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Tuesday, August 13, 2019

The Transforming Gift of Prophecy

I loved the transformers when I was a kid.  The brilliant people at the toy company Hasbro really came up with a winning formula when I was a kid.  Eight-year-old Pastor Chris loved the transformers and so did millions of other kids.  Now, Hasbro didn’t just manufacture toys.  In a bit of marketing genius, they made toys and developed a cartoon TV series featuring their toys, which told the fictional story of the transformers.  So of course, kids all over America where watching these little mechanized robots that could transform in to cars and truck and jet airplanes.  And then they would go to mommy and daddy and beg for the toys so they could play with them at home.  The transformers have been a lucrative franchise every since—spawning seven movies and numerous television series.

The Transformers are definitely, “More than meets the eye.”  But I don’t want to talk about transforming robots today.  I want to talk about how the Holy Spirit of God transforms us and how we in turn can use the special power God gives us to transform our world.  The Word of God tells us some of the gifts the Holy Spirit offers each of us to help transform our world.  Listen.

Romans 12:6-8
In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.

All Believers Are Given A Gift.  What’s Yours?
Now this is not an exhaustive list of all the gifts of the Holy Spirit, but it gives you a good idea of some of the special powers God may give you to help you transform our world.  Click here to take a spiritual gifts assessment to help you begin to identify which gift(s) the Holy Spirit may have given you.  It will give you some indications about your spiritual gifts.  Each week, I plan to talk about a different gift of the Spirit.  Today, I want to talk about the transforming gift of prophecy.

Acts 2:17-18
17 ‘In the last days,’ God says,
    ‘I will pour out my Spirit upon all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy.
    Your young men will see visions,
    and your old men will dream dreams.
18 In those days I will pour out my Spirit

    even on my servants—men and women alike—
    and they will prophesy.

Everyone's a Prophet
This is an important and incredible statement. In Old Testament times, God only chose a few special people to be prophets. But now that Jesus, the Son of God has come, the Word of God says the Holy Spirit will be "poured out" on everyone who believes in Jesus. And the gift of prophecy will be found in young and old, men and women. And it seems like everybody's going to be seeing visions and dreams and prophesying. 

Notice it says, “poured out”.  I want you to close your eyes for a moment and imagine the Holy Spirit hovering up above you.  Now imagine the Holy Spirit of God pouring His power down around you and it’s splashing all around and soaking over you.  That’s the image.  If you've decided to follow Jesus Christ as your Lord, you’ve been drenched with the gifts of the Holy Spirit.  And Acts chapter 2 indicates prophecy will be one of the most frequent results.

What is Prophecy?
The Word of God is True. Every believer of Jesus Christ has been Spirit empowered to prophesy. But the gift of prophecy is frequently misunderstood.  When most people think of a prophet or prophecy, they think of someone predicting the future.  However, prophecy is not about predicting the future.  Prophecy is simply telling people what God says.  (Sometimes in the Bible, God told a prophet to tell people what was going to happen in the future.  But the main point is not telling the future; it is telling what God says.) 

Prophecy is the Spirit-given ability to determine and proclaim God’s Truth.  A prophet “hears” what God says.  And when I say “hears” I want you to understand it’s not necessarily an audible voice.  Remember, Jesus liked to say, “Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand!”[i]  Well everyone has ears, but not everyone listens.  A prophet listens and understands what God is saying—whether it is an audible voice or (more likely) God’s truth as revealed in the Bible through a sermon or a study or something else.  A prophet perceives what God is saying and shares it with others.

Now, every believer has some ability to prophecy.  If you can read the Bible and understand John 3:16 and then tell someone who needs to know, then you can prophecy.  “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son so that who ever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  If What have you done?  You've understood God’s truth, shared it with others, and even foretold the future (which is just a bonus).  (Yes!  You did predict the future!  You spoke about eternal life that everyone who believes in Jesus will receive; that's the future.)

Everyone can prophecy, but the Holy Spirit gives some people a special gift for prophecy.  What are some marks of a person who is truly gifted as a prophet?  Someone the Holy Spirit has gifted with prophecy has an extraordinary knack for hearing and expressing God’s Truth. 

Hearing God’s Word
First of all, a gifted prophet hears God’s Truth.  This is very important.  2 Peter 1:20-21 says, “Above all, you must realize that no prophecy in Scripture ever came from the prophet’s own understanding, or from human initiative. No, those prophets were moved by the Holy Spirit, and they spoke from God.”

A true prophet is not sharing their own brilliant opinions and ideas.  A prophet is sharing God’s Truth.  We see this again and again in Scripture.  God told the prophet Moses, “Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say” (Exod. 4:12).  The Lord said to Jeremiah, “I have put my words in your mouth” (Jer. 1:9).  To the prhophet Ezekiel, God said, “You must speak my words to them” (Ezek. 2:7).  God tells prophets what to say.  So someone with the extraordinary, Holy Spirit imparted, gift of prophecy today, first has to listen for what God has to say.

