As always on Monday, please find my notes below for this past weekend’s teaching at GCC: GIFTS Pt. 4, Prophecy and Discernment. For personal use only. All other uses please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. (c) 2012 Terry Broadwater.
Have you ever wondered why they market “prophetic conferences?” Wouldn’t all the prophetic people KNOW when and where, etc.?? Sadly, we’ve made the prophetic, “pathetic”, people “prophe-lie” and not prophesy, and instead of the anointing on their life they have the spirit of “annoying!” We probably need the Gift of Discernment to figure out what’s going on!!
YES, there’s has, and is probably more abuse and misuse with these two gifts than the other ones! YES, prophets can be misunderstood. YES, prophecy and discernment can be in operation and we simply don’t appreciate it. But that doesn’t discount their validity or function in the church today.
Note the Text: 1 Cor. 12:7, 9, 10 “A spiritual gift is given to each of us as a means of helping the entire church. To one person the Spirit gives the ability to give wise advice; to another he gives the gift of special knowledge. The Spirit gives special faith to another, and to someone else he gives the power to heal the sick. He gives one person the power to perform miracles, and another the ability to prophesy. He gives someone else the ability to discern whether a message is from the Spirit of God or from another spirit…”
God has called his Church to be a prophetic and discerning people!
• 1 Cor. 14:5 Paul says, “I wish you all could speak in tongues, but even more I wish you would all prophesy.”
• Numbers 11:29 Moses says, “I wish that all the Lord’s people were prophets and that the Lord would put his Spirit upon them all.”
• Joel prophesied (not our Joel) and Peter referenced it in Acts 2:17-18, “In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit upon all people. Your sons and your daughters will prophesy… In those days I will pour out my Spirit even on my servants- men and women alike- and they will prophesy.”
• Again, Paul says in 1 Cor. 14:1, “Let love be your highest goal! But you should also desire the special abilities the Spirit gives- especially the ability to prophesy.”
• And the Gift of Discernment is the resource that assists in knowing whether something stated as “prophetic” is really someone who is acting or speaking by the Spirit of God or not or by their own selfish spirit, or even by an evil spirit!
So, we are implored to be a “prophetic people” and to incorporate the Gift of Prophesy; BUT we are also implored to be careful, to be discerning about these things… So, let’s break these two gifts down, starting with the Gift of Prophesy.
THE GIFT OF PROPHECY
• What Prophecy is NOT!
➢ It is not AUTOMATIC– It doesn’t happen because you get into some kind of spiritual trance. You don’t start automatically saying or writing things- that’s demonic! Paul says, (1 Cor. 14:32) “Remember that people who prophesy are in control of their own spirit…”
➢ It is not FORTUNE TELLING– Think of all the stereotypical palm readers and crystal ball readers you’ve ever seen, and well, you get the point I hope!
➢ It is not SPECULATION– Especially as it concerns the last days or end times. How many books and how much hoopla has been made about this?? Harold Camping who predicted the end of the world would be in May of 2011, then changed that to Oct. 21, 2011… The Mayan calendar speculation about Dec. 21, 2012… Come on now, don’t buy into that speculation because its stupidity!!
➢ It is not NEW REVELATION– So-called “prophets” will use this term to say something that exceeds or contradicts the Word of God. These people are false prophets!! (1 Cor. 14:37-38) “If you claim to be a prophet or think you are spiritual, you should recognize that what I am saying is a command from the Lord himself. But if you do not recognize this, you yourself will not be recognized.” (Gal. 1:8) “Let God’s curse fall on anyone, including us or even an angel from heaven, who preaches a different kind of Good News than the one we preached to you.”
• What a Prophet IS! (2 Things…)
➢ One who SEES for God– 1 Sam. 9:9 “In those days if the people wanted a message from God, they would say, let’s go and ask the seer, for prophets used to be called seers.” A “seer” forth-tells (intuition and insight) and “foretells”- these are always related to a moral or spiritual purpose in line with God’s Word. Those operating in the gift of prophesy see the importance of something and sense the significance of it!
➢ One who SPEAKS for God– God wants speak to His Church and he will often use people in the church to do this. (LOUD VOICE bellows….)!! How many of you would say that’s how God speaks to you?? No, God chooses often to speak through people in a relational context, etc. True prophetic people are very aware of God’s presence and very mature in their sensitivity, etc.
• What purpose does Prophecy SERVE! (3 Things for believers and 2 Things for unbelievers…) 1 Cor. 14:3 “But one who prophesies strengthens others, encourages them, and comforts them.”
➢ Prophecy STRENGTHENS others– How? By building them up and by building up the Body of Christ. No true prophesy ever tears down someone or the church.
➢ Prophecy ENCOURAGES others– Do you know what the Book of Revelation is? It is a prophetic book, but more importantly, it is an encouragement to followers of Christ who read it. In the 1st Century NT church they were facing sever persecution and it was a “word of encouragement!”
➢ Prophecy COMFORTS others– It lifts up the broken, it brings God’s Word into a challenging situation, and it gives you something solid to stand on! (My mom- Is. 43:1-3 “Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. For I am the Lord, your God.”
➢ Two things for unbelievers: CONVICTION and CONVERSION! 1 Cor. 14:24-25 “But if all of you are prophesying, and unbelievers or people who don’t understand these things come into your meeting, they will be convicted of sin and judged by what you say. As they listen, their secret thoughts will be exposed, and they will fall to their knees and worship God, declaring God is truly here among you.”
• How the Gift of Prophecy is DEVELOPED!
