Prophets are not God's PR men - Evangelism is not cheerleading by Rev Michael Bresciani, Jan 30, 2010
Andy Warhol may have been slightly off when he said everyone is allowed their fifteen minutes of fame. Sometimes they are allowed a few years or even decades to ride a wave of popularity but even at that another dawn always breaks.
If the Christian right has seen its day since the height of the Reagan years then where is it today? Falwell is gone, Dr. James Kennedy is gone, Dobson is retired and John Hagee said he would not endorse another candidate ever after being shunned by McCain. Osteen says he won't use words like sin and hell in his messages and Warren is busy trying to bring the world together by getting everyone to engage in dialogue. Catholics are still embroiled in doctrinal difference on things like transubstantiation versus consubstantiation. The emergent church is telling people it's all good, so let it all pass and it will work out in time. False prophets are sending out their usual mixed messages that always end with don't worry be happy.
In this generation the church is passing through three phases that seem to directly correspond to the three years of Christ's public ministry. Christ's first years are widely known as the year of inauguration. The second year is often called the year of popularity where crowds happily thronged him to hear his words or witness a healing or some other miracle. Finally the year of opposition or resistance came into play and ended with the religious constabulary successfully engaging the political powers to put him to death.
The evangelism of Billy Graham, Oral Roberts, Rex Humbard and others was followed by the Jesus movement and the Moral Majority and the Christian right all the way up through the Reagan years. This was the church's year or several years of inauguration for this generation. As this period played out it became extremely important to be 'born again' and long before Osteen's motivational be all you can be kind of teaching emerged Chuck Colson's book 'Born Again' topped all the reader charts. The Christian right was for the first time actually sought out by some political candidates for coveted endorsements. This brought in Americas brief years of the church's popularity.
Even as political correctness, tolerance and diversity begin their tour de force in western culture the church is experiencing decline, resistance and opposition, go figure. Not all is lost because even as it begins God is fulfilling his promise to meet the year or time of resistance with an adequate response. That response is the spirit and purpose of prophecy. The prophet Amos said it best, "Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets." (Amos 3:7)
Since nearly one quarter of the Bible has to do with the second coming of Christ any prophet worth his salt today will be found engaging in the proliferation of these all important eschatological (second coming) warnings coupled with a call to readiness and repentance.
Only a cursory look at what is being touted as prophecy in our churches today would be enough to make a grown man shudder. In what seems more like keyword studies than prophecy people are standing up to proclaim good times, fair weather and more goodies for all. This is usually followed by an offer of a CD or video that will detail the rest of the prophecy for only $19.95 plus shipping and handling.
When a call to extended prayer, aiding the poor or proclaiming the gospel is declared in a prophecy this is a sure sign that even though this is a great message it is not prophetic. Such things are already included in scripture as doctrines, commandments and admonishers but are hardly prophecies.
In the Old Testament the term "Thus saith the Lord" is used 472 times and each time it is followed by a message to the nation of Israel or the nations that surround Israel. The prophecies were almost never spoken in the temple and were rarely meant exclusively for the ears of the religious constabulary. The message was for the people and the nation.
Prophecies were rarely what might be seen by today's standards a positive message. They were filled with warnings to repent for the shedding of innocent blood, moral decay and idolatry. They were always laced with God's affirmation of his love and mercy which only proved his patriarchal care for the creatures he has made.
They were stern warnings that promised either a steady decline or a sudden cessation of a nation's power and place if not heeded. They were messages so far removed from what is being heard in today's church that for some it is hard to believe that the same God is speaking.
The New Testament is no different. The few prophets who spoke there also had only dire things to proclaim and who would dare say that the book of Revelation is a picture of happier times to come? So what is this stuff being blabbed in our churches today?
While it is true that only Pentecostal or Charismatic churches actually allow the practice of Holy Spirit generated prophetic utterance, prophecy as we know it is not confined to that alone. All homiletical or sermonic material passed across the pulpits and lecterns of both evangelical and Catholic churches can be considered prophetical in nature. It's a message and it either comes from God or it doesn't.
The primary purpose of all prophecy is to lead people to the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross. Only there can salvation be found and it is there we find that Christ is no mere religious icon or leader but he is the substitute given by God for us. He took the judgment of our sin on himself so we will not have to.
The secondary purpose of prophecy is to warn the nations of Gods plan for all people. This is the hard part because it creates confrontation. Perhaps the church is tender and licking its wounds in this day of resistance and thus chooses to keep all prophecy in house where it is warm safe and cozy. Whatever the reasons may be they are yet open to debate but the product is begging for scrutiny.
When "Thus saith the Lord" is repeatedly followed by the proclamation of untold blessings and good times ahead it not only does not correspond to the socio-economic times of today but it falls short of the true nature of prophecy as it has been for centuries of God speaking to man. It is falsehood and lies at times and wishful thinking at other times but it is not in sync with the scriptures, the times or the Spirit of truth.
The acid test for all prophecy is whether it corresponds to the prior revelation. In simple terms if it defies what is already in scripture it is not true. But that means not only specific scripture but the preponderance and nature of all scripture. That means if God has spoken to nations in times past then he is still doing that today. Prophecy is not an interchurch phenomenon for the tickling of the ears among the redeemed alone.
With this in mind it is easy to see why being the 'best you' must be tempered with "But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away." (Isa 64:6)
Engaging the world in dialogue may seem like a grand idea but it is anything but proclaiming the Gospel which by the way is not just another good idea, it is a command. "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen." (Mt 28:19-20)
And prophecies about how well the church is doing are flying in the face of the previous scriptural prophecy that in the last days the church will be at its worst and will need to take a hard look at itself. "Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first" (2Th 2:3a)
The churches that are faithfully carrying on and serving the Lord according to scripture are not defying the rule but rather they are the exception that is making the rule. Thank God for them, pray for the rest!
http://www.americanprophet.org has since 2005 featured the articles of columnist Rev Michael Bresciani along with news and reviews that have earned this site the title of The Website for Insight Millions have read his timely reports and articles in online journals and print publications across the nation and the globe.