The Inconvenience of Hearing God
A few years ago my wife's father gave us a microwave oven. It is very old, one of the earliest models. It takes up most of the counter! The new ones are much smaller, sleeker; I'm sure they work better too. But after getting that I don't see us rushing back to the way life was without it. It is faster. It is more convenient.
One of the questions most of today's Christianity would find difficult to answer would be why, if all the other gifts are more or less manifested in your church--pastors and teachers, missionaries, leaders, etc.--why does your church not have prophets?
Can you imagine a response like this? "Because the Bible says there will be false prophets, we decided that we just wouldn't have any." That may stop you from hearing the false prophet, but it will also rule-out your hearing anything from a true one.
If you were going to be consistent and use that reasoning, you will have to say no pastors, either, or anything else on the list, because the Bible talks about a time when there would be many false pastors too. In fact, you would come to the place where there would be no church.
Weak Church or Strong Church?
The gifts are given to build up the church, help it become mature. Now there may be a lot of challenges to becoming mature, to being adults, but how many adults here would really want to go back to their teenage years or other childhood years? Not many. Those years can be very painful. If it is hard to be an adult it is even harder today to be a kid. The church is better off if it is moving toward maturity than if it lingers forever in adolescence.
Paul likens the various gifts manifested in the church to body parts. A body needs ears so it can hear, legs so it can walk, a nose so it can sniff, skin so it can touch and feel. It also needs eyes so that it can see. So does the church. But what else is needed?
A prophet--what body part is a prophet most like? The prophet is most like a mouth. Consider our Scripture in Exodus 7:1-2:
And the LORD said unto Moses, See, I have made thee a god to Pharaoh: and Aaron thy brother shall be thy prophet. Thou shalt speak all that I command thee: and Aaron thy brother shall speak unto Pharaoh, that he send the children of Israel out of his land.
When we hear the word "prophet" we tend to think of someone telling us what the future will be. And prophets do do that--some of that. But not so much. If you take all the words of all the prophets in the Bible, you'll find that only a small percentage of what they do is to tell the future. Much more than that, the task of a prophet is to guide God's people, to speak for Him. In the text we shared above, the task was to speak through His people to a heathen king. But even here the prophet is speaking for God.
A church without a voice--now that would be tragic. The church must speak. A God without a voice would be a God who never spoke. And that is not what the world or the churches today need.
When you are anxious to do your own thing, it is always easier if God is silent. It is easier in a way, because you have room to maneouver (at least at that moment). Of course, there is always the judgment, but that is later and this is now. A church that refuses to hear God speaking is not going to be guided by Him but will instead be guided by its own desires. Judging by past history, sometimes this has been a problem.
Now I am not talking about a church guided only by the Bible compared to one guided by the Bible and something else. Every church on the planet today that claims to be guided only by the Bible is lying. They are all hearing an awful lot from various human teachers. If they were truly going to be guided by the Bible, it would be found that they were aware of the plan of heaven to use special, supernatural gifts from heaven to build up His church that we are going o see about in a minute. But the churches don't want to hear that. They want to be able to teach what their grandfathers taught and what their present-time church-growth experts say is truth. If you are going to go by the Bible you have to let the gift of prophecy do what God wants it to too.
Really, a church that goes by the Bible will have the gift of prophecy manifested in it. It will have the Bible and the gift of prophecy.
Speaking for God
One thing the prophet does is speak for God to the world. And that is also what His people do. Isn't our mission--yours and mine--to speak to the world for God? To tell them what God wants us to tell them that they might be enabled to be in His kingdom? If so, then you and I must be willing to hear God. We must hear His prophets.
Now the Bible is really the premier prophetic, authoritative document that measures everything. We can hardly underestimate the importance of the Bible. At the same time, if the gifts are important, if they continue to the end, then we must let them be operative among us, let God use them to speak too.
In the end of time, God has a people. He characterizes them, describes them, in Revelation 14:12: "Here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus." So these people are obedient to God. And they have the same faith--the same belief system--as the one held by Jesus. Back a few verses in Revelation 12:17 we read about this people. Satan goes to make war with them. Why? because they are God's agency on the scene to finish the work. We are to be the physical manifestation of His helping hands. In this verse it says that, "The dragon [Satan] was wroth with the woman [the church] and went to make war with the remnant of her seed." Did you ever notice that? The devil, he seeks out a people who what--keep the commandments of God and have the faith of Jesus. He seeks them out for a definite purpose. It is not to have a Bible study from us, but to make war with us.