God can speak in many ways, but the primary and most important way God speaks is through Holy Scriptures.  So a gifted prophet will be an avid student of the Bible.  They will become familiar with its teachings and discern the deeper meanings of what God says through the Bible, and not just what people say about it or God.  A true prophet will want to know, “What does the Bible say?” because they know what the Bible says is God’s Word.

And I must say a word of caution here, beware of any prophet or prophecy who consistently and fundamentally contradicts what God has already said in the Bible.  God inspired the Apostles and early church leaders to write and compile the Holy Bible.  It’s very unlikely that God is going to tell a new prophet to contradict what God has already said in the Bible.

Speaking God’s Truth
So first, a gifted prophet hears God’s Word.  Second, a prophet speaks God’s Truth.  Someone with the special Holy Spirit gift of prophecy feels compelled to share what God has told them.  The prophet Jeremiah described it “like a fire in my bones.”[ii]  Prophets are often ridiculed or persecuted, because God may lead them to say things people don’t want to hear.  The first Christian martyr, Stephen, said, “Was there ever a prophet your ancestors did not persecute?” (Acts 7:52).  But because God has told them to speak, someone with the gift of prophecy candidly speaks the plain truth when God compels them to speak.  They will speak the truth (even at personal risk) and speaks the truth even if it causes pain or hurt feelings. Furthermore, they will speak in such a way that people clearly understand what God is saying and have no one else to blame but themselves if they don’t listen.

The Problem of False Prophets
Now, the Bible warns us to watch out for false prophets.  2 Timothy 4:3-4 warns, “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.”  And 2 Peter 2:1b says, “…there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction.”

In the Transformers cartoon series, it’s real easy to tell the good guys from the bad guys.  There are the honorable Autobots sworn to fight for good and protect the earth and its inhabitants from evil.  Then there are the evil Decepticons who want to rule the universe and will destroy anyone and anything that gets in their way.  The very name “Decepticons” makes it pretty obvious that they are the bad guys.  Buy if that weren’t enough, they always punctuate their evil schemes with a maniacal laugh. 

Unfortunately, in real life, the Decepticons (or false prophets) don't give themselves away with a maniacal laugh.  But there are some clues to help you watch out for false prophets.

First of all, false prophets will twist or even contradict Scripture.  Now, sometimes there is room for different interpretations of Scripture and not every preacher or teacher will get it right every time.  But there are also many places in Scripture that are plain and easy to understand.  And if someone is consistently contradicting and twisting the plain teachings of God's Word, watch out.  If they're telling you that the teaching of the Holy Bible are outdated and no longer apply, be on guard.  They might be a Decepticon (false prophet).  That's why it's so important for Christians to know the Scriptures so you won’t be fooled.  I understand that not everyone is going to be an expert in Scripture.  However, there's no reason why almost every Christian in America shouldn't at least be familiar with Scripture.  At the minimum, you need to know enough to question when someone says something that might contradict scripture, and then be able to take those questions to a Christian teacher you trust (or a small group for study) and know how to look for answers in your Bible.  This is becoming more and more important in the world in which we live, where there are so many who would seek to lead you astray.

A second way to spot a Decepticon (false prophet) is by their fruit.  Jesus said you can identify a good person from a bad one the same way you tell a good tree from a bad one—by their fruit. A good tree produces good fruit. A bad tree produces bad fruit. Luke 12:35, “A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart.”

I Have a Prophecy for You Today
I have a prophecy for you today.  It's very simple and straight forward.  First of all, if you believe in Jesus and follow him as Lord, you will have eternal life.  His Holy Spirit will live inside you and transforms you and give your a special ability to help transform the world.  And Jesus wants you to know and use your spiritual gift(s) to help him transform our world.  And if he is truly your Lord, you will gladly get to work.  You can use the spiritual gifts assessment here to better understand what gift(s) you may have.

The second part of the prophecy is this:  If you do not believe in Jesus or follow him as your Lord, that's not good at all.  You do not have eternal life.  Something much darker lies ahead in your future.  You will not experience the blessings God wants for you in this life and after you die, you will face God's judgement and eternal punishment in hell where their will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, and eternal separation from God, the source of love and live and peace.  The Good News is you can repent and turn to God today.  Through Jesus Christ, you can receive the free gift of God's salvation and eternal life.  Won't you turn to Him today?  All you have to do is decide, close Your eyes, and ask God to save you and then start following Jesus as your Lord from this day forward and you will be transformed.

[i] Matthew 11:15, 13:9, etc.
[ii] Jeremiah 20:9

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