Random Blog Clay Feet: October 03, 2008
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Friday, October 03, 2008

Speaking Out or Speaking In

Speaking out for God or speaking in the name of God. What is the difference and how significant is that difference?

As I begin to think about this idea this morning I realize that this is another counterfeit/genuine pair showing up again. I have observed that much of what we do as Christians is based on the assumption that God needs people to defend Him, to further His goals and plans on earth and that maybe without our efforts for Him He might be in a quandary. I know we don't put it in those exact terms, but the way we talk and behave many times demonstrates that kind of thinking.

Much of the motivation used for enlisting volunteers and workers for mission work is spun in such a way as to sound like God would be almost powerless without us. We tend to formulate our grand plans for furthering the work of God as we believe it should be done and then ask God to empower us to carry out our plans for Him and then claim that they are His plans. All through this process we may be praying and asking God to guide us, but I question how much we are really tuned in properly to listen to what He might have to really say. We are so consumed with our plans and excitement about working for God's cause as we see it that we often become too busy to spend very much time feeding our own souls and hearts and in quiet meditation before Him, waiting to perceive His will that just might be completely different than what we are thinking.

Listen to many of the preachers and teachers today who profess to be working and speaking for God. The tenor of their talk tends along the lines of trying to say all the right things to convince others and even themselves that they are working for God. And I believe that indeed God does work a great deal through these people and in these circumstances. But sadly I feel that too often God is being pushed into working through our efforts in spite of our plans instead of our being synchronized together with His ways which would result is extremely higher efficiency.

Then there is the example of the true prophets of God. It is much easier to identify them from Bible times for there is much less ambiguity about who were the correct ones and who were the shams. But even then, more often than we might think even God's true prophets at times slipped into promoting their own agendas ahead of God's, though many times quite unconsciously at first. I have mentioned Elijah a number of times as an example of this but there are others as well. But over all, God's true prophets usually speak in His name after receiving His word that He wants delivered to the people of their time.

Speaking for God in the sense of championing our version of what we believe to be His causes takes on similarity to showing up on a new job site and trying to jump in and begin ordering people around without knowing what the boss has in mind. Our furious efforts to look very busy and productive may or may not help the situation depending on our own agenda for showing up, but if we fail to first accept directions and instructions from the one in charge and take time to be sure to understand them thoroughly, we will likely create more problems than accomplishments.

There is also the factor that many times God doesn't reveal His immediate plans to His people but asks them to trust Him and obey His individual promptings while He quietly coordinates everyone's activities from outside of our awareness. One of the main reasons Jesus gave for sending His Spirit to this earth in the Christian age was to coordinate the work of God on earth and impart God's wisdom and gifts to each one as He sees is necessary for the building up of His temple. When we go around claiming that God has ordained our plans that we have come up with for promoting His kingdom on earth we may actually be working counter to what the Holy Spirit is working to accomplish.

One of the biggest pitfalls in attempting this is the problem of our terrible poverty of real truth about what God is like. So when we formulate plans and call them God's plans and work with others with similar misunderstandings about God, we end up actually projecting very misleading impressions of God to the world that are both confusing and many times very discouraging. When we believe things such as a God that endorses the use of force, fear or sometimes even deception to further His work on earth, we end up misrepresenting the truth about our heavenly Father and would do well to step back and take more time to get better acquainted with who He really is before launching into our own grand plans for Him.

As I came away recently from sharing some spiritual thoughts with a friend that I have been praying for and didn't know how to relate to recently, I was reminded again that this man was not my responsibility. This is God's project and He is fully in charge of drawing this person to Himself. Yes, He chose to have me involved in a small way, but just because I am allowed to share what God is doing in my life and put in some hopefully attractive words on behalf of God whom this man has very little real knowledge, that does not in the least mean that I am supposed to come up with a plan to push this person into a relationship with God. In fact, this message became so clear in my mind that I said out loud while I was driving down the road, “You are God and I am not. I want that to be very clear in my head. I am not God and You are God. You are in charge of this situation and I can relax and just wait to see if you have anything else You want me to do or say. This man is all Your problem and it is not mine to solve.”

But what does it look like to speak in the name of God? How should one go about coordinating efforts with the Almighty to accomplish what clearly He has stated He wants to see done on this earth? Is there really anything that we can contribute that will actually make a difference in the true work of God on earth or is it all just a game of pretend?

And what about people who claim to hear the voice of God in various ways? What are we to make of these kinds of claims? Are they outrageous? Blasphemy? Silly? Dangerous? Absurd? What should we do or think in reaction to the many people who really believe they are hearing the voice of God to their souls?

I struggle personally with this question because as anyone knows who has read much of what I have written, I too claim to hear the “voice” of God in my heart and mind many times. I try to be very cautious about making such assertions but at the same time I feel that I must be honest about what I am experiencing. Otherwise by default I would be implying that many of the insights that have inspired me were of my own making or wisdom, and I know that certainly is not the case. So I have to confess that many of the things that surprise and inspire me that I then put into writing or share with others must be coming from the inspiration of the Holy Spirit whom I trust and ask to guide me and speak to me while I quiet my mind and heart to listen.

