
So, what I will do, without attacking anyone (attacking people only brings harm and disunity), I will present the side I am struggling with, and I will talk about the strong points and the areas I agree with them on. Then I will present the side that I see the angle from.
I know that this subject could take pages and pages for me to write, and I also could be tempted to sin. I will trust that God will guide me through what is on my heart to communicate. I also believe that when we hold things in, we become bitter. The best way to work through disagreements is to talk them through, without becoming enemies of those we disagree with.
Lately, I have seen some posts and articles concerning Sarah Young's book, 'Jesus Calling'. I actually was given the book but I have never read it. I will not comment a whole lot on it, and it is the other comments that people say and relate to their articles that I am more concerned about.
The main concern I have, and I have seen articles on this subject, written by Godly men whom I have learned from, is the question of whether or not God speaks to us today. There could be a lot of different answers here, but I will start with what I see is a problem and why I agree with the other side concerning some of the aspects of this topic.
Some Bible teachers claim God does not speak to our hearts today. They say it is not in the Bible, and that God only speaks through His word. Basically, I understand what they are saying, but the examples they use to prove their point are just one aspect of how people claim to be hearing from God, and from that they have authority to tell someone else what God told them to tell that person. Number 1; that is just plain scary. If I went to a church and people were telling each other what God said about me or told them to tell me, I would feel paranoid. The spiritual gift these people are referring to is called, 'prophesy', although some understand it to be a 'word of knowledge' or 'word of wisdom'. The Bible has a lot to say about the use of spiritual gifts, and especially prophesy. When a person gives a word or prophecy, it must be weighed by others. For example, let's say I had an impression about someone and even some words in my mind were associated with it. I would not go directly to that person and tell them (unless it were something minor, and then with caution). I would ask those who are skilled in this gift whether they think it is a word for this person or not. When people give a 'word' they believe is from God, and they use the words 'thus saith the Lord' we have problems. The gift of prophecy or receiving a word from God does *not* have the weight of an Old Testament prophet. That was a different kind of office. Paul writes that we 'prophesy in part'. So people who are going around giving words to people, especially those they don't know, are really on dangerous ground. Everything needs to be submitted before we do this kind of thing.
When the gift of prophecy is used in the church, it is not necessarily a word of direction or prediction of the future, although it can involve those. Any spiritual gift people use will only be used to build up the body of Christ. Sure, there are times God reveals things, such as when Spurgeon was preaching one time. He gave details from the pulpit of a person doing a certain evil activity. Spurgeon may not have known that he was using a spiritual gift, but the person repented when he heard the words Spurgeon was speaking. Another time, Spurgeon was talking with an individual and told this person in detail what he was doing and that it was wrong. Again, the person heard the words and repented. That is how spiritual gifts should be used. They should be used among people who know and trust each other in the church. God can speak to our hearts in a lot of varied ways, and it could look different for each person. But if there is a person giving out some kinds of predictions concerning the church, and especially if we don't know him or her, we need to be careful. It is likely not from God, no matter how much he says, 'Thus saith the Lord'.
So, I agree that going up to people and saying, God told me to tell you ....., is not edifying. It is possible that that could happen, but that is not the norm. The gifts are for edification, not for tearing down. With so much abuse going on today (abuse is a form of power), people who think that God told them such and such, could really only be an expression of a heart that is power hungry and wants control.
On the other hand, what my concern is, that God's power is being limited. Many say, God only speaks through His word. I agree, generally speaking. Yes, the word of God is eternal, applies to all time, infallible, complete, sufficient, inerrant. God has spoken and given us His story in His word. We feed upon His word. We take it in and it becomes part of us. We relish it. But we also have to ask ourselves another question: Can God speak to us apart from His word? Actually, the answer is 'no' for He never speaks outside of His word. But here is the difficulty: Our stories are not written in the Bible. Our churches today are not written in the Bible. Our cultures and what we do today is not written in the Bible. So, that makes it complicated for us to hear from God on a personal basis then, doesn't it?
Everything God does, and everything God is, is based out of His word. But how does that apply to us today without taking God out of His word in order to hear His voice? Can this even be done?
