Prophecy, I note, is a gift and not the normal expectation of every believer. That is probably the clue to finding out how it is abused so much; all these people flocking to watch the skies for signs gave themselves the gift of what they imagine prophecy is. They were not given the gift by the Holy Spirit. No angel will descend from heaven to tell them to stop gazing into the sky and get to work as in Acts 1:11, because if they don’t believe what is written in God’s Word, they will not listen to the angel; they will just cite the experience as a qualification on their prophetic résumé.
Prophecy is speaking for God. A prophet doesn’t necessarily tell the future, but he always tells the truth. Very few of of today’s self-appointed prophets tell the truth. They say what their constituencies want to hear, in accordance with the scripture that says that people will take to themselves false prophets who prophesy to their liking. It’s a universal human failing that we must always be on guard against.
People use prophecy to confer themselves with wisdom, authority, and significance. These are Gnostic values. In Christianity, wisdom is given only in the measure that is needed, authority belongs to Christ alone, and the significance of our lives is measured by our service, not our conspicuousness.
I notice that most modern ‘prophets’ and ‘teachers’ are bereft of any concern for Christian service aside from the acts of speaking and teaching. They say that since good works cannot earn salvation, they must be avoided at all cost; justifying sitting on their hands. I don’t think Jesus would approve of that. Jesus saved us so we would serve, not so we could relax. We have enlisted in the Army of the Lord, we have not won the Readers Digest Sweepstakes. They aspire to show themselves as clever, as having figured out the mysteries of the Kingdom, but Jesus told us to aspire to be servants, carrying out the mission of the Kingdom.
Jesus told parables about people who were busy about the master’s business when he returned—and about people who were not prepared. He never once told a parable in which He praised a servant who sat in the watchtower and successfully announced the master’s return in advance. These harbingers of the second coming are campaigning for an honor that simply does not exist.
We love God, because God loved us first. God’s demonstration of love in offering such a great sacrifice for our benefit causes us to love Him. Love then begets trust. Suppose you have a flat tire on a cold and snowy night, and someone promises to get assistance and return. How long will you wait until you leave your car and search out a telephone? If the person was your best friend, wouldn’t you have more faith and wait longer than if the person was a casual acquaintance you didn’t like? So love begets trust, which is to say faith. We have faith in people who have demonstrated their trustworthiness through their steadfast love. This is how saving faith is a gift of God: He loved us, which causes us to love Him, and the steadfastness of His love builds our faith in Him.
Suppose you marry a girl and hit it off with your new father-in-law and become fast friends with him. He likes you, so you like him, and you trust him with all sorts of things. You follow his tax and investment advice, and when he makes recommendations about your career, you listen attentively. For his love caused your love and that caused you to trust him. It is all a gift from your father-in-law; in the beginning you were wary of him. It all came at his initiative.
Then suppose one day your employer goes bust and you lose your job. Doesn’t your relationship with your father-in-law, which is based on love and faith, give you great cause for hope for the future despite the recession? Isn’t your hope proportionate to the amount of love and trust in the relationship?
So it is with Jesus. He loved us first, so we love Him. Because of our love, we trust Him. Then we find out that He has gone away to be enthroned at the right hand of God the Father Almighty! Do we not therefore have great hope in sharing in His inheritance on His return? Those whom he has loved much, love Him much, their faith is great, their hope is great. Those who love Him little, have little reason for trusting Him, thus they entertain no great hopes.
Jesus never told His disciples, “Whoever would be greatest among you, let him campaign to be your leader.” He said, “Whoever would be greatest among you, let him be the servant to all.”
Therefore do not pretend to have mastered all the mysteries of God, do not prophesy falsely in God’s name, do not propound wisdom that you have invented in your own head, for God’s wisdom is expressed in deeds of self-sacrifice, love, and submission. Follow Jesus with your whole body, not just your head. Be His body in this world, do the deeds that He would do, serve Him in deeds and truth, bear fruit in accordance with your calling as the agent of His providence in this sinful world. For Jesus has appointed you a lifeguard to rescue those who are drowning in sin. He did not appoint you to be a Pharisee to taunt them or to think of reasons why they deserve their fate. If you would be wise, humble yourself to serve.
- What is better, to attract notoriety by falsely predicting the time of Jesus’ return, or to give a glass of cold water to His least beloved who thirsts?
- What is greater, to receive honors and glories from men in this world, or approval and praise from God in the next?
- What is wiser, to lead the sheep on a wild goose chase in search of the Shepherd, or to gather them into the Shepherd’s fold and tend to their needs as they await His return? His commandment was not ‘lead my sheep’ but ‘feed my sheep.’
Prophecy is an honorable calling, but test the spirit that calls you, to see if the calling is from God and not from personal vanity.