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Wednesday, June 30th 2010

9:14 AM

 

A Company of Prophets

By Pastor Bruce Sikes 

 

Where in the church building is the door marked “Prophet’s Office?” The Bible clearly states that the body of Christ is made up of many parts. These parts are people, and to each person different spiritual gifts have been given by the Holy Spirit. It also says that various people have been given different ministry callings to serve in the church. These include the obvious ones as listed in scripture: evangelists, pastors, teachers, etc., including the less obvious and/or overlooked ones such as those with gifts of healing, discernment, prophecy and alike. (1 Cor. 12 & Eph. 4) All of these gifts have all been provided for the Church for her common good. None of them can be ignored or the body will suffer. 

It is true that God in His wisdom does provide Christians with the ability to exercise several spiritual gifts to some degree for the building up of the Church. As a secular example, many of us may know how to do a little plumbing or electrical work on our homes. We may also know how to do some sewing or cooking. However, these skills do not make us equal in expertise, talent and knowledge to Plumbers, Electricians, Tailors, and Chefs who work their trades every day. More often than not, it is better to seek the advice and help of the people who are gifted in an area of work, than to always try to do things our way and in our own strength. This is particularly true when God has generously and specifically provided us with fellow skilled co-laborers in Christ. 

It is also true that God empowers people for a time with an additional spiritual gift to perform certain tasks. For example, I have a dear Christian friend who was born in Puerto Rico. He is a highly educated individual, fluent in Portuguese and Spanish. A couple years ago, he was asked by his church to accompany a mission team to Brazil as a translator. When he arrived in the country, his pastor told him that the agenda changed and now he would not only have to translate, but travel to the various churches and preach the sermons himself! My friend’s first reaction was, “I’m no preacher!” He was terrified at the thought being in front of a group of people and speaking a word of God to them.  Long story short, he prayed about it and agreed to do it, not knowing what would happen. When he arrived at the first church, God dramatically gave him the gift of preaching, with spectacular results. He did not have the gift before, yet it worked powerfully the entire mission trip. The right gift at the right time. God knew what those churches in Brazil needed to hear. All He needed was an individual willing to obey. The Holy Spirit would do all the rest. 

(Let me insert an addendum here...I have not spoken to my friend for months, but the Lord had led me to be in active prayer for him and his family and especially God‘s calling on his life. When I had finished writing this portion about him, he suddenly emailed me. He said his pastor unexpectedly asked him to join a gospel mission team to Colombia this fall. I do not believe this was a coincidence. God‘s Holy Spirit is at work even now.) 

You see, the Lord knows exactly what His people need to hear and when they need to hear it. This has always been the case and will never change. God spoke to His people through prophecies and warnings before Messiah came the first time. Likewise, He is speaking to His Church before the return of the Lord Jesus this second time. God is seeking to prepare His Bride, to wake her up so that she may be cleansed and made ready for His coming.

There are those who cling to the one verse, "No one knows about that day or hour…” when Christ returns (Matt 24). As a result, they don’t bother looking for signs of His coming, and ignore and dismiss those who say His return is near. They have no expectation, no anticipation, no excitement building as one would expect those making ready for that special day. We all know what it’s like for a bride the week before her wedding, how busy she and her family are with each passing day. Even so, there are those who turn a deaf ear to prophetic voices and a blind eye to the fullness of scripture. They preach, teach and encourage the Bride to indulge in a sedative Christian lifestyle. They cannot discern the times, because they choose to ignore those to whom God has given the gift of discernment and refuse to listen to their prophetic voices. 

Not surprisingly, most of us find ourselves increasingly troubled by what we see developing in the world and in our churches. Still, many of us haven't done much about it and have said little or nothing at all publicly. We may find ourselves echoing the words of the friend I mentioned earlier, “I am no preacher, no prophet, no speaker!” If so, then we are in good company.    

“Moses said to the LORD, "O Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue." (Exodus 4:10)

The Lord is not looking for highly educated and trained speakers, but willing and obedient hearts. If we step forward in faith to stand in the gap in behalf of His people, God will give us the words, the discerning wisdom and the anointing power to sound the watchman’s warning cry.

 It is precisely for times like these that God calls forth a Remnant. He knows what His people need and exactly when they need it. The Bible shows us that the Lord has used a Remnant in various ways, including in a prophetic way. The larger the task, the greater the need, the more help He sends our way. The Lord abundantly provides for us. When Moses and Aaron needed help with the large community of Hebrews, God gave them many leaders to assist (Num 1). When the number of disciples was greatly increasing in Jerusalem, deacons were provided to help the Church grow (Acts 6). When an evil king ruled over God‘s people, leading them astray and encouraging them to worship other gods, the Lord gave His people Elijah, Elisha and Obadiah. Along with them, He preserved, protected and provided for a company of prophets for the people of God. (1 & 2 Kings)   

So too, in these final hours, God is raising a company of prophets to warn the church and to prepare the Bride of Christ for His return. Before reading further, it should be noted that there are two basic types of Biblical prophecy.

