And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment – Phil. 1:9
On Sunday at church, a lady got up at the end of the service. She went up to the pulpit, took the microphone and said in a “spiritual” tone:
“While we were praying, God gave me a picture. It was a… a wheel of a car that was spinning fast… and I felt that God was telling someone in here: ‘You need to slow down. You are getting too filled with Jesus, you are striving too much to take it all in, you are working too hard.’ God is telling you that you need to stop and just enjoy the ride”.
You won’t get any Amen’s from this blogger – oh no. In fact, while she was talking I accidentally snickered twice (loud enough for the person next to me to turn and look. Twice.)
I can’t help it. When stuff like that is catered on a regular basis to the Church and everyone – including the leadership – nods in approval and reverence, something happens in me. I want to call it “righteous indignation”, but it’s more “sorrowful grief”. It’s a tragic state when abnormal things are gulped by an undiscerning Church and accepted as normal.
Let me be more precise. The statement that lady made was so wrong in so many levels that I wouldn’t even know where to start from.
First of all, a PICTURE from God? When I first came to the UK I was well into the whole Charismatic scene, and even then I found it difficult to swallow this “new thing”. A picture? You mean you just had a vision (which would still be suspect)? No, not a vision. Nothing as fancy as that. Just a picture that God put into my head as a means of an illustrated truth.
Please tell me if I’m wrong, but WHERE IN THE BIBLE DOES ANYONE EVER GET A PICTURE? Why is this important? Because there is no Biblical precedent for this method of revelation. Well, someone will say, pictures are just a short version of a vision. Answer: People in the Bible received VISIONS, which were elaborate, detailed, supernatural presentations in which God presented Himself (e.g. Num. 12:6) and/or His will (e.g. Acts 9:10-17). And, of course, visions also communicated God’s continuing revelation until the completion of Scripture (the book of Revelation is essentially one long vision). And I think the fact that they refer to these mental “popups” as “pictures” rather than visions shows how uncertain the messengers are about their origin and validity of their messages. In other words “I’m not sure if this is from God, so I won’t call it a vision – but I’ll throw it out there and you’re better off accepting it as if it came from God’s own desk.” But what does the Bible tell us about situations like this?
Thus says the LORD of hosts: “Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you. They make you worthless; They speak a vision of their own heart, Not from the mouth of the LORD – Jer. 23:16
But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in My name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die – Deut. 18:20
In short: If you’re going to speak for God, you better be sure it’s His message.
So how do “pictures” match up to this? I’ve heard a hundred people talk about “pictures” that they’ve had, and no-one has ever even come close to the Bible’s visions. Instead, they talk about something that anyone’s brain can spit out. Seriously: close your eyes for ten seconds and try not to think of anything. Then open your eyes and tell me what your “picture” was. How much more would this happen to an impressionable, emotion-driven person who is actually looking for it? For example, a couple of weeks ago, another lady at my church whispered to the vicar that she‘d had a picture of “a crust-filled pizza”, from which she concluded that God wanted us to be “filled” (with what, she didn’t say) rather than “empty”. The vicar smiled and delivered the message just before giving us the Grace. And such embarrassing ludicrousness, my friends, is accepted as normal, no questions asked.
But back to the “spinning wheel” of the first lady (guys get pictures too, don’t worry). It reminded me of another factor: The message.
This isn’t anything new. God set standards against which we can test the veracity of any message that claims to be from God, whether it is a vision, a “prophecy” a “word of knowledge” or even a “picture” (cf. Jer. 28:9). And what was that lady’s supposed message from God? Don’t try too hard on the Jesus stuff. Take it easy. And what does the Bible say?
Only take heed to yourself, and diligently keep yourself, lest you forget the things your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. And teach them to your children and your grandchildren… – Deut. 4:9
You shall diligently keep the commandments of the LORD your God, His testimonies, and His statutes which He has commanded you. – Deut. 6:17
Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life. – Prov. 4:23
But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him – Heb. 11:6
And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end, that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises – Heb. 6:11-12
But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins. Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble – 2 Pet. 1:5-10
Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless – 2 Pet. 3:14
Not enough? Take an example of our Lord, and how chilled and easy His approach to God was:
Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed – Mark 1:35
We are called to seek God with everything that we have; to strive after Him; to consume ourselves in seeking Him (cf. Ps. 119:139a). But in this lady’s “picture”, God was suggesting that someone ought to take it easy on the religion. Sorry, but the Bible (God’s sufficient message) doesn’t back that up.
Finally, look at that “someone”: God’s messages are always clearly addressed. Look at the prophets speaking to either Israel or specific kings and people of other nations. Think of Jonah and his mission to the people of Nineveh (Jonah 1:2). Think of ANYONE in the Bible who had a message and you will see that it is NEVER vague about ANYTHING, and especially not about the person on the receiving end.
So what do we have here? A message that might or might not be from God, delivered in a dubious manner, and which instructs an unidentified recipient to do something that clearly goes against Scripture.
Need we say more?
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world – 1 John 4:1