Here's an example of a question someone had one time concerning this subject: What if God were healing someone of a stomach problem today, and God revealed to a person to go and pray for the person with the stomach problem? That's not in the Bible. So, do we discard it? Of course not.
Does the Bible teach that God heals? Yes, definitely. In Third World countries, people are often healed and even dead people are raised to life. The Gospel is precious to those who live in Third World countries and the people are quick to give God the glory for the miracle. But in America, we are divided. Part of the problem is due to the belief system that some hold today. There are well known Bible teachers who teach that spiritual gifts have ceased. They do not expect God to do miracles, so no miracles take place. I don't think the people in Third World countries are arguing about whether the spiritual gifts have ceased or not. I don't think that people in Third World countries are fighting over whether the king James version of the Bible is the only correct version and all others are from the devil.
Here's the thing: The Bible is God's word. We all know that and believe it with all of our hearts. But, in order for the Scriptures to work in our lives, God's word must be activated by His Holy Spirit, or the words will be only writing on paper. They will be meaningless to us.
But if we back off from the work of the Holy Spirit, how do we get God's word activated in our hearts? Basically, because we see people using the spiritual gifts in a wrong way, we have closed our hearts to the Holy Spirit and we are in danger of trying to live the Christian life in our own strength. We are trying to be the church in our own power.
I find this quote disturbing by Dr. John MacArthur. I give credit to this man for his knowledge of the Gospel and generally, he seems to be a very good Bible teacher overall, but to say something like this either doesn't come off right, or, it sounds degrading to God. ""Show me a person obsessed with the Holy Spirit and I'll show you a person not filled with the Holy Spirit." First of all, if a person is obsessed with the Holy Spirit, is that a bad thing? Is the Holy Spirit God, and if so, why is it wrong to be obsessed with Him? If a person is obsessed with the Holy Spirit, then if the Holy Spirit is at work, He will glorify Christ. That is that response of the Holy Spirit. Also, if a person is obsessed with the spiritual gifts, that is not the same as being obsessed with the Holy Spirit.
Certainly people can be hung up on the spiritual gifts. There can be wrong motives and wrong hearts associated with the spiritual gifts. People can misunderstand the spiritual gifts and use them for their own glory or to control others with. The reason why this happens so easily is simply because there is very little discipleship going on in the church today. When people live independently of each other, there is no relationship, and where there are no relationships, dangerous things can happen. Things can get out of order. People can get seriously hurt. It could take people away from God instead of bringing them closer to Him.
Bottom Line: I am concerned that we have taken the word of God and replaced the role of the Holy Spirit with the Scriptures. We really need to examine the Scriptures concerning the Spiritual gifts and we need to look at our own hearts and see if we are quenching the Holy Spirit in our lives.
I have written the story of Orlando somewhere, I'm sure, but briefly I will write it here. A man who did evangelism was getting ready to go out that evening, when God spoke to his heart and told him that he was meet a man named Orlando, and he was to tell Orlando to 'get ready to come home'. I am sure that the evangelist most likely had no idea what those words meant, but he went out and did meet a homeless man named Orlando. The evangelist ministered the Gospel to Orlando, and Orlando came to Christ. I assume he gave Orlando the message to 'get ready to come home'. On Sunday morning, the evangelist went to the area where Orlando was staying at. As he got there, he couldn't get in because there were emergency vehicles everywhere. He asked where Orlando was, and someone replied that Orlando was riding his bike to get something for breakfast and he was hit by a car and killed. (The person who told me this story knows the person who was the evangelist in this story).
So, my question is, does God speak to our hearts today? Can God speak to our hearts today, or is He silent and do we only hear from Him while we are reading our Bibles? Is the Holy Spirit still active or does He just sit back and do nothing today? Is God distant or personal? Is God still powerful or is He giving His power a rest?
One more thing to think about: I don't believe that God gives any more revelations that pertain to the Scriptures. In other words, we will not receive new revelation that should be included in Scriptures. God can reveal Himself to us, but nothing in the spiritual gifts weighs equally to the Scriptures. If God tells me to pray for Debby's healing, and I pray and she gets healed, that is not added to the Scriptures. But everything about that event is based on the Scriptures.