The Lord Told Me
2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:19; Revelation 22:18-19
by Cameron Buettel
The church has fallen into a dangerous pattern when it comes to divine direction. Too many believers today are trying to hear directly from God—whether through an audible voice or a stirring of their souls. Worse still are the people who legitimize everything from heresy to fundraising schemes to simple personal decisions by asserting the leading of the Lord.
I’ve seen numerous young men—particularly those in churches that allow and encourage modern prophecy and revelation—deploy divine decree as a last ditch attempt to win over girls who have declined their romantic advances. Tragically, many women have caved to the claim that “God told me to marry you” and been snared in loveless marriages. One of my friends, cornered by such a proposal, had the presence of mind to respond by saying, “God wouldn’t be so cruel.”
The assertion, “The Lord told me” is regularly employed as a sanctified shield for all sorts of claims. Spend a few minutes watching TBN or another charismatic network for all the proof you need. And to undiscerning eyes and ears, it’s generally an effective way to insulate a spurious message from the scrutiny of critics and dissenters. After all, who wants to take sides against the Lord and His messengers?
But believers cannot allow that unsubstantiated claim to disconnect our discernment, or give a free pass to everyone with the temerity to claim they speak for God. Instead, we need to measure every message against the truth of God’s Word.
Joyce Meyer’s books are littered with stories of the casual conversations she has with God. Moreover, she has sought to validate her entire ministry based on the direct channel of communication she supposedly enjoys with the Creator of the universe. One academic researcher, with strong feminist leanings, made the following observation:
In “Grace, Grace, and More Grace,” another one of Meyer’s later recorded sermons, she states nineteen times that her message is divinely inspired. More importantly, in this sermon she justifies her ministry and preaching in general by claiming God called her. For example, here Meyer stresses that even though she struggled when she began her ministry, divine authority was on her side: “Do you know how many years I frustrated myself tryin’ to make this ministry come to pass, and it was certainly God’s will. He said it. It was God’s call; God had anointed me.” Therefore, the message that she gives her audience is that she cannot refuse the “call” and remain silent. By reminding her audiences that each sermon and message is “anointed,” she reaffirms her authority and establishes that she is subject to a higher authority than the doctrinal leaders who might insist she remain silent.  Tracy Hasley Frederick, Feminizing the Pulpit: Feminine Style and the Religious Rhetoric of Joyce Meyer (Doctoral Dissertation Submitted to Regent University: 2009) 100.
John MacArthur has observed the “God told me” phenomenon from the vantage point of five decades expounding what God has already said in Scripture:
“God told me . . .” has become the anthem of the Charismatic Movement. Strange private prophecies are proclaimed by all kinds of people who evidently believe God speaks to them. Surely the most infamous is Oral Roberts’ preposterous death-threat prophecy. In 1987 Roberts told his nationwide audience that God had threatened to “call him home” if he couldn’t raise eight million dollars by his creditors’ deadline. Whether and how that threat might have been carried out, the world will never know; Roberts received a last-minute reprieve in the form of a large check from a Florida dog-track owner. http://www.gty.org/resources/articles/A366
Even Charismatic author and pastor, R. T. Kendall concedes the prevalence of the problem in his theological circles:
What must be avoided in any case is people saying “Thus saith the Lord” or “The Lord told me.” Speaking like this is not only highly presumptuous but is taking the name of the Lord in vain. . . . It is using God’s name—the worst possible kind of name dropping—to elevate your own credibility. You are not thinking of the Lord’s credibility but your own when you bring in His name.  R. T. Kendall, Holy Fire: A Balanced Biblical Look at the Holy Spirit’s Work in Our Lives (Lake Mary, FL: Charisma House, 2014) 150.