(1) In the first type, the Prophets proclaimed what would happen in the future. Not predictions, but facts. God specifically revealed to them what would happen. Not always a judgment, sometimes as with the coming of Christ, a good thing! Regardless, it's a done deal. 

(2) The second type of prophecy is a warning to God's enemies and for His own people of what will happen in the future - if they don’t repent. It is God's Spirit within the prophet moving them to speak. This second type is more frequent and reveals God's patience with us and His loving desire to see us return to Him. It is not necessarily a done deal. Man can repent and God would graciously relent. However, more often than not, these prophetic warnings are often the precursor to the first type of prophecy in cases of God's judgment. Of the examples we have in the Bible, most of the time the people ignored the prophet's warnings and what the prophet warned about came to pass! So keeping that in mind, these prophetic warnings carry the same authority as of the first type of prophetic proclamation and thus cannot be ignored. Both are messages to us from God. 

To this end, discernment is a key characteristic of the Remnant's call. While it is an attribute of the Holy Spirit dwelling in every believer, God does provide His body with parts more abundantly gifted in discernment. Furthermore, it's no coincidence that listed next to the gift of discernment in 1 Corinthians is the gift of prophecy.

"...to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits..." (1 Cor. 12:10)

Variously translated as "distinguishing of spirits" etc..., it simply means knowing if this person or thing (plan, idea, event, etc...) has the Spirit of God in it or not. Is it motivated by good or evil?  Speaking tongue in cheek, this gift can be a blessing or a curse. Why? Well, we can't always explain in a worldly logical way why we feel the way we do about someone or something. This can be especially challenging when by all outside appearances the person or the idea appears to be a good one, but we know the spirit is wrong. It makes it even more difficult when many church people don't seem to have a problem with it. I  could tell you many stories where I and others have tried to guide people and churches away from persons or plans that were not of God, only to be frustrated by their lack of discernment and/or unwillingness to consider a prophetic warning - no matter how gently given. This is where we, and those to whom God would be speaking, must direct our attention and authority to God's Holy Word and Prayer. 

As I mentioned before, the Bible says there are many gifts of The Holy Spirit and God distributes and proportions them to believers for the common good. In His wisdom, God has included among the Remnants' gifts, both prophecy and discernment. Together they benefit both the hearers and proclaimers by providing the needed prophetic word from God at the just right time. We deliver it in the way God wants it delivered and to the particular audience to whom God is speaking. 

In a prophetic warning for the last days, Jesus told us in Matthew 24 that there will be much deception and many false prophets "to deceive even the elect if that were possible". One of the demonic forces coming against the Church in our time is the spirit of deception. Some of our brothers and sisters in Christ are being lead astray by it and so we;

 "...do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother." (2 Thessalonians 3:15) 

Carefully think about this verse for a moment. This is not an excuse to soften or "tone down" God’s prophetic warning to our brother; rather, how much more passionately would we warn a brother, a sister, a loved one of deception and danger?!!!   

But there are others whom God is warning as well, wolves in sheep's clothing. Following the example of Christ, we are called to expose and rebuke them forthrightly with the authority of the scriptures and the anointing of the Holy Spirit - regardless of the consequences to ourselves. Jesus counted the cost and spoke up. He chose to endure the persecutions and even suffer death for the sake of the sheep and a lost and dying world. He did not wait years and years to prophesy hoping they would someday come to understand the error of their ways and repent. No! He spoke and acted in a direct and straight forward manner knowing that time was short. Folks, our time is running out. We cannot wait. We need to respond to the prompting of God inside us and speak up now!

"But if I say, "I will not mention him or speak any more in His name," His word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot." (Jeremiah 20:9) 

Even though Prophet is listed as a valid church calling, along with pastor, teacher, etc... don’t hold your breath waiting for a church office door to be marked as the "Prophet's Office". It's not a highly desired occupation. A simple reading of the lives of the prophets in scripture indicates that fairly quickly. Ironically, Christians today always talk about how holy, powerful, and courageous the prophets were, but I doubt they would have ever invited them to a party! Nevertheless, prophets, prophecy and discernment are God given parts of the body of Christ. They are vital roles which do not come without cost. 

“Along with my God, the prophet is the watchman over the people of God, yet snares await him on all his paths, and hostility in the house of his God."     (Hosea 9:8) 

"Yet when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, for I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! “(1 Corinthians 9:16)

This is the message which God is calling His Remnant to proclaim and to live out...a return to preaching the Gospel, a return to our first love, to unashamed Evangelism of the lost, to unapologetic Bible-centered preaching and teaching, to Spirit-filled prayer and non-manipulated honest worship, and a return to steadfast courage and self-denying obedience to Christ and His word

We have been called to be Christ-like in everything we do and say. We have been called to follow and obey Jesus even in the hard things. There is no turning back. Please take time to reflect on the scriptures as they relate to speaking God's word and pray for the Lord's guidance. If you have not done so already, begin praying and asking God to use you in the Remnant's calling. Confess your weakness to Him and your need to utterly rely on Him for your strength, wisdom and protection. Claim His will on your life as you boldly step forward to prophesy and proclaim as a voice of the Remnant. The Body needs you. You are not alone.

 

For Christ and His Remnant,  

Pastor Bruce               

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