Properly Discerning Judgment

Recently, I'd been asking Father for an upgrade in the gift of discernment, as He’d been emphasizing 1 Corinthians 14:29 to me (“Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others judge.”). And what do you know, but suddenly I began getting scores of submissions for the website, many of them with what I would call a fairly judgment-oriented interpretation.

Cool! I was getting schooled! 

So I brought each word to Him for my lessons, and he’d have me separately discern the revelation portion of the prophecy from the interpretation portion. In those particular prophetic words, over and over, I sensed the Holy Spirit in the revelation, but not in the interpretation. 

“They’re interpreting through their expectations. They’re not listening to me, but they’re listening to what they already believe,” he said.

One illustration from this season: one of the prophecies came from a fairly mature prophet, a mature man whom I knew and trusted personally. It spoke about the county where he lived, and it carried a deadline: two weeks away. The revelation spoke of earthquakes and volcanoes, and I could sense God in it. The interpretation spoke of disaster and judgment, and I did not sense God on it (whew!). I heard Father say, “This is not a literal revelation; it’s a metaphor. The earthquakes are about things that he thought were stable getting shaken, and the volcanoes are about deep, hidden things being brought to light, violently.” I had the fairly strong sense that the word applied to him personally.

I asked the prophet if maybe that word could be metaphorical rather than literal, and he rejected it out of hand. OK. Maybe I’m wrong. But God was not directing me to respond as if it were literal and I did not publish the prophecy on the website.

Three weeks later the deadline was behind us, and no earthquake or volcano had struck. He called me: “That word was right, but I got the date wrong!” and he gave me a new date. Then he added, “But could you pray for me? My whole life is getting shaken, and there’s stuff I thought was way behind me that’s becoming public now!” The revelation had been correct, but the interpretation, and therefore the application, were incorrect.

Frankly, I’m one of those prophetic folks who was always quick to interpret prophecies with words like “judgment” or “the remnant.” He corrected me: in this season, Father asked me, “Son, why do you expect judgment? Everything – every sin – that deserved judgment was paid for in the Cross.”

I have since come to believe that one day, those who rejected his payment for their sin would have the “privilege” of paying for their own sin (Revelation 20:12), but there were no sins – past, present, or future; individual or corporate – that were not covered by the blood of Jesus on the Cross.

This is not to say that I don’t think real trouble is coming to America, and to our region in particular. I actually do believe we’re in for tough times, and I’m asking for more revelation for how to prepare. But from the way I think I’m learning to understand the cross, those troubles are not about judgment, certainly not about judgment from God, and a good number of the prognostications of disaster are errors in interpreting true prophetic revelation. 

More recently, He’s been teaching me more about the power of our declarations as believers. It’s a lot. We’re made in God’s image, and he did his first big project by words: “And God said… and it was so.” Thats my Dad! I'm in his line of work.

Here’s where I’m going: there are a lot of believers who don’t understand the cross very well. (Yeah, I was one for a bunch of decades, durn it.) And a lot of believers have been declaring disaster coming to America, or declaring Mr. Obama’s incompetence, or similar things. Recently, I’ve begun to question whether our declarations of disaster may have a hand in causing disaster to come about, about whether our declaring icky things about Mr. Obama are bringing some of those things to pass, whether we are seeing the fulfillment of our own declarations.

By way of illustration, God himself (Genesis 18:21) seems to declare that the reason that Sodom & Gomorrah were judged was because of the outcry against it. I wonder– if there is judgment coming against our nation, or against “famously sinful” cities in our nation (San Francisco, Las Vegas, New York, New Orleans, etc) – whether the judgment is not from God, but from God’s people.

So I’m pretty careful about speaking un-lovely things about people or nations; I’m really, really careful that I’m not interpreting prophetic words according to my own expectations.

Correcting What is NOT Being Said?

It is clear that there is a fair bit of new revelation in the air nowadays; God is revealing new truths, and new application of old truths.  

