Jesus The Center of Prophetic Gifts
I was getting a little anxious waiting for a prophetic impartation as the conference speaker worked her way down the line-up of international guests. When it came my turn, I remained at full attention as Cindy Jacobs prayed over me a prophetic commission which seemed to confirm words of direction God had already been giving me for my ministry. But the way she referenced several nations sounded more like my travel agent. When she specifically mentioned the border of “Pakistan/Afghanistan” as the first stop of an “apostolic” itineration, I felt challenged.
Was she listing these nations to illustrate a point? Later she confirmed, “I saw you on the border of these two nations.” By the time this prophetic charge was over, I was in a heap on the floor overcome with awe and gratitude to the Lord. The way she profiled my previous years in ministry gave her words credibility, but I was a bit puzzled by some of the specific travel plans. This is how I tested the prophetic word I received.
DOES THE PROPHETIC WORD COME TO PASS?
One of the most authentic tests of a prophetic word is whether or not the word comes to pass. The Lord times the execution of His forecasts to His divine schedule, but I am glad that He did not make me wait a thousand years for its fulfillment. A few months later, not long after the tragic events of 9/11/01, I was having lunch in an Afghan restaurant in California when a man approached the table and invited me to speak for a conference on the border of Pakistan. This was the “Macedonian” mission mentioned in the prophecy.
Our trip brought us to Pakistan a few days after a terrorist’s bomb exploded in an Islamabad International Church. U.S. Embassy personnel were being evacuated to safety. The retreat was moved to a secure location near the Pakistan/Afghanistan border. Cindy had indeed “seen” me there glorifying Jesus. During the retreat, the members of our team were able to minister to the wounded and encourage many of the Christian leaders serving there.
THE JESUS FACTOR
A true prophetic word will always include the “Jesus” factor. Jesus, who is the author and finisher of our faith, must be at the center of a true prophecy. When Jesus is not the center, the “revelation” leads to speculation and can even become a form of divination, obtaining information from a source other than God, namely the occult realm.
The ancient seers of the Old Testament set the mark for true prophecy with hundreds of prophetic previews that pointed to Jesus Christ. In the New Testament, words of prophecy are actually words that Jesus is currently speaking to His church. The Son of God must hold the spotlight in all spiritual revelation. Even the final volume of inspired scripture is called, “The Revelation of Jesus Christ.” When John first saw the heavenly being who led him on his prophetic tour of these prophetic insights and images, he was tempted to worship the messenger, but the messenger warned him:
“Do not do it! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” (Rev 19:10 NIV)
How did John who had known Jesus so well find himself worshipping the heavenly being? Because John was in awe of what he saw. One of the Greek words for “worship” means “to stress the awe of.” When John fell on his face in awe of the heavenly being, the angel told him not to do this.
The Apostle Paul echoes this danger when he writes to the Colossians, “Let no one cheat you of your reward, taking delight in self-abasement (false humility, NKJV) and worship of angels, taking his stand on visions he has seen, puffed up without cause by his fleshly mind and not holding fast to the Head (Jesus Christ)...” (Colossians 2:18-19a NASU) “But even if we or an angel from heaven preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed...” (Galatians 1:8 NKJV)
The Apostle Paul exhorted the early church not to be in awe of angelic visitations which drew attention away from the Son of God. When we fail to keep Jesus at the center of prophetic emphases, we can open ourselves to error, unintentionally causing great harm.
DOES THE MESSAGE AGREE WITH THE BIBLE?
All valid prophetic words will agree with what God has already revealed in scripture. Peter recognized the wind, fire, and supernatural languages on the day of Pentecost as the promised outpouring of the Holy Spirit because he recognized that the prophet, Joel, had foretold it. He quoted the prophet, Joel, who predicted that all God’s people regardless of gender, race, age, even social status would begin to prophesy.
“In the last days,” God says, “I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.” (Acts 2:17-18 NIV)
Matthew refers to the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy in his account of the life and ministry of Christ. The book of Acts also has many references to biblical precedent for its prophetic encounters and experiences.
In the first major leadership conference of the church, Peter argues for the inclusion of the Gentiles. He cites the fulfillment of one of Jesus’ own prophecies to substantiate his very “un-kosher” rooftop revelation. When the Holy Spirit fell upon the people in the living room of an Italian officer, Peter remembered Jesus’ word, “John indeed baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 11: 16, Acts 1:5)
Later on, when Paul and Barnabas shared testimonies of many signs and wonders occurring in the Gentile com- munities, the Jewish brethren were maintaining that Gentiles needed to be circumcised and keep the Law of Moses to be a part of the Church. The Apostle James countered by quoting Amos 9:11- 12)
“After this I will return and will rebuild the tabernacle of David which has fallen down...so that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord, even all the Gentiles who are called by My name...” (See Acts 15:15-17)
God confirmed a prophetic revelation by miracles and the words of Scripture. So here we are two thousand years later, Gentiles enjoying Jesus.