Ironically, Kendall’s book is endorsed by some of the worst and most visible prophetic frauds—John Arnott, Mike Bickle, John Hagee, and Bill Johnson, to name a few. Such is the delusion (or deceitfulness) of these men that they can read the above quote and think it applies to some other charlatan. Even Kendall, while renouncing “Thus saith the Lord,” is more than willing to speak out the other side of his mouth:
The late Oral Roberts was the most famous of these [people with the supernatural gift of healing]. I was privileged to meet him at his home in California three times. On one of those occasions he told me of a moment when the Lord spoke powerfully to him in his hallway a few days before.  Holy Fire, 148.
It should not be lost on us that extra-biblical revelation is necessary to support any agenda not revealed in the Bible. Dreams, liver shivers, and voices from heaven may impress the naïve and appeal to lazy students of Scripture but, as Peter said, “we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place” (2 Peter 1:19). Peter had actually heard God’s voice from heaven (Matthew 17:5; 2 Peter 1:17–18) but still counted Scripture as a “more sure” revelation. And John MacArthur couldn’t agree more:
The truth is, there is no fresher or more intimate revelation than Scripture. God does not need to give private revelation to help us in our walk with Him. “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate,equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16–17, emphasis added). Scripture is sufficient. It offers all we need for every good work.
Christians on both sides of the charismatic fence must realize a vital truth: God’s revelation is complete for now. The canon of Scripture is closed. As the apostle John penned the final words of the last book of the New Testament, he recorded this warning: “I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God shall add to him the plagues which are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book” (Revelation 22:18–19). http://www.gty.org/resources/articles/A366
It’s worth pointing out that this problem isn’t exclusive to charismatic believers. The rise of mysticism in the church has encouraged Christians of all stripes to pursue direct, personal experiences with the Lord through contemplative prayer and other mystical practices. Others simply give too much credence to the spiritual receptivity of their guts. In either extreme—or anywhere in between—the message is clear: God’s Word is not enough.
That cannot be the testimony of the church. We must exalt and extol the authority and sufficiency of Scripture, upholding it as God’s complete and inerrant revelation to His people. And we need to guard ourselves and others from the influence of those who pretend to speak for God.
The next time you hear someone say, “The Lord told me,” kindly ask them to provide the chapter and verse as well.
Available online at: http://www.gty.org/resources/Blog/B160122
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The whole advertising industry thrives by tapping into the pervasive discontentment—a discontentment they also helped create—of western culture. It’s almost impossible to go for a drive without having our senses assaulted by billboards reminding us of the material things we lack. Even those who are content with their lot in life struggle to emerge unscathed from the barrage.
For the Christian, personal contentment—being satisfied with what God has given us—is a vital aspect of personal holiness and integrity. In that vein, the author of Hebrews gives us this simple exhortation: “Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have” (Hebrews 13:5). Contentment is fundamental to integrity because a man who is content is far less vulnerable to the worldly enticements and distractions that Satan throws at him.
But our contentment can be undermined and assaulted by the sin of covetousness. It is one of the chief ways discontentment manifests itself. Covetousness is an attitude, a longing to acquire things. It means we set nearly all our attention and thought on gaining more money or having new possessions, whether we ever obtain them or not.
An encounter early in the career of wealthy oil executive John D. Rockefeller (1839–1937) illustrates this attitude. A friend reportedly asked the young Rockefeller how much money he wanted. “A million dollars,” he answered. After Rockefeller earned his first million dollars, his friend asked him how much more money he wanted. “Another million dollars,” Rockefeller replied.
Rockefeller’s desires further illustrate a law of diminishing returns with regard to covetousness: The more we get the more we want, and the more we want the less satisfied we are. The Preacher (probably Solomon, one who would understand this principle very well) wrote, “He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves abundance with its income. This too is vanity” (Ecclesiastes 5:10).
According to Scripture, loving money is one of the most common ways we display covetousness. Money can be used to purchase almost anything we desire, and thus it is synonymous with lusting after material riches. Obviously, we should seek to be free from any craving for material wealth. Such a desire indicates we are trusting in riches rather than in the living God.