➢ 1 Thess. 5:20 “Do not scoff at prophecies…” That’s a major statement and one we probably don’t understand. Most likely it was made by Paul because some prophecies weren’t coming across as profound, or with correct grammatical structure, or given by someone not too far up on the spiritual ladder! Paul is suggesting there is the need for the development of the gifts in people’s lives; including the gift of prophecy!
➢ 5 Ways to Develop the Gift of Prophecy:
1) Be a Christ-follower! Be submitted to Christ and to his word, not just running around with a “word!”
2) Be sensitive to times when the gift of prophecy should function! When are those occasions? When someone or something needs to be strengthened, encouraged, or comforted!
3) Be a student of the Word of God! The prophetic will never be a misappropriation of God’s Word. Further 2 Tim. 2:15 tells us to “Work hard so you can present yourself to God and receive his approval. Be a good worker, one who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly explains the word of truth.”
4) Desire the gift of prophecy! Remember, this is not always about standing up in a crowd and saying, “Thus says the Lord!”
5) Learn to obey the Spirit, to know the voice of God! 1 Sam. 3 Have an attitude of “Speak, your servant is listening!”
THE GIFT OF DISCERNMENT– This is often the “best gift” needed for those of us who are on the other end of a “prophesy”…
• What Discernment DOES!
➢ Determines whether or not a person is bringing us a message from God– We desperately need this in the church because people so loosely throw around the phrase, “God told me” or “The Lord wants you to know…” 1 Cor. 14:29 Paul says, “Discernment is needed to test what the prophets are saying in the church…” Did the Pharisees have discernment?? Obviously not, nor do they ever!
➢ Distinguishes outward appearance from inward reality– The old saying, “You can fool some of the people some of the time but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time!” Well, you can’t fool God anytime!! There’s a lot that’s gone on in the church, and it’s a huge reason we’ve lost our credibility, that isn’t remotely the Spirit of God at work! People can look so “spiritual” on the outside, but inside there’s no substance; it’s veneer, superficial… (Ananias and Saphira, Simon Magnus in Acts 8, Rev. 2 Jesus and Church at Ephesus…)
➢ Decides whether a person is possessed by evil spirits or not– This is not as obvious in America as it is in other places in the world, but it doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen here! I think there is a sophistication of evil spirits at work in America and it’s why we need the gift of discernment even more so! Fact #1 is that believers cannot be demon-possessed, and I won’t even take the time to deal with that because it’s so stupid to think otherwise! Fact #2 is that physical and mental illness must not be attributed to demon-possession. There is not a spirit of paranoia or a spirit of diabetes or a spirit of fat- it would be nice to cast out the spirit of fat! These things are in the flesh. The Bible doesn’t reveal such spirits- not to say someone who is demon-possessed will manifest and seem sick or mentally disturbed.
• Discernment in GENERAL!
➢ FIRST: I believe that all believers need to be able to function with discernment regarding spiritual things because all things are spiritual! We all need to be able to determine good from evil, right and wrong in our daily lives. And we need discernment to know whether or not something or someone is really “from God!” We need discernment to be discerning about ourselves- regarding temptation, sin, or decisions we need to make, etc.
➢ SECOND: We all need to be able to discern our own “human spirit”, which is often the most difficult for us to deal with. We need to be able to respond appropriately to God’s Spirit- confess, reach out to some spiritually mature people, get into God’s Word, receive God’s forgiveness, remove yourself from the environment that’s causing you to sin, etc.
• Discernment as a GIFT!
➢ I’ve said before, and I’m only half joking, that all women have this gift!! At the same time, or more precisely, if everyone has a measure of discernment that comes from maturing in Christ, in spiritual things, what then is the gift of discernment all about? Again, we all need to be able to tell good from evil, right from wrong, what is false and what is true. Heb. 5:14 tells us that “solid food” is for the mature who have “trained” themselves to know the difference between good and evil. All Christ-followers are to do that!
➢ It is critical that we develop, mature into the ability to distinguish between when someone is operating by the Spirit of God, the human spirit, or an evil spirit. The Pharisees could not identify that Jesus was operating by the Spirit of God and instead falsely accused him of functioning by way of an evil spirit.
➢ The same can be said of us if we’re not growing in the things of God. And the flip side is true- we can assume someone is very spiritual, of God, when in reality it’s a human or evil spirit! That’s why we’re told to “Beware of false prophets- wolves in sheep’s clothing!”
➢ When the gift of discernment is functioning most of all, when it seems to go beyond the general ability we all can grow into, it is as a necessary attribute of those who have spiritual oversight in the church! Certainly we should expect to see the gift of discernment operate in the lives of those who are appointed to spiritually lead and oversee the church- the five Ministry officers, elders, etc. You should always pray for that for your leaders.
There you have it- the Gift of Prophesy and the Gift of Discernment! I hope you have a better understanding and appreciation of them today. I hope you realize that all of God’s Word is really prophetic in our lives- bringing insight, strengthening, encouraging, and comforting us, and that you will also discern the most basic thing of all today.
Who Jesus is! He is you ultimate solution! God’s grace is available to you and you can begin today a life of spiritual development through a consistent, deepening love relationship with Jesus Christ. Learning to discern how the Spirit of God wants us to succeed, to live the life we were intended to live where we find the peace and joy we all so desperately desire; and which our own sinful nature and evil forces tempt us to sell that life out for temporary satisfaction…
And always to have this attitude and sensitivity, “Speak Lord, your servant is listening!”