But there is a big difference between sharing with others what I believe that God has shared with me on a personal level and a person declaring that they have a message of God to deliver to some other person. To sort through this issue I have been helped by some talks from one of my favorite speakers, Clarissa Worley Sproul. I have a series of hers called The Great Teachings of Jesus. In one of the talks entitled Speaking Truth, she talks about the difference between my truth and God's truth.

When we talk to another person about something we feel convicted about or feel inspired to say, we must realize that this insight may be very relevant to our own life but may or may not be what another person is supposed to receive right now. We may even feel very strongly about their need to hear what we have maybe just learned, but that is even more reason to exercise extreme caution and reservation in what we say to them. And if we do share it with them we must make it clear that this is our truth and is not the same as God's truth which is really quite a different thing.

This is not to say that my truth is not true. God may be convicting me about something that I need to accept and incorporate into my own life and so my truth may be the voice of God to my soul at this time. But when I have any amount of feelings or intensity in my desire to share my truth and apply it to someone else's experience, if I follow through with that urge without first laying aside my own personal compulsions completely then I am engaging in judging or even counterfeiting the Spirit of God instead of passing along God's truth.

There are times when God sends messages through chosen people to pass along to others. At times those messages may be very painful to the recipients and the backlash against the messenger may be harsh or even fatal at times. But anyone commissioned by God to speak for Him to others with specific messages must be very authentic in his own relationship with God and disconnected in a certain sense from any feelings of intensity toward those to whom he has been sent. Otherwise the message will become contaminated with a false spirit from within the messenger and the clearness and effectiveness of the message will be greatly diluted.

I believe that we should be much more ready to share with others what God is doing in our own lives and hearts than most of us are at present. We can confess what we are receiving from God in our ongoing process of maturing into the fullness of Christ. This will result in much more openness and transparency in the lives of Christians which today is seldom seen. It will also enable us to more closely bond with each other, to pray with and for each other and to help bear one another's burdens. But at the same time I think it is very important that when we are sharing what is going on in our lives that we take ownership of our ideas and be truthful about our own need to relate properly to the convictions of God in our hearts without assuming to apply it to someone else as the truth of God for them.

As we share with others how God is working to grow and shape and mold us, others will be attracted to desire to have that same dynamic relationship with God for themselves and we can become more effective witnesses for God. A true witness is really testifying that God indeed can do what He says He will do in the lives and hearts of sinners who come to Him. We can bear witness to the transforming power of His grace to heal our pain, to resolve deep triggers from our past, to bring full healing to deep emotional wounds that keep us ineffective and hobbled in our relationships. As people see the effective work of God over time transforming our hearts and lives into exhibitions of greater beauty and godliness, then the works of God that He is using in our lives may become springboards for the Spirit to use to draw other people into a similar intimacy with Jesus.

I really have no desire whatsoever to be a spokesman for God to convey messages of rebuke or correction for others. If He ever does ask me to do so I will need to be sure to have any similar issues completely resolved in my own heart before I should attempt to speak for Him in that way. But to share the thoughts and insights that He is daily revealing to me in various ways and times is a privilege that I hope can be used to benefit others whom God may lead to observe my experience when the time is right in their life.

But I want to be very careful to not try to attach God's “label” to my plans and then assert that they are the will of God for others around me. I am trying to cultivate a spirit of open listening for His thoughts in which I rest in the presence of God in quietness or in meditation on His Word while suspending as many of my own preconceptions as possible. I can then feel safe within that protected environment to release even my beliefs on key issues, doctrines and definitions so that if need be the Spirit can bring me new insights that are more in line with the realities of heaven. As I have tried to do this more over the past few years I have found that indeed God's Spirit does come to alter some of my beliefs and assumptions, change what I think are the plans of God and readjust my understanding of the bigger picture and how I fit into it.

I believe that there is a great need for many to be taught how to think more carefully, to teach them in practical ways how to really listen for God's voice in their spirit and soul and to help people learn how to have their faith really grow and take deep root in their heart linked with the Word of God. I am amazed at how few people I meet have any real perception of God in their lives or even know much at all about the Scriptures. Religion to most people is a rather nebulous concept that they leave up to the supposed experts who will predigest it for them and hand it to them each weekend. What an extremely high risk way to prepare for eternity!

The Bible tells us that if anyone comes claiming to be spokesman for God that the most important thing we must do is to test their spirit. But to be able to do this properly our own spirit must be aware of the true perspective of God's Spirit and the way He thinks and relates to us. God has given us His Word to act as a most important objective “virus check library” so to speak, as the most important asset we can use to verify the authenticity of anyone claiming to speak for God. If their spirit is in harmony and synchronized with the Spirit of Jesus then we can move on to the next step which is observing the results of their words. God's Spirit will always be in agreement with God's ways and everyone who is truly led by the Spirit of God will resonate with all others who are of the same Spirit.

Let us allow God to be the one who orchestrates the plans to be carried out in His name. And let us allow God to chose who He will use to implement those plans without our meddling in His affairs. If we will humble ourselves and acquaint ourselves with His ways, be filled with His disposition and reflect His character by focusing our affections on Him, then He will be able to use us far more effectively in carrying out His great works among both the lost and the saints. Let us allow God to be God.