Sunday, November 28, 2010

Permission To Speak Freely

This message was originally published as a Facebook note.

I received a message from a new Facebook friend a few weeks ago. She noted that I seemed to do a lot of evangelism on Facebook and she had a question about it. She’d been posting things related to abortion on her page. Her position like most of us is against abortion. She received a lot of criticism from her mostly non-Christian friends over it. Her question was, “Am I wrong to post these things on my page?”

Before responding, I thought about whether I was someone she would listen to. Who was I to tell her what to post on her wall? And what qualified me an expert on abortion? I decided to respond based on two things; she approached me for advice. Something I’d done or said gave me credibility in her eyes. Secondly, God had been instructing me on how we communicate to one another. This was a communication issue and I felt I had something worthwhile to share.

I told her I wasn’t an expert on abortion and I didn’t really know God’s heart on the matter. Before we go any further, let me explain this statement. Many Christians hold the view that God hates abortion; many - but not all. Jesus didn’t teach on it, nor is it mentioned in the epistles. There are vague Old Testament references to it, but there are also times when God demanded the systematic annihilation of women and children. All this is to say, some would argue that God’s heart on abortion is not clearly articulated in scripture.

I explained to her that some people, like Kris Valloton have received personal revelation from the Lord on abortion. They have dreams and visions in which the Lord has revealed his heart to them, which according to Kris is strongly opposed to it. But at this time, God has not spoken to me even once about it. I fear being presumptuous if I were to speak on something the Lord has not spoken to me about.

It’s my belief that God gives all of us certain subjects to speak on. As we receive revelation from Him on those things, we’re given both his heart about them, and an audience to hear the message. My suggestion to her was that perhaps she has neither the revelation, nor the audience for this particular message. She replied and agreed that perhaps she’d been presumptuous.

There was much I didn’t tell her. I didn’t tell her that I seldom engage in Facebook evangelism. Nearly all of my friends on this profile are believers. Why would I evangelize them? I didn’t tell her that (in my opinion) posting abortion propaganda is a poor way to reach the lost. I’m not sure it’s wise to post an inflammatory message that condemns without pointing to the solution.

Then there’s the problem of evangelizing friends and family. Jesus said that a prophet is not honored by his friends and family. Reaching the people we’re close to is an incredibly difficult task. For those of you who don’t know, I created the Praying Medic profile partly so that my spiritual activities would not be a constant irritation to my friends and family who are not saved.

A thorny problem wouldn’t you agree?

My friends post things on my wall on a variety of subjects; abortion, persecution, the end times and the rapture, heresy, the spread of Islam, missions and many others. I know they mean well. I know these things are dear to them. But I seldom respond to most of them, because I never know what to say. I’ve received almost no revelation from the Lord on any of these subjects. I have a lot of opinions on them. What I don’t have is God’s heart on any of them. If I speak on these subjects without knowing God’s heart, I’m just another clanging cymbal in a noisy theater of debate. My opinions are no more useful than yours.

When Jesus walked the earth, he could have discussed anything he wanted. But he didn't. He said that the words he spoke were restricted; they were only the words the Father had given him. Jesus restrained his speech to the point that he only discussed the things He’d received from His Father. (John 14:10)

When Jesus explained the ministry of the Holy Spirit, He said that likewise, the Spirit would not speak on his own accord, but would take only the things given to him and declare them to us. (John 16:13) Neither the Spirit nor the Son exercised freedom to speak as they wanted. They restricted their conversations to only what was authorized by the Father.

I find that astounding. There is built into the kingdom of God a hierarchy of revelation. Have you ever noticed that in the book of Revelation, both men and angels are frequently receiving orders from the Lord about what to say, what to write and what was to be sealed up or left unspoken? What do you think would have happened if the messengers said whatever they felt like saying instead of obeying the Lord?

How much more should we, as children of God restrain our speech as they did?

The twelfth chapter of Romans is one of the most complete discussions on Christian behavior. Paul addresses the idea of different levels and areas of gifting in verses 3-8.

For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.

The point here is the fact that we are called to do different things in the body. We have different assignments. We’re given different levels of faith and divine enablement (grace) for the things we’re called to. Along with our assignment comes individual revelation from God on how we’re to carry it out. This is what Jesus referred to when he said the Holy Spirit would declare things to us. Revelation from the Holy Spirit is customized information designed just for us. It contains the information we’re authorized to speak on. The Holy Spirit also gives us the authority and power to perform the duties we’re assigned to.

Paul said we shouldn't think too highly of ourselves, but to think soberly. What he's getting at is a realistic assessment of who we are, what we're called to do and say and what we're not called to do or say. Some of us are called to prophesy, some to leadership, some to giving, some to teaching, but no one does them all. We need to recognize the restrictions placed on each of us. It's when we believe we’re gifted in all things and have an answer for every question that troubles arise. We begin to think more highly of ourselves than we ought to.

For most of us, there are a handful of areas in which we are called to operate in and a vast number in which we aren’t. True humility is an honest recognition of what things you are and are not called by God to operate in or speak about.

If you read my notes and status updates, you’ll notice that my posts cover a narrow range of subjects - mostly healing, dreams and prophetic ministry. This is because 90% of my revelation from the Lord is on these subjects. He gives me the revelation and the audience for these messages. For some subjects the audience is only a few people. For some it’s much larger. God always decides who gets to hear the message. He’s also given me an amazing level of protection from criticism, when I speak what he’s given me to the right audience.

I know what would happen if I chose to speak on things I’m not authorized to speak on. I wouldn’t have a receptive audience. I’d regurgitate weak arguments that lack conviction. And I’d come under attack from people who oppose me. It’s possible that the reason the enemy doesn’t stir up attacks against me is because I’m under the safety umbrella provided by walking only in the areas I’m called to.

It’s tempting to weigh in on all the subjects being bantered around on Facebook. I have a lot of opinions and I’m an extrovert, by nature. But there is peace, safety and great grace on those who restrict their conversation to only what the Father has given them.

My encouragement is to consider your words carefully. When giving an opinion, ask yourself if it’s something you’ve heard from the Lord on, personally. Is it a subject God has given you grace to speak on? Ask yourself if the audience will be receptive to your words. Consider using restraint if none of these are true.