In our congregations, where we believe in the active gifts of the Holy Spirit, we often hear people say with great enthusiasm, “God told me…!” What do we mean by such a statement? Can it be true?
It is possible through faith in Yeshua to receive the Holy Spirit living inside of us: Romans 8:9, 11, 11 – “the Spirit of God dwelling in you…” “Spirit dwells inside of you…” “His Spirit dwelling in you…”
With the spiritual presence of God on the inside, we can be led by that Spirit. Romans 8:14 – “Those who are led by the Spirit of God are the sons of God.” This sense of inner leading can be a daily, if not moment-by-moment experience.
This “leading” is a continuation of the experience of the prophets of Israel (I Samuel 10:10-13, Joel 2:28-29) and a fulfillment of the prayer of Moses that all God’s people would receive the Holy Spirit and prophesy (Numbers 11:29). Yet the New Covenant experience of “indwelling” is more delicate, intuitive, internal, subjective, and normative than the prophetic interventions of God described in the Law and Prophets.
There is a steady stream of thoughts inside the heart of human beings. Some of those thoughts have spiritual origin and some carnal: Romans 8:6 – “The thoughts of the flesh are death but thoughts of the spirit are life and peace.” There is one stream of thoughts that comes to our soul from our spirit, which is connected to the Spirit of God. The other stream comes into our consciousness from the flesh, which is connected to the world, which is influenced by evil spirits (Ephesians 2:2).
When someone says, “God told me,” he usually means: “I had a sudden clear and pure thought that popped into my mind from my spirit, and I am confident that thought is from the Spirit of the Lord.” Since it is awkward to say all that, people will simply say, “God told me.” However, it is imperative that we clarify ourselves often enough to avoid misunderstanding. If not, it can sound to others that we are making an exaggerated claim that God just intervened and dictated a message to us.
It was not that the voice of God spoke to you aloud, but that you had an “impression” in your heart. Romans 8:16 – “for the Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit…” Aha! So it is probably more accurate to say: “I perceive that the Spirit of God is bearing witness with my spirit…” Saying something like this periodically might be less confusing than just saying, “God told me…”
The occasional clarifying of that point would add a touch of humility to our statements. It would also help those who are new-comers. Perhaps it could even help those who have seen mistakes and exaggerations in the name of prophecy not to be offended to the point of rejecting the gifts of the Spirit altogether.
The stream of thoughts inside us comes in the form of
- Moral Conscience
Conscience Bearing Witness
This third type of message is an intuitive affirmation or warning, like a traffic light showing green – “go,” yellow – “careful,” or red – “stop.” Romans 2:15 – “Their conscience bearing witness within them; their thoughts either accusing or acquitting them…” Most people recognize a flow of internal thoughts. The issue is to perceive if God is saying something, and if so, how to interpret it.
The conscience is the part of our spirit which God primarily “bears witness with.” Therefore, messages of God always have a pure, moral aspect to them. Romans 9:1 – “My conscience is bearing witness with me in the Holy Spirit.” You may indeed perceive a message from God’s Spirit, but don’t forget it is being filtered through your own spirit and conscience.
Whatever is influencing your heart will influence what you receive and how you perceive it. In discerning the truthfulness of a prophetic message, we must take that personal influence into account. We still prophesy in part, not in perfection (I Corinthians 13:9).
Let us humbly ask forgiveness from those who have been “turned off” by excesses and exaggerations, let alone outright lies and hypocrisy. Let’s go on to seek a purer and more accurate expression of prophetic gifts.