Anytime that happens, the enemy likes to fill the air with smoke in order to confuse God’s people. Discernment is needed: we must eat the meat & spit out the bones; we must reject revelation that is outside of “Spirit & truth,” remembering “Thy word is truth.” Godly discernment and the Bible are the standards by which we discern truth. 

But I have a growing conviction that much of what is being both corrected and rejected is not actually what is being revealed or declared. I am observing, with disconcerting frequency, a troubling pattern:

I’m seeing correcting what people are not saying, or at least what people mean to not say. 

Here’s what the process looks like; perhaps you’ve seen it happen:

  • Someone declares a revelation which is not entirely familiar. 

  • That revelation reminds a listener (or a reader) of something else, something uncomfortable or something false. Perhaps they encountered this revelation with an error in the past, or perhaps it’s just similarity. For example, the revelation that we are “saved by faith” often triggers “license to sin” warning lights, even though the person preaching salvation by faith has not promoted a license to sin. 

  • As a result, we argue against the something false (in this example, against a license to sin) even though it is not the revelation that was being presented.  

  • The result of that argument is multiple:
ü      the original revelation (in this example: that we are saved by faith) is lost in the confusion.
ü      an expression of the Kingdom is perverted in the direction of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, not the Tree of Life
ü      the one who brought the original revelation may become confused, discouraged, or frustrated.
ü      an opportunity to expand the Kingdom is missed.
ü      we as a community are less willing to consider new revelation, concerned that it will confuse/offend some, or for fear that they’ll be persecuted for it.
ü      relationships in the Kingdom experience unnecessary stress.

In other words, there is really nothing good that comes from arguing with what people have not said.

First cousin to “arguing against what someone has not said,” is the idea of “fine tuning what someone has said.” The process is similar:

  • Someone declares a revelation which is not entirely familiar. 

  • One of the listeners (or readers) immediately notices that it is possible to take this truth too far. So they immediately post their warnings about the truth.

  • As a result, people’s attention is taken away from the truth of the revelation (for example, “salvation comes through faith, not works,”) and focused on irrelevant details (“Yes but you MUST pray the sinner’s prayer or it doesn’t count” or some such).

  • The result of that foolishness is remarkably similar:
ü      the original revelation (in this example: that we are saved by faith) is lost in the confusion.
ü      an expression of the Kingdom is perverted in the direction of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, not the Tree of Life
ü      the one who brought the original revelation may become confused, discouraged, or frustrated.
ü      an opportunity to expand the Kingdom is missed.
ü      we as a community are less willing to consider new revelation, concerned that it will confuse/offend some, or for fear that they’ll be persecuted for it.
ü      relationships in the Kingdom experience unnecessary stress.

Frankly, these processes are often a real clear example of manipulation and control: they’re an attempt to draw attention to ourselves, instead of the person with the revelation, or the Spirit who gave them that revelation. Or they’re  the result of believing a lie: “The Holy Spirit needs ME to correct people, or else they’ll fall into error!” That’s rather a problem. In a public conversation, there is no good thing that comes from correcting an imaginary error in a friend.

Of course, the recommendation is to listen to what the other guy is saying, and then maybe even listen to what Holy Spirit is saying before shooting our mouths off.

Some disclaimers are appropriate: 

  • There is real heresy out there. For example, some people are promoting grace to the point of throwing out some of the authority of scripture. It really is happening, and it needs to be opposed in the places it is happening. It does NOT need to be opposed whenever someone says something similar to what those people are saying: that would be correcting what people are not saying, and that would not be helpful.

  • For some of us recovering from the error of Bibliolatry, the place of scripture in our lives is changing. It is no longer the legalistic trump card, cancelling personal relationship with God that it used to be: it really is being demoted from its place as the 4th person of the Trinity, and it should be. (And this in itself is triggering this process!)

Paying Rent on a Fishing Boat

In Luke, chapter five, Jesus borrows Peter’s boat, pushes out from shore, and teaches the crowd.

