“God is still speaking -
Reclaiming prophecy in our personal and political lives”
Testing for God's word: Discerning the prophetic
A very cool thing happened this week. A group of 14 senior Protestant church leaders from China were visiting Washington and they asked at the last minute if they could visit a actual functioning church. So they came here to Foundry this past Thursday. They were interested in our mission. They loved hearing about our history. They went gaga about the stained glass window with a picture of Madame Chaing Chi Sheck in our chapel. And it was clearly the first time they had visited a reconciling congregation so that was an interesting conversation.
At the end of the visit I asked them if they would pray for us. So one of the pastors stood up and prayed a five minute prayer in his language. After the prayer I asked one of the pastors who spoke English to summarize the prayer for me. He told me that he had prayed for us to be prosperous. So I want you to know that the senior leaders of the Protestant churches of China have prayed for you to be prosperous. I asked him to also pray for you to be generous. It was just a really cool thing to be able to host the leaders of the Protestant church of China this week.
I want to take just a few minutes this morning, maybe 10, so I want to get to the point.
Our theme right now is that God is still speaking. Prophecy did not end when they sewed the back cover on the Bible.
I believe God still speaks prophetic words through human beings into human history. God spoke democracy into human history. 200 years ago democracy was a new idea, an experiment. Now, only five countries on the face of the earth still have absolute monarchies. God spoke women's suffrage into human history. 100 years ago almost nowhere, including the United States, did women have the right to vote. Now women have the right to vote in every country on the face of the earth except one. God is still speaking.
I also believe God still speaks into individual lives. This is why it is important that all of us have a small group where we come to know and love one another and where God can speak new possibilities into our lives through others.
Here's the problem. Not every word spoken into our lives is a prophecy from God. I could tell you stories. So how do we discern what are God-given prophecies and what are not?
First Thessalonians 5:19-22 says:
Do not quench the Spirit. Where the Spirit of God is present there will be prophecy. Do not stifle it. But test everything. Trust but verify.”
How do you test a prophetic idea that comes into your mind or that someone else speaks into your life?
We test prophecies by having a theology. Actually we test prophecies by having a form of theology called eschatology.
Here is a very interesting thing. Usually in the New Testament when spiritual leadership functions are listed, the prophet comes second on the list. Two examples:
I Corinthians 12:28
“And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers; then deeds of power, then gifts of healing, forms of assistance, forms of leadership, various kinds of tongues.”
First apostles, then prophets, then teachers, then etc. etc.
“The gifts [God] gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ…”
First on the list are apostles, then prophets, then etc., etc.
Apostles are first on the list. Prophets are second. This is not a matter of prestige or rank or privilege. This is functional
The apostles were the ones who had known Jesus personally, they had been taught by Jesus. So the apostle's function is to know the mind of Christ and to have a sense of God's purposes for human history.
The mind of Christ is theology. God's purposes for human history is eschatology.
We judge prophetic words based on our theology and eschatology. We need to have a sense of God's heart and God's purposes so that we will be able to test prophetic words spoken into our lives.
The primary way, not the only way, but the primary way, we know the heart and purposes of God is by studying the biblical story. What has God done in human history in the past? What does this tell us about what God is trying to do in the world now? All of us need a theology and eschatology.
We are bringing Don Morris back. He is the best New Testament teacher that I know. We are having a Bible weekend the last weekend of October – Friday and Sat. We take the Bible seriously at Foundry Church. Our theology and eschatology is biblical. We study the Bible intelligently to get a sense of God's heart and God's intention for human history.
If a prophecy spoken into our lives does not align with our theology and eschatology we either need to not receive it or else we need to reexamine our theology and eschatology. The apostolic function comes before the prophetic function.
But here is a promise based on the biblical story. Wherever the Holy Spirit is there is prophecy. If we open our hearts and minds, and if we put ourselves in relationships like a small group where people can know us, and if we have a theology and eschatology so that we can test the prophetic words spoken to us, God will sooner or later speak a prophetic word into our life and it will transform your life. I promise.