And then it says that he is making war with "the remnant of her seed." He seeks out those who are the last. All the others are vanquished already. Everyone else has gone off the tracks, into the ditch, out from God's protection and into soul-destroying error of whatever stripe, whatever poison they found most appealing. They ate the poison. They accepted the teaching of the commandments and the doctrines of men in the place of the teaching of the commandments and doctrines of God. They do not have the faith of Jesus! They have the other faith. And if it is not the faith of Jesus then it is the faith of the one in Jesus' place. And we would call that the faith of the antichrist--the one who stands in Jesus' place.
But who wants to hear that?
It is so much more convenient to just live by the doctrines and the commandments of men. Then there is no need (or so people think) to test anything by the Bible. Then there is no need (or so people think) to reform, because everyone can go to church and pat each other on the back and throw their offering in, rub themselves on the belly and so, "Oh, how religious I am!"
But in the end of time the devil, he only goes to make war on the remnant. The rest are confused, even lazy Christians. They are convenient Christians. I tell you that there are only two groups of us out there as far as the devil goes. He divides us up into two groups. Did you know that? There are those he has already vanquished. He sneers at them and walks right past them to attack the other group. And that group is those who keep the commandments of God and have the faith, the belief-system--of Jesus. And who are they? We didn't finish our verse. Hear it now to the end:
And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus.
Notice here that the devil doesn't go to make war with women plural, but with the woman singular. That is because in the end there will only be one group that keep God's commandments. And strangely enough, this group, this lonely last group out holding onto and lifting up God's truth to the world, will be those who are also receiving from God His precious, precious gift--the gift of prophecy. The women, all the random churches that refuse to speak for God but instead tell the world about a form of godliness, only have a form to tell about. So that is all they tell. The woman singular, she is the group of people , the last church, who are obeying God, being changed by Him, coming out from the apostasy that is engulfing the world.
The Testimony of Jesus
Now you say, "What is the testimony of Jesus"? And the Bible answers that for us just a few pages over. Turn to Revelation 19:10, and look down there at the last part of the verse where the definition is: "The testimony of Jesus is the Spirit of Prophecy."
But what is the spirit of prophecy? Let's move to 1 Corinthians 1:4-7. And what do we have here?
I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ; That in every thing ye are enriched by Him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge; even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you: So that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Now here we hear about the "testimony of Christ." And what did we have in Revelation? We had "the testimony of Jesus." Now Jesus and Christ--are they two different people or one and the same person? Why, He is one and the same: Jesus the Christ or Jesus Christ! And so in the same way the testimony of Christ, the testimony of Jesus, is defined here in Corinthians as one of the spiritual gifts, for Paul says right after mentioning the "testimony of Christ" that it is confirmed in God's people so that they will come behind in no gift. In the fourth verse it speaks of God's grace that is given to us too. And right in between all this we read about their having the testimony of Christ. In other words, all plainly and simply, these are a few of the verses that help us to understand that the testimony of Jesus is the Spirit of Prophecy is the gift of Prophecy.
Recall our first text this morning? How in figure Moses was like God and Aaron was like his prophet, and Moses spoke to Aaron the words that God gave him, and Aaron spoke to the people the words that Moses gave him. And it said that Aaron was like a prophet to them. And they told pharaoh to let Jehovah's people go because that was the command of God. Aaron in a prophet-like role spoke to those who weren't God's people in God's behalf. And yet he spoke also for all of God's people.
For us as Seventh-day Adventists, we as a people are to also speak like Aaron. Only remember, Aaron spoke like a prophet in these events. Moses was the prophet here and Aaron was functioning like a prophet. In the same way you and I may not be prophets, but we stand between God and the people of the world in a prophet-like way. We are to help them know what God's will is. And that will is that they would be released from all the different bondages they've been bound in, let Him take away their habits and corruptions, and let Him do a work in them that can only be done by the faith of Jesus.
Now brothers and sisters, how are we going to do that unless we know what God's will is ourselves? Look here again in 1 Corinthians 1:7. See, we didn't finish that verse. Because it says altogether that the testimony of Christ was confirmed in them "so that ye come behind in no gift, waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." And the next verse goes even further, saying that God will work in us so much that we will finally be called "blameless" in that day when Jesus comes! In other words, what He is going to do is just that He is going to perfectly reproduce in you and in me a character so very much like Christ that the world will know it and He will come to claim us as His own. We'll never match Jesus--that's not the question. The question though, is will the world hear God's will for them, and will they hear it from us? Will God have a people who can hear His prophet speak and live in harmony with that, but at the same time defend their faith by the Bible?