If the apostles, many of whom had walked with Jesus, believed that they needed to validate their prophetic words and revelations with Biblical foundation, shouldn’t we?
IS THE PROPHECY GIVEN IN LOVE?
I believe that valid prophecy also includes the love factor. If Jesus is at the center, love will be the only motivation for the revelation. (1 Corinthians 12:30- 13:3 NIV)
Paul devotes I Corinthians 13, to showing how love causes us to excel in the greater gifts. Without love even angelic languages can be harsh, hollow echoes of a misguided ego. We can claim to possess the gift of prophecy, comprehending all mysteries and proffering all knowledge, but it amounts to nothing if it is loveless!
“Love is patient, love is kind; love does not seek its own.” (I Corinthians 13:1-3 NIV)
There is nothing wrong with a passionate word; but a pushy prophet who needs control and recognition to feel significant does not have healthy motives for prophetic ministry. We must keep Jesus at the center of the prophetic picture or we will give the prophet room for pride. True Christian love will give respect to the prophetic office as an ambassador of Jesus Christ but will avoid an unhealthy preoccupation with prophetic celebrities.
Nor does love stone practicing prophets who are still perfecting the gift. Ancient law did require stoning for false prophets, but unfortunately, the true prophets were usually the ones who were stoned! There must have been good reason for a schoolof the prophets.
The gift doesn’t seem to come in a perfected state in the New Testament but through an “earthen vessel.” Paul says, “For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears.” (1 Corinthians 13:9-10 NIV) The only perfect prophet is Jesus, and when He returns, the rest of us will be happily out of work.
God wants us to desire prophecy, not to despise it; therefore we are also charged to test prophetic communication. “...Do not treat prophecies with contempt. Test everything. Hold on to the good.” (1 Thessalonians 5:21-22 NIV)
We must also avoid filtering God’s words through the sins of our self-seeking culture or we will be in danger of polluting the precious gift. Prophecy is not for the satisfaction of clairvoyant curiosity or to flatter a flagging self- image. The stories of disillusionment and outright deception that resulted from the misuse of so-called “prophetic words” are many. A prophet’s personal agendas can so easily slip into a “thus saith the Lord.”
DOES THE PROPHECY ENCOURAGE AND COMFORT THE HEARERS?
New Testament prophecy is not always prognostic, but it is very positive. A genuine prophetic gift gives uplifting testimony to Jesus Christ because the Holy Spirit is inspiring it. Paul encouraged us to eagerly desire prophetic communication for the greater benefit of the church because prophetic communication is constructive, supportive and reassuring. “But everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort.” (1 Corinthians 14:3 NIV) Someone has rightly said, “Prophecy builds us up, lifts us up and cheers us up!”
Two of the terms which are translated “encouragement” and “comfort,” contain the ancient Greek prefix, para, which denotes nearness. We could say that prophetic encouragement brings Jesus “up close and personal.” His presence accompanies His words. If a prophetic utterance moves you closer to Jesus, there is more than a good chance that it is real.
Paul wrote that true prophecy will have a powerful effect on the unbelieving and uninformed, because it will convict the hearers of the reality of God. Paul told the Corinthians that they would be able to recognize true prophecy because it would probe the hearts of the hearers so that they would fall down and worship in the presence of God! (1 Corinthians 14:24-25 NIV) “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (Heb 4:12 NIV)
I have often witnessed prophetic words so penetrating that the recipients fell as if the invisible sword of the word of God had pierced them!
Authentic prophetic words will also agree with previous words and are simple confirmations. I met Randy Clark at a small meeting in the San Francisco Bay Area. Once again I found myself in a line up for prayer. Gently and patiently, Randy laid hands on me and spoke of a “fathering” anointing. I chuckled a bit. I’m the father of seven sons. Then he continued, echoing the earlier word about increased apostolic ministry to nations with confirming miracles. A couple of years later, I was attending a gathering where Todd Bentley called me out of the audience by name and prophesied a similar confirming word over my wife and me and our Church.
Because of the genuine prophetic words I have received, I have made several ministry journeys to Europe, Africa, Asia and the Middle-East. I have been graced to witness many miracles. While that is exciting, it is the “everyday everybody” prophetic gift that is most beneficial to the common good in the local church.
Prophecy is a powerful supernatural gift which believers are to prefer. When the Church exercises it regularly and properly, it becomes a dynamic “body builder” in Christ’s community. With a little protocol and a lot of love, the prophetic gift will maintain a passion for Jesus that will inspire awe of God in a spiritually hungry culture so that sinners will once again exclaim, “God is really among you!” (1 Corinthians 14:25 NIV)