Paul told Timothy how he was to deal with this matter, and his command is especially applicable to Christians living in affluent Western cultures: “Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy” (1 Timothy 6:17).
The Lord Jesus, in perhaps His most sobering parable, gives us a strong warning about the serious pitfalls related to covetousness and materialism:
“Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions.” And He told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man was very productive. And he began reasoning to himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no place to store my crops?’ Then he said, ‘This is what I will do: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry.”’ But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?’ So is the man who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.” (Luke 12:15–21)
The love of money and material possessions is evidenced in a variety of ways. For some people, it remains just an attitude—they never actually acquire anything. But others do acquire wealth, and for them the thrill is in adding to what they have. They love to increase their bank accounts, build up their stock and investment portfolios, or become involved in new business ventures.
Some people love money just for its own sake and find satisfaction simply in hoarding what they have. Still others are conspicuous consumers who love to buy newer, more expensive things—nicer clothes, fancier gadgets, more luxurious cars, bigger vacation homes—so they can flaunt their wealth. No matter how the love of materialism shows itself, it displeases God. We are all tempted—some of us more times than others—to compromise our testimonies and forget our integrity for the sake of material gain. But God wants us to be content.
Keys to Contentment
Scripture contains a number of practical guidelines by which we can enjoy the attitude of contentment. First, we must realize God’s goodness and believe that as our Father, He will take care of us. The apostle Paul reminds us that “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).
Second, we must grasp and treasure the truth that God is omniscient. He knows our needs long before we ask Him to supply them. Jesus told the disciples, “Your Father knows that you need these things” (Luke 12:30).
The third vital ingredient for genuine contentment is that we consider what we deserve. We often have an inflated, self-important view of what we desire, and even more of what we need. But in reality, by the Lord’s sovereign design, the smallest good thing we have is far more than we deserve. Like Jacob, we are “unworthy of all the lovingkindness and of all the faithfulness which You have shown” (Genesis 32:10).
Fourth, God’s Word exhorts us to recognize His sovereign supremacy. We will not be completely content until we see that His plan is not the same for all His children. What the Father lovingly gives to one believer, He just as lovingly withholds from another (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:4–11). Hannah, Samuel’s mother, spoke wisely and to the point concerning material blessings: “The Lord makes poor and rich” (1 Samuel 2:7). We might not be comfortable with the first part of that statement, but God knows that being rich is not necessarily the best plan for us. It could even be spiritually harmful for us (as it was for the rich man in Luke 12). The Lord provides us with just what we need and nothing less.
Finally, we must keep on reminding ourselves that worldly wealth and possessions are not the true riches. Our real treasure is in heaven. So Paul calls on us to set our minds “on the things above, not on the things that are on earth” (Colossians 3:2). Ultimately, therefore, genuine contentment results from our communion with God the Father and with His Son. Material riches fade into insignificance when we draw near to Christ and are overwhelmed by the spiritual riches we have in Him.
We’ve recently witnessed some changes in the cultural landscape that understandably cause believers great concern. Is society turning its back on the church? Is this the beginning of a new era of persecution and political pressure for the church? And how should we respond to a world that is increasingly hostile to God’s Word and His people?
At times like these, it is vital that believers not give in to panic and frantic overreaction. Instead, we need to fall back on eternal truth, and rest confidently in the palm of God’s sovereign hand. These recent changes are merely cosmetic—the world has always hated God’s Word and His design. It will stop at nothing to silence the preaching of the gospel and the testimony of its power to transform lives.
How we respond to this hostility is vital. We’re not called to lives of compromise and capitulation, nor were we saved and transformed for the sake of mounting political counterattacks and redeeming the culture. Like Lazarus, we’ve been called out of the grave of our sin, bestowed with new life, and set apart as examples of God’s redeeming, transforming power. And in the white-hot light of persecution, the testimony of our faith and the quality of our godliness is perpetually under scrutiny.