The world is waiting for a people who live by the Bible and believe also in the prophets of God. In the last church God will manifest the gift of prophecy, just as He did back in the time of the New Testament church. In the Seventh-day Adventist Church, in the final movement to give the third angel's message to the world, God has manifested this gift--many, many of us around the world have come to believe--in the life and ministry of Ellen G. White. She did not found this church, but she gave much encouragement and counsel along the way that helped it to be effective and be established. Our pioneers in this church believed the prophets of God and He prospered them. He made the work grow. Now the question comes to you and me today: will we hear His prophets? Will we believe them? Will He then grow the church as His blessings are shown? This is up to you and me.
But who wants to hear that? By the grace of Jesus I do!
Given for Practical Purposes
The Bible reports dozens of prophets down through the ages of whom little or nothing is recorded in the Bible. And there are many spoken about in the Bible but they don't have a book in the Bible. There is no book of Elijah or Noah, but what they did is in there. Of Noah the Bible even says he was a preacher of righteousness, but it doesn't record any of his sermons. Surely he was an inspired speaker--Noah, the prophet of God. How I would like a tape of one of his sermons!
We can be sure that Noah spoke many things specific to those who lived in his day. The Bible mentions the idea of present truth. In a given time period, heaven will want to emphasize certain truths. But some things might not be as helpful to those living in other ages. So the Bible tells us very little about certain time periods. But I believe that probably someone like say John the Baptist, he must have spoken enough to fill several books. But God didn't have him write it all out and put it in the Bible . Some of it is there, just exactly what we need, but many things he said under the inspiration of God are not preserved for us. God could have. But He had other ideas He wanted to tell other generations.
Some things are especially helpful for all generations and God arranged for those things to be in the Bible. Other things perhaps are more crucial for certain generations, certain periods of time. Some of those things might not wind up as being part of the Bible, but they are very important nonetheless. When God speaks, it is very important! So some prophets have a work that is more localized to a certain period in time. Their words may not all be found in the Bible, but it will all, everything they say, be found to harmonize fully, very fully, with the Bible. So we can take everything that is claimed to be prophetic, understood to be prophetic, and compare it all very carefully with the Bible. We can look at the biblical tests of a prophet. And then we'll know whether we are on solid ground or not. We'll know whether God is speaking to His people through that source or not.
Notice that what I am sharing with you is not an idea that makes anything in the Bible any less important to us at all. If anything, it makes it even more important, for God saw fit to preserve for us everything in this book [holds Bible up]. But while this makes the Bible even more important to us, it also takes seriously Bible verses like the one that says "despise not prophesyings" and to "test all things, and hold fast that which is good" (1 Thessalonians 5:20-21). We'll be people listening to God through both parts of His work, but we'll not test the Bible by the prophet, but the prophet by the Bible. That is the plan of God.
A practical Suggestion For Us
Now some of us, we need a practical place to start. Some of us have never read a single book from Ellen White. If that is where you are at, then may I suggest a powerful solution. You know, when someone is in a desperate situation, the paramedics don't just go and get a bandage out of their ambulance; they get the paddles. And they say "Stand clear!" and give a jolt to get the heart muscle going again. They do that only in the most critical emergencies. But if this is where you are, I don't think that you are in anything less than an emergency yourself. What you need to do is skip the band-aids and go straight for the paddles! So I want to recommend to you that you read a certain one of Mrs. White's books.
This book is without question the most important book to be published in seventeen hundred years. Only the Bible is more important. But the book I speak of is called The Great Controversy. You need, starting today, to go and get and read that book. You need the paddles. You need the most powerful thing in the arsenal. Get that book. Read it prayerfully. Take it and study some of the 6000 Bible verses in it. You'll be helped. This book tells the history of this movement, from the time of Christ to the present day and onward to the end. It shows how God will finish it off in glory and righteousness, and gives us special instruction on how to avoid the deceptions of Satan for these last days against the remnant. And there is an awful lot in there about Jesus and His believers down through the ages. May I give you my fullest encouragement to take up these writings and test them yourself against the Bible and the facts of history. Learn where we stand and what is just before us. Now is the hour for such a work.
Mentone CA SDA 2001-09-01