But after he was through teaching, an interesting thing happened: it’s as if Jesus performs a miracle in order to pay Pete for the use of his boat: 

4 When He had stopped speaking, He said to Simon, “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” 5 But Simon answered and said to Him, “Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless at Your word I will let down the net.” 6 And when they had done this, they caught a great number of fish, and their net was breaking. 7 So they signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink

There are several lessons that could be, and no doubt have been, taught from this passage, about obedience, about team ministry, about trials in God’s blessings. But the one that stuck out to me today was this:

Jesus is not afraid of making his kids wealthy.

For some years, I lived in a fishing community in the Northwest. I was surprised to learn that some of the local commercial fishing boats would consider the night’s fishing profitable if they caught eight or ten salmon. They could sell the fish for enough to pay the costs of running the boat for the night, the wear and tear on their equipment, and still make themselves a paycheck.

But here, Jesus gives them so many fish that it swamps two commercial fishing boats. Admittedly they built fishing boats differently in the first century than in the twenty-first century, but it’s very clear that this one catch was way more than the optimistic boat-builders had planned for.

A catch like that could provide enough money to live off of for several months, maybe longer, while the fishermen spent their time hanging around Jesus and learning from him. For the sake of discussion, let’s assume that this one catch was six months’ worth of income for their families: for us, that’s a lot of money, maybe tens of thousands of dollars.

There are a couple of interesting observations about the process which Jesus used to pay rent on Pete’s boat:

  • Peter never offered to rent his boat to Jesus. He never offered Jesus use of the boat. Jesus intrudes: he just stepped into the boat of the fisherman who had failed at his work all night, and asked to be pushed out from the shore. Jesus intrudes on Peter’s failure and expects Peter to comply with his request. I don’t think it’s too much to infer that Jesus just might break in on our own lives, even in the “ungodly” place of self-pity, and use us.

  • “Being used by God” sometimes looks like it did for Peter: sitting on your sore backside, wishing you were doing something else, while he’s talking to other people about things you don’t really understand.

  • Then Jesus told (he didn’t ask) Peter to do something foolish: to waste some more time and energy on something that hasn’t worked, to invest some more in the place of Pete’s failure. Worse: Pete is a professional fisherman, and he knows that this is the wrong time to catch fish (that’s why he’d been out all night: night is better fishing time on that lake), and this preacher-guy is trying to tell him how to do his job.

  • Jesus didn’t just write Pete a check or a bag of silver coins for the use of the boat. He badgered Pete into working some more, and then he blessed the work that Pete did. Jesus used the vehicle of Pete’s own hard work (harder than he expected it to be: that was a lot of fish!) to drop twenty thousand bucks (or however much) into Pete’s checking account. While it’s not the only way Jesus does things, it’s a common one (Matthew 17:27)

  • It was when Peter put the net down at Jesus’ direction that the freaky harvest came in. It happened again, almost the same way, after Jesus had raised from the dead, in John 21.

  • But Jesus wasn’t afraid to drop a large chunk of wealth into the hands of an untrained fisherman. He didn’t give Peter a six-week lesson on How to Handle Money, or remind him about the importance of tithing if you expect God to bless you. He just blessed his socks off; and nearly sank his boat.

  • Peter recognized the presence of God in the sudden appearance of slippery, flopping wealth sinking his boat and his partner’s! His response: “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!” Jesus uses that moment of spiritual openness to give Peter a new job: “From now on you will catch men.”

By way of application, I find myself reflecting on these action points:

  1. It’s probably good to let Jesus intrude on my day-to-day trudging. Maybe even invite him in.

  1. I probably need to re-evaluate what it means to be “used by God,” so that there’s a whole lot less confusion. Sitting on my butt, if he’s asked me to sit, can be frightfully profitable ministry, though it doesn’t look so impressive on the resume or the Facebook page.

  1. I need to guard against resentment: fancy expectations (see #2 above), intrusions on my life (#1 above) and failures.

  1. If I’m asking God for money, perhaps I should ask him to bless my job. That seems to be something he does pretty well.

  1. And I remind myself: when I experience that transition from discouragement to fruitfulness, don’t be surprised if you get a new assignment from Heaven during that season.