In his letter to Titus and the churches of Crete, the apostle Paul makes that very point. “This is a trustworthy statement; and concerning these things I want you to speak confidently, so that those who have believed God will be careful to engage in good deeds. These things are good and profitable for men” (Titus 3:8). In his commentary on the epistle, John MacArthur explains Paul’s point.
When Christians exalt the Word of God and demonstrate God’s power to transform lives, “these things are good and profitable for men”—for the believers themselves and, even more significantly . . . for the unsaved sinners around them who are drawn to Christ by the exemplary lives of those He has graciously transformed. 
What does that profitable behavior look like? How should our lives adorn the gospel in the midst of a world bent on antagonism to the truth? Earlier in his letter, Paul gave some specific instructions for holy living to his readers. Regarding those instructions, John notes:
They often have been unpopular and controversial, even in the church. At no time have they been more unpopular and controversial than in many churches today, where personal opinion and cultural standards take precedence over God’s truth and self-fulfillment is more important than holy living. 
All the more reason, then, to pay close attention to Paul’s teaching, and biblically discipline ourselves for godliness and kingdom use.
Paul addresses his instructions to specific groups within his audience—the first is the older men. “Older men are to be temperate, dignified, sensible, sound in faith, in love, in perseverance” (Titus 2:2).
The fact that Paul began by addressing his older readers—or that he paid them any attention at all—flies in the face of our modern emphasis on always appealing to younger, hipper audiences. In recent years, as the church has chased and mimicked every conceivable trend and popular subculture, older saints have been routinely ignored or cast aside. In fact, one of the most consistent flaws in churches today is the utter lack of the spiritual maturity and godly examples of seasoned believers.
As John MacArthur explains, Scripture does not share the modern, dismissive perspective regarding older saints.
Moses was 80 years old when God called him to lead Israel out of bondage in Egypt and to the land of promise. But, like his poor speaking ability (Exodus 4:10–12), advanced age did not excuse him from the Lord’s work.
At the age of 83—after having traveled some 250,000 miles on horseback, preached more than 40,000 sermons, and produced some 200 books and pamphlets—John Wesley regretted that he was unable to read and write for more than 15 hours a day without his eyes becoming too tired to work. After his 86th birthday, he admitted to an increasing tendency to lie in bed until 5:30 in the morning!
Godly older saints who bring strength, stability, and wisdom to a church should be cherished. Ancient Israel was told by the Lord, “You shall rise up before the gray-headed, and honor the aged” (Leviticus 19:32; cf. Proverbs 16:31). The godly are assured that they “will still yield fruit in old age” (Psalm 92:14) and that “the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, that shines brighter and brighter until the full day” (Proverbs 4:18). 
That’s not to say that age alone makes one a godly example or a spiritual leader. Paul’s instructions to older men make it clear that even they require spiritual discipline.
Specifically, he charges them to be temperate, dignified, and sensible. It’s a call to avoid extravagance and overindulgence, and to be sober minded (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:34; 1 Peter 1:13;4:7) and discerning.
In his commentary, John explains the spiritual maturity Paul is recommending.
The “temperate” older man is able to discern more clearly which things are of the greatest importance and value. He uses his time, his money, and his energy more carefully and selectively than when he was younger and less mature. His priorities are in the right order, and he is satisfied with fewer and simpler things. . . .
The “dignified” person is never frivolous, trivial, or superficial. He never laughs at immorality, vulgarity, or anything else that is sinful and ungodly. Nor does he laugh at that which is tragic or at the expense of others.
Older believers have lived long enough to see many people, including good friends and close family members, experience serious misfortune, suffer great pain, and perhaps die at an early age. They may have seen a spouse or a child suffer leukemia or some other form of cancer or debilitating disease. They have learned the value of time and opportunity. They better accept and comprehend their own mortality, the imperfections of this present world, and the inability of material things to give lasting, deep satisfaction. They have seen utopian ideas fail and have learned how short-lived and disappointing euphoric emotional experiences can be, even those—or perhaps especially those—that purport to be of a higher spiritual order. . . .
