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Thursday, December 23, 2010 | Comments (9)

Like the dripping of water over centuries, the persistent influence of charismatic theology over many decades seems to have whittled away and reshaped the evangelical commitment to the sufficiency of Scripture. Perhaps other forces are at work as well—secularism, consumerism, multi-culturalism—but modern evangelicals seem less willing to confine themselves to the 66 books of the canon.

As we pointed out in our opening post, an increasing number of popular pastors and leaders today claim to follow God’s will through divine impressions, visions, and dreams. It’s common to hear them say, “God told me to ____,” or, “God lead me to ____,” especially when it involves a major life decision or a strategic ministry direction. Even more troubling is when the divine imprimatur is connected with questionable, foolish, or even sinful ways of living and doing ministry.

We’re concerned about that. Why? Because we want to pick a fight with “godly men”? No, not at all. Our concern is pastoral. We love the church of God and want to reach it with divine truth, particularly when it comes to making decisions.

When a pastor or ministry leader (or anyone, really) uses the phrase, “God told me to do thus and such,” he is going beyond what he can legitimately claim. Speaking that way becomes contagious, and it’s not helpful—it often causes great distress and confusion in the spiritual lives of regular folks.

Someone who says, “God told me to ____” might as well say, “Thus saith the Lord (to me).” If he’s prepared to be that bold, then he bears a huge burden of proof. No one should believe him or follow him until he proves it. But if a pastor is not prepared to be that bold, then he should stick with, “This is what the Word of God teaches, and this is what I think I should do,” or, “This is what I want to do, based on what God’s Word says.”

That humble approach bears witness to a number of important truths—(1) because we are limited and fallible, we often make mistakes; (2) we are utterly dependent on God and His revealed Word; and (3) the Scripture is our only infallible guide and is absolutely sufficient.

When a decision we make works out well, great—all glory and praise be to God. And when we decide to do something that turns out to be the wrong thing to do, well, we bear the burden of responsibility for our own error. But be wary of those who try to put God’s stamp of approval on their own desires, methodologies, plans, and strategies. Don’t be afraid to question it.

As Christian leaders, we need to recognize that the methodology we practice must be consistent with the theology we profess. What we do is just as influential as what we teach.

That’s what I’ve always appreciated about John MacArthur and his approach to ministry. He’s concerned about the level of consistency between what he preaches and how he lives. He realizes he bears the tremendous burden of influence, for which he is accountable to the Great Shepherd of the sheep. After all, it’s Jesus who said, “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it is better for him that a heavy millstone be hung around his neck, and that he be drowned in the depth of the sea” (Matt. 18:6).

So, don’t let what John did in this series escape your notice. John said that as long as you are saved, Spirit-filled, sanctified, submissive, suffering, and saying thanks, you can do whatever you want. Where did John come up with that list? The Bible. Here John’s list again, just in case you missed it:

Saved – “This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:3). “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9).

Spirit-Filled – “So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5:17-18).

Sanctified – “For this is the will of God, your sanctification” (1 Thess. 4:3).

Submissive – “Submit yourselves therefore to God” (James 4:7). “So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is…be subject to one another in the fear of Christ” (Eph. 5:17, 21). “Obey your leaders, and submit to them” (Heb. 13:17). “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution…for such is the will of God” (1 Pet. 2:13, 15).

Suffering – “For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong” (1 Pet. 3:17). “Let those also who suffer according to the will of God entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right” (1 Pet. 4:19).

Saying Thanks – “In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thess. 5:18). “And be thankful” (Col. 3:15).

John has followed an important principle in his investigation of how to follow God’s will—stick to what God has revealed in Scripture, and don’t deviate from it.

That principle is as old as Moses—“The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law” (Deut. 29:29, emphasis mine). And that principle governed Paul’s model of ministry, what he passed on to his churches—“Now these things, brethren, I have figuratively applied to myself and Apollos for your sakes, that in us you might learn not to exceed what is written, in order that no one of you might become arrogant in behalf of one against the other” (1 Cor. 4:6, emphasis mine).

As you saw in John’s final point—do whatever you want—there’s a tremendous amount of freedom in restricting yourself to what God has said in Scripture.

So, never mind the “mystery” of trying to listen to God’s voice; don’t feel bad if you’re not in this “really exciting place” of wondering what God is saying to you—there’s no virtue in confusion and uncertainty. You can know the will of God for your life from Scripture. You can follow God’s will by obeying what He has written.


Travis Allen
Director of Internet Ministry


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#1  Posted by Keith Farmer  |  Thursday, December 23, 2010at 1:42 PM

I am glad you posted this Travis. Recently I have noticed even the youth of my local church body using "God told me..." or "The Holy Spirit led me to tell you..." or "I said what God led me to say...". At times such statements, while claimed as coming directly from the Holy Spirit, were totally contrary to the pertinent truth of God's Word regarding the issue at hand.

This trend is disturbing and the church should take serious notice of such occurrences. I have made my voice known about such issues with my local pastor and associate pastors...it seems that the concern over the issue is falling on deaf ears.

I am deeply troubled over the direction the local church is heading...thank you for shedding light on this necessary subject!

