Error, indeed, is never set forth in its naked deformity, lest, being thus exposed, it should at once be detected. But it is craftily decked out in an attractive dress, so as, by its outward form, to make it appear to the inexperienced (ridiculous as the expression may seem) more true than the truth itself. - Irenaeus

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Abundance of Words

& the Question of Authority
by Dale Brown

The words that people speak are most revealing. When describing one way of examining the fruit of someone’s life Jesus said, "out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks." His illustration is easily taken when we hear a blasphemer in his ignorance spewing forth his reckless words. All one needs to do in order to know where a person stands, is to listen. No one can be a good counselor without learning to be a good listener. It is not merely a matter of words. Two people can say the same words yet have two entirely different meanings. One person might roll his eyes while opening a letter from IRS and shout a defiant, "Hallelujah!" and mean something totally different than another who has been in dire straights and opens an envelope with a large sum of money in it and humbly shouts "Hallelujah!"
Jesus said, "That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment" (Matt. 12:36).
In an effort to sort out some details of a disagreement with another minister I once submitted a case before a group of local pastors who I felt could weigh out the details fairly. I pulled from my pocket a small tape-recorder and placed it on the table in front of me. One pastor, whom I had the most respect for stood to his feet and stormed from the room claiming he had nothing to say as long as there were tape machines running. He was not even the minister in question, yet he was overcome with fear. Once I reminded him that there was a tape-recorder running in heaven he eventually calmed down and returned to reason.

The apostle Paul understood the awesome responsibility of being a spokesman for God when he wrote to the Corinthians, "And I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling." Paul was a man who had been temporarily struck blind by God and carried a thorn in his flesh, which, he claimed was God’s way of keeping him from exalting himself. All the prayer in the world was not going to change that.

While some are quoting Bible verses and claiming their rights, they might be better off confessing their sins. They often make claims that go far beyond their authority. Claiming people "for the kingdom" as though we have the ability to over-ride someone’s freewill is presumptuous at best. If we could claim someone’s salvation we would be the Savior. This is more liken to witchcraft than Christian prayer.

I cringe at times when I hear the words that Christians speak to one another in the name of prayer and prophecy. Though at times they sound very religious, one person rightfully described it as VRG (Verbalized Religious Garbage). It is one thing to pray and give advice, but we enter into a whole new realm of responsibility when we end it with, "Thus saith the Lord" or "The Lord is telling me..." After leaving one such meeting my wife asked me, "well, what do you think." "Too much Yabba Dabba Do," I said, "some people are going to get hurt." And, they did.

One minister obviously wrote from experience: "Persons with many opinions, ideas, and subjective thoughts are to be feared....Those who are naturally talkative, opinionated, and self-conceited need a radical dealing, a basic bending. This is something which cannot be either a doctrine or an imitation. It must be wounds in the flesh. Only after one is scourged by God does he begin to live in fear and trembling before Him."
Jeremiah the prophet wrote, "I did not send these prophets but they ran. I did not speak to them, but they prophesied. But if they had stood in My council, then they would have announced My words to My people, and would have turned them back from their evil way and from the evil of their deeds."

These words are often cited to describe cults and obvious spiritual error, yet in the same chapter God speaks through Jeremiah, "I am against the prophets," declares the Lord, "who steal My words from each other." This is a common problem in our day. Someone writes a book and everyone under the sun takes it as their own personal revelation. We can surely learn from other people’s experience, but what might have been good tasting manna for another might have worms in it by the time it gets to us.

"Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we shall incur a stricter judgment." (James 3:1)

The same sword of the Spirit that we use to bring life and restoration can be a tool of destruction when placed in the hands of one who has a selfish agenda. So often leaders who have been successful in bringing new believers into God’s kingdom become threatened when these young believers begin to mature and begin to surpass the understanding of the leader. Being used in ways the leader has never been used brings much tension, and attention. This attention often brings jealousy which results in the same anger that manifested in King Saul as a result of David’s success, because the women sang, "Saul has slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands"(1 Sam. 18:7). Satan takes advantage of this human weakness and uses it for his purpose. In David’s case, Saul eventually tried to kill him. David was able to sooth the angry spirit in Saul with anointed music from his harp for a time, but eventually even this failed and he was driven from the king’s palace.
"For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing"(Jms. 3:16).

Though Watchman Nee was a bit of mystic he was insightful in his observation on authority. "Authority is established by God; therefore no delegated authority need try to secure his authority. Do not insist that others listen to you. If they err, let them err; if they do not submit, let them be insubordinate; if they insist on going their own way, let them go. A delegated authority ought not strive with men. Why should I demand a hearing if I am not God’s established authority? On the other hand, if I am set up by God, need I fear lest men not submit? Whoever refuses to hear me, disobeys God. It is not needful for me to force people to listen. God is my support, why then should I fear? We should never say so much as one word on behalf of our authority; rather, let us give people their liberty. The more God entrusts to us, the more liberty we grant to people. Those who are thirsty after the Lord will come to us. It is most defiling to speak on behalf of our own authority or to try to establish authority ourselves."

In the words of the prophet Ezekiel, "Thus says the Lord, ‘He who hears, let him hear; and he who refuses, let him refuse; for they are a rebellious house.’"

Leaders such as Saul often abuse their authority as did other shepherds of Israel, "...with force and with severity you have dominated them"(Eze.34:4). As a result God rescues his sheep from this authoritarian abuse, "...and I shall demand My sheep from them and make them cease from feeding sheep"(Eze. 34:10). The remaining verses of chapter 34 record God saying over twenty times "I will" tend to the needs of His sheep, on a personal level. When this happens people find themselves in a lonely place. They are often outside the hub of church activity for the first time in their Christian experience. They feel guilty and are occasionally the target of accusations of rebellion.

Let your words be soft and tender,
For you never know
When you might have to eat them.


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