They should have the discernment, discretion, and judgment that comes from walking with God for many years. They control their physical passions and they reject worldly standards and resist worldly attractions. 
Paul underscores those important character qualities with the call to be “sound in faith, in love, [and] in perseverance.” As John explains,
First of all, older men who have been through 50, 60, 70, or more years of life are to be “sound in faith,” having learned that God indeed can be trusted in every way. They do not question His wisdom or power or love, and they do not lose trust in His goodness and grace or lose confidence in His divine plan and divine wisdom. They do not doubt the truth or sufficiency of His Word or waver in their divinely assured hope that His sovereign plan will be fulfilled.
Second, older men are to be “sound . . . in love”—toward God, toward His people, and toward those who do not yet know Him. They love by bearing one another’s burdens and thereby fulfilling the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2). They have learned to love when their love is not deserved and to continue loving when it is rejected and even when they suffer because of it. They lovingly forgive and they lovingly serve. . . .
Third, older men are to be “sound . . . in perseverance.” They are to exhibit the ability to endure hardship, to accept disappointment and failure, to be satisfied despite thwarted personal desires and plans. They have learned to graciously live with such difficulties as physical weakness, loneliness, and being misunderstood and unappreciated. They do not lose heart when things do not turn out the way they had hoped and expected, but have the perfect confidence “that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). 
While Paul directed his exhortation specifically to the older men in the Cretan churches, all believers ought to strive for the kind of spiritual maturity he describes. Not only is that maturity a great benefit to the Body of Christ, but it adorns the gospel of Jesus Christ and confirms the testimony of His people to the hostile, watching world.
True Shepherds PROTECT the Flock
Because true shepherds must put the flock first, and view heretics and schismatics as nothing less than wolves who seek to devour the sheep in Christ’s “little flock,” they must expose and oppose [false teachers] for what they are. That note of deep concern for the sheep is what is missing in so many churches today. The feeble note struck instead is, “Let us all learn to live in peace with one another even though we differ;” or “I don’t say you’re wrong; it’s just that we differ.” . . . True shepherds will never allow the sheep to be attacked without attempting to protect them.
Jay E. Adams, The Use of the Rod & the Staff: A Neglected Aspect of Shepherding, p.27, 28
Sanctification and Judgment
Sanctification is that inward spiritual work which Jesus Christ
works in a man by the Holy Spirit, when He calls him to be a true
believer, separates him from his natural love of sin and the world,
puts a new principle in his heart, and makes him practically
godly in life.
Sanctification will be necessary as a witness to our character in
the great day of judgment. It will be useless to plead we believed
in Christ unless our faith had some sanctifying effect in our lives.
Evidence will be the one thing wanted when the Great White
Throne is set, when the books are opened, and the dead are
arraigned before the bar of God. Without some evidence that our
faith in Christ was genuine, we shall only rise again to be
condemned. The question will not be what we professed but how
we lived and what we did.
He that supposes works are of no importance, because they
cannot justify us, is a very ignorant Christian. Unless he opens
his eyes, he will find that if he comes to the bar of God without
some evidence of grace, he had better never have been born.
Sanctification is also necessary to prepare us for heaven. Most
men hope to go to heaven when they die. Few consider whether
they would enjoy heaven if they got there. To be happy in heaven,
we must somehow be made ready while we are on earth.
What could an un-sanctified man do in heaven, if by chance he
got there? Let that question be fairly contemplated and answered.
No man can possibly be happy in a place where he is not in his
element. When an eagle is happy in an iron cage, when an owl is
happy in the blaze of noonday sun, when a fish is happy on the
dry land, then, and not till then, will I admit that the
unsanctified man could be happy in heaven.
Only those with sanctified desires on earth should think they are
being prepared for heaven.
~ J. C. Ryle