#2  Posted by George Brown  |  Thursday, December 23, 2010at 6:35 PM

Thanks Travis for posting this truth! I can't tell you how thankful I am to God for being able hear such clarity and truth from the Word of God, as is being taught via John and the staff at Grace to You. Words can't express how much my thinking process and life in general has changed as I have been encouraged by God via GTY. This blog post on the will of God is a true example of how practical the Word of God is for everyday life. I really appreciate the expository approach and can't thank you enough!

#4  Posted by Stephen Hatch  |  Friday, December 24, 2010at 1:20 AM

Good article.

Every word of God is tested; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him. Do not add to His words, or He will reprove you and you will be proved a liar. Proverbs 30:5+6 (NAS)

#5  Posted by George Sampong  |  Friday, December 24, 2010at 6:45 AM

This all I can say Travis: I am many miles away from America but I tell you, Grace to you has been a blessing to me.I pray the Lord to increase His neverending grace on your lives for the knowledge He brings through your church. It´s rather a shame I would say, that these pastors in the Charismatic movement would wield such temerity to utter those words; "God told me".If only they knew the gravity of what they profess, I believe they would zip their lips than utter them. I thank God for your lives and the insight you bring! Godspeed to you

#6  Posted by Greg Corron  |  Friday, December 24, 2010at 4:17 PM

Excellent! The knowledge of God is "open source", not private to any individual. Don't seek it in mystical experience! For a good supporting text, see Luke 8:16-18. Take care how you hear! Another good text that is often heard at Christmas time is Isa 40:5, quoted in Luke 3:6. All flesh shall see God's glory together, not separately or privately. If interested, you can delve deeper into this topic at http://isgreater.org/articles/2010/1/11/special-knowledge.html.

#7  Posted by Douglas Grogg  |  Friday, December 24, 2010at 10:26 PM

Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If any man is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the scripture said, ‘From his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water.’” (John 7:37, 38) “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and YOU SHALL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. For My yoke is easy and My load is light.” (Matthew 11:28, 29, 30) I can’t help but noticing that these are the only two groups of people that Jesus ever actually called out to come to Himself. I can’t help but noticing the similarities of these people with those who are listed in the first four of the beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-6). While these two groups of people are struggling with the weight of their sins and their complete inability to cloth themselves with any righteousness that would be acceptable to an absolutely Holy God, multitudes are following after Christ. What does Christ say to this multitude? “And He summoned multitude with His disciples, and said to them. ‘If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s shall save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul? For what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.’” (Mark 8:34-38) This is not some isolated text. Luke’s account is even more direct. “Now great multitudes were going along with Him; and He turned and said to them, ‘If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple’” (Luke 14:25, 26, 27). Some try to get around this by trying to make a distinction between being a Christian and being a disciple, but Acts 11:26 shows otherwise. Others say that is not the gospel because gospel means “good news”. They are right. This is not good news to those who want keep their sins and still be saved but to sinners who are weary and heavy laden over the weight of the guilt of their sins and who hunger and thirst for righteousness it is good news indeed! -His Unworthy Slave

#8  Posted by Douglas Grogg  |  Friday, December 24, 2010at 10:27 PM

Charismatic theology and almost all of modern (as opposed to historic) evangelicalism, for that matter, have reshaped the evangelical commitment to the sufficiency of scripture because they have never come to Christ on His terms. They must reshape their message to conform to their own experience of what they believe (or hope) to be a salvation experience. When we understand this, the lack of holiness, the perversion of what it is to be “filled with the Spirit”, the lack of submission to legitimate biblical authority, the almost nonexistence of suffering for the truth and “doing what is right”, the lack of contentment (see 1 Timothy 6:8) and rarity of lips that give thanks for all things, make complete sense! When a sinner comes to Christ on His terms, Christ reveals Himself in all of His loveliness. More than that! The sinner is now in Christ. What union, what intimacy, what blessedness! Worthy is the Lamb! -His Unworthy Slave

#9  Posted by Curtis Swank  |  Saturday, December 25, 2010at 6:23 AM

Even if we were to act upon the Old Testament law,to stone those false teachers like Hagen, Copeland, and Hinn it would not make a differance. These individuals are set for the day of destruction. Those individuals who profess to have a higher spiritual insight are showing their ignorance to the scriptures. Its bad enough that they take scripture out of context (ignorance) but to add to it (ignornace) shows they have no clue to what the word of God really says. Pride has consumed these individuals they believe they are a blessing but they are a curse to themselves and to those who heed to their "self" worship.

#10  Posted by Dan Wilson  |  Wednesday, December 29, 2010at 7:05 PM

We should say God wants me to do this according to God's word, not

say God told me. I totally agree with Travis' posting this.

God bless.

Yes, it's important, we need to exam as we read God's Word. We must

not get discourage if God doesn't speak to you verbally. In this age.

God is silent. But only to God's children whom do the Father's will, the Holy Spirit guides us though life. God is our Helper!!

This is a evil age and it's been this way since Adam and Eve choose to eat the fruit.

Can't prove there's a God to the world on our own. Why, cause the world does not know God and hates God.

Holy Spirit will help us to answer. Read God's word asking God to

guide us. Avoid anything is not from God in our minds. Take your

time with God to be very sure God wants you to do so.

Our sins hides God from us, if we see God, we will die(our flesh rot away). Why, no one sees God and lives.