I was brought up believing that the gift of prophecy died out with the apostles. Later, I was told that many Muslims are converted to faith in Jesus Christ when they meet Him in a dream! Isn't that prophecy? One day I stumbled upon 1 Thess. 5:19-22, and I read, 'Do not put out the Spirit's fire: do not treat prophecies with contempt!' Suddenly I realised that prophecy was not supposed to die out, and that Paul had warned us against triggering the trap that would extinguish it! And guess what we did! We fell into the trap! We ourselves extinguished the gift of prophecy!
In 1 Cor. 14, Paul plays down the importance of the gift of tongues. He says that it is the least useful of all the gifts, and he contrasts it with the gift of prophecy. By doing this, he implies that prophecy is the most useful gift! It is at the other end of the usefulness scale to the gift of tongues! Furthermore, he says, 'Seek eagerly the gift of prophecy.'
Why does the Bible say, 'Seek eagerly the gift of prophecy', but 'do not let many of you become teachers' (James 3:1)? I think it is because a prophet is on a short leash, being little more than a messenger. A teacher, on the other hand, is on a long leash, roaming at will through the Word of God, prayerfully deciding what to teach next. You need to have the most capable, the most mature and the most intelligent person in the teaching role, but anyone can carry a message! Therefore, 'Be eager to prophesy!'
Look at the adverse effect of treating prophecies with contempt: the Spirit's fire is put out! How many churches over the centuries have been drab, cold places populated by people who don't believe that they can do much for the kingdom of God? What does a church look like when the fire of the Holy Spirit is burning there? You know what the answer is! You have seen it for years, either up close or at a distance, but you've seen it! That is the place where people get saved, people get changed, and people get emotional about God, and how wonderful He is! There is no coldness there!
Why are we fearful?
Very many Christians are fearful of the gift of prophecy, and God has shown me why this is. It is because we fail to trust God. This is why we find it so hard to obey Paul's advice in 1 Thess. 5:19-22, 'Test everything, hold onto what is good, and reject everything that is bad.' We find it most comforting to not test anything at all. Some brave but misguided people do make an effort, but they are fooled by their fear: they make a pretense of looking at a prophecy, but they are really searching for some excuse, any excuse, to reject it! If you look for their list of prophecies to 'hold onto', they don't have any! They zealously go here and there, trying to destroy every prophet they find, assuming that no prophet could ever actually have a prophecy from God! These people usually have an amazing fountain of bitterness and hatred pouring out of them, which I think is diagnostic of the true origin of their prophecy-killing 'ministry'.
True obedience to God in this area requires courage, and the adoption of the Goldilocks Attitude To Prophecy. What is the Goldilocks Attitude? It is this: your attitude towards prophecy should not be too soft, which is to accept everything, or too hard, which is to reject everything, but instead should be juuuust right!
I actually found that I could not bring myself to test any prophecy at all, even though I had accepted, theologically, that there were modern Christian prophecies out there that were worth reading. I had to repent of the sin of unbelief in this area first! Only then could I successfully engage my courage, and read a prophecy to test it. Until I repented, I was not able to obey 1 Thess. 5:19-22! In other words, there is real, evil spiritual power behind the fear that Christians feel towards the gift of prophecy. This spiritual power is enabled by the simple act of choosing not to believe what the passage says. This gives the Devil permission to send a spirit of fear to influence us whenever we consider the idea of prophecy in the modern church. Jesus must wash you clean of it, or it will still control your actions in this area!
Please prayerfully and humbly (before God, that is) consider what I have said. And then consider Joel 2:28, where God promised to pour out dreams and visions upon young and old, male and female. In Acts chapter 2, Peter declared the start of the Joel 2 era! We are still in that era! Read Matthew 7:7-11, 'Ask and you will receive,' etc. 'Be eager to prophesy!'
Finally, why did I call this blog, "Tank Driving School for Christians"? In a dream, God showed me believers who were learning to interpret dreams: they were learning to drive heavy tanks!
Next blog I will talk about limitations and ettiquette.